Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday that the United States was not interested in supporting a “open-ended effort” to broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
“It’s reality-check time,” Kerry was quoted as saying in the Washington Post.
The remarks were his most pessimistic yet regarding the nearly year-old peace talks that are on the verge of collapse.
“There are limits in the amount of time and effort that the United States can spend if the parties themselves are unwilling to take constructive steps in order to be able to move forward,” the secretary said.
It was not so long ago that Kerry took a more optimistic approach to the talks. When the negotiations opened last year, Kerry was sure a deal could be reached.
"When somebody tells you that Israelis and Palestinians cannot find common ground or address the issues that divide them, don't believe them," Kerry said in a July CNN story. "While I understand the skepticism, I don't share it and I don't think we have time for it.”
The goal of the talks has been to create an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel with a peace treaty between the two sides. The negotiations for the ambitious goal began to break down when Israel broke a promise to release 104 Palestinian prisoners. Palestinians then enraged Israel by signing treaties with the United Nations that would protect the rights of civilians in times of war and conflict.
“Since Israel failed to release the last group of prisoners, the State of Palestine is no longer obliged to postpone its rights to accede to multilateral treaties and conventions,” the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Negotiations Affairs Department said in a statement, quoted in the the Washington Post.
Israeli officials said the release of the prisoners was dependent on “sustained, uninterrupted negotiations.” According to Israelis the Palestinians broke that deal by seeking outside help from the U.N.
Kerry’s remarks were most likely intended to test the will of leaders on both sides and see if they could put differences aside to continue the talks.
"It is regrettable that in the last few days both sides have taken steps that are not helpful and that's evident to everybody,” Kerry said in an Associated Press story.
It may have worked. The Washington Times reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel was willing to continue talks.
“We are ready to continue the talks but not at any price,” he said.
Netanyahu said Israel would continue the talks and deal separately with the Palestinians seeking aid from the United Nations.
In an effort to move along peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, the Obama administration is considering the release of an American who was convicted of spying for Israel 27 years ago.
According to a New York Times story, the Israeli government often brings up the name of Jonathan J. Pollard during negotiations. Pollard was a Navy intelligence analyst and is now serving a life sentence in a North Carolina prison for passing classified documents to Israeli handlers. Negotiators for the United States have always refused his release, in part because of opposition from the country’s intelligence agencies.
Now as talks hit a stand-still, just weeks before the April 29 deadline, Secretary of State John Kerry may put Pollard’s release on the table. Talks are currently stalled because Israel has balked at a negotiated release of some Palestinian prisoners it considers to be terrorists.
In order to hasten that release, it is thought Kerry may offer to release Pollard to keep the talks moving.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday that President Obama "has not made a decision” on Pollard, according to USA Today.
Carney declined further comment by saying, "I'm not going to get ahead of discussions that are underway."
A recent story by CNN on the history of the Pollard case indicates that many journalists were shocked when the judge sentenced him to life in prison 27 years ago. Most, at the the time, believed Pollard would be sentenced to 25 years, with a chance for early parole. The conviction has always been a sensitive topic between the United States and Israel, who are considered to be allies.
Israel pushed for Pollard’s release during Middle East peace talks in 1998. Then-CIA Director George Tenet threatened to resign if President Clinton acquiesced. Clinton refused the release.
Many feel that putting Pollard back on the table now shows weakness on the part of the Obama administration.
"It makes us look weak, and it makes us look desperate," said former Middle East negotiator, Aaron David Miller.
Miller and others believe that an offer of Pollard’s release should be attached to more substantive gains in the talks, rather than using it to merely jumpstart the negotiations.
"They're trading Pollard not for something consequential, but for process," Miller added. "You're trading him away for process – peanuts, basically.”
The Obama administration may not agree. Pollard is eligible for parole in November 2015. It could be better to use his release to move along the talks now, than to lose it as a bargaining chip for good.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told CNN Sunday that President Barack Obama needs to stop going on television to threaten dictators because it isn't his “strong suit.”
“Stop going on television and trying to threaten thugs and dictators,” Graham said on “State of the Union” Sunday morning. “It is not your strong suit. Every time the president goes on national television and threatens Putin or anyone like Putin, everybody’s eyes roll, including mine.”
“We have a weak and indecisive president that invites aggression,” he said of the conflict between Russia and the Ukraine. "President Obama needs to do something. How about this: Suspend Russian membership in the G8 and the G20 at least for a year, starting right now, and for every day they stay in Crimea after the suspension. Do something.”
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told Graham that suspending Russian membership in the G8 is aready being considered by the White House.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that Russia will face economic sanctions and expulsion from the G8 if President Vladimir Putin doesn’t halt this “incredible act of aggression” against the Ukraine.
“He is not going to have a Sochi G8, he may not even remain in the G8 if this continues,” Kerry said. “He may find himself with asset freezes, on Russian business, American business may pull back, there may be a further tumble of the ruble.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says global warming is the “most fearsome” weapon of mass destruction in the world, calling climate change deniers “flat earthers.”
