Tuesday, March 31, 2015

As Nuclear Talks Continue, Iran Issues Latest Threat to Destroy Israel

Steven Emerson, Executive Director
March 31, 2015

As Nuclear Talks Continue, Iran Issues Latest Threat to Destroy Israel

by IPT News  •  Mar 31, 2015 at 3:39 pm
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On a day Iran and western powers reportedly agreed to move talks on Iran's nuclear weapons program to "a new phase," a commander of the Islamic Republic's volunteer paramilitary force issued new threats of "wiping Israel off the map."
The goal of Israel's destruction is non-negotiable, Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi, head of Iran's volunteer Basij Force said during a recent conference, according to a Kol Yisrael radio report. The Basij Force is a part of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Such talk might be dismissed as idle rhetoric.
But Iran continues to beef up Hizballah's rocket arsenal, smuggling guided warheads into Lebanon, the Jerusalem Post's Yaakov Lappin reports.
Iran "is manufacturing new and advanced ballistic missiles, and cruise missiles," Col. Aviram Hasson, an Israeli missile defense expert, told Israel Air and Missile Defense Conference in Herzliya this week. "It is turning unguided rockets that had an accuracy range of kilometers into weapons that are accurate to within meters."
The advancements put Hizballah, Iran's Lebanese terrorist proxy, "in a very different place compared to the Second Lebanon War in 2006," Hasson said.
In that war, Hizballah fired 4,000 rockets at Israeli cities. The range of its current arsenal of more than 100,000 rockets include some capable of traveling several hundred kilometers, placing Israel's civilian population centers at risk.
Israel's Home Front Command has warned cities that they may need to evacuate civilians in the face of an onslaught of dozens to hundreds of missiles in a single day, Lappin reports.
Those missiles are likely beyond the capability of Israel's "Iron Dome" defense system, which intercepted scores of Hamas rockets fired at the country during last summer's war in Gaza. "David's Sling," a similar system for longer range missiles, isn't expected to be operational for another year.
Hizballah fighters are busy in Syria, fighting alongside dictator Bashar al-Assad's forces in fighting that has claimed more than 210,000 lives. But the group continues to plan for the next war with Israel, too, perhaps because Iran's rhetoric about seeking Israel's annihilation is consistent and specific.
"The biggest threat to our security and our future was and remains Iran's attempts to arm with nuclear weapons," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday.
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Revived Questions about Huma Abedin

Revived Questions about Huma Abedin

Huma and Hillary

Republican lawmakers are probing why Hillary Clinton’s longtime Islamist aide Huma Abedin was allowed to work at the State Department under a special, part-time status while simultaneously working at a politically-connected consulting firm.

Demands for information are coming from Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) after the public learned both women used Clinton’s private Internet server and email accounts for Department of State correspondence.

But that’s only part of the endless sleaze and intrigue surrounding Clinton.

The media has also reported that Sidney Blumenthal, the Clinton administration damage-control expert known for his relentless attacks on Clinton family enemies and for being the father of Israel-hating pseudo-journalist Max Blumenthal, was apparently doing freelance work for Mrs. Clinton. Clinton tried to hire the elder Blumenthal at State but the Obama White House nixed the appointment because of Blumenthal’s aggressively slimy attacks on Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign.

After Blumenthal’s email was hacked in 2013, it was revealed that “starting weeks before” the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, “Blumenthal supplied intelligence” to then-Secretary Clinton that was “gathered by a secret network that included a former CIA clandestine service officer.”

Reports got some of the details wrong, according to the Wall Street Journal‘s James Taranto.
“The reporters asked the most obvious question and got a partial answer: ‘A Clinton spokesman told Gawker and ProPublica . . . that she has turned over’—meaning to the State Department—’all the emails Blumenthal sent to [Mrs.] Clinton,'” he writes.

That is incorrect, Taranto notes. “[I]n reality she turned over no emails, only printouts,” which are of limited value as evidence.

Meanwhile, as evidence continues to accumulate that Clinton’s cavalier approach to state secrets put U.S. national security in jeopardy, the shady background of Abedin, who has known ties to the Egypt-based Muslim Brotherhood, is barely acknowledged on Capitol Hill.

