Tuesday, August 25, 2015

From Ian:

Shin Bet thwarts terror plot hatched in Gaza to attack Jews at Joseph's Tomb
The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) announced Tuesday that it had busted a terror cell, thwarting a planned attack with improvised explosives and guns on Jews praying at Joseph's Tomb in Nablus.
Many Jews visit Joseph’s Tomb, surrounded by Palestinian Authority controlled areas, without coordinating with the IDF, and the cell planned to take advantage of that extra vulnerability.
Terrorists have successfully carried out attacks on such worshipers at the tomb in the past, including the 2011 attack which killed a nephew of former Likud minister Limor Livnat.
According to the Shin Bet, who arrested the cell in conjunction with the IDF, the terrorists' activities were directed and provided arms by Muhammad Darwish, an Islamic Jihad operative in the Gaza Strip.
While the cell-members had clearly carried out initial actions toward perpetrating the attack, it was unclear from the Shin Bet how imminent the attack was or the circumstances of the cell’s arrest.
Each member of the cell had a specific role in the attack, according to the Shin Bet. One of the members was responsible for supplying weapons, another gathered intelligence and two of the operatives were tasked with carrying out the attack.
One of the operatives, Nassim Muhammad Ramadan Rashid Damiri, 30 of the Tulkarm refugee camp, had previously been incarcerated several times in Israel and is known as a Tanzim-Fatah operative.
‘Israel should be annihilated,’ senior Iran aide says
A senior Iranian official on Tuesday said Israel “should be annihilated,” and that the thawing relations with the West would not translate into a shift in Tehran’s position concerning the Jewish state.
Hussein Sheikholeslam, a foreign affairs adviser to parliament speaker Ali Larijani, told Iranian media that contrary to remarks by British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, “Our positions against the usurper Zionist regime have not changed at all; Israel should be annihilated and this is our ultimate slogan.”
Hammond was in Iran on Monday for the reopening of the UK embassy in Tehran, and said that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had indicated a “more nuanced approach” to Israel’s existence. Hammond said Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s “revolutionary sloganizing” should be distinguished from “what Iran actually does in the conduct of its foreign policy.”
“We’ve got to, as we do with quite a number of countries, distinguish the internal political consumption rhetoric from the reality of the way they conduct their foreign policy,” the Guardian quoted Hammond saying.
IDF ‘more ready than ever’ to strike Iran, security official says
The Israeli military is readier now than it ever has been to carry out a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities should it be instructed to do so, a senior security official told Walla news Monday.
“Every year that passes, the IDF improves,” the unnamed official said. “We never stand still. The professional level increases. In the coming year we will receive another submarine, F-35 fighter jets and other platforms. Intelligence is improving as well,” he said.
He noted that Israel’s defensive capabilities against Iranian retaliation were also constantly improving.
But the news site noted that the military option had essentially been suspended in recent years and would not be easily reinstated unless there is a fundamental change in the political landscape, or a serious development in Iran’s alleged progress towards a nuclear bomb.



Isi Leibler: Israel must keep confronting Obama
The U.S.-Israel tensions that have escalated over the Iranian issue during the past month have ‎led to waves of criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. ‎
Yet in reality, Netanyahu has proven to be an impressive statesman. His address to the joint ‎meeting of Congress, though initially harshly condemned, was far from being a disaster and ‎served to establish the parameters of the debate. His widely disseminated statements ‎articulating the case against the Iranian "deal" resonated widely among the American public, ‎and he is due much of the credit for persuading the majority of Americans to oppose the ‎disastrous capitulation to Iran. ‎
It is surely absurd to suggest that out of deference to a delusional American president, ‎Israel's prime minister should tread softly when his country faces an existential threat, while the ‎U.S. empowers our most dangerous Islamic terrorist neighbor to become a threshold nuclear ‎state. All the more so when some of its leaders are undeterred by mutual assured destruction, ‎and are even now reiterating their determination to wipe the "cancer" Israel off the face of the ‎earth. ‎
The reality is that the U.S. administration is entering into a pact with a terrorist state that is ‎explicitly committed to the destruction of Israel. Moreover, the U.S. will be releasing over ‎‎$150 billion into their coffers, which the Iranians openly boast will be employed to bolster ‎terror activities by its surrogates against Israel. For Netanyahu not to oppose such a policy, ‎irrespective of the outcome, would have been unconscionable and a dereliction of his ‎responsibility as head of the Jewish state. ‎
Raphael Ahren: Netanyahu’s Iran lobbying causing invisible but severe damage
Whatever Netanyahu believes, however, the fact that Washington keeps vowing that his lobbying will not diminish but actually increase its support for Israel gives Netanyahu a green light to double down on his opposition to the deal. As long as US officials reiterate their willingness to discuss upgrading American aid to Israel at a time of Jerusalem’s choosing, after all, why should he restrain himself? If a ballsy face-off with the leader of the free world comes without a price tag, it’s a win-win for the PM.
