September 25, 2020

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08/04 Links Pt1: David Singer: Green light on Judea and Samaria is key to Trump’s re-election; The Siren Song of ‘One State’; Joint List MK participates in celebration for released terrorist

From Ian:

David Singer: Green light on Judea and Samaria is key to Trump’s re-election
American Jews merging their Jewish identity with their non-Jewish partner’s identity over the last 50 years has seen their families increasingly vote for the Democratic Party – safe in the knowledge that strong bi-partisan support for Israel existed between Democrats and Republicans.

However this bipartisan support has been fractured following President Obama’s post-election sell-out of Israel at the United Nations on 23 December 2016 – followed now by stringent criticism of Trump’s Peace Plan by:
– Senators Elizabeth Warren, Chris Van Hollen, Chris Murphy and Independent Bernie Sanders.
– 191 Democrat Members of Congress
– The Democratic Party’s Draft 2020 platform – which proclaims:

“Democrats oppose any unilateral steps by either side — including annexation — that undermine prospects for two states”

The Democratic Party now opposes Israel unilaterally reconstituting the Jewish National Home in Judea and Samaria – a legal entitlement vested in the Jewish People for the last 100 years but unattainable until now under Trump’s Peace Plan.

Many Jews who voted for the Democratic Party in 2016 would be alarmed at seeing their previous bilateral comfort zone collapsing. The choice they thought they would never have to make has now arrived.

Trump can help regain his high 2016 Evangelical Christian vote while increasing his very low 2016 Jewish vote by green-lighting Israel’s immediate application of sovereignty in Judea and Samaria -considerably boosting his prospects for re-election.

Bret Stephens: The Siren Song of ‘One State’

Anyone who demands that Israel withdraw from part or all of the West Bank needs to be equally forceful in demanding that Palestinians abandon this so-called right. One-state advocates achieve the precise opposite: They foster a crippling fantasy that the right of return need never be conceded because eventually Israel will be pressured into dissolving itself. That will never happen, but chances for peace will be missed in the future, as they were in the past, so long as the fantasy survives.

The final bit of damage is to the American Jewish community. For decades, the opinions and advice of American Jews mattered to Israel. But if the views of a significant segment of American Jewish opinion are soon to harden into a moralizing anti-Zionism, it will only persuade Israelis to reciprocate with indifference and contempt. Whatever else advocates of a one-state solution think they are doing, they are withdrawing from any meaningful dialogue with Israelis about the future of a Jewish homeland.

It used to be that Israelis depended on a secure and thriving American Jewry to help stand up their fragile state. Today it is American Jewry that is fragile, threatened by dwindling cultural influence, stagnant demographic trends, increasing alienation from the Democratic Party and abiding discomfort with the G.O.P., and rising anti-Semitism — sometimes masked as anti-Zionism — from across the political spectrum.

Should American Jews start looking for the exits — just as every other Diaspora community in history has done, and continues to do — they will be grateful to find a Jewish state that resisted the siren song of “one state.”

Beinart ignores inconvenient truth on the reality in Israel – opinion

In reality, while the commentariat class resigns itself to one state — maybe — the Palestinians have been building a state.
It is imperfect, and the path to Palestinian statehood remains fraught. It is very much a work in progress. And yes, its leaders often disappoint.

And yet, on June 22, I saw it almost coming to fruition. The Palestinian Authority’s Jericho rally against annexation bore all the markings of a classic Middle East summit — brusque security agents, rows upon rows of plastic chairs, blistering heat, lofty words and clusters of tall, besuited diplomats.

About 50 diplomats, in fact, including the Russian and Chinese ambassadors, who addressed the crowds in fluent Arabic, and the Canadian ambassador, who arrived in a Beast-like vehicle flying a gold-trimmed maple leaf flag.

One thing was missing: There was not an American or an Israeli emissary as far as the eye could see.

I asked a couple of European ambassadors what they were doing at a political event, and they replied that a rally in favor of the two-state solution was policy, not politics.

Veteran peace negotiator Saeb Erekat took to the stage and hailed what truly was “an unprecedented event.”

“Today,” he said, “the world came to us. The international community came to us, and they told us we are not alone. It is about freedom, independence, dignity and justice.”

