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Israeli Defense Experts Warn Against Dropping Iran Nuclear Deal

If President Donald Trump moves to scuttle the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, Israel’s nationalist government can be expected to be the loudest — and perhaps only — major player to applaud.

But the true picture is more complicated than what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might portray: There is a strong sense among his own security establishment that there are few good alternatives, that the deal has benefited Israel, and that U.S. credibility could be squandered in the turbulent Middle East in ways that could harm Israel itself.

That is not to say that Israel’s respected security chiefs are all pleased with every aspect of the Iran deal. But after Netanyahu declared at the United Nations last month that it was time to “fix it or nix it,” the prevailing attitude among security experts seems to be that fixing it is the best way to go.

“It seems to me that the less risky approach is to build on the existing agreement, among other reasons because it does set concrete limitations on the Iranians,” said Uzi Arad, a former national security adviser to Netanyahu. “It imposes ceilings and benchmarks and verification systems that you do not want to lose. Why lose it?”

Israel considers Iran to be its greatest foe, citing its decades of hostile rhetoric, support for anti-Israel militant groups and its development of long-range missiles. Israeli decision-makers see a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat.

With Iran believed to be rapidly closing in on developing nuclear weapons, then-President Barack Obama led a coalition of world powers, including Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, to the nuclear agreement in 2015. The deal offered Iran relief from crippling economic sanctions in exchange for strict limits on its nuclear program.

Netanyahu’s opposition

As the deal was being finalized, Netanyahu frantically tried to block it, claiming it did not go far enough. Among his concerns: clauses that will lift the restrictions on Iran next decade, quick relief from sanctions, an imperfect system of inspections and the failure to address Iran’s other belligerent behavior such as missile tests and involvement in regional conflicts. Netanyahu’s opposition was so intense that he delivered a speech to the U.S. Congress railing against the emerging deal in early 2015, setting off a crisis in relations with Obama that never healed.

On the campaign trail last year, Trump frequently criticized the Iran deal and vowed to rip it up if he was elected. In his own speech to the U.N. last month, Trump called it “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions” in U.S. history. Netanyahu said he had never heard a “bolder or more courageous speech” at the U.N.

Following up on his U.N. performance, Trump is expected to “decertify” the nuclear deal on Friday by saying it is not in America’s security interests.

This would not immediately pull the U.S. out of the deal. Instead, it would kick it over to Congress, which will then have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions. If that happens, Iran has threatened to walk away.

Most of Trump’s top national security aides do not want to dismantle the nuclear deal, and America’s European allies have also urged the Trump administration not to walk away.

Netanyahu’s office said he discussed the matter of decertification with Trump when they met last month, but gave no further details. But he is likely to praise any move toward scrapping the nuclear deal.

In an opinion column published in The New York Times last week, Michael Oren, Netanyahu’s former ambassador to Washington and now a deputy minister for diplomacy, argued that decertification would not be the disaster that critics have predicted.

He said if the deal is ultimately canceled, it should be replaced by “crippling sanctions.” If retained, he said it should be improved to include stricter inspections of suspect nuclear sites, harsh penalties for violations, and eliminating the “sunset clause” that will gradually end the deal.

“Either way, revisiting the agreement will send an unequivocal message to the world,” Oren said. “It will say that the United States is truly unwilling to accept a nuclear Iran — not now, not in a decade, not ever.”

Support for deal

As Trump’s decision nears, however, a number of prominent security experts in Israel are publicly and privately advocating that the deal be left intact and its shortcomings addressed separately.

These experts say that the U.S., in consultation with Israel, should work with its allies to engage Iran on their many concerns. Simply walking away would hurt American credibility and put it at odds not only with Iran, but with its partners who remain committed to the deal.

“You cannot reverse that easily without paying a price,” said Arad, Netanyahu’s former security adviser. “It would simply be a suboptimal and riskier route to go. So I say build on it, reinforce it, enforce it and address other issues without causing kind of self-inflicted losses in the process.”

