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Bill to Deny U.S. Entry for 1979 Hostage-Taker Hamid Aboutalebi Passes Senate

Hamid Aboutalebi

Aboutalebi was a member of the student group that led the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

According to the Washington Post, this news story isn’t about Hamid Aboutalebi, it’s about Senator Ted Cruz. Aboutalebi’s name doesn’t appear in the body copy until the end of the second paragraphCruz’s name is in the first paragraph. Ted Cruz’s name appear as the first words in (the Washington Post‘s version of) the headline. Aboutalebi isn’t mentioned in the headline.

That said, I’m impressed that it takes a whole 23 words before this Washington Post news story turns into a stealth Op-Ed. Note in the story’s opening paragraph this morsel of sarcastic editorializing: “rare legislative victory for its lead sponsor, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.)”.

Does any literate person in America really have any uncertainty about which political party Cruz belongs to, or what state he represents? Does anyone outside Washington D.C. keep Senatorial legislative record scorecards? Just asking. Even the choice of the photo (of Cruz) and its tag (see below) are a form of editorializing. I replaced the photo with what should normally be the subject of the article, Iran’s U.N. Envoy Hamid Aboutalebi. But hey, that’s just me, why bury the lede?

For the Washington Post and  report: A measure that would bar Iran’s recently appointed ambassador to the United Nations from entering the United States easily passed the Senate on Monday, delivering a rare legislative victory for its lead sponsor, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.).

Cruz…

(this is where The Post felt compelled to add “a first-term senator who is considering a run for president in 2016″. Seriously?The Washington Post wants to remind you, not of the bill being sponsored, or why it’s being sponsored, but of their view of the career aspirations of the Texas Senator sponsoring it. Got the message yet?)  

…has spent the last several days railing against Iran’s appointment of Hamid Aboutalebi (Finally! They can say his name. Bravo, Washington Post!) as its new top envoy to the United Nations in New York.

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Note: the unaltered photo above, by Scott Applewhite, included in its metadata this file description, “2016_Presidential_Checklist_Cruz“. How’s that for a revealing bit of inside commentary by the Washington Post? If you’re in D.C., and you’re hip, you know Cruz ‘s motive for sponsoring this bill has nothing to do with Iran, U.S. foreign policy, or the U.N. He’s posturing, folks, it’s just an item on his “presidential checklist”.

Aboutalebi was a member of the student group that led the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. He has acknowledged that he worked with the organization that took over the embassy, but has played down his role in the crisis.

“It is unconscionable that in the name of international diplomatic protocol the United States would be forced to host a foreign national who showed a brutal disregard of the status of diplomats when they were stationed in his country. This person is an acknowledged terrorist.”

– Senator Ted Cruz

Aboutalebi’s appointment by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has been criticized by the Obama administration, which called the nomination “extremely troubling.” In recent months, Aboutalebi’s visa application to enter the United States as a diplomat has been stalled. As host nation of the United Nations’ headquarters, the United States generally admits the chosen representatives of U.N. members, with limited exceptions.

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[VIDEO] Goldberg: Iran Picking Former Hostage Taker for New UN Ambassador ‘Obvious Insult to the US’


Mistrust Haunts Obama’s Saudi Trip

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Riyadh (AFP) – US President Barack Obama meets Saudi King Abdullah Friday as mistrust fuelled by differences over Iran and Syria overshadows a decades-long alliance between their countries.

Obama, who is due to arrive in Saudi Arabia late in the afternoon on a flight from Italy, is expected to hold evening talks with the monarch on a royal estate outside Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia has strong reservations about efforts by Washington and other major world powers to negotiate a deal

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud in Rawdat al-Khuraim, on January 5, 2014 (AFP)

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud in Rawdat al-Khuraim, on January 5, 2014 (AFP)

with Iran on its nuclear programme.

It is also disappointed over Obama’s 11th-hour decision last year not to take military action against the Syrian regime over chemical weapons attacks.

Saudi analyst Abdel Aziz al-Sagr, who heads the Gulf Research Centre, said Saudi-US relations are “tense due to Washington’s stances” on the Middle East, especially Iran.

The recent rapprochement between Tehran and Washington “must not take place at the expense of relations with Riyadh,” Sagr told AFP.

Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia, long wary of Shiite Iran’s regional ambitions, views a November deal between world powers and Iran over the latter’s nuclear programme as a risky venture that could embolden Tehran. Read the rest of this entry »


Iranian General: Obama ‘Low-I.Q. President’ ‘…Joke of the Year’

Massoud-Jazayeri

Diplomatic Trash Talkin’ Quote of the Week

Since we’re often reminded by his admirers in academia, the media, and entertainment industry that President Obama is the most brilliant, analytical, nuanced, intellectually-gifted American President in history, we can only conclude that Masoud Jazayeri  is a racist.  

