Wednesday, May 04, 2016

From Ian:

PMW: Abbas confirms that the PA is still paying salaries to terrorists
Last week, during a debate in Norwegian parliament about the implications of Palestinian Media Watch's report "The PA's Billion Dollar Fraud," the Norwegian Foreign Minister promised to put pressure on Mahmoud Abbas at their meeting this week to stop paying salaries to terrorists. PMW's report shows that despite assurances that it had stopped paying salaries to terrorists, the PA continues to pay them, just by a circuitous route via the PLO.
In the Norwegian minister's meeting with Abbas today, according to the Norwegian daily Dagen, when Abbas was confronted with PMW's charge that the PA was still paying salaries to terrorists in prison, Abbas did not deny that the PA still funds salary payments to prisoners. Rather he confirmed that the salaries are still being paid, when he assured the Norwegian Foreign Minister that these salaries are just not paid with Norwegian money.
Norwegian Foreign Minister Brende:
"'In the meeting, I emphasized that this support program in which financial payments are increased the [longer] the prisoners serve time [in prison], is unacceptable and should be abolished. I emphasized that with the political and economic challenges that Palestinians now face, it is in their own best interest to abolish this program,' says [FM] Brende.
Abbas responded by repeating assurances that Norwegian funds are not going to finance the program."
[Dagen (Norway), May 4, 2016]
PMW's new report exposes that the PA has been lying to donor countries since 2014 when they claimed that the PLO took over paying terrorists' salaries with money that did not come from the donor-supported PA budget. Today's confirmation by Abbas that the salaries continue to be paid - just not with Norwegian money - is a confirmation of PMW's main charge in the report that Abbas created the PLO Commission of Prisoners' Affairs solely for the purpose of deceiving the donor countries, and that the salaries are still financed by the PA. Were it not so, Abbas would simply have denied that the PA is connected in any way to the terrorist salaries.
PMW salary report leads Congressman to condemn PA salary rewards to terrorists
Congressman Ed Royce: "The donor community is helping the PA basically pay people to slay other people. So here is my point. I want us to use our considerable leverage to end that practice. And second, I would really like the European community in our dialogue with them to fully comprehend what's going on in this process of the [PA’s] inducements of paying people to get them to go out and slay other human beings. Can you do that? ..."
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Anne Patterson: "None of our money goes to this. It's not fungible in that respect. Our money goes essentially to pay PA debts to Israel and to other creditors. So the budget reliefs, the budget support [from the US] that you see in the budget, goes to creditors and cannot be diverted to these stipends."
Congressman Ed Royce: "But the reality is that the donor community is coming together internationally to fund the PA... Since the donor community is putting money into that pot in order - in one way or the other - to help the Palestinian people - regardless how we perceive it - we have to use our leverage to cut this out. And now is the time to do it..."
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Anne Patterson: "Mr. Chairman, rest assured that this will be a subject of discussion with the rest of the donor community. We see Europeans and other donors all the time and rest assured your points will be conveyed with our full concurrence."[House Foreign Affairs Committe YouTube Channel, April 13, 2016]

Expert: West’s Blind Eye to Abbas’ Corrupt Dictatorship is Undermining Palestinian Statehood
The West’s refusal to challenge the growing corruption and autocratic rule of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “could have a devastating effect on the long- prospects for a viable Palestinian state,” Grant Rumley, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote Monday in Newsweek.
As long as Abbas continues security cooperation with Israel and “pay[s] lip service to the moribund peace process,” Western leaders will not pressure him to change, Rumley observed. He added Abbas “has tested the limits of Western leniency” since the end of the American-sponsored talks two years ago, which Abbas himself torpedoed.
Rumley raised concerns that Abbas, who is in the 11th year of a four-year term, is becoming increasingly dictatorial. Last month, Abbas established a new constitutional court, all of whose members are picked by Abbas, “that would, naturally, confirm his own presidential decrees,” Rumley wrote. When a Palestinian legislator accused an Abbas ally of corruption in March, Abbas issued a warrant for her arrest.
When teachers launched an unprecedented strike over the PA’s broken promises to raise their wages, the PA set up roadblocks to prevent the teachers from marching on Ramallah, arrested the leaders of the teachers’ union, and threatened legal action unless they returned to work. The crackdown prompted one Palestinian journalist to write that the PA “really should not continue to exist.” And a recent report from a Palestinian NGO found that in 2015, 60 percent of the nearly 200 violations of press freedom in Palestinian territories occurred in the PA-governed West Bank, with only 40 percent occurring in Hamas-ruled Gaza.