Instead of examining Abedin’s disturbing family ties that make her employment by the U.S. government a threat to national security, Grassley is honing in on the sweetheart arrangement that allowed the operative to get on the public payroll while raking in money from private consulting.
Well, it’s a start, at least.

Grassley complains that many previous requests to the Department of State for information have gone unanswered, so now he is sending requests to the agency’s inspector general and to Clinton’s successor, Secretary of State John Kerry.

It was about two years ago that Grassley demanded information about Abedin after she moved from being a full-time deputy chief of staff for Clinton to part-time status and then began working at Teneo, a politically connected consulting firm that claims to bring “together the disciplines of government and public affairs.”

In a July 2013 letter the State Department indicated Abedin was employed full-time from January 2009 to June 2012. It also indicated she did not disclose outside employment when ending her full-time status. The department kept her on as an adviser-expert, apparently at the hourly rate of $74.51 with maximum pay of $155,500 per year.

“A number of conflict-of-interest concerns arise when a government employee is simultaneously being paid by a private company, especially when that company (is) Teneo,” Grassley wrote in a March 19 letter to Kerry.

Grassley asked in the letter “what steps the department took to ensure that … Abedin’s outside employment with a political-intelligence and corporate-advisory firm did not conflict with her simultaneous employment at the State Department.”

“She converted from a full-time employee … with seemingly little difference in her job description or responsibilities,” he wrote. In essence Abedin retained the same job and was later hired by Teneo and the Clinton Global Initiative.

“It is unclear what special knowledge or skills Ms. Abedin possessed that the government could not have easily obtained otherwise from regular government employees,” Grassley wrote.

Grassley’s questions also come after the House Benghazi Select Committee learned that the former secretary of state deleted all the emails investigators were interesting in looking at.

On Friday, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, said in a statement, “We learned today, from her attorney, Secretary [Hillary] Clinton unilaterally decided to wipe her server clean and permanently delete all emails from her personal server.”

Destroying the electronic correspondence could be a federal crime since the documents were under congressional subpoena. As Byron York writes in the Washington Examiner,
“There’s no doubt Clinton withheld information that Congress demanded she turn over, and some Republicans believe the documents she destroyed were covered under a subpoena as well. But a look at the story behind the subpoena and other document requests from congressional Benghazi investigators is a tale of obstruction, delay and frustration that underscores the limits of Congress’ power to investigate Benghazi. Clinton and her aides had the means to make life very difficult for Republicans trying to learn the full story of the attacks in Libya, and they did just that.”
Disturbingly, Republicans have yet to focus on Abedin’s ties to the world of Islamic terrorism.
Born in 1976 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Abedin’s connections to the Muslim Brotherhood run deep. (She is also reportedly just as haughty and unpleasant to deal with as Clinton herself.)

Her mother is Saleha Mahmood Abedin, widow of the late Zyed Abedin, an academic who taught at Saudi Arabia’s prestigious King Abdulaziz University in the early 1970s. The year after Huma was born, Mrs. Abedin received a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1978 the Abedins moved to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Abdullah Omar Naseef, then-vice president of Abdulaziz University, hired Mr. Abedin, a former colleague of his at the university, to work for the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs (IMMA), a Saudi-based Islamic think tank Naseef was then in the process of establishing. Mr. and Mrs. Abedin became members of the editorial board of IMMA’s publication, the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs. According to Andrew C. McCarthy, IMMA’s “Muslim Minority Affairs” agenda is “to grow an unassimilated, aggressive population of Islamic supremacists who will gradually but dramatically alter the character of the West.”

Naseef himself was a Muslim extremist with ties to al-Qaeda. In 1983 he became secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL), a militant organization with links to Osama bin Laden. Mrs. Abedin became an official representative of MWL in the 1990s. When her husband died in 1994, Mrs. Abedin became the IMMA’s director. She currently serves as editor-in-chief of its journal.

