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October 7, 2015 / 24 Tishri, 5776
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Posts Tagged ‘secretary of defense’

Iran Tests US Resolve, Forces Maersk Vessel to Coastal Waters

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

Iran appears to be testing the resolve of the United States and President Barack Obama in its latest adventure with a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship in the Strait of Hormuz.

U.S. forces operating in the region heard and responded to the distress call sent by the M/S Maersk Tigris, sailing under the flag of the Marshall Islands, during a confrontation with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The Marshall Islands are under a defense treaty with the United States; the U.S. is obligated to come to the defense of that nation should it be attacked.

The Iranian forces contacted the master of the cargo ship as it sailed through the Strait of Hormuz, ordering him to divert to Iranian waters. When he refused, the Iranian vessel fired warning shots across the bow of the Danish ship. IRGC forces then boarded the ship and guided it towards southern Iran.

By the time the U.S.S. Farragut, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer reached the location – more than 60 miles away at the start of the distress call – the Maersk was heading to Iran.

Apparently under Admiralty law, a commercial firm is allowed to go to court and obtain a court order to seize a ship to satisfy a debt, according to retired U.S. Navy captain and Fox News military analyst Chuck Nash.

Nash told Fox News journalist Gretchen Carlson on Wednesday that an Iranian company did just that about 10 or 12 years ago, after cargo that was to be shipped with a Maersk vessel never arrived.

Last Friday, four Iranian ships also dogged the heels of a Maersk ship as it sailed through the Strait of Hormuz. But that vessel was sailing under the flag of the United States of America, and eventually the Iranians abandoned their pursuit.

This week the targeted Maersk vessel was flagged under the Marshall Islands, which clearly emboldened its pursuers.

“The U.S. is under no obligation” to do [anything to defend the vessel] in the maritime realm, Nash explained. He pointed out the treaty with the Marshall Islands is a “clear spoken defense agreement should they be attacked” – on land.

The U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense has confirmed the above facts, saying the shipping company told U.S. Central Command that the Iran Navy “contacted the vessel and directed the Maersk Tigris’s master to divert further, into Iranian waters.” He added: “The master initially declined and one of the IRGC patrol craft fired shots across the Maersk Tigris’s bow. The master then complied and diverted under escort by the IRGC vessels.”

The Maersk issued a distress call when the shots were fired. The U.S.S. Farragut received that call and immediately launched a maritime reconnaissance aircraft to monitor the situation, and itself headed to site, he added.

The real questions now are:

  • What is the status of the MaerskTigris, forced to a southern Iranian port city by Iranian forces?
  • Where are the 34 sailors who were aboard the Maersk and what is their condition? Are they now hostages of Iran?
  • Who has the obligation to rescue the crew of the Maersk? Who will ensure their safety?
  • How will the United States consider this situation as it continues to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear development activities?

It’s important not to forget that Iran continues to hold U.S. citizens hostage, even as Secretary of State John Kerry carries on his nuclear development negotiations with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. They are:

  • Saeed Abedini, 34, of Idaho, arrested during a 2012 trip to Tehran to visit family and sentenced to eight years in prison. Married father of two;
  • Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent seized by Iranian intelligence in 2007 as he was investigating a cigarette smuggling case on Kish Island, an Iranian free-trade zone — the longest-held hostage in Iranian custody, assuming he is still alive;
  • Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine arrested and charged with espionage in 2011 while visiting family in Tehran; and
  • Jason Rezaian, the bureau chief for The Washington Post in Tehran, arrested in July 2014 on undisclosed “security-related offenses.” In January 2015 an Iranian prosecutor revealed Rezaian would be tried in a revolutionary court by one of the country’s most notorious hanging judges.
  • It is important to remember the names and circumstances of each of the hostages and to remind each candidate who stands for office as elections approach in 2016.

Hagel Coming to Israel Bearing Lots of (Sort of) Gifts

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is starting a weeklong visit to the Middle East, concluding a year of secret negotiations over a $10 billion arms deal involving Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The deal includes American made missiles, warplanes and troop transports, to help each country in facing threats from Iran.

The NY Times quoted a senior administration official who said the goal of the new deal is “not just to boost Israel’s capabilities, but also to boost the capabilities of our Persian Gulf partners so they, too, would be able to address the Iranian threat — and also provide a greater network of coordinated assets around the region to handle a range of contingencies.”

When Chuck Hagel leaves the region, he will also, supposedly, answer the puzzling riddle of how can Israel afford to spend even more billions of dollars, when her entire $3 billion in U.S. military aid is already spoken for. In everybody’s mind, there can be only one answer: Israel will ask the U.S. to pay the U.S. whatever it takes, so Israel can get the new, really shiny stuff.

