Evelyn Gordon: Why the status quo is the least bad option for Palestinians
Even among people who recognize that Israeli-Palestinian peace is currently impossible, a growing number think that Israel must nevertheless quit the West Bank. Israel has a right to defend itself, their argument goes, but not by controlling another people for decades. Instead, it should withdraw to the “internationally recognized border” and protect itself from there, as other countries do.
Forget for a moment that the “internationally recognized border” is an arrant fiction. Forget as well that Israel remains in the West Bank precisely because defending itself from the 1949 armistice lines (the abovementioned fictional border) hasn’t worked very well in either the West Bank—from which Israel partially withdrew in the 1990s before returning the following decade—or the Gaza Strip.
That still leaves another uncomfortable fact: As long as genuine peace remains impossible, Israeli control of the West Bank, despite the undeniable hardships it causes Palestinians, remains the least bad alternative for the Palestinians themselves. As evidence, just compare the Israeli-controlled West Bank to Gaza, which has been free of both settlers and soldiers since August 2005. By almost any parameter, life in the former is far better.
Take, for instance, casualties. According to B’Tselem’s statistics, Israeli security forces killed 5,706 Palestinians in Gaza from September 2005 through August 2019. That’s almost eight times the 756 killed by Israeli security personnel and settlers combined in the West Bank during this period (no Gazans were killed by settlers since there are no settlers there).
Nor is this surprising. Israel’s control of the West Bank means that suspected terrorists can often be arrested rather than killed, though shootouts (with attendant collateral damage) do occur. But in Gaza, where Israel has no troops, it can’t arrest terrorists. Thus the only way to fight terror is through military action, which naturally produces many more casualties among both combatants and civilians.
Daniel Pipes: The Middle East in flux: Eight trends
As ever, the Middle East is monumentally in flux. As usual, most developments are negative. Here’s a guide:
Water replaces petroleum as the key liquid: oil and gas still provide nearly 60% of the world’s energy, but this number is declining and even the wealthiest oil producers are feeling the pinch (“GCC states look to new taxes as oil revenues remain weak”). Contrarily, tensions over water are becoming a major source of international tensions (e.g., Turkey vs. Syria, Ethiopia vs. Egypt) and a driving force of domestic change (the Syrian revolt of 2011). It’s also a potential cause of massive migration; a former Iranian minister of agriculture predicts that water shortages will force up to 70% of the country’s population, or 57 million Iranians, to emigrate.
Anarchy replaces tyranny: of course, some tyrannies remain, notably in Turkey and Iran, but anarchy has become the region’s greater bane, including whole countries (Libya, Yemen, Syria) and parts of others (e.g., Sinai). Though generally less threatening to the outside world, anarchy is an even more miserable personal experience than tyranny, for it lacks guidelines. As a 13th century Koran scholar noted, “A year of the sultan’s tyranny does less harm than a moment of the people’s anarchy.”
The failure of Arab youths’ efforts to make improvements: around 1970, many Arabic-speaking countries began an era of corrupt strongman rule. Starting in Tunisia in December 2010, efforts to overthrow the old order have shaken governments but had few beneficial consequences. In some cases (Libya, Yemen, Syria), they led to civil war; in another (Egypt), they merely brought on a younger strongman. Recent uprisings in Algeria, Sudan, Iraq, and Lebanon have yet to conclude but odds are they, too, will end badly.
The decline of Islamism: after peaking in about 2012, the radical attempt to apply Islamic law severely and in full has lost ground in the Middle East. Several factors account for this: a fear of wild-eyed fanatics like Boko Haram, Shabaab, ISIS, and the Taliban; the dismal experience of Muslim peoples who have lived under Islamist rule (e.g., Egypt in 2012-13); and the fracturing of Islamists (e.g., in Syria) into competing and hostile factions. What might come after Islamism is unclear, but after a century of failure with it and other extremist ideologies (including fascism and communism), an era of anti-ideology might lie ahead.
Israel must deduct from transfers to PA in 2019 an additional 241 million shekels – the amount the PA paid to families of terrorist “Martyrs” in 2018
– 5 years ago today, two terrorists murdered 6 Israelis with knives and axes in a synagogue in West Jerusalem. The victims included rabbis, American citizens, and an Israeli Druze policeman. The terrorists were killed during their attack.
– Since the massacre, the PA has paid the families of these terrorist murderers no less than 204,000 shekels (almost $60,000) simply because their relatives murdered Israelis.
