November 21, 2019

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11/06 Links Pt1: PA: Dead ISIS leader Al-Baghdadi was a US “pawn” and Israel and ISIS are “twins”; Israel says UNRWA chief’s stepping aside shows ‘deep’ change needed; Arab Spring 2.0

http://elderofziyon.blogspot.com/2019/11/1106-links-pt1-pa-dead-isis-leader-al.html

From Ian:


David Singer: Rabin’s Policies Can Help Break Gantz-Netanyahu Deadlock
The prospect of a third election in Israel within twelve months looms large – should Blue and White leader Benny Gantz be unable to form a Government of National Unity within the next two weeks.

To break the current deadlock Gantz needs at least nine members to defect from the voting bloc of 55 seats led by Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Gantz’s cause could be considerably advanced were he to publicly endorse the policies pursued by the late Prime Minister – Yitzchak Rabin – who was assassinated on 4 November 1995.

Rabin made his intentions very clear in his last speech to the Knesset on 5 October 1995 when presenting the 300 page “Israeli – Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip” (Oslo Accords) for approval:

“Members of Knesset,

“We are striving for a permanent solution to the unending bloody conflict between us and the Palestinians and the Arab states.” In the framework of the permanent solution, we aspire to reach, first and foremost, the State of Israel as a Jewish state, at least 80% of whose citizens will be, and are, Jews.

“At the same time, we also promise that the non-Jewish citizens of Israel – Muslim, Christian, Druze and others – will enjoy full personal, religious and civil rights, like those of any Israeli citizen. Judaism and racism are diametrically opposed.

“We view the permanent solution in the framework of State of Israel which will include most of the area of the Land of Israel as it was under the rule of the British Mandate, and alongside it a Palestinian entity which will be a home to most of the Palestinian residents living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

“We would like this to be an entity which is less than a state, and which will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority. The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.

Rabin – then Defence Minister – had stated on May 27, 1985:

“The Palestinians should have a sovereign State which includes most of the Palestinians. It should be Jordan with a considerable part of the West Bank and Gaza. East of the Jordan River there is enough room to settle the Palestinian refugees. One tiny State between Israel and Jordan will solve nothing. It will be a time bomb.”

Supporting Rabin’s policies would stand Gantz in good stead as he seeks to form a Government of National Unity and – failing that – in any upcoming election that would hopefully end Israel’s current precarious political situation.

PMW: Dead ISIS leader Al-Baghdadi was a US “pawn” and Israel and ISIS are “twins” – according to the PA

While most of western society saw the death of ISIS leader and arch-terrorist Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi as a positive development in the war on terrorism, the Palestinian Authority chose to outrageously claim that Al-Baghdadi was a US “pawn” and ISIS a US creation – a terror organization only paralleled by Israel.

Muwaffaq Matar, a Fatah Revolutionary Council member and regular columnist for the official PA daily, presented a venomous PA manifest against the US:
“They [the US] killed their pawn, who they planted in the open borderless territories of Iraq and Syria after they created an organization-state of barbarity, terror, and racism, for which they chose the name ‘the Islamic State.'” [Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Oct. 29, 2019]

But dealing with ISIS is not enough as it only amounts to “cutting off the tail of the monster,” Matar stated, arguing that the monster’s head – Israel – is yet to be fought:
“[The elimination of Al-Baghdadi] was tantamount to a strong blow that has cut off the tail of the monster of terror. However, this monster has a head, and in it is a brain that is capable of growing a different tail and wings… The occupation, settlement, terror, racism, crimes against humanity, and rebellion against UN laws and conventions have a state. They named it ‘Israel’ and established it on the land of Palestine, which is the Palestinian people’s historical and natural right.”

Comparing Israel to ISIS, Matar stated that in practice ISIS and Israel are identical:
“This [ISIS] is an organization that, in regard to its crimes, there is nothing similar to it in the modern history of the region except for a defective, colonialist, settling, occupying, and racist state for which they chose the name ‘the State of Israel.’ The heads of large states in the world have said that the elimination of Al-Baghdadi is not the end of ISIS’ terror – and this is correct! – but not one of them referred to their responsibility and their state’s responsibility to drain the greatest, deepest, and most dangerous swamp of terror for the region and the world: the defective and racist State of Israel. We know… that the Muslim Brotherhood organization… is essentially a twin of the Zionist movement.”

