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U.S. bungles relationships with Turkey and Honduras

June 8, 2010 1 comment

By Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Turkey and Honduras, in different ways, highlight the lack of effective leadership the United States currently is able to exercise in the world. 
 
Turkey: Turkish government support for the IHH ship in the Gaza flotilla is now well understood and the anti-Semitic ravings of both official Turks and the Turkish media have made Turkey’s intention to split from Israel clear. 
 
But it is a mistake to think this is only about Israel. Support for the flotilla was only the latest in a series of Turkish decisions designed to distance itself from the United States and move toward closer political relations with countries adversarial to us. Immediately after the bloody 2007 Hamas coup against Fatah in Gaza, the United States and the European Union reiterated that Hamas was a terrorist organization to be shunned. Instead, Turkey’s prime minister invited Hamas leadership to Ankara. The Hamas-Turkey relationship has grown as the Turkey-Palestinian Authority relationship, the relationship supported by the United States and the EU, has declined. Rapprochement with Russia, Syria and Iran, and the Iran-Brazil-Turkey enriched uranium deal are more of the same.
 
After his meeting with Secretary of State Clinton, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters, “Citizens of member states were attacked by a country that is not a member of NATO. I think you can make some conclusions out of this statement.” The implication was that Turkey would ask NATO for some satisfaction-or some slap at Israel.
 
Thank you for the reminder, Mr. Minister.
 
Turkey, as a member of NATO, is privy to intelligence information having to do with terrorism and with Iran. If Turkey finds its best friends to be Iran, Hamas, Syria and Brazil (look for Venezuela in the future) the security of that information (and Western technology in weapons in Turkey’s arsenal) is suspect.  The United States should seriously consider suspending military cooperation with Turkey as a prelude to removing it from the organization.
 
Honduras: The United States tried to have it both ways. The Obama Administration quickly jumped in with Venezuela, Brazil, Cuba and Nicaragua to denounce what it called a “coup” in Honduras. The United States voted with its new best friends to oust Honduras from the Organization of American States (OAS), and cut off various forms of diplomatic and economic aid to the small Central American country. After the Congressional Research Service (CRS) concluded that the Honduran Congress, Supreme Court and military had acted in accordance with the Honduran Constitution, the Obama Administration brokered a deal that permitted the previously scheduled election with previously nominated candidates to go forward.  When the new president was sworn in, the United States recognized the new government and withdrew its sanctions. 
 
All’s well that ends well, right? Not exactly.
 
At the OAS meeting in Peru this week, the United States tried to have Honduras reinstated. Guess who said no; Venezuela, Cuba, Brazil and Nicaragua refused to even to put the issue on the table. Hugo, Lula, Fidel and Danny were perfectly happy to let the Obama Administration join them in ganging up on a (former) American ally. But they still think they’re leading. 
 
Maybe they are.

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Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.  Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member.

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Hugo Chávez calls Israel a “cursed terrorist and murderous state”

June 7, 2010 Leave a comment

(WJC)–In his latest diatribe, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez Frias has called Israel “genocidal” and a “cursed terrorist and murderous state”. In a speech broadcast on national television and amid shouts of “Long Live Palestine” Chávez also accused Israel of supporting the local opposition against his government. “Israel is financing the Venezuelan opposition. There are even groups of Israeli terrorists, of the Mossad, who are after me trying to kill me,” he said.

In the same speech, Chavez sent his “greetings and respect” to the local Jewish community. “They know they have our affection and respect,” he said, adding later that “I doubt very much that a Venezuelan Jew would support such an atrocity.”

The local Jewish community has had a strained relationship with the government following a spate of attacks against Jewish houses of worship last year, including an assault against the city’s main synagogue.

Other Latin American nations closely aligned with Chavez have also come out strongly against the Jewish state. Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa recalled his country’s ambassador from Tel Aviv, while Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said he was suspending diplomatic relations between the two nations. Venezuela severed its diplomatic ties with Israel last year, following the war in Gaza.

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress.

Roll call on Gaza flotilla portrays the values of international community

June 4, 2010 Leave a comment

By Shoshana Bryen

Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Israel was victimized twice this week, first by terrorists hiding yet again among the civilian population (one Turkish-sponsored jihadi boat traveling with five more-or-less civilian boats) and second by a world all too ready to blame Israel for the violence engendered by those who sought a bloody death for themselves and any Jews they could take along. By the end of the week, things began to look more normal-those who are already against remained against; those who try to split the difference split it (consider the “abstain” list below); and a few stood honorably above the rest.   

1) Italy, Netherlands and the United States voted against resolution A/HRC/14/L.1, “Grave Attacks by Israeli Forces against the Humanitarian Boat Convoy” in the UN “Human Rights” Council. It is of note that the major Italian newspapers supported Israel editorially as well. In the United States, public opinion ran strongly in Israel’s favor, as usual. 
 
After a nasty and public denunciation of Israel by President Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Kouchner, France abstained, probably reminded that in 1985 French commandos sunk a Greenpeace ship in what was called Opération Satanique. (You know what a threat those satanic environmentalists pose to Paris.) France was joined by Belgium, Burkina Faso, Hungary, Japan, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Ukraine and UK.
 
