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August 17, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

Chicago Jewish Federation Comes Out Against Iran Deal (JTA)
    The Chicago Jewish United Fund-Jewish Federation board of directors adopted a call to Congress to oppose the Iran nuclear agreement, the board said in a statement released Friday.
    While expressing gratitude for the Obama administration's focus on the Iranian nuclear threat, the board said:
    "Iran's threats to annihilate the U.S. and Israel, its role as the leading state-sponsor of terrorism, its destabilizing of neighboring countries including U.S. allies, its theocratic, anti-democratic regime, its abysmal human rights record, and its Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism must no longer be rationalized or minimalized."
    "It is long past time to place Tehran where it belongs on the world's political map: isolated and ostracized. Hence, no nuclear accord should provide Iran with an unearned 'express pass' to international legitimacy."
    See also Where Dozens of Local Jewish Groups Stand on the Iran Deal - Ron Kampeas (JTA)
    Here's a survey of the statements of 51 Jewish groups on the Iran nuclear deal.
    There are 20 opposed to the deal, a lot of skeptics who are not opposed for now and a couple of just-don't-knows.

    See also Whip Count: Where the Senate Stands on the Iran Deal - Amber Phillips (Washington Post)
    As of Aug. 16: Yes or leaning yes: 30 (34 needed to uphold veto, keep the deal)
    No or leaning no: 57 (67 needed to override veto, kill the deal)
    Unknown: 13

Do the Iranian People Support the Deal? - Amir Taheri (Asharq al-Awsat-UK)
    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his patron, former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, built their entire careers on "Death to America" slogans.
    Rouhani and his "moderate" ministers still have to walk on an American flag as they enter their offices every day.
    As far as I can gauge public opinion, the majority of Iranians have a good opinion of America and a bad opinion of the "deal."
  This is, perhaps, why the Rafsanjani faction, of which Rouhani is part, is trying to avoid the issue being debated even in their own ersatz parliament. This is also why Iranian papers critical of the deal are closed down or publicly warned.
    President Obama should conduct his own enquiries to gauge Iranian public opinion. He might well find out that he is making an alliance with a faction that does not represent majority opinion in Iran.
    The writer was the executive editor-in-chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran from 1972 to 1979.