Arad said that while there is a healthy debate over how to move forward, he believes that based on his discussions with both retired and active security officials, the prevailing view among experts on the issue is that the deal should be preserved.

Top military officials, for instance, say that Iran has scrupulously upheld its commitments in the deal. This calm on the nuclear front has allowed them to focus on their other concerns about Iranian behavior, most critically its involvement in neighboring Syria and its support for the powerful Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

“The Iran deal is a deal that contains both problems and shortcomings, but its advantages outweigh the weaknesses by far,” said Efraim Halevy, a former director of the Mossad intelligence service.

Yaakov Amidror, another former national security adviser to Netanyahu, said he did not think that scrapping the deal is even possible, given the position of America’s partners. “What should be done is to enhance it. Make it a much better agreement,” he said.

Yoel Guzansky, a former Iran specialist on the Israeli National Security Council, said that sending the deal to Congress is a “hasty” decision that could backfire.

He said the best way to gain leverage over Iran and alter its behavior is through concerted international action. Working together, he said, the international community could pursue various options, including diplomacy, a U.N. resolution or even threatening military action.

“We need to build an international coalition, which we lack right now. No one except Trump and Netanyahu, with all due respect, is supporting this move right now,” said Guzansky, a senior fellow at INSS, a prominent Israeli think tank. “I really hope the two gentlemen have a program.”

Chemi Shalev, a columnist with the Haaretz daily, said Netanyahu was playing with fire by pushing Washington to break an agreement.

“Washington’s signature on any accord will be significantly devalued, and its demands for new agreements with Iran, North Korea or for Middle East peace would henceforth be greeted with polite mockery,” he said.

Dan Shapiro, who served as Obama’s ambassador to Israel when the deal was negotiated, said the lack of alternatives and the uncertainty that canceling the deal would bring are causes of great concern to the Israeli security establishment.

“They don’t know what will happen if the deal unravels, but it’s much more likely that they’re going to be faced with their decision point on Iranian nuclear capability much sooner without the deal than with it,” he said.

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Kelly Says He’s Not Leaving as White House Chief of Staff

The White House chief of staff said Thursday that he was not leaving his job, and he chastised reporters for speculating that his tenure would be brief.

“I’m not quitting today, I don’t believe. And I just talked to the president. I don’t think I’m being fired today,” Kelly told reporters from the White House briefing room podium.

In a rare, extended, on-the-record interaction with journalists, the former Marine Corps general also criticized reporters — in concert with his boss — saying “it’s astounding to me how much is misreported” about President Donald Trump and what occurs in the West Wing.

Kelly suggested reporters develop better sources at the White House for their stories.

Asked what the president’s biggest frustration was, Kelly replied, “One of his frustrations is you. Not all of you, but many of you.”

Kelly, who was secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, succeeded Reince Priebus in late July, whom Trump ousted. Priebus, a former Republican National Committee chairman, had struggled since the inauguration to bring order to the West Wing.

Chief of staff’s role

Kelly also told reporters that they had mischaracterized his role.

Stories have emanated from the White House of a president bristling under a more disciplined and authoritative chief of staff, himself reportedly exasperated by Trump’s controversial ad lib comments in speeches and on Twitter that upended attempts to carefully set policy.

Kelly denied he was bothered by Trump’s frequent tweets and that his job did not include managing the president.

“I was not brought into this job to control anything but the flow of information,” Kelly said.

The chief of staff added that he did not restrict anyone from going in to see the president, as has been reported, but acknowledged now that instead of “onesies and twosies” entering the Oval Office to speak with the president, advisers go in as groups.

Kelly acknowledged North Korea as the most serious threat the Trump administration was now dealing with but said Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons were “not an immediate concern.”

