Wednesday, May 18, 2016

From Ian:

Victory, not 'disaster'
When the Palestinians speak about the "Nakba" and present themselves as victims and the Jewish Independence War as "ethnic cleansing," it's important to remember these facts. There is no doubt that they experienced a disaster. Losing a war is a disaster. When it is an all-out war, the disaster of losing is experienced in kind. But they are 100 percent responsible for their disaster, and they have only themselves to blame, just as the Germans cannot go and complain to the countries that defeated them in World War II.
There is nothing more repugnant than the "Nakbaism" in our midst, among Jews and Israelis. This attitude can be clearly seen at the Nakba festivals that take place at Israeli universities, though its most extreme expression was the pilgrimage to Nesher made by Joint Arab List Knesset members to visit the grave of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam. Qassam preached the destruction of the Jewish yishuv in Israel and set up gangs that took part in the Arab revolt from 1936-1939. It is no coincidence that Hamas' military wing -- which carries out suicide bombings and rocket attacks against Israeli citizens -- was named after him. It is no coincidence that the very rockets fired by Hamas in its war crimes against Israel were named after him. There is no mistaking the essence of expressing solidarity with him on this day.
May 15, 1948, the day that is increasingly becoming known as "Nakba Day," is one of the greatest days in the history of humanity -- the day that the greatest injustice in history was ended; the day of the great victory of justice. It is not a day of disaster. It is not a day of injustice. And there is no room for the feelings of guilt that some among us seek to cultivate.
NO2BDS: Almost a million people lost everything when Israel declared independence


Micah Lakin Avni: The Anti-Israel Poisoning Starts Young
Wall Street Journal - May 17, 2016
My father, Richard Lakin, a 76-year-old retired elementary-school principal from Connecticut, was on a bus in Jerusalem last October when two young Palestinian men boarded and began shooting and stabbing passengers indiscriminately. Two passengers were killed that awful day and 16 injured, including my father. Despite the efforts of first responders and the nurses and doctors at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, my father died two weeks later. He had been shot in the head and stabbed multiple times in the head, face, chest and stomach.
Over the past seven months I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand what would cause two educated Palestinian men in their early 20s to board a public bus and butcher a group of innocent civilians, many of them senior citizens. I’m sorry to report that the Palestinian reaction to the attack has led me to believe that the “peace process” is more one-sided than ever.
My father grew up a fighter for civil rights in America. He took those values with him in 1984 when he emigrated to Jerusalem, where he taught English to Arabs and Jews. He was a kind, gentle-hearted man who dedicated his life to education and promoting peaceful coexistence.
Yet Palestinian newspapers praised Baha Alyan, one of the terrorists who murdered my father, as a “martyr and intellectual.” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has met with the families of the attackers and praised them as “martyrs.” A Palestinian scout leader said Baha Alyan, who was shot and killed by a security guard before he could kill more innocent passengers, was “an example for every scout.”
Muhammad Alyan, the father of Baha Alyan, has been invited to speak at Palestinian schools and universities about his son the “martyr.” He recently spoke to children at Jabel Mukaber Elementary School in East Jerusalem, about a half a mile from where my father lived. Tragically, many Palestinian children, perhaps most, are still taught to honor terrorists and fight for the destruction of Israel.
All of this would break my father’s heart. In 2007 he published a book called “Teaching as an Act of Love” summarizing his life’s work and educational philosophy. The message of his book is that every child is a miracle that should be nurtured with love. After Baha Alyan’s father visited Jabel Mukaber Elementary School, I asked school officials if I could come and share my father’s message of peace and coexistence. My offer was rejected.
Helping Palestinians But Not Peace
The tragic plight of the Palestinians is a staple of modern journalism and, to some extent, the attention paid to the subject is justified. The Palestinians are caught in a century-old conflict in which their national beliefs seem to have left them no option but to carry in with a self-destructive struggle. But though their position is far from ideal, they are the beneficiaries of the sort of international attention that the poor and/or downtrodden caught in equally difficult circumstances might envy. That attention — driven in no small measure by antagonism against Israel and the Jews — has resulted in endless billions being poured into the West Bank and Gaza by foreign donors. But what is generally not known is how much help the Palestinians get by the people so many of them revile: Jews.
As the New York Times reported on Sunday, much the funds for a new project to bring solar polar to Palestinian farmers in the West Bank comes from American Jews. But the Palestinians were very clear about the kind of aid they would accept. They’d accept money from the Jews but only as long as they could prove all those involved in the project had no ties to Jewish settlements in the West Bank. That means that the Jewish National Fund wasn’t welcome to participate even if it was itself a primary funder of an Israeli organization that is also helping the solar project.
