Wednesday, July 29, 2015

29-Jul-15: Built not on trust but on... verification

The notion that the deal is based on verification gets a response from political leaders
in Vienna, July 14, 2015 [Image Source]
Allow us, in these confusing times, to draw some attention to three quite revealing recent quotes about the Iran Nuclear Enablement Deal, the one the US president has called a deal not built on trust, but on verification.

The first, from John Kerry's US State Department, lays out why Iran is one of four (Cuba, Syria, Sudan are the others) US-designated state sponsors of terrorism. The unsigned (keep reading - we explain this below) JCPOA with Iran, by far the largest of those state sponsors of terror, gradually nullifies the sanctions that come with that distinguished title, and gives Iran access to vast cash resources, frozen for some years, that are going to be used for... well, no one can really say. 

But if - just for argument's sake - any of it is going to give even more teeth to the extremely hostile messaging issuing forth from authoritative Iranian sources [like this "22-Jul-15: Now that peace is on the way, what to make of blood-curdling Iranian incitement like this?"; and like this "27-Jul-15: Even more peace from Iran's highest-level military force"], this could become very bad, very quickly. 

US State Department Country Reports on Terrorism 2014
Chapter 3: State Sponsors of Terrorism Overview: Iran [Source]
Designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism in 1984, Iran continued its terrorist-related activity in 2014, including support for Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, Lebanese Hizballah, and various groups in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. This year, Iran increased its assistance to Iraqi Shia militias, one of which is a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), in response to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) incursion into Iraq... Iran and its proxies also continued subtle efforts at growing influence elsewhere including in Africa, Asia, and, to a lesser extent, Latin America. Iran used the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) to implement foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations, and create instability in the Middle East... Iran views Syria as a crucial causeway in its weapons supply route to Lebanese Hizballah, its primary beneficiary, and as a key pillar in its “resistance” front... Iran has historically provided weapons, training, and funding to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups, including Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC)... Iran has also assisted in rearming Lebanese Hizballah, in direct violation of UNSCR 1701... Despite multiple UNSCRs requiring Iran to suspend its sensitive nuclear proliferation activities, Iran continued to be in noncompliance with its international obligations regarding its nuclear program... 
Not built on trust [Image Source]
The second comes from an opinion column by Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal's July 27 edition. Here, he bitterly takes apart the hubris of a US president bent on turning Americans into believers in the value of coming to terms with the same Iran described in the previous paragraph, essentially because there is no better alternative and why not?

The Syria Sham and the Iran Deal
Bret Stephens | Wall Street Journal | July 27, 2015
There was Mr. Obama... at a Camp David press conference in May: “Assad gave up his chemical weapons. That’s not speculation on our part. That, in fact, has been confirmed by the organization internationally that is charged with eliminating chemical weapons.”
Note the certitude of these pronouncements, the lordly swagger...
The CIA now admits that Syria retains significant quantities of its deadliest chemical weapons. When Mr. Obama announced the Syria deal, he warned that he would use military force in the event that Mr. Assad failed to honor his promises. The threat was hollow then. It is laughable now. 
What ties the Syrian sham to the Iranian one is an American president bent on conjuring political illusions at home at the expense of strategic facts abroad, his weakness apparent to everyone but himself.
So either verification is not relevant where Syria is concerned, or he didn't mean to be taken so literally.

The third, from a non-American source ["Critical Points To Consider In Understanding The Iranian Nuclear Deal", MEMRI, July 24, 2015], relates to what was and was not done between Iran and the West a fortnight ago

But first this. Much of the news coverage in Western countries describes how the JCPOA (the authorized final text is here) is an agreement (yes, an agreement) reached between Iran and a group of Western powers led by the US, and signed (yes, signed) in Vienna on July 14, 2015. Some examples:
  • "The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) (Persian: برنامه جامع اقدام مشترک‎, abbreviated as برجام) is a nuclear agreement signed in Vienna on 14 July 2015 between Iran, the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States—plus Germany), and the European Union." [Wikipedia]
  • "Following is a timeline for the implementation of a historic deal signed between Iran and six major powers on July 14..." [AFP, July 15, 2015]
  • "[T]he agreement was signed by representatives of the United States, its negotiating partners and Iran. The implementation plan called for immediate approval by the U.N. Security Council — which occurred Monday — of the agreed-upon resolution endorsing the JCPOA." [Washington Post, July 20, 2015]
  • "The UN Security Council on Monday backed Iran's nuclear agreement with world powers..."[Times of India, July 21, 2015]
  • "Iran signed a nuclear agreement on July 14 with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council..." [Deutsche Welle, German Radio, July 21, 2015]
  • "Here's a pop quiz about the six-nation nuclear pact with Iran, signed last week..." [Los Angeles Times, July 19, 2015]
  • "Now that the deal has been signed... there are several steps that the Iranian leadership can take to build on its newly minted goodwill." [The National, United Arab Emirates, July 15, 2015]
  • "The nuclear agreement signed between Iran and the P5+1... will remain a point of contention in Washington for many years to come." [USA Today, July 15, 2015]
  • Iran's foreign minister Zarif, Vienna [Image Source]
  • "Iran and the P5+1... signed a final agreement in Vienna on Tuesday, bringing to a close nearly two years of contentious talks..." [Anadolu News, Turkey, July 15, 2015]
In reality, as our third quote clarifies, there is a text but there is no agreementNothing was signed:
[C]ontrary to how it is perceived, the JCPOA is not a bilateral or multilateral contract between the United States and/or Europe and Iran. Nothing has been signed and nothing is judicially binding between any of the parties. It is a set of understandings that was sent to a third party, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), for endorsement. This structure is a result of Iran's insistence to not sign any bilateral or multilateral contract. [MEMRI]
For their part, and to give them credit, the Iranians have been scrupulous about explaining the limits of the document to their own people:
  • "[T]he United States, Britain, France, Russia and China plus Germany – finally arrived at a final deal on July 14 which would put an end to a 12-year nuclear dispute." [Islamic Republic News Agency, July 21, 2015]
  • "Iran and the {Western powers] finalized the text of a lasting agreement on Tehran's nuclear energy program in Vienna, Austria, on July 14. Later, the 15-memebr United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution endorsing the text of the deal..." [Al Alam News Channel, Iran, July 27, 2015]
  • "Iran and the six powers on July 14 finalized the text of a lasting nuclear talks conclusion dubbed as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). While the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution afterwards to endorse the deal, the text of the document needs to be ratified by both Iran's Parliament and the US Congress. [IRIB The Voice of the Islamic Republic, Iran, July 26, 2015]
  • [Discussing what president Obama has called snapback and "real consequences"] "Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said the country will be able to “immediately” reverse its commitments under a final nuclear deal with world powers if it finds out that the other side has breached commitments under the [JCPOA]... Whenever Iran feels the other side has not honored its commitments, the “reversibility” of Tehran’s nuclear program will happen immediately, he said." [Tasnim News Agency, Iran, July 28, 2015]
It's not an agreement. It's not signed. And Iran sees it as not binding on Iran. 

