Hezbollah Arsenal “Many More than 40,000 Rockets”

  • Iranian generals “increasingly regular visitors to Lebanon” says Israel.
  • Hezbollah hides weapons among civilians in southern Lebanon.
  • Fears that Hariri report will implicate Hezbollah, bring civil war.

The buildup of rockets by Iran-backed Hezbollah is more substantial than media reports have suggested, The Israel Project has learned. In line with reportage, Israeli intelligence understands that Hezbollah has amassed in excess of 40,000 rockets in the immediate vicinity of the Israeli-Lebanese frontier.

More after the jump.
However, in Israel’s assessment the Shi’ite Hezbollah also has a considerable stockpile in other parts of Lebanon. The 40,000 weapons are located in hiding places in villages throughout southern Lebanon in contravention of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701. The resolution, which led to the 2006 ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah, calls for the Lebanese government to be the sole bearer of arms in the south of the country.

Israel fears Iran is playing an ever-larger role in Lebanon. There has been a noticeable increase in visits by Iranian military and political leaders over the last two years according to Israeli officials. Tehran is spreading its sphere of influence to include both Hezbollah and Beirut.

Hezbollah gets short- and long-range missiles in three main ways: by sea, by air and via the Syrian border. Iran and Syria are the main suppliers of Hezbollah’s weaponry, while Hezbollah has also obtained Russian rockets, in Israel’s estimation.

“Iran and Syria both pose significant conventional security challenges and these conventional challenges intersect with the asymmetrical threats posed by Hezbollah…whose rockets indiscriminately target Israeli population centers,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Andrew J. Shapiro in July 2010.

The Lebanese border towns that face Israel are heavily Shi’ite. Hezbollah stores weapons in underground bunkers and in buildings among the civilians there. Public buildings doubly serve as Hezbollah lookout points.

United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is not allowed to enter private properties, making it difficult for UNIFIL to monitor weapons smuggling.

The Israel Defense Forces has published videos filmed by drones and from fixed positions showing explosions at three weapons depositories close to the frontier.

Israel is watching the border particularly closely at the moment fearing that Hezbollah may choose to launch rocket attacks in the next few weeks. Jerusalem believes it may do so in order to deflect attention away from the eagerly-anticipated publication of the findings of the U.N. inquiry into the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

Reports have circulated implicating Hezbollah in the assassination. Drawing Israel into a military campaign Hezbollah believes would move attention quickly away from the Hariri report.

If You Are Worried About Iran, Help Pass START Now

— Marc R. Stanley, Michal M. Adler and David A. Harris

So many in the American Jewish community – reflecting Israel’s leaders – are rightly gravely concerned about the dangers posed by Iran. Indeed Iran has become the foremost issue on the pro-Israel agenda. What if there was a measure with bipartisan support facing the United States Senate that could help contain Iran – and only days left to pass it? What if a handful of members were working to stymie progress on this measure?

In reality, there is precious little time to pass the START treaty in the waning days of the 111th Congress. Despite the leadership of President Barack Obama and Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN), a small group of senators – led by Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) – seem intent on blocking this paramount treaty… some, perhaps, for political reasons. Yet the stakes are simply too great for politics to get in the way.

The arms reduction and verification aspects are plenty important. But what passing START will mean for the improving U.S.-Russia relationship – and our joint cooperation on confronting Iran – is even more crucial. As scholar Michael O’Hanlon noted yesterday in listing the reasons to pass START, ‘Most of all, the U.S.-Russia relationship is now helping apply greater pressure on Iran. Moscow has agreed to far tighter United Nations Security Council sanctions on Iran’s high-technology trade, and it recently refused to sell Tehran advanced surface-to-air missiles.’

Can anyone deny that Russian cooperation is essential to ensuring a nuclear-free Iran? Can anyone deny that not passing START will be a dramatic blow to U.S.-Russian relations – and a disaster in terms of our Iran policy? Where is the outcry? Our actions – in this case, our action or inaction on START – will have profoundly important repercussions.

The time has come for those in the American Jewish community who care deeply about confronting Iran to help pass START now. We can do no less, and we have no time to wait. We must lend our voices to the debate now.

In convening an extraordinary meeting in the White House today, placing a brilliant spotlight on this issue, President Obama explained the reasons as clearly as possible when he noted that ‘this goes beyond nuclear security. Russia has been fundamental to our efforts to put strong sanctions in place to put pressure on Iran to deal with its nuclear program. …We cannot afford to gamble on our ability to verify Russia’s strategic nuclear arms. And we can’t jeopardize the progress that we’ve made in securing vulnerable nuclear materials, or in maintaining a strong sanctions regime against Iran. These are all national interests of the highest order.’

As a community, we simply must lend our voices and help pass START now. We can do no less.

UNESCO Withdraws Sponsorship of World Philosophy Day in Iran

— Sharon Bender

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Director-General Irina Bokova withdrew its support from World Philosophy Day events set to take place in Tehran Nov. 21-23. UNESCO’s decision recognizes the unacceptability of Tehran as a location to celebrate peace and free exchange of ideas, given the regime’s long history of censorship, domestic repression, and hateful rhetoric toward Israel, a U.N. member state.