– Israeli law demands that Israel deduct from tax transfers to the PA in 2019 the amount that the PA paid in 2018 to terrorist prisoners and to families of dead terrorists – so-called “Martyrs.”
– Since February, the Israeli government has been deducting approximately 41 million shekels each month, 1/12 of the amount the PA paid to terrorist prisoners in 2018, which was 502 million shekels.
– In order to comply with Israeli law, the government must also deduct the full amount paid to families of dead terrorists by the end of 2019.
– This PMW special report shows that the additional amount that Israel must deduct from its tax transfers to the PA in the next two months is at least 241 million shekels – the sum the PA paid to families of dead terrorist “Martyrs” in 2018.
– PMW has calculated that there are at least 5,666 dead terrorists who were killed from September 2000 to the end of 2018 and whose families received an estimated 95 million shekels ($25.4 million) from the PA in 2018.
The UN gave its preliminary approval to a resolution that referred to the Temple Mount solely by its Muslim name of Haram al-Sharif.
The resolution passed at the UN’s Fourth Committee in New York 154-8, with 14 abstentions and 17 absences. It was one of eight pro-Palestinian resolutions approved on Friday, out of a slate of more than 15 such texts the committee is expected to approve. The UN General Assembly will take a final vote on the texts in December.
Ben Bourgel, the Israeli political coordinator at the UN mission in New York, pushed the committee on the issue of Jerusalem, asking why it was so difficult for UN member states to use the phrase Temple Mount.
“Is it acceptable in this committee’s view that in the resolutions presented it is inconceivable to add the phrase ‘Temple Mount?’” Bourgel asked.
His remarks referenced the resolution entitled, “Enforcing Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem.”
That text states that the UN is “gravely concerned by the tensions and violence in the recent period throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including east Jerusalem and including with regard to the holy places of Jerusalem, including the Haram al-Sharif.”
The resolution makes no mention of the Jewish name for the area, the Temple Mount, which is Judaism’s holiest site, and Islam’s third holiest site.
Amb. Alan Baker: The Failure of the International Criminal Court (ICC)
There is a growing concern that the International Criminal Court (ICC), established with the adoption of the Rome Statute of 1998, is irreparably and institutionally flawed and politicized. The ICC has failed to live up to the hopes and visions of its founding fathers.
The ICC was established after a long process of negotiations inspired by a post-World War II vision of the need to ensure that the perpetrators of the most egregious crimes known to humanity would not enjoy impunity and immunity. They would be brought to trial before an independent, apolitical, international juridical body.
Regrettably, and despite the best intentions of its founders, the very independence and impartiality of the Court – so central and obvious for any such vital and important juridical body – was flawed from the outset by constitutionally linking the Court with the United Nations.
Placing part of the ICC’s financing at the political mercy of the UN General Assembly undermines and prejudices any pretention of independence of the Court. Funding of the ICC, like any other action requiring approval in the UN General Assembly, is, of necessity, a process driven by the political and economic interests of its members and subject to political bargaining that is unconnected to the needs of the Court.
The acceptance of a “Palestinian state” as a fully-fledged member state by the Court is an example of how the ICC is dependent upon political determinations of the UN’s General Assembly. The Palestinians have adopted the ICC as their own “back-yard tribunal” for baiting Israel. They regularly submit referrals against Israel’s leaders and settlement policy. In so doing, they are politicizing the Court.
Within the broad array of European arrogance toward Israel, the Netherlands holds a special place. The Dutch have an unofficial policy of obfuscating — or only superficially investigating — their major crimes. This is true for instance concerning their colonial past in what is now Indonesia. A lengthy thesis by a historian claims that the Dutch colonial history was as cruel as that of the British, French and Portuguese in their colonies.
The latest in this ‘hiding of information policy’ is that it has only now been published that at least 70 civilians in Iraq were killed by Dutch pilots in the battle against ISIS. It has also become known that the Ministry of Defense and Security knew these facts since 2015. So far the detailed internal report of the Ministry about these killings has not been found.
This obfuscating policy also emboldens the Dutch government in its attitude toward Israel. Earlier this year the extreme leftist Israeli NGO B’tselem published a report attacking the Israeli Supreme Court about its decisions on construction in the ‘West Bank.’ The Dutch Government financed this study.
In the agreement between B’tselem and the Dutch government the latter stated that “the situation [in Israel] of human rights development, rights of women, the most serious violations and freedom of expression are all under pressure.” The Dutch government specified the report’s goals and aimed to “erode the status quo by challenging the principal mechanisms that maintain the occupation (…).”
