Archive for January 7, 2018

The Ayatollah Empire Is Rotting Away

January 7, 2018

The Ayatollah Empire Is Rotting Away, TabletEdward N. Luttwak, January 7, 2018

 

There is no need to laboriously negotiate a new set of sanctions against Iran—strict, swift, and public enforcement of the restrictions that are already on the books is enough. Every time a South Korean regime-related deal is detected, the offenders need a quick reminder they will be excluded from the United States if they persist. In this, as in everything else, it is just a matter of getting serious in our focus on Iran.

Obama was serious in his courtship of the ayatollahs’ regime. Trump should do the same to bring the regime to an end, faster

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Ronald Reagan, who outraged the Washington elite and frightened European leaders by flatly refusing coexistence with the Soviet Union, lived to see its sudden decline and fall. There is a fair chance that Donald Trump, who contradicts Barack Obama and Europe’s leaders by refusing coexistence with Iran’s ayatollah empire, will also have the satisfaction of seeing the dissolution of a regime that Obama among many others preferred to accommodate.

Whether or not this past weekend’s mass demonstrations in Iran will spread, whether a second revolution is imminent or not, the numbers for the ayatollah empire just don’t add up. A breakdown is materially inevitable.

With some 80 million people, and with oil accounting for 80 percent of its exports, Iran would need to export some 25 million barrels a day to make a go of it, but it can barely export 2.5 million. That would be luxuriously ample for the likes of Abu Dhabi with fewer than 800,000 citizens, but it is a miserable pittance for Iran, with a population more than 100 times as large.

Iran cannot even match the $6,000 income per capita of Botswana. That most fashionable of safari destinations is a fine and well-governed country to be sure, and far from poor by African standards—but then its citizens are not required to pay for extensive nuclear installations, which are very costly to maintain even in their current semi-frozen state, or for the manufacture of a very broad range of weapons—from small arms to ballistic missiles—for which much expensive tooling is imported daily from the likes of our own dear ally South Korea. Neither is Botswana mounting large-scale military expeditions in support of a foreign dictator at war with 80 percent of his own population or providing generous funding for the world’s largest terrorist organization, Hezbollah, whose cocaine-smuggling networks and local extortion rackets cannot possibly cover tens of thousands of salaries. The ayatollah empire is doing all those things, which means that average Iranians are actually much poorer than their Botswanian counterparts.

You would never know it looking at photographs of Tehran, one more bombastic capital city fattened on intercepted oil revenues and graft, but Iran is dirt poor. I recently saw Iran’s general poverty at first-hand driving through one of Iran’s supposedly more prosperous rural districts. In an improvised small market next to a truck stop, several grown men were selling livestock side by side, namely ducks. Each had a stock of three or four ducks, which looked like their total inventory for the day.

That is what happens in an economy whose gross domestic product computes at under $6,000 per capita: very low productivity, very low incomes. The 500,000 or so Iranians employed in the country’s supposedly modern automobile industry are not productive enough to make exportable cars: Pistachio nuts are the country’s leading export, after oil and petroleum products.

The pistachios bring us directly to Iran’s second problem after not-enough-oil, namely too much thieving by the powerful, including pistachio-orchard-grabbing Akbar Hashemi “Rafsanjani,” former president and a top regime figure for decades.

Akbar Hashemi was not being immodest when he claimed the name of his native Rafsanjan province for himself. He became the owner of much of it as huge tracts of pistachio-growing orchards came into his possession.

His son Mehdi Hashemi is very prominent among the aghazadeh (“noble born”), the sons and daughters of the rulers. He preferred industrial wealth to pistachios, and his name kept coming up in other people’s corruption trials (one in France), until he finally had his own trial, for a mere $100 million or so. But the Rafsanjani clan as a whole took a couple of billion dollars at least.

The Supreme Leader Khamenei himself is not known to have personally stolen anything—he has his official palaces, after all. But his second son, Mojtaba, may have taken as much as $2 billion from the till, while his third son, Massoud, is making do with a mere 400- or 500-hundred million. His youngest son, Maitham, is not living in poverty either, with a couple of hundred million. The ayatollah’s two daughters, Bushra and Huda, each received de-facto dowries in the $100 million range.

This shows that the regime is headed by devoted family men who lovingly look after their many children, for whom only the best will do. It also cuts into the theoretical $6,000 income per Iranian head, because some “heads” are taking a thousand times as much and more.

