Sec Kerry sidesteps Democratic rep’s question about whether US will veto Russian sale of war planes to Iran
- Sec Kerry sidesteps Democratic rep’s question about whether US will veto Russian sale of war planes to Iran
Secretary of State John Kerry refused to answer whether the U.S. would veto Russia’s sale of Sukhoi-30 fighter jets to Iran in a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Thursday. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) asked Secretary Kerry, “And would we use our veto if necessary to prevent the sale?” Kerry responded that he had not looked at the specifics of the sale but that “[i]n principle, we are very concerned about the transfer of weapons.” He told Rep. Sherman, “We'll stay in touch with you.”
Iran announced that it intended to purchase fighter jets from Russia on February 10. In response, Michael Singh, former senior advisor for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council, tweeted, “For the next five years, US or other P5 member could block this per UNSC Res 2231.” As part of UN Resolution 2231, which endorsed the Iran nuclear deal, the United States, Russia, China, Great Britain, and France agreed to leave the UN arms and ballistic missile embargoes in place for five and eight years, respectively. According to the resolution, the sale of “combat aircraft” requires the approval of the Security Council “in advance on a case-by-case basis.” Last week, when asked by AP journalist Bradley Klapper whether the sale of the Sukhoi-30 fighter jets would violate the arms embargo, State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner confirmed that such a sale would be a violation.
Russia and Iran have intensified their regional aggression in the months since the nuclear deal was reached in July. In October, Russia intervened in the Syrian conflict to prop up Iran’s long-time ally, dictator Bashar al-Assad. Russia has also said that it will deliver the S-300 air defense missile system to Iran, a move that could alter the balance of power in the region. International Business Times reported that “Putin had recently said a closer cooperation between Moscow and Tehran would play a pivotal role in the regional security.” Moreover, Russia has reportedly provided sophisticated arms to Iran’s regional proxy Hezbollah. The Lebanese terror group received radar technology from Russia that allows it to “lock on” to Israeli jets conducting reconnaissance missions in Lebanon. Hezbollah can then fire missiles at them. According to the Israeli news site Walla!, an Israeli official said, "The connection between Hezbollah, Russia and Syria have [sic] greatly changed the rules of the game in the region." It has been reported that Hezbollah receives other weapons from Russia such as, “precision ground-to-ground missiles, long-range tactical missiles, laser guided rockets, and anti-tank weapons.”
A professor at Oberlin College, one of the most prestigious institutes of higher education in the country, has written and shared a series of Facebook posts claiming that Jews or Israelis control much of the world and are responsible for the 9/11 and Charlie Hebdo attacks and the rise of ISIS.
Joy Karega, an assistant professor of Rhetoric and Composition, shared a graphic shortly after the Charlie Hebdo shooting last year of an ISIS terrorist pulling off a mask resembling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The terrorist has a tattoo with a Star of David and the acronym “JSIL” – presumably a Jewish version of ISIL/ISIS. The picture includes graphic text implying that the murder of cartoonists was a “false flag” conspiracy designed to stop French support for Palestinians. In the accompanying status, Karega wrote, “This ain’t even hard. They unleashed Mossad on France and it’s clear why.” The Mossad is Israel’s national intelligence agency.
She wrote the same day that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to the massive free-speech rally in Paris “uninvited and of course he went even when he was asked by Pres. Hollande (France) not to come. Netanyahu wanted to bend Hollande and French governmental officials over one more time in public just in case the message wasn’t received via Massod [sic] and the ‘attacks’ they orchestrated in Paris.” She neglected to mention that Netanayhu was in Paris to honor four Jews who were killed in a terror attack in a kosher supermarket that same week. Karega also wrote in November that ISIS was not really Islamic, but rather “a CIA and Mossad operation, and there’s too much information out here for the general public not to know this.”
Karega, who received a PhD from the University of Louisville in 2014, publicized claims last year that “Israeli and Zionist Jews” were behind the attacks on the World Trade Center. She shared a blog post that embedded a speech by Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader who has frequently been accused of anti-Semitism. At about 1:04 in the video, Farrakhan offers his theory of the attackers and their motivations:
They say that the World Trade Center building were brought down by carefully placed explosives, not by planes. They say that all three buildings had to have been wired with explosive charges long before September the 11th and this is something that took tremendous sophistication to do, and that sophistication was not with Osama bin Laden or his followers. Listen. But if it was not Muslims then who? Thanks to the exemplary work of scholars like Victor Thorn and Christopher Bollyn it is now becoming apparent that there were many Israeli and Zionist Jews in key roles in the 9/11 attack.
Although Karega claimed to disagree with Farrakhan in many respects, she endorsed the link, writing “Farrakhan is truth-telling in this video.”
Karega’s Facebook history also shows a preoccupation with the Rothschild family, a banking dynasty of Jewish heritage that has been the subject of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories for hundreds of years. She posted an unflattering photograph of banker Jacob Rothschild in December 2014, with the text accompanying the photograph saying, “We own nearly every central bank in the world. We financed both sides of every war since Napoleon. We own your news, the media, your oil and your government.” The Rothschilds made a reappearance a few weeks later when Karega accused “the same people behind the massacre in Gaza” of shooting down a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine. “With this false flag,” Karega surmised, “the Rothschild-led banksters, exposed and hated and out of economic options to stave off the coming global deflationary depression, are implementing the World War III option.”
Karega returned to the theme of Jewish control of the government when she shared a news report about a $12 million grant that the Obama administration had given to Holocaust survivors. Karega seemed to take issue with the decision to give financial support to victims of genocide, writing, “One of these days some of My Peoples gonna learn who ALL American presidents work for and why they are chosen and placed in office.” She continued on this vein in the comments: “Later I’m gonna try to look at some of these Federations that handle the money and resources. We can probably look deep and try to trace it.”
The revelations about Prof. Karega’s Facebook posts come amid growing concern that Jewish students at Oberlin are facing a rising wave of anti-Semitism. This January, the frequency of anti-Semitic events on campus spurred 225 alumni and students to form Oberlin Alumni and Students Against Anti-Semitism. In an open letter, the group charged that several student organizations “have assumed the role as the mouthpiece of the BDS movement,” which delegitimizes Israel and has frequently been criticized for giving cover to anti-Semitism. The message that these groups promulgated is “Either forfeit your allegiance to Israel and join us, or we will brand you as an enemy of justice and complicit in the oppression of the Palestinian people.” The group condemned the tactics employed by pro-BDS student groups, whose tactics “intimidate, threaten, and coerce Jewish students.”