The Israeli Supreme Court enjoys high standing in international legal circles. There were several parliamentary questions about this extreme interference of the Netherlands in Israel’s internal affairs. The Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stef Blok, said that the mission of B’tselem is perfectly in line with the Dutch policy: “which aims at realization of peace and security through reaching a two-state solution”. Blok did not explain how creating a Palestinian state, led either by the majority party, the genocide promoting Hamas or Fatah which rewards murders of civilians, increases peace and security.
Cherith Norman Chalet, Acting U.S. Deputy Representative to the UN, told the General Assembly on Friday: “The United States continues to oppose the annual submission of more than a dozen resolutions biased against Israel. This one-sided approach…fails to create the kind of positive international environment critical to achieving peace.”
“It is deplorable that the United Nations – an institution founded upon the idea that all nations should be treated equally – should be so often used by member states to treat one state in particular, Israel, unequally.”
“We see resolutions that are quick to condemn all manner of Israeli actions, but say nothing or almost nothing about terrorist attacks against innocent civilians. This is particularly apparent when we see Israel blamed for the situation in Gaza, while none of these resolutions even mentions the word ‘Hamas,’ or any armed groups in Gaza. Just this week, we saw barrages of rockets on Israeli civilians fired from Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza. It is shameful that the UN cannot condemn these acts of terror in any of the resolutions.”
“One-sided resolutions do not help advance peace. The cause of peace will be served when the bias of the United Nations against Israel ends.”
In short, the U.N. financial predicament is real, but the reasons are multiple as are the solutions.
First, although the Trump administration has done an admirable job of trimming fat from the U.N. peacekeeping budget, the organization’s regular budget continues to grow. This growth continues despite the secretary-general’s reform agenda, which promised savings and efficiency gains that have not materialized. Indeed, the proposed regular budget for 2020 is $2.94 billion, which is higher than the annualized budget approved last December.
Similarly, parts of the U.N. budget are profligate. For instance, the secretary-general announced eliminating non-essential travel during the current financial crunch, but exorbitant travel expenses have long characterized the U.N. Despite some changes, a number of U.N. employees and member-state officials still travel first class on the U.N. dime. That should change.
Second, in response to news articles about the U.N. financial crisis, President Trump tweeted, “So make all Member Countries pay, not just the United States!” Most other U.N. member states do pay their assessments to the U.N., but the president has a point that the payments differ greatly.
The least assessed countries owe less than $37,000 per year for the U.N. regular and peacekeeping budgets, while the U.S. is charged over $2.5 billion. The U.S. should be engaging other nations right now to adjust the scale of assessments — particularly the peacekeeping scale of assessments — to distribute costs more equitably and to improve incentives for accountability and oversight by the member states.
Finally, Congress needs to focus on its fundamental responsibility to pass appropriation and authorization bills on time. Until the U.S. returns to a normal budgeting process, U.S. payments to the U.N. will face the same fiscal constraints that bedevil the rest of the U.S. government.
Israel has presented to senior members of the Trump administration a major, long-term economic proposal to employ a quarter of a million Palestinians in Israeli-run West Bank industrial zones, and to develop up to two dozen major West Bank Biblical tourism sites with a focus on Evangelical Christian visitors, Likud MK Nir Barkat, the former Jerusalem mayor who is behind the plan, told The Times of Israel.
Entitled “Developing Win-Win Economy in Judea and Samaria,” the presentation was set out by Barkat to US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner in the summer, at the direct request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
It has also been seen by the outgoing Trump envoy Jason Greenblatt and the US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, both of whom “like it,” Barkat said.
Barkat said he believed the proposal could serve as a blueprint for coexistence lasting centuries, and that he would not be surprised to see it included in the much-anticipated Trump administration Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.
Former Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat pictured outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
“We looked at this not through a political prism, but through the prism of what best works economically,” he added. Nonetheless, the plan aligns with a Netanyahu policy, firmly backed by Barkat, under which Israel will not relinquish overall security control anywhere in the West Bank, and will annex at least parts of Area C, the 60% of the West Bank where Israel maintains full civil and security authority and where all the Jewish settlements are.
THE complexities of the Middle East appear resistant to “solutions”, reflected Wentworth Liberal MP Dave Sharma. The former Australian ambassador to Israel was responding to a question from the audience at a Liberal Friends of Israel (LFOI) lunch in Melbourne.
