About the author  ⁄ Sarah Stern

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri recently shocked the international community by announcing his resignation. Hariri, a Sunni political leader, made this announcement from Saudi Arabia, where some speculate that he is being held under house arrest, while others believe he is there on his own accord because he fears for his very life. These fears are not unfounded. In 2005, his father, Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, was assassinated by a car bomb that is believed to have been planted by Hezbollah.

The Middle East is a mysterious region where suspicion hangs heavily in the air—under normal conditions. But the entire region, as of late, is mired in extraordinary circumstances. Since the Iranian nuclear deal of 2015, Iran has been vastly emboldened, empowered and enriched. The Iranians have been on the march throughout the region, sowing acts of aggression in Sana’a, Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut. They are attempting to establish a Shi’a crescent stretching from Tehran throughout the Middle East.

Lebanon has become a puppet state of Iran, and the Lebanese Armed Forces has now become dominated by Hezbollah. An important fact that many people do not know is that we still have a line item in the U.S. Defense Appropriations budget for $100 million towards Lebanon’s military.

There is no doubt that under today’s circumstances, that earmark falls, whether directly or indirectly, into the hands of Hezbollah. Unless and until Lebanon could rid itself of the presence of Hezbollah, American taxpayers’ dollars will be going into the hands of an organization that has been listed by our own State Department as a terrorist group.

Saad Harari knows how to read the tea leaves. The same week of his surprise announcement, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen launched a missile that had been aimed to land at King Khalid National Airport near the Saudi capital of Riyadh. The missile was intercepted by Saudi-owned U.S. Patriot batteries.

Nov. 4, meanwhile, marked the most aggressive Saudi shakedown in recent memory. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, 32, purged the government of 11 members of the Saudi royal family and other business elites—in what he described as a “corruption crackdown,” but which may well be a rouse to consolidate his power and quash his political rivals, many of whom are in his own family. As Reuters reported, the Riyadh Ritz Carlton has been turned into a temporary—albeit luxurious—prison.

Adding to the intrigue, a day after the crown prince announced his palace purge, a helicopter carrying Prince Mansour bin Muqrin mysteriously crashed, killing a potential rival to the crown prince’s power.

The aggressive and ambitious young Saudi prince is not taking Iranian aggression in the region lightly. Saudi Arabia has urged its citizens to leave Lebanon. This sends a somewhat ominous message. In fact, on Nov. 6, Saudi Arabia’s minister of Gulf affairs wrote that Lebanon “has declared war on Riyadh.”

Some feel that this might be an indicator of a new war emerging between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims—the latest chapter in a 14-century-old dispute as to who will carry the mantle of Islam. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia are experts at fighting proxy wars on someone else’s soil. As a joke that is making its rounds around Beirut goes, “The Saudis are willing to fight the Iranians, down to the very last Lebanese.”

In the meantime, there are at least 100,000 missiles staring down Israel from the Jewish state’s north. On Nov. 11, the Israeli Air Force intercepted a drone that fell on the demilitarized zone just north of the Golan Heights. A day earlier, the BBC reported that Iran has established a new  military base just south of Damascus.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman stated unequivocally last Saturday, “We will not allow the establishment of a Shi’ite axis in Syria as an operating base.”

Watch this space. In the Middle East, one cannot play checkers or chess. The game is three-dimensional chess, where the loss of a pawn on one board affects the positioning of the knights, queens and kings on two other boards.

Originally published at JNS.org.

Photo credit: State Department

Read More →

“The Kurds have no friends but the mountains,” goes a traditional Kurdish saying. No friends but the mountains and Israel would be more accurate.

Israel stood alone when its political leadership embraced the Kurdish quest for self-determination. A “brave, pro-Western people who share our values,” is how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the Kurds. The deep affinity is mutual. Israeli flags were raised during pro-independence rallies in the Kurdistan region, the US and across Europe.