Kerry gave a speech to Indonesian students, government officials and civic leaders in Jakarta on Sunday calling for more global action to end climate change.
"We should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and science and extreme ideologues to compete with scientific facts," Kerry told an audience gathered at a U.S. Embassy-run American Center. "Nor should we allow any room for those who think that the costs associated with doing the right thing outweigh the benefits."
He took on skeptics and “big companies” for competing “with scientific facts” confirmed by 97 percent of scientists.
"The science is unequivocal, and those who refuse to believe it are simply burying their heads in the sand," Kerry said. "We don't have time for a meeting anywhere of the Flat Earth Society.”
"This city, this country, this region, is really on the front lines of climate change. It's not an exaggeration to say that your entire way of life here is at risk,” he added.
The speech comes at the close of an Asian tour. Kerry recently signed an agreement between the U.S. and China to cut down on carbon emissions and make buildings more energy efficients.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton keeps a detailed list of the Democrats who have crossed her, according to two of her closest advisors.
In their new book, Clinton advisors Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes say she has a spreadsheet of Democrats who did and didn’t endorse her, the favors they’ve done, and any extenuating circumstances, Politico reported. They refer to it as her “political hit list.”
It’s normal to keep a list of friends and foes, but the pair says the scope of Clinton’s lists is incomparable. One breaks down Democrats with a one to seven point scale, with one being the most helpful and seven being the highest level of betrayal.
Allen and Parnes showcase some of “The Sevens” in their Politico excerpt. It appears that President Barack Obama’s supporters rank the worst on the list.
Secretary of State John Kerry was on the list for endorsing Obama in June 2008: “Who better than Barack Obama to bring new credibility to America’s role in the world and help restore our moral authority?”
Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., who released a pivotal endorsement for Obama just before Super Tuesday in 2008, is a seven.
“I believe there is one candidate who has extraordinary gifts of leadership and character matched to the extraordinary demands of this moment in history,” Kennedy said, endorsing Obama on July 28, 2008.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W. Va., became a seven when he said, “Barack Obama is the most qualified person—Democrat or Republican—to lead our country in the face of enormous challenge.”
Other political foes to assigned a seven: Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.; Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.; Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt; Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.; Former Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind.; and Former Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J.
“In the summer of 2008, Hillary couldn’t have known whether or when she would run for president again. But she knew who was on her side and, name for name, who wasn’t,” the authors wrote.
Those close to Hillary said the lists weren’t about hurting her enemies – they were about being true to her friends.
"I don't want to make her sound like Nixon in a pantsuit,” said an anonymous Clinton aide.
“It wasn’t so much punishing as rewarding, and I really think that’s an important point,” a source told Politico. “It wasn’t so much, ‘We’re going to get you.’ It was, ‘We’re going to help our friends.’ I honestly think that’s an important subtlety in Bill Clinton, in his head. She’s not as calculated, but he is.”
Sources: Newser, Politico
The decision of the Associated Press and The Washington Post to publish the story of Robert Levinson, a man who went missing in Iran in 2007 and was working for the CIA, drew sharp criticism from other media outlets and readers/internet commenters. However, on CNN’s media show Reliable Sources, reporter Matt Abuzzo and “the senior-most editor” at the AP said that their rationale for publishing the story was that “Bob Levinson was not well-served by his government” and to “make sure this can’t happen again.” It has been three years since Levinson’s captors made contact with his family, and the prevailing idea is that he hasn’t survived his captivity.
Arizona Senator John McCain has weighed in on the controversy—not over the publication of the story, but the story that the CIA has told Congress since his capture—saying that the CIA has not been honest with legislators about him. On CNN’s State of the Union McCain also levied criticism at the Obama administration for keeping the story under wraps. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that the report was “highly irresponsible” and reaffirms that Levinson was not “an employee” of the government when he went missing.
On CBS’s Face the Nation Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said that Levinson was not being detained by the government in Iran and that they would “discuss” returning him to America if he is found. “Anything is possible,” he said, then added, “But I’m saying that we have no trace of him in Iran.” On This Week on ABC, Secretary of State John Kerry said that the US has not abandoned Levinson—despite his activities being unsanctioned—and they are currently “looking for proof of life.” Yet all of this brings no consolation to Levinson’s family, demanding to meet with recently installed head of the FBI James Comey.
Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday morning that the deal to halt Iran’s nuclear program is not about trust.
Speaking from Geneva, Kerry told CNN’s “State of the Union” President Reagan’s cautionary statement “trust but verify.”
“None of this is based on trust. It’s not a question of trust,” Kerry told CNN. “Verification is the key. And President Obama and I have said since the beginning, we’re not just going to verify, or trust and verify. We’re going to verify and verify and verify.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is critical of any deal with Iran and believes Tehran will continue to make a nuclear weapon under the proposal. Under the proposal Iran’s 3.5 percent uranium stock will be “frozen” and subject to inspection on a daily basis, in exchange for a gradual easing of sanctions.