In the past, Netanyahu has easily managed to scuttle diplomatic initiatives having a whiff of Palestinian statehood. But the June rally was, without doubt, the most momentous diplomatic event ever hosted on Palestinian land, by Palestinian leaders, and it was a slap in Netanyahu’s face.

On the ground, however haltingly, a two-state solution is coming into being. We saw a glimpse of it in Jericho, alongside a foretaste of a future regional realignment in which the United States and Israel are relegated to the status of observers.

BESA: Israel Versus Anyone: A Military Net Assessment of the Middle East

Most published Middle Eastern military net assessments are based primarily on lists of units and equipment. Unfortunately, history proved that such lists are all too often incorrect. Even when they were correct, the overall assessments generally ignored the quality of personnel and/or equipment, as well as the extent to which rival defense systems could turn available financial, human, and material resources into actual military power.

Almost without exception, these earlier net assessments ignored the impact of the time required by all militaries to mobilize and deploy. This is particularly true for the major powers that were remote from the Middle East. These countries had to project their forces over intercontinental distances, which was, and is, a slow and difficult process.

This study contains no lists at all. Its assessments are based on historically proven combat data, which reflects the impact of human and technical quality on military combat effectiveness. The study also reflects a unique understanding of the significant variation in the efficiency of alternate national defense systems and the realistic impact of time on the generation of regional military power.

The study first provides a summary of current Israeli military capability. Rather than simply providing figures, this section provides a baseline for subsequent comparisons of Israeli capability to the ability of remote countries to project military power into the region, or the threat posed by potential enemies. The first of these assessments discusses the ability of the US or Russia to project conventional military power into the Middle East, followed by threats posed by the Sunni Arab states and/or Turkey, and finally, Shiite Iran and its proxies.

The study’s objective and fact-based assessments are often at odds with conventional wisdom. First, it shows that, as compared to Israeli military capability, neither the US nor Russia can project meaningful conventional military power into the Middle East unless they are provided with both many months to mobilize and a lack of opposition during the long process of deployment. This conclusion implies that any US-proposed mutual defense treaty offered to Israel would be militarily meaningless. Moreover, the study shows that, over the long term, any such treaty would actually result in significantly diminished Israeli national security. View PDF

US Version of Iron Dome Air Defense System Nears Realization Following Raytheon, Rafael Deal

Israeli defense contractor Rafael Advanced Defense Systems has signed a deal with US defense contractor Raytheon Missile & Defense Systems to set up a joint production facility for Iron Dome interceptors.

The production of the new partnership, called Raytheon RAFAEL Area Protection Systems, will take place in the US, with a site location to be finalized by the end of the year.

The new facility will produce both the Iron Dome Weapon System, which consists of the Tamir interceptor and launcher, and the SkyHunter missile, a US derivative of Tamir. Both Tamir and SkyHunter intercept incoming cruise missiles, unmanned aerial systems, and short-range targets such as rockets, artillery, mortars, and other aerial threats.

“We are excited about this new stage in our partnership with Raytheon and proud of our US production,” said Brig. Gen. (res.) Pini Yungman, executive vice president for Air and Missile Defense of Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. “We have long partnered on US production of Iron Dome and are pleased to increase manufacturing and bring SkyHunter to the US.”

The US defense establishment rarely purchases foreign weapon systems, but decided to acquire two Iron Dome air defense systems while it completes the development of its own solution. The systems, which were bought for $373 million, are set to become operational by the end of 2021. The cost of each Tamir interceptor is believed to be in the region of $50,000, making it a relatively cheap interceptor and easier to sell abroad.

Around 50% of the components of the Iron Dome system are already being manufactured in the US before being assembled at Rafael’s facility in Israel. This new venture is mainly meant to provide the US with the 240 interceptors it acquired with the two Iron Dome systems.

NGO Monitor: NGO Monitor Letter to Spanish MFA Regarding Spanish Funding to Terror Linked NGOs

Dear Minister González Laya
Dear Secretary of State Moreno Bau,

We write to you regarding evidence that we have uncovered, showing that Spanish government grantees are linked to a terrorist organization.

Similar concerns are being discussed intensively and urgently across Europe. For example, on July 20, the Dutch government announced it was freezing funding to the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) over its close links to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), designated as a terrorist organization by the EU and others. Foreign Minister Stef Blok and Development Minister Sigrid Kaag revealed that an internal government audit concluded that Dutch funds were used to pay the salaries of two individuals arrested for murder.

