October 21, 2019

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07/31 Links Pt1: On 17th anniversary of Hebrew University bombing: PA has paid the terrorist murderers of 9 people 4.3Mil shekels; Schadenfreude and the UNRWA scandal

http://elderofziyon.blogspot.com/2019/07/0731-links-pt1-on-17th-anniversary-of.html

From Ian:


PMW: On 17th anniversary of Hebrew University bombing: PA has already paid the murderers over 4.3 million shekels, 6 terrorists, responsible for the death of 9 people, are serving multiple life sentences and have been rewarded by the PA.
17 years ago today a bomb was detonated in the Hebrew University cafeteria in Jerusalem murdering 9 people, including five American citizens, and injuring over 80 others. This attack was one of many terror attacks carried out by the same terrorist cell.

Six Palestinians were convicted of the crime and sentenced to multiple life sentences. Since their arrests, the Palestinian Authority has rewarded the imprisoned terrorists paying them no less than 4,371,100 shekels ($1,257,259).

Among the convicted terrorists for this and other attacks were Adballah Barghouti – serving 67 life sentences, one for each of the victims he murdered – and Ibrahim Hamed – serving 54 life sentences, one for each of the victims he murdered. Through June 2019, the PA cumulatively paid them 1,271,000 shekels ($339,862) and continues to pay them thousands of shekels per month.

The other four terrorists – Wael Qassem, Wassim Abbasi, Alla Aldin Abbasi and Muhammed Odeh – were residents of Jerusalem, entitling them to a salary supplement of 300 shekels/month. Each of them has been paid over 770,000 shekels ($220,733) since their arrest in August 2002. Each of them is currently receiving 7,300 shekels ($1,951) per month.

Despite its (self-inflicted) financial crisis, since the beginning of 2019 alone, the PA has cumulatively paid the terrorists almost 300,000 shekels ($86,000).

The PA obligated itself to pay monthly salaries to imprisoned terrorists when it passed the Law of Prisoners and Released Prisoners in 2004. The exact amount paid is set in regulations passed by the PA government (see chart below). Mahmoud Abbas has twice raised the salaries the PA pays to the imprisoned terrorists.

David Singer: PLO Suicide Note Leaves Jordan to Decide Fate of West Bank

President Trump has been given the clearest notice that his deal of the century will be stillborn if he designates any role for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in its implementation.

In a remarkable outburst that can best be described as his “suicide note”– PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas declared on 25 July:
“I reiterate that we will not surrender, we will not coexist with the occupation and we will not deal with the deal of deal of the century, or the slap of the century or the deal of shame – all names for one title. Palestine and Jerusalem are not for sale and bargain. They are not a real estate deal in a real estate company.”

Yet for the last 25 years the PLO – aided and abetted by Jordan – has refused to yield its claim to sovereignty over every square meter of West Bank real estate – when compromise could possibly have resolved the 100 years-old Arab-Jewish conflict.

Two days prior to Abbas’ suicide note , the US Congress in a rare show of bipartisanship had offered the PLO a lifeline to enable it to negotiate with Israel on Trump’s yet-to-be-released proposals – overwhelmingly passing House Resolution 246 by a vote of 398-17 with 5 voting ‘present’.
Resolution 246:
Urged: Israelis and Palestinians to return to direct negotiations as the only way to achieve an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
…Reaffirmed: its strong support for a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resulting in two states – a democratic Jewish State of Israel, and a viable, democratic Palestinian state – living side-by-side in peace, security, and mutual recognition.

48 hours later Abbas’s suicide note had trashed Congress’s Resolution.
So where to from here?

Ruthie Blum: Schadenfreude and the UNRWA scandal

True to two-faced form, UNRWA says that it can’t respond to any questions about its conduct as long as the probe is underway. Luckily for Krähenbühl and his cronies, the United Nations—itself a money-guzzling, anti-Israel hornet’s nest—has been taking its sweet time to complete the task. Undoubtedly, the end result will be a few rolling heads and a return to business as usual. Well, almost. Thanks to Trump, UNRWA is strapped for cash, after all.

Which is one of the reasons that Krähenbühl got caught at his game.

Arranging a private fundraising campaign outside of U.N. purview, the UNRWA chief apparently went around crying poor and collecting money for business-class trips with his mistress, whom he fast-tracked into a role he invented for her in 2015—that of his “senior adviser”—so that she could accompany him around the world in style. And all behind his wife’s back.

