September 25, 2020

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08/06 Links Pt1: Beirut blast came at worst possible time for Nasrallah; Rebuffed by Lebanon, Israelis seek workarounds to get help to Beirut; PLO/Fatah planning violent “comprehensive intifada”

From Ian:

Beirut blast came at worst possible time for Nasrallah
As opposed to other past incidents, Hezbollah was not quick in its broadcasts to blame Israel. It didn’t hint at sabotage and didn’t threaten to “get rid of those responsible” for what happened in the Port of Beirut. Even if someone succeeds in proving that it indeed was a weapons storage belonging to the organization, and there is still no certainty that it is, this could not have come at a worse time for Nasrallah to admit so.

The reason is simple. Deep from his bunker in the Dahiya neighborhood in south Beirut, not far from the port in flames, Nasrallah is busy trying to put out at least three other fires that he is seen as responsible for, and their potential for damage is just as huge as what happened in the port.

One fire is the internal crisis in Lebanon, stemming from the unprecedented financial crisis that has bankrupted the country and brought it to its knees, with sky-high unemployment, a shortage in food and gas, and daily protests. Many in Lebanon blame Hezbollah, a partner in the government, for the situation.

The second fire has to do with a much smaller blast, but many times more lethal, which 15 years ago took out the Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafiq Hariri, at Syria’s request and was carried out directly by Hezbollah. In the years since, Nasrallah has managed to get rid of most of those involved in the hit, but the incriminating evidence has not disappeared, and the international tribunal is expected to publish its conclusions Thursday, after much delay. For Nasrallah, whose organization has already been called by many nations a terrorist group, a conviction by the Hague will be a serious matter.

And the third fire threatening Lebanon is linked to the equation Nasrallah has created and which forces him to respond to every Israeli hit on Hezbollah activists, even if it takes place outside of Lebanon. This is not the place to discuss if Israel is correct by not clarifying from the start that this equation is not acceptable, especially if it takes place in Syria, but Nasrallah sees the amassing of forces on the Israeli side of the border and understands that if he makes a mistake, the Israeli response could start another massive fire in Lebanon, that no one in this miserable country will be able to put out, and everyone there will blame him.

Iran sees disaster as opportunity to advance regional interests

There will be those who claim that now Hezbollah will be blamed and will have to loosen its grip on the country, especially if it becomes clear that its own weapon storage led to the disaster, as was hinted by Saudi media in the Gulf, or that the ammonium was kept there for a similar reason. But even if this is the case, the PR machine of the Shia organization is ready to go.

Lebanon’s al-Akhbar newspaper has already claimed that the speed of Israel’s denial in responsibility for the event hints that it is connected to the blast. Just like its denials after taking out senior Hezbollah leader Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus, and other attacks in Syria. On Wednesday, the editor of the newspaper, Ibrahim Al Amine, said that sabotage could be an option, even though none of it matters and it’s all just a cover-up for the “great collapse” of Lebanon.

Even before the horrible disaster, the threat to respond to the killing of the Hezbollah operative in Syria, which came through that same Lebanese newspaper close to the terror group, made it clear that despite Hassan Nasrallah’s promises to help with the national financial crisis, his priorities have remained the same: first Iran – then Lebanon. This, despite all the warnings from senior Israeli officials. This insistence to play with fire when Lebanon is suffering following an unprecedented economic crisis shows that for Nasrallah, it is more important to deter Israel from acting in Syria, where Iran wants to widen its presence and transfer advanced weapons to Hezbollah.

In other words, Iran’s strategy to lay siege to Israel from as many fronts as possible continues as usual. In the long run, the Islamic republic still believes the West can not stop its spread in the Middle East and its threats on Israel, and that it will eventually loosen the sanctions. Tehran is currently hoping for the victory of the Democratic party’s nominee in the US presidential elections, Joe Biden, who they believe will return to the more reconciliatory policy of former president Barack Obama.

As that is the case, one cannot ignore the horrible cynicism in the statement of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif Tuesday night. “Our hearts are with the Lebanese people during the great catastrophe,” he said, “we are willing to help Lebanon in any way we can.” If Tehran really wants to help Lebanon – it should cut all ties with it. The past has shown us, however, that its grip will only tighten.

Tel Aviv City Hall Illuminated With Lebanese Flag in Show of Solidarity After Deadly Beirut Blast

The facade of Tel Aviv’s city hall was illuminated with the Lebanese flag on Wednesday night — a show of solidarity with the Jewish state’s neighbor to the north following the deadly explosion in Beirut that killed at least 135 people and wounded thousands more.

“Our hearts and thoughts are with the Lebanese people and all those affected by the terrible disaster in Beirut,” the Tel Aviv Municipality tweeted.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai tweeted, “Humanity comes before any conflict, and our hearts are with the Lebanese people following the terrible disaster they experienced.”

Israel quickly offered humanitarian relief to Lebanon after Tuesday’s blast.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry tweeted, “At the direction of FM @Gabi_Ashkenazi and Defense Min. Gantz, Israel via security and international channels has offered humanitarian medical assistance to the government of Lebanon.”

On Wednesday, it was reported that the possibility of Israeli hospitals taking in foreigners wounded in the Beirut explosion was being considered.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted on Wednesday, “On behalf of the government of Israel, I send my condolences to the people of Lebanon. Yesterday Lebanon suffered a major catastrophe. We are ready to offer humanitarian assistance, as human being to human beings.”

‘We’ll light up Tel Aviv…with our rockets’: Lebanese rebuff Israeli solidarity

If you thought the backlash to the Tel Aviv municipality projecting a Lebanese flag on the side of its building was strong inside Israel, try the backlash inside Lebanon.

Many Lebanese took to social media on Wednesday to express their ire over the attempted gesture of solidarity by the Tel Aviv municipality with the victims of the previous night’s Beirut port explosion. The blast, which was apparently caused by the ignition of 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate, has claimed at least 135 lives, and left over 5,000 injured and 300,000 homeless.

“Sure, they’re raising our flag now, but soon enough they’ll destroy our country and violate our country’s sovereignty,” wrote one Twitter user.

MEMRI: Lebanese Journalist Flays State Officials Over Beirut Blast: Their Hands Are Stained With The Blood Of The Victims, They Must Be Ousted And Held Accountable

On August 5, 2020, one day after the massive blast in the port of Beirut, which caused immense devastation and thousands of dead and injured, Lebanese journalist Nader Fawz wrote a scathing column in the Lebanese independent online daily in which he blamed the disaster on Lebanon’s leadership. He wrote that “Lebanon’s serial killers, the ones responsible for its security, its institutions and its decision-making, have completed their series of murders against the people,” adding that no curse is bad enough to describe these “murderers” and “bloodsuckers.”

