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Emet m'Tsiyon

Monday, August 31, 2015

Do US Think Tanks Violate US Law Mandating Registration of Foreign Agents?

It is no secret that many area studies centers and institutes specializing on the Middle East (or other subject areas for that matter) at American universities are subsidized by some of those that they are supposed to study. That is, by super-rich Arab oil kingdoms and sheikdoms, especially on the Persian Gulf. But it is not only the university-based Middle East studies centers that are funded by Arabs and their friends, it is many of those Washington think tanks. The first institute in the United States specializing on the modern Middle East was likely the Middle East Institute located in Washington, long funded by friends of the Arabs, a large part of the US petroleum industry, and still going strong. Iran too has its own lobby in Washington, DC, especially but not only in the NIAC [see previous blog post]. Jan Sokolovsky asks whether any of the respected think tanks [perhaps wrongly respected] that infest DC are violating US law by not registering as foreign agents under the FARA, foreign agents registration act. Here is her article:

Do Major Think Tanks Violate US Law?

Prominent American research organizations may have violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act, (FARA), by failing to register and to disclose lavish donations they have received from foreign governments, as documented in a recent major report in the New York Times, “Foreign Powers Buy Influence at Think Tanks”, by Eric Lipton, Brooke Williams and Nicholas Confessore. Such funding by foreign governments, especially when not disclosed, is extremely detrimental to the interests of the United States, since their goal is to influence our policies.
 “More than a dozen prominent Washington research groups have received tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments in recent years while pushing United States government officials to adopt policies that often reflect the donor’s priorities.”
Although receipt of such funding is not illegal, failure to report it is.
“The think tanks do not disclose the terms of the agreements they have reached with foreign governments.  And they have not registered with the United States government as representatives of the donor countries, an omission that appears, in some cases, to be a violation of federal law, according to several legal specialists who examined the agreements at the request of the Times”
FARA requires registration and disclosure by persons who are funded by foreign nations if they engage in “political activities” which is defined as an attempt to influence public opinion or any part thereof, in the United States on matters of policy.  That is precisely what these think tanks do, as Martin Indyk of the Brookings Institute explicitly states in this article. “Our business is to influence policy with scholarly, independent research, based on objective criteria, and to be policy-relevant, we need to engage policy makers,” said Indyk. To assume that the researchers and the think tanks are not influenced by the agenda of their donors belies common sense.
Norway, Japan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are among nations identified as heavy donors to these think tanks

Indyk’s problematic role as an envoy of the United States to Israel during the early stages of its campaign against Hamas in Gaza, Protective Edge, is a perfect example of conflict of interest, because of the financial role of Qatar.   At that time, Indyk was the Vice President and director of foreign policy for Brookings; Qatar gives extensive support to both Brookings and Hamas.
Qatar is widely accepted to be Hamas’ main financial backer.   The New York Times reported that Qatar gave Brookings $14 million, making Qatar also its largest donor.  Neither Brookings nor Indyk disclosed this financial connection during Protective Edge.
The entire purpose of the FARA law is to ensure transparency when foreign nations try to influence American policy.  Unfortunately, no reference to Qatar was found either on the Brookings website or in its annual report. From the NYT article, one may reasonably infer that the same invisibility is true for donations from foreign governments received by the other think tanks.
Shortly before Attorney General Eric Holder announced his imminent resignation, he ordered investigations into the Ferguson, Missouri police department, and domestic violence within the ranks of the NFL.  As important as these issues are, it is incumbent upon his soon to be appointed successor to promptly initiate an investigation into the funding of major research organizations by foreign nations. Clearly, there is ample cause for the Justice Department to open an investigation promptly into violations of FARA both by these institutions and the individuals involved, and if warranted by their findings, to commence judicial proceedings to impose the full extent of the civil and criminal penalties provided.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Obama Pressured Europeans to Give in to Iran on the Nuclear Deal

