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Thread: Iran has 'penetrated' the Obama Administration

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    Default Iran has 'penetrated' the Obama Administration


    WASHINGTON — The number of significant pro-Iran lobbyists has grown and key players have gained access to the new administration of President Barak Obama, a report said.


    The Center for Security Policy said veteran Iranian lobbyists, several of them former government officials, have been granted access to the Obama administration.

    "A complex network of individuals and organizations with ties to the clerical regime in Teheran is pressing forward in seeming synchrony to influence the new U.S. administration's policy towards the Islamic republic of Iran," the report, titled "Rise of the Iran Lobby," said.

    "Spearheaded by a de facto partnership between the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC), the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other organizations serving as mouthpieces for the mullahs' party line, the network includes well-known American diplomats, congressional representatives, figures from academia and the think tank world."

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    Default Re: Iran has 'penetrated' the Obama Administration

    March 20, 2009
    Obama's Message to Iran


    The President's Message to the Iranian People (video)

    Text of a videotaped message from President Barack Obama in celebration of Nowruz. In his message, the president speaks directly to the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The video of his remarks will include a subtitled Farsi translation. Below is the embargoed text of the video, as well as background on Nowruz and the goal of the President's message.

    The video will be available at the following link: www.whitehouse.gov/Nowruz

    THE PRESIDENT: Today I want to extend my very best wishes to all who are celebrating Nowruz around the world.

    This holiday is both an ancient ritual and a moment of renewal, and I hope that you enjoy this special time of year with friends and family.

    In particular, I would like to speak directly to the people and leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Nowruz is just one part of your great and celebrated culture. Over many centuries your art, your music, literature and innovation have made the world a better and more beautiful place.
    Here in the United States our own communities have been enhanced by the contributions of Iranian Americans. We know that you are a great civilization, and your accomplishments have earned the respect of the United States and the world.

    For nearly three decades relations between our nations have been strained. But at this holiday we are reminded of the common humanity that binds us together. Indeed, you will be celebrating your New Year in much the same way that we Americans mark our holidays -- by gathering with friends and family, exchanging gifts and stories, and looking to the future with a renewed sense of hope.

    Within these celebrations lies the promise of a new day, the promise of opportunity for our children, security for our families, progress for our communities, and peace between nations. Those are shared hopes, those are common dreams.

    So in this season of new beginnings I would like to speak clearly to Iran's leaders. We have serious differences that have grown over time. My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us, and to pursuing constructive ties among the United States, Iran and the international community. This process will not be advanced by threats. We seek instead engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect.

    You, too, have a choice. The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right -- but it comes with real responsibilities, and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization. And the measure of that greatness is not the capacity to destroy, it is your demonstrated ability to build and create.

    So on the occasion of your New Year, I want you, the people and leaders of Iran, to understand the future that we seek. It's a future with renewed exchanges among our people, and greater opportunities for partnership and commerce. It's a future where the old divisions are overcome, where you and all of your neighbors and the wider world can live in greater security and greater peace.

    I know that this won't be reached easily. There are those who insist that we be defined by our differences. But let us remember the words that were written by the poet Saadi, so many years ago: "The children of Adam are limbs to each other, having been created of one essence."

    With the coming of a new season, we're reminded of this precious humanity that we all share. And we can once again call upon this spirit as we seek the promise of a new beginning.

    Thank you, and Eid-eh Shoma Mobarak.

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    Default Re: Iran has 'penetrated' the Obama Administration

    We're doomed. They infiltrated alright....right at the top.
    "Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
    -- Theodore Roosevelt


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    Default Re: Iran has 'penetrated' the Obama Administration

    Barack Obama calls for 'new beginning' with Iran

    Barack Obama, the US President, has called for a “new beginning” of "honest" relations with Iran in a video released on YouTube.

    Video:

    By Mark Coleman in Los Angeles
    Last Updated: 4:47PM GMT 20 Mar 2009

    In a dramatic reversal of White House policy, the president announced that America was determined to pursue “constructive ties” with its former arch enemy.

    He pledged that Tehran could take its “rightful place” in the world if it renounced terror in favour of peace.

    Related Articles


    The two nations have had no diplomatic ties for 28 years.

    George W Bush, Mr Obama's predecessor, famously banded Iran within a so-called “Axis of Evil”, along with Syria and North Korea.

    Mr Obama said: My administration is now committed to diplomacy that addresses the full range of issues before us, and to pursing constructive ties among the United States, Iran and the international community.”
    He added: “For nearly three decades relations between our nations have been strained.

    “But at this holiday we are reminded of the common humanity that binds us together.

    “Indeed, you will be celebrating your new year in much the same way that we Americans mark our holidays – by gathering with friends and family; exchanging gifts and stories, and looking to the future with a renewed sense of hope.”

    Mr Obama’s comments, timed to coincide with the start of Nowruz, the Iranian New Year, are due to air today on various Middle East networks carrying English and Farsi subtitles. The format of the message suggests it is an attempt to reach the Iranian people directly.

    The three and a half minute video serves as vivid proof that Obama’s administration sees Iran as a pivotal player in many of America’s most delicate issues.

    These include dealing with a resurgent Taliban; disbanding the US military from Iraq, as well as addressing Israeli-Arab tension in the Middle East.

    Describing the Nowruz celebrations a time of “new beginnings”, Mr Obama announced his intention “to speak clearly to Iran’s leaders” to enforce a new era of “engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect.”

    The president cautioned that such a gesture, however, “comes with real responsibilities, and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization.”

    Mr Obama added: “The measure of greatness is not the capacity to destroy; it is your demonstrated ability to build and create.”

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    Default Re: Iran has 'penetrated' the Obama Administration

    Quote Originally Posted by Malsua View Post
    We're doomed. They infiltrated alright....right at the top.
    Did you check out the latest developments between Russia and China on page 42 in the Frantic Day as Banks Fall thread? Bad, VERY BAD developments for this nation.
    Last edited by vector7; March 21st, 2009 at 12:28.

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    Default Re: Iran has 'penetrated' the Obama Administration

    MARCH 21, 2009
    Iran's Axis of Nuclear Evil

    By JOHN BOLTON

    While President Obama's unanticipated Nowruz holiday greeting to Iran generated considerable press attention, his video wasn't really this week's big news related to the Islamic Republic. Far more important was that a senior defector -- Iran's former Deputy Minister of Defense Ali Reza Asghari -- disclosed Tehran's financing of Syria's nuclear weapons program. That program's centerpiece was a North Korean nuclear reactor in Syria. Israel destroyed it in September 2007.


    At this point, it is impossible to ignore Iran's active efforts to expand, improve and conceal its nuclear weapons program in Syria while it pretends to "negotiate" with Britain, France and Germany (the "EU-3"). No amount of video messages will change this reality. The question is whether this new information about Iran will sink in, or if Washington will continue to turn a blind eye toward Iran's nuclear deceptions.

    That the Pyongyang-Damascus-Tehran nuclear axis went undetected and unacknowledged for so long is an intelligence failure of the highest magnitude. It represents a plain unwillingness to allow hard truths to overcome well-entrenched policy views disguised as intelligence findings.

    Key elements of our intelligence community (IC) fought against the idea of a Syrian nuclear program for years. In mid-2003, I had a bitter struggle with several IC agencies -- news of which was leaked to the press -- concerning my testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee about the Syrian program. Then Sen. Joe Biden made the Syria testimony an issue in my 2005 confirmation battle to become ambassador to the United Nations, alleging that I had tried to hype concern about Syria's nuclear intentions. (In fact, my testimony, in both its classified and unclassified versions, was far more anodyne than the facts warranted.)

    Key IC agencies made two arguments in 2003 against the possibility of a clandestine Syrian nuclear weapons program. First, they argued that Syria lacked the scientific and technological capabilities to sustain such a program. Second, they said that Syria did not have the necessary economic resources to fund a program.

