September 20, 2020

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11/08 Links Pt1: IAEA Confirms that Iran Lied about Its Nuclear Program; The Palestinian Authority’s missing billions; White House was right about UNRWA corruption

From Ian:

US rejects Jordan’s opposition to deport wanted terrorist
The United States has rejected a claim by Jordan over its refusal to deport wanted Palestinian-Jordanian Hamas terrorist Ahlam Tamimi, as a Jordanian court ruled in 2017 that Amman’s extradition treaty with Washington is invalid, despite the U.S. State Department saying the opposite in a report published this week.

The report could lead to increased pressure by the White House on Jordan to extradite Tamimi to the United States, who helped organize the well-known suicide-bombing at a Sbarro pizzeria on Aug. 9, 2001, which killed 15 people, including two Americans, and injured about 130 others.

Tamimi, who planned the attack, has shown no remorse, saying she has “no regrets.”

She had been awarded $51,836 until she was released from prison, as part of a 2011 prisoner exchange that included Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit’s release from Hamas captivity, when she then escaped to Jordan.

Tamimi is on America’s “Most Wanted Terrorist” list, but the United States has been unable to secure her extradition as a 1995 extradition agreement was not ratified by Jordan’s government.

Israel’s Daily Reality: The Story of Aluma

When Aluma Mekaitan Guertzenstein tells me she’s married and pregnant, I burst into tears of joy.

I’ve been asked to update the stories of terrorism survivors, those I met in the years 2000 and 2005 when the horror of bus bombings, restaurant bombings and disco bombings aimed at young people was our daily reality in Israel. Thousands of Israelis were killed and maimed. Jerusalem, our real and symbolic capital, was the target of much of the terrorism. I’ve run into Aluma a few times over the years. Once she’d just gotten her driver’s license and was going to see which cars she could drive. I was glad she’d gone on with her life.

Who can forget November 21, 2002? Aluma got up early, her mind full of numbers. A 17-year-old schoolgirl, she was determined to score high on the morning’s math test, as she boarded Egged bus No. 20 in Kiryat Menahem, a working-class neighborhood of Jerusalem where her family lived. Aluma hugged close her heavy school backpack packed with books and notebooks. Others were waiting at her stop on Mexico Street.

Among them was Na’el Abu Hilail, 23. He’d been driven into Jerusalem from El-Khader, south of Bethlehem, to this bus, deliberately chosen because by 7:15 a.m. it was always crowded with children going to school and office workers going to their jobs downtown. In his backpack were no books, but 5 kilograms of explosives packed with shrapnel. Standing near the driver where passengers lined up to pay, he pulled the switch. The windows were blown out of the bus. The roof was ripped off. The blast wave rolled through the enclosed space, tearing the junctures where air and tissue meet: ear, lung and the gut. Metal fragments flew through the bus. Passengers were thrown from their seats. Fifty passengers were seriously and critically injured. Eleven persons, four of them kids on their way to school, were murdered.

At first the count of dead was 12. But then a paramedic named Raphael, like the angel of healing, made a last check through the bus and saw a schoolgirl’s eyelids flicker.

Friday Night Dinner with Palestinian Rockets

Each week, my cousins Dina and Yair host students in their home from Sapir College in the Israeli city of Sderot. This week, the guests included students and my wife, myself, and our baby son. My wife and I had finally put our 1-year-old to sleep and were sipping soup when, suddenly, a sharp, oddly calm, almost robotic announcement came over loudspeakers. “Tzeva Adom – Code Red.” We know we have 15 seconds to run to a bomb shelter as a rocket speeds towards us. This is not a test.

I run into our bedroom and scoop the sleeping baby out of his crib. Like a football player running downfield, I hold him under one arm and guide people down the hallway to the shelter with my other. We dive into the shelter and slam shut the heavy vault door just as the first blasts shake the walls and rattle the roof. Our sleepy 1-year-old claps his hands and screams, “Boom, boom.”

