Archive for September 12, 2017

Homeland Security issues waivers to ramp up improved border fencing

September 12, 2017

Homeland Security issues waivers to ramp up improved border fencing, BreitbartUPI, September 12, 2017

(The district courts in the 9th Circus Circuit will be busy with this for a long time. — DM)

Sept. 12 (UPI) — The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday it has issued waivers of environmental and historical preservation laws to speed construction of fencing between California and Mexico.

The waivers protect border barriers near Calexico, Calif., from federal regulations such as Endangered Species Act and the National Historic Preservation Act, the department said in a news release.

The department described it as “an area of high illegal entry” that is a “critical sector for border security.” In fiscal year 2016, the United States Border Patrol “apprehended more than 19,400 illegal aliens and seized approximately 2,899 pounds of marijuana and approximately 126 pounds of cocaine in the El Centro Sector,” according to Homeland Security.

This project is approximately a three-mile segment that starts at the Calexico West port of entry and extends westward, replacing approximately two miles of the existing primary pedestrian fence with a new “bollard wall,” the department said.

The Border Patrol plans to build 18-to-25-foot fencing that replaces the existing 14-foot fencing built in the 1990s, The Hill reported. The waiver also allows improvement of Border Patrol service roads.

DHS Acting Secretary Elaine Duke published the waiver in the Federal Register.

According to the notice, “The Secretary of Homeland Security has determined, pursuant to law, that it is necessary to waive certain laws, regulations and other legal requirements in order to ensure the expeditious construction of barriers and roads in the vicinity of the international land border of the United States near the city of Calexico in the state of California.”

Existing budget appropriations cover some repairs and improvements to existing fencing, including the prototypes.

The White House requested $1.6 billion for 2018 to begin new construction for the wall between the United States and Mexico, which was a campaign promise by President Donald Trump.

“The Department is implementing President Trump’s Executive Order 13767, Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements, and continues to take steps to immediately plan, design and construct a physical wall along the southern border, using appropriate materials and technology to most effectively achieve complete operational control of the southern border” according to the release.

Last week, DHS announced prototypes for a wall in the San Diego sector, west of El Centro.

U.S. Threatens to Cutoff China, Russia for Undermining Sanctions Against North Korea

September 12, 2017

U.S. Threatens to Cutoff China, Russia for Undermining Sanctions Against North Korea, Washington Free Beacon, September 12, 2017

(Please see also, UN Passes Mega-Ultra Toughest-Ever North Korea Sanctions, Again.– DM)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un attends a meeting with a committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea about the test of a hydrogen bomb / Getty Images

“Unfortunately, I cannot tell the committee today that we’ve seen sufficient evidence of China’s willingness to truly shut down North Korea’s revenue flows, to expunge North Korean illicit actors from its banking system, or to expel the various North Korean middlemen and brokers who are continuing to establish webs of front companies,” he said.

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The Trump administration on Tuesday threatened to cut off from the U.S. financial system Chinese and Russian companies helping North Korea smuggle coal overseas to circumvent international sanctions on Pyongyang’s nuclear activities.

Marshall Billingslea, the Treasury Department’s assistant secretary for terrorist financing, provided Congress with intelligence images mapping North Korea’s illicit shipping networks used to mask the origin of exported coal to China and Russia.

The images appear to expose China and Russia’s covert hand in undermining international pressure on the Kim Jong Un regime to give up its nuclear ambitions, despite the two nations voting publicly on several occasions at the United Nations Security Council to strengthen sanctions.

“North Korea has been living under United Nations sanctions for over a decade and it has nevertheless made significant strides toward its goal of building a nuclear tipped ICBM,” Billingslea testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, referring to the regime’s pursuit of an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States mainland.

“I urge anyone in the financial services industry who might be implicated in the establishment of shell or front companies for [North Korea], and anyone who is aware of such entities, to come forward with that information now, before they find themselves swept up in our net,” he said.

The Treasury Department estimates North Korean coal shipments bring in more than $1 billion in annual revenue for the regime, in part enabling Kim Jong Un to generate income used to fund ballistic missile and nuclear programs. Though the UN Security Council over the past month has passed two separate sanctions packages targeting North Korea’s coal industry, illicit coal-smuggling networks through China and Russia have watered down the impact, according to the Trump administration.