    These assertions were not based on highly classified intelligence. Instead, they were personal views that some IC members developed based on public information. The intelligence that did exist -- which I thought warranted close observation of Syria, at a minimum -- the IC discounted as inconsistent with its fixed opinions. In short, theirs was not an intelligence conclusion, but a policy view presented under the guise of intelligence.

    How wrong they were.

    As for Syria's technical expertise, North Korea obviously had the scientific and technological ability to construct the reactor, which was essentially a clone of the North's own at Yongbyon. Moreover, it is entirely possible that Syria's nuclear program -- undertaken with Pyongyang's assistance -- is even more extensive. We will certainly never know from Syria directly, since Damascus continues to deny it has any nuclear program whatever. It's also stonewalling investigation efforts by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

    As for Syria's ability to finance a nuclear program, Iran could easily supply whatever Syria might need -- even in a time of fluctuating oil prices. Moreover, given Iran's hegemony over Syria, it is impossible to believe Syria would ever undertake extensive nuclear cooperation with North Korea without Iran's acquiescence. Iran was likely an active partner in a three-way joint venture on the reactor, supplying key financial support and its own share of scientific knowledge.

    Cooperation on ballistic missile programs between Pyongyang and Tehran is longstanding and well-advanced, and thereby forms a basis of trust for nuclear cooperation. Moreover, both Iran and North Korea share a common incentive: to conceal illicit nuclear weapons programs from international scrutiny. What better way to hide such programs than to conduct them in a third country where no one is looking?

    Uncovering the North Korean reactor in Syria was a grave inconvenience for the Bush administration. It enormously complicated both the failing six-party talks on North Korea and the EU-3's diplomatic efforts with Iran, which Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice so actively supported.

    Mr. Asghari's revelations about Iranian financing of Syria's nuclear program -- if borne out -- will have precisely the same negative impact on Obama administration policies, since they track Mr. Bush's so closely. In fact, the two administrations' approaches differ only to the extent that Mr. Obama is poised to pursue policies, like face-to-face negotiations with Iran, that the second term Bush State Department wanted to do, but faced too much internal dissonance to implement.

    The Nowruz video reflects the dominant view within the Obama administration that its "open hand" will be reciprocated. It's likely Iran will respond affirmatively to the near-plaintive administration request to "engage."

    And why not? Such dialogue allows Iran to conceal its true intentions and activities under the camouflage of negotiations, just as it has done for the past six years with the EU-3. What's more, Iran will see it as confirmation of U.S. weakness and evidence that its policies are succeeding.

    There is very little time for Mr. Obama to change course before he is committed to negotiations. He could start by following Iran's money trail.

    Mr. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations" (Simon & Schuster, 2007).

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    Default Re: Iran has 'penetrated' the Obama Administration

    Syria's Assad praises Obama, wants meeting

    Wed Mar 18, 2009 8:25am EDT


    ROME (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he hoped to meet U.S. President Barack Obama and expressed his willingness to help mediate between the West and Iran.

    Assad, in an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica published on Wednesday, also confirmed he was ready to resume peace negotiations with Israel but expressed concern about the political climate there.

    "With the pullout in Iraq, the will for peace, the closing of Guantanamo, (Obama) has shown himself to be a man of his word," he said, referring to the U.S. naval base in Cuba where hundreds of suspected Islamist militants have been held, most for years without trial.
    But Assad said it was too soon to speak of a "historic shift" in U.S. foreign policy.

    Asked about meeting Obama, Assad said: "Yes, in principle. It would be a very positive sign. But I'm not looking for a photo opportunity. I want to see him, to talk."

    Obama has been reviewing U.S. policy toward Syria, including whether to return an ambassador to Damascus. Earlier this month he sent two envoys to Damascus earlier this month, where in a change of tone after years of animosity with Syria, one of the officials said they had found "a lot of common ground."

    Washington pulled its ambassador out of Syria after the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.

    Syria, which is on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, denies any involvement in Hariri's murder but the United States pointed fingers at Damascus.
    Assad said the United States under Obama could play an important role bringing peace to the region. Although he voiced confidence about the growing diplomatic roles of countries like Turkey and France in the area, he said "only Washington can press Israel."

    PEACE TALKS
    Assad said he was willing to resume negotiations with Israel but expressed concerned about the ascent of Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing Likud party after last months' election.

    "I'm not concerned about Netanyahu's thinking, but of the return of the right-wing of Israeli society, which Netanyahu's rise reflects. This is the biggest obstacle to peace."

    Israel and Syria last held direct peace talks in 2000 in the United States, failing to reach a deal on the future of the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, which Damascus wants returned.

    Since mid-2008, Israel and Syria have held off-and-on indirect negotiations in Turkey.

    On Iran, which Washington believes wants to build nuclear weapons, Assad said: " ... with Iran, I'm ready to mediate."

    He urged the West to come up with concrete proposals for Tehran, which he said was "an important country, like it or not." Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

    Of Iran's role in Iraq, he said Tehran's influence should not be seen as negative if based on "reciprocal respect" and drew distinction between influence and interference.

    "If instead we're talking about facilitating dialogue with Tehran, a concrete proposal is needed to give to that government. Until now, I've only received an invitation to play a role. Agreed, but that's not enough," Assad said.

    "What's lacking is a plan, rules and specific mechanisms to put forward to Tehran."

    (Writing by Phil Stewart; Editing by Matthew Jones)

    © Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved

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    Nikita Khrushchev: "We will bury you"
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    Default Re: Iran has 'penetrated' the Obama Administration

    Mar 23, 2009 9:43
    Iran targets the US


    By YORAM ETTINGER

    The prevention of a nuclear Iran constitutes a top US national security priority. It sheds light on a special aspect of US-Israel relationship: defiance of mutual threats.

    Iran pursues nuclear capabilities to advance strategic goals, which are led by the super-goal: hegemony over the Persian Gulf and its natural resources. Those who undermine the super-goal are considered super-enemies, targeted by super-capabilities. Hence, Teheran would use its nuclear power/threat, first and foremost, to force the US and NATO out of the Gulf and the Indian Ocean.

    It would then turn it against Iraq - its arch rival since the seventh century - and against Saudi Arabia, which is considered an apostate regime. All Gulf states are perceived by Iran as a key prize, required in order to control the flow and the price of oil and to bankroll its megalomaniac regional and global aspirations (e.g. leading Islam's drive to dominate the globe).

    The Jewish state constitutes a non-Gulf basin target for Iran, not a primary target. Moreover, Israel is expected to retaliate in a traumatic manner, which would paralyze much of Iran's military and civilian infrastructure. Therefore, Iran would not sacrifice its super-goal (forcing the US out of the Gulf and subjugating the Gulf states) on the altar of a secondary-goal (obliterating the Jewish state).

    FOR THE US AND ISRAEL, the preferred option against Iran is preemption rather than retaliation. Recent precedents suggest that the two countries benefit from leveraging each other's unique experience, as well as from bold unilateral military action against rogue threats.

    In September 2007, the IAF destroyed a Syrian-North Korean nuclear plant, extending the US's strategic arm. It provided the US with vital information on Russian air defense systems, which are also employed by Iran. It bolstered the US posture of deterrence and refuted the claim that US-Israel relations have been shaped by political expediency.

    In 1981, Israel destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor, providing the US with a conventional option in 1991 and 2003, preventing a mega-billion dollar, mega-casualty nuclear war. In 1970, while the US was bogged down in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, Israel forced the rollback of a pro-Soviet Syrian invasion of pro-US Jordan. It prevented a pro-Soviet "domino effect" into the Persian Gulf, which would have shattered US economy.