Ten minutes later, we leave the shelter to sit around the table once again and pretend that things are normal. After a second barrage of rockets half an hour later, we decide to leave our son in the bomb shelter overnight with the other kids. At least we won’t need to wake them up if more rockets are fired at us – as indeed they were at 2 a.m.

Netanyahu calls on the international community to ‘wake up’ after IAEA confirms Iran lied about nuclear program

Netanyahu’s statement came at a time of increased tensions between Iran and the international community over its renewed uranium enrichment at its Fordow facility, in violation of the 2015 international accord.

“A year ago, speaking at the UN, I exposed Iran’s secret nuclear warehouse in Turquzabad. This morning, a special board meeting of the IAEA published its findings on Iran’s activities in the no-longer-secret facility. The IAEA now confirms that Iran lied. And that Iran continues to lie about its nuclear program,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu was referring to an Iranian site he described during his speech to the UN General Assembly last September. The IAEA’s top inspector has now reportedly accused Iran of hiding information about uranium production at this atomic warehouse, where evidence of such work had been found earlier this year.

The Israeli premier called on world leaders to join Israel and the US in their efforts to curb Iran’s nuclear program, as it poses a danger to the entire international community.

“I urge the international community to wake up. I call on the nations to join the US and Israel and further increase pressure on Iran. Iran is a danger not only to Israel and the Middle East. It is a danger to the whole world. I applaud that, at least today, the International Atomic Energy Agency understood this well,” he said.

“Israel will not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons under any circumstances,” Netanyahu concluded.

U.S.: Iran Holding IAEA Inspector Was ‘Outrageous Provocation’

The European Union and United States expressed concern on Thursday at Iran’s holding of an inspector from the U.N. nuclear watchdog last week, with the U.S. envoy to the agency calling it an “outrageous provocation” that must have consequences.

Reuters first reported on Wednesday that Iran had held the inspector and seized her travel documents in what appears to be the first incident of its kind since Iran’s nuclear deal with major powers was struck in 2015.

Iran confirmed that it prevented the inspector from gaining access to its main uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz. Its envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency told reporters that it was because she tested positive for traces of explosives but then no longer did after going to the toilet while waiting for a further search, which prompted further investigation.

“The detention of an IAEA inspector in Iran is an outrageous provocation,” the U.S. ambassador to the IAEA, Jackie Wolcott, said in a statement to an emergency meeting of the IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors.

“All Board members need to make clear now and going forward that such actions are completely unacceptable, will not be tolerated, and must have consequences.”

U.S. State Department: U.S.: The World Must Address Iran’s Nuclear Escalation

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said Thursday: “Iran’s latest nuclear escalations reflect the regime’s intentions all along: to extort the international community into accepting its violence and terror while it undermines the sovereignty of its neighbors. Members of the international community who are rightly concerned with Iran’s latest attacks and provocations should imagine how Iran would behave with a nuclear weapon. The United States will never allow this to happen.”

“Iran’s expansion of proliferation-sensitive activities raises concerns that Iran is positioning itself to have the option of a rapid nuclear breakout. It is now time for all nations to reject this regime’s nuclear extortion and take serious steps to increase pressure. Iran’s continued and numerous nuclear provocations demand such action.”

U.S. Senators Press for Sanctions on Turkey If It Is Violating Syria Ceasefire

Republican and Democratic U.S. senators asked President Donald Trump’s administration on Wednesday to let them know – and to respond with tough sanctions – if reports are true that Turkey is violating a ceasefire agreement in Syria.

“Given the stakes, time is of the essence,” Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Marsha Blackburn and Democratic Senators Chris Van Hollen, Richard Blumenthal and Jeanne Shaheen wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Those senators have been among the loudest voices in the U.S. Congress lamenting Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. forces from much of Syria, which many see as abandoning Kurdish forces who fought for years alongside U.S. troops as they battled Islamic State militants.

In the letter, the senators cited reports that Turkish forces are operating outside an agreed-upon “safe zone” in northeastern Syria, and that Turkish or Turkish-backed forces are attacking Syrian Kurds near Tal Tamr.

