National Security & Defense

The curious case of the missing fatwa, &c.

Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei

President Obama keeps saying that Ali Khamenei, the “supreme leader” of Iran, has issued a fatwa that prohibits Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. I have two questions.

1. If the supreme leader has forbidden a nuclear weapon, what are we talking about, in these negotiations?

2. Trustworthy experts say that Khamenei has done no such thing — that he has never issued an anti-nuclear fatwa. For example, see the Middle East Media Research Institute, here. Why doesn’t a reporter ask Obama about this?

The question of the fatwa — its very existence — should not be a left-right matter. It should not be up for opinion, or affected by bias. We’re talking about a factual matter. Either Khamenei issued a fatwa or he didn’t.

And if he didn’t, shouldn’t our president stop saying that he did? Shouldn’t the American people be clear-eyed about Iran, rather than deceived, or falsely comforted?

‐Yesterday, Israel marked its Holocaust memorial day. The country’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said, “As the Nazis strived to trample civilization and replace it with a ‘master race’ while destroying the Jewish people, so Iran is striving to take over the region and expand further with a declared goal of destroying the Jewish state.”

He went on to say, “Instead of demanding that Iran significantly dismantle its nuclear capabilities, and conditioning the lifting of sanctions on an end to Iranian aggressions, the world powers are retreating, leaving Iran with nuclear capabilities and even allowing it to expand them later on, regardless of its actions in the Middle East and around the world.”

Can anyone deny that the above is true? Credibly deny it?

This report quotes an Israeli woman who survived the Holocaust: “I’m angry at the world for not understanding and denying what happened, and I am angry at myself for staying alive when so many others didn’t. I still live those days as if they were today, but I’m proud that I live in a country where they cannot chase us anymore.”

They can still chase the Jews, and annihilate them. But Israel is a kind of last stand, true.

‐UN Watch has said, in the words of a headline, “EU & US Allowed Iran to Win Seat on UN Women’s Rights Board.” (Article here.) Yes, par for the course: Iran — a country that stones women to death for the “crime” of having been gang-raped — sitting on a women’s-rights panel at the United Nations.

But a question: Would this have happened under President George W. Bush? A President McCain or Romney? Did the Obamites fail to block this travesty, if they could have? UN Watch says yes, and I believe them.

‐Here is a headline: “Iran president dismisses US Congress pressure over nuke deal.” (Article here.) Yeah, and I think the U.S. president is about equally dismissive . . .

‐I wish to recommend an article by Benjamin Kerstein of The Tower Magazine. It’s called “How Will History Remember Netanyahu?” It is a detailed and judicious assessment.

Have an important slice:

. . . perhaps Netanyahu drives his opponents mad precisely because of this: He has come to be associated with sometimes unpopular but often correct assessments of Israel’s security situation; and while his economic policies have resulted in general discontent, it cannot be denied that they have contributed mightily to Israel’s ability to stay economically afloat in an era of economic crisis and collapse. Even if only unconsciously, many Israelis associate Netanyahu with the possibility of at least temporary prosperity and security, something that, in a region like the Middle East, cannot be easily dismissed. Perhaps Netanyahu’s most fervent critics hate him precisely because they suspect he may have been right all along.

Yup. Deep down, even Israeli lefties, many of them, must recognize that Netanyahu sees things clearly. And that he is doing all one can to save Israel from destruction by its enemies. Bien-pensant Britons, who despised and mocked Churchill, came to see that he had been right (damn him).

‐You want a little U.S. presidential politics? In 1992, Bill Clinton promised something: that we’d get “two for one,” meaning him and Hillary, both. I wonder whether Hillary will dust off the same promise. And whether people will like it.


‐As he has long been itching to do, Obama has removed Cuba from the State Department’s list of terror sponsors. I think this is wrong, and outrageously so. If you’re interested in knowing why, I will direct you to an article: by my friend Mauricio Claver-Carone, here. He tells you. So do the editors of the Wall Street Journal, here.

Which enables me to move on, I suppose . . .