Makes a thinking person wonder how the mainstream news media work, and what's really on the minds of the many - politicians and citizens alike - who think this is all worth getting solidly behind.

Monday, July 27, 2015

27-Jul-15: Even more peace from Iran's highest-level military force

Mr Salami [Image Source]
The transaction that we choose to call the Iran Nuclear Enablement Agreement (a less nuanced, and therefore more realistic, title than the official one) is wending its way through Congress, US opinion and the political corridors of countries throughout the West. 

In those circumstances, and without dwelling on the peculiar manner aspects of this process are being reported in the mainstream news media, there's no reason for apologies about drawing the attention of readers of this blog to how the parallel process is going over on the Iranian side. 


We offered some initial insight, using Iranian sources and plain Iranian-to-English text, unembellished and exactly as it appears in the English-language Iranian news media, just a few days ago: see "22-Jul-15: Now that peace is on the way, what to make of blood-curdling Iranian incitement like this?

Today we offer the snarling, glowering Iranian news report below.  It went to air in Tehran just yesterday. And like the earlier report, it bears the imprimatur of FARS News Agency which calls itself:
"Iran's leading independent news agency, covering a wide variety of subjects in different, political, economic, cultural, social, legal, sports, military and other areas with the most up-to-date, independent, unbiased and reliable news and reports in Persian and English. Ever since its establishment in early 2003, it has been making its way towards daily progress and gaining reputation as a trustworthy source [etc]... As our English department was established in December 2005..." 
As Wikipedia points out, though FARS says it's independent, both CNN and Reuters say it's a "semi-official" government news agency.
Salami, gently preparing his fellow-Iranians for peace, November 2013
[Video grab from YouTube source]
IRGC Deputy Top Commander: US Unable to Take Slightest Hostile Move against Iran | July 26, 2015 | TEHRAN (Fars News Agency) - Lieutenant Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Brigadier General Hossein Salami played down the US officials' war rhetoric against Iran, warning that the US knows its slightest hostile move would receive a crushing response. Brigadier General Salami's remarks came after US State Secretary John Kerry threatened to use military action against Tehran if it fails to respect a historic nuclear deal sealed on 14 July. "Today the US knows that the slightest move against the Islamic Iran will ruin its house of dream," Brigadier General Salami said, addressing a ceremony in the city of Zahedan, Southeastern Iran, on Sunday.
He pointed to the US officials' catch phrase "all military option are still on the table" even after the Vienna nuclear agreement, and said, "The Americans have always resorted to bullying because they lack diplomatic skills..."...In relevant remarks on Friday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a statement blasted US officials' recent comments against Tehran after the country and the world powers reached a nuclear agreement earlier this month, calling on them to kick the bad habit of threatening Iran.
"Unfortunately, the US secretary of state has spoken of the worn-out rope of 'the US capability to use military force'," Zarif said on Friday... "Therefore, it is better for the Americans to forget their old habit and leave the language of threats and sanctions against this great people once and for all," Zarif said. He also underlined the Iranian officials' united stance on different issues... and said the US had better avoid repeating its past mistake of sowing discord among the Iranian officials.
The FARS report notes, accurately, that the final agreement achieved (though never signed - FARS is silent on this, and so is much of the media elsewhere) in Vienna on July 14, 2015 received the endorsement of the UN Security Council by unanimous vote a few days later, "setting the stage for the lifting of Security Council sanctions against Iran", as they put it, accurately.

We think advocates of the Vienna understanding ought to give real thought to words like
"the US knows that the slightest move against the Islamic Iran will ruin its house of dream"
and what it means to unwind years of sanctions and restrictions on an energy-abundant, nuclear-hungry, terrorism-obsessed state that defines itself by its military might. But there are few signs that anyone who counts is taking the breast-beating seriously. 

Brigadier General Hossein Salami [background here] has a reputation for his elegant way with words. Under an easy-going, let's-just-be-friends headline ["IRGC Deputy Top Commander: US Unable to Intimidate Iran, We Welcome War with US"], he gently whispered
"We welcome war with the US as we do believe that it will be the scene for our success to display the real potentials of our power... We have prepared ourselves for the most dangerous scenarios and this is no big deal... We warn their pilots that their first flight [to attack Iran] will be their last one and no one will be allowed to go back safe and sound..." [FARS, May 7, 2015]
No one was terribly surprised. After all, a year earlier, he was - if anything - even more blunt in addressing the US's close ally and bulwark of regional democracy:
Today, we can destroy every spot which is under the Zionist regime's control with any volume of fire power (that we want) right from here... Islam has given us this wish, capacity and power to destroy the Zionist regime so that our hands will remain on the trigger from 1,400km away for the day when such an incident (confrontation with Israel) takes place..." [FARS, March 11, 2014]
And two months before that, an Iranian analyst quotes him speaking (in Parsi, which the analyst translates to English) on Iranian TV:
"America, with its strategic ignorance, does not have a full understanding of the power of the Islamic Republic... We have recognized America’s military strategy, and have arranged our abilities, and have identified centers in America [for attack] that will create a shock... We will conduct such a blow in which they [America] will be destroyed from within". [Daily Caller, February 01, 2014]
The analyst interpreted those threats from Salami to mean "that terrorist Hezbollah forces — allies of Iran — have infiltrated the U.S. and have mapped out targets".