Vic Rosenthal: How Western ideology empowers the jihad
In recent years, although the great power struggle between Russia and the West remains in an attenuated form, a new source of conflict has appeared: the decentralized Islamic jihad, aimed to expand dar al Islam at the expense of the rest of the world.
Much has been written about possible reasons for the newfound aggressiveness of Muslims in confronting the West. But the explanation is not to be found in any new Islamic doctrines.
Islam was always expansionist and confrontational. What has changed is us. In the past, the West didn’t hesitate to employ its vast military superiority when confronting a less-capable adversary. This was understood by everyone. The forces of jihad were deterred from attacking us.
But now, like Israel, the West finds itself concerned that using our power would abrogate the essential human rights of its adversaries – defined as People of Color – while ‘white’ nations have no rights. We are allowed to protect individuals, but not nations or cultures. Defined as the ‘racist oppressor’, we have no right to object to their racism, while they are permitted to ‘resist oppression’ with violence.
As a result, the jihad continues to press forward on multiple fronts and the West retreats, paralyzed by its ideology and unable to use its power.

Three soldiers hurt in West Bank car-ramming attack
Three soldiers were injured by a car driven by a Palestinian man in a suspected vehicular attack on Tuesday evening near the West Bank settlement of Dolev, west of Ramallah.
One of the soldiers was in serious condition and airlifted to Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer for treatment. The other two were moderately hurt.
The three victims were reportedly standing near a checkpoint at the Haprasa Junction near the settlement when they were struck by a passing car.
An army statement referred to the incident as a terror attack.
Israeli soldiers “responded to the imminent threat” and shot the suspected assailant dead at the scene, an IDF spokesman confirmed.
Reuters distorts reality in report on Samaria attack
The Reuters news agency on Tuesday chose to significantly distort the facts in its report on the car ramming terror attack near the town of Dolev in Samaria, in which three Israeli soldiers were injured.
For starters, the report was entitled “Israeli troops kill Palestinian driver who rammed soldiers in West Bank – army”.
The contents of the report stated that the attack took place in the “occupied West Bank” and then went on to say, “In the last half year, Palestinian attacks have killed 28 Israelis and two visiting U.S. citizens. Israeli forces have killed at least 192 Palestinians, 131 of whom Israel says were assailants. Many others were shot dead in clashes and protests.”
“Factors driving the violence include Palestinian bitterness over stalled statehood negotiations and the growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, increased Jewish access to a disputed Jerusalem shrine and Islamist-led calls for Israel's destruction,” the Reuters report continued.
Arutz Sheva informed the Foreign Ministry of the distortions in the report, and it said it was dealing with the issue.
This is not the first time that international media has shown bias against Israel in reporting about the ongoing terror wave.
As Gaza border heats up, explosion hits near IDF soldiers
IDF combat engineers operating on the border with the Gaza Strip on Wednesday reported hearing a loud explosion there, hours after a mortar shell was fired at another group of soldiers along the border.
There were no injuries or damage in either incident.
After the explosion, the engineering troops followed a routine procedure and opened fire at possible hiding spots in their area.
Earlier, after the mortar attack, an IDF tank returned fire toward a “suspicious position” nearby, an army spokesperson said. The tank fire hit an observation post manned by the military wing of Hamas. No one was hurt in the retaliatory strike, but the Hamas post was damaged.
Wednesday’s attacks were the second and third from Gaza in 24 hours, after soldiers came under fire on the Strip’s northern border Tuesday.
Israel arrests Hamas man moments after PA frees him from prison
Hours after he was released from a Palestinian prison, Israeli forces on Wednesday arrested a Hamas man wanted for a shooting attack in the West Bank in 2010, the Shin Bet security agency announced in a statement.
Atef Ruhi Saleh al-Salehi, 43, was detained by the Palestinian security service shortly after the 2010 attack in which two Israelis were injured.
Al-Salehi is a member of Hamas’s armed wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. He and another operative, Islam Hamed, shot at an Israeli car at the nearby Rimonim Junction on September 1, 2010. Both were convicted by the Palestinian Authority for the attack.
The Palestinian Authority freed him on Wednesday. But as he was traveling from Beitunia prison to his hometown of Silwad, near Ramallah, Salehi was rounded up in a joint operation by Shin Bet and IDF soldiers, according to a Shin Bet statement.
Al-Salehi was sentenced to three years in 2011, but remained incarcerated until Wednesday. Hamed was still in a PA prison as of a year ago.
