Caroline Glick: Trump’s tragic mistake
By all accounts, US President Donald Trump is a friend of the Jewish state.
It is due to Trump’s heartfelt support for Israel and the US-Israel alliance that his meeting Wednesday with PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas at the White House is most discouraging.
By meeting with Abbas, and committing himself to working toward achieving a peace deal between Abbas and his PLO and Israel, Trump undermines Israel.
He also undermines himself and his nation.
Israel is the most immediate casualty of Trump’s decision to embrace Abbas and the PLO, because the PLO is Israel’s enemy.
Abbas is an antisemite. His doctoral dissertation, which he later published as a book, is a Holocaust denying screed.
Abbas engages in antisemitic incitement on a daily basis, both directly and indirectly. It was Abbas who called for his people to kill Jews claiming that we pollute Judaism’s most sacred site, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, with our “filthy feet.” The Palestinian media and school system which he controls with an iron fist both regularly portray Jews as evil monsters, deserving of physical annihilation.
Abbas’s PLO and his Palestinian Authority engage as a general practice in glorifying terrorist murderers. As has been widely reported in recent weeks, his PA and PLO also incentivize and underwrite terrorism to the tune of $300 million a year, which is paid, in accordance with PA law, to convicted terrorists sitting in Israeli prisons and their families.
As we approach next month’s 50th anniversary of the 1967 war, we should not forget one of the enduring lessons learned from the run-up to the conflict.
Namely, that agreements need to stand on their own merits and cannot be based on abstract international guarantees about the future. This idea was seared into Israel’s consciousness in May 1967. This painful lesson reinforced the Zionist ethos of self-reliance.
Menachem Begin would later famously say: “There is no guarantee that can guarantee a guarantee.”
On May 22, 1967, Egypt’s president Gamal Abdel Nasser closed the Straits of Tiran, a critical blow to Israel which relied on oil imports from Iran. Israel believed it had received a guarantee from the international community in 1957 that it would reopen the Straits if Nasser again closed them, as he had in 1956.
After the Suez Crisis (Sinai Campaign) of 1956, prime minister David Ben-Gurion conceded in principle to withdraw from the peninsula, but requested several assurances before Israel could move ahead: Among the assurances he sought were that the Straits of Tiran wouldn’t be blockaded again, and that Israeli ships would have access to the Gulf of Aqaba and the Israeli port at Eilat. He also sought assurance that the UN Emergency Force (UNEF) in Sinai couldn’t be withdrawn just due to the sole demand of the Egyptians.
The greatest video you will see this week, guaranteed. pic.twitter.com/wM4iEHKCIV
— Im Tirtzu (@IMTIzionism) May 4, 2017
The United Nations, for all its flowery promises, was designed with appalling flaws from the start. It operates with no real accountability, no functional moral compass, and no mechanism for acquiring any such vital features. It has tyrant-friendly, diplomatically immune, and collectively irresponsible DNA.
This leads almost inevitably to the U.N.’s bigotry, waste and abuse of its lavish funding, and ever-expanding mandates.
Although everybody knows that the U.N. is broken, it is pretty much taboo to openly seek to shut it down. The usual defense is that “it may be imperfect but it’s all we’ve got” — a refrain that tends to be accompanied by prescriptions for reforms that either won’t stick, or won’t work at all.
The counter argument is this: Is the U.N. really the best we can do? Do we have to settle for a system that elects Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran to lead human rights councils, women’s rights agencies, and cultural bodies? If the U.N. is “all we’ve got,” and it can cavalierly disregard the ongoing slaughter in Syria and outrageously brand Israel a war criminal enterprise, then it is way past time to come up with something else.
The Trump administration is breaking new ground by talking about a 50% cut in the $10 billion in American funding for the U.N. But neither Trump administration officials nor any serious think tank has offered concrete suggestions for how to fix the organization or replace it. It is time to do so.
Edwin Black, the investigative author of “IBM and the Holocaust,” is leading an effort to replace the U.N. with a new world body called the Covenant of Democratic Nations.