Except that the anti-deal agitation could create bad blood not only between Israeli and American officials discussing military assistance, but in other fields as well. Netanyahu’s confrontation with the White House and his call on American Jews to oppose the deal is liable to have at least two other undesired side effects.
First, it turns support for Israel into a partisan issue, since it forces Democrats to choose between their president and the Israeli foreign minister.
Second, it could lead to serious rifts in the American Jewish community. “No policy has threatened to tear our community apart as much as the Iran deal,” according to Greg Rosenbaum, who chairs the National Jewish Democratic Council. Opponents of the accord have compared supporters to Nazis, he noted bitterly, adding that he isn’t sure that this division will heal — that the US-Israel climate change will be reversible — even after the fate of the deal is resolved.
Noah Beck: Surviving the Obama Presidency and the Iranian Bomb Noah Beck
Unfortunately, Obama’s policies have made the job of his successor much harder. The next president will face a far stronger and less isolated Iran, economically empowered by a world rushing to do business with the Ayatollahs. Iran’s $150 billion post-sanctions windfall will increase Iranian financial support for terrorist groups (as Obama officials now concede) and boost Iran’s military capabilities (Russia just agreed to sell Iran its advanced, S-300 long-range, surface-to-air missile systems, complicating future missions to destroy Iranian nukes).
Until the 45th president assumes office on January 20, 2017, those concerned about Obama’s reckless and feckless foreign policy and his increasingly imperial presidency need to keep him on the defensive by focusing public attention on Obama administration controversies, many of which involve abuses of power that should interest the mainstream media.
The busier Obama is defending his prior excesses, the less he can commit new ones during the rest of his tenure.
Comment: The North Korean threat to Israel
Indeed, North Korea is directly linked to just about every menace facing Israel, and it is time for the Jewish state to do something about this threat.
The latest example of Kim’s dangerous Middle East meddling was on display this past Saturday in Iran, where the ayatollahs unveiled their new Fateh 313 surface-to-surface missile together with the Simorgh launching platform, which is said to bear a striking resemblance to North Korea’s own technology.
The similarity isn’t coincidental.
As the US Congressional Research Service (CRS) noted in a report on May 11, “ballistic missile technology cooperation” between Teheran and Pyongyang “is significant and meaningful.”
The collaboration between the two rogue regimes also extends to the subterranean sphere, where North Korea has decades of experience in building tunnels and other military facilities beneath the surface aimed at neighboring South Korea.
As the Weekly Standard revealed last year, the North Koreans have not been shy about sharing their tunneling expertise. “Their top customer is the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the magazine concluded, citing North Korea expert Bruce Bechtol, who said that Pyongyang has also helped to construct some of the Iranians’ underground nuclear weapons installations.
Needless to say, both Hamas and Hezbollah have benefited from North Korea’s tunnel tutelage as well.
This became apparent during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, when Hezbollah utilized an extensive system of tunnels in the conflict with Israel, as well as during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza last year, when Hamas sought to do the same.
One year ago, this prompted a US federal judge to hold North Korea and Iran liable for their support of Hezbollah during the war, which he said included assistance “in building a massive network of underground military installations, tunnels, bunkers, depots and storage facilities in southern Lebanon.”
UN nuke watchdog: Iran arrangements ‘technically safe’
The United Nations atomic watchdog chief sought Tuesday to ease concerns in the United States about his agency’s investigation into Iran’s alleged past nuclear activities following July’s landmark deal with major powers.
“The arrangements made with Iran are technically sound and consistent with IAEA safeguards… They do not compromise our standards in any way,” International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano said at a meeting in Vienna.
Under the July 14 agreement aimed at ending a 13-year standoff, Iran will dramatically reduce in scale its nuclear activities in order to make any dash to produce atomic weapons all but impossible.
It will be up to the IAEA, which already has up to 10 inspectors in Iran every day, to verify that Iran sticks to its commitments and does not divert material to any covert nuclear weapons drive.
Nuclear watchdog says it needs more money to inspect Iran sites
The International Atomic Energy Agency said Tuesday it has “immediate funding needs” that need to be filled through extra-budgetary contributions in order to carry out inspections of Iranian nuclear sites as part of the agreement reached with Tehran last month.
