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April 25, 2015 / 6 Iyar, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Congress’

Congressmembers: No More Money for Talks With Iran

Friday, March 27th, 2015

Some members of Congress are insisting there be a limit to the ongoing negotiations to convince the Islamic Republic to agree not to produce nuclear weapons.

In a letter sent on Thursday, March 26, to the Chair and the Ranking member of the subcommittee on Foreign Operations of the House Appropriations Committee, several members of Congress, spearheaded by Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY), sought the insertion of language in the upcoming foreign operations appropriations bill that would prohibit the inclusion of funding for continuing talks with Iran by the U.S. with the P5+1 member nations.

The letter, addressed to Cong. Kay Granger (R-TX) and Cong. Nita Lowey (D-NY), described the ongoing negotiations with Iran as “dangerous” and a “failed effort” to “ensure Iran never acquires a nuclear weapons capability.”

The letter pointed out that, despite assurances to the contrary, the administration has already made dangerous concessions to Iran, including the decision to permit Iran to maintain a “peaceful nuclear enrichment program.”

As pointed out in the Congressional letter, “there is no such thing as a peaceful Iranian nuclear enrichment program.”

In addition, the March 26 letter recounts the highlights (or, rather, low points) of what is understood to be included in a final deal, which would permit Iran to maintain its current stockpile unmolested now, and then the complete lifting of any restraints on Iran in ten years time.

A House staffer who spoke about the current status of the negotiations with the JewishPress.com was piqued by the administration’s refusal to share details of the deal with members of Congress. The language the administration has employed is particularly irksome. Saying that Congress will “see the agreement” once it is completed is hardly reassuring to those with grave concerns about what it contains.

The staffer explained that while this request to Appropriations, even if implemented, would not kick in for another 19 months, it is significant because Congress needs to continue demanding “it has a role to play,” and this is one way of alerting both the administration and the public that Congress has not yet been heard on this critically important topic. Congress has, essentially, “been left in the dark.”

FORDOW ENRICHMENT TO CONTINUE UNDER DEAL?

The Congressional letter was sent the same day that an absolute blockbuster scoop from the Associated Press revealed yet another dangerous concession allegedly made by the U.S. to Iran: that Washington is poised to allow the Iranians to continue enrichment activities at its Fordow facility. This is the one that is an underground military bunker. Fordow is built into the side of a mountain and is all but impervious to an air attack.

Really? Spinning centrifuges in a bunkered facility? Any members of Congress who are not standing up on their hind legs and demanding the right to review and make changes to a final deal with Iran on what is perhaps the most important treaty of modern times deserves to lose their seat.

RALLY FRIDAY OUTSIDE SENATORS SCHUMER AND GILLIBRAND’S OFFICES IN NYC

And there are some New Yorkers who will be sharing that view with their U.S. Senators, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, tomorrow, March 27, at noon.

There will be a rally in front of the senators’ offices, at 780 Third Avenue between East 48th and 49th Streets in Manhattan. The purpose of the rally is to press the senators to commit to overriding President Obama’s promised veto of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, better known as the Corker-Menendez Bill.

Neither Schumer nor Gillibrand have stated publicly how they will vote on an override of the president’s promised veto of INARA. Concerned constituents want the senators to be counted among those elected representatives who will demand Congress plays a role in ensuring that any deal with Iran will not allow it to acquire nuclear weapons.

Pressure on Iran Picking Up to Sign a Nuclear Deal

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

US Senate to Vote on Sanctions If No Iran Deal, EU Sanctions Already Reinstated

The United States Senate has threatened to impose sanctions on Iran if President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are not successful in shepherding a nuclear technology deal through talks between world powers and Iran.

The European Union has already reinstated sanctions against 40 Iranian companies, including dozens of shipping firms, in order to increase pressure on Iran to sign on the dotted line.

The EU General Court lifted the sanctions on firms that were linked to the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines carrier (IRISL) in January, saying the EU had not proved the IRISL was actively supporting nuclear proliferation.

IRISL attorney Maryam Taher told the Reuters news agency the move was “purely politically motivated and not based on any proper evidence. The whole purpose of the EU sanctions is to leverage pressure on the Iranian government to come to an agreement in relation to nuclear proliferation.”

On Monday, the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that it could not state definitively that Iran’s nuclear program had no “military dimensions.” Issues meant to resolve suspicions of weaponization work remain, according to IAEA director-general Yukiya Amano said in his report, despite what he called “good cooperation” from Tehran regarding the November 2013 comprehensive safeguards agreement.

