Monday, May 25, 2015

The Rational Ayatollah Hypothesis

A street decoration in Tehran.


Can there be a rational, negotiable, relatively reasonable bigot? Barack Obama thinks so.

So we learn from the president’s interview last week with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg—the same interview in which Mr. Obama called Islamic State’s capture of Ramadi a “tactical setback.” Mr. Goldberg asked the president to reconcile his view of an Iranian regime steeped in “venomous anti-Semitism” with his claims that the same regime “is practical, and is responsive to incentive, and shows signs of rationality.”

The president didn’t miss a beat. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s strategic objectives, he said, were not dictated by prejudice alone. Sure, the Iranians could make irrational decisions “with respect to trying to use anti-Semitic rhetoric as an organizing tool.” They might also pursue hate-based policies “where the costs are low.” But the regime has larger goals: “maintaining power, having some semblance of legitimacy inside their country,” and getting “out of the deep economic rut that we’ve put them in.”

Also, Mr. Obama reminded Mr. Goldberg, “there were deep strains of anti-Semitism in this country,” to say nothing of Europe. If the president can forgive us our trespasses, he can forgive the ayatollah’s, too.

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that a man with an undergraduate’s enthusiasm for moral equivalency (Islamic State now, the Crusades and Inquisition then) would have sophomoric ideas about the nature and history of anti-Semitism. So let’s recall some basic facts.

Iran has no border, and no territorial dispute, with Israel. The two countries have a common enemy in Islamic State and other radical Sunni groups. Historically and religiously, Jews have always felt a special debt to Persia. Tehran and Jerusalem were de facto allies until 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini came to power and 100,000 Jews still lived in Iran. Today, no more than 10,000 Jews are left.

So on the basis of what self-interest does Iran arm and subsidize Hamas, probably devoting more than $1 billion of (scarce) dollars to the effort? What’s the economic rationale for hosting conferences of Holocaust deniers in Tehran, thereby gratuitously damaging ties to otherwise eager economic partners such as Germany and France? What was the political logic to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s calls to wipe Israel off the map, which made it so much easier for the U.S. and Europe to impose sanctions? How does the regime shore up its domestic legitimacy by preaching a state ideology that makes the country a global pariah?

Maybe all this behavior serves Tehran’s instrumental purposes by putting the regime at the vanguard of a united Shiite-Sunni “resistance” to Western imperialism and Zionism. If so, it hasn’t worked out too well, as the rise of Islamic State shows. The likelier explanation is that the regime believes what it says, practices what it preaches, and is willing to pay a steep price for doing so.

So it goes with hating Jews. There are casual bigots who may think of Jews as greedy or uncouth, but otherwise aren’t obsessed by their prejudices. But the Jew-hatred of the Iranian regime is of the cosmic variety: Jews, or Zionists, as the agents of everything that is wrong in this world, from poverty and drug addiction to conflict and genocide. If Zionism is the root of evil, then anti-Zionism is the greatest good—a cause to which one might be prepared to sacrifice a great deal, up to and including one’s own life.

This was one of the lessons of the Holocaust, which the Nazis carried out even at the expense of the overall war effort. In 1944, with Russia advancing on a broad front and the Allies landing in Normandy, Adolf Eichmann pulled out all stops to deport more than 400,000 Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz in just two months. The Nazis didn’t even bother to make slaves of most of their prisoners to feed their war machine. Annihilation of the Jews was the higher goal.

Modern Iran is not Nazi Germany, or so Iran’s apologists like to remind us. Then again, how different is the thinking of an Eichmann from that of a Khamenei, who in 2012 told a Friday prayer meeting that Israel was a “cancerous tumor that should be cut and will be cut”?

