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Posts Tagged ‘Baghdad’

Is Iraq Entitled to the ‘Jewish Archive?’

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

Ben Cohen has a dream: in a JNS article – already re-published in the Arabic press – he wishes he could take his family to visit the National Archives Museum in Baghdad to see the ‘Jewish archive’along with Iraqi schoolchildren. However, he recognises that so deep is Iraq’s hatred for Jews that his dream will never be realized. My dream is more ambitious: that Iraqi schoolchildren should be allowed to see the archive in the Babylonian Heritage Center in Israel where most Iraqi Jews now live.

A few years ago, in response to a Palestinian critic who made a disparaging remark about the fact that I don’t speak Arabic, I felt compelled to write an article explaining why that is the case. I said that under different circumstances, I could have been born in an Arab country and grown up speaking Arabic. My father’s family had been settled in Iraq for generations, but they fled to England in 1941, the same year that Baghdad’s Jews were convulsed by a June pogrom known as the farhud, presaging a much larger exodus of Iraqi Jews over the next decade.

Among my father and his relatives, there was little nostalgia for the old country, and therefore no reason, as they saw it, to ensure that their children born outside Iraq learned Arabic. It’s not that they didn’t appreciate the centrality of Iraq to Jewish history; this was the land where the Talmud Bavli (Babylonian Talmud) was completed, where scholarship flowed from the Jewish academies of Sura and Pumbedita (now the city of Fallujah, site of some the most brutal fighting during the war in Iraq), and where, in modern times, Jewish merchants flourished alongside Jewish writers and musicians.

Yet there were also more recent memories of Iraq, uglier and sharper. The farhud, a word which Edwin Black, the author of a fine book on the  subject, translates as ‘violent dispossession’ cast a pall over relations between the Jews and their Muslim neighbors, and the mistrust deepened because of the support of many ordinary Arabs for Hitler’s Nazi regime. During the 1950s, anti-Semitic legislation and property confiscation forced the departure of the majority of Iraq’s Jews, but the small remnant who stayed were not immune from persecution. In 1969, the Ba’ath Party fascists ruling Iran executed 11 Jews on trumped-up charges of spying, transporting Iraqis from all over the country to Baghdad to watch the gruesome spectacle of a public hanging.

Since these images are seared into the minds of Iraqi Jews, it doesn’t take a huge leap of the imagination to understand why the vast majority wouldn’t consider returning there even if they could, and therefore why there are vibrant Iraqi Jewish communities in cities like Tel Aviv, New York, and London, but not Baghdad or Basra. Indeed, the break with the mother country is so irreparable that Iraqi Jews are of one mind when it comes to the current controversy over whether the United States should return an archive of Iraqi Jewish treasures to the Iraqi government: it absolutely should not do so.

A letter sent in 1918 by the British military governor to the Chief Rabbi of Baghdad. This "Jewish archive" document is among thousands recently restored in the US and slated for return to Iraq.

A letter sent in 1918 by the British military governor to the Chief Rabbi of Baghdad. This “Jewish archive” document is among thousands recently restored in the US and slated for return to Iraq.

The archive of books, photographs, scrolls, writings and communal documents, including one item that dates back to 1568, was discovered by American troops in Baghdad in 2003, as they combed through the flooded basement in the headquarters of Saddam Hussein’s much-feared secret police.

Lyn Julius, a London-based writer and advocate on behalf of Jewish communities from the Arab world, has noted that the archive was seized by Saddam’s henchmen from the Bataween synagogue in Baghdad, in 1984. If the archive was stolen from its Jewish guardians at gunpoint, why on earth would the State Department, which has spent millions of dollars lovingly restoring its contents, return it to the Iraqi government? Simply because that government has suddenly decided that the archive constitutes, as one Iraqi representative put it, “part of our identity and history”? Or because the U.S. feels duty-bound to respect an agreement it made at the time to return the archive?

Julius and other advocates on behalf of Iraqi Jews make a strong case that returning the archive essentially involves restoring stolen property to those who stole it. Instead,they say, the archive should sit with its rightful owners themselves, the close-knit Iraqi Jewish communities spread around Israel and the countries of the West. On moral and legal grounds,I cannot counter this position. But here is a confession: I wish I could.

I wish I could envisage the sight of the archive on display in a Baghdad museum, much as it will be at the National Archives in Washington next month, with crowds of schoolchildren gathering to learn about the great community that lived among their great-grandparents. I wish I could organize a family trip to Iraq to see that hypothetical exhibition, safe in the knowledge that what is being shown belongs to our community, and that we are sharing it with the other ethnic and religious groups among whom we lived.

Visit Point of No Return.