Additionally, on May 19, Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement Olivér Várhelyi stated during a meeting of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET), that he had instructed the heads of EU delegations to Israel and West Bank/ Gaza to “look deeply” into the allegations that some EU funds go to terror-linked or supporting NGOs, declaring that such funding “will not be tolerated.”

In the Spanish context, different ministries and agencies, as well as regional and municipal authorities, are funding projects with PFLP-linked NGOs: Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), Bisan Center, Addameer, and Health Work Committees (HWC). Several senior officials from these NGOs (UAWC, Addameer, HWC) were arrested as part a 50-person terror cell operating in the West Bank allegedly responsible for a bomb attack that murdered a teenager in August 2019.

– Ubai Aboudi: Bisan’s Executive Director since April 2019. He was arrested by Israeli authorities on November 13, 2019. In an indictment of another recently indicted PFLP leader, Aboudi is referred to a PFLP member who was told to recruit additional members to the cell. In June 2020, Aboudi was sentenced to 12-months in prison.
– Itiraf Hajaj (Rimawi) served as Bisan’s previous Executive Director (from 2014 at least). He was arrested in September 2019. The Israel Security Agency refers to Rimawi as being responsible for PFLP clandestine operations.
– Walid Hanatsheh (Abu Ras): Health Work Committees (HWC)’s finance and administration manager. Hanatsheh is on trial for allegedly being the leader of PFLP “military” operations and commanding the cell that carried out the August 2019 bombing attack. According to the indictment, Hanatsheh bankrolled the August bombing.
– Samer Arbid, UAWC accountant and previously UAWC “financial officer” (formerly Addameer’s accountant). Arbid is on trial for commanding the PFLP terror cell that carried out the bombing. According to the indictment (on file), Arbid prepared and detonated the explosive device.
– Abdel Razeq Farraj, UAWC “Finance and Administration Director.” According to his indictment (on file), Razeq Farraj held a senior PFLP post and authorized the August 2019 bombing. He is currently standing trial.
– Khalida Jarrar: Addameer’s vice-chairperson until 2017, Jarrar was arrested in October 2019 on suspicions of “involvement in terror activity.” On December 18, 2019, it was revealed that Jarrar had “emerged as the head of the PFLP in the West Bank and responsible for all the organization’s activities” (emphasis added). According to the indictment (on file), she headed the PFLP operations in the West Bank since June 2016.

Honest Reporting: A European government pays terrorist salaries and the world is silent?

The Dutch government has admitted that it paid salaries to Palestinian terrorists who killed a 17-year-old Israeli girl. Dov Lipman, a former Knesset member and HonestReporting’s Senior Manager for Community Outreach asks how the international media and the United Nations have remained silent over this controversy.

Joint List MK participates in celebration for released terrorist

MK Sami Abou Shahadeh (Joint List’s Balad faction) participated last week in an event celebrating the release of convicted terrorist Anis Saffouri, who was sentenced in 2009 to 14 years in prison for conspiring to murder Israeli air force pilots, scientists and IDF soldiers.

Saffouri, a resident of the Israeli-Arab city of Shfaram, was convicted of aiding and abetting the enemy, unlawful affiliation with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, conspiracy to commit murder, and weapons charges.

Upon his release from prison Saffouri was welcomed by a mass reception of hundreds of Shfaram residents, including a special delegation from the Balad party headed by MK Sami Abou Shahadeh, Balad Secretary General Mustafa Taha, and former Balad chairman Jamal Zahalka.

Members of the Balad delegation spoke at the event and presented Saffouri with an honorary plaque. Balad uploaded pictures and videos from the event to their official Facebook page.

The Arab Desk of the pro-Israel watchdog group Im Tirtzu filed a police complaint and submitted a complaint to the Knesset Ethics Committee against MK Shahadeh.

According to Im Tirtzu, MK Shahadeh along with the other participants at the reception were in violation of section 24 of Israel’s 2016 Counter-Terrorism Law that criminalizes voicing praise and support for terrorism.

Israel strikes Syria in response to attempted terrorist attack

The IDF carried out airstrikes against targets belonging to the Syrian military in southern Syria on Monday night, in response to an attempted terrorist attack that was thwarted along the Syrian border the night before.

IDF aircraft, including fighter jets and helicopters, carried out the strikes, according to the IDF.