IAEA head Yukiya Amano wrote in a letter to chairperson Marta Ziakova that the agency was short nearly $1 million a month to carry out oversight work of Iranian facilities, which is needed as part of an agreement reached last month between world powers and Tehran.
The letter said that the inspections it currently carries out under the existing Joint Plan of Action, which was agreed on in November 2103, cost €800,000 ($924,000) per month, and that it would need an additional €160,000 ($184,800) per month prior to beginning the inspections agreed to in the July 14, 2015, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Previously received contributions will run out at the end of September, the letter noted.
Is Israeli Intelligence for the Iran Deal?
J.J. Goldberg at the Forward has been running a campaign to persuade Americans that Israel’s intelligence community is at odds with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the Iran deal. Not only the preponderance of retired professionals but also currently serving ones, dissent from Netanyahu’s read of the deal. Netanyahu can’t silence the former, but he’s given a “gag order” to the latter — to no avail. Military intelligence has even produced a “surprising,” “game-changing” assessment that undermines him completely, according to which the “upsides [of the deal] aren’t perfect,” but “the downsides aren’t unmanageable… The disadvantages are not too calamitous for anyone to cope with them.” Military intelligence sees “an imperfect but real opening in Iran. It believes that opportunities are being lost.” Netanyahu’s own “diagnosis doesn’t match his own intelligence.”
It’s all polemical and politicized nonsense.
A real expert, Emily Landau (at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv) has already taken Goldberg to the woodshed about the retired professionals (Goldberg has a weird predilection for calling them “spooks”). Landau, without naming the names of these “experts,” points out that Iranian politics and nuclear issues are well beyond the expertise of most of them. Not everyone with a pension and an opinion is equal. And most of those who think that Israel should back off a fight over the deal still think it’s a bad one. They just argue that it’s inevitable anyway, so why provoke Barack Obama? This isn’t support for the deal, it’s resigned acquiescence. (The military correspondent of The Times of Israel did a parallel debunking, after the White House began to tweet similar claims.)
But what about the “game-changing” assessment by those who serve now? Goldberg is referring to an analysis prepared by Israel’s military intelligence branch (Aman), which was presented to Netanyahu and the political echelon. The main points of the analysis appeared immediately in the Israeli press. To read Goldberg, you’d think that this document is an endorsement of the Iran deal, and that the deal’s flaws are equally balanced by its advantages. Neither Goldberg nor I have seen this document. But even a cursory reading of the press reports show that it’s not what Goldberg claims it is.
The Most Dishonest Argument for the Iran Deal
What Obama has done is to set in motion a process by which the West is, in essence, a partner with the Iranians on their nuclear project. The deal grants it virtual immunity and has already put Israel — the only other power that has any ability to use force against Iran — in a position where it would be very difficult, it not impossible for it to consider bombing.
Part of the premise of the deal is a belief that Iran’s “breakout” time to a bomb will be lengthened so as to give the West a year to decide what to do about Iranian cheating. But there are two problems with this. One is that any estimates about breakout time are guesses. The lax inspection process won’t clear up that fog of uncertainty. Just as important, by the time U.S. intelligence figures out what is going on that would just be the start of a debate within the U.S. security apparatus and with our allies about what to do about it. By the time all that is resolved, it would almost certainly would be too late to anything about it. Indeed, once Iran is on the cusp of having a bomb, it would also create a dynamic that would make the West reluctant to challenge a nuclear power, especially one run by religious fanatics as is the case with Iran.
So while U.S. intelligence may get some material it might not have gotten, that won’t make it easier or even remotely more realistic that bombing could ever happen. Like the promise of the Massive Ordinance Penetrator bombs, information that would be useful in a bombing campaign won’t ever be used.
Let’s not kid ourselves. War was never nor is it now the best option to deal with Iran. Had the U.S. stuck to a process of isolating Iran, ratcheting up sanctions and creating an embargo on it sale of Iran, it would brought the regime’s economy down and created enough leverage to make a deal that would have ended the nuclear threat possible. With strong U.S. leadership that would force the West and even Russia and China to follow (since they would suffer greatly if they were cut off from the U.S. economy by sanctions measures), it is still possible to get a better deal. But even if we were to see war as a final option, once this deal is signed, that will be off the table.
If members of the House and Senate want to vote for this deal they should do so if they believe in its dubious merits. But none of them should be so simple as to fall for the argument that it will make war easier. That is a blatantly dishonest argument that should be dismissed by even the most gullible members as pure spin. Once implemented, nothing short of a cataclysm will make force an option against Iran. Indeed, that’s exactly the point of Obama’s shift to an Iran-centric policy that hinges on détente with the Islamist regime. Anyone who isn’t comfortable with the U.S. enabling Iran to become a threshold nuclear power must vote against the deal.
