Trump Against Iran

The image of an oil tanker burning in the Gulf of Oman is a stern warning of the potential for war in the Middle East, as tensions continue to rise between the UnitedS States and Iran.

While few want a confrontation, those that do — including elements in the administration of Donald Trump, and significant parts of the leaderships in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel, as well as some Iranian hardliners — are well-positioned to make one happen.

After the US rushed to blame Iran for the latest attacks on tankers in the Gulf, the European Union issued a statement calling for “maximum restraint” from all parties.

The phrase was a deliberate jab at Washington and its “maximum pressure” strategy with Iran, a failing policy with potentially grave consequences.

Whether or not Iran was behind these attacks, as well as the previous acts of sabotage in May, Europe is striking the right tone in pressing for calm to avoid a third Gulf war. Read more at The Battleground

The Palestine Problem

“Israel is outraged over the legislation against it in the Dail which is indicative of hypocrisy and anti-Semitism.” That was the statement from the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the lower house of the Irish parliament advanced a bill in late January that would make it illegal for anyone in Ireland to buy goods or services from Israel’s settlements in the West Bank.

No one should underestimate Israel’s genuine anger at this bill and at the widespread support it has in Ireland. Any hint of economic pressure to end its 51-year old occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip provokes a strong, visceral reaction from the Likud premier. At the same time, the Israeli government carefully orchestrates its reaction to the threat of economic action to ensure that it never has to face it.

Netanyahu understands the Irish bill will fail. The government opposes it, if for no other reason than the fact that it contravenes European Union laws requiring all member states to uphold the unitary nature of the single market. But he also understands the real meaning behind the bill and its success: the people of Ireland want to see Israel face the consequences of its disregard of international humanitarian law, and its abandonment of even the pretence of negotiating a two-state solution, in the hope that those consequences will make Israel change course. Read more at The Battleground

Abbas Fails Again

From the time he took over the leadership of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), it was obvious that Mahmoud Abbas was going to have a difficult road ahead of him. Replacing Yasser Arafat, the charismatic leader of the Palestinian national movement was tough enough. But, among other challenges, Abbas had to wind down the second intifada without destroying the PLO, try to restore some of the faith Arafat had squandered with his autocratic tendencies, cronyism and human rights abuses, and walk the impossible tightrope of fighting against the Israeli occupation while working with Israel under the terms of the Oslo Accords.

History is unlikely to judge Abbas kindly. The deck may have been stacked against him, but even within that context, he has performed poorly. Read more at LobeLog

Dire Consequences if Trump Pulls out of Iran Deal

Note: With the circus that is the Trump Administration, the threat that is being posed to the Iran Nuclear Deal is not getting the smallest fraction of the coverage it merits. Many people who have known me since before the invasion of Iraq will tell you that I am no alarmist when comes to whether there will be an attack on Iran. I believe my record shows that I have been a calming voice about hysteria when there was a lot of chest-thumping but clear and significant obstacles to an attack on Iran, but also very clear about it when pro-war forces were making real headway in pushing their policy ideas. 

On that basis, I think it is absolutely crucial that this issue be raised a much higher profile now. Voices of even a shred of reason on this issue are few in this administration and even those are still overtly hostile and reckless (albeit less so than some others) toward Iran. There was virtually no challenge to including Iran in the recent bill issuing sanctions against Russia and North Korea (which is also a locus of real concern about Trump’s warlike policies). Most concerning, Senate Democrats were completely united in voting for the bill without a comment at all about whether Iran should be included (only Independent Bernie Sanders and Republican Rand Paul voted against the sanctions bill, and only Sanders made it explicit that he would have supported it if not for the inclusion of Iran). 

Trump’s Iran policy is a serious threat to the entire Middle East, to the people of Iran and the Persian Gulf, and to US and Israeli security. A military confrontation with Iran is likely to be far costlier in terms of life and limb as well as economically than the invasion of Iraq was. But because of the hideous behavior of the US President in so many ways, the headlines about this story are relegated away from the proverbial front page. That needs to change immediately. My article, introduced below and posted in full at LobeLog, explains some of the potential consequences.


