September 26, 2020

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01/13 Links Pt1: Melanie Phillips: Iran’s heroic protesters expose decadence and humbug among western liberals; Fatah promises cruel terror and "war of the street", burning of Jewish towns

From Ian:

Melanie Phillips: Iran’s heroic protesters expose decadence and humbug among western liberals
It would be despicable and unforgivable for Britain and the EU, whose support for the 2015 Obama-brokered deal hugely helped empower this unconscionable regime, now to weaken the protesters and strengthen their tyrannical rulers still further – at precisely the point at which the possibility has arisen of bringing down a regime which otherwise risks plunging the world into a terrible war.

The protesters have been ripping down mourning posters of Soleimani, chanting that both he and Khamenei were murderers. “They are lying that our enemy is America; our enemy is right here,” they have cried. At a university outside Tehran, they refused to trample upon the American and Israeli flags that had been laid out on the ground but instead stepped respectfully around them, chastising any who stepped on them. (Even though elsewhere some pro-regime thugs predictably burnt the British and Israeli flags, the former was the far more remarkable development.)

Compare all this this with the west’s received opinion about the Soleimani killing: that he was a hero, that Trump was the war criminal and monster, and that the elimination of this supposedly great general had united the Iranian people against America.

You think? According to Saeed Ghasseminejad, senior adviser and financial economist at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies: “This tweet by @realDonaldTrump with more than 100k likes is already the most liked Persian tweet in the history of Twitter. A strong show of support by Iranians for Trump’s Iran policy, something the MSM does not and will not report.”

The people of Iran know Trump is behind them and against the regime which so oppresses them and menaces the civilised world; and they also know that the west’s so-called “liberal progressives” are against them and are instead lined up behind the regime.

This is one of those moments where the division between those who seek to defend civilisation and those who wish to aid its would-be destroyers is being starkly and terrifyingly exposed.

Iran’s attacks against the US in Iraq accomplished what was intended

AS OF now, it appears that the Iranian sound and fury over the skies of Iraq on January 8 look set to signify the conclusion of the round of hostilities that began with the killing of a US contractor by the Iran-linked Ktaeb Hezbollah militia on December 27. This act provoked a US attack on Ktaeb which killed 25 of its fighters. The Iranians then launched the violent protests against the US Embassy in Baghdad. The US upped the ante at that point with the killings of Soleimani, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and the others. The latest Iranian response indicates that Iran wants an end to this round.

Of course, Iranian efforts to expel the US from Iraq will continue. The Iranian calculus at this point may well have included the assumption that the current US administration wants out of the Middle East, and therefore should not be provoked into staying.

Iranian propaganda makes much of the notion that the Iranian project is slow and systematic and at a level of sophistication that makes it invulnerable to the attacks of its enemies. That remains to be seen. But the latest round of hostilities indicates that those who helm the Iranian bid for regional hegemony are aware of their drastic limitations in the military arena, are not suicidal, and are capable of formulating and implementing policy in line with the prevailing power realities.

Iran-US: Advantage Trump

Iran has emerged completely discredited from the recent phase of conflict with the United States and US President Donald J. Trump appears, for the time being, to be the big winner.

The Iranian regime is proving to be totally incompetent: incapable of managing the funeral of the so-called “martyr” Qassem Soleimani, which resulted in the deaths of more than 50 people, but capable of shooting down “as a result of human error” a commercial flight with 82 of its own nationals on board and killing a total of 176 passengers and crew members. This is the same regime that now announces the resumption of its nuclear weapons program. The bomb could be launched “by mistake,” of course, at Israel – or dropped on a neighboring country, such as Sunni states in the Gulf, or even on Iran itself.

The Iranian people know that the plane was shot down by their own government. There are anti-regime protests across Iran. There is anger over the incompetence and the lies of the last few days. The regime will come out of it weakened. After the death of Soleimani, images of mass rallies may have given the impression of a popular rally against the United States, but it has long been known that such impressions can be misleading.

Think, for example, of the images of Parisian crowds applauding Marshal Pétain in 1940, used by Vichy propaganda. In the absence of free elections and polls, it is difficult to know the real feelings of the majority of the Iranian population. As of this writing, many are protesting against “Supreme Guide” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and calling for his resignation.

The countries of the Gulf, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the lead, will be convinced more than ever that their security — in the face of an aggressive regime that does not hesitate to export its “revolution” to Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, etc. — depends on America’s protection. No longer dependent on the region for its energy supply, the United States will be able to ask those countries to pay for it, as President Trump keeps asking.

PMW: Fatah promises cruel terror and “war of the street”, burning of Jewish towns
Fatah has not stopped and will not stop using terror.