Melissa Landa, an organizer of the group fighting anti-Semitism at Oberlin, wrote in an e-mail to Prof. William Jacobson of the Legal Insurrection blog, one of the leading activists fighting anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in academia, that the group has “begun to document all incidents of anti Semitism at Oberlin by collecting testimonials from alumni and current students. As of today, that list is 5-pages in length and includes physical intimidation, verbal harassment, and vandalism.” (Full disclosure: I am a Legal Insurrection contributor).
The group’s open letter to the school administration documented numerous incidents:
According to The Jewish Exponent, an award-winning newspaper that serves the Jewish community of Philadelphia, one Oberlin student reported, “My fellow Obies and I were expected by our peers to join them in denouncing a plethora of social evils including…Israel.” That same student described an incident on campus when, “One speaker drew laughs when she said that Zionists should be burned at the stake.” In addition, the AMCHA campus monitor, which is published by a non profit organization that addresses anti-Semitism on college campuses, has documented numerous messages posted on line by the student group, Students for a Free Palestine, including, “Ohio is infested with Zionism,” and describing Israel as a “white supremacist,” “violent apartheid state.” As reported to The Oberlin Review, other incidents include the expulsion of the Kosher Halal co-op from the Oberlin Student Cooperative Association (OSCA) and an exhibition of black flags symbolizing the Palestinians killed in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge displayed on Rosh Hashanah, one of Judaism’s holiest days.
Jewish students have articulated the impact of these incidents on their lives. The Oberlin Review quoted one student who said, “I quickly learned that at Oberlin, love for my own nation (Israel) was not something I could freely express.” The student who was quoted in The Jewish Exponent, also explained that she transferred out of Oberlin due to its “toxic climate…around Israel.”
Neither Karega nor two Oberlin spokespeople responded to multiple requests for comment. (via TheTower.org)
Several times a year, often more, Doreen Gold, an Israeli Jew, goes undercover to organize a mission of humanitarian aid for Syrian NGOs. From there the aid is delivered to the increasingly desperate and starving people of Syria, an enemy nation still reeling from a brutal and deadly civil war that may, or may not, be nearly over. She’s not alone. Some 200 or so Israeli volunteers working for her nonprofit, Il4Syrians, have also been operating in stealth mode since the revolution began in 2011. It’s a dangerous job for anyone, but for Israelis the consequences of exposure are unthinkable. Doreen, whose name has been changed to hide her identity, has signed a form that says that if she is captured, the government will not negotiate for her release. It’s a form that all of her volunteers – Arab, Jewish, Christian and Druze – must fill in before they leave on a mission. “It is frightening,” Doreen, a mother of two, tells ISRAEL21c. “It’s always frightening. We know we are on our own.” Doreen, who is 47, is no stranger to danger zones. Since 1994, she has been giving aid in some of the worst humanitarian disasters of the last couple of decades. The tsunami in Southeast Asia, devastating flooding in Chechnya, the earthquake in Haiti. She’s responded to crises in Iraq, Pakistan, Indonesia, Rwanda and Darfur. When the revolution began in Syria in March 2011, she knew immediately that she had to help. A month later, Il4Syrians was on the ground. “We were probably the first international NGO operating in the area,” Doreen tells ISRAEL21c. “At that point people didn’t realise how deadly the conflict was. They still called it demonstrations, not a revolution, but we had already figured out that the number of casualties was enormous.” (via Israel21c)
The Iranian ambassador to Lebanon announced that Iran will give $7,000 to the families of Palestinian attackers who were killed by Israel, and $30,000 to Palestinian families whose houses were demolished by Israel. During the Second Intifada, Saddam Hussein, the former dictator of Iraq, provided Palestinian families of suicide bombers with tens of thousands of dollars, a policy the Bush administration castigated for rewarding and soliciting terror.
As a result of the nuclear deal it signed with world powers last July, Iran has received a financial windfall of $100 billion. Administration officials and Middle East experts have previously stated that Iran is likely to use some of the funds released as part of the deal to support terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas. Yair Lapid, the leader of Israel’s centrist party Yesh Atid, explained, “For us, this is not theoretical. This money will translate itself to rockets aimed at our children. The next conflict in the North or South of Israel is just a matter of time.”
Furthermore, Iran has increased its presence in both Gaza and the West Bank, establishing a new proxy group called Al-Sabireen. The group is directly funded by Iran and has recruited 400 fighters in Gaza, fired rockets into Israel and clashed with Israeli forces at the border between Gaza and Israel. According to Arab-Israeli journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, the group is also establishing terror cells in the West Bank. Last month, PA security forces arrested five of its members in Bethlehem. In another example of Iran’s efforts to infiltrate the Palestinian territories, Israeli security forces broke up a terrorist cell based in the West Bank and commanded and funded by Hezbollah. The terrorists, who were recruited by Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah’s son, were planning to carry out suicide bombings and shooting attacks against Israelis.
Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog said during a tour of the West Bank city of Ariel on Tuesday that all major settlement blocs will remain part of Israel in any future peace deal with the Palestinians.
Herzog surprised political observers by advocating from unilateral withdrawal from much of the West Bank and agreeing with his rival, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that a two-state solution is not currently realistic. In Ariel, Herzog advocated building a fence around the settlement blocs which would serve as a limit on their growth but would also serve to protect them from possible terror attacks. “The fence around Ariel is not a luxury,” he said. “It’s a security obligation that the state owes its citizens.”
He reiterated his skepticism about the current prospects for peace. “If it isn’t possible today to reach an agreement with the Palestinians, it’s at least possible to separate the two peoples,” he said. “We have to create a boundary beyond which there is no construction, otherwise the conflict will only worsen.” (via TheTower.org)
The United States and Israel kicked off a week-long ballistic missile defense drill Sunday in Haifa, called Juniper Cobra. The joint drill is conducted by the United States European Command and the Israel Defense Forces every two years. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, the Department of Defense Spokesman, told reporters, “[The] exercise is our nation’s premier exercise in the region and with Israel.” Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon boarded the U.S. Navy destroyer USS Carney, docked at Haifa Port, on Monday and said the exercise was “yet another example of the very special and deep relationship between our great ally, the United States, and Israel.” He called the relationship between the two countries “an example of stability in the region, and we’re trying to introduce and include other states in this ensemble.” Dan Shapiro, the American Ambassador to Israel, was also aboard the ship and agreed with Ya’alon, saying that the drill was indicative of the “very deep and very important ties between the United States and Israel. This is a drill dealing with defending Israel.” Shapiro said that the two countries were collaborating on technology that will detect and destroy tunnels dug by Hamas in the Gaza Strip and that “Congress has approved a special budget which led to progress in the development work” of this technology.