For The Times of IsraelMarissa Newman writes:  President Barack Obama is a “low-IQ US president,” whose threat to launch a military offensive should nuclear talks fail is an oft-cited punchline in the Islamic Republic, particularly among children, an Iranian general said on Tuesday.

“The low-IQ US president and his country’s Secretary of State John Kerry speak of the effectiveness of ‘the US options on the table’ on Iran while this phrase is mocked at and has become a joke among the Iranian nation, especially the children…”

– General Masoud Jazayeri

Jazayeri was responding to the US president’s interview in Bloomberg on Sunday, in which Obama maintained that the Iranian leadership should take his “all options on the table” stance — including the warning of a potential military strike — seriously.

“…completely inexpert remarks far from the reality, and these statements can be used as the joke of the year.”

“We have a high degree of confidence that when they look at 35,000 US military personnel in the region that are engaged in constant training exercises under the direction of a president who already has shown himself willing to take military action in the past, that they should take my statements seriously,” the president told Bloomberg.

TEHRAN (FNA)- President Barack Obama warned that the US was planning a string of economic and diplomatic sanctions to "isolate" Russia if it does not reverse its incursion into Ukraine.Jazayeri called Obama’s statements regarding the deployment of US troops “completely inexpert remarks far from the reality, and these statements can be used as the joke of the year.”

The Iranian news agency Tuesday published a political cartoon mocking the US president, calling it: “All Options on Table.” This Time for Russia.” In a jab at US non-intervention in Ukraine, the cartoon portrays Obama peering forlornly into an empty paint can with the label “Red Line” while Russian President Vladimir Putin walks away saying, “I think you used it all on Syria.” Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] The Hammer: ‘Obama is Living in a Fantasy World’ and George Will: ‘We Have to Avoid…Narcissistic Policy Disorder’

 “…To invade Crimea is a huge step and he would only have done it with a president who has shown from the very beginning that he’s living in a fantasy world.” 

[Dr. Krauthammer's critique of Obama is identical to the recent harsh assessment by the Editorial Board of the Washington Post, in their first outright mutiny since Obama's been in office. The Hammer, on the other hand, has been doing this for years...]

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President Bambi contemplates dreams of a global, interconnected, multi-polar, power-sharing, cooperating, interdependent, non-competitive 21st century fantasyland…

“Remember the speech he gave at the U.N. when he started his administration? He said no nation can or should dominate another. I mean, there’s not a 12-year-old in the world who believes that. And he said the alignment of nations rooted in the cleavages of the long ago Cold War make no sense in this interconnected world. As our Secretary of State said today, or yesterday, after all this, this is a 19th century action in a 21st century world. As if what he means is actions where governments pursue expansion, territory domination, no longer exist in this century, as if that hasn’t been a constant in all of human history since Hannibal. They imagine the world as a new interconnected world where climate change is the biggest threat and they are shocked that the Russians actually are interested in territory.”

BONUS ROUND: George Will’s Take…

Will is uncharacteristically restrained here, avoiding blaming Obama’s obvious weaknesses. Though it’s tempting to see this latest eruption of international catastrophes as shaped by avoidable foreign policy failures, the direct result of Obama’s poor judgement and unrealistic goals, I’m inclined to agree with George Will’s larger point. That it can be self-serving, even self-flattering, to think the U.S.’s influence (or lack of influence) is a primary determining factor in world events.

 “We have to avoid . . . narcissistic policy disorder — that is the belief that everything in the world happens because of something we did or didn’t do or said or didn’t say.”

While we can still put pressures on Russia, Will said, “we are not in a position of strength.”

“We are in a position of extraordinary weakness,” Will said, “and I’m not sure it’s Obama’s fault…”

A fair point. However, I don’t agree that the events would have unfolded this way regardless of U.S. policy, or leadership. President Obama’s wishful-thinking, inexperience, and amateurism as an international leader can only be provocative to more aggressive personalities in Syria, Iran, and Russia. We’re paying the price for Obama’s lack of strength and experience. And increasingly, everyone knows it.

– The Butcher

[You can download Dr. Krauthammer's bestselling Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics [Kindle Edition] from Amazon]

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Obama’s Scary Interview

President Barack Obama meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

President Barack Obama meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

If He Believes It, It Must Be So

For the Weekly Standard blog, Elliot Abrams writes:  On the eve of the Netanyahu visit to Washington, President Obama gave a lengthy interview to Jeffrey Goldberg that shows a chief executive who has learned next to nothing about the world in his five years in office.

First, kudos to Goldberg: he pressed Obama repeatedly, challenging vague formulations and seeking clarity. Goldberg pushed Obama hard, especially on Iran and Syria.