Manageable threat, for now

“That state simply cannot have the ability to reach the homeland,” he said. “Right now, there is great concern about a lot of Americans that live in Guam. Right now, we think the threat is manageable, but over time, if it grows beyond where it is today — well, let’s hope diplomacy works.”

In recent weeks Trump and others in the administration have made clear a military option is under consideration for preventing Pyongyang from achieving the ability to hit the U.S. mainland with a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile.

Kelly also pushed back on the perception that the president strongly desires to increase America’s nuclear arsenal.

Kelly said that what he’d heard Trump say most often about nuclear weapons was, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could get rid of them all?”

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Congress Bracing for Trump’s Decision on the Iran Nuclear Deal

President Donald Trump is expected to announce Thursday that Iran is not complying with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) negotiated by his predecessor Barack Obama to curb Iranian nuclear activities. Trump’s decision would trigger a 60-day deadline for Congress to set the next steps in dealing with Tehran. VOA’s Congressional reporter Katherine Gypson has more on why the president’s decision would put Capitol Hill lawmakers in a tough position.

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Somali Musician, Kept from US Internship, Blames Trump Travel Ban

The Somali musician Hassan-Nour Sayid — known by his stage name, Aar Maanta — and his band, the Urban Nomads, were supposed to be in Minnesota last week, where they were to kick off a monthlong internship of performances and workshops set up through the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis.

Visa delays, however, have led to the cancellation of the event, and Aar told VOA he thinks it is because the Trump administration has delayed his visa to come to the U.S. because he is Muslim and Somali.

“After months of planning these peaceful events, I was expecting only the inevitable reasons could bring them to a disappointing halt, but now I think it is because of being Muslim and Somali. Why I was discriminated and singled out in the visa process,” Aar told VOA Somali. “I blame the current U.S. government.”

Dual citizenship

Aar is a respected and well-known band leader, with dual citizenship in Somalia and Britain, though he says these qualifications did not help him get a U.S. visa “easily and on time.”

“My four other colleagues — musicians in the band — are Italian, French, Nepalese-Scottish and British-Caribbean, and all received their visas with no trouble. Only me. I think it is because I am the band’s sole Somali and Muslim member,” he said.

He said his passport was held by the U.S. consulate, and he was told his application was placed under “additional administrative processing.”

In an email, a State Department official told VOA they were not able to discuss individual visas.

“Since visa records are confidential under the Immigration and Nationality Act, we are not able to discuss individual visa cases. We would also note that visa applications do not include questions pertaining to religious identity/affiliation. U.S. immigration law does not contain visa ineligibilities based on religious identity/affiliation,” the official wrote.

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, who on Tuesday addressed a question by VOA on a visa denial to the ousted Venezuela attorney general, said visa applications are confidential under federal law.

“So visa applications — and those are confidential, so no matter who it is or what the cause is, that’s something that we don’t comment on. I think we’ve talked about that before. They’re confidential under a federal law,” Nauert said.

Musician

Aar — a Somali singer, songwriter, actor, composer, instrumentalist and music producer — moved to the United Kingdom in the late 1980s, on the eve of the civil war in Somalia. He has lived there since, and has received his British citizenship. But he says he always realized that holding a Western passport would not change “his true identity.”

“I was always telling my Somali fans that it does not matter whether you have a British passport or American passport or the passport of any other Western country, you will always and forever remain Somali,” he said.

Under a revised travel order signed last month by President Donald Trump, travelers to the United States from eight countries face new restrictions, which take effect Oct. 18. The new executive order will affect citizens from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, Chad, North Korea and Venezuela.

The new restrictions ban Somali immigrants from entry to the U.S., according to immigration attorneys. However, non-immigrants who are seeking business or tourist visas, such as Aar, must undergo additional screening measures.

According to tour organizers, the Urban Nomads have worked with the Cedar Cultural Center twice before, where they performed live music, led songwriting and held poetry workshops for young people. During the planned trip, though, the band would have extended its performances outside the metro area, carrying a message of unity for Somali-American communities.

