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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

David Ignatius, "What does Israel want from America?": What Ignatius Isn't Telling Us

You will recall that in a March 31, 2015 Washington Post opinion piece  entitled "Deal or no deal, the Iran talks have borne fruit," David Ignatius wrote:

"Whatever the endgame produces, it’s useful to focus on the process of negotiation itself, which is nearly as important as whether there’s a sustainable deal.

First, there is the fact of U.S.-Iranian engagement. For more than 18 months, Iran has been in direct talks with a power it once demonized as the 'Great Satan.' Iranian hard-liners certainly remain, but the nation that chanted in unison 'Death to America' is probably gone forever."

When I sent emails to Ignatius and provided evidence that he was wrong, he wrote back to me and declared:

"You miss my point entirely. What I said was that the NATION will never again chant it in UNISON. There will still be fanatical hardliners but they are beginning to be outliers."

Well, as we were informed last month by Majid Rafizadeh in a Gatestone Institute article entitled "Iran to Trump: Death to America Will Live On":

"Ideologically speaking, Iran's hardliners, primarily Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and senior officials of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) who enjoy the final say in Iran's domestic and foreign policies, have made it clear that Iran will not change the core pillars of its religious and revolutionary establishment: Anti-Americanism and hatred towards the 'Great Satan' and the 'Little Satan', Israel.

Supporters of Ayatollah Khamenei and the IRGC enthusiastically shouted 'Death to America' in response to a recent speech that Khamenei gave, applauding the 1979 hostage-taking and takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran.

Iran's major state newspapers carried anti-American headlines this week, quoting the Supreme Leader. In his latest public speech to thousands of people, which was televised via Iran's state TV, Khamenei made it clear that Trump's presidency will cause 'no difference' to Iran-US relationships. Khamenei pointed out that, 'We have no judgment on this election because America is the same America'. In his speech, Khamenei attacked President-elect Donald Trump and the American people. The Ayatollah called the US election 'a spectacle for exposing their crimes and debacles.'"

I missed Ignatius's point entirely? Yeah, right.

In any event, Ignatius is back again today with more rubbish in a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "What does Israel want from America?" Ignatius would now have us know:

"President Trump’s embrace of Israel poses an unlikely dilemma for leaders of the Jewish state: They have to decide what they want from America, and on that question, there’s sharp disagreement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu moved to seize the Trump moment Tuesday by announcing that Israel plans to construct 2,500 housing units in West Bank settlements. Just two days before, he and Trump had what the new president called a 'very nice' phone conversation. 'We’re building — and will continue to build,' an emboldened Netanyahu proclaimed Tuesday."

But what isn't Ignatius telling us? As reported today in a Jerusalem Post article entitled "Israel Announces Plans to Build 2,500 New West Bank Housing Units" by Herb Keinon:

"Most of the new units will be inside the major settlement blocs, with [Israeli Defense Minsiter Avigdor] Liberman saying that only 106 are outside the blocs.

. . . .

Liberman said that, in parallel to these moves, he will bring for the security cabinet’s approval plans to establish a Palestinian industrial zone near Tarkumiya, south of Hebron. According to the statement, this will be one of the largest industrial areas in the territories."

Or stated otherwise, the overwhelming majority of the new units are inside existing settlement blocs that will remain with Israel in any deal involving land swaps.

And then there is that small matter of a new Palestinian industrial zone, which Ignatius fails to mention.

Yes, I know, these are inconvenient truths, and I am hardly surprised that they don't find expression in Ignatius's op-ed.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Donald Trump's Inauguration: Alternative Facts for an Alternative Universe

Kellyanne Conway, adviser to President Donald Trump, gave birth to a new sound bite, i.e. "alternative facts," when justifying White House press secretary Sean Spicer's declaration on Saturday that "this was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe."

In fact, Spicer was correct, period ... if you include the protesters. Apparently unbeknownst to Washington Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler, "Facts are in the mind of the beholder."

