Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Iran on Eve of Nuclear Deadline: Yemen Conflict Will Heighten Hatred for US

The Iranian regime stepped up its criticism Monday of Saudi-led, U.S.-supported airstrikes against its Shi’ite allies in Yemen, even as the State Department reiterated that the conflict was not having an impact on nuclear talks ahead of a Tuesday night deadline. Read

EU Expert: After Nuclear Deal, Iran Would Have 'More Money,' Adding to Regional Instability

A European Union counter-terror expert warned Monday that a nuclear deal with Iran could worsen regional security, because once sanctions have been lifted, Iran will be better equipped to step up its destabilizing activities. This in turn would draw a bigger response from its rivals that might include support for extremists. Read

‘Bizarre’: State Dep’t. Dismisses Suggestion That Another Rogue State Could Help Iran Build Nukes

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf on Monday described as “bizarre” a suggestion that North Korea or another country could covertly allow Iran to build a nuclear facility on its soil. Read

Monday, March 30, 2015

McConnell in Jerusalem: We Will Vote on Legislation to Review Any Iran Deal

As Secretary of State John Kerry and his P5+1 counterparts sought to finalize the political outlines of a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday stood alongside the talks’ most vocal critic, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and reiterated that Congress must approve any deal. Read

With Eye on Iran and ISIS, Arab Leaders Agree to Set Up Joint Military Force

Sixty-five years after a group of Arab nations signed a mutual defense treaty whose primary target was the newly-reestablished state of Israel, Arab leaders agreed Sunday to activate it by setting up a joint military force. Read

Friday, March 27, 2015

Eyeing Yemen Operation, Syrian Rebels Urge Arab States: ‘Finish Off’ Assad Too

Syrian rebels who have long been seeking regional support for their bid to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad want the Arab states that are now bombing a Shi’ite militia in Yemen to widen their focus and target Assad as well. Read

Obama in 2009: Iran’s Underground Nuke Facility ‘Inconsistent With Peaceful Program’

Throughout the negotiations over its nuclear program Iran has insisted that it will not shut a facility it secretly built deep in a mountainside, but reports from the eleventh hour talks in Switzerland now indicate that the U.S. and its P5+1 partners are considering giving in to the demand. Read

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Administration Stands by Assertion that Yemen Has Been a Counter-Terror Success

The Obama administration stands by the president’s assertion last September that Yemen is an example of counter-terrorism success, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Wednesday. Read

Sunni States Launch Airstrikes Against Iran’s Proxy Militia in Yemen

Saudi Arabia led airstrikes against Iranian-backed Shi’ite forces in Yemen early Thursday, a day after embattled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi was forced to flee the advancing militia for a second time in five weeks, this time from a stronghold in the southern city of Aden. Read

Kerry Takes a Dig at Iran-Wary GOP Critics: 47 ‘Secretaries of State on Capitol Hill’

Hours before heading to down-to-the-wire Iran nuclear talks in Switzerland, Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday slammed critics of a proposed agreement, and raised a laugh with a swipe at Republican senators who in a recent open letter warned Iran that any deal not approved by Congress could be scrapped by a future president. Read

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Russia Sides With Cuba in Slamming US Actions Against Venezuela

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday slammed the recent imposition of U.S. sanctions against Venezuelan officials accused of rights abuses, and warned against what he called “attempts to organize a state coup.” Read

Expert Says Iran Deal Must Guarantee Snap Inspections of Nuclear Sites

A leading non-proliferation expert told lawmakers Tuesday that for a long-term nuclear deal with Iran to be adequately verified it must include binding guarantees that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will be able to carry out snap inspections of facilities for about 20 years. Read

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Afghan President Requesting That U.S. Troops Stay Longer

A request by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani for “flexibility” in President Obama’s timetable for the departure of U.S. troops is under active consideration, and will be a focus of talks at the White House on Tuesday. Read

US, Europeans Shun Hate-Israel-Day at UN Human Rights Council

On what one critic dubbed “Hate Israel Day” at the U.N. Human Rights Council, representatives of many of the world’s most repressive regimes lined up with others in Geneva Monday to heap censure on the Jewish state – an exercise repeated every time the world body’s top rights watchdog meets for a regular session. Read

Monday, March 23, 2015

McCaul: Yemen Pullout Will Harm Intelligence Capabilities, Increase Risk to Homeland

The U.S. government withdrew remaining personnel from Yemen at the weekend, six weeks after evacuating the embassy in Sana’a and six months after President Obama held up Yemen as an example of a long-term and successful counter-terror strategy. Read

U.N. Agency to Examine If Western Sanctions Violate Human Rights

The U.N. Human Rights Council this week will appoint an official whose job is to examine Western sanctions, viewed as constituting human rights violations against the targeted countries. Read

Friday, March 20, 2015

Democrat: ‘Both Sides of Aisle’ Will Resist if Admininstration Sidesteps Congress on Iran Deal

Republicans and Democrats alike will resist any attempts by the Obama administration to “sidestep Congress” in the pursuit of an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, the senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs committee warned a State Department official on Thursday. Read