MEMRI: Chicago Islamic Scholar Omar Baloch: Israel Arms And Trains ISIS, Uses It To Destabilize The Region, Advance Its Plans For ‘Greater Israel,’ Alienate Muslims From Concepts Of Jihad, Islamic State

Chicago Islamic Scholar Omar Baloch said in a video he uploaded to his YouTube channel on September 11, 2019 that Islamic State (ISIS) is now fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan because “you will always find ISIS in places that are running a Zionist agenda [for] Greater Israel.” He said that Israel created ISIS in order to weaken Muslims by alienating them from ideas like an Islamic state, Jihad, and Muslim unity, without which he said Islam would not be the same. Showing pictures of ISIS fighters, Baloch said that the weaponry, uniforms, and training that ISIS has are evidence that it is trained and armed by Israel, and he predicted that Israel will use ISIS to destabilize Pakistan and Kashmir. He added that Israel is “working on Kashmir” by means of India’s actions in the region and that Israel intends to do to the Kashmiris what it did do to the Palestinians.

According to the Facebook page of the Furqaan Institute of Quranic Education (FIQE), Sheikh Omar Baloch was born in Chicago and is the scholar in residence at the Al-Furqaan Foundation, of which FIQE is a division. The Facebook page also says that Baloch studied at Georgetown University, at Al-Azhar University in Egypt, at Jamia Thul Ahlul Hadith in Pakistan. For more about Sheikh Omar Baloch, see MEMRI TV Clip No. 7053 Illinois-Based Sheikh Omar Baloch: Islamic Relief Organizations Should Promote the Caliphate as the Long-Term Solution to Humanitarian Problems.

“You Will Always Find ISIS In Places That Are Running A Zionist Agenda, The Agenda For Greater Israel”

Sheikh Omar Baloch: “All of a sudden, guess what? ISIS is in Afghanistan and ISIS is killing Taliban.
[…]
“You will always find ISIS in places that are running a Zionist agenda, the agenda for Greater Israel.”

NGO Monitor: Key Takeaways from the Supreme Court’s Omar Shakir (HRW) Decision

Like the lower court, the Supreme Court paints a clear picture of Shakir’s BDS activism, from when he founded a pro-BDS student group in 2006 through his present employment at HRW. During this time, he has been a consistent and ardent supporter of BDS (see NGO Monitor’s extensive material submitted in its filings and which was cited in the courts’ decisions). In the words of Justice Yael Wilner (in a short addendum to the main decision), “The statements [made by Omar Shakir and presented] above are definitely calls to boycott entities that operate in Israel and Judea and Samaria, only because of their connection to Israel or an area under its control — each one (statement) individually, all the more so when taken together. It seems to me that there cannot be a substantive argument about this.”

Pro-BDS activists often use the rhetoric of “human rights” and “international law” to justify their discriminatory campaigns, but such rhetoric does not legitimize the boycotts. The Entry into Israel Law, Amendment 28 (2017) applies specifically to boycott calls that are based on a company’s connections to Israel or an area under its control, not to circumstances when the company in question has undertaken problematic activities.

Even though the judges recognize there can be gray areas, Shakir’s activity unquestionably falls within the criteria of the law. Shakir rejects in total the presence of Israeli entities in the West Bank, and his calls for BDS are in opposition to their identity as Israelis, not because of any specific human rights violation.

Contrary to claims from Shakir’s lawyers and Amnesty International (which joined the case in an amicus capacity), denying Shakir’s work visa will not adversely affect human rights NGOs that want to send representatives to Israel to criticize Israel’s policies. This is because Shakir’s involvement in BDS is so egregious.

The Court firmly rejected a key argument from Shakir’s lawyers. They tried to argue that Shakir’s personal BDS activity ended upon his employment at HRW, at which point all his expressions should be attributed to HRW as an organization. Since HRW is not on the Israeli government’s list of “BDS organizations,” Shakir’s activity as an HRW employee should be granted “immunity” from the Entry into Israel Law. In sharp contradiction, the Court determined that he is responsible for his public statements, especially those on his private Twitter account.
Shakir’s BDS is insufficient to trigger a listing of HRW as a “BDS organization” because HRW is a large international NGO with myriad activities having nothing to do with Israel. This is not a reflection on Shakir’s status as a BDS activist or HRW’s anti-Israel advocacy.

