Monday, November 18, 2013

The Geneva sham

So not only have the Americans destroyed their credibility in the region, but now Israel's TV Channel 2 (not some "fly-by-night" channel - it's the home of Israel's preeminent Arab affairs analyst Ehud Ya'ari) reported last night that the United States has been conducting secret negotiations with Iran for over a year and that the talks in Geneva are basically a facade for an agreement that if not for vehement Israeli and French objections, would have been signed already.

Valery Jarrett: Her WH advisory role is under-reported
The US side in these talks were led by Obama buddy and adviser - the only adviser that really matters in this White House - Valerie Jarrett, whose main qualifications for this role are not clear except that she was born in Iran to American parents and she is Barack and Michelle's best friend. Her interlocutor on the Iranian side was head of its Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi.

This is not necessarily a new story - but certainly an expanded one. In November 2012 Israel's "Yediot Ahronot" reported that Jarrett had been conducting negotiations with the Iranians for several months - talks that were initiated and directed personally by her (and of course, approved by the president).

The Times of Israel writes:

Despite ostensible full coordination between the US and Israel over strategies for thwarting Iran’s nuclear weapons drive, the administration did not keep Israel fully informed on those talks, Channel 10 news reported, but Jerusalem nonetheless has a pretty clear picture of what has been going on in the secret channel.

In the course of the talks, the report said, the Americans offered the Iranians a series of “confidence-building measures,” which underlined American readiness to conclude a deal and undercut sanctions pressure.

In other words, the talks in Geneva are all a sham. Note as well that these backdoor negotiations started well before Rouhani was elected president. The White House is denying all of these reports.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The week the Americans utterly destroyed their credibility in Israel and the region

TW3...THIS Is The Week That Was. This is the week that President Obama and his administration utterly destroyed its already shabby credibility in Israel and with regards to Iran, most certainly with Saudi Arabia, and all of its Sunni allies in the region.

From John Kerry's bitter TV rant against Israel - with not one iota of any empathy of feeling for the families of victims of terror or for the Israeli people and their security concerns - to an unfathomable Iran policy, it won't matter what will happen next (update: no agreement has been reached for the moment - the French (!!!) saved the day).

Kerry has forever branded himself as hopelessly biased (here's an update: Kerry is starting to be called out for not being an honest broker) and President Obama as someone ultimately who cannot be trusted. The truth is that Israel and the United States have been on a collision course on Iran for a very long time, but now, with a possible agreement at hand, the vast disagreements on the issue between the two sides are now coming to the fore.

Israel's Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu bitterly rejected both the Iran agreement on the table - a mistake "of historic proportions" he called it - and Kerry's attack. For those who have always doubted President Obama's commitment to Israel, none of this comes as any surprise.

It is unfathomable at this stage as to how Kerry can return to the region as an "honest broker" or how the prime minister or any other Israeli leader (not to mention the Israeli public) will be able to put any faith in the president's promises or words. It's going to be a very long three more years.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

"Who's Next?" Iran as harbinger of nuclear proliferation

Tom Lehrer probably had no idea (or maybe he did!) as to how his satirical musical piece of the early 1960's, "Who's Next?" would remain so relevant more than 50 years later. 

On top of the list of reasons to stop Iran from developing nuclear capabilities and a nuclear weapon was to prevent nuclear proliferation throughout the region. Bad news: it might be too late. This Jerusalem Post article outlines recent developments in the Arab/Sunni world as the all-too-predictable reaction to an Iranian/Shi'ite bomb. To wit: 
  • Saudi Arabia: The Saudis have already made clear that they will work to obtain nuclear weapons if Iran gets theirs. 
  • Egypt: According to a local professor, it would be only natural for any country to consider that since the world around it is becoming a jungle, that Egypt, too, should have nuclear energy in order to "be able to defend ourselves."
  • UAE: installing nuclear power plants. 
  • Jordan: has plans to build its first reactor. 
  • Turkey: planning two nuclear reactors. 

According to the Jerusalem Post report, other Arab countries are also thinking of developing nuclear energy capabilities. While these countries' intentions are in the meantime seemingly "peaceful," the article points out that there is a history of countries that started with a "peaceful" nuclear program only to expand and turn it into a nuclear weapons programs as well. Iran and North Korea are two glaring examples, not to mention India and Pakistan - both of whom began their programs as "peaceful" only to later produce nuclear weapons. 

Who is indeed next?  

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Between Nat King Cole and Hassan Rouhani

I can never skip an allusion to Nat King Cole...Just like the King is "Walkin' His Baby Back Home," so it turns out that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani overstepped himself with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and has been forced to walk his baby back home - namely Iran is seemingly walking back its nuclear overtures (to the extent that they were offered).

In the meantime, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu continues to exhort the world to keep up the sanctions pressure on Iran. According to these reports from The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, Iran's economy is staggering and its foreign currency reserves are being depleted. There is some reason behind Rouhani's madness as he tries to deliver on his promises to Khamenei to lift sanctions and stabilize the Iranian economy as quickly as possible.

In the meantime, don't miss out on Nat King Cole singing "Walkin' My Baby Back Home."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Between Soccer, Basketball and Pistachios

So what do Israel and Iran have in common? Yes, they are in approximately the same region; they may or may not have or be developing nuclear weapons; and we both love our pistachios, which in Israel "officially" come from Turkey…but likely come from, well, we all know where…and I don't care what the California pistachio lobby says, but there is simply no comparison between our "Turkish" pistachios and the smaller, less tastier CA variety.

But in addition to our favorite nuts (and we both have plenty, pistachio and otherwise), Israelis and Iranians now have something else in common, because in both countries women are being banned from playing in international competitions for wanting to wear uniforms that while conforming to their religious beliefs, conflict with rules governing international sports competitions.