State Dept. Now Fighting ‘Enemies Of Islam’

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

This is one step beyond The Twilight Zone …. it’s the O’Zone, just as poisonous and deadly. (Thanks to Armaros)

Obama’s state department is now calling devout Muslims “enemies of Islam.” This is madness. Are counter jihadists considered enemies of Islam?

State Dept Offers $10 Million Reward For Kill or Capture Of ‘Enemies Of Islam’ IJ Review, August 12, 2013

As with most things his administration does, I’m sure Obama will be shocked when he reads in the newspapers about the State Dept. declaring a $10 million bounty on the head of what it calls an “enemy of Islam.”

From a State Department Press release:

The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the cowardly attacks today in Baghdad. These attacks were aimed at families celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The terrorists who committed these acts are enemies of Islam and a shared enemy of the United States, Iraq, and the international community.

Obama’s representatives tell us we don’t take sides in religious wars, but somehow it’s okay to issue a State Department “fatwa” against the enemies of Islam?

Visit Atlas Shrugs.

How The U.S. Is Being Snookered By Iran

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

The world famous economist John Kenneth Galbraith said it best:

“There are few ironclad rules of diplomacy but to one there is no exception. When an official reports that talks were useful, it can safely be concluded that nothing was accomplished.”

Call it common sense or call it experience. Galbraith could have been a fly on the wall during recent nuclear discussions between Iran and representatives of the Western world.

Iran met in Baghdad with the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany, the group dubbed 5+1. After two days of talks they came to a conclusion: Iran and the 5+1 should meet again. For round two of these talks they opted for a venue change: Moscow.

The inexperienced observer would, quite understandably, conclude that the two days in Baghdad were well spent and resulted in success. Why else would there be reason for a follow up so soon afterward?

The experienced observer, however, knows better.

As more details emerge it becomes evident that, once again, Iran has out-maneuvered, out-strategized, outplayed and outsmarted the Western world.

The meeting in Baghdad took place in the context of nearly a half-year of small group meetings, only two of which were successful.

The Obama administration was banking on the belief that these pseudo-secret meetings would bear their fruit at the public, much heralded meeting of the 5+1 in Baghdad. The United States truly believed that in Baghdad it would lay down a real foundation for dialogue about nuclear issues with Iran.

Imagine the Americans’ collective shock, then, when Saaid Jalili, the chief Iranian nuclear negotiator, was asked about those small meetings that had taken place between Iranian and Western representatives – and said he had no knowledge of them.

One source even reported that Jalili just nonchalantly shrugged his shoulders and said something to the effect of “let’s move on.”

Those meetings did, in fact, take place. I have been getting reliable reports about them for months. The White House was so ecstatic about the meetings that in March administration officials were saying they had cracked the Iranian nut and that real progress was being made thanks to those meetings.

There were even those in Washington who went so far as to suggest that sanctions against Iran might no longer be necessary.

Imagine – the United States was dangling the lifting of sanctions and the Iranian response was as blase and unconcerned as if those sanctions had been leveled against some other country.

And it may actually already have happened. The Iranians recently announced they struck oil in the Caspian Sea. That is the first oil discovered there in over one hundred years. The drilling went deep into the seawaters. It had to have been a sanctioned, co-sponsored effort. You see, the Iranians do not have the capability to drill that deep. Only the U.S. has that technology.

It seems that, with no fanfare and with well-kept secrecy, the U.S., perhaps unilaterally, lifted the sanctions that would have prevented the Iranians from getting the oil drilling technology needed to drill in the Caspian Sea.

Imagine – the White House was toasting and the Iranians were dissing.

Maybe now the administration will finally realize just how wily the Iranians are; how with relative ease they agreed to divide up into teams and meet periodically in capitals across Europe and then deny it happened.

There is another ironclad rule in diplomacy: If it appears too good to be true, it probably isn’t. The Iranians lured the U.S. into complacency and the U.S. fell into their diplomatic trap.

The U.S. team, of course, tried to shake Saaid Jalili’s memory. They said, Remember the Paris meetings with Dr. Ali Bagheri, deputy secretary of the Supreme National Security Council? And remember the Vienna dialogue with Hassan Rahani?

Jalili said he had no idea what they were talking about and that the discussion in Baghdad with the 5+1 was the only one they had and that it started from square one.

This was a major blunder and a colossal waste of time by and for the U.S. and the 5+1. They were had, and all because of wishful thinking, diplomatic style.

Micah D. Halpern is a columnist and social and political commentator. He maintains The Micah Report website (www.micahhalpern.com). His latest book is “Thugs: How History’s Most Notorious Despots Transformed the World through Terror, Tyranny, and Mass Murder” (Thomas Nelson).

Unease Grows In Israel Over U.S. Mideast Diplomacy

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

JERUSALEM – In a meeting with a visiting U.S. delegation fresh off nuclear talks in Baghdad, Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak and National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror expressed their government’s growing concerns over America’s diplomatic negotiations with Iran.