Honest Reporting: No Room For BDS Within Human Rights

Omar Shakir is Human Right’s Watch (HRW) representative for Israel and Palestine. HRW is notorious for appointing anti-Israel staff and after a long investigation, Israel’s Supreme Court have denied Shakir’s visa extension. They have asked him to leave the country due to his clear involvement with Boycott movement against Israel.

Israel’s law of denying entry to those that are involved with the hateful BDS movement is controversial, but the one thing that everyone is certain of: there is no room for BDS within human rights.

UK Paper Fails to Challenge the Lies of HRW’s Omar Shakir

The Guardian is adept at amplifying, and failing to critically scrutinize, the unsubstantiated claims and accusations of anti-Israel NGOs, and its recent article about the Israeli Supreme Court decision on Human Right Watch (HRW)’s regional director Omar Shakir — a longtime BDS activist — follows this pattern.

First, as we predicted in a tweet before the article by Oliver Holmes (“Israel can deport Human Rights Watch official, court rules,” Nov. 5) was published, the piece uncritically cites Shakir’s unhinged response to the court’s decision:
Shakir wrote on Twitter that if he was kicked out, Israel would join the ranks of Iran, North Korea, and Egypt in blocking access to Human Rights Watch staff. “We won’t stop. And we won’t be the last,” he said.

The truth is that democracies all over the world reserve the right to deny entry to those seen as intent on harming the state. Moreover, there are in excess of 350 NGOs (such as HRW) operating freely in Israel, even those who continually delegitimize the country, support BDS, and even reject Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

The denial of a work visa to one employee of one of these NGOs — after careful consideration by the country’s internationally respected Supreme Court — wouldn’t even minimally change the democratic nature of Israel. The human rights organization Freedom House continually ranks Israel as the only truly free and democratic country in the region, and the suggestion that this status will change due merely to the Supreme Court’s decision on Shakir’s work visa is risible.

In a subsequent paragraph in the article, Holmes makes the following claim about the broader effort by Israel to fight BDS — a movement, let’s remember, whose leaders oppose the continued existence of a Jewish state:

BBC News report uncritically amplifies political NGO’s talking points

On the afternoon of November 5th the BBC News website published a report on its ‘Middle East’ page which was presented to audiences with a ‘halo effect’ reference to a “rights activist”.

The report itself (tagged, inter alia, ‘human rights’) is headlined “Israel court rejects Human Rights Watch activist’s deportation appeal” and the caption under the photograph at the top of the article reads:
“Omar Shakir said he had not called for a boycott of Israel during his time at Human Rights Watch”

Obviously the BBC did not fact-check that claim from the person it had already flagged up as a “rights activist” (i.e. good) before amplifying it.

Had it done so, it would know that analysis of Tweets sent from Shakir’s personal Twitter account between June 2018 and February 2019 by NGO Monitor shows that 16% of those Tweets focused on BDS campaigns against Booking.com and TripAdvisor and additional Tweets supported a UN “blacklist” of businesses operating in Judea & Samaria.

45% of the BBC article’s word count is devoted to uncritical amplification of talking points from Omar Shakir (including a link to a Tweet) and his employer ‘Human Rights Watch’, including the following claim:

Updated Reuters Falsely Reports That Israel Has Criminalized BDS

In an article yesterday about the ruling by Israel’s High Court to uphold the government’s decision not to renew the visa of Human Rights Watch’s Omar Shakir on account of his ongoing anti-Israel BDS (boycott, divest, sanctions) activity, Reuters incorrectly reports that Israel has “criminalized” BDS.
In “Israel’s top court upholds deportation of Human Rights Watch official,” Jeffrey Heller erroneously reports:
Israel says [Shakir] supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which it has criminalized.

It has lobbied Western powers to follow suit, and Shakir’s case was a test for its anti-boycott legislation.

Israel’s anti-BDS legislation treats calls for BDS as a civil, not criminal offense. Specifically, the 2011 “Law for Prevention of Damage to the State of Israel Through Boycott,” as amended by the Supreme Court, allows businesses that have suffered economic harm as a result of such boycotts to sue for civil damages. There is no criminal component.