Palestinians suspend security talks with Israel, to reconsider ties
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Tuesday that bilateral security meetings between Israel and the Palestinians have been suspended and that the nature of future ties with Israel will be reconsidered.
The PLO Executive Committee will meet Wednesday to discuss “the nature of future relations with Israel,” said Erekat, according to a report in the Palestinian news agency Ma’an.
The PA has threatened for months to end security cooperation with Israel over continued Israeli security forces’ activity in the West Bank.
Earlier in the day Erekat, a former chief negotiator in peace talks with Israel, told a Palestinian government radio station that the suspended bilateral meetings between Palestinian and Israeli security officials came “after Palestinians received a clear message that Israel won’t adhere to already signed agreements, but rather continue to raid Palestinian territories.”
Honest Reporting: Trailer: 3 Terror Victims. Israel's Untold Stories.
Miri's 8-year-old sister, uncle and she herself, all touched by terror. And all before she even reached the age of 25. On Israel's Memorial Day we will share her story, because the media won't.

Israel confirms upgraded NATO ties as Turkey said to end veto
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed on Wednesday that Israel would upgrade its ties with the 28-member NATO military alliance by opening a permanent mission to its Brussels headquarters. The move comes as NATO member Turkey reportedly agreed to end its objection to closer links to the Jewish state.
“I announce that Israel will accept the invitation; we will open an office soon,” he said at the start of a cabinet meeting.
“I think that this is also an important expression of Israel’s standing in the world. The countries of the world are looking to cooperate with us due to – inter alia – our determined fight against terrorism, our technological know-how and our intelligence services,” Netanyahu added, according to a translation released by his office.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement late Tuesday that NATO had invited the Jewish state to “open an office at NATO headquarters in Brussels and complete the process of accrediting its representatives to NATO.”
Exclusive: Differences over missile defense, fine print snag U.S.-Israel aid deal
Negotiations meant to enshrine U.S. defense aid for Israel over the next decade have snagged on disputes about the size, scope and fine print of a new multibillion-dollar package, officials say.
Five months into the talks, several U.S. and Israeli officials disclosed details about the disputes to Reuters on condition of anonymity. The U.S. and Israeli governments said negotiations were continuing, declining to elaborate.
Israel is seeking up to $10 billion more than the current 10-year package and billions more than the U.S. administration is offering, partly by asking for guaranteed funding for missile defense projects hitherto funded on an ad hoc basis by the U.S. Congress, the officials said.
U.S. President Barack Obama wants to ensure the funds, thus far spent partly on Israeli arms, are eventually spent entirely on U.S.-made weapons.
The differences partly reflect Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's vocal opposition to the international nuclear deal with Iran championed by Obama. The two sides are also at loggerheads over the Palestinians. (h/t Yenta Press)
House Armed Services Committee Would Boost Israeli Missile Defense Systems by $200 Million
The House Armed Services Committee would boost funding to help procure and produce various Israeli missile defense programs by nearly $200 million above the level requested in the president’s defense budget, according to the chairman’s mark of the fiscal 2017 defense policy bill.
Several influential lawmakers recently signaled their desire to add funding for such US-Israeli partnership efforts like the Iron Dome air defense system; David’s Sling, a medium- and long-range air defense system; and the Arrow family of anti-ballistic missiles.
Adm. James Syring, Missile Defense Agency director, said during a recent Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee hearing that the request from Capitol Hill for funding on top of the president’s request of just under $150 million could total almost $600 million.
The HASC’s mark would bump the funding for Tamir interceptors for Iron Dome from $42 million requested in the president’s budget to $62 million. The committee would also plus up funding for procurement and co-production of David’s Sling from $37.21 million to $150 million and the Arrow 3 Upper Tier Missile Defense System from $55.8 million to $120 million.
Druze resident of Israel freed after 12 years in Syrian prison
An “Israeli spy” was released Monday after serving 12 years in Syrian prisons and is making his way back to Israel.
Bargas Awidat, 47, a Druze man from the Israeli Golan Heights village of Majdal Shams, disappeared in Syria in 2004 after going to Damascus in 2002 to study dentistry. It was only in 2011 that his family learned he had been abducted by the Assad regime’s secret police and was serving a life sentence on charges of spying for Israel.
Awidat was released to the Druze community in Sweida in southern Syria on Monday, and is on his way back to Israel via Jordan, the news site NRG reported.
