Where Palestinian Aid Really Goes
Why does Palestinian corruption get a pass? Because their status as alleged victims of the Jews seems to give them priority over every other group in the world.Turning Suicidal Teens into Killers
How can we be all that shocked when individuals divert money and material intended to alleviate the plight of ordinary Palestinians to terrorism when that is precisely what both Hamas and Fatah do on a regular basis and on a much larger scale? That is especially true for Mahmoud Abbas’s faction, whose leaders have grown wealthy while the world continues to picture Palestinians as indigent. A group that pays pensions to imprisoned terrorists and to the survivors of those who died while trying to kill Jews (and boasts on Facebook that it has killed 11,000 Israelis) ought not to be in any position to cry poverty, but that is exactly what it does.
The supposedly more puritanical Islamists of Hamas are guilty of many of the same offenses. Few homes have been rebuilt there since the 2014 war but somehow the Hamas tunnel network—which serves as a point of attack for terror raids into Israel and strongholds to shelter Palestinian armaments, fighters, and leaders while the population has no bomb shelters—has been reconstituted and strengthened.
The UN and World Vision and all those who contribute to other Palestinian charities should spare us their expressions of shock or denials about these scandals. While the Palestinians have genuine needs, anyone who gives money to them should do so in the knowledge that they are just as likely to be financing a terrorist’s pension, a terror tunnel, or a Hamas bunker than they are to feed a child or build a home.
The Los Angeles Times published an eye-popping report this week: According to Kadoura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, roughly one-fifth of all Palestinian attacks on Israelis in recent months have been attempts to commit “suicide by cop.” Even if that estimate were exaggerated, Israeli security officials concur that there have been many such cases, which begs an obvious question: Given that suicides are usually interested mainly in killing themselves, why do so many suicidal Palestinians try to kill others in the process? And Fares is quite upfront about the answer: “In our culture, suicide for no reason isn’t honorable,” he said. “If they try to confront a soldier, however, it’s looked on with more respect.’’One On One With Alan Dershowitz - Aug. 11, 2016 w/ Col Kemp
Or to put it more bluntly, Palestinians have created a culture where mass murder is the quickest, easiest and surest path to glory. What distressed Palestinians are told by their society is roughly the following: “Do you feel like a failure? No problem. All you have to do is murder a Jew, and you’ll be an instant hero. You’ll be lionized on radio and television programs; schools and soccer tournaments will be named after you; politicians will sing your praises. And as a bonus, you’ll also earn the respect that goes with being a breadwinner: If you live, the government will pay you an above-market salary while you’re in prison, and if you die, it will pay your family.” For a distraught youngster, such a prospect of instant redemption is enormously tempting.
This, clearly, is a form of society-wide child abuse: Instead of being encouraged to seek help, distressed young people are encouraged to commit murder, thereby ensuring they will either be killed by security personnel or sentenced to years in jail. That this practice is ignored by all the myriad “human rights” groups active in the West Bank is ample proof that they care as little about Palestinians’ human rights as they do about those of Israelis.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Hamas: Vote for Us or Burn in Hell
Abbas decided to hold local and municipal elections because his advisors convinced him that Hamas would boycott the vote, according to senior Fatah official Husam Khader.Caroline Glick: Counting the Palestinians
The first sign of Hamas's frightening platform emerged when one of its top muftis, Yunis Al-Astal, issued a fatwa banning Palestinians from voting for any other party other than Hamas. "Any person, male or female, who votes for a party other than Hamas will be considered an infidel and apostate and his or her repentance will not be accepted even if they fasted or prayed or performed the hajj [pilgrimage] to Mecca," the mufti ruled.
This Hamas tactic has worked in the past. In the previous parliamentary election, Hamas used the same propaganda to brainwash and scare Palestinian voters.
By calling the election and allowing Hamas to participate, Abbas is digging his own grave, and presiding over the burial of any so-called peace process with Israel.
In a surprise move last month, Hamas announced it will be participating in the Palestinian municipal elections in October. The Palestinian Authority’s Fatah leadership greeted Hamas’s announcement with deep and understandable anxiety. Hamas is expected to win control over a significant number, perhaps even a majority of municipal and local governments in Judea and Samaria.Balfour notes
PA leader Mahmoud Abbas (whose own five year term in office ended six years ago) and his Fatah comrades aren’t the only ones worried. Last week, Yediot Aharonot’s military commentator, Alex Fishman, reported that the IDF’s senior leadership is also deeply concerned.