Citing the intelligence images provided to Congress on Tuesday, Billingslea said North Korean shipping vessels routinely shut off their transponders in violation of international maritime law to avoid detection as they move from North Korea into Chinese or Russian ports to offload sanctioned coal.

The Treasury Department is also tracking North Korea’s effort to penetrate the international financial system through shell companies based in China and Russia to help conceal the regime’s overseas footprint. Billingslea warned the Trump administration will punish any company in violation of UN sanctions by choking it off from the U.S. financial market.

Though he lauded China for supporting a recent round of UN sanctions, he said Beijing has not yet shown it is serious about cutting off North Korean funding.

“Unfortunately, I cannot tell the committee today that we’ve seen sufficient evidence of China’s willingness to truly shut down North Korea’s revenue flows, to expunge North Korean illicit actors from its banking system, or to expel the various North Korean middlemen and brokers who are continuing to establish webs of front companies,” he said.

Stupidity or malice? The US plans to return stolen Jewish artifacts to Iraq

September 12, 2017

Stupidity or malice? The US plans to return stolen Jewish artifacts to Iraq | Anne’s Opinions, 12th September 2017

Looted Jewish artifacts from Iraq

When the news hit the headlines this week that the US plans to return Jewish artifacts to Iraq – artifacts, it should be noted, that were stolen from the Iraqi Jewish community by the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq and rescued by US forces – I thought the story sounded familiar. A quick search on my blog revealed that this decision had already been discussed 4 years ago! To be honest, I thought that this absurd decision to return the artifacts to their unlawful owners had been shelved once Donald Trump became President. Sadly this is not the case.

The JTA reports:

NEW YORK (JTA) — The United States will return to Iraq next year a trove of Iraqi Jewish artifacts that lawmakers and Jewish groups have lobbied to keep in this country, a State Department official said.

A four-year extension to keep the Iraqi Jewish Archive in the U.S. is set to expire in September 2018, as is funding for maintaining and transporting the items. The materials will then be sent back to Iraq, spokesman Pablo Rodriguez said in a statement sent to JTA on Thursday.

Rodriguez said the State Department “is keenly aware of the interest in the status” of the archive.

“Maintaining the archive outside of Iraq is possible,” he said, “but would require a new agreement between the Government of Iraq and a temporary host institution or government.”

Detail of Tik (Torah case) and Glass Panel from Baghdad, 19th-20th centuries, part of the Iraqi Jewish Archive. (National Archives)

The archive was brought to America in 2003 after being salvaged by U.S. troops. It contains tens of thousands of items including books, religious texts, photographs and personal documents. Under an agreement with the government of Iraq, the archive was to be sent back there, but in 2014 the Iraqi ambassador to the U.S. said its stay had been extended. He did not say when the archive was to return.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers and Jewish groups have lobbied to renegotiate the deal, arguing that the documents should be kept in the U.S. or elsewhere where they are accessible to Iraqi Jews and their descendants. JTA reached out to lawmakers who have sponsored resolutions urging a renegotiation of the archive’s return but did not hear back in time for publication.

Iraq and proponents of returning the archive say it can serve as an educational tool for Iraqis about the history of Jews there and that it is part of the country’s patrimony.

Addressing the points that I highlighted above in bold, Caroline Glick scathingly attacks the “State Department’s strange obsession” while also answering the question in my headline:

The law of Occam’s Razor, refined to common parlance, is that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one.

If we apply Occam’s Razor to recently reported positions of the US State Department, then we can conclude that the people making decisions at Foggy Bottom have “issues” with Jews and with Israel.

The books and documents were looted from the Iraqi Jewish community by successive Iraqi regimes. They were restored by the National Archives in Washington, DC.

Before Treatment: Passover Haggadah, 1902. One of very few Hebrew manuscripts recovered from the Mukhabarat, this Haggadah was hand-lettered and decorated by an Iraqi youth.

The Iraqi Jewish community was one of the oldest exilic Jewish communities.

It began with the Babylonian exile following the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem 2,600 years ago. Until the early 20th century, it was one of the most accomplished Jewish communities in the world. Some of the most important yeshivas in Jewish history were in present-day Iraq. The Babylonian Talmud was written in Iraq. The Jewish community in Iraq predated the current people of Iraq by nearly a thousand years.