Awidat belongs to a Druze community on the Golan that maintains close ties with Druze in southern Syria. Many Golan Druze are openly supportive of the Assad regime. Members of the community often travel to Syria for marriage or study and remain in contact with their extended families in the towns in the country’s south.
Begging for spare Arab change at UNRWA
In the Middle East, there are two fundamental, but different, realities that influence strongly the shape of the Arab/Israel conflict. One is the passion with which Arab states, especially the richest among them, pledge undying support for the "resistance" "struggle" of the Palestinian Arabs. The other is the financial resources they put behind that "support".
UN Palestinian agency turns to Gulf countries to avoid funding crisis
The head of the UN Palestinian refugee agency on Tuesday urged Gulf countries to donate millions to help UNRWA avoid a funding crisis. Last year, the agency was hit by a major funding crisis that threatened to affect the opening of schools. An appeal by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to donors helped resolve the crisis, but the agency still has a funding gap of some $80 million. “We’d be very appreciative to have countries that have come forward last summer to help, and in particular three Gulf states –- Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait -– renew their generosity this year,” said Pierre Krahenbul, UNRWA’s commissioner-general. “If we could have that, we’d be able to avoid another crisis this summer,” he said.
Ramallah conference calls for Egypt, Jordan to invade Israel
The radical Islamist organization Hizb ut-Tahrir, which has pursued an Islamic Caliphate since 1953, held a massive conference in Ramallah on Saturday, calling upon the armies of Jordan and Egypt to intervene directly and “free Palestine."
Thousands participated in the event, which was billed as “Tent of Believers: the Caliphate Through the Path of the Prophet, and the Tent of Hypocrites, Heretics, and Imperialists."
Black-and-white flags bearing the pledge of allegiance to Allah and Mohammed were waved while participants chanted slogans calling for the “liberation” of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
“Officers and soldiers, break down the borders [of Israel]," chanted attendees. “With the Caliphate, we’ll liberate the captured Al-Aqsa Mosque."
Baher Salah, a senior Hizb ut-Tahrir official, spoke at the event, saying that the organization was revealing American conspiracies aimed at Islam in general and "Palestine" in particular, including a supposed plan to eliminate the “Palestine problem."
Houthi leader: Israel participating in the aggression against Yemen
The leader of Ansar Allah, the Houthi rebel movement, accused Israel of taking part in the war in Yemen directly by fighting the war, and indirectly, by training and inspecting the Saudi forces fighting against the Houthi rebels.
In a speech he delivered in commemoration of the twelfth anniversary of the killing of Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, the founder of the Houthi movement, the movement's current leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi said: "It is well-known that everything that is happening in our region serves the interest of one party – the Zionists and the US."
"The Zionist lobby is acting spitefully, planning a lot of schemes against our nation, arousing civil wars and creating crises," Houthi stated, asking: "Can we say that what is happening in the region and in Yemen serves the Palestinian interest?"
According to the leader of the Iran-affiliated Houthi rebels, "The Zionist activity is focused on media and communications and on all means to design public opinion." He emphasized that the first weapon the nation needs is awareness.
Turkish PM: If Israel Agrees To Solve Gaza Water And Electricity Crises, We’ll Sign Reconciliation Deal
Turkey will sign a reconciliation agreement with Israel if the latter agrees to resolve the electricity and water crises in the Gaza Strip, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters in Qatar on Friday.
Davutoglu said that the reconciliation process with Israel had reached a very advanced stage, Haaretz reported.
“With God’s help it will be resolved,” he said, noting that there were only a few more details to iron out.
While in Qatar, Davutoglu also met with Hamas chief Khaled Meshal. For Israel’s part, one of the main obstacles in reaching an accord is the fact that Hamas still headquarters its military command in Istanbul. However, it is not clear whether Israel’s demand to close it was discussed at the meeting.
Abu Khdeir Murderer Sentenced to Life Plus 20 Years
Abu Khdeir’s murder sparked a wave of terrorism in Jerusalem. Ben-David and two minors, who were both convicted for their role in the murder, abducted the 16-year-old teenager and killed him after the funeral of the three Jewish teens Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Frenkel and Eyal Yifrach, who were kidnapped and murdered on June 12, 2014. A day earlier, the three defendants tried to kidnap seven-year-old Moussa Zaloum while he was walking down the street in Beit Hanina with his mother and two brothers.
The Jerusalem District Court also ordered Ben-David to pay NIS 150,000 in compensation to the Abu Khdeir family, and NIS 20,000 to Moussa Zaloum.
