August 8, 2020

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07/08 Links Pt1: Zionism Is Not a Colonial Movement; UN adopts PA lie that Arafat renounced violence; UN encourages PA unity with terrorists

From Ian:

Zionism Is Not a Colonial Movement
Bareli explains that the Jewish acceptance of the political partition of British Mandate Palestine demonstrates that they rejected both “exploitation” and “dispossession” of Palestinian Arabs. He notes: “Twice, in 1937 and in 1947, Jews agreed in principle to proposals of a political partition into two states; in 1946-47 they even made substantial diplomatic efforts on behalf of partition — that is, on behalf of living side by side, not one on top of the other (exploitation), and not one in place of the other (dispossession).”

However, because the Arabs rejected these offers and attempted to expel the Jews from the land, a war broke out. Bareli further explains what really happened in 1947 and 1948: “The war broke out because the Palestinian Arabs rejected the principle of living side by side, even though it had been endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly, and sought to expel the Jewish immigrants from the country. When the Arabs’ attempts to expel them were frustrated, at the end of the war the Jews were no longer willing to return to the demographic and geographic conditions that had exposed them to mortal peril in late 1947.”

Those anti-Israel activists associated with the Black Lives Matter movement and other far-left dogmatists fail to understand and explain the causes of the return of the Jewish people to their ancient land; the development by the Jewish people of a modern national movement; and the Jewish emigration, investment, and settlement in Israel. And the reason for this failure is, as Bareli notes, because the goal of the “Colonialist School” attempting to call Israel “a colonialist entity” is not an understanding of the historical processes, but a puritanical judgment that frustrates such understanding.

Referring to Zionism as a “colonialist” movement and Israel as a “settler-colonialist” entity by failing to understand the causes and roots of Zionism has become a misleading but quite popular trend in the West.

Zionists and Jewish citizens of Israel are not colonists, and this has nothing to do with their skin color. It has everything to do with the causes, roots, and historical processes of Zionism. However, those who hold the false view that Zionism is colonialist do not entertain even the slightest interest in understanding the basics of Zionism.

Ruthie Blum: Pandemic politics in America and Israel

Nothing better illustrates Thomas Mann’s famous statement that “everything is politics” than the response of opposing ideological camps to the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

This makes sense. The global COVID-19 crisis affects two fundamental aspects of the human condition. Yes, health and finances affect us all and are a source of obsession for many. It is no wonder then that the first fights surrounding the spread of the highly contagious disease – a novel strain of an existing virus – centered on its point of origin.

Indeed, no sooner had the world begun to grasp that the microbe – initially pooh-poohed by skeptics as merely another type of flu – was stumping doctors and epidemiologists alike, than the battle about blaming China entered the debate. The question of whether it came from bats sold in wet markets or was manufactured in the laboratories of Beijing seemed to override discussions of symptoms and cures.

Another related topic of heated conversation focused on the legitimacy of closing borders to prevent carriers from country-hopping.

Then came the disagreement over the efficacy of lockdowns where containing the virus was concerned, with some leaders opposing them not only for economic reasons, but out of a belief that closures would hinder the creation of herd immunity. When British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who had been one such head of state, not only contracted the virus but nearly died from it, he changed course and imposed stricter measures on the United Kingdom.

Sweden, which boasted a “keeping everything open” policy – and letting the elderly quarantine themselves if they wanted to – ended up with the highest death rate in Europe and little herd immunity to speak of.

Early on, Israel barred incoming tourism, forced most of the populace to barricade itself indoors, recommended avoiding physical contact between family members not sharing a residence, and even prohibited people from straying more than 100 meters (328 feet) from their homes. It wound up flattening the curve in May, when it reopened most of the economy. Today, with a surge in COVID-19-related morbidity, the powers-that-be in Jerusalem are backtracking by re-shuttering establishments that lend themselves to overcrowding.

None of the above has served to settle the dispute that continues to rage in parliaments, Cabinets and Congress, or among pundits on the op-ed pages of newspapers and experts presenting contradictory data over the airwaves. If anything, the cacophony proves that conclusions will not be reached until the plague passes or after a vaccine is approved, whichever comes first. Or both together, perhaps.

