Archive for the ‘Netanyahu and Iran’ category

Jared Kushner, Mohammed bin Salman, and Benjamin Netanyahu Are Up to Something

November 8, 2017

Jared Kushner, Mohammed bin Salman, and Benjamin Netanyahu Are Up to Something, Foreign Policy, November 7, 2017

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL – JUNE 21: (ISRAEL OUT) In this handout photo provided by the Israel Government Press Office (GPO), Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Jared Kushner on June 21, 2017 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Photo by Amos Ben Gershom/GPO via Getty Images)

Mohammed bin Salman may or may not have recently visited Tel Aviv, where Israel’s Defense Ministry is located. But even if he never set foot in the HaKirya complex, there is little doubt that he has authorized ever closer relations with the Israelis, who view the Iranian threat exactly as he does. And the crown prince is not the only one Jared Kushner has been speaking to: Trump has given his son-in-law overall leadership on the peace process between Israel and the Arabs, and he is reportedly a welcome guest in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office.

Given Kushner’s role, did Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman signal his plans when Kushner last met with him — and did Kushner then inform his father-in-law? And if so, how far will Washington, or more precisely, the White House, go to back up the Saudis if their confrontation with Iran gets hot? Or will Israel serve as Trump’s proxy? With this president, this crown prince, and the current prime minister of Israel, anything is possible.

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There seems to be a general consensus in Washington that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ongoing purge of princes and businessmen — including the wealthiest of them all, the business mogul and Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal — is motivated by his determination to consolidate his power, well before his father, King Salman, passes from the scene. He is in this regard a latter-day Adonijah, who had himself crowned king while his father King David was alive. And, like Adonijah, Mohammed bin Salman has made some very powerful enemies in the process. Unlike that Biblical figure, however, he has his father’s support and has taken care to arrest anyone who might threaten his drive to preeminence.

Jared Kushner, U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, was in Riyadh again only recently. It was his third trip to Saudi Arabia since Trump took office. He again met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, with whom he appears to have established a close personal relationship. It should therefore come as no surprise that Trump, who shares the young crown prince’s antipathy toward Iran, has commented favorably on the recent developments in Riyadh.

It is said of Donald Trump that he has undermined America’s credibility with its allies. That may be the case in Europe, and perhaps in parts of Asia, though not in Japan or India. But it is certainly not the case in the Middle East. Tensions with Turkey and Egypt emanate primarily from the U.S. Congress, not from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. Relations with Israel are better than they have been since the day former President Barack Obama took office. The same can be said of U.S. relations with both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates or, for that matter, Bahrain and Morocco. The force that unites them all is Iran, whose support for instability throughout the region received a financial fillip from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — that is, the Iran nuclear deal.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may or may not be a true reformer. His record on that score is not unequivocal. But he is determined to halt the expansion of Iranian influence, which now really does manifest itself as the Shiite crescent about which Jordan’s King Abdullah II forewarned over a decade ago. The crown prince recognizes that his country’s worst nightmare is slowly materializing: Iran is supplying the Houthi rebels to its south and dominates neighboring Iraq to its north. 

It foments instability in Bahrain and could well do the same in Saudi Arabia’s Shiite-majority Eastern Province. And if that were not enough, Iran’s influence is entrenched in Damascus and Beirut. It is particularly for that reason the Saudis forced their ally Saad Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister, to resign his office while on a visit to the Kingdom.

Mohammed bin Salman may or may not have recently visited Tel Aviv, where Israel’s Defense Ministry is located. But even if he never set foot in the HaKirya complex, there is little doubt that he has authorized ever closer relations with the Israelis, who view the Iranian threat exactly as he does. And the crown prince is not the only one Jared Kushner has been speaking to: Trump has given his son-in-law overall leadership on the peace process between Israel and the Arabs, and he is reportedly a welcome guest in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office.

