Is President Trump Really a Friend of Israel?

Trump talks the talk well enough on Israel and the fate of Jews worldwide, but so far, he’s very far from walking the walk

President Trump, when campaigning, made several promises in dealing with Israel and her existential threats. First, he promised to tear up the “disastrous” Iran deal. Second, he promised to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, in accordance with the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 (JEA).

The devil is always in the details for these kinds of promises, and Trump has left both promises unfulfilled by echoing the same policies of his predecessor.

Every six months, in accordance with the JEA, the president must renew a waiver to suspend the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, or face an automatic clawback of 50 percent of the State Department’s appropriated budget.

Every president since Clinton has dutifully completed this pro-forma exercise twice a year, while paying lip service (if even that) to the law’s other provisions. These are:

(1) Jerusalem should remain an undivided city in which the rights of every ethnic and religious group are protected.
(2) Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel;

While Trump joked and smiled with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he has also  reportedly decided to sign the waiver, just like former President Obama did.

And Trump gave the red carpet treatment to Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, who is in a unity government with Hamas, a group unswervingly devoted to Israel’s destruction (regardless of what “moderating” story the media is pushing).

Further, Trump isn’t reticent to deal with Arab strongmen like Egypt’s Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. Obama had a very cold spot in his heart for strongmen, favoring an “Arab spring” giving the people power (we’ve seen how that worked out). Yet Abbas, al-Sisi and other Gulf Arab monarchs and emirs are much more comfortable dealing with deal-making Trump than the erstwhile president who preceded him.

But with Abbas being fêted in the White House, and standing next to the new American president, his status and authority as Palestinian president is practically unassailable. He joins those pro-American Arab leaders, almost all his regional allies, such as the Gulf Arab monarchs and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, as one of Washington’s “traditional Middle Eastern partners” who were estranged under Obama but who are now being warmly embraced by Trump.

Netanyahu wasn’t smiling after Abbas’ public remarks from the White House, posting his response on Facebook.

“I look forward to discussing with President Trump the best ways to advance peace. This is something we fervently share with the President. I heard President Abbas yesterday say that the Palestinians teach their children peace. That’s unfortunately not true. They name their schools after mass murderers of Israelis and they pay terrorists. But I hope that it’s possible to achieve a change and to pursue a genuine peace. This is something Israel is always ready for. I’m always ready for genuine peace.”

The Israeli PM also slammed the media for their fawning over the Palestinian position and Hamas’ removal of its desire to kill all Jews worldwide from its guiding documents–they only want to kill Israelis now. At least Trump and Netanyahu have that in common: they both know how to call out “fake news.”

The question is what will Trump do in pursuit of a deal? At some point, the interests of Israelis in living within secure borders and without an internationally protected staging area for its enemies to launch invasions directly into its heart may come into conflict with the cause of obtaining “peace.” When that happens, where will Trump land?

The biggest near-term threat to Israel is nuclear annihilation by Iranian missiles. One dirty warhead launched into the heart of Tel Aviv is all it will take to destroy Israel. Iran is a big country. Even with Israel’s guaranteed nuclear response, Iran wins and Israel ceases to exist. This isn’t a negotiating point, it’s a strategic fact. The only option Israel has is to prevent Iran from ever getting the chance to execute this plan.

In 1981, Israeli F-16 pilots destroyed Saddam Hussein’s Osirak reactor. In the early 2000’s, the U.S., probably with Israel’s help, deployed Stuxnet, which wreaked havoc on Iran’s nuclear uranium enrichment facilities. Following that, the Obama administration negotiated the Iran nuclear deal with the P6+1.

Now Trump’s administration, in its required statement to the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors, has adopted language identical to the Obama administration.

“The United States will approach questions of JCPOA interpretation, implementation, and enforcement with great strictness indeed,” the statement to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) 35-nation board said, citing the deal’s full name: the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

So much for tearing up “the worst deal ever negotiated.”

As bad as Obama was in dealing with Israel–which was mostly a personal vendetta against Netanyahu, who he despised–the former president supported Israel’s defense. In 2014, Obama approved $225 million to fund the expansion of Israel’s Iron Dome system, after previous rounds of funding for the system’s initial development.