UPDATE, 8 am EST, Nov. 6: Reuters Corrects
In response to communication from CAMERA, Reuters commendably corrected the article to make clear that promotion of BDS in Israel is a civil matter, not criminal.

INSS: Russia in the Middle East: A Higher Gear or Media Buzz?

Recent weeks have featured Russia’s expanded diplomatic activity in the Middle East following its longstanding involvement in the Syrian civil war. With the reduced U.S. military presence in northern Syria, the image of Russia as the leading power in the region was strengthened.

To what extent does this image of Russia reflect reality? Russia’s intensive diplomatic activity in the region reflects Moscow’s desire to fill the breach left by the U.S, but it does not represent a change in the balance of power between the global powers in the region. The U.S., should it choose to do so, still has the ability to challenge Moscow and upset Russia’s achievements in almost every part of the region.

Russian analyst Fyodor Lukyanov, echoing the official position, stressed that Russia does not view the situation in Syria as a zero sum game with the U.S.

The political process to resolve the conflict in Syria, which was resumed on Oct. 30 in Geneva, is not under Moscow’s control. The Russian attempt (2017-2019) to promote a resolution in cooperation with Turkey and Iran through the Astana Process did not succeed, and Moscow is now forced to return to the Geneva track, which is under UN control, and over which the West has veto power.

The U.S. still holds very strong cards in Syria – territorial (most of the Kurdish zone and the al-Tanf region); political (veto rights over the Geneva process); military deterrence; and economic (sanctions and preventing aid for rebuilding Syria). Beyond Syria, Russia at this stage has limited influence on regional states. U.S. allies in the Middle East are not rushing to the Russian side.

Russia captures advanced Israeli missile interceptor in Syria – report

An advanced Israeli surface-to-air missile that was fired from the David’s Sling (formerly known as the Magic Wand) missile system was given to Russia by Syria, when it was found intact after the rocket did not explode on contact, according to Russian media sources.

The rocket was reportedly fired on July 23, 2018, and Syrian forces that were dispatched to the scene found the missile intact after it sustained minor damage from impact. The missile was then taken to a Syrian-Russian base where it was transferred to Moscow for further research.

David’s Sling was developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and American defense contractor Raytheon. The system is designed to intercept enemy planes, drones, medium- to long-range rockets and cruise missiles and the newest generation of tactical ballistic missiles at low altitude.

The system forms the middle layer of air defense systems between the Iron Dome and the Arrow 2 and Arrow 3 missile defense systems.

Russian media reports quoted Chinese news agency Sina saying that the missile was taken by Russia for “reverse engineering.”

Israeli Deputy FM: We have sent humanitarian aid to Kurds

Israel will help the Kurds in any way it can, Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said in the Knesset on Wednesday.

The deputy foreign minister added that she cannot go into detail about how Israel aids the Kurds, because doing so can hurt their cause.

“Israel has received many requests for aid in diplomatic and humanitarian matters. We are aiding them in various channels,” Hotovely said, in response to a motion to the Knesset’s agenda on the situation of the Kurds in Syria.

In addition, the Foreign Ministry has helped non-governmental organizations send humanitarian aid to the Kurds.

Hotovely recounted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “condemned the Turkish invasion of northern Syria and warned against ethnic cleansing of the Kurds,” and that Israel conveyed “our truth about the Kurds in a continuing dialogue with the US.”

Israel’s support for the Kurds is based on “historic ties… [and] shared and varied interests,” she added. “There are many Kurdish Jews in Israel who maintained ties with their place of origin. Kurds are a moderate and pro-Western factor in the Middle East.”

Israel says UNRWA chief’s stepping aside shows ‘deep’ change needed

Israel called on the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees to release in full its findings of alleged mismanagement at the organization, following an announcement that its leader was taking an indefinite leave of absence.

The agency, known as UNRWA, said Wednesday the findings of a probe into alleged abuses of power among top management “relate specifically to the commissioner general” Pierre Krahenbuhl.

The Foreign Ministry said reports on alleged mismanagement at UNRWA lend credence to its criticism of the agency and called for a full release of the probe’s findings.

“The reports reinforce Israel’s claims that a deep and fundamental change is needed in the agency’s operating model,” it said in a statement.

The ministry charged that under Krahenbuhl, UNWRA has become more politicized, “the deficit has ballooned” and the agency’s model was increasingly unsustainable.