Being Mr Nice Guy has paid off for Salami. See page 89 [here] of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreed in Vienna on July 14, 2015, and notice how it provides for his removal from the outlaw list.

Impressive, no?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

26-Jul-15: What lies behind the newest dose of Palestinian Arab "refugee" fury at UNRWA?

Protesting outside UNRWA Gaza headquarters April 2013 [Image Source]
With all the goodwill that normal people concerned about misery in other people's lives can muster up, there is something more than faintly absurd about pretty much everything in this report.
Gazans, Jordanians stage protests against UNRWA decision to cut services to Palestinian population | Jerusalem Post | Khaled Abu Toameh | July 26, 2015

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and Jordan on Sunday staged protests against the decision of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) to cut its services to the Palestinian population. The protesters claim that UNRWA has cut its health and educational services to tens of thousands of Palestinians.
In the Gaza Strip, where nearly half of the Palestinians rely on UNRWA services, scores of protesters gathered outside the agency’s offices, chanting slogans against the latest decision. Many Palestinians suspect that UNRWA’s scaling-down of its services is part of a “conspiracy” to eliminate the refugee problem. The protest was organized by representatives of various Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip, who urged UNRWA to reconsider its decision to decrease its services to Palestinians.
Talal Abu Zarifa, a senior member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, warned UNRWA against the “anger” of the Palestinian refugees. “UNRWA needs to be careful not to enrage our refugees,” he said at the protest. “Our people will erupt because they realize that this is a conspiracy against refugees and not a financial matter.”
One of the protesters,Ali Hashem, also sounded a similar warning against UNRWA. “The cuts in services will lead to a revolution against UNRWA,” he cautioned. “This is not a financial crisis, but a conspiracy against Palestinian refugees.”
UNRWA spokesman Adnan Abu Hasna said that his agency was suffering from a severe financial crisis. He said that UNRWA needs about $101 million to overcome the crisis. “Unless we obtain this sum, UNRWA will be forced to take harsh measures and decisions, including postponing the opening of the new academic year,” he added.
A similar protest was held by UNRWA employees in Jordan, where the agency’s Advisory Commission held an emergency meeting to discuss the financial crisis.
The Commission will review the growing risk that UNRWA may have to delay the start of the academic year in some 700 schools for half a million students across the Middle East unless the deficit of $101 million can be fully funded, according to a statement released by UNRWA.
The Commission will also be discussing a special report to be sent by the Commissioner-General to the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, and on to all 193 members of the UN.
UNRWA officials say they currently have enough funds to maintain its services essential to protect public health, which includes immunizations for children, primary health care, relief and sanitation and some emergency programs through to the end of 2015. However, the money is not enough to guarantee the stable provision of its education services from September onwards.
Hamas legislators in the Gaza Strip said in a statement on Sunday that UNRWA’s decision to cut services to the refugees was tantamount to a declaration of war on the Palestinians. The legislators dismissed UNRWA’s talk about a financial crisis as false and warned the agency against attempting to implement an old plan to resettle the refugees.
The Popular Committees for Palestinian Refugees in the Gaza Strip warned UNRWA against taking part in a “conspiracy to liquidate the case of the refugees.” The group warned that Palestinians would revolt against UNRWA’s moves “and burn everything that comes in their way.”
Protesting outside UNRWA Gaza headquarters July 2011 [Image Source]
Start with the insane (and little publicized) state of UNRWA's funding.

Some of the wealthiest entities in the world - they call themselves states but they function as family-owned businesses with their own postage stamps and flags - say they are desperate, desperate to help their Palestinian Arab "refugee" brethren.

Yet (a) for most of UNRWA's nearly seventy years of existence, they have either failed to give anything, or (b) have failed to reach the ranks of the top 20 givers, or (c) failed to give sums that come close to reflecting their undying passion for the Palestinian Arab "struggle", in stark contrast to their very public passions for spending on what are euphemistically termed luxuries. And that extends way past ordinary consumer items to such self-indulgent vanities as acquiring sports tournaments for mind-boggling prices and then announcing plans for $160 billion of new sports fields and tennis courts.

So where has UNRWA's funding come from?

It's no secret. But it's certainly something that gets overlooked in the customary news reporting channels for reasons about which we can speculate. The facts and data are out there in the public domain. To save everyone the effort, we suggest taking a glance at some recent posts of ours:


And dozens more before those, as well as a recent video [click here]. It's not our handiwork but we think it explains the whole catastrophe reasonably well in a mere 3m40s.

And it isn't all that hard to figure out why this farce keeps going on and on for decades. Quoting ourselves: 
"...when you want to preserve misery at all costs, leverage it to ensure a ready supply of human bombs and other terrorists, there's an ever-willing cast of international figures, NGOs and the many arms of the UN who are evidently only too pleased to be of assistance - or to be exploited by others with more detailed agendas.
Finally, here (for the second time this month) is a shout-out to to UNRWA's indefatigable "Spokesperson, Director of Advocacy & Strategic Communications", Christopher Gunness, to straighten us out and indicate a more UNRWA-friendly way of looking at this. We know he's busy, so let it be clear that no one is holding their breaths. What UNRWA stands for is perfectly clear to anyone who looks.

Friday, July 24, 2015

24-Jul-15: If the Iranians read the Wall Street Journal, we're all in deep trouble

Iran nuclear deal acclaimed: last week's
newspaper covers in Teheran [Image Source]
Barely a year after the successful elimination of Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, it's now being revealed to the shock-horror-astonishment of Western media and observers that... the Syrians failed to surrender the chemical weapons they said they were surrendering. And that they told teensie-weensie lies to get the United States and the other interested Western parties off their backs.