That is one motive for today’s riots—bitter anger provoked by the regime’s impoverishing and very visible corruption, which extends far, far beyond the children of the top rulers: thousands of clerics are very affluent, starting with their flapping Loro Piana “Tasmania” robes—that’s 3,000 euros of fancy cloth right there.

Much of the economy is owned by bonyads, Islamic foundations that pay modest pensions to war widows and such, and very large amounts to those who run them, mostly clerics and their kin. The largest, the Mostazafan Bonyad, with more than 200,000 employees in some 350 separate companies in everything from farming to tourism, is a very generous employer for its crowds of clerical managers.

That is why the crowds have been shouting insults at the clerics—not all are corrupt, but high-living clerics are common enough to take a big bite out of that theoretical $6,000 per capita.

But the largest cause of popular anger is undoubtedly the pasdaran, a.k.a the Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), an altogether more costly lot than the several hundred aghazadeh or tens of thousands of high-living clerics. The IRGC’s tab starts with the trillion dollars or more that the pasdaran-provoked nuclear sanctions cost before the Obama team agreed to lift them and continues with the billions that Iran still loses annually because of the ballistic-missile sanctions that Trump will never lift. Then there are the variable costs of the pasdaran’s imperial adventures, as well as the fixed cost of pasdaran military industries that spend plenty on common weapons as well as on “stealth” fighters and supposedly advanced submarines that exist only in the fantasies of regime propagandists. Pasdaran militarism and imperial adventures are unaffordable luxuries that the demonstrators very clearly want to do without—hence their shouts of “no-Gaza, no-Syria.”

Whatever happens next—and at least this time the White House will not be complicit if it ends in brutal repression—the ayatollah empire cannot last. Even despite Obama’s generous courtship gifts, the Iranian regime cannot just keep going, any more than the USSR could keep going by living off its oil.

So what can be done to accelerate the collapse? Broad economic sanctions are out of the question because they would allow the rulers to blame the Americans for the hardships inflicted by their own imperial adventures. But there is plenty of room for targeted measures against regime figures and their associates—the State Department list of sanctioned individuals is far from long enough, with many more names deserving of the honor. (Iran is not North Korea; it is not hard to find names and assets and to make them public.)

Above all, very much more could be done to impede the pasdaran and their military industries. Many European and Japanese big-name companies are staying away from Iran because the missile and terrorism sanctions persist—and to avoid displeasing the United States. They should. But the South Koreans whom we defend with our own troops totally ignore U.S. interests in regard to Iran and have therefore emerged as the lead suppliers of machinery and tooling for the pasdaran weapon factories. Nor do they hesitate to sell equipment that can be adapted to military use in a minute or less, as in the case of the airfield instrument landing system and portable ILS/VOR signal analyzer that the Korea Airports Corp. has just agreed to supply to Iran’s Tolid Malzomat Bargh.

There is no need to laboriously negotiate a new set of sanctions against Iran—strict, swift, and public enforcement of the restrictions that are already on the books is enough. Every time a South Korean regime-related deal is detected, the offenders need a quick reminder they will be excluded from the United States if they persist. In this, as in everything else, it is just a matter of getting serious in our focus on Iran.

Obama was serious in his courtship of the ayatollahs’ regime. Trump should do the same to bring the regime to an end, faster.

Watch: Egyptian Scholar Tells Rowdy Arab TAU Students They Should Thank God for Living in Israel

January 7, 2018

http://www.jewishpress.com/news/middle-east/egypt/watch-egyptian-scholar-tells-rowdy-arab-tau-students-they-should-thank-god-for-living-in-israel/2018/01/07/

Rami Aziz, an Egyptian researcher and political analyst, whose research focuses on the growth and development of political Islam in Europe, recently responded to a group of Israeli Arab students who last week left a Tel Aviv University lecture hall after having interrupted and taunted the lecturer inside. Their victim was Egyptian American Sociologist and one of Egypt’s leading human rights and democracy activists, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, who delivered a talk on Israeli-Egyptian relations and ways to preserve them (Israeli Arab Students Crash Egyptian Civil Rights Hero’s Lecture, Calling him a Sellout).

Millions of students in the Arab world envy you, you should thank God that you live in Israel, you bunch of hypocrites and liars,” Aziz said in his angry video, representing a familiar trend in Arab society these days, which is too busy with its own serious issues, such as the Iranian threat, to bother with crybaby Israeli Arabs.