Mrs. Abedin is also a member of the board of the International Islamic Council for Dawa and Relief (IICDR), which has long been banned in Israel because it has ties to Hamas. (In Arabic, dawah, or dawa, means the proselytizing or preaching of Islam.) She also runs the Amman, Jordan-based International Islamic Committee for Woman and Child (IICWC), a Muslim World League affiliate that self-identifies as part of the IICDR. The league, according to McCarthy, “has long been the Muslim Brotherhood’s principal vehicle for the international propagation of Islamic supremacist ideology.” IICWC promotes strict Sharia Law and advocates the rescission of Egyptian laws that forbid female genital mutilation, child marriage, and marital rape.

Mrs. Abedin is a founding member of the Muslim Sisterhood, a pro-Sharia organization consisting of the wives of some of the highest-ranking leaders in the Muslim Brotherhood. Egyptian opposition newspaper Al-Liwa Al-Arabi has reported that Muslim Sisterhood members: “smuggle secret documents”; “spread the Brotherhood’s ideology by infiltrating universities, schools and homes”; “fulfill the interests of the Brotherhood”; and “organiz[e] projects which will penetrate [the Brotherhood’s] prohibited ideology into the decision-making in the West … under the guise of ‘general needs of women.’” Nagla Ali Mahmoud, wife of Mohammed Morsi, the Islamist who was elected president of Egypt in June 2012, is a member of the Muslim Sisterhood.

When Huma Abedin returned to the U.S. and was an intern in the Clinton White House between 1997 and some time in 1999, she was a member of the executive board of George Washington University’s radical Muslim Students Association (MSA). The MSA had extensive ties to al-Qaeda.
From 1996 to 2008, Abedin was employed by IMMA as assistant editor of its Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs.

Her brother, Hassan Abedin, an associate editor at the journal, was at one time a fellow at the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies. During his fellowship, the Center’s board included such Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated figures as Yusuf al-Qaradawi and Abdullah Omar Naseef. Huma’s sister, Heba Abedin, is an assistant editor with the journal.

Someone with Abedin’s background shouldn’t be anywhere near the levers of power in Washington.

Yet Hillary Clinton trusted her with vital secrets of state and then erased their electronic correspondence.

What are these two women hiding?
To better understand why Islamist Huma Abedin was on the right-hand side of Hillary Clinton in the State Department, watch miss Nonie Darwish on The Glazov Gang discuss The Obama Administration’s Romance With the Muslim Brotherhood:

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From ISIS "root causes" to Syrian refugees, Justin Trudeau "does not believe in the concept of good and evil"

Ezra LevantRebel Commander

Thirty-three MPs were absent for the vote on extending Canada's military mission against ISIS. That number is appalling and unacceptable.

There was also one outright abstention, by moral coward Irwin Cotler. Just retire already, Irwin.
Yes, there are legitimate reasons to oppose the war.
The problem is, Justin Trudeau's reasons aren't legitimate. They're foolish.
He's still obsessed with uncovering the "root causes" of the Islamic State's war on the West (and other Muslims.)
Trudeau's new pet cause is letting 25,000 Syrian refugees into Canada.
OK, but from what side of that civil war, Justin? Does he even know?

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Iran militia top dog: “Erasing Israel off the map” is “non-negotiable”

Iran militia top dog: “Erasing Israel off the map” is “non-negotiable”

Mohammed Reza NaqdiThis is nothing new: Iranian leaders have said it many times before. Still, no one in the West seems to believe that they mean what they say.
“Iran militia chief: Destroying Israel is ‘nonnegotiable,” by Lazar Berman, Times of Israel, March 31, 2015 (thanks to Jerk Chicken):
The commander of the Basij militia of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said that “erasing Israel off the map” is “nonnegotiable,” according to an Israel Radio report Tuesday.
Militia chief Mohammad Reza Naqdi also threatened Saudi Arabia, saying that the offensive it is leading in Yemen “will have a fate like the fate of Saddam Hussein.”
Naqdi’s comments were made public as Iran and six world powers prepared Tuesday to issue a general statement agreeing to continue nuclear negotiations in a new phase aimed at reaching a comprehensive accord by the end of June.
In 2014, Naqdi said Iran was stepping up efforts to arm West Bank Palestinians for battle against Israel, adding the move would lead to Israel’s annihilation, Iran’s Fars news agency reported.
“Arming the West Bank has started and weapons will be supplied to the people of this region,” Naqdi said.
“The Zionists should know that the next war won’t be confined to the present borders and the Mujahedeen will push them back,” he added. Naqdi claimed that much of Hamas’s arsenal, training and technical knowhow in the summer conflict with Israel was supplied by Iran.
The Basij is a religious volunteer force established in 1979 by the country’s revolutionary leaders, and has served as a moral police and to suppress dissent….

