Did Obama Threaten to Shoot Down Israeli Jets? [Updated]

That is the explosive claim made by a Kuwaiti newspaper, ostensibly based on “well-placed sources,” presumably Israeli. Take it for what it may be worth; this account is from Israeli National News:

The Bethlehem-based news agency Ma’an has cited a Kuwaiti newspaper report Saturday, that US President Barack Obama thwarted an Israeli military attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2014 by threatening to shoot down Israeli jets before they could reach their targets in Iran.

Following Obama’s threat, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was reportedly forced to abort the planned Iran attack.

According to Al-Jarida, the Netanyahu government took the decision to strike Iran some time in 2014 soon after Israel had discovered the United States and Iran had been involved in secret talks over Iran’s nuclear program and were about to sign an agreement in that regard behind Israel’s back.

The report claimed that an unnamed Israeli minister who has good ties with the US administration revealed the attack plan to Secretary of State John Kerry, and that Obama then threatened to shoot down the Israeli jets before they could reach their targets in Iran.

Al-Jarida quoted “well-placed” sources as saying that Netanyahu, along with Minister of Defense Moshe Yaalon, and then-Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, had decided to carry out airstrikes against Iran’s nuclear program after consultations with top security commanders.

This report no doubt will be denied by both American and Israeli spokesmen, if it hasn’t been already. And it is entirely possible that someone is just stirring the pot in anticipation of Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress on Tuesday. Still, it is noteworthy that the report, true or not, is plausible. That would not have been the case prior to the Obama administration.

UPDATE: This story out of Israel is being taken by some as a refutation of the account in the Kuwaiti newspaper. Benny Gantz, former Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Force, said in an interview that no order to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities was ever given, because it was opposed by Israel’s military:

“It never reached, ‘OK, take off and fly,’” said Gantz in the interview, which is set to air Monday night in Israel. But he added: “I want the to believe they listened and took into consideration what I have to say.”

Gantz, who retired in February after 38 years of service, also revealed a dispute between the political leadership, which was moving toward a military strike, and the IDF, opposed to such a move.

But the two stories are not really contradictory. It is entirely possible that the Obama administration, knowing that a strike against Iran was being seriously considered by Israel’s leaders, could have threatened to oppose it militarily. That doesn’t mean that it happened, only that the Kuwaiti report may be true in substance, even if a final decision to strike Iran had not been made in Israel. But of course, there may be other reasons why the story emerged from Kuwait at this moment:

It is very possible the [Kuwaiti] report was written to make Netanyahu appear as a war monger (and Obama a guarantor of peace with Iran) as the Israeli Prime Minister was set to make his address.

I come back to the point I made earlier today: we may never know whether the report out of Kuwait is true, but what is noteworthy is that it is plausible. If it were not plausible, then it wouldn’t serve to “make…Obama [appear] a guarantor of peace with Iran.”

The net neutrality crack-up

“The net neutrality crack-up” is the headline put by the Wall Street Journal over Holman Jenkins’s column on the FCC production of this past week. If you can’t access the column directly, you can access it indirectly here via Google. As long as we’re on the subject, let’s continue with the conclusion of Jenkins’s column:

Which brings us to the pusillanimous Tom Wheeler. We don’t use the adjective lightly.

Let’s be absolutely clear about something. The Federal Communications Commission chief did not go to President Obama and say, “We at the FCC have studied the issue and concluded that utility regulation is necessary to assure net neutrality.”

Nothing like this happened. Mr. Wheeler was still trying to head off utility regulation when Mr. Obama, after election day, suddenly announced his support for what previously had been an extreme regulatory agenda. In one of many ludicrous ironies, Mr. Wheeler had just successfully romanced a core of the Obama political coalition—including the Rev. Jesse Jackson —to oppose utility regulation of the Internet. In a little-noticed, bizarro-world circumstance, the NAACP, the National Urban League, Rev. Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH and several other civil-rights groups are still rhetorically committed to fighting the White House on Title II.

Conspiracy theorists will have to put aside any idea that utility treatment was the secret objective of Mr. Obama and Mr. Wheeler from the get-go. Mr. Wheeler was blindsided too. It appears that Mr. Obama simply decided, after Democrats’ defeat in the midterm elections, that he would spend the last two years of his presidency catering to left-wing groups. If this had been a plan from the start, he and Mr. Wheeler never would have arranged events so as to portray the FCC chief as the White House’s quivering lap dog. Mr. Wheeler didn’t just flip-flop on utility regulation. He collapsed like a bag of air.

