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December 7, 2016 / 7 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘State Department’

Saudi Arabia Cuts Ties with Iran, Gives 48 Hours for Iranian Diplomats to Leave Kingdom

Monday, January 4th, 2016

The two mighty Middle Eastern Muslim powers are now officially and publicly at each other’s throats, and their minor minions are lining up alongside the major powers, as the sunni Muslim Kingdom of Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with the Shiite Islamic Republic of Iran on Sunday, Jan. 3.

The final straw, at least for the Saudis, was the storming of the KSA’s Embassy in Tehran and its Consulate in Mashhad by Iranian protesters on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Those protests, in turn, were at least ostensibly motivated by the execution of a popular Shiite Muslim Cleric, Nimr al-Nimr, by Saudi Arabia on Saturday.

The cleric had led protests against unequal treatment of Shias in an eastern part of the KSA, where the majority of Saudi Shiites are concentrated.

The Kingdom recalled its diplomats on Sunday, all of whom arrived in Dubai later that day, according to the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir. The Saudi Foreign Minister gave Iranian diplomats 48 hours to leave Saudi Arabia.

Protesters began rioting outside the Saudi Embassy on Saturday, then hurled Molotov cocktails, and eventually stormed the building, smashing furniture and setting fires. The protesters burned pictures of the Saudi king. A slightly less violent riot broke out the following day at the Saudi Consulate in Mashhad, in the Khorasan province of Iran.

The governments of both countries verbally attacked the other for supporting terrorism and being oppressive regimes. Each government has executed hundreds of prisoners over the past several years.

The Egyptian, Jordanian and Kuwaiti governments condemned the breaches of the Saudi diplomatic compounds, and the United Arab Emirates summoned the Iranian Ambassador to protest Iran’s “interference in Saudi internal matters,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

And Iranian supporters such as Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah, criticized Saudi Arabia for executing Nimr, which he said “shows the real oppressive, terrorist and criminal face of the Saudi regime.”

Iraq’s top Shia cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, described Nimr’s execution as an “unjust aggression,” and the former prime minister of Iraq Nuri al-Maliki, said that Nimr’s will be the downfall of the Gulf kingdom’s government.

Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei called Nimr a “martyr” who acted peacefully.

The United Nation’s top human rights official, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, also criticized Saudi Arabia for the 47 executions which took place on Saturday, including Nimr’s.

There have been more than 750 executions in Iran since the so-called moderate Hassan Rouhani became president in 2013.

Nimr had been sentenced to death by a Saudi court in October of last year. He was arrested in 2012 for his role in anti-government protests, including at the start of the Arab Spring protests. His trial began in the spring of 2014.

In response to the executions in Saudi Arabia and the storming of the Saudi Embassy in Iran, the U.S. called for restraint.

The State Department Spokesperson John Kirby said the U.S. government “reaffirm our calls on the Government of Saudi Arabia to respect and protect human rights, and to ensure fair and transparent judicial proceedings in all cases.” He expressed concern that the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric would “exacerbate sectarian tensions” at a time when they “urgently need to be reduced.”

The statement ended with a predictable exhortation to all “leaders throughout the region to redouble efforts aimed at de-escalating regional tensions.” No doubt that will do the trick.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

US Secy John Kerry Returns to Israel

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is set to return Sunday to the Middle East for a three-day visit, the State Department announced.

“While in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Ramallah, Secretary Kerry will discuss bilateral and regional security issues, including Syria and Da’esh, and continue discussions on stopping the violence in Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank, and improving conditions on the ground,” said a statement issued in Washington DC.

The Secretary will also travel to the United Arab Emirates capital city, Abu Dhabi, for similar talks.

According to the State Department, Kerry will meet with senior UAE government officials to discuss “a range of bilateral and regional political and security issues, with a focus on Syria.”

Hana Levi Julian

Protests Lead to Removal of Hamas Incitement from Social Media

Friday, October 16th, 2015

Protests from various American Jewish organizations have led to the removal of Hamas incitement from Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.

Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper urged the public to report hate sites on social media platforms which are fueling the current spate of attacks in Israel.

The rabbis also denounced:

Unfair and one-sided portrayal of Israeli terror victims in the media; the U.S. State Department’s outrageous depiction of the current situation as a ‘cycle of violence;’

The use of social media platforms to celebrate murderous attacks against innocent people and instructional terrorism tutorial videos; and

The BDS’ movement’s endorsement of the barbaric acts of terrorism and renewed calls to boycott Israel.

Jewish Press News Briefs

State Dept Spox: No Worries, Parchin has No Nuclear Dimensions

Friday, August 28th, 2015

A report by the entity responsible for ensuring the peaceful development of nuclear energy worldwide and the one upon which the world depends for monitoring Iran’s nuclear activity revealed that over the past few months Iran has been working on and adding to a building at its Parchin site.