As a spine-chilling, lengthy analytical report published yesterday ["Mission to Purge Syria of Chemical Weapons Comes Up Short", Wall Street Journal | Adam Entous and Naftali Bendavid | July 23, 2015] shows, the wily Syrian regime is now, today, right at this moment, holding onto caches of deadly nerve agents which they
"may be prepared to use... if government strongholds are threatened by Islamist fighters. If the regime collapses outright, such chemical weapons could fall into the hands of Islamic State or another terror group." [Wall Street Journal]
Bashar al-Assad of Syria, alleged liar [Image Source]
The details, and there is a long list of them, make for terribly depressing reading. Here are just some (all are direct quotes from the WSJ piece):
  • “Nobody should be surprised that the regime is cheating,” says Robert Ford, former U.S. ambassador to Syria under President Barack Obama. He says more intrusive inspections are needed...
  • Inspectors from The Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, or OPCW, together with U.N. personnel, arrived in Damascus in October 2013 to an especially difficult work environment... Because the regime was responsible for providing security, it had an effective veto over inspectors’ movements. The team decided it couldn’t afford to antagonize its hosts, explains one of the inspectors, or it “would lose all access to all sites.”
  • [The right to inspect sites that the Syrians were not offering] was never exercised, in part, inspectors and Western officials say, because their governments didn’t want a standoff with the regime.
  • Syrian scientists showed them [the inspectors] rooms with test tubes, Bunsen burners and desktop computers, according to inspectors. The Syrians gave a PowerPoint presentation detailing the medical and agricultural research they said went on there. A Syrian general insisted that the Assad regime had nothing to hide. As the international inspectors suspected back then, it was a ruse, part of a chain of misrepresentations by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to hide the extent of its chemical-weapons work. 
  • [T]he Syrian regime controlled where inspectors went, what they saw and, in turn, what they accomplished. That happened in large part because of the ground rules under which the inspectors were allowed into the country...
  • Among the biggest surprises for the inspectors was Syria’s fleet of mobile chemical-weapons production facilities, housed on 18-wheeler trucks. They looked so much like regular trucks that they even carried advertisements, including one for a Hungarian moving company. [One of the expert inspectors] says it was “unlike any other program that I’ve seen or read about.”
  • The Syrians laid out the ground rules. Inspectors could visit only sites Syria had declared, and only with 48-hour notice. Anything else was off-limits, unless the regime extended an invitation. “We had no choice but to cooperate with them... The huge specter of security would have hampered us had we gone in there very aggressively or tried to do things unilaterally.
  • According to the WSJ, the Syrians used disguised trucks to 
    conceal their chemical weaponry. Who would have imagined it? 
    [Image Source]
  • [Following] recent battlefield gains by Islamic State militants and rival al Qaeda-linked fighters [it's] even more urgent to determine what Syria held back from last year’s mass disposal, and where it might be hidden... The team that visited the SSRC facility in Damascus recently asked the regime for information about unaccounted for munitions. Officials say there has been no response from Damascus. “Accountability?” asks Mr. Cairns, the inspector. “At this point in time, it hasn’t happened.”
In these fraught days, we're watching a major effort by the Obama government to get the US Congress - and the world - to buy into the idea that an agreement, unsigned and devoid of almost all leverage and sanctions, is going to produce a peace-embracing effect in Iran.

It's hard not to see direct parallels between Syria and the Iran Nuclear Enablement Agreement when you read paragraphs like this one:
The White House and State Department say last year’s mission was a success even if the regime hid some deadly chemicals. Western nations removed 1,300 metric tons of weapons-grade chemicals, including ingredients for nerve agents sarin and VX, and destroyed production and mixing equipment and munitions. U.S. officials say the security situation would be far more dangerous today if those chemicals hadn’t been removed, especially given recent battlefield gains by Islamists. Demanding greater access and fuller disclosures by the regime, they say, might have meant getting no cooperation at all, jeopardizing the entire removal effort... [Wall Street Journal]
We're hoping that no-one over there in Teheran has a subscription to the Wall Street Journal. Because, if they do, and if they get it into their heads to follow the Iranian-client-state-Syria's template, they might eventually end up telling lies about their nuclear weaponization and understate their deployment plans. 

And then where would the world be?

24-Jul-15: Terror here? 'Ridiculous' say Kenyans, deploying their largest ever security blanket

CNN as depicted on a Kenyan tweeter's stream
As the Nobel Prize-winning leader of the free world gets started with a visit to East Africa (check out the Twitter hashtag #ObamaHomecoming) today, aspects of the media messaging are getting up some Kenyan noses.
Kenyans ridicule CNN for calling the country a “hotbed of terror” |  Quartz Africa | July 23, 2015 | Kenyans are demanding an apology from CNN after the news network described Kenya as “a hotbed of terror” in a report on US president Barack Obama’s visit this week. “If CNN is civilized enough, they should apologize,” interior minister Joseph Nkaisserry said today, in response to anger on social media. Under the hashtag #SomeoneTellCNN, Kenyans have been voicing both impatience with being branded as a country rife with violence as well as pride in their country...
A Nairobi, shopping mall after a random event September 2013
[Image Source]
No reason to especially blame the Kenyans, who are looking beyond the idea of an Islamist terror war against unbelievers to make a case of a more nuanced kind.

They are doing pretty much the same as many Americans did after 9/11; as many Brits did after 7/7; as many Spanish did after 11-M; and as President Obama himself did when he called the people behind an attack on a French kosher food store in January 2015
"a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris... But we also have to attend to a lot of other issues, and we've got to make sure we're right-sizing our approach so that what we do isn't counterproductive." [Obama speaking to Matthew Yglesias in a VOX interview]
Obama has never publicly commented on the post-massacre disclosures about the passions of Amedy Coulibaly, who did the killing, for ISIS and the lethal savagery for which it stands. Perhaps, like the Kenyans, he or his advisers would ridicule those claims too, and carry with them a large slice of American public opinion. Or call them "random" as his spokesperson did in front of the media right after the killing of those French Jews.

Today's Kenyan state of excitement [Image Source]
Calling what has been happening in Kenya something other than terror or imagining that the violence upending thousands of East African lives during the past two decades (and especially the past two years) has been routine and unworthy of any special attention is tragic if it leads to paralysis of the security authorities.