The FCC chief has been lying strenuously about all this for weeks, and perhaps may yet be rewarded with an ambassadorship or some other plum. But the original “Progressives” had higher aspirations when they created the idea of the independent regulatory agency. The FCC’s rule-making process is supposed to be deliberative and strictly defined by law (which is why its net-neut order will now be eminently appealable). It simply is not true that any FCC chairman in Mr. Wheeler’s position would have yielded to a policy diktat from the White House. An FCC chief with true “progressive” spine would have made it his top priority to protect his agency from improper political manipulation.

As I say in the earlier post, everything about this is wrong, including the packaging in the label of “net neutrality.”

Free Country

Steve Dobrogosz is a Power Line reader, an American expatriate living in Sweden and a composer of multifarious talents. His new recording is Free Country, a 70-minute collection of improvisations inspired by country music. I’ve listened to it several times through and can only say I love it.

In addition to the country/blues inspiration, I hear melodic invention throughout. The late, great rock pianist Nicky Hopkins used to do something like this within the confines of conventional rock song structure. I’ve never heard it quite like Steve does it here, but it is beautiful.

I wrote Steve to express my admiration for the collection and ask him what he was up to in it. He wrote back:

I sat down to record an American “country piano” album, a project I’d had in mind for years. The palette broadened a bit beyond traditional country during the sessions – I kept playing as long as I could hear America singing in the keys. The tracks began as spontaneous improvisations (“free country” – “free jazz”) then were edited, lightly or heavily, on the sequencer until they essentially became compositions, but with their improvisational flow, hopefully, still intact.

Released digitally at iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, no physical copies.

Steve’s iTunes page is here. Free Country is available for downloading or sampling on Amazon here. Below is Steve’s number “Jack of Diamonds” from the new collection.

A word from Verizon

Verizon is an outspoken opponent of the government takeover of the Internet by the Federal Communications Commission. It therefore weighed in on Thursday when the FCC voted to approve an order urged by President Obama; the order will result in the imposition of rules on broadband Internet services under a law that was enacted “in the era of the steam locomotive and the telegraph.”

Verizon issued its press release in typewritten form lacking only a bottle of whiteout. The statement is posted here on Verizon’s policy blog.

What about AT&T? AT&T posted a comment here on the company’s public policy blog, but it’s one of those dispatches from corporate America that requires translation. Written more in sorrow than in anger, it expresses regret over the partisan division evident in the FCC’s assertion of its authority.

Verizon’s statement also requires translation, but not because it’s written in corporate speak. Verizon mocks the FCC’s approach, which introduces the heavy hand of government under a New Deal law. Verizon not only issued issued its press release in typewritten form, it also published its statement in Morse Code.

The mockery is not very corporate of Verizon. It betrays an irreverent attitude toward government regulation.

I sense the mischievous spirit of Verizon media relations maestro Ed McFadden in the mix. Ed’s name is on the press release, but he advises that the statement should be attributed to Verizon senior vice president Michael E. Glover. Fortunately, Ed has provided this translation for the Morse Code-impaired:

Today’s decision by the FCC to encumber broadband Internet services with badly antiquated regulations is a radical step that presages a time of uncertainty for consumers, innovators and investors. Over the past two decades a bipartisan, light-touch policy approach unleashed unprecedented investment and enabled the broadband Internet age consumers now enjoy.

The FCC today chose to change the way the commercial Internet has operated since its creation. Changing a platform that has been so successful should be done, if at all, only after careful policy analysis, full transparency, and by the legislature, which is constitutionally charged with determining policy. As a result, it is likely that history will judge today’s actions as misguided.

The FCC’s move is especially regrettable because it is wholly unnecessary. The FCC had targeted tools available to preserve an open Internet, but instead chose to use this order as an excuse to adopt 300-plus pages of broad and open-ended regulatory arcana that will have unintended negative consequences for consumers and various parts of the Internet ecosystem for years to come.

What has been and will remain constant before, during and after the existence of any regulations is Verizon’s commitment to an open Internet that provides consumers with competitive broadband choices and Internet access when, where, and how they want.

Everything about the FCC’s action is wrong, as one might reasonably infer from its celebration by Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer and Al Franken (noted by Fortune here). Though it requires much more comment and analysis, the odds aren’t good that the FCC’s action could be good public policy.

Power Line at 10,000 Feet

If we ever start doing a regular video show in addition to our semi-regular online broadcasts, I think we might have to use this short segment as our show opener:

As it happens, I’m going to be out in Palm Springs next weekend videotaping a long interview with a significant writer and thinker, which will be edited into several segments for Power Line.  Stay tuned for details.

