Foreign Ministry against UNRWA: ‘We’ll keep telling the truth’
Even as the winds of war seem to have temporarily subsided in Gaza, Israel’s Foreign Ministry and the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees continue to butt heads over the agency’s conduct during the most recent round of violence between Israel and Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza.
Tensions began when UNRWA’s Commissioner General Matthias Schmale on May 4, intimated on Twitter that Israeli airstrikes were hindering UNRWA sponsored events to “celebrate children and their sports and fun activities.”
“Surrealistic #Gaza day: went to 2 marvelous @UNRWA events to celebrate children & their sports and fun activities & then to honor sanitation laborers followed by good working lunch with colleagues; in parallel sounds of bombs all day & we seem yet again close to war. Madness!” Schmale tweeted.
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon, angry at Schmale’s one-sided depiction of events, responded to Schmale on Twitter: “The terrorists shooting the rockets are all probably @UNRWA graduates. You must be really proud of them.”
In response, Schmale emphasized he was against the firing of rockets at Israel.
“I unequivocally don’t support shooting rockets. And your unsubstantiated & defamatory claim is unworthy of a government spokesman. The children I meet in our schools all the time are no terrorists; they are peace-loving kids hungry to learn & to live a dignified life!”
This the the new generation of Palestinians raised in UNRWA schools. Dismantle UNRWA now! pic.twitter.com/qcilUmGAwi
— Pierre-REHOV (@PRehov) May 17, 2019
What Are Palestinian Children Reading in Their Textbooks?
The EU is investigating the problematic Palestinian textbooks that are being used to teach 1.3 million Palestinian children. CEO of the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education speaks, Marcus Sheff speaks with Nurit Ben and Calev Ben-David about the recent findings from this report.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon’s speech several weeks ago has taken on a new life on social media and YouTube as translations into different languages have propelled the “biblical speech” well beyond the walls of the United Nations building.
Wearing a kippah and reading from the Bible, Danon defended Israel’s right to the land of Israel.
Since then, translations into Spanish, Polish, French, Portuguese and Turkish have swept the internet. Last week, on Israel’s Independence Day, CNN brought Danon on to discuss the speech where he reiterated the Jewish state’s historical and moral claims to the country that many local Arab residents would like to see as Palestine.
A Palestinian media outlet published a lengthy editorial decrying the speech.
”From the book of Genesis; to the Jewish exodus from Egypt; to receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai; to the gates of Canaan; and to the realization of God’s covenant in the Holy Land of Israel; the Bible paints a consistent picture. The entire history of our people, and our connection to Eretz Yisrael, begins right here,” Danon stated at the UN Security council in New York.
He continued referencing the Balfour Declaration of 1971, the League of Nations mandate of 1922, and the United Nations charter of 1945 as all legitimizing Israel’s right to self-determination.
“The speech has resonated thanks to the strength of the truth. Its success has been welcome news as we conveyed to the world the strength of the eternal connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel,” Danon stated about the speech going viral.
Israel has been providing Washington with intelligence about potential Iranian attacks. But analysts and former Israeli military and intelligence officials say the Israeli government is not angling for a full-blown war between the U.S. and Iran. “Nobody thinks about regime change militarily, but to weaken the regime, to weaken the Iranian economy, and to make the people of Iran change the regime – this is, I think, the ultimate goal,” said Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence who runs the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. “Another very positive result is a better agreement.”
In meetings in Washington and Tel Aviv in the past few weeks, Israeli intelligence warned the U.S. that Iran or its proxies were planning to strike American targets in Iraq, a senior Middle Eastern intelligence official said. Israel also warned of Iranian attacks against American allies Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Israeli experts say Iran was behind the sabotage of four oil tankers off the port of Jubairah in the UAE and drone strikes on a Saudi oil pipeline. “The Iranians’ motto is, if you’re going to prohibit exporting our oil, and get our production and exports down to half a million barrels a day or less, which is an economic catastrophe for Iran, then we will interfere with the oil exports of other people,” said Ehud Yaari, an Israel-based fellow of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Former Israeli national security adviser Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror said of the two episodes, “They are testing the Americans, no question.” “If the Americans now act like nothing happened – ‘Iran didn’t spit on us, it’s only rain’ – it’s catastrophic, because it’s saying to the Iranians, ‘We won’t interfere.'”