It was a huge community. In 1948, Jews were the largest minority in Baghdad.

Jews comprised a third of the population of Basra. The status of the community was imperiled during World War II, when the pro-Nazi junta of generals that seized control of the government in 1940 instigated the Farhud, a weeklong pogrom. 900 Jews were murdered.

Thousands of Jewish homes, schools and businesses were burned to the ground.

With Israel’s establishment, and later with the Baathist seizure of power in Iraq in the 1960s, the once great Jewish community was systematically destroyed.

Between 1948 and 1951, 130,000 Iraqi Jews, three quarters of the community, were forced to flee the country. Those who remained faced massive persecution, imprisonment, torture, execution and expulsion in the succeeding decades.

When US forces overthrew the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003, only a dozen or so remained in the country.

Today, there are none left.

As for the current Iraqi government that the State Department wishes to support by implementing its 2014 agreement, it is an Iranian satrapy. Its leadership and military receive operational orders from Iran.

The Iraqi Jewish archive was not created by the Iraqi government. It is comprised of property looted from persecuted and fleeing Jews. In light of this, it ought to be clear to the State Department that the Iraqi government’s claim to ownership is no stronger than the German government’s claim to ownership of looted Jewish property seized by the Nazis would be.

On the other hand, members of the former Jewish community and their descendants have an incontrovertible claim to them. And they have made this claim, repeatedly.

To no avail. As far as the State Department is concerned, they have no claim to sacred books and documents illegally seized from them.

When asked how the US could guarantee that the archive would be properly cared for in Iraq, all State Department spokesman Pablo Rodriguez said was, “When the IJA [Iraqi Jewish archive] is returned, the State Department will urge the Iraqi government to take the proper steps necessary to preserve the archive, and make it available to members of the public to enjoy.”

It is hard not to be taken aback by the callousness of Rodriguez’s statement.

Again, the “members of the public” who wish to “enjoy” the archive are not living in Iraq. They are not living in Iraq because they were forced to run for their lives – after surrendering their communal archives to their persecutors. And still today, as Jews, they will be unable to visit the archives in Iraq without risking their lives because today, at a minimum, the Iraqi regime kowtows to forces that openly seek the annihilation of the Jewish People.

And the State Department knows this.

The question then arises, surely this new American administration under President Donald Trump would be more sympathetic to Jewish concerns, and would overturn this surreal decision made by the Obama administration?

Apparently it’s not so clear-cut. It appears that Trump’s Chief of Staff John Kelly has been blocking most conservative news sites from reaching Trump, thus limiting his awareness of what is happening outside of his immediate circle (h/t Dan Miller in Panama).

Daniel Greenfield reiterates his call to the President – which he made in 2013 to Barack Obama (and which I quoted in my blog post at the time) – and demands that Trump should block Obama’s move to return these stolen artifacts to Iraq: (emphases are added):

… The archive doesn’t belong to the Iraqi government, but to the Jewish population that was ethnically cleansed from Iraq.

The United States recovered the archive and should have turned it over to the Jewish community. Instead we had a bizarre Kafkaesque process in which the archive was restored to be turned over to the thieves who stole it.

Jewish political leaders have invested a lot of energy into looted art in Europe. And that’s a worthwhile cause. Yet this is a far more compelling issue. The archive contains the history of a Jewish community. It matters far more than a Klimt painting. Sadly, the priorities are those of a secular Ashkenazi leadership that is uninterested in the Iraqi Jewish archive because it’s Sephardi and religious.

“This is Jewish communal property. Iraq stole it and kept it hidden away in a basement. Now that we’ve managed to reclaim it, it would be like returning stolen goods back to the thief,” Urman told JTA on Friday.

It’s exactly like it. Meanwhile here’s the bizarre anti-Semitic justification on the Iraqi side for wanting the archive. Here’s Al Arabiya’s explanation

Experts add that Israel is keen on obtaining the manuscripts in order to prove their claim that the Jews had built the Tower of Babel as part of its attempt to distort the history of the Middle East for its own interests.

Wonderful.

Harold Rhode, who discovered the trove while working as a Defense Department policy analyst assigned to Iraq’s transitional government, said he is “horrified” to think the material would be returned when it had been “stolen by the government of Iraq from the Jewish community.”

“It would be comparable to the U.S. returning to the German government Jewish property that had been looted by the Nazis,” he told The Jewish Week.