The German air defenses commander, Maj. Gen. Robert Loebenstein, was also in Haifa to observe the exercise. He praised the cooperation between the German and Israeli militaries and presented an award to outgoing Israeli air defenses commander Brig. Shahar Shochet.
The United States must take steps to neutralize the threat of Iran’s cruise missile program, researchers at the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs wrote in The Wall Street Journal Monday.Jonathan Ruhe and Blake Fleisher noted that while UN Security Council resolutions and the nuclear deal with Iran don’t prohibit the country from developing cruise missiles, which could carry a nuclear payload, the United States and its allies have the means to play a “bad hand well.” While China and Russia have an interest in supplying Iran with cruise missile technology, Security Council Resolution 2231, which supports the nuclear deal, requires that they get Security Council approval – which the United States, Britain, and France could veto.
Iranian cruise missiles could pose an even greater risk than Iran’s illicit ballistic missile program. Cruise missiles have a shorter launch time, making detecting a launch more difficult. And because a cruise missile’s trajectory is closer to the ground, rather than parabolic like a ballistic missile, it is harder to track.
Using a veto has been a suggested response to Iran’s purchase of Russian fighter jets as part of an $8 billion arms deal. The United States has said the sale of Su-30SM jets would violate the terms of Resolution 2231, which prohibits the sale of “combat aircraft” to Iran. However, some critics of the administration have raised doubts whether the United States will use the veto to block the sale.
While the nuclear deal imposed an eight-year ballistic missile ban on Iran, the Islamic Republic has already tested ballistic missiles twice since the deal was signed. A UN panel found an October ballistic missile test to be in violation of a different UN Security Council Resolution. In January, the United States imposed sanctions on a number of individuals and entities for their role in supporting Iran’s ballistic missile program. However, these sanctions were characterized by Foundation for Defense of Democracies executive director Mark Dubowitz as being the “bare minimum.” (via TheTower.org)
Saudi Arabia halted $4 billion in military and security aid to Lebanon on Friday over what the Kingdom calls “the seizure” by Hezbollah of the “state administration.” Lebanese Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi resigned his post two days later in protest of Hezbollah’s influence, stating, “There is an armed party that is dominating the government's decisions." Former Editor-In-Chief of Asharq al-Awsat Abdulrahman al-Rashed wrote on Monday that Hezbollah has “intensified its efforts to take over authority” inside of Lebanon. He explained that it has “deliberately undertaken the role of the party sabotaging the state and obstructing its affairs.” He described how the Iranian-backed terror organization has “employed Lebanese military institutions” for its own gain both in Syria and inside of Lebanon. It has also “worked on using” the foreign ministry to support Iranian causes. He concluded that “Hezbollah wants to turn Lebanon into an Iranian colony.”
The growing dominance of Hezbollah in Lebanese state institutions also coincides with Hezbollah’s military build-up in its stronghold in southern Lebanon, especially since its 2006 war against Israel. The New York Times reported that Israeli military officials explained that Hezbollah has “moved most of its military infrastructure” in and around Shiite villages, which “amounts to using the civilians as a human shield.” A senior military official told the Times that “[t]he civilians are living in a military compound.” Israeli officials have also warned that in a future conflict, there will most likely be high civilian casualties because of Hezbollah’s military integration inside civilian areas. The Israeli official explained, “We will hit Hezbollah hard, while making every effort to limit civilian casualties as much as we can.” He continued, however, “we do not intend to stand by helplessly in the face of rocket attacks.” In November, Avi Issacharoff of The Times of Israel reported that Israeli officials believe Hezbollah has stockpiled around 150,000 rockets, “including a number of long range Iranian-made missiles capable of striking Israeli cities from north to south.”
In his speech delivered last week, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah threatened to strike Israel’s ammonia gas storage tanks in Haifa, declaring that it would have a nuclear bomb-like effect that would kill tens of thousands of Israelis. He boasted, “We can say that Lebanon today has a nuclear bomb, seeing as any rocket that might hit these tanks is capable of creating a nuclear bomb effect.”
40 Iranian state-run media outlets announced in a coordinated push on Sunday that they were renewing the death sentence fatwa on British author Salman Rushdie, raising the bounty for killing him by $600,000.
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the first Supreme Leader of Iran, placed a fatwa and a $3 million bounty on Rushdie after his 1989 book The Satanic Verses was deemed blasphemous. Rushdie’s Japanese translator was murdered in 1991 and translators in Italy, Norway, and Turkey were targeted for assassination. The current Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that in 2005 that the fatwa was still in effect.
Although often described as a moderate or reformist, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani supported the fatwa against Rushdie. While on a trip to Germany in 1993, Rouhani said (.pdf) that “the West should tolerate the edict [fatwa] as an act of freedom of expression, just as it shelters Rushdie for the sake of the so-called freedom of expression.”
Fars News Agency, which is affiliated with Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was one of the largest contributor to the bounty—nearly $30,000. Billions of dollars of Iranian government funds were unfrozen as part of the sanctions relief built into last year’s nuclear deal.
The Wall Street Journal reported in January that the Iranian government’s repression had increased after the deal was signed. Two Iranian poets were sentenced in October to lashes and jail time for shaking hands with members of the opposite sex. The following month, Iranian journalists were arrested by the IRGC. The government has also arrested American citizens and a permanent resident. The growing oppression prompted Anti-Defamation League national director Jonathan Greenblatt to write in December that Iran’s “ongoing human rights violations and its external aggressions must be taken into account when considering the prospect of normalized relations.”
The ongoing crackdown on political dissidents and reformists, including the disqualification of 99% of so-called reformist candidates in the upcoming elections, was long predicted by critics of the nuclear agreement. (via TheTower.org)
First headlines from the Mobile World Congress 2016, the world’s largest mobile showcase, were all about new smartphones entering the market. But the Barcelona event (Feb. 22-25, 2016) is also a showcase for innovative technologies, mobile products, digital media and new applications. And that’s where the Israeli companies really shine. More than 140 Israeli companies are taking part in this year’s big event, considered to be the most important get-together in the mobile industry. The Israel Export Institute is teaming up with the Foreign Trade Administration at the Ministry of Economy and Industry to put together Israel’s national pavilion. “2016 has gotten off to an excellent start for Israel’s high-tech industry. In just one month, Israeli companies raised about $1.4 billion in investment funds, thereby helping to cement Israel’s position as the startup nation and source of innovation. The Israeli pavilion, featured for the seventh time at the congress, will provide visitors with a glimpse of cutting edge technologies and solutions that Israeli companies are developing and draw many visitors, including the most senior personnel representing leading multinational and international corporations,” said Export Institute Chair Ramzi Gabbay. Israeli companies are displaying cyber technologies that protect mobile devices against hacking, smart home technologies, digital medical technologies, travel technologies, and pet-tech devices. (via Israel21c)
People always ask me if I’m pro-Israel. No one has ever asked me if I am pro-America or pro-Canada or pro-Kenya, where I was born. What does it mean to be pro-Israel? The question even seems vaguely offensive, as if it questions the legitimacy of Israel itself.