Whether the Ayatollah Khamenei gets to act on his wishes, as Eichmann did, is another question. Mr. Obama thinks he won’t, because the ayatollah only pursues his Jew-hating hobby “at the margins,” as he told Mr. Goldberg, where it isn’t at the expense of his “self-interest.” Does it occur to Mr. Obama that Mr. Khamenei might operate according to a different set of principles than political or economic self-interest? What if Mr. Khamenei believes that some things in life are, in fact, worth fighting for, the elimination of Zionism above all?

In November 2013 the president said at a fundraising event that he was “not a particularly ideological person.” Maybe Mr. Obama doesn’t understand the compelling power of ideology. Or maybe he doesn’t know himself. Either way, the tissue of assumptions on which his Iran diplomacy rests looks thinner all the time.

Iran vs. Israel: Who's Making the Threats?

PressTV, The Debate
May 18, 2015

A speech by the Israeli defense minister sets the stage for a discussion of whether Jerusalem threatens Tehran or the other way around. Daniel Pipes debated Brian Becker of ANSWER Coalition. 

An excerpt from the conversation, at 12:45:

Pipes: Do I think the U.S. government should bomb the Iranian nuclear installations? Absolutely, and the sooner the better.

Moderator: No, should Israel do it?

Pipes: I would prefer the United States government do it but if the United States government won't do it, I hope the Israelis will do it, be otherwise we have madmen in Tehran controlling nuclear weapons that threaten the Iranian population, the Israeli population, the American population, and many other populations besides. Best to get rid of this in advance, such as the Israelis did in Iraq in 1981 and in Syria in 2007.

Here is the contents of the two pages Mr. Pipes showed the camera:

1. Iran finances and provides arms to Hamas which periodically attacks Israel.

2. Iran finances and provides arms to Hezbollah which periodically attacks Israel.

3. Khomeini called for "wiping Israel out of existence" on coming to power in. (1979)

4. Mohammad Khatami, president of Iran: "If we abide by real legal laws, we should mobilize the whole Islamic world for a sharp confrontation with the Zionist regime … if we abide by the Koran, all of us should mobilize to kill." (2000)

5. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: "It is the mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to erase Israel from the map of the region." (2001)

6. Hassan Nasrallah, a leader of Hezbollah: "If they [Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide." (2002)

7. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran: he repeatedly called for Israel to be "wiped off the map." (2005)

8. Nasrallah: "Israel is our enemy. This is an aggressive, illegal, and illegitimate entity, which has no future in our land. Its destiny is manifested in our motto: 'Death to Israel.'" (2005)

9. Yahya Rahim Safavi, commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps: "With God's help the time has come for the Zionist regime's death sentence." (2008)

10. Mohammad Hassan Rahimian, Khamenei's representative to the Moustazafan Foundation: "We have manufactured missiles that allow us, when necessary to replace [sic] Israel in its entirety with a big holocaust." (2010)

11. Mohammad Reza Naqdi, the commander of the Basij paramilitary force: "We recommend them [the Zionists] to pack their furniture and return to their countries. And if they insist on staying, they should know that a time while arrive when they will not even have time to pack their suitcases." (2011)

12. Khamenei: "The Zionist regime is a cancerous tumor that will be removed." (2012)

13. Ahmad Alamolhoda, a member of the Assembly of Experts: "The destruction of Israel is the idea of the Islamic Revolution in Iran and is one of the pillars of the Iranian Islamic regime. We cannot claim that we have no intention of going to war with Israel." (2013)

14. Nasrallah: "The elimination of Israel is not only a Palestinian interest. It is the interest of the entire Muslim world and the entire Arab world." (2013)

15. Hojateleslam Alireza Panahian, the advisor to Office of the Supreme Leader in Universities: "The day will come when the Islamic people in the region will destroy Israel and save the world from this Zionist base." (2013)

16. Hojatoleslam Ali Shirazi, Khamenei's representative in the Revolutionary Guard: "The Zionist regime will soon be destroyed, and this generation will be witness to its destruction." (2013)