Confused? So are those involved if they think their efforts will do much to resolve the conflict, so long as they are catering to Arab sensitivities about which Jews are worthy of helping their struggling communities.
The project is providing $100,000 worth of solar panels that are being provided to 45 farm families in the Jordan Valley village of Auja. Reportedly, this is the first time that a substantial project is being funded by Jews and Muslims in the United States and is being implemented by Israeli and Palestinian members of a technical team. Given the demonstrated inability of the Palestinian Authority that governs Auja to provide services to its people, it is much needed. It’s also being lauded as an example of how such efforts can build a spirit of coexistence between Arabs and Jews that can serve as a foundation for peace.



Daniel Pipes: The Saudi solution
This leaves huge numbers of would-be migrants wanting to enter Europe. A European Union (EU) commissioner, Johannes Hahn, counts "20 million refugees waiting at the doorstep of Europe. Ten to 12 million in Syria, 5 million Palestinians, 2 million Ukrainians and about 1 million in the southern Caucasus." Yes, but that's just a start; I also add vast numbers of Libyans, Egyptians, Yemenis, Iraqis, Iranians, Afghans and Pakistanis — and not just political refugees but also economic migrants. In all, the numbers of Muslim peoples ready to emigrate could potentially match the 510 million EU residents.
To where, then, are they to go? One nearby, desirable alternative to Europe exists; indeed, it's a destination so attractive that foreigners already constitute half the population: That would be the six Gulf Cooperation Council states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Let's focus on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the largest of them in land size, population and economy.
Saudi Arabia has many unique attractions for Sunni Muslims. To begin with, it has 100,000 high-quality, empty fiberglass tents that can house about 3 million people in Mina, just east of Mecca. Fireproof and air-conditioned, complete with toilets and kitchens, this unique resource is occupied a mere five days a year by pilgrims on the hajj.
Comparing Saudi Arabia to the states of northern Europe shows its many other advantages:
3 indicted for harboring stabber after Jerusalem attack
Three residents of the Old City of Jerusalem were indicted over allegations that they had helped a Palestinian stabber evade capture by security forces earlier in May, police said Wednesday.
Muhannad Muhtaseb, 20, stabbed a man in the back on a main street in the Old City on the night of May 2, injuring his elderly victim moderately. The attacker then fled from the scene resulting in a massive manhunt. Muhtaseb was eventually arrested the same night of his attack, the Israel Police said in a statement.
Muhtaseb managed to evade police for hours after his attack due to the help of the three locals, police said.
According the statement, the stabber initially enlisted the help of one man, who led him into a hard-to-find compound concealed from security cameras. Once in the compound, the two other accomplices were said to arrive. One of them then allegedly harbored the attacker in his nearby home, and allowed him to wipe the blood from his body and change into a different pair of clothes.
Honest Reporting: Real People Real Stories Part 2: The Death of Shahar Melamed.
In Part 2 of this 3 part series, Miri tells the story of her uncle, who was killed by a Hamas mortar shell, in front of his family, while trying to fix the kibbutz's electrical pole.


NPR Misleads Public on Palestinian Incitement to Violence
While Harris does note that "Palestinian officials could not or would not verify Abbas's claim" that he has tried to discourage violence and that Israeli sources contend that the frequency of attacks has diminished because of "increased arrests" rather than any effort by the Palestinian leadership to curb violence, she makes no mention of Abbas and his party's active role in encouraging violence. Rather, she focuses on the negative impact stabbings have had on young Palestinian assailants who were arrested or killed while attacking Israelis. She quotes a Palestinian pollster and various Palestinian student leaders and teachers who suggest that support for stabbings is down among the Palestinian public for that reason.
And while Harris acknowledges that "social media" pages and Hamas TV have replayed "video composites of Israeli violence against Palestinians and memorials honoring attackers," she goes out of her way to distance Abbas and his followers from their responsibility for promoting violence. She conceals the fact that in addition to the radical Hamas TV station that graphically encourages the murders of Israelis, and random social media pages that brazenly encourage stabbings, the official Fatah and PA Facebook pages similarly promote violence through videos and cartoons, as does the PA-run television station and newspaper, under the auspices of Abbas. Both continue to broadcast and publish anti-Israel hate rhetoric and incitement to violence.