This change in UNESCO’s course followed implementation of new restrictions on Iranian university courses and curricula, including prohibiting the establishment of new departments teaching law, political science, and philosophy-key tenants for discussion within World Philosophy Day events.

“UNESCO has made the right choice in withdrawing support for Iran’s World Philosophy Day events,” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said. “Philosophy cannot be celebrated in an environment where free exchange of ideas is suppressed and hatred reigns.”

“Tehran does not deserve the honor of holding UNESCO-sponsored events extolling freedom and open-mindedness,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “It is impossible to have a philosophical event under a cloud of repression where tolerance is absent.”

Biden and Netanyahu Speak at GA

Vice-President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu speak at the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in New Orleans.



Remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu

The story of the Jewish people is that of great destruction followed by miraculous redemption.

That same resilient spirit is exemplified by your collective efforts to help this great city rebuild itself after Hurricane Katrina.

Just as you have rallied time after time to help Israel weather the storms it has faced, you rallied to help New Orleans to get back on its feet.

You should be proud of what you have been doing for the Jewish people and the Jewish state, and for others. I am doubly proud to be with you here today. Thank you.

On the eve of the 20th century, Theodore Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, foresaw the great challenges that stood before the dispersed Jewish people. He charted a clear path to direct the Jewish destiny to the safer shores of a Jewish state. Herzl’s vision was guided by three principles: Recognize perils, seize opportunities, forge unity.

More after the jump
These same three principles should guide us at the dawn of the 21st century. We must recognize the dangers facing us and work to thwart them. We must seize the opportunity for prosperity and for peace with those of our neighbors who want peace. And we must forge unity among our people to shoulder these monumental tasks.

The greatest danger facing Israel and the world is the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran. Iran threatens to annihilate Israel. It denies the Holocaust. It sponsors terror. It confronts America in Afghanistan and Iraq. It dominates Lebanon and Gaza. It establishes beachheads in Arabia and in Africa. It even spreads its influence into this hemisphere, into South America.

Now, this is what Iran is doing without nuclear weapons. Imagine what it would do with them.
Imagine the devastation that its terror proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas and others, would wreak under an Iranian nuclear umbrella.

This is why Israel appreciates President Obama’s successful efforts to have the UN Security Council adopt new sanctions against Iran. It values American efforts to successfully mobilize other countries to pass tough sanctions of their own. There is no doubt that these sanctions are putting strong economic pressures on the Iranian regime.

But we have yet to see any signs that the tyrants of Tehran are reconsidering their pursuit of nuclear weapons. The only time that Iran suspended its nuclear program was for a brief period in 2003 when the regime believed it faced a credible threat of military action against it. And the simple paradox is this: if the international community, led by the United States, hopes to stop Iran’s nuclear program without resorting to military action, it will have to convince Iran that it is prepared to take such action. Containment will not work against Iran. It won’t work with a brazen regime that accuses America of bombing its own cities on 9/11, openly calls for Israel’s annihilation, and is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism.

When faced with such a regime, the only responsible policy is to prevent it from developing atomic bombs in the first place. The bottom line is this: Iran’s nuclear program must be stopped. Iran’s nuclear program is the greatest danger we face. The assault on Israel’s legitimacy is another.

We know from our history that attacks on the Jews were often preceded by attempts to dehumanize the Jewish people – to paint them as vile criminals, as the scourge of humanity. This is why the attempts by our enemies and their misguided fellow travelers to delegitimize the Jewish state must be countered.

Herzl was right about many things. He was right about the conflagration that would soon engulf Europe. He was right about the need for a Jewish state and for a Jewish army to defend that state.

Yet Herzl was too optimistic in believing that the rebirth of the Jewish state would gradually put an end to anti-Semitism.

The establishment of Israel did not end the hatred towards the Jews. It merely redirected it. The old hatred against the Jewish people is now focused against the Jewish state. If in the past Jews were demonized, singled out or denied the rights that were automatically granted to others, today in many quarters Israel is demonized, singled out and denied the rights automatically granted to other nations, first and foremost the right of self-defense.

For too many, Israel is guilty until proven guilty. The greatest success of our detractors is when Jews start believing that too – we’ve seen that today.

Last year, at the UN General Assembly, I spoke out against the travesty of the Goldstone Report, which falsely accused Israel of war crimes in Gaza two years ago. The United States, led by President Obama, and Canada, led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, stood by Israel’s side against this blood libel. Many countries didn’t.

Well, last week, Hamas finally admitted that over 700 of its fighters in Gaza were killed by the IDF during that war. This is precisely what the Israeli army said all along – that roughly 50% of the casualties of the war were Hamas terrorists. Such a high percentage of enemy combatants and such a low percentage of unintended civilian casualties is remarkable in modern urban warfare. It is even more remarkable when fighting an enemy that deliberately and shamelessly embeds itself next to schools and inside mosques and hospitals.

The authors of the Goldstone Report owe the Israeli army an apology. And all those who supported and helped spread this libel owe the State of Israel an apology. The best way to counter lies is with the truth. That is why I commend your decision to establish the Israel Action Network and dedicate resources to fight this battle for truth. We must fight these lies and slanders together to ensure that truth prevails.