17. Khamenei: "This barbaric, wolflike & infanticidal regime of Israel which spares no crime has no cure but to be annihilated." (2014)

18. Hossein Salami, the deputy head of the Revolutionary Guard: "We will chase you [Israelis] house to house and will take revenge for every drop of blood of our martyrs in Palestine, and this is the beginning point of Islamic nations awakening for your defeat." (2014)

19. Salami: "Today we are aware of how the Zionist regime is slowly being erased from the world, and indeed, soon, there will be no such thing as the Zionist regime on Planet Earth." (2014)

20. Hossein Sheikholeslam, the secretary-general of the Committee for Support for the Palestinian Intifada: "The issue of Israel's destruction is important, no matter the method. We will obviously implement the strategy of the Imam Khomeini and the Leader on the issue of destroying the Zionists." (2014)

21. Khamene'i called for Israel to be "annihilated." (November 10, 2014)

22. Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander-in-chief of the Revolutionary Guard: "The Revolutionary Guards will fight to the end of the Zionist regime ... We will not rest easy until this epitome of vice is totally deleted from the region's geopolitics." (2015)

23. Mujtaba du Al-Nour, a senior figure in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards: Iran has rocketsthat can reach the heart of Tel-Aviv within six or seven minutes after being given the go ahead by the Supreme Guide, "even before the dust of rockets of the Zionists reach us". (February 23, 2015)

24. General Mohammad Reza Naqdi, commander of Iran's Basij militia in late March 2015: "Wiping Israel off the map is not up for negotiation." (April 1, 2015)

25. Mojtaba Zolnour, a Khamenei representative in the IRGC: The "government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has divine permission to destroy Israel. … The Noble Koran permits the Islamic Republic of Iran to destroy Israel. … Even if Iran gives up its nuclear program, it will not weaken this country's determination to destroy Israel." (May 12, 2015)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Alan Dershowitz flip-flops again

Two years ago Alan Dershowitz finally began to realize the immense danger of Obama’s policy on Iran and he wrote several articles: 

But now comes a piece in the Jerusalem Post that makes no sense.  Dershowitz cannot have it both ways. You cannot be a stringent critic of Obama’s Iran policy and then praise how Obama talked about “shared values between our country and Israel” because if these values had any significance to Obama he would not be enabling Iran to become a nuclear power and be pushing the world towards a nuclear war.  Apparently Dershowitz never really understood the catastrophe behind Obama’s appeasement of Iran or he thinks Israelis would still swallow this inconsistency in his thinking. But we do  live under an Iranian nuclear threat and we can just wonder how blind and insensitive or just dumb Dershowitz really is.          

Having just listened to Obama's speech at a conservative Jewish Congregation in DC, I was reminded why I supported him both times he ran for president, as well as when he ran for the US Senate.

I have been a strident critic   of President Obama’s policy toward Iran, especially how he and his team have been negotiating with that belligerent regime over its nuclear weapons program. But opposition to one aspect of the Obama policies should not be mistaken for opposition to President Obama himself or to the many achievements of his administration, particularly in the domestic area.

Having just listened to his speech at a conservative Jewish Congregation in Washington, DC, I was reminded why I supported him both times he ran for president, as well as when he ran for the United States Senate. Barak Obama is a good and decent person, who admires the Jewish people and supports Israel’s right to exist as the Nation State of the Jewish People as well as its right to defend itself against attacks, both domestic and foreign. He disagrees with the Netanyahu administration on several issues. On some of these issues, such as settlement building, I tend to agree with Obama. On other issues, such as the Iran negotiations, I tend to agree with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

On a personal level, I do not think that President Obama has handled his relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu in a mature and productive fashion. Having been provoked by Speaker Boehner’s invitation to have Netanyahu speak to Congress, President Obama acted in a petulant manner that exacerbated the differences between them. I also disapprove of how President Obama handled Netanyahu’s statements regarding the two state solution. Recall on the evening of Netanyahu’s election, he made a statement suggesting that the time was not now ripe for the establishment of a Palestinian state. Immediately following his election, Netanyahu reasserted his commitment to the two state solution. Instead of reacting in a statesmanlike way by focusing on Netanyahu’s positive restatement, Obama reemphasized his opposition to Netanyahu’s previous negative statements. This was poor politics, poor statesmanship and poor psychology.