Take, for example, a PA-TV broadcast on April 18 a Palestine Red Crescent children's event where a young child recites what seems to be a prepared anti-Israel statement, asserting that "Jews kill our people," "imprison little children" and "kill worshippers at the Al Aqsa mosque."
'Stabbing Intifada' Declines, Tribune Papers Tell Half the Story
Special correspondent Joshua Mitnick’s timely article included some useful background. It indirectly and anonymously quoted a Palestinian security commander saying, “Many of the attacks [against Israelis] seem to be carried out by youths who suffer from depression or economic hardship,” as well as those who “want revenge for relatives or friends injured in the violence.”
But the article omitted too much. For example:
*It portrayed the Palestinian “stabbing intifada” as “being carried by individuals without ties to militant groups.” But according to a detailed analysis by Adam Shay and Pinhas Inbari (“the Palestinian Authority-Fatah’s Incitement Strategy,” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Feb. 29, 2016), “rather than plan and coordinate violent attacks, [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas uses the Palestinian public debate and the media as a mechanism for instigating waves of violence. The public debate also uses a dialogue based on cultural codes, which broadcast a specific, pre-defined meaning to the Palestinian listener.
“When President Abbas says that ‘they [the Jews] have no right to defile them [the al-Aqsa mosque and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher]…we will not allow them, and we will do everything in our power to protect Jerusalem,’ he is in fact giving permission and legitimacy to intensify the struggle. Within the context of the struggle this is an authorization to move from stone-throwing to knifing and vehicular attacks, as was indeed the case.”
MEMRI: Bahraini Columnist: Stabbing Civilians Doesn't Bring Victory But Only Provokes Hatred Against Arabs, Muslims
In an article in the Bahraini daily Al-Watan, columnist Farid Ahmad Hassan condemned stabbing attacks perpetrated by Arabs and Muslims against civilians – such as the Palestinian stabbings of unarmed Israelis and similar stabbings carried out in the West. He wrote that such attacks do not bring victory but only spark hatred against Arabs and Muslims.
The following are excerpts from his article:
"As for the third incident, even if the motivation was theoretically justified, some people do not accept it from a practical point of view... Some people contend that, in the second [Germany] and third cases [Israel], the victims were people whose killing only increases the hatred for and the persecution of Arabs and Muslims. Nobody should be proud of [these attacks], for they are crimes...
"Hence, some people believe that this method [i.e., stabbing civilians] will not lead to victory, and that those who carry out various attacks of this sort only supply the enemies of the Arabs and of Islam with an excuse to intensify their hatred of all Arabs and Muslims. [Moreover,] they expose the Arabs and Muslims, especially those living in occupied Palestine and in the West, to various dangers, [especially the danger of] being attacked at any time and for no reason.
"The hatred for the Arabs and Muslims intensified when people who do not understand the consequences of their actions began attacking people who have no direct involvement in the events."
France’s initiative of an international peace conference to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict : a modern version of the 1916 Sykes-Picot pact ?
According to him [Dore Gold], there are ‘’different international actors’’ who are keen on wanting to enunciate beforehand the parameters of a peace settlement. Israel’s problem with that is that those parameters may not take into account Israel’s vital security interests in an environment marked by chaos like in Syria. Avoiding international involvement is also the reason why Israel’s cabinet recently convened in the Golan Heights and declared that Israel has no intention of ever withdrawing from the plateau to find out that their new ‘’neighbors’’ would be terrorists from Al-Nusra or ISIS. A disaster in terms of Israel’s security.
Israeli leaders regularly recall to their interlocutors that the peace treaties it signed with two major Arab countries, Egypt and Jordan, were through direct negotiations.
Today as Israel finds a confluence of interests in the region with states such as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and some Gulf countries, in fighting radical Islam and Iranian  influence, reaching accommodations with them could help find a solution to the Palestinian issue because they might push the Palestinians to show some flexibility.
‘’You don’t have to be an international diplomat to imagine that it is very possible that in the basement of one of the chancelleries in Europe or elsewhere, there is a modern Sykes-Picot sitting down and trying to imagine how the Middle East will be divided in the future,’’ says Dore Gold.