The targets hit in the strikes included lookout points, intelligence gathering mechanisms, anti-aircraft weapons and means of control and command at Syrian military bases.

“The IDF sees the Syrian regime as responsible for all operations carried out in its territory and will continue to act with determination against all attacks on the sovereignty of the State of Israel,” the IDF said.

Syrian air defenses responded to “enemy targets” southwest of Damascus on Monday night, according to Syrian state news agency SANA.

According to the agency, only material damage was caused in strikes that targeted the Quneitra area in southern Syria. Al-Arabiya reported that injuries were caused in the strikes.

Shortly before the strikes in Quneitra, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that airstrikes by unidentified aircraft had targeted sites on Monday morning belonging to pro-Iranian militias in Albukamal in the Deir Ezzor area of Syria near the Iraqi-Syrian border. Deaths and injuries were reported in the strikes, which damaged armories and other sites belonging to the militias.

According to SOHR, about 15 pro-Iranian militants of Iraqi nationality were killed during the strikes in Albukamal.

IDF finds gun, more explosives left behind by would-be attackers on Syria border

The Israel Defense Forces on Monday said that following last night’s security incident along the Syrian border — which saw the army kill four armed men who crossed the border and planted bombs — troops scanned the area and found a gun, as well as a backpack with several more bombs ready for use.

The items were found inside Israel, 25 meters from the border, the army said.

The army said military officers met with UNDOF’s Maj. Gen. Ishwar Hamal in the afternoon to show the UN peacekeepers the scene of the incident.

“At the meeting, the division commander emphasized that the IDF would not allow the security of the residents of the State of Israel and its sovereignty to be harmed, and that the IDF considers the State of Syria responsible for everything that happens on its territory,” the army said in a statement.

During the Sunday night incident, four people crossed into Israeli territory and planted improvised explosive devices inside an unmanned Israel Defense Forces outpost along the Syrian border, the military said earlier Monday.

Soldiers from the Maglan special forces unit and unspecified aircraft opened fire at the four suspects, some of whom were armed, killing them all, IDF Spokesperson Hidai Zilberman told reporters Monday morning. The army also released video of the incident, showing figures approaching a fence near the border and being hit with a missile.

PreOccupiedTerritory: UN Silent As Israel Again Shoots Down Helpless Hamas Missiles (satire)

Human rights and pro-Palestinian activists fumed today at the international community’s continuing refusal to address the phenomenon of the Jewish State using American-funded technology to intercept Palestinian rockets launched at communities over the Gaza border, rockets that lack the means to defend themselves from the interceptor projectiles.

Sunday evening again saw batteries of the Iron Dome system shoot down a missile aimed at a populated area of southern Israel, bringing the total of intercepted Palestinian rockets to 2,400 since the system’s introduction a decade ago. None of those explosive-laden incoming missiles have carried any system to ward off or avoid interception, a fact that Palestinian activists and human rights groups cite in vain to prompt the United Nations and other global bodies to act to prevent the phenomenon, with the futility of the effort an ever-increasing source of frustration for the activists.

“Where is the Human Rights Council?” demanded Ali Abunimah, who runs the pro-Palestinian outlet Electronic Intifada. “They should be all over this travesty. No one in their right mind, no one with an ounce of moral sense, can remain silent as these helpless, defenseless missiles get blasted out of the sky by monstrous creations of imperialist powers hell-bent on repressing the legitimate resistance of oppressed peoples to settler-colonialism. This reeks of betrayal.”

PMW: AK47s and rocks for kids promoted on PA TV

A children’s program on official PA TV that commemorated the late cartoonist Naji Al-Ali showed a selection of his cartoons, several of which promoted violence to kids.

The cartoonist was famous among Palestinians for having invented the cartoon characters “Handala” a boy who symbolizes the Palestinian refugee, and the woman Fatima. The cartoon above shows Fatima offering an AK47 automatic rifle to Handala.

Another cartoon showed Fatima with roots growing out below her dress connecting her to the ground, handing out rocks to children, including Handala. On the right, a girl is throwing a rock at an Israeli/Jew with a large nose and a Star of David on his hat who is covering his head.

