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December 25, 2014 / 3 Tevet, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘Mark Kirk’

Bi-Partisan Senate Trio Demand Answers From Kerry on UNRWA Conduct in Gaza

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

At least some members of the U.S. congress finally realized that if weapons belonging to Hamas were found in UNRWA facilities, questions need to be asked of UNRWA employees as to how those weapons got there, who put them there, who observed them, what – if anything – was done to remove them (or to keep them there), along with other pertinent and essential lines of inquiry.

U.S. senators Mark Kirk (R-IL), Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), sent a letter last week to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, demanding an investigation into the actions of  the United Nations Refugee and Works Agency (UNRWA) during the fighting in Gaza.

The senators used very strong language to condemn the agency on several different bases.

First, the discovery, on three different occasions, of Hamas weapons in UNRWA facilities, whereupon the weapons were returned to the terrorist organization, Hamas.

Second, UNRWA has repeatedly issued statements condemning Israel and ignoring the wrongdoing of Hamas.

And third, the senators pointed out the very troubling close affiliation between Hamas and UNRWA, the irrefutable proof of which was the election of 25 Hamas candidates were voted onto the 27 member UNRWA ‘s workers’  union board in 2012.

Next, the senators explained why they are convinced it is appropriate for them to demand such an investigation into UNRWA: we pay for it! The United States contributed $294 million in 2013. It is the single largest donor to UNRWA. Since 1950, more than $5 billion U.S. taxpayers’ dollars were funneled into UNRWA.

Senator Mark Kirk is a member of the Senate Appropriations sub-committee which has jurisdiction over the Department of State, as well as U.S. contributions to U.N. activities. Kirk said in a statement posted on his website:

I am demanding a credible and independent assessment of UNRWA’s actions during this crisis. Given UNRWA’s ties to terrorism in the past, U.S. taxpayers deserve immediate answers and full transparency regarding their intentions and actions. The State Department must make clear to the U.N. that it need to take all necessary steps to prevent Hamas from using taxpayer-funded property to launch attacks against our allies.

Senator Cardin, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, added:

When leaders and organizations of the United Nations blur the clear distinction between a nation-state defending itself and a terrorist organization attempting to murder civilians, Americans take note. When an organization funded in part by the U.S. suggests that the two are morally equivalent, U.S. taxpayers take note. Israel is undertaking extraordinary efforts to avoid civilian casualties while Hamas cynically uses other Palestinians as human shields and deliberately attempts to kill Israeli civilians. U.N. resources and personnel cannot be complicit in Hamas’ violent terrorist actions.

Senator Marco Rubio is also a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Rubio had the following to say:

As the U.N.’s leading source of funding, American taxpayers will not tolerate the use of U.N. facilities by terrorists to stage attacks against our allies. We know Hamas has been using civilians as human shields and stores its weapons and fighters in civilian buildings, but for the U.N. to stand idly by while Hamas attacks Israel from its facilities is an outrage. This is the latest example of why the U.S. needs to bring greater transparency and accountability to the U.N. by pursuing reform of its programs and institutions.

The text of the letter the senators sent to Secretary of State Kerry:

Dear Secretary Kerry,

We write to express our profound concern with the troubling role the United Nations Refugee and Work Agency  (UNRWA) has played during the ongoing crisis in Gaza, including multiple instances of weapons found at UNRWA schools as well as one-sided statements from UNRWA leadership that unjustly condemn Israel. For instance, on July 14, UNRWA Commissioner General Pierre Krahenbuhl stated that Israeli security forces are acting “contrary to international humanitarian law” and also called Israel’s Gaza blockade “illegal.”

As you know, UNRWA admitted on July 17, July 22nd, and July 30th that it found rockets belonging to Hamas on its property. We commend UNRWA’s quick condemnation of these incidents, but are concerned with the ultimate fate of these rockets, which UNRWA claimed to have turned over to the “local authorities” or have gone missing. We fear that this means these rockets may have found their way back into Hamas’ hands.

We urge the State Department to launch an independent investigation into these incidents and to call on the United Nations leadership to hold UNRWA accountable, including by reprimanding or dismissing the UNRWA staff responsible as appropriate, as well as asking the U.N. to ensure that these incidents never take place again.

In the course of your investigation, we ask you to examine the fate of these rockets, what measures the U.N. took to secure UNRWA property, and how the U.S. intends to work with the U.N. to make sure incidents like these are never repeated.

As you know, the United States is the largest donor to UNRWA and has contributed almost $5 billion to the organization since 1950. The United States taxpayers deserve to know if UNRWA is fulfilling its mission or taking sides in this tragic conflict.

We look forward to your reply,

Sincerely,
Now that the strong statements have been made and a letter from three members of senate committees with jurisdiction over the State Department and the U.N. has been sent to the secretary of state, it behooves Israel’s supporters to demand follow-through.

In State of the Union, Obama Pledges Veto of New Sanctions Legislation

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

President Obama in his State of the Union speech pledged to veto any new Iran sanctions.