This makes his “Open Letter to Palestine Refugees and UNRWA,” published in September 2018—a mere three months before Guterres received the report on UNRWA’s ethical violations—especially jaw-dropping.

In the letter, Krähenbühl wrote, in part: “ … The responsibility for the protracted nature of the Palestine refugee-hood, the growing number of refugees and the growth in needs, lies squarely with the parties and in the international community’s lack of will or utter inability to bring about a negotiated and peaceful resolution of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. The attempt to make UNRWA somehow responsible for perpetuating the crisis is disingenuous at best. … Our commitment to accountability, strict and sound financial discipline, to setting priorities and acting decisively when the Agency’s neutrality is challenged, are matters of public record. In 2018, UNRWA introduced stringent management measures as its own necessary contribution to overcoming the financial crisis.”

Nothing short of shutting down UNRWA will be satisfactory since its very existence is a criminal scam. But the likelihood of its closure in the near future is slim to zero.

In the meantime, let us take some comfort in the agency’s well-earned public humiliation.

UN Watch Demands UNRWA Chief Resign

International human rights group UN Watch is demanding that UNRWA chief Pierre Krähenbühl resign from his post, in wake of an internal UN ethics report documenting credible and corroborated allegations of sexual misconduct, nepotism and corruption by the former Red Cross official and his inner circle.

Top officials are now resigning from UNRWA, the UN relief agency for Palestinians, or being forced out. Facing questioning from UN investigators, Deputy Commissioner-General Sandra Mitchell and Chief of Staff Hakam Shahwan quit earlier this month. Deputy Head of Human Resources Nadine Khaddoura, implicated in nepotistic appointments, “had to be escorted from her office under vociferous protest” when confronted with the results of the UN investigations, reports Ian Williams.

But Krähenbühl is refusing to step down, despite evidence of serious abuse of power gathered from some 25 current and past UNRWA directors and staff.

In 2014 Krähenbühl allegedly “took a particular interest” in UNRWA employee Maria Mohammedi, who starred with her husband Rashid Abdelhamid in the Palestinian film Condom Lead. Krähenbühl conducted a relationship with Mohammedi that “went beyond the professional,” fast-tracked her appointment as his “senior advisor,” and flew her around the world with him “using his authority to obtain waivers enabling her to travel business class with him,” despite UN rules restricting such privileges.

Mohammedi’s position was funded by the Swiss government, a major supporter of Krähenbühl, the only Swiss citizen currently heading a UN agency. The Swiss today announced they were freezing all funds to UNRWA, as did the Netherlands.

Netherlands suspends $14 million grant to UNRWA amid ethics probe

The Netherlands suspended its contribution Wednesday to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees pending the outcome of a probe into alleged mismanagement and abuses of authority by the agency’s top management.

UN investigators have opened an inquiry after an internal report alleged “serious ethical abuses” at the highest level at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

As one of the agency’s main European donors, the Netherlands “expressed… its great concern and asked for clarification,” the Dutch foreign ministry said in a statement.

Sigrid Kaag, foreign trade and development cooperation minister, “would like to hear what steps the UN plans to take based on the outcome of the investigation,” it added. Therefore “Minister Kaag has decided to put this year’s contribution on hold until we have received a satisfactory response from the UN in New York.”

The BBC — Like Other Media Outlets — Ignores the UNRWA Ethics Story

In 2017, the BBC expanded its links with the news agency AFP as part of its news-gathering process. Unlike many other media outlets — including the corporation’s preferred paper The Guardian — the BBC does not appear to consider one recent AFP story newsworthy:

An internal ethics report has alleged mismanagement and abuses of authority at the highest levels of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees even as the organisation faced an unprecedented crisis after US funding cuts.

The allegations included in the confidential report by the agency’s ethics department are now being scrutinized by UN investigators.

AFP has obtained a copy of the report which describes “credible and corroborated” allegations of serious ethical abuses, including involving UNRWA’s top official, Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl.

It says the allegations include senior management engaging in “sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority, for personal gain, to suppress legitimate dissent, and to otherwise achieve their personal objectives.”

Despite the BBC having put a considerable amount of effort into amplifying UNRWA talking points throughout last year, members of its funding public have to date not seen any coverage of this latest story concerning the controversial UN agency on the BBC News website or, to the best of our knowledge, anywhere else.