– “With cleavers and knives, with grenades we announced a popular war”
– “I swear, you won’t escape, my enemy”
– “We will light a fire under your feet! … We will cause volcanoes to erupt under your feet!”
– “Fatah of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades will return to be as it was!”
– All at event attended by Abbas’ deputy Mahmoud Al-Aloul

The repeating theme of Fatah’s numerous public events this year commemorating its first terror attack against Israel on January 1, 1965, and marking Fatah’s anniversary, was that Fatah was the first to use terror and that Fatah has not stopped and will not stop using terror.

At one event, Fatah built a model of a Jewish town, poured gasoline over it, and set it on fire to the cheers of the crowd. While the model was burning, a song was played promising that Fatah’s terror will continue:

“I’m coming towards you, my enemy,
from every house, neighborhood and street
Our war is a war of the streets.
I’m coming towards you, my enemy
We’re going down from every house with cleavers and knives
With grenades we announced a popular war
I swear, you won’t escape, my enemy, from the revolution and the people.”

[Official Fatah Facebook page, Facebook page of Fatah – Nablus Branch, Jan. 6, 2020]

Moments before, Abbas’ deputy chairman of Fatah, Mahmoud Al-Aloul, spoke glorifying past Fatah terror and promising to continue terror. “Fatah was the first bullet” he shouted to the crowd of cheering Palestinians, and then added “and it remains like that, and continues – without a doubt.” He then glorifed by name specific terrorists who murdered dozens of Israelis as well as specific terror attacks in which dozens were murdered:

Top White House official says peace plan could be rolled out before March vote

A top White House official has said US President Donald Trump’s administration will not necessarily wait until after Israel’s March 2 elections to release its long-awaited peace plan.

The launch of the so-called “deal of the century” has been delayed repeatedly by the political uncertainty in Israel, which will hold an unprecedented third vote in the span of a single year after two indecisive elections.

“I don’t think it necessarily depends on the elections,” White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien told the Axios website in comments published late Sunday. “They will have had three elections in a row, we’ll have to see.”

“The [US] president is looking for a solution on the Israeli-Palestinian front that is durable, is long-lasting, and we’re not timing anything we do based on the domestic politics, either the Palestinians or the Israelis,” O’Brien said.

The comments dovetail with recent reports in Israel that the unveiling could happen in the next few weeks.

King of Jordan: I believe the ‘Deal of the Century’ will be released soon

US President Donald Trump’s peace plan will likely be revealed soon, Jordan’s King Abdullah II told France 24, as he warned that Israeli annexation plans and the absence of a government was harming his country’s relation with the Jewish state.

He said that, while he has no information on when the deal will be released, he has spoken with Trump about it “numerous” times and thinks that it will be announced soon, which will allow him and his European partners to make decisions on how to proceed.

“Our job [when the plan is released] is to look at the glass half-full,” he told France24, adding that he plans to build on the deal to “bring Israelis and Palestinians together.” Hussein said that the main problem is that until the plan is released, Jordan and its European allies are in a “gray area” and that they cannot make decisions on how to proceed until they see the details of the plan.

When discussing his conversations with Trump, he thinks the president “understands what is needed to bring Israelis and Palestinians together,” which he emphasized is what Jordan supports. The king sees stability between the Israelis and Palestinians as key to regional stability.

The king also discussed Prime Minster Benjamin Netanayhu’s annexation announcement, which he remarked had “tremendous negativity towards the Israeli-Jordanian relationship.” However, he emphasized that he would not know more until the elections were finished.

“From the Jordanian perspective, the [Israeli-Jordanian] relationship is important, moving dialogue back between the Israelis and Palestinians is essential and moving the dialogue back between Israel and Jordan, which has been on pause for the past two years, is essential.”

ICC prosecutor: Netanyahu’s anti-Semitism charge is ‘particularly regrettable’

In far-ranging exchange, Fatou Bensouda responds to what she calls ‘character assassination’; says she ‘fondly’ remembers her 1998 trip to Israel, hopes to be able to visit again

How do you explain the apparent contradiction between your position that there is a sovereign Palestinian state (that can delegate criminal jurisdiction to The Hague) and the position, held by the Palestinians, that they are under Israeli occupation? How can Palestine be both occupied and sovereign at the same time?
In my request, I take the carefully reflected legal position — which is in line with the prevalent view of the international community — that Israel continues to occupy the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.

However, for the reasons set out therein, I did not consider that this factor precludes the exercise of the court’s jurisdiction. As this argument will arise in litigation, and indeed is addressed in the [Israeli] Attorney General Office’s memorandum, it would be improper for me to comment further at this stage. We will engage further with this argument in our written observations.