The Israeli officials told their guests, led by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, of the growing difference between Jerusalem and Washington over the pace and essence of the talks. Sherman maintained that President Obama was determined to maintain pressure on the Iranians in order to thwart their efforts to build an atomic device.

According to Israeli media reports, Barak and Amidror presented updated intelligence reports at the meeting. They allegedly show that Iran has already enriched enough uranium to build several atomic bombs, has begun preliminary work on developing weapons-grade plutonium, and is seeking to spark a war between Israel and Syria with the assistance of Hizbullah, Iran’s proxy.

One high-ranking Israeli official told Haaretz, “The Iranians have given up nothing at this juncture. [They are trying] to gain more time to continue their nuclear program.”

Barak, in discussing the stalled Iranian negotiations with a bipartisan group of visiting U.S. senators, said, “The recent round of talks in Baghdad proves once again that Iran is only interested in dragging its feet while attempting to deceive the world.” Regarding the chaos in Syria, Barak said, “The pictures of the children’s mutilated bodies are both shocking and disturbing. We call upon the nations of the world to unite and act immediately to stop the ongoing massacre of innocents.”

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force deputy commander, General Ismail Qa’ani, admitted earlier this week that Iran is directly involved in propping up Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s regime. Syrian rebels attempting to topple Assad have repeatedly told UN officials and international media outlets that both Quds and Hizbullah forces have actively participated in the recent attacks against civilians in Homs and Houla.

Some battles between pro- and anti-Assad forces have recently spilled over into different parts of Lebanon, including Tripoli and Beirut.

On Sunday Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah also threatened Israel. “Lacking rivers and mountains as borders, Israel has to make do with fences, but this will not be of any help. We have missiles that can hit anywhere in Israel,” he told supporters via a video link from Bint Jbeil, site of numerous battles between Israeli and Hizbullah forces during the Second Lebanon War.

The Obama administration has reportedly briefed Prime Minister Netanyahu about a proposed U.S. plan to have Russian President Vladimir Putin forge a peaceful regime change in Syria – an arrangement Assad has shown no intention of accepting. Putin, scheduled to soon meet with Netanyahu, has provided diplomatic and military backing to the Assad regime. However, after last weekend’s massacres in the Syrian cities of Houla and Homs, the Russian government openly criticized Assad.

Israel Hayom’s senior commentator Dan Margalit rebuked America’s diplomatic efforts in the region. “In Istanbul and Baghdad they [American diplomats and others] spoke about pushing Iran to downgrade enriching uranium from 20 percent grade to 5 percent, until it was surprisingly revealed that Iran was actually enriching uranium at 27 percent,” Margalit wrote.

“Iran isn’t worried that America sees it as a country that consistently fails to tell the truth; North Korea already preceded them. So with these statistics in hand, Syria’s Bashar Assad shouldn’t be too worried about American efforts to effect regime change.”

Israeli military officials have warned the White House and Kremlin that if the Assad regime is violently overthrown, Israeli forces could be forced to launch a pre-emptive strike at elite Syrian chemical weapons warfare and missile units. It is believed that in a parting shot, Assad – with Iranian compliance – might order the transfer of large caches of unconventional munitions to Hizbullah in Lebanon.

According to the IDF and the authoritative Jane’s Defence Weekly, Syria allegedly possesses one of the world’s deadliest arsenals of VX nerve gas, which can be mounted on advanced Scud missiles and capable of hitting major Israeli cities across the country.

Iran Rejects US, UN, Proposal to Resolve Nuclear Impasse

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Vindicating the skepticism expressed by Israeli leaders earlier in the week, Iran on Thursday rejected a proposal by the P5+1 (US, UK, France, China, Russia, and Germany) to rein in Iran’s nuclear program and accused the six world powers of creating a “difficult atmosphere” for compromise.

On the second day of talks in Baghdad, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, met with his counterpart – European Union foreign policy chief and P5+1 representative – Catherine Ashton and conveyed his displeasure with the bloc’s proposal.

Iranian officials and media painted the six-nation bloc as the source of intransigence and focused its ire specifically at America. “What we heard in Istanbul was more interesting,” an Iranian delegate told Reuters, referring to meetings last month that appeared to offer progress in the resolution of the impasse over Iran’s nuclear program. “We believe the reason [the P5+1] are not able to reach a result is America. [The P5+1] came to Baghdad without a clear mandate so we think the atmosphere is difficult.”

The P5+1′s proposal calls on Iran to stop enriching its uranium to 20% – which brings it close to the threshold of weapon’s grade. It offers Iran badly-needed spare parts for civilian airliners, medical isotopes, and nuclear safety cooperation as incentives to agrement. Iran, on the other hand, is demanding an immediate easing of current economic sanctions and suspension of the onerous sanctions set to be imposed in the summer; in return, Tehran is offering a pledge of broader access to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors, plus other minor concessions.