Despite the opening flourishes of praise and goodwill, the meeting between Trump and Abbas was expected to become more uncomfortable behind closed doors, as the administration laid out a series of demands.
Trump has been described by aides as being singularly fixated on delivering a Middle East peace deal, entrusting the portfolio to his son-in-law Jared Kushner despite Kushner’s financial connections to the building of settlements on land claimed by Palestinians.
The White House went out of its way to build up Abbas during the visit, giving in to requests for a lunch with Trump beyond their meeting, as well as that the Palestinian flag be placed behind Trump while the two leaders made statements about the visit, a person close to the White House said.
The White House felt that giving Abbas those symbolic concessions would help set the conditions for a better relationship and create an opening to demand that Abbas shut down terror incitement, stop payments by the Palestinian Authority to the families of those killed or imprisoned in terrorist attacks against Israelis, refrain from lobbying the United Nations for additional resolutions against Israel, and get on board toward a peace deal.
But when it comes to what an eventual solution should look like, Trump has told close advisors that he’s not picky about the details, or even the broad outlines.
Trump has expressed a willingness to jettison the long-standing U.S. stance that any resolution should be based on a two-state solution, hoping that would spur the two sides to look for more creative solutions. But other members of his administration, including Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, have said the United States remains committed to a two-state solution.
What is the common denominator of the recent developments in the Palestinian arena: renewed interest in the Peace process, change to the Hamas political manifesto, or what seems to be a surge in terrorist attacks against Israelis? Of course, it is the new administration in Washington.
President Donald Trump has already managed to have a considerable impact. First, he’s changing the American attitude toward the Middle East power struggle between rival Muslim factions. Whereas Barack Obama promoted realistic radical forces – both Sunni like the Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar and Turkey or Shi’ite like Iran’s President Rouhani – Trump disassociated the US from most of these partners and instead clearly sided with the pragmatic Arabs in Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
They trust Trump more and are willing to consider promoting a regional approach for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict more openly than they were ready to under Obama and secretary of state Kerry. The visits by these leaders to the White House and the entire attitude of the recent Arab summit in Jordan, attended by Trump special envoy Jason Greenblatt, attest to this new attitude.
Second, Trump is creating a totally different atmosphere in relations with the Israeli leadership. Gone is the mistrust and animosity that culminated in UN Security Council Resolution 2334 and in throwing Israel under the bus by adopting the terrible nuclear deal with Iran. Trump takes actions against anti-Israel bias at the United Nations, refrains from criticizing Israel on settlements and shows understanding of a restrained Israeli policy in this domain.
Third, while iterating deep zeal to make the ultimate deal and solve the conflict, Trump adopts a different approach to the promotion of peace than that of his predecessors.
In the final two weeks of April alone—a time, given its proximity to Abbas’s White House visit, when one might think the PA’s rejection of Israel’s right to exist, celebration of terrorism, and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories would be downplayed — the PA and Fatah have:
- Held an event honoring a suicide bomber;
- Described terrorists who murdered Israeli civilians as “symbols of our legitimate national struggle and the conscience of the Palestinian people”;
- Promoted the dangerously false charge that Israel is threatening Islamic holy sites (“Judaization attacks” and “invasions of the Al-Aqsa Mosque”);
- Honored a terrorist who shot six Israelis to death at a bat mitzvah in 2002;
- Referred to Israel repeatedly, on official PA TV news, in PA newspapers and social media, and by the PA’s Grand Mufti, as “the areas occupied since 1948”;
- Held a rally of schoolchildren glorifying terrorists imprisoned in Israeli jails;
- Incited violence by claiming that “hundreds of extremist settlers” were “invading and desecrating” the Al-Aqsa Mosque;
- Held a rally at a high school celebrating a terrorist who murdered an Israeli teenager.
I could go on. That is not actually two weeks of official PA incitement, but merely 10 days’ worth in late April.
President Trump has now set himself on a path to prove for himself whether a peace deal with Abbas is possible. The lie Abbas told him to his face—”Mr. President, I affirm to you that we are raising our youth, our children and grandchildren, in a culture of peace”—was also a moment of truth. It told the president almost everything he needs to know about the task that lies before him, and about the man he is relying on as his partner.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday said he looked forward to talking with US President Donald Trump about the best way to advance peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
He spoke just one day after Trump announced the start of a new peace process during a joint press conference with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Washington. The US president is due to visit Israel later this month.