“Our language is really being driven by the Americans who are very solutions-oriented in this conflict,” he told the November 6 event, “[but] there’s a lot of conflict in the Middle East for which there are no solutions”. He said the Israeli-Palestinian impasse, power sharing in Lebanon and Turkey’s relationship with the Kurds are examples.
Some of these, notably the Israel-Palestinian conflict, can only be “managed”, he said, “and we need to manage as best we can”.
Photo: Peter Haskin
“What we can do and what we should be doing is promoting co-existence, promoting economic integration, trade, promoting the emergence of a more educated Palestinian middle class that has a stake in society,” he said. Peace will evolve in a “generational” way rather than through any breakthroughs at Camp David.
Introduced to the LFOI event at Shiloh restaurant by Caulfield state MP David Southwick, Sharma revealed he was initially approached to stand for pre-selection as a Liberal candidate for a federal seat in Victoria, (believed to be Macnamara) but then contested Wentworth in Sydney in last year’s by-election after Malcolm Turnbull was ousted as PM and quit politics. Losing to Jewish independent candidate Dr Kerryn Phelps, he returned to win Wentworth in this year’s general election.
He noted wryly that during his term as ambassador from 2013-17, Israel had one PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, while Australia had four, but now “we have a stable future ahead with this [Scott Morrison] government, but Israel’s got some political challenges ahead”.
Saudi Aramco is worth up to $1.7 trillion at the price range set by the oil giant on Sunday, below the $2 trillion sought by Saudi’s crown prince but putting it in the running to become the world’s biggest IPO.
Aramco cannot sell its shares directly to investors in the United States and other markets, as the initial public offering (IPO) will be restricted to Saudis and those foreign institutions permitted to invest in the kingdom’s stock market.
The oil giant said it plans to sell 1.5 percent of the company, or about 3 billion shares, at an indicative price range of 30 riyals to 32 riyals, valuing the IPO at as much as 96 billion riyals ($25.6 billion) and giving the company a potential market value of between $1.6 trillion and $1.7 trillion.
This could just beat Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba’s record $25 billion New York stock market debut in 2014.
Aramco’s IPO size could be bigger if there is enough demand for it to use a 15 percent “greenshoe” over-allotment option.
“We are planning to subscribe to the IPO in two funds that we manage,” said Zachary Cefaratti, chief executive officer of Dubai-based Dalma Capital Management Ltd, adding that the preliminary valuation was “in line with our expectations.”
A Turkish opposition MP angered members of his country’s Jewish community on Sunday when he criticized the lavish lifestyles of some Muslims by comparing them to Jews.
Lütfü Türkkan, a nationalist lawmaker belonging to the Good Party, tweeted a video of an upscale event while complaining that “there is a type of Muslim we call ‘Protestant,’ living in wealth and luxury on an income that is unjust; these people have taken on the spirit of Jews.”
His comments came under immediate fire on Twitter from Ivo Molinas, the editor of Turkey’s Şalom newspaper, a Jewish publication. Rather than backing down, the Turkish lawmaker hit back, tweeting, “Not every sentence that contains the word Jew is anti-Semitic. Was this word banned and I didn’t know about it?”
According to the Coordination Forum for Countering Antisemitism, Türkkan has previously tweeted anti-Semitic statements, writing in 2018 that “Hebrews put a piece of soil on the eyes of the dead before burying them. It means ‘let this soil finally suffice to financially satisfy you.’”
He has also called for Turkey to declare Israel a “terrorist state” because it “targeted civilians in its attacks against Palestine and a countless number of women and children have lost their lives,” the Daily Sabah reported in 2014.
According to a report by researchers at Tel Aviv University released earlier this year, anti-Semitism is actively being promoted by government officials in Turkey.
When Palestinian terrorists launched some 400 rockets into Israel last week, the Iron Dome anti-missile system shot down many of them. Since the system went into operation in 2011, it has intercepted 1,500 rockets and established a 90-percent success rate. Yet this high-tech defense has its critics, as Jacob Nagel and Jonathan Schanzer write:
[B]y granting time and space to Israeli officials to consider a proportional or surgical [retaliatory] strike, Iron Dome can have the unintended consequence of potentially prolonging a conflict. In other words, the system raises the threshold for Israeli political leaders and military brass to launch a decisive operation, even as the volume of rocket provocations increases.