The girl narrator on the program explained that Fatima symbolizes the strong Palestinian women:
Official PA TV narrator girl: “Naji [Al-Ali] invented the character of Handala, who was in his drawings regularly and represents a 10-year-old boy who turns his back to the viewers… Naji had another character who returned again and again in his drawings as the figure of the Palestinian woman, whom Naji called Fatima. She is a character who is not humiliated. Her vision is very clear on everything regarding the cause and the way to resolve it.” [Official PA TV, From My Country, July 22, 2020]

Other cartoons by Al-Ali shown on PA TV portrayed Israeli soldiers as long-nosed cowards, scared of the rock throwing Palestinian children. The girl narrator explained to viewers that “the Israeli soldier has a long nose”:

Palestinians: Israel is ‘secretly’ imposing annexation plan

Palestinian officials claimed on Tuesday that Israel is “secretly” implementing its plan to apply sovereignty to portions of the West Bank and said they would pursue their efforts to foil the move.

Responding to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who stated on Monday that the annexation plan “has not been taken off the agenda,” the officials again warned that such a move would constitute a “blatant violation of international law.”

Netanyahu said during a Likud faction meeting that the “option [of annexation] still exists” and the matter is currently in the hands of the administration of US President Donald Trump.

“We have repeatedly warned that Netanyahu has not abandoned the annexation scheme,” said a senior Palestinian Authority official. “Netanyahu’s remarks prove that he and the US administration are determined to proceed with this dangerous plan. That’s why we are pursuing our diplomatic efforts in the international arena to warn of the grave consequences of such a move.”

The official claimed that Israel’s actions on the ground show that it has been taking various measures to pave the way for the implementation of the annexation plan.

The official praised 15 European countries for recently issuing a formal diplomatic complaint to the Israeli Foreign Ministry over construction in the E1 area and Givat Hamatos.

Givat Hamatos is within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries, while E1 is to the east of the city, between Jerusalem and Ma’aleh Adumim.

Fatah threatens: “Don’t try the Palestinians’ patience… We have a gun in our hand”

Fatah threatens: “Don’t try the Palestinians’ patience. Whether this gun is empty or fully loaded, we have a gun in our hand”
[Official PA TV, Topic of the Day, June 22, 2020]

Fatah Revolutionary Council Secretary Majed Al-Fatiani: “We say to [Israeli Prime Minister] Netanyahu and his Zionist right-wing, and we say to [US President] Trump… don’t try the Palestinians’ patience. Whether this gun is empty or fully loaded, we have a gun in our hand. Even if you think that we are waving this gun [in vain], don’t try the Palestinians’ patience. How do you know whether this gun is empty or full of bullets? The decision [on how to oppose annexation] is Palestinian… We [Fatah Revolutionary Council] have already said, and the Central Committee and the Palestinian leadership have already said that the Palestinian popular resistance… will escalate and be proportional to the scope of the Zionists’ steps on the ground. If this occupier’s behavior will develop on the ground with a decision on actual annexation or with implementation of actual annexation – then this Netanyahu and this Zionist band of settlers on our lands will see what the Palestinian response is.

Fatah Revolutionary Council Secretary Majed Al-Fatiani made this statement in the context of Israel’s presumed annexation – i.e., application of Israeli law to the Jordan Vallet and Jewish towns in the West Bank – which was scheduled to take place on July 1, 2020.

The terms “peaceful uprising/resistance” and “popular uprising/resistance” are used by PA leaders at times to refer to peaceful protest and at times to refer to deadly terror attacks and terror waves. For example, ?Mahmoud Abbas defined as “peaceful popular” the murderous terror during the 2015-2016 ?terror wave (“The Knife Intifada”), in which 40 people were killed (36 Israelis, 1 Palestinian, 2 Americans and 1 Eritrean) and hundreds wounded in stabbings, shootings, and car ramming attacks. Abbas said: “We want peaceful popular uprising, and that’s what this is.”