Annexation can still happen in July, US source tells ‘Post’

The White House peace team is expected to further discuss how to implement its Middle East vision on Wednesday, a person familiar with the discussions told The Jerusalem Post.

Sovereignty moves, in accordance with US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, are “still possible” this month, the source said. The peace team, led by Special Adviser to the US President Jared Kushner, plans to have a series of discussions following a visit to Israel last week by Special Representative for International Negotiations Avi Berkowitz and National Security Council Member Scott Leith, at the end of which Trump is expected to weigh in.

Recent discussions between officials in both countries have been mostly focused on ways to cooperate in fighting COVID-19 – with both countries showing a sharp increase in cases in recent weeks – and not sovereignty, another Trump administration source said Tuesday.

Last week, Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz said several times any sovereignty moves must wait until Israel is done handling the pandemic and related economic crisis. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed Gantz’s statements, saying the Blue and White Party is not relevant to his decisions on the matter.

Neither mentioned sovereignty in their statements to their Knesset factions on Monday.

The Trump administration’s “Vision for Peace” would allow Israel to apply sovereignty to 30% of the West Bank, including all settlements and the Jordan Valley. The rest of the West Bank would be designated for a demilitarized Palestinian state, if the Palestinian Authority meets certain conditions, such as stopping incitement to terrorism and granting civil rights.

The coalition agreement between Likud and Blue and White said Netanyahu could bring extending sovereignty to a vote in the cabinet or Knesset as early as July 1. He did neither, only saying discussions on the matter were continuing.

Netanyahu has yet to divulge whether he plans to extend Israeli law to the full 30% the Trump plan offers or less. Gantz is thought to prefer a move that would only include major settlement blocs.

Abbas says ready to resume peace talks with Israel

The Palestinians are prepared to return to the negotiating table with Israel under the auspices of the Quartet, which comprises the US, EU, UN and Russia, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday.

Abbas told Russian President Vladimir Putin during a phone conversation that the Palestinians want the proposed negotiations to be based on “international legitimacy” and with the participation of other countries, according to a statement released by the PA’s official news agency Wafa.

“Abbas briefed Putin in the latest political developments, particularly regarding Israel’s annexation plan, which is rejected by the Palestinians, the Arabs and the international community,” the agency said.

Abbas, the agency said, expressed appreciation for Russia’s rejection of the Israeli plan to apply its sovereignty to parts of the West Bank “by force and its support for the Palestinians’ right to independence and freedom.”

He also briefed the Russian president on Palestinian efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic and congratulated him on the results of the recent vote on Constitutional amendments, which included extending presidential term limits.

Putin, for his part, voiced his country’s support for the two-state solution and stressed the importance of reviving the peace process on the basis of international resolutions and under the sponsorship of the Quartet, the PA agency said.

MEMRI: Palestinian Authority: The Palestinian Refugees’ Right Of Return Will Never Be Canceled; No To Trump’s Plan, Which Revokes It

The return of the Palestinian refugees to their original places of residence, including to localities inside Israel, is a central demand of the Palestinians, who regard it as a principle that cannot be relinquished in any negotiation toward a permanent solution with Israel.[1] They regard UN General Assembly Resolution 194, adopted in December 1948, and especially Article 11 of this resolution, as the basis for this demand.[2] Israel and the Palestinians disagree on the legal interpretation of this resolution, as well as on the number of refugees displaced by the 1948 War and on the status of their descendants who have settled, and in some cases become naturalized, in other countries.

The “Peace to Prosperity” initiative published by the Trump administration on January 28, 2020, known as the Deal of the Century, states that “[t]here shall be no right of return by, or absorption of, any Palestinian refugee into the State of Israel,” nor does it recognize the Palestinian criteria for determining refugee status. It states that “individuals who have already resettled in a permanent location” will not be regarded as refugees and will not be eligible for resettlement. However, the plan does envision the economic rehabilitation of refugees by means of large funds and by resettling them in alternative locations.