It’s exactly like it.

I don’t expect Tillerson to care. Between McMaster at the NSC, Mattis on Defense and Tillerson, foreign policy is under the control of the usual Islam Firsters who are very concerned with Muslim feelings, particularly in the oil states, and very little else. And so the old Obama plan to turn over stolen Jewish religious items to a hostile Islamic regime is moving forward.

But President Trump can and should block the move. It’s the right thing to do. And Jewish activists should make that case.

If at the end the State Department’s decision cannot be overcome by President Trump’s executive veto (or whatever it is called in American politics), we can safely say that this decision is motivated more by malice than stupidity.

As before in 2013, there is a petition (possibly still the same one) which you should all sign, demanding that the artifacts do not return to Iraq.

Please sign and share the petition.

UN Passes Mega-Ultra Toughest-Ever North Korea Sanctions, Again

September 12, 2017

UN Passes Mega-Ultra Toughest-Ever North Korea Sanctions, Again, PJ MediaClaudia Rosett, September 12, 2017

(Eliminating Kim Kimchi Jong-un is not a viable solution. China won’t permit regime change and, if China did, there is no reason to assume that Kim’s replacement would be an improvement. Please see also, UN Security Council passes new sanctions against North Korea. Frank Gaffney offers some good ideas and they don’t involve more useless sanctions. — DM)

The fifteen members of the Security Council are seen voting in favor of the new sanctions at a United Nations Security Council meeting regarding nuclear non-proliferation in light of the September 3rd test explosion of a missile-capable nuclear bomb by the Democratic Peoples’ Republic Of Korea (DPRK), at UN Headquarters in New York, NY, USA on September 11, 2017. At the meeting, Council members voted upon a draft Resolution calling for increased economic sanctions against the DPRK. Resolution 2375 was unanimously adopted by the 15 members of the Council. (Photo by Albin Lohr-Jones)(Sipa via AP Images)

Unless the real mission behind these sanctions is to help achieve the only real remedy — which is to take down the Pyongyang regime (not bargain with it) — then beware.

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Yet again, the United Nations Security Council has voted unanimously for a resolution imposing the toughest-ever sanctions on North Korea. This round, responding to North Korea’s test of what Pyongyang claimed was a hydrogen bomb, goes by the label of Resolution 2375, and marks the ninth time over the past 11 years that the UN Security Council — voting unanimously — has approved new sanctions in response to North Korean nuclear and missile tests.

Each round has been tougher than the last. In March, 2016 for instance, following North Korea’s fourth nuclear test, the UN passed Resolution 2270, which former Ambassador Samantha Power described as “so much tougher than any prior North Korea resolution.” Less than nine months later, following North Korea’s fifth nuclear test, came UN Resolution 2321, hailed by CNN as “Toughest UN sanctions yet… .”

You get the idea. This parade of tough-tougher-toughest and tougher-than-toughest UN sanctions has been going on since the UN Security Council in 2006, following North Korea’s first nuclear test, unanimously approved Resolution 1718, imposing sanctions that President Bush described at the time as “swift and tough.”

I’m all in favor of being ultra-tough on North Korea (make that mega-ultra-jumbo-tough, even better). This latest round aims to constrict North Korea’s oil supply, ban its textile imports, curtail its smuggling and end its revenues from joint ventures and laborers working abroad. That’s on top of the web of previous strictures.

But by now one might begin to suspect that sanctions, however tough, are not going to stop Kim Jong Un’s nuclear missile program. It’s a bad sign that these UN resolutions, which routinely begin by listing the relevant previous resolutions, have now achieved a degree of layering that resembles portions of such monstrosities as the Affordable Care Act. The UN has not yet posted the full text of this latest resolution, #2375. But a reasonable proxy can be found in the prior resolution, passed on August 5. Just add one more layer:

“Recalling its previous relevant resolutions, including resolution 825 (1993), resolution 1540 (2004), resolution 1695 (2006), resolution 1718 (2006), resolution 1874 (2009), resolution 1887 (2009), resolution 2087 (2013), resolution 2094 (2013), resolution 2270 (2016), resolution 2321 (2016), and resolution 2356 (2017), as well as the statements of its President of 6 October 2006 (S/PRST/2006/41), 13 April 2009 (S/PRST/2009/7) and 16 April 2012 (S/PRST/2012/13),”

There are two basic problems here.