Eighty years ago, an ominous and devastating policy was enacted by the British government that would bring severe destruction upon the Jewish people.
The MacDonald “White Paper”, named after the colonial Foreign Secretary Malcolm Macdonald, was proposed on May 17 and ratified on May 22, 1939. That week, British commitments to facilitate a Jewish state under the terms of the 1917 Balfour Declaration were essentially nullified. The White paper also denied Jews desperately seeking refuge as the Nazi threat emerged.
On November 9, 1938, the British Government announced its intention to invite representatives of the Arabs in Palestine and nearby countries to confer with Jewish representatives at a London conference to be held between Arabs and Zionists in search of a solution to the vast differences between them. From the start, the proposed meetings were a futile venture as the Arabs refused to even sit with the Jews. Separate meetings were held and they ended, predictably, with no resolution.
Under the Macdonald “White Paper”, the Peel Commission’s 1937 recommendation for the partition of the land was rejected. The Arabs had already rejected it. Jewish immigration would be restricted to 15,000 per year over the next five years, and land purchases by Zionists would be severely restricted. Any further immigration after the five years would be determined by the Arab majority (the Mandate was intended to be a trust held by Great Britain until Jews became the majority at which point they would be granted their homeland), which would essentially terminate the Zionist enterprise.
This move by the British came as the culmination of over twenty years of intermittent waves of Arab terror and at the end of three years of devastating Arab riots in British mandatory Palestine. The initially proposed borders of a Jewish State by the Balfour Declaration would then be incrementally downsized until there would be no Jewish State at all. The demands of the opponents of Zion were met.
In 2007, Israeli intelligence determined that Syria had built a clandestine nuclear reactor—clearly intended for developing nuclear weapons—in a remote desert region. As the cabinet and military brass debated what to do, it was becoming increasingly clear that the reactor was set to go “hot” imminently, thus making an attack much more dangerous. By the time then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered an airstrike, he had concluded that it had to take place immediately. Yaakov Katz, in a passage from his recent book on the subject, tells the story:
The night before [the decision was reached], on September 4, the air force had carried out its last training flight, this time dropping live bombs over an imaginary target in the Negev desert. After months of training, [during which they did not know the nature of the mission], the pilots were as ready as they would ever be. The IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi and the air-force general Eliezer Shkedi had been there to watch. Shkedi, who had flown with them on one of the earlier training sessions, now gathered the pilots in the squadron’s briefing room. “Your mission is to bomb a nuclear reactor in Syria,” he told the airmen who looked at one another in disbelief. “It is of utmost importance for the safety and security of the Jewish people and the state of Israel.”
Shkedi told the pilots that the operation had three objectives: destroy the reactor, return to Israel without losing any aircraft, and complete the mission as quietly as possible and without detection. The name the air force gave the operation said it all: Soft Melody. . . .
At around 10:30 p.m., four F-15s took off from the Hatzerim base in southern Israel and another four F-16s from the Ramon base in the Negev desert. Altogether, the planes were carrying around twenty tons of bombs, more than enough to destroy a building less than 2,000 meters square. Some of the bombs were equipped with satellite guidance systems. Each had a different level of penetration. This way, if one didn’t work, the others could compensate. . . .
On May 15, 2019, the Palestinians marked Nakba Day. As every year on this occasion, the Palestinian right of return dominated the discourse of both the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah. However, this year this discourse was doubly important, against the backdrop of the upcoming official announcement, expected in the next few weeks, of the details of the Trump administration’s “Deal of the Century.” According to leaks and assessments, the deal is not expected to include the right of return.