Fortunately for the traveling US president, the authorities in Kenya don't play that foolish game:
Parts of the Kenyan capital Nairobi have been locked down and airspace will be closed during the president's arrival late Friday and his departure late Sunday... At least 10,000 police officers, roughly a quarter of the entire national force, have been deployed to the capital. Top of the list of security concerns is Somalia's Shebab militants, who have staged a string of suicide attacks, massacres and bombings on Kenyan soil, including the bloody attack on the Westgate shopping mall in the heart of the capital nearly two years ago that left 67 dead. ["Kenya lockdown as Obama comes to talk security, trade", Reuters, today]
It's not only the Kenyans who are (rightly) concerned:
Hundreds of US security personnel have arrived in Kenya in recent weeks and three hotels have been examined by the secret service, according to local media... Kenya is treating the visit as a chance to shine, akin to an Olympics or a football World Cup, and is all too aware how catastrophic another terrorist attack would be for its image. Three months ago Islamist militants murdered 148 people at a university in Garissa, while an attack on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall left at least 67 people dead less than two years ago... ["Kenya kicks off biggest ever security operation for Barack Obama welcome", The Guardian, today]
For short-of-memory readers, a random selection of some of our recent Kenya-focused posts:
President Obama on the right, with father [Image Source]
How likely is it that the mainstream media will give attention during the Obama Kenya visit to his brother?

The extended Obama family is not small (here's an overview). We specifically mean Abon'go Malik Obama (known as Abongo or Roy), a University of Nairobi graduate who spent a decade and a half in the US working in the back-offices of Lockheed, Fannie Mae, and the American Red Cross [source]. He served as best man at Barack and Michelle Obama's wedding, and BHO did the same at several of the brother's weddings (there have been twelve). He runs a charitable foundation whose website calls him "founder" and which is
committed to a wide array of development and humanitarian projects which will help mitigate social-shortcomings in areas of education and literacy, health and well-being, poverty, and lack of community infrastructure in such basic needs such as water, electricity, shelter and sustenance... [source]
The Barack H. Obama Foundation (entirely unrelated to the Barack Obama Foundation) earned US tax-exempt status in 2011 in record-breaking time - about a week when for most applicants it takes many months, and for some, year. (Why this happened has been the subject of speculation.) It had claimed to be tax-exempt years earlier; fortunately once its approval came through [source], it was made retrospective for several years back. Talk about lucky.

Barack H. Obama, president of the United States, on the left of
a family snapshot held by his brother Malik (and other names),
a leader in a deeply troubling, terror-friendly organization
[Image Source]
But there are some puzzling aspects. Its US address is located in a UPS store. The address given in its IRS filings, namely 4201 Wilson Blvd., Suite 110-152, Arlington, Virginia, turns out to be the location of a marketing center for a drug-and-alcohol treatment organization, A Better Today Recovery Services.
When questioned about BHOF in May 2013, not a single employee in A Better Today's office had ever heard of the foundation... [source]
Most likely because of a misunderstanding.

As for Abon'go-Abongo-Roy-Malik Obama himself, the president's best man and an invited guest at the presidential inauguration, the allegations appearing across the web are considerably less benign.

He, it appears, serves as executive secretary of the Sudan-based Islamic Da’wa Organization (IDO), an arm of the jihad-friendly government of Sudan, whose ruler since 1989, president Omar al-Bashir, has for years been the subject of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant, as yet not executed. IDO, under the president of the United States' brother, is said to stand for the expansion of Wahhabist Islam throughout Africa.

Though his political activities have been almost totally ignored by the global mainstream media, Haaretz ran a piece ["Obama's half brother photographed wearing Hamas kaffiyeh"] in January 2014 that focus on the Presidential Brother wearing an item of Arabic clothing on which are inscribed the random words "Jerusalem is ours – we are coming" and "From the river to the sea".

But the most troubling? That for the most part, the disturbing ties between the president of the US and a brother with serious question marks over his head are, along with the photos, almost totally ignored and unpublished by the mainstream media. (Parts of the conspiracy-friendly web and especially some parts of it conventionally labeled right-wing in outlook, seem to be the sole exceptions. Why?)

Troubled and troublesome brothers are nothing new for incumbents of the White House (Carter, Clinton), but we can't think of another instance where the sibling benefited from so extensive a media blackout. Makes a person wonder.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

22-Jul-15: Now that peace is on the way, what to make of blood-curdling Iranian incitement like this?

Click to view the Iranian source page
The headline above is not meant to be rhetorical.

Below is the full text. None of it is bolded or italicized by us or by the Iranian editors. None of it needs to be.

As a clarification of how very far away we are from dangers having been controlled or paths to hostility having been blocked, no single line here seems to be less significant than any other. Absolutely nothing, not a word, not a comma, fits with the champagne-popping optimism we are hearing from Washington, London, Vienna or anywhere else. Quite the opposite.

And Iran being what it is, the words of Brigadier General Naqdi are no slip of the tongue, no unauthorized expression of personal views. Everyone Iranian understands the intention, and so will most Israelis. Naqdi's previous public statements include this revealing one from September 2012: "The liberation of Jerusalem has been on the minds of the Iranians for many years, and they are just waiting for the right moment." Will any Western journalists be looking into what he really meant then and now when not taken out of context?

Basij Commander: Vienna Agreement Increases Hatred for US in Iran
FARS News Iran | July 21, 2015 

TEHRAN (FNA)- Commander of Iran's Basij (volunteer) Force Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi warned of Washington's continued animosity towards the Islamic Republic, and said the contents of the last Tuesday nuclear agreement between Tehran and the world powers in Vienna boosts Iranians' hatred for the US.

"Any Iranian who reads the Vienna documents will hate the US 100 times more (than the past)," Naqdi said on Tuesday.

He also referred to the UN Security Council's Resolution 2231 approved on Monday, and said, "All paragraphs of the resolution that the US proposed to the UNSC are full of enmity towards Iran and show the US deep grudge against the Iranian nation."