Obama Refers to Iran Nuclear Deal Opponents as ‘Crazies’
President Barack Obama demonized anyone who opposed his nuclear agreement with Iran again Monday, labeling naysayers as “the crazies.”
“Harry and I drove over here together and we were doing a little reminiscing, and then figuring out how we’re going to deal with the crazies in terms of managing some problems,” Obama said at a Nevada State Democratic Party event.
The name-calling continues a string of antagonizing from Obama. The president’s comments appear to include Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), the future Democratic leader, and Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), the former ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, with those who deemed to be “crazy.”
Repeatedly, Obama has claimed only two options remain for the U.S. and its allies: accept the deal and achieve peace with a nuclear free Iran, or reject the deal and condemn the country and the world to a long, costly war. Republicans, some Democrats, and many in Israel have dubbed Obama’s choices as a false narrative.
In Pittsburgh, Obama blamed opponents of the Iran deal as the same people who delivered the Iraq War. He portrayed Republicans as warmongers who would rather make the same mistakes with Iran rather than give his “smarter” diplomacy a shot.
Wind at back, Iran deal boosters eye outright victory in Senate
Congressional supporters of the Iran nuclear deal see growing momentum on their side in the Senate, raising the possibility they’ll be able to block a disapproval resolution and protect President Barack Obama from having to use his veto pen.
Such an outcome — which looked all but inconceivable in the days after the deal was signed July 14, and remains a long-shot — would be a major victory for Obama, who is staking his foreign policy legacy largely on the agreement struck by the US, Iran and five world powers to dismantle most of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for billions in sanctions relief.
It would take 41 Democratic senators to block the disapproval resolution scheduled for a vote next month; only 34 would be required to uphold an Obama veto of such a resolution.
As of now 28 Democratic senators publicly support the deal, with just two opposed. But supporters feel so confident that they can get to 34 that some have begun to say in private that 41 may even be in reach.
Voters in Three Key Swing States Reject Nuclear Deal by 2-1 Margin
Voters in the three key swing states of Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio opposed the Obama administration’s landmark nuclear accord with Iran by a 2-1 margin, a Quinnipiac University poll revealed on Monday.
A similar percentage of voters also agreed that the nuclear deal would make the world a less safe place, though the goal of negotiators from the U.S. and five other world powers was to implement a plan to curtail Iran’s ability to pursue nuclear weapons.
Florida voters opposed the pact by 61-25, Pennsylvania voters opposed it by 61-26 and Ohio voters by 58-24. As for whether the Obama administration’s key foreign policy initiative would make the world a safer place, Florida voters said “no” by 61-27, Pennsylvania voters by 60-27 and Ohio voters by 56-26 — suggesting that most voters do not believe President Barack Obama’s assertion that the only two options are the nuclear deal as it is now or war with Iran.
The Hill reported that at least one lawmaker from these three states, Sen. Bob Casey Jr. is among the 13 Democrats still undecided on the nuclear deal. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on Sunday became the latest Democratic senator to throw his weight behind the deal.
Sixth Democrat on House Foreign Affairs Committee Announces Opposition to Iran Nuclear Deal
A sixth Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Brendan Boyle (D – Pa.) from the Philadelphia area, announced his opposition to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in an op-ed published Sunday in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Citing his experience as a member of the committee and its Middle East subcommittee, Boyle expressed three main concerns that led him to oppose the nuclear agreement with Iran.
First, this agreement will inject at least $56 billion into the Iranian regime. This is a massive sum for a country with a gross domestic product of $400 billion. …
Second, the agreement fails to include “anytime, anyplace” inspections. In fact, it gives Iran up to 24 days’ notice before inspections. The administration is correct when it points out that 24 days is not enough time for Iran to cover up a full-blown nuclear program. However, as a former top official at the International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed, 24 days is enough time for Iran to hide most weaponization activity. During a congressional hearing, I asked Secretary of State John Kerry and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz to dispute this fact. They did not.
Third, the agreement fails to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. It merely delays it. After 15 years, Iran will officially be free to develop not just one bomb, but an entire nuclear arsenal. The whole point of these protracted negotiations was to compel Iran to agree to give up its pursuit of a nuclear bomb. Our side settled for a temporary freeze.