Netanyahu: I Support Two-State Solution, But 'Circumstances Have to Change’

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Thursday he has not changed his policy relating to a two-state solution, but that circumstances in the region had changed. He cited Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ June 2014 unity deal with Hamas, his refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and the rise of Islamist forces in “every territory that is vacated today in the Middle East.” Read

ISIS Makes Inroads In Afghanistan After Decline in US Troops

Days before Afghan leaders are due to hold talks with senior administration officials on military and economic assistance issues, the country’s defense ministry on Thursday confirmed that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL/Daesh) has established a presence in Afghanistan, although it played down the seriousness of the threat. Read

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Legislation on Senate Approval for Iran Nuclear Deal Continues to Pick Up Bipartisan Support

Legislation that would provide for Congress to review and approve any final deal on Iran’s nuclear programs is slowly picking up support from senators on both sides of the aisle. Read

WH Fends Off Perception That it is Cool to Netanyahu Victory

President Obama has not – yet – called Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to congratulate him on a surprisingly robust election victory, but the White House on Wednesday did express concern about comments by Netanyahu this week relating to Arab citizens and the “two-state solution.” Read

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Argentinian Lawmakers to P5+1: Take Into Account Iran’s Role in Deadly Terror Attacks

On the 23rd anniversary of the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, opposition lawmakers in Argentina on Tuesday urged the U.S. and other countries involved in the Iran nuclear negotiations to consider Iran’s alleged hand in that attack and another terrorist atrocity in the city. Read

Bolton: Omission of Iran, Hezbollah from 2015 Worldwide Threat Report Linked to Nuclear Talks

A decision to strike references to Iran and Hezbollah from the “Terrorism” subsection of the U.S. intelligence community’s 2015 Worldwide Threat Assessment report is stoking controversy, with critics suspecting that the administration is pandering to Iran in a bid to smooth the nuclear negotiations as they come down to the wire. Read

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Israeli Elections: Netanyahu Looks Poised to Return to the Helm

Any hopes by his detractors that Israeli voters would give Binyamin Netanyahu marching orders after nine years at the helm looked set to be dashed on Tuesday night, as exit polls pointed to the strong likelihood that he will serve a fourth term as prime minister, possibly as head of a national unity government. Read

Sen. Cotton: ‘Rather Than Confront Our Adversaries, Our President Apologizes’

The freshman GOP senator who catapulted into the headlines this month with a controversial letter to Iran’s leaders delivered a stinging attack on the administration’s foreign policy Monday evening, charging that it was conducting an “experiment with retreat” that has emboldened America’s foes and is deeply troubling its friends. Read

On Election Eve, Netanyahu Rejects Palestinian Statehood

On the eve of a tightly-contested general election, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu nailed his hawkish colors to the mast with an interview published Monday in which he pledged that no Palestinian state would be created on his watch, should he win a fourth term. Read

Monday, March 16, 2015

State Dep’t: Kerry Didn’t Say US Would Sit Down With Assad

The State Department scrambled Sunday to give assurances that comments by Secretary of State John Kerry did not indicate a shift in the administration’s view of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his future. Read

Pope: 'The World Tries to Hide' Persecution Against Christians

Pope Francis appealed Sunday for an end to the persecution of Christians around the world, voicing “much pain” at the news of twin suicide bombings targeting churches in Pakistan and suggesting that the world plays down the fact that Christians are being targeted. Read

Friday, March 13, 2015

Did Obama Go for a Non-Binding Deal With Iran to Dodge Senate? State Dep’t Won’t Say

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki declined to answer directly Thursday when asked whether the administration was pursuing a “non-binding” nuclear agreement with Iran in order to sidestep the U.S. Senate advise and consent requirement that would apply in the case of a treaty. Read

Kerry: Climate Change an ‘Elementary Truth’ – Like the Laws of Gravity

That climate change is happening and that humans are largely responsible should be as universally accepted as the law of gravity, Secretary of State John Kerry suggested Thursday. Read

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Cuba Responds to U.S. Rights Criticism, Cites Wall Street Protests, Ferguson ‘Execution’

The Obama administration is pursuing engagement with Cuba, but when a U.S. ambassador at the U.N. this week raised two cases of “politically-motivated imprisonment” there, the communist regime’s representative responded in a harsh attack on the United States. Read

Islamic States Reproach UN Human Rights Expert Over Islam-Violence Link

A U.N. human rights expert unsettled some delegates when he delivered a report to the Human Rights Council this week on “violence in the name of religion,” prompting several Islamic countries’ representatives to reproach him for not being more emphatic in separating terrorism from Islam. Read

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

State Dep't Official: Boredom, a Desire to Belong, Marginalization Drive 'Violent Extremism'

Factors driving individuals to “violent extremism” range from boredom to “perceived adventure” to a desire to belong; while conditions conducive to its spread among communities include “social rejection, political disenfranchisement, and economic exclusion,” a State Department official said Tuesday. Read