“The suspension of Krahenbuhl is a first step in a long process needed to eliminate corruption, increase transparency and prevent politicization in the agency,” it said.

It also called on donor states to consider a new operating model for UNRWA and said recent events showed the agency’s mandate should not be automatically renewed three years from now.

Two Jordanians Detained by Israel Return Home After Handover Deal

Two Jordanians, whose detention without charge by Israel led Jordan to recall its ambassador, returned home on Wednesday in a handover deal that defused a diplomatic crisis, officials said.

Hiba Labadi, 24, was arrested in August after crossing into the West Bank to attend a family wedding. She subsequently went on a hunger strike and was hospitalized after her health deteriorated.

Separately, Abdul Rahman Miri, 29, was arrested in September after he also entered the West Bank to visit relatives.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said on Monday the two would return to Jordan “before the end of the week” without saying how their release had been secured.

Safadi however said King Abdullah had ordered the government to do everything necessary to bring them back “whatever that may cost.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the handover was agreed after talks between Israeli and Jordanian security chiefs. It said Jordan’s ambassador would return to his post “in the coming days.”

The Coming Collapse of Lebanon Is a Crisis for Israel

It is imperative that the United States and Israel’s other allies ensure that Lebanon does not become another Afghanistan — a terror group masquerading as a state. This is a real danger now, and Israel is gravely imperiled by it. America — and all well-meaning peoples — must continue to isolate Hezbollah and its slave government in Lebanon until sanity and civilization return to “the Paris of the Middle East.”

The government and infrastructure of Lebanon are dominated by the Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah, which has already dispatched gangs of thugs to drive masses of demonstrators from the streets of major cities like Beirut and Tyre. The government of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has resigned due to enormous street protests over his utter mismanagement and corruption.

Israel should be worried, because Hezbollah, with its economic and political power threatened, could lash out at its neighbor to the south as a unifying distraction for its outraged citizenry. A repeat of Hezbollah’s terror-missile war of 2006 would be a far more lethal version of that earlier conflict, which aimed to eradicate the “Zionist entity” on Lebanon’s southern frontier.

Since Hezbollah is a wholly owned subsidiary of Iran and Iran’s terrorist Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran can be expected to play a key role in Lebanese affairs at this critical juncture. And where Iran gets involved, Israel becomes the ultimate target.

Israeli and Palestinian firefighters practice saving lives together

Israeli and Palestinian firefighters took part in a joint fire-fighting exercise in Rishon Lezion on Tuesday, according to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).

The exercise, held at the Rishon Lezion Firefighting and Rescue School and led by the head of the facility, trained the visiting Palestinian firefighters to handle a number of various real-life situations using a simulator. The Israeli firefighters were trained to speak Arabic throughout these life-threatening situations.

Within the scenarios practiced, the joint exercise included real-life situations such as dealing with fires inside buildings and vehicles, as well as efficient ways to rescue casualties or those in need from blocked or closed off areas.

In part of the blossoming professional relationship between the Palestinian and Israeli commissions, the commander of the Palestinian Civil Defense met with the commissioner of the Israeli Fire and Rescue Authority in the commissioner’s office to discuss firefighting innovations, future collaborations and the importance of the joint work between the two governments.

“The close cooperation between Israeli firefighters and Palestinian firefighters is of great importance in the field,” civilian officer Lt.-Col. Samir said. “Thanks to the combination of forces, we have the ability to work together to improve the skills and the proficiency of both Israeli and Palestinian firefighters alike. This collaboration has yielded fruit in the past and continues to bring positive results every time. Therefore, we will continue to work in order to strengthen and improve it, with a clear purpose – to save human lives together.”

Fatah Official Says PA Chief Abbas, Soon to Turn 85, Won’t Run for Re-Election

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas will not run for re-election, senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub told Palestine TV on Monday.

Rajoub’s announcement contradicted Hussein al-Sheikh, who recently said that Abbas is Fatah’s only candidate in the next presidential election.

“President Abbas is the only candidate of Fatah and honorable Palestinians,” stated Sheikh.

“Let us make him the sheikh of the tribe and the spiritual father of the democratic process,” said Rajoub. “In two months, President Abbas will celebrate his 85th birthday.”