According to Fishman, in recent weeks Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has held a series of senior-level discussions, initially convened to discuss long-term Israeli strategic options in Judea and Samaria. Due to the IDF’s concerns over the elections, those discussions quickly devolved into a more limited discussion of how to prevent a Hamas electoral victory.
Fishman reported that the top generals have convinced Liberman, who until now supported octogenarian Abbas’s swift retirement, that “it is Israel’s interest not only for Abu Mazen [Abbas] to remain in power, but to empower him still further.”
To this end, according to Fishman, Liberman has agreed to adopt a plan prepared by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), for Israel to transfer the Civil Administration’s planning and zoning authority in Area C to the PA. The plan also involves retroactively authorizing tens of thousands of Palestinian structures built illegally in Area C and authorizing the construction of a new Palestinian urban center in Area C.
In fact, the Balfour Declaration gave nothing to anyone. It simply expressed British support for the idea that the Jews, a people indigenous to the land, should be able to return there to reconstitute their national home if they so desired following the collapse of Ottoman colonial rule.Naftali Bennett: Ancient Jewish Jerusalem Is a Fact
It was the League of Nations, the predecessor of the United Nations, and not a solitary British minister, that recognised the ‘historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine’ and the ‘grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.’ It further encouraged ‘close settlement by Jews on the land’.
These binding international pronouncements, published decades before the Nazi period, demonstrate that Jewish national rights were recognised long before the Holocaust made the justice of a Jewish homeland, not only self-evident, but urgent. They also make nonsense of the proposition often put by Palestinian advocates that Israel was allowed to be created by the European powers to make others pay for their sins in relation to the destruction of European Jewry.
Boorish and unconscionable as al-Maliki’s statement was, it had an unintended virtue. It laid bare the true, but often disguised, Palestinian position that Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, has no place in any part of the land. This is the only genuinely insurmountable point of difference between Israelis and Palestinians. The Palestinian leaders have also demonstrated the extraordinary lengths to which they will go to mire their people in a sense of grievance and entitlement instead of preparing them for the compromises necessary to finally achieve their own state.
Jerusalem has been the focus of Jewish life for thousands of years, and will remain central to us even if an international organization votes in favor of distorting reality. The facts are simple, but facing attempts to rewrite history we must restate them: our ties to the Temple Mount were recorded by the Romans after they pillaged Jerusalem, centuries before Islam existed.Of strong Jews and Olympic pride
Not long ago, I visited the Arch of Titus in Rome’s pantheon. While surrounded by other structures, for us Jews this monument has a special significance. It was constructed by the Romans to celebrate their achievements, including the suppression of the Revolt in Judea, and displays the famous image of Jews forcefully marched to exile – an event we remember and mourn 2,000 years later.
Despite this historic image, literally carved in stone, there are those who deny the Jewish connection to Jerusalem in an attempt to delegitimize Israel’s claim to our capital. In April, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) provided the latest example of Western countries replacing fact-based truths with false Palestinian narratives. Yes, there are scholarly debates regarding its size and role, but the existence of a Jewish temple in Jerusalem, destroyed in 70 CE by the Romans, is accepted by all archaeologists and historians.
For years the Palestinians have been attempting to erase the Jewish connection to Jerusalem from the world’s memory, as part of their campaign to eradicate the State of Israel. This strategy became evident in the 1990s, when Arafat and PA officials issued numerous statements blatantly distorting history. In 1997, for example, the Palestinian Ministry of (mis)Information announced the “Jews never had any connection to Jerusalem.” In another example, from 1995, prominent PLO member Ismail Jamal said “There was never a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.” Last year this senior official called the murder of Rabbi Eitam and Na’ama Henkin in front of their four children the fulfillment of a “national duty“.
The final and perhaps most important reason that winning the bronze medal matters is Gerbi herself.Rio: Crowd boos Egyptian Judoka for refusing to shake Israeli's hand following defeat
She is the quintessential Israeli: small but powerful, beleaguered but intensely patriotic, bleeding but victorious.