‐According to this news article, “Cuba is highly sensitive to any indication the U.S. is supporting domestic dissent.” Um, I don’t think the Castros really have to worry about that, under this administration.

‐Have you been keeping up with Egypt’s president, Sisi, and his moves? Khaled Abu Toameh has an interesting report, as he regularly does.

It begins,

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s uncompromising war on terrorism, especially along the border with the Gaza Strip, seems to be bearing fruit. It is a war that is being waged away from the spotlight and with almost no reaction from the international community.

You want more? Here’s the next paragraph:

This situation is a perfect example of how the international community and the United Nations do not care about the “plight” of the Palestinians as long as Israel is not involved. Sisi’s war on terrorism has thus far failed to spark the same uproar, if any, that is often triggered by Israeli military operations against Hamas and its smuggling tunnels.

Keep at it, Sisi. (You too, Khaled.)

‐In an interview with me a couple of weeks ago, Senator John McCain spoke of “the most disturbing briefing that I have ever received.” Those words should get our attention. McCain has received a lot of briefings, on war and peace, across the decades.

This briefing had to do with cyberwar, and the capabilities of the Russians and the Chinese. “We better start paying attention,” said McCain, and “we better start doing a helluva lot better job” in the area of cyber.

I thought of those remarks when reading this article: “Next 9/11 will be caused by hackers, not suicide bombers, cyber expert warns.” We see so many articles, containing the warnings of so many experts, our eyes can glaze over. But this article — really, it is super-disturbing. A chorus of fire bells in the night.

‐There were many tributes to Lincoln, on the 150th anniversary of his death, many of them excellent. I must say, I was struck by that given by Tom Cotton, the new senator from Arkansas. His words were particularly interesting and moving coming from a southerner.

The whole speech is here, and I will cite one paragraph:

His fanatically unreconciled assassin was enraged by Lincoln’s achievements: his saving of the Union; his emancipation of the slaves; his forecast that the freed slaves would soon be voting; his rededication of the nation to the Declaration, and to the Constitution in which it is embodied. Lincoln lived for these things, and also he died for them.

‐In the last ten or fifteen years, I’ve had trouble understanding what people are talking about, because they say “they” when they mean one person. This can be incredibly confusing.

May I tell you about an article that threw me?

In raising £70,000 for the British Heart Foundation, runners taking part in a 10 kilometre race at the weekend had already gone the extra mile.

But by the end of the event, hundreds of them had gone an extra two miles, after a route marshal caused “mayhem” by disappearing from their post.

Huh? Wha? Whose post?

‐Let’s have some music. For a review of the Mutter-Bronfman-Harrell Trio — that’d be Anne-Sophie Mutter, violin; Yefim Bronfman, piano; and Lynn Harrell, cello — go here.

‐Staying on the subject of music, let’s talk national anthem. The other day, I tweeted, “Note from last night’s Knicks game: Judy Collins sang anthem. Plain, genuine, nice. I also like that she has pure-white hair, no dye . . .”

Then, a reader of ours happened to write me, “Did you hear the U.S. Army Band play the national anthem last week before the NCAA basketball final? Might be the best I’ve ever heard. Almost a fanfare. Awesome.” Check it out here.

Just for fun, I revisited the notorious rendition of the anthem by José Feliciano during the 1968 World Series, the Tigers versus the Cardinals. (Here.) It was Ernie Harwell, the great Tiger radio announcer, who suggested Feliciano. José sounds solidly mainstream now. And I like that he doesn’t dawdle. That he takes the anthem at a decent tempo.

‐Thanks so much for joining me today, ladies and gentlemen. I’d like to finish on a story — a little wire-service report, complete. I loved this piece of news, and I hope you will, too.

An 80-year-old grandfather in northern Alabama has experienced his first high-school prom after going as his granddaughter’s date.

James “Poppa” Drain of Albertville told WHNT-TV his granddaughter, Joy Webb, asked him to be her date for Saturday.

The prom was the first for Webb and Drain, who never had the chance to attend while he was young.

Webb wanted to share the event with her grandfather, who has been in her life since she was born.

For Drain, it was also his first time wearing a tuxedo.


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