Upon the plan’s publication, and even prior to its publication, the Palestinian Authority (PA), headed by Mahmoud ‘Abbas, the PLO and the rest of the Palestinian factions rejected it out of hand, stressing that it cancels the refugees’ right to return to their homeland and to their homes inside Israel, a right that is recognized by UN resolutions and by international law. PA officials, chief of them Palestinian President Mahmoud ‘Abbas, claimed that the U.S. initiative was part of the conspiracies against the Palestinian people going back to the Balfour Declaration. They stressed that the right of return is a sacred individual right and passes down from generation to generation, and that any political solution that does not guarantee it is unacceptable and unfeasible.

Recently, ahead of Nakba Day, marked each year on May 15, the Palestinian media dealt extensively with the right of return. Many articles were published recounting refugees’ stories[3] and underscoring the Palestinian commitment to this right. Fatah’s official Facebook page posted many cartoons and images as well as content stressing this commitment and presenting maps of Palestine from the river to the sea that negate Israel’s existence.

It should be mentioned that the discourse on the refugee issue and the right of return also increased recently due to the statements heard in Israel regarding the government’s intention to apply Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and parts of the West Bank as part of the Deal of the Century, which provoked fury in the PA. Palestinian President Mahmoud ‘Abbas announced on May 19, 2020 that, in light of this Israeli intention, the PLO and the state of Palestine are no longer committed to the agreements and understandings with Israel and the U.S., including in the sphere of security. He reiterated that the PA is committed to UN Resolution 194 on the refugee issue and that the Palestinians will adhere to their goals until they achieve independence and realize the right of return.[4]

This report reviews the current discourse in the PA on the refugee issue and the right of return.

PMW: When the UN adopted Palestinian lies, myths, and homicidal terror against Israel

A speech given by United Nation’s Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO), Nickolay Mladenov, epitomizes the destructive function of the UN in the Israel – Palestinian conflict.

Speaking at a Fatah-organized rally in Jericho before an audience of both Palestinians and international representatives, Mladenov, in the name of the UN, adopted blatant Palestinian lies to the international community about Yasser Arafat renouncing violence, pandered to the myth of Palestinian “democracy”, and called for Palestinian unity that would include representatives of the internationally recognized terror organization Hamas and others.

Adopting Palestinian lies

In his speech, Mladenov hailed the former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat (Abu Ammar) as a Palestinian leader who rejected violence:

“Abu Ammar … had the strength to renounce violence.”

[Official PA TV Live, June 22, 2020]

While the naïve UN may try to rewrite Arafat’s history – perhaps fooled by the fact that Arafat received the Nobel Peace Prize – the facts will forever remain. Arafat only pretended to embrace peace and renounce terrorism. In reality, he continued to use terror and violence to forward his goals.

Multiple sources confirm that it was Arafat who planned, initiated, and commanded the Palestinian terror campaign that started in September 2000., The campaign raged for over four years, and saw Palestinian terrorists, following Arafat’s direction, carrying out thousands of terror attacks during which over 1,000 Israelis were murdered and thousands more were injured.

Arafat’s wife, Suha, made this clear in an interview on PA TV saying that Arafat ordered her to leave the PA areas “because he had already decided to carry out an Intifada.” [Official PA TV, Nov 12, 2011]

In a program about Arafat on official PA TV, Nabil Shaath, member of Fatah Central Committee, explained that Arafat “saw that repeating the first Intifada in new forms, would bring the necessary popular, international, and Arab pressure upon Israel.” [Official PA TV, Nov 13, 2011]

Haaretz – Hamas Rejects Armed Conflict, Recognizes Israel

Last weekend, Haaretz reported extensively on the joint Fatah-Hamas press conference in which Israeli Member of Knesset Ayman Odeh of the Arab Joint List also participated (“‘A New Phase’: Palestinian Factions Present United Front Against Israel’s Annexation Plan,” July 2).

A subsequent news analysis by Jack Khoury, who also wrote the initial report, contained an ostensibly major scoop. According to Khoury, Hamas significantly changed its attitude to the conflict with Israel, and no longer rejects the two-state solution. Khoury wrote (“Palestinians Have Heard Enough Empty Talk of Unity,” July 3):
Jibril Rajoub, Fatah Central Committee’s secretary general, and Salah al-Aruri, head of the Hamas political bureau, may have used slightly different terminology in their remarks, but their message was similar: Annexation for them would eliminate any diplomatic option for an agreement with Israel.