Senior PA and Fatah officials reiterated that there would be no concessions on this right, nor on any of the other Palestinian positions, and that they categorically reject the deal. Additionally, on its social media, Fatah posted messages and posters emphasizing adherence to the right of return and rejecting relinquishing it.
This report presents statements by senior PA and Fatah officials on the matter, and examples of relevant posts on Fatah’s Facebook page.
PA And Fatah: The Palestinian People Adheres To The Right Of Return, Opposes Deal Of The Century
In a communiqué, the PA Foreign Ministry stated that the commemoration of the 71st Nakba Day by the Palestinian people and its leadership conveys “its determination to torpedo the ‘deal of the century.’ [This day] will serve as a true platform for standing up to the despicable American measure and thwarting it… Our people’s commemoration provides solid proof of its insistence on its just and legitimate national rights – its right of return, self-determination, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the June 4, 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. This is further proof that there is no statute of limitation to Palestinian rights, as long as our people keeps the embers alive and remains steadfast on its homeland’s soil, behind its sagacious leadership, as personified by President Mahmoud ‘Abbas…”
At a Ramadan iftar (break-fast) meal at Qalandia refugee camp, PA Prime Minister Muhammad Ishtayeh stressed: “The camp will continue to be a symbol of steadfastness and of the sacred right of return.” He promised to “provide the [refugee] camp with all form of assistance to bolster the steadfastness of its residents, until they have returned to their land from which they were expelled.”
Fatah too released an announcement emphasizing that the Palestinian people “is [even] more determined to adhere to the legitimate national rights and principles, in conformity with international law and UN decisions, and first and foremost the right of return…” It underlined its opposition to the “deal of the century, the attempts to split the [Gaza] Strip from the West Bank, and the deplorable Trump declaration recognizing Jerusalem as the occupation state’s capital.”
To advance his goal, Ashraf Jabari recently announced the establishment of a new party that calls for focusing on economic prosperity for Palestinians. The Reform and Development Party seeks to solve the economic problems of the Palestinians, particularly high unemployment, he said. “We have an army of university graduates who are unemployed. We’ve reached a situation where a young [Palestinian] man holding a Master’s degree in law has to work as a street vendor because he can’t find work.”
Instead of giving Jabari a chance to carry out his initiative, Palestinians have waged a massive smear campaign against him, with many denouncing him as a “traitor” and “collaborator” with Israel and Jews. Some Palestinians have even gone as far as calling for his arrest or execution.
The upcoming peace plan, according to various reports, talks about giving the Palestinians billions of dollars and raising money for them from wealthy Arab countries. Yet, as Jabari’s case makes clear, the Palestinians are less invested in gaining economic stability than they are in hating Israel.
For Palestinians, the financial aid is a cynical attempt to lure them away from their struggle against Israel — and no Palestinian leader has the stomach to face the threats that Jabari is currently confronting. So, far from any “deal of the century,” the Palestinian leaders long ago struck a dirty deal of their own: they put their stock in Israel-hatred rather than in their own people.
The United States government is making progress in its efforts to help move forward its plan for a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, US President Donald Trump’s special envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt said Wednesday to Jewish leaders from more than 80 countries gathered at Global Affairs Canada in Ottawa, at the invitation of WJC President Ronald S. Lauder. The Jewish leaders were in Ottawa for the World Jewish Congress’ annual Governing Board meeting, a two-day conference hosted by the WJC’s Canadian affiliate, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, aimed at addressing the challenges facing the Jewish world, and to vote on a series of organizational policy decisions.
In his address, Greenblatt told the members of the WJC Governing Board: “We knew the challenges of reaching a peace agreement are extraordinary… We hope for a comprehensive agreement, and if that can’t be achieved, then positive steps forward that would be helpful for both Palestinians and Israelis in the region would be helpful as well.” US negotiators have been in contact with Palestinians, Israelis, and Europeans to this regard, Greenblatt said, adding that the earliest the administration would release its plan would be following the formation of the new Israeli government, and following the holidays of Ramadan and Shavuot. “We can’t make a deal, unless the two sides want to make a deal,” he said.
