The Obama administration, ever eager to hand out more benefits to the enemies of Israel, the United States, and the rest of Western Civilization, is now planning to help Iran obtain access to U.S. dollars — which will help Iran buy more on the international markets, the Wall Street Journal reports today.
This concession by the U.S. to Iran is apparently being made because Iran has asserted that the unsigned, non-binding deal Iran entered into last year with the United States and other countries does not provide enough benefits to Iran.
At the same time that the Obama administration is trying to figure out how to give Iran access to U.S. dollars, the administration’s own Treasury Department still maintains that the entire Iranian banking system is one big “primary money laundering concern.”
Money laundering is a financial transaction designed to conceal what money is used for or where it came from. President Obama’s Treasury Department, not yet having completely unmoored itself from reality or common sense, sees Iran’s financial system as a money laundering operation because Iran moves money around to support a variety of programs that the rest of the world asserts – usually – are impermissible for Iran to engage in, such as funding terror organizations all around the world like Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as Iranian missile programs that some still believe Iran is barred from operating. To accomplish this, Iran conceals the true sources and uses of the money. That’s the money laundering.
But while the Treasury Department doesn’t want Iran to have access to dollars, the Treasury Department and the State Department want Iran to have access to U.S. dollars. Yes, you read that correctly. After all, says Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, we here in the United States must of course comply with “the letter and the spirit” of the unsigned, non-binding-on-Iran “agreement.”
Surprisingly for the most powerful economy in the world, the big worry here is not only that Iran will be unhappy with the U.S., but also that a continued ban on Iranian access to dollars “will ultimately drive business activity away form the U.S. financial system.” To say that more clearly: While the U.S. might prefer that Iran not engage in all these transactions, it’s going to do so anyway, and if we don’t help, Iran will simply conduct the transactions in another currency. Since we can’t beat ‘em, we might as well join ‘em.
The combination of these two pressures is apparently simply irresistible to the Obama administration, and as a result, in March, Lew told a congressional committee that the administration “will make sure Iran gets relief” from restrictions that limit its access to dollars. The relief will come in the form of changes in Treasury regulations, so no pesky Congressmen, or annoyances like a vote of the U.S. legislature, will be involved.
A few of those irritating Congressmen have complained to the administration about these proposed changes. They’ve written angry letters to President Obama and Secretary Lew. Those letters have had as much impact as your letters to The New York Times about its coverage of Israel.
Of course, readers with long memories may recall that back in the summer, when the Iran agreement was not yet an unsigned unbinding – usually – deal, Lew said this about the agreement’s impact on Iran’s access to dollars: after the agreement becomes final (he did not tell us it would be unsigned, of course, or non-binding, at least on Iran) “Iranian banks will not be able to clear U.S. dollars through New York, hold correspondent account relationships with U.S. financial institutions, or enter into financial arrangements with U.S. banks.”
On Monday, Mar. 21, four Americans who are competing to be the next President of the United States spoke to the thousands gathered in Washington, D.C. at the policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
In what should be considered a shocking breach of etiquette, the morning after those speeches, the president of AIPAC gave a verbal spanking to one of the speakers.
The four speakers on Monday were the Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, and the three remaining Republican candidates in the race, Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz (TX) and Gov. John Kasich (OH).
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders chose not to attend the AIPAC conference.
It’s hard to come up with a more familiar face at AIPAC than Clinton. Her speech was warmly applauded by the crowd and she threw out lots of the standard tropes: “defending our ally in the Middle East” and the “unbreakable bond between Israel and the U.S.”
The audience also responded appreciatively when Clinton repeatedly attacked Republican frontrunner Trump. Nor did they boo when she spoke positively about perhaps the most important – and detested – foreign policy issue of the past year, the Nuclear Iran Deal.
AIPAC spent an unprecedented nearly $30 million in advertising and lobbying efforts to kill the Iran Deal. That was because AIPAC leadership decided the deal was far too dangerous for Israel and for the United States for them to sit on the sidelines. There are many who believe AIPAC badly – perhaps permanently – damaged its reputation by pouring so much money and other resources into fighting the terrible deal, and losing.