Noting that the Lebanese have long since lost all faith in their authorities, but that this explosion was the last straw, he added that the hands of the state officials, chief of them Prime Minister Hassan Diab, are stained with the blood of the victims who died in this explosion, as well as countless other Lebanese who have died of hunger, disease and oppression. These officials, he concluded, must resign and be made to pay for their crimes, whether through the courts or in other ways.

The following are excerpts from his article:[1]
“The Lebanese state created a time bomb and planted it in the port of Beirut, an area that all Lebanese, from every region and every sect, and of every political affiliation, visit and see. The state caused its citizens harm through the explosion of chemicals that were stored at the port several months ago [sic.] without the slightest sense of political or human responsibility. Lebanon’s serial killers, the ones responsible for its security, its institutions and its decision-making, have completed their series of murders against the people. This time the killing was carried out directly, rather than through economic suffocation or torture that saps the morale. It was planned and premeditated, or at least known in advance. This act of murder was not an isolated incident. It is [part of] a system, part of an organized crime. It is a clear act of murder, a massacre carried out using ammonium nitrate that was stored at the port.

“Beirut port looks as though a meteor struck it, igniting a conflagration and causing shockwaves that were visible to the naked eye before they engulfed us, leaving destruction, fatalities and injuries in their wake. Beirut is a disaster-struck capital, its buildings ruined and its residents homeless. Shop windows were torn from their place and the entire city was reduced to a skeleton. The city had slowly expired over several months [due to the economic crisis]… leaving only a corpse… and then came this blast and destroyed the little flesh that was still clinging [on its bones]. The districts of Al-Gemmayzeh, Badaro and Ras Beirut are now completely devastated. The number of victims is still unknown, but the sight of dust-covered corpses in the port indicates that the number is vast. Some were buried where they stood, others were felled in their offices, in their chairs or in their cars. This blast harmed everyone, the entire city and country.

“The explosion at the port was the last nail in the coffin of Beirut, which died when the [entire] state died, after falling into the hands of the gang that rules it. There are no words to describe the atrocities of this [gang]. They are murderers who shed blood in [times of] war and [times of] peace, bloodsuckers, mutants who have turned into beasts of prey the likes of which nature has never seen. No curse in the book and no expression of evil or corruption is strong enough to describe them. The first thing they did [after the blast] is to contact [one another] to see if they were [all] ok. Some of them even visited one another, while people’s body-parts and the contents of houses were still strewn in the streets. The Lebanese state announced a period of mourning for the victims it itself had killed. [Later] the officials will once again attend the funerals of people they murdered.

MEMRI: Saudi Editorials: Hizbullah Is Responsible For The Explosion At The Port Of Beirut

Following the massive explosion yesterday, August 4, 2020, at the Port of Beirut, that killed over 100, injured thousands, and caused widespread property damage, the Saudi establishment dailies ‘Okaz and Al-Riyadh published editorials linking Hizbullah to the explosion, even hinting that it was responsible for it. The editorials claim that Hizbullah has always been a force for destruction and devastation in Lebanon, and that it serves the Iranian agenda, conspires against Lebanon, and is not interested in its stability. The Al-Riyadh editorial even implied that the explosion is directly connected to the upcoming August 7 announcement by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon at The Hague of its verdict in the trial concerning the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri.

It should be noted that the Saudi Al Arabiya channel made a connection between the explosion and Hizbullah, when it reported that it took place in Hizbullah munitions warehouses.[1]

The following are translated excerpts from the ‘Okaz and Al-Riyadh editorials:

‘Okaz: Hizbullah Engineers Every Crisis In Lebanon
In its editorial, the ‘Okaz daily stated that Lebanon is the victim of Hizbullah and Iran, and that the explosion at the Port of Beirut clearly illustrates this: “No one disagrees that Lebanon was and remains the victim of those who conspire against it from within. [This refers to] those who established a country within a country [i.e. Hizbullah] and hijacked this Arab country in order to realize the interests of the sectarian Iranian regime, and who have not attained any accomplishments for the [Lebanese] people. On the contrary, they have transformed Lebanon into a terrorist suburb whose objective is to detonate, to devastate, and to destroy.

“The entire world is witness to the scale of the massive [the August 4] explosion at a warehouse containing high explosives at Beirut port, which turned the Lebanese capital into a disaster zone and caused thousands of injuries and hundreds of deaths, destroying not only the Port of Beirut but the entire capital. Hizbullah has never, in any way, been a constructive element in Lebanon. Whenever there was a crisis in Lebanon, it was Hizbullah that engineered it. Its leader, the terrorist Hassan Nasrallah, continues to be an agent of devastation and destruction. Therefore, restoring peace and security is [conditional] on the end of Hiz[bullah], which is nurtured by wars and acts of destruction. It does not seek prosperity for Lebanon or Beirut, or for their universities to be open and [to provide] a meeting place for tolerance and coexistence among all the Lebanese from all ethnic groups, schools of thought, regions, and social strata. [This approach of Hizbullah’s] stems from a lack of political logic and maturity, because Hiz[bullah] obeys the terrorist regime of [Iranian Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei and serves the Iranian enterprise which it has adopted. The best proof of this is [the explosion] at the Port of Beirut, that reduced Lebanon to ashes.”[2]

Hezbollah Will Not Escape Blame for Beirut

As if the Lebanese haven’t suffered enough. For months, they have been caught between an economic meltdown, crumbling public services and a surging pandemic. Now they must count the dead and survey the extensive damage to their capital after two giant explosions on Tuesday.

The blasts, especially the second, were so huge they were reportedly heard and felt in Cyprus. At least 100 people are reported to have been killed — that number will almost certainly rise — and thousands injured. A large expanse of the port and its immediate neighborhood lies in smoking ruin; miles away, streets are full of shattered glass.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government says the explosions were caused when careless welding ignited about 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a highly combustible material used as fertilizer and for bomb-making. By comparison, Timothy McVeigh used about 2.4 tons of the same chemical in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. The 2015 disaster in the Chinese city of Tianjin was caused by the explosion of 800 tons of ammonium nitrate.

The equivalent of 1,100 Oklahoma City-size bombs could indeed account for the devastation and the reddish mushroom cloud that plumed gaudily over the Beirut port. But it doesn’t mean Lebanese will simply accept that the explosion was an unavoidable, force majeure event.