From left: Saleh Al-Arouri and Jibril Rajoub at the joint press conference

According to Khoury, Hamas not only accepts the idea of an agreement with Israel, but also believes it should be achieved peacefully and nonviolently. He added:
Over the past decade, the sides [Fatah and Hamas] have pledged to establish a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders [and] to wage a nonviolent popular struggle…

Khoury then cited the Arab peace initiative:
Plans for renewed nonviolent activity with the goal of establishing a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, on the basis of the 2002 Arab peace initiative, have existed for years. Such activity would include women and children blocking roads in the West Bank or a peaceful march toward a military base.

Did Hamas really take a sharp turn in the last decade, forsaking its long-held commitment to liberate Palestine in its entirety, from the river to the sea, with blood and fire?

The answer is unequivocally no.

UN Watch: Why is the U.N. Expert on Leprosy Condemning Israel & America?

UN Watch’s Hillel Neuer asks Alice Cruz, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on fighting discrimination against people with leprosy, why she issued a statement on the U.S. Middle East peace plan condemning Israel & the U.S. — a matter entirely unrelated to her mandate. Cruz did not respond


US Withdrawal From WHO Over Claims of China Influence to Take Effect July 2021: UN

The United States will leave the World Health Organization (WHO) on July 6, 2021, the United Nations said on Tuesday, after receiving notification of the decision by President Donald Trump, who has accused the agency of becoming a puppet for China during the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump, who announced the decision over a month ago, has to give one-year notice of the US withdrawal from the Geneva-based body and pay all Washington’s dues under a 1948 joint resolution of the US Congress. The United States currently owes the WHO more than $200 million in assessed contributions, according to the WHO website.

After more than 70 years of membership, the United States moved to quit the WHO amid escalating tensions with China over the coronavirus pandemic. The virus first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

The WHO has denied assertions by Trump that it promoted Chinese “disinformation” about the virus.

US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi described Trump’s official withdrawal as “an act of true senselessness as WHO coordinates the global fight against COVID-19.”

“With millions of lives at risk, the President is crippling the international effort to defeat the virus,” the Democratic leader posted on Twitter.

So far there have been nearly 12 million cases of the coronavirus and more than 540,000 known deaths worldwide, according to a Reuters tally, with about 25 percent of both cases and deaths in the United States.

Trump’s decision could be overturned before it takes effect if he is defeated by his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, in a November election.

Trump had halted funding for the 194-member organization in April, then in a May 18 letter gave the WHO 30 days to commit to reforms. He announced the United States would quit less than two weeks later.

Canadian MP running for PM pledges to move embassy to Jerusalem

Canadian MP Erin O’Toole made a pledge that if he were to become the next prime minister of the Great White North, that he intends to move the Canadian Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

He noted that doing so is in line with proper Canadian values, adding that he will stand up for Canada’s allies – to which he specifically mentioned Israel.

“I’m a proud Conservative and firmly believe in a principled approach to foreign policy – one that builds on our values and interests as a country,” O’Toole said in a video posted to his official Facebook page. “This approach has made me a resolute and strong friend to Israel.”

He continued by noting that during former conservative prime minister of Canada Stephen Harper’s tenure in office, Canada was known to be a staunch supporter of the Jewish state and “trustworthy friend” to Israel.

“Sadly, under Justin Trudeau, that strong support has weakened and wavered,” he added. “We need a principled Conservative leader who will once again ensure Canada stands with our friends and allies like Israel.”

O’Toole drafted a portion of the Conservative Party position under the notion that Canada will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Times of London: Britain ‘Recognises Tel Aviv as Israel’s Capital’

UPDATE: The Times has now corrected the article, read on for details.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the hottest of topics within the Arab-Israeli conflict. Israelis are adamant that they have the sovereign right to determine their capital like any other country, but with Palestinians claiming the land as their own, much of the international community refuses to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – at least until a lasting peace agreement is signed.

And so, in the middle of an otherwise perfectly innocuous piece by Richard Spencer in the Times of London on July 4 about the American ambassadorial residence being put up for sale, one sentence caught our attention: “The embassy move was opposed by Palestinians and even US allies such as Britian, who recognise Tel Aviv as the capital, in line with UN resolutions, leaving Jerusalem’s future to be decided by peace negotiations.”