Read More →

Last Thursday, the House of Representatives passed HR 1698, the Iran Ballistic Missiles and International Sanctions Enforcement Act, a bill authored by the House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, that will sanction Iranian and foreign companies, banks and individuals that support Iran’s illicit ballistic missiles program. The bill, which was passed by an overwhelming vote of 423-2, also prohibits entry to the United States of those who have supported Iran’s ballistic missiles program.

Read More →

A week and a half ago, President Donald Trump took the first, crucial step towards ending a significant portion of the foreign policy legacy that had been bequeathed to the nation by his predecessor President Barack Obama: the nuclear deal with Iran. What has been largely forgotten by the public is that this particular foreign policy mire was built upon a fiction. The fiction upon which the deal was based was clearly outlined in a seminal article by David Samuels in the May 15 2016  issue of The New York Times Magazine entitled, The Aspiring Novelist who Became Obama’s Foreign Policy Guru.

The expose by Samuels focused on Ben Rhodes, the previous administration’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, and how he created a narrative to support the nuclear deal. While reading the article, it became increasingly clear that the nuclear deal with Iran had very little to do with Iran’s behavior or its commitments, but everything to do with a particular foreign policy objective that Obama wanted to achieve upon assuming office. It was all about the narrative—and had very little or nothing to do with reality.

Early in the article, Rhodes was described as trying to suppress the story of the Iranians taking ten sailors on two United States Navy riverine boats in the Persian Gulf. The seizure of the sailor took place days before the parties to the nuclear deal were to begin implementing the deal. But there was an even more immediate concern: later that day Obama was set to deliver the final State of the Union speech of his presidency, which was supposed to be “an optimistic, forward-looking” speech. Samuels described how Rhodes and the administration viewed their priorities: “A challenge to that narrative arises: Iran has seized two small boats containing 10 American sailors. Rhodes found out about the Iranian action earlier that morning but was trying to keep it out of the news until after the president’s speech.”

Samuels in the article further outlined how the “innovative campaign to sell the Iran deal” was “largely manufactured for the purpose of selling the deal.”

He elaborated:

The way in which most Americans have heard the story of the Iran deal presented — that the Obama administration began seriously engaging with Iranian officials in 2013 in order to take advantage of a new political reality in Iran, which came about because of elections that brought moderates to power in that country — was largely manufactured for the purpose for selling the deal. Even where the particulars of that story are true, the implications that readers and viewers are encouraged to take away from those particulars are often misleading or false. Obama’s closest advisers always understood him to be eager to do a deal with Iran as far back as 2012, and even since the beginning of his presidency.

In the real world we are living in today—not the ideal world in which we are all the same, and in which no evil  exists—this sort of fiction writing serves as a paltry substitute for informed, realistically-based foreign policy and is irresponsible, reckless, and ultimately, immoral.

Foreign policy is not a town hall meeting. It is one thing when running for a local government office in American politics to exaggerate one’s opponents’ flaws, or mishaps. It is quite another in the dangerous world of foreign policy to whitewash a sworn enemy of the United States, whose leaders believe in a fundamentalist version of Shiite Islam, who want to create a Shia caliphate and to obliterate the Kafir –  the infidel -through a military buildup of both conventional and unconventional forces, including nuclear weapons.

All so that a former President can put a checkmark after one of his objectives.

This deception of the American people and the international community is patently immoral, particularly when it had been clear for over a decade that Iran has been intent on acquiring nuclear weapons.

We are not talking about the acquisition of small arms, but of allowing a rogue state to create an industrial scale nuclear infrastructure. Lives depend upon responsible foreign policy.

The profound immorality of the Obama administration was on display in June of 2009 throughout Iran, when, after the sham elections, millions of young, democracy-loving Iranians took to the streets in protest of the brutal rule of the Mullahs.  Beautiful Iranians had their skulls crushed in, and were carted off to the notorious Evin prison, sometimes never to be seen from or heard again. Many were holding up the sign” Obama. Where are you?” Finally, after more than a week of this brutality, Obama said something that can only be described as tepid, and measured, at best. Apparently, even then, Obama had wanted to cozy up to the Mullahs, and felt that the lives of these young beautiful dissidents were simply a price he had to pay for his foreign policy objective.