Incendiary Balloons: A National Security Lawyer Witnesses Hamas War Crimes

News reports on incendiary balloon attacks on Israel that have destroyed more than 4,300 acres of land often fail to identify the balloons for what they are – a war crime. Traveling in Israel recently with a group of national security lawyers, I witnessed and documented some of these attacks firsthand.

The constant breeze off the Mediterranean Sea, which blows from Gaza to Israel, carries these incendiary devices into civilian communities in Israel, some just a few hundred meters from the border with Gaza. The attacks I saw amount to war crimes under international humanitarian law (IHL).

As Hamas has been using them, these incendiary balloon attacks violate numerous rules and customs of warfare – principally concerning the targeting of civilians and the use of indiscriminate weapons. The attacks also likely violate the prohibition on the use of incendiary weapons.
Hamas’ employment of incendiary balloons violates both the principle of distinction and the prohibition against targeting civilians to spread terror. The principle of distinction in the laws of war requires that parties to a conflict must, at all times, distinguish between civilians and combatants, and that attacks may be directed only against combatants. In this case, the Israeli communities in the Gaza envelope are purely civilian communities.

Moreover, the 1949 Geneva Conventions provide that “acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited.” The international community should unequivocally condemn the targeting and threatening of civilians.
Future engagement by the UN or third country intermediates who are working toward peace in the region should seek the surrender of those individuals responsible for committing war crimes to stand trial. Until impunity for war crimes ends, Hamas will likely continue to commit them.

U.S. Ambassador Supports “Extended Autonomy” for Palestinians

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview on Tuesday: “We believe in Palestinian autonomy. We believe in Palestinian civilian self-governance. We believe that that autonomy should be extended up until the point where it interferes with Israeli security.”

“We’ve made the point over and over again that the economic solution goes hand-in-hand with a political solution, but…in order to have a political solution you need political institutions. You need a transparent economy. You need the rule of law. You need certain freedoms – freedom of the press. You need a justice system. You need to stop concentrating all the Palestinian wealth in the political elites. That’s part of what [the] Bahrain [conference] was about – trying to help the Palestinians create the institutions necessary for statehood.”

“Let’s be clear. The last thing the world needs is a failed Palestinian state in between Jordan and Israel. And right now, the Palestinian government is so weak. They have no answer to Hamas. They leave that to Israel to take care of….The one thing that can’t happen is the Palestinians obtain independence and in short order this becomes a failed state controlled by Hamas, Hizbullah, ISIS, or al-Qaeda. That is an existential threat to Israel. It is an existential threat to Jordan. It simply can’t be.”

“The point is, we need to help the Palestinians create the institutions for autonomy and self-governance. What I’m saying is nothing new. If you listen to what Yitzhak Rabin said to the Knesset in 1995…to sell the Oslo Accords, he also was unwilling to use the term ‘Palestinian state.’ He preferred words like ‘autonomy’ and ‘self-governance’ because that word just creates expectations that cause everybody to retreat to their corners and it’s not helpful.”

“The security issues are somewhat daunting. The world has changed a lot in the last 10-15 years. The last time people took a hard look at peacemaking, Gaza was not threatening to Israel, Lebanon was far less threatening to Israel, Syria obviously wasn’t the catastrophe that it became, Iraq was less threatening and Iran was much less threatening to Israel. So the capacity of Israel to take risks has changed, the facts on the ground have changed, and we need to develop a plan for 2019.


US peace envoy: Israeli-Palestinian peace is Iran’s worst nightmare

US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt and Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran, have penned an opinion piece in which they criticize Iran for supporting Palestinian terror groups, saying the regime has exploited the conflict with Israel to advance its own regional schemes.

In the jointly written article published by Fox news on Tuesday, the two advisers said peace between Israel and the Palestinians would be “Iran’s worst nightmare.”

Greenblatt and and Hook wrote that Iran, with its support for the Hamas terror group as a method to counter Washington’s peace efforts, is producing a “warped vision for the Palestinian people — one that offers nothing but increased violence, devastation and despair.”

Their remarks came amid increased US diplomacy ahead of the expected roll-out of the Trump administration peace plan for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The economic part of the plan was unveiled last month and then discussed at a Bahrain workshop attended by Arab states from across the Middle East — but not the Israelis or the Palestinians.