“I’d like to believe that the people of Israel and the government of Israel recognize that there’s been no greater friend to Israel than President Trump… Our plan will not compromise on Israel’s security, that the way it is. Israelis should look at it from the position that they have a tremendous friend in the White House… this plan is coming from a close friend,” Greenblatt said.
Honest Reporting: Unpacking Israel’s Law of Return
The Law of Return is an Israeli law giving any Jew the right to live in Israel and obtain Israeli citizenship. Unanimously passed into law by the Knesset in 1950, this law is based on the Zionist philosophy establishing Israel as a Jewish state.
Since Israel’s founding, Jews of all stripes have immigrated to Israel. The most common reasons include a feeling of belonging, strengthening Jewish identity, religious imperatives, joining family members already in Israel, fleeing tyranny, conflict, economic hardship or antisemitism, or a combination of those and other rationales.
Arab critics demanding a “right of return” for Palestinian refugees call the the Law of Return discriminatory. Some have even charged that Israel doesn’t want to resolve the related issue of “Who is a Jew” in order to bring more immigrants to counter-balance Palestinian demographics.
The issues require a closer look.
Honest Reporting: Why Are Palestinians Yearning for Tel Aviv?
Tel Aviv, however, was founded in 1909 as the first all-Jewish city in modern times. Since when did Palestinians have any connection to Tel Aviv?
The Arabic name for Tel Aviv used in the Reuters story is misleading. There was never an Arab town or village of Tal ar-Rabeea prior to 1948. That name is a literal translation of the Hebrew Tel Aviv, which itself means “hill of spring.” How did Arabic speaking Reuters journalist Nidal-al-Mughrabi not notice this discrepancy? In addition, Tel Aviv was not built on any Palestinian village – it was founded on sand dunes outside of Jaffa.
So either Palestinians themselves sitting on this blue bench are ignorant of the facts or they are not only interested in taking places that have some historical significance to them but also “returning” to places that were never theirs.
Either way, Reuters, by including Tel Aviv, allows its readers to falsely believe that Palestinians have some sort of claim on Israel’s second largest city, which is patently not the case.
Or has Reuters unwittingly uncovered a more sinister explanation for the beachfront benches – a Palestinian desire to take all of Israel.
Readers deserve a clarification from Reuters.
Palestinian ambassador to Moscow, Abdel Hafiz Nofal: Palestinian Authority prepared to discuss confederation with Jordan, but only after the establishment of a Palestinian state.
— Khaled Abu Toameh (@KhaledAbuToameh) May 17, 2019
The Democratic Party is at a crossroads. As it seeks to select the 2020 nominee — the candidate who will have the unique opportunity of unseating US President Donald Trump — its leaders and voters must make fundamental decisions about the party’s identity.
As the Democratic primary unfolds, the push-and-pull between the party’s more progressive and centrists wings will have reverberations on every issue under the sun, but on no foreign policy issue will those differences be more pronounced than on the debate over America’s approach toward Israel.
The high prominence of maverick House lawmakers who have been deeply critical of the Jewish state, including Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, alongside the polarizing Mideast policies of US President Donald Trump — foremost among them: moving the US embassy to Jerusalem and cutting aid to the Palestinians — means the “Israel issue” is likely to be litigated among Democrats in 2020.
And with the Trump administration set to unveil its highly anticipated peace proposal this summer, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — and the US role in trying to solve it — will be increasingly thrust into the spotlight. The first debates will take place June 26 and 27 in Miami, Florida, right around the time Jared Kushner has said he will release the Trump team’s plan.
Looking ahead to what will surely be an all-consuming campaign season, The Times of Israel has examined how the top Democratic candidates stack up on Israel.