Shortly before his sentencing was announced, Ben-David apologized to the Abu Khdeir family for the first time, saying "Everything that happened was out of my control. It's not my character and not who I am. I apologize and ask for forgiveness."
Gaza Jihadists Launch Anti-Hamas Videos In Bid To Get Islamic State Official Recognition
Gaza Jihadists have published videos attacking Hamas as anti-Islamic in what Breitbart Jerusalem has learned was their latest attempt to persuade the Islamic State to recognize them as a local affiliate.
In the video, they accuse Hamas of collaborating with the Jewish and Western “infidels,” and lambast the Arab states for double-crossing the Palestinians.
The video was visibly inspired by IS’ propaganda, and produced by a network called Ashad Communication, which was meant to signal to IS “that it’s an organized group that has adopted the organization’s ideology and practices,” a jihadi source in Gaza told Breitbart Jerusalem. So far, IS has not officially admitted the Gaza group to its ranks and has failed to say why.
The video calls Hamas out on its policy of arresting Salafi activists, including those who fire rockets at Israel.
One of the videos starts with a longshot of Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque, accompanied by a narration saying that the Palestinians, including Hamas and the Arabs do nothing to liberate Jerusalem from the “sons of apes, the Jews, who kill Muslims every day.”
PreOccupiedTerritory: Suicide Bomber Attack At Mos Eisley Cantina (satire)
According to local police and medical authorities, at about 9 pm yesterday, a man wearing robes to blend in with the populace entered Chalmun’s Cantina at the Mos Eisley spaceport and went to the middle of the bar, where he detonated his charge. The blast killed five people on the spot and seriously injured thirteen, two of whom died of their wounds before care could be given. Ten of the eleven injured victims are still hospitalized. The names of the victims have yet to be released, pending notification of their families.
“The investigation is still in its initial stages, but all signs point to a terrorist attack,” said police commissioner Kna’al Doolg. “Hamas has claimed responsibility via social media, lending weight to that line of investigation, but we are unable to say with complete certainty at this time.” He added that nothing had been ruled out, including the possible involvement of droids resentful at their perpetual exclusion from Chalmun’s.
In a recorded video released on a Facebook page linked to Hamas, the organization displayed a poster naming the bomber as Jarjar al-Binki, 25, of the Shati refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. The clip also featured al-Binki delivering a pre-martyrdom message to his family and still images of him posing with various weapons and wearing Hamas’s emblem and headband. His family was unavailable for comment.
“Mos Eisley embodies the worst of the enemy’s values,” said the narrator of the video. “Nowhere will you find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. Our brave fighter infiltrated the enemy’s perimeter and conducted an intrepid commando operation in the heart of his logistical center. We will continue to target him until he abandons his abominable occupation of Palestine.”
MEMRI: Shi'ite Lebanese Journalist: I Renounce The Shi'ite Sect; Hizbullah Is 'Immoral, Murderous'
In response to the massive attack of the Syrian regime and its allies on the city of Aleppo in the last few days, in which over 200 people have already been killed, Shi'ite Lebanese journalist Hannan Al-Sabbar penned a scathing article in which she renounced Hizbullah as well as the Shi'ite sect that follows it blindly. Al-Sabbar, who is known for her criticism of Hizbullah, especially since it joined the war in Syria, wrote on the news website that Hizbullah was an "immoral and murderous" organization that was deviating from God's path and from the path of the fathers of the Shi'a. She compared the events in Aleppo to the battle of Karbala in 680 CE, between the supporters of the Prophet's grandson, Hussein bin 'Ali, and the supporters of the first Umayyad caliph, Yazid I, which is a seminal event in the history of Shi'ite Islam.
European Drug Money financing Hezbollah Terror, German Investigators uncover
“The Party of Allah”, as the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah calls itself in Arabic, is being funded by less than holy means. German investigators have uncovered a Europe-wide money laundering operation run on behalf of the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, says a report published by the leading German weekly Der Spiegel.
Investigations reveal that the proceeds of the money laundering operations were going to South American drug cartels. The fact that Iranian-backed terrorist group has developed links with the South American cartels, further exposes United States to cross border terrorism, considering country’s roughly 2,000 miles long unsecured border with Mexico.
