Archive | November 15th, 2013

Putin calls Assad on Geneva-2, chemical weapons, persecution of Christians

Russian President Vladimir Putin (RIA Novosti/Alexei Druzhinin)Russian President Vladimir Putin (RIA Novosti/Alexei Druzhinin)

For the first time since 2011, the Russian and Syrian presidents spoke on the phone to discuss developments in the Syria crisis. Vladimir Putin called Bashar Assad about the Geneva-2 peace talks and the destruction of Syria’s chemical stockpile.

President Putin called President Assad to talk about the preparations for the Syria peace talks, and to share Russia’s concerns over the reports of a surge in extremist persecution of religious minorities in Syria, the Kremlin press service said on Thursday.

The Russian President said he hopes that major Syrian opposition groups will take “a constructive approach” and participate in the peace conference in Geneva.

Putin told Assad he was “satisfied” with Syria’s cooperation with the UN and the OPCW (International Chemical Weapons Watchdog).

The presidents discussed the procedure for bringing the Syrian chemical arsenal under international control and its ultimate destruction.

Putin said he was concerned with “purposeful persecution of Christians and other religious minorities” by extremist groups in Syria. He said Russia hopes the Syrian government “will do everything possible to relieve the suffering of the civilian population and to restore the peace.”

Assad thanked the Russian government for “aiding the Syrian people,” and the two presidents confirmed they intend to foster bilateral relations further.

The Geneva-2 peace talks, brokered by the US and Russia, have not yet been scheduled officially, although they were tentatively planned for November 23. Syrian official media recently said the date has been set for December 12, but this has not been officially confirmed.

While Russia has been pushing the international community for months to start the talks, and the Syrian government has repeatedly said it is ready to participate without preconditions, Western powers are still struggling to bring the opposition groups to the negotiation table.

Recently, the leader of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, Ahmad Jarba, told the Sunday Telegraph the group will agree to take part in talks on condition that the West ensures humanitarian corridors to the opposition strongholds in Syria. Previously, Jarba rejected the possibility of attending the Geneva-2, demanding that President Bashar Assad must go.

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Palestinian kids die in Nazi settler’s


Palestinian boys play with toy guns by the window of a house in Gaza City. (File photo)

Palestinian boys play with toy guns by the window of a house in Gaza City. (File photo)
At least five Palestinian children have suffocated after Israeli settlers burned down their house in a village, north of the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Palestine News Network (PNN) reported on Thursday that the incident took place when a group of settlers attacked the house of the Palestinian villagers, breaking its windows and setting it on fire.

The settlers also wrote racist words on the walls.

The report added that three other adults suffered injuries in the brutal incident.

Such attacks are common across the occupied West Bank as Israeli settlers have on numerous occasions desecrated mosques and vandalized Palestinian cemeteries.

Israeli troops usually refuse to intervene to prevent such acts of aggression.

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Quitting Over Syria


Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff / Flickr

The release of the White House “Government Assessment” on August 30, providing the purported evidence to support a bombing attack on Syria, defused a conflict with the intelligence community that had threatened to become public through the mass resignation of a significant number of analysts. The intelligence community’s consensus view on the status of the Syrian chemical-weapons program was derived from a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) completed late last year and hurriedly updated this past summer to reflect the suspected use of chemical weapons against rebels and civilians.

The report maintained that there were some indications that the regime was using chemicals, while conceding that there was no conclusive proof. There was considerable dissent from even that equivocation, including by many analysts who felt that the evidence for a Syrian government role was subject to interpretation and possibly even fabricated. Some believed the complete absence of U.S. satellite intelligence on the extensive preparations that the government would have needed to make in order to mix its binary chemical system and deliver it on target was particularly disturbing. These concerns were reinforced by subsequent UN reports suggesting that the rebels might have access to their own chemical weapons. The White House, meanwhile, considered the somewhat ambiguous conclusion of the NIE to be unsatisfactory, resulting in considerable pushback against the senior analysts who had authored the report.