Jennifer Rubin: The ‘peace process’ did not fail — the Palestinian Authority did
Rather than endless, futile conferences to reach a peace agreement before the PA is willing or able to give up its dream of perpetual resistance to the Jewish state, it would be far more productive to rethink the entire system of international aid and work toward enhancing the PA’s ability to function. This was the idea championed by former PA prime minister Salam Fayyad, who was ousted in 2013, and it is worth revisiting and reordering the West’s priorities. “It is also important to invest intellectual effort and the required resources into steps needed to actually build a Palestinian state,” Michael and Guzansky write. “The process of Palestinian state building must rest in part on the assumption that the reconstruction of failing states requires great focus also on reconstructing the society in tandem with the reconstruction of the regime and its institutions.”
It is time to be honest about the abject failure of the PA:
The Palestinian case requires an unflinching, honest look at 22 years of a political process in which the Palestinians failed to build a functioning state entity. The two semi-state Palestinian entities in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are experiencing a dangerous process of state failure, and the international community is helpless in stopping it. It seems that without an organized, persistent, painstaking, and responsible state building process in which Israel plays an important part, and addressing the entire gamut of reasons for the current state of affairs in the PA in order to ensure that this process [state failure] stops if not changes direction, there is no real hope for the development of these entities into functioning states, whether each on its own or together as one Palestinian state. . . . The challenge now facing the PA, Israel, and the international community is to dispel the prevailing doubt that the Palestinians will one day be able to build a modern, functioning nation state even with international help.
Secretary of State John Kerry was infamously dismissive of “Fayyadism,” but his nonexistent results in helping to manage the Israeli-Palestinian relationship speak for themselves. The next president would be wise to focus on the PA — which, without reform, will never offer the Palestinians hope for an independent, functioning state.
Report: Netanyahu, Herzog may plan joint trip to Cairo for Sisi meeting
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) may be planning a joint trip to Cairo for a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi that is aimed at jump-starting the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
According to Channel 10, Netanyahu and Herzog are eager to undertake a diplomatic initiative that would undercut the latter’s adversaries in the Zionist Union who are adamantly opposed to the party’s entrance into the governing coalition.
A Netanyahu-Herzog-Sisi meeting would be staged in order to “justify” the Zionist Union’s entry into the Likud-led government, Channel 10 reported.
Netanyahu welcomed Sisi's call for a renewed effort to advance a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians on Tuesday.
Sissi’s peace speech linked to Israeli coalition talks
Multiple Israeli media reports on Tuesday linked the Egyptian president’s appeal for renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks earlier in the day to the coalition talks between the Zionist Union and Likud, which appeared to be deadlocked.
President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi said in a televised address that he saw a “real opportunity” for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement that would also lead to warmer ties between Egypt and the Jewish state. His address was lauded by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Isaac Herzog, with the former saying Israel was “ready” for peace.
Brushing off the Egyptian president’s speech, Zionist Union sources on Tuesday night suggested Sissi had coordinated his appeal for Israeli-Palestinian peace with the Israeli government in an effort to sway the Likud and Zionist Union to form a unity coalition. Sissi’s comments “seem coordinated, timed, and aimed at creating a union between Herzog and Netanyahu, in order to create the impression that peace will soon break out here. There is a connection between the things. It’s ridiculous, of course,” the sources said, according to the Ynet news website.
Meanwhile, Channel 10 reported that Netanyahu and Herzog were planning a joint trip to Cairo if the latter joined the coalition, presumably as foreign minister, a position Netanyahu now holds. But the report also said that Netanyahu had retracted his agreement to some of Herzog’s terms for joining.
Abbas welcomes Egyptian president’s peace push
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday welcomed Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi’s bid for new peace talks, while the Hamas terror group hailed his call for internal Palestinian reconciliation.
In a rare direct appeal to Palestinians and Israelis, Sissi had urged the two peoples to draw hope from the “real and stable peace” between Israel and Egypt. In a live televised statement, Sissi said he saw a “real opportunity” for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement that would also lead to warmer ties between Egypt and the Jewish state.
In response, Abbas praised “Egypt’s historic role in supporting Palestinian affairs,” the Hebrew-language Walla news site reported.
In a statement on its website, Hamas wrote that it “welcomes the Egyptian statements for realizing Palestinian reconciliation, and emphasizes [its] readiness to deal with all the efforts to achieve reconciliation and restore national unity.”
Belgian lawmakers nominate jailed Palestinian Barghouti for Nobel
Belgium lawmakers from across the political spectrum nominated jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti for the Nobel Peace Prize, Palestinian media reported on Wednesday.
Barghouti is currently serving five life sentences in an Israeli jail for his role in murderous terror attacks during the Second Intifada in the early 2000s.
Palestinian activists have been campaigning for his nomination for a Nobel since April.