Assuming the official account holds up, the disaster again exposes the rot that is destroying the country — an especially corrosive mix of corruption, ineptitude and malign intentions.

After Beirut Blast, Lebanon Tribunal Postpones Verdict in Hariri Case

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon on Wednesday said it would postpone its verdict in the trial over the 2005 bombing that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri to August 18, following the huge explosion in Beirut‘s port on Tuesday.

The United Nations-backed court located outside The Hague, Netherlands, was due to give a verdict in the trial of four men who are accused in the deaths of Hariri and 21 others this Friday.

The verdict has been delayed “out of respect for the countless victims of the devastating explosion that shook Beirut on 4 August, and the three-days of public mourning in Lebanon,” the court’s registry said in a statement.

Before the explosion that rocked Beirut on Tuesday, the country had been bracing for the verdict in the case of the men charged with planning and arranging the bombing 15 years ago.

The four defendants, who are not in custody and are being tried in absentia, are linked to Lebanon’s Shi’a Islamist group Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran.

Nobel chemistry laureate rules out possibility of Beirut-like explosion in Haifa

The explosion in Beirut on Tuesday that killed over 100 people in minutes and injured thousands, while laying waste to large parts of the city, will not happen in Israel, a Nobel Prize chemistry laureate told The Times of Israel on Wednesday.

“We don’t expect explosions in Haifa [in Israel’s north, home to the country’s biggest industrial estate],” said Prof. Dan Shechtman of Haifa’s Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, who received the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

“In Haifa, people die slowly from air pollution,” he added, in a biting criticism of government environmental policy.

Shechtman was one of a group of Technion academics who, together with then-city mayor Yona Yahav, nonprofit organizations such as Zalul, and residents, campaigned for years and, with High Court support, finally succeeded in 2017 in forcing Haifa Chemicals to empty a large ammonia tank in the Haifa Bay industrial area.

The area is still home to dozens of factories dealing with oil and chemicals, as well as storage facilities for oil, gas and other industrial substances.

What is Ammonium Nitrate and How Dangerous Is It?

UN Secretary-General Guterres calls on Lebanon to disarm Hezbollah

UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on the Lebanese government to disarm the militant group Hezbollah in a report he intends to present to the United Nations Security Council next Tuesday.

“The maintenance of unauthorized weapons outside State control by Hezbollah and other non-State armed groups represents a persistent violation of resolution 1701 (2006) and is of serious concern,” wrote Guterres in a report that was posted on the UN website earlier this week, prior to the Beirut explosion.

“I call upon the Government of Lebanon to take all actions necessary to ensure the full implementation of the relevant provisions of the Taif Accords and of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006), which require the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon so that there will be no weapons or authority in Lebanon other than those of the Lebanese State,” Guterres said.

The document is one of three reports that Guterres sends annually to the UNSC on UNIFIL. This one comes in advance of the anticipate annual vote, on August 28, to renew the mandate of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon.

Israel and the United States want the UNSC to expand the mandate to better empower UNIFIL to investigate violations by Hezbollah, particularly with regard to the terror tunnels it has built to use in attacks on Israel along its northern border.

3 Iranian planes landed in Beirut after explosion, what did they bring?

Large Iranian planes, including 747s, have been flying into Beirut in the wake of the massive explosion that killed hundreds and wounded thousands. They appear to join an international airlift that has brought medical and search and rescue support for Lebanon. However, Iran’s media, usually quick to propagandize any Iranian accomplishment, has been silent on what the planes brought. This adds to a mystery of why so many large Iranian planes suddenly arrived in Beirut and leads to questions about whether they may be using the crisis as a cover.

Iran is a key ally of Hezbollah. It usually traffics weapons to the terrorist group via Damascus. Iran has sought to provide precision-guided munitions and other deadly ordnance to Hezbollah over the years. In the wake of the massive explosion, Iran’s leaders expressed solidarity with Lebanon, but they did not indicate an airlift was underway to provide medical aid and to send search and rescue teams.

On August 6, an Iranian 747 with the serial number 21486 and operated by Saha airlines (CPN-7962/EP-SHB), appeared to head into Beirut although it had no destination or point of origin marked for open-source flight tracking applications. Journalist Avi Scharf, who often tracks flights in the region, noted that it was an Iran Cargo 747 usually on a “Damascus express” route.

Another flight named QFZ9964 (Registration EP-FAB) flying a Boeing 747 appeared to land on August 5. This was a Fars Air Qeshm flight that normally would have gone to Damascus. It landed in the evening. Another flight operated from Iran by Caspian Airlines (CPN7960) also flew toward Beirut on August 5. Its registration was given as EP-SHH. It appeared to arrive in the afternoon.

The Iranian flights to Beirut may in part be linked to flying Iranians home from Beirut who were injured or affected by the blast. The overall details were not clear in Iranian media. Only one photographer seemed to be on hand initially to capture a few images of humanitarian in crates being unloaded from one aircraft an Iran waited a day and a half to announce the deliveries. The number of crates seemed tiny compared to the size of the massive cargo planes. There was a hint online about this effort.

Qatari royal family member authorized arms supply to Hezbollah – dossier

Qatar’s monarchy has financed weapons deliveries to Hezbollah, a private-security contractor told The Jerusalem Post this week.
Jason G., who claims to have worked for Western intelligence agencies as well as being a consultant to the Gulf state, said he penetrated Qatar’s weapons-procurement business as part of an apparent sting operation.

A “member of the royal family” authorized the delivery of military hardware to the US- and EU-designated terrorist entity Hezbollah in Lebanon, he told the Post.

A dossier provided by Jason G. documented the alleged role played since 2017 by a Qatari royal family member in a sprawling scheme to finance terrorism.

The Lebanese Hezbollah organization is an Iranian proxy Shi’ite militia, established by Tehran’s Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in Lebanon in 1982. It remains dependent on Iranian finance and support.

Abdulrahman bin Mohammed Sulaiman al-Khulaifi, Qatar’s ambassador to Belgium and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), allegedly sought to pay Jason G. €750,000 to hush up the role of Qatar’s regime in supplying money and weapons to Hezbollah.

At a January 2019 meeting with Khulaifi in Brussels, the envoy said, “The Jews are our enemies,” Jason G. said.

Prof. Elhanan Bar-On, Director of the Center for Disaster Medicine, on Beirut Blast

Israel offers medical aid to Lebanon, response is silence

The heads of several Israeli hospitals have reached out to Lebanese officials and the United Nations offering medical support to the country’s wounded.