A desire for peace is something Israel “fervently shares with the President.”
But Netanyahu objected to the comments Abbas made the day before.
“I heard President Abbas yesterday say that Palestinians teach their children peace. That’s unfortunately not true. They name their schools after mass murders of Israelis and they pay terrorists,” he said.
“But I hope that it’s possible to achieve a change and to pursue a genuine peace. This is something Israel is always ready for. I’m always ready for genuine peace,” Netanyahu said.
Israel’s Prime Minister restated Israel’s commitment to peace with the Palestinians following President Donald Trump’s meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Washington on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he “fervently shares” US President Donald Trump’s commitment to advancing peace. He said, “I hope that it’s possible to achieve a change and to pursue a genuine peace. This is something Israel is always ready for.”
Netanyahu’s statement was in response to comments made by PA President Mahmoud Abbas during the joint press conference with President Trump in Washington on Wednesday. Abbas claimed that “we are raising our youth, our children and our grandchildren on a culture of peace,” prompting Netanyahu to point out that the PA “name their schools after mass murderers of Israelis and they pay terrorists.”
Deputy Foreign Minister and Likud MK Tzipi Hotovely agreed with the Prime Minister, saying, “Abu Mazen arrived in Washington as he continues to transfer money to the families of terrorists. It’s clear to anyone who is intelligent that Abu Mazen isn’t interested in peace.” Abu Mazen is nickname by which Abbas is sometimes referred to.
Baroness Deech Defends Israel in British House of Lords
Baroness Ruth Deech of the British House of Lords will be an honored speaker at UN Watch’s Annual Gala Dinner on May 15th. (Tickets: www.unwatch.org/gala) A fearless fighter for truth, Baroness Deech has distinguished herself as a courageous voice within the House of Lords, steadfastly supporting peace and the right of Israelis to defend themselves from terrorist attacks. Watch her confront anti-Israel members of the House of Lords, who called for legitimizing Hamas and anti-Israel boycotts.
The question of the PA payments to families of terrorists was among the hot button topics in Israel during his visit, as was the over issue of a renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace process after a thee-year freeze.
Grindeanu spoke against terror at his joint press conference with Netanyahu, stating, “Romania remains strong working to fight against terrorism, we condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and stress there can be no justification for such acts.”
He told the Post that he believed that dialogue was the only resolution to the conflict.
Grindeanu also weighed in the issue of the UNESCO’s Executive Board 58-member vote to disavow Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.
Romania, like all EU countries, does not recognize Israeli sovereignty in east Jerusalem. But Grindeanu had no problem explaining that he believed he was in Israel as he sat in the lobby of the King David Hotel in the western part of the city.
He had no answer, however, to the question of whether Romania would consider moving its embassy from Tel Aviv to west Jerusalem.
But to the Post, he stressed the fact that Israel was Romania’s strongest ally in the Middle East.
More significantly, he noted that Romania was among the first countries to establish full diplomatic ties with the Jewish state, doing so on June 11, 1948, just after the end of the War of Independence.
The two countries have held two intergovernmental sessions and are planning a third such meeting.
President Donald Trump deleted a tweet in which he said it was an “an honor” to host Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House a day after the two leaders met.
The tweet, which also included video from the two leaders’ meeting, was gone on Thursday, 13 hours after it was originally posted, according to ProPublica, which tracks the president’s deleted tweets.
After meeting with Abbas, Trump wrote on Twitter: “An honor to host President Mahmoud Abbas at the WH today. Hopefully something terrific could come out of it between the Palestinians & Israel.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that Israel is not bound by the 2015 agreement, signed between Iran and six world powers including the US, to curb Tehran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, and warned that Jerusalem will insure that Iran does not attain nuclear weapons.
“We will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons and this [2015 nuclear] agreement does not bind us,” Netanyahu said during a speech at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center for an event marking 40 years since Begin led the Likud party to victory in 1977, ending almost 30 years of left-leaning led politics.