Obama isn’t good off the cuff, especially when challenged; he is far better with a prepared speech. And what emerged is an awful portrait of the president and his conception of the world.

Take Syria. Here’s what Obama said:

“I think those who believe that two years ago, or three years ago, there was some swift resolution to this thing had we acted more forcefully, fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the conflict in Syria and the conditions on the ground there. … Over the last two years I have pushed our teams to find out what are the best options in a bad situation. … But I’ve looked at a whole lot of game plans, a whole lot of war plans, a whole bunch of scenarios, and nobody has been able to persuade me that us taking large-scale military action even absent boots on the ground, would actually solve the problem. And those who make that claim do so without a lot of very specific information.”

Who are these people who have inadequate information, misunderstand the conflict in Syria, and think there is much more the United States could have done? They include both of Obama’s secretaries of state, Clinton and Kerry, his former defense secretary Leon Panetta, and his former CIA director David Petraeus—all of whom wanted much more U.S. support for the Syrian rebels. And perhaps more to the point, take the case of Fred Hof.

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Think Progress 2009 Flashback: “The Reset Button Has Worked”

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From Think Progress 2009:

A year ago, there was a rising fear that the US and Russia were on the verge of a new Cold War. Today the relationship seems to have gone 180. The US and Russia are now on the verge of signing a new nuclear disarmament agreement and look increasingly in sync on Iran. Yesterday, Obama met directly with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific summit in Singapore where both leaders said negotiations on a new START agreement were close to completion. Medvedev also expressed his displeasure with Iran, giving another indication that Russia may back Obama should the Iranians reject the nuclear deal on the table. Following the meeting and Medvedev pronouncements, Obama concluded that “the reset button has worked.

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Krauthammer on Hillary’s Achievements as Secretary of State: ‘The U.S. antagonized Canada, for God’s sake. Canada, of all people…’

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Appearing on on Tuesday’s Hugh Hewitt Radio Show Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Charles Krauthammer declared that Hillary Clinton did not have one achievement in her four years running the State Department, and further, the U.S. position in the world actually went backwards during her tenure…

… Look, you know, when people talk about Hillary being a superb Secretary of State, I just ask one question. Name me one thing, just one, not three, give me one thing she achieved in her four years as Secretary of State. I have yet to hear an answer…

…I think she is the frontrunner. I don’t think the convention will be a coronation. It’s going to be a worship service. But that’s not exactly why we have a Secretary of State…

[Order Charles' book: Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics from Amazon]

…I do think it’s really awful that you can have a four year term, achieve nothing, and as you say, go backwards with Russia, backwards on Iran, backwards on Syria, backwards on Venezuela, backwards in relation with just about all of our allies, including, I would add, Keystone, which sits on the President’s head, and antagonizing Canada, for God’s sake. Canada, of all people…

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On Iran’s Death Row? Memorize the Quran and Win Your Freedom

Four Iranian criminals are hanged in public in the southern city of Shiraz, 05 September 2007, a day on which 21 people were executed. (AFP/Getty Images)

Four Iranian criminals are hanged in public in the southern city of Shiraz, 05 September 2007, a day on which 21 people were executed. (AFP/Getty Images)

Obamacare_stack_0If ever there were a time to find your way off death row in Iran, it’s right now. Judicial executions have sped up dramatically under President Hassan Rouhani. Despite his outwardly friendly appearance, he seems particularly fond of sending his citizens to the gallows. But if you’re a death row convict in the Islamic Republic, a little rote learning could be your path to freedom, because Iranian prisoners are seeing their sentences commuted, or even earning their release, by memorizing and reciting holy text.

Related: Imprisoned by Obamacare’s Mandates? Memorize all 11,588,500 Pages of Rules and Regulations in the Affordable Care Act and President Obama will Personally Sign an Executive Order Authorizing Your Freedom.

According to Reza Sadeghi, head of Isfahan Province Endowments and Charities, 16 death row prisoners held in Central Isfahan Prison—five women and 11 men—were pardoned after they successfully memorized the Quran. Of those pardoned, 15 were released entirely, and one prisoner had his death sentence reduced to 15 years imprisonment.

Effectively, this is time off for good behavior, and entirely discretionary. At present, the policy of Quranic reprieve is more de facto than de jure; there is no law on the books in Iran specifying sentence reduction for memorizing the Quran. In reality, the decision on who among the hufaaz (a term used by modern Muslims for those who’ve memorized the entire Quran) receives a pardon may depend on a variety of factors, namely the nature of the crime and the political will of the authorities.

Iran's Evin prison (Wikipedia/Ehsin Iran)

Iran’s Evin prison 

For example, convicted rapists and political saboteurs probably have less chance of gaining their freedom than burglars or even murderers whose crimes involved no distinct political motive. According to the International Federation for Human Rights, the following crimes are punishable by death in Iran: murder, rape, child molestation, sodomy, drug trafficking, armed robbery, kidnapping, terrorism and treason.