Given Kushner’s role, did Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman signal his plans when Kushner last met with him — and did Kushner then inform his father-in-law? And if so, how far will Washington, or more precisely, the White House, go to back up the Saudis if their confrontation with Iran gets hot? Or will Israel serve as Trump’s proxy? With this president, this crown prince, and the current prime minister of Israel, anything is possible.

PM Netanyahu statement [re President Trump’s decertification of Iran scam]

October 13, 2017

PM Netanyahu statement via YouTube, October 13, 2017

Repeal and Replace In Farsi

October 13, 2017

Repeal and Replace In Farsi, Washington Free Beacon, October 13, 2017

(Are the media playing games with their headlines as usual or are their reports accurate? Here’s a link to the principal Times of Israel article cited, Netanyahu at odds with security team over Iran deal. — DM)

President Donald Trump is flanked by GOP senators to discuss health care / Getty Images

[T]he headlines preceding today’s remarks have been almost entirely shaped by the deal’s supporters, by the echo chamber that promoted and distorted the aims and conditions of the agreement to begin with. These were but some of the stories in Thursday’s edition of the Times of Israel: “Barak urges Trump not to decertify Iran nuke deal,” “Netanyahu at odds with security team over Iran deal,” “With Trump set to decertify Iran deal, experts tell Congress to stick to accord,” “Jewish Democrats who opposed Iran nuke deal now urge Trump to keep it.” You have to look hard for a piece detailing Iranian noncompliance, explaining the process of decertification and its relation to the overarching agreement, or quoting defenders of the president and his policy.

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President Trump is expected to announce today that he cannot certify Iran’s compliance with the terms of the agreement over its nuclear program that it entered into with the United States and five other nations in 2015. The president’s decision, according to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, will commence a 60-day expedited legislative process during which the Republican-controlled Congress may re-impose sanctions against the Islamic theocracy for its intransigence and belligerence. Sanctions, I might add, that should never have been lifted in the first place.

What is striking is that, with the exception of Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, none of the Republicans and Democrats who opposed the nuclear deal two years ago with such vehemence have gone out of their way to prepare the ground and make the national security case for the president’s decision.

Now, the Democrats I can understand. They are just playing to type. To say a kind word for Trump’s attempt to improve the deal would violate the secular commandment to resist his very being. The Republican silence, by contrast, is far more maddening.

This is the party that invited Bibi Netanyahu to criticize the deal in an address to a joint session of Congress. This is the party whose 2016 platform reads, “A Republican president will not be bound by” the deal and “We must retain all options in dealing with a situation that gravely threatens our security, our interests, and the survival of our friends.” This is the party that nominated and elected a president who said his “number one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.”

Yet the headlines preceding today’s remarks have been almost entirely shaped by the deal’s supporters, by the echo chamber that promoted and distorted the aims and conditions of the agreement to begin with. These were but some of the stories in Thursday’s edition of the Times of Israel: “Barak urges Trump not to decertify Iran nuke deal,” “Netanyahu at odds with security team over Iran deal,” “With Trump set to decertify Iran deal, experts tell Congress to stick to accord,” “Jewish Democrats who opposed Iran nuke deal now urge Trump to keep it.” You have to look hard for a piece detailing Iranian noncompliance, explaining the process of decertification and its relation to the overarching agreement, or quoting defenders of the president and his policy.

And the reason you have to look hard is that there are few elected Republicans who are taking the lead on this issue. Internal division, uncertainty, and personal rivalry may once again prevent the congressional GOP from achieving the aims it has stated loudly and proudly for years. The parallels to the attempted repeal and replacement of Obamacare are startling and, for this conservative, disturbing. “This is health care for us,” Ben Rhodes said of the Iran deal back in 2014. It would be both a diplomatic and a political disaster if the Republicans flopped as badly while trying to undo the central achievement of Barack Obama’s second term as they had while trying to undo the central achievement of his first.