According to recent polling, the leading five hopefuls are former vice president Joe Biden, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, California Senator Kamala Harris and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
Below is a primer on their histories and stated positions on American policy toward Israel and the Palestinians, along with those from a few of the many other candidates trying to break through the crowded field.
Most Democrats have not even heard of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, a new poll commissioned by the liberal Mideast advocacy group J Street found.
The survey, released Wednesday evening, found that 63.6 percent of Democratic respondents said they were unaware of the BDS movement that has stirred debate on college campuses over the last several years and which is starting to penetrate the halls of Congress.
Two freshmen House Democratic members — Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib — have expressed support for attempts to boycott Israel in support of the Palestinians. Both are the first two Muslim women elected to Congress.
Out of the other Democrats polled, 27.3% said they had heard “a little” about BDS, while 5.1% said they heard “a good amount” and 4% said they heard “a great deal” about it.
The new poll, which was conducted by the veteran Democratic pollster Jim Gerstein of GBA Strategies, comes ahead of the 2020 primary and with the BDS issue having recently been debated intensely in Congress, as lawmakers considered legislation to penalize supporters of the movement. It was conducted from May 1 to May 5, and surveyed 800 likely voters.
The new Islamophobia definition proposed by an all-party British parliamentary group could undermine police efforts in countering Islamic terrorism, the UK police warned.
The legal adoption of the term could hamper law enforcement officers from going after terrorists and those spreading jihadist propaganda, UK’s National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), a body representing country’s police chiefs, said.
The definition conflates hate-speech and legitimate criticism of Islam, according to the police body. “As it stands, this definition risks shutting down debate about any interpretation of the tenets of Islam which are at odds with our laws and customs, which in turn would place our police officers and members of the judicial system in an untenable position,” NPCC chief Martin Hewitt wrote in a letter addressed to Prime Minister Theresa May.
The definition empowers suspected jihadis and jeopardizes counter-terror operations. It “would potentially allow those investigated by police and the security services for promoting extremism, hate and terrorism to legally challenge any investigation and potentially undermine many elements of counter-terrorism powers and policies on the basis that they are “Islamophobic’,” head of UK counter-terror policing, Neil Basu, advised.
Among the muddled thinking behind the creation of the term “Islamophobia,” writes Husain, is a flawed parallel with anti-Semitism:
[While] anti-Semitism [is] based on untruths and . . . directed against a specific people, Islamophobia is about ideas, beliefs, and attitudes. [Furthermore], the Jewish population in Britain is around 280,000, while the Muslim population is around three million. Jews are not an evangelical or proselytizing community, while an increasingly visible number of Muslim activists in Britain are hell-bent on mass conversions to their brand of hardline Islam. To shield this phenomenon from scrutiny for fear of insult or consequence is to lose the battle of ideas before we even begin.
Anti-Semitism, [moreover], is based on outright fabrications that have haunted Europe for centuries: the historical specter of blood libels, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the lie of Jewish conspiracies. However, the “phobia” of Islam is based on real acts of violence that have been committed and justified in the name of the religion in opposition to the moderate Islam practiced by hundreds of millions around the globe. In 2015, nearly three- quarters of terrorist attacks were perpetrated by the global Islamist movements. . . .
A New Yorker was convicted Thursday of providing material support to Hezbollah by seeking targets in New York City for terrorist attacks.
A jury returned its verdict against Ali Kourani in a Manhattan federal court after a weeklong trial.
Kourani, 34, could face life in prison at a sentencing scheduled for September 27.
His lawyer, Alexei Schacht, said he’ll appeal the verdict on the grounds that statements his client made to the FBI were made involuntarily in response to false promises of confidentiality.
“Given the fact the judge allowed in the statements, we were not surprised at the verdict,” he said.
The man has been held without bail since his June 2017 arrest on charges he sought to support Hezbollah’s Islamic Jihad organization.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said that Kourani surveilled terrorism targets in New York City, including John F. Kennedy International Airport and law enforcement facilities that included the building that houses the FBI.