“On several occasions, President Trump has threatened to ‘destroy Turkey’s economy’ should Turkey violate its obligations,” they wrote in the letter.

Why Turkey Invaded Syria

If Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan believes his constant refrain that Israel is like Nazi Germany, and also that Israel should sympathize with his actions in Syria, it sounds like he is saying that Nazi Germany would sympathize with his campaign. On that point he would not be wrong; Hitler was a strong proponent of ethnic cleansing. From the dispassionate perspective of interests, there are several winners from the US withdrawal. The US is not among them. International law, strategy, and domestic politics all fail to explain a policy that appears to have been an unforced error by a president who, in his “great and unmatched wisdom,” eschewed wise foreign policy council. US moves to bolster its military position in Syria following the elimination of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi suggest a decision to contain the damage caused by its rash withdrawal.

The Turkish interest
Turkish intentions derive from domestic political considerations, not security concerns. Erdogan wants to boost his Justice and Development Party’s ratings after a dismal electoral showing, losing Istanbul in a major blow to the Turkish dictator in June 2019. Erdogan’s self-proclaimed aims include ethnic cleansing and forced population transfer, both unambiguous violations of international law. By invading Syria and forcibly resettling millions of mostly Sunni Arab Syrian refugees in the homes of Turkey’s historic ethnic enemy the Kurds, Erdogan hopes to stoke nationalist pride while assuaging voters angered by the influx of over three million refugees.

Erdogan cited SDF ties to the PKK as the security rationale for driving the SDF from portions of Syria. This does not withstand scrutiny. The SDF is not a threat to Turkish security. It was fighting ISIS, not Turkey. Incidentally, the Iraqi Kurds that Turkey bombed in 2015 were also fighting ISIS. The Turkish military is more than capable of defending its borders without invading Syria. Its fully modern military is the second largest in NATO, and fourth in terms of firepower. There has been no recent cross-border aggression from Syria into Turkey, nor is there evidence of cross-border material support from the SDF to the PKK.

Prior to the Turkish invasion, the US and Turkey agreed to conduct joint patrols of the Syrian-Turkish border. The US even persuaded the SDF to dismantle its fortifications. By weakening its position, the SDF clearly demonstrated that it did not seek aggression toward Turkey.

Comparing Turkey’s justification to Israel’s security buffer in Southern Lebanon from 1982-2000 is misleading. Israel launched its invasion following more than a decade of cross-border aggression by the PLO, including murder raids, the launching of thousands of rockets, and a high-profile attempted assassination. US military leaders in Syria never communicated any indication that the SDF was attacking or planning to attack Turkey.

Uncovering Turkish President Erdogan’s Ties to ISIS

Many former ISIS fighters have now joined the Turkish-backed forces that have occupied the Syrian Kurdish city of Afrin, where they have engaged in ethnic cleansing.

Two Turkish intelligence officers, captured by Kurdish guerilla fighters in northern Iraq in 2017, provided insider accounts of Turkish government assistance to ISIS and other jihadi groups operating in Syria and Iraq.

Turkey’s assistance to ISIS starts right at the top. In 2016, Wikileaks published an archive of 58,000 emails documenting the involvement of Erdogan’s son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, in helping ISIS market oil stolen from Syria and Iraq.

Until the publication of the emails, Albayrak had denied any involvement in the illicit oil trade.

Sümeyye Erdogan, daughter of the Turkish president, reportedly set up an entire medical corps, including a hospital to treat wounded ISIS fighters in Sanlurfa, a city in Southeastern Turkey close to the Syrian border.

ISIS evacuated severely wounded fighters across the border into Sanliurfa in Turkish army trucks without undergoing Customs inspection.

The evidence of Erdogan’s direct, personal and institutional support for ISIS and related jihadi groups is so extensive, the wonder is why the American media is not paying more attention to it.