Alternative facts for an alternative universe.

And now back to my dogs and my vegetable garden.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

New York Times Editorial, "The Untimely Death of an Iranian Pragmatist": Duplicitous or Just Plain Stupid?

In an editorial entitled "The Untimely Death of an Iranian Pragmatist," The New York Times writes about the passing of Iran's Ayatollah Rafsanjani:

"The death on Sunday of Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has increased this uncertainty. A moderate in Iran’s factional political struggles, Ayatollah Rafsanjani worked hard to soften its anti-Americanism and encourage constructive engagement with the West."

Rafsanjani "worked hard ... to soften Iranian anti-Americanism? Fascinating. But consider what Michael Rubin writes in a Washington Examiner article entitled "Deceased Iranian President Rafsanjani was no moderate":

"Rafsanjani was a master strategist and an initiator of Iran's game of good cop-bad cop, but he was no moderate. He was well known for his corruption, affluence, and commitment to the Islamic Republic's genocidal ideology.

He was the father of the Islamic Republic's nuclear weapons program, having lobbied for it while chairman of parliament and then worked, alongside Hassan Rouhani, then-secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, to divert the peace dividend that Iranians might have enjoyed following the end of the Iran-Iraq War, channeling it instead into a covert nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program. For Rafsanjani, deterrence may not have been the end goal. On Dec. 14, 2001, for example, he suggested that Iran could use nuclear weapons to eradicate Israel, arguing that Iran had the strategic depth to absorb any second strike."

And as the Islamic Republic News Agency reported on July 6, 2015 in an article entitled "Rafsanjani: Forged Israeli regime to be wiped-off map one day":

"The chairman of the Expediency Council made the comment in an interview with Al Ahd news website affiliated to the Lebanese Hezbollah Movement.

In response to a question why the Zionist regime has done its best to prevent the path for reaching a nuclear agreement between Iran and the West, Ayatollah Rafsanjani said that even Tel Aviv knows well that Iran is not after acquiring nuclear weapons.

'By doing so the Zionist wish to keep Iran engaged in problems permanently, knowing that the Islamic Republic's political, economic, cultural and propagation status will all improve after such an agreement,' he said.

Asked about the future of the Palestinian nation, Rafsanjani said that he still believes that eventually one day the forged and temporary Israeli entity, which is an alien existence forged into the body of a nation and a region be wiped off the map."

Concerning Rafsanjani's attitude toward the US, have a look at Ali Alfoneh and Reuel Marc Gerecht's January 9, 2017 article entitled "The Death of Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, a Machiavellian Prince" in The Weekly Standard:

"In the mid-1980s, Rafsanjani directed the Lebanese Hezbollah to engage in the hostage-taking of Americans and Europeans; with Rouhani again his point man, he used the hostages to acquire arms and spare parts from the United States. In his published daily journal, Rafsanjani mused over America's 'helplessness.'

Following the end of the war in 1988, and the death of Khomeini in 1989, Rafsanjani engineered Khamenei's succession as the Guardian Jurist. Lacking charisma and a clerical network, Khamenei seemed harmless and dependent. For a time, the arrangement worked: Rafsanjani got the credit for post-war reconstruction and the initiation of the then-secret nuclear-weapons program, while Khamenei remained a figurehead."

Rafsanjani also refused to countermand the death decree against author Salman Rushdie.

Rafsanjani was a moderate or pragmatist? Road apples!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Maureen Dowd, "White House Red Scare": Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder

You can usually count on Maureen Dowd for a few laughs, at least when she's not visiting Saudi Arabia, and in her latest New York Times op-ed entitled "White House Red Scare," she doesn't disappoint. Informing us that with the advent of Trump, Washington "is suffering pre-traumatic stress disorder,"Dowd observes:

"Can you imagine a scenario where two Republicans in a row lose the popular vote but win the White House with a shady helping hand? Can’t the G.O.P. win fair and square? Was it the Russians who turned Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania truly red?"