In his address, Netanyahu also warned that Israel will “retaliate” against “those who attack or try to attack us.”
“Those who threaten our existence put themselves at existential risk,” he promised.
“When it comes to Israel’s security, there are no compromises and in the face of the threats posed by radical Islam, we are honing defensive and offensive abilities, thus ensuring our existence,” said the prime minister, adding that radical Islam threatened the world, not just Israel.
With US President Donald Trump making his first foreign trip to Saudi Arabia and then Israel later this month, he is adopting a similar and yet decidedly different approach than his predecessor.
“It’s ironic, in one sense,” Bruce Riedel, director of the intelligence project at the Brookings Institution, told The Times of Israel on Thursday, soon after the president announced the itinerary for the trip. “He’s now following in the footsteps of Barack Obama, who also made Saudi Arabia his first stop in the Middle East.”
In spring 2009, Obama visited Riyadh and then travelled to Cairo to deliver a major address in which he sought to improve US relations with the Muslim world. The critical difference between that trip and this one, however, is that Trump isn’t skipping Israel.
While rumors of a Trump Israel visit began circulating last week, the specifics and the order of his destinations — formally announced on the day after his White House talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — offer indications of the peacemaking approach he has been developing in his talks with both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas in these nascent weeks of his presidency.
“We’ve known that he was likely to be going to Israel and Saudi Arabia for several weeks now,” said Simon Henderson, a specialist on Saudi politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “What’s fascinating, though, is that Saudi Arabia is the number one stop, which therefore gives it a quasi, inadvertent, almost historic significance.”
Both Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump have suggested that renewed Israel-Palestinian negotiations could be aided by the involvement of Arab states friendly to the U.S. and Israel, including Persian Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia that have a growing unofficial economic and military relationship with the Jewish state. To John Hannah, this is precisely the wrong way to take advantage of improving ties between Israel and Arab countries:
While I agree wholeheartedly that a historic opportunity may now exist to advance relations between Israel and several of its Arab neighbors, it would be unfortunate to squander it in service of efforts to solve a maddeningly intractable conflict that has defied resolution for nearly 70 years—and whose current prospects for progress are probably as bleak as they’ve been in a generation. . . .
My main concern is with preserving the major strategic opportunity represented by Israel’s budding relationship with the Arab states. The fact is that the basis for that relationship rests entirely on the shared sense of danger that both now face from the radical Shiite theocrats of Iran, on the one hand, and the Sunni jihadists and Islamists of al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Islamic State, on the other. On those issues, the countries’ views are largely identical. By contrast, when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian problem, the differences over what would constitute an acceptable solution remain profound. . . . Does it really make sense to stress-test Israel’s incipient and still-fragile cooperation with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states on the one issue that remains the source of their greatest disagreement? . . .
Citizens around the world, especially Israelis, are waking up this morning to the shocking news that not everything going on in the world involves and revolves around Israel. International developments for which Israelis have no involvement include:
- Accelerating spread of Ebola through West Africa and other parts of the world. This apparently was not caused by a dropped test tube in a secret chemical warfare lab in the Negev desert.
- Gun violence in America is not instigated by Mossad black operations units working alongside special units of covert Homeland Security operatives.
- Brexit. Totally an inside job.
- The existence of the Illuminati, Free Masons, and Scientology.
- The rise of ISIS, despite insistence by tinfoil hat wearers.
Yossi, a self obsessed Israeli from Tel Aviv, expressed amazement. “Are you sure? Because I was certain that we had our mucky little paws into pretty much everything. You’re not telling me that we didn’t have at least some small role in Jackie Chan’s son getting busted or Fyre Festival?”
Guy Levy, Head of World Affairs Manipulation for the private office of the Prime Minister was adamant, “it’s true that there are one or two things going on in the world where we aren’t directly involved; there’s simply not enough hours in the day to ensure that absolutely everything is going in our favor.
During the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee’s conference, the Israeli delegation presented the projects that Israel is promoting for the benefit of all residents in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, with the aim of maintaining regional stability and promoting economic development.