I am sure that the concept of a Jewish state has always made sense to me. Perhaps because I myself come from an ancient ethnic and religious minority, the Zoroastrians, who continue to live in a diaspora outside of what was once our homeland, Iran.
So I came to Israel with a predisposed understanding of the need for a state, a safe haven for a people that has been a global minority for millennia and continuously persecuted. But as for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I had no clue what was going on, who was right and who was wrong.
What I came to realize was that you simply cannot understand this highly complex, multidimensional situation unless you come see it for yourself and experience it for yourself, without preconceived notions. This is hard to do. So whom do we rely on to do it? For most people, it’s the Western media, and we presume they know what they’re doing. For the most part, they don’t.
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The off-duty Israeli soldier killed in a terrorist attack at a West Bank supermarket on Thursday was an American citizen. Tuvia Yanai Weissman, 21, was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist while shopping with his wife and four-month-old daughter. During the attack, a second victim was seriously wounded but is now in stable condition. The U.S. State Department condemned the attack in a statement on Friday “in the strongest possible terms” and emphasized that “[t]here is no justification for terrorism.” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said, “A man returns from his day at work, stops to buy groceries for the Sabbath, and is taken away forever by murderous villains. We will stand strong and respond firmly to restore calm and normality to the lives of our citizens everywhere. We will defeat terrorism.” Weissman was buried Friday on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, Israel’s Arlington National Cemetery – about 1,000 people attended the funeral.
In a stabbing attack Friday at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City, two Border Police officers were injured. The Damascus Gate has been the site of several recent attacks. Mickey Levy, the former chief of the Jerusalem Police and a Knesset member of the centrist Yesh Atid party, said, “It’s a crossroads where Jews and Arabs meet and a very difficult place to secure that doesn’t really compare to anywhere else.” Also on Friday, a Palestinian assailant attempted to ram his vehicle into Israeli security forces in the West Bank village of Silwad, near Ramallah. No Israelis were injured, while the attacker was shot and killed.
Since October 1 of last year, 30 Israelis have been killed in attacks by Palestinian terrorists. The current wave of violence has been triggered by incitement from Palestinian leaders across society. The incitement has come from the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, as well as members of Abbas’s Fatah Party. Earlier this month, Abbas hosted the families of terrorists killed during attacks on Israelis and told them, “Your sons are martyrs.”
There is an “intense struggle for the soul of the Democratic Party” being waged between those who believe that the United States is “the leader of the free world” and those who reject that premise and see rather “hubris, not leadership in America’s history,” Josh Block, president and CEO of The Israel Project, wrote in an op-ed for The Hill Thursday.The Israel Project publishes The Tower.
Block describes the first group, who also are “fighting for tolerance, social progress and economic prosperity” at home, as “progressives,” while the latter group are “neo-progressives” or “neo-progs.”
The candidacy of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I – Vt.) for the Democratic presidential nomination shows the appeal of isolationism within the Democratic Party, Block argued. But in embracing isolationism, Sanders and President Barack Obama have failed to uphold an important aspect of progressive American principles: to show “those living under the harsh boot of oppression” that “America was with them.”
Block cited the administration’s “utter passivity” to the carnage in Syria and the Sanders’ advocacy to normalize relations with Iran. “Would the progressive position—either of values or policy—be to allow Russian, Iran and Assad free reign, or move as fast as possible to normalize relations with an Iranian regime that does all those things, and is simultaneously a military, terrorist and cyber security threat to America and our allies?” Block asked.
Block traced the rise of the neo-progs to the merging of two forces: “the netroots, that early-2000s far-left, tech-savvy wing of the party,” and the “resurgent anti-war left of the 1970s” who joined forces in opposition to President George W. Bush and “the misguided war in Iraq.” Neo-progressive isolationism gained force during the Obama administration and served as “rationalizations for shirking America’s role as leader of the West.”
The consequence of these rationalizations has been devastating to a true progressive worldview:
These deliberate choices, which Sanders applauds and would accelerate, have increased human suffering, war and famine, deepened instability, and undermined trust in global systems that we need to constrain behavior by bad actors and maintain a system of enforceable mores.
Never before have regimes that contribute to human suffering and oppose progressive values been so free to act without consequence or fear of American retribution.
Does that sound “progressive” to you?
Block’s critique of the Democratic Party echoes concerns raised by Martin Peretz in The Democratic Party, on the Edge of the Abyss, which was published in The Tower Magazine in August 2015.
Peretz observed that Iran and its “gunmen continue energetically disrupting the status quo, from Yemen to Lebanon, from Gaza to Bahrain,” and that “as Iranian efforts expand, ISIS grows stronger.” He concluded:
About this matter of political consequences: has the Democratic Party forgotten the McGovernite legacy from which it fought for so long, and for a time so successfully, to free itself? The George W. Bush Administration’s post-invasion missteps in Iraq, and their grisly consequences, have given the Democrats a dangerous sense of their own freedom: Americans may oppose aggression without strategy, but history has shown that they also oppose idealism without strength and pragmatism without principle.
Our current president flatters himself with comparisons to Abraham Lincoln. But Lincoln knew about confronting adversarial regimes possessed of corrupt, intolerant and militant principles. Even as he worried about losing his re-election bid 151 years ago this summer to New York Democrat Gen. George B. McClellan, who advocated a quick peace with the South and an end to emancipation, he sent Gen. Philip Sheridan to destroy the economic infrastructure of the Shenandoah Valley and Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman to do the same in Georgia. Lincoln understood that there are some illegitimate regimes that demand resistance rather than compromise.