Fake pro-Israel Democrats
One by one, U.S. Senate Democrats are announcing that after much deliberation ‎‎(translated as arm twisting by President Barack Obama), they have decided to support the ‎Iran deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, despite serious misgivings. Each of the senators wants you to ‎know that they were personally wrestling with this decision for weeks, talking to ‎experts (provided by the Obama administration for the most part), reading the ‎agreement carefully, weighing and balancing risk versus reward. Each Senate ‎Democrat joining the charade of moving from indecision to decision, whether ‎Claire McCaskill of Missouri or Kirsten Gillibrand of New York or Harry Reid of ‎Nevada, makes sure to add that they want to do everything to protect our ally ‎Israel, and will support other steps as necessary to remain vigilant on that front. ‎Some of the deal supporters call for more military aid in the future for Israel, ‎others for selling bunker buster bombs to Israel in case Iran violates the ‎agreement in obvious ways that even the Obama administration can not hide.
Reid, allegedly undecided until the weekend, now says he will lobby other senators ‎to support the deal. It sounds like he moved from 50-50 to all in and a strong ‎backer overnight. A skeptic might think that the only thing that was ever really ‎undecided about Harry Reid on this matter was when he would announce his vote ‎to provide the most benefit to the administration. This would fit the pattern of ‎prior announced votes. Gillibrand announced her vote on the same day the ‎administration leaked that her fellow New York Senator Chuck Schumer would ‎vote no. The administration released the news about Schumer during the first ‎Republican presidential debate, as good a way as any to soften any damage the ‎Schumer announcement would have on the eventual vote, given the large viewing ‎audience for that spectacle. Schumer was then threatened publicly by the ‎administration (through press secretary Josh Earnest) as possibly now being ‎vulnerable in his quest for the top Senate Democrat position after the 2016 ‎elections, forcing him to take to the phones and call other Senate Democrats. These ‎calls were not to persuade the senators to vote against the deal, but to let any ‎wavering Senate Democrats know they were free to vote however they chose and ‎certainly Schumer would apply no pressure on them. Most important for Schumer ‎was that this announcement to other senators of no pressure from him and no ‎lobbying effort on his part, would help to shore up support for his ascension to ‎majority leader or minority leader in early 2017, after Harry Reid leaves the ‎Senate.
Obama to speak about Iran deal in Jewish-sponsored webcast
President Barack Obama will speak directly to the North American Jewish community about the Iran nuclear deal via a live webcast.
The webcast, scheduled for Aug. 28, is being co-sponsored by The Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. The organizations sponsored a similar webcast earlier this month on the deal with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The deal negotiated between Iran and six world powers, including the United States, would lift economic sanctions in exchange for the Islamic Republic curbing its nuclear program.
Netanyahu has been one of the deal’s most vocal opponents, and the American Jewish community has been divided on the agreement. Many centrist Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League and American Jewish Committee, have come out against the deal, but on Monday, 340 American rabbis signed a letter to Congress urging it to vote in favor of the deal. Polls gauging American Jewish public opinion have produced mixed results.
Nearly 800 Rabbis Sign Petition Opposing Iran Nuclear Deal
Nearly 800 rabbis have signed an online petition opposing the Iran nuclear deal, while urging Congress to vote against it.
“We have weighed the various implications of supporting—or opposing—this agreement. Together, we are deeply troubled by the proposed deal, and believe this agreement will harm the short-term and long-term interests of both the United States and our allies, particularly Israel,” says the petition, which identifies its organizers as Rabbis Kalman Topp and Yonah Bookstein.
As of Monday, 790 ordained rabbis from across the U.S. had signed the petition. The organizers hope to gain 1,000 signatures by Sept. 7.
Iran Deal Truthers
What this story is really about is the politicization of expertise, and how far things can go when one group of experts (arms controllers) decides to fight by impugning the expertise of another group (in this case, reporters) for the sake of public theater. This is almost entirely a phenomenon of new media and the speed of the news cycle in the modern era. The Iran Deal supporters knew there was no point in trying to rebut the substance of the claim: The story was out, people had already read it, and politicians had already reacted. A careful analysis of whether the document said what the AP headline said it did would take too long, and most people wouldn’t bother with it.
Instead, the story had to be discredited and flushed, as soon as possible. There wasn’t time to explain that “monitor” might mean different things to a lay reader and to an expert. Better simply to throw an array of charges at the Associated Press and its reporters and see what sticks.
In the end, the most disturbing question of all is to ask what would have happened if an institution of less prominence and reputation had published this report. The Iran Deal truthers didn’t count on the AP firing back, and despite Fisher’s testy accusation that reporter Matt Lee was having a “meltdown,” the entire company stood behind the story. The backlash-to-the-backlash has begun, and while the IAEA has said the story is a “misrepresentation,” they haven’t said it’s false, either. Neither has the White House. So far, the AP and its story are still here.