This week a new group, the Turkey-ISIS Research Project, is sponsoring bus-billboards to roam the Big Apple. The message is clear: “Erdogan, the Godfather of Jihadist Terrorists, is Not Welcome in the United States.”

Ilhan Omar Isn’t the Only One Guilty of Hypocrisy on Turkey

Democrats, on the other hand, have no standing to squawk about Trump.

They did nothing to protest the fact that President Barack Obama publicly stated that Erdogan was one of his favorite world leaders, though that occurred at an earlier time. He appeased Erdogan as much, if not more, than Trump. Samantha Power, Obama’s Ambassador to the United Nations, wrote in The New York Times criticizing Trump. Although she won a Pulitzer Prize for writing about the responsibility to protect defenseless populations from genocide, she did nothing publicly to promote that issue or to act against mass murder in Syria during her time at the United Nations.

Yet the list of hypocrites on Armenian genocide would not be complete without mentioning the role of the pro-Israel community in the past.

As long as Turkey was friendly with Israel, Jewish groups swallowed their principles and didn’t join with the Armenian community in spite of their rhetoric about the Holocaust and the need to stop future genocides. Former Anti-Defamation League head Abe Foxman took a lot of heat on the issue. But he stood his ground because he considered preserving good relations between Israel and Turkey — the first Islamic country to recognize Israel, added by its strong military and economic ties in the past — was more important. Sticking with the Turks seemed to aid the Jewish state’s ability to defend itself against threatened genocidal attacks from Iran.

But Erdogan, who is a vocal supporter of Hamas, and has repeatedly slandered and denigrated Israel, changed all that. As he gained total power in Ankara, supporters of Israel, including Foxman, realized that there was no point continuing to kowtow to the Turks’ irrational refusal to tell the truth about their history.

The long list of hypocrites on Turkey demonstrates that realpolitik usually has more to say about views about history than principles. But as bad as it may be for those like Trump, who don’t grandstand about their devotion to human rights, to turn a blind eye to Erdogan’s historical revisionism, it’s even worse for Omar. Every time she opens her mouth about the Palestinians, she should be reminded by her fans in the liberal media that people who support antisemitic movements like BDS and yet are indifferent to Armenian genocide have no standing to pose as defenders of human rights.

Warren Proposes ‘Jihad Tax’ to Defeat al Qaeda, ISIS (satire)

Insisting that there is no problem on Earth that can’t be solved by the right tax, Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has proposed a “jihad tax” to wipe radical Islamic groups like ISIS and al Qaeda off the map.

Her detailed proposal would create a system for taxing everything from suicide bombings and beheadings to hijackings and pipeline attacks. Terrorists would still be targeted in special forces missions, but SEAL Team Six will now comprise IRS agents instead of elite warriors. Predator drones, meanwhile, will drop audits on terrorist hideouts instead of Hellfire missiles.

“The only way to wipe out radical Islamic terrorism is by making terrorists pay their fair share,” Warren declared during a recent campaign rally. “Just like every other problem facing our country, when it comes to terrorism, I have a tax for that!”

Senator Bernie Sanders, Warren’s main rival on the party’s left wing, rushed to respond with his own terrorist tax plan. Sanders promised to seize the assets of prominent organizations like ISIS and redistribute them among terror groups with fewer resources.

Netanyahu appoints Bennett as defense minister; Likud, New Right to unite

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday offered New Right party leader Naftali Bennett the position of defense minister in a move widely seen as a bid to prevent Bennett joining a Blue and White-led government.

The premier’s Likud party said Netanyahu, who is also defense minister, met Bennett in the morning, during which the prime minister extended the offer. The appointment will be voted on at the next cabinet meeting, the party said.

New Right accepted the offer, said party number 2 Ayelet Shaked, adding that Netanyahu had offered them a choice of two smaller ministries, from Agriculture, Diaspora Affairs and Welfare, or just Defense.

“I am convinced this is correct for the state of Israel,” she tweeted.