"The US needs the agreement merely to legalize the sanctions and continue pressure against Iran," Naqdi said, adding that Washington sees the agreement as a tool to provide the ground for military aggression against Iran.

Addressing worshippers in the Eid al-Fitr (marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan) prayers in Tehran on Saturday, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei underlined the agreement between Tehran and the six world powers (the US, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany) will not change Iran's policy towards the US.

"In any case the policy of the Iranian nation and the Islamic Republic system vis-à-vis  the US will not change," Ayatollah Khamenei said.

Iran's Supreme Leader reiterated that whether the text of the nuclear agreement is ratified by the Iranian parliament or not, Iran will continue supporting the oppressed Palestinian nation, Yemen, Bahrain as well as the nations and governments of Syria and Iraq and the honest warriors of Lebanon and Palestine.

Ayatollah Khamenei reiterated that Iran's policy towards the US will never change.

The Leader pointed to the boastful remarks of the US statesmen and officials in recent days, and said, "The US statesmen and stateswomen are inevitably making boastful remarks these days to resolve their internal problems, but their brags are not real.

He said that Islamic Iran will never yield to excessive demands of the enemies while safeguarding its defensive and security capabilities.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

21-Jul-15: In the UK, something big appears to have been thwarted, but just what is not so clear

Marlow Avenue Luton [Click to have a closer look via Google Maps]
Sky News is reporting this evening (Tuesday) that Junead Ahmed Khan, 24, has been charged with intending to commit acts of terrorism, in particular a terrorist attack on American military personnel in Britain. In addition, he faces charges of "plotting to travel to Syria" with an uncle of his, 22-year-old Shazib Ahmed Khan, to join ISIS.

Both lived on Marlow Avenue, Luton, Bedfordshire in the UK [source]. And both were remanded in custody today after appearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court. (That's their street above, courtesy of Google Maps.)

Sky says their target was the RAF Lakenheath base in Suffolk, where some 5,000 US Air Force personnel are based, along with 2,000 British and American civilian staff. It's where the US 48th Fighter Wing is located and from where F-15 Eagle tactical fighters took part in operations in Libya in 2011. Other than that, very few details have emerged.

They will next appear at London's Central Criminal Courts on August 10 to answer charges under the Terrorism Act 2006. Their arrest by armed members of Bedfordshire Police and the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorist Command Unit happened a week ago at two addresses in the Luton area, and were part of "an ongoing investigation into Islamist-related terrorism".

21-Jul-15: Devastating first-time experience of ISIS savagery stuns Turkey

A selfie taken seconds before the blast in Suruc, Turkey, yesterday
Turkey is reeling from a terror massacre and the looming impact this is likely to have on tourist travel to their tourism-dependent state. 

First the facts: AFP says 32 people were killed, more than 100 injured, yesterday (Monday) when a bomb ripped through a crowd of young socialist activists in a mainly Kurdish region of Turkey, in the town of Suruc (population about 57,000). 

They were members of the Federation of Socialist Youth Associations (SGDF), there to take part in "a rebuilding mission for Kobane, which Kurdish forces had retaken from IS earlier this year". They evidently intended to carry aid across the border into Syria. They were seated at tables having breakfast just before the explosion. 

Right across the social media today, there are photos and horrifying videos (easy to find online, but we will not link to them) of smiling, relaxed members of the target group, oblivious to the disaster about to befall them seconds later. 

Hurriyet Daily, a Turkish paper, is quoted by AFP today saying there had been warnings by Turkey's intelligence agency that seven IS members, among them 3 women (named in this Turkish report), had entered Turkey in recent weeks to carry out attacks. Hence numerous reports today saying the deaths were accomplished by what we think should be termed a human bomb. (That's still not confirmed.) One report says the human bomb was an 18 year old girl. 

ISIS already controls large swatches of Syria and Iraq up to the Turkish border, has not claimed 'credit' for the Suruc massacre.

Not so surprisingly, parts of the British media - Independent UK for instance ["Is it safe to travel in Turkey following suicide attack?", July 21, 2015] - are suggesting British tourists, already terrified by the idea of holidaying in Tunisia ["12-Jul-15: In confronting terror, Tunisia's government tells visitors to trust them and ignore the advisories"], are probably thinking twice before going to Turkey. 

But the information they provide is (in our eyes) surprisingly relaxed: 
"What does the Foreign Office say? All of Turkey is currently subject to varying levels of Foreign Office travel advice. They encourage all visitors to read their travel advice before travelling, wherever they are in the country - this reflects the fact there is a heightened risk of terrorism across the country than there is in other European countries. However, this warning does not mean they advise against travel... Referring to terrorism from ISIS and other, domestic militant groups, the Foreign Office says: "attacks could be indiscriminate and could affect places visited by foreigners."" 
Not much doubt which self-image the Turks prefer [Click to visit
theGoTurkey travel site
from which this poster comes]
Understand now?

Scanning the Turkish media, we see that Today's Zaman, ["Already-beleaguered tourism sector in Turkey concerned about Suruç attack"] writes today about Turkish anxieties. A senior travel official 
is critical of the gruesome photographs of the terror victims plastered on the front pages of Turkish dailies:
"This will definitely affect tourism, but to what extent I cannot be sure. The publication of photographs by the media was not a good move. The world is very small and everything circulates quickly. I hope the effect won't be strong. This is a crisis that needs to be managed properly..." 
Our experience is that he's unfortunately got the right idea. Leaving aside the victims themselves - those who are dead or injured, and their families - the negative impact on non-victims tends to pass rapidly, as the events post 9/11, 7/7, M-3 and other huge terrorist atrocities have shown. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

20-Jul-15: Pausing for a moment to reflect on when we lost our collective senses

Masses march in Jerusalem with the parents of the young Israeli man
held hostage by Hamas, July 8, 2010  [Image Source]
Suddenly, critical reviews of the highly problematic 2011 Shalit Deal are all over the social media.