Lawmakers from both the Belgian Senate and House of Representatives penned a letter to the Nobel nominating committee praising Barghouti as a peace activist and key to future talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
“He is an important actor for the future of a region more fragmented than ever,” the letter reads, according to the Palestine News Network. “Peace requires the freedom of Marwan Barghouti and of the political prisoners, and more generally the freedom of the Palestinian people living for decades under occupation.”
PreOccupiedTerritory: Abbas’s Butt Tastes Better Than Netanyahu’s By Shelly Yechimovich, Labor Party (satire)
It’s been a trying couple of weeks for the Labor Party in Israel, but we are about to put this chapter behind us, for better or for worse. As I write these words the leader of our party, Buji Herzog, has not ruled out joining the Netanyahu government, and I, for one, have had enough of our chairman licking Bibi’s backside. Abu Mazen’s tastes much better.
The constant pursuit of seats around Netanyahu’s coalition table became so undignified as to make some of us Laborites question our party’s path. Is this where Herzog was leading us, to kiss the tuchus of a right-wing prime minister just for the pretense of wielding some power? Many of us might bolt from the party if he decides to join the government – because ministerial posts or no ministerial posts, we’re much more enamored with licking the wrinkled old anus of Mahmoud Abbas than Netanyahu’s hairy butthole. It’s a matter of ideology as well as taste.
Israel’s electorate, as well, deserves an alternative to the Likud-led, no-Abbas-butt-licking, no-Obama-butt-licking recklessness of our current prime minister. We must follow the path of the late, legendary Yitzhak Rabin, who sent Shimon Peres and Yosi Beilin to lick Arafat’s butt again and again. Although he was not a Labor politician, Ehud Olmert showed great courage in deep-kissing Abbas’s posterior, as well, and deserves recognition for that. How disappointed we are to discover that our own party chairman is considering similar abasement not before the leader of a terrorist organization bent on our destruction, but our own elected head of government! Labor members of conscience have all been shocked.
Southern residents told to evacuate in case of conflict outbreak
Southern residents living near the Gaza Strip received instructions on Tuesday to evacuate their residences in the event of emergency, including a call to have packed bags ready, amid simmering tensions along the Gaza border following increased IDF efforts to uncover Hamas’s cross-border attack tunnels in recent weeks.
In a letter by response organizations working under the Defense Ministry, residents were told that “in the event of an emergency, there is a decision to completely evacuate,” and were given clear instructions on which other communities to reach for safety if needed.
Residents were told to prepare a bag with necessities, and in the event of an emergency situation to “lock all doors, close the windows and the blinds, take personal weapons and any pets, along with food, and turn off the gas valve,” Channel 2 reported Tuesday.
Residents were also told that they must report their departure from their towns, in the event of an emergency.
French-Jewish Leader: Release of Paris Synagogue Bomber ‘Scandalous and Irresponsible’
The head of the umbrella organization for French Jewry expressed outrage on Tuesday, following the decision to release a key suspect in a terrorist attack on a Paris synagogue in 1980, the Hebrew news site nrg reported.
According to the report, CRIF president Roger Cukierman condemned the release of Hassan Diab, a 62-year-old Lebanese Canadian who was extradited to France and imprisoned in November 2014 for the bombing attack on the French-Israeli Union Liberale, in which four people were killed and another 46 wounded.
Cukierman, who said that Diab’s arrest and extradition had been signs of “justice and the determination to combat terrorism,” called the announcement of his release “scandalous and irresponsible.”
“It is an insult to the victims and their families. And it will be translated as France’s weakness in the face of terrorism,” he said.
Jewish thinker Bernard-Henri Levy goes to war against IS
The globe-trotting French intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy made a dramatic late entry into the Cannes film festival Monday with a “close-up look” at the Kurds’ battle against the Islamic State group in Iraq.
The dashing self-styled “militant philosopher” made the documentary about peshmerga fighters leading the fight against IS with “just a small team in tow,” the festival organizers said.
“The director traveled 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) along the Iraqi frontier, from south to north, filming war situations, landscapes and the faces of men and women rarely seen in the wider world,” they added.
The 67-year-old philosopher — long a supporter of the secular Kurdish cause — filmed battles between Kurdish autonomous region forces and the jihadists for “Peshmerga.”
His producers said the film, which will be premiered on Friday, was shot on the front lines around Kirkuk and Sinjar, and that they used drone cameras to get images from inside the IS-held city of Mosul.