“Let me be clear: if this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it,” he said Tuesday night. “For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed.”

The Senate is considering new sanctions, backed by leading pro-Israel groups.

“With our allies and partners, we’re engaged in negotiations to see if we can peacefully achieve a goal we all share: preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” Obama said, drawing some of the louder applause of the evening.

In a statement after Obama’s speech, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), called on the Senate to pass a sanctions bill introduced by him and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and currently backed by 59 senators.

“The American people — Democrats and Republicans alike — overwhelmingly want Iran held accountable during any negotiations,” he said.

In his State of the Union, Obama also nodded to efforts by Secretary of State John Kerry to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, and pledged support for Israel’s security in the process.

He pointedly referred to Israel’s status as a Jewish state, a recognition Israel wants from the Palestinians as part of a peace deal.

“American diplomacy is supporting Israelis and Palestinians as they engage in difficult but necessary talks to end the conflict there; to achieve dignity and an independent state for Palestinians, and lasting peace and security for the State of Israel — a Jewish state that knows America will always be at their side,” he said.

More broadly, Obama said, as he launched his final three years in office, that he wanted to wean America from a “permanent war footing” and reduce the U.S. troop presence abroad.

“We must fight the battles that need to be fought, not those that terrorists prefer from us,” he said. “Large-scale deployments that drain our strength and may ultimately feed extremism.”

Despite Veto Threat and Heavy Pressure, Schumer Supports Sanctions Bill

Friday, December 20th, 2013

The Democratic senior senator from New York, Chuck Schumer, remains on track with the new bi-partisan Iran sanctions bill despite intense lobbying by the White House and the threat of a presidential veto.

The new sanctions bill is called the “Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act.”  It  is co-sponsored by Schumer, New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez and Illinois Republican Sen. Mark Kirk, and was introduced on Thursday, Dec. 19.

Under this bill, new sanctions would not be imposed until after the six-month negotiations window between the U.S. and Iran passes, or if Iran breaches the interim deal.

But Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif told Time magazine earlier this month that any new sanctions, even ones that take effect after the interim agreement expires, would kill any chance of a more comprehensive deal.

At Thursday’s press briefing, the president’s spokesperson Jay Carney said he saw no need for this sanctions bill and assured everyone that if it becomes law the president will veto it.

“We made it very clear to the Senate that it is not the time for new Iran sanctions. We don’t think it will be or should be enacted,” Carney told reporters.

Schumer said he discussed the sanctions issue with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough Thursday, according to BuzzFeed. The New York senior senator downplayed the idea of bad feelings over the matter between the White House and him, saying he supports the idea of negotiating an interim agreement with Iran, “but I don’t think the reduction of sanctions made much sense.”

“Basically, it’s a judgement call. We have a disagreement with them,” Schumer said. “Many of us believe that by ratcheting up sanctions, not by reducing sanctions, is the best way to produce peace and get Iran to forego a nuclear weapon.”

The bill has 26 co-sponsors. Co-sponsors from the Democratic party include senators Ben Cardin (Md), Bob Casey (PA), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Mark Warner (Va.) and Mary Landrieu (La.).

 

Senators Introduce Sanctions Bill to Break Iran Deal

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Senators from both the Democratic and Republican parties introduced a bill on Thursday that would toughen sanctions on Iran and effectively squash the interim deal between the major Western powers and Iran. The deal has been ridiculed by many as appeasement in return for a nuclear bomb.

Republican Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois said the bill’s proposals for a worldwide boycott on Iranian oil exports and blacklisting the country’s mining industries are “an insurance policy to defend against Iranian deception.”

Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey said, “Current sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table and a credible threat of future sanctions will require Iran to cooperate and act in good faith at the negotiating table.”

In the unlikely event that the Senate defies President Barack Obama and passes the bill, and the House of Representatives goes along for the ride, it would render the deal null and void because of the negotiators’ promise that no new sanctions would be introduced before the end of talks for a final deal in six months.

The bill also states, “If the government of Israel is compelled to take military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran’s nuclear weapon program, the United States government should stand with Israel” with diplomatic, military and economic support.”

The 26 senators who introduced the deal basically made a stand against President Obama, and when the time comes that it is clear that the President and the leaders of the major powers were duped, the bill’s sponsors can say, “We told you so.”

But that won’t be of much help to Israel.

Top Senators Pledge Sanctions Legislation after Thanksgiving

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

U.S. Senate leaders pledged to revisit intensified Iran sanctions after the Thanksgiving holiday.

“The Senate must be prepared to move forward with a new bipartisan Iran sanctions bill when the Senate returns after Thanksgiving recess. And I am committed to do so,” Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the majority leader, told The Hill, a Capitol Hill daily, on Thursday. “I believe we must do everything possible to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons capability.”

Separately on Thursday, a bipartisan slate of 14 senators issued a statement saying they would work to reconcile a number of sanctions bills circulating “over the coming weeks.”