MEMRI: Russian Military Expert Pavel Felgenhauer: Russia Will Defend Armenia From The Turks; If Necessary, Russia Will Save Armenia With A Nuclear Strike

On July 29, Turkey announced the launch of joint large-scale tactical and tactical flight exercises involving Turkish and Azerbaijani ground and air forces.[1] The exercises, taking place July 29-August 10, include live firing and involve some 5,000 personnel, 150 units of military armored vehicles, up to 150 units of artillery and air defense systems, and up to 30 jets, helicopters and drones. [2] They are being held in Azerbaijan, in the areas of Baku, Nakhchivan, Ganja, Kurdamir and Yevlakh. Ground exercises are being held in Baku and Nakhchivan August 1-5, with artillery, armored vehicles, and mortars striking simulated targets.[3]

It should be noted that earlier that month, on July 12, tensions rose once again on the Azerbaijani-Armenian border, when Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry accused Armenia of attempting to attack Azerbaijan’s positions at the Tovuz section of the border with artillery systems. “Beginning on the afternoon of July 12, units of the Armenian armed forces, grossly violating the ceasefire in the direction of the Tovuz region of the Azerbaijani-Armenian state border, were subjected to artillery fire on our positions. There are losses on both sides and currently there is fighting in this direction. Our units are in control of the operational situation,” the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry reported.[4]

However, Armenian Defense Ministry spokesperson Shushan Stepanyan reported on Facebook that on July 12 Azerbaijan had attempted to violate the Armenian border near the Tavush region, but that all these attempts had been thwarted. “At about 12:30 today, Armed Forces of Azerbaijan personnel, for reasons unknown to us, attempted to violate the border of the Republic of Armenia in a UAZ vehicle in the direction of Tavush,” Stepayan said, adding that after a warning from the Armenian side, the Azerbaijani military personnel returned to their positions, but later made a second attempt to cross the border, using artillery fire, and again retreated, with losses to their side..[5]

The Azerbaijan-Armenia clashes continued for three days. Azerbaijan reported that 12 personnel, including a general, had been killed,[6] and Armenia reported four servicemen killed.[7] Commenting on the escalation at the border, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said: “As you are aware, on July 12, Azerbaijan attacked our border positions in the Tavush region. Not only did the Armed Forces of Armenia repel the attacks, they also caused significant damage to the adversary. The Azerbaijani side suffered numerous casualties, in addition to losses of military equipment and weapons with highly advanced technology. This is an explicit victory of military strength, tactics, and Armenia’s military-industrial complex.

Massive explosion rocks Beirut Port causing damage to nearby buildings

A massive explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday and a tall plume of smoke could be seen from a distance. The explosion took place at the Beirut Port. According to Lebanese media, ambulances were transporting hundreds of injured people to local hospitals and dozens may have been killed in the incident.

Multiple videos from the area showed a plume of smoke rising from near the coastline and then a large blast and shockwave. Buildings throughout the area were damaged in the blast. The Daily Star newspaper, for example, released a video from its offices showing extensive damage.

According to the Daily Star, two explosions were reported at the port.

The source of the explosion was unclear. LBCI Lebanon News claimed that a fire had broken out at the port and then triggered an explosion of a nearby warehouse storing fireworks. According to Al-Mayadeen, the explosion occurred in a warehouse storing benzine, a flammable chemical.

A significant internet outage was reported in Lebanon following reports of the explosion, according to internet watchdog NetBlocks. It is unclear what caused the outage.

Lebanon’s state news agency NNA and two security sources said the blast had occurred in the port area where there are warehouses housing explosives. It was not immediately clear what caused the blast or what kind of explosives were in the warehouses.

Seth Frantzman: Hezbollah looted Lebanon and it will cost $93b. to bail it out – analysis

Lebanon is in the midst of a financial crisis which may not be possible to solve. It has racked up staggering debts and could need $93 billion to bail it out, according to a new report by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. The economy is in a tailspin, COVID-19 has taken away remittances the country needs, and Beirut is effectively defaulting on bonds, the study notes.

Written by lawyer and economics writer James Rickards, with a foreword by FDD’s chief executive, Mark Dubowitz, and senior vice-president for research Jonathan Schanzer, the new report presents a sobering picture of the challenges facing Lebanon. These are difficulties that are tied directly to the role of Hezbollah in looting the country and hijacking it. If a bailout doesn’t take into account extracting concessions from Hezbollah or the role it plays in the country this “risks transferring billions to a global terrorist organization and perpetuating one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history,” Schanzer and Dubowitz note.

What happened in Lebanon? Lebanese are generally credited with being successful and creative in diaspora businesses that span the globe, from Latin America to Africa. Lebanon used to be thought of as the Switzerland of the Middle East, or variously some kind of cross between Miami, southern France and the Gulf. But the country was badly harmed by civil war between 1976 and 1989, as well as a Syrian occupation. Then, with Syria’s withdrawal in 2005 after the assassination of prime minister Rafic Hariri, Hezbollah’s tentacles, backed by Iran, began to digest the country.

