New legislation introduced by Republican senators would cut off funding to the United Nations after members recently voted on a resolution that denounced Israeli settlements. The US abstained from the vote, which helped to shepherd its passing.
The bill, Safeguard Israel Act, sponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) would stop the flow of funds to the UN until the president confirms the repeal of a UN Security Council resolution that called Israel’s expansion into Palestinian territories a violation of international law.
Graham, who oversees funding for the State Department and foreign operations in the Senate, called the vote “a slap” against the United States’ Middle East ally.
“Twenty-two percent of the money to fund the UN comes from the American taxpayer. I don’t think it is a good investment for the American taxpayer to give money to an organization that condemns the only democracy in the MidEast, and takes the settlement issue and says that the most important and only issue in terms of impediment to peace,” Graham told MSNBC.
“I begged the UN months before don’t put me in this box with [Secretary of State] John Kerry and [President Barack] Obama taking a slap at Israel and we are going to push back. Many Americans believe the UN has become more anti-Semitic, more anti-Israeli, and I am a big internationalist but we are going to stop the money until we get this fixed.”
Graham’s statement contradicts the conclusions of a Brookings Institution poll, which found nearly two-thirds of Americans favor UN resolutions demanding a halt to settlements and that a majority of self-identified Democrats support some form of sanctions towards Israel to bring about peace.
Each year, the US gives approximately $8 billion in mandatory payments and voluntary contributions to the international peace agency and its affiliated organizations. About $3 billion goes the UN’s regular peacekeeping budgets.
In a press call about the resolution vote, White House Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes explained that the US abstained on the resolution because it “expresses a consensus international view on Israeli settlement activity.”
“We thought that we could not in good conscience veto a resolution that expressed concerns about the very trends that are eroding,” Rhodes explained. “A two-state solution.”
The resolution, however, is toothless, as it does not authorize any form of sanctions to compel Israel to respect international law.
The resolution vote came the same year the Obama administration awarded Israel with its largest military aid package ever, signing a memorandum of understanding in September that would give it $38 billion over 10 years.
However, Cruz overlooked that package when he told MSNBC that Obama had “betrayed decades of robust bipartisan American support for Israel” by having his administration abstain from voting on the resolution rather than vetoing it.
“Congress must hold the UN accountable and use our leverage as its largest contributor to push for the repeal of this resolution, making it clear to the world that Congress stands unequivocally against efforts to undermine Israel,” he added.
The resolution “declares much of Israel illegal and illegitimate. Much of Jerusalem it declares as not legitimately Israel. It declares the Jewish quarter is not part of Israel,” Cruz said. “It says the Temple Mount, the holiest for the Jewish site is not legitimately part of Israel, and the Western Wall, he signed a resolution that said it is an illegal occupied territory. We need to defend our friend and ally the nation of Israel but also US interests.”
Obama and Kerry faced bipartisan backlash over the resolution late last year, with Republican and Democratic lawmakers publicly urging them ahead of the vote to use the US’s veto authority to kill the resolution.
The House passed a resolution on a 342-80 vote last week denouncing the Security Council vote. The Senate has introduced its own resolution, which is backed by 68 senators, though it hasn’t yet come up for a vote.
US intelligence agencies were right to not reveal evidence of their claims that Russia interfered in US elections, and comparisons with intelligence reports that Iraq had WMDs were not relevant in the current year, according to the State Department.
Asked by RT’s Gayane Chichakyan if Friday’s public intelligence report should have contained evidence, State Department spokesman John Kirby said that no one should be surprised that US intelligence agencies were keeping evidence secret in order to protect their sources and methods.
“Most American people understand that they have the responsibility to protect their sources and methods,” Kirby said, adding it would be “irresponsible” to do otherwise. It is up to the agencies to decide which information they share with the public.
“We rely on them to make that determination for themselves,” the State Department spokesman said at Monday’s press briefing.
The assessment in Friday’s report was made “by all 17 intelligence communities. All of them came to the same basic conclusion: that Russia interfered in the US election,” Kirby said. “All of our intelligence communities came to the same basic conclusion, over and over again.”
The actual report, however, describes itself as an “analytic assessment drafted and coordinated among The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and The National Security Agency (NSA).”
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government “aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him,” the agencies assert in the report, noting that the CIA and FBI have “high confidence” in this judgment, while the NSA – which, in theory, would have actual surveillance data to prove the assertion – had only “moderate” confidence.
When Chichakyan brought up the 2003 intelligence assessment on the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction – invoked by the Bush administration to justify the US invasion and occupation of that country – Kirby said the comparison was irrelevant, since that was a long time ago.
