The Obama administration has mishandled a series of crises triggered by Iran's abduction of American citizens, according to a growing chorus of congressional critics who are blasting the White House for, among other things, downplaying Iran’s role in those crises. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) issued a press release on Thursday criticizing the administration for obfuscating Iran’s responsibility for the kidnapping of three Americans by Shiite militias in Baghdad, noting that while “U.S. officials have narrowed their target to three Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-backed militias… the Obama administration still refuses to recognize Iran’s nefarious role in this abduction.” The statement blasted Secretary of State John Kerry for reaching out to Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif for assistance in investigating the abduction, which Pompeo described as “like asking criminal hostage takers where their victims are located, then thanking them for their cooperation.”
The three Americans, kidnapped on January 16, have reportedly been taken to Sadr City, a stronghold of Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq (AAH), one of three Iranian-backed Shiite militias suspected in the abduction. Max Boot, a foreign policy analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations, and Michael Pregent, a senior Middle East analyst at the Hudson Institute, wrote in The Washington Post on Sunday that the AAH is a “wholly owned subsidiary of Iran’s Quds Force. It is inconceivable that it could kidnap and hold Americans…without at least the acquiescence, and probably the active support, of Tehran.” Scott Modell, an Iran expert and former CIA official, told Jay Solomon of The Wall Street Journal, “No group has been more vocal in its threats to U.S. forces in Iraq than Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, and none more steadfast in its loyalty to IRGC hardliners.”
The militias carried out the kidnapping the same weekend that the U.S. government made a $1.7 billion payment to Iran, itself coinciding with the release of five Americans from Iranian prisons. The payout has been widely described as a ransom payment, a characterization that the Obama administration has rejected. Additional concessions timed to coincide with the release have subsequently been revealed. Reuters reported on Wednesday that the administration dropped a $10 million claim against an Iranian-born aerospace engineer who had taken an illegal payment in that amount from Iran.
Pompeo's statement emphasized that “we must stop appeasing Iran, lest more Americans get taken hostage, or worse.” The editorial board of The Wall Street Journal had already written, “Iran has again shown the world that taking American hostages while Barack Obama is President can yield a diplomatic and military windfall.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades to discuss opportunities to leverage newly discovered gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean Sea with the aim of increasing regional stability and security, the Associated Press reported on Thursday.
“Our states share the same values as well as the conviction that in order to effectively counter multiple challenges confronting us on a local, regional and international level, we must work collectively,” said Anastasiades.
The tripartite summit, which took place in the Cypriot capital Nicosia, centered on the natural gas finds, as well as migration, terrorism, and tourism. The countries also clinched a cooperation agreement on water management.
According to Netanyahu, the leaders agreed to form a committee to discuss the possible construction of a pipeline to transport Israeli and Cypriot natural gas to Europe by way of Greece. The committee will also examine the potential for connecting the countries’ electricity grids via an undersea cable.
The summit took place a day after Netanyahu and Tsipras met in Jerusalem and “signed numerous bilateral agreements in the fields of foreign affairs, economic cooperation, innovation, energy, the environment, tourism, transportation, maritime relations, the maintenance of public order, civil defense and the war on terrorism,” according to The Times of Israel.
“Our cooperation with Greece and Cyprus stands on its own,” said Netanyahu on Wednesday. “While we believe that it should have happened some time ago, we are pleased by the current progress.”
The growing cooperation between Israel, Greece, and Cyprus was “unthinkable” a decade ago, The Jerusalem Post’s diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon wrote last week. The impetus for the strengthened ties has been the offshore gas reserves that all three countries are interested in developing.
At a time when the European Union’s bureaucracy is increasingly hostile towards Israel, Netanyahu has pursued a strategy of enhancing ties with individual European nations that have common interests with the Jewish state. “In Netanyahu’s view of the world, there is a clear dichotomy: poor relations with multilateral organizations, good relations on a bilateral level with individual countries,” Keinon wrote.
In The EU’s Israel Problem Goes Far Beyond Labels, which was published in the January 2016 issue of The Tower Magazine, Steven J. Rosen exposed how unelected bureaucrats in the EU have been pushing the European body to adopt more hostile policies towards Israel. (via TheTower.org)