The warning shot to other journalists is clear, however. Reporters with one of the most reputable news organizations in the world had to fight off odious charges for doing their job. This is apparently the price to be paid for reporting anything that challenges support for a deal that has reached, among its adherents, the status of a dogma that tolerates no heresy.
The Communist Fingerprints on Iran’s Bomb
A month from today or a year from today, an Iranian scientist or general might defect to the West – and present hard proof that Iran has broken the rules of its nuclear agreement, and is building nuclear bombs.
That’s how the West learned about some of Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs – after his two son-in-laws defected – but such an occurrence will have no effect on Iran.
There will be no military action and no sanctions against Iran, because of three Communist figures that support Islamic extremists:
- Vladimir Putin, the ex-KGB official, who protected Syria’s bio-chemical warfare program and who jumped at the chance to sell anti-aircraft missiles to Iran’s bomb-makers;
- The Chinese Communist regime, which has helped Islamist regimes and organizations (such as the maniacs in southern Sudan);
- And Federica Mogherini, the foreign minister of the European Union, who is a long-time Communist and a noted sympathizer of Islamists.
Even if Barack Obama, John Kerry, or Hillary Clinton had an amazing change of heart after seeing new evidence of Iranian bomb-making, they could not overturn the “P5+1” accord, because three of the five – Russia, China, and the EU – are in Iran’s pocket and bound to block action.
The neo-communist Putin and the Communist Party of China are no surprise, but few Western analysts or journalists – let alone Obama Administration officials – have spoken of the strong built-in Communist and pro-Islamist tendencies of EU Minister Mogherini, who was a member of the Italian Communist Youth Federation from 1988 to 1996.
Iran denies plans to swap prisoners with US
Iran is not considering a prisoner exchange with the United States, a senior official said on Tuesday, ahead of an expected verdict for an Iranian-American journalist held in Tehran for more than a year.
"The reports on the possible exchange of prisoners are not true and it is not on the table," Deputy Foreign Minister Hassan Qashqavi was quoted as saying by Iran's ISNA news agency.
There has been speculation of a prisoner swap between Iran and the United States both before and after last month's landmark nuclear deal, but both countries have consistently denied that such an agreement is imminent.
Jason Rezaian, Tehran bureau chief for the Washington Post, was arrested in July 2014 and charged with espionage. His last closed-door hearing was held in early August and the Revolutionary Court is expected to issue a verdict shortly.
The other US citizens detained in Iran are Christian pastor Saeed Abedini and Amir Hekmati, a former sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps. Robert Levinson, a private investigator, disappeared in Iran in 2007.
Iranian Intel chief: Israel's Mossad plotting to undermine stability in Iran
Iran's intelligence minister warned Monday of plots by western spy agencies, including Israel's Mossad, to undermine stability in the Islamic Republic.
"The intelligence services of the US, Israel, Mossad, MI6 and certain regional states are making attempts to challenge the Islamic Republic's security," Iran's Fars news agency quoted Seyed Mahmoud Alavi as saying in a television interview.
Alavi said that the efforts by Israeli and other spy agencies would fail to disturb Iran, "an island of security."
According to Alavi, there are also threats to undermine Iran's security from extremist Sunni Muslim terrorists.
"Fortunately the Iranian security forces' intelligence superiority and efforts thwarted all their plots," he said.
Mysterious billboard claims 'Israel to open Iranian embassy'
A mysterious billboard proclaiming the opening of an Iranian embassy in Tel Aviv drew global attention on Tuesday after a photo of the billboard went viral on Facebook and other social media channels.
The billboard, which was hung outside of the Tel Aviv municipality building, was originally posted Sunday on the Israel Loves Iran Facebook page.
The caption above the photo reads "Tel Aviv today. [T]he poster says: The Israel/Iran Embassy will soon open here. No Photoshop."
Commentators on the Israel Loves Iran photo took to the forum to speculate the meaning behind the curious pg of the m [?] suggested that the billboard is an art installation, indicating desire by the Israeli public to reignite relations with Iran. Other commenters hypothesize that the billboard is a satirical message in response to support given by foreign bodies towards the nuclear deal with Iran, and should not be taken literally.
‘End of the World’ Will Ruin Iran’s Dreams of Wiping Israel Off the Map (satire)
According to numerous biblical theorists, a massive asteroid, meteor, or comet, large enough to spell the end of mankind is on a collision course with Earth. The disturbing claim along with several other end-time prophecies has created panic and mass hysteria worldwide.