The Obama administration confirmed to the Associated Press on Thursday that a Russian sale of fighter jets to Iran would be a violation of the UN arms embargo, highlighting another Iranian attempt to defy its international obligations. Iran announced last week that it would buy Sukhoi-30 fighter jets from Russia. In response, Michael Singh, former senior advisor for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council, tweeted, “For the next five years, US or other P5 member could block this per UNSC Res 2231.” Bradley Klapper of the Associated Press reported on Thursday that U.S. State Department Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. “will raise” the issue with Russia and that the countries that negotiated the nuclear deal with Iran, which includes Russia, "should be fully aware of these restrictions." As part of UN Resolution 2231, which endorsed the Iranian nuclear deal, the United States, Russia, China, Great Britain, and France agreed to leave the UN arms and ballistic missile embargoes in place for five and eight years, respectively. According to the resolution, Toner explained that such a sale would require the Security Council’s approval "in advance on a case-by-case basis."
Klapper also reported that even though U.S. officials say that the sale would not violate the nuclear deal, “it would amount to another in a long string of Iranian transgressions of U.N. Security Council resolutions.” Since the nuclear deal was reached in July, Iran has launched two ballistic missiles, exported weapons to both Yemen and Syria, and violated international travel bans. The Islamic Republic broke international law when it released videos and photos of the American sailors it detained in the Persian Gulf. Additionally, Iran’s provocative actions in the region and hostile activities toward the United States continue. Iran announced it will unveil an upgraded version of the ballistic missile it launched in October, held anti-American rallies, launched cyberattacks against the State Department, and fired rockets near a U.S. vessel in the Persian Gulf. Iran has also escalated its involvement in Syria, sending thousands of Iranian troops to assist the Bashar al-Assad regime, which continues to use chemical weapons and bomb its own people indiscriminately.
Meeting with a group of mothers and their families from Israeli communities near the Gaza border, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power heard about the reality of daily life under the threat of rocket attacks from the Iran-backed terrorist group Hamas, The Jerusalem Post reported on Wednesday.
The meeting was held at Kibbutz Nachal Oz, a community of 380 people that sustained 265 rocket and mortar attacks during the 2014 war with Hamas. Four-year-old Danny Turgeman was killed by a mortar fired from Gaza in the closing days of the conflict.
Zohar Lahav Sheffer, one of the mothers in attendance, told Power that even a year and a half after the war’s conclusion, loud noises still make her three children jump. “They are scared of every sound they hear,” she said. “It reminds them of scary things from the war.” Sheffer, who comes from nearby Kibbutz Gevi’im, explained that her family had to leave their home due to the war. “They ask hard questions about why [they] should grow up in a situation like this,” she added.
The house of another mother in attendance, Adele Raemer of Kibbutz Nirim, was struck by a Hamas rocket during the conflict. The rocket also knocked out electricity to the entire kibbutz. “As terrifying as it is to be shot at when there is light, it is even more terrifying to be shot at in the darkness less than two kilometers from the border,” Raemer, an American citizen, told Power. She added that before the power was restored, the kibbutz was hit by yet another Hamas rocket, which killed two people and severely injured a third.
Another woman at the meeting was Atara Orenbouch, a mother of seven who moved to the border city of Sderot 17 years ago. Her children range in age from six to 23, prompting her to observe, “Some of my children were born into Kassam; that is the only thing they know.” Kassams are the names of some of the rockets that Hamas fires at Israeli communities. Still, Orenbouch said that she did not consider leaving, explaining, “we have a lovely community in Sderot.” Orenbouch added that her family lived in Sderot for one year before Hamas rockets started hitting the city, including one that landed in a neighbor’s backyard.
Janet Cwaigenbaum, who lives in Kibbut Nir Yitzhak, told Power that while her family was celebrating her son’s Bar Mitzvah as the war was beginning in July 2014, they could hear explosions echoing from Gaza. “We have to explain to our children that there are no monsters under the bed, but there are tunnels,” she said. “We do not know if a terrorist will come up from the tunnel.”
Another woman in attendance, Hila Haim Sheffer said that, having grown up in Nachal Oz, she witnessed how a “peaceful community” where Israelis and Arabs coexisted had become “a fearful place.”
“I have different memories from what my kids have now, good memories regarding the neighbors [Palestinians],” Hila Sheffer told Power. “I am very connected to the land here. I am [passing this on] to my kids. I hope they will stay here.” In response to a question from Power about how they kept hope alive, Hila Sheffer answered, “I am an optimistic person.”
Power offered words of encouragement to the families and praised them for their bravery in the face of threats and their understanding of the suffering on both sides. As a friend of both the Israelis and the Palestinians, the U.S. would work hard to bring peace between them, she added.
The United States “will always stand with Israel,” Power affirmed. “We will always stand for your security and for your legitimacy in the UN.”
In a speech earlier this week in Israel, Power lambasted the United Nations for its systemic anti-Israel bias.
A 2015 study conducted by Prof. Ruth Pat-Horenczyk, a director at the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma, found that “40 percent of children in Sderot experience symptoms of anxiety, fear, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”
According to the IDF, Palestinian groups have launched over 11,000 rockets at Israel since it withdrew from Gaza in 2005, with over 5 million Israeli civilians living under threat of rocket fire. (via TheTower.org)
Via, a ride-sharing app launched in 2012 and so far available in parts of Chicago and New York City, offers on-demand shared rides driven only by licensed taxi drivers. Book a ride through the free iOS or Android app, and the algorithms match you with a “Via-cle” already headed your way with up to five other passengers. Rides, which cost $5 plus tax prepaid (or $7 plus tax) automatically charged to a credit card or commuter benefits debit card, are not door to door but rather pick you up on the nearest corner of a street that flows in the direction of your destination and drop you off within a couple of blocks of where you want to go. Last spring, Via raised $27 million in a Series B financing round led by Pitango. The company is headquartered in New York, with an office in Chicago and a product development team of about 35 in Tel Aviv. Via founders Daniel Ramot and Oren Shoval met in the Israel Air Force, where they led large-scale technology projects. Ramot then earned a doctorate in neuroscience from Stanford University and Shoval earned a doctorate in systems biology from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. “The idea for Via came from Israel, where many people rely on shared vehicles called sheruts to travel quickly, cheaply and easily along major streets,” says Shoval. A sherut is like a cross between a taxi and a public bus, cruising along the routes buses normally take, and accommodating about 12 passengers. That’s the model Ramot and Shoval wanted to spread to other cities, but with a high-tech twist. (via Israel21c)
In a speech on Tuesday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened to strike the ammonia gas storage tanks in Haifa in a future conflict with Israel, which he claimed would have a similar effect to a nuclear bomb, killing tens of thousands. Nasrallah boasted, “We can say that Lebanon today has a nuclear bomb, seeing as any rocket that might hit these tanks is capable of creating a nuclear bomb effect.” During the last war against the Iranian-backed terror group, 160 Israelis were killed, including 43 civilians. 6,000 Israeli homes were hit, 300,000 Israeli residents were displaced and more than a million were forced to live in shelters. Hezbollah is now believed to have increased its arsenal, with a total of around 100,000 rockets and missiles including both short and medium-range projectiles.