The FDD report notes that the government missed a $1.2 billion eurobond payment this spring. The International Monetary Fund and World Bank are slowly working to “assess the problem.” The Rickards report asserts that restructuring Lebanon’s mounting debt will be difficult. Bondholders won’t likely take a “haircut” or reduction on what they are owed because Lebanon “has no net hard currency reserves and no prospects of receiving any significant amount in the near term.” But Lebanon does have 286 metric tons of gold in its reserves. This actually makes the tiny country wealthy in one way. The gold alone is worth $16 billion.

Save Lebanon from Hezbollah

Crisis-Weary Lebanon Braces for Hariri Tribunal Verdict

Fifteen years after a truck bomb killed Lebanon’s former Sunni leader Rafik al-Hariri in Beirut, triggering regional upheaval, a UN-backed court trying four suspects from Shi’ite Hezbollah delivers a verdict on Friday that could shake the country again.

The defendants, members of the powerful Iran-backed group, have been tried in absentia on charges of planning and arranging the 2005 bombing which killed the former prime minister who spearheaded Lebanon’s reconstruction after its long civil war.

Hariri’s assassination prompted mass protests in Beirut and a wave of international pressure which forced Syria to end its 29-year military presence in Lebanon after the UN investigator linked it with the bombing.

The assassination also inflamed political and sectarian tensions inside Lebanon and across the Middle East, particularly when investigators started probing potential Hezbollah links to the death of a politician who was backed by the West as well as Sunni Gulf Arab states opposed to Tehran.

Hezbollah, which is both a political party in Lebanon’s government and a heavily-armed guerrilla group, denies any role in Hariri’s killing and dismisses the Netherlands-based tribunal as politicized.

Few expect the defendants to be handed over if convicted, but any guilty verdicts could pose a problem to the government and deepen rifts unresolved since the 1975-1990 civil war. The country is already reeling from the worst economic crisis in decades and a deepening COVID-19 outbreak.

Hezbollah has been designated a terrorist organisation by the United States, Canada, Germany, Britain, Argentina and Honduras as well as the Sunni Muslim Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which includes Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait. The EU classifies Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist group, but not its political wing.

Iran Accidentally Sinks Fake U.S. Aircraft Carrier In Problematic Place For Iranian Navy

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGC-N) accidentally sank a fake U.S. aircraft carrier that it uses during training exercises in what they believe is an effective way to prepare for a potential face off with the U.S. Navy — by far the most powerful naval force in the world.

“The stricken carrier can be seen, capsized, in commercial satellite imagery,” Forbes reported. “It began to sink when it was being towed back to Bandar Abbas after being attacked.” After reportedly beginning to list “steeply to one side” on July 31, with “half of the flight deck submerged,” the boat has since sunk further.

Forbes highlighted a photo that was shared by Aurora Intel and shows PLEIADES satellite imagery of the destroyed aircraft carrier.

“The location of the sinking will likely create a serious headache for the Iranian Navy and IRGC-N. It is just outside the harbor entrance to Bandar Abbas, near to the main approach channel,” Forbes added. “The water there is approximately 45 ft deep, which is shallow. This makes it worse for Iran because it cannot be left to sink. It is so shallow that other ships face a very real risk of catastrophic damage if they sail over it. In fact, at least as-of a couple of days ago, it was partly above water. This is a serious shipping hazard.”

Iran fired missiles at the fake aircraft carrier from a helicopter and encircled the boat with attack speedboats, USA Today reported. The event is also used for creating propaganda that the Iranians broadcast on state-run television.

USA Today added propaganda created by the Iranians that they broadcast to their citizens showed “Iranian commandos subsequently fast-roped down from the helicopter onto the mock Nimitz-class carrier –resembling a ship the U.S. Navy routinely sails into the Persian Gulf – as other Iranian navy vessels encircle the vessel, likely a barge, kicking up white waves in their wake.”

The IRGC, which is a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), also recently showed off what it claimed were underground ballistic missiles, which was part of the training excercise.

Iran abducted California man in Dubai, family says

A California-based member of an Iranian militant opposition group in exile was abducted by Iran while staying in Dubai, his family said Tuesday.