In a scenario unfortunately reminiscent of the lead up to Iraq, the National Security Council tasked the various intelligence agencies to beat the bushes and come up with more corroborative information. Israel obligingly provided what was reported to be interceptions of telephone conversations implicating the Syrian army in the attack, but it was widely believed that the information might have been fabricated by Tel Aviv, meaning that bad intelligence was being used to confirm other suspect information, a phenomenon known to analysts as “circular reporting.” Other intelligence cited in passing by the White House on the trajectories and telemetry of rockets that may have been used in the attack was also somewhat conjectural and involved weapons that were not, in fact, in the Syrian arsenal, suggesting that they were actually fired by the rebels. Also, traces of Sarin were not found in most of the areas being investigated, nor on one of the two rockets identified. Whether the victims of the attack suffered symptoms of Sarin was also disputed, and no autopsies were performed to confirm the presence of the chemical. 

With all evidence considered, the intelligence community found itself with numerous skeptics in the ranks, leading to sharp exchanges with the Director of Central Intelligence John Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. A number of analysts threatened to resign as a group if their strong dissent was not noted in any report released to the public, forcing both Brennan and Clapper to back down. This led to the White House issuing its own assessment, completely divorcing the process from any direct connection to the intelligence community. The spectacle of CIA Director George Tenet sitting behind Secretary of State Colin Powell in the United Nations, providing him with credibility as Powell told a series of half-truths, would not be repeated.

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Amid row with US, Cairo hosts high-level Russian delegation


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Egypt’s FM downplays significance of visit, the first of its kind in years, which comes after Washington slashes military aid

Times of Israel

Egypt’s foreign minister sought to downplay speculation of a major foreign policy shift, saying during a rare top-level Russian visit on Thursday that Cairo wants to boost ties with Moscow and not replace the United States as its key ally.

The remarks by Nabil Fahmy came after talks with his visiting counterpart Sergei Lavrov, who is leading the Russian delegation to Cairo. It’s Moscow’s highest-level visit to Egypt in years and includes Russia’s defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, whose presence has set off rumors of an arms deal in the making.

Fahmy said he, Lavrov, Shigu and Egyptian Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi — who led the popularly-backed coup in July that ousted Egypt’s Islamist President Mohammed Morsi — would jointly meet later Thursday.

Depicting the meeting as an “activation” of existing ties, Fahmy said Egypt hopes for cooperation “in multiple fields” because of “Russia’s significance in the international arena.”

“We seek to energize a relation that is already in existence,” Fahmy told reporters.

When asked whether Russia would replace the U.S. as his country’s chief ally, Fahmy said Egypt was not looking for a “substitute for anyone” and that Russia was too significant for such a role.

“Russia has had a relationship with the Egyptian people for dozens of years,” Lavrov said, speaking through an interpreter. He described Thursday’s meeting as “historic.”

The Russian visit comes as Egypt’s relationship with the United States — Cairo’s main foreign backer and benefactor since the 1970s — has become increasingly strained in the wake of the military’s ouster of Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president.

Lavrov also said Russia’s supports a return of stability to Egypt — a reference to the turmoil roiling the country since the 2011 uprising that ousted staunch U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak.

“Russia would like to see a stable Egypt with a prosperous economy and an efficient political system,” he said, offering support for a transition-to-democracy plan by Egypt’s military-backed rulers, including an upcoming referendum on new constitutional amendments.

The vote is first step in the interim government’s fast track plan is aimed at returning to democratic rule by next year.

Egypt was Moscow’s closest Arab ally for two decades, starting in the 1950s, with the Soviet Union throwing its weights behind the late nationalist leader Gamal Abdel-Nasser in his ambitious drive to modernize the Arab nation and create a well-armed military at the height of the Cold War and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

But in 1972, then-President Anwar Sadat threw out thousands of Soviet military advisers and realigned the country’s foreign policy, taking his nation closer to the United States soon after the 1973 Mideast war.