And then there are the still shots:

Power Line Slide

Power Line Slide 2

The Mullahs: Still Crazy After All These Years

Barack Obama intends the centerpiece of his foreign policy legacy to be a de facto alliance with Iran–a stroke so brilliant that only he could think of it. The U.S. will set Iran up as the dominant regional power in the Middle East, in part by allowing it to develop the nuclear capability for which its rulers have long yearned, and in exchange, Iran will keep the peace and subdue troublesome upstarts like ISIS. To someone who grew up thinking that the call to prayer from a minaret is one of the most beautiful sounds on Earth, this might make some kind of sense. To those of us forced to live in the real world, it is bonkers.

Let’s test the idea that the mullahs are rational (from our perspective) actors with whom we can partner in pursuit of peace. FARS is the semi-official Iranian news service that reliably reflects the views of Iran’s government. Conveniently, it publishes in English as well as Farsi. This provides us with glimpses into the minds of the mullahs that are by no means reassuring. Consider two stories that have appeared on FARS in the last 24 hours.

The first relates to ISIS. Iran is bitterly hostile to ISIS, not because it objects to ISIS’s horrific brutality–in Iran, they hang homosexuals from cranes rather than pushing them off buildings–but rather, because ISIS is trying to horn in on Iran’s territory. Still, opposing ISIS would be good in principle, but for one thing: the mullahs are convinced that the U.S. is secretly aiding ISIS.

A group of Iraqi popular forces known as Al-Hashad Al-Shabi shot down the US Army helicopter that was carrying weapons for the ISIL in the western parts of Al-Baqdadi region in Al-Anbar province on Thursday.

Last week, Head of the Iraqi Parliament’s National Security and Defense Committee Hakem al-Zameli announced that the helicopters of the US-led anti-ISIL coalition were dropping weapons and foodstuff for the ISIL terrorists in the Southern parts of Tikrit.

He underscored that he had documents and photos showing that the US Apache helicopters airdropped foodstuff and weapons for the ISIL. …

Last Monday, a senior lawmaker disclosed that Iraq’s army had shot down two British planes as they were carrying weapons for the ISIL terrorists in Al-Anbar province. …

The senior Iraqi legislator further unveiled that the government in Baghdad is receiving daily reports from people and security forces in al-Anbar province on numerous flights by the US-led coalition planes that airdrop weapons and supplies for ISIL in terrorist-held areas.

The Iraqi lawmaker further noted the cause of such western aids to the terrorist group, and explained that the US prefers a chaotic situation in Anbar Province which is near the cities of Karbala and Baghdad as it does not want the ISIL crisis to come to an end.

Do Iran’s leaders actually believe this nonsense? Who knows? But they say it publicly, and they announce it to their people. The U.S. is the Great Satan, so why shouldn’t we be allied with ISIS?

Here is another one, also from earlier today. It relates to the current turmoil in Argentina, which is in part the long-delayed result of the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AIMA), a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. Iran’s rulers have a novel theory about the bombing: Israel did it!

An advisor to the former Argentinean president disclosed that Israel’s internal spy agency, Shin Bet, was responsible for the 1994 bombing of the AMIA center in Buenos Aires.

“The AMIA blast was aimed at discouraging the (former) Israeli president from signing a peace treaty with the Palestinians and Shin Bet was behind repeated explosions and finally the AMIA blast” to the same end, Juan Gabriel Labake, the advisor to former Argentinean president (1990-1992) and parliamentarian (1973-1976), told FNA on Saturday.

The AMIA blast was an intelligence operation fulfilled under the impact of internal conflicts in Israel over the endorsement or non-endorsement of the peace treaty with the Palestinians, he added.

Asked about the reason for choosing Argentina for the operations, Labake said Argentina was a country with a weak government and its media were under the influence of the Israeli lobbies and, therefore, Shin Bet could easily materialize its goals in the country.

Actually, it is virtually certain that the mullahs themselves were behind the bombing, which killed 85 people and wounded many more.

Are Iran’s rulers crazy or evil? Take your pick. Either way, the idea that the U.S. can forge a strategic partnership with Iran, in which we rely on Iran as the dominant, nuclear-equipped, peace-keeping Middle Eastern power, is delusional.

Anti-Semitism at UCLA

Is anti-Semitism alive and well on America’s college campuses? In the video below, UCLA’s student council deliberates over the application of Rachel Beyda for a position on the university’s judicial board. Ms. Beyda is acknowledged to be “qualified, for sure” and “a great candidate, obviously.” Yet there is a problem. “I just worry about her affiliations.” She is “a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community.” The student council voted not to appoint Ms. Beyda to the judicial board:

Happily, the decision was later reversed. Still, the extent to which anti-Semitism has gone mainstream in universities is shocking.

Via Jeffrey Goldberg on Twitter.