Put Yourself In Bibi’s Shoes

By Sal Bommarito

It’s not easy being Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu these days. As leader of Israel, Bibi must deal with never-ending external and internal threats. His country has been criticized by virtually every nation as it strives to survive in one of the most dangerous regions in the world.

Specifically, the following external issues dog Netanyahu every day: Palestine, Iran nuclear negotiations, Israel’s relationship with America and terrorism.

Palestine: Is Palestine politically and economically ready to be an independent state? Interested parties have been debating this question since 1988. As of 2014, 135 of 193 United Nations members recognized the State of Palestine. During his recent election, Netanyahu indicated that he was against a “two-state” solution, an obvious campaign ploy (it worked, he won). Subsequently, the prime minister clarified his comment by saying that there could be no two-state arrangement “at this time.”

Over the years, Israel has negotiated with some very difficult Palestinian opponents. On several occasions, peace and agreement were at hand, only to be dashed by one side or the other. The division of land, the connection of the West Bank to the Gaza Strip, economic considerations, terrorism and the right of Israel to exist are among the primary areas of dispute. American presidents have unsuccessfully tried to mediate a deal during the past four decades.

Israel has done its share to add to the chaos and inability to make peace. Most recently, it, for security reasons, built new settlements on land that the Palestinians believe belongs to them. President Obama has asked, and then demanded, that Netanyahu put a stop to this activity, to no avail.

Arabs frequently accuse Israel of crimes against humanity, especially when it retaliates against terrorist attacks by Hamas and other groups. The Palestinian’s plight is one of the most contentious issues in the Middle East for all Arab nations.

Iran’s nuclear negotiations: Bibi has claimed that a nuclear Iran is an existential threat to Israel. He has been relentless in expressing all the reasons why the U.S. should not cave into Iranian demands. His rationale includes a belief that Iran will not be a responsible possessor of a nuke, and it will violate the provisions of any treaty that limits its ability to build a nuclear weapon.

Netanyahu spoke before the U.S. Congress lobbying for discretion and oversight of any deal that President Obama signs. There were many sympathetic ears in the crowd. Last week, Iran and the U.S. agreed to an “outline” of a treaty. It is not clear what bipartisan actions Congress may take prospectively, or whether it will wait until a draft agreement is signed.

Israel’s relationship with the U.S.: The Netanyahu speech created a serious rift with the Obama administration; Obama did not endorse Bibi’s appearance. Obama Is disgusted with the prime minister’s endless carping, but Netanyahu is fighting for his country’s survival.

The implications of enthusiastic U.S. support are epic. Frankly, without military support, Israel could not survive. In fact, the demographics (in particular, birth rates of Israelis versus Palestinians) put Israel at a serious disadvantage over time. And, decreased financial support from American Jews could be a deathblow to Israel; young Jews are not as generous politically or economically than the previous generations.

Terrorism: Israel is continually under the gun, so to speak. Its citizens are always in peril from threats that have become more emboldened over time. The Jewish state is the only issue that unites Shiite and Sunni Arabs. Over the years, every Middle Eastern leader has attributed domestic and external problems to Israel, even if it had no role.

Yes, Bibi has a difficult job. I often wonder why so many nations around the world are supportive of Palestine over Israel when it is clear that the latter is more of a counter-puncher than an aggressor. Retaliation against terrorist attacks is too often labeled a crime.

Perhaps, Israel’s reputation is tarnished by its affiliation with the U.S. Sometimes, it is difficult to determine who Arabs despise more, America or Israel.

Congress Should Do Whatever Necessary To Prevent Iran From Developing A Nuclear Weapon

By Sal Bommarito

The impending Iran nuclear deal is one element of the ever-expanding enigma known as the Middle East. Every day the complexity of issues becomes more daunting exacerbated by indecision and rash diplomatic ploys.

President Obama and leaders from around the world must react to events in the Middle East influenced by a backdrop that includes ISIS fighters slaughtering other Arabs, a competitive Israeli election, a growing diplomatic rift between Israel and the U.S., a nuclear controversy, worsening tension between Shiites an Sunnis and an epic refugee problem.