Bennett and Shaked famously gave Netanyahu an ultimatum in 2018, threatening to pull out of his government if Bennett was not appointed defense minister, but ultimately backed down when Netanyahu called their bluff.

IDF promotes first female officer to artillery corps battalion commander

For the first time in IDF history, a female officer is going to command an artillery corps battalion.

Maj. Efrat Kikov Levi, 32, will be promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel and will be assigned as battalion commander of the “Thunder” battalion, which is currently deployed in the Golan Heights.

Levi was drafted in 2006 to the artillery corps in the MLRS battalion before continuing to the commanders’ course. After serving for a year as an operational commander, she went to the officers’ course for ground forces and graduated with honors.

She was then assigned as platoon commander in an operational company. She served in several other operational positions in the artillery corps, before training and commanding as a company commander in both the training sector and in the battalion in which she began her army journey.

She additionally served as the secretary for Yair Golan when he was head of Northern Command.

This is not Levi’s first time making IDF history; she was also the first woman to be deputy battalion commander in Eged (artillery brigade) 282 and the commander of Operations Division 215.

The announcement came mere days after the IDF announced that it would be increasing the number of women serving as combat soldiers in co-ed battalions.

The Palestinian Authority’s missing billions

The Palestinian Authority has received tens of billions of dollars of international aid since its creation. While the P.A. has constantly complained about its financial difficulties, scrutiny of its financial records for the years 2011–2018 shows that the P.A. transferred over $2 billion to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) during that period, some of which was then passed on to terrorist organizations. In that same period, the P.A. also spent over $126 million to fund its non-functioning institutions.

The PLO, which is headed by P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas, is an umbrella organization for several Palestinian groups. The largest and most dominant member is Abbas’s Fatah party. Other members include groups designated as terrorist organizations by the United States and European Union, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Palestinian Liberation Front. PLO members are entitled to and receive funding from the PLO.

While international donors have demanded financial transparency from the P.A., the PLO is not subject to any such restriction. Accordingly, it is impossible to know what happens to the billions of dollars of donor money the P.A. has given to the PLO over the years, and continues to give today.

Only on sporadic occasions are the financial workings of the PLO exposed. In June 2018, for example, senior PFLP official Maher Mazhar complained that the group was not getting its monthly allocation from the PLO.
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Denying the claim, PLO Executive Committee member and Fatah Central Committee member Azzam al-Ahmad confirmed that Abbas and the Palestinian National Fund—the financial branch of the PLO—are responsible for funding the PFLP, and stressed that the allocations had not been stopped.

Palestinian Authority spent NIS 7b. to fund terror – report

The Palestinian Authority squandered at least NIS 7.5 billion between 2011 and 2018 on terror funding and non-functioning institutions, according to a new report by Palestinian Media Watch.

The Israeli watchdog this week published a financial report of the Palestinian Authority based on its own financial records for the years 2011 – 2018. The report shows that the PA transferred at least NIS 7 billion to the PLO, the umbrella organization for several Palestinian groups, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Palestinian Liberation Front. PFLP and PLP have been designated terrorist organizations by the United States and the European Union.

In addition, some 440 million shekels was invested in what PMW calls “non-functioning institutions,” such as the Central Elections Committee (NIS 104,566,000) and the parliament’s legislative council (336,746,000).

As a result of the internal conflict between PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party and rival party Hamas – a designated terrorist organization by the US – the last elections for the PA Parliament were held in 2006. Hamas won 74 of the 132 PA Parliament seats, but the PA Parliament has not met since shortly after the elections.

Further, Abbas decided in December 2018 to dissolve the parliament entirely.

The figures exposed by PMW in this report are based on the annual budgets of the PA, published since 2014, and budget performance reports published by the PA since 2008.

Trump administration to Post: White House was right about UNRWA corruption

The former head of the United Nations’ Palestinian aid agency who resigned in the face of an inquiry into misconduct allegations has denied any wrongdoing, and said his agency was the victim of a political campaign designed to undermine it.

Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl, a Swiss diplomat, was replaced on Wednesday, pending completion of a review of “management-related matters” at the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the agency said.

