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Obama Threatens Netanyahu, Demands Israel Make Peace Or Face Isolation.


When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the White House tomorrow, President Barack Obama will tell him that his country could face a bleak future — one of international isolation and demographic disaster — if he refuses to endorse a U.S.-drafted framework agreement for peace with the Palestinians. Obama will warn Netanyahu that time is running out for Israel as a Jewish-majority democracy. And the president will make the case that Netanyahu, alone among Israelis, has the strength and political credibility to lead his people away from the precipice.

obama-threatens-netanyahu-demands-israel-make-peace-with-palestinians-or-face-isolation

In an hourlong interview Thursday in the Oval Office, Obama, borrowing from the Jewish sage Rabbi Hillel, told me that his message to Netanyahu will be this: “If not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who?” He then took a sharper tone, saying that if Netanyahu “does not believe that a peace deal with the Palestinians is the right thing to do for Israel, then he needs to articulate an alternative approach.” He added, “It’s hard to come up with one that’s plausible.”

Unlike Netanyahu, Obama will not address the annual convention of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group, this week — the administration is upset with Aipac for, in its view, trying to subvert American-led nuclear negotiations with Iran. In our interview, the president, while broadly supportive of Israel and a close U.S.-Israel relationship, made statements that would be met at an Aipac convention with cold silence.

Obama was blunter about Israel’s future than I’ve ever heard himHis language was striking, but of a piece with observations made in recent months by his secretary of state, John Kerry, who until this interview, had taken the lead in pressuring both Netanyahu and the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to agree to a framework deal. Obama made it clear that he views Abbas as the most politically moderate leader the Palestinians may ever have. It seemed obvious to me that the president believes that the next move is Netanyahu’s.

There comes a point where you can’t manage this anymore, and then you start having to make very difficult choices,” Obama said. “Do you resign yourself to what amounts to a permanent occupation of the West Bank? Is that the character of Israel as a state for a long period of time? Do you perpetuate, over the course of a decade or two decades, more and more restrictive policies in terms of Palestinian movement? Do you place restrictions on Arab-Israelis in ways that run counter to Israel’s traditions?”

During the interview, which took place a day before the Russian military incursion into Ukraine, Obama argued that American adversaries, such as Iran, Syria and Russia itself, still believe that he is capable of using force to advance American interests, despite his reluctance to strike Syria last year after President Bashar al-Assad crossed Obama’s chemical-weapons red line.

“We’ve now seen 15 to 20 percent of those chemical weapons on their way out of Syria with a very concrete schedule to get rid of the rest,” Obama told me. “That would not have happened had the Iranians said, ‘Obama’s bluffing, he’s not actually really willing to take a strike.’ If the Russians had said, ‘Ehh, don’t worry about it, all those submarines that are floating around your coastline, that’s all just for show.’ Of course they took it seriously! That’s why they engaged in the policy they did.”

I returned to this particularly sensitive subject. “Just to be clear,” I asked, “You don’t believe the Iranian leadership now thinks that your ‘all options are on the table’ threat as it relates to their nuclear program — you don’t think that they have stopped taking that seriously?”

Obama answered: “I know they take it seriously.”

How do you know? I asked. “We have a high degree of confidence that when they look at 35,000 U.S. 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,” he replied. “And the American people should as well, and the Israelis should as well, and the Saudis should as well.”

I asked the president if, in retrospect, he should have provided more help to Syria’s rebels earlier in their struggle. “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,” Obama said. “When you have a professional army that is well-armed and sponsored by two large states who have huge stakes in this, and they are fighting against a farmer, a carpenter, an engineer who started out as protesters and suddenly now see themselves in the midst of a civil conflict — the notion that we could have, in a clean way that didn’t commit U.S. military forces, changed the equation on the ground there was never true.”

He portrayed his reluctance to involve the U.S. in the Syrian civil war as a direct consequence of what he sees as America’s overly militarized engagement in the Muslim world: “There was the possibility that we would have made the situation worse rather than better on the ground, precisely because of U.S. involvement, which would have meant that we would have had the third, or, if you count Libya, the fourth war in a Muslim country in the span of a decade.”

Obama was adamant that he was correct to fight a congressional effort to impose more time-delayed sanctions on Iran just as nuclear negotiations were commencing: “There’s never been a negotiation in which at some point there isn’t some pause, some mechanism to indicate possible good faith,” he said. “Even in the old Westerns or gangster movies, right, everyone puts their gun down just for a second. You sit down, you have a conversation; if the conversation doesn’t go well, you leave the room and everybody knows what’s going to happen and everybody gets ready. But you don’t start shooting in the middle of the room during the course of negotiations.” He said he remains committed to keeping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and seemed unworried by reports that Iran’s economy is improving.

On the subject of Middle East peace, Obama told me that the U.S.’s friendship with Israel is undying, but he also issued what I took to be a veiled threat: The U.S., though willing to defend an isolated Israel at the United Nations and in other international bodies, might soon be unable to do so effectively.

“If you see no peace deal and continued aggressive settlement construction — and we have seen more aggressive settlement construction over the last couple years than we’ve seen in a very long time,” Obama said. “If Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited.”

We also spent a good deal of time talking about the unease the U.S.’s Sunni Arab allies feel about his approach to Iran, their traditional adversary. I asked the president, “What is more dangerous: Sunni extremism or Shia extremism?”

I found his answer revelatory. He did not address the issue of Sunni extremism. Instead he argued in essence that the Shiite Iranian regime is susceptible to logic, appeals to self-interest and incentives.