According to the German daily Die Welt, Arab gangs involved in organised crime in Germany are laundering money on behalf of Hezbollah. Raids across Europe led to the arrest of 10 suspect, mostly of Lebanese-Arab origin. The money laundering ring apprehended by the German police could be part of a much larger clandestine operation to finance terrorist group that has carved out an armed fiefdom for its Iranian masters in Lebanon and Syria. German intelligence estimates published in July 2015 put the number of Hezbollah members in country at 950. Hamburg-based magazine Der Spiegel reports: (h/t Gastwirt)
MEMRI: Egyptian-German Scholar Hamed Abdel-Samad: Our Hatred of Jews Has Poisoned Us
In a lecture posted on the Internet on March 21, Egyptian-German scholar Hamed Abdel-Samad said that the Prophet Muhammad had lowered the Jews to a "subhuman level, viewing them as animals," and he compared the treatment of the Jews in the years following Muhammad's death to that of the Nazis. "This hatred is poisoning us" and "preventing us from dealing with our problems in a serious way," said Abdel-Samad, adding that "instead of poisoning one generation after another with this hatred, we should let them learn something from humanity," in order to enable them to "overcome the barrier of hatred and of fear of the other." The lecture is titled "Islamic Fascism and the Jews."

Egyptian Salafist under fire for meeting with Israelis
A delegation of Jews met with Salafi leader Dr. Jiah a-Shimi in the Egyptian town of Fayoum last month in a meeting which caused uproar amongst the Egyptian Salafi movement.
Dr. Omar Salem, an Egyptian-American religious scholar invited three Jewish scholars to Egypt as part of efforts to hold interfaith dialogue. The three were Rabbi Ya'akov Nagen from Otniel, orthodox peace activist Rivka Abramson, and Jewish religious scholar Professor Yosef Ringel.
Dr. Jiah a-Shimi is also a high ranking official in the Egyptian Salafist a-Noor political party and a former parliamentarian.
Egyptian media called the meeting "a meeting with Jewish rabbis," and the pictures which Egyptian media obtained of the event caused protests against the party. The party is now conducting an internal investigation regarding the event.
"This attests to the double meaning in regards to relations with countries which threaten Egyptian and Arab national security," said Ahmed al-Bari from the el-Wafad party who strongly condemned the meeting and accused the Islamist party of hypocrisy.
Why Bashar al-Assad, the ‘Teflon Don’ of the Middle East, Can’t Be Touched
John Gotti may have once held the title, but the late Gambino crime family boss had nothing on the “Teflon Don” of the Middle East, Bashar Assad. Had Gotti lived to see it, he would be astounded by how easily the two-bit head of a Syrian crime family is getting away with mass murder.
Remarkably, five years after the outbreak of the uprising against him, in which over 450,000 people have been shot, bombed, and gassed for the crime of not wanting to be ruled by a genocidal dictator, Assad is being cheered by many in the West as a protector of endangered minority groups—not to mention as a savior of archeological artifacts. “Hooray,” wrote London Mayor Boris Johnson following the assault by Assad’s allies that retook the city of Palmyra, “Bravo—and keep going.” Sure, Johnson said—mainly for reasons of etiquette—Assad is a monster, a killer and a dictator who, like his father, has ruled through torture, violence and terror, but let’s not have that get in the way of cheering him on.
Not only is Assad being lauded as the spearhead of the fight against jihadist terrorism, but the Obama Administration has been notably lax recently in repeating its insistence that he leave power. Behind the scenes, administration heavies like Rob Malley, President Barack Obama’s favorite regional troubleshooter; Brett McGurk; and others have been moving heaven and earth to ensure that the regime prevails militarily in Aleppo and elsewhere on the Syrian battlefield. In fact, as Russia and its allies on the ground appear to be mobilizing for a push on Aleppo, the administration’s response has been to give them full cover, falsely claiming that the city is being held primarily by the Nusra Front. Then on Monday, State Department spokesman John Kirby practically advised rebel groups in Aleppo to move out of their positions in the city lest they “get hurt.”
Elliott Abrams: Assad Uses Chemical Weapons, and Now What?
“We struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out,” said Secretary of State Kerry about Syria almost two years ago.
This was in part a defense of President Obama’s infamous failure to enforce his “red line” against the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime. Kerry struck a deal with Russia, and proudly claimed that this was a far better approach. No use of military force, better result.
Except that it isn’t so. The Assad regime has used another form of chemical weapons time after time: chlorine.

And now, it has returned to using sarin gas. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported this today:
A little over a week ago, Syria’s embattled Assad regime used chemical arms against ISIS east of Damascus, despite the 2013 agreement to dismantle the regime’s chemical weapons. The regime apparently decided to use the lethal gas sarin after ISIS fighters attacked two Syrian air force bases considered vital military assets.