“The Iranian regime has exploited the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades — profiting from the chaos, violence, and ineffective stopgaps to advance its malign activities and influence in the region,” the two wrote.

Senior White House official denies report of Trump summit with Arab leaders

A senior White House official reacted Wednesday to a news report regarding a possible summit with President Donald Trump and Arab leaders, and said that there is no such plan at this time.

“No summit has currently been planned,” said the official. “The Middle East team will report back to the president, the vice president, the secretary of state and the National Security Council upon returning to discuss the many potential next steps to expand upon the success of the Bahrain workshop.”

A report on Wednesday in the Hebrew daily Yediot Ahronot had said that the Trump administration will host an Israeli-Palestinian peace summit at Camp David before Israel’s September elections.

Jared Kushner is planning to personally invite the Arab leaders during his trip to the Middle East which starts on Thursday with a stop in Jerusalem. The summit will be held at Camp David, at which President Donald Trump will lay out his vision for peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in general terms, the Wednesday report said. Kushner will visit six countries, including Israel, in the next week.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer were reportedly involved in planning the summit. Dermer reportedly flew to Israel to discuss it with Netanyahu. However, a source in Washington told Yediot that Netanyahu will not attend the summit because it will make it harder for Arab leaders to participate.

PM: I won’t evict a single settler from Judea and Samaria

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his pledge on Wednesday not to forcefully evict Israelis from settlements in Judea and Samaria.

“Not a single community be uprooted, nor will I force out a single settler,” Netanyahu said during a visit to Gush Etzion, a settlement bloc just south of Jerusalem.

Netanyahu was scheduled to meet with US President Donald Trump’s Senior Strategic Adviser Jared Kushner on Wednesday. Kushner was sent to the region to promote the economic component of the administration’s peace plan, which was revealed in late June.

Speaking in Efrat, a major Jewish community in Gush Etzion, Netanyahu said: “This is a place where one can see the past, observe the present and look into the future. We will not let a single community be uprooted, and Efrat will continue to thrive and build for eternity. Efrat and Gush Etzion are the gateway to Jerusalem. We withstood enormous pressure from the international community, and we did so because we were smart and acted together.”

Gantz promises not to uproot any Jordan Valley settlements

Blue and White Party head Benny Gantz promised not to uproot any settlements in the Jordan Valley, explaining that it was vital to Israel’s security to hold onto the area.

“This is a crucial strategic area, which Israel needs, always needed and will always need in the future,” Gantz said.

“If there were times that [only] an [IDF] division was able to maneuver in this area, now there are times that other Jihadists or other elements or enemies might infiltrate this area,” he said.

“Therefore, under any future circumstances, we are going to keep this area. We will try to strengthen it as much as possible with a national plan to support the settlements in this area,” he said.

He promised to increase the population and to ensure “a safe and secure road that goes all along the African-Syrian break.”

He also promised to provide a development plan for Palestinians in the area, based on Israel’s security need.

Palestinians: We don’t need permission from Israel to build on our land

Palestinian Authority officials said on Wednesday that Palestinians don’t need permission from Israel to build on their land.

Responding to the Israeli security cabinet’s decision to grant 700 building permits to Palestinians in Israeli-controlled Area C of the West Bank, alongside 6,000 such licenses to homes in settlements, the officials said the Palestinians reject any attempt to put their rights on equal footing with settlements.

They also called on the international community to immediately intervene to stop Israel from “violating international law by pursuing settlement construction in the West Bank.”

A senior PA official told The Jerusalem Post that he believes the decision was taken in the context of the Israeli government’s plan to “annex” large parts of the settlements in Area C. “This plan is fully supported by the [Trump] administration,” the official said, adding that it was part of US President Donald Trump’s upcoming Middle East peace plan, also known as the “Deal of the Century.”

“Building on land classified as Area C is a right for Palestinians that can’t be traded or equated with settlements,” PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said in a statement.

‘Israel’s Enemies Are Guatemala’s Enemies,’ Leading Presidential Candidate Says Ahead of Final Vote

As Guatemala heads to the second and deciding round of voting of a tempestuous presidential election campaign in less than two weeks, one of the two remaining candidates emphasized his friendship for Israel in an interview published on Wednesday, declaring, “He who is Israel’s enemy is Guatemala’s enemy.”