April was the first month in over a year that no Israelis were killed or wounded in attacks, the Shin Bet said in its latest monthly report.
The 126 attacks in April were also less than half the number in March, when the security agency recorded 308 attacks.
The previous month with no fatalities or injuries was December 2017.
Among the types of attacks included in the report were shootings, rocket fire from the Gaza Strip and the hurling of grenades, pipebombs, Molotov cocktails and other explosives. The figures were broken down by region into the West Bank, Jerusalem, Gaza Strip/Sinai Peninsula and inside the Green Line. The Shin Bet did not say which of the attacks were against civilians or soldiers.
Illustrative: Rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel on March 25, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)
The biggest change in April compared to March was in the number of attacks in the Gaza area. In March, Palestinian terrorists fired hundreds of rockets at Israel during a round of fighting between the sides in the run up to the one-year anniversary of the “March of Return” border protests on March 31.
The Shin Bet specified the number of rocket and mortar attacks it recorded referred to the number of launches, not how many projectiles in total were fired toward Israel.
US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt has tweeted that the Palestinian Authority would be able to better finance medical care for its people if it stopped funding terrorists.
“The PA incurred bills @ the hospital & assumed someone else would pay. We want those patients to receive the best care -the PA could easily pay its own bills to the hospital by ending incentive payments to terrorists/their families & use the $ to care for their ppl,” the US envoy tweeted overnight Thursday.
Greenblatt was responding to a tweet by Channel 13 reporter Barak Ravid, who asked Greenblatt, “Why did the US stop funding Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem that are the only place in Palestine that can give treatment to cancer patients?”
The Jerusalem Post reported in February, that according to numbers released by the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories Unit (COGAT), more than 20,000 permits were granted to Palestinians living in West Bank to enter Israel and receive treatment or support a patient who was receiving treatment in the Jewish state in 2018.
That number was up by nearly 3,000 from the year before.
Thank you Miss Iraq 2017 @RealSarahIdan for speaking the truth that Hamas is a terrorist organization. It’s vital we educate & remind ppl about Hamas & Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s brutality that hurts not only Israelis but also Palestinians and the region. Time to speak up folks! https://t.co/n4Mts0Oz7f
— Jason D. Greenblatt (@jdgreenblatt45) May 16, 2019
Roughly 92,000 Palestinian worshipers attended Ramadan prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Maariv reported on Friday.
Hundreds of police officers were working on Friday to maintain public order, direct traffic and ensure safety, a police spokesperson press release reported.
Israeli security officers arranged shuttle services to allow worshipers easy access to the Muslim holy site and handed Palestinians greeting cards wishing them a happy Ramadan.
The weekly border protest at the Gaza border was cancelled on Friday due to soaring temperatures and the Ramadan fast, the protest organizing committee announced.
Protest organizers said a large demonstration had already been held on Wednesday to mark Nakba Day, which commemorates the displacement of Palestinians from their homes following the creation of the State of Israel on May 15, 1948.
“Today there are no activities in the ‘return camps’ in the east of the Gaza Strip, due to the high temperature and to provide a break to citizens, who held a large protest two days ago,” the organizing committee said in a statement.
Retired defense official Amos Gilad told Army Radio that the Hamas terror group made the decision so the situation would remain calm while the Eurovision song contest takes place in Tel Aviv.
Police said that security preparations were completed in Jerusalem for prayers on the second Friday of the holy month of Ramadan. Tens of thousands were expected to attend prayers in the city.
Sex on demand “at any time” is a husband’s right – this is what Palestinians were taught in the official PA daily’s religious ruling section yesterday. Moreover, a husband’s “right” to “enjoy his wife” sexually “at all times” supersedes the woman’s right to accept upon herself a religious fast:
“A woman must ask permission from her husband to fast, because the husband has the right to enjoy his wife [sexually] at any time, and it is obligatory [for his wife] to fulfill his right immediately.”