We raised the issue yesterday ["19-Jul-15: Another catastrophic outcome of the 2011 Shalit Deal"] as soon as we learned that the Palestinian Arab terror gang that executed a shooting attack on a car-load of young Israelis men heading home from a basketball game last month were organized, funded and led by one of the many hundreds of convicted murdering terrorists who walked free in the Shalit Deal.

Now we see that Amos Harel, writing in today's Haaretz ["West Bank murder arrest: A reminder of Shalit deal’s price"] touches (lightly) on some of the concerns we have been airing for some years. Here's how he gets started:
Sunday’s arrest of the suspected killers of Malachi Rosenfeld, who was murdered in a drive-by shooting near the West Bank settlement of Shvut Rachel last month, once again highlighted the ever-growing price of the 2011 prisoner exchange that freed kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.
Almost four years after that deal, in which Israel freed 1,027 terrorists to get Shalit back, even those who supported it – primarily on the grounds that Israel had an obligation to its soldiers – are obliged to acknowledge its negative aspects. And it must be admitted that these weren’t unforeseen.
Those are some weighty, consequential words. With small exceptions, those who supported it and are obliged to acknowledge its negative aspects include every part of the Israeli print and electronic media, Haaretz included (though allow us to pay tribute once again to the late David Landau who edited Haaretz for a time and whose views were courageously different). 

Elsewhere, a journalist who was (but no longer is) with Haaretz back in 2011 writes today that 
until an Israeli leader comes along who finally puts a stop to these these dangerous, delusional transactions, there will be only more kidnapping attempts... [W]as Gilad Shalit’s blood redder than the blood of the six people subsequently murdered as the result of the deal for his release? Is it redder than the blood of the additional victims who will inevitably and tragically be murdered? Shouldn’t Netanyahu have taken a far tougher stance with Hamas in order to get them to climb down from their demand for a thousand prisoners? Perhaps even more ridiculous is the fact that the Israeli public accepted the Shalit deal with near total understanding
That "near total understanding" was the outcome of a process about which we have written and spoken, but it's not our theme here today.

Where we personally stood during those hard days is documented in dozens of posts we published on this site and in the larger world of the media. Before the deal for instance 
and after (for instance) 
among many more.

But there is one mainstream Israeli media voice, that of Haaretz's Ari Shavit, with whom we certainly have our differences, that expressed back then, almost in real time (though only after the deed was done) horror at the widespread craziness that had brought Israel's government to a transaction steeped in yet-to-be-shed blood with murderers already mired in evil and hatred.

It's a short article whose subtitle captures its sense powerfully:
This is an important morning for the Shalit familt and for the State of Israel. A first morning after the insanity. A first morning after the hysteria. A first morning after the loss of judgment and the loss of our senses.
Here's the full text from 2011:
In wake of Shalit deal, Israel must return to sanity 
Haaretz | Ari Shavit | October 19, 2011 
For Gilad Shalit, this morning is a first morning. It is a first morning of freedom, a first morning of sanity, a first morning of love and of warmth. A first morning after the captivity, a first morning after the isolation, a first morning after the nightmare. After 1,941 days and 1,941 nights in a dark pit, Gilad awakes this morning into a great light. Mother, father, brother, sister. Mitzpeh Hila, the Upper Galilee, Israel. There are finally vast blue skies of freedom above his head. 
But this is an important morning for the State of Israel, too. A first morning after the insanity. A first morning after the hysteria. A first morning after the loss of judgment and the loss of our senses. After 1,941 days and 1,941 nights dominated by kitsch, this morning we are waking up to reality. Opening our eyes and rubbing them to see who we are and what has happened to us. 
This morning, when Gilad Shalit wakes up in his bed, we can already tell the truth: We went crazy. During the past 64 months, we simply went crazy. Because of the profound and justified guilt that we all felt for one boy and one family, we stopped acting in a reasonable manner. Because of the twisted awareness that we suffered in the era of Channel 2, we worked ourselves up into an emotional frenzy. We reached the point where we are willing to sacrifice hundreds whose names and faces we are not familiar with, in exchange for the one whose name and face have become a part of our lives. We reached the point where we conduct our national affairs like children - without wisdom, without morality and without mature responsibility. 
We should recall: Yoni Netanyahu also had a family. A mother, a father, two brothers. Yoni Netanyahu also had a home, and there was love and there was a full life. But the State of Israel decided to risk his life in order to save the lives of its citizens and in order not to surrender to terror. The State of Israel sacrificed him for the general good of the Jewish people. 
In that, Yoni was not exceptional. In the past 75 years we sent thousands to their deaths and hundreds into captivity in order to protect life. We did not focus cameras on every bereaved father and every bereaved mother. We did not weep at the sight of every young man who packed his knapsack and set off for war. We did not emotionally collapse in the face of the young lives that were lost. We understood and remembered the cruel imperative of our lives here. That's how we won in 1948, in 1956, in 1967, that's how we survived in 1973 and after 1973. The Yoni ethos was our daily lot before and after Yoni. He built the iron security wall, and only thanks to that are we able to live an almost normal life here. 
The great danger in what has happened here in recent years is the replacement of the Yoni ethos with the Gilad ethos. The Shalit family is not to blame for that. The boy Gilad is certainly not to blame for that. But there was an unprecedented hysteria surrounding the noble family and their son. Restrained judgment was replaced by emotional abandon. The universal discussion was replaced by an individual one. Standards were lost and criteria were lost and rules were broken. In the end, the practical justification for the Shalit deal was a reverse justification. We had to end the craziness. We had to stop the national hysteria. We had to interrupt the interminable reality show of Channel 2: kitsch and captivity.  
But now, the morning after, we have a duty to make it clear that there will not be another such reality show here. There won't be another Shalit deal and there won't be another Shalit-frenzy. From now on, Israel will behave like Australia, Great Britain and the United States. From now on, Israel will once again be what it used to be.
The Shalit decision is the most difficult leadership decision Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made to date. Now he faces an even more difficult decision: Netanyahu must pass the recommendations of the Shamgar Committee in the cabinet, in the Knesset and among the public. Netanyahu must place our mutual responsibility on a wise, moral and inclusive foundation. Netanyahu must bring us back from the Gilad ethos to the Yoni ethos. In order for us to withstand the heavy losses of the coming wars, we must return to sanity. Already now, already today. This morning is the first morning.
That Ari Shavit was unjustifiably generous to the late Yoni Netanyahu's politician brother is borne out by the way he, the brother who became prime minister, then went on to do several more rounds post-Shalit of dealing in our names with the terrorists ["21-Oct-13: Incredibly, maddeningly, convicted terrorists are about to be freed again"], and delivering them up into the arms of those, the Mahmoud Abbas cabal who control the 'moderate' Palestinian Authority, for whom the killers of elderly Jews and of children ["14-Aug-13: Making 'peace' by celebrating the murders of children and of Holocaust survivors"] are heroes, nobility and celebrities.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

