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May 4, 2015 / 15 Iyar, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘United States’

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.

Iran Seizes Cargo Ship Under US Protection in Strait of Hormuz

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

Iranian naval forces have seized a commercial cargo ship in the Strait of Hormuz and are redirecting the vessel to southern Iran, FARS news service reported late Monday.

The ship, the M/V Maersk Tigris, is a Danish vessel flying under the flag of the Marshall Islands. The United States has full authority and responsibility under treaty for the security and defense of the Marshall Islands.

Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps forces intercepted the vessel as it was crossing the waterway on Tuesday morning, according to a senior U.S. military official quoted by CNN. A separate source said shots were fired at the vessel; it was not immediately clear whether anyone was injured on the ship. There are no Americans aboard.

However, the 34 sailors on the vessel are now allegedly heading for the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, according to Al-Arabiya.

Both Iran and the United States have been tight-lipped about the incident thus far. The U.S. Fifth Fleet off the coast of Bahrain had no comment, Reuters reported. Iranian media refused to officially confirm the report.

Iranian officials claim the ship was “trespassing” in the Persian Gulf.

A U.S. official told Reuters there have been no indications that any American vessel is being directed by Iranian forces. The official added the U.S. is still working to clarify the situation.

US: UNRWA Gets Add’l $6M for Yarmouk ‘Palestinians,’ Only $10M for Nepal

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

The U.S. State Department issued a quiet little bombshell with an unheralded press release dated April 27, which revealed that on April 24, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power announced that an additional $6 million of U.S. taxpayer money is being provided to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) “in response to the devastating crisis in Yarmouk.”

This latest $6 million comes in response to the Yarmouk Emergency Call for Funds, which seeks funding for a 90 day rapid response effort.

This tranche brings the total U.S. contributions to UNRWA in response to the crisis in Syria to more than $57 million in 2015 alone. Keep in mind that UNRWA only serves those designated by the U.N. as “Palestinian refugees,” and not ordinary Syrian citizens.

What has happened in Yarmouk, Syria, has indeed led to a grave humanitarian crisis. Still, the context matters.

When the barbarian ISIS members entered the “Palestinian refugee” camp of Yarmouk, on the edge of Damascus, earlier this month, it had already been the site of two years of deadly clashes.

Those clashes were largely between the members of the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, which supports the Assad regime, and the Palestinian Arab camp residents who oppose the Baathist regime of Assad. Yarmouk was also the site of several bombing raids by Syrian Army jets.

So for years, as the civil war in Syria has raged on, the civilian population throughout Syria has suffered appallingly. The recent murders and brief takeover of Yarmouk by ISIS has further led to “severe restrictions on food, medicine, clean water and electricity.” This is tragic, beyond a doubt.

But is the answer to the problem to just keep funneling in money to UNRWA, an agency that would not exist were these particular people living in Syria not labeled “Palestinian refugees”? The fallout from the latest tragedies would exist, of course, because of the Syrian civil war and the ISIS barbarism, but it is exponentially larger because the people in this “refugee camp” have never been absorbed into the general population of Syria (or Lebanon or Jordan, for that matter).

Why is it that the U.S. government believes taxpayer funds must be used to sustain a “Palestinian refugee” population indefinitely, putting aside the question of why they are considered refugees at all. That civilians caught in a brutal civil war should be the recipients of humanitarian aid is beyond dispute, but the duplications, to say nothing of the cost of maintaining a separate humanitarian agency just to serve one separate, designated afflicted group cannot be efficient, to say the least.

According to UNRWA (which exists solely to support these “refugees”), “there are 480,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria,” a full 95 percent of whom rely on UNRWA for their basic needs.

Not only that, but 470,000 of those “refugees” rely on small grants to sustain them: in other words, UNRWA is supplying the goods and services for their basic needs in addition to a cash supplement. If this special population were absorbed by their Muslim brethren anytime over the preceding half-century, it is impossible to believe they would not be vastly better off and better able to withstand the current onslaught.

To put it in context, the devastating series of earthquakes that struck in and around Nepal this month has already claimed thousands of lives. The number dead is expected to increase to 10,000. At least eight million people have been affected, nearly one quarter the country’s population, with over two million living in the most severely affected districts.

Vast swathes of the Nepalese infrastructure have been destroyed; the damage is inestimable.

GOP’s Sen. Ted Cruz Courts Jewish Vote in Las Vegas

Sunday, April 26th, 2015

“So tell me, is this the ‘Ready for Hillary’ group?”

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) was in Las Vegas talking to Republican Jews on Saturday mixing humor with barbs aimed at top Democrats like Hillary Clinton, running for the 2016 nomination for president.

The junior senator from Texas was addressing a packed room at the Republican Jewish Coalition Spring Leadership Meeting, where influential Jewish leaders also heard him talk about his love of Israel and the president’s failed foreign policies.

Cruz had a stacked scheduled that day, and was slated to head to Iowa from Nevada for a second confab with a Conservative Christian audience in Waukee, where he later talked about Democratic “liberal fascism,” intolerance and “extremism.”

But first he made time to do a little kibbitzing in Las Vegas.

“You know the ‘Ready for Hillary’ campaign has just announced they have their first title: director of email security,” he went on. The barb, referring to the scandal over Clinton’s use of a private server for her entire tenure as Secretary of State – and subsequent deletion of all emails she chose not to share with the U.S. government investigators – underlined one of the major points of the GOP campaign against the top Democrat.