She won her medal with grace that could make all of Israel proud.
And after winning, she bowed to her opponent, wept tears of joy on the floor, and then leaped into a crowd of her adoring fans waving blue and white flags.
She received the medal from International Olympic Committee vice chairman Alex Gilady, himself a proud Israeli.
Gerbi then gave dozens of interviews with poise, accepted calls from President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on live television with respect, and then, when she was finally free, called her father in Israel and told him with refreshing, childlike joy: “Your daughter is an Olympic medalist” – as if he didn’t know.
So there is plenty of reason for Israel – and Jews around the world – to celebrate Gerbi’s medal. And despite the cynics, the next time an Israeli wins a medal, whether it is in eight days or eight years, we will celebrate again.
Judoka star Or Sasson defeated Egyptian opponent Islam el-Shehaby in the +100 kg division Friday afternoon at the 2016 Rio Olympics.Japanese Olympic Gymnast Does Her Routine to Classic Hasidic Song
Following his defeat, however, el-Shehaby refused to shake hands with the Israeli which led to booing from the crowd.
As he attempted to leave, el-Shehaby was ordered back into the center of the Judo mat by the referee and eventually gave a slight bow to Sasson.
In response to the episode, International Judo Federation spokesman Nicolas Messner said that the organization will look into the incident and decide whether to take any action, according to Lebanese news agency Naharnet.
"In the past, it is not sure that a fight between those two athletes would have taken place. This is already a big improvement that Arabic countries accept to be opposed to Israel," he said.
"There is no obligation for shaking hands at the end of the fight, but it is compulsory to bow, that's why the Egyptian was called back to bow and he did.
"Nevertheless, his attitude will be reviewed after the Games to see if any further action should be taken."
If you don’t know by now that Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman used to play “Hava Negilah” during her floor routine, you’re a little behind. A slightly deeper dive would turn up Sasha Cohen, 2006 Olympic silver medalist in figure skating, who choreographed her routine to Barbara Streisand’s “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” That American Jewish women would use such music in competition isn’t really surprising, but Tuesday, another competitor threw her hat in the ring, this one a bit more out of the ordinary.Omissions in BBC News coverage of Gaza UN worker conscripted by Hamas
Sae Miyakawa, a 16-year-old Japanese gymnast, took the floor Tuesday night to the chorus of “Kol ha-Olam Kulo,” an 18th century aphorism and song of Rabbi Nahman of Breslov, set to klezmer music.
The article promotes an unqualified quote from the terrorist organisation concerned.UN Watch: UN aid worker indicted for aiding Hamas terrorist activities
“Hamas said the allegations were “incorrect and baseless” and part of Israeli efforts “to tighten the siege of the Gaza Strip by prosecuting international relief organisations”.”
However, the statement was not attributed to the person who made it – Sami Abu Zuhri – and the threat included in his statement was edited out.
“Hamas, meanwhile, denied the allegations in an official statement. The group’s spokesperson Sami Abu Zurhi called the accusations “false and baseless,” and said they were aimed at helping Israel strengthen its “siege” of Gaza.
If Israel persists in its policy of accusing aid organizations in Gaza, it would face “dangerous consequences,” Zurhi said.”
As regular readers know, the BBC has in the past frequently and enthusiastically promoted UN politicised messaging on the topic of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip while concurrently ignoring the flaws in the UN’s system. Obviously it is high time for the BBC to meet its public purpose remit by finally providing audiences with some in-depth and objective coverage of the various UN agencies (and additional humanitarian organisations) working in the Gaza Strip.
Could the dispute in the South China Sea affect debate over Palestinian statehood?
Israeli policymakers might want to keep an eye on these developments. Israel's leaders have said any future Palestinian state would have to be completely demilitarized. But can Israel rely on the international community to enforce the demilitarization rules if the Palestinians violate them?PLO official claims Abbas refused Netanyahu meeting; US denies meeting proposed
Perhaps the most infamous experiment in demilitarization involved the Rhineland, an area of western Germany along the border with France, Belgium and Holland. The 1925 Locarno Pact, signed in the aftermath of World War I, required that the Rhineland be permanently demilitarized. But when Hitler sent his troops to occupy the Rhineland in March 1936, the Locarno signatories--Britain, France and Italy--stood idly by.