Regarding the deal with Iran, President Obama had said that as between accepting the deal and rejecting it, the only realistic option is to accept it. He may be right, but he was wrong to get us into the position where the only options may be bad and worse.

I will continue to be critical of President Obama and his administration where I believe criticism is warranted, but I will continue to express approval and admiration for our President when he acts in a positive fashion. 

President Obama’s speech to the Jewish Congregation in Washington DC was excellent. He talked about shared values between our country and Israel and between him and the Jewish community. His policies with regard to health care and many other domestic issues are consistent with those of a majority of American Jews. We should neither demonize nor lionize our President. We should criticize him where criticism is warranted, praise him where praise is justified and encourage him to be supportive of Israel. There is too much extremism at play when it comes to President Obama. People who hate him, hate him too much and without justification. Some people who love him, love him too much and without nuanced criticism.

So let’s continue to watch carefully how this administration deals with foreign policy issues, especially with regard to Israel and Iran and let’s be constructive and nuanced in both our criticism and our support.

In his speech to the Congregation, President Obama invited “scrutiny” of his foreign policy actions, particularly with regard to Iran. We should accept his invitation and offer good faith and constructive criticism.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Everything Is Awesome, Mideast Edition

With National Security Adviser Susan Rice at his side, Deputy National Security Adviser Benjamin Rhodes briefs the press


Ben Rhodes, President Obama’s deputy national security adviser, has been offering a reassuring view of the Iranian nuclear deal in the face of some Arab skepticism. “If you can diplomatically and peacefully resolve the nuclear issue in a way that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” he told reporters last week, “we believe that will lead to a much more stable region.” Mr. Rhodes also contends that with a deal “there will be no need to see [a] regional arms race.”

So what’s more frightening: That Mr. Rhodes believes what he’s saying? Or that he does not?

Just for Mr. Rhodes’s benefit, here’s a refresher course on stability and the arms race in the Middle East since April 2, 2015, the day Mr. Obama announced his framework nuclear agreement with Iran.

April 2: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif immediately accuses the U.S. of “spin” and contradicts Mr. Obama’s key claims regarding the terms of the deal.

April 12: A Swedish think tank reports that Saudi Arabia registered the biggest increase in defense spending in the world
April 13: Moscow says it will deliver the S-300 air-defense system to Tehran. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei later boasts that the U.S. “can’t do a damn thing” militarily against Iran.

April 14: Iran announces agreements with Russia and China to build additional nuclear reactors.

April 17: Iran dispatches an armed convoy of ships, believed to be destined to resupply pro-Iranian Houthi rebels in Yemen in contravention of a U.N. arms embargo. The convoy turns back after the U.S. deploys an aircraft carrier to the region to shadow the ships.

April 20: Jason Rezaian, the American-born Washington Post reporter imprisoned in Iran since July, is charged with espionage, “collaborating with hostile governments” and “propaganda against the establishment.”

April 20: The British government informs the U.N. panel monitoring sanctions on Iran that it “is aware of an active Iranian nuclear procurement network” associated with two Iranian companies that are under international sanctions.

April 22: Saudi Arabia resumes airstrikes in Yemen despite administration pressure to maintain a cease fire.

April 28: Iran seizes the 837-foot long Maersk Tigris, a Marshall Islands flagged cargo ship with 34 sailors aboard, as it transits the Strait of Hormuz along an internationally recognized route. The ship is released a week later after Maersk pays a fine of $163,000.