Iranian noncompliance is a no-brainer. Look at the number of advanced centrifuges Iran is currently operating, its repeated violation of limits on its heavy water stocks, its underground efforts to obtain nuclear- and missile-related technologies. Look at the IAEA’s acknowledgment in September that it has difficulty verifying compliance with Section T of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which forbids “activities which could contribute to the development of a nuclear explosive device.”

And look at the Swiss cheese inspections regime. How can the president in good conscience certify compliance when no Americans are involved in the inspections, when inspections are limited to “declared” nuclear sites, when the Iranians have 24 days to prepare for IAEA inspections of other locations, when inspectors are forbidden from examining military bases? We have no idea what is going on in such places, much less in the places we do not know about. Remember: We didn’t know about the installations at Natanz and Arak until 2002 and the one at Fordow until 2009.

Of course a serious agreement would allow access to military locations. The apologies for Iranian stubbornness on this point are absurd. “For many Iranians—including those who support the nuclear deal—keeping inspectors out of military facilities is a point of national pride,” write Shashank Bengali and Ramin Mostaghim of the Los Angeles Times. Funny that national pride is okay as long as it’s Iran we’re talking about. Bengali and Mostaghim quote a “newspaper employee” in Tehran, Susan Saderi, who says, “It’s our country, and any country’s defense systems should be off limits to international inspections.”

No offense, Ms. Saderi, but you know whose defense systems are not off limits to international inspections?

  1. Associated Press from 2014: “Russians inspect Montana nuclear launch facilities.”
  2. Washington Free Beacon from 2014: “Russian Inspectors to Check U.S. Nuclear Cuts Amid Ukraine Crisis.”
  3. Fortune last August: “Russian Surveillance Plane Makes Low-Flying Pass of Capitol and Pentagon.”
  4. Wall Street Journal last August: “Top U.S. General Breaks Bread With Chinese Soldiers on North Korea’s Doorstep.”

Ok, the PLA probably didn’t allow General Dunford to count ammo stocks in Shenyang. But the point stands. The arms control treaties we signed with the Soviet Union permitted American inspectors to visit military locations. That was the whole point of trust but verify. President Obama may have trusted the Iranians—but then President Obama trusted Harvey Weinstein to oversee his daughter’s post-high school internship earlier this year. Why should Donald Trump play the patsy?

“If the political branches, [work] on a bipartisan basis on the parts of the deal we all know are flawed,” Cotton said earlier this month, “we will have the strong and unified front between Democrats and Republicans, and between Congress and the president, that the Iran deal never enjoyed. That unity will help the president forge a unified position with our allies—not only the United Kingdom, France, and Germany, but also Israel and our Arab allies. Then it will be Russia and China who must choose between a stronger deal and being isolated and in league with the ayatollahs.”

Are Republicans prepared to close ranks in a “strong and unified front” to remove the sunset clauses from the Iran deal, impose further limits on Iranian centrifuges, include Americans on IAEA inspection teams that have access to Iranian military bases, and constrain Iranian missile development? Or will they prove as disunited, feckless, spiteful, and incompetent as they did during the repeal and replace debacle?

I’m not sure I want to know the answer.

PM to present Trump with ‘concrete ideas’ on Iran deal

September 18, 2017

PM to present Trump with ‘concrete ideas’ on Iran deal, Israel Hayom, Gideon Allon, September 18, 2017

(Please see also, Trump considers ending Iran deal ahead of key deadline. –DM)

As PM Benjamin Netanyahu prepares to discuss Iranian threat with U.S. President Donald Trump in New York, Israeli media reports that the IAEA failed to investigate undisclosed, suspected nuclear sites in Iran • Netanyahu meets with U.S. Jewish leaders.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomes U.S. President Donald Trump during the latter’s visit to Israel | Photo: GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was busy Monday making final preparations for his meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump later in the day, where he was expected to lobby against the Iran nuclear agreement.

