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September 1, 2015 / 17 Elul, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Matt Lee’

ObamaDeal Exposed: It’s not ‘Secret’ from Congress but not in Writing

Friday, July 31st, 2015

The State Dept. was caught in yesterday’s press briefing claiming there were no “secret deals” with Iran but admitted that it has no written copy of the arrangements it is defending.

Associated Press journalist Matt Lee questioned spokesman Mark Toner at Thursday’s press briefing about many Congressmen’s concerns over IAEA access to Iran’s nuclear sites under the nuclear agreement.

Republican Sen. Bob Corker has said that IAEA director Dr. Yukiya Amano did not accept an invitation to testify at Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on the deal.

Toner declined to say whether Dr. Amano should testify but added:

There’s [sic] no secret deals, and we heard that expression thrown out constantly over the last couple of days. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. The IAEA, which is the one that verifies – will verify this deal, does create arrangements with countries under what’s called the Additional Protocol.

And Under Secretary Sherman has already had a secure briefing with the House leadership talking about this arrangement, and we’ve continued to provide or we will continue to provide those briefings in a classified setting, as needed….

So the perception that this has somehow been – that Congress hasn’t been looped in on this, and what we know about these arrangements is, frankly, incorrect. But they’ve had to take place in a classified setting.

Fine and dandy, but the reasonable assumption is that someone knows about the arrangements.

Lee told the spokesman:

But the notion – you said the notion that Congress hasn’t been looped in, but you haven’t been looped in because you guys haven’t read it.

Toner admitted:

We haven’t received a written copy of it, but we have been briefed on the contents.

And Lee retorted:

So someone with a photographic memory has looked at it and copied everything down in their brain and then repeated it up on the Hill?

Toner fidgeted and explained that “nuclear experts with much bigger degrees than I can ever attain have looked at this and their comfort level with it is good.”

But that does not answer the question, “If there is no secret deal, why isn’t a written version available?

Black Monday: Iran and P5+1 to Sign Deal

Sunday, July 12th, 2015

It’s all over except for the shouting and the crying, according to an Associated Press report that a deal with Iran has been completed and will be signed on Monday.

However, a senior State Dept. official maintained that “major issues remain to be resolved in these talks.”

AP’s Matt Lee, a veteran and highly reliable journalist, reported Sunday:

Negotiators at the Iran nuclear talks are expected to reach a provisional agreement Sunday on a historic deal that would curb the country’s atomic program in return for sanctions relief, diplomats told The Associated Press.

The two diplomats cautioned that final details of the pact were still being worked out Sunday afternoon and a formal agreement still awaits a review from the capitals of the seven nations at the talks. They said plans now are for the deal to be announced on Monday.

The regime’s PRESS TV headlined, “Iranian MPs hail nuclear negotiators’ resistance against US’ excessive demands.”

The legislators issued a statement that included a rejection of “any inspection of the Iranian military sites, interviews with Iranian scientists and imposing restrictions on the country’s nuclear research and development.”

The key issue of inspections will be examined with a microscope, especially by Congress, which will have 60 days to review a final agreement.

A deal will be bitter if not deadly pill for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to swallow, and Israel can be expected to hound Congressmen to try to torpedo it, which will not be simple.

President Barack Obama undoubtedly will dismiss as rhetoric for local consumption the belligerent sneers from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that the United States is “the absolute embodiment of arrogance” and an enemy of Iran.

Politico reported last week it is “very unlikely” that Congress can kill the deal unless there is a full-scale rebellion by Democrats. Americans, already gearing up for next year’s Congressional and presidential elections, view the ISIS , the economy and immigration policies as more serious issues than a nuclear-armed Iran, which President Obama will claim won’t happen under the agreement.

Congress would have to come up with a solid majority, perhaps even a veto-proof two-thirds majority, in order to nullify the agreement. Ironically, it is the Arab countries that might be able to twist Congressmen’s arms against the deal.

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told Politico:

If the Arabs come out and say this is a bad deal, if AIPAC says this is a bad deal, if public opinion says we don’t trust this deal, then our Democratic colleagues will hopefully come forward to say, ‘We can do better.’

US Refuses to Recognize ‘West Jerusalem’ as Part of Israel [video]

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

Now that the Supreme Court has told a 12-year-old boy that “Jerusalem, Israel” cannot be written as his birthplace on his American passport because the United States considers the united city “disputed” territory, the State Dept. has gone one step further and cannot pinpoint the capital of Israel.

The United States and the Palestinian Authority share the same policy that does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, as well as suburban neighborhoods in the north, east and southern areas of the city.