The threat from Iran and its proxies, and the continued assault on Israel’s legitimacy are great perils we must thwart.

Now let me speak about two great opportunities we must seize: peace and prosperity.

The opportunity today to achieve a broader Israeli-Arab peace derives not exclusively but mainly from the perception of a common threat. Today, Arab governments and many throughout the Arab world understand that Iran is a great danger to them as well. This understanding opens up new possibilities for a broader peace that could support our efforts to reach peace with our Palestinian neighbors.

Israelis want to see that the Palestinians are as committed as they are to ending the conflict once and for all. They want to know that just as we are ready to recognize a state for the Palestinian people, the Palestinians are ready to recognize Israel as the state for the Jewish people.

Israel also wants a secure peace. We do not want to vacate more territory only to see Iran walk in and fire thousands of rockets at our cities. That is exactly what happened after we left Lebanon and Gaza. We don’t want to see rockets and missiles streaming into a Palestinian state and placed on the hills above Tel Aviv and the hills encircling Jerusalem. If Israel does not maintain a credible security presence in the Jordan Valley for the foreseeable future, this is exactly what will happen.

I will not let that happen.

We do not want security on paper. We want security on the ground. Real security. I am willing to make mutual compromises for a genuine peace with the Palestinians, but I will not gamble with the security of the Jewish state. Palestinian leaders who say they want to live peacefully alongside Israel should sit down and negotiate peace with Israel. They should stop placing preconditions and start negotiating peace. The Palestinians may think they can avoid negotiations. They may think that the world will dictate Palestinian demands to Israel. I firmly believe that will not happen because I am confident that friends of Israel, led by the United States, will not let that happen. There is only one path to peace – that is through a negotiated settlement.

We should spend the next year trying to reach an historic agreement for peace and not waste time arguing about marginal issues that will not affect the final peace map in any way. I am confident that if there is goodwill on the Palestinian side, a formula can be found that will enable peace talks to continue. I believe that if we succeed, and I always like to confound the skeptics, and I continue to do that systematically, I believe that peace would unleash tremendous economic opportunities for Israelis, Palestinians, and peoples throughout the region.

But as the last years have shown, Israel has not waited for peace to seize the opportunity to develop a strong economy. As Prime Minister, then as finance minister and now again as Prime Minister, I have spent a great deal of time advancing economic reforms and removing obstacles to Israel’s economic growth – and I have the political scars to prove it. The reforms that we have been enacting have changed Israel’s economy beyond recognition. We are now building fast roads and rail lines that crisscross the country, to connect the Negev and the Galilee to the center of the country. I intend to complete a rail line that will link the Red Sea with the Mediterranean and the Jordan River to the Port of Haifa. This will enable Israel to take advantage of its strategic location as more and more goods are shipped from East to West.

As the world economy becomes more competitive, Israel is well placed to succeed. We are global leaders in high technology. Our scientists win Nobel Prizes. Our innovations in science, medicine, water, energy, communication, agriculture and in many other fields are literally changing the world.

Israel is a wellspring of technological, artistic and cultural creativity. Today, Israel is ranked 15th in the world in terms of quality of life – by the UN – so you knows we are at least 15th. And if that does not impress the young people in the audience, here’s something else that might. For those of you planning to travel world, Lonely Planet just ranked Tel Aviv the 3rd most exciting city in the world. I don’t agree – that of course is Jerusalem. Still, Israel’s best economic days are ahead.

If we hope to thwart and dangers and seize opportunities, we must strengthen our unity. The best way to strengthen Jewish unity is to strengthen Jewish identity. By deepening our connection to our shared past, we fortify our bonds to one another and to our state, and thereby strengthen our common future. That is why this year I decided to initiate a national Heritage Plan that will restore and renovate hundreds of Jewish and Israeli sites throughout the country.

I want young people to visit the place where David Ben Gurion declared our independence just as I want them to visit the place where our patriarchs and matriarchs, the mothers and fathers of the Jewish nation, are buried. Talk about distortions, can you imagine that UNESCO tried to deny the Jewish connection to Rachel’s Tomb next to Jerusalem and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron? This absurdity to try to erase our past will fail as we reconnect a new generation of Jews with their history. Our young people will know that we are not foreign interlopers in our own homeland. They will know something that our enemies and politicized international bodies cannot bring themselves to admit: The Jewish people are not strangers in the Land of Israel. Israel is our home. It has always been our home and it will always be our home.

I have also decided to enhance Israel’s support for programs that strengthen Jewish identity in the Diaspora. In my first term as Prime Minister, I decided to invest Israeli government funds in what many then thought was a preposterous idea – that we would pay for young Jews to come on short visits to Israel. Since then, a quarter of a million Jews have come to Israel on Birthright programs, and we will continue. I am committed to working with Birthright, Masa and Lapid to ensure that every young Jew who wants to can come to Israel.

And I am committed to working with Natan Sharansky and the Jewish Agency to strengthen Jewish identity in the Diaspora.