And all this while, I thought it was Comey.

The Russians turned Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania? Nah. In fact, I think it had more to do with the fact that only 11 percent of voters thought Hillary was honest and trustworthy. Or stated otherwise, the Republican party all but gave the Democrats the election by nominating Trump, but the Democratic leadership dropped the ball.

Speaking of balls dropping, did you happen to be in Times Square on New Years Eve and watch the ball drop? I wasn't there. You see, I'm waiting for another ball to drop, and sorry, progressives, it has absolutely nothing to do with my advancing age.

Do you recall Obama telling us on July 3, 2008:

"The problem is, is that the way Bush has done it over the last eight years is to take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children, driving up our national debt from $5 trillion for the first 42 presidents - #43 added $4 trillion by his lonesome, so that we now have over $9 trillion of debt that we are going to have to pay back -- $30,000 for every man, woman and child. That's irresponsible. It's unpatriotic."

Well, America's national debt now stands at $19.94 trillion (more than $61,000 for every man, woman and child), and it is rising by the second. When does it hit $20 trillion? Any day now, and when that ball drops and the US dollar effectively becomes toilet paper, we can silently watch as Washington bureaucrats, who should be suffering from "pre-traumatic stress disorder" from this one Obama legacy that can't be voted away, attempt to paper over the mess.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Griff Witte, "Israeli settlements grew on Obama’s watch. They may be poised for a boom on Trump’s.": Witless

In a Washington Post article entitled "Israeli settlements grew on Obama’s watch. They may be poised for a boom on Trump’s.," Griff Witte writes of Israeli West Bank construction "in these sacred, militarily occupied hills [almost makes you want to cry]":

"[E]very day they become a more entrenched reality on land that Palestinians say should rightfully belong to them. As the parched beige hilltops fill with red-tiled homes, decades of international efforts to achieve a two-state solution are unraveling.

. . . .

Today, about 400,000 Israelis live in approximately 150 settlements scattered across the West Bank. That’s up from fewer than 300,000 when Barack Obama was elected. An additional 200,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as their future capital."

However, as observed last week in a Washington Post editorial entitled "On Israel, we’re right back where Obama started" (my emphasis in red):

"In fact, the two-state solution remains entirely viable, as even the settlement statistics cited by Mr. Kerry demonstrate. The administration asserts that the Jewish population in the West Bank has increased by 100,000 since 2009 — but by Mr. Kerry’s account, 80 percent of that growth was in areas Israel would likely annex in any settlement. In eight years, 20,000 people have been added to communities in territory likely to become part of Palestine — an area where 2.75 million Arabs now live. That growth of about 3 percent per annum, the product of a restraint for which Mr. Netanyahu received no White House credit, means that the Jewish population outside Israel’s West Bank fence may have decreased as a percentage of the overall population even as Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry have made it the focal point of U.S. policy."

Similarly, Rick Richman wrote in a December 28, 2016 Commentary article entitled "It’s Not the Settlements, Stupid":

"The figure of 100,000 sounds significant until you realize that 80 percent of it has been in the settlement blocs 'everyone knows' Israel will retain in any conceivable peace agreement. The 20,000 person increase east of the separation barrier, established to stop the wave of Palestinian mass murders against Israelis, translates into less than one percent of the population in the disputed territories, over a period of eight years."

Witte also fails to take into account what was acknowledged by Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat: Israeli settlements have been built on only some 1.1% of the West Bank. Additionally, he does not make mention of past Israeli evacuations of Sinai and Gaza.

Witte goes on to say:

"'Everyone who talks about a Palestinian state today knows it will not happen,' said Naftali Bennett, Israel’s education minister and leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party.

. . . .

It’s not clear whether Netanyahu will be willing to go as far as his education minister, an ally at times but a fierce rival at others. Netanyahu is still on record supporting a two-state solution, albeit grudgingly."