Despite The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) attempts to calm fears and tamp down the doomsday prediction, “There is no scientific basis, not one shred of evidence to this nonsense,” many aren’t buying it.
In fact, it appears to have increased Iranian anxiety over the future of its nuclear program. The so-called final days have Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spooked, especially since the apocalypse believers determined the end of the world would occur on the Jewish Day of Atonement.
“Another one of the Zionist regime’s plans to keep us from annihilating the Jews. What chutzpah,” Hussein Sheikholeslam, a senior adviser to Iran’s Speaker of Parliament, said during a recent tantrum. “We wasted too much time with those ridiculous nuke talks. We could’ve erased them from the annals of history already. Now what?”
PA's Grand Mufti: Western Wall is Muslim
The Palestinian Authority's (PA) Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammed Hussein on Tuesday condemned Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan's (Likud) call the day before to ban the Islamist organizations that routinely riot on the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism.
Hussein claimed that Israel prevents Muslims from fully controlling Al-Aqsa Mosque, where Islam claims its founder Mohammed "ascended to the heavens" in a night vision. He also accused Israel of allowing "Jewish extremists to breach in and desecrate it (the site - ed.)."
The PA Mufti accused Israel of being "haughty," and for indirectly seeking equal rights for Jews at the holy site by dividing time between Muslims and Jews at the Mount - as is currently done at the Cave of Machpelah in Hevron.
He called for Muslims to strengthen their hold on the Al-Aqsa Mosque through protests and showing a physical presence, in a call to action that eerily echoes that of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas last November, when he urged Palestinian Arabs to wage holy war over the Mount as his aides later explained his comments to mean.
Jordanian MPs: Send Soldiers to Guard Al Aqsa
Hael Daud, the Jordanian Minister for Sacred Properties and Islamic Holy Sites, has announced the Jordanian government's intent to enlarge the number of Waqf guards at the Al Aqsa mosque by 200, thus bringing their total number to 500.
Daud's announcement followed a letter signed by 52 parliamentarians – out of 150 – demanding that the government send Jordanian soldiers to guard Al Aqsa from “attacks by settlers.”
"We demand that the government, if it is not training the guards, send Jordanian military personnel along with civilian guards to prootect Al Aqsa and the sites holy to Islam,” the lawmakers said.
Daud said that the kingdom was doing all that it could to protect the Arab and Islamic nature of Al Aqsa, and that among other things, it is responsible for 850 officials in Jerusalem, including the 300 Al Aqsa guards.
Why Not Remind Jordan Its Treaty Obligations?
On the other hand, Israel’s Minister of Internal Security Gilad Erdan is finally realizing that the possibility of the killing or injuring of Jews on the Temple Mount due to the activities of the Muslim men and women paid to block access, scream and throw items at Jews, as well as visiting US Congressmem, is increasing and is taking steps.
One of those steps, I suggest, is reminding Jordan of its treaty obligation, which is:
ARTICLE 9
PLACES OF HISTORICAL AND RELIGIOUS SIGNIFICANCE
Each party will provide freedom of access to places of religious and historical significance.
In this regard, in accordance with the Washington Declaration, Israel respects the present special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in Muslim Holy shrines in Jerusalem. When negotiations on the permanent status will take place, Israel will give high priority to the Jordanian historic role in these shrines.
The Parties will act together to promote interfaith relations among the three monotheistic religions, with the aim of working towards religious understanding, moral commitment, freedom of religious worship, and tolerance and peace.
Gazan sentenced to death for providing info to Israel
The 28-year-old man was identified only by the initials N.A. and no other details on the accusations against him were provided by Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules the Palestinian territory which has seen three wars with Israel in six years.
According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, 157 people have been sentenced to death since the creation of the Palestinian Authority in 1994.
Thirty-two have been executed, including 30 in the Gaza Strip.
All execution orders must in theory be approved by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas before they can be carried out, but Hamas no longer recognizes his legitimacy.
Report: Fears in Lebanon that Hezbollah trying to hijack social protests to overthrow government
Political sources in Lebanon claimed Monday that the "You Stink" protest movement, which originated on social media and has mobilized around the government's failure to deal with collecting trash, has been hijacked by Hezbollah in an attempt to seize power in the country.
The sources told London-based newspaper Al-Arab that "Hezbollah is using the trash crisis to topple the government of [Prime Minister] Tammam Salam and to create a power vacuum amid the Parliament's failure to choose a new president who is acceptable to everyone."
