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NETANYAHU VISITS WESTERN WALL BEFORE LEAVING FOR US: Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu visited the Western Wall (Kotel) Saturday night, hours before flying to the United States for a speech to AIPAC and to a joint session of Congress. Netanyahu said: “On the eve my trip to the US, I came here to the Western Wall. I would like to take this opportunity to say that I respect U.S. President Barack Obama. I believe in the strength of the relationship between Israel and the US and in their strength to overcome differences of opinion, those that have been and those that will yet be. As Prime Minister of Israel, it is my obligation to see to the security of Israel; therefore, we strongly oppose the agreement being formulated with Iran and the major powers, which could endanger our very existence. In the face of this danger we must unite and also explain the dangers stemming from this agreement, to Israel, to the region and to the world.” (Jewish Press, Feb. 28, 2015)
SENATE RESOLUTION UNANIMOUSLY WELCOMES NETANYAHU: The U.S. Senate on Thursday unanimously passed by voice vote a resolution welcoming Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who will address a joint session of Congress on Tuesday. The voice vote allowed Democrats to support the bill without their names being printed, and the unanimous vote was a message to the White House that the Democratic party is not his pocket concerning the deal he is negotiating with Iran. The resolution was co-sponsored by 50 Republican senators but not a single Democrat. (Jewish Press, Feb. 28, 2015)
NETANYAHU’S SPEECH TO CONGRESS – BLOCKED FROM U.S. PRIME TIME, PERFECT FOR ISRAEL: One of the main criticisms aimed at Netanyahu for coming to speak to Congress in March is that it is a scant few weeks before the Israeli elections. Presumably, the thought was, the speech would unfairly boost his standing and translate into more votes for him…Netanyahu’s speech to Congress is slated for 10:45 a.m., east coast time. This means that very few working Americans will be able to watch the speech live; they will all be at work. Having Netanyahu speak to Congress at 10:45 east coast time, however, means that he will be on the air in Israel during prime viewing time, starting at about 5:50 p.m. (there will be a five minute delay in Israel). In other words, to the extent the White House had any ability to influence the timing of the speech, it was deemed more important that Americans not be able to see and hear the Israeli prime minister, than that Israeli voters might be influenced by their prime minister’s congressional speech. (Jewish Press, Feb. 28, 2015)
White House-Netanyahu Rift Isn’t Over the Speech, But the Deal: Gerald F. Seib, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 27, 2015 — As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads to Washington for a controversial speech to Congress next week, the immediate problem isn’t that he and the Obama administration disagree.
Iran on the Nuclear Edge: Wall Street Journal, Feb. 27, 2015 — Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress this week that no one should pre-judge a nuclear deal with Iran because only the negotiators know what’s in it.
A Problem of Nuclear Proportions: Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaacov Amidror, BESA, Mar. 1, 2015 — Tension over the Iranian nuclear program is at an all-time high.
A Bad Agreement with Iran Will Undermine Middle East Stability: Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, JCPA, Mar. 2, 2014— The main players in the Middle East continue to focus on the nuclear talks between Iran and the leading powers, primarily the United States.
Epistle to Congress: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Feb. 27, 2014
'The World Will Appreciate Our Determination': Nadav Shragai, Israel Hayom, Feb. 27, 2014
White House Correspondent William Koenig Offers Insider’s View on Netanyahu’s Historic Speech: Lea Speyer, Breaking Israel News, Mar. 2, 2015
White House Offers Rebuttal Before Netanyahu’s Speech: David E. Sanger & Michael R. Gordon, New York Times, Feb. 27, 2015
Gerald F. Seib
Wall Street Journal, Feb. 27, 2015
As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads to Washington for a controversial speech to Congress next week, the immediate problem isn’t that he and the Obama administration disagree. At the moment, the problem actually is that they seem to agree on this: As things stand now, the Israeli leader seems almost certain to oppose and try to block the deal the U.S. is negotiating with Iran over its nuclear program. That is a change, and a significant one, from just a few months ago, when it seemed possible there could be a negotiated deal that both Mr. Netanyahu and President Barack Obama could embrace, if not exactly love. This change is why Mr. Netanyahu thinks it’s worth undermining his entire relationship with an American president by making a speech the White House didn’t know about and fumed about once it became known. And it’s why the White House has taken on Mr. Netanyahu so directly. In short, the real sticking point isn’t the speech; the sticking point is the deal.