[Dar Al-Ifta, an official PA institution issuing Fatwas (religious rulings), Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, May 15, 2019]
In Islam fasting includes abstaining from sexual relations. Accordingly, the wife’s fasting would prevent her from fulfilling her obligation to satisfy her husband’s “right” for sex “immediately,” should he demand it.
The following is the question-and-answer as it appeared in the official PA daily in the special Fatwa (religious rulings) section for the month of Ramadan:
As tightening American sanctions take an ever-greater toll on the Islamic Republic’s economy, its leaders are beginning to consider a diplomatic way out—even as they continue to employ military options. Ray Takeyh writes:
For now, the Islamic Republic has settled on a policy of calibrated terrorism. This has been one of the more ingenious innovations of the theocratic state, which engages in acts of terror where its complicity is clear but difficult to prove. It is unlikely that the Revolutionary Guards’ creaky speedboats will confront the U.S. armada in the Persian Gulf any more than they will directly attack U.S. troops in the region. But Iran will gradually escalate pressure by relying on its many proxies to target U.S. [allies], particularly the Saudis. Oil installations, diplomatic compounds, and trade routes are likely to be menaced by Iran’s Arab agents.
This will not be a systematic campaign of terrorism but a selective use of violence over a prolonged period. This policy is not without its risks, but it does have the advantage of putting pressure on the United States without risking retaliation. . . .
The subtle debate in Tehran today revolves around whether it is time to take up President Trump’s offer of talks. [President Hassan] Rouhani and his cagey foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have long been intrigued by the possibility of negotiating with Trump. The two led the Iran talks with the Europeans in 2005, as well as the more consequential negotiations in 2015 that yielded a nuclear accord that satisfied Tehran’s needs. The lesson that they have drawn from those experiences is that Iran seldom loses at diplomacy. . . .
Israel’s acquisition in early 2018 of a significant portion of Iran’s nuclear archive, which details an effort to build five nuclear weapons and prepare an underground nuclear test site in the early 2000s, has revealed an unpleasant truth: Iran has been in violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the 2015 nuclear deal, and other non-proliferation commitments. Instead of demanding a nuclear standard for Iran that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has applied to other countries, however, many are turning a blind eye to Tehran’s dangerous transgressions.
The seized archive shows a robust program in the early 2000s to build nuclear weapons. Under intense international pressure in 2003, Iran downsized it, but the archive shows that instead of ending it, Iran reoriented its nuclear weapons program to survive as a smaller, more camouflaged one.
This archive clearly is designed to be used to preserve and reconstitute a path to an atomic arsenal. The documents show that Iran’s atomic ambitions were much further along than previously known. Most worrisome, breakout time for a missile-deliverable nuclear warhead was much shorter than U.S. officials thought likely.
Whatever the opposite of a rush to war is—a crawl to peace, maybe—America is in the middle of one. Since May 5, when John Bolton announced the accelerated deployment of the Abraham Lincoln carrier group to the Persian Gulf in response to intelligence of a possible Iranian attack, the press has been aflame with calls for America to show restraint, pursue diplomacy, and rein in the madman with the mustache before he starts a war.
Never mind that President Trump, Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, Patrick Shanahan, and Bolton have not said a single word about a preemptive strike, much less a full-scale war, against Iran. Never mind that the president’s reluctance for overseas intervention is well known. The antiwar cries are not about context, and they are certainly not about deterring Iran. Their goal is saving President Obama’s nuclear deal by manipulating Trump into firing Bolton and extending a lifeline to the regime.
It’s a storyline that originated in Iran. Toward the end of April, Zarif showed up in New York and gave an interview to Reuters where he said, “I don’t think [Trump] wants war,” but “that doesn’t exclude him basically being lured into one” by Bolton. On May 14, an adviser to Rouhani tweeted at Trump, “You wanted a better deal with Iran. Looks like you are going to get a war instead. That’s what happens when you listen to the mustache. Good luck in 2020!”
