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Purveyor's Journal
Purveyor's Journal
December 23, 2012

Russia, Iran Lose When Assad Falls, But Who Wins?

There is not much doubt that the Syrian regime headed by Bashar Al-Assad will collapse soon and the dictator will flee to Moscow. In many ways that will be a welcome development, but the fall of Assad will raise new concerns for Israel, the United States and moderate Arab states.

The fall of Assad and his minority Alawite regime will be a net plus for many reasons. The big losers will be Iran, Russia and terrorist elements such as the Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Iran is a close ally of Syria and Assad, not just because the Alawites (only about 11 percent of Syria’s population) are a Shia sect, but as a key conduit for Tehran’s shipments of weapons and supplies to Palestine and Lebanon. Syria is Russia’s only ally in the region, indeed Moscow’s only foothold there, including most importantly its naval base at Latakia.

Given that the fall of Assad would be such a devastating loss for Iran, Russia and the Hezbollah, it would seem axiomatic that it would be a net plus for Israel. Maybe. While Syria under Assad has certainly been no friend to Israel, there have been no major conflicts between the two for more than 30 years. The Golan Heights has been quiet.

What is driving the ambivalence on Assad’s fall is the uncertainty regarding what a follow-on regime might look like. Israel and the U.S. are worried about the increasing dominance in the rebel alliance by highly capable Sunni forces, including elements associated with al-Qaida in Iraq and the Nusra Front, which has been declared a terrorist organization by the United States. There is considerable sympathy for, if not direction from, the Muslim Brotherhood within the rebel coalition.



December 23, 2012

The IDF, Netanyahu And The Next War

By Amir Oren | Dec.23, 2012 | 1:00 AM

If there is a lesson to be learned from Operation Pillar of Defense, it's that the Israel Defense Forces has gone back to preferring air strikes to ground operations and has tacked on a preference for surprise over preparedness. If such operations are kept to a few days and the home front suffers little, that's a military achievement that saves soldiers' lives.

But politically it's the opposite: Israel doesn't gain time but borrows it at an exorbitant rate, because down the road is a world ever more hostile to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's policies. The strike that launched Pillar of Defense was meant to behead Hamas. The organization's military commander, Ahmed Jabari, was targeted at a good time, when he wasn't surrounded by civilians. Israel also could have targeted any one of four or five other Hamas leaders. Just a few minutes after Jabari was killed, Hamas and Islamic Jihad's strategic arm, their Fajr missiles, were hit.

The Israel Air Force has a unique skill in planning (based on intelligence, combat doctrine and training ) and implementing its plans in a few hours, sometimes in less than an hour. This happens from the moment a ministerial decision is made and sent down the short chain of command from the chief of staff to the IAF commander to IAF operations to the squadrons. The rest of the military machine is too ponderous to take advantage of brief windows of opportunity.

Surprise requires disconnecting the operation from background noise that might reveal it. It must therefore not follow a major terrorist act, after which everyone expects an Israeli response and the other side gets ready.



December 23, 2012

Joe Lieberman: Chuck Hagel Would Face 'Tough Confirmation Process' For Defense Post

A top outgoing senator on foreign policy issues, Joe Lieberman, told CNN on Sunday morning that former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel would likely face a "tough confirmation process" over his votes on Iran sanctions, were he nominated as the next secretary of defense -- but that he shouldn't be automatically eliminated.

President Barack Obama is expected to name his pick for the top Pentagon job in the coming days, and Hagel, a former Republican senator who broke with his party over the war in Iraq, is widely viewed as a leading contender.

Hagel has also faced pushback from Jewish and pro-Israel groups over his inconsistent voting record on Iranian sanctions and a small selection of remarks that have been interpreted as anti-Jewish. Friends of Hagel have dismissed the charges as absurd.

The independent senator from Connecticut, who is a leading figure of Congress' Jewish caucus and will retire at the end of the year, said he didn't think Hagel should be disqualified for the post based on his votes.