“It hurts to see the children – little children – crying and injured,” Dr. Masad Barhoum, director-general of Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya told The Jerusalem Post. “People without children – their lives destroyed in an instance. They need medical and psychological help.”

Barhoum, a Christian Arab, speaks Arabic. On Wednesday, he took to social networks and the radio appealing directly in their language to the Lebanese president and prime minister, and even Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, to allow him to help.

Galilee Medical Center is just several kilometers from the Lebanese border and, due to its proximity, the staff has learned to mobilize quickly and to work under emergency conditions. Since 1981, with the outbreak of the First Lebanon War, the hospital has adopted work procedures as a hospital on the confrontation line.

Barhoum said Lebanese citizens could be transferred to Israel via the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and then returned the same way. They would cross at the Rosh Hanikra Crossing, also known as Ras al-Naqoura Crossing.

“The idea is to help them and return them home in peace,” said Barhoum. “We have no agenda, there are no enemies in this situation. As medical professionals, we do not differentiate.”

Rebuffed by Lebanon, Israelis seek workarounds to get help to Beirut

Some of Israel’s top disaster-response doctors are defiantly drawing up plans to treat people wounded in Tuesday’s Beirut blast, seeking to go around the political minefield between the neighbors by setting up an “ad-hoc hospital” in a third country, while others are continuing to push for Lebanon to take Israeli aid offers

Several Israeli hospitals have said they will treat people injured after a massive explosion at Beirut’s port killed at least 130, injured thousands more and left large parts of the city in ruins.

The blast hit Lebanon as it was already beset by soaring unemployment and a financial crisis that has wiped out people’s life savings. Hospitals were already strained by the coronavirus, and one was so badly damaged by the blast it had to treat patients in a nearby field.

Two of the Israeli hospitals, Ziv Medical Center in Safed and Western Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya, are only about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Beirut. A third, Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, is about 30 kilometers (18 miles) further away, making them the closest hospitals to Beirut outside of Syria or Lebanon.

Lebanon has not responded to the Israeli offer but is nonetheless expected to refuse the help due to long-standing enmity between the countries, which are officially at war, and especially due to the Shiite terror group Hezbollah’s hold over state decision-making.

Israel’s government has also not officially said if it would allow Lebanese patients to enter the country, though it has allowed Syrians to enter for treatment in the past and has also offered to send humanitarian aid or help in other ways.

JVP’s Erel Margalit extends Israel’s offer to aid Beirut through Macron

Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP) founder and chairman Erel Margalit reached out to French President Emmanuel Macron ahead of his visit to Lebanon, and extended an offer of aid following the massive explosion at the Beirut Port.

The explosion, which occurred on Tuesday, saw at least 145 people killed and 5,000 people injured. Among the dead were also French and US citizens.

Multiple countries stepped up to offer financial aid and disaster relief efforts, with Macron flying to Lebanon personally to assure Lebanese citizens that French aid would go into helping the people, rather than going into “corrupt hands.”

Ahead of his visit, Margalit praised Macron for visiting Lebanon, as well as expressing the importance of humanitarian aid. He then further reiterated Israel’s offer of lending aid and disaster relief to the people of Lebanon, pointing out Israel’s status as a leader in search and rescue.

“You know Israel well, and particularly our search and rescue, and medical and technological capabilities. You saw these capabilities first hand in your various business roles when we worked together, and continue to see them today in your public role as a leader,” Margalit told Macron.

French President Macron in Lebanon: Aid will not go to corrupt hands

French President Emmanuel Macron landed in Beirut on Thursday as the first foreign leader to visit since a huge explosion on Tuesday that killed at least 145 people and injured around 5,000.

After visiting the port at the epicenter of the blast, Macron was greeted by crowds in nearby Gemmayze street, one of the most damaged in the city, who shouted chants against the political establishment and endemic corruption.

“I guarantee you, this aid will not go to corrupt hands,” said Macron.

He promised to send more medical and other aid to Lebanon, while those around him chanted “Revolution” and “The people want the fall of the regime.” Some also chanted against President Michel Aoun as anger rises against Lebanese politicians for a perceived lack of response.

“I will talk to all political forces to ask them for a new pact. I am here today to propose a new political pact to them,” he said, shaking hands on roads strewn with rubble and flanked by shops with windows blown out.

Residents, shop owners and volunteers have led clean-up efforts in the popular street of cafes and restaurants, where the blast ripped out balconies and smashed store facades.

Macron was applauded by the crowds in the neighborhood, with chants of “Vive la France! Help us! You are our only hope!”

An online petition on the website of US-based non profit organization Avaaz for France to place Lebanon under French mandate for the next 10 years garnered over 50,000 signatures.

Israel Offers Aid To Lebanon After Blast. Major European Official Mocks Israel For It. Then He’s Crushed Online

On Tuesday, after the horrifying blast in Beirut had triggered Israel to offer humanitarian aid to those suffering from the effects of the explosion, Sweden’s former Prime Minister, Carl Bildt, who currently serves as the Co-Chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations, issued a tweet disparaging Israel, writing, “The only encouraging thing in this catastrophe in Lebanon is that even Israel has been quick in offering humanitarian aid.”

Some examples of Israel’s generosity, from the individuals to the government: In October 2018, The Daily Wire reported:

A Palestinian baby in a Tel Aviv hospital is fighting for his life, but the only reason the baby is still alive is that an Israeli family that lost their one-year-old child the week before agreed to donate the child’s heart only hours before the Palestinian child became the recipient of a heart transplant, performed by Israeli doctors.

Israel is justifiably famous for offering medical help to victims of disasters around the world for over 50 years. Here’s a short list:

In 1965, Israel offered to send antibiotics, X-ray films and other pharmaceutical and medical supplies to the victims of a catastrophic earthquake in Chile.

In 2004, Israel sent relief to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and first response aid after the 2004 tsunami with 60 tons of international aid to Indonesia, and 82 tons of relief to Sri Lanka.

After the 2005 earthquake in Kashmir, Israel sent a mission offering supplies and shelter for thousands of families.

In 2009, Israel sent medical aid to the Philippines after Typhoon Parma.

In 2010, Israel’s relief team of 200 people was the first to arrive to help the victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

In 2011, Israel was the first country to send medical aid to Japan after a huge tsunami hit the country.

In 2012, Israel offered to receive casualties who were evacuated from Syria after the violence in Syria; some Israeli doctors were even on the Syrian-Turkish border treating victims of the Syrian violence.