With regards to the Iranians, its women's international soccer team forfeited earlier this week an Olympic qualifying game at a tournament against the Jordanian national team for taking the field in what were termed as illegal full-bodied tracksuits and "hijabs" (head coverings), effectively eliminating them from the competition and a chance to play in London in 2012.

FIFA, the international body that governs soccer and which is in the midst (as it often is) of reeling from claims and counter-claims of corruption following the selection of Russia and Qatar (!) to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cup competitions, is in a more problematic situation. Their claim to disallowing the Iranians to take the pitch is based on a FIFA rule that states that "players and officials shall not display political, religious, commercial or personal messages or slogans in any language or form on their playing or team kits". The Iranians, they say, were also informed that since 2007 FIFA believes that wearing a hijab (which is in essence, a tight headscarf) "could cause choking injuries".

The problem with all of this is that the Iranians played preliminary rounds in these uniforms without a comment from FIFA, and the idea that a hijab could cause a "choking" injury is of course, ridiculous. And, by the way, Iranian women do just fine in these "tracksuit/hijab" uniforms in international karate and volleyball competitions (though Iranian women do not participate in international swimming or gymnastics competitions).

The Israeli side of this issue is more complicated. Naama Shafir, the sophomore point guard from the University of Toledo who led her team to the WNIT championship with 40 points in the final, has now joined the Israel national team in advance of the European women's basketball championship that begins in Poland this coming weekend.

Shafir, an Orthodox Jew from the religious community of Hoshaya in Israel's Jezreel Valley, plays at Toledo with a t-shirt under her uniform in order to comply with Jewish rules for modesty for women, something which is allowed according to American's NCAA rules, so for Naama this is no problem; however, t-shirts under the uniform are not allowed according to the rules of FIBA, which is the governing body for all international basketball competitions.

In the meantime, the Israel Basketball Federation's (IBF) request that Shafir be allowed to play with a t-shirt under her uniform has been denied (full disclosure: while not an "employee" of FIBA/Europe, I have long been actively involved with the organization: first as a referee, and now as a game commissioner and referee instructor) and in the days since, it has become an "international" incident, including a letter from the Anti-Defamation League's Abe Foxman to the heads of FIBA in Geneva excoriating the decision, calling it "insensitive and discriminatory".

Unlike the FIFA decision regarding the Iranian women, which seems arbitrary at best, the FIBA decision is at least based on the current rulebook and a real philosophy, which demands uniformity in team dress, including of course, no t-shirts under uniforms, same-colored socks and that even the compression sleeves that are so popular among players these days be the same dominant color as the uniform shirt. The real problem is that while getting more and more the same, there are still some significant differences in rules in the way basketball is played in the United States (NBA, NCAA and high school: all different) and the way basketball is played throughout the rest of the world.

One would think that on one hand, the soccer honchos at FIFA would look for a way to enable women from particularly closed societies such as Iran to play in international tournaments where their countrymen could be exposed to other, including Western, societies; and one would also hope that FIBA and the IBF will find a way to enable Naama Shafir to do what she loves most. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ah Yes, My Point Eaxctly

President Obama made clear what his sycophants in the media distorted: he did NOT say a return to '67 lines, but rather "mutually-agreed swaps", and NOT the lines that existed on June 4th, 1967. Obama's mistake however, is starting with the issue of boundaries. And we will see if he really puts the onus on someone else besides Israel.

As Alana Goodman points out

President Obama claimed that his position on the 1967 borders was taken out of context on Thursday, and said that the Israelis and Palestinians “will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967.”

It is a well-known formula to all who have worked on this issue for a generation,” said Obama at the AIPAC policy conference today. “It allows the parties themselves to account for the changes that have taken place over the last forty-four years, including the new demographic realities on the ground and the needs of both sides.

ut if Obama’s position was taken out of context, he’s the one to blame. It was his staffers who were telling the New York Times and other media outlets that there was going to be a major “surprise” in his Thursday address, and suggested that it was related to Israel. With literally nothing else newsworthy in the speech besides his 1967 border comments, obviously reporters were going to run with that story.

bama clarified his position today, which will probably do a little to mollify the pro-Israel community. But it seems unlikely that he was unaware of how his statements would be interpreted on Thursday. Israel’s supporters could not be blamed for remaining uneasy.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Misreading Obama's Speech - Blame the MSM Acolytes

Jeffrey Goldberg has a point - but the reason that Republicans are misreading Obama's speech is because it was mis-reported by the Main Street Media! Indeed, Obama said, as Goldberg points out and sent out in an email blast: "In a policy speech this afternoon, President Barack Obama, referring to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, said the '1967 lines' should be the basis of a future border between Israel and Palestine. Major media organizations, however, are now wrongly announcing that Obama referenced '1967 borders'...President Obama was accurate about the terminology, and journalists must be".

What Goldberg misses, as Omri Ceren points out in Commentary's "Contentions, is that while Obama is consistent as to his own administration's policies, he has created a lack of continuity and an overall break with previous administrations, including Clinton and Bush II, with regards to other security and diplomatic arrangements.

The bigger point is why would President Obama pick NOW to make such a speech - on the eve of another major address he is making to some 10,000 participants at the AIPAC conference and while there are a slew of articles about how major Jewish contributors to the Democratic Party - by far and away its biggest single group of donors - are clearly disenchanted with this president and his policies/attitudes toward Israel and the Middle East? The answer is probably in John Podhoretz's piece, also in Commentary, and as Goldberg mentioned: Obama thinks that this was an incredible pro-("I-heart) Israel speech. It's not Obama's fault that his speech is being taken differently: it's the MSM that wanted to play his speech as Israel returning to untenable and artificial '67 armistice lines, and heard and wrote what they wanted to; in other words, Obama has been done in by his own acolytes.