December 23, 2012

Germany Warns Britain Against ‘Blackmailing’ EU

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, December 23, 2012 5:58 EST

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble warned Britain in a Sunday newspaper interview against “blackmailing” its EU partners in a bid to bring powers back home from Brussels.

“We want to keep Britain in the EU and not force it out,” Schaeuble told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. “But I will also say that does not mean anyone can blackmail us.”

Asked whether a debate raging in Britain about a possible referendum on the country’s future in the 27-member bloc was “dangerous”, Schaeuble said the European Union needed to be sending a clear message to the rest of the world.

“Our British friends are not dangerous. But a referendum would create uncertainty,” he said.



December 22, 2012

Gun Enthusiasts Pack (gun) Shows To Buy Assault Weapons

Source: Reuters

ALLENTOWN, Penn./KANSAS CITY, Missouri | Sat Dec 22, 2012 4:25pm EST
(Reuters) - Gun enthusiasts thronged to shows around the country on Saturday to buy assault weapons they fear will soon be outlawed after a massacre of school children in Connecticut prompted calls for tighter controls on firearms.

Reuters reporters went to gun shows in Pennsylvania, Missouri and Texas, and found long lines to get in the door, crowds around the dealer booths, a rush to buy assault weapons even at higher prices and some dealers selling out.

The busiest table at the R.K. Gun & Knife show at an exposition center near the Kansas City, Missouri airport was offering assault weapons near the entrance.

West Plains, Missouri dealer Keith's Guns sold out of about 20 AR-15 style assault rifles in a little over an hour, owner Keith Gray said.

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/22/us-usa-gun-shows-idUSBRE8BL0DP20121222

December 22, 2012

Russia: Syria Consolidates Its Chemical Weapons

Source: CNN

By CNN Staff
updated 11:40 AM EST, Sat December 22, 2012

(CNN) -- Syria has consolidated its chemical weapons into one of two locations from its usual places scattered across the country, Russia's foreign minister said Saturday.

The move comes as unrest in the country extends to nearly two years, with rebels making gains recently.

"As of right now... the [Syrian] government is doing all it can to safeguard those weapons," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, according to Russia's RIA Novosti news agency.

"We are following all leads concerning chemical weapons," the foreign minister said, adding that the consolidation was a measure to assuage fears that such weapons could end up in "the wrong hands," the agency reported.

Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/22/world/meast/syria-civil-war/

December 22, 2012

John Kerry: A Staunch Supporter Of Israel But A Harsh Critic Of Its Policies

Kerry’s appointment as Secretary of State is unlikely to encounter meaningful opposition among pro-Israeli Jewish groups, who are saving their ammunition for Hagel's nomination for Secretary of Defense.

By Chemi Shalev | Dec.22, 2012 | 12:42 AM

Democrat John Kerry was to George Bush in the 2004 presidential elections what Barack Obama was to Mitt Romney in 2012: the candidate who garnered an overwhelming majority of Jewish votes because of his liberal domestic agenda and despite perceptions that his rival was better for the Jewish state.

By any traditional measure, of course, Kerry is a staunch supporter of Israel. He has an exemplary voting record in the Senate on Israel related issues, is a strong advocate of Israel’s right to defend itself, has repeatedly stood up against global anti-Semitism and believes in a muscular American posture against Iran’s nuclear designs.

But by the increasingly narrow standards of the term “pro-Israel” set by the rigid right wing in both Israel and the U.S., Kerry is definitely problematic. He is a harsh critic of settlements, has lambasted the blockade on Gaza and he believes in a two-state solution based on modified 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem - according to a 2010 WikiLeaks diplomatic cable - as its capital.


December 21, 2012

Chuck Hagel Anti-Israel Charge Is 'Extremely Stupid,' Nebraska Rabbi Says

Updated: 12/21/2012 5:25 pm EST

WASHINGTON -- An Israeli-born, Omaha-based rabbi who has known Chuck Hagel for many years said charges that the former Nebraska senator, and potential nominee for secretary of defense, is somehow anti-Israel or anti-Semitic are "extremely stupid."