However, he said, “We continue to verify the non-divergence of nuclear material declared by Iran, but we are still not in a position to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful purpose.”

If international negotiators come up empty-handed this time around (they have already missed one deadline), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday at a weekly news briefing “Another heavy dose of sanctions would be an appropriate remedy.”

If an agreement is signed, the lawmakers would pass a bill requiring the president to submit the deal to Congress for its approval. The bill also contains a provision that would temporarily remove Obama’s ability to waive sanctions.

Obama says he will veto both bills.

Negotiators took a break on Friday and reconvene this week as the March 31 deadline inches closer. World leaders will try again to close a deal with a nation whose Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on Saturday for “Death to America,” while its President Hassan Rouhani expressed optimism that an agreement could still be reached.

White House Escalates War on Netanyahu with Allegations of Spying

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

The Obama administration has escalated its political war on Israel with new charges – denied by Israel – that Jerusalem lobbied Congress against a deal with Iran by using information collected from spying on secret talks.

Israel has formally denied the allegations, admitting it obtained information but explaining it did so by spying on Iran and by receiving intelligence from European officials.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday morning, “The spying operation was part of a broader campaign by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to penetrate the negotiations and then help build a case against the emerging terms of the deal.”

More significantly, the newspaper added:

The espionage didn’t upset the White House as much as Israel’s sharing of inside information with U.S. lawmakers and others to drain support from a high-stakes deal intended to limit Iran’s nuclear program, current and former officials said.

It is one thing for the U.S. and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal U.S. secrets and play them back to U.S. legislators to undermine U.S. diplomacy,’ said a senior U.S. official briefed on the matter.

The White House accusations are based on the conclusions that information Israel acquired could only have been obtained from spying on confidential talks by U.S. officials.

A senior official from the office of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Journal:

These allegations are utterly false. The state of Israel does not conduct espionage against the United States or Israel’s other allies. The false allegations are clearly intended to undermine the strong ties between the United States and Israel and the security and intelligence relationship we share.

No one believes that the United States and Israel don’t spy on each other, but Israel has been less ambitious since Jonathan Pollard was caught nearly 30 years exposing for Israel secret information from the Pentagon, where he worked.

But no one, except perhaps Obama, believes that Israel is not capable of spying on Iran.

“Did the administration really believe we wouldn’t find out?” about the closed-door talks by American officials from other sources, an Israel official said.

Israeli officials informed senior members of Congress of details on the proposed deal, including the compromise that would allow Iran to operate approximately 6,500 centrifuges for enriching uranium.

Obama has two problems concerning his policies on Israel and Iran – Netanyahu and Congress. Both are sure that any deal with Iran on its nuclear development program will be a bad deal.

President Obama still is sulking over Netanyahu’s speech to Congress two weeks ago in which he warned against a deal. Netanyahu has the support of a majority of Congress and possibly even enough to override a presidential veto of a law that would require him to submit a deal to the legislature for review.

Obama and Netanyahu have become paranoid of each other. The Prime Minister does not trust the president to keep Iran from having the capability of obtaining a nuclear weapon that could be aimed at Israel and fulfill the Islamic Republic’s stated dream of wiping Israel off the map.

Obama and Netanyahu have totally lost trust in each other over the White House’s cherished “two-state solution” and “a negotiated peace” that Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas has ditched long ago but for which Obama wants to make Netanyahu the scapegoat.

Not coincidentally, Congress is on Israel’s side, while President Obama and his foreign policy team constantly ignore official Palestinian Authority incitement for terror and turn a blind eye to PA documents calling for all of Israel to be “Palestine.”

The establishment pundits are having a field day charging that Netanyahu is at fault for supposedly forcing a cold war on Obama.

‘Get Over It, Mr. President,’ Says U.S. Senator – Full Transcript

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

A high-ranking U.S. Senator called out President Barack Obama on national television Sunday for holding an endless personal grudge against Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, appeared Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union program.

McCain told CNN newswoman Gloria Borger that he is concerned the president’s personal issues with Israel’s prime minister are adversely affecting America’s interests in the foreign policy and national security arenas.

This is how the conversation went:


 
CNN: Senator, are we in a dangerous split here in relations between the United States and Israel?

McCAIN: “Well, I think that’s up to the president of the United States. But there was a free and fair democratic election – the only nation in the region that will have such a thing.

“The president should get over it. Get over your temper tantrum, Mr. President. It’s time that we work together with our Israeli friends and try to stem this tide of ISIS and Iranian movement throughout the region which is threatening the very fabric of the region.