“We have moved on. We have learned a lot from those mistakes,” he said.
Secretary of State John Kerry “believes strongly that they handled this matter in the appropriate way, in terms of how it was analyzed, how it was presented, and how it was briefed to those who needed to see a deeper level of information,” Kirby said.
“They haven’t done anything,” Ash Carter stated in an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press. “They came in, they said they were going to fight ISIL, and they said they were going to help in the civil war in Syria.”
“They haven’t done either of those things. As a consequence of course, we’re fighting ISIL ourselves,” adding that Moscow achieved “virtually zero” in Syria.
Carter moved on to praise US-led efforts to free the Iraqi city of Mosul which has been ongoing since the mid-October. He said the US campaign there is going “according to the plan” – contrasting with initial projections and US media reports that Iraq’s second largest city would be liberated in time for the US elections in November.
Criticizing Russian involvement in Syria, Carter said that it “almost certainly” made the ending of Syrian civil war “harder,” because Moscow failed to align with Washington’s intention to oust the Syrian president and failed to “help Assad move aside gently” and “bring the moderate opposition into the Syrian government.”
Moscow never made such promises, however, instead, it has repeatedly insisted that it is up to Syrian people to decide the future of their country without intervention or advice from outside. Russia’s involvement in Syria is focused on preserving Damascus’ sovereignty and bringing those who agree to join the reconciliation process to the negotiation table, while eliminating as many Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and other jihadist groups as possible.
Russia has on numerous occasions requested coordinated strikes against IS, but the Pentagon snubbed Moscow’s invitation to do so. In addition, Washington also failed to separate the so-called “moderate” opposition groups from jihadist fighters, further complicating the task.
The US-led international coalition’s own strikes in Syria targeted everything but oil production facilities captured by IS terrorists, the Russian Defense Ministry said earlier, accusing Washington of leading yet another campaign to “methodically and steadily” destroy yet another sovereign country’s economic infrastructure.
Furthermore, US-led forces has “mistakenly” killed dozens of Syrian government soldiers, which Washington promised to avoid when it illegally intervened in the conflict. All fragile ceasefire deals based on agreements reached by the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and his US counterpart John Kerry, also ended abruptly as the US repeatedly failed to honor their obligations.
Pointedly, and the turning point in the conflict, was that Russia’s intervention helped liberate the Syrian cities of Palmyra and Aleppo which had been under IS and other jihadist groups tyranny for years. In addition, Moscow led the efforts to secure the latest peace deal negotiated by Russia, Iran and Turkey in late December – and supported by a UN Security Council resolution.
Apart from his unsubstantiated claims about Russian involvement in Syria, Carter also referred to the now widely ridiculed US intelligence “assessment” of Moscow’s alleged involvement in influencing the US election, calling for more punitive measures by the Trump administration.
“I don’t think it should be military or purely military response. There has to be a response, and I think the steps taken so far probably represent the beginning and not the end, the floor, not the ceiling… I believe the price should be more,” Carter said.
The US intelligence community presented a report on Russia’s alleged “activities and intentions” during the elections in response to growing skepticism over its hacking claims – which again offered no hard or technical evidence, but accused Moscow and RT in particular of trying to “influence” American public opinion.
The US Defense Secretary’s latest remarks are nothing more than yet another failed attempt by American politicians to further demonize Russia as well as “hurt” and “embarrass” president-elect Donald Trump, Middle East expert, Joshua Landis told RT.
“We are in a campaign of demonizing Russia right now. Really it is not so much about Russian right now as it is about Trump. I think the Democrats and many republicans like McCain are very badly hurt by Trump and they are sticking it to him. And they are sticking it to him because he has denied the intelligence communities and he has been friendly with Russia,” Landis said.
While Trump has consistently stressed he will work to improve relations with Russia. In one of his latest tweets on Saturday, he said only “stupid” people would want a confrontation with Moscow.
A US Navy ship fired three warning shots at four vessels of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard after they closed in at high speed in the Strait of Hormuz, according to US defense officials cited by Reuters.
The ‘USS Mahan’ destroyer apparently tried to establish contact with the approaching Iranian vessels and asked them to reduce their speed, but they did not respond, according to unnamed officials quoted by the news outlet.
The incident took place on Sunday.
According to Reuters, Iranian ships came as close as 800 meters (2,624ft) to the ‘USS Mahan’, which had been guarding other US vessels.
In late November, a small Iranian vessel pointed its gun at a US Navy chopper in the Strait of Hormuz, the Pentagon announced at the time. The incident happened in international waters, US military officials noted.