Netanyahu was scheduled to meet Trump at 1 p.m. (8 p.m. Israel time), where the Israeli premier is expected to reiterate his call on the American president to amend or scrap the agreement reached between Iran and Western powers in July 2015.

As another deadline to certify that Iran is adhering to the agreement looms – by law, Iran’s compliance must be certified every 90 days – it appears that Trump may be amenable to Netanyahu’s demands. Trump has declared in the past that he did not wish to certify Iran’s compliance next month, putting the future of the deal in question.

Netanyahu’s office said Sunday that the prime minister planned to present Trump with “concrete ideas” as to how to change or reverse the nuclear agreement.

Netanyahu was also preparing for his address to the United Nations General Assembly, scheduled for Tuesday. Efforts have reportedly been made to coordinate the key arguments of Netanyahu’s address, which will also focus on the Iranian threat, with those of the American president’s address, to avoid any obvious contradictions. This effort was a result of the gaps that emerged between the positions expressed by Netanyahu and Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama at last year’s general assembly.

Netanyahu’s address is expected to be shorter than in previous years, and include a direct appeal to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Netanyahu was preparing his address when Israeli paper Haaretz reported Sunday that International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors failed to investigate information regarding a number of undeclared, suspected nuclear sites in Iran. The paper quoted officials as saying that “almost all the suspected sites have not been visited by IAEA inspectors – either because of Iran’s refusal to grant entry or U.N. officials’ reluctance to confront Iran on the issue.”

Besides his strong opposition to the nuclear agreement with Iran, Netanyahu was expected to relay Israel’s concern over Iran’s presence in Syria, close to Israel’s northern border.

Upon landing in New York last week, Netanyahu reiterated the message that “Israel will not tolerate an Iranian presence at our northern border. It is a military presence that poses a threat not only to us, but also to our Arab neighbors and we will be forced to act against it.”

Meanwhile, Netanyahu met on Sunday with leaders of the U.S. Jewish community. Representatives of the Reform and Conservative Jewish movements voiced disappointment at not being granted meetings with Netanyahu, wanting to discuss Jerusalem’s recent decision to scrap plans for an egalitarian prayer plaza at the Western Wall – a decision that drew the ire of many Reform and Conservative Jews in the U.S.

Did the Obama Administration’s Abuse of Foreign-Intelligence Collection Start Before Trump?

April 5, 2017

Did the Obama Administration’s Abuse of Foreign-Intelligence Collection Start Before Trump?, Tablet MagazineLee Smith, April 5, 2017

The accusation that the Obama administration used information gleaned from classified foreign surveillance to smear and blackmail its political opponents at home has gained new traction in recent days, after reports that former National Security Adviser Susan Rice may have been rifling through classified transcripts for over a year that could have included information about Donald Trump and his associates. While using resources that are supposed to keep Americans safe from terrorism for other purposes may be a dereliction of duty, it is no more of a crime than spending all day on Twitter instead of doing your job. The crime here would be if she leaked the names of U.S. citizens to reporters. In the end, the seriousness of the accusation against Rice and other former administration officials who will be caught up in the “unmasking” scandal will rise or fall based on whether or not Donald Trump was actively engaged in a conspiracy to turn over the keys of the White House to the Kremlin. For true believers in the Trump-Kremlin conspiracy theories, the Obama “spying and lying” scandal isn’t a scandal at all; just public officials taking prudent steps to guard against an imminent threat to the republic.

But what if Donald Trump wasn’t the first or only target of an Obama White House campaign of spying and illegal leaks directed at domestic political opponents?

In a December 29, 2015 article, The Wall Street Journal described how the Obama administration had conducted surveillance on Israeli officials to understand how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials, like Ambassador Ron Dermer, intended to fight the Iran Deal. The Journal reported that the targeting “also swept up the contents of some of their private conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups.”