The matters presented and analyzed in my request are complex and have been subject to analysis and debate for many years. This is precisely why we wish to have them resolved by the ICC judges.

It is unfortunate that extracts of my request appear to have been overly simplified or misunderstood.

I also refer you to my answers above concerning Palestine being a State Party for the purposes of the Rome Statute.

Why do you seek to investigate Israeli settlements as possibly constituting war crimes, yet appear utterly unfazed by Turkish settlements in Northern Cyprus or Russian settlements in Crimea? In both Cyprus and Ukraine, the case for the court’s jurisdiction is much easier to decide than in the Palestine situation?
This question makes a number of assumptions.

It is well known that we have received a number of communications in relation to Northern Cyprus. Our assessment in connection with this situation continues. I intend to publish my findings on this preliminary examination later this year. Crimea is also within the scope of the ongoing preliminary examination with respect to Ukraine, which is well advanced.

The report on preliminary examinations your office published in early December cited the Palestinian Authority encouraging acts of violence by paying stipends to terrorists. How come your 112-page statement issued two weeks later makes no mention of this?

The annual preliminary examination report serves to provide a general update on our activities. It typically summarizes the types of allegations we have received during the reporting period.

In this context, the December 2019 report recorded that [my] office had “received allegations” that: (i) Palestinian security and intelligence services in the West Bank have committed the crime against humanity of torture and related acts against civilians held in detention centers under their control; and (ii) the Palestinian Authority have encouraged and provided financial incentives for the commission of violence through their provision of payments to the families of Palestinians who were involved, in particular, in carrying out attacks against Israeli citizens, and under the circumstances, the payment of such stipends may give rise to Rome Statute crimes.

We noted that “these as well as any other alleged crimes that may occur in the future require further assessment.”

Israel Said to be Concerned About Secret ICC Arrest Warrants

Members of Israel’s Diplomatic-Security Cabinet are said to be “profoundly concerned” that the International Criminal Court will launch a war crimes investigation against Israel within 90 days and may issue secret arrest warrants against Israeli officials.

Last month, ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced: “I am satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation into the situation in Palestine,” adding, “There is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes were committed in the context of the 2014 hostilities in Gaza.”

As Israel is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that lends the ICC its power, Jerusalem claims Bensouda has no jurisdiction over the matter. The Palestinian Authority joined the Rome Statute in 2015. Most of the prominent actors in the international arena are signatories to the Rome Statute, including all Western European countries, Canada, Australia, all Latin American countries and most African countries. The United States is not a party to the Rome Statute.

If the ICC does, indeed, issue such warrants, high-ranking Israeli officials and military officers may be arrested upon traveling abroad and extradited to The Hague.

Legal experts reportedly told the Cabinet that a stronger case could be made in The Hague over settlement construction, meaning that every Israeli official party to promoting construction in Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem could potentially face the ICC.

International Criminal Court Hopes World War III Doesn’t Take Attention from Israel (satire)

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is urging Iran and the US to de-escalate their conflict, warning that the impending war is distracting from its long overdue plan to prosecute Israel.

The ICC announced last month that it would investigate Israel for alleged war crimes in Gaza and the West Bank, saying that that nothing else noteworthy was going on in the world. But President Donald Trump’s decision to target Iranian General Qasem Soleimani has left little room in the headlines for Israel.

“When President Trump decided to launch this strike and potentially spark a bloody war, he seemingly gave no thought to the impact it would have on our plan to investigate Israel,” ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement. “Does he not realize how distracting a world war can be?”

The ICC was not the only international body to oppose the strike. The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) warned that it has no space on its agenda for any item relating to Iran alongside the usual 12 dealing with Israel.

Turkey Muscles-In on the Israel-Greece-Cyprus EastMed Gas Pipeline Deal

The bilateral agreement between Turkey and Libya — which establishes a new Turkey-Libya economic zone that the EastMed pipeline would now have to cross — appears aimed at giving Turkey more leverage over the project.

“The recent Turkey-Libya Memorandum of Understanding on the delimitation of maritime jurisdictions in the Mediterranean Sea infringes upon the sovereign rights of third States and does not comply with the Law of the Sea and cannot produce any legal consequences for third States.” — Charles Michel, President of the European Council,, January 9, 2020

In May 2019, Turkey announced that it would begin drilling for gas in waters claimed by Cyprus…. In October 2019, Turkey defied the European Union by sending another drilling ship, the Yavuz, to operate inside waters claimed by Cyprus. Cyprus accused Turkey of a “severe escalation” of violations of its sovereign rights.