Pacifist sentiment was strong in England; treaty or no treaty, the Brits were in no mood to confront the Nazis. Lord Lothian, the veteran British diplomat, rationalized the militarization of the Rhineland as "no more than the Germans walking into their own backyard." The French, who now found themselves within shooting distance of the Wehrmacht, were not quite so sanguine about the latest developments. But with France mired in economic troubles and national elections just months away, French Prime Minister Albert Sarraut was unwilling to risk a costly conflict with Hitler.
The United States was not a party to the Locarno agreement, but what President Franklin Roosevelt said mattered in the world arena. In this case, he didn't say much. Determined to maintain friendly relations with Germany, FDR refrained from explicitly condemning Hitler's Rhineland action. He would not even send U.S. observers to a League of Nations discussion of German aggression. Shortly after the Rhineland crisis erupted, Roosevelt headed off for a two-week fishing trip in the Bahamas, which coincidentally helped him evade questions about the controversy.
Israelis don’t need to go back to the 1930s for examples of how the world might respond if a Palestinian state began importing tanks or missiles. They have had some bitter experience in this area in recent decades.
The Obama administration denied a report circulating through Palestinian media that Washington tried to broker a meeting between PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.US judge refuses to ease Pollard’s parole conditions
“We are not aware of such a proposal,” Edgar Vasquez, a State Department spokesman, told The Jerusalem Post.
On Thursday, a report in al-Quds, a daily Palestinian newspaper, quoted a PLO Executive Committee member Ahmad Majdalani on-record claiming such a US proposal.
The report added that Majdalani said Abbas turned down the US offer to arrange a meeting with the Israeli prime minister.
Majdalani’s statements appeared to confirm another al-Quds report on Wednesday, which said “well-placed” sources revealed that a US proposal existed and Abbas rejected it.
In that report, the unknown sources suggested that the proposed meeting would have included the Palestinian Authority, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Russia, Japan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Moreover, the sources said Abbas rejected the US proposal because he saw it as a clear effort to bypass the French initiative to hold an international peace conference.
A judge has refused to ease parole conditions for freed Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard so he can begin work as a financial analyst.US sued over aid to Israel
The US Parole Commission did not abuse its discretion when it required the 61-year-old former US Navy intelligence research specialist to submit to a curfew and monitoring of work computers and his whereabouts, US District Judge Katherine Forrest said Thursday.
Pollard’s lawyers had argued that the restrictions blocked him from accepting an offer to work as a financial analyst after his release from prison last November.
In June 1986, Pollard pleaded guilty to conspiring to deliver national defense information to a foreign government, giving secrets to Israel. He served 30 years in prison.
A lawsuit filed in a US district court claims that US aid to Israel is illegal under a law passed in the 1970s that prohibits aid to nuclear powers that don’t sign the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty.U.S. Approves Sale of over 130 Tanks to Saudi Arabia
Grant Smith, director of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy, who filed the lawsuit Monday with a Washington D.C. court, said the United States has given Israel an estimated $234 billion in foreign aid since Congress in 1976 passed the International Security Assistance and Arms Export Control Act, with its stipulation regarding countries that did not sign the NPT, according to Courthouse News.
Discussing his August 8 lawsuit in an interview to Court House News, Smith said the litigation has been 10 years in the making.
Though Israel is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Smith noted that it is a known nuclear power and recipient of US aid. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied possession of nuclear weapons but is widely believed top possess dozens if not hundreds of nuclear warheads.
The US has had a long-standing policy of keeping mum on the existence of Israel’s nuclear weapons program, a poorly kept secret that successive U.S. administrations since Gerald Ford have refused to publicly acknowledge.
Smith’s lawsuit comes on the eve of a deal that would boost U.S. aid to the country by between $1 billion and $2 billion per year over a decade. Israel already gets $3 billion a year in U.S. aid.
Despite human rights complaints against Saudi Arabia over its military campaign in Yemen, the U.S. State Department has approved a $1.15 billion sale of military equipment to the Kingdom, including over 130 Abrams battle tanks.German interior minister: Jihadists should lose citizenship
“This sale will increase the Royal Saudi Land Force’s (RSLF) interoperability with U.S. forces and conveys U.S. commitment to Saudi Arabia’s security and armed forces modernization,” said the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency, as quoted by Reuters.