“We’ve seen activities around the world sponsored by Iran on occasion that violate the norms of international standards and behaviors,” Kerry said, noting Iran has ties to Hezbollah. “There are lots of things, regrettably, that we still have to work on.”
“This negotiation is not the art of fantasy or the art of the ideal,” he told ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.”
“It’s the art of the possible, which is verifiable and clear in its capacity to be able to make Israel and the region safer.”
Netanyahu said Sunday that “what was achieved yesterday in Geneva is not a historic agreement but rather a historic mistake."
Blocking the enrichment of uranium is a good for Israel, Kerry argued.
“You cannot sit there and pretend that you’re just going to get the thing you want while they continue to move towards the program that they’ve been chasing,” he added. “We’ve actually succeeded through the sanctions that Congress put in place to be able to get to a point where we’re locking in, knowledgeably, what their current level is and forcing them to go backwards. And while we go through these next six months, we will be negotiating the dismantling.”
The United States and five other major nations agreed to a historic nuclear deal with Iran amid a report that the U.S. and Iran held secret talks over the past year.
ABC News reports that the discussions were kept hidden even from America’s closest friends, including its negotiating partners and Israel, until two months ago, and that may explain how the nuclear accord appeared to come together so quickly after years of stalemate and fierce hostility between Iran and the West, according to the Associated Press.
The talks, which were personally authorized by President Obama, were reportedly held in the Middle Eastern nation of Oman and elsewhere with only a tight circle of people in the know, the AP learned.
Since March, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and Jake Sullivan, Vice President Joe Biden’s top foreign policy adviser, have met at least five times with Iranian officials.
The deal aimed at slowing Iran’s nuclear program was reached early Sunday morning in Geneva, leading Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to express his disappointment.
“What was accomplished last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement; it’s a historic mistake,” Netanyahu said during his weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, reported The Blaze. “Today the world has become much more dangerous, because the most dangerous regime in the world took a meaningful step toward acquiring the most dangerous weapon in the world.”
Netanyahu comments go against Secretary of State John Kerry’s assurances that the deal would make Israel and other U.S. allies safer, along with Obama’s assessment that the deal would open “a new path toward a world that is more secure.”
ABC News also reported that the deal provides Iran with about $7 billion in relief from international sanctions in exchange for Iranian curbs on uranium enrichment and other nuclear activity.
It appears that the major powers had come to agreement over the weekend on an Iran nuclear deal, but apparently Iran didn’t welcome it.
According to the Huffington Post, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday that the major powers were unified on an Iran nuclear deal during weekend talks in Geneva but the Iranians were unable to accept it. Kerry also said critics of the plan should withhold their comments until a deal is reached.
“There was unity but Iran couldn’t take it,” Kerry said in comments made to reporters in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
Earlier reports said that the talks came apart because France refused to accept the deal with Iran, according to CBS News. However, on Monday, Kerry said that the major powers reached an agreement after a marathon bargaining session but Iran wasn't able to accept the deal “at that particular moment.”
A correspondent for CBS News noted that the negotiators are to return to Geneva later this month, and there are signs Iran is in fact preparing to sign some kind of agreement.
Kerry also said that that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rejection of a deal to limit Iran's nuclear ambitions was premature.
“The time to oppose it is when you see what it is, not to oppose the effort to find out what is possible,” Kerry stated.
BBC News added that in a separate development on Monday, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano, said the agency had agreed on a “roadmap for cooperation” with Iran to help resolve remaining issues.
Secretary of State, John Kerry signed The United Nations’ Arms Trade Treaty on Wednesday and immediately Senators threatened to block its ratification. Opponents of the treaty fear that it might lead to stricter gun control measures in the US that would infringe on the Second Amendment. The only countries to vote against the treaty were Iran, North Korea, and Syria, although 20 additional nations, including China and Russia, abstained from the vote.
This treaty has been part of a misinformation campaign on the internet that dates back to the earliest days of the Obama Administration. However, the treaty explicitly states that it does not apply to the manufacture, sale, or regulation of any arms within a nation’s borders. Instead the treaty seeks only to curb the ever-expanding international black market for weapons.
However, the more serious critics of the bill – to include the National Rifle Association, or NRA – know that it is not a “gun grabbing” treaty that seeks to disarm legal gun owners. Their objections surround the part of the treaty that advocates keeping a record of arms purchases which the gun-rights groups believe is tantamount to an international arms registry that could lead to a violation of the privacy of legal gun owners.
Leader of NRA, Wayne LaPierre has been quoted as saying that the treaty would lead to “manufacturers of civilian shotguns [complying] with the same regulatory process as a manufacturer of military attack helicopters.”
Much of this concern centers around the vague language of the treaty, especially with regards to ensuring that weapons are not sold to human rights abusers. It is this distinction that most likely kept China and Russia from signing on with the other 154 countries who voted for the treaty. The US is the largest manufacturer and exporter of weapons in the world.