Today (Wednesday, 5.3.17) concludes the first day of the bi-annual Ad Hoc Liaison Committee’s conference, with the participation of professional representatives from the US, EU, Norway, Netherlands, UK, Japan, the UN, the World Bank, the Quartet and others. Included in the Israeli delegation are Colonel Hatib Mansour, head of COGAT’s Civil Department, Yaffa ben Ari, Head of the Economic Affairs Division in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Shaul Cohen from the Finance Ministry. Col. Mansour presented the various projects that Israel is promoting in Judea and Samaria and toward the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, members of the Israeli delegation presented proposals on how the international community can contribute and assist in several of these important projects that will significantly improve the quality of life for Palestinians, as well as provide a boost to economic growth.
COGAT, along with its implementing bodies, the Civil Administration and the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration, are currently coordinating, organizing and assisting in a variety of civilian projects in the Gaza Strip and Judea and Samaria. These projects cover various fields, from electricity, water and sewage infrastructure, to Palestinian employment and improvement of the crossings, and ending with coordinating and preparing for different events. Ultimately, the COGAT’s objective is to promote the civilian interests of Palestinians in order to improve their quality of life, and thereby bring about stability and prosperity for the general public.
The conditions in Israeli prisons stand out as exceptionally good when contrasted to Hamas’ prisons in Gaza, where inmates are regularly executed without trial. Further, according to media reports, Hamas keeps secret prisons, where they hold and torture political opponents. The UN, Foreign Governments, the EU and International Human Rights Organizations have condemned on many occasions the executions by Hamas and have called for an end to the death penalty in the Gaza Strip.
The conditions in Israeli prisons stand out even when being compared to the poor conditions of the Palestinian Authority’s prisons. It was reported in the past years that many inmates are tortured in the PA’s prisons. Electric shocks, club beatings, psychological torture, sleep deprivation and even torturing prisoners wives are all part of the arsenal. In an interview with the Palestinian newspaper, a Hamas member who was an inmate in both Israeli and PA jails described the situation in Palestinian prisons as “brutal and barbaric, especially in comparison to Israel.”
Upon close examination, the facts are clear- the conditions in Israeli prisons are significantly better than conditions in prisons in the region and even than many Western countries. The Israeli Prison Services cares, protects the rights, and respects prisoners in Israeli jails. But, apparently, for those security prisoners on strike, it is not enough.
The Arab League on Thursday called on the United Nations to open an international inquiry into alleged “violations” against Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisoners, as some inmates enter the third week of a mass hunger strike.
The pan-Arab body “invites the United Nations and its relevant specialized agencies to send an international commission of inquiry to Israeli prisons,” representatives said in a resolution adopted Thursday.
The commission would “view the violations being committed against the prisoners of war,” and press international actors to compel Israel to abide by the Geneva Convention.
Palestinian officials say some 1,500 security prisoners are participating in the hunger strike that began on April 17, with detainees ingesting only water and salt in protest of their conditions.
It is unclear how many have been on strike for the full period as some of the original participants have since pulled out while others appeared to have joined.
The Palestinian Authority rewards convicted murderers
The Palestinian Authority uses some of the aid it receives to reward convicted murderers, instead of investing this aid in education and health. Peace can come only when the Palestinian Authority stops rewarding terrorists.
Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, made a surprise visit to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip during his 10-day visit to the Holy Land, his office said.
Welby on Thursday spent more than three hours in the beleaguered Islamist-dominated coastal strip, which has a small persecuted Christian community.
During the visit, his first to Gaza, Welby visited the St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital and the Al Ahli Arab Hospital, which is run by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. The archbishop led a prayer service in the hospital chapel.
Then, accompanied by Anglican bishop of Jerusalem, Suheil Dawani, he visited the World War I Commonwealth Gaza War Cemetery, where he laid a wreath.
A. lives in the northern Gaza Strip. I have known him for years — seventeen years, to be exact. I have visited his home in the Gaza Strip several times, met his children and his relatives, and I hardly ever go to the Gaza Strip without seeing him.