There is also a psychological-warfare element. Israel’s enemies can repeatedly broadcast photos of their cadres firing rockets with relatively little response from the Israeli side. And when Israel does respond with lethal force, the international reaction is often harsh, with critics pointing to the efficacy of Iron Dome as a reason why Israel need not take decisive action against its enemies.
That said, if Hizballah or Hamas seeks an all-out confrontation with Israel, they will fire thousands of rockets regardless of whether or not Israel deploys Iron Dome. Indeed, both groups did exactly that in 2006 (before Iron Dome’s invention) and 2014 (well after).
Iron Dome has [undoubtedly] given Israel an advantage. But this advantage is in no way guaranteed to last. Constant examination and adaptation of the system is necessary to maintain its superiority. Israeli decision-makers must also develop a cohesive strategy to ensure that [Israel’s overarching strategic needs are met].
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad fired a new kind of rocket at Israel with a massive 300 kilogram (660 lb) warhead that left a huge crater where it exploded in southern Israel, Channel 12 reported Friday.
The rocket, which carried significantly more explosives than most of the missiles fired by the terror group, landed in an open area in an Israeli community on the outskirts of Gaza and left a crater with a diameter of 16 meters (52 feet) and 2 meters (6 feet) deep.
Channel 12 said the size of the rocket surprised Israel and noted that it was developed locally with the assistance of Iranian engineers.
The report said Islamic Jihad had managed, in some aspects, to surpass the technical capabilities of the much larger Hamas terror group. However, it noted that Hezbollah in Lebanon has rockets of this size and larger aimed at Israel, some with precision-guided systems.
Islamic Jihad received hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance from Iran, which hopes to use its proxies in Gaza and Lebanon to fire thousands of missiles at Israel in the event of a conflict.
Honest Reporting: What Is Palestinian Islamic Jihad?
This past week, the terror organization launched over 450 rockets towards Israel, endangering the lives of millions of Israelis. But what is Palestinian Islamic Jihad and what is the objective of the terror organization? Find out here.
The Gaza leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad on Saturday put on a display of reconciliation, after senior Hamas members were twice barred Friday from a mourning tent for a Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist whose killing by Israel set off two days of fighting in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh visited the mourning tent for Baha abu al-Ata, and was warmly received and photographed along with Islamic Jihad’s Gaza leader Khaled al-Batsh and Abu al-Ata’s father.
Haniyeh also telephoned the Damascus-based overall Islamic Jihad leader Ziad Nakhalah, Israel’s Channel 12 news reported.
The show of harmony between the rival terror groups came a day after Palestinians affiliated with Islamic Jihad accosted Hamas officials Mahmoud al-Zahar and Ahmed Bahar as they tried to visit the mourning tent for Abu al-Ata, who was killed early Tuesday in an Israeli air strike.
The mourners were apparently angry at Hamas after the Gaza-ruling terror group did not take part in the Tuesday-Wednesday flare-up between Israel and Islamic Jihad, during which Islamic Jihad fired some 450 rockets into Israel. Islamic Jihad members yelled “out, Hamas out,” and threw stones at the Hamas leaders’ vehicle.
Jordanian King Abdullah II and his son Hussein visited the Tzofar enclave on Saturday, one of two territories evacuated by Israel this week after its 25-year lease on the land expired.
The two, accompanied by Jordan’s army chief and other senior military brass, prayed at the site. The royals were briefed on the territory’s historical and strategic significance.
After the visit, Abdullah tweeted: “Jordanian sovereignty over Jordanian land above all else.”
The visit followed Abdullah and Crown Prince Hussein’s trip on Monday to the Naharayim enclave, a day after annexes in the landmark 1994 Jordan-Israel peace agreement — which had created special arrangements for Israeli farmers and their employees to work lands in Naharayim and the southern Tzofar enclave — were terminated.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) has approved a long-delayed proposal to operate the Gaza Strip’s power plant using Israeli natural gas and Qatari funding, according to Palestinian economic sources. Some critics, however, fear the project will undo an effort to cut Palestinian economic dependence on Israel.
Mohammed Abu Jayab, economist and editor of economic newspaper Al-Eqtesadia in Gaza, told Al-Monitor that Qatar has agreed with the PA and Israel to secure the necessary funds for the project. “This includes construction of a 40-kilometer-long [25-mile-long] gas pipeline route and three pumping stations along the eastern border of the Gaza Strip.” The $88 million project will take 18 to 24 months to complete, he said, adding, “Implementation will start in early 2020.”