Although Hezbollah is largely distracted in its war to prop up the Assad regime in Syria, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot stated on Wednesday that the group constitutes the largest threat out of all the terrorist groups surrounding Israel. According to Israeli military officials, Hezbollah is hiding its military infrastructure in Shiite villages in southern Lebanon, which is likely to lead to heavy Lebanese civilian casualties in the event of another war. Last year, reports indicated that Iran and Hezbollah were attempting to build up terror infrastructure on the Golan Heights along the Syrian border, in the hopes of establishing another front against Israel.
Primarily armed and funded by Iran, Hezbollah has reportedly recently acquired sophisticated arms from Russia. The terror group now has advanced radar technology that could allow them to “lock on” to Israeli fighter jets conducting reconnaissance missions in Lebanon, and fire missiles at them. According to a report in the Daily Beast, Russia has also provided Hezbollah with long-range missiles, laser-guided rockets, and anti-tank weapons. The report cited two anonymous Hezbollah commanders who claimed that there are no strings attached to the weapons and that they could be turned against Israel.
For the first time, Egyptian textbooks will cover the 1979 Camp David peace agreement with Israel, The Times of Israel reported on Wednesday. A reporter for Israel’s Army Radio saw a new ninth-grade textbook on Egyptian modern history, reporting that it covered the Camp David Accords, which officially ended the state of war between Israel and its southern neighbor, in an unbiased manner.
Eight clauses from the treaty were reproduced in the textbook, including phrases that Egypt and Israel would be “ending the state of war,” with “each side respecting the sovereignty and independence of the other side.”
The textbook mentioned that Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin won the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts, explaining that “the reason they won was the great effort they invested in reaching peace in the Middle East.” However, the textbook doesn’t mention that Sadat was assassinated by Egyptian opponents of the peace agreement.
According to Army Radio, the mention of the peace treaty is part of a systemic change in Egyptian textbooks started in 2014 by Egypt’s Education Ministry in what was described as a “bid to counter radical Islamic ideologies.” Content in over 1,300 books has been changed.
Some of the change has been political. Former President Hosni Mubarak’s role in the 1973 Yom Kippur War has been reduced. Mubarak was deposed in 2011 after nearly 30 years as president. Material in the textbooks added during the reign of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammad Morsi has also been removed, such as content calling for a return to Islamic values. Morsi was deposed by his then-defense minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, now the president, in 2013. (via TheTower.org)
In a sign of solidarity with Israel, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power on Monday blasted the anti-Israel bias often displayed at the UN. Addressing students of the Model UN at a school in Even Yehuda, a town near Netanya, Power said, “Bias has extended well beyond Israel as a country, Israel as an idea.” She continued, “Israel is just not treated like other countries.” While in Israel, Power met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin. Rivlin asked her to “transfer once again a message to [Palestinian Authority] President [Mahmoud] Abbas, that he must understand the conflict between us — the tragedy between us — can only be solved through direct negotiations. No solution can be imposed on either side, and we must negotiate to come to an understanding.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, meeting with Netanyahu in Berlin on Tuesday, expressed her country’s strong support for the State of Israel. She declared at a joint press conference, “[T]here cannot be a normal, friendly relationship with Iran so long as the existence of Israel is not recognized.” Merkel said, “We agree that Israel, Europe and Germany are facing the same challenges, and we had our talks in this spirit, and discussed how to fight Islamic State and how it is possible to stop the terrorist threat.” She said that, while she acknowledged “this is not the time for progress” on negotiations toward a two-state solution, nonetheless, it would be possible to “improve things in certain areas.” Merkel’s position is aligned with that of Isaac Herzog, the leader of the opposition in the Knesset and head of the Zionist Union party, who said last month that should he be elected prime minister, his government would work to “implement security measures,” referring to unilateral actions that separate Israel from the Palestinians, rather than immediately jump into bilateral negotiations. In a recent op-ed in the German daily Bild, Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called the ongoing wave of Palestinian attacks against Israelis “despicable terror.”
Hany Baransi has been serving authentic hummus and falafel in his central Ohio eatery for 27 years, proudly giving diners a taste of his Israeli Christian Arab heritage between bites of rich Mediterranean fare.A sign bearing an Arabic greeting—“Ahlan Wa Sahalan”— hangs prominently near the glass doors of his Nazareth Restaurant & Deli in Columbus, through which passersby can also spot an Israeli flag. Baransi says he has always been outspoken about his Israeli identity, and so when his restaurant was attacked on Thursday evening by a machete-wielding man, he believed it was no coincidence.
The assailant, identified by police as 30-year-old Mohamed Barry, “came in and asked where I was from,” Baransi told The Tower. While Baransi was at home nursing a headache at the time, one of his employees– a young waitress– told Barry that the owner is from Israel. The man left after he determined that Baransi wasn’t at the restaurant, only to return around 30 minutes later with a machete and start hacking people.
“He came to each table and just started hitting them,” Karen Bass, who was in the restaurant at the time, told WBNS. “There were tables and chairs overturned, there was a man on the floor bleeding, there was blood on the floor.”
According to authorities, Nazareth’s employees and patrons fought back and threw chairs at Barry, who fled the eatery after injuring four diners. He led cops on a five-mile chase before his vehicle spun off the road and, armed with his machete and another knife, he lunged at the officers.
“He yelled ‘Allahu Akbar’ and then he attacked them with the machete and that’s when they shot him and killed him,” Baransi said.
No cops were wounded during the attack, and the four victims who were injured inside the restaurant are expected to recover.
While Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs said shortly after the assault that she believed Nazareth’s diners “were just randomly attacked, spontaneously, without warning,” Baransi wasn’t so certain.
“Is it a random attack? Yes, but it wasn’t a random attack like you’re walking in the street and there are 10 shops and you pick one,” he said. “It was a random attack [insofar] that I was one of the Israelis [picked] between all of the Israelis that are around here. It was a terrorist attack.”
“I am a very outspoken Israeli, and I have an Israeli flag in my restaurant,” added Baransi, who moved to the United States from Haifa in 1983 and said he tries to visit Israel as often as he can. “When people [from the Arab community] ask me where I am from, I tell them I am Israeli, I am an Israeli Christian Arab, it’s not like I am Palestinian, and then they start arguing and fighting with me.”