Most of the issues are very important but none are existential with the exception of the Iran nuclear deal. The mass execution of innocents and the threat of civil wars in a strategic part of the world are disconcerting, but an Iranian nuclear capability is a game changer.

President Obama indicated at the outset of the current round of negotiations with Iran that a nuclear Iran was not a viable option. Things have changed dramatically over the past several months along with Obama’s objectives. He seems satisfied with a treaty that keeps Iran non-nuclear with a one-year lag if Iran opts out of the treaty; and the treaty expires in 10 years in any case.

Can you blame Congress for being unnerved by the new calculus? One day, our president is saying, “No nukes for Iran.” The next day, Iran is non-nuclear until they opt out, but no longer than a short decade.

The response of Republicans and Democrats to Obama’s efforts to keep them uninvolved was bipartisan; the lawmakers wanted to be able to approve a new treaty and any reductions in economic sanctions against Iraq. As Obama neared a deal with Iran, it appeared that he was prepared to be generous to our mortal enemy that has called for the annihilation of Israel and has been the most prolific supporter of terrorism in the region.

It’s probably a legacy thing. Obama has had very few memorable diplomatic achievements during his tenure, and he wants to make a big splash by ending the hostile relationship with Iran.

Republicans responded by asking Prime Minister Netanyahu to address Congress without [authorization, endorsement, approval] from the president. As the deadline for a deal approached, Senate Republicans sent an open letter to the Iranian leadership indicating that they were not happy with the proposals contained in the new deal, and that a new president or Congress could annul the treaty in the near future.

This action created a huge rift between the parties as it did break the traditional lines that separate the executive and legislative branches of the government. Many believe a president has the authority to negotiate a treaty, and after it is completed, the Senate votes to accept it or not. The Republicans were jumping the gun because they thought Obama overstepped his authority and was willing to give away too much relating to Iran’s ability to complete a bomb.

The question is, does Congress have a right, or even an obligation, to speak up and pre-judge a potentially dangerous arrangement by the president? Damn right it does! It’s unconscionable that the U.S. would negotiate a deal that would make Iran stronger militarily and create an existential threat to Israel.

Obama’s Inappropriate Relationships With Arab Nations

By Sal Bommarito

President Obama is finding himself on the wrong side of several critical issues in the Middle East. They include his ambivalence towards Egypt under its new secular president, encouragement of secret negotiations that may lead to an Iranian nuclear capability and animosity towards the State of Israel and its Prime Minister.

 

The Counter Jihad Report” discussed a speech by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in which he “attacks the root causes of continuing conflict between certain adherents of Islam and freedom-loving secularists . . .”

 

The Muslim Brotherhood, a theocratic based political group, took control of the country in 2012 under the leadership of former President Mohammed Morsi. He was subsequently deposed in 2014 by el-Sisi, a secular leader, who imprisoned his predecessor along with many of his followers.

 

President Obama has been supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2009, he made a speech at the University of Cairo and lauded President Morsi and his organization. Since Morsi’s incarceration, Obama “has seemingly turned his back on Egypt . . .”

 

“It is truly fascinating that here is the one leader in the Muslim world who has the courage not only to confront the enemy, but also its ideology.” El-Sisi has been “calling out Islamists and the clerics, mullahs [and] imams who are causing strife globally.” Yet, Obama has not been responsive to him.

 

“ . . . we cannot shy away from defining this enemy . . . It is unbelievable that anyone would refer to the Islamic terrorists who wrought savage carnage this week [in Paris] as activists.”

 

At the same time, President Obama is staunchly defiant of Congress’ suggestion that more conditional sanctions against Iran should be enacted. In fact, he threatened to veto any laws to that effect during his State of the Union address.

 

Many in Congress, including powerful Democrats such as Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) are uncomfortable with negotiations relating to the development of an Iranian nuclear weapon. The president believes that his closed-door meetings will be negatively impacted if Congress moves to introduce new sanctions. The opposition to these negotiations does not believe Iran can be trusted, and the country has been an impediment to peace in the region.

 

On a related note, the New York Times reports that Iran’s supreme leader released a letter to “youths in the United States and Europe imploring them to learn about Islam from original sources . . .” The Ayatollah is concerned about the image of Islam on the heels of the Charlie Hebdo attack. The cleric indicated, “ . . . researchers and historians are deeply ashamed of the bloodshed wrought in the name of religion between the Catholics and Protestants or in the name of nationality and ethnicity during [WWII].” The intent of the letter was to transfer blame for current hostilities to the west.