Surprised by visa challenges

In a written statement, Fadumo Ibrahim, the program’s manager at the Cedar Cultural Center, said she was surprised by the visa challenges the musician faced, given his work with the center in the past.

“This case is a concrete example of how travel restrictions and the travel ban limit artistic voices and freedom,” Ibrahim said. “While it’s obviously important for the artists, it’s equally important for the community who had been anticipating this residency.

“Aar Maanta’s visit to Minnesota would have brought hope and positivity to the Somali and larger communities here at a time when we all really need it,” she said.

Midnimo, the Somali word for “unity,” is a program that features Somali artists from Minnesota and around the world in residencies and events that increase understanding of Somali culture through music.

The center said, “Midnimo is reviving and preserving Somalia’s rich musical traditions while fostering social connections between generations and cultures in the heart of the largest Somali diaspora in North America.”

VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching contributes to the story.

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Trump Touts Tax Reform, Saying Typical Household Would Get ‘$4,000 Pay Raise’

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday promised Americans they are “going to have so much money to spend” if lawmakers approve his tax reform plan.  

Trump, in an airport hangar in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, told a crowd of truckers that the typical American household would get “a $4,000 pay raise” with the changes he wants, although economists say that benefit would only materialize over eight years, at a rate of about $500 annually.

Trump’s speech to hundreds of truck drivers — the most common job in more than half of the country’s 50 states —- was intended to counter the views of independent analysts that the Republican tax blueprint would mostly benefit the highest income earners. These analysts contend that at least some middle-income taxpayers would pay more, not less, to the government under Trump’s proposal.

The president, in his Pennsylvania speech, did not go into detail of how his plan would affect the wealthy. He said that his rich friends have been telling him they do not want anything from his proposal and are asking him “to give it to the middle class.”

White House officials say the plan would double the standard deduction so that more income is taxed at zero percent; the first $12,000 of income for individuals and $24,000 for married couples would be tax-free, and the seven existing income tax brackets for taxable income would be consolidated to three brackets: 12 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent.

The Republican-controlled Congress, however, has yet to determine at what levels of income the new rates would apply, leaving analysts to guess what effects the changes would have on any individual taxpayer.

“You better get it passed,” Trump said in a message to lawmakers.

 At least six members of Congress were in the audience.

Trump also wants to trim corporate taxes to further boost the U.S. economy, the world’s largest.

In his remarks, he also touted that since his election last November, the U.S. stock market has increased corporate values by $5.2 trillion and that unemployment is at its lowest point in 16 years.

The Trump administration, when it took office in January, predicted it would complete a tax overhaul by August, but now has its sights set on completing the reforms by the end of the year.

However, congressional tax-writing panels have yet to hold hearings and Democratic and Republican lawmakers have widely divergent views on what changes should be made.

Under some scenarios, the tax cuts could add to the country’s long-term debt of more than $20 trillion, which would be an outrage to many conservative Republican lawmakers. Democratic lawmakers are calling for tax changes to mostly benefit the country’s middle class and lowest-income taxpayers, not the wealthiest.  

“Democrats want to raise your taxes very, very substantially,” Trump declared in his speech, labeling the opposition party as obstructionists “who are not telling you the truth.”

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Trump Rejects Claim He Wanted Big Nuclear Expansion

President Donald Trump on Wednesday rejected as “pure fiction” an NBC News report that a few months ago he suggested a tenfold increase in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and questioned whether it was time to revoke the network’s government license to operate.

Trump’s comments on the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, now at about 4,000 weapons, came at a Pentagon meeting with top military and national security officials in July, NBC said, citing the recollections of three people who were there. Trump was responding to a briefing slide charting the steady reduction in the size of the country’s stockpile since the 1960s and he indicated he wanted a bigger arsenal, the network said.