In the end, Obama, despite the mutual antipathy with the Israeli PM, continued every policy of military cooperation and funding for Israel, even going beyond former President George W. Bush. Only at the very end did Obama’s petty, parting shot find its mark in the anti-Israel UN.

Sure, Trump’s position in the UN, and his absolutely terrific UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, are much friendlier to Israel than the Obama-Kerry cold shoulder. But, really, the UN is a dog with very little bite, unless the U.S., Russia, or China decide to do something. The UN is basically window dressing, while the pressing issues of Israeli security require dealing with details.

Trump talks the talk well enough on Israel and the fate of Jews worldwide, but so far, he’s very far from walking the walk. Continuing Obama’s Israel and Iran policies might not make him more of an enemy within liberal Jewish political groups (most of whom hate him simply because he breathes air), but it doesn’t necessarily make him Israel’s friend either.

The jury is still out on that question. There are still many opportunities for Trump to keep his promises, but I think he’s more interested in deals than promises.

Will Trump Do What Obama Did To Get Four American Hostages Back?

A fourth U.S. citizen is now being held by North Korea. Kim Hak-song, who, according to the Washington Post, worked for the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, was detained for “suspicion of hostile acts.”

This, most likely, is a pretext to simply hold another American hostage. Or it could be an effort to shutter the only private school of any kind in North Korea.

Two weeks ago, North Korea detained another U.S. national, Kim Sang-dok or Tony Kim, as he waited to board a flight at Pyongyang airport. He had been teaching a class in international finance and management at the same university, known as PUST.

PUSTS’s biggest potential crime may be praying and secretly holding Bible studies. The Bible is the number one banned book in the officially atheist North, where the Kims are venerated in an almost godlike fashion.

Two other U.S. citizens are currently being held. One man in his early 60s was charged with spying in 2016. The other is a University of Virginia student who was sentenced to 15 years at hard labor in March, 2016.

Otto Warmbier, 22, went to North Korea with a tour group and was accused to trying to steal a propaganda poster from his hotel in Pyongyang. He has not been seen since his sentencing.

These detentions are relatively minor issues in the larger context of dealing with the North. Politically, it’s best to simply look at them as hostages. Former President Obama paid another rogue state with which America has no formal relations $400 million in foreign hard currency, secretly loaded aboard a plane.

Yes, that was Iran, now firmly embarked on a single-minded quest to build its own nuke, using North Korean technology. Iran is also likely buying missile tech from Kim, using some of that nice hard currency, and the $1,7 billion Obama gave away to the ayatollahs (add that to the $100 billion in unfrozen assets).

Officials told The Wall Street Journal that wooden pallets stacked with euros, Swiss francs and other currencies were secretly flown into Iran on the plane in January, the same day the U.S. exchanged seven Iranians for four American citizens who had been detained.

North Korea may be strapped for cash from China and its other trade partners due to sanctions for its pursuit of nukes and ICBMs, but its trade with Iran is probably doing very well. (And Iran’s trade with Boeing, but that’s a different story.)

Certainly Kim Jong-un would be happy to have his hand out waiting for some cash to return the hostages. He may have a powerful ally in the leading candidate in South Korea’s upcoming presidential elections. Moon Jae-in has a greater than double-digit lead over his closest rival. Moon is a left-of-center soft-liner on North Korea, from South Korea’s Democratic Party, and favors the “Sunshine Policy” of his late mentor former president Roh Moo-hyun.

Under “Sunshine 2.0,” as the South Korean media have dubbed his plans, Moon wants to reopen an industrial complex where North and South Koreans work together, just north of the de-militarized zone. He says he’s open to meeting the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. And he says he’d like to re-evaluate a deal the previous, conservative president Park Geun-hye signed with the U.S., to install a missile defense system in South Korea.

Moon is much more likely to break with the U.S., having written that South Korea should “learn how to say no” to America. I’m sure President Trump will give him ample opportunity, as the centerpiece of America’s missile defense shield, known as THAAD, just went operational last week.