All of which raises a broader question: Does it have to be this way, or is there still hope of closing the rift? Despite all the tension, the possibility of common ground may not have disappeared entirely. But first consider the immediate situation in Washington, where the controversy in coming days will be more about a speech rather than the substance of the Iran question. By now, the saga is well known. Republican House Speaker John Boehner went around the Democratic White House to invite Mr. Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of Congress about the threat from Iran. The speech will come two weeks before Mr. Netanyahu is running for a new term at home, and three weeks before the deadline for the talks the U.S. and five other world powers are holding with Iran over a possible deal to curb its nuclear program. The White House was miffed. Very. But not, as is commonly assumed, simply because the speech represented a breach of diplomatic protocol, in which world leaders deal with each other rather than through their countries’ respective opposition parties.
The deeper cause for concern within the administration was a feeling that the speech means Mr. Netanyahu has concluded that there is no version of the deal currently being negotiated with Iran that he can endorse—and that he is embarked on a strategy of using his strong connections with Republicans in Congress to find a way to use the legislative branch to block an agreement negotiated by the executive branch. “He’s advocating against any deal. That’s just not diplomacy,” a senior administration official said. “And he’s not putting forward an alternative deal.” Little that Mr. Netanyahu has done in recent weeks suggests otherwise. He said this week that it appears the “world powers” negotiating with Iran “have given up” on their commitment to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
In a nutshell, here’s the substantive disagreement. The administration believes the deal it’s negotiating will reduce Iran’s capacity to enrich uranium so much that Tehran’s leaders would need a year to break out of the agreement and produce enough fissile material to build a bomb—sufficient time to allow the U.S. and its allies to stop any such breakout. Mr. Netanyahu thinks that the residual enrichment capability granted Iran would still leave it as a threshold nuclear state, and would in any case be too large to adequately monitor and inspect with any certainty. There was a time, not long ago, when Mr. Netanyahu appeared to be pleased enough with the economic pressure the U.S. and the West were putting on Iran that he thought it might produce a deal he considered good enough. By all appearances, that’s what has changed.
Is there any alternative to this impasse? Dennis Ross, a Middle East diplomat under several American presidents, including Mr. Obama, thinks there might be. He suggests a new kind of anywhere, any-time inspections regime, enshrined in both a deal and legislation passed by Congress. If that legislation also mandated explicit consequences for Iranian violations, including use of military force, it might create the kind of American assurance Mr. Netanyahu could accept. “There is a way to bridge the difference,” Mr. Ross says. Next week, though, that may be hard to see.
Wall Street Journal, Feb. 27, 2015
Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress this week that no one should pre-judge a nuclear deal with Iran because only the negotiators know what’s in it. But the truth is that the framework of an accord has been emerging thanks to Administration leaks to friendly journalists. The leaks suggest the U.S. has already given away so much that any deal on current terms will put Iran on the cusp of nuclear-power status. The latest startling detail is Monday’s leak that the U.S. has conceded to Iran’s demand that an agreement would last as little as a decade, perhaps with an additional five-year phase-out. After that Iran would be allowed to build its uranium enrichment capabilities to whatever size it wants. In theory it would be forbidden from building nuclear weapons, but by then all sanctions would have long ago been lifted and Iran would have the capability to enrich on an industrial scale.
On Wednesday Mr. Kerry denied that a deal would include the 10-year sunset, though he offered no details. We would have more sympathy for his desire for secrecy if the Administration were not simultaneously leaking to its media Boswells while insisting that Congress should have no say over whatever agreement emerges. The sunset clause fits the larger story of how far the U.S. and its allies have come to satisfy Iran’s demands. The Administration originally insisted that Iran should not be able to enrich uranium at all. Later it mooted a symbolic enrichment capacity of perhaps 500 centrifuges. Last July people close to the White House began talking about 3,000. By October the Los Angeles Times reported that Mr. Kerry had raised the ceiling to 4,000. Now it’s 6,000, and the Administration line is that the number doesn’t matter; only advanced centrifuges count. While quality does matter, quantity can have a quality all its own. The point is that Iran will be allowed to retain what amounts to a nuclear-weapons industrial capacity rather than dismantle all of it as the U.S. first demanded.