“A nuclear weapons capable Iran presents a grave threat to the national security interest of the United States and its allies and we are committed to preventing Iran from acquiring this capability,” said the statement signed by, among others, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), a leader in advancing sanctions, and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the body’s third-ranked Democrat.

The Obama administration is opposed to intensifying sanctions while negotiations with Iran are underway to stop its nuclear program in exchange for an easing of sanctions. Israel’s government and a number of lawmakers favor adding new sanctions as leverage in the talks.

However, the latest statements from senators are not inconsistent with the White House strategy; while the Obama administration has pressed the Senate not to pass new sanctions for now, it has encouraged Congress to make clear such an option is still on the table.

The third round of these talks are taking place now in Geneva.

Senators Appalled by Kerry’s Anti-Israel Remarks in Iran Briefing

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

In what was described as a “purely emotional” appeal that did not reveal the necessary specificity to assuage lawmakers’ concerns about a deceptive Iran on the brink of acquiring the ability to produce nuclear weapons, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with members of the U.S. Senate banking committee on Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 13.

Kerry remained adamant that if congress ups the sanctions, it will push away Iranians from the negotiating table.  And many members of congress seemed to be just as adamant that de-fanging sanctions at this stage of negotiations, when the Iranians remain unwilling to make major concessions, will mean any deal will be at great cost to the west and have little substantive effect on Iran’s nuclear abilities.

“Our hope is that no new sanctions would be put in place for the simple reason that, if they are, it could be viewed as bad faith by the people we are negotiating with,” Kerry said before entering a closed-door briefing with members of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, according to CNN.

“It could destroy the ability to be able to get agreement,” he added, “and it could actually wind up setting us back in dialogue that’s taken 30 years to achieve.”

But after the meeting, the few congressmen who were willing to speak had harsh words both about the content of what was discussed, but also the atmospherics.

“It was fairly anti-Israeli,” Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) said to reporters after the briefing. “I was supposed to disbelieve everything the Israelis had just told me, and I think the Israelis probably have a pretty good intelligence service.” He said the Israelis had told him that the “total changes proposed set back the program by 24 days.”

A Senate aide told BuzzFeed that during the meeting, “every time anybody would say anything about ‘what would the Israelis say,’ they’d get cut off and Kerry would say, ‘You have to ignore what they’re telling you, stop listening to the Israelis on this.’”

“They had no details,” the aide said. “They had no ability to verify anything, to describe anything, to answer basic questions.”

Republicans and Democrats alike have questioned the sagacity of removing sanctions at this point in the negotiations, rather than ratcheting them up now, and then dialing them back down if an acceptable deal is reached.

Kerry’s approach, which placed the onus in exactly the opposite direction, was that the U.S. and the rest of the global community could “dial back up” sanctions later, if no agreement is reached with the Iranians.

“If this doesn’t work, we reserve the right to dial back up the sanctions. I will be up here on the Hill asking for increased sanctions, and we always reserve the military option,” he said. “Let’s give them a few weeks, see if it works, and we have all of our options at our disposal.”

In addition to Kerry, Vice President Joe Biden and State Department’s lead Iran negotiator Wendy Sherman were also present at the meeting.  Bret Stephens held up a non-rose-colored lens to Sherman’s career in Monday’s Wall Street Journal.

 

Kirk, Ayotte Press Pentagon on Contractor’s Alleged Iran Violations

Sunday, October 27th, 2013

Two Republicans in the U.S. Senate asked the Pentagon whether it planned any action against a contractor that shipped supplies to an American airbase in Afghanistan through Iran.

The Oct. 22 letter from Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) to the Defense Department’s inspector general focuses on Anham FZCO, a logistics contractor based in the United Arab Emirates with offices in the Washington area.

Last month, Anham revealed to U.S. agencies that construction supplies headed for Bagram, the U.S. military airfield in Afghanistan, had been shipped through Iran.

In reporting the violation of U.S. sanctions policies, the company said its senior executives had been unaware of the Iran leg of the transport, which took place in the first half of 2012.

However, a series of emails first reported last month by Defense News and reviewed this week by JTA show that Fadi Nahas, the company’s program manager since 2007, was aware of the shipments.

“Anham executives allegedly knew of their subsidiaries’ activities in Iran long before the company voluntarily informed the Departments of Defense, Commerce and the Treasury of such violations in September 2013,” said the letter to Jon Rymer, the Defense Department’s inspector general. “These same executives were also allegedly aware of such activities prior to signing a major support Defense Department contract in June 2012.”

The senators asked Rymer if contracts with Anham may be voided and if the Defense Department officials is considering action against Anham.

The emails underscore the difficulties of transporting goods in and out of Afghanistan, and also the lengths those moving these materials go to obscure the Iran leg of the journey.

Nahas at one point in the emails writes of “slush funds;” a former Anham official told JTA these were bribes designated for officials who could hinder the transport.

Anham and the Defense Department did not respond to requests for comment.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/kirk-ayotte-press-pentagon-on-contractors-alleged-iran-violations/2013/10/27/

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