"I thought we were done with this," said Aryeh Azriel, the rabbi at Temple Israel in Omaha, Neb., where Hagel has been a longtime regular presence, in an interview Friday with The Huffington Post. "I though we were done already with the [childishness] of being Jewish where everyone who says something critical about Israel needs to be labeled an anti-Semite. I find this extremely stupid, and definitely not helpful."

Azriel, who also penned a letter published Friday in the Omaha World-Herald defending Hagel's pro-Israel bona fides, told The Huffington Post he has known the former senator for many years, and has been "completely astonished by the attacks on his character, on his identity and his ability."

Hagel's pro-Israel credentials have been called into question over the past week after he emerged as a leading contender for secretary of defense. Pointing to a sparse selection of votes in which Hagel had not supported the most stringent sanction against Iran, and one instance in which he made pejorative reference to the "Jewish lobby," critics have suggested that Hagel harbored secret anti-Israel or even anti-Jewish sentiment.



December 21, 2012

J Street Pushes Back on Neocon Bid to "Swift Boat" Chuck Hagel Nomination as Defense Secretary

The Obama-hating neocon Right is trying to Swift Boat the expected nomination of Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense, by making up a fantasy scare story that Hagel, former US Senator from Nebraska, long-respected moderate and thoughtful voice on foreign policy and decorated Vietnam combat veteran, is "anti-Israel." One would like to be able to dismiss this stuff as the ranting of people for whom no amount of warmongering can ever be too much. But such Swift Boat campaigns have worked in the past, regardless of the facts.

In times like these, don't you wish there was some Washington, DC-based Jewish-branded organization, which represented the pro-peace values and interests of the majority of Americans and the majority of American Jews, and which would push back against this kind of nonsense?

Blessed are Thou, Lord our God, King of the Universe. J Street is in the house.
The New York Times reports:

"There is a very systematic effort going on, and these things can have an impact," said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the executive director of J Street, a liberal pro-Israel group, which defends Mr. Hagel.

"It is simply beyond disturbing to think that somebody of Chuck Hagel's stature and significant record of national service is being slandered in this way," Mr. Ben-Ami said.


December 21, 2012

Ronald Reagan’s 9 Wisest Words About Social Security

The following is a guest post by David Certner, AARP legislative policy director.

The last time we made significant changes to Social Security — including adjustments to benefits — was the 1983 Social Security amendments. At the time, Social Security had less than a year’s worth of solvency, and a bipartisan agreement to put Social Security on sound financial footing was essential.

That legislation, negotiated by President Reagan and Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill, focused on what was needed protect Social Security for the long term. Reagan understood that Social Security is a separately funded program unrelated to problems in the rest of the budget, and he clearly stated that: “Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit.”

Indeed, today the Social Security trust funds hold $2.8 trillion in government bonds. These reserves have been built up with the contributions that workers and employers have paid into the system for the dedicated purpose of paying Social Security benefits. These funds are held in legally established trusts and cannot be used for any purpose other than paying benefits. According to the latest Trustees’ report, Social Security can pay full benefits through 2033, and roughly 75 percent of benefits beyond that time.

Since the 1983 amendments, and despite the numerous deficit reduction debates over that time period, Social Security cuts have never been part of any deficit reduction agreement. Congress has always understood — as Reagan observed — that Social Security has nothing to do with the federal budget deficit. Unfortunately, many policymakers today have forgotten that basic truth and have suggested cuts to Social Security as part of the end of year “fiscal cliff” budget package. The proposal — the so-called chained CPI — would change the formula for calculating the Social Security cost of living adjustment (COLA). This COLA cut would reduce benefits by over $100 billion dollars over the next 10 years and would result in thousands of dollars of lost benefits for current (and future) retirees.



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