Attack on IDF Soldiers Added to Lawsuit Against Anarchist Pollak

In response to a request by Judge Dov Pollok of the Jerusalem Magistrate Court, the Ad Kan organization added charges to their complaint against activists from “Anarchists Against the Wall.” The new charges relate to dozens of riots where IDF soldiers have been injured.

Ad Kan (lit. Up to here) is an Israeli Zionist activist organization. It is known for infiltrating Israeli extreme Left wing organizations, as well as other forms of protest against organizations which it sees as anti-Israel.

The complaint against Ilan Shalif, Kobi Snitz, and Jonathan Pollak details the dates of various violent riots, the locations, and also recordings of the attacks on soldiers.

Attorney Tzur Polk, the Ad Kan Legal Advisor, said that these are only some of the incidents in which the anarchists had taken part. The defendants were observed standing among individuals with their faces covered, guiding the stone throwers where to stand, and calling on the crowd to join the violence. One of them was even part of a group that tried to break the security fence.

Israeli who illegally crossed into Jordan sentenced to 4 months in prison

A Jordanian court sentenced an Israeli citizen on Monday to four months in prison and fined him 1,000 dinars on charges of illegally crossing into Jordan and possessing drugs with intent of using them.

Jordanian State Security Court judge Ali Mubeedeen indicated that Konstantin Kotov would only be required to serve another approximately one and a half months because he has already spent some 75 days in Jordanian custody.

Kotov confessed in December to illegally crossing into Jordan but pleaded not guilty to possessing drugs with intent of using them, Jordanian state-run media reported at the time.

Jordanian authorities have said he crossed into northern Jordan on October 29, 2019, carrying a marijuana joint and $421 and NIS 27,190 in cash.

Mubedeen said on Monday that the Israeli national argued that he was not guilty of the drug-related offense because he uses marijuana in Israel, which he incorrectly claimed is legal in its territory.

Stone throwing that killed Palestinian mother of 8 recognized as terror attack

Israeli authorities on Sunday recognized the 2018 stone throwing in the West Bank that killed Aisha Rabi as a terror attack, but refused to recognize the Palestinian mother-of-eight as a terror victim.

The Defense Ministry’s criteria require individuals targeted in attacks to either be Israeli citizens or have an Israeli residency permit in order to be recognized as victims of terror and receive compensation from the National Insurance Institute.

Rabi — who was killed after a 16-year-old Israeli allegedly hurled a massive rock at the windshield of her car as she traveled with her husband and daughter near the northern West Bank’s Tapuah Junction — does not fit either of those criteria.

The lawyers representing Rabi’s family Nabila Kaboub and Mohamad Rahal told The Times of Israel that they planned to appeal the decision in order to ensure that Rabi, 47, will posthumously be considered a terror victim.

Rahal said that he also plans to use the Sunday ruling to file a motion to have Rabi’s husband, Yakoub and nine-year-old daughter Rama recognized as terror victims. Yakoub holds an Israeli residency permit, which he expected would allow for a swift accreditation by Israeli authorities on the matter.

Rahal said the initial decision to deem the stone throwing a terror attack was unprecedented in its own right. This was just the second time an attack targeting a non-Israeli Palestinian was recognized as an instance of terror, and the first time when the victim did not have Israeli residency status.

Palestinian Authority crackdown on Hamas ‘jeopardizes elections’

The Palestinian Authority security forces have arrested 195 Hamas members in the West Bank during the last week of December 2019, Hamas said on Monday.

The arrests, which are seen as another sign of the continued tensions between the PA and Hamas, are likely to hamper efforts to hold new presidential and parliamentary elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Under pressure from the European Union, PA President Mahmoud Abbas announced his intention to hold long overdue presidential and parliamentary elections during a speech before the United Nations General Assembly in September 2019.

Hamas and several Palestinian factions have agreed to participate in the elections. Abbas, however, has conditioned the elections on Israel’s agreement to allow residents of east Jerusalem to participate in the vote.

Hamas officials have called on Abbas to issue a presidential decree setting a date for the vote, even if Israel refuses to allow east Jerusalem residents to cast their ballots. The PA has rejected the Hamas appeal.

Hamas must choose: Egypt or Iran?

Yahya Sinwar, head of Hamas in Gaza, is the only leader who understands the movement’s situation — caught between a rock and a hard place, i.e., Iran and Egypt. As an acolyte of Yassin and a co-founder of Hamas’ military wing, Sinwar knows that they shouldn’t put all their eggs in one basket. Iran is a friend, but a distant one, while Egypt is close. Sanctions by Cairo against Gaza could choke it. He knows well that Sisi must not be angered, especially after the huge investment made in appeasing him and having Egypt serve as moderator with Israel to guarantee the movement’s survival.