Shocking news from the Wall Street Journal. It has long been known that France was much more concerned over an Iranian nuke than Washington was. Nicolas Sarkozy when he was president even made a speech about Iran as a problem at the UN General Assembly [see here about Iranian insults & threats to Sarkozy's wife]. Now we find out this:
One of the toughest of the country’s hard-nosed security experts, Bruno Tertrais, wrote last month in the Canadian newspaper Le Devoir that “with pressure from the Obama administration” European negotiators’ original intent deteriorated from a rollback of Iran’s nuclear ambitions to their containment. [John Vinocur in the Wall Street Journal, 24 August 2015]
So Obama's administration pressured the  supposed "Western allies" of the USA to go easy on Iran and give in to Iranian demands rather than forcing Iran to give in to Western demands, through sanctions for instance. Moreover, Obama's Iran nuke deal is:
. . . . what France knows is a lousy Iran nuclear deal. [same article, John Vinocur in the Wall Street Journal, 24 August 2015]
A French negotiator at the P5 + 1 talks with Iran was one Jacques Audibert. He met two American congressmen visiting France and told them that if Congress voted down the deal it would most likely NOT mean war. Rather, congressional disapproval of the deal would likely lead to renewed negotiations and a better deal. Here is the story from Bloomberg:
Secretary of State John Kerry has been painting an apocalyptic picture of what would happen if Congress killed the Iran nuclear deal. Among other things, he has warned that “our friends in this effort will desert us." But the top national security official from one of those nations involved in the negotiations, France, has a totally different view: He told two senior U.S. lawmakers that he thinks a Congressional no vote might actually be helpful.
His analysis is already having an effect on how members of Congress, especially House Democrats, are thinking about the deal.
The French official, Jacques Audibert, is now the senior diplomatic adviser to President Francois Hollande. Before that, as the director general for political affairs in the Foreign Ministry from 2009 to 2014, he led the French diplomatic team in the discussions with Iran and the P5+1 group. Earlier this month, he met with Democrat Loretta Sanchez and Republican Mike Turner, both top members of the House Armed Services Committee, to discuss the Iran deal. The U.S. ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, was also in the room.
According to both lawmakers, Audibert expressed support for the deal overall, but also directly disputed Kerry’s claim that a Congressional rejection of the Iran deal would result in the worst of all worlds, the collapse of sanctions and Iran racing to the bomb without restrictions.
“He basically said, if Congress votes this down, there will be some saber-rattling and some chaos for a year or two, but in the end nothing will change and Iran will come back to the table to negotiate again and that would be to our advantage,” Sanchez told me in an interview. “He thought if the Congress voted it down, that we could get a better deal.”
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Audibert's comments as recounted by the lawmakers are a direct rebuttal to Kerry, who in remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations on July 24 said that if Congress voted down the deal, there would no chance to restart negotiations in search of a tougher pact. Kerry also said that Congressional rejection of the Iran deal would erode the U.S. credibility to strike any type of international agreement in the future. “Do you think the Ayatollah is going to come back to the table if Congress refuses this and negotiate again? Do you think that they're going to sit there and other people in the world are going to say, hey, let's go negotiate with the United States, they have 535 secretaries of State?” Kerry said. “I mean, please.”
This argument is being echoed by a throng of U.S. commentators and former Obama administration officials who support the deal. . . . . .
Audibert also wasn’t happy with some of the terms of the deal itself, according to Sanchez and Turner. He said he thought it should have been negotiated to last forever, not start to expire in as few as 10 years. He also said he didn’t understand why Iran needed more than 5,000 centrifuges for a peaceful nuclear program. He also expressed concerns about the robustness of the inspections and verification regime under the deal, according to the lawmakers. . . . .
When the lawmakers returned to Washington, news of their conversation with Audibert spread among their colleagues. Turner confronted Kerry with Audibert’s statements during a July 22 closed-door briefing with Kerry and more than 300 House lawmakers. The briefing was classified, but Turner’s questions to Kerry were not.
“Are you surprised Jacques Audibert believes we could have gotten a better deal?” Turner asked Kerry, according to Turner.
“The secretary appeared surprised and had no good answer as to why the national security adviser of France had a completely different position than what the secretary told us the same day,” Turner told me.
Sanchez was not at that briefing, but since then, many lawmakers have asked her about the information, especially Democrats, she told me. “It’s one piece of information that people will use to decide where they are,” she explained. [Josh Rogin, Bloomberg,  31 July 2015]
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France's position before capitulating to Obama administration pressure [here]

Saudi Arabia's stance against an Iranian nuke was clear but disregarded by Obama, as was Israel opposition [go to link and go down toward the bottom].

Italian Middle East expert, Carlo Panella, foresaw in 2009 that Obama and his crowd would capitulate to Iran on the nuclear issue [here]

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Beware of Obama's Stage Shows in Support of His Iran Deal - Watch for His Ventriloquist's Dummies

revised 8-24-2015

Barack Obama's political career has been marked by putting on shows to win over the public plus artful rhetoric and purple prose to mesmerize those who may have trouble thinking for themselves. Obama's great rhetorical, oratorical and thespian talents have allowed him to consolidate a hard core of devoted supporters who may have been educated in American universities but never learned to think for themselves. And are largely lacking in information. Obama and his staff rely on appeals to emotion and lofty values in order to promote his often harmful policies. They succeeded a great deal. Which is a great pity. Because they have swindled the American people in many ways. Just think of: If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.