Baransi noted that the FBI, which has since joined the investigation and is probing whether the assault was an instance of homegrown extremism, has yet to share any conclusions. He mentioned that he is hoping to hear from them by Monday. For now, he is focusing on helping his staff cope with the traumatic experience they underwent.
“You know, we are Israelis, used to this in our lives, people attacking us and wanting to kill us,” he observed. “But Americans — I have young ladies, 19, 20-years-old, they probably never heard people yelling and screaming. It was a huge experience for them. And some of them are very devastated. All of us communicate on a daily basis, and some of us, a couple of people, are still having a really hard time.”
He said that he is only willing to reopen his restaurant once his staff assures him that they are ready. “Even though I am hurting financially badly, if this time is needed for the well-being of my employees, I am okay with that,” he stressed. “God will provide for us.”
When asked whether he would consider removing the Israeli flag seen from his restaurant’s entryway as a precaution, Baransi swiftly rejected the idea.
“Actually I have another flag, and I am going to get a bigger flag, and I am going to get a Star of David necklace and put it on my chest, and I am going to get a tattoo,” he declared. “Honest to God, I am not kidding. They don’t scare me. We are Israelis. We are Israelis. We are resilient, we fight back.”
“We are used to these bastards,” he added. “We are used to these kinds of attacks, that they hate us just for what we are. They don’t know us, they don’t know anything about us, and they do that. You know, I don’t care if I was an Arab or not, because I am an Israeli, and if you don’t like Israelis you don’t like me.”
Baransi said he spends 12 to 14 hours each day working in his restaurant and has never experienced such an incident before, but indicated that as an Israeli Christian Arab, he feels “very discriminated against in the way the Arabs look at me.” Despite this, he emphasized that these were barriers that could be overcome. His best friend in Haifa, who graduated high school at his side, is Muslim. And he has made Arab Muslim friends in America, too.
“I have a Muslim friend who is from Jordan. He is my best friend. We talk politics, we talk religion, and we are completely different people. We can yell at each other and fight,” he chuckled. “But I know I love him, I know he loves me, we would die for each other.”
Still, he suggested that sometimes, he feels like he doesn’t quite fit in with anybody. “Even with the Israelis, I still feel different because of the Jewish community. But then even with the Israeli Arabs. It’s just a weird kind of feeling.”
“But I am very happy in my life,” he quickly added. “I feel okay. I love my country Israel, and I will defend it until the day I die.” (via TheTower.org)
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are very big business in Israel. Various NGOs—most of them from the Left and claiming to promote human rights and democracy—are very active in the Knesset, in filing lawsuits with the Supreme Court that seek to overturn government policies, and in the media. They receive hundreds of millions of shekels from large foundations and foreign governments—primarily European. While the activities of these NGOs are criticized by the Israeli Right, much of the mainstream Israeli media supports them. As a result, the “halo effect” that protects these NGOs from independent investigation is particularly strong.But that halo was shattered recently when the popular Israeli television news program Uvda featured a hidden-camera expose of a little-known “peace group” known as Ta’ayush, led by activist Ezra Nawi. The footage showed Nawi, along with Nasser Nawaja, a Palestinian employee of the NGO B’Tselem, plotting against an Arab who was negotiating to sell private land in the West Bank to Jews. They were trying to lure the Palestinian into a trap where he would be captured by the Palestinian Authority’s security services. As Nawi coldly noted in the video, under PA law, the sale of Palestinian land to Israelis is punishable by death.
The broadcast became headline news and the fallout continued for weeks. Nawi was arrested at Ben-Gurion Airport when he tried to flee the country. A few days later, a follow-up program aired more hidden-camera footage, this time showing Nawi with officials from two other prominent “human rights” NGOs—Breaking the Silence (BtS) and Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR). Both groups were shown giving money to Nawi, who then handed out checks to Palestinians, apparently for taking part in violent demonstrations. RHR claimed that Nawi was paid for providing transportation services. BtS denounced everyone involved in the program as “Stasi,” a reference to the notorious East German intelligence service.
The report was particularly explosive because Nawi had been an iconic hero to the far-Left in Israel and beyond—a gay Sephardi peace activist and pacifist who embodied Western orientalist myths. Prominent leftists like Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein described him as “one of Israel’s most courageous human rights activists.” David Shulman, who writes highly critical articles on Israel in The New York Review of Books and happens to be a member of Ta’ayush, referred to Nawi as an Israeli Gandhi. In 2009, after Nawi was convicted of assault following a demonstration, he became the focus of an international campaign, including a sympathetic portrayal inTime magazine. The fiercely anti-Zionist Jewish Voice for Peace claimed to have collected 20,000 signatures on a petition to save him from jail. But in 37 minutes, the Channel 2 program destroyed Nawi’s image.
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On Thursday in Munich, the US and Russia agreed to implement a ceasefire in Syria in a week's time. The Munich announcement follows the Assad regime’s Russian- and Iranian-backed offensive against Aleppo, causing tens of thousands of Syrians to flee to the Syrian-Turkish border. Backed by Russian airstrikes, Syrian forces along with Iranian, Hezbollah, and other Shiite fighters have nearly completely encircled Aleppo and cut off a major supply route connecting Aleppo city with the Turkish border. The attack on Aleppo had caused last week’s negotiations for a political solution to the conflict in Syria to falter, as rebels refused to negotiate until the Assad regime and Russia halted their sieges and airstrikes on civilian areas, a demand supported by a UN Security Council resolution signed by Russia.
US officials had hoped for an immediate ceasefire and are concerned that Russia will use the coming week to help Assad’s forces and Iranian-backed militias seize more territory. In an interview with AFP, Assad vowed he would regain control of the entire country. Both Syria and Russia have insisted that despite the eventual ceasefire, the fight against “terrorists” will continue. However, the Assad regime considers all opposition groups to be terrorists, while the Russians have been accused of failing to distinguish between moderate groups and ISIS, as their air strikes have hit predominantly non-extremist opposition groups. Syrian rebels expressed doubt that Russia would observe the ceasefire and called on the international community to enforce the agreement.
Russia’s air strikes and the battle in Aleppo have tilted the balance of power in Syria in favor of the Assad regime and the Iranian-Hezbollah axis. Analysts including President Barack Obama’s former Special Adviser for Transition in Syria, Frederic Hof, have criticized the administration for not taking action to protect civilians and the moderate opposition in the face of the Assad regime’s brutality. Hof has warned that Russia aims to neutralize “the armed nationalist opposition in order to create for the West… the horror of a binary choice between Bashar the Barrel Bomber and Baghdadi the False Caliph.” On Tuesday, former Middle East advisor to the Obama administration Dennis Ross reiterated his call for the creation of safe haven in Syria as a way to gain leverage against Russia and protect the civilian population.