The questions presents itself: what do Obama and Kerry plan to do about it? This use of sarin gas, if confirmed, gives the lie to the claim that all the chemical weapons and poison gas was removed, and reminds us once again of the “red line” fiasco. The lesson it teaches enemies and allies alike is that the threats and pledges of the president are not to be taken very seriously. Far worse, of course, the lesson for other regimes may be that using chemical weapons is possible–and will not be punished. This too may become part of the Obama foreign policy legacy.
Elliott Abrams: Carnage in Syria and President Obama’s Legacy
What has President Obama done in response to these crimes against humanity and war crimes, which have been going on for years? Nothing. Well, he did give a speech at the Holocaust Museum in Washington in 2012, where he said
‘Never again’ is a challenge to nations. It’s a bitter truth — too often, the world has failed to prevent the killing of innocents on a massive scale. And we are haunted by the atrocities that we did not stop and the lives we did not save.
And he appointed an “Atrocities Prevention Board.” One has to wonder how haunted he is about the Syrian “atrocities that we did not stop and the lives we did not save.” For as his former coordinator for Syria, Fred Hof, wrote a few days ago, nothing at all has been done:
Syria’s “complexity” is the administration’s last ditch defense for an astounding five year bottom-line: not one single Syrian protected from the merciless, unrelenting, and deliberate campaign of mass homicide and collective punishment inflicted by the Assad regime against millions of Syrians.
Mr. Obama’s legacy will also be complex. But this will inescapably be a central part of it. It’s worth repeating Hof’s line: “not one single Syrian protected from the merciless, unrelenting, and deliberate campaign of mass homicide and collective punishment inflicted by the Assad regime against millions of Syrians.” That should haunt every top official of this administration.
MEMRI: Iranian Hezbollah Organization Issues Threats Of Physical Harm Against Former Iranian Presidents Rafsanjani And Khatami, Calls On President Rohani To Cancel JCPOA
In an April 12, 2016 interview, Mahdi Abdi, the director of affairs for the northwestern provinces and towns for the coordination council of the fundamentalist organization Hezbollah Iran, which is affiliated with Iran's ideological circles, warned leaders of Iran's pragmatic camp, including Expediency Council chairman and former president Hashemi Rafsanjani and former president Mohammad Khatami, not to undermine the status of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The interview was published by the organization's Hezbollah Press website.
Echoing Khamenei's accusations of treason against Rafsanjani,[1] Abdi accused both Rafsanjani and Khatami of treason, and threatened them with physical harm. He also demanded that they stop calling for the release of the 2009 Green Protest leaders – former Majlis speaker Mehdi Karroubi and former prime minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi, as well as Mousavi's wife – who have been under house arrest since 2011.
Reminding Iranian President Hassan Rohani of what happened to Iranian officials who criticized Iran's Islamic Revolution and the path of its founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Abdi warned him to neither trust the U.S. nor follow it, or to face the consequences. He also called on him to cancel the JCPOA.
Iran Nuke Plant Plan Belies Purpose
The Iranian government has said that it plans to build seven more nuclear reactors. The Islamic Republic of Iran has long argued that it has a right to develop nuclear power and that accusations that its nuclear program has military aims are wrong if not part of a malicious plot to deny Iran its rightful place as a world power. At the same time, the Iranian government’s mindset is paranoid. Iran has been victimized over the years by foreign powers, and the idea that the world seek to oppress Iran and Shi‘ites has powerful resonance among the public and so has been a frequent staple of Iranian political and religious rhetoric for more than a century. Hence, the Iranian government has long justified its nuclear program in the argument that it guarantees Iran an indigenous energy supply.
Those inclined to trust or amplify the Iranian government might accept such logic when Iran has one or two nuclear reactors. But a total of eight? Here’s the problem, one that was addressed in the report of a study group convened by Senators Chuck Robb and Dan Coats eight years ago: If Iran truly wants an indigenous nuclear program and actually had a total of eight reactors, its indigenous uranium supply when enriched to reactor grade would only fuel its energy supply for 15 years. That means that Iran’s nuclear program could not fulfill its stated aims. Add into the mix that upgrading its gasoline refinery capability and pipeline network could fuel the country for far long as a fraction of the price, and the Iranian notion that it seeks only energy capacity simply doesn’t make sense.
Alas, under the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program begin to expire within a decade, and that assumes that Iran—having received its rewards up front—doesn’t simply walk away from the agreement. That means that not only can the funds being released expand Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, but that within a matter of a decade that infrastructure can be leveraged for problematic aims on a far greater scale than before. It seems that the nuclear accord that Secretary of State John Kerry negotiated is a gift that will keep on giving, with increasingly few remedies to augmented threat. Sometimes, dialogue and diplomacy conducted poorly can have a tremendous cost.