Egypt, said the Israeli security source, has a way to politically damage Haniyeh: Not only will they make it difficult for him to leave Gaza, the Rafah crossing will no longer be wide open to Palestinian movement. They will also hint that Haniyeh and his associates in the pro-Iranian and Turkish camp are to blame for the situation, because they lack good diplomatic judgment and fail to understand what it takes to manage Gaza responsibly. The Egyptians will make Hamas grasp that if the movement remains interested in surviving, its future leadership must choose the right side — that is, Egypt, with disengagement from the enemy, Iran.

Will it work? Hamas since its founding has proven that it is a movement that wants to succeed and survive. It shifts its horizons and even softens its hardline ideology according to circumstances and needs. Thus, going forward, every candidate for the Shura Council will know that Egypt controls Gaza’s oxygen supply. It’s not worth going against it.

Soleimani’s Death Opens Door to Alternative Security Arrangements in the Gulf

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have long supported President Donald Trump’s maximum pressure campaign against Iran, which so far has involved the US withdrawal from the 2015 international agreement that curbed Iran’s nuclear program and the imposition of harsh economic sanctions — but both countries began hedging their bets in the second half of last year.

While the Gulf states may have privately celebrated the death of Soleimani, an architect of Iran’s destructive and self-aggrandizing use of proxies across the Middle East, they may fear that his killing has opened a Pandora’s Box that could lead the region to all-out war.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE called for de-escalation in the wake of the killing. Khalid bin Salman, the kingdom’s deputy defense minister and brother of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), traveled to Washington and London to urge restraint.

Ironically, the killing of Soleimani — rather than strategically pleasing Gulf leaders — may have reinforced their concerns that they can no longer fully rely on the US as their sole security guarantor.

If the US’s refusal last year to respond forcefully to a string of Iranian provocations sparked Gulf doubts, Soleimani’s killing raises the specter of US overreach when it does.

Notwithstanding Gulf animosity toward Iran and anti-Shiite sentiment in some Gulf quarters, Trump’s threat to attack Iranian cultural sites likely reinforced their concern.

The Soleimani Killing: A New Approach to the War on Terror?

In 2001, President George W. Bush launched the Global War on Terror doctrine, articulated in his “overcome darkness with the light of hope” speech at the UN. His successor, Barack Obama, took a different approach to the fight against global terrorism, as characterized by his conciliatory “new beginning” Cairo speech in 2009.

Today, a third approach to the war on terror is unfolding. By ordering the targeted killing of Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani, Donald Trump essentially declared that no individual or nation responsible for the spread of global terror is immune from American action. If he follows through on that threat with further action, the US might find itself back in its former position of global sheriff.

The killing represents a game change in US foreign policy because neither of Trump’s predecessors would have considered killing an individual as popular and as close to the regime’s inner circle as was Soleimani. He was one of the most prominent personalities to emerge from the 1979 revolution and has been a dominant figure in Iran for decades. Furthermore, he was not categorized by the US as the leader of a terror state but as the commander of a terror force that belongs to a legitimate, if sanctioned and boycotted, state. That distinction was sufficient to render him off-limits in the eyes of Bush and Obama, but not in the eyes of Trump.

The killing of Soleimani will raise already high tensions and increase the probability of further military conflict in the region. The US has demonstrated that it is willing to use its vast resources of hard power against its adversaries once diplomacy and other tools of soft power, like the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, have failed. Obama’s legacy was terminated along with Soleimani. The killing also gave the lie to the false assumption that the US under Trump would not dare launch a military attack against Iran.

Iran is not a rational enemy

If Iran wants a war, it will be short and bloody, and Iran will lose, but there will be a significant loss of life and destruction in Israel, in the Iranian satellites around Israel, and in Iran itself. (Think of the death and destruction that the similarly fanatic regimes of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were able to inflict even after it was certain they would lose World War II.)

The elimination of Qasem Soleimani was a significant blow to Iran and was long overdue. Iran retaliated by firing more than a dozen ballistic missiles directly from Iran at two US facilities in Iraq, but the damage done was reportedly minimal.

Iran is especially dangerous now. It’s in a use it or lose it situation. It can’t eat its weapons; it has to use them. But Iran is also in a bind. If Iran doesn’t carry out its retaliatory threats against the US, it may lose its place as the indisputable leader of the radical Islamist crusade against Israel. If Iran does carry out its retaliatory threats against the US, it will lose everything.