Voting in favor of the commission whose conclusion is in its title were Angola, Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Chile, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Egypt, Gabon, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritius, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Slovenia, South Africa, and Uruguay. 
 
Surprised?
 
2) President Obama: He almost got it right in a TV interview, but missed the essential point. “You’ve got a situation in which Israel has legitimate security concerns when they’ve got missiles raining down on cities along the Israel-Gaza border. I’ve been to those towns and seen the holes that were made by missiles coming through people’s bedrooms. Israel has a legitimate concern there.  On the other hand, you’ve got a blockage up that is preventing people in Palestinian Gaza from having job opportunities and being able to create businesses and engage in trade and have opportunity for the future.”
 
The President doesn’t know, or didn’t say, that Hamas is responsible both for the attacks on Israel and for the misery of the Palestinians in Gaza. Instead, he wanted to “work with all parties concerned-the Palestinian Authority, the Israelis, the Egyptians and others-and I think Turkey can have a positive voice in this whole process once we’ve worked through this tragedy. And bring everybody together…”
 
Aside from the fact that Turkey is fully complicit in the incident and thus should forfeit any seat at any future table, the Palestinian Authority has not represented Gaza Palestinians since Hamas evicted it in a bloody putsch in 2007. Instead of hoping to “bring everybody together…” the President should be working to evict Hamas from Gaza, for the sake of the Palestinians as much as anyone else.
 
3) The Czech Republic: Small countries that know what it means to disappear when others find them inconvenient stick together and we are grateful that they do. The President of the Czech Senate, Dr. Přemysl Sobotka, told Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, “As a doctor, I certainly regret any loss of life, but there is no doubt that this was a planned provocation designed to drag Israel into a trap… Many in the European community feel as I do, but they are afraid to speak out publicly… I support the position that views Hamas as a terrorist organization… It is too bad that European countries present an unbalanced position on this matter. Unfortunately, the positions of the international community are not always to my taste, particularly in Europe.”
 
We are reminded that 18 months ago, the Czech foreign minister issued this statement: “I consider it unacceptable that villages in which civilians live have been shelled. Therefore, Israel has an inalienable right to defend itself against such attacks. The shelling from the Hamas side makes it impossible to consider this organization as a partner for negotiations and to lead any political dialogue with it.”
 
And finally…
 
4) Mesheberach: During the Jewish Sabbath service, there is a prayer is for those who are ill or injured.   The “Mesheberach” includes the name of the person for whom the prayer is offered and, in an unusual practice, the name of the person’s mother rather than his or her father. Whether in the synagogue or not, we hope readers will remember the six soldiers injured while protecting the people of Israel:

Dean Ben (son of) Svetlana
Roee Ben (son of) Shulamit
Daniel Lazar Ben (son of) Tina Leah
Yotam Ben (son of) Dorit
Ido Ben (son of) Ilana
Boris Ben (son of) Eelaina

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Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.  Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member.

Like every U.S. President, Obama becoming scapegoat for world’s bad guys

December 23, 2009 Leave a comment

By Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C.–Adversaries of the United States blame the United States for their woes. THE President, not “this president,” or “that president,” receives the animus of those who need America to be their adversary. Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Nicaragua -to some extent Russia and China-all use the United States as a foil. In the previous administration, President Bush was the focus of their ire and there were those who said it was deserved. Now, increasingly, President Obama is the object of their anger-unfortunately, he still seems to think he doesn’t deserve it. 
 
It is not enough for the President of the United States to boast of his minority status, Third World parentage, Islamic heritage in his background if not in his practice, or even, as he once said, a “funny” name. It is not enough to apologize for the prior sins of America, not enough not to be “not President Bush,” and not enough to continually and publicly foist blame on his predecessor. To those who need a big, bad United States to deflect from their own shortcomings, President Obama is indistinguishable from the rest of us. 
 
Which is actually the way it’s supposed to be.
 
JINSA has no comment on the climate change agenda, but the Copenhagen meeting was worrisome-not for any impact it may have on countries’ behavior as regards climate, but for the bludgeon it handed to avowed enemies of the United States and the West, the response of the assembled and the serial failure of the President to defend his country. 
 
Hugo Chávez and Robert Mugabe-responsible for the impoverishing of otherwise bountiful countries and the wreckage of human rights and human lives in Venezuela and Zimbabwe-denounced President Obama, the United States, and the West. Chávez only months ago praised President Obama by saying he had replaced the “smell of sulfur” (referencing his prior insult to President Bush) at the UN with the “smell of hope.” But in Copenhagen said, “It smells of sulfur here. It keeps smelling of sulfur in this world.” He encouraged President Obama to “leave by the back door.”
 
Mugabe, who beggared the “Breadbasket of Africa” and is under international sanction for massive human rights violations, told the assembled, “When these capitalist gods of carbon burp and belch their dangerous emissions, it’s we, the lesser mortals of the developing sphere who gasp and sink and eventually die.”
 
Nothing new, but the damnation of capitalism, America and the West by dangerous, raving lunatics was met with thunderous applause by the European and Third World assemblage-some of whom are our friends and allies in other arenas. 
 
