BEN WEINGARTEN

Reader. Writer. Thinker. Commentator. Truth Seeker.

Tag: Iran (Page 1 of 3)

Trump Reinvigorates the US-Israel Relationship Upending Obama’s Anti-Zionist Agenda

In the days since becoming president, Donald Trump took swift action indicating that days of Obama antipathy were coming to an end, through his symbolic and substantive appointment of staunch Zionist David Friedman as U.S. Ambassador to Israel, to his putting Iran “on notice” and imposing sanctions against it, and his reversal of U.S. policy on Judea and Samaria.

But February 15, 2017, the day that President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood side by side at the White House for the first time, may have marked the official end to the shameful Obama years.

I write about this heartening change for the benefit of all of Western civilization in a new piece at Conservative Review.

Here are seven fundamental takeaways from the recent Trump-Netanyahu joint press conference:

1. Mutual dedication to thwarting Iran and fighting Islamic supremacism more broadly:

Contrary to an Obama administration that coddled Iran and allowed Islamic supremacism to metastasize, President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu mutually agreed to mitigate the disaster that is the Iran Deal, including stopping Iran from ever obtaining a nuclear weapon and pushing back against its proxies like Hezbollah. Prime Minister Netanyahu lauded President Trump for his commitment to defeating jihadism more broadly, a fight Israel deals with daily in the form of Hamas, Hezbollah, and other terrorist threats. A common understanding of the nature of the Islamic supremacist threat to both nations, and Western civilization more broadly, is in and of itself a profound change.

2. Upending the two-state peace paradigm:

Turning the decades-old status quo on its head, the Trump administration indicated it would no longer be official U.S. policy to seek a peace agreement between the Israelis and Arabs of Palestine that takes the form of two states. As both leaders suggested, such an agreement could take many forms, but “labels” were secondary to substance.

3. The U.S. will not dictate the peace:

President Trump suggested that only a direct agreement between the Israelis and their Arab counterparts would clinch a deal. The U.S. will be happy to facilitate such conversations, including broader ones with Sunni Arab partners, but President Trump indicated a deal would not be forced on Israel by other parties. Moreover, President Trump appeared to endorse the preconditions Prime Minister Netanyahu put on such a peace, including recognition of Israel and its ability to adequately secure Judea and Samaria. Consistent with the administration’s prior statement, President Trump did not call the settlements an obstacle to peace, but did call for a pause seemingly in connection with forthcoming negotiations.

4. Recognition of Arab Jew-hatred as a primary obstacle to peace:

Both President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke about the pervasive fundamental Jew-hatred animating large numbers of the Arabs of Palestine, which has stood as a main obstacle to peace. Trump did not draw moral equivalence between the Israelis and Arabs, solely stating that both sides would have to make compromises in a deal.

5. Engaging with Sunni Arab partners:

One of the few silver linings of the Obama administration’s Iran-strengthening policy is that Israel and its Arab neighbors were drawn closer than perhaps at any time in the last hundred years given their common existential threat from Tehran. President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu pledged to work with such powers on areas of common interest, presumably including countering jihadists that would threaten their regimes and in context of a broadly negotiated Israeli-Arab peace deal. One such potential plan floated on the eve of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s trip to the U.S. involves creating an area for the Arabs of Palestine spanning from Gaza to the Sinai.

6. Ensuring protection at the United Nations:

Contrary to the Obama administration, President Trump pledged to work to protect Israel from the many hostile nations comprising the United Nations. Trump’s statement comes on the heels of UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s rejection of former Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority Salam Fayyad’s appointment as the UN representative to Libya.

7. Rejecting the BDS movement:

Again contra the Obama administration, President Trump declared that he would oppose boycotts targeting Israel.

Prime Minister Netanyahu concluded the press conference by stating:

I’ve known the president and I’ve known his family and his team for a long time. There is no greater supporter of the Jewish people and the Jewish state than President Donald Trump. I think we should put that to rest.