The Supreme Court decision on Monday upheld the Executive Branch’s power to determine foreign policy despite a Congressional law recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The Obama administration, like its predecessors, does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital even though all government offices are located in “western” Jerusalem, whose sovereignty by Israel never has been explicitly questioned by the United States or even the United Nations.

However, it is implicitly questioned.

By not recognizing “western Jerusalem” as the capital of Israel, the American foreign policy casts doubt on Israel sovereignty.

Associated Press journalist Matt Lee asked State Dept. spokesman Jeff Rathke Monday afternoon:

 Can you remind us all what city – or what the United States regards as the capital of Israel?

Rathke never answered the question. This not the first time that the State Dept. has performed a song and dance to get around stating if Israel really has a capital and if so, where it is. For example, see here and click here.

But the Supreme Court on Monday decision magnifies the absurdity of U.S. policy that leaves Jerusalem in limbo.

Rathke said:

Since Israel’s founding, administrations of both parties have maintained a consistent policy of recognizing no state as having sovereignty over Jerusalem.

But what about West Jerusalem?

Rathke:

Again, no change to our policy to announce.

But what about West Jerusalem?

Rathke:

Again, Matt, I’ve got no change to our policy to announce.

But what about West Jerusalem?

Rathke:

Our consistent policy is we recognize no state as having sovereignty over Jerusalem.

All of Jerusalem?

Rathke: I don’t have a – I didn’t put a modifier in front it.

Rathke’s song and dance begins at 2:20 in the video here.

State Dept.: Iran ‘Hoodwinked Countries but This Time It’s Different

Sunday, May 3rd, 2015

An assistant Secretary of State has said that Iran “hoodwinked” Latin American countries and did not honor agreements, but Foggy Bottom says nuclear talks are a separate issue, so don’t worry.

Following are remarks from Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere to retirees on Foreign Service Day Friday:

The involvement of Iran in the Western Hemisphere is never benign. I want to underscore that: it is never benign. Iran signed an enormous number of agreements with countries in the region, almost none of which have come to any real fruition or benefit for those – for the countries of the hemisphere….

I do think that there are fewer countries that get kind of – that kind of get hoodwinked by Iran.

She also said that economic sanctions on Iran have made it difficult for it to follow through with several agreements and that Iran’s desire to be a greater influence in the West requires close monitoring.

First of all, sanctions work. Second of all, Iran cannot be trusted.

The third statement would seem to be that the United States cannot trust Iran to honor an agreement on its nuclear activity and should not lift sanctions, but the State Dept. differs.

Associated Press reporter Matt Lee asked State Dept. spokesman Jeff Rathke on Friday to explain otherwise, and here is how he tried to wiggle out of Logic 101:

That is a separate issue from the nuclear talks which are focused on Iran’s nuclear program…: I think there’s a difference between the types of agreements you’re talking about.  You’re referring to agreements …on economic cooperation and other such things.

What we’re talking about in the nuclear context is, first of all, a situation where there is a unified international community where there are international sanctions, a wide variety of them, UN sanctions, United States sanctions, European Union sanctions, as well as others, that put pressure on Iran and also that make it in Iran’s interest to deal with those sanctions and to negotiate on the nuclear program.

And how about the billions of dollars that would flow into Iran’s coffers when sanctions are lifted in return for a deal? “Are you not concerned at all that what you don’t see now in terms of a growing Iranian threat in the Western Hemisphere will become a concern if Iran suddenly has a windfall of billions and billions of dollars in money? Lee asked.

No problem, Rathke answered.

“We have separate ways of dealing with other problematic behavior by Iran, whether it’s in regional context, whether it’s support for terrorism, and so forth.  So that’s why we’re focused on the nuclear issue.  And if Iran meets all of its required steps under an eventual joint comprehensive plan of action, then the world will be a safer place because of it.” he said.

Note the two-letter word “if.”

But didn’t Asst. Sec. of State Jacobson say Iran’s presence in the west is “never benign”? So this time it will be different?

“Well,” Rathke said, “we remain concerned about those – about Iran’s activities and we will remain vigilant about them and we retain the tools to deal with them.”

Vice-President Joe Biden is very concerned, or at least that is what he said last week to a Washington think tank, to wit:

“Despite good reasons to think that most of it [money] will go to urgent domestic needs, some or all of it may fund further mischief in the region.”

Rathke reiterated “we are vigilant.”

Therefore, so the “logic” goes, Obama won’t get hoodwinked.