Parchin is an Iranian military complex located southeast of Tehran. It is the focus of speculation regarding possible testing of weaponization of nuclear material by the Iranians.

A November, 2011 International Atomic Energy Agency report revealed satellite imagery of certain structures and chambers or vessels which indicate that Iran conducted various activities consistent with nuclear blast assessments.

But the U.S. State Department, according to its spokesperson during a public briefing on Thursday, Aug. 27, has already conclusively determined – or at least concluded – that no such activity has taken or is taking place. Not to worry.

The confidential IAEA report issued on Thursday, Aug. 27, obtained by Reuters, said: “Since (our) previous report (in May), at a particular location at the Parchin site, the agency has continued to observe, through satellite imagery, the presence of vehicles, equipment, and probable construction materials. In addition, a small extension to an existing building” appeared to have been built.

The report was generated as part of the IAEA’s inquiry into possible military dimensions of Iran’s past nuclear activity. Such “PMD”s, as it is known, were a serious point of discussion in the lead-up to the July 14th Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed by the U.S. and the other member nations of the P5+1.

Many expressed great disappointment that there is nothing included in the JCPOA regarding PMDs. That issue, along with inspections of Parchin itself, are covered by the two side agreements which are exclusively between Iran and the IAEA.

According to Reuters, the IAEA says any activities Iran has undertaken at Parchin since U.N. inspectors last visited in 2005 could jeopardize its ability to verify Western intelligence, suggesting Tehran carried out tests there relevant to nuclear bomb detonations more than a decade ago. Iran has dismissed the intelligence as “fabricated.”

“It’s funny that the IAEA claims there has been a small extension to a building … Iran doesn’t need to ask for the IAEA’s permission to do construction work on its sites,” Reza Najafi, Iran’s envoy to the agency, was quoted as saying by ISNA news agency.

State Department spokesman John Kirby‘s response to a media question about building at Parchin not only echoed Najafi’s response, but put the rabbit in the hat. Nukes? What nukes?

Here are the question and answer from the briefing:

QUESTION: There was just one element I wanted to ask you about. I think the report – without getting too much into the details, I mean, it confirmed broad compliance. But there was some mention of the Parchin base again and about construction or other activity that was going on there. Independent of the report, is that something the United States has noted and is also concerned about?

MR KIRBY: Well, I’d say, without getting into the specifics here – as I said, we’re not going to do that – I think it’s important to remember that when you’re talking about a site like Parchin, you’re talking about a conventional military site, not a nuclear site. So there wouldn’t be any IAEA or other restrictions on new construction at that site were they to occur. (emphasis added)

In other words, Kirby, representing the official position of the State Department, has declared that Parchin is simply a regular military site and, despite earlier reports by the IAEA and believed by many analysts, there is no and was no PMD activity there at all.

Not to worry.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

US Clams Up on Whether Foreign Aid Helps PA Post Bond in Terror Suit [video]

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

The U.S. State Dept. clammed up Monday when asked bothersome questions concerning a federal court decision Monday to drastically lower the bond the Palestinian Authority has to put up in a $665 million lawsuit against the Ramallah-based regime.

Spokesman John Kirby also refused to say whether the judge had lowered the bond enough to satisfy the United States, which intervened in the case by arguing that a higher bond could bankrupt the Palestinian Authority and might damage the non-existent “peace process.”

TheJewishPress.com reported here yesterday :

The judge in a New York terrorism case that ended in a victory for the plaintiffs…imposed a $10 million bond on the defendants, the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority. The defendants must also make $1 million monthly payments during the duration of any appeals of the $655 million award to the plaintiffs at the end of the jury trial back in February…

Attorneys for the plaintiffs, which included the Israeli law firm Shurat HaDin, had requested a $30 million monthly bond be paid into an account until the case is resolved.

State Dept. spokesman John Kirby, who is supposed to provide information while making every effort to avoid embarrassing the government, made the Obama administration look a bit stupid Monday by turning on the tape recorder to repeat “no comment” over and over instead of directly answering questions.

Associated Press journalist Matt Lee asked:

Is that [$10 million bond]– in the Administration’s view, is that too much to be asking? Does this place an undue – does the Administration believe it places an undue burden on the Palestinians?

Kirby reiterated the facts of the U.S. intervention and concluded:

And I’m not going to be able to comment further.

Lee then asked:

Well, is the United States concerned at all that some or any of this money will be actual money that you might have provided to the Palestinians in the past?

Guess what Kirby answered?

I’m just not going to be able to comment further, Matt.

And when Lee asked why not answer, Kirby reiterated:

I’m not going to be able to comment further on this particular case.

Well, maybe Kirby could comment on Lee; question if “the judge in making his determination today, took your statement of interest on board, or is this onerous to the Palestinians or unhelpful to U.S. foreign policy?”

And Kirby turned on the tape recorder again to say:

I mean, I understand the question, Matt. I’m just not going to be able to comment further today.