Mr. Kerry also says that any deal will have intrusive inspections, yet he has a habit of ignoring Iran’s noncompliance with agreements it has already signed. Last November he insisted that “Iran has lived up” to its commitments under the 2013 interim nuclear agreement. Yet even then Iran was testing advanced centrifuge models in violation of the agreement, according to a report from the nonpartisan Institute for Science and International Security. In December the U.N. Security Council noted that Iran continued to purchase illicit materials for its reactor in Arak, a heavy-water facility that gives Tehran a path to a plutonium-based bomb. The International Atomic Energy Agency reported last week that Iran was continuing to stonewall the U.N. nuclear watchdog about the “possible military dimensions” of its nuclear program. On Tuesday an exiled Iranian opposition group that first disclosed the existence of Tehran’s illicit nuclear sites in 2002 claimed it had uncovered another illicit enrichment site near Tehran called “Lavizan-3.” The charge isn’t proven, but Iran’s record of building secret nuclear facilities is a matter of public record.
As for the idea that the IAEA or Western intelligence agencies could properly monitor Iran’s compliance, a report last year from the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board is doubtful. “At low levels associated with small or nascent [nuclear] programs, key observables are easily masked,” the board noted. This is significant since the Administration insists that any deal will give the U.S. at least one year to detect and stop an Iranian “breakout” effort to build a bomb. Iran’s ballistic missile programs aren’t even part of the negotiations, though there is no reason to build such missiles other than to deliver a bomb.
The Administration’s emerging justification for these concessions, also coming in leaks, is that a nuclear accord will become the basis for a broader rapprochement with Iran that will stabilize the Middle East. As President Obama said in December, Iran can be “a very successful regional power.” That is some gamble on a regime that continues to sponsor terrorist groups around the world, prop up the Assad regime in Syria, use proxies to overthrow the Yemen government, jail U.S. reporter Jason Rezaian on trumped-up espionage charges, and this week blew up a mock U.S. aircraft carrier in naval exercises near the Strait of Hormuz.
Given how bad this deal is shaping up to be, it’s not surprising that U.S. allies are speaking out against it. “We prefer a collapse of the diplomatic process to a bad deal,” one Arab official told the Journal last week. Saudi Arabia has also made clear that it might acquire nuclear capabilities in response—precisely the kind of proliferation Mr. Obama has vowed to prevent. No wonder many in Congress want to hear Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next week. They look at all of this public evidence and understandably fear that the U.S. is walking into a new era of nuclear proliferation with eyes wide shut.
Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaacov Amidror
BESA, Mar. 1, 2015
Tension over the Iranian nuclear program is at an all-time high. Among the reasons for this tension are the framework agreement between the United States and Iran, which is supposedly nearing completion, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the American Congress early next week, during which he will speak against the agreement and against the will of President Barack Obama. Why is the Iranian nuclear program so important? Why is the prime minister of Israel, who knows Israel-U.S. relations so well, willing to risk a head-on conflict with the president of the United States over Iran, of all things? Why is the Iranian threat a matter of prime concern for the State of Israel? The answers to all these questions are complex.
The first question is whether the Iranian regime ever intended, or still intends, to obtain nuclear weapons. This question has been asked for some time, and anyone who has ever worked, or still works, on the issue and is familiar with the information that many of the world’s intelligence agencies have gathered has an unequivocal answer to it. Almost every intelligence agency interprets the Iranians’ unrelenting efforts in the same way: Their intention is to obtain nuclear arms. Their efforts to construct a plutogenic reactor and enrich uranium in large amounts, and at their current level of enrichment, also add up to one thing: Nuclear weapons. There is no other way to explain the herculean efforts they have been engaged in for so many years.