National Guardsman Plotted Mass Murder of 150 Soldiers in USA

issue 160
National Guardsman Plotted Mass Murder of 150 Soldiers in USA
Cousins Hasan Edmonds and Jonas Edmonds were arrested for plotting to attack a national guard training facility in Illinois where Hasan had served. More
Sweden's King and Prime Minister sent conciliatory letters to Saudi Arabia's King Salman after Sweden's foreign minister criticized Saudi human rights abuses.
Sweden Reverses Human Rights Stand to Restore Saudi Ties

Leading Iranian generals have threatened Saudi Arabia and the U.S. in response to Saudi attacks on Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Top Ranking Iranian Generals Threaten Saudi Arabia & USA

Amir Hossein Motaghi defected to the West while covering the ongoing nuclear negotiations in Lausanne Switzerland. He decried Iranian censorship
Iranian Defector: US Speaking on Iran's Behalf at Nuclear Talks

Washiqur Rahman was hacked to death by religious students wielding machetes 500 yards from his house in Bangladesh's capital of Dhaka.
Bangladesh: Secular Blogger Hacked to Death For Atheism

Raif Badawi, the Saudi blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison released a statement in the German weekly Der Spiegel.
Imprisoned Saudi Blogger Raif Badawi Releases Statement
Rare Footage of ISIS Recruitment Session in Afghanistan
A CNN exclusive showing a rare and secret recruitment meeting held on behalf of the Islamic State in Afghanistan. 
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Son of Hamas

Eye on Iran: Officials: Iran Nuke Talks to Continue in New Phase

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AP: "Wrapping up six days of marathon nuclear talks with mixed results, Iran and six world powers prepared Tuesday to issue a general statement agreeing to continue talks in a new phase aimed at reaching a final agreement to control Iran's nuclear ambitions by the end of June, officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday. Officials had set a deadline of March 31 for a framework agreement, and later softened that wording to a framework understanding, between Iran and the so-called P5+1 nations - the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. And after intense negotiations, obstacles remained on uranium enrichment, where stockpiles of enriched uranium should be stored, limits on Iran's nuclear research and development and the timing and scope of sanctions relief among other issues. The joint statement is to be accompanied by additional documents that outline more detailed understandings, allowing the sides to claim enough progress has been made thus far to merit a new round, the officials said. Iran has not yet signed off on the documents, one official said, meaning any understanding remains unclear... The softening of the language from a framework 'agreement' to a framework 'understanding' appeared due in part to opposition to a two-stage agreement from Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Earlier this year, he demanded only one deal that nails down specifics and does not permit the other side to 'make things difficult' by giving it wiggle room on interpretations." http://t.uani.com/1I0ykCI

Reuters: "Iran is not expected to normalize relations with the United States even if Tehran reaches agreement with world powers on its nuclear program, officials and analysts said... Loyalists of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, drawn from among Islamists and Revolutionary Guards who fear continued economic hardship might cause the collapse of the establishment, have agreed to back President Hassan Rouhani's pragmatic readiness to negotiate a nuclear deal, Iranian officials said. 'But it will not go beyond that and he (Khamenei) will not agree with normalizing ties with America,' said an official, who spoke in condition of anonymity. 'You cannot erase decades of hostility with a deal. We should wait and see, and Americans need to gain Iran's trust. Ties with America is still a taboo in Iran.' ... However, Khamenei has continued to give speeches larded with denunciations of Iran's 'enemies' and 'the Great Satan', words aimed at reassuring hardliners for whom anti-American sentiment has always been central to Iran's Islamic revolution... 'As long as Khamenei remains Supreme Leader the chances of normalizing U.S.-Iran relations are very low. Rapprochement with the U.S. arguably poses a greater existential threat to Khamenei than continued conflict,' said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington." http://t.uani.com/1OULW4r