The first problem is that sanctions are not an airtight proposition. They are more like a sieve than an impermeable barrier. They leak. They erode. For sanctions violators, part of the game is to set up new fronts and devise new deceptions; part is to wait until the immediate crisis passes, and enforcement starts to flag. North Korea has long experience at evading and adapting to sanctions. So do its chief patrons, Russia and China. So does its partner-in-proliferation, Iran, and Iran’s mascot, Syria.

And whatever the reach and coercive financial power of the mighty U.S., it has not sufficed to date to persuade scores of UN member states to comply with the list of sanctions above. The UN fields a Panel of Experts on North Korea sanctions who have been turning in terrific, regular and hefty reports on compliance — or lack of compliance — by UN member states.

Three years ago, in their 2014 report, these experts noted that the problem was not lack of sanctions measures, but lack of compliance:

“At the present time, the Panel does not see new measures as necessary in order to further slow the prohibited programmes of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, to dissuade it from engaging in proliferation activities or to halt its trade in arms and related materiel. Rather, the Panel believes that Member States already have at their disposal adequate tools.”

The UN requires its member states to submit “implementation reports” on how they plan to comply with UN sanctions. Out of the UN’s 193 member states, scores of countries simply don’t do it. Just last week, in an interim report dated Sept. 5, the UN Panel of Experts noted that for the two sanctions resolutions passed last year, the number of non-reporting states remains “significant” — as in, roughly half the UN membership.

Of course, even when countries do submit their implementation reports, that’s no guarantee that North Korea will be deprived of goods for its proliferation programs. For instance, while China has dutifully been filing the required reports to the UN, the Panel of Experts, in their Sept. 5 report, mentioned that North Korea’s military parade this past April included missiles transported on three-axle trucks that had a Chinese manufacturer’s logo on the fuel tank.

In response to the Panel, Chinese authorities provided an array of comments. They posited that such trucks, exported from 2010-2014, were “not under embargo of the Security Council.” They said the exporter and manufacturer of the trucks could not be identified, due to lack of “Vehicle Identification Number and other relevant information.” And they noted that the sales contract “requested explicitly ‘the buyer to ensure the civilian use of the trucks and comply with concerned provisions of Chinese laws and Security Council resolutions.’ “

Ummm…is that supposed to be reassuring?

For North Korea, yet more sanctions might indeed raise the cost of provisioning its nuclear missile program, and shrink the resources available — at least until the regime finds new ways to adapt. But North Korea’s regime has an unswerving record of placing its military and weapons programs above the needs of North Korea’s people. It’s highly unlikely that UN Security Council Resolution 2375 will persuade Kim to abjure ICBMs and hydrogen bombs, in favor of allocating resources to cold and hungry North Koreans.

Which brings us to the second big problem with these UN resolutions. They all aim, quite explicitly, to bring North Korea back to the bargaining table. This is an idea all too prevalent in Washington as well. In testimony on North Korea to the Senate Banking Committee last week, former Acting Secretary of the Treasury Adam Szubin summed it up, saying that sanctions “are meant to incentivize behavioral change.”

Dream on. If North Korea’s regime does come to the bargaining table, that might look like a change in behavior. But everything in the record by now should be telling us that North Korea won’t be coming to relinquish its nuclear missile program. It will be coming to cash in, again, on the illusions of American diplomats. It will be coming to cash in, yet again, on the blinkered expertise of a host of former U.S. officials now treated as sages of North Korea policy because they were intimately involved in nuclear deals… that failed.

Those bargains, and attempted bargains, stretching back to 1994, helped pave the way to the current crisis of nuclear bombs and intercontinental ballistic missiles in the hands of a totalitarian North Korean regime that threatens and mocks the U.S., aspires to subjugate South Korea, is pushing East Asia toward a nuclear arms race, and doubles as a rogue munitions merchant to the world’s worst predators.

On paper, Resolution 2375 might sound like a formula for success, or at least a good move in that direction. Slather more sanctions — the toughest yet! — on North Korea, and hope it leads to a deal. There will now be a new round of Washington conferences, and Op-eds, and reports, and testimony, dissecting and embellishing on the latest sanctions and, when these toughest-ever sanctions turn out to be inadequate to stop Kim’s nuclear projects, recommending yet more sanctions. In Washington, it’s become an industry unto itself — expanding in tandem in tandem with North Korea’s flourishing nuclear program.