“The film is a homage to the brave (Kurdish) men and women who are defying death to become the world’s rampart against the Islamic State,” Margo Cinema said in a statement.
Israel believes Syria used sarin gas on ISIS
Syria has used sarin nerve gas for the first time since 2013, a senior Israeli official anonymously told the Telegraph Wednesday, on Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists outside Damascus.
Syria agreed to rid itself of its chemical weapons stockpile under a 2013 agreement that followed a sarin gas attack on a Damascus suburb, although it was revealed the regime maintained its arsenal by hiding it from the inspectors.
Since then, both mustard gas and chlorine gas have been said to have been used in attacks. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has since found chlorine has been "systematically and repeatedly" used as a weapon; government and opposition forces have denied using chlorine and have accused each other of doing so.
But sarin indicates yet a greater step in flouting the international agreement; not only did a lethal sarin gas attack prompt the chemical weapons ban, after it killed 1,400 people outside Damascus, but it is far more lethal than chlorine gas.
Syria conducted the sarin gas attack over three weeks ago, the Israeli official said, in an apparent aim to drive away ISIS from seizing two airbases northeast of the city.
Prager University: What ISIS Wants
ISIS has conquered territory across the Middle East and northern Africa. It has terrorized its occupied cities, sown terror across Europe, and spread its ideology around the world. But what does ISIS want? What does it believe? Where did it come from? And can it be stopped?
In the latest Prager University video, Tom Joscelyn of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies explains it all. Check out the short video above. Transcript below:
It seems that hardly a day goes by in which the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, doesn’t appear in a newspaper or on a TV news screen. And the news is always bad—hideous death and wanton destruction of a type rarely seen in modern history.
So, what is the Islamic State? Where did it come from? What does it want? And why? Let’s try to answer these questions in turn.
First, ISIS is the illegitimate child of Saddam Hussein’s regime and al Qaeda. Saddam’s former military and intelligence officers hold many of ISIS’s most senior positions and have overseen the group’s rise to prominence. In 2002 and early 2003, some al Qaeda members relocated from Afghanistan to Iraq, where they prepared to fight the Americans, who toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime in March 2003. These jihadists became known as al Qaeda in Iraq when their leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi swore his allegiance to Osama bin Laden in 2004. Zarqawi, a murderous psychopath, was finally killed by U.S. and Iraqi forces in June 2006. Following his death, al Qaeda in Iraq was rebranded as the Islamic State of Iraq.
Iran orders Hezbollah to target Saudi Arabia
The military wing of the Lebanese movement Hezbollah has been instructed by Iran to suspend operations against Israel and to target Saudi Arabia instead, Middle East Eye can reveal.
The instruction comes in the wake of widespread anger at the apparent assassination of Mustafa Badreddine, its military commander in Syria and head of the movement's military wing, which Hezbollah blamed on “takfiri” forces supported by Riyadh.
According to well informed sources in Lebanon, the order was conveyed in person by Qasim Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) who came to Beirut to give his condolescences.
Soleimani also named Badreddine’s successor and his two deputies, which is believed to be an unprecedented move in the relationship between Iran and the Lebanese movement. Previous appointments have been an internal matter for Hezbollah in consultation with Iran, MEE understands.
Badreddine’s replacement is Fuad Shukr, whose nom de guerre is al-Hajj Mohsen, the sources told MEE.
Lebanon’s Central Bank Will Comply With US Finance Law Targeting Hezbollah
The head of Lebanon’s powerful central bank said that it will comply with a United States finance law that targets the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah.
Last December, the U.S. government passed the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act, which aims to sanction international financial institutions that knowingly facilitate Hezbollah’s activities.
“The U.S. law has to be implemented worldwide and in Lebanon,” said Riad Salameh, governor of Lebanon’s central bank, Reuters reported. “It is not possible to guarantee credit stability if [the central bank] does not implement the U.S. law.”
“If we do not do that…our banking sector could become isolated from the world,” he said.
Lebanon’s banking sector, which accounts for 6 percent of the country’s GDP, is one of the few institutions within Lebanon that isn’t dysfunctional or corrupt. Salameh said that banks intending to close the accounts of individuals or organizations violating the U.S. law will need to wait for a response from the central bank’s Special Investigation Committee.
Experts Say North Korea Is an Overlooked Player in the Mideast Threat Landscape
North Korea has provided the technology or weapons for Hamas’s cross-border attack tunnels from Gaza to Israel, Hezbollah’s Scud-D missile stockpile in Lebanon, and Iran’s Fordow nuclear facility. Yet the totalitarian state in East Asia doesn’t seem to frequently enter the Western public discourse on Middle East threats.