The encounters are just the latest in a spate of similar incidents involving the Iranian and US Navies in 2016. In July, the ‘USS New Orleans’ and its escort ship, the ‘USS Stout’, a guided missile destroyer, were approached by several Iranian vessels whose crews filmed the sailors.
The most widely-reported case, however, occurred in January 2016, when 10 US sailors were taken into custody after their boats crossed into Iranian waters. Footage later emerged showing US servicemen kneeling on the deck of the patrol boat with their hands up, and later seated in a room being given tea and food by the Iranians. The Pentagon later announced that the US sailors had crossed into Iranian waters due to a malfunction in navigation equipment.
The Strait of Hormuz is located between the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf. It is the only seaway from the Persian Gulf to the open ocean and is among the world’s key maritime ‘choke points.’
Tehran has repeatedly threatened to close the path for the US and other international powers during political tensions. The Strait of Hormuz is crucial to both regional security and the global economy, and accounts for about one-third of global oil shipments. Keeping maritime traffic through the strait open is essential for gas and oil importers such as the US and China.
The ‘USS Mahan’ is an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, commissioned in 1998. It is armed with dozens of Tomahawk cruise missiles, which have a range of about 1,000 nautical miles (around 1,900km) and are used for precise targeting.
BY AMY MORENO
John Kerry has some explaining to do.
It appears that he was aware that his State Department was funneling MILLIONS to his daughter’s non-profit organization.
From the Daily Caller:
Secretary of State John Kerry praised a program run by his daughter’s nonprofit as he announced an extension of its non-competitively awarded Department of State funding in 2014, The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned.
“What we’re talking about here is a multi-million dollar effort that will strengthen the capacity of healthcare workers to deliver lifesaving HIV services,” Kerry said in December 2014, at a World AIDS Day event. “[I]t will build on the Global Health Service Partnership with Peace Corps and Seed Global Health.”
The 2014 comments appear to conflict with more recent Department of State claims that Kerry “played no role” in official decisions to funnel more than $9 million in sole-source contracts with the nonprofit that recruits volunteer doctors and nurses to medical schools in Third World countries.
The $9 million went to Seed Global Health — a nonprofit founded and managed by Dr. Vanessa Kerry — through the Peace Corps. The funds were awarded under the Global Health Service Partnership (GHSP) that Kerry’s daughter created in conjunction with officials from both agencies. The agencies then funded the nonprofit organization they helped bring into being.
The GHSP program began in 2012 while Vanessa’s father was a Democratic senator from Massachusetts and chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. That panel oversees both the Department of State and the Peace Corps.
Peace Corps and Seed officials discussed the expansion throughout 2015, until the nonprofit was awarded a four-year extension for $6.4 million of Department of State money in September, documents obtained by TheDCNF show.
That was the second Department of State-funded award the Peace Corps gave Seed without competition. It also extended the nonprofit’s work with the Peace Corps to a seven-year total, which violates an agency policy that limits contracts to five years.
Meanwhile, the Department of State argued that Kerry was not involved with the awards.“There is absolutely no conflict of interest here,” agency spokesman John Kirby told TheDCNF Thursday. “As we have previously made clear, Secretary Kerry played no role in this decision making while in the Senate or subsequently while at the State Department.”
“No conflict of interest exists in our partnership with Peace Corps and the US government,” Seed spokesman Mark Marino previously told TheDCNF.
BY BEN SHAPIRO
On Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry gave a speech on his proposed plan for peace between Israelis and Arabs. His plan: blame the Jews, pretend that Palestinian terrorism and incitement isn’t representative of the actual Palestinian government, and then blather for 69 more minutes. His speech razed facts to the ground in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan.
Here were ten of the worst lies and lies-by-omission Kerry purveyed in his ode to lying and self-indulgence:
1. Equating Jewish Settlements and Palestinian Terrorism. Israel has been wracked by a wave of stabbings and shootings and rocket attacks from Palestinian terrorists over the last two years. Kerry spent a few minutes on that, but only in order to draw moral equivalence with Jews building additional bathrooms in East Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. “The truth is that trends on the ground, violence, terrorism, settlement expansion, and the seemingly endless occupation, they are combining to destroy hopes for peace on both sides,” Kerry said. This is nonsense. Before there were any Jewish settlements – when Israel did not control Judea, Samaria, or Gaza – the Palestine Liberation Organization called for the “liberation” of Palestine, meaning the complete destruction of Israel. The problem isn’t people building homes. It’s Palestinians murdering Jews, and refusing to accept that any home built by a Jew ought to exist in the Middle East.