In a speech in September at the annual UN General Assembly, Abbas said he will call for “general elections” in the West Bank, Gaza and eastern Jerusalem.

Abbas is currently in the 14th year of a four-year term.

A date for the Palestinian elections has yet to be determined.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad reject Abbas’s terms for Palestinian elections

Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) have rejected Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s terms for holding elections for the PA’s parliament and president, Ynet reported on Wednesday.

The chairman of the Palestinian Central Elections Commission (CEC), Hanna Nasir, arrived in the Gaza Strip on Sunday for talks with leaders of Hamas and other Palestinian factions on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s plans to hold parliamentary elections in the coastal enclave, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

According to Ynet, Hamas and PIJ, which are not members of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, rejected the clause stating that the elections must be held in accordance with the Election Basic Law, which requires recognizing the agreements signed by the PLO to be able to run.

The organizations require a meeting between the factions to define the terms for new elections; only after a consensus is reached, a presidential order for elections would be issued.

A Palestinian parliamentary election was last held in 2006. The following year, Hamas carried out a violent takeover in the Gaza Strip and has been in power in the coastal enclave ever since.

Abbas bans child marriage, with some legal exemptions

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has issued a decision barring Palestinian teenagers from marrying before they turn 18 years old, unless they receive an exemption from a religious court and a top legal official.

The official PA news site Wafa reported earlier this week that Abbas made the decision, but did not say when.

In the West Bank, Palestinian law previously mandated that a female must be 15 years old and a male 16 years old to be eligible to marry, according to Suna Nassar, the PA Women’s Affairs Ministry’s legal adviser. Comparatively, in the Gaza Strip, it had held that a female must be 17 years old and a male 18, she said in a phone call.

The PA controls the West Bank, whereas Hamas rules Gaza. Hamas has not said publicly whether it will enforce Abbas’s decision.

A 2018 PA Central Bureau of Statistics report found that 10.8 percent of women in 2017 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip aged 20-24 had married before turning 18.

In contrast, the report determined that in 1997, 30.3% of women in the West Bank and Gaza who were then between 20 and 24 married before reaching 18.

Hamas Relying on Qatari Funds in Gaza Strip

Qatar warned Hamas, the Palestinian militant group running the Gaza Strip, that it could cease providing funds and aid to the area in 2020. This warning, as Middle East Monitor reports citing Hezbollah-linked Al Akhbar newspaper, came from Qatari envoy Mohammed El-Emadi. El-Emadi reportedly told Hamas and other Gaza factions that Doha had complications with renewing the funding.

Arab Spring 2.0

Moreover, what makes the demonstrations in Lebanon and Iraq unique and gives them historical dimension is that they cross the sectarian, religious and party lines, and demand a change in the structure of government, which currently perpetuates these divisions and prevents unity.

This is unheard of for Lebanon, where political power is divided according to the prominence of the various sectors in society, or for Iraq, where the majority of the population is Shiite. In both countries, protesters have made it clear that they would not settle for the mere resignation of the prime minister (Lebanese Prime Minister Said Hariri has already resigned), nor with reforms that would preserve the current and corrupt system of power.

Although economic hardship and the desire to eradicate corruption are the main issues driving the demonstrations in Lebanon and Iraq, Tehran is up in arms over them. Both countries are of paramount importance in the process of “exporting” the Iranian revolution, both play a key role in repelling external attacks on Iran, and both are used as the base of operations from which Iran can use proxies to attack potential enemies.

In Lebanon, this task falls to Hezbollah and in Iraq, it is the work of pro-Iranian militias. Therefore, any threat to the internal stability in Iraq and Lebanon could undermine Iran’s security and military strategy.

Tehran is also concerned that the Iranian people may catch the protest “bug,” as they did in 2009 and in 2017.

The prospect of the second round of the Arab Spring in Lebanon and Iraq being more successful than its predecessor is unclear. Replacing the political system in Arab countries is no simple matter, and rulers do not give up their seats easily. But the Iranians already feel threatened by this – just as much as they feel threatened by the devastating economic sanctions the US has imposed on them.

It may very well be that Tehran’s decision to renew uranium enrichment sought to distract from the internal problems of the protests in Iraq and Lebanon are creating for it. The ayatollahs much prefer the Iranian people focus on the “real” enemy that on their own plights.