Highest on Israel’s shopping list for things it couldn’t possibly pay for out of its own shrinking budget: new missiles designed to take out the enemy’s air-defense radar, and then, also, advanced radar for Israeli warplanes, and don’t forget new refueling tanker planes. In short, it’s all the stuff you need if you’re going out to bomb the nuclear facilities of an unnamed country a thousand miles away.

In addition Israel will also buy the V-22 Osprey troop transport aircraft, which combines the functionality of a conventional helicopter with the long-range, high-speed cruise performance of a turboprop aircraft.

If you ask me, Israel needs these units like it needs a hole in the head. Besides the fact that they’ve had a terrible reputation, rife with corruption (a Marine Lieutenant Colonel was kicked off the service after it was discovered he fixed reports to favor the new aircraft), Israel is not facing the troop transport issues the U.S. military does around the globe. It’s a whole lot cheaper to fly the troops across the border in any direction on good, old fashioned choppers, than to utilize and maintain these unwieldy behemoths. But since the entire U.S. military aid to Israel program is, essentially, intended to support jobs creation on Long Island and in Washington State, what do I care.

They accused former President GW Bush of being an irresponsible spendthrift when he invested trillions of dollars of money we didn’t have in invading and destroying the only enemy of Iranian expansionism in the region – Saddam Hussein. But, as it turns out, the president was smarter than we thought. By making Iran the undeniable bully of the Middle east, utilizing Shiite power in Iraq to bolster its own, now U.S. military industrial companies are able to cash in on the new market and sell everybody in the region those state-of-the-art American mega weapons. USA! USA!

“This year the United States provided $3.1 billion in foreign military financing to Israel, the highest the United States has ever provided,” a Pentagon official said. In addition, the United States provides about $300 million in missile defense to Israel, he noted.

Elsewhere in the region, in 2010 Saudi Arabia agreed to purchase 84 F-15 tactical fighters in a deal worth $29.4 billion, the official said, and the first F-15s have rolled off the line in St. Louis and are undergoing flight testing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

During Hagel’s trip, the UAE is expected to move forward with the purchase of 25 F-16 Block 60 Desert Falcon fighters manufactured by Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, Texas. The expected value of the sale is $425 billion, the official said.

The United Arab Emirates wants to buy 26 F-16 warplanes, at $5 billion, and they also need those precision missiles that can be launched from those same jets at distant ground targets. Saudi Arabia is also in for them advanced missile.

The deal with Israel was in discussion over the past year between former defense secretary Leon E. Panetta and former defense minister Ehud Barak. The Times reports the two had 18 additional telephone discussions on the arms deal. After being sworn in as the new defense secretary, Hagel’s first face-to-face discussion with any foreign counterpart was with Barak, to get the deal done. When Hagel starts will move to finalize the arms deal with Barak’s successor, Moshe Yaalon.

Extra Thoughts: Hagelian Dialectic

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Update: Extra thoughts that could not make the main text of “When AIPAC Went AWOL“:

(1) It is conceivable, though not likely, that Obama and AIPAC each played a Machiavellian game here: Obama expected that Hagel’s attacks on AIPAC render AIPAC less likely to impede his nomination, so as not to seem petty. Conversely, AIPAC figured that Hagel’s attacks on Israel require him to reach out to it, so as not to seem insincere in his confirmation hearings.

If these were their calculations, they have so far been borne out. AIPAC stayed mute; Hagel announced that his first face-to-face meeting with a foreign counterpart will be with Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

(2) “Hagelian Dialectic” is my fantasy title for this column, referring to the German philosopher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and his highly elaborated dialectic theory of history (which Karl Marx subsequently drew on for his dialectical materialism). In the Hegelian schema, Israel is the thesis, Obama the antithesis and the Pentagon the synthesis.

Originally published at DanielPipes.org as an update to “When AIPAC Went AWOL,” available at the JewishPress.com.

Don’t Look to AIPAC for Help

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Chuck Hagel was just confirmed as the next Secretary of Defense in Obama’s administration. The media having shed plenty of light on his controversial views on Israel, Iran and the Middle-East at large, didn’t stop 58 Senators—which included four Republicans—from confirming him. One of those Republicans was the supposedly pro-Israel Rand Paul of Kentucky.

A close friend of mine—who is a staunchly pro-Israel non-Jew—expressed shock and disappointment upon hearing the news of his vote. But as we’ve learned from the story of Purim (and frankly most Jewish holidays), just when the situation looks bleak, everything is for the best in the long run.

As we’ve come to find out, Chuck Hagel’s views on Israel are not in the norm in the Republican Party. Quotes such as “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here” isn’t something you’d hear from an aspiring Secretary of Defense. At least not since Secretary of State James Baker’s “f— the Jews” comment some 25 years ago.