Speaking to the Spanish-language bulletin of the Israel Allies Foundation, a Washington, DC-based advocacy group, conservative candidate Alejandro Giammattei pledged that close bilateral relations with Israel would be a top foreign policy priority should he emerge victorious.

As well as keeping Guatemala’s embassy in Israel in Jerusalem, Giammattei said that he would act against Hezbollah — the Iranian regime’s Lebanon-based Shi’a terror proxy which operates an extensive support network throughout Latin America.

The candidate of the center-right VAMOS Party, Giammattei will face off against former First Lady Sandra Torres — who represents the center-left UNE Party — in the final round of voting on Aug. 11.

In June’s first round, with 19 candidates in the running, Torres came first with 25.3 percent of the ballots, followed by Giammattei with 14 percent. Recent polling, however, has shown Giammattei developing a growing lead over Torres.

Spanish politician of Palestinian descent denied entry to Israel

A member of Spain’s ruling political party who is descended from Palestinian refugees was barred from entering Israel earlier this week because he was deemed a threat to national security.

Lebanese-born Fouad Ahmad Assadi arrived in Israel to participate in the annual conference of Socialist International, being held in Tel Aviv and Ramallah, but was stopped at Ben Gurion Airport and sent back to Spain, Haaretz reported Tuesday.

The Shin Bet security service said Assadi’s entry was blocked for “security reasons,” but did not specify its concerns.

Assadi, a member of Spain’s Socialist Party, arrived on Sunday evening and was immediately questioned by security officials who told him that he could not proceed any further.

In a statement to Haaretz, the Shin Bet said that Assadi, whose parents are Palestinian refugees, has been denied entry to Israel in the past.

“Mr. Fouad’s entry to Israel was prevented in the past and now as well for security reasons,” the agency said. “Upon his arrival in Israel, Mr. Fouad was questioned by security authorities and, as was explained to him, his entry was prevented due to concerns that his stay in Israel could be a danger to national security.”

Germany disciplines diplomats over anti-Israel social media activity

Germany’s Foreign Ministry said it has instituted new social media guidelines and disciplined personnel after anti-Israel tweets were “liked” by the official Twitter account of the German mission to the Palestinian territories.

The ministry said Tuesday that 10 people had access to the @GerRepRamallah account and it wasn’t clear who clicked the “likes.” It said the account wasn’t secured against unauthorized users.

According to a report in the German tabloid Bild, one of the liked tweets included a video of an attack on IDF servicemen while another compared the work of Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem to the revisionist historical narratives promoted in “totalitarian states.”

The ministry said that the head of Germany’s office in Ramallah, Christian Clages, and others were disciplined. The social media guidance sent to all diplomatic posts clarified “that even ‘likes’ are understood as expressions of opinion of the German government” and now require the approval of two people.

The ministry added that it “publicly made it clear the contents of the tweets concerned are unacceptable, contradict the attitude of the German government, and are not tolerated.”

IDF: Next Gaza war will be short but deal ‘massive blow’ to Hamas

The next war with terror groups in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip will be shorter than Protective Edge and will see the Israeli army deal a massive blow to Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).

The IDF has faced increasing criticism following allegations by former military ombudsman Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Brick who warned that the military, especially the ground forces, are not prepared for a large-scale war.

But the military says it has learned the lessons from the over 50-day Operation Protective Edge in 2014 as well as the numerous rounds of violence over the past year, adding that it has the capabilities and intelligence to inflict severe damage to terrorist groups in a short amount of time should a war break out.

IDF solders of the Southern Command take part in a drill. (IDF)IDF solders of the Southern Command take part in a drill. (IDF)

The military has also increased the number of PIJ and Hamas targets which will be struck in the next campaign.

In one of his first visits as chief of staff, Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi went to the Southern Command, met with senior officers and approved operational plans for war, including setting up a centralized administrative unit to prepare a list of potential targets in Gaza in case a war should break out.

Living on the Front Line Against Hezbollah’s Terror

These Israeli civilians live right on the IDF frontier of combating covert Hezbollah actions along the border. How do they cope knowing war could break out any time? Our Emily Rose has the story.