The Washington Post reported:
It is well documented that Israel has provided emergency medical treatment to Syrian fighters seeking help. As many as 3,000 wounded individuals have made their way to the border and received lifesaving medical treatment in Israeli hospitals before returning to their homeland. … As part of the effort, Israel has transferred 360 tons of food, 450,000 liters of gasoline and 50 tons of clothing to Syria. It has also sent large quantities of painkillers, anesthetics and basic medicine for diabetes and asthma.

Reaction to Bildt’s derogatory and ill-informed tweet came swiftly: GOP Rep. Chip Roy of Texas fired back: “‘Even Israel?’ I suppose you, Carl, were offering hospital care to Syrians (including children) badly injured IN SYRIA & doing so secretively so they wouldn’t be killed or tortured for having been helped by Jews? I didn’t see you there when I visited Israeli doctors.”

Why is a former Swedish PM surprised that Israel offered humanitarian help to Lebanon?

Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt expressed surprise that Israel offered humanitarian assistance in the wake of the Beirut explosion. Dov Lipman, a former Knesset member and Honest Reporting’s Senior Manager for Community Outreach demonstrates how Israel offers help to all in need around the world an calls on Bildt to apologize and delete his misleading tweet.

BBC ME editor shoehorns Israel into coverage of Beirut disaster

The following day, August 5th, Bowen gave a long interview (from 03:49 here) on the BBC Radio 5 live Breakfast programme to presenter Nicky Campbell. At 14:09 listeners heard the following: [emphasis in bold added, emphasis in italics in the original]

Campbell: “And finally, Israel looks on nervously.”

Bowen: “Well, there was already a lot of tension on the border between…ah…Lebanese…ah… Hizballah and the Israelis. Now that’s…it’s a none…it’s an ever present…it’s a very heavily armed border (sic). They had a major war in 2006 which was more or less a draw. Hizballah fought Israel to a standstill which was a hell of a shock for the Israelis who of course have a very modern and powerful armed force and they could not beat Hizballah. Now since then both sides have had a…there’s been a balance of deterrence. But a few weeks ago…ah – the Israelis do a lot of air strikes in Syria – ah…Hizballah people were killed in an Israeli airstrike. Hizballah vowed vengeance. The Israelis claimed they’d thwarted a cross-border attack in the last couple of weeks. Hizballah said no, no; that wasn’t the attack, we’re still gonna take our vengeance. So because of the ramping up of all that and the fact too that the Israeli prime minister is in the depths of his own major political crisis, corruption, Covid 19; lots of stuff going on down there…Some Israelis were saying to me yesterday well, you know, this is…Netanyahu could do with a war. So while there is – let me stress – no evidence that that is what is in anybody’s mind, that is the way that people think when these sorts of things happen in the region. So a situation which is already…these things do not happen…these things…the consequences of this event will not simply be a health and safety investigation. It will be deeply politicised and will be related as well to the geo-political connections in this enormously unstable, difficult and dangerous part of the world.”

Listeners were not told the identity of those anonymous “Israelis” and so could not put Bowen’s pointless promotion of that conspiracy theory into its correct context. Neither – once again – did Bowen bother to inform his audience why Israel carries out airstrikes in Syria and against what targets or what a Hizballah militia member would be doing there.

Apparently the best that the BBC could provide to its funding public when a major catastrophe took place in Lebanon was Jeremy Bowen’s rambling, irrelevant, Israel-related speculations and conspiracy theories.

Fact check: Israeli PM did not claim responsibility for Beirut explosion

Social media users have shared a screenshot of an Instagram post with text stating that the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that Israel was responsible for the explosion in Beirut. This claim is false. Netanyahu has not made any such statement and an Israeli official has said that Israel was not involved.

On Tuesday August 4, at least 135 people were killed and 5,000 injured in a massive warehouse explosion at Beirut port, Lebanon (here).

The posts, shared hundreds of times (here , here , here), show a screenshot of a post from an Instagram account called “keepamerica.usa”, which says “BREAKING: PM Netanyahu of Israel has just confirmed the drone strike In [sic] Beirut, Lebanon as their own in another Attack [sic] against the vicious terrorist organization Hezbollah.” The text is accompanied by a picture showing the aftermath of Tuesday’s explosion.

The original post (here), which has over 180,000 views, has since been updated and now reads “UPDATE: Israel has just confirmed alongside with Lebanese officials they had nothing to do with these attacks.”

Reuters earlier reported that an Israeli official said, “Israel has nothing to do with the incident” and Israel’s Foreign Minister told Israeli N12 television news that the explosion was most likely an accident caused by a fire (here).

The Project’s outrageous anti-Israeli conspiracy mongering

Waleed Aly and his pals at The Project have reached a new low, last night broadcasting a segment blaming the Beruit blast on Israel.

Beirut-based photographer João Sousa was asked by Aly if the Lebanese government’s explanation the explosion was caused by ammonium nitrate was “widely accepted by people there”.

His response was pure conspiracy theorising: “Ninety-nine per cent of the people I’ve spoken with …feel that that’s not necessarily the correct explanation. People are more likely to believe that this was an attack, a military attack, possibly by Israel than an accident.”

Sousa continued in this vein, alleging a “historical aspect here that cannot be ignored … Lebanon and Israel are never on good terms, so there’s always this tension going on, and people are always expecting something like this to happen.”

The Project refuses to apologise over Israel slur

CHANNEL Ten’s The Project has refused to apologise over a segment on Wednesday night in which Israel was blamed for the Beirut explosion that killed at least 135 people and injured around 5000.

Interviewed by host Waleed Aly, Beirut-based photographer João Sousa was asked if explanations from Lebanese officials that the explosion was caused by ammonium nitrate were “widely accepted by people there”.

Sousa replied, “No. I would say 99 per cent of the people I’ve spoken with … they all feel that that’s not necessarily the correct explanation.

“People are more likely to believe that this was an attack, a military attack, possibly by Israel than an accident.”

He went on to say there was a “historical aspect here that cannot be ignored”.

“Lebanon and Israel are never on good terms, so there’s always this tension going on, and people are always expecting something like this to happen.”

On Thursday morning, The Project deleted the segment from their social media channels, but stopped short of an apology.

In a statement, a spokesperson said, “The Project rejects the suggestion there is any evidence the explosion in Beirut was a military attack.

“As our report last night clearly stated, this is a tragic accident resulting from the mishandling of dangerous chemicals.”