“I’m not big on extremism generally,” Obama said. “I don’t think you’ll get me to choose on those two issues. What I’ll say is that if you look at Iranian behavior, they are strategic, and they’re not impulsive. They have a worldview, and they see their interests, and they respond to costs and benefits. And that isn’t to say that they aren’t a theocracy that embraces all kinds of ideas that I find abhorrent, but they’re not North Korea. They are a large, powerful country that sees itself as an important player on the world stage, and I do not think has a suicide wish, and can respond to incentives.”

This view puts him at odds with Netanyahu’s understanding of Iran. In an interview after he won the premiership, the Israeli leader described the Iranian leadership to me as “a messianic apocalyptic cult.”

I asked Obama if he understood why his policies make the leaders of Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries nervous: “I think that there are shifts that are taking place in the region that have caught a lot of them off guard,” he said. “I think change is always scary.” source – Bloomberg.

by NTEB News Desk

LIGNET: 35 Years After Revolution, Iran Faces Moment of Truth.


Image: LIGNET: 35 Years After Revolution, Iran Faces Moment of TruthIranian President Hassan Rouhani waves at a rally in Tehran’s Azadi Square to mark the 35th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution on Feb. 11, 2014. (Atta Kanare/AFP/Getty Images)

Mired in decades of slow economic growth and at odds politically with much of the world, Iran is at a crossroads in its history. Domestic and foreign policy decisions made this year will set the tone for the nation’s future.

Click HERE to read an exclusive analysis from LIGNET’s top intelligence experts. 

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

AP Poll: Voters Give Obama Low Marks for Iran Deal.


A majority of Americans support an agreement by the U.S. and five other world powers to limit Iran’s disputed nuclear program, but fewer believe it will keep the Islamic republic from building a nuclear bomb.

A new Associated Press-GfK poll gave President Barack Obama lower marks for his dealings with Iran.

The five-day survey, conducted Jan. 17-21, was ongoing as the interim agreement went into effect. It calls for Iran to cap uranium enrichment at a level far below what’s necessary to build a nuclear weapon. In exchange, world powers agreed to ease international sanctions by an estimated $7 billion to give some short-term relief to Iran’s crippled economy.

The temporary compromise is set to expire in July, giving negotiators six months to work on a plan to permanently prevent Iran’s nuclear program from becoming a threat.

The poll indicated that 60 percent of American adults approve of the six-month agreement.

But fewer than half — 47 percent — believe it might work.

“From a diplomatic standpoint, it would be great to be able to negotiate and come up with a solution that would eliminate the chance for nuclear weapons for Iran,” respondent Lance Hughey, 40, a lawyer from LaCrosse, Wis., said Monday.

However, “Iran is a difficult country to trust,” said Hughey, who identified himself as an independent voter with slightly Republican leanings. “And the leadership that we see out of D.C., the way things have been conducted with Syria … I don’t believe (the president) has the leadership skills to deal with Iran.”

The poll concluded that overall, 42 percent approve of how Obama handles Iran — about the same as 44 percent in December. Fewer strongly approve of his performance, 25 percent now compared with 30 percent in December.

Obama is the first U.S. president to talk directly with an Iranian leader since 1979, when the Iranian Revolution toppled the pro-U.S. shah and brought Islamic militants to power. Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke briefly by phone in late September, and opened the way for meetings and negotiations between U.S. and Iranian diplomats.

But the Obama administration has come under fire from lawmakers who say the tough trade and financial sanctions should not be eased until Iran agrees to all international demands, including settling once and for all any concerns that it may be trying to produce nuclear weapons.

Iran has denied it is seeking a bomb and says it is pursuing nuclear capabilities for peaceful purposes.

The next round of negotiations with Iran is expected to be held in New York next month. The U.S. and its negotiating partners — Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — will be seeking a long-term agreement to halt Iran’s nuclear program.

The AP-GfK Poll was conducted using KnowledgePanel, GfK’s probability-based online panel. It involved online interviews with 1,060 adults. The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points for all respondents. Those respondents who did not have Internet access before joining the panel were provided it for free.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

US Begins Easing Economic Sanctions on Iran.


The United States will begin easing economic sanctions on Iran after the latter began shutting down its most sensitive nuclear work on Monday, the White House said.

Iran’s move was part of a landmark deal struck late last year with the United States, five other world powers and the European Union, to ease concerns over Tehran’s nuclear program and provide for the partial removal of some of the economic sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy. Iran has insisted its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

The U.N. nuclear agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency, confirmed Monday that higher-level uranium enrichment at a facility in central Iran had stopped, an important step among others that together provided officials with the evidence needed to conclude that Iran was holding up its end of the agreement.

The White House, which has vowed to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, hailed Iran’s actions as “an important step forward.”

“These actions represent the first time in nearly a decade that Iran has verifiably enacted measures to halt progress on its nuclear program and roll it back in key respects,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said. “Iran has also begun to provide the IAEA with increased transparency into the Iranian nuclear program, through more frequent and intrusive inspections and the expanded provision of information to the IAEA. Taken together, these concrete actions represent an important step forward.”

The European Union announced earlier Monday that it, too, was suspending some of the sanctions it has imposed on Iran.

Carney said the five other world powers — the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China — also would begin providing relief to Iran.

At the same time, Carney said the group will continue its aggressive enforcement of sanctions that will remain in effect during the next six months, the period that Iran and the world powers will use to negotiate a final deal.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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