Even more threatening than Obama's medical care program that lessens medical care for more people than are helped by it is his Iran deal. I don't want to go into detail about the lack of independent, outside verification of Iran's nuclear facilities, the Iranian violation of their commitments to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the 10 to 15 year expiration term of the restrictions supposedly imposed by the deal [that is, if Iran doesn't cheat and get a  bomb beforehand], the 100 to 150 million dollars that Iran will get to pursue its bloody mischief in other Middle Eastern countries (not only Israel, but Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Iraq) and other important defects in deal. Since rational and knowledgeable and reasonable people recognize the problem with the deal, the problem becomes how to stop it and what techniques Obama will use to push it through. Watch  what Obama does as if he were a magician. What does he do with his left hand while pointing into the distance with his right hand??:

Kyle Shideler warns that Obama will stage shows in order to play on the public's emotions and have the people support a deal that is against their own interests. His article is entitled:

Americans Should Be Wary of Carefully Managed Productions Supporting Iran Deal

Kyle Shideler | Aug 19, 2015 [townhall.com]

Recently, three-dozen retired flag and general officers endorsed the Obama administration’s controversial Iran Deal. The Washington Free Beaconreported that former Rear Admiral James “Jamie” Barnett, an employee of the law firm and lobbying group Venable LLP, organized the letter.
Barnett, who took credit for producing the letter, told the Free Beacon that the White House played no role, despite that Barnett’s letter says, “I am working with the White House on a letter for retired General Officers and Flag Officers to sign, supporting the U.S.-Iran accord on nuclear armament.“
Adm. Barnett’s support for the deal is not necessarily surprising. Barnett has repeatedly taken public positions on military or national security related issues that align closely with those of the Obama White House, including opposition to “enhanced interrogation techniques,” in favor of changes to DOD’s Transgender policy, and applauding the use of national security as a reason to support school lunch changes proposed by First Lady Michelle Obama. In his capacity as a Venable employee, Barnett also worked a high profile case on sexual abuse in the military during a period at a moment when the White House was seized with the topic.
Barnett solicited signatures for the letter from his Venable work email, but denies that his employer played any role in the letter.
Given that Barnett had denied what appears to be obvious White House involvement, his other denial seems worthy of further investigation as well. Is there reason to believe that the firm has an interest in ending Iran sanctions?
Most immediately apparent is Venable’s close association with the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA), an Iranian-American group, with its own political PAC. PAAIA is listed as one of Venable’s Non Profit Clients. PAAIA isopenly working in favor of the Iran Deal, and signed a joint statement with the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), a group with long-established ties to the Iranian regime. One of PAAIA’s “Founding Donors” was Venable Partner Robert S. Babayi.
Babayi is also the co-founder of the Iranian American Bar Association (IABA). Venable held presentations for the IABA on Iranian Americans living in or doing business in Iran and Iran sanctions laws. In March of 2010, IABA screened the anti-Guantanamo Bay detention facility movie “The Response” which was executive produced by Venable LLP. Venable represented Egyptian detainees at Guantanamo (the subject of the film), and Babayi’s email is listed as the RSVP email.
Babayi apparently left Venable to become Managing Director of Vector IP, a boutique Patent law firm in June 2014. Babayi is also a U.S. Advisory Team member for IBridges, an organization that works to promote High Tech entrepreneurship in Iran.
Venable may also have other interests in Iran . . . . [for full text go here]
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After making the horrendous and fateful Munich Pact with the Nazi Hitler, UK prime minister Neville Chamberlain came back to Britain saying: peace with honour. . . . peace for our time. Obama stopped making what seemed to most people an outlandish promise of peace emerging from his Iran deal. Now he puts it differently. He claims that the only alternative to his Iran deal is war and that a better deal is not and was not possible. Perhaps he is implying that his Iran deal represents something between war and peace. A cold peace or a cold war perhaps, or maybe just a lot of limited wars that Iran will initiate against its neighbors in the Middle East but not against the United States. Meanwhile, Obama is insinuating that the opponents of his deal are warmongers and he openly said at American University in Washington, DC, that the only country that had openly commented on the deal but had not praised it was Israel. Literally that might be true if we only consider official declarations by rulers, top officials and foreign ministries. But the insinuation was that Israel was a warmongering power that might not know its own best interest. In fact, many Arab powers, including Saudi Arabia, have been very strongly opposed to the deal but fear to challenge the White House. Obama knew that when he made his speech but he considered it useful to insinuate that only Israel opposed the deal. Indeed, Saudi Arabia went so far in opposing Obama's long obvious efforts to appease Iran and leave it with its nuclear program as to allow Anwar Eshki, a former general, to appear jointly with Dore Gold, now the director-general of Israel's foreign ministry, before the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington in order to show the common Israeli-Saudi opposition to the weak nuclear deal taking shape.
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To get some idea of how Obama thinks, consider the words of Don Juan in Molière's play of that name [here/ici]

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