“Only in Israel can Arab students shout at an Egyptian lecturer that he is a traitor for coming to a Zionist university. And what exactly are they doing at a Zionist university? There is no limit to the hypocrisy, disgust and aggravation of Israeli Arabs. How much can you bite the hand that feeds you?” Aziz said.

Egypt quietly urges Palestinians to accept Ramallah as capital

January 7, 2018

Egypt quietly urges Palestinians to accept Ramallah as capital, DEBKAfile, January 7, 2018

Cairo has tacitly accepted Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. An Egyptian intelligence officer Capt. Ashraf al-Kholi is recorded in four audios of telephone calls to Arab media as asking: “How is Jerusalem different from Ramallah, really?”  Palestinians should content themselves with Ramallah, he said. “Like all our Arab brothers, Egypt would denounce in public” President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but strife with Israel is not in Egypt’s interest and the Arabs must accept it.

Israeli Government Publishes Full Anti-BDS Blacklist

January 7, 2018

http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israel/boycott/israeli-government-publishes-full-anti-bds-blacklist/2018/01/07/

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, Photo Credit: Tomer Neuberg / Flash 90

The Israeli government has published the anti-BDS (anti-Israel Boycott, Divest & Sanctions) blacklist developed by the Strategic Affairs Ministry.

Those who are members of the 20 organizations on the blacklist will be unable to gain entry to the Jewish State, beginning in March.

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“The boycott organizations need to know that the State of Israel will act against them and not allow them entry to harm our citizens,” said Minister Gilad Erdan. “No nation would have permitted entry to critics coming to harm the country.”

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, whose ministry will implement the ban, said, “These people are trying to exploit … our hospitality to act against Israel and to defame the country. I will act against this using every means.”

In addition to senior officials of the blacklisted organizations, and key activists, mayors and establishment figures who lead or promote boycotts against Israel will also be banned from entering the Jewish State. Activists who arrive on behalf of one of the blacklisted groups, or as part of a delegations sponsored by, or initiated or promoted by one of the blacklisted organization, will also be denied entry as well.

The Anti-BDS Blacklist

Europe

The France Association Palestine Solidarity
BDS France
BDS Italy
The European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine
Friends of Al-Aqsa
Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign
The Palestine Committee of Norway
Palestine Solidarity Association of Sweden
Palestine Solidarity Campaign
War on Want
BDS Kampagne

North America

American Friends Service Committee
American Muslims for Palestine
Code Pink
Jewish Voice for Peace
National Students for Justice in Palestine (umbrella for SJP)
US Campaign for Palestinian Rights

Other groups

BDS Chile
BDS South Africa
BDS National Committee

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard: Unrest ‘created by Zionist regime’ defeated 

January 7, 2018

Source: Iran’s Revolutionary Guard: Unrest ‘created by Zionist regime’ defeated – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

BY REUTERS
 JANUARY 7, 2018 11:16
“Death to America,” “Death to Israel,” “Death to Britain” “Death to seditionists,” the demonstrators chanted.
Iran's Revolutionary Guard: Unrest 'created by Zionist regime' defeated

 People take part in pro-government rallies, Iran, January 3, 2018.. (photo credit: TASNIM NEWS AGENCY/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

DUBAI – Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said on Sunday the country’s people and security forces had defeated unrest fomented by foreign enemies, as parliament and key security officials met to discuss the boldest challenge to the clerical establishment since 2009.

“Iran’s revolutionary people along with tens of thousands of Basij forces, police and the Intelligence Ministry have broken down the chain (of unrest) created … by the United States, Britain, the Zionist regime (Israel), Saudi Arabia, the hypocrites (Mujahideen) and monarchists,” the Guard said in a statement on its Sepahnews website.

Parliament met behind closed doors on Sunday to discuss the week of unrest with the ministers of interior and intelligence, Iran’s police chief and the deputy commander of the elite Revolutionary Guard, state television said.

Meanwhile, thousands of government supporters staged rallies for a fifth day in a backlash against the biggest anti-government protests since widespread unrest in 2009 over alleged election fraud.

State television showed live pictures of rallies in several cities, including central Shahr-e Kord where hundreds, many clutching umbrellas, had gathered despite heavy snowfall.

