Several Senate Democrats, some of whom supported the Iran deal, have called for the release of documents related to the deal that have been stored in classified facilities despite not actually being classified.
The Daily Beast reported Monday that the administration is keeping several documents pertaining to the Iran deal in Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities (SCIFs) on Capitol Hill, which are only accessible to members of Congress and staffers who have the proper security clearance. The documents reportedly contain details about exemptions from standard nuclear investigation procedures that Iran received, American promises regarding the opening-up of Iran’s economy, and details of a deal signed to release $1.7 billion to Iran in exchange for the release of American hostages.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) told The Weekly Standard, “Unless there’s a damn good reason to keep them out of the public eye, turn them over…I’m more on the side of transparency than not, that is for sure.” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said, “If they’re unclassified, what are they doing in a SCIF?…The entire purpose of a SCIF is to be a place where you can read classified documents.” Both Tester and Coons supported the Iran deal.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the leading Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, questioned the need to shield the documents from public view: “There are sorts of information you want to protect, and then there are strategic issues that you have to deal with because there might be continued negotiations…If it doesn’t fall in those two categories, I don’t think it should be a concern.”
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), a leading Democratic opponent of the deal, also called for the release of the documents, saying, “They are unclassified. There should be transparency, and that transparency ultimately helps inform the public.”
Numerous aspects of the nuclear deal have been surrounded by secrecy, a point highlighted last week by Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), who criticized the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for the lack of details in its reports on Iran’s compliance with the deal. Peters’ concerns echoed statements made in recent weeks by former IAEA deputy director-general Olli Heinonen.
Syrian rebels in Aleppo called Wednesday for a five-day cease-fire to evacuate civilians and the severely injured from neighborhoods of the city they still control—a turning point on the part of the opposition in what looks to be a losing battle. President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Russia and Iran, appears on the brink of victory in what was, before the war, Syria’s largest city and economic hub.
If a deal is reached under this plan, the Syrian government and rebels would negotiate the future status of the city. It would likely set the stage for a full rebel withdrawal from Aleppo, the latest in a series of opposition losses.
The leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the U.K. and the U.S. issued a joint statement on Wednesday condemning Damascus and Moscow for the violence in Aleppo.
“We condemn the actions of the Syrian regime and its foreign backers, especially Russia, for their obstruction of humanitarian aid, and strongly condemn the Syrian regime’s attacks that have devastated civilians and medical facilities and use of barrel bombs and chemical weapons,” the officials said in the statement.
A growing number of Arab Israelis are signing up to serve in the Israeli army, Reuters reported Tuesday.
“Because I’m from this country and I love the country and I want to contribute,” explained Sgt. Yusef Salutta, a 20-year-old Arab from the north of Israel who is in the Desert Reconnaissance Battalion. “Everyone should enlist, anybody who lives here should enlist.”
While service in the IDF is voluntary for Arabs, officials now say that Arabs make up several hundred out of the 175,000 soldiers currently on active duty.
Col. Wajdi Sarhan, the head of the IDF Minorities Unit, explained that serving in the army helps young people become part of society. “[It] can get easier when you hold an Israeli soldier or reservist ID card,” he explained. “To be a soldier in the army, it’s actually an identity certificate of Israeli-ness, which can help integration.”
The Times of Israel reported in August that non-Jewish enlistment for Israel’s civilian national service has increased 650% in just six years.
Maj. Alaa Waheeb, the highest ranking Muslim officer in the IDF, wrote an op-ed in the Jewish News in March expressing pride in the role he plays in Israeli society. He recounted being on a speaking tour of the United Kingdom with a a Jewish medic: “During my time in the UK, I spoke alongside a fellow soldier, a medic who has treated both Israeli soldiers and Palestinian terrorists without distinction. We were the Muslim who protects Jewish lives, and the Jew who saves Muslim lives. There’s only one country in the Middle East that could produce a couple like that – and it sure as hell isn’t an apartheid state.”