 

Arab Reporter Lobbies State Dept. for ‘More Aid to PA and Gaza’

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

Said Arikat is the Washington, D.C.-based reporter for the Palestinian Arab Al-Quds newspaper. So what? Well, it matters because Arikat has found an amazing pulpit from which he ensures that the Palestinian Arab viewpoint of just about every major event is heard.

Arikat is thus able to have a grossly disproportionate impact on the huge media outlets who are represented in those press briefings, as well as on U.S. officials who staff and monitor them.

How does Arikat do that? He is part of the Washington press corps and a permanent, and extremely voluble fixture in the U.S. State Department daily press briefings.

From that perch, Arikat patiently, painstakingly, day in and day out articulates the Palestinian Authority’s agenda in the guise of questions about the Middle East conflict, shamelessly couched in advocate’s terms, not those of an objective journalist.

The State Department spokespeople typically respond to Arikat as if he were a lovable, goofy child, one they try to humor. But Arikat is ready with his agenda at each session, and he likes to make sure that the points that matter for his purposes are discussed over and over again, sometimes for days at a time. The State Department almost always obliges.

Here’s just one example from a briefing that took place last Thursday.

During the session, Arikat raised an issue that had been discussed earlier in the week: whether Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer had acted inappropriately by not mentioning Sen. John Boehner’s invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak before a joint session of Congress when Dermer had a meeting with Secretary of State Kerry.

Arikat was following up a series of questions that had already been raised and put completely to rest by Matt Lee, of the Associated Press. Lee acknowledged that the spat over the invitation to Netanyahu had been exhaustively discussed earlier, but he asked about a New York Times article published that day, quoting anonymous sources criticizing Dermer.

Psaki pointed out that she had no idea who the anonymous source was, but assured Lee and everyone else in the room that only official, non-anonymous sources could speak for the State Department’s position. Case closed? Not for Arikat.

This is how that portion of Arikat’s “questioning” went:

ARIKAT: I have a couple question on Israel, but I wanted to ask you about the ambassador. You do believe that what he did was actually breach diplomatic protocol? Did he?

MS. PSAKI: I think we spoke about this pretty extensively last week, Said.

ARIKAT: To hear it again, he did breach diplomatic —

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think we need to repeat it. I think we can point to the —

ARIKAT: Okay. All right. Let me ask you —

MS. PSAKI: — twenty times I said it last week. Go ahead.

Arikat was able to extend a “discussion” regarding a very sore point between the U.S. and Israeli governments, by asking the State Department to comment on accusations against Israel that had already, numerous times, been discussed and dismissed.

Arikat’s technique is simple but quite effective: he keeps circling back to get across his points. As in this example, he is not really asking a question, which is all that reporters are supposed to do in these government press briefings. And yet he gets this prime airtime nearly every single day.

In this particular briefing, however, Arikat did something which should have set off virtual alarm bells even at Foggy Bottom. It says a lot that no one even flinched, because it was Arikat who has gotten away with so much for so long, that it’s simply expected.

Arikat actually lobbied the State Department to increase its funding of the Palestinian Authority. He’s a journalist, remember, not a diplomat. And he’s making his demand for money at a press briefing!

A press briefing is where the government department providing the briefing is supposed to be putting out information on what it is doing and what its positions are – not receiving requests for goodies from supplicants (through their advocates) around the world. Yet no one batted an eyelash.

Here’s the bulk of the conversation, to see the complete exchange, please check the transcript.

ARIKAT: — some Israeli issues. The Israelis today cut off electricity or reduced the electricity to the Palestinian Authority areas, saying that they owe them about $450 million or something to that effect accumulated over the last few years, that of course coming at a time when the Palestinians claim that you have reduced their aid to them by a huge amount, more than 50 percent. Is there anything that you can do perhaps —

MS. PSAKI: Well, first of all, Said, on the second piece, I think I’ve spoken to this several times in here about the fact that reports or claims that we have reduced our aid or changed our aid are not accurate. Our aid is continuing.

On the first piece, I have not seen those reports. I don’t have confirmation of them. I’m happy to talk to our team about it.

ARIKAT: Well, the Israelis, I mean, they announced that the Palestinian Authority said yes, it’s true, they reduced their electricity. Is there something that you can do in this case, perhaps infuse the Palestinian Authority with some emergency funds to deal with this issue?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we provide a range of funds to the Palestinians. That’s continued. I’ll talk to our team and see if this is an issue that we’re closely tracking.

[Emphasis added.]

Really? That is what a journalist is doing? And the State Department’s response? Oh, we’ll look right into that and see what we can do.

Finally Arikat, ever the advocate, mournfully explains that the Secretary of the Arab League and the Secretary General of the United Nations had both mentioned that day that the situation in Gaza was deteriorating.