“The least of your problems is what Bibi Netanyahu said during an election campaign. If every politician were held to everything they say in a political campaign obviously that would be a topic of long discussion.

“The point is, the “JV”* as the president described them, are just moving over into Yemen. We see this horrible situation in Libya, we see ISIS (Daesh, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria terror organization) everywhere in the world.

“We see the Iranians now backing the Shia militias in Tikrit, where they’re going to massacre a number of Sunnis, and the guy in charge (there) is a guy named Sulimeini, who … moved thousands of copper-tipped IEDs (improvised explosive devices) into Iraq and killed hundreds of American soldiers and Marines… And (meanwhile) the President of the United States is praising the mullahs and their behavior in the region.

“This is one of the more Orwellian situations I have ever observed,” McCain said, obviously perplexed. Nearly an identical comment was made by another member of Congress just a day or two earlier to describe the president’s inexplicable behavior as well.

CNN: Why is it considered a “temper tantrum” by the president, if Netanyahu rejects the very basis in his campaign rhetoric for decades of US policy heading towards some kind of a peace process? Should the president just pay no attention to that?

McCAIN: “I think the President shouldn’t like it — but thousands are being slaughtered by ISIS. The Iranians have now taken over the major capitals Lebanon, Syria, Beirut and Baghdad. It pales in significance to the situation which continues to erode in the Middle East – and it puts America at risk.

“Look. Bibi’s “rhetoric” concerning an election campaign pales in comparison as to the threat — the direct threat to the United States of America — of ISIS. This is … the President has his priorities so screwed up, that it’s unbelievable.

CNN: He’s also considering signing a UN resolution calling for a Palestinian state. What would be your reaction if he does that and should he even be considering that?

McCAIN: Of course he shouldn’t be considering it. And second of all, if he does that, and it would be approved by the UN, then the United States Congress would have to examine our funding for the United Nations.

“It would be … ah, it would be a violation because the president’s anger over a statement by Bibi, by the prime minister of Israel, it would be, contradict, American policy for the last 10 presidents of the United States.

U.S. Representative Steve Israel of New York, a Democrat, also appeared on the same program. He urged everyone to “drop the drama” and focus on the priorities. “What counts is, are we providing Israel with the critical security equipment technology that they need? And on that, we are,” the Congressman said.

* (Ed note: For the uninitiated, “JV” refers to “junior varsity” and usually is a reference to a high school or B-track college team. Obama’s first such reference was made during and interview for a profile published on Jan. 27, 2014 by The New Yorker Magazine, written by editor David Remnick. Obama referred during the 2012 campaign to the killing of Osama Bin Laden at the time. In Remnick’s words: Obama “also said that Al Qaeda had been ‘decimated.’ I pointed out that the flag of Al Qaeda is now flying in Fallujah, in Iraq, and among various rebel factions in Syria; Al Qaeda has asserted a presence in parts of Africa, too.” Obama responded: “The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.” Remnick’s was referring in that interview to the conquering of Fallujah on Jan. 3, 2014 by ISIS – which at the time was still referred to as an Al Qaeda-linked offshoot. It was only a day later that Al Jazeera clarified the distinction between the two.)

McCain – “Get Over Your Temper Tantrum, Mr. President”

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015

In a strongly worded interview on Sundays’s CNN’s “State of the Union“, Senator John McCain said that President Obama should “get over his temper tantrum” following Netanyahu’s victory.

McCain said, “The President has his priorities so screwed up that it’s unbelievable.”

McCain made it clear that if President Obama didn’t use his veto at the UN against a resolution for a Palestinian State, then Congress would reexamine its funding of the UN in response.

McCain discussed the real regional problems, such as ISIS and Iran, and said the President’s personal issues with Netanyahu are getting in the way of important policy issues.

Democrats Ready to Side with GOP and Override Obama Veto of Iran Bill

Monday, March 16th, 2015

Republican senators may have a veto-proof majority from Democrats backing a bill that would require  President Barack Obama to submit any deal with Iran to Congressional review, Politico reported.

Almost all 54 Republican senators are on board as are more than 12 Democrats, which comes out to more than the two-thirds majority that is needed to override a presidential veto.

It is not clear if the Democrats supporting the bill would go so far as to vote against a veto by Obama, but a two-thirds majority would make it very difficult for him to exercise his veto power over a law giving Congress 60 days to review a deal.

The Democrats were offended by the “open letter to the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran”” initiated by Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton and which warned Iran that Congress might be able to challenge an agreement between President Obama and Iran.