JCPA: Iran Admits a Revolutionary Guard Commander Killed in an “Israeli Attack” in Iraq on July 19

A senior Iranian commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ Al Qods Brigade, Abu Alfazl Sarabian, was killed in Iraq in an attack by “Israel and the United States” on July 19, 2019, according to the Iranian Broadcasting’s Young Journalists Club online publication. A funeral service was held in Tehran before Sarabian’s body was returned for burial in his hometown Kermanshah.1

The attack was carried out on the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Force (Hashd al-Shaab) in Armeli in the Salah a-Din governorate of Iraq north of Baghdad. The Iraqi sources said Sarabian was killed as a result of an explosion in a storage area for solid fuel for missiles.

In the photograph, Abu Alfazl Sarabian is holding an Austrian sniper rifle, the Steyr HS 50 that was supplied to Iran by Austria. Subsequently, Iran copied the model, renamed it the Sayyad AM-50 and provided it to Hamas and the Islamic Jihad organizations in Gaza. Syria produces its own version, the Golan S-01.2 Hamas and Islamic Jihad snipers Iranian sniper guns, the AM-50 Sayyad, in the hands of Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters in Gaza.

The Iranian announcement of the death of its IRGC officer in the “Israeli-American” attack at an Iraqi base may raise regional tensions. The attack would be another stage in the campaign Israel is conducting against Iranian presence in Syria, in general, and along the Israel-Syria border, in particular. Israel is accused of assassinating Mashur Zidan, a senior Hizbullah official near Damascus on July 27, 2019. Zidan, like a former associate (now dead), Samir Kuntar, was tasked with recruiting and planning for attacks along Israel’s border on the Golan Heights. Israel’s campaign is also aimed at Iran’s logistical bases in Iraq away from the front, including a missile storage facility north of Baghdad, and against the Ashraf base, formerly used by the opposition organization Mujahedin al Haq.

‘Iran trying to take over Gaza,’ IDF official warns Palestinians

The IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rokon on Tuesday told the residents of Gaza in a video recorded message that the Hamas terrorist organizations, which rules the coastal enclave, was strengthening relations with Iran at their expense.

According to Rokon, last week senior Hamas terrorist Saleh al-Arouri said that “Hamas is on Iran’s front line of defense,” and on Tuesday, Iranian diplomat Amir Mousavi declared the “establishment of a united military front” stretching from Tehran to Gaza.

“This is just the beginning – and only you will decide the ending,” Rokon told Gazans in his video message.

In May, the IDF confirmed it had killed Hamad Hudri, a high-ranking official in Hamas’ Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades who was responsible for transferring money from Iran to the various terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip.

The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit reported that Hudri, 34, a resident of Gaza, would bring large disbursements of Iranian cash into Gaza and distribute it among the various groups that enjoy Iranian backing: Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other smaller groups. He used money-changing businesses he owned and money changers and tradesmen abroad to help launder the Iranian funds.

Lebanon Festival Cancels Mashrou’ Leila Show After Religious Pressure

Lebanon’s Byblos festival has canceled a concert by Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila which was set for next week after calls from church leaders who accused the group of blasphemy.

The band, which has an openly gay vocalist and has played in major cities around the world, has said it is the target of a smear campaign in Lebanon to crush freedom of expression. The musicians have received threats on social media in recent weeks.

“In an unprecedented move…the committee was forced to stop the Mashrou Leila show…to prevent bloodshed and preserve security,” the major summer music festival, in the ancient city of Byblos, said in a statement.

The UN’s Deadly Silence on Iran’s Maritime Violations

Tehran is clearly violating international law, specifically the internationally-agreed UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)…. The theocratic establishment of Iran is a signatory to this UN convention but has long refrained from ratifying it.

Wherever silence prevails, rogue states thrive. In the instance of Iran, the silence of the international community has been earsplitting. Moreover, any destructive behavior left unchecked is being passively reinforced; if the international community continues its silence while their unruly pet violates UN resolutions and maritime laws, they can only expect such violations to become the norm.

The UN needs to hold the Iranian leaders accountable and take appropriate measures against Iran’s aggression in the Gulf. If the UN fails to do this, other nations would be stupid not to take the cue deliberately to disobey existing international laws — possibly leading to a major war.

Iran says Europe ‘obliged’ to let it sell and ship oil

Iran said Wednesday that European nations still party to the 2015 nuclear deal are “obliged” to allow it to sell and ship oil, amid a standoff with Britain over the seizure of tankers.