Confrontation with Iran in some form or another is inevitable. Hopefully, Iran will collapse under its own weight before it tries to start firing the more than 150,000 missiles and rockets it has scattered among the homes and backyards of Lebanon’s Shi’a civilians, aimed at Israeli civilians – before Israel is forced to defend itself with a full-blown military campaign.

How the U.S. Killed Soleimani

Armed with a tip from informants at Damascus airport, the CIA knew exactly when a jet carrying Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani took off en route to Iraq. Intelligence from Israel helped confirm the details.

Once the plane landed at Baghdad’s main airport, which houses U.S. military personnel, American spies confirmed its exact whereabouts. Three American drones moved into position overhead, with no fear of challenge in an Iraqi airspace completely dominated by the U.S. military.

On large screens, U.S. officials watched as an Iraqi militia leader walked up a set of stairs to greet the leader of Iran’s Quds Force as he emerged from the airplane. The drones followed as their vehicles exited the airport.

Signals intelligence specialists honed in on their cellphones to confirm their identities. Four missiles were fired. There were no survivors. The operation was run from U.S. Central Command forward headquarters in Qatar.

The U.S. has become adept at hunting and killing its enemies, particularly in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa.

Targeted strikes represent a fundamental change in warfare, said Anthony Cordesman, from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “It requires a truly immense intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance effort – one which basically no other country in the world can match.”

How Israel benefits from US media linking it to Soleimani hit – analysis

For instance, Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi said last month the “military relations we have with the United States, the freedom of action and cooperation, is extraordinary. Simply extraordinary. Sometimes you enter a room or one mission or the other and you don’t always know who is on what side. The cooperation is exceptional.”

And that coordination is also important for the US public to see, especially at a time when Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has brought into mainstream US political discourse the idea of using US aid to Israel – which is wholly military assistance – as leverage against the Israeli government. At a time when the Mideast is at its most unstable and dangerous, Sanders has made it acceptable to talk about reducing security assistance to its most reliable ally in the Mideast.

And often in the US domestic debate there is an underlying theme of “we give Israel all this money each year ($3.8 billion in annual military assistance), and what do we get for it in return?”

That the American public sees from time to time that there is a return on its investment in Israel’s security prowess is something that can help deflect calls to reduce the military aid.

For some in the US, there is a mistaken impression that this military relationship is a one-way street, and that the US gives to Israel without getting much in return. It is not. The Americans get a strong return for their investment, and that return is often in the form of critical intelligence cooperation – coming from a country with the best intelligence picture of the Mideast – that is of vital importance for American national security interests.

With Soleimani gone, Iran more likely to negotiate – US security adviser

Following the United States’ assassination of IRGC commander Qasem Soleimani, many around the world criticized the move, saying it would worsen relations between the two nations, with some claiming that it would lead to World War III.

In an interview with Axios, White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien expressed the opposite, saying that the strike would deter Iran from further action against the US.

“Soleimani’s belief was he could end the maximum pressure campaign by going up an escalation ladder with the US, taking out drones, taking out Saudi refineries, taking ships and that sort of thing,” O’Brien explained. “I believe that the Iranians are standing down,” he added.

“I think the chances of sitting down with the Iranians and getting to a deal have improved significantly,” O’Brien told the American news website.

US President Donald Trump has made claims that there was intelligence that Soleimani was planning attacks against the US and its citizens before he was assassinated and O’Brien made similar claims. He told Axios that Soleimani “was involved in plotting attacks against Americans at the time.”

European Parliamentarians call for Iran sanctions over downing airliner

Europe should expand sanctions on Iran after it shot down a Ukraine International Airlines flight, killing 176 people, leaders of Transatlantic Friends of Israel (TFI) in the European Parliament said on Monday.

The members of the European Parliament plan to bring their argument before the legislature in a debate titled “Situation in Iran and Iraq after recent escalations,” set to take place on Tuesday evening.

TFI chairman Lukas Mandl, an Austrian member of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said the downing of the Ukrainian airliner “crossed a redline.”

“After three days of denial and tampering with the evidence for all the world to see, Iran finally admitted that it accidentally shot down the
passenger jet. In any case, the Iranian regime must be held accountable. Now is the time to expand sanctions on Iran, just as the Council had announced after Russia shot down MH17,” Mandl, a member of the center-right European People’s Party group, stated.

Mandl argued that anyone who wants to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons must insist that the nuclear deal be implemented.

US Supreme Court throws out suit accusing Iran of funding terrorism

The 1983 car bombing attack at the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut killed 241 US service members. The cases stem from efforts by the families of those killed to secure compensation from Iran after a federal court in Washington deemed them victims of state-sponsored terrorism and awarded $3.8 billion in damages.