“He feared the demonstrations would sabotage his secret outreach to Iran,” columnist Eli Lake later observed.

It was not only the tone deafness ear to the human suffering and cries of the Iranian dissident population, nor the grave policy consequences of the Iranian nuclear deal that was so callous, cold-hearted and calculating. The method by which it was sold was also troubling. This deal had been presented to the American people and our policymakers in a way that evaded the Constitution of the United States and compromised our national sovereignty.

By making deal between six nations (the P5 plus 1: the U.S., Russia, China, France, Great Britain plus Germany) and Iran, as opposed to a treaty, the Obama administration bypassed Congress, making it nearly impossible for the legislature to exercise their responsibility of oversight and review. This was done to prevent the United States from acting unilaterally in case Iran would be been in violation of the deal.

This was further complicated by Obama making an end-run around Congress and going directly to the UN Security Council to enshrine it by a vote.

Although the U.S. was the essential driver of the deal, it is now increasingly difficult to get out of it because America is just one of 6 parties to the deal. This was Obama’s calculation all along.

The framers of the Constitution had situations like this in mind when they asserted that a treaty had to be ratified by 2/3 of the Senate. It is also why members of the U.S. Congress felt that they needed to reassert their constitutionally mandated role of oversight and review in the form of the Iranian Nuclear Review Act of 2015, known in shorthand as Corker-Cardin.

Contrary to popular belief, President Trump did not de-certify the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, (JCPOA) or withdraw from the nuclear agreement on October 13. He simply did what he had been legally mandated to do under Corker-Cardin: to certify whether or not the lifting of Iranian sanctions is in the national security interest of the United States.

But the most deadly omission in this entire charade is that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has not actually been doing the job of verifying Iran’s compliance with Section T of the nuclear deal, which addresses activities such as computer simulations of nuclear explosions or designing multi-point explosive detonation systems, activities which are necessary to the development of a nuclear weapon. The IAEA also has never visited any military site since the implementation of the deal nearly two years ago. These are sites where the suspected nuclear activity has been ongoing, but where the Iranians claim are off-limit to nuclear inspectors because they have deemed them “military sites”.

According to a report by David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security, of September 21, 2017, “as of the last quarterly report in August 2017, the IAEA had not visited any military site in Iran since Implementation Day, risking the de facto creation of no-go zones in Iran, a development that would render verification of the JCPOA moot. There is concern that this reflects Iranian bullying on the issue, where the Iranian regime takes a position that it will not allow inspectors access to military sites and the IAEA does not want to create a conflict the entire deal by asking to go.”

Why is the IAEA and most of the world cowering to the Iranian bully? Why have the spineless European leaders isolated President Trump for telling the truth about Iran? Is it just that a new market has opened up for business? Or is it that they are just buying time?

Everyone knows that Iran’s nuclear clock has been ticking for two years now, and that in just another 6 to 8 years, this deal gives Iran a legally sanctioned path to nuclear weapons.

The Iranian nuclear deal was a Munich Pact built on the quicksand of selling a “narrative” to a public that does not know how to recognize evil when it stares us in the face. And does not recognize the distinction between truth and fiction.

If Trump follows through on his October 13 speech and strengthens the terms of deal, it will go a long way towards rolling back Iran’s nuclear and non-nuclear threats to the world.

Sarah N. Stern is Founder and President of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, EMET, a pro-American and pro-Israel think tank and policy shop in Washington, DC.

Originally published at: http://www.thetower.org/5560-the-end-of-the-perilous-fictions-surrounding-the-nuclear-deal-with-iran/

Read More →

Last weekend, the world experienced a petrifying “wake up call” when Pyongyang test launched a hydrogen bomb. According to Yukiya Amano, director of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA), Sunday’s test represents “a new dimension to the threat.” Added Amano, “I think the North Korean threat is a global one now.