But again, just when the situation looks dire, everything is for the best. The entirety of his quote on the “Jewish lobby”—which maybe was in fact a misnomer on his part and he meant the Israel lobby—was “The political reality is that… the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here…. I’ve always argued against some of the dumb things they do, because I don’t think it’s in the interest of Israel.”

You know what? In a way, he’s right. AIPAC, which is by and large a secular organization and the biggest Israel lobbying organization in America, has in fact done less for ‘hasbara’ or Israel advocacy movement and more to foment anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment in America. The only venture they’ve succeeded in is raising capital in the name of Israel. This falsely leads people to believe that the “Jewish lobby” does in fact control American foreign policy, and it plays into the greater idea of Jews secretly controlling every aspect of American lives from cradle to the grave. AIPAC is helping the Protocols of the Elders of Zion come to life, to the tune of $3 billion annually.

And this fund-raising comes at a heavy price. The result being that when America says jump, Israel has to say how high. Therefore, Israel can never take care of business in a real way when it comes to the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah. Moreover, when it comes to Iron Dome, America cashes in on the very conflict which it is at best complicit with and at worst actively foments. In the long run, it’s economically not worth it for America if there’s peace in this part of the world. See: America’s arming of “rebels” in Libya and Syria.

In the case of Israel, any American administration official or bureaucrat with half a brain would by now come to understand that the true path to peace between cousin Isaac and cousin Ishmael is having Israel not give away land, because the Arab nation, when given an inch, they usually tend to demand a yard or more. And America insists on asking Israel to give that inch every single time and Israel gets nothing in return. So either the U.S. administration is daft and still hasn’t fully grasped how things work in the Middle East or they understand it and are deliberately trying to shrink Israel. (Disclaimer #1: One has a choice. One can say I’m making a sweeping generalization based on race or one can open up the history books and see the results for themselves).

For more proof see: The Oslo Accords under Clinton, Gush Katif under George W. Bush (of all people), Jimmy Carter’s book on “Israeli apartheid,” which was the intellectual inspiration for the BDS movement. Reagan suspending a shipment of military aircraft to Israel, and harshly criticizing Israel after the bombing of the Osirak reactor near Baghdad, as well as contemplating sanctions to stop the Israeli siege of Beirut. The list goes on of “bright ideas” America has given Israel and/or has propagated about it, only to result intifadas and rocket attacks.

So when it comes to Rand Paul’s vote, he feels the same way as I do. That the financial (but not moral and social) relationship between Israel and America needs to end. Not immediately but in stages. The result would be Israel handling their business as they see fit. The result would be no Hillary Clinton making 11th hour “cease-fire”—or what in Islam is called a ‘hudna,’ which is a temporary cessation of hostilities for the purpose of re-armament—deals with the Muslim Brotherhood, which is nothing more than a temporarily self-restraining and more sophisticated Egyptian version of Hamas. We witnessed the result just this week with rockets being hurled at Ashkelon so as to provoke Israel into conflict shortly before President Obama’s visit.

Open Letter to Sen. Charles Schumer on the Hagel Appointment

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Dear Chuck,

I write to encourage you to review and reconsider your endorsement of Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense. The new information that has appeared since your meeting with him on Jan. 14 suggests that his weak policies vis-à-vis Iran and his reprehensible views toward Israel run even deeper than we realized at that time.

We now know that he referred to Israel’s self-defense in 2006 as a “sickening slaughter.” That he preposterously stated in 2007 that “The State Department has become adjunct to the Israeli Foreign Minister’s office.” That he obnoxiously said in 2010 (according to a paraphrase) that Israel was “risking becoming an apartheid state.”

Rep. Eliot Engel has characterized Hagel’s outlook as having “some kind of endemic hostility toward Israel.” I have written that Hagel “is known for only two foreign policy/defense views: being soft on Iran and hostile to Israel.”

Chuck, you and I go back to our many long dinners and debates in the college dining room in the late 1960s, when your sensible moderation first became evident. A hallmark of your career since then has been consistently to show good sense and courage on Middle Eastern issues.

As you noted with pride in an April 2010 interview, your family name “comes from the word shomer, which means guardian” in Hebrew. You mentioned that your ancestors were guardians of the Jewish ghetto in the Ukraine, adding: “I believe HaShem [God], actually, gave me my name, as one of my roles that is very important in the United States Senate is to be a shomer for Israel. I will continue to be that with every bone in my body.”

You expressed having had “genuine concerns” about Hagel prior to your White House meeting with him; now is the moment for you to follow the dictates of your conscience. I hope you will now come out against the Hagel nomination, a shift that will have profound repercussions for the country and secure your reputation as a shomer for U.S.-Israel relations.