The families in 2013 sought to seize bond proceeds allegedly owned by Bank Markazi and processed by Clearstream Banking SA, based in Luxembourg, and Banca UBAE SpA, an Italian bank, to partially satisfy the court judgment.

The legal dispute centers on a 1976 law called the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), which generally shields foreign governments from liability in American courts but carves out certain exceptions, including for claims against countries like Iran that have been designated by the United States as state sponsors of terrorism.

A federal trial court dismissed the families’ claims, saying the assets were located in Luxembourg and thus, under the FSIA, immune from seizure. But in 2017 the New York-based 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, reviving the suit.

Bank Markazi appealed to the Supreme Court, saying that the 2nd Circuit ruling violated international law and “threatens the US assets of US companies by exposing them to reciprocal treatment by foreign courts.”

The Trump administration said the 2nd Circuit decision was flawed because it was unlikely the FSIA allowed for foreign government seizure of assets held abroad. But the administration advised the justices to send the case back to lower courts to analyze the newly passed law’s effect on the case.

Videos appear to show Iranian police using live fire against protesters

Iranian police and security forces fired both live ammunition and tear gas to disperse demonstrators protesting against the Islamic Republic following its admission that it shot down a Ukrainian jetliner, online videos purported to show Monday.

There was no immediate report in Iranian state-run media on the incident near Azadi, or Freedom, Square in Tehran on Sunday night after a call went up for protests there. However, international rights groups already have called on Iran to allow people to protest peacefully as allowed by the country’s constitution.

“After successive national traumas in a short time period, people should be allowed to safely grieve and demand accountability,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran. “Iranians shouldn’t have to risk their lives to exercise their constitutional right to peaceful assembly.”

Videos sent to the center and later verified by The Associated Press show a crowd of demonstrators fleeing as a tear gas canister landed among them. People cough and sputter while trying to escape the fumes, with one woman calling out in Farsi: “They fired tear gas at people! Azadi Square. Death to the dictator!”

Another video shows a woman being carried away in the aftermath as a blood trail can be seen on the ground. Those around her cry out that she has been shot by live ammunition in the leg.

‘We are captives’: Iranian actor criticises Tehran government

One of Iran’s most popular female actors has bluntly criticised the government in Tehran in a post on Instagram, telling her almost 6 million followers that “we are not citizens” but “captives”.

Taraneh Alidoosti – who has appeared in an Oscar-nominated film and acclaimed TV dramas – made her comments on Sunday, as Iranians took to the streets in a series of anti-regime protests.

“I fought this dream for a long time and didn’t want to accept it. We are not citizens. We never were. We are captives,” she wrote.

Alidoositi said that she had replaced her profile picture with the colour black in mourning for demonstrators shot dead by security forces last November. The colour had nothing to do with official “mourning” following the assassination on 3 January of Iran’s top general Qassem Suleimani by a US drone, she added.

The actor’s intervention comes amid reports that Iranian authorities have fired live ammunition to disperse protesters in Tehran, wounding several people. The protests broke out after the government admitted on Friday its military had accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet, killing 176 people.

Iran Announces They Will Stop Pretending To Follow Nuclear Deal (satire)

In response to the United States’ recent killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, Iran announced on Tuesday it will no longer pretend to abide by the 2015 Nuclear Deal between the two nations.

Sources confirm Iran has already dismantled its Department of Compliance Chicanery and fired its Director for Nuclear Deal Duplicity. “America is the Great Satan and cannot be trusted,” a spokesperson told reporters. “They do not deserve our sham adherence to an agreement we never intended to follow in the first place.”

Iranian officials then revealed that their National Center to Help Children and Orphans and their Department of Puppies and Candy were actually nuclear facilities in disguise this whole time. Shocked New York Times reporters watched as Iranian officials pressed a button at the Center for World Peace and Also Cake and Ice Cream, rotating the walls to reveal it was actually a nuclear research center.

At publishing time, North Korea was threatening to stop faking compliance with its nuclear restrictions.

Pelosi Dismisses Protests In Iran Against Regime, “Different Reasons Why People Are In The Street”

Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi dismissed large protests in Iran against the regime after Iran shot down a civilian airplane, saying that there are “different reasons why people are in the street.” Be sure to like the video and subscribe.

Key Democrats go silent as Iran street protests shift from President Trump to regime

Democratic congressional leaders and presidential candidates who were unsparing in their criticism of President Trump for the escalation with Iran over the past two weeks largely have gone silent now that the protests on the streets of Tehran and beyond have turned their rage toward the regime — and not the Trump White House.

Even as videos emerged online Monday that purportedly show Iranian police and security forces firing live ammunition to disperse protesters, so far among the 2020 Democratic candidates only former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., have spoken out in support of the people.