Officials at the meeting, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, were reported to have voiced surprise at Trump’s suggestion and briefly explained the legal and practical restraints on a nuclear buildup, much of which is dictated by international arms control treaties. The officials told NBC that no U.S. nuclear buildup is planned.

As a candidate during his run for the White House, Trump was quoted as asking a foreign policy adviser what the point was of having nuclear capability if the U.S. did not use the weapons.

Currently, Trump is in the midst of two international disputes involving nuclear weapons. Trump is set this week to refuse certification that Iran is complying with an international pact to curb its international weapons development and has carried out an exchange of bellicose taunts with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

It was soon after the Pentagon meeting in July that Tillerson described the U.S. leader’s intelligence in harsh terms, uttering an expletive and calling him a “moron,” according to U.S. news accounts. Tillerson has since said he is committed to his job as the top U.S. diplomat and working for Trump, but has not denied that he made the remark.

Trump suggested in recent days that he and Tillerson square off intellectually by each taking IQ tests, with the president saying he has no doubt that he would score higher. The White House said Tuesday that Trump’s remarks were meant as a joke.

In Twitter comments, Trump compared NBC’s reporting to that of CNN, the cable news network that has often drawn his ire after it aired stories he did not like.   

In the U.S., freedom of the press is constitutionally guaranteed. But over-the-air television networks like NBC are regulated by the government, while cable channels like CNN for the most part are not. 

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Bu gün Fransa və Poroşenko və sabah ilə məsləhətləşmək Almaniya liderləri Putin getmək

Bu gün Fransa və Almaniya liderləri Poroşenko ilə məsləhətləşin. Sabah, 6 fevral, Fransa prezidenti Francois Hollande və kansleri Angela Merkel Ukrayna Vladimir Putinin sülh planı vəziyyəti gətirəcək. Ukrayna Yevgeni Perebiynis keçirdiyi Xarici İşlər Nazirliyinin mətbuat katibi.

XİN nümayəndəsi son günlərdə bütün tərəflərlə sıx məsləhətləşmələr davam etdiyini ifadə etdi.

“Gərək bu müddətdə ABŞ və AB, Almaniya və Fransa komanda olaraq ifa olunur. Bu məsləhətləşmələr “bütün arasında keçiriləcək – Predrag tərəflər Poroshenko Merkel və Hollande arasında bu gün müzakirə ediləcək məqbul plan ortaya çıxmağa başladı sözlərinə əlavə etdi.

Bu mövzuda, sabah bütün mövqelərini razı ola bilər “Əgər bu plan Moskvada təqdim olunacaq. Merkel və Putin F.Olland almaq niyyətindədir “- Predrag yekun .

Francois Hollande və Angela Merkel Rusiya prezidenti Vladimir Putinin təklif aldığını və Ukraynada sülh üçün bir plan hazırlamaq, ABŞ dövlət katibi Con Kerri bildirib.

“Dünən prezident Hollande, biz bu məsələni müzakirə kansleri Merkel Kiyevə səfər edəcək ki, mənə … onlar bir neçə fikir var, prezident Putin əldə, lakin tamamilə qəbul təklifi təhlil deyil ki, .. Moskvadan Biz mətn, lakin onlar bir əks-təklif təmin edəcək açıqlandı bu gün günortadan sonra ilə tanış bu təkliflər hələ də tam “Onlarla müzakirə məsələ olduğunu gördüm – o baş naziri ilə birgə bildirib cümə axşamı Kiyevdə Ukrayna Arseniy Yatsenyuk mətbuat konfransı.

Kerry də Vaşinqtonda kansleri Angela Merkel ilə görüşəcək, dedi, Ukraynada sülh nizamlanmasını müzakirə Münhen davam etməyi planlaşdırır və bazar ertəsi, fevralın 9-da bildirib.

İndi Xatırladaq Merkel və Hollande təcili Kiyevdə gəlir. Dərhal iki liderin gəlməsinin ardından Ukrayna Petro Poroşenkonun prezidenti ilə görüşə getdi.