And yet, Hillary Clinton praised the deal during her talk to the AIPAC policy conference on Monday. Of that Iran Deal, Clinton said,: “I really believe the United States, Israel and the world are safer as a result.”
Lillian Pinkus, AIPAC’s president, did not chide Clinton for, essentially, rubbing AIPAC’s nose in its loss on the Iran Deal. Nope, that would be bad form.
But what Pinkus did go after was criticism of President Barack Obama, who was, of course, the architect and chief cheerleader of the disastrous Nuclear Iran Deal. It was also Obama who said in words and later in deeds that he wished to put daylight between the U.S. and Israel.
According to reports, Pinkus was tearful when she gave a statement, flanked by her top officers, apologizing for one of the speakers who dared to actually call Obama on his misdeeds towards Israel.
In the context of rumored threats that the President was going to impose a “solution” on Israel in a U.N. Security Council Resolution, Donald Trump said to the AIPAC policy conference that Obama was “in his last year in office.” He then extemporaneously added “yay.” The audience responded with a roaring cheer and thunderous applause. Trump continued with: “Obama may be the worst thing to ever happen to Israel,” which was met with more, albeit subdued, applause.
Near the end of his talk, Trump said what so many pro-Israel Americans fervently believe, which is that “Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have treated Israel very, very badly.”
That so many in the audience applauded those statements by Trump – though he is not generally a favorite in the American Jewish community – should have lifted the blinders from the eyes of the firmly-cemented-in-the-Democratic-party AIPAC leadership. It didn’t.
Instead, Pinkus and her team decided to attack Trump for making his statements, thereby injecting their own political orientation to the mix.
No harsh words for Clinton who praised the Nuclear Iran Deal, AIPAC’s sworn nemesis, but a “tearful condemnation” of Trump for daring to speak from his heart about the current president, and an admonishment for those in the crowd who dared to applaud Trump’s temerity.
Donald J. Trump, who said months ago that he intended to be “neutral” in the dispute between Israel and the Arabs who live in her midst and at her borders, spoke to the American Israel Political Action Council early this evening and sounded anything but neutral. In fact, he specifically denounced what he called “moral equivalence” between “Palestinian murderers” and their Israeli victims.
Trump fed the AIPAC audience pure red meat from the beginning of his speech to its end; this time there was no mistaking which side of the dispute between Arabs and Israelis the candidate was on.
The JewishPress.com will give you Trump’s words below, and they matter. But perhaps what is most important in this Trump address, and maybe any of them, is not the words but the theater. The atmosphere. The subtext. The body language. The tone of voice. All of those things convey Trump’s promise that, at last, we’re going to hear something from a politician that he actually means. Or at least the kind of thing one does not normally hear from a politician.
Nothing shows this better than the space between the text of Trump’s speech as released – the text written by his people, saying the things his people want him to say — and the text as Trump actually delivered it. That’s the one Trump held out to his audience as a revelation of what he really thinks. Not insignificantly, some of the biggest applause lines were the extemporaneous Trumpulations that came from the very bottom of his ego.
All the Trump tics were there in force – he repeatedly exhorted the audience to “believe me, buleeeeeve me,” and told them many times that he was winning. And he’s the best. And the most. Of whatever.
Trump even had the chutzpah, in a room filled with chutzpadik Jews, to inform his audience that — well, it depends on whether you want the prepared text or the text as delivered. The prepared text, up there on a teleprompter for the first time in recent memory for a Trump speech – was a claim surprising enough as written by his peeps: it had the candidate saying that “I’ve studied [the Iran deal] issue in greater detail than almost anybody.”
But as delivered, Trump’s claim was even less modest than that: Trump confidently told AIPAC that he, Donald Trump had, personally, studied the Iran deal “greater than anybody.” Okay then.
Trump began by telling his audience he wasn’t going to pander to them, as politicians do, but instead would “speak to you about where I stand on the future of American relations with our strategic ally, our unbreakable friendship, and our cultural brother, the only democracy in the Middle East, the State of Israel.”
After he got finished saying all of that non-pandering, Trump got down to business.