“Death to America,” “Death to Israel,” “Death to Britain” “Death to seditionists,” the demonstrators chanted.

More than a week of unrest has seen 22 people die and more than 1,000 arrested, according to Iranian officials.

Unrest spread to more than 80 cities and rural towns as thousands of young and working-class Iranians voiced anger at graft, unemployment and a deepening gap between rich and poor.

Residents contacted by Reuters in various cities have said the protests had subsided in recent days, after the government intensified a crackdown by dispatching Revolutionary Guard forces to several provinces.

Late on Saturday, videos on social media showed a heavy police presence in cities, including Khorramabad in southwestern Iran where on Wednesday evening social media posts showed protesters throwing stones at riot police.

The protests have drawn largely young people and workers as well as members of the educated middle-class that formed the backbone of a pro-reform revolt almost a decade ago.

A police spokesman said most of those arrested were “duped” into joining the unrest and had been freed on bail, the state news agency IRNA reported. “But, the leaders of the unrest are held by the judiciary in prison.”

Tehran University Vice-President Majid Sarsangi said the university had set up a committee to track the fate of students arrested during the unrest.

Separately, a member of parliament said about 90 students were detained, 10 of whom were still not accounted for.

“It seems that the total number of detainees is around 90. Ten students from universities in Tehran and some other cities are in an uncertain position, and … it is still unknown which body has detained them,” the labor news agency ILNA quoted reformist politician Mahmoud Sadeghi as saying.

Iran has several parallel security bodies and residents say arrests are often not immediately announced.

Videos that appeared on social media in recent days showed relatives of detainees gathering outside prisons seeking information about the fate of their loved ones.

The Revolutionary Guard and its affiliated Basij militia suppressed unrest in 2009, in which dozens of pro-reform Iranians were killed.

Analysis: Trump’s give-and-take plan for Arab-Israeli peace

January 7, 2018

January 4, 2018

https://worldisraelnews.com/analysis-trumps-give-and-take-middle-east-peace/

President Donald Trump and PA leader Mahmoud Abbas. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Any final deal, financial or political, requires two sides giving and taking. Netanyahu and Trump certainly understand this reality.

By: Daniel Krygier

President Donald Trump’s recent tweet regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict has raised speculations regarding his vision for settling the conflict between Arabs and Jews.

“As an example, we pay the Palestinians hundred of millions of dollars a year and get no appreciation or respect. They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel. We have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more…,” the President tweeted.

The tweet consists of two main parts. It criticizes Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas and his regime for receiving hundreds of millions of dollars each year from Washington without showing any appreciation or respect towards America. Second, in cryptic language, Trump says that Israel would have to pay more for having Jerusalem taken off the table.

Some Middle East commentators have referred to Trump’s business background and concluded that there will be no more free lunches in the Arab-Israeli peace talks. However, that is only partially true. As far as Israel is concerned, there were never any free lunches. Since its rebirth 70 years ago, Israel never got anything for free and frequently had to pay a heavy price for issues that most other countries take for granted, such as having its de facto capital recognized by the international community.

As long as Trump’s Arab-Israeli peace plan has not yet been unveiled, speculations will continue in rapid succession. However, the contours of Trump’s Middle East’s vision are gradually becoming visible. Israel will likely be asked to make extensive concessions for Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Since the demands will come from the first American president to officially recognize Israel’s capital, it will be exceedingly difficult for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his conservative coalition partners to reject Washington’s requests. However, it is unlikely that Trump will demand more from Israel than did his predecessors.

Message to Ramallah is clear

Trump’s statement that Jerusalem has been taken off the table seems to contradict his earlier statement that Jerusalem’s final boundaries are subject to negotiations between the two parties. It could mean that Arab towns and villages in “East Jerusalem” will eventually be transferred to Ramallah’s jurisdiction, but the PA will not have a capital in any part of Jerusalem.

The message towards Ramallah is much clearer and indeed signals an end to the free lunches that Abbas and his regime have become accustomed to under previous US administrations. This was particularly true under former President Barack Obama, who frequently acted more like a spokesperson for Abbas than an impartial mediator. This created an untenable situation where Obama encouraged Abbas to reject negotiations with Israel and was constantly presenting unrealistic demands to Jerusalem. Trump’s infusion of harsh reality and reciprocity is a hard adjustment for Ramallah.