Netanyahu supports a "two-state solution, albeit grudgingly"? Netanyahu last month declared on 60 Minutes:

"I’m willing to negotiate with [the Palestinian Authority] at any moment. I haven’t reversed my position. I’ve said, ‘Look, we will solve this because we want two nation states at peace and with the proper security arrangements.’ Two states for two peoples…. that’s where I’m focused."

And whereas Witte is happy to quote Bennett, he avoids mention of the position taken by Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who lives on the West Bank and has stated "I even agree to vacate my settlement if there really will be a two-state solution." More recently, as reported by The Times of Israel in a November 16, 2016 article entitled "Liberman open to building freeze outside settlement blocs," this right-wing firebrand said that he is "ready to freeze building outside the blocs in exchange for an American agreement to expand settlement building in Efrat, Ma’ale Adumim and other areas widely expected to remain under Israeli sovereignty in the event of a future peace deal."

Bottom line: Witte's "news" item is devoid of balance, but why should we be surprised?

Monday, January 2, 2017

Paul Krugman, "America Becomes a Stan": What About the Clintons, Rosatom and Uranium One?

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "America Becomes a Stan," Paul Krugman would have us know that "America is rapidly turning into a stan." Claiming that James Comey's "intervention almost surely swung the election," Krugman writes (my emphasis in red):

"I know that many people are still trying to convince themselves that the incoming administration will govern normally, despite the obviously undemocratic instincts of the new commander in chief and the questionable legitimacy of the process that brought him to power.

. . . .

Everything we know suggests that we’re entering an era of epic corruption and contempt for the rule of law, with no restraint whatsoever.

. . . .

People tend to forget how much of the 2016 playbook had already been used in earlier years. Remember, the Clinton administration was besieged by constant accusations of corruption, dutifully hyped as major stories by the news media; not one of these alleged scandals turned out to involve any actual wrongdoing."

Give me a break! Obama was Mr. Clean? Have another look at his real estate deal with Tony Rezko.

"[T]he questionable legitimacy of the process that brought [Trump] to power"? Care to be more explicit, Paul? Comey? Russian hacking? The electoral system?

None of the Clinton administration's scandals "turned out to involve any actual wrongdoing"? Oh really? What about Monica Lewinsky, or was this just a "vast right-wing conspiracy," as Hillary told the nation. In fact, Bill was disbarred from practicing law before the Supreme Court.

Let's get real. Hillary was not elected because she was distrusted, and rightfully so. She lied about her emails, and the Clinton Foundation took donations from countries just as bad as the "stans." Moreover, as reported in an April 23, 2015 New York Times article entitled "Cash Flowed to Clinton Foundation Amid Russian Uranium Deal" concerning Rosatom's acquisition of Uranium One," Jo Becker and Mike McIntire wrote (my emphasis in red):

"At the heart of the tale are several men, leaders of the Canadian mining industry, who have been major donors to the charitable endeavors of former President Bill Clinton and his family. Members of that group built, financed and eventually sold off to the Russians a company that would become known as Uranium One.

Beyond mines in Kazakhstan that are among the most lucrative in the world, the sale gave the Russians control of one-fifth of all uranium production capacity in the United States. Since uranium is considered a strategic asset, with implications for national security, the deal had to be approved by a committee composed of representatives from a number of United States government agencies. Among the agencies that eventually signed off was the State Department, then headed by Mr. Clinton’s wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation. Uranium One’s chairman used his family foundation to make four donations totaling $2.35 million. Those contributions were not publicly disclosed by the Clintons, despite an agreement Mrs. Clinton had struck with the Obama White House to publicly identify all donors. Other people with ties to the company made donations as well.

. . . .

The path to a Russian acquisition of American uranium deposits began in 2005 in Kazakhstan, where the Canadian mining financier Frank Giustra orchestrated his first big uranium deal, with Mr. Clinton at his side.