Egypt’s relations with the Soviet Union took a marked turn for the worse after Moscow’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, but relations have steadily improved in recent years, with hundreds of thousands of Russians vacationing in Egypt every year.

The United States last month froze a big chunk of its annual $1.3 billion military aid to Egypt. The move angered the Egyptians and prompted speculations in the local media that Egypt intended to sign a multi-billion dollar weapons deal with Russia. But there has so far been no official word from Cairo or Moscow on such a deal.

The Interfax news agency recently quoted an unidentified official of the state Rosoboron export arms trader as saying that there are no plans to sign big contracts during the Cairo talks.

It said Egypt has shown interest in purchasing Russian air defense missile systems and MiG-29 fighter jets, combat helicopters and other weapons. But it quoted an unnamed official dealing with arms trade as saying that no big deals are expected in the near future as Egypt currently can’t afford it.

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I$raHell’s culture of walls

Berlin and Israel walls

By Lawrence Davidson

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has announced his government’s intention to construct another “separation barrier” – a large fortified wall or fence referred to by Palestinians as an apartheid wall – “between the West Bank and Jordan after completing walls on the Egyptian and Syrian borders”. Netanyahu is doing this for a variety of reasons, such as to keep Arab and other non-Jewish refugees from coming into Israel and, in the case of the West bank-Jordan wall, to symbolize Israel’s ongoing control of the area.

Israel’s walls

The original Zionist rationale for the state of Israel was that it would serve as a place of safety for the world’s Jews as anti-Semitism played out its allegedly inevitable horrid destiny. Well, the problem today is that the policies of Israel are the major motivators of worldwide anti-Semitism and, because of these same policies, there is no place in the world more potentially dangerous for Jews than Israel. Hence the Israeli fondness for walls. It may very well be that when all of this wall construction is finished, Israel will look like the world’s largest ghetto.

Within their walls, Israel’s leaders are busy making their ghetto religiously pure. Just this week buildings occupied by 15,000 East Jerusalem Arabs were scheduled for demolition. Those serving the notices to the 200 residential blocs had to be “escorted by Israeli soldiers”. Thus, while the walls discourage the non-Jews outside from breaking in, the home demolitions (along with a host of other nasty policies) encourage the inside non-Jews to get out.

It makes not a bit of difference that all this wall building, to say nothing of the accompanying ethnic cleansing, is illegal. The Israelis don’t care. They make their own “law” based on their military capacity to enforce their will, and their perverted psychology – the belief that their past suffering (at least that of the Jews of Europe) somehow justifies imposing suffering on others.

Some related walls

Historically, what sort of company does Israel keep with all this wall building? Here are some examples set down in chronological order:

The walls of Jericho

Jericho is a West Bank town that, according to the archaeological evidence, has existed for about 9,000 years. It is also a place dear to the hearts of militant Zionists, for it was there, according to the biblical narrative, that the ancient Israelites began the first bloody conquest of Palestine. According to the legend (but not the archaeological evidence), Joshua led an ancient Israelite army against Jericho and, on God’s orders, marched around the town walls six times blowing rams’ horns as they went. On the seventh revolution, Jericho’s defensive walls “came tumbling down”. Then Joshua burned down the town and, again on God’s orders, slaughtered every man, woman, child and animal too (except for the family of the woman Rahab, who had betrayed the city by hiding Israelite spies). Finally, Joshua placed a curse on anyone who might try to rebuild the place. From a Zionist perspective, this may mark one of the few times that tearing down walls seemed preferable to building them up.

Wailing or Western Wall

The Wailing, or Western, Wall was not a defence structure. Rather, it was part of a courtyard adjacent to the Second Temple. The courtyard was originally part of an expansion programme begun in about 19 BCE during the reign of Herod the Great. The Second Temple was eventually destroyed, along with much of the rest of Jerusalem, by the Romans in 70 CE. The Western Wall is all that is left. This destruction established the fact that it was not only Israelite armies that could bring down other people’s walls. Gentiles could do it too.