Read More →

On Wednesday, at a U.S. State Department press briefing, the Rubicon was finally crossed. Responding to a question regarding Israeli-Palestinian ‎peace, spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, “We want to work toward a peace that both sides can agree to and both sides find ‎sustainable. … We believe that both parties should be able to find a workable solution that works for ‎both of them. We are not going to state what the outcome has to be. … It’s been many, many decades, ‎as you well know, that the parties have not been able to come to any kind of good agreement and ‎sustainable solution to this. So we leave it up to them to be able to work through that.”‎

Read More →

Last Monday, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres issued a scathing statement regarding the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War, ignoring all of the historical context of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

Said Mr. Guterres, “This occupation has imposed a heavy humanitarian and development burden on the Palestinian people. Among them are generation after generation of Palestinians who have been compelled to grow up and live in ever more crowded refugee camps, many in abject poverty, and with little or no prospect of a better life for their children.”

This is as wrongheaded as it is one-sided, and Secretary General Guterres should know better. This is because prior to being elected Secretary General he served as the UN High Commissioner of Refugees.

In 1950, when the world was dealing with massive amounts of refugees displaced by World War II, the UN High Commission of Refugees (UNHCR) was born. At that time, the UNHCR had offered to deal with the Palestinian refugee issue. However, the Arab League rejected this offer because the mandate of UNHCR is to ensure that all refugees be assimilated into their host countries as quickly as possible, and offered a pathway towards jobs and citizenship.

The Arab League lacked the compassion to help their Palestinian brethren, and instead wanted to use the Palestinian refugee crisis as a thorn in the side of the Israelis.

This resulted in the formation of the only refugee organization devoted exclusively towards one group:  The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).  Throughout the decades, UNRWA has morphed away from its original humanitarian mission, and has taken on a decidedly political agenda.

The agenda is “the right of return” of Palestinians to their great-grandparents orchards and vineyards in Jaffa and Haifa, and it has as its foundation an implacable hatred of the Israeli and the Jew.

This mythology of “the right of return” is at the core of the resentment and frustration felt by young Palestinians.

What is actually needed is some reality therapy that Israel is here to stay.

This mythology has been perpetuated in UNRWA led schools, many of whose teachers are also on the payroll of Hamas, which only feeds upon the resentment and frustration of the Palestinian youth.  If you take even a cursory look at the UNRWA textbooks, you will immediately notice that absent from them is any talk of a “two state solution.”  The textbooks, murals on the school buildings, and lessons only talk about one state: “Palestine,” replacing all of Israel, as well as the glory and honor of “martyrdom.”

As Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “You’re entitled to your own opinion.  But you’re not entitled to your own facts.”

The stubborn, inconvenient facts are that in 1937, the Arabs refused to accept the Peel Commission Plan, and in 1947, they refused to accept the UN Partition Plan, simply because these Plans meant that the Arabs would have to share the land with the Jews.

Another stubborn fact is that the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded in 1964, three years before the 1967 war.  If the Israeli-Palestinian dispute resulted from territories gained in 1967, precisely what land was it that the PLO was trying to liberate?

Shortly after its defensive war of 1967, when Israel was attacked on all fronts, and conquered East Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, the Sinai and the Golan Heights, the Israelis initially tried the “land for peace” formula.

In August of 1967, the Arab League met at Khartoum in the Sudan, and their offer was rebuffed with the famous 3 no’s: no end of conflict, no negotiation and no recognition of the State of Israel.

Again in 2000, at Camp David, Ehud Bark of Israel offered Yassir Arafat 94% to 96% of Judea and Samaria, shared sovereignty of the Temple Mount, or Harim al Sharrif, and a right of return for thousands of Palestinian refugees.

Arafat did not say “yes” and he did not say “no.”  He simply walked away from the negotiating table. And his answer came in the form of a renewed intifada, where thousands of Israelis and Palestinians lost their lives.

Ehud Barak was only to be outdone by Ehud Olmert who, in 2008, offered Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas total control of the Temple Mount.