The deal over Iran’s nuclear program has begun to unravel since US President Donald Trump announced the United States was withdrawing from the agreement last year and reimposing sanctions.

Iran has been pushing the European parties to the deal — Britain, France and Germany — to adhere to their commitments under the agreement despite US pressure.

British authorities seized a tanker carrying Iranian oil off its territory Gibraltar on July 4, a move Spain’s foreign minister said was carried out at the request of the United States.

“They [the European parties] have set out their commitments and announced them, they [include] the sale of Iran’s oil, the transportation of Iran’s oil, and the return of Iran’s oil income,” said Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“It is clear that today’s tensions and problems are due to America’s economic terrorism and Europe’s inability to fulfill its commitments which means going along with America’s economic terrorism,” he said, quoted by state media.

Zarif: Iran to reduce nuclear deal commitments unless Europe protects it

Iran is set to further cut its commitments to its international nuclear deal unless its European partners move to protect it from U.S. sanctions by ensuring it can sell oil and receive income, its foreign minister told state television on Wednesday.

“Under current circumstances and if no action is taken (by the Europeans) we will take the next step (in cutting commitments),” Mohammad Javad Zarif said, adding that its European partners should guarantee Iran could sell its oil and collect the revenue.Iran has said it will reduce its commitment to the nuclear accord in stages and may even withdrew from the pact unless the Europeans find ways to shield its economy from the U.S. sanctions.

On Sunday, Iran admitted that it has enriched 24 tons of uranium since signing the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal, Radio Farda reported.

Tehran claimed that it had limited its stock of enriched uranium to 300 kg. as required by the JCPOA.

The statement was made during a Sunday session of the “independent conservative” faction of the Iranian parliament discussing the latest developments concerning the nuclear deal. The faction is made up of close allies of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, did not explained exactly what he meant by his statement or what happened to the 24 tons of enriched uranium.

Iran’s Oil Exports Slide in July

The United States reimposed sanctions on Iran in November after pulling out of a 2015 nuclear accord between Tehran and six world powers. Aiming to cut Iran’s sales to zero, Washington in May ended sanction waivers given to importers of Iranian oil.

Iran has nonetheless sent abroad about 100,000 bpd of crude in July, said the industry source, who tracks such flows. Data from Refinitiv Eikon put crude shipments at a similar rate and at 120,000 bpd if condensate, a light oil, is included.

Sara Vakhshouri, an analyst at SVB Energy International, a consulting firm based in Washington and Dubai, also said Iranian oil exports had probably fallen this month.

Vakhshouri estimated the most Iran could currently export at between 225,000 and 350,000 bpd, less than the 400,000 bpd she estimated Iran shipped in June.

“We can’t be sure that all of this capacity has been sold in July,” she said. “Also, it’s important to note that some of the deliveries mostly to China are based on IOU contracts and are not new sales.”

China’s Oil Imports from Iran Down 59 Percent in Year

Iranian crude oil imported by China in June was injected into storage tanks used for maintaining strategic petroleum reserves, according to several sources with knowledge of the matter.

The barrels of predominantly Iranian Heavy and Iranian Light grades were sent to bonded storage at the coastal sites of Tianjin, Huizhou and Jinzhou, highlighting how discounted and refinery-compatible Iranian grades continue to find favor in China.

China imported 855,638 mt or 209,060 b/d of crude from Iran in June, latest data from the General Administration of Customs showed. This amounts to roughly three VLCCs, all of which were sent to SPR sites through state-run companies or storage operators, the sources said.

The June imports from Iran were 59.1% lower year on year and have fallen from a five-year high of 792,380 b/d in April, hit by the withdrawal of sanction waivers by the US on May 2, and Washington’s efforts to bring Iranian oil exports down to zero.

The sources said Iranian barrels have been moving into SPR since at least November 2018, when the US re-imposed sanctions but gave waivers to Iran’s biggest crude and condensate buyers, including China.

The storage sites at Tianjin, Huizhou and Jinzhou are some of the newest built under China’s second phase of expansion for its SPR. These include 20.1-million-barrel above ground storage in Tianjin commissioned in 2014, 18.9-million-barrel underground storage at Jinzhou in northern Liaoning province commissioned in 2017 and a 31.4-million-barrel facility at Huizhou in southern Guangdong province that started in 2018.



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