If Trump favors pay-to-play with Moon, and Moon follows through with his threats to re-evaluate the deal to install THAAD, we might see no tripwire American presence on the Korean peninsula for the first time since the armistice was signed on July 27, 1953. That’s a long-shot, given the close cooperation between ROK forces and the U.S. 8th Army, along with the USAF and other branches.

Moon, however, plays right into Kim’s hands, and away from Trump’s hard line.

It’s complicated. And nobody really knows what’s in Kim’s head–reunification with him as the dictator, or preserving the status quo forever? Could two Koreas survive with a historical cultural and economic tie, but completely different social and economic structures? I think not, not after nearly 70 years of Juche (self-reliance) and isolation in the North, and an explosion of capitalism (and Christianity) in the South.

Too many generations have passed to reconcile these without a political unification. It would be like still maintaining East and West Germany, but enabling economic and social cooperation between them. It can’t happen.

So either North Korea will develop ICBMs to threaten America (the only nation it really fears) and nuclear weapons to be delivered by those missiles, and America will withdraw from the South, paving the way for Kim to simply march into Seoul someday, or we will stand up to Kim and stop him.

I keep hearing the “Reservoir Dogs” (NSFW) scenario where three armed men are standing at an impasse, with one having his barrel to the head of his rival and his finger on the trigger. They ask how we could endanger 11 million people in Seoul from artillery raining from the North? Well, if Kim wants to commit suicide and take his country with him–and America leans a bit more forward on things like release of tactical nukes, and China believes us, we might avoid the trigger.

There’s no scenario where Kim gets his way and South Korea is more secure. The status quo cannot hold indefinitely since missiles and nukes are game changers. Why can’t Kim appeasers see this?

Or maybe we can make a deal with Kim like Obama did with Iran–a deal Trump called “disastrous” but now intends to maintain, using identical language to Obama’s in its report to the UN’s nuclear watchdog.

Trump recently said he’d be “honored” to meet Kim: “If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely, I would be honored to do it.” There’s nothing wrong with a little tête-à-tête between heads of state; of course, North Korea would need to stop taking Americans hostage first, I would think.

Then again, if Trump filled a plane with $400 million in foreign currency and flew it to Pyongyang, I’m sure something could be worked out. Because that’s what Obama would do.

Iran Provokes USS Mahan, Unaware Of The Massive Irony

For the second time in four months, an Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessel provoked the USS Mahan, a Navy destroyer assigned to the Persian Gulf.

The official said the Iranian vessel had its weapons manned and came within approximately 1,000 yards of the US destroyer.

The Mahan attempted bridge-to-bridge communication with the Iranians but got no response.

The US destroyer then fired a flare but despite the obvious signs from the Mahan, the Iranian ship continued on its course, forcing the US ship to alter direction, the official said.

But he said despite the provocations, the Mahan did not fire any warning shots.

Iran loves to test US responses in the Persian Gulf. They claim the waters of the Strait of Hormuz, a key passage for oil tankers outbound from the gulf. About 20 percent of the world’s petroleum passes through the narrow strait, which is 29 miles at its narrowest, separating Iran from Oman.

What Iran probably doesn’t realize is the significance of the USS Mahan’s name. The ship was named for Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, a 19th century thought leader in naval power. In fact, Mahan is the father of the doctrine of sea power–he wrote at least six volumes on the subject, exploring sea power in the history of naval engagements and war.

Every major navy in the world has used Mahan’s work as their textbook on naval sea power. His specific recommendations fueled support for the Panama Canal’s construction, and the United States’ presence on the Pacific islands including the Hawaiian Islands and the Philippines.

Admiral Mahan’s lectures at the Naval War College tied national greatness to sea power, and defined a navy’s primary purpose as keeping commercial shipping open during peace and war. He emphasized control of strategic locations and choke points, of which the Strait of Hormuz is one of the major examples in the world.

The very fact that the U.S. maintains a relatively large navy with global reach, policing places like the Persian Gulf, owes to Mahan’s doctrine–which was developed before modern submarines, aircraft carriers, or Tomahawk missiles. The Iranians regularly play at challenging U.S. sea power, in a cat-and-mouse game which under Obama led to a humiliating morale buster for the U.S. Navy.