And now this regime talking point is everywhere. “It’s John Bolton’s world. Trump is just living in it,” write two former Obama officials in the Los Angeles Times. “John Bolton is Donald Trump’s war whisperer,” writes Peter Bergen on CNN.com. “Trump’s potential war with Iran is all John Bolton’s doing. But it might also be his undoing,” says the pro-Iran Trita Parsi on NBCNews.com. “Is Trump Yet Another U.S. President Provoking a War?” asks Robin Wright of the New Yorker. Guess her answer.
Britain agrees with the United States that Iran poses a heightened threat and will work closely with its ally, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Thursday.
Hunt said he had discussed Iran with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week in London, and again in Brussels on Monday.
“We share the same assessment of the heightened threat posed by Iran,” Hunt said on Twitter. “As always we work closely with the USA.”
Earlier this week, Britain’s Defense Ministry backed a British general who appeared to question the Trump administration’s claims that an imminent threat had emerged from Iran.
The US military has sent forces, including an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers, to the Middle East in a move that US officials said was made to counter “clear indications” of threats from Iran to American forces in the region.
In a speech delivered on May 9, Sheikh Akram al-Kaabi, secretary-general of the Hezbollah Nujaba movement in Iraq, delivered a series of threats against Israel. Hezbollah Nujaba is an Iran-supported Shia militia. It is affiliated with the Popular Mobilization Forces, or Hashd al-Shaabi, which is a gathering of mainly Shia, mainly pro-Iran military groups. Kaabi’s speech is by itself of only passing interest. But it is an indication of the growing involvement of Tehran’s Iraqi servants in Iran’s preparations for conflict with Israel – and not only on the verbal level.
In his speech, Kaabi accused Israel of supporting “takfiri” organizations – the Shia militias’ and Iran’s preferred term for Sunni groups such as Islamic State. The “takfiri” groups, Kaabi said, wage a “proxy war” on behalf of the “Zionist entity,” so that it may “enjoy peace, while its proxies are killing the Muslims.” The Shia militia leader pledged that after the “takfiri” groups are defeated, the goal of his organization will be to “completely end [the Zionist entity’s] existence and restore the land to its rightful owners.”
This is not the first time that Kaabi has expressed himself in this manner. On February 13, 2018, the Nujaba leader visited Beirut and pledged that his movement would “stand with the axis of resistance” in a future conflict with Israel. On March 8, 2017, Kaabi announced the formation of the “Golan Liberation Brigade,” intended to take part in a future war against Israel on the Golan.
From one point of view, Kaabi’s words might seem somewhat pretentious – coming as they do from the leader of a force of around 9,000 lightly armed militiamen. It is indeed unlikely that his threats will cause the commanders of the IDF’s 210th Bashan Division on the Golan Heights any sleepless nights just yet.
Despite Qatar’s gross human rights abuses, nation after nation lined up today at the UN Human Rights Council to laud the government’s track record on human rights, as the country underwent a mandatory review that all UN member states undergo every five years. Qatar itself is a member of the Council. (See quotes below.)
According to a count by UN Watch, 91 out of 104 countries that took the floor this morning at the UNHRC praised Qatar for its human rights record.
An additional 6 countries expressed some praise for Qatar’s alleged progress, in addition to applying genuine scrutiny. If one includes these statements, then 97 out of 104 countries, or 93%, expressed praise for the country.
While the UNHRC’s mandatory review exercise is meant to scrutinize all nations every five years in order to improve the lives of victims, the vast majority of countries who spoke in today’s UNHRC peer review exercise ignored Qatar’s severe restrictions on free and fair elections, forced labor, and criminalization of homosexuality.
Instead, many lauded Qatar’s alleged “progress” in the field of women’s rights, even though it is one of the worst countries in the world for women—ranking 127 out of 149 countries for gender equality by the World Economic Forum.
However, a minority of countries—including Britain, Australia, Norway, Denmark, and Germany—rightly expressed concern for women’s and workers’ rights in the country.
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