Nonetheless, this provenance has made the Western Wall “the most sacred site” in the Jewish religion. When the Israelis took Arab Jerusalem in 1967 they turned the sacred site into a nationalist shrine. From that point on, there has been an unspoken assumption among militant Zionists that this holy of holies could stay Jewish only if the subsequently created barrier walls, and their accompanying policies of ethnic cleansing, stood firm. That makes the “separation barriers” the real symbols of modern-day Israel.

Ghetto walls

In modern times some walls have taken on a sinister character for Jews. The archetypal modern ghetto wall was constructed by the Nazis in 1940 to enclose the Jewish quarter of Warsaw, Poland. It was made of brick, stood about 10 feet high and ran for 11 miles. Like the Western Wall, only a fragment of this ghetto wall survives.

While Zionists consider any comparison between their “separation barriers” and the walls that separated out Europe’s Jews anathema, some other very knowledgable Jews see a connection. For instance, Sygmunt Bauman, a well-known Polish-Jewish sociologist who once taught in Israel but now lives in England, has likened Israel’s present-day barriers to those that surrounded the Warsaw ghetto. He believes that successive Israeli governments have not been interested in peace and “a younger Israeli generation was being raised on the understanding that the state of war and military alert was natural and unavoidable”. That would certainly fit well with a culture of walls.

The Berlin Wall 

Comparisons have also been made between Israel’s “separation barriers” and the infamous Berlin Wall. Constructed by communist East Germany starting in 1961, the Berlin Wall separated the East German population from West Berlin. The Berlin Wall ran for some 87 miles and at its completion was almost 12 feet high. On its eastern side it was paralleled by a 110-yard “death strip” offering a “clear field of fire for the wall guards”. By comparison, the Israeli wall will at completion run over 400 miles, be 26 feet high, and be paralleled by a 200-foot “exclusion zone”.

Like the Berlin Wall, Israel’s walls are designed to separate populations, but unlike the one in Berlin, the Israeli version also facilitates the systematic ethnic cleansing of elements of the Palestinian population. It is perhaps for this reason that the musician Roger Waters, a strong supporter of the boycott Israel movement, called the Israeli separation barriers “100 times more horrifying than the Berlin Wall”.


Walls on the ground reflect walls that already exist in the mind. The Zionists came to Palestine with a wall already fixed in their minds. That wall existed as a conviction that anti-Semitism was inevitable and eternal. Only possessing their own state could protect the Jews from this incessant danger. Subsequent Palestinian resistance was almost instinctively seen by the Zionists as anti-Semitism. In time this led to 26-foot walls, which one can understand as the physical manifestations of the mental wall all Zionists carry with them. In this sense a culture of walls comes naturally to the Zionists.

From a historical perspective, no physical wall can be permanent. Things change and walls crumble. The walls in our minds might prove more resistant to erosion.They can be very deep rooted and passed on for generations. Yet even these barriers eventually give way. That suggests that Israel’s culture of walls will someday be breached. It is just a matter of time and suffering.

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ADL Will Resume Lobbying For Iran Sanctions


The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which previously said it would comply with the Obama Administration’s request of Jewish groups to halt their lobbying for new Iran sanctions while nuclear negotiations persist, changed its stance on the issue and called for additional sanctions.

ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said in a statement Monday that after the White House’s Oct. 29 meeting with Jewish leaders, he initially decided “to give the Obama Administration the benefit of the doubt in pursuing the diplomatic route and agreed to refrain from urging the Senate to impose additional sanctions for a short period of time to enable the U.S. to pursue diplomacy.”

But now, Foxman said he is “deeply troubled” by America’s reported offer of sanctions relief to Iran in exchange for the Islamic Republic suspending high-grade uranium enrichment (20 percent) for six months. Under the deal, Iran would still be able to enrich to 3.5 percent.