I know that there are controversial issues that threaten to divide us. We need to resolve these issues in a spirit of compromise and tolerance. As Prime Minister of Israel, I promise you that I will not permit anything to undermine the unity of our people. Israel must always be a place that each and every one of you can call home. Our unity is a critical foundation of our collective strength. The more we speak with one voice, the more that voice will be heard. And in a rapidly changing world, it needs to be heard loud and clear.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the fantastic rise of Asia challenges many nations, but it is not a danger. It is a natural shift in global wealth and power that is lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. The great danger we face is not from the battle between East and West but from the aggressive force wedged between them that is spreading its tentacles far and wide. That force is radical Islam, whose fanaticism and savagery knows no bounds. If I can leave you with one message, it is that we must warn others of this peril.

History shows that the most advance weapons were usually developed by the most advanced societies. Yet today, primitive and barbaric tyrannies that stone women, hang gays, promote terror worldwide, send bombs to synagogues, and advance the most fanatical doctrines can acquire nuclear weapons. If not stopped, this means that the greatest nightmare of all – nuclear terrorism – can become a reality. The civilized world must not let that happen.

As we continue to build a modern and democratic Israel and as we seek peace with all our neighbors, we must also warn the world about this formidable peril. In standing up for modernity against medievalism, the Jewish people and the Jewish state play a vital role in securing our common civilization. And by helping dispel the shadows of a dark despotism, we can truly fulfill our destiny to be a beacon of light and progress unto all the nations.

Trivedi and Gerlach Speak On Wide Range of Issues

Publisher Dan Loeb speaks with Congressman Jim GerlachDr. Daniel Loeb

Every election year since 2006, Temple Beth Hillel Beth El’s Israel Advocacy Committee, Men’s Club and Sisterhood invite the Congressional Candidates for Pennsylvania’s 6th district  to speak to the community, and this year was no exception. Incumbant Republican Congressman Jim Gerlach was followed by his Democratic challenger Dr. Manan Trivedi as they both addressed the crowd and took questions on a wide range of issues.

As was the case in the first debate between Gerlach and Trivedi, there was a small incident before the beginning of the event as the Gerlach campaign asked that the event not be filmed, and all recording equipment was removed. The second debate was televised and can be seen on the PCN website. This forum was not a debate format as the candidates appeared sequentially.

Israel


Both candidates spoke passionately of their support for the Jewish State. As a decorated veteran Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy, Trivedi said

“I was ready to die for Israel because that is what allies do for each other.”

Both candidates were pessimistic about the current peace negotiations. Gerlach said he “saw no signs of a breakthrough there”. Trivedi blamed the Palestinian leadership “We need someone who can come to the negotiating table without preconditions.” Gerlach cited “Gaza’s extreme poverty and lack of educational opportunities which fosters hatred of Israel.” He added that the neighboring Arab countries could do something about the situation in Gaza but they are not interested.

More after the jump.
Trivedi cautioned that we should let Israel take the lead in the peace process. The United States he said “can facilitate, but should not take over” or “draw borderlines”, adding that he was “still waiting for a Palestinian Authority which can deliver on its promises.”  

Trivedi spoke of his Indian heritage which gives him reason to be vigilant yet optimistic. His family and friends who were affected by the terrorist attack last year in Mumbai remind him of the danger posed by terrorist groups like al Qaeda and Hamas who Trivedi insisted we “cannot negotiate with”. Yet he also recalled lessons from his parents’ hometown in India.  Ahmedabad was a city plagued by rioting between its Hindi and Muslim communities following the independence and partition of India in 1947, but the Indian government seeded economic development, and once everyone was more secure financially, suddenly they were less concerned with religious differences with their neighbors.

Gerlach responded to a hypothetical situation proposed by Steve Feldman (Director of the ZOA in Philadelphia) in which the administration were to impose a particular peace proposal by a fixed deadline. “Israel needs to make its own determination of what is a good agreement that it can sign on to. If Obama moves beyond that we can use the appropriations process – the power of the purse.”

Gerlach concluded

“There is strong bipartisan support for the State of Israel, and I imagine this will continue.”

Iran

Both candidates praised the recently passed Iran sanctions. Gerlach was disappointed that Obama has not yet employed the full range of sanctions available. Trivedi concurred. He saw the Iranian sanctions were having a real effect, but he said we need to implement all of the available the sanctions as quickly as possible since “centrifuges do not wait for negotiations.” A questioner asked how he would respond to military action by Israel and Iran. Trivedi said all options have to be on the table including the military option, adding that

“The only thing worse than the military option is a nuclear Iran.”

Afghanistan

The former Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev recently warned that winning a war in Afghanistan is impossible. Gerlach was asked how he would vote on withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. Gerlach said “I would have to vote ‘no’ because I want to hear from General [David] Petraeus” who is reviewing the United States’ strategy in the region. Gerlach doubted whether Hamid Karzai’s government could stand long without our support.

Trivedi disagreed with Obama’s “surge” of 30,000 additional troops in Afghanistan. “I do not think they will cure the ills of Afghanistan.” Trivedi added that he does not trust the Karzai government, and he lamented Obama’s failure to address the opium problem in his “surge speech” since the opium drug trade is endemic to many of the problems in Afghanistan and has corrupted the Karzai administration. Trivedi observed from his experience in Iraq:

“The Military has smart power: nurses, engineers, …

“We can facilitate nation building but we can not impose democracy. It has to well up from within.”