    In 2009, Israel shares with the US its battle-tested experience in combating Palestinian and Hizbullah terrorism, which are the role model of anti-US Islamic terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan. US GIs benefit from Israel's battle tactics against car bombs, improvised explosive devices and homicide bombing. An Israel-like ally in the Persian Gulf would have spared the need to dispatch US troops to Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

    FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE and NATO commander Alexander Haig refers to the Jewish state as the largest cost-effective, combat-experienced US aircraft carrier that does not require US personnel, cannot be sunk and is located in a most critical region for US national security interests.

    While the US has been Israel's indispensable ally, Israel's battle experience has been integrated into the US defense industry. For example, the F-16 includes more than 600 Israeli modifications, sparing the US a mega-billion dollar and a multi-year research and development budget. A litany of state-of-the-art US military systems have been upgraded in a similar manner, enhancing US national and homeland security and expanding US employment and exports.

    Iran's nuclear threat is a symptom of endemic Middle East violent unpredictability and Muslim hostility toward Western democracies. It calls for an upgraded US-Israel win-win relationship, which requires a strong Israel as a national security producer. A weak Israel, pushed into a nine-15 mile sliver along the Mediterranean, pressured to concede the mountain ridges of Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights, relying on foreign troops and guarantees, would become a national security consumer. It would be a burden rather than an asset to the US in a bad neighborhood, which is crucial for vital US interests.

    Iran would benefit from an ineffective Israel. However, the US would have to deploy to the eastern flank of the Mediterranean real aircraft carriers and tens of thousands of US servicemen, costing scores of billions of dollars annually, denied the benefits of Israel - the largest US aircraft carrier, which does not require a single US sailor.

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    Default Re: Iran has 'penetrated' the Obama Administration

    Détente without deterrence? You call that "realism"?

    Mon, 03/23/2009 - 12:38pm



    The New York Times's Roger Cohen and his soul mate Steve Walt have both written recently about U.S. policy toward Iran, embracing a new direction that Walt characterizes as realism. Hailing President Obama's recent speech to the Iranian people as framing this approach, Cohen described what Obama did:

    He abandoned regime change as an American goal. He shelved the so-called military option. He buried a carrot-and-sticks approach viewed with contempt by Iranians as fit only for donkeys. And he placed Iran's nuclear program within "the full range of issues before us."

    Walt has a post up called "a realistic approach to Iran's nuclear program." In it he makes his case that we should focus on getting Iran to stop short of developing nuclear weapons, offering the example of Japan which is nuclear weapons capable as being one that should be good for the Iranians and good for us. Via this approach we would allow Iran to build a nuclear infrastructure but leave it poised just perhaps months way from enriching uranium and making weapons. This approach makes perfect sense unless: a.) We think Iran might at some point want to take it further, b.) We think Iran might prepare to do so quickly and secretly, c.) We had a really bad track record of identifying such shifts in capability as they happened, d.) Iran was the world's leading state sponsor of terror and thus posed a unique risk regarding the proliferation of nuclear weapons technologies or related materials should they get them, and e.) Iran had expressed the desire to eliminate an enemy state in its neighborhood.

    The problem of course, is that all these things are true.

    Further, Cohen and Walt's initial "realist" position is that we can best achieve our goals by taking "the threat of military force and regime change off the table." Since when is it realistic by beginning a negotiation with a potentially dangerous adversary by us unilaterally giving up one of the options we may later need? The fundamentally unrealistic nature of this position is revealed later when Walt...after making an argument that our approach should essentially be all carrots and no sticks...observes that we need to let Iran know that if they did have nuclear weapons and a terrorist group used such a weapon we might suspect they were of Iranian origin and retaliate. Seems to me that's the stick he and Cohen both think should not be discussed. As to C & W's apparently preferred notion of going into a negotiation with all carrots and no sticks that's not realism, that is dewy-eyed romanticism that relies on the fundamental goodness of our negotiating partner. Which happens to be the world's leading state-sponsor of terror, run by extremists whose world view includes elimination of the region's only democracy, enmity with the United States, and throwing Holocaust-denial parties.

    One important measure of the quality of any policy is what happens if it goes wrong? What happens when, as is often the case, that which we can't control goes in a way we don't want or expect it to? In this case of course, the primary casualty of such an error in judgment is likely to be Israel. It is one of the countries with the most to lose from a nuclear Iran and one can't help but think that Walt and Cohen are being a little cavalier about its future. Or is it that they actually so seek the weakening of U.S. support for Israel (Cohen salutes it as an inevitable and positive consequence of this policy) that they'll take short term gains on that front even if the long-term risks to U.S. interests and the region as a whole are much greater. Because, of course, Israel is not the only one threatened by a nuclear Iran, the Saudis and others would be too which is why many regional experts, including Amir Taheri writing in today's Wall Street Journal, fear that the most worrisome negative consequence of even a nuclear capable Iran would be a rush among other powers in the region to achieve the same or greater capacity thus taking the most dangerous region in the world and making it dramatically more dangerous.

    I personally think Obama's overture was a good one and that we need to open up a dialogue with Iran. I think negotiation is possible and that there is a sufficient moderate population in Iran that will such initiatives offer some promise. I also, for the record, do not advocate blind support for Israel and think they too would benefit from an easing of tensions between the United States and Iran. I just think that we are more likely to have a constructive argument if all sides know what is unacceptable -- which includes an Iran with real or virtual nuclear capability and a nuclear arms race in the region -- and that we would use all available means to prevent either. Imagine if Kissinger had tried détente while also calling off deterrence with the Soviets. Would be he be the hero of realists he is today? And while we're at it, let's ask which of the two policies was more important ultimately to ending the Soviet threat? (You can say both were important...but the sine qua non of our Cold War success was deterrence.) Dennis Ross is right. More carrots, by all means, but don't prematurely (and naively) set aside the sticks.


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    Default Re: Iran has 'penetrated' the Obama Administration

    March 23, 2009
    Op-Ed Columnist
    From Tehran to Tel Aviv
    By ROGER COHEN

    With his bold message to Iran’s leaders, President Obama achieved four things essential to any rapprochement.

    He abandoned regime change as an American goal. He shelved the so-called military option. He buried a carrot-and-sticks approach viewed with contempt by Iranians as fit only for donkeys. And he placed Iran’s nuclear program within “the full range of issues before us.”

    By doing so, Obama made it almost inevitable that one of the defining strategic issues of his presidency will be a painful but necessary redefinition of America’s relations with Israel as differences over Iran sharpen. I will return to that below.

    The innovations in the president’s Persian New Year, or Nowruz, overture to Tehran were remarkable. He referred twice to “the Islamic Republic of Iran,” a formulation long shunned, and said that republic, no other, should “take its rightful place in the community of nations.” Here was explicit American acceptance of Iran’s 30-year-old clerical revolution.

    He said establishing constructive ties would “not be advanced by threats,” a retreat from his own campaign position that the military option must always remain on the table. Instead he offered “mutual respect.”

    I was in Iran in January and February. The visit convinced me that confrontational American high-handedness has been a disaster; that facile analogies between the Iranian regime and the Nazis dishonor six million victims of the Holocaust; that the regime’s provocative rhetoric masks essential pragmatism; and that the best way to help a young, stability-favoring population toward the reform they seek is through engagement.

    Obama has now taken all the steps I called for then. The policy changes emerged from an interagency review of the failed Iranian policy of recent years. The shift demanded courage.

    One of the people involved in the review told me he had been bombarded by warnings from Israel and Sunni Arab states that engagement with Iran would lead nowhere. Of course they would say that; any Iran breakthrough will shake up current cozy U.S. relationships from Jerusalem to Riyadh.

    Obama’s overture represented a victory not only over such lobbying but also over officials’ favoring tightened sanctions or delaying any American initiative until after Iran’s June presidential election.

    The hard part has just begun.

    Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, responded to Obama with a scathing speech at the country’s holiest shrine in Mashad, recalling every past U.S. misdeed, describing prerevolutionary Iran as “a field for the Americans to graze in,” and demanding concrete steps — like a lifting of sanctions — rather than words.

    View all that as an opening gambit. Khamenei also quieted the crowd when it began its ritual “Death to America” chant and he said this: “We’re not emotional when it comes to our important matters. We make decisions by calculation.”

    That’s right: the mullahs are anything but mad. Calculation will demand that Iran take Obama seriously.

    The country’s oil revenue has plunged, its economy is in a mess, its oil and gas installations are aging. It has deepening interests in a stable Iraq and an Afghanistan free of Taliban rule. Its nuclear program involves a measure of brinkmanship that must be carefully managed. Khamenei’s essential role is conservative — the preservation of the revolution. He can only be radical up to a point.

    Iran’s apparent inclination to take up a U.S. invitation to attend a conference on Afghanistan later this month may be more significant than Khamenei’s words. In any event, overcoming a 30-year impasse will take time and consistency.

    The clock is ticking — and Obama’s will not be the same as that of Israel’s prime minister designate, Benjamin Netanyahu.

    Already divergent U.S. and Israeli approaches to Iran were evident in Israeli President Shimon Peres’s coupling of his own Nowruz address to the Iranian people (not its leaders) with a statement predicting that they would rise up and topple “a handful of religious fanatics.”

    A senior Israeli official told me Iran has 1,000 kilos of low-enriched uranium and will have 500 more within six months, enough to make a bomb. It could then opt for one of three courses.

    Rush for a bomb by shredding the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, adapting its centrifuges and producing enough highly enriched uranium within a year.

    Move the process to a secret site, in which case getting a bomb would take longer, perhaps two years.

    Or continue making low-enriched uranium so that “it would have enough for 10 bombs if it decides to rush at a later stage.”

    And where, I asked, is Israel’s red line? “Once they get to 1,500 kilos, nonproliferation is dead,” he said. And so? “It’s established that when a country that does not accept Israel’s existence has such a program, we will intervene.”

    I think there’s some bluster in this. Israel does not want Obama to talk, talk, talk, so it’s suggesting military action could happen in 2009, within nine months.

    Still, this much is clear to me: Obama’s new Middle Eastern diplomacy and engagement will involve reining in Israeli bellicosity and a probable cooling of U.S.-Israeli relations. It’s about time. America’s Israel-can-do-no-wrong policy has been disastrous, not least for Israel’s long-term security.


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    Default Re: Iran has 'penetrated' the Obama Administration

    Roger Cohen’s wishful thinking

    By Uriel Heilman · March 23, 2009

    If Roger Cohen's reporting is anything like his assessment of President Obama's Nowruz message to Iran, we were right to be suspicious of his journalism from Iran.

    On Sunday, The New York Times columnist again used a column about Iran to swipe at Israel -- this, several days after an appearance at an L.A. synagogue to debate his assumptions about Jews in Iran. This time, Cohen didn't even bother to give any teeth or justification for his call for Obama to "cool" down U.S.-Israeli relations ("It's about time," Cohen wrote, without explaining why).

    Where Cohen went completely off the rails was in his analysis of Obama's message to Iran. Was he reading the same message the rest of us did? (Check out this three-minute video and judge for yourself). Cohen wrote:

    With his bold message to Iran’s leaders, President Obama achieved four things essential to any rapprochement.

    He abandoned regime change as an American goal. He shelved the so-called military option. He buried a carrot-and-sticks approach viewed with contempt by Iranians as fit only for donkeys. And he placed Iran’s nuclear program within “the full range of issues before us.”

    By doing so, Obama made it almost inevitable that one of the defining strategic issues of his presidency will be a painful but necessary redefinition of America’s relations with Israel as differences over Iran sharpen.

    On those five points, Cohen gets three of them wrong, and another one misses the point.

    1. Here's the one he got right: Yes, the president arguably implied that the United States has abandoned the goal of regime change when he said, "The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations." Of course, if Washington were still pursuing regime change in Tehran, this hardly would be the first time rhetoric and reality diverged in U.S. foreign policy. But, at least publicly, this is an important signal to Iran that the United States is ready for rapprochement.

    2. Cohen writes that Obama shelved the military option. Wrong. Obama neither said nor suggested anything of the kind (here's the text of Obama's remarks). Obama did say diplomacy is not advanced by threats, and that his administration seeks constructive ties grounded in mutual respect, but that hardly constitutes taking the military option off the table.

    3. Obama did not bury the carrot-and-sticks approach. On the contrary, this message is the carrot. The sanctions Obama backs constitute the stick. Obama reiterated the carrot-and-sticks approach as recently as a week and a half ago, when he extended U.S. sanctions against Iran.

    4. Cohen writes that Obama placed Iran's nuclear program within a full range of issues between the two countries. Okay -- so what? Obama did not mention Iran's nuclear program in his message; it is the elephant in the room. It lurks behind not only the president's message, but the U.S. focus on Iran. Obama's no fool. He knows that he ought to try to get the most he can out of diplomatic outreach to Iran, even as he presses hard on other fronts, like sanctions (I like to call this the carrot-and-sticks approach). Any other approach would be irresponsible.

    5. Cohen writes that one of the defining strategic issues of Obama's presidency will be "a painful but necessary redefinition of America’s relations with Israel." Huh? Obama has suggested nothing of the kind. What this really seems to be is wishful thinking on the part of Cohen, who clearly has it in for Israel.

    What does Obama's Nowruz message have to do with the Jewish state?

    Slap the headline "From Tehran to Tel Aviv" on top of the column, lop in Israel with Saudi Arabia ("any Iran breakthrough will shake up current cozy U.S. relationships from Jerusalem to Riyadh," Cohen writes) and throw in an Israel-bashing line at the close ("this much is clear to me: Obama’s new Middle Eastern diplomacy and engagement will involve reining in Israeli bellicosity and a probable cooling of U.S.-Israeli relations. It’s about time. America’s Israel-can-do-no-wrong policy has been disastrous, not least for Israel’s long-term security.") and there you have it.

    Cohen's interpretation of Obama's message takes many liberties. If his reporting is only half as sloppy, The New York Times and its readership should beware.

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    Default Re: Iran has 'penetrated' the Obama Administration

    (RTTNews) - The United States Monday slammed U.N. expert Richard Falk for his report on the Gaza war, saying he was "biased" in calling for an investigation on Israel's January offensive in the coastal enclave on grounds that it could be construed as a war crime, media reports say.

    "We've expressed our concern many times about the special rapporteur's views on dealing with that question," state department spokesman Robert Wood told a press briefing.

    "We've found the rapporteur's views to be anything but fair. We find them to be biased. We've made that very clear," he added.

    Wood said the United States was aware it could not prevent an investigation, but stressed that if there were going to be such types of investigations, they should be non-biased.

    In a report presented Monday to the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council, Falk, a U.S. academic and the world body's special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, called for a probe to ascertain whether Israeli forces could differentiate between civilian and military targets in Gaza.

    Failing to do so and launching the attacks was inherently unlawful, and would seem to constitute a war crime of the greatest magnitude under international law, Falk said in the report. He also pointed out that attacks were targeted at densely-populated areas.

    Radhika Coomaraswamy, U.N. undersecretary-general since April 2006 and former head of Sri Lanka Human Rights Commission and U.N. special investigator on violence against women, presented another report to the Council, also Monday, on human rights violations by Israel and the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) during the Gaza war.

    The 43-page report enumerated many verified human rights atrocities during the three-week war between Israel and Hamas that ended January 18, including one in which Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers used an 11-year-old Palestinian boy as a human shield.