Isi Leibler: Don’t Forego a Historic Opportunity to Apply Sovereignty Over the West Bank

We cannot rely on the backing of American Jews because, aside from the Orthodox, most have shown that their hatred for Trump far exceeds their support of Israel, which has now become a marginal issue. But the Christian evangelicals who back the Trump plan have tremendous influence on the current administration. They will have no political clout should Joe Biden win the presidency.

Indeed, should Trump lose the election, we are likely to be confronted with a radicalized Biden-led Democratic administration that would be far more hostile to us than was the Obama White House. The Democrats for the first time include a number of highly influential outright anti-Israel and even antisemitic elements.

Backed by the Europeans, they would see moral equivalence between us and the terrorists, and call for negotiations that take the 1967 boundaries as their starting point. They would accept at face value fake Palestinian peace statements made simultaneously with open calls to their people to intensify terrorism until the Jewish state is destroyed.

Biden has also pledged that he would seek to resurrect the infamous Iran nuclear deal, which would make Israel more susceptible than ever to pressure.

Until the US elections, we are in a unique position, with an American administration that is more supportive of us than any administration has ever been and that confronts the Palestinians on terror and their ongoing obscene financial rewards for Jew-killers.

We now have a so-called national unity government in which all parties pledged to accept the American peace plan. We should not allow Netanyahu to torpedo our chances for long-term security and viability.

Despite the coronavirus, we must take advantage of this US initiative to accept a plan that enables us to incorporate into Israeli boundaries the large settlement blocs and the Jordan Valley. Failure to proceed will be viewed as a historical act of madness and an unforgivable betrayal by dysfunctional leaders who missed this unique opportunity because of short-term personal and political factors. Netanyahu must not dillydally. Even though Netanyahu deserves credit for the formulation of the Trump Plan, if the government does not act now, it will be recorded in the annals of history as having lost an historic opportunity that may never repeat itself.

David Horovitz: Op-edTwo-state solution: The worst and only way to solve Israeli-Palestinian conflict

From the left, Israel is increasingly being told by opponents, critics and self-styled supporters at home and abroad that it has wrecked its foundational commitment to maintaining both a Jewish majority and a democracy by expanding the settlement enterprise deep and wide across the West Bank. Since it can no longer disentangle itself from the Palestinians, and has thus destroyed the option of the two-state solution on whose basis Jewish statehood was revived, it has no choice now but to consent to a kind of sovereign suicide — and usher in a single binational state between the river and the sea, in which a higher Arab birthrate means Jews will become an increasingly small minority as the decades pass.

From the right, here and overseas, by contrast, Israel is loudly encouraged to expand its presence still farther into the biblical Judea and Samaria, to realize its historical rights and connections, punish the Palestinians for their perennial rejectionism, and put an end to the dangerous delusion that a tiny country in a toxic region can ever safely withdraw from an adjacent territory whose residents dream of its destruction. If expanding sovereignty can somehow be presented as according with democratic principles, so much the better, but if not, so be it.

Ironically, the two opposing camps are both essentially prescribing a purported one-state “solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Attractive though the idea of magical solutions may superficially sound in the current hopeless climate and after decades of bloodshed and deadlock, however, their one-state panaceas are no help at all.

The one-state solution recommended by the extreme left means the demise of the world’s only Jewish-majority state — a sovereign entity to which the Jewish nation has a historical and, by virtue of UN Resolution 181 in 1947, international legal right. The Jewish people, which knows better than most the perils of statelessness, is not about to give up the thriving modern state it has created in its biblical homeland.

The one-state solution recommended by the extreme right requires being permanently intertwined with, and ruling over, millions of hostile Palestinians. It means the weakening if not the collapse of Israeli democracy, with Israel contorting itself to claim that it is not maintaining a racist and discriminatory regime in the contested West Bank, hemorrhaging international legitimacy and support including among Diaspora Jewry, divided from within, and condemning itself to growing isolation and weakness.

Is the Palestinian Cause Solvable?

In descriptions of the Palestinian cause, several concepts have been popularized by the “Axis of Resistance”: It is a question that the Palestinians do not have the right to settle, as it is of an Arab nationalist nature. It is a struggle that neither an Arab leader nor all Arab leaders combined have the right to end because the masses have the final say. It is a struggle that a single generation cannot solve.

The fact is, a problem with these characteristics ceases to be a problem: problems are solvable, if not today, tomorrow. 120 years have passed since the problem began, and there is no guarantee that the next 120 years will solve it. The description above leaves the Palestinian question far removed from reality and reason.

Some might say that the solution exists: the liberation of Palestine and the abolition of the State of Israel, and perhaps its society as well, through armed resistance. But this is simply not a solution. It is more of a half-backed and costly joke.

The BBC, the Oslo Accords and the two-state solution

Nevertheless, in 2007 – fourteen years after the Oslo agreement – the BBC News website published a backgrounder titled “History of failed peace talks” in which its then world affairs correspondent Paul Reynolds claimed that a Palestinian state had been ‘implied’ in the Oslo Accords.
“The agreement spoke of putting “an end to decades of confrontation and conflict” and of each side recognising “their mutual legitimate and political rights”.

Therefore, though not stated explicitly in the text, the implication was that a state of Palestine would one day be set up alongside Israel.”

That unsupported interpretation was repeated word for word in a recycled version of Reynolds’ backgrounder published in 2013 under the title “History of Mid-East peace talks”.

Interestingly, the BBC News website’s Palestinian territories timeline includes the following entry:
“2007 November – US-hosted Annapolis Conference for the first time establishes the “two-state solution” as the basis for future talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

A similar entry is found in the Israel timeline:
“2007 November – Annapolis Conference for first time establishes “two-state solution” as basis for future talks between Israel and Palestinian Authority.”

The fact that the BBC obviously knows that the two-state solution as a goal for bilateral negotiations was first expressed by Israeli and Palestinian representatives in the Annapolis joint statement thirteen years ago has not, however, prevented BBC journalists from promoting the notion that it is a much older one:

PMW: PLO/Fatah planning violent “comprehensive intifada”

“A popular uprising that will result in a comprehensive intifada” is being planned by representatives from Fatah, the PLO, and other Palestinian groups according to a statement they issued after a meeting last week. Asked by the PA TV host if this would be a “peaceful” and “non-violent intifada,” PLO Executive Committee member Wasel Abu Yusuf answered in the negative, saying that what Fatah and the PLO are planning is based on the previous two intifadas – i.e., PA terror campaigns in which over a 1,300 Israelis were murdered – because “the first Intifada and the second Intifada achieved a lot for the Palestinian cause”:

Official PA TV host: “The statement issued after the [PLO – Fatah] meeting, spoke about ‘developing and implementing coordination on the ground between all the political forces, popular committees, institutions, and activists of the resistance, and working to establish a united national front for popular resistance resulting in a comprehensive intifada.’ I am quoting from the statement…”

PLO Executive Committee member Wasel Abu Yusuf: “We cannot agree to [Israel] establishing facts on the ground…”

Host: “A comprehensive intifada as part of the non-violent popular uprising? Peaceful. A non-violent Intifada.”