 

Obama is determined to appease Iran during the negotiations even as the vast majority of Americans and Congress are becoming more uncomfortable with the potential of Iran having a nuclear weapon.

 

Israel considers the development of nuclear capability by Iran to be an existential problem. It is inconceivable that any person could come to another conclusion, particularly the man who is the leader of Israel’s most important ally. Time and again, Obama has not supported Israel to assure its survival. His attitude has made the Jewish state all the more vulnerable during his tenure.

 

In an act of defiance, Congress invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to address the body without endorsement of the administration. The story is reported in the New York Times. The topics dearest to Netanyahu are Iran, its ambition to have a nuclear weapon and implementation of more sanctions. The Prime Minister’s appearance flies in the face of the president who objects to any interference of his negotiations with Iran.

 

The writing is on the wall. President Obama is regularly kowtowing to the interests of Muslim countries that are hostile to the U.S. It is a mystery why he has adopted this tactic. We should expect Congress to delve deeply into Obama’s motivations in the months ahead and to obstruct many of his initiatives.

 

President Obama’s diplomacy relating to the Islamic world needs to be vetted by his critics. Apologists of the president should stand aside and give politicians and leaders who disagree with Obama a chance to express their views.

Eliminating Iran Sanctions In Exchange For Cooperation Against ISIS Is Foolish

By Sal Bommarito

Is the West prepared to effectively give Iran a green light to build a nuclear bomb by eliminating economic sanctions in exchange for Iran’s participation in the battle with ISIS? A Newsweek article indicates that negotiations are already underway to forge together a deal “that would end sanctions in return for assurances [Iran will] not develop a nuclear weapon.”

It appears that the U.S. and Iran are negotiating two different transactions. The U.S. wants Iran to agree to not build a bomb, whereas Iran still maintains that it has a right to a nuclear program, which effectively enables it to build a bomb. It will be a monumental effort for each party to accomplish their objectives.

Before the U.S. agrees to cooperate, it should reconsider whom it is dealing with and whether there are other ways to defeat ISIS that would not include arming Iran.

Iran has not given up its dream to build a nuclear device, no matter what it says publicly. It is the only way that Iran can achieve a level of parity with Israel, which has a nuclear capability. In this regard, Iran will lie, cheat and steal to achieve its goal. The most important question is: Can Iran be trusted to live up to guarantees after economic sanctions are eliminated? Considering Iran’s nefarious activities throughout the Middle East, the U.S. should have concerns about Iran’s trustworthiness.

The Newsweek article indicates several disturbing things. Iran is supporting a militia that has destabilized Yemen. President Bashar al-Assad will be protected by Iran, even as nearly every Arab nation has called for Assad to step down. Iran has maintained contact with Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s former prime minister, which will enable it to disrupt conciliation between the Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis.

The willingness of the U.S. to deal with Iran should be affected by its longstanding feud with it. Diplomatic relations ended in 1979 when Iranian clerics encouraged radicals to take 52 U.S. diplomats hostage for a year.

Iran continues to commit human rights violations. For example, Newsweek reported that Iran executed 1,000 people last year. Iran security forces continue to harass and arrest peaceful protesters as well as journalists. Most disturbing is the support Iran affords Hezbollah, a ruthless terrorist organization. Despite all these concerns, some western countries are anxious to ally with Iran against ISIS.

What does Iran bring to the table militarily? GFP indicates that Iran has 500 thousand active soldiers and 1.8 million reservists. It has 2,400 tanks and various types of fighting vehicles and rocket launchers. Aircraft total 481 including attack planes and helicopters.

The Jerusalem Post points out that Iran’s military resume is not impressive. The country’s efforts to spread its ideology have been less than impressive and with a “lack of follow through.” In a nutshell, Iran has been cautious about employing its military. Rather, it relies heavily upon “indirect diplomacy, menace and intrigue.” Nevertheless, Iran has been emboldened by the U.S.’s meek responses to crises in the region.