The positive rapport between the two figures appeared genuine, based on a shared worldview and mutual respect.

Watching the press conference, it was self-evident that the pall cast over the relationship between the U.S. and Israel under President Obama has lifted, and the U.S.-Israel alliance reset at an auspicious moment in history.

A rebooted and robust U.S.-Israel relationship will play a central role if we are win the fight to preserve Judeo-Christian Western civilization against the jihadist forces that threaten our survival.

Read the whole thing here.

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Salon: A Spirited Discussion on Syria, the Sunni-Shia Battle for the Middle East and Russia

Salon gave me the opportunity to come on as the token conservative panelist in a discussion with host Carrie Sheffield of Bold and longtime national security/foreign affairs correspondent Courtney Kealy.

Check out our conversation on Syria, the Sunni-Shia battle for the Middle East and the broader proxy war going on between Russia and the U.S.

Carrie Sheffield sits down with Benjamin Weingarten and Courtn…WATCH LIVE: What is Aleppo? Don’t be like Gary Johnson. Here’s all you need to know about the crisis in Aleppo.

Posted by Salon on Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Featured Image Source: Salon/Facebook Live

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Talking Iran Deal, #Iransom and the War of Ideas with Buck Sexton

Check out my latest radio hit with friend and former colleague Buck Sexton on Iran, #Iransom, the War of Ideas and a whole lot more:

Image: Tehran 1993: An Iranian woman stands in front of a mural depicting Khomeini. (Armineh Johannes/Sygma/Corbis)

The State Department Exchange that Shows #Iransom is Real and Spectacular

The following transcript provided by The Israel Project’s Omri Ceren from yesterday’s exchange between State Department Spokesman John Kirby, Fox News’ James Rosen and AP’s Brad Klapper says it all about the Obama administration’s deceitfulness re #Iransom:

KLAPPER: Beyond saying there’s no ransom, you’ve said several times, a lot of people from different podiums in this government, have said there was no quid pro quo. What you just described is by definition a quid pro quo, is it not?

KIRBY: No.

KLAPPER: How is it not? You said they would not get the money until they were released. Quid, quo.

KIRBY: Thank you for the Latin expert. The Latin lesson, the Latin lesson.

KLAPPER: I mean, what am I missing in a quid pro quo that you have just outlined?

KIRBY: Brad, they were gonna get this money anyway, because The Hague Tribunal decided that they were going to get their money back. And-

KLAPPER: No, they hadn’t decided-

KIRBY: There was a negotiation inside The Hague Tribunal that they were going to cover the $400 million principal and then some interest that we negotiated, which saved the taxpayers a lot of money. That process was moving forward and it was moving forward on an independent track. Separately and distinctly we were also in talks with them about getting our Americans back. That was also done by a different team and moving forward. These two tracks came together in a very finite period of time.  And it would have been- given the fact that Iran hadn’t proved completely trustworthy in the past, it would have been irresponsible for us to not, since we- since we knew this payment was coming and coming soon, to not hold it up until we made sure we had our Americans out.

KLAPPER: Which is why everyone called it a quid pro quo at the beginning, and you disputed that. So I don’t quite understand how that changes anything. You’re saying it would have been imprudent not to link the payment, the delivery of the money, to the release of the prisoners, but you’re saying the delivery of the money wasn’t a quid pro quo related to the release of the prisoners because there’s a back story.

KIRBY: Because The Hague Tribunal had decided, the negotiation had been settled. That process was moving forward and would have moved forward regardless. But because it all happened in a short period of time, yes, we took advantage of that to make sure we had the maximum leverage possible to get our people out and get them out safely.

KLAPPER: So it was a quid pro quo?

KIRBY: No.

KLAPPER: You took advantage of it and you made it a quid pro quo.

KIRBY: We took advantage of leverage that we thought we could have to make sure that they got out safely and efficiently.

JAMES ROSEN: So you were holding the Iranians’ money hostage?