WSJ: "With a key deadline just hours away, U.S. and European officials said nuclear negotiations were imperiled by deep uncertainty over whether Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would sign off on the necessary concessions for a deal... after more than 18 months of direct negotiations, Western officials said there are signs Mr. Khamenei hasn't empowered his negotiators to give ground on the few remaining sticking points. These include the pace at which United Nations sanctions on Iran would be removed, the scope of Tehran's future nuclear work, and the ability of international inspectors to access the country's nuclear and military sites. Mr. Khamenei, in speeches and posts on social media in recent days, has fixated on the demand that U.N. sanctions be removed at the beginning of any agreement. U.S. officials have said this isn't feasible and that the restrictions would be removed in phases and in response to Iran abiding by the commitments it makes." http://t.uani.com/1CHzHD2

Nuclear Program & Negotiations

Reuters: "Iran would not necessarily have to ship its stockpile of highly enriched uranium abroad under a nuclear pact with major powers, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said on Monday. 'You don't have to ship it out of the country to get to a year breakout time,' she said in a conference call, referring to the goal of stretching the amount of time it would take Iran to acquire enough fissile material to make one atomic bomb. 'You can have some other dispositions for it that get us where we need to be in terms of our bottom line,' Harf said... Harf said that the two sides had never had an agreement on shipping enriched uranium abroad and said there were different ways to achieve the U.S. goal of extending Iran's 'breakout time' to one year. 'For months we have been talking with Iran about the different ways they can get rid of that stockpile. One is obviously dilution in country, as they have been doing. One is shipping it overseas,' Harf said. 'This is one we have to resolve, but we haven't yet.'" http://t.uani.com/1Iid1t9

NYT: "Negotiators from the United States, Iran and five other nations pushed into the night on Monday to try to reach a preliminary political agreement on limiting Iran's nuclear program. But with a Tuesday deadline, it seemed clear that even if an accord were reached some of the toughest issues would remain unresolved until late June... The main points that the negotiators have been grappling with include the pace of lifting United Nations sanctions, restriction on the research and development of new types of centrifuges, the length of the agreement and even whether it would be detailed in a public document. Yet another dispute was highlighted Sunday when Iran's deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araqchi, told Iranian and other international news organizations that Iran had no intention of disposing of its nuclear stockpile by shipping the fuel out of the country, as the United States has long preferred... 'The shipping out of Iran's uranium stockpile was to be the key administration win in this agreement,' Representative Ed Royce, the California Republican who is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in an interview Monday. 'It was presumed they were going to win on that point because they were giving in on every other point. 'Now,' he added, 'it looks like that rationale is being tossed out the window.' Outside experts said the resolution of the issue was critical to the administration's ability to make a convincing political case that the United States and its allies would have plenty of warning time if Iran made a dash for a bomb." http://t.uani.com/1bMQydJ

Free Beacon: "One source familiar with the talks told the Free Beacon that the Obama administration had been promising members of Congress that Iran would consent to export its uranium. 'Administration officials told lawmakers they'd get the Iranians to make a concession, then the Iranians refused to make that concession, and now the State Department is pretending they never expected anything anyway,' said the source. 'The White House briefed lawmakers and told them the Iranians were willing to ship out their stockpile,' the source said. 'That was the whole justification for jacking up centrifuge numbers to 6,000. State Department spokespeople are basically gaslighting reporters by pretending otherwise.'" http://t.uani.com/1EYHIk5

AFP: "Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday he was planning to take part in marathon talks aimed at curtailing Iran's nuclear programme, saying chances of a deal were significant. 'Indeed I am planning to return and take part in the final part of the ministerial meeting of the six powers,' Lavrov told reporters in Moscow. Moscow had said earlier that Lavrov, who participated in the talks on Monday, would only return if there was a realistic chance of a deal. On Tuesday, Lavrov struck a sanguine note. 'The prospects of this round of talks are not bad, even good I would say,' said Lavrov, speaking alongside Vanuatu's foreign minister Sato Kilman. 'Chances are high,' he added. 'They are probably not absolute and there is never absolute certainty in anything.'" http://t.uani.com/1HhhVpU