The suspected cross-border abduction of Jamshid Sharmahd appears corroborated by mobile phone location data, shared by his family with The Associated Press, that suggests he was taken to neighboring Oman before heading to Iran.

Iran hasn’t said how it detained Sharmahd, though the announcement came against the backdrop of covert actions conducted by Iran amid heightened tensions with the US over Tehran’s collapsing nuclear deal with world powers.

Iran accuses Sharmahd, 65, of Glendora, California, of planning a 2008 attack on a mosque that killed 14 people and wounded over 200 others, as well as plotting other assaults through the little-known Kingdom Assembly of Iran and its Tondar militant wing. It aired an interview of him on state television — footage that resembled many other suspected coerced confessions broadcast by the Iranian government in the last decade.

His family, however, insists Sharmahd only served as a spokesman for the group and had nothing to do with any attacks in Iran. Sharmahd, who supports restoring Iran’s monarchy that was overthrown in the 1979 Islamic Revolution, already had been targeted in an apparent Iranian assassination plot on US soil in 2009.

“We’re seeking support from any democratic country, any free country,” his son Shayan Sharmahd told the AP. “It is a violation of human rights. You can’t just pick someone up in a third country and drag them into your country.”

Fire Breaks Out at Iranian Industrial Area, No Casualties: State TV

A fire broke out at an Iranian industrial area near Tehran on Tuesday, Iran’s state TV reported, the latest in a string of fires and explosions, some of which have hit sensitive sites.

“The fire broke out at the industrial area of the Jajrud district in the Pardis county this morning … there were no casualties … firefighters are trying to contain the fire,” it said.

A fire department official told state TV that the cause of the fire was under investigation.

There have been several other incidents at facilities in the past weeks, including a fire at the underground Natanz nuclear facility last month which caused significant damage, but Iranian officials said operations were not affected.

In an explosion at a medical clinic in the north of the capital Tehran in July, 19 people were killed. Officials said it was caused by a gas leak.

MEMRI: Media Advisor At Qatari Foreign Ministry: Homosexuality Is Unnatural And A Grave Sin

Qatari media periodically publish articles harshly critical of homosexuality and the gay community. On June 21, 2020, Na’ima ‘Abd Al-Wahhab Al-Mutawa’a, a Qatari journalist and media advisor at Qatar’s foreign ministry, published an article titled “Keep ‘Deviant Ideas Away from Your Children,” in the Al-Sharq daily, in which she warned that social media and computer games expose children to content that promotes the “unnatural” and “sinful” phenomenon of homosexuality.

This piece is one of several homophobic articles published in Al-Sharq over the past year. In January 2020, the daily published an article about a children’’ book that it said promoted the “moral crime” and “sick phenomenon” of homosexuality, and in July 2019 it published an article by journalist Ahmad Al-Muhannadi that likewise exhorted readers to fight this “perversion.” Furthermore, in February 2020, the American Northwestern University in Qatar canceled an event that was scheduled to be held on February 4, 2020 with the participation of Mashrou’ Leila, a Lebanese indie rock band whose lead singer is openly gay and some of whose songs deal with homosexuality. According to some reports in the Qatari media, the event was cancelled following the intervention of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, headed by Sheikha Moza bint Nassir, the mother of Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Aal Thani, which oversees the foreign universities in the country.[1]

The following are translated excerpts from Na’ima ‘Abd Al-Wahhab Al-Mutawa’a’s article:[2]
“A grave issue that can already be described as a phenomenon, and which we can no longer keep silent about, is the warm attitude evident on many social networks, especially on Snapchat, towards homosexuality, [which] deviates from the nature Allah bestowed upon males and females, and towards [the phenomenon] we see in our society of young men looking like women and young women looking like men. This phenomenon characterizes the young generation, which has access to all the electronic media that, unfortunately, spread these deviant trends, encourage them and even publish content that supports them. There isn’t a single children’s computer game that does not include deviant and perverse images of what God forbade according to every religion and [religious] school and of everything that angers God [but is practiced by] the group among which this abomination has spread. [Remember that] God punished the members [of this group] and destroyed their city in the blink of an eye.[3]

“This is an issue that must not be underestimated and must be opposed, especially [when it comes to] protecting our children from these perversions, which take them away from the correct and normal path. For how terrible it is to see your son deviating from the natural [path] towards grave sin, or your daughter deviating from her path and following those who spread and encourage these perverted sights…

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