In the Lebanese media as well, there are claims that the Shi'ite faction, Amal, which is identified in Parliament with Hezbollah, is acting to disturb the public order. The reports claim that these activists clashed with security forces that guard the prime minister's headquarters in Beirut.
The accusations have brought a lull in the protests from the side of the social activists who began the "You Stink" movement.
Assad: Rebel fighters in Syria are more dangerous than Israeli air strikes
Syrian President Basher Assad responded to Israeli strikes in Syria last week for the first time on Monday.
Israel struck multiple targets connected to the Syrian regime over the weekend, as well as striking a vehicle carrying four members of a terror cell believed to have fired four rockets into Israel on Thursday.
In an interview with Hezbollah-affiliated Al Manar television on Monday, Assad said that Syria would not directly strike back at Israel for the attacks, but would hit Israel by fighting with rebels opposing his rule, whom he claimed were the "servants of Israel."
"The real tools that Israel is using, which are more important than the recent attacks, they are the terrorists in Syria," Assad said.
"If we want to deal with Israel, we must first deal with its proxies inside Syria," he added.
Syrians Welcome BBC Clean Air Report (satire)
Syrians have welcomed a new BBC report stating that air quality has improved substantially in the Middle East since the start of the civil war.
Syrian civilian Abu Uba commented, “It’s really amazing news. Apparently levels of nitrogen dioxide have plummeted over Damascus and Aleppo. My family’s life expectancy should sky rocket. If it wasn’t for, you know, rockets…”
One Syrian rebel was equally delighted, “Only this morning I woke up, took a big lung-full of crisp morning air, then began to roll around in agony, because that crazy fucker in the Capital had gassed us again.”
Across the border in Iraq, ISIL have been doing their bit for the environment with noticeable results in areas under their control. ISIL spokesman Jim Dodd said, “We strive to use only unleaded gas in our Toyotas and just the other day we had a stern word with one of our colleagues who suggested using a chainsword rather than a traditional blade. We had to explain that overuse of fossil fuels was one of the greatest threats to our planet, and he should just hack off that infidels head with a machete, as Save the Earth would have wanted.”
ISIS documents destruction of ancient Roman temple in Syria
Five photos were distributed on social media showing explosives being carried inside, being set around the walls of the temple, the large explosion and then rubble.
The militants blew up the temple of Baal Shamin on Sunday, according to the Syrian antiquities chief, but had not published visuals until now. Reuters could not independently verify the images.
The temple was built nearly 2,000 years ago and UNESCO has described it as a symbol of Syria's historical cultural diversity, which it says Islamic State is seeking to obliterate.
The temple bombing was be the first time the insurgents, who control swathes of Syria and Iraq and captured Palmyra in May, damaged monumental Roman-era ruins.
Turkey’s Top Religious Body Comes Out Against ‘Jedi Religion’ (not satire)
Turkey’s top religious authority has launched a campaign against the so-called “Jedi religion,” the fantastical belief system featured in Star Wars, according to regional reports.
Turkish religious authorities are now expressing fear of the Star Wars universe and claiming that it goes against Islam, Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News reports.
The latest edition of a monthly magazine published by Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs, or Diyanet, includes a lengthy article rallying against Jedis and warning that the religion is spreading across the globe.
“Jediism … is spreading today in Christian societies,” Bilal Yorulmaz, a professor at the Marmara University, warns in the article, according to Hurriyet. “Around 70,000 people in Australia and 390,000 people in England currently define themselves as Jedis,” Yorulmaz wrote, before engaging in an Islamic-based critique of a number of Hollywood blockbusters.
Turkish Newspaper Accuses ‘Jewish Businessman’ Murdoch of Spreading Kurdish Terrorist Propaganda (not satire)
An Islamist newspaper in Turkey accused the Wall Street Journal and its “Jewish businessman” owner Rupert Murdoch over the weekend of spreading “propaganda” for Kurdish terrorism.
Newspaper Yeni Akit, which is closely aligned with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist AKP party, based its accusation on an article in the WSJ also over the weekend that discussed a rapidly growing youth organization belonging to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK: a designated terrorist outfit by Turkey but also the U.S.
The paper claimed WSJ is known for its “hostility to Islam,” accusing the paper of helping to spread the PKK’s agenda by interviewing members of the Patriotic Revolutionary Youth Movement, which the government says colludes with the PKK.
In the WSJ article, reporter Ayla Albayrak continuously refers to PKK fighters in the flash point city of Silopi, precariously situated where the Iraqi, Turkish and Syrian borders meet, as militants, rather than terrorists.


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This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 12 years and over 25,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.

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