It’s fairly clear that under President Trump, the “weapons free” order will come much, much faster. If the USS Mahan does more than fire a warning shot next time, the irony of that engagement won’t be lost on our naval officers, who have all read Mahan’s work, even if it’s totally lost on the Iranians.

WOW: Trump Administration Declares Iran in Compliance With 2015 Nuclear Deal

In a move sure to cause mixed emotions with Trump’s core support, the Trump administration has reversed its position on Iran.

According to an AP News report:

The Trump administration has notified Congress that Iran is complying with the 2015 nuclear deal negotiated by former President Barack Obama, and it has extended the sanctions relief given to the Islamic Republic in exchange for curbs on its atomic program.

During the run up to the election, Trump often lambasted President Obama for what he called a “dumb” and “dangerous” deal.

He often boasted that he would be tougher, and able to work out a better deal than what was already on the table.

However, in a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan sent late Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the administration has undertaken a full review of the agreement to evaluate whether continued sanctions relief is in the national interest. Tillerson notes that Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terrorism and that President Donald Trump had ordered the review with that in mind.

Well, at least they’re staying honest about who Iran is.

Details are still sketchy, and not much else has been released from the letter to Congress. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how the Trump administration’s views of Iran may further evolve.

The “Religion of Peace” Proves Yet Again That It’s Not The Religion of Free Speech

We’ve come to expect time and time again that Islam will not tolerate dissent or criticism. The latest case: a 21-year-old has been sentenced to death by firing squad for insulting Islam and its founder Muhammad.

Sina Denghan was a 19-year-old draftee with mere months left on his military service when authorities arrested him in 2015 for offending the so-called “religion of peace” on a messaging app called LINE.

Officials tricked him into confessing by promising him release if he would admit to his crime. After recording his confession, authorities tore up the agreement. The Center for Human Rights in Iran gave more details to the Daily Mail:

‘During his interrogation, Sina was told that if he signed a confession and repented, he would be pardoned and let go,’ a source told CHRI. ‘Unfortunately, he made a childish decision and accepted the charges. Then they sentenced him to death.’

Iranian officials later told Denghan’s family that he would escape charges if they would keep quiet during the legal process, which became yet another lie.

The source said that authorities got Dehghan to confess on camera as well, and that authorities told his family that if they kept quiet about the charges, Dehghan would be more likely to be freed.

‘Unfortunately, the family believed those words and stopped sharing information about his case and discouraged others from sharing it as well,’ the source said.

Denghan now sits in Arak Prison awaiting his execution, along with another co-defendant, Mohammad Nouri. A third defendant, Sahar Eliasi, was able to reduce his prison sentence to three years on appeal, but Iran’s highest court upheld Denghan’s death sentence.

International human rights organizations are monitoring the case, and Denghan’s attorneys are trying to get to the bottom of what happened as well.

‘According to Sina’s lawyer, steps have been taken for a judicial review, and with the good news we’re hearing from him, God willing this case will come to end positively as soon as possible,’ Dehghan’s mother said in a video obtained by CHRI.

We don’t know what Denghan and his friends said, but to the Iranian theocracy, it doesn’t matter. There is no freedom of speech in Islam – come to think of it, there is no freedom at all in Islam.

Dem Lobbyist Tony Podesta Took $500K From Chinese Company Convicted Of Illegal Sales To Iran

According to an exclusive investigative article published last night by the Daily Caller, the ZTE Corporation, which has paid Democratic Super-Lobbyist Tony Podesta $500,000 last year, has pled guilty to criminal violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran and then lying to investigators about it. They are being forced to pay a massive $1.19 Billion fine.

Tony Podesta is the brother of John Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman. Back in January of last year, the ZTE Corporation hired the Podesta group at $35,000 per month to help them handle negotiations with the Obama administration. According to the company’s lobbying forms, the Podesta group is still being paid and is still lobbying on behalf of the ZTE Corporation.

According to the Daily Caller,

Podesta did not report his representation of ZTE to DOJ under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), and reports to the Senate clerk are much less detailed than those required under FARA.