Pew: "Ahead of a March 31 deadline for nuclear talks with Iran, more Americans approve (49%) than disapprove (40%) of the United States negotiating directly with Iran over its nuclear program. But the public remains skeptical of whether Iranian leaders are serious about addressing international concerns over their nuclear enrichment program. If a nuclear agreement is reached, most Americans (62%) want Congress to have final authority over the deal. Just 29% say President Obama should have final authority over any nuclear agreement with Iran... Among those who have heard at least a little about the nuclear talks (76% of the public), 63% say Iranian leaders are not serious 'about addressing international concerns about their country's nuclear enrichment program.'" http://t.uani.com/19wUz4h

Regional Destabilization

Reuters: "A nuclear deal with Iran may spur proxy wars in the Middle East as Sunni Muslims try to counter an increasingly wealthy and powerful Shi'ite Iran, the European Union's counter-terrorism coordinator said on Monday. Gilles de Kerchove told the European Parliament one important cause of terrorism was 'this war by proxy from the Sunni world which feels a bit on the defensive because of the rise of Iran'. Asked if a deal to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions being negotiated in Switzerland would have an impact, he said: 'Yes, of course, because Iran will have even more money. 'It is a sophisticated country, with a vision, more and more powerful in the Middle East, and therefore on the Sunni side there might be a temptation for some to support extremist groups to fight against Iran by proxy,' he said." http://t.uani.com/1OUMerU

Free Beacon: "NBC's Richard Engel reported Friday that U.S. officials were stunned they were not given any notice before Saudi Arabia launched attacks against Houthi rebels. According to Engel, military leaders were finding out about the developments on the Yemen border in real time. Engel said officials from both the military and members of Congress believe they were not given advanced warning because the Arab nations do not trust the Obama administration after they befriended Iran. 'Saudi Arabia and other countries simply don't trust the United States any more, don't trust this administration, think the administration is working to befriend Iran to try to make a deal in Switzerland, and therefore didn't feel the intelligence frankly would be secure. And I think that's a situation that is quite troubling for U.S. foreign policy,' Engel said... 'So there are many people who I have spoken to, many in the military, many policy analysts who say what we are seeing here is incoherent policy regarding not just Iran, but regarding the middle east in general,' Engel said." http://t.uani.com/1FdLfxB 

Yemen Crisis

Fars: "Commander of Iran's Basij (volunteer) Force Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi condemned the Saudi aggression against Yemen, and said that the Al Saud dynasty will have a fate similar to that of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. 'Imposing war on Yemen will, God willingly, have no result other than Saddam's fate for the aggressors and the US that is the direct sponsor of this crime will have to leave the region forever after losing its puppet, the Al Saud regime,' Brigadier General Naqdi said in a statement on the occasion of the anniversary of the Islamic Republic Day in Tehran on Tuesday." http://t.uani.com/1FdJW1D

Opinion & Analysis

Bret Stephens in WSJ: "Some readers may object that Iran has made its own significant concessions. Except it hasn't. They may also claim that the U.S. has no choice but to strike a deal. Except we entered these negotiations with all the strong cards. We just chose to give them up. Finally, critics may argue that I'm being unfair to the administration, since nobody knows the agreement's precise terms. But that's rich coming from an administration that refuses to negotiate openly, lest the extent of its diplomatic surrender be prematurely and fatally exposed. Nearly a century ago Woodrow Wilson insisted on 'open covenants of peace, openly arrived at, after which there shall be no private international understandings of any kind but diplomacy shall proceed always frankly and in public view.' Barack Obama prefers to capitulate to tyrants in secret. Judging from the above, it's no wonder." http://t.uani.com/1GIEdTu