“I am now convinced that this agreement will not only prematurely roll back the sanctions regime, but that it would legitimize Iran as a threshold nuclear state. I believe we no longer have the luxury or the option to refrain from enacting additional sanctions against Iran,” Foxman said.

Late last month the U.S. representative to the United Nations, Samantha Power, told the ADL at its centennial conference that the Obama administration was determined to be tough in talks with Iran. “No deal is better than a bad deal” on nuclear disarmament, said Power. “We will not accept a bad deal.”

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Right-Wing European Alliance To Challenge EU


French nationalist Le Pen and Holland’s Wilders to discuss alliance opposing the EU from within, unite right-wing movements.

ed note–the significance of this development is obvious but we’ll state it anyway–pro-Israel/pro-Zionist/anti-Islamic ‘nationalist’ movements headed by the likes of Le Pen and Wilders are being bankrolled and maneuvered by Likudites in Israel and beyond in order to reign in the more ‘reasonable’ elements within the Jewish community (if such contradictory words/themes can be used in the same sentence) who presently control the EU and who are doing their damndest to put a pretty face on Israel by appearing to oppose settlements, etc.

Israel National News

French right-wing leader Marine Le Pen will meet Dutch Geert Wilders, an outspoken critic of Islam, at The Hague on Wednesday to speak about a possible alliance in opposing the European Union (EU).

Wilders and Le Pen reportedly share similar immigration and protectionism policies, although Wilders has been an outspoken supporter of Israel while Le Pen has had an anti-Semitic image.

Talk of an alliance began in September as both sides discussed joining forces ahead of next May’s European Parliament elections. Last month Wilders warned that parties such as his and Le Pen’s “could make the europhile elite sing a different tune.”

AFP reports that in order for Le Pen’s National Front (FN) party and Wilders’s Party for Freedom (PVV) to form a right-wing bloc in the EU, they would need to get politicians on board from at least a quarter of the EU’s 28 member states, and then have 25 of their members voted into the European Parliament.

Were they to succeed in doing so, they would become an official European political group with various financial benefits, committee seats and rights.

Several potential groups that may join the two include the Alternative for Germany (AfD), Vlaams Belang in Belgium, Italy’s Northern League, and Austria’s Freedom Party.

While Wilders’s PVV had its seats halved to 13 in a Dutch election in September 2012, recently the group has experienced a resurgence, exhibiting a very strong showing in opinion polls.

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Argentine Prosecutor: Abolish Order for Iran to Probe ’94 Attack



Arutz Sheva

An Argentine prosecutor Wednesday asked a judge to declare unconstitutional an agreement with Iran to probe the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center after charges Tehran ordered the attack, AFP reports.

The attorney general in the case, Alberto Nisman, said the agreement constitutes an “undue interference of the executive branch in the exclusive sphere of the judiciary.”

The van bombing of the building of the Argentine Jewish Charities Federation, or AMIA, left 85 people dead and 300 others injured in the worst attack of its kind in the South American country.

Argentina charges that Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia terrorist group, carried out the attack under orders from Iran. Tehran’s clerical regime denies the charges.

Since 2006, Argentine courts have demanded the extradition of eight Iranians, including former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, former defense minister Ahmad Vahidi and Mohsen Rabbani, Iran’s former cultural attache in Buenos Aires.

In February, Argentina’s congress approved, at the request of the executive branch, an agreement with Tehran to form a truth commission to investigate the bombing, consisting of five members who don’t come from either Argentina or Iran. It also authorized an Argentine judge to travel to Iran to question the former officials accused of involvement.

Iran finally confirmed in September it had approved the deal, after several demands from Argentina. But the two sides have still not named the members of the investigative commission, and there has been no agreement on a date for Argentine investigators to travel to Iran to interview suspects.

Leaders of Argentina’s Jewish community, which at 300,000 people is the largest in Latin America, have criticized the accord. Major Jewish groups released a statement earlier this year that a deal ”would imply a decline in our sovereignty. To ignore everything that the Argentine justice has done and to replace it with a commission that, in the best of cases, will issue, without any defined deadline, a ‘recommendation’ to the parties constitutes, without doubt, a reversal in the common objective of obtaining justice.”