Any final deal, financial or political, requires two sides giving and taking. Netanyahu and Trump certainly understand this reality. The time has come for Abbas and his regime to return to planet Earth after decades of wasted Orwellian fantasies encouraged by irresponsible Western and Middle Eastern mediators.

 

Brett Decker: ‘Trump in One Year Is Already Better Than 16 Years’ of Bush, Obama ‘Put Together’

January 7, 2018

Brett Decker: ‘Trump in One Year Is Already Better Than 16 Years’ of Bush, Obama ‘Put Together’, BreitbartRobert Kraychik, January 6, 2018

MANDEL NGAN, Win McNamee, Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool/Getty Images by ROBERT KRAYCHIK6 Jan 201813

“Trump in one year is already better than sixteen years of [George W. Bush and Barack Obama] put together,” said former Wall Street Journal editor Brett M. Decker, pointing to a current 17-year high in consumer confidence.

Decker, an expert on Asia and the bestselling author of Bowing to Beijing: How Barack Obama Is Hastening America’s Decline and Ushering a Century of Chinese Domination, joined Friday’s edition of SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight with Breitbart News’s Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon and Senior Editor-at-Large Rebecca Mansour.

“The leading indicator, when you dig into the data on why consumer confidence is high, is because people are anticipating higher wages,” said Decker. “The economy and consumer, they work logically. … What you’re seeing [are] the consequences of positive policy.”

President Donald Trump’s economic policies incentivize economic investment in America, said Decker, noting the mobility of capital in the modern era. “Businesses and consumers are [responding] logically” to the Trump administration’s economic policies, he added.

Decker rejected narratives crediting former President Barack Obama’s economic policies with recently developing economic figures during Trump’s presidential tenure, framing such assertions as “absolutely crazy”: “You look at the unemployment numbers, and it’s 4.1 percent. I look at Obama and Bush kind of combined, when I look at their block of sixteen years. Anyone that says this is inheriting some kind of Obama economy, he had eight years, and in 2010, the unemployment rate was 9.6 percent, absolutely crazy. … This idea that it has anything to do with Obama is absolutely crazy.”

Dropping unemployment rates, said Decker, will not be welcomed by all persons or interests. “Big business” interests, he said, prefer higher rates of unemployment given their depressive effects on wages. He also praised Trump’s emphasis on expanding domestic manufacturing. “When there are fewer people looking for jobs, you have to pay those few people more to take those jobs. What scares me about this is big business … seeing the unemployment numbers go down, and they’re like, ‘Oh, no. We’re going to have to pay these people more. We better call Paul Ryan and get him to flood us with cheap immigrant labor.’ So not everybody who looks at these numbers gets excited. There are different kinds of reactions.”

Decker went on to say that “one of [his] favorite things that Trump has done [was when] he was with some of the automakers, and he pointed to the head of Toyota of America, he said, ‘You have to build plants here.’ Within a short period of time, Toyota canceled a factory they were building in Mexico and said they were going to put it in the U.S., instead. What is that, a few thousand extra manufacturing jobs?”

Decker added, “Trade policy, I think, is one of the clearest areas where, if you look at the deindustrialization of America, how much government policy matters. The period between 1994, when NAFTA was passed, and 2014, a 20-year period … our trade deficit with [Canada and Mexico] went up 430 percent. … We get zero benefit out of these trade deals.”

America’s hemorrhaging of manufacturing jobs to other countries, said Decker, was economically disadvantageous: “Fundamentally, I think most people know in their heart of hearts, you can’t just be a consumer economy. If you want to consume anything, you have to make something. We’ve had decades of policy where we just decided we didn’t have to make anything anymore.”

Neo-conservative predictions of China’s political liberalization resulting from its deeper integration into the global economy had not borne out, said Bannon and Decker, with the former describing it as “one of biggest strategic mistakes” of modern Western political leadership.

Decker said, “This idea that you see among the neo-con right is, if you make [China] richer, eventually they’re gonna get more economic freedom. People are gonna demand more political freedom.” Bannon responded, “Oops. That was a miss,” and Decker agreed. “That was one of the biggest strategic mistakes,” said Bannon, adding, “When they look back at the history of this thing a hundred years from now, the Clinton and Bush administrations, the strategic miscalculation about China will go down in history as one of the greatest failures of the elites and the leadership of this country – the mid-nineties to up until, really, President Trump came on the scene, the whole ‘China’s gonna change.’”