Party Loyalty and Extremism

Both candidates tried to distance themselves from the leadership of their parties.

Manan Trivedi said he did not support Obama’s support of Human Rights initiatives in Israel, applying the Nuclear Non-proliferation ban to Israel or Biden’s insistence of a housing freeze in Jerusalem. Trivedi criticized the implementation of the stimulus bill, disagreed with the surge in Afghanistan and felt that the health reform bill did not address costs.

Trivedi concluded

I will take a good idea whether it comes from a tea party supporter or a left-winger or anything in between. We need a new breed of leaders who have no political chips to cash in.


Matt Hirsch asked Gerlach if there were any issues on which he disagreed with Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner. He cited several votes where he opposed the Bush administration: Overriding Bush’s veto of S-CHIP and supporting stem cell research. In fact, during Gerlach’s first three terms he built a moderate record by voting strategically: voting with his party when his vote was needed and voting with his moderate district when it was not. In this Congress, the Republicans have insisted of party discipline in order to avoid giving a hint of bipartisanship to legislation passed by the Democrats. Accordingly, the Philadelphia Jewish Voice followed up and asked for a more recent example where Gerlach opposed his leadership in the last two years. Gerlach said he supported his leadership on all of the major pieces of legislation: namely in opposing the stimulus package, health-insurance reform and cap-and-trade energy policy. Indeed Gerlach has been much more consistent lately in voting with his leadership though he did vote last July to extend unemployment benefits opposed by the Republican leadership.

Gerlach was also asked to comment on the impact of the tea party movement. Gerlach cited several local tea party groups who he said were “very engaged”. He praised them for “stepping up as citizens” and said “this is a good thing”.

Neither candidate eluded to alleged excesses in the tea party such as racism, rejection of principals such as civil rights or the Separation of Church and State, violence against Lauren Valle in Tennessee and the “citizens arrest” of a reporter in Alaska.

Tax Cuts

The 2001 and 2003 Bush taxes cuts expire at the end of this year. Unless Congress takes action during the lame-duck session or takes retroactive action next year, tax rates will revert to the levels they were at during the Reagan and Clinton administrations. For the richest Americans this would raise their marginal tax rate from 35.0% to 39.6%.

Jim Gerlach said that he along with the entire Republican caucus and “about 50 moderate Democrats” in the House of Representatives favor making the Bush tax cuts permanent. He doubted whether Pelosi would have the political strength to address this issue during the lame-duck session following the upcoming mid-term election. Gerlach also wanted to address the Alternative Minimum Tax which was never indexed and is catching more and more middle-class Americans.

Gerlach’s campaign was distributing “fact sheets” at the synagogue claiming that “Manan Trivedi opposes extending tax relief which will result in the largest tax increase in American history, roughly $2,000 per Pennsylvania family,” but in reality Trivedi  “supports extending tax cuts for all but the über-wealthy.” Trevedi said we needed to return to the old rates only for the portion of taxable income exceeding $250,000 per year. Keeping those tax breaks would cost Americans 700 billion dollars which Trivedi said “we cannot afford.” Economists have observed that tax breaks focused on the richest 2% of Americans “will not stimulate the economy” since “we have a demand side problem not a supply side problem.”

Spending

The Federal Budget for the new fiscal year has not yet been passed so the government is acting under a Continuing Resolution until December 3. Gerlach doubted the new budget would be passed in the lame-duck session but was confident that another Continuing Resolution would be passed to avoid a government shutdown before the new Congress could act on the budget in January.


Gerlach said “the current deficit spending is 20% of gross domestic production whereas historical it has been around 18 to 19%.” In reality, the deficit was 9.91% at the end of last year and it will grow to 10.64% based on the proposed budget which is less than the figure Jim Gerlach cited but still well above deficits seen since the end of World War II.

To solve this problem, Gerlach intends to draw on his experience as a State legislator where the budget had to be balanced. “Only the Federal government does not have a balanced budget requirement”. Calling the current situation “unsustainable”, Gerlach called for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the United States Constitution with exception in times of war or other national emergency similar to that proposed in during the Lyndon B. Johnson Administration. Similar amendments failed to pass the House by the required two-thirds majority in 1982, 1997 and 2005. Once the amendment passes Congress, it would then have to be ratified by 38 states before going into effect.

Gerlach was asked specifically what he would cut in order to balance the budget since entitlements, the military and interest make up 84% of the budget. Gerlach said that all areas of spending have to be under consideration including Medicare and Social Security. Gerlach also pledged to look at defense spending as well.

Manan Trivedi countered that “we need to cut spending, but we need to do it with a surgical knife, not a sledgehammer.”

From Trivedi’s experience in the military, he agrees with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates that we need to be more efficient and eliminate unneeded weapon systems. In Iraq, Trivedi saw contractors paid five times more to do half of the work of an enlisted serviceman.

Trivedi called Washington DC an “evidence-free zone” suggesting that by observation we can fund best-practices and drive costs down for a wide range of government programs.