Last year, Podesta also avoided FARA regulations with another foreign-based client, Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank. Podesta received $170,000 for six months of work as he sought to lift U.S. economic sanctions then weighing on the Russian bank, but did not report it under FARA, as reported by TheDCNF on March 6 and March 7.

[…]

Podesta also represented ZTE in 2013 to encourage the departments of Defense and State to maintain “open and transparent markets in U.S.-China trade relations,” according to a Reuters report that estimated ZTE paid Podesta $1.44 million in fees though March 2016.

Podesta organized a team in January 2016 comprised of 11 lobbyists to defend ZTE in the criminal investigation. Ten members of the team previously worked at either the departments of State, Defense or Commerce, or the NSC, including David Adams, who was the assistant secretary of state under Hillary Clinton.

To clarify: while the Democrats were attacking Donald Trump’s campaign for months of possibly having contact with Russian government officials, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman’s lobbying company and brother were actively and illegally representing a massive, corrupt Chinese corporation that was criminally violating active U.S. sanctions against Iran.

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Trump Promises to Free American Held Hostage in Iran

President Trump has recently reiterated his campaign promise to free American Robert Levinson, who is believed to have been held in Iran since 2007.

Levinson is a former FBI agent who, following his retirement, became a private investigator and later performed investigations on behalf of the CIA as a contractor.

In 2007 he went to the island of Kish to meet with a potential informant.  The island is in the Persian Gulf and controlled by Iran.  While on the island he was apparently apprehended and taken back to Tehran for questioning and imprisonment.

His wife and friends have been searching for him since his capture.  Initially, the CIA denied knowing him, but eventually – due to a congressional investigation – his ties with the agency became known.  The FBI then became involved to assist with his search.

In 2010 a videotape of his captivity was released, followed by photographs in 2011.  Other than these hints, however, there has been no additional evidence of his whereabouts or even if he is still alive.  Iran has denied knowing anything about him.

Now, Trump’s National Security Council has contacted Levinson’s family to let them know that U.S. authorities are continuing to look for him and that “the U.S. government will never cease its efforts to bring back our citizens who are unlawfully detained or missing overseas.”

This is part of a broader effort to finally get tough on Iran and undo the damage done by the Obama administration to U.S. and allied security in the Middle East.  Israel and the Arab states fear a rising Iran, especially a nuclear-armed one, and Obama did little to alleviate these fears.  Trump’s administration is now seeking to rectify the situation, beginning with the return of Robert Levinson.

Jake Tapper Isn’t Celebrating Iran’s Oscar Pride

You know it’s funny in a twisted way to see Godless liberals who suppress gagging if a filmmaker were ever to quote the Bible or thank Jesus Christ from the podium at the Oscars, heap tearful praise on a Muslim convert winning for best supporting actor for playing a gay man.

It’s even twistier to see the stepping and fetching by other Muslims like Maleeha Lodi, Pakistan’s UN envoy, who deleted her congratulatory tweet. You see, Mahershala Ali, the Oscar winner, belongs to the wrong Muslim sect, the Washington Post reported.

And the twistiest: The Academy was #SoBlessed to vote the award for best foreign language film to “The Salesman,” made by Iranian Asghar Farhadi. It’s not the first win for this Iranian: “A Separation” won in 2011.

But when Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted his congratulations, with a bit of politics thrown in, it was a bit too much for CNN host Jake Tapper to swallow.

Farhadi had skipped the awards show, in response to the (non-existent and suspended) “travel ban.” Zarif tweeted “Proud of cast & crew of ‘The Salesman’ for Oscar & stance against #MuslimBan. Iranians have represented culture & civilization for millenia.” Tapper had “a few words” in response.

Tapper tweeted “Iran regularly jails its filmmakers” and cited several examples. Then he offered a parting word to Zarif: “The traditions of your brilliant people are being oppressed by the tyranny of your government. Tweets notwithstanding.”

Hollywood will celebrate literally anything if it’s not American, Christian, or conservative. They would never call out a repressive regime for its hypocrisy. Kudos to Tapper for his very human and correct response.