Wasel Abu Yusuf: “No. Of course [it will be] a comprehensive intifada, a national rebellion, and everything connected to ending this criminal occupation… This is something necessary, and actually this is all being developed. The first Intifada and the second Intifada achieved a lot for the Palestinian cause…”

Host: “The international community that still is calling for dialogue and negotiation as a path to resolution – do you think it will accept a new Palestinian intifada in 2020, 2021, or 2022? …”

Wasel Abu Yusuf: “Of course. … When we talk about intifada we are talking about the way to escalate the situation.”

[Official PA TV, Topic of the Day, July 28, 2020]

PA’s coming actions will “be based on” previous waves of terror, says PLO official

PMW: Palestinian leaders are worried following PMW’s report and Cong. Lamborn’s letter to Trump

Palestinian Media Watch’s report last week sent waves across the Palestinian political landscape. PMW’s recommendation that the US government declare the Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs, and its director Qadri Abu Bakr “sponsors of terror,” was adopted by Congressman Doug Lamborn, who wrote to US President Trump urging him to adopt PMW’s recommendation.

Palestinian leaders were clearly shaken by this possibility and for good reason. Until now, the US has sanctioned the PA for its “Pay-for-Slay” terror reward payments by cutting off all financial support, but has not designated the perpetrators “sponsors of terror.” The thought of the US formally designating the PA leaders responsible for paying terrorists as “sponsors of terror” has touched a nerve of the PA leadership, as is witnessed by their angry reactions.

While PMW and Congressman Lamborn focused solely on designating the Commission of Prisoners’ Affairs and Abu Bakr as “sponsors of terror,” veteran PLO Chief Negotiator and PLO Executive Committee Secretary Saeb Erekat understood the move as an act of “obscene bullying and blackmail” against Mahmoud Abbas himself.

“American Congressman Doug Lamborn’s call [on July 30, 2020] to impose sanctions on His Honor the president and the leadership will lead to punishing the victim for rejecting the Trump – Netanyahu plan. He described this as obscene bullying and blackmail.”

[Official PA TV News, Aug. 2, 2020]

The PA’s Chairman of the Supreme Council for Shari’ah Justice Mahmoud Al-Habbash, who formerly served as a special advisor to Abbas, echoed Erekat’s claims that Abbas was the target and added that the PA terror rewards are part of the Palestinians’ “just cause”:

“The American and Israeli incitement against [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership reveals the true intentions regarding our just cause and our leadership, which is standing like a fortified wall against their aggressive plans and plots against our people.”

[WAFA, official PA news agency, Aug. 2, 2020]

Khaled Abu Toameh: Palestinians: We Support China’s Muslim Concentration Camps

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas… is saying that he fully supports China’s right to hold more than one million Muslims in re-education camps and crack down on human rights activists and journalists in Hong Kong. Yet Abbas, a Muslim, sees no reason why he or anyone else should ask the ICC to launch an investigation into China’s “war crimes” against Muslims.

Why have Palestinian leaders chosen to side with China? Money and political support. The Palestinians are hoping that China will replace the US as an “honest broker” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Iran, Egypt, Syria and dozens of other countries that could not tolerate a magical realist novel can live with the mass sterilisation of Muslim women. They will give concentration camps a conniving wink of approval, but draw the line at cartoons in a Danish newspaper.” — Nick Cohen, The Guardian, July 4, 2020.

The Palestinians’ hate for Israel and the US has blinded them to the point where they are prepared to support the penning up of more than a million Muslims in re-education camps in China. Such a show of support ought to serve as a re-education for the international community about the warped Palestinian perspective of justice.

Time to Replace Ottoman Law in the West Bank, Abandoned 100 Years Ago Everywhere Else

The debate surrounding the application of Israeli law to parts of Judea and Samaria has failed to explain how sovereignty – or a lack thereof – impacts the lives of the people living there. A “temporary” situation has existed since June 1967. Israel voluntarily placed this territory in a state of limbo, relegating its status to “disputed territory” and placing it under military rule. The law regarding property rights would revert to the system enacted by the last known sovereign – in this case, the Ottoman Empire.

The Ottoman legal system that was abandoned everywhere else in the world more than 100 years ago is applied to both Jewish and Arab residents of Area C. This is what makes the application of Israeli sovereignty in these areas so important, logical, and beneficial for everyone who lives there. Under Ottoman law, you can steal someone else’s property simply by using it for awhile; under Ottoman Land Law, women are not allowed to own, inherit, buy or sell property; under Ottoman law, private individuals may lay claim to public property simply by planting trees on it.

Replacing Ottoman law with the modern, democratic system in force throughout Israel simply makes sense. And it will have no impact whatsoever on the path toward a negotiated resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Brother of Senior Palestinian Official Killed in Family Feud

Khalil Al Sheikh, brother of PA cabinet minister Hussein Al Sheikh, was killed in Ramallah on Wednesday after his nephew quarreled with a Palestinian security officer.

His family members then marched through Ramallah, shooting at government buildings and at the headquarters of the PA Preventive Security force.

Ha’aretz: Has Iran’s Nuclear Program Suffered Real Damage from Secret Operations?

Iran’s nuclear program began more than 50 years ago under the Shah. Eventually a Russian reactor was built on foundations built by the Germans in Bushehr, and it began to supply electricity in 2012. It is the most expensive reactor in the world, costing more than $10 billion, and provides only 2% of Iran’s electricity. This reactor was positioned exactly at the intersection of three tectonic plates, so the area is earthquake prone. The Iranians claim they created their uranium enrichment capabilities for the sake of running the reactor.

According to Iranian documents obtained by the Mossad, Iran had an orderly plan to produced nuclear weapons. The documents name research sites, research groups and the names of those responsible, and details about the equipment purchased (through 2003).

In 2010, the “Stuxnet” virus ran on computers monitoring the centrifuges at Natanz. More than 1,000 centrifuges were damaged until the Iranians figured out the cause. In effect, the enrichment plant stopped running for more than two years.