The request comes at a critical time for Iran, following a general change in Western attitudes toward the Islamic Republic in light of talks about a possible diplomatic deal. The talks, which resume November 20, discuss whether or not Western powers would agree to a deal which would reduce economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for Iran’s reduction of its nuclear capabilities.

In light of the proposal – and the election of alleged “moderate” Hassan Rouhani as the Foreign Minister – several countries, including the US and Britain, have re-established or upgraded diplomatic ties with Tehran. 

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Australian Jews brace for fight against repeal of hate laws


New Liberal gov’t pledged to scrap legislation outlawing Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic propaganda


Jewish leaders in Australia are bracing for a potential showdown with the new Liberal government over its pre-election pledge to repeal sections of the nation’s race hate laws, which make Holocaust denial and the promotion of anti-Semitism unlawful.

Tony Abbott’s government, which entered federal parliament for its first sitting Tuesday following its landslide victory in September, is preparing to scrap sections of the Racial Discrimination Act that have been successfully used by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry to litigate against Holocaust deniers, anti-Semites, far-right groups and religious extremists.

Introduced in 1995, section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act makes it unlawful for someone to engage in an act that is reasonably likely “to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate” someone on the grounds of their race or ethnicity.

But Attorney-General George Brandis said last week that the first bill he will introduce into parliament will tighten the definition of racial discrimination to safeguard freedom of speech.

“You cannot have a situation in a liberal democracy in which the expression of an opinion is rendered unlawful because somebody else…finds it offensive or insulting,” Brandis was quoted as saying.

But Shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, whose great grandmother perished at Auschwitz, slammed Brandis, saying the current law “protects our society from the poisonous effects of hate speech.”

“When Senator Brandis says that repealing these laws is in the interests of freedom of speech, what he really means is freedom to engage in public hate speech,” said Dreyfus. “These provisions are aimed at stopping extreme cases of hate speech.

“Unfortunately the link between racial vilification and physical violence has been demonstrated recently,” Dreyfus said, referring to an attack in Sydney last month in which five religious Jews were brutally bashed by a gang of youths.

Three alleged gang members were arrested and charged at the scene. Another gang member was charged Tuesday, police said.

Jewish leaders this week defended the law they’ve used to litigate against those who sought to racially discriminate against Australian Jews.

Jeremy Jones, a former president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, used section 18c to win a landmark case against Fredrick Toben, Australia’s most notorious Holocaust denier.

The ECAJ also cited this section in its successful litigation against Olga Scully, a serial promoter of anti-Semitic propaganda in Tasmania; against an Arabic-language newspaper in Sydney that published anti-Semitic commentary; against a far-right political party alleging that Jews created the Internet to control information; and against a fringe Christian group that claimed the promotion of anti-Semitism was part of their faith.

“Without section 18c we wouldn’t have had [victories over] Scully, Toben, One Nation, El Telegraph or the Bible Believers,” Jones told Haaretz. “There is no rational argument that Australia is somehow ‘less free’ when bullies have consequences for their actions.”

Jones added: “If and when this law is reviewed, it is imperative that the victims of racism, and their rights, remain the central concern in the minds of decision-makers.”

Danny Lamm and Peter Wertheim, of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said the wholesale repeal of sections of the law would have consequences.

“[It would] not only remove the means available to vilified groups to defend their reputations legally, it would also remove a key impediment against different ethnic and national communities vilifying one another in public discourse.

“It would thereby open the door to the importation into Australia of the hatreds and violence of overseas conflicts,” the pair said.

While Jewish leaders openly welcomed the election of the Liberal Party in September following a turbulent relationship with the Labor Party six over the last six years, the Liberal Party’s pre-election pledge on the race hate laws is the one issue causing angst within the Jewish community.

Joshua Frydenberg, the sole Jewish MP in government, declined to comment on the issue.