Saudi Abuses Strain Ties With Europe, But U.S. Criticism Relatively Muted

Human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia are straining its ties with two European nations, but the U.S. government is taking a much more low-key approach to the issue despite having significantly greater leverage. Read

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

UN Identifies ‘Extremism and Conservatism’--Not Islam--As Impediments to Gender Equality

Twenty years after a landmark U.N. conference on promoting gender equality, the head of the agency known as U.N. Women said Monday that a growing “conservative and extremist resistance” to equality between the sexes needs to be understood and confronted. Read

Sen. Cotton Responds to Obama’s Jibe About Iran Letter: ‘There Are Nothing But Hardliners in Iran’

After President Obama said Monday GOP senators who signed a letter warning that any nuclear deal with Iran could be scrapped once he leaves office were making “common cause with the hardliners in Iran,” the senator behind the initiative hit back, “There are nothing but hardliners in Iran.” Read

Monday, March 09, 2015

Israel Critic and Hamas Defender Named As Obama's New Mideast Coordinator

Three days after Israel’s prime minister stood before Congress questioning the wisdom of a key Obama administration foreign policy initiative, National Security Adviser Susan Rice on Friday named as head of her Mideast desk an official who has stoked controversy with past criticisms of Israel and by meeting with Hamas terrorists. Read

Senior US Official: Agreement With Iran May Not Be Announced by March 31 Deadline

Much ado has been made of a late March deadline for a political agreement on a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran, but the Obama administration is playing down expectations that there will be any public announcement at all at month’s end. Read

Friday, March 06, 2015

Saudis Concerned About Iran’s Involvement in Same 4 Countries Netanyahu Listed, Including Iraq

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al-Faisal on Thursday accused Iran of “taking over” Iraq, and voiced concern about its involvement in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen – citing the same four countries Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned this week that Iran was “gobbling up.” Read

Kerry on Spot When Asked About Saudi Hosts Giving Award to Man Who Said Bush Was Behind 9/11

In the Saudi capital on Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry sidestepped an awkward question about his hosts’ awarding of a prestigious religious prize to a controversial Muslim cleric who has expressed support for Osama bin Laden and accused George W. Bush of being behind the 9/11 terror attacks. Read

Thursday, March 05, 2015

A United World? 120-Nation Bloc Backs Iran’s Nuclear Stance

A bloc of nations together accounting for almost two-thirds of the total U.N. membership on Wednesday backed Iran’s claims to be cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency – despite the IAEA’s complaints that it is not. Read

As Kerry Pushes Nuke Deal, Another U.S. Diplomat Questions Iran's Commitment to Resolving Concerns

As Secretary of State John Kerry was meeting with his Iranian counterpart in Switzerland Wednesday to push towards a comprehensive nuclear deal before a rapidly-approaching deadline, less than 500 miles away a U.S. diplomat was directly questioning Iran’s commitment to resolving concerns about its nuclear program. Read

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Obama Won’t be ‘Distracted by the Politics or the Theater’ of Netanyahu’s Iran Speech

President Obama is not going to be “distracted by the politics or the theater” of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress on the dangers of a proposed nuclear deal with Iran, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday. Read

Administration Touts Nuclear Deal of ‘Double-Digit Duration’; Iran Rejects Sunset Clause

A new phrase being circulated by the administration in relation to a proposed nuclear deal with Iran is “double-digit duration” -– that is, an agreement period of at least 10 years -– but the top Iranian nuclear negotiator stressed Tuesday that such a provision is unacceptable to the regime. Read

State Dept. Slams Netanyahu: ‘Overstated,’ ‘Oversimplification,' 'Scary’

The Obama administration’s response to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s Iran speech Tuesday included some cutting criticism from State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf, who described his assertions variously as “rhetoric and nothing more,” “a little overstated and just not accurate,” “gross oversimplification” and “scary hypotheticals.” Read

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

IAEA Warns of Possible Iranian 'Activities Related to Development of a Nuclear Payload'

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has “further corroborated” information indicating that Iran “has carried out activities that are relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device,” the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog says in its most recent report on Iran. Read

Administration Stops Short of Calling for Independent Inquiry into Murder of Putin Critic

Russia’s foreign minister lashed out Monday at what he said were attempts to politicize the assassination of opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, alluding to accusations that the Kremlin had a hand in the murder of an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin. Read

Monday, March 02, 2015

Amid Differences With US, Egypt and Saudi Arabia Discuss Joint Anti-Terror Force

Ahead of a visit to Saudi Arabia by Secretary of State John Kerry, the Saudi king and Egypt’s president on Sunday discussed a proposal by the latter to establish a joint regional anti-terror force, an initiative that has highlighted simmering differences between the two leading Arab states and the administration over some of its Mideast policies. Read

Kerry on Eve of Netanyahu Speech: Nuclear Negotiators Deserve ‘Benefit of Doubt’

Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday negotiators deserve “the benefit of the doubt” in attempts to secure a nuclear agreement with Iran, after the White House threatened to veto a bill providing for Congress to approve of any final deal. Read