FIFA: Iraq ‘unsafe’ to host World Cup qualifying matches

FIFA says Iraq is not safe enough to host World Cup qualifying games against Iran and Bahrain.

FIFA says it asked the Iraq soccer federation “to nominate a neutral venue” for the matches on Nov. 14 and 19.

The games were to be played in Basra, the southern city which hosted Iraq’s return last month to playing competitive games at home.

Iraq has rarely staged home games since the 1980s because of security concerns.

Turmoil in Iraq in recent weeks has been fueled by economic problems and dissatisfaction with Iran’s political influence on its neighbor.

Iran shaves weeks off breakout time, but isn’t tearing up nuclear pact yet

The ongoing game of brinkmanship between Tehran and Washington has entered a new, potentially dangerous level, with Iran restarting uranium enrichment at its Fordo nuclear facility and also announcing it was raising the level of this enrichment, up to five percent.

These two decisions represent a distinctly shocking and provocative move by the Islamic Republic, but they also remain easily reversible, experts say, as Iran attempts to bully its way toward financial relief while keeping just shy of prompting European countries to call for a so-called snapback of broader international sanctions.

The transformation of the Fordo Fuel Enrichment Plant, which is buried deep under a mountain in Iran’s Qom district, from a uranium enrichment facility to one used for other, non-nuclear purposes was a key provision of the 2015 nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The heavily fortified Fordo was originally built and operated in secret by Iran, until it was exposed by Western intelligence services, including Israel’s, and ultimately acknowledged by Tehran in 2009 to great international criticism. The facility is widely regarded as having been built for the explicit purpose of producing highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons far enough underground that it couldn’t be destroyed in a military strike.

US accuses Iran of ‘nuclear extortion’ as Tehran expands enrichment at key plant

The United States accused Iran on Tuesday of “nuclear extortion” and vowed no let-up in pressure after the clerical regime said it would resume uranium enrichment at the key Fordo plant.

“Iran has no credible reason to expand its uranium enrichment program, at the Fordo facility or elsewhere, other than a clear attempt at nuclear extortion that will only deepen its political and economic isolation,” a State Department spokesperson said.

“We will continue to impose maximum pressure on the regime until it abandons its destabilizing behavior, including proliferation-sensitive work.”

The comments came hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to “never let Iran develop nuclear weapons.”

”Iran expands its aggression everywhere. It seeks to envelop Israel. It seeks to threaten Israel. It seeks to destroy Israel,” Netanyahu said at an event in Jerusalem.

Iran has regularly threatened to destroy Israel, and has developed ballistic missiles believed in the West to be intended to carry nuclear warheads in the future.

Macron: With new centrifuge operation, Iran is withdrawing from nuclear deal

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday said Iran’s decision to resume enrichment activity at a nuclear facility meant it had withdrawn from the troubled 2015 nuclear agreement with major powers.

Iran on Wednesday said it had begun inserting uranium gas into over 1,000 centrifuges at the Fordo nuclear facility, which under the JCPOA pact had turned into a research facility with no active enrichment.

“I think that for the first time, Iran has decided in an explicit and blunt manner to leave the JCPOA (nuclear) agreement, which marks a profound shift,” Macron said at a news conference during a trip to Beijing, according to a Reuters report.

Macron called the developments a “profound change” from Tehran’s previous position and a “grave” move.

“I will have discussions in the coming days, including with the Iranians, and we must collectively draw the consequences,” Macron said.

Iran briefly held IAEA inspector, seized travel documents – diplomats

Iran briefly held an inspector working for the U.N. nuclear watchdog in the Islamic Republic and seized her travel documents, diplomats familiar with the agency’s work said on Wednesday, with some describing it as harassment.

The incident appears to be the first of its kind since Tehran’s landmark deal with major powers was struck in 2015, imposing restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.

Hours after Reuters reported the incident, Iran confirmed that it had prevented an inspector from accessing its Natanz site – the heart of its uranium enrichment program – last week, because of a concern that she might be carrying “suspicious material”, according to the Fars news agency.

The episode comes at a time of heightened friction between Iran and the West, with Tehran breaching the deal’s restrictions step-by-step in response to Washington’s withdrawal from the deal and renewed sanctions. The International Atomic Energy Agency is also in transition, with a new chief taking over next month.