KIRBY: No, James.

KLAPPER: They paid the ransom. Because they released the prisoners.

KIRBY: It was their money, it’s their money. They were gonna get it anyway.

ROSEN: Would you at least agree, John-

KIRBY: Look, guys, we had to, you know, if we hadn’t done that, and if for some reason the Iranians did play games and we didn’t get the Americans out, and we hadn’t tried to use that leverage, then I could understand the disdain and the criticism here. But this was a sound decision made in the end game of two separate negotiation tracks.

KLAPPER: I’m making no value judgment on the decision. I’m just trying to get you to say what it is, which is very simple.

KIRBY: I have described what it is for the last 15 minutes. I haven’t used the Latin phrase that you like, but it doesn’t mean that I haven’t described what happened.

KLAPPER: Listen, this happened in January and this if the first time you’ve ever said flat out that they wouldn’t get the money until the prisoners were released. That took, let’s count it, what, seven months? Why all the beating around the bush?  If it was such a great and noble decision?

KIRBY: The only reason that we’re having this discussion is because of the press coverage, Brad. We’ve said all along-

KLAPPER: So, evil reporters have made you dredge this up?

KIRBY: No. I’ve never called you guys evil, I’ve called you other things, but never evil.

KLAPPER: I mean, you can’t blame press coverage because you didn’t say what this was seven months ago.

KIRBY: We did describe it seven months ago.

KLAPPER: You did not say it was contingent, this was contingent on that. Now you’re saying-

KIRBY: We said-

KLAPPER: – flatly out that this was, this payment was contingent on the release of the prisoners.

KIRBY: I said-

KLAPPER: You did not say that in January.

KIRBY: I said this was, as I said before, we of course wanted to seek maximum leverage in this case as these two things came together at the same time.

ROSEN: John, you said that everyone all along, at all points, has been completely above board about this. But you would agree that what you’re telling us today represents a new factual disclosure from the administration, does it not?

KIRBY: I certainly would agree that this particular fact is not something that we’ve talked about in the past, but if you go back and look at the press coverage, your own coverage, of this when it happened, nobody made any bones about the fact that these two process [sic] were coming together at the same time and we took advantage of the opportunity we had, with the closure of the nuke deal, with The Hague Tribunal, and with talks to get our Americans back, we took full advantage of that, and I don’t think anybody in the administration is going to make any apology for having taken advantage of those opportunities to get these Americans home.

ROSEN: And would you agree that a reasonable observer could look upon a situation in which cash is withheld until prisoners are released, as something akin to ransom?

KIRBY: Well, an observer, whoever he or she may be, can look at this however they want. I’ve described now over the last 10 or 15 minutes what happened and what our thought process was going through that, and I’ll let others decide for themselves. I got to get going here, guys.

Omri Ceren on the Obama Admin’s Obfuscation of Congress on #Iransom

The Israel Project’s Omri Ceren chronicles the various efforts of members of Congress to receive details on the Obama administration’s $1.7 billion settlement payment to Iran stemming from a failed 1979 weapons deal:

Jan 21Rep. Pompeo sent a letter to the State Department with six questions about the payment and the possibility it was a ransom [b]:

The timing and details of the U.S. cash transfer of $1.7 billion to Iran indicates it might be a ransom payment… What is the relationship between the $1.7 billion payment and the release of the hostages?… Did the $400 million claim or the $1.3 billion interest payment ever come up… in conversations with the Iranians about the release of American hostages?… What is the source of the funding for the $1.3 billion interest payment… is it taxpayer-funded?

Feb 3Rep. Royce sent a letter to the State Department with ten questions about the payment and the possibility it was a ransom [c]:

An explanation of any steps taken by the Obama Administration to make clear that this settlement was not linked to the release of American hostages… An explanation of why the timing of financial settlement coincided with the release of five innocent Americans held hostage by Iran… An explanation of why the Committee was not consulted on such a consequential matter.