With the January 2016 North Korean nuclear test, which represented a significant advance in North Korea’s strike capability and the fourth time the nation has exploded a nuclear device, analysts such as Dr. Bruch E. Bechtol — the author of four books on North Korea and a political science professor at Angelo State University in Texas — say it is time for the United States to pay closer attention to the rogue state’s military proliferation in the Middle East.
Bechtol explained that North Korea has played a key role in the buildup of Iranian and Syrian forces, as well as the forces of the Iranian-funded Lebanese terror group Hezbollah. The five-year-long and ongoing Syrian civil war has meant a huge loss of military equipment for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and North Korea has filled the void with T-55 tanks, trucks, rock-propelled grenades, and shoulder-fired missiles.
“The Assad regime has fired lots of Scuds…and chemical weapons. All of these came from North Korea,” Bechtol told JNS.org.
Who Are the Guilty Men on Iran?
In other words, it was business as usual on the Hill. But before we file this dispiriting piece of political theater in the proverbial circular file, it’s important to point out that the topic of the path to appeasement on Iran is one that I think future historians will view with more seriousness. Ultimately, that may mean Rhodes could go down as one of his generation’s “guilty men,” a title that was given to those British politicians that enabled appeasement of Nazi Germany before World War Two. Whether that it is true or not will depend on whether the administration’s long shot bet on the Islamist regime in Iran moderating before it ultimately gets a nuclear weapon after the deal Rhodes championed expires in a decade. If it doesn’t — and there’s little reason other than wishful thinking to believe that it will — we will view exhibitions such this House hearing with even less tolerance than we to today. But before we get to that point, it’s important to point out exactly what Rhodes is guilty of and what responsibility Congress — both Republicans and Democrats — must shoulder for that result.
Let’s first be clear about what Rhodes — who refused to testify before the committee on dubious grounds that it is inappropriate for a presidential advisor to discuss his work with Congress — did and not do. Since the Times profile, there’s been a lot of talk about the administration’s lies about Iran, and some of those accusations are accurate. The administration did lie about its diplomatic pursuit of Iran in 2013 as well as about the premise for those talks being the nonsensical proposition that the election of a “moderate” as president of Iran. Hassan Rouhani is no moderate but, as we now know, President Obama began the initiative while the even less moderate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in that office, serving as did his successor at the pleasure of Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
But while the Times article did speak of the administration misleading the American people, all that Rhodes admitted to in a piece that was both revealing as well as evidence of the trademark arrogance of Obama’s inner circle, was manipulating the press.
How the White House Smeared Benjamin Netanyahu to Sell the Iran Deal
Testifying before Congress, Michael Doran explains how the Obama administration worked to conceal its true intentions in making a deal with Iran, namely to realign the U.S. with the Islamic Republic and disengage from America’s historic allies in the region. The White House further obscured discussion of the deal’s merits by attempting to manipulate an all-too-pliant media; these efforts included what Doran terms a “venomous whisper campaign” to cast the Israeli prime minister “as the villain of the Middle East peace process, an arch-nationalist with unseemly ties to the Republican party who refuses to make the necessary compromises to bring about an historic reconciliation with the Palestinians.”
Rhodes Won’t Say if He Regrets NYT Profile Claiming Iran Deal Deception
Ben Rhodes, one of President Obama’s top national security advisers, refused to say on Tuesday if he regretted his comments for a New York Times magazine profile that implied he and other administration officials misled the American public on the nuclear deal with Iran.
Rhodes has been under fire for nearly two weeks after the profile, which quotes him extensively, detailed how he and others in the administration created an “echo chamber” of Washington insiders and journalists to promote favorable interpretations of the Iran nuclear deal.
The allegations have led to demands for Rhodes to testify before Congress. Rhodes sidestepped an opportunity to comment on the ongoing controversy on Tuesday during a Center for a New American Security event on U.S. policy in Southeast Asia.
“I will not Monday morning quarterback every article that I have been a party to,” Rhodes said when asked to voice any “regrets” he had about the New York Times magazine article. “I will say that, you know, when things like this happen, that’s a part of what happens in Washington. The people who know me know what I care about and know how I approach issues, and know what motivates me in this job.”
Cotton: Rhodes Is a ‘Chump,’ Obama’s National Security Team Consists of ‘Yes Men and Fan Boys’
Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) ripped President Obama’s national security team as full of “yes men and fan boys” during a radio interview Tuesday, The Hill reports.