Elise Auerbach in Amnesty: "As if it weren't bad enough. Iranian women face persistent systemic discrimination in terms of family law. New legislation being considered by Iran's parliament is intended to roll back many of the gains women have made in the past decades and consign them to being barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. And on top of that, if they dare to protest about the inequities they suffer, they are sentenced to long prison terms, to be served in prisons where unsanitary conditions and medical neglect can quickly undermine their health. This is the fate of Bahareh Hedayat, an activist with The Campaign for Equality, a grassroots initiative, and a member of the Central Committee of the Office for the Consolidation of Unity, a national student body which has been active in calling for political reform and opposing human rights violations in recent years. She is currently serving a ten-year prison sentence in Evin Prison. She had been charged with a number of 'offenses' including 'interviews with foreign media,' 'insulting the leader,' 'insulting the president,' and 'disrupting public order through participating in illegal gatherings.' Bahareh Hedayat has already served half of her prison sentence and is therefore eligible to be paroled under Iranian law. But concerned human rights activists need to urge the Iranian government to release her now so that she can receive medical attention for her health conditions. Amnesty International and United4Iran have collaborated to create a petition calling for her immediate and unconditional release. The situation for women has only gotten worse since Bahareh Hedayat's arrest five years ago. As Amnesty International's new report 'You Shall Procreate: Attacks on women's sexual and reproductive rights in Iran' details, Bill 446 currently being amended by the Parliament as per the recommendation of the Guardian Council and Bill 315, soon to be considered by Parliament, will result in the state interfering in women's most intimate and personal decisions in the attempt to double Iran's population. The human rights of women and girls would be violated and their autonomy greatly restricted if the bills become law. Among other provisions, women who have not had children will be disfavored in hiring decisions by employers and voluntary sterilization will be outlawed." http://t.uani.com/1yw1O2J

Joseph Bahout & Benjamin Haddad in FP: "As a March 31 deadline looms in the negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, the United States and France, two strong allies, have found themselves increasingly at odds, at times quite publicly. While the White House has been pushing hard for consensus on the framework for a deal ahead of the deadline, Paris has been pushing back. 'Repeating that an agreement has to be reached by the end of March is a bad tactic. Pressure on ourselves to conclude at any price,' Gérard Araud, France's ambassador in Washington, tweeted on March 20. On Tuesday, François Delattre, France's ambassador to the United Nations, said that Iran's progress was 'insufficient.' The word from Paris has been equally unsupportive of the U.S. push for a deal. 'France wants an agreement, but a robust one that really guarantees that Iran can have access to civilian nuclear power, but not the atomic bomb,' French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius declared on March 21. What gives? Is France's Socialist President François Hollande actually a neoconservative? Has Paris suddenly turned into a hawk among nations? Not quite. France's policy is dictated by a set of principles with regard to nonproliferation that have guided administrations on both sides of the political spectrum in the talks with Tehran since 2002. And the tension with Washington is just one expression of a larger disagreement between the two countries over U.S. strategy in the Middle East. Differences between Washington and Paris have been quietly brewing for months. The French feel that they are being kept out of the loop in critical discussions. The multilateral framework of Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany) has turned into a bilateral discussion between Iran and the United States. This exclusion has been coupled with increasing pressure from Washington. French diplomats complain (albeit only privately) that their American counterparts are trying to force them to make concessions on issues like the number of centrifuges allowed or sanctions in order to reach an agreement by March 31, a deadline that the French, like many of the White House's critics back home, see as artificial and counterproductive. The French do not share the sense of hurry that Washington seems to feel. As France's ambassador to the United States tweeted on March 3: 'We want a deal. They need a deal. The tactics and the result of the negotiation should reflect this asymmetry.' But the differences between the French and American positions go beyond process and into matters of substance. The lifting of sanctions, the scope of inspections, research and development capacities, the number of centrifuges Iran will be allowed to maintain, and how long the agreement will last are all areas in which Paris and Washington differ. In Lausanne last week, France rejected Iran's demand to immediately lift United Nations Security Council sanctions linked to proliferation after an agreement, arguing that this can only come progressively, with verifications. A central concern is 'breakout time' (the minimum time needed to make weapons-grade uranium). According to current reports, a deal would ensure that Iranian breakout time would be moved back to one year. French negotiators want to ensure that Iran's agreed-upon breakout time will last the entire duration of the deal - and after. They also want a deal that lasts as long as possible. 'Ten years is short when you talk about nuclear issues,' one diplomat said. Another diplomat summed it up: 'We spent more than 10 years talking, slowly setting an architecture of sanctions, of pressure, defining principles of negotiations. Once we dismantle this, it won't come back up. So we better get the best possible deal.' ... Behind the Iran nuclear talks hovers the question of the future and shape of American power and leadership. For a decade, European countries have worked on trying to rein in Iran's nuclear program. France, like the other countries, has taken an economic hit in this effort, thanks to the sanctions regime. Now the view from Paris is of a Washington that seems to lack empathy and trust for its longtime friends and partners - more interested in making nice with Iran than looking out for its old allies." http://t.uani.com/1FdPSYm