He has never expressed radical political views. On the contrary, he has always stayed in good spirits, always tried to hold on to his livelihood without getting into things that are none of his business. But in our last conversation this week, he sounded like something inside him has snapped.
“I have no food for my children,” A. said. “Believe me; you know that I don’t make things up. I have nothing to give them to eat. The situation here is so bad, I have no work, the children [the older ones] have no work. And I see nothing on the horizon. As far as I’m concerned, it would be better if a war started already. Maybe then people will notice Gaza and pay attention to us. We have no life here anymore. This is hell.”
These are the words of a desperate man who cannot support his family. But he’s not the only speaking like this. Over the past month, more and more Gazans have begun speaking in positive terms about war as a means to break the status quo and perhaps climb out of the abyss into which the Gaza Strip has sunk.
Gaza’s inhabitants — businessmen, government officials, journalists, people who identify with Fatah and with Hamas — reiterate that the next war with Israel is no longer an improbable scenario; indeed, that it is fast approaching.
The Strip’s Islamic terrorist rulers are not interested in a violent conflict at this stage; they are still restocking and boosting their rocket arsenals and reportedly digging fresh cross-border attack tunnels. But no one is ruling out the possibility of a descent into war, mainly due to the economic situation — in other words, a repeat of Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that “things will be painful” for political rival Hamas, referring to recent financial steps he has taken to pressure the Islamist rulers of the Gaza Strip, which Israel considers a terror group.
Abbas spoke in a meeting with Arab ambassadors late Thursday before leaving Washington where he had met with US President Donald Trump earlier in the week about resuming peace talks with Israel.
Hamas, which violently seized Gaza from Abbas in 2007, has dismissed his strategy of negotiations as a waste of time.
Abbas recently warned he would cut salaries, aid and subsidies to Gaza to force Hamas to cede ground. Earlier this week, his West Bank-based government announced it will stop paying for electricity Israel sends to power-starved Gaza.
Hamas responded that it would not bow to pressure from Abbas.
Lebanon-based terrorist outfit Hezbollah is in the middle of a financial crisis, recent intelligence assessments reveal. “Tehran’s vassal is on the verge of bankruptcy,” leading German newspaper Die Welt reported citing Western intelligence sources. Despite a steady flow of funding from Iran, the “Party of Allah,” as the terrorist group is called in Arabic, seems to have overstretched itself by venturing into the Syrian Civil War.
In 2011, Iran had ordered Hezbollah to march into Syria, extending its base of operation beyond Lebanon, to keep the Assad Regime in power. German newspaper Die Welt reports:
Although [Hezbollah] controls a third of Lebanon and acts like a state within a state, it is running out of fighters and money. The Hezbollah militia is stuck in a deep crisis that reaches up to its leadership circle.
Western intelligence see it as a sign that Hezbollah chief had his own chief of staff Mustafa Badreddine killed because he was causing trouble. Badreddine was responsible for the militia operation in Syria, where the Shia fighters hold the regime of Bashar al-Assad in power.
Badreddin was not the only victim of internal power struggle. Other Hezbollah officers too supposedly have lost their lives for criticising [the Hezbollah chief Hassan] Nasrallah. Meanwhile, the militia has reportedly created a death squad under the leadership of Nasrallah’s bodyguard Ibrahim Hussein Jezzini to ensure discipline in its own ranks, Arab media reports.
‘Die Welt’ has learned that killing of critics is only the first step: after the ‘martyrs’ are buried and crocodile tears have been spilled, the organisation confiscates the property of the members. For the militia that acts as Iran’s most important foreign policy asset — it’s all about money.
Astana (Kazakhstan) (AFP) – Russia, Iran and Turkey on Thursday signed an agreement on setting up four safe zones in Syria that the United Nations described as a promising step to wind down the brutal six-year war.
The United States however gave an extremely cautious welcome, citing concerns over Iran’s role as a guarantor, even as it expressed hope that the deal could set the stage for a settlement.
Several members of the rebel delegation left the room shouting in protest as the signing ceremony got underway in the Kazakh capital Astana, angry at regime ally Iran, an AFP reporter saw.