Donald Trump rarely tries to hide his intentions. When he intends to do something reckless that will seriously compromise not just US security but that of the entire world, he is not shy about sharing.

The prime example of this is Trump’s determination to destroy the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the deal struck between the P5+1 and Iran to limit Iran’s nuclear program. He made it clear during the 2016 presidential campaign that he wanted to do away with the Iran deal, and he’s been clear that this is still his intention. But until now, his own advisors have been able to restrain him, and Trump has twice been forced to acknowledge that Iran has been complying with the deal.

Last week, however, Trump sent a clear message: the president of the United States is insisting that his staff find a way for him to de-certify the deal, even though Iran is not in material breach of the agreement and no one, even in the United States, has been able to make the case that it is. As Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian-American Council (NIACput it, “The tangible danger of Trump’s malice on the Iran deal—as well as the danger of the advice of the ‘adults in the room’—became further clarified this week as tidbits of the reality TV star’s plans began to leak.” Read more at LobeLog

EU Labeling: Carrots and Sticks Work

Last November, when the European Union announced the implementation of long-standing regulations regarding the labeling of products from Israeli settlements, the government of Prime

MoghanyahuMinister Benjamin Netanyahu played one of its biggest cards, suspending contact with the EU regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After nearly three months, which saw accusations of European anti-Semitism and Congressional condemnation of the European decision, Netanyahu backed down. The EU held to its position and refused to grant Israel any compensation for it. The episode reveals the enormous amount of untapped potential for altering the status quo with regard to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and its siege on the Gaza Strip. Read more at FMEP’s blog, “Facts on the Ground”

The Facts About EU Labeling of Settlement Products

The recent decision by the European Union to label products from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank has elicited loud cries of protest from Israel and from the Netanyahu government’s supporters in Washington. Critics have claimed that Israel is being treated unfairly, that the EU is trying to pressure Israel into concessions outside of the framework of bilateral negotiations, and that these measures are a part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement whose real aim, critics claim, is to de-legitimize Israel.

Israeli settlement wine

In fact, the EU measures simply represent an effort to more faithfully implement a longstanding policy, backed by a strong international consensus, of differentiating between the State of Israel within the pre-1967 line, often referred to as the Green Line, and Israeli settlements built in the territories occupied in the 1967 war.

The effort to oppose this differentiation is often based on partial or misleading information, which we address below. It is important to recognize, however, that the unimpeded growth of settlements will eventually foreclose the option of a two-state solution, if it hasn’t already done so, as it will eliminate any possibility of contiguous and economically viable Palestinian state. It is therefore imperative that anyone hoping for a peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians understand the facts about the settlements, EU labeling and the goal of differentiation. Read more at Facts on the Ground, FMEP’s blog.

VIDEO: Yuli Novak of Breaking the Silence, A Brilliant Interview

Appearing on Walla! TV in Israel, Yuli Novak, the Executive Director of Breaking the Silence lays out, in a clear manner, the case Breaking the Silence is making. She takes on the tough questions of why the group speaks abroad and its attitude toward BDS, and shreds the opposition’s arguments about Breaking the Silence’s EU funding.

It’s worth praising Walla! as well. This is the sort of TV journalism we do not see in the United States. The interviewer asks the tough questions in a respectful manner, and neither party shies away from the issues. Yes, the voices are raised, but anyone who has been to Israel knows this is standard fare.

The interview is in Hebrew, but the accompanying English subtitles are very good. Yuli Novak, and the rest of Breaking the Silence are the best of Israel. It says a great deal not only about radical rightists like Im Tirzu, but also about the Netanyahu government itself that they are hostile toward or ashamed of Breaking the Silence. They should, instead, be treated like the patriotic heroes they are.