Trivedi sees getting the economy back on track as critical to reestablishing fiscal discipline. Trivedi’s jobs plan will eliminate the 260 billion dollar loophole for companies that ship job oversees.  His jobs plan features tax incentives for small businesses which he called “the motor of our economy.”

Trivedi emphasized stimulating sectors of the economy which have a ripple effect and will provide long-term benefits for the economy. One example was the clean energy economy. Trivedi said we should work on smart grid, wind turbine and solar power technologies. “We are not doing the things the Chinese are doing, and they are going to be the leaders” in green technology and not us if we do not step up to the plate. Similarly, Trivedi wants to invest in infrastructure such as tunnels, roads and light rail here in the Sixth Congressional District and around the country in order to provide jobs right now and continue to create jobs in the future.

Health Care

Gerlach was asked if he would defund the Health-Insurance Reform which he voted against. He said he favored repealing the bill and replacing it with a new one without the “onerous new taxes.” (Gerlach did not explain how he would overcome the anticipated Presidential veto in order to repeal the bill.) Gerlach emphasized buying insurance across state-lines and working on tort reform as a way to drive down costs. He would also work to slow down and delay implementation of certain provision of the Health-Insurance Reform Bill. He did not expect an immediate solution, and expects this to remain an issue for next several administrations.

Trivedi looked at ease on the subject of Health Care and spoke with expertise not only as a battalion surgeon and as a primary care physician, but also as an expert on Health Policy. He received a Masters degree from UCLA in Health Policy and went on to serve as health policy advisor to the Navy Surgeon General and was an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences.

Gerlach’s handout claimed Trivedi supported a “socialized single-payer medicine scheme.” However, Trivedi denied the allegation.

Trivedi said the Health-Insurance Reform bill was not perfect: it did not address costs and it was too long, but he would have voted for it because it was a step in the right direction. He compared it to other pieces of landmark legislation (such as civil rights legislation which still left many people unable to vote). These bills aspire to historic change but need to be improved over time.

Trivedi rejected repealing the bill as a step in the wrong direction.

“It would cost millions of dollars when we need to balance the budget. This would reintroduce insurance companies into the doctor-patient relationship. This would eliminate guaranteed coverage for those with preexisting conditions.”

Trivedi gave one of his own patients as an example who was unable to obtain coverage even though she was cancer-free because her medical files mentioned the word “cancer”.

To contain costs, Trivedi said we need evidence-based health policy to help drive down costs since “30% of medical treatment makes no difference in outcomes.”

Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El’s Rabbi Neil Cooper asked Manan Trivedi about coverage for mental health. Trivedi answered that “mental health is part and parcel of health care.” He lamented that mental health care has been unfairly stigmatized for generations and as a result post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) had not been treated as pro-actively as it should. During his work with the Navy’s Surgeon General, Trivedi drew on his own experience with combat medicine to become one of the early researchers to investigate the unique mental health issues affecting our troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Israel Action Committee chairman Lee Bender concluded the event by urging everyone to get out and vote next Tuesday.

The Bow of Jonathan Did Not Turn Back

For a demagogue like Ahmadinejad who maintains power through intimidation of both his own people and his neighbors in the Middle-East, recent events may have undermined not only his nuclear ambitions but perhaps his grasp on power itself.


Iranian technicians at the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant earlier this year. The facility has since reportedly been attacked by the Stuxnet worm. (Ghasemi/AP)

Earlier this month Iran’s nuclear program was hit by the Stuxnet worm cyber attack. According to the New York Daily News:

… a majority of the documented Stuxnet attacks since its discovery by internet security experts in June have been on Iran, according to computer security experts.

Some analysts believe the code is too sophisticated to be the work of random hackers and was likely created by a Western power, such as the United States or Israel, specifically to shutdown Iran’s nuclear program.

On Thursday, three Symantec researchers claimed they found a clue that points to Israel as the culprit: the number “19790509,” appears in Stuxnet’s code and is possibly a reference to the date, May 9, 1979. On that day, Jewish-Iranian businessman Habib Elghanian was executed being convicted of spying for Israel.

Now, DEBKAFile reports that a secret Iranian missile base was struck by a triple blast just before Ahmadinejad arrived in Lebanon to declear that Israel was destined to “disappear”.


Sabotage deep underground at Iran Imam Ali Missile Base.

DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources report the site held most of the Shehab-3 medium-range missile launchers Iran had stocked for striking US forces in Iraq and Israel in the event of war – some set to deliver triple warheads (tri-conic nosecones).

The 18 soldiers officially reported killed in the blasts and 14 injured belonged to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) main missile arm, the Al-Hadid Brigades.

The Imam Ali Base where the explosion occurred is situated in lofty Zagros mountain country near the town of Khorramabad in the western Iranian province of Lorestan. This site was selected for an altitude which eases precise targeting and the difficulty of reaching it for air or ground attack. It lies 400 kilometers from Baghdad and primary American bases in central Iraq and 1,250 kilometers from Tel Aviv and central Israel. Both are well within the Shehab-3 missile’s 1,800-2,500-kilometer operational range.