Abu Jayab first revealed the deal on his Facebook blog, based on information from his sources in the Palestinian presidency. This PA-Qatar agreement took place during an Oct. 30 meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Qatari Ambassador Mohammed al-Emadi in Ramallah, who is also chairman of the Gaza Reconstruction Committee, Abu Jayab said.
Mother of Palestinian “Martyr”: All Palestinian Mothers Should Urge Their Children to Wage Jihad; Death Is Inevitable, So Why Not Die as Martyrs? pic.twitter.com/VswXgLUJOr
— MEMRI (@MEMRIReports) November 18, 2019
MEMRI: Petition By Muslim Brotherhood-Affiliated Clerics Calls For Economic Boycott Of UAE; Anti-MB Salafi-Jihadi Cleric: Boycott Is Not Enough; Petition Signatories Support Polytheistic Governments That Fail To Implement Allah’s Laws
A petition headlined “Petition to Boycott the Emirates,” signed by 87 Muslim clerics, most of them affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), called on Muslims worldwide, primarily the Muslim business community, to boycott the UAE for what the clerics refer to as “its wars for killing Muslims” worldwide. Most of the signatories are Libya-based – among them Libyan Mufti Al-Sadiq Abd-Alrahman Ali Al-Ghariani, who is on several Arab countries’ designated terrorist lists, including the UAE’s. Others are from Tunisia, Sudan, Lebanon, Egypt, and Mauritania, and some are members of the International Union of Muslims Scholars (IUMS), founded by MB spiritual leader Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi.
The text of the petition was first published November 8, 2019, without the signatories, on the Facebook page of Libya’s Dar Al-Ifta, the ministry in charge of religious rulings that likely launched it. A few days later it was published by the old guard of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Egypt, with the signatories included.
In response, Salafi-jihadi ideologue and prominent Jordanian cleric Abu Muhammad Al-Maqdisi wrote that he welcomed the call to boycott the UAE because of its crimes against the Muslims. At the same time, however, he criticized the signatories, primarily over their claim that the UAE had acted against what they called “legitimate and just governments,” including the MB government of deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi. Al-Maqdisi wrote that the clerics’ defining of democratically elected governments whose authority comes from the people and not from Allah and that do not implement shari’a law, as “legitimate” and shari’a compliant, is essentially polytheism. A boycott will not in itself be sufficient, he said, to bring down the government of the UAE or of any other state that fails to operate in accordance with the laws of Allah. He added that the clerics who signed the petition should actually be calling for rebellion and revolution against these governments.
Turkish authorities forcibly remove 6,000 Syrians from Istanbul in sustained campaign of ethnic cleansing.
Why is Turkey on the UN committee overseeing human rights NGOs? https://t.co/Zg0f7gx6Kz
— UN Watch (@UNWatch) November 18, 2019
Russia seeks to undermine UN probe into its bombing of a Syrian hospital.
Why is Russia a member of the UN committee overseeing human rights NGOs?
— UN Watch (@UNWatch) November 18, 2019
Hundreds of leaked Iranian intelligence reports reveal the depth of Tehran’s influence in neighboring, now protest-torn Iraq, The New York Times and The Intercept reported Monday.
The US newspaper and the online news publication said they had verified around 700 pages of reports written mainly in 2014 and 2015 by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security, and sent to The Intercept anonymously.
The documents “offer a detailed portrait of just how aggressively Tehran has worked to embed itself into Iraqi affairs, and of the unique role of General (Qasem) Soleimani,” wrote the outlets.
Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force, is Tehran’s point man on Iraq and travels there frequently during times of political turmoil.
Amid Iraq’s largest and deadliest protests in decades, Soleimani has chaired meetings in Baghdad and Najaf in recent weeks to persuade political parties to close ranks around Iraqi premier Adel Abdel Mahdi, sources have told AFP.
US policy has been a mix of guns and butter in Iraq since the invasion of 2003: offering military training and arms and trying to butter up some officials that Washington thought would be its champions in Baghdad. But at every turn an Iranian octopus was lurking, outplaying the ham-handed American attempts to exert influence in Baghdad, even maneuvering Iranian-backed candidates into office with US backing, tricking Washington to make the US think it had “won.” Meanwhile Iran played the long game. New leaked Iranian documents appear to show how Iran did it.