Any disagreements that remain are solely about the timetable. Some claim that in light of the international pressure and the price that Iran is paying, the Iranians are willing to suspend their efforts and are taking care not to engage in arming at present. For this reason, it will take longer than previously thought until they possess nuclear weapons. Even those who believe in the Iranians’ intentions claim that at some unknown point in the future, the Iranians will go back to what they did in the past to obtain a nuclear bomb with a reliable way to launch it. “Hold on a moment,” say those who disagree that the Iranians are headed toward obtaining nuclear arms — mainly media writers and spokespeople in Israel and around the world. Fifteen or 20 years ago, you said the Iranians would have nuclear weapons within 10 years. It has been 20 years, and there are no such weapons. Perhaps you are mistaken now, as you were then.
Those who say this are ignoring the world’s efforts to impede the Iranians’ progress. From the moment the world realized Iran was serious about its intention to obtain nuclear arms, it started, with a great deal of Israeli involvement, to stop Iran’s race to the bomb, and there were quite a few successes. But these efforts only moved Iran’s timetable back. Their desire for nuclear arms remained. The agreement’s supporters deduce from this, that Iran was already a nuclear threshold state. The agreement only moves the threshold farther away and does not make its status any better, so what is wrong with it? Such a claim is naive. There is an enormous difference between a nuclear threshold state that is in conflict with almost the entire world, which is trying to stop it from becoming such a state, and a nuclear threshold state that has the world’s legitimacy. Such legitimacy also prevents countries from using all the methods they used against Iran’s nuclear program so far.
In addition, with the agreement in place, the Iranians receive approval from the superpowers, in retrospect, for all the violations they committed — the construction of an enormous enrichment system, approval to keep much of what they built on the way to the bomb, and advance approval to go back to using those capabilities almost without restriction until the agreement expires. Still, claim those who criticize Israel’s opposition to the agreement, it is obvious the approaching agreement will gain an additional delay of Iran’s progress toward nuclear arms. This claim is almost accurate. It is correct that at best, if Iran does not find a convenient time to violate the agreement, and if the Iranians abide by its conditions throughout the entire time period, the Iranian military project will be put off. But the postponement will be quite limited. It will expire when the agreement does, in another 15 years.
But there is yet another problem. Throughout those years, the deal will give the Iranians legitimacy to continue with all their preparations in the areas that are not in the agreement (such as longer-range and more accurate missiles), so that they will reach the end of the period better prepared to go forward with the nuclear arms project. Fifteen years is a long time for leaders, but in a nation’s history it is like the blink of an eye. We must not allow Iran to receive legitimacy for its preparations to possess nuclear arms, such as the violations it has committed so far, in exchange for buying an insignificant amount of time. The price is very high — too high. It should be emphasized that there is no chance to restore pressure on Iran once it is stopped. The sanctions will not be applied once more if Iran should renege on the agreement. Therefore, the chances that Iran will renege on the agreement are great.
The second important question that should be asked is: Assuming that Iran is striving toward nuclear arms, what is the risk? After all, the Iranians know if they use nuclear weapons, Israel will destroy them, since everyone is certain Israel has the ability to destroy Iran and that Iran’s leaders are rational people who will not endanger their own country’s existence. Both sides in the Cold War had nuclear weapons, and did not use them. If this mutual deterrence worked between Moscow and Washington, why should it not work between Tehran and Jerusalem? First, we should bear in mind that Iran’s leaders state openly that Israel must be destroyed. Some of them have said so bluntly and clearly, while others have used oblique expressions that can be explained away to the world. They say so not only publicly but also privately. Some claim these statements are for external consumption. This view, which seems too optimistic and groundless, ignores history and the Iranians’ own actions.