Our Iranian sources report that Tehran spent hundreds of millions to build one of the largest subterranean missile launching facilities of its kind in the Middle East or Europe. Burrowed under the Imam Ali Base is a whole network of wide tunnels deep underground. Somehow, a mysterious hand rigged three blasts in quick succession deep inside those tunnels, destroying a large number of launchers and causing enough damage to render the facility unfit for use.
In its official statement on the incident, Tehran denied it was the result of “a terrorist attack” and claimed the explosion “was caused by a nearby fire that spread to the munitions storage area of the base.” In the same way, the regime went to great lengths to cover up the ravages wrought to their nuclear and military control systems by the Stuxnet virus – which is still at work.

In actual fact, DEBKAfile’s military sources report, Iran’s missile arsenal and the Revolutionary Guards have also suffered a devastating blow. Worst of all, all their experts are a loss to account for the assailants’ ability to penetrate one of Iran’s most closely guarded bases and reach deep underground to blow up the missile launchers.

The number of casualties is believed to be greater than the figure given out by Tehran.

According to Aviation Week, North Korea’s new intermediate range BM-25 Musudan missile resembles the Iranian Shehab-3, so the explosions may have not only set back Iranian nuclear ambitions but they may also have set back nuclear cooperation between Iran and North Korea as well.


During the 2008 campaign, Rabbi Neil Cooper (above) and Richard Berkman questioned Obama’s willingness to stand up to Iran, and to let Israel take the steps it deems necessary to defend itself from nuclear attack.

During the 2008 Presidential campaign, much hay was made of Obama’s willingness to talk to Iran about the nuclear issue. Many equated any diplomacy with Iran with Chamberlain’s capitulation to Hitler. However, Obama has shown leadership in the international community giving real teeth to the economic sanctions on Iran. Just this month Iran’s biggest trading and banking partner – the United Arab Emerates – has moved into compliance with the United Nations Resolutions.

Following the cyber-attacks of Iranian nuclear plants and sabotage of an Iranian missle base, there are no calls on Israel to show restraint. Clearly, this Democratic administration and much of the world community understands the dangers inherent in an Iranian nuclear program and are glad to see steps taken to delay or neutralize the program.

Hopefully, the day will come soon when the Iranian people also stand up to Ahmadinejad’s intimidation and get the new leadership Iran needs to bring them into an era of peace, tolerance and prosperity.

Obama Signs Iran Sanctions

 

President Obama signed the Iran Sanctions Act, saying that the Iranian government has failed to meet its obligations under Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and reiterating that the United States stands with the Iranian people as they pursue universal rights.  
Written Remarks

Today, I have signed into law H.R. 2194, the “Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010”. This Act builds upon the recently passed United Nations Security Council Resolution and its strong foundation for new multilateral sanctions.

It is designed to pressure Iran by requiring sanctions on those persons investing in Iran’s development of petroleum resources and exporting to Iran refined petroleum and items needed to strengthen Iran’s refined petroleum production capability. Further, it requires sanctions on financial institutions facilitating certain activities involving Iran, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or other sanctioned persons. The Act also puts in place new authorities to demonstrate the strong and sustained commitment of the United States to advancing the universal rights of all Iranians, and to sanction those who have abused their rights.

The Act provides a powerful tool against Iran’s development of nuclear weapons and support of terrorism, while at the same time preserving flexibility to time and calibrate sanctions. In particular, it provides new authority for addressing the situation of those countries that are closely cooperating in multilateral efforts to constrain Iran. The Act appropriately provides this special authority to waive the application of petroleum-related sanctions provisions to a person from such a closely cooperating country, out of recognition for the key role such a country plays in ongoing multilateral efforts to constrain Iran. The Act permits the President to exercise this authority flexibly, as warranted, and when vital to the national security interests of the United States.

Transcript of Obama’s Remarks

 As President, one of my highest national security priorities is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.  That’s why my administration has aggressively pursued a comprehensive agenda of non-proliferation and nuclear security.

Leading by example, we agreed with Russia to reduce our nuclear arsenals through the New START Treaty — and I’ve urged the Senate to move forward with ratification this year.  And with allies and partners, we’ve strengthened the global non-proliferation regime, including the cornerstone of our efforts –the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Now, in the entire world, there is only one signatory to the NPT — only one — that has been unable to convince the International Atomic Energy Agency that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.  One nation.  And that nation is Iran.  For years, the Iranian government has violated its commitments, defied United Nations Security Council resolutions, and forged ahead with its nuclear program — all while supporting terrorist groups and suppressing the aspirations of the Iranian people.

Since taking office, I’ve made it clear that the United States was prepared to begin a new chapter of engagement with the Islamic Republic of Iran.  We offered the Iranian government a clear choice.  It could fulfill its international obligations and realize greater security, deeper economic and political integration with the world, and a better future for all Iranians. Or it could continue to flout its responsibilities and face even more pressure and isolation.  

To date, Iran has chosen the path of defiance.  That’s why we have steadily built a broader and deeper coalition of nations to pressure the Iranian government.  Last month, we joined with our partners at the U.N. Security Council to pass the toughest and most comprehensive multilateral sanctions that the Iranian government has ever faced.  (Applause.)  And I want to specifically single out our tireless — and I mean tireless — Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, for her terrific — (applause.)  