There are two significant factual problems with this sentence:
Britain does not recognize Tel Aviv as the capital of Israel. In fact, it has never recognized Tel Aviv as the capital.
No UN resolution has ever determined that Tel Aviv is, or should be, the capital of Israel.

In reality, numerous countries, Britain included, do not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. That, however, is markedly different from actively designating another city as Israel’s capital. Capitals are chosen by sovereign states, not by meddling outsiders. Britain has no more of a right to select Tel Aviv as capital of Israel than Israel has a right to designate Wolverhampton the capital of the United Kingdom.

Bar-Ilan University appoints first Arab female full professor

Bar-Ilan University has appointed Prof. Elinor Saiegh-Haddad as their first Arab female full professor.

Saiegh-Haddad boasts a stellar resume as a former department chairwoman, distinguished scholar and experienced lecturer, and has become one of the very few Arab women to hold this position at Israeli universities. In addition, she also serves as a senior adviser to various organizations in Israel and around the world, such as UNESCO, the chief scientist in the Education Ministry, the National Authority for Measurement and Evaluation and the Center for Educational Technology. She is a member of the Arabic Language Academy, is the head of a number of committees and proceedings to develop curricula and to enable teachers to identify children with reading difficulties and to implement appropriate intervention, is on the editorial board of a number of international journals and is a mentor to graduate students at universities abroad.

Working in Bar-Ilan’s Department of English Literature and Linguistics, Saiegh-Haddad’s work specializes in developmental psycholinguistics and language acquisition, especially on the impact linguistic distance of speech and print languages has on literacy acquisition.

Much of her work has sought to answer specific questions, such as understanding the scope of language disparity between Standard Arabic and its many spoken dialects when seen through a developmental psycholinguistic lens, and how this affects a child’s language and reading acquisition. It is topics such as this, as well as studying dyslexia and developmental language disorder in Arabic-speaking children, that particularly engage Saiegh-Haddad.

Indeed, Saiegh-Haddad was actually the first scholar to attempt to quantify the linguistic difference between spoken and standard Arabic in children’s vocabulary. This groundbreaking research is important for teaching the Arabic language as well as in attempting to diagnose reading and developmental language impairments in children, and has paved the way for further research on the subject.

MEMRI: Palestinian Authority Presidential Advisor Nabil Shaath: Third Intifada Is Coming And Our Arab Brothers Will Support Us Financially Again; Trump Was My Student – He Is Unpredictable

Nabil Shaath, an advisor to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said in a July 3, 2020 interview on France 24 TV that a third Intifada may take place because the Palestinians have the right to confront Israel. He said that King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia had pledged $1 billion to support the Second Intifada when it took place, and that today, the Arabs and the whole world would stand by the Palestinians if things continue as they have been. He added that Europe will not tolerate an Israeli annexation of the West Bank. Shaath, who claims to have been U.S. President Donald Trump’s professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, said that President Trump had been a poor student and that he is unpredictable, specifically with regard to the issue of Israeli annexation of parts of the West Bank. In addition, Shaath said that Yasser Arafat had been “martyred” by Israeli poison because of his position and that the U.S. will cease to be the leader of the world within five years.

Saudi King Abdullah ‘Pledged $1 Billion To Support The [Second] Intifada… Our Brothers Will Stand By Our Side… The World Will Stand By Our Side”

Interviewer: “Is there a possibility of a third Intifada?”
Nabil Shaath: “Absolutely. We have the right to confront them on the ground everywhere.
“I will never forget that one day after [Ariel] Sharon entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and the outbreak of the [Second] Intifada, [Saudi] King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz sent his plane to me, to Amman, and I flew to Riyadh, where he pledged $1 billion to support the Intifada. The offer came from him. If this continues and if the economic siege on us continues, our brothers will stand by our side and the world will stand by our side by imposing sanctions on Israel. Israel murders the peace process and international law.
‘The Idea That A Country Can Occupy Land, Plunder It, And Then Legally Annex It Is Entirely Unacceptable In Europe’

“Europe cannot tolerate the word ‘annexation.’ This word frightens Europe, because if we return to annexations that rearrange all the borders in the world… I would like to remind you that all of Europe was once part of the Roman Empire. If the Zionist principle is applied to Europe, Italy will have the right to regain Europe in its entirety. I’m kidding. I don’t think this will happen, but the idea that a country can occupy land, plunder it, and then legally annex it is entirely unacceptable in Europe.”