The incident is due to be reported on at a meeting of the IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors on Thursday convened at short notice to discuss “two safeguards matters” not specified in the agenda, which was circulated on Monday.

How Tehran Is Surviving U.S. Sanctions

A year ago, the U.S. kicked off a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran. After withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, in November it reimposed a raft of economic sanctions squeezing Iranian oil exports and curtailing the country’s access to the international financial system.

Iran expected that other parties to the nuclear deal would help shore up its economy. But European governments could not force private companies to defy U.S. sanctions. Nor did other friendly governments – China, Russia, and India – pick up the slack. They face little pressure from the oil market to go out on a limb for Iran. Global demand is slowing, supply is abundant, and prices are low – so why risk U.S. sanctions to buy Iranian oil?

The International Monetary Fund and World Bank predict that Iran’s economy will rebound from a recession to near zero percent growth in 2020. Iran’s fluctuating currency, the rial, has stabilized. The Iranian economy stays afloat in part because it is diversified. In 2017, crude oil accounted for 43% of Iranian exports, so Iran’s service, agricultural, and non-oil industrial sectors were able to cushion the blow from the collapse of oil revenues under sanctions.

Moreover, the government can draw upon its $100 billion of reserves to cover any gaps and to ensure the continued strong social spending that Iranians expect.

2 Iranians accused of spying on Jewish, Israeli targets in US plead guilty

Two Iranians who were charged with collecting information on Israeli and Jewish targets in the US and on opponents of the Iranian regime have pleaded guilty to acting on behalf of Tehran, the US Justice Department announced Tuesday.

Ahmadreza Mohammadi-Doostdar, 39, a dual US-Iranian citizen, and Majid Ghorbani, 60, an Iranian citizen and resident of California, were arrested last year.

“The Iranian government thought it could get away with conducting surveillance on individuals in the United States by sending one of its agents here to task a permanent resident with conducting and collecting that surveillance,” said Jessie K. Liu, United States Attorney for the District of Columbia.

Doostdar is scheduled to be sentenced on December 17 and Ghorbani will receive his sentence on January 15.

As part of his plea, Doostdar admitted he traveled to the United States from Iran on three occasions to meet with Ghorbani and to convey directions for Ghorbani’s activities on behalf of Iran.

BBC News mantra on ‘peaceful’ Iranian nuclear programme returns

Iran’s latest breach of the 2015 JCPOA was portrayed by the BBC as “rolling back another commitment” in the opening line of an article headlined “Iran nuclear deal: Uranium enrichment to resume at underground facility” which appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on November 5th.

As is inevitably the case in BBC reporting on that deal and Iran’s nuclear programme, audiences were told that:

“Iran has insisted that its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful.”

The BBC knows that in December 2015 (after the JCPOA had already been agreed) the International Atomic Energy Agency – IAEA – produced a report which stated that:

“…the agency “assesses that a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device were conducted in Iran prior to the end of 2003 as a coordinated effort, and some activities took place” up to 2009.”

The BBC also knows that in April 2018 Israel revealed documents from Iran’s nuclear archive which raised new issues. Nevertheless, it once again chose to amplify Iranian propaganda but not to inform readers of those relevant parts of the story.

PreOccupiedTerritory: Iran Defends Imperialism As Bulwark Against Imperialism (satire)

Officials in the Islamic Republic of Iran explain the country’s virtual takeover of Iraq and Lebanon, as well as its use of puppet militias and proxy forces in Syria and Yemen, among others, as a defense against Western efforts to take over Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and other Middle East states, regime sources reported today.

Representatives of various government ministries and the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told journalists Wednesday that the territorial integrity and political independence of countries in the region are sacrosanct, and require Iran’s protection from what they characterized as a US-led effort to exert effective control over them, protection that Iran provides in the form of taking them over and exerting effective control.

“Satanic Western imperialism will not succeed,” warned Deputy Minister of Defense Mohtin Yorai. “To counter the threat of the evil machinations of the Great Satan and its minions we have already assumed de facto control of the governments of Iraq and Lebanon, and are working to establish similar arrangements elsewhere. In the same vein we offer material and financial support to Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other groups waging a similar fight. The Zionists and their allies will fail in their campaign to subjugate and rule the region because we will do so first.”



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