Today the US is still training some Iraqis but it is heading for some kind of an exit eventually. The US wants to shore up the Peshmerga in the Kurdistan Regional Government and also leave a more competent layer of Iraqi security forces, with good units like the Counter-Terrorism Service, to keep ISIS and other groups in check. But America understands that in the long-term, whatever comes out of Iraq will largely be either by Iranian design or in reaction to Iran; the US simply cannot decide thousands of miles away in DC.
Symbolic of the problem were rockets fired at the Green Zone on November 17. A trove of documents analyzed by The Intercept and shared with The New York Times reveals how Iran outmaneuvered the US, the Intercept notes. Although much of this was known, the 700 pages of documents, translated from Farsi, show new details and, the report notes, shows how Iran got a firm grip on Iraq and is using it as a “gateway for Iranian power” that now stretches through Syria to Lebanon and increasingly threatens Israel. Iraq is the “near abroad” for Iran now, and Iran is building its own IRGC in Iraq, called the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).
The archive of documents comes from 2014-2015 and is from “officers of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security.” 2014-2015 was a pivotal year because it is when ISIS swallowed up a third of Iraq and threatened Baghdad. In response, Iran sent advisors, and Iraq’s Ayatollah Ali Sistani called for mass mobilization of Shi’ite men to fight. That became the PMU, which became part of the Iraqi Security Forces; now their party is the second largest in Iraq.
2015 was also the year of the Iran deal when the Washington and Tehran appeared on the same page in Iraq. The US under the Obama administration supported the Iranian-backed Shi’ite sectarian Nouri al-Maliki to be prime minister and then supported his replacement Haider al-Abadi. In both cases, Washington wanted a “strong man” in Baghdad. And they got one. But so did Iran. Later, the US would encourage Abadi to attack the Kurds in Kirkuk, helping Iran’s Qasem Soleimani seize a strategic region of Iraq in 2017. The US thought it was empowering Baghdad to be “nationalist” and got Abadi a meeting with the Saudis. In fact, America was backing Iran’s influence, punishing its own Kurdish allies in a method that would replay itself in Syria.
Hezbollah is certainly the Islamic Republic of Iran’s most successful export. For over two decades, Tehran has played the role of puppet-master in Beirut, attempting to counter the influence of its enemies: the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Hezbollah’s critical influence in the region was demonstrated during the 2006 war with Israel and with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) intervention in the Syrian conflict.
Although Hezbollah’s military wing was rightfully designated as a terrorist organization in April by US President Donald Trump, the organization’s military and political wings work in tandem to export the regime’s disturbing agenda. In 2017, the US State Department identified more than 250 operatives and 150 companies with Hezbollah ties. Last year, the details of Project Cassandra exposed the sophistication and breadth of Hezbollah’s billion-dollar criminal enterprise.
Since Tehran heavily invests in Hezbollah’s role globally, these protests do not bode well for the regime. Iranian leadership clearly grasps the magnitude of these demonstrations since its officials have attempted to paint them as manifestations of foreign meddling. Khamenei has accused “US and Western intelligence services, with the financial backing of evil countries,” of orchestrating these protests.
In Iraq, anti-Iran sentiment has monopolized the demonstrations. Last week in Baghdad, protesters were pictured torching an Iranian flag. On Sunday, they threw gasoline bombs at the Iranian Consulate in the country’s capital of Karbala. The former head of the Iraqi National Archives explained that, “the revolution is not anti-American, it is anti-Iran; it is anti-religion – anti-political religion, not religion as such.”
Pro-Iranian paramilitary forces have violently intervened in recent demonstrations. Since October 1, the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights reports that 301 protesters have been killed, and thousands more injured.
As Tehran continues to dismiss these protests as inauthentic and foreign-led, demonstrators will only gain more momentum. While Iran grapples with the economic consequences of Trump’s maximum-pressure campaign, it may not be able to survive the coupled onslaught of these protests.
Iran‘s powerful Revolutionary Guards warned anti-government protesters on Monday of “decisive” action if unrest over gasoline price hikes do not cease, state media said, in a hint that a harsh security crackdown could be on the cards.
The protests have spread across the Islamic Republic since Friday, turning political with demonstrators demanding that top clerical leaders step down. At least 100 banks and dozens of buildings and cars have been torched, state media reported.
“If necessary we will take decisive and revolutionary action against any continued moves to disturb the people’s peace and security,” the Revolutionary Guards, Iran‘s heavily-armed main security force, said in a statement carried by state media.