Feb through the middle of MarchThe State Department declined to respond to the Royce and Pompeo letters until mid-March. Then they sent each lawmaker a separate response letter, neither of which addressed the ransom questions. Instead the response letters confirmed the payment was made out of an original Trust Fund linked to the arms deal and a taxpayer-funded Judgment Fund. Both response letters had identical language saying further details could not be provided in an unclassified setting [d][e]:

It would not be in the interest of the United States to discuss further details of the settlement of these claims in an unclassified letter due to the ongoing litigation at the Tribunal. However, we would be prepared to provide a closed briefing on such issues if it would be useful to you.

May 25Pompeo and Sen. Cornyn filed legislation requiring a report on whether the $1.7 billion was a ransom [f]:

The President shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report that includes… whether or not Federal funds, including the $1,700,000,000 payment… were paid to Iran, directly or indirectly, to effect the release of– (i) the members of the United States Navy who were detained…; or (ii) other United States citizens, including Jason Rezaian, Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari, and Matthew Trevithick, the release of whom was announced on January 16, 2016.

June 1Royce send a follow-up letter to his previous one, noting that the State Department had not addressed questions about whether the payment had been a ransom, and again asking for details. The administration has still not responded to his letter [g]:

[T]he Department’s reply largely failed to answer my requests… I sought an explanation of why the timing of this financial settlement coincided with both… the nuclear agreement and the release of five innocent Americans held hostage by Iran… However, the Department’s reply not only failed to provide this information, it did not even mention the nuclear agreement or the release of innocent Americans.

June 23Reps. Ros-Lehtinen and Vargas sent a letter to the GAO requesting a review of the status of the Trust Fund money. The letter included past reports going back to 1979 casting doubt on the administration’s public claims [h]:

A July 25, 1979, GAO report, Financial and Legal Implications of Iran’s Cancellation of Arms Purchase Agreements (FGMSD-79-47) states… the total Iranian equity in the FMS program may not be determined for years; however, the Department of Defense (DOD) estimated at the time that $80 million would remain in the Iran FMS Trust Fund… GAO provided additional details of the ongoing process of resolving trust fund issues in January 1980, but again noted that total equity in the fund would not be determinable for years.

July 14Sens. Lankford and Fischer floated legislation to force the administration to provide information about how transfers like the $1.7 billion were and would be conducted [i]:

If a payment under this section is made to a foreign state… the Secretary of the Treasury shall make available to the public… (A) A description of the method of payment. (B) A description of the currency denominations used for the payment. (C) The name and location of each financial institution owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by a foreign state or an agent of a foreign state through which the payment passed or from which the payment was withdrawn…

[b] http://pompeo.house.gov/uploadedfiles/1-21-16_pompeo_to_state_re_1.7b_to_iran.pdf
[c] https://foreignaffairs.house.gov/files/02.03.16%20-%20DOS%2C%20Secretary%2C%20John%20F%20Kerry%2C%20Concerns%20re%20%241.7%20Billion%20Payout%20to%20Iran.pdf
[d] https://foreignaffairs.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/03.17.16-DOS-Response-Concerns-re-1.7-Billion-Payout-to-Iran.pdf
[e] http://pompeo.house.gov/uploadedfiles/3-23-16_ransom_iran_kerry_reply.pdf
[f] https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-114s2984is/pdf/BILLS-114s2984is.pdf
[g] https://foreignaffairs.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/06.01.16-DOS-Follow-up-on-1.7-billion-Payment-to-Iran.pdf
[h] http://ros-lehtinen.house.gov/sites/ros-lehtinen.house.gov/files/06.23.16%20-%20Ros-Lehtinen%2C%20Vargas%20GAO%20Request%20Letter%20-%20Iran%20FMS%20Trust%20Fund.pdf
[i] http://www.fischer.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/7af255f2-50b7-48fa-aef9-5c56fba8980b/lankford-fischer-judgment-fund-bill.pdf

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My Interview With Cruz National Security Advisor Dr. Victoria Coates on ‘David’s Sling’

I recently had the opportunity to speak at length with Republican Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz’s national security and foreign policy brain trust, Dr. Victoria Coates, on behalf of Encounter Books in connection with the release of her intellectually stimulating and compelling new David’s Sling: A History of Democracy in Ten Works of Art.