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Reality Check: Iranian University Students Are ‘Cyber-War Agents’, Says Ayatollah Khamenei

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Frances Martel  writes:  The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, released a statement this week urging university students to “refine your souls and to approach God,” but also to prepare for “cyber-war.” According to Iran’s Mehr News Agency, the Ayatollah released a message urging students to “ready for such war wholeheartedly.”

The Mehr report includes a number of disjointed messages about self-improvement and the future of the nation, telling students that they should strive for achievement but never forget their duty to the nation. “You are the cyber-war agents and such a war requires Ammar-like insight and Malik Ashtar-like (two Prophet’s Companions in early Islamic history) resistance,” the Ayatollah’s message reads, “get yourselves ready for such war wholeheartedly.”

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Iranian Oil Exports Boom as Sanctions Collapse

(AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

(AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

Exports of Iranian crude oil jumped to 1.32 million barrels, up from December’s high of 1.06 million barrels, according to data from the International Energy Agency.

The spike in exports—mainly to Japan, China, and India—has helped Iran’s once-ailing economy stabilize and decrease inflation.

Iranian oil exports have steadily risen since negotiations with the West restored confidence in Tehran’s economy. The increase runs counter to a promise by the Obama administration that “Iran’s oil exports will remain steady at their current level of around 1 million barrels per day.”

The significant rise in oil exports has led some experts to accuse the Obama administration of misleading the public about the amount of sanctions relief provided under the interim nuclear deal.

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Dancing in the Nuclear Dark

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How will we know when Iran sprints toward a bomb?

Bret Stephens writes:  Where do federal government reports go once they’ve been published and (lightly) chewed over by second-tier officials, congressional staffers and think-tank wonks? I picture them being packed into crates and stored in some vast warehouse, like the Ark of the Covenant in the last scene of “Indiana Jones.”

Every now and again, however, some of these reports are worth rescuing from premature burial.

So it is with the “Assessment of Nuclear Monitoring and Verification Technologies,” the soporific title given to a report published last month by the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board. The report is long on phrases like “adaptable holistic methodologies” and “institutionalized interagency planning processes.” But at its heart it makes three timely and terrifying claims.

First, we are entering a second nuclear age.

Second, the history of nuclear proliferation is no guide to the future.

Third, our ability to detect nuclear breakout—the point at which a regime decides to go for a bomb—is not good.

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Break Out The Champagne: Iran Can Now Build and Deliver Nukes

An Iranian worker at the Uranium Conversion Facility at Isfahan, 410 kilometers, south of Tehran. The conversion facility in Isfahan reprocesses uranium ore concentrate, known as yellowcake, into uranium hexaflouride gas. The gas is then taken to Natanz and fed into the centrifuges for enrichment. (photo credit: AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

An Iranian worker at the Uranium Conversion Facility at Isfahan, 410 kilometers, south of Tehran. The conversion facility in Isfahan reprocesses uranium ore concentrate, known as yellowcake, into uranium hexaflouride gas. The gas is then taken to Natanz and fed into the centrifuges for enrichment. (photo credit: AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Tehran has capacity to break out to bomb if it wishes, intelligence chief James Clapper tells Senate, but would be detected if it tried to do so

Marissa Newman  reports:  Iran now has all the technical infrastructure to produce nuclear weapons should it make the political decision to do, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper wrote in a report to a Senate intelligence committee published Wednesday. However, he added, it could not break out to the bomb without being detected.

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In the “US Intelligence Worldwide Threat Assessment,” delivered to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Clapper reported that Tehran has made significant advances recently in its nuclear program to the point where it could produce and deliver nuclear bombs should it be so inclined.

“Tehran has made technical progress in a number of areas — including uranium enrichment, nuclear reactors, and ballistic missiles — from which it could draw if it decided to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons,” Clapper wrote. “These technical advancements strengthen our assessment that Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons. This makes the central issue its political will to do so.”

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No Respect

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Analysis: Looking Ahead to Post-Obama U.S.-Iran Relations

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The nuclear issue may be defused for now, but multiple factors could continue to undermine relations.

Robert Mason  writes:  The permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) and Iran hammered out an interim nuclear deal (the so-called Joint Plan of Action) which entered into force on January 20. The Joint Plan of Action will involve Iran eliminating stockpiles of its more highly enriched uranium, dismantling some its enrichment related infrastructure, agreeing to more inspections and not to activate any more centrifuges. In return, Iran gets some sanctions relief. However, given the poor history and number of irritants in each bilateral relationship between Iran and the West, it is likely that a broader politico-security deal with Iran, if there is to be one, will still be in the process of being negotiated a couple of years from now.

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