    Mar 24, 2009 | 09:33AM

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    Default Re: Iran has 'penetrated' the Obama Administration

    April 7, 2009 - 8:22 PM
    Secret US-Iran meetings held in Geneva


    Image caption: Talks between Iran and the United States in Geneva are shrouded in secrecy (Keystone)

    Related stories


    Academics and specialists from Iran, the United States and Europe have been meeting regularly in the Swiss city of Geneva for high level but informal talks.

    Switzerland's Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey said she was aware of the ongoing contacts over the past few years but had not played an active role.

    "The talks are on a purely informal level and the foreign ministry is not involved," Calmy-Rey said on Tuesday.

    The meetings – known as the Track II process – involving academics from Iran and the US, European Union states, Switzerland, Arab countries and Israel have all been held in Geneva, according to an article in Tuesday's Le Temps newspaper.

    The Geneva-based daily says about 30 participants were present at the meetings which took place mainly in Geneva, but also in other European cities. The last talks were reportedly held from March 6-8.

    In total, up to 400 people have attended secret talks but are said to want to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals by the Iranian government.

    Washington and Tehran broke off diplomatic relations 30 years ago in the wake of Iran's Islamic revolution. Switzerland has been representing the interests of the US in Tehran since 1980.

    Mutual understanding
    Le Temps also quotes an unnamed professor who has participated in the secret talks as saying that the dialogue can help to further mutual understanding.

    He says participants can speak freely and are less tempted to take political stands in the closed-door meetings.

    Such meetings have taken place with the approval of Tehran and Washington, Le Temps believes.

    It says a person close to the Iranian government and an ambassador from another state were present at a gathering at the beginning of March.

    Nuclear
    The participants, which included strategic and nuclear experts and international relations specialists, reportedly discussed Iran's nuclear technology.

    Iran, under investigation by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), denies it is seeking a nuclear arsenal. It claims its uranium enrichment work is to supply energy for peaceful means.

    Last week, the IAEA welcomed a coordinated approach by the US and Russia to pursue diplomacy on Iran instead of policy focused isolating and threatening the Islamic republic.

    The US government in 2002 described Iran as part of the "axis of evil" and has not have direct relations for three decades. Relations could thaw under the administration of US President Barack Obama.

    Diplomatic overture
    Observers point out that it is too early to say whether informal talks will result in a deal but add that the discussions have widened the scope of contacts between the two countries.

    Obama last month called on Iran to renew dialogue. In Turkey on Monday, he said the US "is not, and will never be, at war with Islam".

    The leading reformist candidate in Iran's June presidential elections, Hossein Mousavi, has said he will negotiate with the US but that Iran will not give up its nuclear programme.

    Le Temps says the venue for informal meetings has moved away from Geneva for the time being, apparently because of increasing public interest in the talks. It is possible that the meetings will return to Geneva.

    "This could become even more likely if the diplomatic drive by the Obama administration is beginning to bear fruit," wrote Le Temps.

    swissinfo, Urs Geiser

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    Default Re: Iran has 'penetrated' the Obama Administration

    Iran president says ready for nuclear talks




    AP – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, second right, gestures, as he visits Iran's Fuel Manufacturing …


    By NASSER KARIMI, Associated Press Writer Nasser Karimi, Associated Press Writer 2 mins ago

    ISFAHAN, Iran – Iran's president said Thursday his country is open to talks with the U.S. and other countries over its nuclear program. But he insisted the talks must be based on respect for Iran's rights, suggesting the West should not try to force Tehran to stop uranium enrichment.

    Hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran would present a new proposal for negotiations, saying "conditions have changed" — an apparent reference to President Barack Obama's election and Iran's own progress in its nuclear program since previous talks with Iran were held last year. He did not elaborate on the proposal.

    Iran has been tepid in its response to Obama's offers of dialogue, but in recent days Ahmadinejad has appeared to warm up. Earlier this week, he said he was ready for dialogue if Obama was "honest" in his intentions.

    Ahmadinejad's speech Thursday made clear he saw a difference between Obama and former President George W. Bush, who took a tough stance on Iran.

    Ahmadinejad spoke during celebrations for Iran's Nuclear Day, in which a number of nuclear advances were announced.

    Among them, officials said the number of centrifuges at Iran's enrichment facility has increased to 7,000 — up from 6,000 announced in February — and that a new, more advanced type of centrifuge has been tested. Ahmadinejad also inaugurated a new plant for developing uranium fuel for a planned hard-water reactor.

    The United States announced Wednesday that it would join direct talks with Iran that Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia are seeking to convene. The talks aim to break a long deadlock over Iran's nuclear program, which the U.S. and its allies fear aims to build a nuclear weapon.

    Iran denies the charge.

    The Bush administration generally shunned such nuclear talks with Iran, though it sent a diplomat to the last round of talks last year.

    Ahmadinejad said past negotiations failed because "they were insisting on stopping our peaceful activities, they were trying to impose that."

    "The Iranian nation has always been for talks," Ahmadinejad said. But, he said, "dialogue has to be based on justice and respecting rights ... Justice means both sides are treated equally and bilateral rights are respected."

    The United Nations has demanded Iran halt uranium enrichment, a process that can produce nuclear fuel but also the material for a warhead. Iran has refused, saying it has a right to develop peaceful nuclear technology.

    In past talks, European nations backed by Washington offered a package of economic incentives for Tehran to suspend enrichment. Iran rejected it and countered with its own "package," but U.S. and European officials said its proposals were unclear.

    On Thursday, Ahmadinejad said Iran would adapt its proposals. "Today conditions have changed. We had presented a package. Given new world developments, new subjects need to be added to the package," he said, without elaborating.

    Thursday's ceremony celebrated the National Day of Nuclear Technology, the day in 2006 when Iran first enriched uranium at its facility in the town of Natanz. Since then, it is believed to have enriched enough uranium to build a bomb — though first the uranium would have to be more highly enriched, and it is not known if Iran has perfected such techniques. Iran says the enriched uranium is for its first domestically produced nuclear plant, due to open in several years.

    In the enrichment process, uranium gas is pumped into a series of thousands of centrifuges, which spin it at super-sonic speeds to remove impurities. Uranium enriched to a low degree is used to fuel a light-water nuclear reactor, but when enriched to a high degree it produces the basis of a warhead.

    Vice President Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, who is also the nuclear chief, announced to the gathering the increased number of centrifuges and the new, more advanced version.

    Ahmadinejad said the new centrifuge has been tested, and has several times more capacity more than the P-1 centrifuges currently used at Natanz. Neither gave details or said when it might be brought into use.

    Ahmadinejad also said the country has inaugurated a new facility producing uranium fuel for a heavy-water nuclear reactor that is under construction in the town of Arak and is expected to be completed in 2009 or 2010.

    Heavy-water reactors use a different process than light-water ones, but have their own nuclear proliferation concerns. The West fears Iran could eventually reprocess spent fuel from the heavy-water reactor to produce plutonium for a warhead.

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    Default Re: Iran has 'penetrated' the Obama Administration

    Apr 10, 2009 0:15 | Updated Apr 10, 2009 22:22
    France 'worried' by Iran's defiance


    By HERB KEINON AND AP

    A day after US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton downplayed Iran's claim that it had developed new uranium enrichment technology, France expressed its concern over the assertion.

    "These are worrying declarations," French Foreign Ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier told reporters. "We need to check the accuracy of the figures ... and for that we'll wait for the International Atomic Energy Agency."

    Chevallier urged Teheran to submit to a full IAEA inspection regime at all its nuclear sites and halt its uranium enrichment program.

    On Thursday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced advances in the country's nuclear program, including the inauguration of a new nuclear-related facility and the testing of two types of high-capacity centrifuges that he said would speed up Iran's enrichment capacity.

    He also claimed that there were 7,000 working centrifuges to enrich nuclear fuel at Iran's Natanz facility.

    Clinton said Thursday night the declaration would not affect the US decision to resume participation in international talks on the Islamic republic's nuclear program.