Iran did not perform admirably in its war with Iraq in the 1980s. Some people attribute this to “overestimated nationalism” and Iranian “unwillingness to sacrifice.” So, what might we expect from Iran in the ISIS war? The allies should not be too optimistic.

A nuclear weapon would enable Iran to assert itself without directly confronting its enemies. The threat of a nuclear strike is the hammer that Iran will wield if left unchecked.

A trade off would be acceptable if Iran was honorable and lived up to guarantees and promises about its nuclear program. Since Iran leaders have repeatedly said the country has a right to do whatever it wants, nobody should derive any comfort. Sanctions are the only power we hold over Iran, other than the threat of an outright assault. Giving up sanctions would be disastrous.

With this in mind, I think the deal that is percolating is foolish, naïve and shortsighted. The coalition cannot be sure that Iran will engage fully and effectively with ISIS, or even whether it can repel ISIS terrorists.

Meanwhile, Israel and Sunni Gulf Arabs are not going to sit by idly and allow Iran to build a nuclear bomb. It is entirely possible that Israel will take action against what it believes is an existential threat. Similarly, Saudi Arabia is likely to set loose insurgents to destabilize Shiite bastions in response to an Iranian deal.

President Obama had better be sure that mechanisms are in place to prevent the development of a bomb by Iran, as a nuclear event could materially change the Middle East.

After The ISIS War There Will Be No Peace In The Middle East

By Sal Bommarito

The ISIS War has become a huge public relations problem for all the interested parties, as the definition of “winning the war” is becoming more elusive over time.

The U.S. is in a precarious position because the president said ISIS would be defeated. Most believe this means the terrorists will be killed and will no longer threaten the Middle East.

It is not happening up to this point. ISIS is recruiting new fighters and selling more commandeered oil every day to finance its operations. Everybody (including the president and his aides) knows that effective ground support for U.S. bombing sorties is not going to materialize. Winning the war without boots on the ground will be impossible.

President Obama said no U.S. ground forces would be deployed. Frankly, Americans cannot stomach another occupation and inevitable casualties, so it is easy to appreciate the decision to withhold soldiers. However, the mission is to kill off ISIS, but that’s not realistic because ISIS fighters will annihilate ground troops supplied by any of the countries in the region. Sadly, the American people have been misled, once again, about the rationale and resolution of yet another conflict.

So, what’s next for America? Hostilities will likely continue so long as the U.S. continues to bomb ISIS forces. At some point, the U.S. will retreat and allow the Arabs to fight it out. This eventuality extends the current losing streak to four in a row for the U.S., Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq twice.

Iraq is also a loser no matter what happens to ISIS. The country, or what will be left of it after ISIS annexes large chunks of it, will experience a continuation of the year’s old civil war pitting embedded Shiites (supported by Iran) against the rebel Sunnis (supported by Saudi Arabian insurgents).

Syria will also be in total confusion after the ISIS crisis. Currently, Bashar al-Assad and rebel Sunnis are busy fighting ISIS. If they survive the onslaught, they will reengage with each other in civil war. The rebels will likely receive support from Turkey, maybe the U.S. and other Arab countries. Assad will be aided by both Iran and Russia. It’s unclear how this imbroglio will play out.

Nothing will change for Israel after the war ends. Arab nations are united in their hatred for the Jewish state. The Israelis will continue to battle with Palestinians in perpetuity and refocus on Iran’s efforts to develop a nuclear capability.

Some say Iran is obsessed with the wrong issues. It wants the U.S. to rescind economic sanctions and increase flexibility relating to nuclear material in exchange for support against ISIS. Rather, Iran should direct its efforts towards ISIS exclusively, as it is already close to its border. The ability of Iran’s military to repel an ISIS invasion is not a sure bet. Iran does not have a good track record in overt conflicts. Its specialties are insurgency and internal security.

The major concern is that Israel might attack Iran if the U.S. is too lenient with Iran. The development of a nuclear bomb is the only way that Iran can gain parity with Israel militarily. No way will Israel allow this to happen, in the opinion of many.