The White House and the other P5+1 powers reportedly are considering going through the U.N. Security Council to lift sanctions, which would raise a question in international law concerning Congress’ power to decide to re-impose sanctions.

The legalities may not matter because it is doubtful if Obama would be willing to act against such a large majority in the Congress.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said there is chance that a deal could be struck with Iran as early as this week,” but his constant optimism has to be taken with a few grains of uranium.

The open letter damaged relations with Democratic senators, but Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, who did not sign the open letter, said:

Let a couple days go by. We think there’s going to be really ignited momentum. Nobody’s dropping out. We’ve had reaffirmed commitment [from Democrats.]”

The White House is trying to convince Sen. Corker to hold off on the bill and let the administration try to reach an agreement with Iran, but that night not happen until June even if a framework agreement is signed this month.

Even several Democrats are not willing to wait.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson told Politico that he still would back the bill demanding Congressional approvals for a deal even though “this is a sad day in America when people are trying to kill negotiations that are underway.”

Another bill, proposed by Illinois Republican Mark Kirk, would put into law that sanctions will be slapped against Iran if Congress doubts the Islamic Republic’s commitment to reach a deal or stand by its promises.

According to Kirk, there are enough Democrats behind him to give the bill more than a two-thirds majority.

A Big Deal: Bipartisan Senate Panel Investigates Obama Link to Anti-Netanyahu Electioneering

Monday, March 16th, 2015

{Originally posted to author’s website, Liberty Unyielding}

As Israel closes in on the national election scheduled for Tuesday, 17 March, Fox News has come out with an exclusive report.  The U.S. Senate has appointed a bipartisan panel to investigate the use of funds donated from the Obama State Department to the organization OneVoice, which in January partnered with an Israeli anti-Netanyahu group, V-2015 (or V15) to import Obama’s own campaign operatives for the election.  The goal of V15 and OneVoice:  to defeat Netanyahu’s Likud coalition in the Knesset.

That this inquiry has bipartisan agreement is obviously significant.  Senators on both sides of the aisle think something stinks — and that’s just the first-order conclusion.

The Fox story outlines the initial concern of the investigation: the $350,000 the State Department has funneled to OneVoice.  State says the funding is unrelated to the V15 effort in the Israeli election:

One expert told FoxNews.com earlier this month the State Department grants constituted indirect administration funding of the anti-Netanyahu campaign by providing OneVoice with the $350,000 — even though State Department officials said the funding stopped in November, ahead of the announcement of the Israeli election.

Fox quotes an NGO funding expert who considers that a bit disingenuous:

Gerald Steinberg, founder and president of NGO Monitor, which tracks money flows to unmask non-governmental organizations that deviate from their stated human rights or humanitarian agendas, said even ostensibly unrelated grants keep an organization going during periods it is not engaged in political activity.

But there’s another reason to parse the timeline closely here.

The timeline

The story has expanded since late January, with additional evidence that U.S. groups are involved in an effort to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu.  Alana Goodman reported at Washington Free Beacon in early February that a U.S.-based group called Ameinu (motto: “Liberal values; Progressive Israel”) sent out a fundraising memo on 17 December 2014, outlining a very Jeremy Bird-like plan to “get out the vote” and transform the Israeli political landscape.

The December memo cited consultation with “American experts,” including Obama campaign operatives.

We are already in touch with a highly talented combination of knowledgeable Israeli professionals and American experts with experience in similar recent operations, including the Obama presidential campaign.

Ameinu president Kenneth Bob told Free Beacon in February that Ameinu had indeed consulted with Bird and V15, but had since parted ways with them:

[Bob] later said that V15 and Bird’s consulting group 270 Strategies were involved in the discussions early on, but have since parted ways with Ameinu.

“When we first began soliciting funds for GOTV efforts ahead of the Israeli elections, we spoke to a number of entities with projects in mind, including Strategies 270, which ultimately became V15,” said Bob.

But that disclosure, even assuming it’s accurate, puts the State Department’s claim about when its funding for OneVoice stopped in an interesting light.  It’s obvious why the Senate thinks it needs investigating.

The State Department, as cited by Fox News, said its funding for OneVoice stopped in November (emphasis added):

State Department officials said the funding stopped in November, ahead of the announcement of the Israeli election.

The early election in Israel was announced on 2 December 2014, when Netanyahu’s governing coalition was officially dissolved.  That means interested parties – like V15, OneVoice, Jeremy Bird, and Ameinu – were certain, less than a month after the State Department funding to OneVoice stopped, that there would be an election.