Trump spent quite a bit of time on Iran, saying he would dismantle the Iran deal; he would stand up to Iran’s aggressive push back to destabilize and dominate the region, that Iran has seeded terrorist groups all over the world, in twenty five countries on five continents including in the Western hemisphere, but that he would “totally dismantle Iran’s global terror network”; and “enforce the terms of previous deals” before the JCPOA came on the scene.
Trump’s discussion of the United Nations began by saying things everyone knows and no-one will say about the UN: that it is “not a friend of democracy, freedom, not even of the U.S. and surely is not a friend to Israel.”
Moving on to recently murmured threats from the Obama administration to support or even sponsor a Security Council resolution forcing Israel to yield to the Palestinian Arabs, Trump began by mentioning that this was happening “with President Obama in his final year.” And then, — not in the prepared text but in reality — he paused, and he smiled.
With a single word, Trump told AIPAC what he thinks of the fact that President Obama’s final year has finally come: “Yay.” His hands gave a downbeat and his voice said the word they way your middle schooler would say it when delivering the news that the 7th grade bully had moved to Alaska. Yay – as in, we all know this should make us happy, RIGHT? What a relief, ok?; Bye, seeya, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
But even more significant than the lilting tone of Trump’s yay was that, when he said those words – “President Obama in his final year” — the audience went absolutely wild. A shouting, standing O. And then Trump, taking his cue from the audience instead of the other way around, answered them: “Obama may be the worst thing to ever happen to Israel. Believe me. Bulleeeeve me.” None of that, by the way, was in the prepared text or in the teleprompter. It was just in Trump’s “very good brain,” as he described it just yesterday. This is the theater that matters, at least as much as, and maybe more than, the official words of the message.
And here was Trump’s only mention of the woman he hopes to defeat in November: Hillary Rodham Clinton. He wasn’t ambivalent on the subject, though he didn’t spend anywhere near as much time on her as she had on him. He dismissed her with a single categorical sentence: “Hillary and Obama have been a total disaster and have treated Israel very very badly.”
But now back to the official message. What President Obama was and is doing wrong with the UN, Trump told AIPAC, is allowing it, inviting it, helping it, “to impos[e] terms on Israel that Israel cannot and will not live with. Any agreement imposed by the United Nations would be a total and complete disaster, which the U.S. must oppose.”
Trump’s invocation of his deal-making skills is never far from the center of his sales pitch to America. But it is at the very heart of his discussion about the Middle East, because, he says whenever he discusses this subject, the peace agreement between Israel and the Arabs is “the hardest deal in the world to make.”
Trump brings his negotiating skills to bear: “for any deal, you need two willing participants. We know Israel is willing and has been trying without preconditions for years.” Here he recited the history, available for anyone who really wants to know, of the offers by various Israeli Prime Ministers which the Arabs completely rejected. Even more humiliating to the U.S., Trump said, Secretary of State Kerry “tried to come up with a framework” and that Palestinian Authority leader Abbas “didn’t even respond.”
He then said “the days of treating Israel as a second class citizen will end on my Day One.” Another wild standing O from AIPAC.
Trump also talked about what Arab “leaders” are teaching their children, and the impact of that education on the prospects for peace:
When you live in a society where the firefighters are the hero’s little kids want to be firefighters. When you live in a society where athletes and movie stars are heroes, little kids want to be athletes and movie stars. In Palestinian society, the heroes are those who murder Jews – we can’t let this continue. You cannot achieve peace if terrorists are treated as martyrs. Glorifying terrorists is a tremendous barrier to peace. In Palestinian textbooks and mosques, you’ve got a culture of hatred that has been fermenting there for years, and if we want to achieve peace, they’ve got to end this indoctrination of hatred. There is no moral equivalency. Israel does not name public squares after terrorists. Israel does not pay its children to stab random Palestinians.
More enthusiastic applause. And more after that, when he said that Hamas is the Palestinian ISIS.
Trump’s welcome insistence that Arab education of Arab children to hatred of Jews and Israel isn’t even good for the Arabs, never mind the Jews. If that’s true, then “neutrality” can benefit both Arab and Jew, if it leads the Arabs to stop destroying themselves while they try (and fail) to destroy the Jewish state.