    "We don't know what to believe about the Iranian program," she said, adding that the US government did not "attribute any particular meaning" to Iran's statement with respect to the negotiations.

    An official in the Prime Minister's Office said Thursday night that Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons "demands everyone's attention" and "must be of grave concern to every thinking individual."

    The comment came two days after US Vice President Joe Biden said in a CNN interview that it would be "ill advised" for Israel to launch a military strike against Iran. Biden added that he did not believe Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would take such a step.

    The Obama administration announced Wednesday that it would participate directly in group talks set to start Saturday in Geneva with Iran over its nuclear program, another significant shift from president George W. Bush's policy toward a nation he labeled part of an axis of evil.

    The State Department said the United States would be at the table "from now on" when senior diplomats from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany meet with Iranian officials to discuss the nuclear issue.

    "We believe that pursuing very careful engagement on a range of issues that affect our interests and the interests of the world with Iran makes sense," Clinton told reporters. "There is nothing more important than trying to convince Iran to cease its efforts to obtain a nuclear weapon."

    Meanwhile, the Japanese newspaper Nikkei reported Thursday that several Western intelligence organizations were investigating whether a ship that recently traveled from North Korea to Iran had several dozen tons of enriched uranium hidden in its cargo.

    According to the report, the suspected move was seen by some intelligence officials as an effort to hide traces of the highly enriched uranium program to develop nuclear weapons, which the US believes North Korea is secretly pursuing.

    According to one Western intelligence source, the ship in question left North Korea last December and traveled through the Indian Ocean. The cargo was then shipped to a location near Teheran.

    "The bulk of the [transferred] materials appears to be medium-level enriched uranium," the source said. "It could be further enriched to weapons grade in Iranian facilities."

    Western countries fear that there could be some kind of enrichment agreement between North Korea and Iran.

    Ahmadinejad, meanwhile, said Thursday that Iran was open to talks offered by the US and other countries over its nuclear program, if the negotiations were based on "respect" for its rights.

    Speaking at a ceremony to inaugurate the new facility producing uranium fuel for the planned heavy-water nuclear reactor in Isfahan, Ahmadinejad said that past negotiations had fallen apart because of the West's demands that Iran rein in its nuclear program.

    He said "the Iranian nation has always been for talks," but that negotiations must "be based on justice and respecting rights."

    The US and its allies have expressed concerns that Iran could reprocess spent fuel from the heavy-water reactor into plutonium for building a warhead.

    The process is distinct from uranium enrichment, which produces fuel for a light-water reactor. Highly enriched uranium can be used to build a warhead as well. Iran's enrichment program presents more immediate concerns to the West than the hard-water reactor, because it is far more advanced.

    The Defense Ministry said in a statement it was closely following the developments, stressing that the inauguration of the new plant reinforces the need for the world to closely monitor Iran's nuclear program.

    The inauguration ceremony came a day after the US announced it would participate directly in group talks with Iran over its nuclear program, another significant shift from former US president George W. Bush's policy toward a nation he labeled part of an axis of evil.

    Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia announced Wednesday they were inviting Iran to a new session of negotiations aimed at breaking a deadlock in the talks.

    Iran has not yet replied to the invitation.

    Following the US decision to be a full participant in talks with Iranian officials held by senior diplomats from the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany, a senior adviser to Ahmadinejad said Thursday that the Islamic republic would decide on a response to the overture after evaluating the details.

    "We will review it and then decide about it," Ali Akbar Javanfekr told Reuters.

    China urged the Islamic republic to pursue negotiations.

    "We are glad to see an improvement in relations between the United States and Iran," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a press conference in Beijing on Thursday. "We encourage Iran and other parties to have active contacts to seek an all-round, appropriate and long-term solution to the Iran nuclear issue."

    The State Department had said that the US would be at the table "from now on" when senior P5+1 meet with Iranian officials.

    Clinton said the United States would now be a "full participant" rather than an observer in the talks, which include it and the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council - Britain, China, France and Russia - along with Germany.

    "We believe that pursuing very careful engagement on a range of issues that affect our interests and the interests of the world with Iran makes sense," Clinton said. "There is nothing more important than trying to convince Iran to cease its efforts to obtain a nuclear weapon."

    State Department spokesman Robert Wood said the decision was conveyed to representatives of Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia by the third-ranking US diplomat William Burns at a Wednesday meeting in London.

    "The US remains committed to the P5+1 process; what is different is that the US will join P5+1 discussions with Iran from now on," Wood said, adding that Washington was hopeful Iran would attend.

    Wood said the administration wants a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear issue and believes that requires "a willingness to engage directly with each other on the basis of mutual respect and mutual interests."

    The invitation is to be sent to the Iranians by European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana. In a statement the group said it welcomed the "new direction" of US policy toward Iran. No time frame was given for a date of the meeting.

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    Default Re: Iran has 'penetrated' the Obama Administration

    US Weighing Punishing Israel if it Attacks Iran




    Having taken military action against Iran off the table, the Obama administration is considering ways of punishing Israel if it attacks Iran to end its nuclear arms program (and prevent a second Holocaust).

    In other words, having failed to contain Iran, the United States is concentrating on restraining Israel.

    Administration contingency plans include condemnation of Israel, support for a United Nations Security Council resolution that could include sanctions on Israel, and suspending or seriously cutting military aid to the Jewish State.

    One of President Obama's closest foreign policy advisers, National Security Council member Samantha Power, is a proponent of ending military aid to Israel in order to force it to negotiate with Iran's Palestinian Islamist proxy, Hamas, and withdraw from all lands taken during the Six-Day War of June 1967. Power also advocates shifting aid to a Palestinian state. Overall, she views Israel as a liability and a historic mistake, in line with the European left position (and that of old-line, right-of-center, American isolationists and anti-Semites). Her antidemocratic admirers in the Democratic Party's (Hillary-hating) left wing agree and are eager for an opportunity to paint Israel as a Jewish North Korea (although they actually have more sympathy for North Korea than for Israel).



    The big question is how the Obama administration would react if Iran retaliated against Israel indirectly as well as directly--by making good on its repeated threats to attack U.S. forces in the Middle East and shut down the strategic, 29 mile-wide Strait of Hormuz, through which an estimated 20% of the world's crude oil is transported by tanker ships. Would the U.S. fight back with real ferocity or respond in a limited way while blaming Israel for preemptively attacking Iran and appealing to "the Muslim world" for "understanding?"

    One wonders how the Apologizer-in-Chief would react.

    Holocaust-denying Iran and its Lebanese Islamist Shiite proxy, the Hitlerian Hezbollah, have also vowed to "burn Tel Aviv" if attacked by either Israel or the U.S. Jerusalem's clerical fascist foes have amassed arsenals of ballistic missiles and rockets to bombard Tel Aviv and Haifa. Israel's political-military leadership must be taking this into consideration; a "six-hour war," designed to eliminate Iranian missile installations and nuclear sites could be the result.

    Three decades of attempts to appease and accommodate Islamist Iran have led to the present countdown to conflict. Obama's so-called diplomatic surge--which transcends appeasement in downgrading and ultimately abandoning Israel in order to try to strike a "grand bargain" with Iran for pacification of the Middle East--has put Jerusalem on a political collision course with Washington.

    Israelis are understandably stunned by the developments. Prime Minister Netanyahu's late, great mentor, Menahem Begin, would not recognize today's political landscape; his late, Labor Party rivals--Golda Meir comes to mind--would also be shocked by the situation. Time was, no Israeli expected Iran--a predominantly Muslim, non-Arab ally of the U.S. and tacit ally of Israel--to emerge as the number-one existential threat to the Jewish State.

    But that was before the catastrophic Carter administration betrayed Iran's modernizing monarch, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, in a craven, failed attempt to hop aboard the Islamist bandwagon.