Hamas, the Iran-backed terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip, has prohibited a senior United Nations official from leaving Gaza, the Associated Press reported Thursday.A UN source told the AP that Mahmoud Daher, the head of the World Health Organization’s Gaza office, was barred from exiting the strip due to a newly-instituted bureaucratic rule. Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since it seized power in a violent coup in 2007, recently enforced a requirement that members of international organizations would have to obtain a exit permit from Hamas to leave Gaza. The UN had been exempt from this requirement, but that is apparently no longer the case. The AP characterized the new rule as an attempt by Hamas “to exert its influence on the UN.” UNRWA, the UN’s Palestinian relief agency, aids thousands of Gazans.
The International Committee of the Red Cross had to close its Gaza office earlier this week when protesters stormed the building.
Hamas has suffered a number of setbacks in recent weeks. Eleven Hamas militants have died in tunnel collapses in the past few months. The collapses have occurred as Hamas has expedited its construction of attack tunnels in anticipation of another war with Israel. Divisions in the ranks of the terrorist group’s leadership were exposed earlier this week, with the announcement of the execution of one of its commanders under murky circumstances.
Ties between Hamas and the Sinai-based franchise of ISIS were the focus of renewed attention after Israeli intelligence revealed that ISIS terrorists are traveling to Gaza for medical treatment. (via TheTower.org)
The provisions the administration is considering for the Visa Waiver Program that would exempt Iranian dual nationals from having to obtain a visa pose both a security risk to the U.S. and a threat to the sanctions regime in place against Iran, according to testimony from a House Oversight Committee hearing on Wednesday. Emanuele Ottolenghi, a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), told Congress that Iran “has long relied on Iranian nationals who are dual passport holders to pursue illegal activities, including terrorism, illicit finance, and procurement of technology for its ballistic-missile and nuclear-weapons programs.” He explained that not every dual national of Iran is an agent, but “virtually all agents of the Iranian regime who over the past decade were involved in conspiracies to commit acts of terrorism, illicit financial activities, nuclear and ballistic procurement, were dual passport holders.” Bloomberg View’s Josh Rogin reported on Wednesday that based on a policy memo he had obtained, the State Department has been “pressing to exempt all dual-nationality Iranians who are outside of Iran, in the hope of encouraging political change inside that country.”
In December, Congress worked with the administration to enact changes to the existing Visa Waiver Program (VWP) which allows citizens of 38 nations, mostly European, to travel to the US without a visa. The result was the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 which was signed into law by President Barack Obama on December 18. The changes to the VWP prevent those who also hold citizenship of a state sponsor of terrorism, including Iran, from traveling to the U.S. without a visa and require a visa for anyone who has traveled to those countries since March 1, 2011.
After the bill was signed into law, Iran criticized the U.S., claiming that the new rules were in violation of the nuclear deal signed last July. In response, Secretary of State John Kerry sent a letter to Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif promising to provide waivers so as to not “interfere with legitimate business interests in Iran.” On January 21, 2016, the administration acknowledged that it would provide waivers to the law and is considering eight categories of people to exempt, including those traveling for "legitimate business." Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee Michael McCaul (R-Texas) stated, "Let me be clear: nowhere does the law include this authority. In fact, Congress explicitly rejected the waivers requested by the White House.” The two exemptions provided in the original legislation are for national security and law enforcement purposes.
Members of Congress have blasted the administration’s attempts to circumvent the law. Chairman McCaul told Rogin, “The president has decided he is going to break this law -- and he plans to do so, in part, to accommodate the world’s leading state sponsor of terror, Iran. I believe this decision could have serious consequences for our security and -- perhaps more importantly -- far-reaching consequences for our democracy.”
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that “Iran does not face any insurmountable technical barriers to producing a nuclear weapon,” directly contradicting the Obama administration’s assertion that the nuclear deal blocks all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear bomb, the Washington Free Beacon reported Tuesday.
Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the U.S. intelligence community does not know “whether Iran will build a nuclear weapon in the wake last summer’s nuclear deal,” adding that Iran’s “political will” has therefore become the central issue at hand. His testimony reflected the conclusions presented by the intelligence community in its latest Worldwide Threat Assessment (.pdf).
“Iran probably views the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as a means to remove sanctions while preserving some of its nuclear capabilities, as well as the option to eventually expand its nuclear infrastructure,” Clapper noted.
While Clapper reiterated the Obama administration’s controversial assertion, which has been questioned by outside experts, that it would now take Iran about a year to build a nuclear weapon due to the JCPOA, he also acknowledged that Tehran continues to advance its ballistic missile program. “Iran’s ballistic missiles are inherently capable of delivering [weapons of mass destruction], and Tehran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East,” he observed.
Iran’s ongoing development of ballistic missiles contravenes United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which formalized the nuclear deal and called on Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles.”
According to the Worldwide Threat Assessment, Iran remains the world’s top state sponsor of terrorism and “continues to exert its influence in regional crises in the Middle East through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps—Qods Force (IRGC-QF), its terrorist partner Lebanese Hizballah, and proxy groups.” The report further emphasized that Tehran and its proxies “remain a continuing terrorist threat to US interests and partners worldwide.” (via TheTower.org)
Brainnovations, the country’s first accelerator for brain-related startups, recently graduated its first class of eight companies. The accelerator — part of Israel Brain Technologies – summed up the first cycle with an open call for Cycle 2 of Brainnovations, set to take place May-July 2016. “We are now at a unique point in time at which technology can be used to address brain challenges and diseases – from Alzheimer’s to brain trauma and everything in between – as never before. Our objective at Brainnovations is to bring great ideas in the brain-tech arena to fruition, and to help entrepreneurs navigate the complex path to launching initiatives in the medical arena,” Yael Fuchs, Brainnovations program manager, told ISRAEL21c. “The first cycle of Brainnovations exceeded our expectations, and the eight teams we selected made tremendous progress. We now look forward to bringing everything we learned in the first cycle to the next group of startup teams, and are very excited at the prospect.” The accelerator program comprised three months of lectures, mentoring, and networking. Over 150 investors and mentors recently came out for Brainnovations Demo Day at the Google TLV headquarters to hear from the first class about the technologies they’re developing for Alzheimer’s, depression, spasticity, stroke, brain tumors and other neurodegenerative diseases. (via Israel21c)