Turkey is a wild card. It hates ISIS, Syria (and Assad) and Kurds. Its president, Erdogan, has stated publicly that each of these situations is of equal importance to his country. In effect, fighting three individual wars will dilute Turkey’s strength and its diplomatic clout. It has been a totally unreliable ally of the west and not deserving of NATO membership. The Turks should recalibrate their focus on ISIS, which is mustering its strength in nearby Kobani.

The final piece of the puzzle is Saudi Arabia. It represents the biggest prize for ISIS. It’s not clear what countries would come to Saudi Arabia’s rescue if ISIS approaches the country. The disruption of an overthrown regime on oil reserves would be devastating globally.

ISIS will soon redraw the map of the Middle East because of the lack of commitment to destroy it by the U.S. and its allies. When the ISIS war ends, hostilities will continue as old feuds, resentment and threats are responded to. The Middle East will not see peace for at least another generation. Unfortunately, allowing ISIS to grow and finance itself has created grave new concerns.

Can Israel Survive Long-Term?

By Sal Bommarito

The future prospects of the Jewish state in Israel are not encouraging. Several factors bear out this dire assessment.

 

Along with  outright antisemitism,  one of  the most devastating phenomenon affecting Israeli Jews is demographics. There are approximately 13.9 million Jews worldwide. The population of Jews in America is about 6.7 million. In neither case, do Jews have a significant numerical presence.

 

In the combined Israel/Palestine area, the number of Jews is expected to grow from 8.2 million currently (75% of the total) to 11.4 million (73%) by 2035. The composition of religions in this region is Muslim (47%), Jewish (50%) and Christian (2%). However, it should be noted that 317 million Muslims live in the Middle East and North Africa. Once again, Jews are a relatively small part of the demographic mosaic.

 

The conclusion to be drawn is that the indigenous population of Israel/Palestine is moving away from Jews, and they will become a smaller and smaller percent of the population as time passes. Also, birth rates of non-Jews in the area are much higher than Jewish rates (including immigration of Jews to Israel). Further, the number of Muslims who are anti-Semitic is far larger than the current and projected Jewish population.

 

The ultimate division of the area between Israel and Palestine is very significant. A one-state solution will result in a Muslim majority in the next few years based upon current demographic trends. A two-state solution would protect Jews from becoming a minority, but Muslim leaders know this and will likely oppose such a plan. The ultimate direction of this controversy is far from settled.

 

The support of Israel by Jews around the world is becoming problematic. In America, young Jews are increasingly critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and its conservative politics. The importance of this is twofold. The first is financial. As years pass, the U.S. government’s interest in providing assistance to Israel may wane because of less political pressure from American Jews. Second, cohesiveness of Jews throughout the world seems to be decreasing. Considering the magnitude of antisemitic forces that must be contended with, it is important for all Jews to show solidarity.

 

Some believe that as older Jews die and memories of the Holocaust fade, Jewish support outside of Israel will decline. And, the need to have a place of refuge in the face of oppression is diminishing. The safety Jews feel as residents of the U.S. is one cause of this trend.

 

But, antisemitic attitudes throughout the world have not abated. The Economist indicated that even in Europe, arguably the second safest place for Jews, antisemitism is growing. In eastern Europe, 34% are antisemitic, and in western Europe, 24% are antisemitic.

 

Given that there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world and over 300 million in the same region as Israel, it is no wonder that Israel is constantly under pressure. Also, Israel is the principal caretaker of the home of several religions, which greatly elevates resentment and tensions.

 

In recent years, many Muslim heads of state and religious leaders have called for the destruction of Israel. High on the list is Iran, which is situated close by, and funds various terrorist groups that prey upon Israel. Significant funding of terrorist activities is also provided by virtually by all Arab countries in the Middle East.

 

Israel cannot survive without strong support from the U.S. Published financial funding is about $3 billion annually, $1.2 billion for economic benefits and $1.8 billion for military purposes. It has been estimated that the U.S. has granted over $80 billion to Israel in the period 1949-2000. This excludes covert and secret military operations (i.e., intelligence).

 

How important is Israel to the U.S.? It is possible that America may decide to decrease its commitment to Israel? Tension between the two current leaders foretells more problems going forward. One thing is clear, without U.S. backing, Israel would be doomed sooner rather than later. Israeli leaders know this so that the U.S. should be able to greatly influence Israel.