President Obama will never placate or bribe Chávez or Mugabe or Assad or Ahmadinejad into a change of fundamental attitude-and we are beyond the point where he should be apologizing for his country. It is time for the President to take up a strong defense of the capitalist West against the agglomeration of Western anti-Western, anti-American, anti-capitalists who were cheering for our-and their own-demise. 
 
The applause is more worrisome than the lunatics.
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Bryen is senior director of security policy of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.  Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member.

Iranian terror cells reportedly infiltrating Latin America

December 3, 2009 Leave a comment

BUENOS AIRES (wjc)–Alberto Nisman, the Argentinean prosecutor investigating the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires warned of Iran’s growing terror network in Latin America. “The Iranians are moving fast. We see a much greater penetration than we did in 1994,” Nisman told a conference of the American Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

He said that Iran, particularly through Hezbollah, now had a growing presence in Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela, using techniques it honed in Argentina before the country took steps against Iran.

Nisman spoke of sham operations involving taxi drivers, who conducted surveillance without arousing suspicion, fake medical school students who could stay in the country for many years without raising eyebrows, and business fronts that helped funnel cash to operatives.

Iranians cultivated ties at the local mosques to search for people who could be radicalized. Today, he said, Argentina was considered a “hostile environment” for Iran, but the Iranian terrorist groups were finding fertile ground in other Latin American countries. “The stronger element that happens today is the complicity of the government,” he said, pointing to the networks Iran develops through its embassies. “We know that [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chávez allows Hezbollah to come in.”

Nisman said there were “too many countries in Europe that continue to turn a blind eye … like with the Nazis.” He called on these countries to refuse to welcome Iranian leaders to international forums like the United Nations until they adhere to the Interpol-backed warrants and hand over the men wanted by Argentina in connection with the AMIA bombing. “Iran will not long be able to resist,” he contended. “It cannot fight against the entire world.”

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Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress

The Canary in Israel’s Coal Mine

November 30, 2009 Leave a comment

By Shoshana Bryen

WASHINGTON, D.C. — For those who have asked why JINSA has kept Honduras in the spotlight since June, this is why: small democratic countries trying mightily to exercise legitimate governance and self-determination deserve our vocal support even – or especially – when they do things the U.S. would prefer they didn’t.

Honduras is one of these countries, as is Israel.  We have been surprised by the lack of Israeli interest in the democratic exercise of sovereign rights by Honduras, and especially in the lack of interest in the pressure exerted by the U.S. government to force compliance with America’s wishes.

The presidential and legislative election held in Honduras on Sunday provides an opportunity for American administration to walk back its decision to punish the small, poor Central American country for ousting its then-president Manuel Zelaya last June as he tried to pave the way for multiple terms, in violation of the Honduran constitution.  The election included only candidates nominated long before Zelaya’s ouster – and the interim president, who was never a candidate, removed himself from public view in the last week of the campaign.

The first decision of Team Obama back then was knee-jerk support for the radical line – joining Chavez, Ortega and Castro calling the ouster, authorized by the Honduran Supreme Court and legislature, a coup.  Then, in swift succession a) agreeing to the suspension of Honduras from the OAS; b) withdrawing accreditation from Honduran Ambassador Roberto Flores; c) withholding foreign aid; d) threatening Honduran access to previously awarded Millennium Challenge grants; e) refusing a diplomatic visa to the interim president for his visit to the UN General Assembly (a violation of UN rules); and e) using the American Ambassador in Honduras as point man to threaten Honduras’s future relations with Washington.

It was distinctly more American pressure than was applied to the Iranian government as it stole an election and punished demonstrators with arrest, torture and death.

The interim Honduran government, plus most of the arms of authority in the country – the legislature, the Supreme Court, the Catholic Church and the Human Rights Commission – held fast to the belief that their constitution mattered.  And after Senate Republicans held up the nominations of two Obama appointees for State Department Latin America posts, the Administration was pressured into turning to Costa Rica’s Oscar Arias to try to hammer out an agreement between Zelaya and the interim government.

A four-point plan emerged, giving the Honduran legislature and Supreme Court the lead in determining their own country’s future and obliging the U.S. and the OAS to sanction yesterday’s election.  The legislature will meet on 2 December to determine the fate of Zelaya and his failed attempt to hijack the country.  The interim president has said he will respect the legislature’s decision – even if it brings Zelaya back to complete his term until the January handover of power to the newly elected president.

Oscar Arias told the AP that he believes other Central and South American nations will respect the Honduran vote – Costa Rica will, he promised.  Brazil, Argentina and others have said they may not – claiming the election would only ratify the “coup.”  This is blatant interference in the internal affairs of a neighboring country, and the U.S., still the most important player in the hemisphere, should be quick to declare where it stands.

If it stands on the side of Honduras, all could be well that ends well.

We often call Israel the canary in the coal mine of Western, liberal democracy.  Honduras may prove to be the canary in Israel’s coal mine.

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Bryen is special projects director for the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. (JINSA). Her column is sponsored by Waxie Sanitary Supply in memory of Morris Wax, longtime JINSA supporter and national board member.