On the eve of the election the party promised that “any changes we make to the law would not give license to Holocaust deniers.” Government officials have also promised to consult with Jewish leaders; that has not yet happened.

But a spokesperson for the Attorney-General said Brandis will consult widely before any amendments are proposed.

It is unlikely it will be proposed in the three final sitting weeks before Christmas, the spokesperson said, meaning any amendments will likely be tabled in the new year.

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New Iran sanctions will lead to war, White House warns



Times of Israel

“The American people justifiably and understandably prefer a peaceful solution that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and this agreement, if it’s achieved, has the potential to do that,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters. “The alternative is military action.”

Earlier in the day State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said John Kerry would use a closed door briefing with the Senate Banking Committee Wednesday to warn that passing new sanctions would be a “mistake.”

The intensified effort to head off any new penalties against Iran come days after a meeting between Tehran and six world powers — the US, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany — failed to produce a deal that would see eased sanctions in return for a promise to curb nuclear activity. Another meeting is scheduled for next week.

US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke by phone Tuesday to discuss the Iran talks and affirm their support for continuing the diplomatic track.

Carney told reporters that Americans did not want a “march to war,” which is what new sanctions would bring, indicating that lawmakers could pay politically if diplomacy with Iran failed.

Fresh from the nuclear talks, Kerry will defend the administration stance during a meeting with lawmakers Wednesday, where he will face a tough crowd.

Senator Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) said Tuesday that the administration is boxing Americans into a lose-lose situation.

“The American people should not be forced to choose between military action and a bad deal that accepts a nuclear Iran,” he said according to AFP.

In recent years, Congress has been fertile ground for tough sanctions against Tehran, with the latest such bill clearing the House of Representatives by a vote of 400 to 20. Even in cases in which the administration has demonstrated reluctance, members of both parties in Congress have enthusiastically voted in an increasingly stringent sanctions regime.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) warned Sunday, as details of the talks filtered out of Geneva, against a situation in which “we seem to want the deal almost more than the Iranians. And you can’t want the deal more than the Iranians, especially when the Iranians are on the ropes.”

Menendez suggested that any deal should include a cessation of enrichment and an increase in the transparency of Iran’s nuclear program. He also congratulated the French negotiators for taking a tough tone toward the Arak heavy water plant — noting that “its only purpose in a country with such large oil reserves is to make nuclear fuel for nuclear weapons.”

Menendez, who has been a key supporter of previous Iran sanctions initiatives, announced during the interview on ABC’s “This Week” that the time had come for movement on Senate legislation to increase sanctions against Iran.

“I think that the possibility of moving ahead with new sanctions, including wording it in such a way that if there is a deal that is acceptable that those sanctions could cease upon such a deal, is possible,” Menendez said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to move forward on a package that ultimately would send a very clear message where we intend to be if the Iranians don’t strike a deal and stop their nuclear weapons program,” he added.

The Obama administration had asked, before the recent round of talks began, that the Senate delay action on sanctions to allow negotiations to take their course.

In the wake of last week’s negotiations, there is now a three-way split in terms of priorities. In addition to the pro-sanctions and anti-sanctions camps, Sen. Robert Corker (R-TN), the ranking member on Menendez’s committee has a third direction — not to focus on pushing for harsher sanctions, but on preventing the administration from giving away too much.

Asked over the weekend about sanctions, Corker was uncharacteristically noncommittal. “I don’t know,” he began, noting that “new sanctions would not kick in for several months” and emphasizing that “the administration has dialed back the rheostat since Rouhani’s election on the existing sanctions that we have. They have a lot of ability to waive and turn down and conduct these operations in lesser or stronger ways.”

Rather than offer a strong voice for the new sanctions, Corker is instead pushing an idea that he hinted at last week — legislation that would block the president from using any of those waivers that he mentioned unless Iran meets a number of key conditions — all of which are more stringent than the reported terms of the agreement proposed in Geneva.

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