One last point is the left-wing dog that did not bark. Yesterday’s news was the promise, or threat, by Rabbis for Human Rights, Eric Yoffe, and others to “shut down” Trump’s speech to AIPAC. But they did no such thing. To this reporter, carefully watching a live video of the event, there was not an audible peep from such people inside the hall. Apparently the “shut it down” movement was itself shut down. AIPAC’s record, of listening at least politely to the presentation by every serious candidate for President, remains intact. Polite Jews. Who’d a thunk it.
It seems a very long time ago that President Obama dismissed ISIS as a gaggle of “junior varsity” terrorists who couldn’t present a serious threat anywhere. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that the middle schooler at the table when the wars of the world are being fought is none other than President Obama himself. Obama’s lack of comprehension came in for some serious, if indirect, criticism earlier this week by Israel’s Minister of Defense, Moshe Ya’alon.
Yaalon was speaking Monday afternoon at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, D.C. about the surprise announcement earlier that day by Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia was withdrawing the bulk of its military commitment from Syria because it has now “largely” accomplished its objectives.
Putin was careful to say that Russia would not be leaving completely, but would leave a significant force behind. Presumably Putin has learned a lesson from the complete abandonment of Iraq by the U.S. That abandonment resulted in the loss of virtually everything the US gained by conquering that country under Obama’s predecessor, President George W. Bush.
Speaking as he was in the U.S. President’s back yard, Yaalon had little to say about the US abandonment of Iraq. But he had a lot to say about Syria – a country that borders Israel and with which Israel is still nominally at war. A Syria controlled by Islamists is a serious threat to the safety of the Jewish state. And he had some equally blunt warnings about Iran.
Vladimir Putin entered Syria with both feet back in September of 2015, over President Obama’s objection. No-one has been able to identify any negative consequences experienced by Russia, or its leader, from thus ignoring the red line painted in the sand by President Obama. Ditto for consequences to Syria’s Assad, who has been left completely unscathed even though he crossed another, very bold, red line drawn by President Obama.
Many will recall that, back in 2013, Obama explicitly and categorically demanded that Syria give up its chemical weapons or face the wrath of the U.S. Assad refused to comply. The silence from President Obama was deafening.
The Russians promised to take control over all chemical weapons. But Assad was accused of continuing to use such weapons only two days ago by the Syrian-American Medical Society, which recently issued a report on the subject, discussing the wide variety of chemical weapons and delivery systems used by Assad and by all of the numerous other, non-state fighters supporting and opposing him over the last five years.
As much as Israel might prefer stability in its neighbors, Yaalon said categorically that there would be no stability any time soon on the territory of what was, until 2011, the sovereign and undivided nation of Syria.
THERE IS NO WAY TO PUT HUMPTY-SYRIA TOGETHER AGAIN
Rather, as first reported yesterday by The Washington Times, Ya’alon opined that the nation of Syria no longer exists and won’t be coming back: “there is no way to unify Syria,” Yaalon explained. Putin claimed that Russia is leaving because his ally Bashar Assad again sits safely in power. But Ya’alon made clear that that was, at best, a fantasy. The country has been divided up into numerous enclaves each run by a different tribe, religion or warlord.
And at this point, after five years of intense, urban combat that has killed over a quarter of a million people and created many hundreds of thousands of refugees, “there is no way to unify” the country. The best that Assad and the Russians can hope for, Ya’alon explained, is an Alawistan, a Druzistan and other semi-autonomous areas that might, to a greater or lesser extent, leave each other alone.
Notwithstanding recent fitful efforts by Israel and Turkey to get along better, Ya’alon also predicted, or perhaps even called for, an autonomous region for Kurds — even though such a development would be anathema to the leaders of Turkey, who have fought the Kurds for decades to prevent them from attaining independence and escaping the Turkish boot.