19-Jul-15: Another catastrophic outcome of the 2011 Shalit Deal

Malachi z"l
The murder of a young Israeli, Malachi Moshe Rosenfeld, 26, son of Eliezer and Sarah, a resident of Cochav Hashachar, now turns out to have been yet another direct consequence of the tragically misconceived Shalit Deal.

We posted ["29-Jun-15: Drive-by shooting attack near Shvut Rachel tonight"] about the attack that took the life of Malachi, an outstanding student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He was riding home with three friends on the night of June 29, 2015 after playing basketball when their vehicle came under shooting attack near Shilo on the Alon Road (Kvish Alon). All four were wounded in the hail of fire. Malachi died of his injuries the following day.

This evening (Sunday) it's reported that a gang of Palestinian Arab terrorists has been apprehended and charged with the attack and with the murder of Malachi. Ynet says the members of the gang, identified as the Hamas Silwad Cell (Silwad is a town), confessed to earlier shooting attacks on Israelis.

The members of the cell, according to Ynet:
  • Not yet arrested, but believed to be the commander of the cell, is Ahmad Najar, a known Hamas terrorist. He appears in Israel government records as Ahmed Mustafa Saleh Hamed al-Najar. Convicted of involvement in multiple shooting attacks that cost the lives of six Israelis (including Shalom Har Melech, who with his wife and sister-in-law was a dear friend of our murdered daughter Malki who had been herself killed by other Hamas terrorists two years earlier), Najar served less than eight years of the seven life terms term to which he had been sentenced in December 2003 for those multiple acts of terrorism-based murder. All 7 life terms were commuted by the government of Israel and he walked free along with 1,026 other convicted terrorists in the disastrous Shalit Deal. A condition of the commuting of his sentence (all these commutations were conditional) was that he be expelled to Gaza. But he soon shifted his base of operations from there to Jordan where he is said to have "been working to organize and fund terror attacks".  Jordan, for all the positive things said in the media and by the US State Department about its positive contribution to the battle against Islamist terror, is in reality a hotbed of terrorism and to a considerable degree a haven for terrorists.
  • Amjad Najar, also an active Hamas terrorist, was arrested on July 7, 2015. Under interrogation, he confessed to passing instructions, weapons and funding from Ahmad Najar, his brother, in Jordan to the West Bank. He served times in Israeli prisons in the 1990s for his involvement in terrorism then.
  • Abdallah Ischak, also arrested July 7, confessed under interrogation to direct involvement in the multiple attacks including the slaying of Malachi. He has multiple convictions for terrorism offences.
  • Fa'ez Hamed, a Hamas commander, was arrested on July 9. He confessed to planning the attacks and like the others has a history of Hamas terrorism under his belt.
  • Jamal Younes, the father of Ahmad Najar's wife, was arrested on July 10 and charged with facilitating the logistics of the murder.
  • Mu'ad Hamed, who executed the actual shootings, was arrested not by the Israeli authorities but, according to Ynet, by Palestinian Authority security officers. He is a known affiliate of Hamas.
  • Ahmed Shibrawi, also of Hamas, was also picked up by the PA's security people.
When advocates of the Shalit Deal attempted at the time to argue that Israel needed to do "everything", "whatever it would take", to free Gilad Shalit, we pointed out repeatedly that this was a nonsense, and that the issue had always had multiple aspects. It was never just about bringing back Gilad Shalit (as if the years of vexed argument came down to a one-dimensional issue - yes or no to saving the hostage) but also about giving the most careful thought to how much harm Israel was prepared to absorb in paying the ransom.

And it was never a matter of simply determining to do "everything", because "everything" can include impossibly dreadful outcomes. (If Hamas had said in 2011 that Shalit's life would require our side to kill X, whatever or whoever X is, would we have said "OK, we're ready to do everything"? Of course not, Someone in power felt the price was acceptable to the political leadership and went ahead with making the deal.)

Still available via Amazon though the
sharpness of the author's thesis has
gotten blurred with the passing years
We said back then that negotiating with terrorists is fundamentally wrong and referred to the classic text on this subject. Readers might want to refer to an earlier post of ours ["27-Jul-13: To defeat the terrorists, what one thing must a government never do?"] for an extract from that famous book:
“A government that seeks the defeat of the terrorists must refuse to release convicted terrorists from prisons… Releasing imprisoned terrorists emboldens them and their colleagues… By nurturing the belief that their demands are likely to be met in the future, you encourage terrorist blackmail of the very kind that you want to stop. Only the most unrelenting refusal to ever give in to such blackmail can prevent this.” [“Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat Domestic and International Terrorists”, Farrar Straus Giroux, New York 1995 at page 144]
We pointed out then that the writer of those words was Binyamin Netanyahu.

Twenty years have passed since he became famous for his clear-headed thesis. Twenty years during which he was called upon to deal, as prime minister, with the precise issues on which he had created the road-map and the rule-book. Sadly, he not only failed to be true to his own guidance, but egregiously abandoned the critical principle of explaining yourself and your 180 degree reversals to the people who are going to be called upon to pay the actual price, and whose electoral support is indispensable to his political power and standing.

For the record [details here], we have made effort after effort to elicit a response on this and other closely-related matters from his office, with no success at all.