Arikat tied those comments to a recent discussion about donor nations not having yet fulfilled their pledges to Gaza. He also suggested that the U.S. had decreased its funding, a point Psaki rejected when she was able to get in a word edgewise. Nonetheless, Arikat essentially pleads the case for additional Gaza funding because – and here he puts on a sad face –  “the new school semester is starting.”

There is not another member of the Washington press corps who wields his position in the briefing room as an advocacy tool. Oftentimes reporters are dogged in their efforts to extract information the State Department spokesperson is choosing not to address head-on, but no reporter consistently advocates a particular nationalistic viewpoint as Arikat does.

And so The Jewish Press plans to have as a semi-regular news feature about Said Arikat and his lobbying from the State Department Press Briefing Room. It will be called “Said Says.” Watch for it.

State Dept Press Corps Shapes US Response to Netanyahu’s UN Speech

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

The State Department press corps continues to spin madly against any statements or positions taken by the Israeli government, as made clear in the daily press briefing comments following Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Monday, Sept. 29.

Those who paid close attention to Netanyahu’s speech will recall that he made one overarching point. That the Islamic terrorist groups now arrayed around the world, but centered largely in the Middle East, share a common ideology that is a danger to everyone who does not share that ideology. And that ideology is global Muslim domination.

Netanyahu labeled them all “Militant Islam.” In this group he named, in addition to ISIS, Hamas and the Islamic State of Iran, “Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al-Shabab in Somalia, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Al Nusra in Syria, the Mahdi Army in Iraq, the Al Qaeda branches in Yemen, Libya, the Philippines, India and elsewhere.”

To support the position that all share the same goal of global Militant Islamic domination, he quoted the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi; the leader of Hamas, Khaled Mashaal; and the founding and current rulers of the Islamic State of Iran. All three state clearly as their doctrine that their ultimate goal is for Islam to be the supreme faith of the entire world, and for that goal to be realized through force.

Baghdadi: “A day will come when the Muslim will walk everywhere as a master, the Muslims will cause the world to hear and understand the meaning of terrorism and destroy the idol of democracy.”

Mashaal: “We say this to the world: by Allah you will be defeated. Tomorrow our nation will sit on the throne of the world.”

Khomeini: “We will export our revolution to the entire world until the cry of ‘There is no god but Allah’ will be heard throughout the world.’

And this, from the current commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards: “Our Imam did not want the Islamic Revolution for this country. Our duty is to prepare the way for an Islamic world government.” And this, from Iran’s current foreign minister: “We have a fundamental problem with the West, and especially with America. This is because we are heirs to a global mission which is tied to our raison d’être.

So what was the state department press corps’ response to this point made by Netanyahu? It was to ridicule the grouping of ISIS, Hamas and Iran, to paint as absurd the concern that Iran is every bit as dangerous – in fact more so – as is ISIS.

This, from the senior press corps correspondent, Matt Lee, of the Associated Press, regarding Netanyahu: “One, he has a theory or believes that Hamas, ISIS, Iran – and Iran are basically kind of all part of the same big thing, which is this – what he would call a scourge of militant Islam. Do you – does the Administration agree with that?

 MS. PSAKI: (Inaudible) never heard us state it in that way. We believe they’re both terrorist organizations. We obviously believe that ISIL poses a different threat to the United States, based on, of course, the military action and other efforts that are underway. We don’t believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu or anyone else from Israel is suggesting that the United States launch a military campaign against Hamas, so we certainly – they are both designated terrorist organizations under the United States designations, but certainly we see differences —

QUESTION: Well —

MS. PSAKI: — in terms of the threat and otherwise. But go ahead.

QUESTION: But he’s – he linked them with Iran as well, and saying that Shia – it doesn’t really matter, Shia or Sunni, they essentially all want the same thing, which is a Muslim caliphate dominating the world. Do you – does the Administration believe that that is the case, that Hamas, ISIS, Iran, Hezbollah, these other groups, Boko Haram, the ones that you mentioned, are all part of the same kind of militant Muslim —

QUESTION: — Islamic attempt to rule the world?

MS. PSAKI: We would not agree with that characterization, no.

Lee’s question collapses the strong distinction Netanyahu made at the outset, in which he referred only to Militant Islam, certainly not all sunnis and shiites as calling for global Muslim domination.

Cruz: I’ll Intro Bill to Strip US Citizenship From ISIS Members

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

According to the U.S. administration, and as discussed at Friday’s State Department Press Briefing, approximately 100 Americans are presently in Syria, many of whom are there to join the jihadist force ISIS, the rest to fight with a different terrorist group, al Nusra.