PreOccupiedTerritory: COVID Guidelines Almost As Coherent As Case For Palestinian Statehood (satire)

Ministry of Health pronouncements governing public behavior during the current second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in Israel have nearly the same level of consistency, clarity, and persuasive power as any argument for a sovereign, independent, Arab Palestine, a new study has found.

Researchers examining the comparative compelling elements of the case for Palestinian statehood and the public health guidelines, such as they are, for managing the newest cycle of COVID-19 infections have found that both bodies of rhetoric contain much in the way of theatrical bluster and little in the way of good-faith, ingenuous arguments in support, with arguments for Palestinian statehood perhaps a shade more on the convincing side by simple dint of being around much longer and settling into the popular consciousness. The study came to light in the most recent issue of the journal Studies in Palestinian Undertakings and Ramifications of Israeli Operations for Unilateral Solutions (SPURIOUS).

The SPURIOUS article detailed an analysis demonstrating that on-again, off-again lockdown measures; arbitrary limitations on customers per establishment; no adjustment in limitations in accordance with available space; no announcement of how long specific restrictions will remain in force; incoherent exceptions for certain industries; draconian mask-mandate enforcement in certain locales, such as among Hareidm, vs. nonexistent enforcement among others, such as Negev Bedouin or South Tel Aviv migrant workers; and repeated violations of announced restrictions by high-profile political figures, among other facets of the situation, have resulted in a polity even less convinced by governmental coronavirus “policy’ than by the notion that letting those responsible for tens of thousands of violent Israeli deaths in a declared effort to commit genocide against the Jews of the Holy Land might form the basis of a sound strategic approach.

Russia, China Veto UN Approval of Aid Deliveries to Syria From Turkey

Russia and China cast vetoes on Tuesday to block the UN Security Council from extending its approval of aid deliveries to Syria from Turkey for a year, despite UN warnings that the lives of Syrian civilians depend on the cross-border access.

The more than six-year long operation is currently authorized until Friday. The remaining 13 council members voted in favor of the resolution drafted by Germany and Belgium.

The Security Council will now vote on a rival Russian text that would only approve one Turkish crossing for aid access for six months. During the coronavirus pandemic the council has been operating virtually, which means members have 24 hours to cast a vote on a draft resolution.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ spokesman Stephane Dujarric said earlier on Tuesday cross-border access was “vital to the wellbeing of the civilians in northwest Syria … Lives depend on it.”

The Security Council in January allowed the cross-border aid operation to continue from the two Turkish crossings for six months, but dropped crossing points from Iraq and Jordan due to opposition by Syrian ally Russia and China.

Last month, Germany and Belgium proposed reopening the Iraq crossing for six months to help Syria combat the coronavirus, but it was cut from the draft resolution that was put to a vote on Tuesday, again due to opposition by Russia and China.

Syrian government authorities have confirmed more than 250 cases of the coronavirus, including nine deaths, the United Nations has said.

Western diplomats have said the closure of the Iraq crossing cuts off 40 percent of medical aid to northeastern Syria.

Former Mossad chief: Iran can’t be stopped in nuke bid, but can be deterred

Finally, do you see a future, some day, of a return to normal relations with Iran? You lived there [for two and a half years, early in your Mossad career], albeit a long time ago.

I’ll say a few things. One, the Iranian people are not a homogeneous nation. [Along with the majority Persians] there are some 35 ethnic groups. Lurs, Uzbeks, Azerbaijanis, Arabs — you name it. What unifies them is Shiite Islam.

Khamenei is an Azeri. He’s not Persian. Yet he is the spiritual leader. That says something about the capacity to control a country that is bigger than Western Europe and has a population [of over 80 million people].

It’s not just him. They’ve built a ruling system where the spiritual leader is at the top, with hierarchies controlled by the religious leaders. And they control the country’s money. Beneath them are two military bodies — what I’ll call the old Iranian army and the Revolutionary Guards. The Revolutionary Guards are an army in every respect. More than that, it’s the Revolutionary Guards, not the army, who control all the non-conventional systems — the chemical and the biological and the nuclear and the missiles.