Al Quds reporter Sayeed Erekat chimed in to ask:

You being their largest contributor, giving the Palestinians close to $500 million a year, will you guarantee those, like a loan guarantee for $10 million and 1 million more a month?

And Kirby answered, of course:

I don’t have anything further to add on this today.

The no-answer session begins at 48:32 in the video below.

>

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

State Department Says Amb. Oren’s Criticisms of Obama ‘Absolutely Inaccurate and False’

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

Not surprisingly, an op-ed written by former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren (currently a member of Knesset in the Kulanu Party) in which Oren was highly critical of President Obama’s treatment of Israel, was the topic of acerbic questioning during Wednesday’s State Department Daily Press Briefing.

The op-ed appeared in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, and Oren wrote that President Barack Obama “deliberately” abandoned a 40-year core policy regarding Jewish population centers in Judea and Samaria.

Oren wrote that President Obama is a “friend” of Israel but nevertheless maintained that while anyone can make a mistake, President Obama did so on purpose.

Despite the description of the exchange between ranking press corps member Matt Lee of the Associated Press and State Department Spokesman John Kirby which appeared in the extreme leftist Haaretz, Kirby did not simply reject Oren’s critical op-ed as the work of “a politician trying to sell a book.”

What Kirby did say was that neither he nor the Secretary of State had yet read Oren’s book, but that the op-ed “conveys his perspective as an advocate for his government, and now as a politician who’s promoting a book.”

However, Kirby rejected Oren’s allocation of blame, stating categorically that “the account of President Obama’s leadership in the U.S.-Israeli relationship, is absolutely inaccurate and false, and doesn’t reflect what actually happened in the past.”

Kirby also specifically stated that Secretary Kerry “knows” that Oren “had limited visibility into many of the private discussions and deliberations that he describes.”

Nonetheless, the usual boilerplate “unbreakable ties” between the U.S. and Israel, and Israel’s security being “sacrosanct” was repeated by Kirby, who also quoted Secretary Kerry, with whom he said he spoke that morning, as saying, “it’s more important that we move forward in a constructive way than dwell on these accusations, false as they may be.”

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

More PA Lobbying from the State Dept Briefing Room

Sunday, April 19th, 2015

Can you imagine if some Jewish reporter for, say, JewishPress.com, repeatedly prodded the State Department spokesperson to provide additional funding to Israel during the daily State Department Press Briefings?

How long do you think something like that would go on before someone, whether from the State Department, one of the other media outlets, or one of the reporter’s employers told the Jewish reporter to stop being so unprofessional or they would be removed from the State Department press briefings?

So what is the deal with Said Arikat?

Why does no one raise an eyebrow when when, month after month, Arikat acts as a lobbyist for the Palestinian Authority instead of a professional journalist? Why is Arikat permitted to whine over the reduction in funding to the PA, and to beg the State Department to intervene?

It happened yet again at the Daily Briefing on Friday, April 17.

This is how the exchange went between the acting State Department Spokesperson, Marie Harf, and Said Arikat (with emphasis added):

ARIKAT: Can I ask you a quick question on the Palestinian issue?

MS HARF: You can.

ARIKAT: Okay. There was a meeting today between the European and American consul generals with the Palestinian prime minister to discuss the financial situation. The Israelis are holding 1.7 billion shekels, or $500 million. But they’re saying that the American consul general suggested that there may be a resolution in the next 24 hours. Are you aware of anything like this?

MS HARF: I’m not going to get into our private conversations. We want there to be a resolution as soon as possible, Said.

ARIKAT: In the event that the funds are not released and they continue to be frozen and more funds are frozen, is there any sort of – like the old days, when you guys used to have a waiver with the government —

MS HARF: “The old days.”

ARIKAT: I mean before, let’s say, a year ago or so —

MS HARF: Okay.

ARIKAT: — when the President had a waiver of some sort to infuse some funds into the PA and save it from collapse as has happened in the past. Is there anything of the sort this time around?

MS HARF: I haven’t heard anything, Said. We think this just needs to be resolved.

So, for at least the sixth time in less than a year, Arikat has transformed the State Department daily press briefings into a lobbying session in which a Palestinian Arab reporter working for a Palestinian Arab media outlet attempts to wheedle money out of the State Department for the Palestinian Authority, and/or uses the opportunity to present a one-sided version of facts about the Middle East to the State Department press corps.

Try to imagine what would happen if someone who was perceived as pro-Israel acted the way Arikat consistently does.

But no one ever calls Arikat on his gross non-professionalism. It is not only grossly unfair because it creates an unbalanced theater in which truth is expected to prevail.

It is also unfair because failing to demand professional behavior from Arikat is a shining example of the soft bigotry of low expectations – something that takes place on a regular basis in the U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefings.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/more-pa-lobbying-from-the-state-dept-briefing-room/2015/04/19/

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