Cotton singled out top White House adviser Ben Rhodes as a “chump” after a New York Times profile in which Rhodes boasted of creating an “echo chamber” to sell the Iran nuclear deal and constructing a false narrative with the help of a clueless press:
“Some of the coverage of Ben Rhodes is what happens when you put van drivers and campaign flaks and failed novelists in charge of foreign policy and national security,” he said on Hugh Hewitt’s radio broadcast, referencing Obama’s deputy national security adviser.
“You know, most of who’s left in the administration now are all these yes men and fan boys who were van drivers or press flaks for Barack Obama in Iowa and New Hampshire in 2008,” Cotton added, recalling Obama’s first presidential campaign.
“As if any of them have ever seen anything more dangerous than a shoving match when they were playing beer pong in the back of a bar in Georgetown.”
Germany raps Iran for Holocaust cartoon contest
Germany on Wednesday condemned a contest in Iran for cartoons depicting the Holocaust, saying it sows hatred and deepens divisions in the Middle East.
The event was organized by non-governmental bodies with support from Iran’s hard-liners. A previous contest in 2006 got a boost from then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who referred to the Holocaust as a “myth.”
German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said Wednesday that “the murder of 6 million men, women and children during the Holocaust, for which we Germans bear guilt and responsibility, must not be abandoned to ridicule.”
Schaefer said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier made clear during a February visit to Tehran that no further such competition should take place.
Iran: Int’l Opposition To Israel Good Omen, Will Stop ‘Judaization’ Of Jerusalem
The Iranian Foreign Ministry said global opposition to Israel is a “good omen” and urged the international community to put an end to Israel’s “conspiracies” against the Palestinians, such as the supposed “Judaization” of Jerusalem and desecration of the al-Aqsa Mosque.
The foreign ministry’s statement, which was released on Monday to coincide with Naqba Day, marking the “catastrophe” of the 1948 establishment of the State of Israel, was published in Press TV, an Iranian state-affiliated news agency known for its hostility to Israel.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran … sees the intensification of global opposition to this (Israeli) regime’s illegal and inhuman actions, including settler outpost construction, as a good omen and calls for international action for putting an end to the conspiracies” of Israel against the Palestinians, the statement said.
It also reiterated Iran’s support for the “national reconciliation and solidarity” of Palestinians in their resistance against Israel.
New York Law Firm Blocks Payment to American Victims of Iranian Terror
The government of Iran owes upwards of $2 billion to 1,300 individuals who sued Iran for its sponsorship of the 1983 Beirut bombing of the Marine barracks that killed 241 Marines and wounded an additional 115 Americans.
The order has been upheld by the Federal Courts and just a few weeks ago by the U.S. Supreme Court. Even so, a New York-based American law firm is slow-walking the recent order of the Supreme Court that Iran must pay up and likely could delay payment for years to come.
In a letter dated May 4 and directed to Judge Katherine Forrest, Iran’s American lawyer Andreas A. Frischknecht of the New York firm of Chaffetz Lindsey LLP says, “Bank Markazi [central bank of Iran] respectfully requests that the Court defer any consideration of the Proposed Order [for dispursal of funds] until after the United States Supreme Court has issued its judgment in this case and Plaintiffs have properly and timely applied for such relief, and that the Court affo4d Bank Markazi an appropriate opportunity to respond to Plaintiff’s application at that time.”
The plaintiffs include the survivors of not just the Beirut Marine barracks bombing but also the survivors of the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia and other acts of terror carried out by Hezbollah and sponsored by the Iranian government.
Senate approves 9/11 legislation despite Saudi threats
The Senate passed legislation Tuesday that would allow families of September 11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia, rejecting the fierce objections of a US ally and setting Congress on a collision course with the Obama administration.
The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, approved by voice vote, had triggered a threat from Riyadh to pull billions of dollars from the US economy, if the bill is enacted.
The legislation, sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., gives victims’ families the right to sue in US court for any role that elements of the Saudi government may have played in the 2001 attacks that killed thousands in New York, the Washington, DC area and Pennsylvania.
The House still must act on the legislation.
Relatives of September 11 victims have urged the Obama administration to declassify and release US intelligence that allegedly discusses possible Saudi involvement in the attacks.
Passage of the bill sends the message that the United States “will combat terrorism with every tool we have available, and that the victims of terrorist attacks in our country should have every means at their disposal to seek justice,” Cornyn said.



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