Despite this reporting, it seemed inconceivable at the time that—given myriad legal, ethical, political, and historical concerns, as well as strict National Security Agency protocols that protect the identity of American names caught in intercepts—the Obama White House would have actually spied on American citizens. In a December 31, 2016, Tablet article on the controversy, “Why the White House Wanted Congress to Think It Was Being Spied on By the NSA,” I argued that the Obama administration had merely used the appearance of spying on American lawmakers to corner opponents of the Iran Deal. Spying on U.S. citizens would be a clear abuse of the foreign-intelligence surveillance system. It would be a felony offense to leak the names of U.S. citizens to the press.

Increasingly, I believe that my conclusion in that piece was wrong. I believe the spying was real and that it was done not in an effort to keep the country safe from threats—but in order to help the White House fight their domestic political opponents.

“At some point, the administration weaponized the NSA’s legitimate monitoring of communications of foreign officials to stay one step ahead of domestic political opponents,” says a pro-Israel political operative who was deeply involved in the day-to-day fight over the Iran Deal. “The NSA’s collections of foreigners became a means of gathering real-time intelligence on Americans engaged in perfectly legitimate political activism—activism, due to the nature of the issue, that naturally involved conversations with foreigners. We began to notice the White House was responding immediately, sometimes within 24 hours, to specific conversations we were having. At first, we thought it was a coincidence being amplified by our own paranoia. After a while, it simply became our working assumption that we were being spied on.”

This is what systematic abuse of foreign-intelligence collection for domestic political purposes looks like: Intelligence collected on Americans, lawmakers, and figures in the pro-Israel community was fed back to the Obama White House as part of its political operations. The administration got the drop on its opponents by using classified information, which it then used to draw up its own game plan to block and freeze those on the other side. And—with the help of certain journalists whose stories (and thus careers) depend on high-level access—terrorize them.

Once you understand how this may have worked, it becomes easier to comprehend why and how we keep being fed daily treats of Trump’s nefarious Russia ties. The issue this time isn’t Israel, but Russia, yet the basic contours may very well be the same.

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Two inquiries now underway on Capitol Hill, conducted by the Senate intelligence committee and the House intelligence committee, may discover the extent to which Obama administration officials unmasked the identities of Trump team members caught in foreign-intelligence intercepts. What we know so far is that Obama administration officials unmasked the identity of one Trump team member, Michael Flynn, and leaked his name to the Washington Post’s David Ignatius.

“According to a senior U.S. government official,” Ignatius wrote in his Jan. 12 column, “Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking. What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions?”

Nothing, the Times and the Post later reported. But exposing Flynn’s name in the intercept for political purposes was an abuse of the national-security apparatus, and leaking it to the press is a crime.

This is familiar territory. In spying on the representatives of the American people and members of the pro-Israel community, the Obama administration learned how far it could go in manipulating the foreign-intelligence surveillance apparatus for its own domestic political advantage. In both instances, the ostensible targets—Israel and Russia—were simply instruments used to go after the real targets at home.

In order to spy on U.S. congressmen before the Iran Deal vote, the Obama administration exploited a loophole, which is described in the original Journal article. The U.S. intelligence community is supposed to keep tabs on foreign officials, even those representing allies. Hence, everyone in Washington knows that Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer is under surveillance. But it’s different for his American interlocutors, especially U.S. lawmakers, whose identities are, according to NSA protocol, supposed to be, at the very least, redacted. But the standard for collecting and disseminating “intercepted communications involving U.S. lawmakers” is much less strict if it is swept up through “foreign-foreign” intercepts, for instance between a foreign ambassador and his capital. Washington, i.e. the seat of the American government, is where foreign ambassadors are supposed to meet with American officials. The Obama administration turned an ancient diplomatic convention inside out—foreign ambassadors were so dangerous that meeting them signaled betrayal of your own country.