IRAN AS A PRIMARY DESTABILIZING FORCE
Ya’alon also explained that the U.S.-driven Nuclear Iran deal has further destabilized the Middle East and created a threat not only to Israel but also to the Sunni-dominated countries in the region. Iran is over 80% Shia and has been run by Shia mullah-dictators since the Shah’s overthrow in 1979. Obama’s gift to the mullahs of $150 billion in cash is now being spent on terror, and ballistic missile construction and testing. No country in the Middle East except Iran and its proxy states can actually be happy about those developments.
Ya’alon explained that Iran and its clients are now “exploiting the [U.S. Iran] deal now to gain hegemony.” He continued: “for sure they are hegemonic in Tehran. In a way they are hegemonic in Baghdad through the Shiite government [there]. They are hegemonic in Beirut regarding Hezbollah, and now they are going to be hegemonic in Damascus.”
Ya’alon reminded his listeners that Iran has been supporting Houthi rebels in power in of Sa’ana, the capital of Yemen, and he explained the danger of Washington’s willingness to allow Iran to participate as an important negotiator in the talks over Syria.
“To leave us with an Iranian-dominated Syria — we can’t agree with it,” he said.
The hardheaded leaders of Israel and Russia, Ya’alon made clear, are facing the realities on the ground in light of the force structures, and tribal loyalties, that are actually motivating the actors there.
Ya’alon’s discussion of those realities was pessimistic. But it was based on facts and reflected the clear sight and deep knowledge of the neighborhood that Israel’s leaders absolutely must display. It was in stark contrast with President Obama’s opinions, ladled out to Jeffrey Goldberg and printed without much challenge in the Atlantic a few days before. There President Obama explained that his Middle East policies would work well “if only everyone could be like the Scandinavians.”
This White House and its environs were just teasing when the inhabitants of that foggy realm said they were stepping back from trying to arm wrestle the inhabitants of the Middle East into creating another terrorist state and undermine the only vibrant democracy in the area. Yes, the news is now out: yet another Arab-Israeli “peace process” plan is in the works, as reported in a news story posted late Monday, March 7, in the Wall Street Journal.
This one, the White House threatens, may involve a United Nations Security Council Resolution that will impose a solution, rather than the Israelis and the Palestinian Arabs working out the details of how they will co-exist “side by side in peace and security.”
In addition to a UN Security Council Resolution, other initiatives may include a presidential speech and a joint statement from the Middle East Quartet: the U.S., the U.N., the E.U and Russia. Sound friendly? It’s not clear which is scarier: another speech on the Middle East by President Obama, or his coordinating a joint statement by a larger group of foreigners, none of which includes Israel. But both, not either-or, are being threatened.
The timing for the launch of this new plan is not yet set in stone, but for sure it will be before President Obama leaves office in January.
An earlier JewishPress.com article mentioned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision not to come to Washington later this month, either to attend in person the AIPAC conference or to meet with Obama, as had been requested. It is not hard to imagine Netanyahu seeking to avoid any arm-twisting on such a mission playing a role in his decision not to come to the States at this time.
The White House let it be known that it was disappointed by Netanyahu’s refusal to show up for the meeting, and allowed that it had found out about it by reading the newspaper – the same story it told about Netanyahu’s acceptance of a Congressional invitation to speak about the proposed Iran treaty.
The concessions to be extracted from each side are likely deal-breakers for both: from Israel, an end to building for Jews beyond the 1949 Armistice Line and handing over what the Americans call eastern Jerusalem to the Palestinian Arabs; from the Arabs, recognition of Israel as a Jewish State and ending the call for a “right of return” to Israel for the descendants of Palestinian Arab “refugees.”
No word on whether the Arabs will be asked to stop the non-stop television shows teaching their children how to murder Jews and die a martyr.
Also no word on who will be the one expected to make any promises for the Palestinian Arabs: Mahmoud Abbas, in the eleventh year of his four year term? One of the jihadi leaders from Hamas? Someone who represents all the so-called Palestinian Arab refugees scattered around the Middle East? Details, shmetails.
Of course the only change in circumstances is Mr. Obama beginning his exit, which has no bearing whatsoever on the people whose lives will be impacted by any new effort on his part.