Republicans are hoping to convince voters that Hillary Clinton is not honest or loyal and cannot be relied upon to serve the American people faithfully in the White House.

Although there’s plenty of evidence to support the contention, oddly it seems to be a pretty hard sell. All of the numerous GOP candidates are hammering on these points; perhaps one will get through.

So far Senator Marco Rubio seems to be closest to making the grade. In a recent Fox News poll, Clinton won 45 percent of voters’ loyalties with Rubio was close behind with 43 percent; a statistical dead heat between the two. No one else came as close from the GOP side of the fence.

Israel Ranks 11th Happiest Nation in the World

Saturday, April 25th, 2015

Pharel Williams knew what he was doing when he came to Israel to collect footage for his on-and-on “happy” music video.

The Jewish State has again found itself among the happiest nations in the world, ranking number 11 in this year’s annual World Happiness Report for the second year running.

Published by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), the report placed Switzerland as the happiest country in the world among 156 countries surveyed in 2014.

Following closely were Iceland, Norway, Denmark and Canada, along with Finland, Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand and Australia.

The United States is not nearly as happy: America ranked at Number 15.

NY Times Notices That Obama Pushes Off Netanyahu Meeting (Again)

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

President Obama has again pushed off a potential meeting with PM Netanyahu.

The NY Times reported on Thursday that President Obama informed a group of American leaders on April 13th that he would only meet with Netanyahu after negotiations with Iran were over. Obama is afraid that Netanyahu would publicly criticize the Iran deal if they met before the negotiations were over.

If the NY Times had read JewishPress.com, they would have known that this is the second time Obama has delayed a Netanyahu meeting since the Israeli elections ended.

JewishPress.com first reported on April 6, that Obama said he would only meet with Netanyahu, after Netanyahu set up a coalition, which is expected to be mid-May.

This latest report pushes off that potential meeting off by at least an additional month and a half.

On the other hand, despite reports that Ron Dermer, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, is persona non grata in the White House, and that Obama wants a different Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer is hosting Vice President Joe Biden at Israel’s Independence Day bash in Washington D.C., which some are interpreting as an attempt by the administration to mend fences with the Netanyahu government, or at least reduce the tension.

Obama Gift List to Former Enemies Continues: Cuba Plucked from Terrorism Sponsor List

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

So, let’s see. He “reset” with Russia’s Putin – ask the Crimeans what they think of that move -, he sent loving happy new years notes to Iran, and that produced a warm and loving feelings towards America. He drop-kicked Egypt’s Mubarak from the buddy league but snuggled up with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Morsi. That did not do much for Morsi, and he spit in the eye of Israel’s Netanyahu whom everyone agrees actually benefitted from Obama’s animosity.

So to whom is U.S. President Barack Obama now handing out party favors? Why, it’s none other than Raul Castro, el jefe of Cuba.

That’s right. The happy dictator to our immediate south either was granted this gift or was simply rewarded, unbidden, with the imminent delisting of Cuba from the U.S.’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.

First, the punishments which will be lifted if Cuba is removed from the terrorism list include: a ban on arms-related exports and sales; 30-day Congressional notifications for exports of goods or services deemed “dual use,” meaning they could have peaceful uses but they also could have be used to support terrorism; and prohibitions on economic assistance.

Unless Congress acts to prohibit the delisting, 45 days after the President issues the report making that recommendation, Cuba goes off the list.

How did this happen?

We learn from a press release issued by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday, April 13, that Obama directed the State Department to launch a review and then provide him with a report to determine whether Cuba should continue to be designated as an official terrorism sponsor this past December. The president did that as a “critical component of establishing a new direction for U.S.-Cuba relations.”

Well, perhaps not surprisingly, the State Department recommended “based on the facts and the statutory standard” that Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism be rescinded.

To be sure, it might have been possible for the State Department to determine Cuba was ineligible for removal from the designated list of State Sponsors of Terrorism.

Why, according to the State Department’s statement, if Cuba had “provided any support for international terrorism during the previous six months,” or if it had refused to provide “assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future,” those naughty boys would remain on the terrorism list. But the answers to the questions being asked were such that the president was able to give one of his new best friends, Raul Castro, the good news.

In issuing its statement recommending the removal of Cuba from the state terrorism listing, the State Department carefully pointed out that the narrow requirements it focused on constitute the qualifications set by Congress for what countries can be removed from the terrorism sponsors list. That statement also pointed out that the criterion for review was a narrow and Congressionally-determined one.

The basis for removal from the list does not mean that American authorities have determined Cuba, a Communist nation with one political party, is no longer engaged in repression or human trafficking or any other significant departures from modern democratic societies, but those issues are not part of the calculation for terrorism sponsoring de-listing.

“While the United States has had, and continues to have, significant concerns and disagreements with a wide range of Cuba’s policies and actions, these concerns and disagreements fall outside of the criteria for designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism,” is how the State Department couched it.

“Circumstances have changed since 1982, when Cuba was originally designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism because of its efforts to promote armed revolution by forces in Latin America. Our Hemisphere, and the world, look very different today than they did 33 years ago. Our determination, pursuant to the facts, including corroborative assurances received from the Government of Cuba and the statutory standard, is that the time has come to rescind Cuba’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism,” the statement continued.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/obama-gift-list-to-former-enemies-continues-cuba-plucked-from-terrorism-sponsor-list/2015/04/16/

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