Again, the Palestinian leader walked away from the negotiating table without a response, and again the response came in a renewed intifada.

One must ask: How is one supposed to reach an agreement and rid oneself of “the Occupation,” even if one wanted to, if the other side will not deign to meet with you, let alone respond to your offers?

When Mr. Guterres assigns complete responsibility only to the Israelis for the loggerhead that the Palestinians and Israelis have reached, he is actually undermining the possibility of a true and genuine peace agreement.

And he is signaling to people all around the world that a way to obtain one’s ultimate objective is to use terrorism as a legitimate method of negotiation.  And rather than meet face-to-face with the parties themselves and handle the dispute in a civilized demeanor, one can go to forums of international jurisdiction and demonize the other party.

However, something refreshing is underfoot in the US Congress.  Under the auspices of Daniel Pipes and Gregg Roman of the Middle East Forum, there is a new initiative entitled the “Israel Victory Caucus.”

Chaired by Congressmen Ron DeSantis of Florida and Bill Johnson of Ohio, the caucus was “founded,” in Rep. Johnson’s words, “on one single, irrefutable principle.  And that is first and foremost Israel has a fundamental right to exist and to defend herself. And that is not negotiable.”

What the caucus members believe is that these 24 years since the Oslo Accords were signed has been tragic for the Palestinians.

Tragic because Oslo encourages unrealistic fantasies and exploits the frustration of Palestinian youth, encouraging them to martyr themselves over a war that their great grandparents lost in 1948, 1967, and 1973.

This fascination with and encouragement of martyrdom is the worst sort of child abuse imaginable.

Oslo has been tragic for the Israelis because it makes them appear weak in the eyes of their enemies, and therefore makes them more vulnerable to attack, both during physical wars and in international forums.

Aside from that, too many people employ the language of “giving back land.”  Who gives back something? Only a thief.  This use of language therefore suggests that Israel does not have the moral high ground.

Oslo also been corrosive to the Israeli psyche because it imbues them with a sense of moral ambiguity, which impacts their commitment to the rightfulness of their cause.  This self-doubt is detrimental in a region of the world where many people are hell-bent on the destruction of the Jewish State.

Oslo has been tragic for the United States, because in the eyes of the radical Islamist, America and Israel are inextricably linked, and a weakened Israel becomes a weakened America.  Beyond that, it has sent the dangerous signal that certain terrorism to a certain people, (i.e. the Jews), is acceptable.

This weakens the moral clarity of our war against Islamist terrorism.

If the United States and the allies would have executed World War II with one hand tied behind their backs, many of us would not be around, and those who would be, would all be speaking German.

Only a clear Israeli victory would ever deter the threat of war recurring every few years.

Thanks to Obama and the nuclear deal, which has bequeathed Iran with hundreds of millions of dollars in unfrozen assets, plus over one billion dollars in a hostage swap, there are well 100,000 missiles staring down at Israel from Syria and Lebanon, as well as bases of Hezbollah, the IRGC, Hamas and ISIS.

This makes it all the more necessary to sow the intellectual groundwork for the next war, when Israel will be forced to take off its gloves, and do what it takes for it to survive.

It is about time that the Palestinians and the leftists in the intellectual community had some sorely needed reality therapy.  And the Israel Victory Caucus is a welcome step in the right direction.

Originally published at the Times of Israel: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-israel-victory-caucus-some-sorely-needed-reality-therapy/

Read More →

Exactly 50 years ago today, in an attempt to annihilate Israel and to create a “pan-Arabist movement,” Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser closed the Gulf of Aqaba and began amassing thousands of troops into the Sinai Peninsula.  The United Nations had withdrawn its emergency forces from Gaza and the Sinai leaving Israel exposed. On May 30th, Nasser signed a mutual defense agreement with King Hussein of Jordan, bringing in an eastern front to attack Jerusalem. President Lyndon Johnson had promised a “Red Sea Regatta,” a flotilla to break the siege on the Straits of Tiran, but ultimately, those words had proven to be hollow.

Read More →