According to the Journal, Obama’s plan is to create facts on the ground that will constrain the next White House occupant. No word in the White House press guidance on why that’s an appropriate task for someone who won’t have to live with whatever problems are created by the latest Obama “peace” initiative.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has decided to cancel his upcoming visit to the US, where he was supposed to speak at the AIPAC conference, as well as possibly meet with President Obama in the White House. Netanyahu will instead address the conference by satellite on March 20.
Among the reasons that Netanyahu cancelled his visit, was that it coincided with US President Obama’s visit to Cuba, and therefore the two would have been unable to meet during his time in the US. The AIPAC conference is from March 20 to 22, and Obama is to be in Cuba from March 21 to 22. The White House claims they offered to meet Netanyahu on March 18.
The Prime Minister’s office explained the cancellation, saying Netanyahu did not want to “travel to Washington at the height of the US election season.”
Netanyahu would like to avoid meeting US presidential candidates before the elections, so as not to appear as if he is interfering in the US elections. His presence at AIPAC would have been a magnet for the candidates.
And finally there is speculation that since the ongoing discussions on the “Memorandum of Understanding” – the military aid package and US-Israel military cooperation agreement – haven’t yet been concluded, there would have been nothing concrete to announce at any Netanyahu-Obama meeting.
Apparently though, the White House only learned of Netanyahu’s cancellation from the media, and are upset they found out that way.
Ned Price, a spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said they had been looking forward to hosting Netanyahu on March 18, and were surprised to learn from media reports that the meeting was cancelled, according to Reuters.
Price wrote in an email, “Reports that we were not able to accommodate the prime minister’s schedule are false.”
The United Nations Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2270 imposing sweeping sanctions on North Korea, on Wed. March 2.
This resolution “contains the toughest set of sanctions imposed by the Security Council in more than two decades,” according to the statement issued by the U.S. State Dept. The resolution is the fifth thus far imposed against North Korea for its belligerent actions in pursuing its development of nuclear weapons.
UNSC Resolution 2270 includes mandatory comprehensive inspections of all cargo leaving and heading for North Korea. It also bans all weapons trade with North Korea and increased the number of people and entities blacklisted for trade with Pyongyang.
There are also restrictions on non-weapons trade with North Korea, including a ban on the import of luxury watches, Jet Skis and snowmobiles valued at greater than $2,000. No comment.
A substantial source of North Korean revenue is derived from mineral exports, and there will be restrictions or outright bans on those as well, including on gold, iron ore and titanium.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power explained the development of the sanctions contained in the resolution:
North Korea generates a significant share of the money it uses to fuel its nuclear and ballistic missile programs by mining natural resources – often exploiting workers in slave-like conditions – and selling those resources abroad. For example, it is estimated that the DPRK brings in approximately a billion dollars a year in coal exports, roughly a third of the revenue it earns from exports, and it brings in at least 200 million dollars a year in iron ore exports. That is why the resolution we have adopted today limits, and in some instances bans outright, North Korea’s exports of specific natural resources, making it tougher for the government to get the money it needs to keep funding its illicit weapons programs.
Until today, in many countries around the world, inspectors required information providing reasonable grounds to inspect cargo coming into and going out of North Korea. So the DPRK and its suppliers took the ballistic missile parts, nuclear technology, and other illicit items they needed to build weapons of mass destruction, and they buried them deep in otherwise unsuspicious loads on airplanes, ships, and trucks coming into the country. The DPRK used similar tactics to hide the illegal items it was exporting – such as weapons, drugs, and counterfeit goods – which it used to generate a significant amount of additional income. That is why, under this resolution, cargo going into and coming out of North Korea will be treated as suspicious, and countries will be required to inspect it, whether it goes by air, land, or sea. This is hugely significant.
U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed the passage of the resolution, calling it a “firm, united, and appropriate response by the international community to the DPRK’s recent provocations that flagrantly violated multiple Security Council resolutions. Today, the international community, speaking with one voice, has sent Pyongyang a simple message: North Korea must abandon these dangerous programs and choose a better path for its people.”
Obama reminded North Korea’s leadership that he has “consistently said that the DPRK would face consequences for its actions.”