“I have rejected these allegations from the start and will continue to do so,” Krahenbuhl said in an interview with Swiss broadcaster RTS on Wednesday evening. “There is no corruption, fraud, or misappropriation of aid.”

In a resignation letter to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, obtained by Reuters, Krahenbuhl complained the inquiry “has been fraught with leaks…despite your personal commitment to confidentiality.”

He denied what he called “the unfounded allegation that I entertained a romantic relationship with a staff member.”

His tenure at cash-strapped UNRWA saw frequent clashes with US President Donald Trump’s administration, which has suggested refugee host countries should take over UNRWA’s services across the Middle East.

UNRWA has faced budgetary difficulties since last year, when the US – its biggest donor – halted its aid of $360 million per year. The United States and Israel have both accused UNRWA of mismanagement and anti-Israeli incitement.

An administration official told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that the new revelations prove the problematic conduct of the UN agency, which the US peace team has warned about since the day President Donald Trump took office.

Caroline Glick: Is Iran winning or losing?

If Iran had more money to pay its proxy governments, presumably they would be stealing less money from their respective publics.

In other words, far from having nothing to do with the protests, the sanctions against Iran have everything to do with the protests.

The Lebanese and Iraqis protesting their governments and the Iranian regime which controls them represent a profoundly negative development for Iran and its 40 year war against Israel and America. Together with Syria, Lebanon and Iraq play key roles in Iran’s strategy for fighting Israel. The more unstable they are, the less use Iran will be able to make of them in a future offensive against Israel.

Today, at least publicly, Israel is focusing its attention on Iran’s nuclear operations, and this makes sense. But actions to decrease Iran’s regional power and to destabilize the regime’s grip on power at home are essential components of any strategy for diminishing Iran’s capacity to attack Israel.

To date, the Trump administration’s maximum pressure strategy has not managed to bring the regime down. And it is unlikely that on their own, US economic sanctions will suffice to ever bring it down.

Yet as the mass demonstrations against Iran and its proxies in Lebanon and Iraq make clear, the American strategy can and is undermining Iranian domestic and regional power and stability. It is Israel’s responsibility to ensure that this process is expanded and exploited to the greatest degree possible to diminish the prospects of a direct Iranian assault on the Jewish state.

Iran’s Deadly Diplomats

In July, Assadollah Assadi, an Iranian diplomat accredited to Tehran’s embassy in Vienna, was arrested in Germany and charged with providing 500 grams of TATP explosives for a plot targeting a rally of Iranian dissidents near Paris. In June 2018, two Iranian diplomats based at the Iranian embassy in Amsterdam were expelled from the Netherlands following the assassination several months earlier of an Iranian Arab activist who was gunned down in the Dutch capital. In other cases, Iranian diplomats involved in terrorism or surveillance of possible targets for attack were quietly arrested and deported.

Iranian diplomats were deeply involved in the 1992 and 1994 bombings of the Israeli embassy and AMIA Jewish community center, respectively, in Buenos Aires.

Report: Iran Downs a Drone Over Southern Port City of Mahshahr

Iranian media reported on Friday that Iran had shot down a drone over its southern port city of Mahshahr, without providing further details.

“Iran‘s army has downed an unknown drone in the port city of Mahshahr,” the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.

Other Iranian news outlets carried the same report, without elaborating on whether it was a military or civilian drone. Iranian officials were not immediately available for comment.

The student news agency ISNA and the Young Journalists Club (YJC), affiliated to Iran‘s state broadcasting, said “an unknown flying object” had been shot down by the Iranian army, adding that the report had yet to be confirmed by Iranian officials.

Iran‘s Arabic-language al-Alam TV channel said “residents of Imam Khomeini port city heard the sound of a missile being fired on Friday morning.”

In June, Iran shot down an unmanned US surveillance drone, which the elite Revolutionary Guards said was flying over southern Iran. Washington said the US drone had been shot down by Iran in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf.

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