The protesters have railed against the government following the shoot-down of a passenger plane that the Iranian government initially denied involvement in — Tehran later admitted they downed the jet in a misfire during attacks against U.S. bases in Iraq, following Trump’s takedown of top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

Trump has issued statements supporting the demonstrations, but his political opponents have been almost entirely silent — after earlier criticizing the Soleimani strike and in some cases even faulting Trump for the fatal plane crash.

Journalist Yashar Ali, who is of Iranian descent and has friends and family there, called out the left for being silent when it comes to the protests, in a viral Twitter thread about the situation.

Corbyn’s Stop the War protest speech was his worst yet

Corbyn approached the mike with a tartan scarf flapping around his neck. The crowd had already struck up a cry of ‘oh Jeremy Corbyn’ which always sounds like a mourner’s dirge. But he was in no mood to indulge his worshippers by letting their song ring out across the square. He cut them off and plunged into his speech:
‘Friends, thank you all for being here today to be the voice for peace that is desperately needed in this country and all around the world.’

He offered the feeblest condemnation of Iran for destroying a passenger-jet:
‘Let’s recognise the horror of the families of those that died in the airliner are suffering from now…This is an appalling act and part of a whole pattern of appalling acts all across the region.’

Moving onto generalities, he urged the British government to support ‘democracy, international justice and human rights around the world.’

He sounded like Miss United Kingdom expressing her hopes for mankind at a beauty contest. He then delivered a plea for world peace in almost indecipherable prose:
‘Let’s make this year’s nuclear non-proliferation review conference, at the beginning of May, a real one – for once – where we recognise the potential power of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty to end the proliferation of nuclear weapons and help to bring about nuclear disarmament around the world.’

Hardly a candidate for the Dictionary of Quotations.

The sad truth about Stop the War is that their goal – to halt western adventurism in the Middle East – is an excellent one but they speak only to the grumble-bunnies of the far-left who loath prosperity and who long for an anti-capitalist revolution. With better leaders, Stop the War could win the argument.

In Wake Of Soleimani Hit, One NYT Reporter Amplified Iranian Propaganda

In the days following the Jan. 2 strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani, one New York Times journalist in particular became the focus of criticism for consistently amplifying Iranian messaging.

The journalist was by no means an isolated case. Iranian propaganda and propagandists managed to get air time on CNN, Yahoo, the NYT and Washington Post, among other outlets, and a fake American death toll that made headlines on MSNBC was actually sourced directly to Iranian media. Above it all though was New York Times reporter Farnaz Fassihi.

Fassihi’s aggressive dissemination of Iranian messaging started almost immediately after the Jan. 2 strike that killed Soleimani. She began Jan. 3 by peddling “unconfirmed reports” of “ballistic missiles hitting” Ain Al-Assad, the largest U.S. military base. There was no attack at that time.

NY Post reporter Jonathan Levine called her out when she later followed up to say the initial reports were false. Under pressure, Fassihi later deleted the tweet.

The same day, Fassihi posted a video showing a lighter side of the terrorist who has been accused of killing hundreds of Americans. The video, attributed to a “source in Iran,” shows Soleimani reciting poetry. The Daily Caller made several attempts to get a hold of Fassihi, and queries to the Times went unanswered.

“I think the government of Iran gave that to her,” Tony Shaffer, a retired army intelligence officer, told the Daily Caller. “How many on the ground folks do you have in Baghdad right now who are gonna be able to call you up and give you a video and you’re gonna believe it? They’re not. It’s incredible, it’s just not believable.”

Iran Launches GoFundMe Campaign for Better Air Defense Radars (satire)

In the aftermath of a tragic incident in which an Iranian missile shot down a commercial airliner near Tehran last week, the Islamic Republic’s air defense force has launched a GoFundMe campaign to help them acquire improved radar systems. Military leaders say the new radars could help prevent similarly tragic incidents in the future by distinguishing military targets from civilian flights.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif took to Twitter to announce the campaign. “The whole world has now seen what tragic, unintentional events can occur when we cannot distinguish a B-2 stealth sent by the Great Satan from a civilian passenger jet,” Zarif announced. “But you can help. Pledge $100 today and we will even send you a *free* Uncle Sam doll you can burn in the streets at your next rally!”

Zarif added that sponsors who provide more funding will get greater rewards. For example, donors pledging $500 will get one of the new radars named after them. Donors who pledge $1000 will have a centrifuge at one of Iran’s nuclear research facilities renamed in their honor.

According to an archived page, the GoFundMe campaign raised $6 before it was shut down by the US Treasury Department for violating UN and US sanctions on Iran.

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