During the long and contentious lead-up to the Iran Deal the Israeli ambassador was regularly briefing senior officials in Jerusalem, including the prime minister, about the situation, including his meetings with American lawmakers and Jewish community leaders. The Obama administration would be less interested in what the Israelis were doing than in the actions of those who actually had the ability to block the deal—namely, Senate and House members. The administration then fed this information to members of the press, who were happy to relay thinly veiled anti-Semitic conceits by accusing deal opponents of dual loyalty and being in the pay of foreign interests.

It didn’t take much imagination for members of Congress to imagine their names being inserted in the Iran deal echo chamber’s boilerplate—that they were beholden to “donors” and “foreign lobbies.” What would happen if the White House leaked your phone call with the Israeli ambassador to a friendly reporter, and you were then profiled as betraying the interests of your constituents and the security of your nation to a foreign power? What if the fact of your phone call appeared under the byline of a famous columnist friendly to the Obama administration, say, in a major national publication?

To make its case for the Iran Deal, the Obama administration redefined America’s pro-Israel community as agents of Israel. They did something similar with Trump and the Russians—whereby every Russian with money was defined as an agent of the state. Where the Israeli ambassador once was poison, now the Russian ambassador is the kiss of death—a phone call with him led to Flynn’s departure from the White House and a meeting with him landed Attorney General Jeff Sessions in hot water.

Did Trump really have dealings with FSB officers? Thanks to the administration’s whisper campaigns, the facts don’t matter; that kind of contact is no longer needed to justify surveillance, whose spoils could then be weaponized and leaked. There are oligarchs who live in Trump Tower, and they all know Putin—ergo, talking to them is tantamount to dealing with the Russian state.

Yet there is one key difference between the two information operations that abused the foreign-intelligence surveillance apparatus for political purposes. The campaign to sell the Iran deal was waged while the Obama administration was in office. The campaign to tie down Trump with the false Russia narrative was put together as the Obama team was on its way out.

The intelligence gathered from Iran Deal surveillance was shared with the fewest people possible inside the administration. It was leaked to only a few top-shelf reporters, like the authors of The Wall Street Journal article, who showed how the administration exploited a loophole to spy on Congress. Congressmen and their staffs certainly noticed, as did the Jewish organizations that were being spied on. But the campaign was mostly conducted sotto voce, through whispers and leaks that made it clear what the price of opposition might be.

The reason the prior abuse of the foreign-intelligence surveillance apparatus is clear only now is because the Russia campaign has illuminated it. As The New York Timesreported last month, the administration distributed the intelligence gathered on the Trump transition team widely throughout government agencies, after it had changed the rules on distributing intercepted communications. The point of distributing the information so widely was to “preserve it,” the administration and its friends in the press explained—“preserve” being a euphemism for “leak.” The Obama team seems not to have understood that in proliferating that material they have exposed themselves to risk, by creating a potential criminal trail that may expose systematic abuse of foreign-intelligence collection.

Recruit Russia in the fight against Iran

March 9, 2017

Recruit Russia in the fight against Iran, Israel Hayom, Ariel Bolstein, March 9, 2017

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s meeting with Russian President Vladmir Putin in Moscow Thursday takes place at an interesting time.

Russia, which has exhausted its military moves in Syria, is searching for a future strategy that will allow it to integrate into the world of U.S. President Donald Trump. Russia has paid a high price for its confrontation with the West. True, as a result of the United States’ geopolitical retreat under former U.S. President Barack Obama, Russian influence has grown on a few fronts, primarily in the Middle East, but this achievement is not worth much without American recognition of Russia’s new-old status as a world power. The changing of the guard in Washington provided Moscow with a unique opportunity to turn the page on its relationship with the West, but the significance of such a change would also mean concessions on its part.