Matisyahu Ousted from Spanish Festival for Not Endorsing Palestinian State (JTA)
    The Jewish-American reggae singer Matisyahu, scheduled to perform Aug. 22 at the Rototom Sunsplash festival near Barcelona, had his show canceled after he refused to release a public statement backing a Palestinian state.
    The organizers had been pressured to disinvite Matisyahu by activists promoting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, even though Matisyahu is not an Israeli citizen.
    See also Israel: Spanish Boycott of U.S. Jew Matisyahu Proves BDS Is Anti-Semitic - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran: Nuclear Deal Gives Us More Power to Support Allies
    Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, said Saturday: "The Islamic Republic of Iran will always support the current (Resistance Front) and of course, with the nuclear agreement, it will have more power to side with its friends in the region."  (Tasnim-Iran)
        See also Iran: Resistance Axis Must Block U.S. Influence in Region
    Ali Akbar Velayati said Sunday that the main duty of the resistance axis, including Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinians, "is not only to fight against the dominance of foreigners in their countries," but also to cut the influence of the U.S. in the region. (Press TV-Iran)
  • Government Airstrikes on Syrian Market Kill 80 - Ben Hubbard and Maher Samaan
    Government airstrikes on a rebel-held suburb of Damascus killed more than 80 people and wounded about 200 on Sunday. Residents said the attack struck a crowded market area in Douma, a city that has been out of government control for years and is now a stronghold for the Islam Army. (New York Times)
  • Arab Bank Reaches Settlement with U.S. Victims of Hamas Attacks in Israel - Stephanie Clifford
    A spokesman for the Arab Bank confirmed on Friday that an agreement had been reached with hundreds of American plaintiffs, including victims of terrorist attacks around Israel, who had filed a lawsuit against the bank accusing it of supporting terrorism. Last year, a jury in Federal District Court in Brooklyn found Arab Bank liable for financing terrorism by processing transactions for Hamas. The second phase of the trial, assessing the damages Arab Bank would have to pay to some victims of attacks by Hamas, was scheduled to start on Monday. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Dermer: Israel "Not Eager" to Battle Obama on Iran Deal, But Has No Choice
    Israel's ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer told CNN's Fareed Zakaria in an interview aired Saturday that Jerusalem was not in any way eager to go up against Washington on the Iranian nuclear agreement, but felt it had no choice. "We are not eager in any way to have to be at odds on the most important policy priority of the president of the United States. That's a big deal," he said. "But...the survival of the State of Israel is also a big deal, and we believe that this deal threatens the survival of Israel." Congress is expected to vote on the agreement by September 17. (Times of Israel)
  • Iran Behind Terror Attacks Launched Against Israel from Syrian Border - Gili Cohen
    Iran is behind recent attempts to carry out terror attacks against Israel in the Golan Heights, a senior IDF officer said Sunday. "It's clear that Iran is behind all of the terror attacks here (in the Golan) in the past two years," the officer said. "The Iranians are using the border - they establish units - whether it's Mughniyeh, Kuntar, and more - to carry out [the attacks]." The Iranian involvement manifests itself in Iranian advisers based in Syria, as well as in the transfer of funds, giving instructions and providing training. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinians Stab Israeli Soldier, Policeman
    An Israeli border policeman was stabbed in the back by a Palestinian man near the West Bank village of Hawara on Saturday, a Border Police spokesman said. Troops at the scene killed the attacker.
        Earlier Saturday, a Palestinian man stabbed an IDF soldier at a checkpoint on Route 443 - a central highway connecting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The attacker was shot and wounded. The attack began when the assailant, Nasim Yusef Gomhur, 19, from Beit 'Anan in the Ramallah area, asked for some water, and when the soldier turned to get some, Gomhur lunged.
        On Friday evening, a gas station was set alight on Route 60, near Eli in the West Bank. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • On Iran, Israel Is America's True Friend - Tzipi Hotovely
    As the country with the most at stake, Israel favors a diplomatic solution with Iran more than anyone. But this does not mean that any diplomatic outcome is satisfactory. The initial positions of the international community - which were largely conceded - suggest what an acceptable deal might look like. Such an agreement would insist on the complete suspension of enrichment and dismantlement of related infrastructure, and on Iran's acceptance of 'anytime-anywhere' inspections of all of its nuclear and military facilities, to reliably verify this suspension.
        If Iran were not led by an aggressive regime inspired by a violent ideology, openly committed to eliminating Israel, heavily invested in fomenting insurrection throughout the Middle East and revealed to be pursuing military know-how relevant only to the use of nuclear weapons, its nuclear program could be assessed like that of other countries. But it is all of those things.
        No one concludes from criminals' unrepentant wrongdoing that law-enforcement authorities should just acquiesce to their criminal conduct. This is especially true when dealing with a brutal regime that has a proven track record of disdain for the common principles to which law-abiding countries adhere. Iran's openly belligerent attitude towards the U.S. should serve as a wake-up call to any with doubts regarding the true mentality of this regime.
        If the threat posed by this deal weren't genuine, Israel would have no interest in serving as an isolated voice of dissent. But we would be remiss in not doing everything possible to respectfully alert the U.S. to the very real perils inherent in it. That is what true friendship is about. The writer is deputy foreign minister of Israel. (USA Today)
  • The Nuclear Deal: No Pause in Iran's Vow to Destroy Israel - Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
    Ayatollah Khomeini's founding vision - that the eradication of Zionism is an inevitable precondition for redeeming contemporary Islam - still guides Iran's current religious, political and military establishment. Today, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei bears the torch and is the chief agitator for the extermination of Israel, spreading this message worldwide over social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, in books, and addressing various audiences in English, Arabic and Persian. The Iranian religious, political, intellectual and military elite support and repeat Khamenei's messages.
        When negotiating with Western powers, Iran sugar-coats its belligerent ideology, presenting it as the "Iranian Peace Plan." As part of this peace plan, Iran calls for "a just and permanent solution of the Palestinian question," which in practice means the elimination of the Jewish state.
        On July 25, 2015, Facebook pages and websites associated with the Revolutionary Guards reported the statement of commander Mohammad Ali Jafari: "Once the Supreme Leader orders all forces to start jihad, we can reduce Israel to dust within 24 hours. Our missiles have been eager to be launched for years."
        Hojatoleslam Ali Shirazi, Khamenei's representative in Iran's Al-Quds Force, said on Feb. 26, 2015: "We shall not rest until the banner of Islam flies over the White House. This is the wish of the Islamic Community."
        Mohsen Rafighdoost, one of the founders of the Revolutionary Guards, declared at a press conference on Jan. 21, 2015: "The countdown to the annihilation of Israel has begun....Now, we wish to be in the frontline of the fight for liberating Jerusalem." IDF Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael (Mickey) Segall, an expert on strategic issues with a focus on Iran, is a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Congress Should Step Up to Block the Iran Agreement - Joseph I. Lieberman (Washington Post)

  • I was a member of the Senate when, between 2009 and 2012, Congress developed a series of bills that dramatically increased pressure on Tehran for its illicit nuclear activities, including adopting a measure in late 2011 that effectively banned Iran from selling oil - its economic lifeblood - on international markets. In every case, senior Obama administration officials worked to block congressional efforts, warning that they were unnecessary, counterproductive and even dangerous.
  • In fact, it was only because of the sanctions adopted by Congress, and ultimately signed by President Obama, that sufficient economic pressure was put on the Iranian government that its leaders came to the negotiating table. Our allies and partners did not always welcome new restrictions on doing business in Tehran, but in the end, they decided it was more important to do business in the United States.
  • The same drama played out just a few months ago, as Congress debated whether it should review the nuclear agreement. Here, too, the White House insisted that requiring legislative review and approval of a nuclear agreement with Iran was obstructive and damaging. But when it was clear that a strong bipartisan coalition was converging around the idea, the administration withdrew its opposition and the president signed the legislation.
  • If a bipartisan supermajority does in fact begin to cohere in criticism of the undeniable loopholes and inadequacies of the agreement, it is likely the administration will adjust its position. The best chance for a better deal, in other words, is overwhelming bipartisan pressure from Capitol Hill about the need for one.
  • The Obama administration claims that this is the best agreement possible because Iran will go no further. That conclusion overlooks two truths: First, the Iranians are historically capable of adjusting positions they have claimed were immovable to new political realities, and, second, Iran, because of its depleted economy, needs an agreement much more than we do. Congress has the power now to act on these two realities.

    The writer was a member of the U.S. Senate from 1989 to 2013.

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