Over the past 20 years, I detect a certain change of direction — away from the Revolutionary Guards’ blind subservience and obedience to the religious-spiritual leadership. I see some cracks in this automatic discipline. The Revolutionary Guards have centralized so much power today that they have become the greatest power in the state. They control the economy. They control tourism. They control the construction companies. And here and there, they don’t automatically accept what they hear from the spiritual-religious leadership.

As I look ahead at the long-term trends, I don’t rule out two possibilities.

One, a change in the regime that comes from below — from the civilians, from the opposition, born of the people’s dissatisfaction: The people rise up and change the leadership. I give that a smaller likelihood. I give greater likelihood to the possibility that, down the road, the Revolutionary Guards will change the balance of power. Today, the clerics control the Revolutionary Guards. I don’t rule out the reverse coming to pass — that the Revolutionary Guards will control the clerics. This may sound [improbable] but I don’t rule it out.

And what would the consequences be?

The good news is that you’d be dealing with pragmatists, with rational people.

The bad news is that the power could go to their heads and lead them to make unpleasant decisions.

Analyst: Blast at enrichment site set back Iranian nuke plans by months or years

Iran’s ability to produce sufficient highly enriched uranium for an atomic weapon has been set back by several months to several years following a large blast at one of its central nuclear facilities earlier this month, which has widely been attributed to Israel, according to a US-based defense analyst.

Simon Henderson, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank, said the alleged attack targeted an above-ground centrifuge assembly plant at the otherwise subterranean — and thus hard to attack — Natanz uranium enrichment facility.

Henderson, writing on The Hill website this week, also warned that Iran may retaliate for the alleged assault on its nuclear program with an attack on Israel’s nuclear program.

“The danger is that Tehran will think in terms of a ‘nuclear’ response — an attack targeting an Israeli nuclear facility such as the Dimona research reactor in southern Israel,” he wrote.

Last week, Israel’s Channel 13 reported that the country was bracing for a potential retaliation for the blast at Natanz, as well as a series of other mysterious explosions and fires at facilities throughout Iran, which many have speculated were caused by the Jewish state. Earlier this week, Channel 12 also reported that the Mossad spy agency had recently foiled planned or attempted Iranian attacks on Israeli diplomatic missions in Europe and elsewhere that were apparently in response to these incidents.

Israeli officials have largely refrained from commenting on the incidents. On Sunday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz responded to a question about the matter in an Israel Radio interview, saying only that “not every event that happens in Iran is connected to us.”

Henderson said Israel likely believed that Iran was restarting production of the powerful centrifuges needed to enrich sufficient quantities of uranium to manufacture a nuclear weapon.

Amid Iran tensions, Israel said to ask US to speed up delivery of air refuelers

Israel has asked the US Department of Defense to speed up delivery of its KC-46 Pegasus aerial refueling aircraft, as tensions rise with Iran.

In March the US Department of Defense announced approval to sell new KC-46 Pegasus aerial refueling aircraft to Israel, with delivery expected in four years.

However, Channel 12 news reported Wednesday that Israel has requested that the aircraft be delivered within two years.

The report came amid an uptick in tensions with Iran, with Tehran on Tuesday calling for action against Israel following a recent blast at the Natanz nuclear facility that has been blamed on Jerusalem.

Iran appeared to publicly acknowledge on Tuesday that last week’s fire at Natanz, which badly damaged a building used for producing centrifuges, was not an accident.

Israeli TV reports, without naming sources, have said the blast destroyed the laboratory in which Iran developed faster centrifuges and set back the Iranian nuclear program by one or two years.

Last year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Tehran that Israel’s F-35 fighter jets can reach “anywhere in the Middle East,” following threats against Israel by senior Iranian officials.

The F-35 stealth jet is not believed to have an effective range to reach Iran unassisted, but it could conduct operations there with in-air refueling.

Russia says Turkey tested its S-400s on US F-16 jets

Turkey, a member of NATO, tested the Russian-made S-400 air defense system on US-made F-16 jets during a drill in November 2019, Russia’s state media TASS has reported. The use of the S-400 against the F-16s was already reported last year, but the new details from Russian media appear to cement the claim and infer that something more was going on in those tests.