As it stands now, the P5+1 has refused to consider suspending the impending sanctions. A US official stressed that the bloc’s proposal includes measures to alleviate the sanctions’ hardships, and that they should suffice in the confidence-building process. Nevertheless, Iran has made it clear that suspending the sanctions is the key to compromise.

“It seems that the basis for another round of negotiations doesn’t exist yet,” the Iranian delegate said. But characteristic of Iranian negotiating tactics, he left the door open for continued dialogue, thereby allowing Iran to pursue the dual track of continuing its quest for nuclear power while declaring its readiness to resolve the issue at the same time.

These are exactly the kind of tactics that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned of on Tuesday when he said: “It appears that the Iranians are trying to reach a ‘technical agreement’ which will create the impression of progress in the talks, in order to remove some of the pressure…as well as to put off the intensification of sanctions.” He encouraged the P5+1 to remain “clear and unequivocal” in their demands.

 

 

Surrounded by Mistrust, Administration Resumes Iran Nuclear Talks

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

The notion President Barack Obama has entertained, that his path to ending Iran’s nuclear threat would lead through a mix of sanctions and diplomacy, is being tested on a grand scale this week.

Tomorrow, Wednesday, will see the start of new talks, in Baghdad, intended to persuade Iran’s government to halt the enrichment of uranium, and also allow international inspectors complete access to its facilities. Ideally, Obama would have liked to manage the progress of these talks, perhaps the most crucial in a decade-long struggle between the West and the Iranians.

Indeed, according to the Mehr News Agency, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council secretary and chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili has already arrived in Baghdad on Monday night, eager to start the talks with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.

Meanwhile, Mehr reports that International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano said in Tehran on Monday that a good atmosphere prevailed in his talks with Iranian officials.

Amano spoke after a two-hour meeting with Saeed Jalili, before the latter departed to Baghdad.

But back in Washington it appears that both the Republican-led House and the Democrat-led Senate don’t completely trust the executive branch to do the right thing on Iran.

On Monday, the U.S. Senate approved even tougher new penalties on Tehran, aimed to squash its nuclear hopes.

By a unanimous voice vote, the Senate decided on measures to target Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (barring their affiliates from entry into the U.S.), demand that companies trading on the U.S. stock exchange disclose their Iran-related business to the SEC, and expand penalties for energy and uranium mining joint ventures with Iran.

Last week, the House passed a resolution, with 314 sponsors, calling on President Obama “to reaffirm the unacceptability of an Iran with nuclear-weapons capability.” The resolution demanded reaffirmation of the U.S. “opposition to any policy that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not been concealing his own skepticism regarding the president’s chances in negotiating away Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

“Iran wants to destroy Israel, and it is developing nuclear weapons to fulfill that goal,” he said.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said last week that “the pressure will be on the Iranians to demonstrate continued good faith,” which he defined as concretely discussing their program, meaning the nitty-gritty aspects of where, what percentage uranium enrichment, how close are they to building a nuclear device, and so on. The U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany would like to know, in detail.

Take, for example, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who insisted on Sunday that the coming negotiations needed to produce evidence of progress to the international community, according to Reuters.

“Practical results are needed that can be shown to the international community as evidence that we are moving forward,” Ryabkov said.

The Russian “step-by-step” proposal wants Iran to gradually increase cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and for each step it would be rewarded with a gradual easing of sanctions.

AA’s Bill Wilson meets the Ayatollah Humeini, if you will.

But Republicans in both houses have been having a field day with their accusation of an Administration ineptness on Iran.

Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, said, “The administration’s foolish embrace of yet another round of negotiations will only embolden the regime. The administration has made concession after concession in its negotiations with Iran only to come empty-handed. The Iranian approach seems to be, ‘What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is negotiable.’”

EU’s Ashton Briefs Netanyahu on Iran Talks, PM: ‘Iran Playing for Time’

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton that Iran must agree to halt all uranium enrichment in upcoming talks.

Ashton was in Jerusalem on Wednesday to brief Netanyahu in the run-up to the second round of nuclear talks with Iran scheduled for May 23 in Baghdad.

Netanyahu also accused Iran of “playing for time” by agreeing to continue to negotiate with the six world powers: the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany. The powers and Iran met last month in Turkey, where they agreed to the Baghdad meeting.

Netanyahu invited Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and new coalition member Kadima head Shaul Mofaz to join the meeting with Ashton, Ha’aretz reported.

Mofaz has spoken out in the past against a unilateral Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities. The United States has called on Israel to hold off on attacking Iran and instead give sanctions time to take hold.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/eus-ashton-briefs-netanyahu-on-iran-talks-pm-iran-playing-for-time/2012/05/09/

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