It seems that Russia may meet Trump halfway on the Iranian issue. Russia did not have much in common with the country of Islamic revolution from the outset, and the collaboration between them stems more from a desire on the part of both countries to challenge the existing world order. Indications of Russia’s openness to the idea of turning its back on Iran have been noted on Russian state television. These channels are full of talk shows that focus on current events, and the variety of voices heard on them is effectively controlled by authorities. In recent weeks, these programs have raised the possibility of placing Iran on the sacrificial altar between Moscow and Washington, and this was received with understanding by a majority of participants. One must remember that Putin and as a result the Russian public are determined to witness Russia’s inclusion in the select club of world powers, but they have no interest in dragging others who also claim the crown along with them, and certainly not Iran.

From Israel’s perspective, Netanyahu is now the only statesman to enjoy the trust of and an unprecedented friendship with both the White House and the Kremlin. Israel has succeeded in preserving its interests in the tempest of upheaval in the Middle East, in large part due to the relationship Netanyahu has forged with Putin. The Russians have been forced to honor Israel’s freedom of action in the region and have come to understand full well Israel’s determination to act whenever Israeli considerations require that it do so.

In the Trump era, Israel’s stock has risen even more in the eyes of the Russians. Moscow could not help but notice the special affinity Trump has shown toward Netanyahu and the feelings of solidarity they share. Israel is clearly not operating within a vacuum — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Russia after Netanyahu, and later in the month, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani will do the same — but those in the Kremlin must understand the differences in influence among these three figures.

The possible resolution in Syria and its de facto division into regions of influence underscores the need to stop the expansion and strengthening of Iran. Russia needs to understand that Hezbollah’s murderousness and lack of humanity is no different from that of the Sunni terrorists it so mercilessly bombed. There should be one law for the Islamic State, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham — formerly Nusra Front — and Hezbollah. If Russia operates according to this principle, its standing and the security of the region will vastly improve.

Remember When Obama Spied on Congressmen Opposed to Iran Deal?

March 6, 2017

Remember When Obama Spied on Congressmen Opposed to Iran Deal? Front Page Magazine, Daniel Greenfield, March 5, 2017

obamanixon

When the media puts on its befuddled face over Trump’s allegations, remember what Obama was doing little more than a year ago.

The National Security Agency’s (NSA) continued surveillance of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli leaders may also have swept up private conversations involving members of Congress, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday night.

Further, the Journal reports that intercepted conversations between Israeli leaders confirmed Israel’s knowledge of the talks, as well as its intent to undermine any nuclear deal with Iran by leaking its details. When Netanyahu and his top aides came to Washington to talk with Jewish-American groups and members of Congress to lobby against the deal, the NSA was there to pick up the conversations.

Senior officials told the WSJ that those conversations collected by the NSA raised fears “that the executive branch would be accused of spying on Congress.” The White House wanted the information anyway, however, because it “believed the intercepted information could be valuable to counter Mr. Netanyahu’s campaign.”

So in order to avoid leaving a trail, the White House left it to the NSA to figure out what to share, and the NSA obliged, deleting names of members and any personal attacks on the administration.

To summarize…

1. Obama Inc. used surveillance of an ally and of domestic groups, even members of Congress, to defend its own political agenda

2. It did so relying on plausible deniability

3. The information was shared across the administration and planted in the media

Kerry justified his accusation by pointing to Israeli media reports, but those reports were a convenient source, given that “Intelligence officials said the media reports allowed the U.S. to put Mr. Netanyahu on notice without revealing they already knew his thinking. The prime minister mentioned no secrets during his speech to Congress,” wrote the Journal.

There was no firewall between spying for national security and for a political agenda. That was the most important point here. Everything else is plausible deniability.

White House officials believed the intercepted information could be valuable to counter Netanyahu’s campaign. They also recognized that asking for it was politically risky. So, wary of a paper trail stemming from a request, the White House let the NSA decide what to share and what to withhold, officials said. “We didn’t say, ‘Do it,’ ” a senior U.S. official said. “We didn’t say, ‘Don’t do it.’ ”

When you hear the current Obama denials, remember that they almost certainly played another variation of the same game.