During our extensive interview — which you can listen to in full or in parts per the below — we discuss the indelible link between democracy and creativity, the significance of great works of art and architecture in the history of freedom from Michelangelo’s David to the Parthenon and Picasso’s Guernica, why the entrepreneurial art community endorses political stances anathema to the freedom that sustains it, and everything you would ever want to know about Sen. Ted Cruz’s foreign policy vision. On this latter point, among other subjects, Dr. Coates and I discuss the principles that form the Cruz Doctrine, who in the foreign policy sphere truly carries the mantle of Jeanne Kirkpatrick, what “winning” in the Middle East would look like for America under a President Cruz, Saudi Arabia vs. Iran, whether America has a responsibility under NATO to defend an Islamic supremacist Turkish regime against Russia, how a President Cruz would handle an ascendant Russia, the long-term threat posed by China and how to counter her, the greatest threat to America’s national interest we are most underestimating or ignoring, and much more.

You can also read the transcripts to both parts of our interview here (Part I on David’s Sling) and here (Part II on Foreign Policy/National Security.

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Allah and Man at Yale

Here’s a taste of my latest at The Federalist, in which I question why Yale University is taking $10 million from a jihadi-tied Saudi billionaire to build an Islamic (read: Sharia) Law center that propagates an ideology under which Yale itself could not exist:

While America remains financially and militarily the mightiest nation on Earth, it is losing the war Islamic supremacism is waging against her because it is chiefly an ideological one. We have the strength to defend ourselves, but we lack the knowledge and the will to defeat our enemies. We are morally relativistic and therefore unable to acknowledge that different peoples are different and that not all ideologies are equal or seek the same ends.

But people like Saleh Kamal surely understand us. In the conquest ideology inherent to Sharia—Islam compels Muslims to extend the Islamic sphere, the ummah, over all the world—America has found an enemy able to best take advantage of our deeply held freedoms. Sharia explicitly calls for the use of the very tactics against which America is most vulnerable.

As a consequence of our willful blindness (contrasted with Islamic supremacists’ comparable clarity), we are constructing Islamic law centers, inviting Muslims to immigrate by the hundreds of thousands without recognition that Hijra is a form of jihad, and, 14 years after 9/11, our top military minds are arguing that we back al-Qaeda against ISIS—that is, the newly “good jihadists” against the “bad jihadists.” For the coup de grace, we are actively aiding, abetting, and enabling Iran’s Twelver jihadist regime in its quest for nuclear domination of the Middle East and beyond.

Read the whole thing here.

Featured Image Source: YouTube Screengrab/Firing Line.

Bob Corker Iran

A Response to Jim Geraghty on Republicans’ Willingness to Prevent the Iran Deal (or Lack Thereof)

National Review’s Jim Geraghty asks an essential question in a recent edition of his Morning Jolt that every member of Congress — not just Republicans — should have to answer: “[W]hat are you willing to do to prevent a mushroom cloud either in the Middle East or closer to home?”

As it pertains to members of the GOP, the proof is in the pudding: The party will prove pusillanimous — unwilling to exhaust every avenue to block an Iran deal disastrous for the entire West.

How do we know this?

Sen. Bob Corker’s Iran legislation in and of itself was a complete and utter abdication of Senatorial prerogative, and perhaps the crowning act of Failure Theater of this Republican Congress.

For a refresher, as Geraghty’s colleague Andrew C. McCarthy noted in April:

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Samantha Power’s Shameless But Unsurprising Iran Deal Shilling

Did you know that if America does not release $150 billion to the world’s leading state sponsor of terror, and provide protection for its nuclear infrastructure — among other gifts — that it will hamper America’s ability to “confront global threats?”