More recently, the plant that produces and assembles new centrifuges was struck by a strong explosion. Viewed from above it looks like a car bomb detonated close to the building. It will take at least a year to rebuild the building and restore “clean room” sterile conditions for assembling and balancing centrifuges. The damage done to the Iranian nuclear program is estimated at about two years. Prof. (emeritus) Uzi Even of Tel Aviv University was one of the founders of Israel’s Dimona reactor.

Hook: When Arabs, Israelis come together, the int’l must pay attention

Brian Hook, the Trump administration’s special representative on Iran said on Wednesday that as a consequence of the maximum pressure campaign, the US has dried up the revenue that the regime would otherwise spend. He noted that since 2012, the regime spent over $10 billion in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

“We’d like to get to a new deal, but don’t lose sight of the fact of what we’ve been able to accomplish by really putting this regime on its back, by restoring the military deterrence and maintaining it,” he said in an interview at the Aspen Security Forum. “We’re very pleased with our strategy,” he continued. “The door continues to be wide open for diplomacy. The supreme leader has chosen resistance over diplomacy. That’s his decision.”

He also called to restore the UN Security Council standard of no enrichment. “When I was in the council in the Bush administration, we were able to negotiate a prohibition on no enrichment. That’s binding international law and China and Russia voted for it. That is the standard that we have to restore.” He added that such a demand will “get us out of this debate of how close Iran is. Iran does use nuclear blackmail in order to win concessions.”

He also addressed the expiring arms embargo on Iran, and noted that the US will “very soon” put forward a Security Council resolution, calling to extend the embargo. Hook said that all the countries in the Middle East are speaking in one voice around the measure.

“You have the Saudis, the Emirates, the Bahrainis, Yemen and Israel, all in complete agreement that the arms embargo needs to be extended,” he said. “And when the Arabs and Israelis come together on something, I really think it’s important for the international community to pay attention. And we have to listen to what the region is saying.”

The special representative also said that it was a mistake “to ever allow in year five of the Iran deal to let the arms embargo expire on the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.””

Aaron Keyak: ‘Biden will re-engage with Iran for a diplomatic solution’

If Joe Biden is elected as president, he will work with the US allies to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, “which will include re-engaging Iran in a diplomatic solution,” said Aaron Keyak, who serves as the Biden campaign’s director for Jewish engagement.

Speaking at a webinar hosted by the Jewish Democratic Council of America, Keyak said that the diplomatic engagement is meant to ensure that the Islamic Republic returns to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal and to “verifiably prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and find verifiable ways to ensure that it doesn’t happen in the long-term.”

He slammed US President Donald Trump for withdrawing from the agreement, saying that “it is hard to draw up a more disastrous policy than the one president Trump has executed.” According to Keyak, “he tore up a deal with Iran that was working to prevent that country from obtaining nuclear weapons. He actually proved that in the short life of JCPOA it achieved its goals. As president, Joe Biden will hold Iran accountable for its destabilizing activities throughout the region,” he said.

“He went out of his way to actively infuriate our allies in Europe and throughout the world,” he continued. “Trump looked at a deal that was working under president [Barack] Obama, and he couldn’t stand it. So he tore it up. It’s hard to drop the best way to prevent a nuclear armed Iran.”

Asked about Biden’s positions about conditioning aid to Israel, Keyak said that the presumptive Democratic nominee rejects this idea.
“Biden has been clear,” Keyak said. “It was clear during the primary, when this came up, that he is strongly against conditioning aid.

US Pushes Ahead With Bid to Extend International Arms Embargo on Iran

If the US is unsuccessful in extending the embargo, it has threatened to trigger a return of all UN sanctions on Iran under a process agreed in the 2015 deal.

Such a move would kill the deal, touted as a way to suspend Tehran’s suspected drive to develop nuclear weapons. Washington argues it can trigger the sanctions because a Security Council resolution still names it as a participant.

Iran has breached parts of the nuclear deal in response to the US withdrawal and Washington’s reimposition of sanctions.

“For as long as Iran is allowed to enrich, we’re going to be having this discussion — how close is Iran to a nuclear breakout? … We need to restore the UN Security Council standard of no enrichment,” Hook said.

Diplomats say Washington would face a tough, messy battle if it tries to trigger a return to sanctions.

The US would have to submit a complaint to the council, which would then have to vote within 30 days on a resolution to continue Iran‘s sanctions relief. If such a resolution is not put forward by the deadline, sanctions would be reimposed — what is known as a snapback.

Some diplomats have suggested the US will submit its complaint by the end of August to ensure the 30 days ends in September, before Russia takes the monthly rotating council presidency in October.

MEMRI: Iranian Clerics: The Coronavirus Is Man-Made, Aimed At Harming Religious People; Only Women Spread Disease, So Only They Need To Wear Masks

In a speech prior to Friday prayers in Qom, Iran on July 24, 2020, Iranian Shi’ite cleric Sayed Abbas Mousavi Motlagh, a seminary lecturer and expert on religious affairs, said that the coronavirus was secular and was released with the aim of harming believers and leading religious societies towards secularism.

Another cleric, Ayatollah Abbas Tabrizian, who is anti-Western medicine and calls himself “the father of Islamic medicine,” posted on his Telegram channel on July 17 a set of Islam-based guidelines for the use of masks to control the spread of the virus. Tabrizian stated that sharia requires that women use face coverings because they do not have to support a family and are at home most of the time, while men, who must be away from home earning a living, cannot spend hours every day with their faces covered because of the buildup of carbon monoxide on their faces, doing more harm than good. He also explained that only women spread diseases, and that another reason, and that in addition to the moral requirement that they cover their faces, they have a religious requirement to do so as well.

A week after his statements were released, Ayatollah Tabrizian claimed that they had been published by one of his students, and had not originated from him.

The following are the main points of both clerics’ statements:

Sayed Abbas Mousavi Motlagh: “This Evil Virus Is Man-Made And Is A Plot Against Man And Against Humanity” Whose Aim Is To “Lead Society Towards Secularism”

In his speech prior to July 24 Friday prayers in Qom, Sayed Abbas Mousavi Motlagh – whose rank is hojjatoleslam, just below the rank ayatollah – said:
“This evil virus is man-made and is a plot against man and against humanity. According to the honorable [Supreme] Leader [Ali Khamenei], this is an evil virus, for several reasons. The main reason is that this virus is secular. That is, one of its destructive impacts is changing cultures, particularly deeply religious cultures. This means that in addition to being a political and economic virus, its [aim] is to change the religious cultures and lead society towards secularism…

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