Unless the real mission behind these sanctions is to help achieve the only real remedy — which is to take down the Pyongyang regime (not bargain with it) — then beware.

 

Cooking the books? Not quite

September 12, 2017

Cooking the books? Not quite, Israel Hayom, Akiva Bigman, September 12, 2017

Regardless, the real story is this: after a litany of allegations — the misuse of patio furniture, the buying of candles, the mishandling of deposits for bottles, the improper use of a caregiver for Sara Netanyahu’s father, and the controversial use of services by an electrician and catering staff — we now finally have a real legal debate raging in Israel, dealing with our very essence as a nation: Can a cleaning lady that occasionally prepares a Shabbat dinner be considered a cook for legal purposes?

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Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit recently said he prepared a draft indictment against Sara Netanyahu, wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But his announcement misses the point: The allegations that expense reports were falsified at the Prime Minister’s Residence are of no relevance to her conduct, legally speaking. There is no way of proving that she was involved in any way, shape or form in the accounting practices at the residence. If someone cooked the books, it wasn’t her. It would be even harder to prove that she was aware of any such action.

So what’s left? The only thing that can conceivably be directly attributed to Sara Netanyahu is that she ordered meals from restaurants for the Prime Minister’s Residence despite the fact that the residence employed a full-time cook — ostensibly in violation of regulations. “Netanyahu created the false impression that the Prime Minister’s Residence had no cook even though cooks were employed the entire time,” Mendelblit wrote last Friday.

But the State Comptroller’s Office says something else. According to a report on the period in question, only in July 2013 did the CEO at the residence ask the civil service commissioner for an official kitchen employee, and this request was granted a month later. This means that throughout most of the period in question, there was no cook employed there and the position did not even exist. So what’s all the fuss about? Well, it turns out that although there was no official employee, one of the cleaning ladies did some occasional cooking.

“A member of the cleaning staff at the residence served as a cook from March 2009 until October 2011,” Mendelblit wrote. Such a statement seems to be quite a stretch. Occasional cooking by an unprofessional employee cannot properly oversee the preparation of the meals at the official residence, both in quantity or in quality.

And regardless, that specific worker carried out no cooking beyond October 2011. The expenses reported for takeaway food show as much: In 2010, a year that saw a cleaning lady cook essentially all the time, some NIS 70,000 ($19,800) were reported. In 2011, the expenses rose to NIS 90,000 ($25,547). In 2012, when she no longer cooked, the expenses spiked to NIS 158,000 ($44, 852). And after the official cook was hired in 2013, the expenses dropped dramatically to NIS 64,000 ($18,100).

The sums mean that the average monthly payments on takeaway food were between NIS 6,000 and NIS 13,000 ($1,700 to $3,684). This is equivalent to about NIS 200 per day ($56), when there was a cook, to NIS 400 ($113) per day when there was no cook. Considering that the official residence includes the prime minister, his wife and their two sons, such sums are not unreasonable.

Contrary to the media’s false narrative suggesting that the indictment is a fait accompli, it is too early to tell whether Netanyahu will actually be indicted. She has the right to a pre-indictment hearing, and she may very well succeed in dissuading the attorney general from going ahead with the indictment or at least make him rethink the move.

Regardless, the real story is this: after a litany of allegations — the misuse of patio furniture, the buying of candles, the mishandling of deposits for bottles, the improper use of a caregiver for Sara Netanyahu’s father, and the controversial use of services by an electrician and catering staff — we now finally have a real legal debate raging in Israel, dealing with our very essence as a nation: Can a cleaning lady that occasionally prepares a Shabbat dinner be considered a cook for legal purposes?

UN Security Council passes new sanctions against North Korea

September 12, 2017

UN Security Council passes new sanctions against North Korea, Fox Business News via YouTube, September 11, 2017

As noted in the blurb beneath the video,

Lt. Col. Michael Waltz (Ret.) and Center for Security Policy President Frank Gaffney on the U.N. implementing new sanctions against North Korea.