    Jimmy Carter betrayed the Shah; Barack Obama is betraying Israel--already. His "engagement" drive is giving Iran time to achieve its nuclear/missile objectives.

    EDITOR'S NOTE: About Obama's apologizing to the world and bowing to the Saudi King--the left loves it. The more the President apologizes for alleged American arrogance and other supposed sins, the more popular he is with the Democratic Party's left wing. The deeper he bows, the more they appreciate him. The left believes it is high time that America was brought to its knees, forced to submit to the Third World. Like the radical right, the left makes common cause with Islamism in order to cut America down to size and set Israel up for a final solution. Israel is especially despised for its success and power; its defeat is seen as paving the way for the disappearance of the Jews as a people. Like the failed Russian revolutionaries of the late 1800s, the pro-pogrom Norodniki, who sought to ally with Russia's notoriously anti-Semitic peasants, today's left believes that "Jewish blood will oil the wheels of revolution."

    Most Jewish Norodniki left the movement because of its anti-Semitism. Will American Jews leave the Democratic Party when the Obama administration's betrayal of Israel becomes too obvious to ignore?

    posted by Confidential Reporter @ 1:26 PM

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    Default Re: Iran has 'penetrated' the Obama Administration

    Quote Originally Posted by vector7 View Post
    Having taken military action against Iran off the table, the Obama administration is considering ways of punishing Israel if it attacks Iran to end its nuclear arms program (and prevent a second Holocaust).
    Holy freaking cow...

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    Default Re: Iran has 'penetrated' the Obama Administration

    As the U.S. Retreats, Iran Fills the Void


    By AMIR TAHERI


    Convinced that the Obama administration is preparing to retreat from the Middle East, Iran's Khomeinist regime is intensifying its goal of regional domination. It has targeted six close allies of the U.S.: Egypt, Lebanon, Bahrain, Morocco, Kuwait and Jordan, all of which are experiencing economic and/or political crises.


    Iranian strategists believe that Egypt is heading for a major crisis once President Hosni Mubarak, 81, departs from the political scene. He has failed to impose his eldest son Gamal as successor, while the military-security establishment, which traditionally chooses the president, is divided. Iran's official Islamic News Agency has been conducting a campaign on that theme for months. This has triggered a counter-campaign against Iran by the Egyptian media.

    Last month, Egypt announced it had crushed a major Iranian plot and arrested 68 people. According to Egyptian media, four are members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Tehran's principal vehicle for exporting its revolution.

    Seven were Palestinians linked to the radical Islamist movement Hamas; one was a Lebanese identified as "a political agent from Hezbollah" by the Egyptian Interior Ministry. Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah, claimed these men were shipping arms to Hamas in Gaza.

    The arrests reportedly took place last December, during a crackdown against groups trying to convert Egyptians to Shiism. The Egyptian Interior Ministry claims this proselytizing has been going on for years. Thirty years ago, Egyptian Shiites numbered a few hundred. Various estimates put the number now at close to a million, but they are said to practice taqiyah (dissimulation), to hide their new faith.

    But in its campaign for regional hegemony, Tehran expects Lebanon as its first prize. Iran is spending massive amounts of cash on June's general election. It supports a coalition led by Hezbollah, and including the Christian ex-general Michel Aoun. Lebanon, now in the column of pro-U.S. countries, would shift to the pro-Iran column.

    In Bahrain, Tehran hopes to see its allies sweep to power through mass demonstrations and terrorist operations. Bahrain's ruling clan has arrested scores of pro-Iran militants but appears more vulnerable than ever. King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has contacted Arab heads of states to appeal for "urgent support in the face of naked threats," according to the Bahraini media.

    The threats became sensationally public in March. In a speech at Masshad, Iran's principal "holy city," Ali Akbar Nateq-Nuri, a senior aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, described Bahrain as "part of Iran." Morocco used the ensuing uproar as an excuse to severe diplomatic relations with Tehran. The rupture came after months of tension during which Moroccan security dismantled a network of pro-Iran militants allegedly plotting violent operations.

    Iran-controlled groups have also been uncovered in Kuwait and Jordan. According to Kuwaiti media, more than 1,000 alleged Iranian agents were arrested and shipped back home last winter. According to the Tehran media, Kuwait is believed vulnerable because of chronic parliamentary disputes that have led to governmental paralysis.

    As for Jordan, Iranian strategists believe the kingdom, where Palestinians are two-thirds of the population, is a colonial creation and should disappear from the map -- opening the way for a single state covering the whole of Palestine. Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have both described the division of Palestine as "a crime and a tragedy."

    Arab states are especially concerned because Tehran has succeeded in transcending sectarian and ideological divides to create a coalition that includes Sunni movements such as Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, sections of the Muslim Brotherhood, and even Marxist-Leninist and other leftist outfits that share Iran's anti-Americanism.

    Information published by Egyptian and other Arab intelligence services, and reported in the Egyptian and other Arab media, reveal a sophisticated Iranian strategy operating at various levels. The outer circle consists of a number of commercial companies, banks and businesses active in various fields and employing thousands of locals in each targeted country. In Egypt, for example, police have uncovered more than 30 such Iranian "front" companies, according to the pan-Arab daily newspaper Asharq Alawsat. In Syria and Lebanon, the numbers reportedly run into hundreds.

    In the next circle, Iranian-financed charities offer a range of social and medical services and scholarships that governments often fail to provide. Another circle consists of "cultural" centers often called Ahl e Beit (People of the House) supervised by the offices of the supreme leader. These centers offer language classes in Persian, English and Arabic, Islamic theology, Koranic commentaries, and traditional philosophy -- alongside courses in information technology, media studies, photography and filmmaking.

    Wherever possible, the fourth circle is represented by branches of Hezbollah operating openly. Where that's not possible, clandestine organizations do the job, either alone or in conjunction with Sunni radical groups.

    The Khomeinist public diplomacy network includes a half-dozen satellite television and radio networks in several languages, more than 100 newspapers and magazines, a dozen publishing houses, and thousands of Web sites and blogs controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The network controls thousands of mosques throughout the region where preachers from Iran, or trained by Iranians, disseminate the Khomeinist revolutionary message.

    Tehran has also created a vast network of non-Shiite fellow travelers within the region's political and cultural elites. These politicians and intellectuals may be hostile to Khomeinism on ideological grounds -- but they regard it as a powerful ally in a common struggle against the American "Great Satan."

    Khomeinist propaganda is trying to portray Iran as a rising "superpower" in the making while the United States is presented as the "sunset" power. The message is simple: The Americans are going, and we are coming.

    Tehran plays a patient game. Wherever possible, it is determined to pursue its goals through open political means, including elections. With pro-American and other democratic groups disheartened by the perceived weakness of the Obama administration, Tehran hopes its allies will win all the elections planned for this year in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

    "There is this perception that the new U.S. administration is not interested in the democratization strategy," a senior Lebanese political leader told me. That perception only grows as President Obama calls for an "exit strategy" from Afghanistan and Iraq. Power abhors a vacuum, which the Islamic Republic of Iran is only too happy to fill.

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    Default Re: Iran has 'penetrated' the Obama Administration

    Obama's SOS to Gulf emirs: Invest in US and global economies

    DEBKAfile Exclusive Report
    May 7, 2009, 9:33 PM (GMT+02:00)

    A massive petrodollar influx would help

    A secret American delegation was sent by US President Barack Obama this week to solicit Saudi Arabian and other Gulf rulers for hundreds of billions of petro-dollars for investment in US and global economic stimulus plans, DEBKAfile's exclusive Gulf sources report.

    They came away empty-handed.


    The chilly welcome received by the delegation, which met finance ministers and the heads of banks in Riyadh and the five emirates, was generated by wide disapproval of the US president's policy of engagement with Iran. Two other US missions had just been and gone, headed by defense secretary Robert Gates and special adviser to the US secretary of state for South Asia and Gulf affairs, Dennis Ross. Both failed to allay Gulf anger and trepidation over this policy.