Russia has an interest in knowing how well its air defense performs against US warplanes. Russia’s S-400 is the top tier of its numerous air defense systems. Some of these systems have been called into question due to mistakes. S-200s used by the Syrian regime shot down a Russian airplane by mistake in 2018. Iranian models of Russian systems have scored big in 2019 with the shoot-down of a US drone, but the Iranians also shot down a civilian jetliner in January.

In Syria there are questions about the radar and reliability of the S-300s and Pantsir and other systems abilities to track modern drones and fifth generational jets. Russia’s Pantsirs were also destroyed by Turkish drones in battles in Idlib and Libya this year.

It is therefore of great importance for Russia to know how the S-400 performed against a NATO member’s F-16s. What Turkey got out of this test is less clear now. Why would Ankara test the S-400 it bought from Russia against its own F-16s, unless it was at the behest of Moscow, wanting to see how it performed? The narrative last year was that Turkey merely wanted to test communications between the platforms so it didn’t shoot down its own jets.

Russia’s TASS media only says that a source close to the Turkish defense industry told TASS that the S-400 was tested on the US-made F-16s. The S-400s are the center a controversy with Washington. By acquiring them for billions of dollars, Turkey has distanced itself from its traditional US ally and become a closer ally of Russia.

The US administration has begged Turkey not to move toward Moscow, with one US senator even suggesting to buy the Russian S-400s from Turkey to please Ankara. What exactly the US would do with S-400s it doesn’t need is unclear – and it is unclear if Moscow would let the technology be floated on a barge over to the US to be picked apart by US engineers.

MEMRI: Turkish Journalist Sentenced To Prison Compares Turkish Government Control Of Media To Nazi Germany: ‘The Government Controls 95% Of The Media’

In a July 2, 2020 column titled “From Hitler To Our Time” in the Turkish daily Sözcü, investigative journalist Emin Çölaşan, who is one of six journalists from Sözcü sentenced to prison in December 2019,[1] compared the Turkish government’s control and oppression of the country’s media to that of Nazi Germany, saying: “Close to 100 years have passed, and that awful regime that was a terrible curse on humanity is long gone, but we in this country, in the 21st century, under a system that is called ‘democratic,’ are still living with its residue! On the one side there is no fairness and justice has been seized. Oppression and scare tactics. On the other side are lies and, despite everything, rosy paintings!”[2]

Çölaşan describes government control of the media and the “lies” which that media broadcasts: “The government controls 95 percent of the media. Almost all of the television [channels] and newspapers are at their command and at their service. And to be frank, the government knows very well how to use them for their own interests. However, the lies and the rosy paintings presented every day to the Turkish nation have become nauseating.” He criticizes the government, saying: “After they captured the administration of the country, they never set foot in a deli, in a grocery, or in a market… They never leave the mansions and the palaces in which they live, they do not know the prices or living conditions, they do not hear the ordinary citizen.”

On July 1, a day before the column was published, there were reportedly “insults” posted on social media to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s daughter Esra and her husband Berat Albayrak, who is also the country’s finance minister. Sixteen people were detained relative to the social media posts, of whom two were arrested, and processes concerning the detention of another 15, four of whom are outside of Turkey, have been started.[3] It is difficult, if not impossible, to find the precise content of the relevant social media posts, possibly because the government may take legal action against any outlet or social media user who republishes them. President Erdoğan said in speech that day: “We want immediately to bring this to parliament and for the social media channels to be completely removed and controlled… Do you understand why we are against social media platforms like YouTube, Twitter, and Netflix? To be able to sweep away such immorality.”[4]

On July 6, Turkish parliament announced that in the coming days a regulation regarding government control of social media would be presented. These new controls would include: the ability of Turkey’s Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK) to block WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, and Telegram in Turkey; a requirement that social media companies have representation in Turkey; a requirement that user information be stored in Turkey; the authority of the BTK and the Turkish gendarmerie to inspect the “social media sites,” likely referring to the companies’ offices, in Turkey; punishments to be given to social media companies if those companies do not remove social media content about which they have been warned; the ability to block certain content; and fines to be given to social media companies that reject without reason users’ requests that certain content be removed.[5]

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