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power says it is so, and if the former proponent of boots on the ground in Israel says it, it must be true:

Such tweets follow Samantha Power’s defense of the Iran Deal in Politico, which boils down to the following curious assertion: If America does not do this deal, we will hamstring ourselves when it comes to future matters of foreign policy.

Power says we would be isolating ourselves from the P5+1 nations with whom we negotiated the deal. She writes that the “partners believe that this is a sound deal,” conveniently omitting the fact that two of said partners, the Russians and Chinese, benefit by the strengthening of an Iran that has been at war with the West since 1979. She also neglects to mention that the French were steadfastly opposed to this deal, pounding the table that the terms were too weak during negotiations.

Moroever, Power writes that “We would go from a situation in which Iran is isolated to one in which the United States is isolated,” in the inconceivable scenario in which Congress is able to override a presidential veto.

To this I say:

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U.S. President Barack Obama is flanked by Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Secretary of State John Kerry (R) as he delivers a statement on legislation sent to Congress to authorize the use of military force against the Islamic State, from the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington February 11, 2015. Obama asked Congress on Wednesday to authorize military force against Islamic State that would bar any large-scale invasion by U.S. ground troops and limit operations to three years.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst    (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY CONFLICT TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTR4P811

The Ignored Influence of the Iran Lobby on Obama’s Useful Idiots

The incomparable Daniel Greenfield has the story:

Both of Obama’s secretaries of state were involved in Iran Lobby cash controversies, as was his vice president and his former secretary of defense. Obama was also the beneficiary of sizable donations from the Iran Lobby. Akbar Ghahary, the former co-founder of IAPAC, had donated and raised some $50,000 for Obama.

It’s an unprecedented track record that has received very little notice. While the so-called “Israel Lobby” is constantly scrutinized, the fact that key foreign policy positions under Obama are controlled by political figures with troubling ties to an enemy of this country has gone mostly unreported by the mainstream media.

This culture of silence allowed the Iran Lobby to get away with taking out a full-page ad in the New York Times before the Netanyahu speech asking, “Will Congress side with our President or a Foreign Leader?”

Iran’s stooges had taken a break from lobbying for ballistic missiles to play American patriots.

Obama and his allies, Iranian and domestic, have accused opponents of his dirty Iran deal of making “common cause” with that same terror regime and of treason. The ugly truth is that he and his political accomplices were the traitors all along.

Democrats in favor of a deal that will let a terrorist regime go nuclear have taken money from lobbies for that regime. They have broken their oath by taking bribes from a regime whose leaders chant, “Death to America”. Their pretense of examining the deal is nothing more than a hollow charade.

This deal has come down from Iran Lobby influenced politicians like Kerry and is being waved through by members of Congress who have taken money from the Iran Lobby. That is treason plain and simple.

Despite what we are told about its “moderate” leaders, Iran considers itself to be in a state of war with us. Iran and its agents have repeatedly carried out attacks against American soldiers, abducted and tortured to death American officials and have even engaged in attacks on American naval vessels.

Aiding an enemy state in developing nuclear weapons is the worst form of treason imaginable. Helping put weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists is the gravest of crimes.

The Democrats who have approved this deal are turning their party into a party of atom bomb spies.

Those politicians who have taken money from the Iran Lobby and are signing off on a deal that will let Iran go nuclear have engaged in the worst form of treason and committed the gravest of crimes. They must know that they will be held accountable. That when Iran detonates its first bomb, their names will be on it.

But will the Democrats who lavished the world’s largest state sponsor of jihad with billions of dollars, provided cover for its nuclear activities and spat in the eyes of America’s servicemen and women maimed and murdered by Iran and its proxies, along with the craven Republicans who willfully engaged in failure theater, actually pay a price for their treason?

 

Featured Image Source: PBS.

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