 

A final question is whether Israel is important to Jews outside its borders. Since the end of World War II, the country has been a safe haven for Jews persecuted around the world. The government has encouraged the immigration of Jews seeking asylum to bolster its somewhat meager birth rates. But, are there other places that Jews can find safety? The obvious one is the U.S., which has welcomed oppressed people over the years. Unlike other immigrants in recent years, Jews are very quick to assimilate and rapidly become self-sufficient economically. So, increased immigration would not be an extraordinary burden to the U.S.

 

Is Israel is important to Jews outside of Israel for emotional and religious reasons. Older Jews say that the loss of the Jewish state would be devastating, even as they live safely, happily and securely in America. Given that younger Jews do not feel this strong attraction, does it foretell growing American apathy towards Israel in the future? Only time will tell.

In Defense Of Israel Against Hamas Terrorism

The international community of nations is somewhat divided on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet, those critical of Israeli offensive actions, as expected, have been screaming the loudest. The liberal press has been particularly negative towards Israel. Disagreement also exists in the Arab world; as usual the Sunni/Shiite schism accounts for various nations taking different sides. Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies have supported the fight against Hamas, while Iran and its Shiite allies are backing the terrorist organization.

 

The net effect is that hundreds of innocents are being killed during Israel’s efforts to destroy Hamas munitions and close terrorist tunnels from Palestine to Israel. (It should be noted that Hamas has stored weapons and taken sanctuary in places that are often occupied by non-combatants. This fact, sadly, results in collateral damage.)

 

Israeli casualties are far less than Palestinian casualties, but they must put up with continuous warnings to take cover from Hamas rocket attacks. Many of these rockets, fortunately, are shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system.

 

The real question is where does America stand? A New York Times news story, titled “Gaza Is Straining U.S. Ties To Israel,” analyzes this question. The article indicates that President Obama and the State Department “condemned Israel’s strikes on the United Nations School in Gaza on Sunday, saying it was ‘appalled’ by this disgraceful act, . . .” Some have said that this rebuke was “among the toughest ever being aimed at Israel,” and it is indicative of Obama’s “frustration” with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

 

Conversely, the story says “The United States has been bruised by repeated clashes. . .[and] from the withering Israeli criticism of Secretary of State John Kerry.” Frankly, no one has been impressed with Kerry’s modern day version of shuttle diplomacy in the region. In spite of the number of trips he has taken, the meetings convened and the time dedicated to this conflict, Kerry’s achievements have been nil.

 

The Times quoted a former American ambassador to Israel as saying “This is the most sustained period of antagonism in the relationship [between Israel and the U.S.] . . .” It is this perspective that is the most distressing because without our strong support, Israel will cease to exist.

 

According to the Times, public opinion in America and in Congress is very solidly behind Israel’s actions against Hamas, although everyone would like to see a sustainable cease-fire. Even Arab neighbors have not spoken against the Israeli offensive. Even more curious, “The Pentagon confirmed that . . . it had resupplied the Israeli military with ammunition . . . Mr. Obama [also] signed a bill . . . giving Israel $225 million . . . for its Iron Dome antimissile system.”

 

So once again, the policies of the Obama are unclear to everyone outside of the administration. Is Obama supportive of Israel efforts to secure its borders or not?

 

Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle East. Without them, the U.S. would be far less informed and even less capable of responding to new national security threats. The bonds between the U.S. and Israel go far beyond the current leaders. They have developed over a half-century of collaboration. Moreover, Israel is loosely tied to many Jews in America culturally, politically and religiously.

 

On Fox’s The Five, Greg Gutfeld made a strong case to support Israeli actions against Hamas. He queried about whether the U.S. should just stand by and allow a neighbor to lob rockets onto our soil. Would we want our citizens taking cover from wanton rocket attacks 20 or 30 times each day? The response of the U.S. would be an all out attack to stop this aggression.

 

All the Palestinians need to do is stop the rocket attacks and abandon the rat holes that serve as terrorist entrée into Israel. The hostilities would end.

 

The U.S. has a legal and moral obligation to support Israel as it defends itself from terror. The Obama administration has no right or authority to destroy an alliance that began over 50 years ago especially given that most Americans continue to support Israel.