Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Daily TIP: Controversy swirls as motivation of American lawmakers, analysts pushing Iran sanctions questioned‏

  • Controversy swirls as motivation of American lawmakers, analysts pushing Iran sanctions questioned
  • Hezbollah-backed Syria offensive risks new refugee wave into Lebanon, "catastrophic" destabilization
  • Former Israeli national security adviser: Israel can and will disable Iran nuclear program "for a long time" if necessary
  • Israeli PM responds after interpreter caught on hot mic describing U.N.'s targeting of Israel as "a bit much" What we’re watching today: 

    • State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki was pressed by journalists amid recent comments by administration officials implying that U.S. lawmakers advocating new Iran sanctions are undermining American interests and putting the country on a path to war. The allegations, which were subsequently echoed by Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, come amid more explicit public statements describing U.S. lawmakers pushing for new pressure on the Islamic republic as operating at Israel's behest. Al-Monitor foreign policy journalist Laura Rozen last Friday claimed on Twitter that Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, had been "picked [by Israel] to push their talking points," while the New York Times on Saturday described Americans pushing for sanctions as being "urged on by [Israeli] Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu." Last summer 400 members of the House of Representatives voted to impose new measures against Iran - among them were 178 Democrats - and there are now bipartisan efforts in the Senate to advance similar legislation. At today's State Department briefing Psaki was pushed on whether the administration believed that "when members of Congress [or]... Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee [Menendez] pushes for the tough sanctions that the world community has in place against Iran, is he not concerned about U.S. national interests?" Psaki responded "I’m not characterizing one way or the other."
    • A Hezbollah-backed Syrian army offensive in the country's Qalamoun mountains threatens to generate a new refugee crisis, with French media outlets reporting that nearly 20,000 civilians may be driven into Lebanon. Forces loyal to the Bashar al-Assad regime have been attacking the strategically located town of Qara, which both lies on the road connecting Damascus to Syria's largest city Aleppo and has served as a transit point for opposition fighters crossing the Syrian-Lebanese border. The regime's efforts to secure the city are part of a systematic campaign oriented toward eventually quelling opposition forces operating in and around Aleppo itself. Jean Ogassapian, a Lebanese politician closely linked to the country's anti-Syrian March 14th movement, declared that Hezbollah's continued support of the Syrian army, especially in the Qalamoun regime, risked "catastrophic repercussions in Lebanon" and a "total sectarian war." Even elements in Lebanon traditionally aligned with the Iran-backed terror group have in recent weeks called for the organization to disentangle itself from the Syrian conflict lest Lebanon be dragged further into the two and a half year war.
    • Former Israeli national security adviser Yaakov Amidror said over the weekend that Israel has both the will and the ability to militarily degrade Iran's nuclear program, telling the Financial Times that an Israeli attack would cripple what is widely believed to be an Iranian drive to obtain nuclear weapons "for a long time." In what some read as a jab at global powers reporetedly willing to dilute sanctions on Iran while letting the Islamic republic continue to make progress toward both a uranium-based and plutonium-based bombs, Amidor said that the Jewish state is preparing for "the possibility that Israel will have to defend itself by itself" and that Jerusalem would not "count on others to do the job if the others don’t want to do the job." Commenting what he described as an "extended [Twitter] rant" by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei filled with "whiny anti-Semitic paranoia," Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg recently reminded readers that Khamenei both controls Iran's foreign policy and remains committed to the destruction of Israel.
    • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the weekend offered a job to a U.N. Spanish-to-English translator who may face professional repercussions after a hot mic caught her making what she thought were private comments about the U.N.'s frentic condemnation of the Jewish state as contrasted with the the near-total absence of criticism leveled at other countries. Last Thursday, when the interpreter made the comments, saw the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) pass nine resolutions condemning Israel and exactly zero targeting other countries. Evaluating the situation, the still-unknown woman mused that "it's a bit much, no" and that "there’s other really bad shit happening, but no one says anything about the other stuff." Hillel Neuer, the executive director of UN Watch, took to the Times of Israel to further contextualize the UNGA's legislative session, noting that by its end 22 resolutions will have been passed condemning Israel and only four condemning "the rest of the world combined." Neuer drew particular attention to an anti-Israel resolution about the Golan Heights that mentioned "Syria" 10 times but found no space to call attention to the behavior of Syria's Bashar al-Assad regime, which is widely believed to have used poison gas against civilians as part of that country's two and a half year war, which has killed over 100,000 people.
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