April 29: Former Saudi Intelligence Minister Turki al Faisal tells a conference in Seoul that the kingdom will match Iran’s nuclear capabilities with its own. “Whatever the Iranians have, we will have, too.” The prince also accuses Mr. Obama of going “behind the backs of the traditional allies to strike the deal.”

May 8: Reuters reports that inspectors have discovered traces of sarin gas at an undeclared military research site near Damascus. The report puts paid to administration boasts that its diplomacy effectively solved the Syrian chemical crisis.

May 11: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman withdraws from the Arab summit meeting with Mr. Obama. The king of Bahrain follows suit, preferring instead to attend a horse show with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth.

May 13: Reuters reports “the Czech Republic blocked an attempted purchase by Iran this year of a large shipment of sensitive technology usable for nuclear enrichment after false documentation raised suspicions.”

May 14: Iranian patrol boats fire upon a Singapore-flagged oil tanker with machine guns as it transits the Strait of Hormuz. The ship makes it safely to Dubai.

May 17: Citing senior U.S. officials, the Sunday Times reports that “Saudi Arabia has taken the ‘strategic decision’ to acquire ‘off-the-shelf’ atomic weapons from Pakistan.”

Also on May 17, Islamic State fighters in Iraq seize the city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province. This is after Mr. Obama crowed in February that “our coalition is on the offensive, ISIL is on the defensive, and ISIL is going to lose.” Now the Iraqi government will turn to Shiite paramilitaries under Iranian control to try to retake the city, further turning the Baghdad government into an Iranian satrap.
I recount these events not just to illustrate the distance between Ben Rhodes’s concept of reality and reality itself. It’s also a question of speed. The Middle East, along with our position in it, is unraveling at an astonishing pace. Reckless drivers often don’t notice how fast they’re going until they’re about to crash.

We are near the point where there will be no walking back the mistakes we have made. No walking away from them, either. It takes a special innocence to imagine that nothing in life is irreversible, that everything can be put right, that fanaticism yields to reason and facts yield to wishes, and that the arc of Mideast history bends toward justice.

Ben Rhodes, and the administration he represents and typifies, is special.


 It is by now clear to most that the US is run by an incompetent fool. What is really surprising and scary is that the American political system of checks and balances is incapable of fixing the problem.

The Vatican has Always Tried to Inflict Damage on the Jewish State

The Vatican has been at best indifferent and at worst, like today, willfully harmful to the Jewish State

Giulio Meotti

 The writer, an Italian journalist with Il Foglio, writes a twice-weekly column for Arutz Sheva. He is the author of the book "A New Shoah", that researched the personal stories of Israel's terror victims, published by Encounter and of "J'Accuse: the Vatican Against Israel" published by Mantua Books.. His writing has appeared in publications, such as the Wall Street Journal,Frontpage and Commentary.

A few days ago, before his deplorable meeting with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas,  the Vatican choose to recognize the “State of Palestine” in a historic move severely criticized by Israel. The Zionist Organization of America rightly condemned it as “the Pope recognizing Jew/Christian-Hating Palestinian State”.
There is nothing new under the sun. Despite the fact that there are many Catholics around the world who share a pro-Israel attitude, the Catholic Church has always been at war with the Jewish State and did everything in its power to prevent its establishment and then to derail it.
After the pro-Jewish Balfour Declaration of 1917, the Vatican’s opposition to Jewish territorial sovereignty grew more entrenched. In the years after the Holocaust, Vatican anti-Zionist policies attempted to block the partition of Palestine at the United Nations, and to secure Jerusalem as an international, sovereign “corpus separatum”, which was meant to prevent the Jews from setting a foot in the Old City of Jerusalem and on the Temple Mount.
Two major cardinals were active in British Palestine in the first twenty years of the 20th century: the British Francis Bourne and the Italian Filippo Giustini. Cardinal Bourne in 1919 sent a letter to the then British government, writing that Zionism had not received the approval of the Vatican, and that if the Jews would “ever again dominate and rule the country, it would be an outrage to Christianity and its Divine founder”.
Cardinal Giustini in that year cabled the Pope from Jerusalem asking for his intervention “to prevent the re-establishment of Zionist Israel in Palestine”. In another letter from Jerusalem, Cardinal Bourne defined Zionism as “contrary to Christian sensitivity and tradition”.