The plan for the “de-escalation areas” was discussed on Tuesday by US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin during a telephone conversation.
The agreement provides for a ceasefire, a ban on all flights, rapid deliveries of humanitarian aid to the designated areas and the return of refugees.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “encouraged” by the breakthrough. He stressed it will be “crucial to see this agreement actually improve the lives of Syrians.”
Over the past three years, Tehran has been exploiting the chaos in Iraq and Syria to expand its influence in the Levant, with an eye toward establishing at least one, and probably two, corridors under its control through which it can funnel weapons and troops. These corridors, writes Ehud Yaari, go from Iran, across both the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, through the Iraqi desert, into Syria and then to Lebanon, much of which is under the control of Hizballah, itself a proxy of the Islamic Republic. The endpoint is Israel’s northern border:
The ultimate purpose of the corridors . . . is to expand Iran’s reach into the Golan Heights, with the goal of tightening the noose around Israel. The Iranians publicly express their keen interest in opening up the Golan front to their proxies, and high-ranking Revolutionary Guard officers are engaged there now in the establishment of a new militia—the Golan Regiment—partly composed of Palestinians residing in Syria. Ahmed Jibril, the veteran leader of the Iranian-sponsored Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, has been advocating such a move in the Golan Heights, a call that has also been echoed at various times by the official Syrian media.
Such a tactic would extend the current frontline in Lebanon between Hizballah and Israel all the way down to the Yarmuk River, where the Syrian-Jordanian-Israeli borders meet. Leaders of some Iran-sponsored Iraqi militias . . . are already talking openly about their intention to move their forces to the Golan front. Israel has retaliated several times to attacks coming from that region, and one Iranian general was killed during those clashes.
Iran attempted to launch a cruise missile from a submarine in the Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday but the test failed, two U.S. officials told Fox News on Wednesday.
The missile launch was reportedly conducted by an Iranian Yono-class “midget” submarine conducted. North Korea and Iran are the only two countries in the world that operate this type of submarine, noted Fox News.
In February, Iran claimed to have successfully tested a submarine-launched missile. It was not immediately clear if Tuesday’s test was the first time Iran had attempted to launch a missile underwater from a submarine.
The incident is the latest in a series of provocations by Iran in the Strait of Hormuz.
In March, the U.S. aircraft carrier George H.W. Bush confronted two sets of Iranian Navy fast-attack boats that had approached a U.S.-led, five-vessel flotilla as it entered the Strait.
Earlier that month, Iranian military vessels had a close encounter with a U.S. surveillance ship in the Strait of Hormuz. The incident was described by American officials as an “unsafe” and “unprofessional” maneuver by the Iranians.
A bipartisan group of House members are pressing President Donald Trump to take concrete steps to secure the unconditional, safe return of several U.S. citizens and permanent residents imprisoned in Iran after the administration leveled sanctions last month on its prison system and officials who run it.
Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.), Ted Poe (R., Texas), Nita Lowey (D., N.Y.), and Ted Deutch (D., Fla.), this week introduced a bipartisan resolution calling on Trump to make the release of at least six U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents the “highest of priorities” and urging the U.S. and its allies who also have citizens detained in Iran to create a multi-national task force to secure their release.
Ros-Lehtinen blamed the Obama administration for giving Tehran an incentive to take more U.S. hostages with its $1.7 billion payment to Tehran last year, $400 million of which was paid in cash and timed to ensure the release of four U.S. hostages.
“The obvious result of paying a rogue regime a ransom for the return of hostages was that it would incentivize the taking of even more hostages,” Ros-Lehtinen said Thursday. “And that is precisely what happened when Iran was paid a $1.7 billion ransom for American hostages.”
Since the U.S. payments were made early last year, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps has taken hostage Siamak and Baquer Namazi, Karan Vafadari and at least one other American citizen whose family does not want him named, as well as permanent legal residents Nizar Zakka and Afarin Niasari. The Iranians have sentenced them on false espionage and other charges, according to their lawyers and families.
In recent months, Iran also has imprisoned several dual-nationals of other western nations, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Canada.
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