“Lawmakers have 30 days to block the sale, although such action is rare,” Reuters writes. However, the report notes that Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) has been critical of arms sales to the Saudis, citing concerns about civilian casualties, and the Saudis’ preference for fighting Iranian proxies in Yemen instead of ISIS.
Peace talks brokered in Yemen by the United Nations apparently fell apart this week as Saudi Arabia resumed bombing the Yemeni capital of Sanaa. One of the airstrikes reportedly struck a potato chip factory, killing nine civilians.
German citizens with dual nationality who fight for a terror group should be stripped of their German citizenship, the interior minister said Thursday, unveiling tough new measures after two attacks by Islamic State militants.The Real Story Behind Obama’s Kerfuffle With the Israeli Defense Ministry
“Germans who participate in fighting abroad for a terror militia and who have another citizenship, should lose their German nationality,” Thomas de Maiziere said.
Some 820 people have left Germany to fight alongside jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq, according to estimates by Germany’s secret service.
With around one in three fighters having since returned to Germany, fears are running high of the threat they may pose on European soil.
What the Obama/Liberman episode also underscores, however, is Israel’s order of priorities when weighing the relative importance of stopping Iran against the importance of U.S.-Israel strategic relations. Indeed, if there is one insight that seems to have been clarified over the past year, it is that the order of priorities for Israel places U.S.-Israel relations at the top. And this seems to be behind Netanyahu’s notable lack of public advocacy against the deal since last autumn, after having stretched things to the limit in the first half of 2015. In his October 2015 speech to the UN General Assembly, Netanyahu maintained that he would work together with the Obama administration to keep Iran in check. So while the military aid package was likely the immediate context for Netanyahu’s attempt to lower the flames following Liberman’s statement, a clarification of Israel’s priorities seems to be a more profound lesson of the past year.IDF in race against time to modernize armored vehicles
At the end of the day, what is still wrong with the picture that emerged from this episode is Israel’s prominence in debates over the deal, although this is perhaps not surprising after Netanyahu directed attention to Israel and its concerns for the past seven years. His predecessors Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert preferred to maintain a relatively low and behind-the-scenes profile on the Iranian nuclear crisis, so as not to make it about Israel. Indeed, assessing the JCPOA one year into the deal, the focus should be on Iran and the P5+1 states; most importantly, whether and how these international powers will ensure that Iran is prevented from attaining nuclear weapons.
A quiet revolution is taking place in the world of IDF armored vehicles, which could have a decisive impact on the next outbreak of hostilities in the region.Hamas invites Norway to monitor Palestinian elections
Armored platforms, once dismissed as relics of 20th century warfare, are today once again treasured assets, and are back in their familiar role, at the forefront of ground operations planning, despite the complete transformation of the modern battlefield. That is because they are turning into intelligence-gathering platforms that can reveal the exact location of hostile combatants all around them.
Technological innovations are allowing tanks and armored personnel carriers (APCs) to remain lethal and relevant to 21st century Middle Eastern warfare. Instead of Syrian tank formations charging at the border, today, guerrilla anti-tank missile cells hide in buildings, tunnels, and forests; their plan is to fire on the IDF and move, again and again.
Rafael's Trophy active protection system, which has amassed half a million hours of operational activities since going into service, provides the clearest example of how armored vehicles can now deal with this threat.
Installed on board the Merkava MK 4 battle tank (and used heavily during the 2014 conflict with Hamas in Gaza), as well as on the Namer APC, and the soon-to-arrive Eitan APC, Trophy is well known for intercepting missiles and RPGs in mid-air. Yet these defensive abilities, it turns out, only form half the story.
The other half involves using the same system to go on the offensive, and using the enemy's missile attacks against it.
Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh invited Norway to help monitor upcoming municipal elections in the Palestinian territories.Is Hamas getting ready to devour the West Bank?
The offer was made on Wednesday, during a meeting in Gaza between Haniyeh and the Norwegian ambassador to the Palestinian territories, Hans Jacob Frydenlund.
Haniyeh accused Israel of carrying out measures to influence the result of the elections, a statement on Hamas’s official website said.