As I said last month, we are going to make sure that these sanctions are vigorously enforced.  At the same time, we’ll work with our allies and friends to refine and enforce our own sanctions on Iran.  And that’s exactly what we’ve been doing.  Here in the United States — thanks to the efforts of my Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, and Under Secretary Stuart Levey — (applause) — they have been terrific on this effort; Stuart has been just outstanding — we have imposed sanctions against more institutions, more individuals involved with Iran’s nuclear and missile programs.

Other nations are now acting alongside us — nations like Australia, which announced new sanctions, including those against a major Iranian bank and Iran’s shipping company.  The European Union is moving ahead with additional strong measures against Iran’s financial, banking, insurance, transportation, and energy sectors, as well as Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.  Other countries, like Canada, have indicated they will also be taking action.  In other words, we are ratcheting up the pressure on the Iranian government for its failure to meet its obligations.

And today, we’re taking another step — a step that demonstrates the broad and bipartisan support for holding Iran accountable.  I’m pleased to sign into law the toughest sanctions against Iran ever passed by the United States Congress — the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act.  (Applause.)

I want to thank all the members of Congress who worked on behalf of this legislation, including another tireless person, but who never seems to break a sweat — the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.  (Applause.)  I want to thank Representatives Steny Hoyer and Eric Cantor for doing outstanding work.  (Applause.)   Although they weren’t able to join us, I want to acknowledge Senators Harry Reid, Jon Kyl and Richard Shelby.  And I want to thank those who led the effort to forge a final bill that received overwhelming bipartisan support — Senator Chris Dodd and Representative Howard Berman.  Thank you for your good work. (Applause.)

Consistent with the Security Council mandate, this legislation strengthens existing sanctions, authorizes new ones and supports our multilateral diplomatic strategy to address Iran’s nuclear program.  It makes it harder for the Iranian government to purchase refined petroleum and the goods, services and materials to modernize Iran’s oil and natural gas sector.  It makes it harder for the Revolutionary Guards and banks that support Iran’s nuclear programs and terrorism to engage in international finance.  It says to companies seeking procurement contracts with the United States government — if you want to do business with us, you first have to certify that you’re not doing prohibited business with Iran.

In short, with these sanctions — along with others — we are striking at the heart of the Iranian government’s ability to fund and develop its nuclear program.  We’re showing the Iranian government that its actions have consequences.  And if it persists, the pressure will continue to mount, and its isolation will continue to deepen.  There should be no doubt — the United States and the international community are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Finally, even as we increase pressure on the Iranian government, we’re sending an unmistakable message that the United States stands with the Iranian people as they seek to exercise their universal rights.  This legislation imposes sanctions on individuals who commit serious human rights abuses.  And it exempts from our trade embargo technologies that allow the Iranian people to access information and communicate freely.  In Iran and around the world, the United States of America will continue to stand with those who seek justice and progress and the human rights and dignity of all people.

So, again, this is not a day that we sought — but it is an outcome that was chosen by the Iranian government when it repeatedly failed to meet its responsibilities.  And the government of Iran still has a choice.  The door to diplomacy remains open.  Iran can prove that its intentions are peaceful.  It can meet its obligations under the NPT and achieve the security and prosperity worthy of a great nation.

It can have confidence in the Iranian people and allow their rights to flourish.  For Iranians are heirs to a remarkable history.  They are renowned for their talents and their contributions to humanity.  Here in the United States, Iranian-Americans have thrived.  And within Iran, there’s great potential for the Iranian people to forge greater prosperity through deeper integration with the international community, including with the United States.

That’s the future we do seek — one where Iran’s leaders do not hold their own people back by failing to live up to Iran’s international obligations, and where Iran can reclaim its place in the community of nations and find greater peace and prosperity.

That is the Iranian government’s choice.  And it remains our hope that they choose this path, even as we are clear-eyed and vigilant about the difficult challenges ahead.

So, with that, I will sign this legislation into law.  (Applause.)

(The bill is signed.)  (Applause.)

NJDC Commentary

The National Jewish Democratic Council applauded President Barack Obama's signing into law of the latest round of Iran sanctions. Marc R. Stanley, NJDC's Chair, Ira N. Forman, NJDC's outgoing CEO, and David A. Harris, NJDC's President and incoming CEO attended the signing ceremony at the White House this evening. Following the ceremony, Harris issued the following statement:

The National Jewish Democratic Council is extremely pleased that President Obama has signed the bipartisan sanctions bill that was overwhelmingly passed by the House and Senate. The new laws send a message to Iran that the United States will not tolerate its pursuit of nuclear weapons and that its efforts to destabilize the Middle East will be met with harsh economic penalties.   The new laws demonstrate once again that the Obama Administration and the Democratic leadership in Congress are one hundred percent committed to preventing a nuclear-armed Iran. These laws will bolster
America's national security along with the security of our allies — including Israel.   With Obama's signature tonight, the United States further cemented its role as the leader of the international coalition against Iran's nuclear ambitions. President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi all deserve credit for strengthening America's standing in the world by taking the lead on this critical issue."