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Военные действия на востоке Украины заставляют иностранных инвесторов осторожнее вкладывать деньги в украинские проекты

Военные действия на востоке Украины и риск мобилизации ключевых сотрудников заставляют иностранных инвесторов осторожнее вкладывать деньги в украинские проекты. В прошлом году это в первую очередь ощутили разработчики ПО на экспорт, которым пришлось открывать офисы в Польше, Словакии и других европейских странах, чтобы минимизировать риски. Сейчас под ударом могут оказаться стартапы, команды которых обычно состоят из молодых людей призывного возраста.

После недавнего заявления Генштаба о возможном ограничении выезда призывников из Украины четыре европейские инвестфонды отказались рассматривать стартапы из Украины, сообщил управляющий партнер BVU Group Денис Довгополый. Названия этих фондов он не разглашает. Еще два соглашения, которые с большой долей вероятности должно было состояться, по его словам, сорвались по тем же причинам. «Основная ценность стартапа – команда. Она подвергалась большому риску из-за призыва, и это инвесторы учитывали (95% сотрудников стартапа подлежат призыву). Теперь этот ценный актив оказался ограничен в мобильности », – пояснил он.

С ним соглашается и инвестор фонда TMT Investments, председатель наблюдательного совета бизнес-инкубатора Happy Farm Игорь Шойфот: «К сожалению, война сама по себе – всегда плохой фактор для экономики (кроме военной области). А издалека вообще сложно понять, что в Киеве и даже в Днепропетровске никакой войны нет ». Мобилизация означает дополнительные риски в плане потери членов команды. «У меня в нескольких стартапах такое есть», – признается он «Капитала». Ограничения на выезд эти риски повышает. Ведь инвесторы вкладывают деньги в Украину, чтобы заработать, продав стартап. А покупатели практически всегда находятся в Америке. Если члены команды не могут приехать в США, то это огромный минус и дополнительный риск. «С другой стороны, как человек, два года служил в армии, считаю что это долг и честь для каждого мужчины – защищать свою страну с оружием в руках», – подчеркнул он.

И хотя никакие ограничения на перемещения пока не работают (парламента еще предстоит разработать соответствующую базу), само заявление о намерении стала тревожным звонком для инвесторов. «Негативное влияние самого факта войны на отношение инвесторов к Украине, конечно, усиливается неосторожными заявлениями вроде ограничения выездов за границу, которые, к счастью, пока не подтверждаются», – добавляет директор проекта Николай Палиенко.

По словам Довгополого, перспектива таких ограничений уже сейчас заставляет предпринимателей не думать, а действовать в направлении эмиграции. Даже тех, кто пошел бы воевать, если бы призвали. По словам исполнительного директора ассоциации «IT Украины» Виктора Валеева, сейчас многие украинские компании создают офисы за рубежом – этого требуют заказчики. «Международная информационная политика Украины очень слабая. За рубежом видят только, что у нас война и политические проблемы », – рассказывает он. Небольшие компании и стартапы иногда переезжают всей командой. Так, например, в конце прошлого года всем офисом в Черногорию переехала харьковская компания-разработчик. Хотя причины переезда руководство компании не называет.

Остановить массовый отток компаний за границу можно путем внедрения реформ, дерегуляции, защиты частной собственности и решения вопроса с войной на востоке, уверен Палиенко. Что касается мобилизации, то риски для IT и других секторов экономики можно было бы решить, предоставив официальную возможность не служить за деньги. Эти средства можно направлять на повышение привлекательности службы в армии путем увеличения денежного обеспечения и страхования жизни и здоровья военнослужащих. «За любой войной стоит экономика, и забирать высокооплачиваемых специалистов служить, когда есть сотни тысяч безработных, экономически нецелесообразно», – резюмирует собеседник.

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