Trump to Weigh More Aggressive U.S. Strategy on Iran

September 12, 2017

BY:

Source: Trump to Weigh More Aggressive U.S. Strategy on Iran

By Jonathan Landay, Arshad Mohammed, and Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — President Donald Trump is weighing a strategy that could allow more aggressive U.S. responses to Iran‘s forces, its Shi’ite Muslim proxies in Iraq and Syria, and its support for militant groups, according to six current and former U.S. officials.

The proposal was prepared by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, national security adviser H.R. McMaster, and other top officials, and presented to Trump at a National Security Council meeting on Friday, the sources said.

It could be agreed and made public before the end of September, two of the sources said. All of the sources are familiar with the draft and requested anonymity because Trump has yet to act on it.

In contrast to detailed instructions handed down by President Barack Obama and some of his predecessors, Trump is expected to set broad strategic objectives and goals for U.S. policy but leave it to U.S. military commanders, diplomats, and other U.S. officials to implement the plan, said a senior administration official.

“Whatever we end up with, we want to implement with allies to the greatest extent possible,” the official added.

The White House declined to comment.

The plan is intended to increase the pressure on Tehran to curb its ballistic missile programs and support for militants, several sources said.

“I would call it a broad strategy for the range of Iranian malign activities: financial materials, support for terror, destabilization in the region, especially Syria and Iraq and Yemen,” said another senior administration official.

The proposal also targets cyber espionage and other activity and potentially nuclear proliferation, the official said.

The administration is still debating a new stance on a 2015 agreement, sealed by Obama, to curb Iran‘s nuclear weapons program. The draft urges consideration of tougher economic sanctions if Iran violates the 2015 agreement.

The proposal includes more aggressive U.S. interceptions of Iranian arms shipments such as those to Houthi rebels in Yemen and Palestinian groups in Gaza and Egypt’s Sinai, a current official and a knowledgeable former U.S. official said.

The plan also recommends the United States react more aggressively in Bahrain, whose Sunni Muslim monarchy has been suppressing majority Shi’ites, who are demanding reforms, the sources said.

In addition, U.S. naval forces could react more forcefully when harassed by armed speed boats operated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran‘s paramilitary and espionage contingent, three of the sources said.

U.S. ships have fired flares and warning shots to drive off IRGC boats that made what were viewed as threatening approaches after refusing to heed radio warnings in the passageway for 35 percent of the world’s seaborne petroleum exports.

U.S. commanders now are permitted to open fire only when they think their vessels and the lives of their crews are endangered. The sources offered no details of the proposed changes in the rules, which are classified.

ISLAMIC STATE FIRST

The plan does not include an escalation of U.S. military activity in Syria and Iraq. Trump’s national security aides argued that a more muscular military response to Iranian proxies in Syria and Iraq would complicate the U.S.-led fight against Islamic State, which they argued should remain the top priority, four of the sources said.

Mattis and McMaster, as well as the heads of the U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Forces Command, have opposed allowing U.S. commanders in Syria and Iraq to react more forcefully to provocations by the IRGC, Hezbollah, and other Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias, the four sources said.

The advisers are concerned that more permissive rules of engagement would divert U.S. forces from defeating the remnants of Islamic State, they said.

Moreover, looser rules could embroil the United States in a conflict with Iran while U.S. forces remain overstretched, and Trump has authorized a small troop increase for Afghanistan, said one senior administration official.

A former U.S. official said Hezbollah and Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias in Iraq have been “very helpful” in recapturing vast swaths of the caliphate that Islamic State declared in Syria and Iraq in 2014.

U.S. troops supporting Kurdish and Sunni Arab fighters battling Islamic State in Syria have been wrestling with how to respond to hostile actions by Iranian-backed forces.

In some of the most notable cases, U.S. aircraft shot down two Iranian-made drones in June. Both were justified as defensive acts narrowly tailored to halt an imminent threat on the ground.

Trump’s opposition to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), poses a dilemma for policymakers.

Most of his national security aides favor remaining in the pact, as do U.S. allies Israel and Saudi Arabia despite their reservations about Iran‘s adherence to the agreement, said U.S. officials involved in the discussions.

“The main issue for us was to get the president not to discard the JCPOA. But he had very strong feelings, backed by [U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations] Nikki Haley, that they should be more aggressive with Iran,” one of the two U.S. officials said. “Almost all the strategies presented to him were ones that tried to preserve the JCPOA but lean forward on these other [issues].”