The breadth of the disturbances sparked by announcements of fuel rationing and price rises of at least 50 percent remains unclear as authorities have curbed Internet access to stop the use of social media to organize rallies and disseminate videos.
But it appears to be the worst unrest since late 2017 when protests hit over 80 cities and towns, staged by thousands of young and working-class Iranians fed up with alleged corruption, high unemployment and a widening gap between rich and poor.
The Guards and its affiliated Basij militia quelled that bout of unrest, in which at least 22 people were killed.
Amazing: listen to the cheers of ordinary Iranian people as a woman climbs up a steel pole to tear down the banner of hate against Americans that was displayed by the oppressive regime of the Mullahs. “They lie and say America is the enemy; our enemy is right here in Iran.” https://t.co/roQI0i6iAM
— Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) November 18, 2019
A prominent Iranian political activist and journalist called on fellow activists Sunday to put pressure on micro-blogging giant Twitter to block the accounts of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei until internet access was restored within the country.
Masih Alinejad, well known for launching the My Stealthy Freedom movement promoting freedom for Iranian woman, said on Twitter, “I invite all activists to call on @Twitter to ban supreme leader of Islamic Republic @khamenei_ir until Internet access is restored. Without it we cannot monitor human rights violations.”
Alinejad cited major protests in Iran that began on Saturday, in which an unverified number have been killed and national internet access restricted. An Iranian prosecutor said on Sunday that 40 protesters had been arrested in the central city of Yazd.
The current riots, which are occurring in multiple cities, are in response to Khamenei’s petrol price hikes one day earlier, which he blamed on regime “opponents.” The price of gas was raised from 10,000 to 15,000 rials per liter.
Internet blockage observatory NetBlocks said on Twitter late on Saturday: “#Iran is now in the midst of a near-total national internet shutdown; realtime network data show connectivity at 7 percent of ordinary levels after 12 hours of progressive network disconnections as public protests continue.”
— Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) November 17, 2019
Iran has passed another milestone in violating the nuclear deal signed with world powers in 2015, the UN’s atomic watchdog said Monday, according to a report.
In the wake of the unilateral US pullout from the nuclear deal last year, Iran in recent months has been breaching the conditions of the pact by increasing its stockpiles of enriched uranium and increasing its enrichment capacity.
On Monday, the International Atomic Energy Agency sent a report to member states saying Iran has surpassed the 130-metric tonne stockpile allowed by the deal, according to the Reuters news agency, which said it had obtained a copy.
“On 16 November 2019, Iran informed the Agency that its stock of heavy water had exceeded 130 metric tonnes,” the IAEA report said.
“On 17 November 2019, the Agency verified that the Heavy Water Production Plant (HWPP) was in operation and that Iran’s stock of heavy water was 131.5 metric tonnes,” the report added.
Iran Friday Sermon: “Death to America” Means Death to Trump, Obama, and the Bushes, Not the American People or Continent pic.twitter.com/0gX3Ph2Lid
— MEMRI (@MEMRIReports) November 18, 2019
Former cabinet members and other people within the administration of the previous US president again assured Americans they need not worry about the welfare of demonstrators under Tehran’s rule, since there must be a religious ruling by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei barring the use of live fire against such demonstrators, just as Obama assured them of the existence of such a ruling barring the development of atomic weapons, which of course the mullahs have not pursued thanks to the Obama administration’s rock-solid pursuit of the JCPOA deal. The officials surmise that clerks in Tehran have filed the two rulings in the same hard-to find place, a fact that explains the difficulties encountered so far in publishing the details thereof.
“It’s gotta be somewhere,” stated former Secretary of State John Kerry, a key figure in the negotiations that led to the 2015 nuclear deal that effectively legitimized Iran’s nuclear weapons program. “President Obama spoke of a fatwa that banned the development of nuclear weapons, and he would never have embellished the truth to convince the American people to support the deal. By the same token, the protesters in Iran who have taken to the streets again and again over the last several months, after doing so in the early days of the previous administration to demand democratic freedoms, can rest easy under our assumption that the Ayatollah has also at some point issued a fatwa declaring it ‘haram’ to shoot unarmed protesters.”
“The alleged fact that no one has seen either of these two fatwas is immaterial,” he continued. “If you cannot trust the proclamations of the one president and his advisers who subordinated every element of his foreign policy to a deal that emboldened Iran’s imperialist machinations throughout the Middle East and smoothed its way to weapons of mass destruction that could target us and our allies in that region, whom can you trust?”
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