That alone means it’s hard to make the case that State Department funding was irrelevant to a OneVoice project decision that could have been in progress no later than 2 December.  OneVoice clearly could have been using, in December – and probably in January and February – money it received from the State Department in November.

But OneVoice and its partners could very well have been eying an Israeli election project before 2 December.  And since we also know that Bird and V15 were discussing an election plan with Ameinu sometime before 17 December, it becomes, at the very least, increasingly unbelievable that the OneVoice funding Bird and V15 ultimately went with was on no one’s radar screen earlier than late January, when Bird and his cohort showed up in Israel.

The big picture

The announcement of an early Israeli election didn’t come out of the blue.  In fact, it had been talked about as a possibility for months, and was publicly discussed as likely throughout the month of November 2014.  From statements by cabinet ministers in September, to speculation in October about the meaning of early Likud primaries (see here as well), to MSM statements in November that the “smart betting” was on an early election, to pointed disclosures in mid-November that Netanyahu was telling Likud leaders to get ready for an early election, the word was out.

November, or even October, was when advocacy groups and full-time political professionals would have been putting their scope on an early Israeli election.

Indeed, the phrasing of Kenneth Bob’s statement about the discussions with Bird and V15 evokes a timeline that probably did start earlier than 2 December 2014 – a bare 15 days before the Ameinu fundraising memo went out with its shaping-the-vote plan.

In that light, the timing of State’s last release of funds to OneVoice – according to State, in November 2014 – might even look like a severance for appearances’ sake.  If the Fox News report conveys the Senate’s concerns accurately, one of them seems to be with the coincident timing of Marc Ginsberg’s resignation announcement from OneVoice.  Ginsberg made that announcement on 11 November 2014.

By 11 November, as the links above illustrate, it was received wisdom in MSM reporting that Netanyahu would call for an election in early 2015.  But 11 November was also less than two weeks after the Obama administration had thrown its infamous tantrum by “leaking” the news that someone in its ranks thought of Bibi as a “chickens***.”  Moreover, 11 November was one week after the Democrats lost the Senate to a Republican wave in the mid-term election, and Obama thus lost Congress for the balance of his presidential term.

At that point, Obama’s actions on more than one front – e.g., executive amnesty; executive restrictions on firearms; ignoring Iran’s violations of the 2013 “nuclear deal” in order to press ahead with ill-advised negotiations – were beginning to show an increasing recklessness and disdain, not only for public opinion but for the prerogatives of Congress.  It would actually have been quite in character for the administration’s post-election agenda to include a strategy to campaign against Netanyahu in the widely anticipated Israeli election.

Congress may or may not be able to turn anything up with this investigation.  The Obama administration is likely to stonewall, as it so often does, and the non-profits involved may be able – ironically enough – to hide behind the IRS in declining to reveal their financial information.  (This although it may well be a violation of IRS regulations for OneVoice to fund V15’s activities in the first place – a point Ted Cruz has twice made official inquiries about.)

Apparent certitude and unity in the Senate

The fact that this is a bipartisan investigation is telling, however.

Senate Democrats aren’t moving to protect the administration from scrutiny.  That may represent fall-out from the administration’s thinly-veiled attack on New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, the Democrat who has opposed Obama on both his Iran and Cuba policies.  In part, at least, Senate Democrats are probably sending a signal of their own to the Obama White House.

But this goes beyond not protecting Obama.  The Democrats could have simply not participated, and thereby split the baby: neither protecting Obama nor helping the Republicans put his officials in the hot seat.

Instead, they’ve signed up for a legitimate inquiry: an inquiry whose outcome will matter.  The Fox story indicates that the investigation has been ongoing, apparently for some weeks before the public heard about it.  It’s possible – even likely – that the senators know things we don’t (not yet, at any rate).  And the Democrats, at least, can’t be in this just for the theater.

It would be remarkable for both parties to undertake an investigation they didn’t think anything would come of.  The opposition party (the GOP, in this case) would still be motivated to try to air improprieties in the president’s administration.  But the president’s own party doesn’t have a motive to involve itself, if it doesn’t expect to achieve anything more than that.

It’s not clear precisely what’s going on.  News of the bipartisan panel has been leaked just three days before the Israeli election.  The Senate is well aware that that, too, is political timing.  Whatever’s going on, it seems to be something big.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/j-e-dyer/a-big-deal-bipartisan-senate-panel-investigates-obama-link-to-anti-netanyahu-electioneering-read-more-at-httplibertyunyielding-com20150315a-big-deal-bipartisan-senate-panel-investigates-obama/2015/03/16/

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