There have been people in the past who said that they intended to destroy the Jews — and they tried to do so despite the prevalent belief that their statements were only words. But beyond that, it is obvious the Iranians are working according to an organized plan…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
JCPA, Mar. 2, 2015
The main players in the Middle East continue to focus on the nuclear talks between Iran and the leading powers, primarily the United States. The results of these talks, especially if they ultimately lead to a “bad agreement” between the United States and Iran that makes the latter a nuclear-threshold state, will likely have a decisive effect on the dramatic, formative processes reshaping the Middle East that will eventually affect U.S. and European national security. The national security strategy that the White House published in February states, among other things, that “We are currently testing whether it is possible to achieve a comprehensive resolution to assure the international community that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful, while the Joint Plan of Action has halted the progress of Iran’s program.” The document describes the sanctions regime and its achievements in stymieing the Iranian nuclear program. This document goes on to assert that “Stability and peace in the Middle East and North Africa also requires reducing the underlying causes of conflict. America will therefore continue to work with allies and partners toward a comprehensive agreement with Iran that resolves the world’s concerns with the Iranian nuclear program.”
In actuality, the signing of an agreement that affords Iran a threshold capability to produce nuclear weapons will probably mean the continuation of the worrisome trend of Iran’s conquest of strategic locations in the Arab domain from the Persian Gulf to North Africa, and the continued undermining of stability in these areas. Meanwhile, Iran will keep exploiting the weakness of U.S. foreign policy in the region and the divisions prevailing in the Arab world since the outbreak of the Arab Spring. In the context of more than a decade of futile nuclear talks, Iran – an island of stability in the chaos that has emerged in the Middle East – keeps deceiving the international community. Along with its successes, within the talks themselves, in maintaining its crucial nuclear capabilities (thousands of centrifuges and ongoing R&D) and regional status, it has been able to create a separation between the nuclear issue, which enjoys the spotlight, and its ongoing, untrammeled buildup of long-range missiles that can carry a nuclear warhead, support for terror (including providing Hamas and Hizbullah with rockets and the know-how to manufacture them), subversion and aid to Islamic groups that oppose the moderate Arab regimes, subversive activity in South America, and continued gross human rights violations (including the arrest of journalists and bloggers, the infringement of political rights and women’s rights, and so on).
On the ground, Iran already holds sway over four Arab states. They include Yemen where the Houthis recently completed their takeover, which will give Iran access and control over the Bab el-Mandeb Strait leading into the Red Sea;2 Iraq; Syria; and Lebanon. The latter three give Iran a “Shiite arc” from Iran itself to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. From a historical viewpoint, which puts the struggle between Shiite Iran and the Sunni Arab states in sharper relief, Iran symbolically controls both Baghdad (founded in 762 CE by Mansur, the second Abbasid Caliph, on the ruins of the previous capital of the Sassanid Persians, Ctesiphon) and Damascus (which was the capital of the Islamic empire during the Umayyad dynasty). Iran now regards itself as spearheading a redress of historical injustices that relegated the Shiites to a minor status in the Arab and Islamic world. As it works to encircle Israel, Iran is also working to encircle the Arab and Sunni world and to hit it in its soft underbelly, namely, the Shiite populations that exist in large and strategic concentrations in Saudi Arabia (in the oil-rich eastern part of the kingdom) and in Bahrain (where a Shiite majority is ruled by Sunnis). Bahrain serves as a base for the U.S. Fifth Fleet, which operates in the Persian Gulf, and is also a constant focal point of Iranian subversion and aid to opposition elements…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Epistle to Congress: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Feb. 27, 2014—I, Benjamin Netanyahu, stand here before you, the elected representatives of the Congress of the United States, with great humility.
'The World Will Appreciate Our Determination': Nadav Shragai, Israel Hayom, Feb. 27, 2014—Nobel laureate Professor Robert (Yisrael) Aumann is convinced that both Iran and North Korea are making a mockery of the international community.
White House Correspondent William Koenig Offers Insider’s View on Netanyahu’s Historic Speech: Lea Speyer, Breaking Israel News, Mar. 2, 2015—For the last 14 years, journalist William Koenig has been covering American politics straight from the White House.
White House Offers Rebuttal Before Netanyahu’s Speech: David E. Sanger & Michael R. Gordon, New York Times, Feb. 27, 2015—Just four days before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to a joint meeting of Congress, the Obama administration sought on Friday to refute the Israeli leader’s expected critique, arguing that he has failed to present a feasible alternative to American proposals for constraining Iran’s nuclear program.
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