Iran sues US at Int’l Court of Justice over order to pay terror victims’ families
A senior Iranian official said Sunday that Iran has filed a lawsuit against Washington at the International Court of Justice over a US Supreme Court ruling which would transfer over $2 billion in frozen Iranian funds to American victims of terror attacks.
“The government has powerfully stood against the practice of this ruling because these assets belong to the [Iranian] nation and should be spent for its welfare,” Iranian Vice President for Legal Affairs Elham Aminzadeh said on Sunday, according to the Iranian Fars News Agency.
Aminzadeh added that Iran “has filed a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice and is pursuing” legal procedures to reclaim the funds.
Iran threatened last week to turn to the ICJ in The Hague, claiming that the US Supreme Court’s decision amounted to theft.
“We hold the US administration responsible for preservation of Iranian funds and if they are plundered, we will lodge a complaint with the ICJ for reparation,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said last week at a joint news conference with his visiting Macedonian counterpart Nicolas Poposki.
Iranian commander threatens to close Strait of Hormuz to US
The deputy commander of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard said Iranian forces will close the strategic Strait of Hormuz to the United States and its allies if they “threaten” the Islamic Republic, Iranian state media reported on Wednesday.
The comments by Gen. Hossein Salami, carried on state television, follow a long history of both rhetoric and confrontation between Iran and the US over the narrow strait, through which nearly a third of all oil traded by sea passes.
The remarks by the acting commander of the Guard also follow those of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who on Monday criticized US activities in the Persian Gulf. It’s unclear whether that signals any new Iranian concern over the strait or possible confrontation with the US following its nuclear deal with world powers.
The US Navy’s 5th Fleet, based in Bahrain, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Khamenei Mocks Obama’s Nowruz Message, Calls United States Iran’s Main Enemy
In a series of rebuffs to the United States’ outreach, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stated on Sunday that America is Iran’s “main enemy,” and went on to mock President Barack Obama’s hopeful Nowruz holiday message from earlier this year.
Khamenei asserted in a meeting with leaders of the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad that Iran “sees the United States as [the] main enemy with the Zionist regime standing behind it,” the Mehr News Agency described him as saying.
“The extensive war going on in the region is [a] continuation of the same warfare which has been waged against the Islamic Republic of Iran since 37 years ago; and in this confrontation, the issue of Palestine is the main issue and as the Islamic Republic of Iran has been committed to its support for Palestine as a duty, it will continue to fulfill this duty in the future as well,” Khamenei said.
In addition to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Iran also supports Hamas and Hezbollah, terrorist organizations dedicated to Israel’s destruction.
Irony? Rouhani against nuclear weapons in Korean Peninsula
In a somewhat ironic comment, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Monday stated that he was in favor of a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons, The Associated Press (AP) reports.
Rouhani made the comments while meeting his South Korean counterpart, President Park Geun-hye, as she visited Tehran.
Rouhani reportedly told Park Iran seeks a world free of weapons of mass destruction, "especially nuclear" weapons.
"Our demand is a world free of weapons of mass destruction, especially freeing the Korean Peninsula and the Middle East from destructive weapons," he said, according to AP.
Park, for her part, said she has asked for Iran's help in implementing UN Security Council resolutions calling for the nuclear disarmament of the Korean Peninsula.
The remarks were aimed at North Korea, which has been hit with UN sanctions over its nuclear weapons program after it conducted four nuclear bomb tests and tested a long-range rocket – which it claimed was a hydrogen bomb – earlier this year.
But Rouhani’s remarks are somewhat comical given his own country’s nuclear ambitions.
Turkish Parliament Breaks Out in Another Fight
The Turkish parliament dived into another fistfight this week as the lawmakers debate changes to the country’s constitution.
The members fought again about stripping some members of parliament of their immunity if they face charges.
The fight “left one person with a dislocated shoulder and a second with a bloodied nose.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) presented the amendment after the president “accused the pro-Kurdish party, People’s Democratic Party, HDP, of being an arm of the outlawed Kurdish rebels and repeatedly called for their prosecution.”
Parliament approved the proposal on Tuesday morning.
The HDP has denied they have connections to the Lenin-Marxist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The U.S., European Union, and NATO consider the party a terrorist organization. (h/t Bob Knot)

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