James Suchliki in FP: "On Dec. 17, 2014, President Barack Obama announced a dramatic change in the United States' policy toward Cuba, heralding the end of a Cold War-era conflict that had begun to look increasingly anachronistic. The benefits of the two longtime foes' new and improved relationship remain to be seen - but the contradictions involved are already obvious. Over half a century of pursuing an aggressive anti-American foreign policy, Cuba has made plenty of friends whom the United States considers enemies, and Havana is unlikely to easily let go of its longtime allies. These include Russia, Venezuela, and a variety of Arab dictators, Islamic fundamentalist movements, and anti-Israeli terrorist organizations. The list of Cuba's unsavory friends also includes Iran - a relationship of particular salience on the world stage today. Communist Cuba's alliance with the Iran of the Ayatollahs dates to 1979, when Fidel Castro became one of the first heads of state to recognize the Islamic Republic's radical clerics. Addressing then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, Castro insisted that there was 'no contradiction between revolution and religion,' an ecumenical principle that has guided Cuba's relations with Iran and other Islamic regimes. Over the next two decades, Castro fostered a unique relationship between secular communist Cuba and theocratic Iran, united by a common hatred of the United States and the liberal, democratic West - and by substantial material interests. (In the photo, Iran's Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi and Cuba's Vice Foreign Minister Marcos Rodriguez attend a wreath-laying ceremony on Revolution Square in Havana on Sept. 7, 2011.) ... Iran has also benefited from its friendship with Havana in more aggressive ways. Geographically, Cuba's strategic location enabled the Islamic Republic, on at least one occasion, to clandestinely engage in electronic attacks against U.S. telecommunications that posed a threat to the Islamic regime's censorship apparatus. In the summer of 2003, Tehran blocked signals from a U.S. satellite that was broadcasting uncensored Farsi-language news into the country at a time of rising unrest. Based on the satellite's location over the Atlantic, it would have been impossible for Iranian-based transmissions to affect its signals. Ultimately, the jamming was traced to a compound in the outskirts of Havana that had been equipped with the advanced telecommunications technology capable of disrupting the Los Angeles-based broadcaster's programming across the Atlantic. It is well known that Cuba has continuously upgraded its ability to block U.S. broadcasts to the island, and hence, conceivably, to jam international communications. Although the Cuban government would later claim that Iranian diplomatic staff had operated out of the compound without its consent, given that Cuba '[is] a fully police state,' as Iran expert Safa Haeri has noted, 'it is difficult to believe the Iranians had introduced the sophisticated jamming equipment into Cuba without the knowledge of the Cuban authorities,' much less utilized it against U.S. targets without the knowledge of the Castro regime. In return for its services, Iran has compensated the Cuban government directly. During the presidency of Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005), Tehran offered Havana an initial 20 million euro annual credit line. Following the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005, Iran expanded this credit line to 200 million euros for bilateral trade and investment projects. At the same time, Havana was spearheading a campaign within the Non-Aligned Movement to legitimize Iran's 'peaceful' nuclear program as an 'inalienable right' of all developing nations. In June 2008 Ahmadinejad approved a record 500 million euro credit for the Castro regime. From Iran's perspective, Cuba deserves to be rewarded for its 'similarity in outlooks on international issues.'" http://t.uani.com/1xvw3vB

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