    Our Gulf sources report that the third delegation, which unlike the first two was unannounced, argued that since US economic recovery was not expected to turn the corner before 2011, Gulf investors still had a unique opportunity to partner the US in helping the world economy out of its doldrums. The general message was that if they Gulf rulers fail to invest in US and international markets at this point, they would miss out on the rewards of the recovery.

    Not all the data presented to the Gulf officials matched the figures published in Washington and other western countries. They were informed on the quiet that Federal Reserve Governor Ben Benanke had been "premature" in his optimistic forecast of "slightly positive" growth in the second half of this year, particularly in the fields of banking and construction, and a recovery that will "strengthen" next year - even though US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Wednesday, May 6, it was "a good, independent, credible forecast."

    The Gulf states were urged to help the global economic back on its feet because, according to US data, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) would by the year 2018 rank as the world's fifth-largest economy after the US, China, Japan and the EU. “As major players in the world economy, you cannot stand on the sidelines,” they were told.

    President Obama's discreet approach figured in general terms at the GCC meeting of heads of state and finance ministers meeting in Riyadh Wednesday, May 6, which was convened to establish a regional central bank. But no decisions were taken.

    According to our sources, the negative vibes between the Gulf and Washington over the Obama administration's policy of favoring Tehran have made these Arab rulers doubly wary of responding to the US president's appeal for a Gulf stake in US and global economic recovery

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    Default Re: Iran has 'penetrated' the Obama Administration

    Obama's charm offensive for radical rulers abandons Israel to Iranian threat

    DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis
    April 18, 2009


    The new US president's dramatic global policy steps have easily dwarfed the knotty Israeli-Palestinian peace issue handed down from one US president to the next over decades. Barack Obama's outstretched hand to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Iran's best friend in the Americas, on April 17, at the summit of American leaders in Port of Prince, made the talk surrounding Special Middle East Envoy George Mitchell's mission to Jerusalem and Ramallah this week sound eerily like voices from the past.

    After talking to Mitchell, Israel's prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and defense minister Ehud Barak tried the usual bromides: They protested that Jerusalem's ties with Washington and Jerusalem were as strong as ever and they would work together toward an agreed solution for the Palestinian problem.

    But those words were lost in the black Iranian cloud hanging over the relations.

    Barack Obama has set his sights and heart on friendship with the rulers of the Islamic Republic of Iran and their radical allies. The name and policies of the occupant of the prime minister's office in Jerusalem do not matter - any more than Tehran's determination to complete its nuclear weapons program in defiance of the world, or even its first A-bomb test in a year or two, for which intelligence sources report Tehran is already getting set.

    Obama's Washington believes America can live with a nuclear-armed Iran – a decision probably taken first under the Bush presidency. But Israel cannot, and may have no option but to part ways with the Obama administration on this point. As a nuclear power, Iran will be able to bend Jerusalem to the will of its enemies, make it unconditionally give Syria the Golan plus extra pieces of territory, tamely accept a Hamas-dominated Palestinian West Bank louring over its heartland and let the Lebanese Hizballah terrorize Galilee in the north at will. All three would make hay under Iran's nuclear shield, while Tehran lords it over the region in the role of regional power conferred by Obama's grace and favor.

    In no time, Israel would be stripped of most of its defenses.

    Israel is not the only nervous country in the region. But Hosni Mubarak of Egypt is the only Middle East leader brave enough to stick his neck out, albeit with Saudi backing, and stand up to the Iranian peril, direct and through Hizballah.

    He has also outspokenly criticized Washington's courtship of the revolutionary Islamic republic.

    Cairo's Al Ahram Saturday, April 18, accused Iran, Syria, Qatar, Hizballah, Hamas, al Jazeera TV of a conspiracy to overthrow Egyptian government.

    But the US president is not daunted by the radicalism or enmity of his new friends or the loss of old ones. At the Summit of All Americas, Obama greeted Hugo Chavez 24 hours after the Venezuelan ruler said: "The United States Empire is on its way down and will be finished in the near future, inshallah!"

    Using the Muslim blessing to underline the wish for America's downfall was no bar to the smile and handshake; neither was Venezuela's recent severance of its ties with Israel for no provocation or its willingness to host a delegation of Hizballah (internationally branded a terrorist organization) in Caracas.

    What is relevant to Obama is Hugo Chavez's role as co-architect of the joint Russian-Iranian campaign to displace American influence in the southern hemisphere. The US president has opted for winning America's enemies over with smiles and embraces rather than punishing them like George W. Bush.

    Obama continues to woo Bashar Assad apace despite his blunt refusal to loosen his strategic ties with Tehran or stop supporting the Lebanese Shiite group [with arms] because Hizballah is dedicated to fighting Israel, - as he is quoted as saying in the pro-Hizballah Lebanese publication al Akhbar on April 17.

    For the first time in years, the administration this week sent a high-ranking delegation to Syria's independence day celebrations at Washington's Mandarin Oriental Hotel, headed by Jeffrey Feltman, former ambassador and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs.

    The thaw in relations has gone so far that some Washington wags are calling Assad's capital "Syria on the Potomac."

    The American storm besetting the Middle East leaves Israel's most vital interests way behind. The condition Netanyahu put before Mitchell for progress in peacemaking - that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state, which was instantly rejected by Palestinian Authority leaders – aroused scant attention in Washington or anywhere else.

    As Netanyahu will find when he meets Obama in Washington early next month, Israel is no longer a prime factor in US global policy, because America has fundamentally reshuffled its Middle East allegiances and alliances. Even Tzipi Livni at the helm in Jerusalem would not divert Obama from his détente with Ahmadinejad, Assad and Chavez.

    To gain points with his new friends, Obama's White House is not above nudging Israel to please them. This week, his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel told Jewish leaders whom he met in Washington that if Israel wants America's help for thwarting Iran's nuclear program, it must first start evacuating West Bank settlements.

    This was of course cynical claptrap.

    Even if every single settlement were to be removed and Israel lined up with Obama's quest for a Palestinian state alongside Israel, the US president would not drop Tehran or help Israel strike Iran's nuclear facilities.

    He has already ceded Tehran's uranium enrichment program (and therefore its drive for nuclear arms), and would forcefully oppose any Israeli military action.


    US defense secretary Robert Gates indicated as much this week when he went to almost absurd lengths to play down the Iranian nuclear threat and Israel's ability to handle it.

    So what options are left to Israel at this juncture?

    1. To bow under the Obama tempest until it blows over in keeping with the old proverb which says that trees bowing in the wind remain standing. This would entail going along with US acceptance of Iran as a nuclear power. The question is will Israel's trees still be standing when the storm has passed and, if so, in what strategic environment?

    2. To follow the example set by Likud's first prime minister Menahem Begin in 1981. He stood up to Ronald Reagan's fierce objections and sent the Israeli Air force to smash the Iraqi nuclear reactor before it was operational. Saddam Hussein never rebuilt the facility. By following in Begin's footsteps before it is too late, Netanyahu would change the rules of the game regionally and globally.

    (The London Times reported from Jerusalem Saturday that the Israeli military is preparing itself to launch a massive aerial assault on Iran's nuclear facilities within days of being given the go-ahead by its new government. Two civil defense drills have been scheduled to prepare the population for missiles that could fall on any part of the country without warning.)

    3. Israel could go for a more modest target, one of Iran's faithful surrogates – Syria or Hizballah – to warn Washington that a larger operation is in store for their boss. If the Gaza offensive against Hamas last January was meant to send this message, it failed. Hamas is still the dominant Palestinian power and Barack Obama was not swayed from forging ahead with his policies of rapprochement with Iran and other radical world leaders.

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