Yours sincerely,


Originally published at DanielPipes.org and The National Review Online, The Corner, under the title, “The Hagel Nomination: An Open Letter to Sen. Charles E. Schumer,” February, 19, 2013.

More Dumb and Dumbest from Chuck Hagel (Video)

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Today the Emergency Committee for Israel released “Confusion,” a web ad highlighting Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel’s confused response at last week’s hearing to questions about the Obama administration’s Iran policy.

During his confirmation hearing on Thursday, Hagel could not explain — despite repeated attempts — the administration’s policy of preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Instead, Hagel first said he supported the president’s policy of “containment,” i.e. containing Iran after it acquires nuclear weapons. Then, attempting to correct himself, he said the administration “takes no position” on containment. Finally, Senator Levin was forced to explain to Hagel that “we do not favor containment.”

ECI’s executive director, Noah Pollak, said: “Is it too much to ask that the nominee for Secretary of Defense understands the policy of the Obama administration on the single most important national security challenge facing the United States?”

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AIPAC’s Silence on Chuck Hagel

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Anyone who watched Chuck Hagel’s lamentable performance before the Senate Armed Services Committee last week had to conclude that the man is inadequate at best, woeful at worst, as the choice for the next Secretary of Defense.

Here was a nominee who did not even know the Obama Administration’s position on Iranian nukes (he said it was containment but was quickly corrected and told it was prevention). At a time when the United States faces formidable national security threats from so many parts of the globe, it’s pretty obvious that a muddled, befuddled, and at times incoherent candidate for Secretary of Defense is a calamity in the making.

Then there is Hagel’s disastrous history of predictions, like the comment in his 2008 book, America: Our Next Chapter, where he wrote, “America’s refusal to recognize Iran’s status as a legitimate power does not decrease Iran’s influence, but rather increases it.” This was just one year before the government of Iran began to mow down its own citizens in the streets of Tehran in order to protect that “legitimacy.”

Or Hagel’s opposition to the Iraq surge, predicting, in January 2007, that it would be “the most dangerous foreign policy blunder . . . since Vietnam,” an utterly erroneous prognostication that he was correctly hammered on by John McCain at the hearings.

Or Hagel’s 1998 meeting with the elder Assad in Syria, where he said, “Peace comes through dealing with people. Peace doesn’t come at the end of a bayonet or the end of a gun.” Tell that to the sixty thousand dead who have been slaughtered by the dictator’s son.

Add to the fact that Hagel has an irrational dislike of homosexuals, voted against Iran sanctions, and believes America should be talking to terrorist organizations and Obama’s nomination becomes downright mystifying.

But what’s even more confusing is how quickly so many Jewish groups – especially AIPAC – have caved on Hagel. The same man who said that Israel didn’t need to “keep Palestinians caged up like animals,” and famously spoke of “the Jewish lobby’s” intimidation of lawmakers on Capitol Hill has been handed a get-out-of-political-purgatory-free card by many who claim to be Israel’s foremost defenders.

Senator Chuck Schumer was skeptical about Hagel but then changed his mind after a 90 minute West Wing meeting. “Based on several key assurances provided by Senator Hagel,” Schumer said, “I am currently prepared to vote for his confirmation. I encourage my Senate colleagues who have shared my previous concerns to also support him.”

Impressive. An hour-and-a-half conversation undid a twelve-year voting record, which included, as recently as 2008, a vote against an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps a terrorist organization. Schumer is often referred to as the most influential Jewish member of the Senate. But then how could verbal assurances alone have turned him around when he is surely aware of the Jewish teaching that it is not what a man says but what he does that matters?

The Daily Beast reported that AIPAC – whose annual Policy Conference in DC I have attended for 20 years as a huge fan and supporter – has chosen to sit the Hagel nomination out, desiring as they do a positive relationship with the Pentagon and believing that President Obama has enough votes to get him confirmed.

On the surface that seems a wise choice. Why make enemies, especially if they’re going to be in powerful positions?

But what comes to mind is the famous teaching of Hillel, “If not now, when?” If you don’t use your political influence to oppose the nomination of someone who said, “I’m a United States senator. I’m not an Israeli senator,” with its regrettable allusion to charges of Jewish dual loyalties, and who opposed sanctions against Iran, and who called for direct negotiations with Hezbollah and Hamas, then when will you speak up?

Indeed, demonstrating a complete absence of political will to oppose a man like Hagel has its own risks.

What are brave United States lawmakers like freshman Senator Ted Cruz of Texas to make of AIPAC’s surrender? Are they to feel that they are the ones charged with protecting Israel while organizations who stated purpose it is to do just that sit on the sidelines?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/america-rabbi-shmuley-boteach/aipacs-silence-on-chuck-hagel/2013/02/05/

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