“There was no real reason why the Jews should be back in Palestine. Why should not a nice place be found for them, for instance in South America?”.

Cardinal Pietro Gasparri, who was Secretary of State under two Popes (Benedict XV and his successor Pius XI) said that “the most dangerous threat is the creation of a Jewish State in Palestine”. Gasparri claimed that, “It is better [to have] the internationalization of the Holy Sites rather than see Jerusalem in the hands of the Jews”. Then Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Luigi Barlassina, condemned the creation of an “autocratic Zionist domination” in many articles and dispatches to Rome.

And during the ‘30s, while the Jews were under attack in Germany and Italy, Domenico Tardini, the Vatican Undersecretary of State, told a British diplomat in 1938: “There was no real reason why the Jews should be back in Palestine. Why should not a nice place be found for them, for instance in South America?”.
The Vatican not only opposed the Balfour declaration at the League of Nations, it also endorsed the British “White Paper”, which fought the Jews’ right to immigrate to their Holy Land.
Even Archbishop Angelo Roncalli, later to become Pope John XXIII and recognized by some Jews as a friend, wrote that he was “uneasy about the attempts of Jews to reach Palestine, as if they were trying to reconstruct a Jewish kingdom”.
At the peak of the Holocaust, the Vatican’s main thought was to oppose the creation of a Jewish State, which if it would had been established before could have saved many Jews fleeing Hitler. Pope Pius XII made his opposition toward a Jewish homeland known to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Dated June 22, 1943, the letter sent by Amleto Cicognani, the Pope’s special representative to the US, to Ambassador Myron Taylor, Roosevelt’s emissary to Pius XII, made Pius’s policy against Zionism crystal clear.
On 10 April 1945, while the war was still going on in Europe, Moshè Sharet of the Jewish Agency, was received by Pope Pius XII. He hoped for the “moral support” of the Catholic Church for “our renewed existence in Palestine”. But he did not receive any support; on the contrary the Vatican started a new campaign for “the internationalization of Jerusalem” supported by France, another name used to deprive the Jews of their homeland.
Giorgio Hakim, then Catholic bishop of San Giovanni d’Acri, in 1947 delivered a letter by the Muftì of Jerusalem to the Pope in the Vatican — who had been an ally to Hitler in the “final solution” — against Israel’s projected establishment. Pius XII reacted “very cordially”. In 1948, when Israel was fighting six Arab armies which wanted to annihilate the tiny and fragile Jewish State, the Catholic press and the Vatican officials attempted to tie the Arab Christian refugee crisis into its general critique of “Israeli incursions” and “Jewish imperialism”.
In 1949 the Italian embassy in the Vatican dispatched a message that the Holy See had the opinion that “the Israelis are using against the Arabs the same methods that the Nazis used against them”.
I could go on with this list of Vatican’s attempts to derail the creation and survival of the State of Israel. Emanuel Ringelblum, the great historian of Polish Jewry who was killed during the Holocaust, noted that during the war “when the blood of Jewish students was shed and anti-Semitic savages rioted, the clergy either kept silent or approved these deeds...”.
Those words, pronounced by a hero of the Warsaw ghetto, could be used also today for the Vatican’s indifference to Israel’s mortal siege. And just as it did in World War II, by choosing to recognize the “State of Palestine,” the Vatican made common cause with an evil Palestinian Arab Islamic power in a vain attempt to buy temporary security for their own communities.
But despite these attempts, the Jewish people will grow in its land and city. All the land is theirs. Period.