The two men had flown aboard Mr. Giustra’s private jet to Almaty, Kazakhstan, where they dined with the authoritarian president, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev. Mr. Clinton handed the Kazakh president a propaganda coup when he expressed support for Mr. Nazarbayev’s bid to head an international elections monitoring group, undercutting American foreign policy and criticism of Kazakhstan’s poor human rights record by, among others, his wife, then a senator.

. . . .

Amid this influx of Uranium One-connected money, Mr. Clinton was invited to speak in Moscow in June 2010, the same month Rosatom struck its deal for a majority stake in Uranium One.

The $500,000 fee — among Mr. Clinton’s highest — was paid by Renaissance Capital, a Russian investment bank with ties to the Kremlin that has invited world leaders, including Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, to speak at its investor conferences."

Bottom line: Enough of the sour grapes, Paul.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Brent Scowcroft and Thomas Pickering, "Speaking truth to our ally Israel": What About Speaking Truth to Pickering?

In a Washington Post opinion piece entitled "Speaking truth to our ally Israel," 91-year-old Brent Scowcroft and Thomas Pickering appear to take issue with last week's WaPo editorial entitled "On Israel, we’re right back where Obama started," which excoriated America's lame duck president and John Kerry (see my prior blog item, "Rashid Khalidi, John Kerry and Israel: 'Too Little and Too Late': More Israel Bashing From The New York Times"). Scowcroft and Pickering write in their op-ed:

"In recent days, the Obama administration has undertaken two significant actions regarding the Israeli-Palestinian issue. It refrained from vetoing a resolution at the U.N. Security Council that, among other things, detailed the devastating impact that Israeli settlement expansion is having on the prospects for a two-state peace agreement. And in a landmark speech, Secretary of State John F. Kerry warned that the trend toward a one-state reality is becoming increasingly entrenched, and he set out principles for a lasting peace based on a two-state solution."

"Devastating impact"? Needless to say, no mention by Scowcroft and Pickering of the fact acknowledged by Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat that Israeli settlements have been built on only some 1.1% of the West Bank. However, there is something else missing from Scowcroft and Pickering's opinion piece, and I have just dashed off the following email to Fred Hiatt, WaPo's editorial page editor:

Dear Mr. Hiatt,

At the bottom of The Washington Post opinion piece by Brent Scowcroft and Thomas R. Pickering, entitled "Speaking truth to our ally Israel," The Washington Post describes Pickering as follows:

"Thomas R. Pickering is a retired United States ambassador. Among his many diplomatic appointments, he served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from 1989 to 1992."

The Washington Post's description fails to mention that Pickering today is prominently listed ("top billing") by the National Iranian American Council, which is anything but friendly to Israel, as a member of its Advisory Board.

I kindly ask that The Washington Post's description of Pickering be corrected to reflect his membership on the Advisory Board of the National Iranian American Council, which is highly relevant to the substance of this opinion piece.

It is also worth noting that both Scowcroft and Pickering actively urged approval of the P5+1's nuclear deal with Iran.

Yours sincerely,

It's worth reading The Daily Beast article entitled "Boeing’s Man Pushed for the Iran Nuclear Deal—and Now the Company Is Selling $25 Billion Worth of Planes to Tehran," which informs us (my emphasis in red:

"Boeing is grabbing headlines for its first-of-its-kind, $25 billion deal with Iran Air, Tehran’s state-owned airline.

But the American aerospace giant isn’t exactly publicizing the fact that it paid a lobbying firm to “monitor” the nuclear agreement that made its $25 billion sale to Tehran possible. Or that Boeing has on its payroll a former top Clinton administration official who used his clout to garner support in the corridors of powers for the Iran deal.

Thomas Pickering, one of the country’s most respected diplomats and a and former ambassador to Israel and the United Nations, has been quietly taking money from Boeing while vocally supporting the Iran nuclear deal—testifying before Congress, writing letters to high-level officials, and penning op-eds for outlets like The Washington Post."

Let's see if Mr. Hiatt gets back to me.