2. “If The Choice Is One State, Israel Can Either Be Jewish Or Democratic. It Cannot Be Both.” This is patently absurd. There has been one state in the area between the Jordan and the Mediterranean for some 50 years. That state has been democratic. This lie rests on two absurd contentions: first, that if Israel were to annex all Judea and Samaria, Jews would be outnumbered by Arabs; second, that if Israel were to annex all lands, Israel would have to grant all Palestinian Arabs full citizenship or face status as an apartheid state. The first claim is simply false – Jews outnumber Palestinian Arabs outside of the Gaza Strip by a factor of two-to-one, and Jews now have the equivalent birth rate of Palestinian Arabs, and will soon have a higher birth rate, as Caroline Glick points out, meaning that Jewish majority status will increase, not decrease. Second, the United States does not offer citizenship to all the people living within its borders, or over territories over which it has sovereignty. Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic are governed semi-autonomously, but citizens of Puerto Rico cannot vote in presidential elections in the United States. Israel could easily grant green cards to Palestinian residents while also giving them local control of their governance without a national vote.
3. Peace Will Only Be Realized With a Palestinian Terror State. The notion that peace depends on the establishment of a Palestinian terror state – and that’s what will be established, given that the unity government of the Palestinians now includes Hamas and Islamic Jihad alongside Fatah – is asinine. Israel has had to blockade Gaza because Hamas controls it, and is attempting to take military shipments from Iran. Adding another Iran-backed terror proxy state to the Middle Eastern map is a great way to encourage a two-front war against Israel, given the presence of Hezbollahstan on Israel’s northern border.
4. “No American Administration Has Done More For The Security of Israel Than Barack Obama’s.” To put it mildly, LOL. LOLOLOLOLOL. Funny guy, this Kerry. Here’s a timeline of Obama’s “support” for Israel. That timeline doesn’t even include the Iran nuclear deal or the current UN resolution hubbub.
5. Israeli Intransigence Is The Problem. Nope. Not even close. In 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered 94.2 percent of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians, a corridor that would link that territory to the Gaza Strip, land swaps that would increase Palestinian land holdings, a formula for division of Jerusalem. Abbas refused the deal. In 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered a similar deal. Yassar Arafat refused it. Palestinians have never accepted any deal offered by the Israelis. Israelis continue to offer. But the problem is clearly the mean, nasty Israelis. And by the way, that awful Netanyahu fellow offered to freeze settlements early in the Obama administration, and the Palestinians responded with violence.
6. Settlements Are Illegal. No, they aren’t. Kerry declared over and over that Israelis settling east of the so-called green line are living there illegally. That’s patent nonsense. He also suggested that no Jews would be allowed to live inside a new Palestinian state, because Jews would object – ignoring, of course, that Palestinians would quickly murder any Jew remaining in a Palestinian state, and Jews have a slight objection to being murdered. Right now, over a million Arabs live inside Israel. Virtually no Jews live in the Muslim world because they were expelled, and quickly absorbed into Israel.
7. Equating Palestinian Government With Israeli Government. Perhaps the most insane spectacle was Kerry suggesting that the Netanyahu government is beholden to the “most extreme elements” in Israeli politics, while pooh-poohing Palestinian government support for terrorism. Kerry suggested that Hamas was a troublesome rogue group as opposed to an integral part of the Palestinian unity government.
8. Israel As Purported Burden To The United States. Kerry spent serious time talking about how the United States had subsumed its own interests in order to give military aid to Israel. Of course, the Obama administration has also given aid to the Palestinian unity terror government, and attempted to block weapons shipments in the middle of the Gaza terror war. And even the Obama administration says that such aid is good for the United States defense industry; a huge percentage of American aid to Israel is a subsidy to domestic defense contractors. Israel is America’s only democratic ally in the region.
9. The UN Resolution Changed Nothing. Kerry kept stating that the UN resolution didn’t do much to change the status quo. That’s false. This UN resolution said that allterritories outside the 1949 Israel armistice lines – the “Auschwitz borders” – are occupied, including Jerusalem and holy sites like the Western Wall. It calls for all settlements in those areas “flagrant” violations of international law. There’s a reason Kerry pushed this thing through: of course it changes things.
10. The Obama Administration’s Maneuvers Help Peace. This is the opposite of the truth. America’s position for two decades has been that it would not cram down a peace deal on the Israelis and Palestinians – all issues would have to be resolved through bilateral negotiations. By placing the onus for all concessions on Israel and making Israel subject to the possibility of blowback from the International Court of Justice, Obama just allowed Palestinians to abandon any pretense at negotiations and stand on their newfound “rights.”
Kerry’s speech was chock full of lies. But here’s the good news: nobody will remember it a month from now, just as nobody will remember John Kerry’s legacy beyond his slander of American soldiers in Vietnam.