The Norwegian Embassy in Israel told The Times of Israel in a tweet that it is “not aware of any such decision.”
“Generally, Norway cooperates with EU & OSCE on election observation,” the embassy said.
The municipal elections in the Palestinian Authority scheduled for Oct. 8 raise several issues over the stability of President Mahmoud Abbas' rule, especially given the unclear nature of the process of choosing his successor and the thin ice on which Fatah's institutions are standing. Hamas' position is also unstable, even more so after its defeat in the 2014 conflict with Israel and its growing isolation from Egypt and the world.Egyptian Christians Oppose Government's ‘Shameful’ Church Building Bill
The situation is compounded by the strategic changes that have been taking place in other Arab nations, which are bracing against the growing external threat posed by Iran while combating the growing internal threat from Sunni terrorist groups such as al-Qaida, Islamic State, and of course, Hamas.
Lately, it seems that Hamas' political leadership in the Gaza Strip is developing a pragmatic streak. Its proponents understand that Hamas has reached a political, military, and economic dead end in Gaza, and senior officials are speaking openly about the impracticality of full-scale conflicts with Israel.
Hamas leaders in Gaza, it seems, are not oblivious to the negative impact the international isolation has had on the enclave and the radical Islamist image plaguing the organization.
Egyptian Christians have rejected a government-sponsored reform bill purportedly meant to ease building restrictions on churches.Turkey, Iran pledge greater cooperation over Syria
While official church representatives welcomed the reform, some activists believe it would sustain discriminatory practices against the Christian community.
“The problem with this bill is that it treats the Christians as subjects, not full-fledged citizens,” Coptic activist Kamal Zacher said. “It hands over the jurisdiction to the Coptic Church and absolves the government of any constitutional responsibility towards the Christians.”
Zacher emphasized that the Egyptian constitution stipulates that “the parliament is the sole representative body of the Coptic citizens, and the delays in passing this bill demonstrate the great pressure applied on the government in devising this reform. This bill simply ignores all the rights and freedom of religion enshrined in international conventions of which Egypt is a signatory.”
The bill overlooks the existence of the cross as a physical object, he said, which “opens the door to some people to oppose putting up crosses on church buildings. It also enables local council heads the right to strike down planning proposals without providing an explanation. It leaves governors the prerogative over two very loosely defined criteria – the size of the Coptic population in a certain area and the degree of their need of a church. It is likely to cause a crisis, because it gives the state the authority to demolish buildings belonging to the Christian community and the church.”
Mina Majdy, the chairman of the Young Christians Association, said that the bill is the latest in a string of oppressive measures against the Copts.
The foreign ministers of Turkey and Iran agreed Friday to boost trade relations and pledged greater cooperation on resolving the Syria crisis despite their divergences on the issue.Iran and Hizbullah Remain Hyperactive in Latin America
At a joint news conference, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif expressed his country’s support to Turkey over last month’s failed coup attempt by renegade officers within the military that left more than 270 people dead. Turkey has complained of a lack of solidarity from Western allies who have raised concerns over Turkey’s massive crackdown on alleged supporters of a movement led by US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. Turkey accuses Gulen of orchestrating the coup.
“I congratulate the Turkish nation for the defiance they showed against the coup plotters,” Zarif told reporters, in comments translated into Turkish. “They showed the people of the region that they would not allow democracy and their rights to be taken away from them through coups and the use of force.”
Turkey and Iran have held opposing positions on Syria, with Iran backing the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad and Turkey advocating his departure.
As the summer Olympics continue in Rio, Brazilian and international security forces are poised to stymie any terrorist plot that might threaten the games. According to Matt Levitt, former Treasury Department official and expert on Hezbollah, Brazilian counterterrorism officials intensified efforts to prevent a terrorist attack by arresting former Hezbollah member Fadi Hassan Nabha as well as 12 Brazilian ISIS supporters during the lead-up to the games. The Cipher Brief spoke with Levitt to assess the current threat posed by Iran and Hezbollah throughout Latin America.Iran Improving Cyber Abilities, Missiles Since Nuclear Deal, Pentagon Says
The Cipher Brief: In what Latin American countries do Iran and Hezbollah maintain a strong influence?