Although the Administration speaks very fiercely about those terrorist groups, especially ISIS, which President Barack Obama recently called “a cancer,” an idea put forth by a Republican senator was the object of derision and laughter both by reporters and the assistant spokesperson for the State Department, Marie Harf.

On Friday, Sept. 5, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced that he intended to introduce legislation that would bar U.S. citizens who went abroad to fight with ISIS from returning to the country by stripping them of their U.S. citizenship.

Cruz announced that as soon as the Senate is called back into session on Monday, Sept. 8, he intended to file the Expatriate Terrorist Act of 2014.

“Americans who choose to go to Syria or Iraq to fight with vicious ISIS terrorists are party to a terrorist organization committing horrific acts of violence, including beheading innocent American journalists who they have captured,” said Sen. Cruz. “There can be no clearer renunciation of their citizenship in the United States, and we need to do everything we can to preempt any attempt on their part to re-enter our country and carry out further attacks on American civilians.”

The law would amend a current statute that deems certain action taken by a U.S. citizen to constitute a renunciation of their citizenship. The addition which Cruz intends to introduce would include “becoming a member of, fighting for, or providing material assistance to a designated foreign terrorist organization that is working to attack the United States or its citizens.”

The amendment would ensure that due process is ensured, but beyond that would find that

“If a U.S. citizen undertakes these acts with the intent of supplanting his U.S. Citizenship with loyalty to a terrorist organization, that person can be deemed to have forfeited their right to be a United States Citizen and return to the United States.”

The merry crew at the State Department briefing room, however, treated the idea as absurd, and suggested that Sen. Cruz’s proposal was to strip a U.S. citizen of his citizenship simply if he traveled to Syria, even if just to report on the war or to provide humanitarian assistance. The following is the exchange between the Associated Press’s Matt Lee and State Deparment Spokesperson Harf:

QUESTION: Marie, there’s some on the Hill who think that – who say, who make the argument that simply traveling – for an American citizen to travel to Syria right now should be enough to either, one, revoke their passport, or two, revoke —

MS. HARF: Just for someone traveling to Syria? That’s a —

QUESTION: Well —

MS. HARF: — interesting way of reading United States law and the Constitution in terms of passports and citizenship.

QUESTION: No, no, no. I think that they’re suggesting that maybe it should be written in – the Brits have announced their plans to do —

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: — to step up their procedure for doing this kind of thing.

MS. HARF: Well, look, there are American citizens who travel to Syria, even though we tell them on to, as – for example, reporters or aid workers.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: So you would – this is not my —

MS. HARF: Well, traveling to —

QUESTION: This is not my idea.

MS. HARF: I know.

QUESTION: It’s some – it’s other people’s idea, and I’m just —

MS. HARF: I know. It’s sources on the Hill.

QUESTION: Well, it’s —

MS. HARF: Some on the Hill.

QUESTION: Senator Cruz, your favorite senator, is tweeting this kind of thing.

MS. HARF: Oh, God. Here we go again. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: So – no, look.

MS. HARF: Wait – this is a real question, though.

QUESTION: So – it is a real question.

MS. HARF: I know. I just said it was.

QUESTION: So you’re saying you would oppose – you would oppose some kind of a blanket —

MS. HARF: Well —

QUESTION: — law or legislation that would strip people of their passports and citizenship for going to a place —

MS. HARF: Well, let’s – first of all, I’m not going to take a position on hypothetical legislation. Certainly, that’s not my purview. But let’s start here. For one point, we – people who just travel to a country I think I would feel comfortably – comfortable legally saying is not grounds for revoking your citizenship or taking your passport.

QUESTION: I know it’s not now. I think the point is –

MS. HARF: I don’t think it – not traveling to a country, nor should it be. There’s travel restrictions in place. Now, the question of how you prevent Americans who have traveled to a place like Syria and joined a terrorist organization, that is, said they want to attack the U.S., that is a separate question. We have the authority now to revoke their passports under U.S. law if the Secretary makes a determination about their threat to U.S. national security. We already have that power. We also have the power if there’s a law enforcement request —

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: — to revoke their passport if there’s an outstanding warrant or something like that.

In other words, the idea Cruz said he intends to introduce is neither idiotic nor would it constitute a violation of the U.S. constitution, but the repartee at the press briefing certainly suggests that the senator is an unstable nut job whose ideas are laughable. In reality, the idea not only has merit, a version of it already exists and Cruz’s intention is simply to streamline the process.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/cruz-ill-intro-bill-to-strip-us-citizenship-from-isis-members/2014/09/07/

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