Matthew Levitt: Iran and Hezbollah remain hyperactive in Latin America -- a fact that has the full attention of U.S. intelligence officials and their counterparts south of the border. In 1994, the bombing of the Asociacion Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA), a major Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, brought worldwide attention to Hezbollah operations in Latin America as directed by Iran. Testifying before the U.S. Congress in the weeks following the attack, the State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism expressed concern that Iranian embassies in the region were stacked with larger-than-necessary numbers of diplomats, some of whom were believed to be intelligence agents and terrorist operatives. Fifteen years later, the commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), indicated the Iranian presence in the region had grown still larger, expanding from just a handful of missions a few years earlier to twelve by 2010. Alberto Nisman, an Argentine prosecutor who was recently killed while investigating the AMIA bombing, released a report specifically warning the authorities of Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, and Colombia to be vigilant of Iranian infiltration.
Within Brazil specifically, the Treasury Department designated a group of Hezbollah members in the TBA (Tri -Border Area) in 2006. This group included Farouk Omairi, whom the department identified as "a coordinator for Hezbollah members in the region,...[and] a key figure in the procurement of false Brazilian and Paraguayan documentation [who] assisted individuals in the TBA with obtaining Brazilian citizenship illegally." Omairi was also involved in narcotics trafficking operations between South America, Europe, and the Middle East.
Iran has gradually improved its offensive cyber abilities and developed more advanced ballistic missiles since signing an accord last year to curb its nuclear program, the U.S. Defense Department said.Iran 'Ransom': Feds Claim $1.7 Billion Paid in Full -- But Won't Explain How
The Islamic Republic now has a “substantial inventory of missiles capable of reaching targets throughout the region, including U.S. military bases and Israel,” according to an unclassified summary from a Pentagon assessment of Iran’s military prowess.
The annual report, mandated by Congress, is the first issued since the U.S. and five other world powers signed the accord with Iran in July last year to curtail its nuclear ambitions in return for ending sanctions. The full report, which includes classified details, was submitted May 31 to congressional defense committees.
While the summary includes only one line on Iran’s cyber capabilities, the findings echo a recent report by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Michael Eisenstadt, who found that Iran’s cyber operations have evolved “from a low-tech means of lashing out at its enemies to a pillar of its national security concept.”
The Fund spokesperson refused to comment on the mechanics of how a settlement payment was made. The spokesperson did not reply to a follow-up question about whether the remaining $1.3 billion was transferred in cash or by any other means.Obama Admin Gives Green Light for Iran to Build Two New Nuclear Plants
When asked about how the remaining $1.3 billion was transferred, a spokesperson for the State Department replied that the agency had “nothing to add beyond what the President and Secretary have already said on the subject.”
The spokesperson confirmed that the remaining $1.3 billion was indeed paid in full to Iran but refused to provide comment to two separate requests about how the money was transferred.
The lack of clarity has led to the raising of questions about whether the remainder was paid.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) has said that due to Obama administration obfuscation, he is unsure if the U.S. still owed any remaining money on the 1.7 billion judgement.
“I don’t know yet whether there’s $1.3 billion left,” he said. “The administration has continued to dissemble and stonewall Congress on these very questions. In January, we were asking these questions.”
Iran is permitted to pursue the construction of two newly announced nuclear plants under the parameters of last summer’s nuclear agreement, Obama administration officials informed the Washington Free Beacon, setting the stage for Tehran to move forward with construction following orders from President Hassan Rouhani.
Ali Salehi, Iran’s top nuclear official, announced on Thursday that Iran has invested $10 billion into the construction of two new nuclear plants after receiving orders from Rouhani, according to reports in Iran’s state-controlled media.
A State Department official said to the Free Beacon following the announcement that Iran is allowed to move forward with this venture under the nuclear agreement, which does not prohibit this type of nuclear construction.
“The [nuclear deal] does not prevent Iran from pursuing new light-water reactors,” a State Department official not authorized to speak on record said to the Free Beacon in response to questions about Iran’s latest announcement. “Any new nuclear reactors in Iran will be subject to its safeguards obligations.”
Critics in Congress of the Obama administration’s diplomacy with Iran condemned the new nuclear reactors, telling the Free Beacon that the administration is turning a blind eye to the Islamic Republic’s continued pursuit of illicit nuclear technology, including the know-how to build a nuclear weapon.
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