Wednesday, October 04, 2017

From Ian:

Khaled Abu Toameh: A State Within a State?
For now, however, Hamas seems prepared to swallow the bitter pill -- because the name of the game for Hamas is survival. Isolated and cash-stripped, Hamas will collude with anyone who offers it "oxygen".

Abbas, for his part, has agreed to serve as the savior of Hamas. Why? One simple reason: he does not wish to see a concord between Mohammed Dahlan and Hamas. In Abbas's view, the "reconciliation" deal is a victory not because Hamas has surrendered or relinquished security control over the Gaza Strip, but because he managed to foil Dahlan's return to Gaza and the political arena. Backed by the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and other Arab countries, Dahlan's return and rendezvous with Hamas would have been a severe blow to Abbas and his Palestinian Authority.

A Dahlan-Hamas alliance would have undermined Abbas's claim to be the president of all Palestinians, including those in the Gaza Strip. Moreover, such an alliance would have emboldened Dahlan, who lives in exile in the United Arab Emirates, and would have enhanced his prospects of succeeding Abbas as president of the PA.

Hamas has every reason to be satisfied with the "reconciliation" deal with Abbas. Its only concession was to dismantle its "administrative committee," which served as a shadow government in the Gaza Strip. Hamas shed no tears in this move, which absolved it from managing civilian affairs and paying salaries. Offloading this responsibility frees up Hamas to fortify its military capabilities.

Notably, the Egyptian-engineered deal does not require Hamas to make any political concessions. This in itself is a huge achievement for Hamas. Hamas is not being asked to recognize Israel's right to exist or accept any peace process.

The Gaza Strip is now headed toward a new era where it will be divided between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas – one in charge of civilian issues while the second has full security control.

This situation, if it remains unresolved, will most likely lead to the renewal of tensions between the two sides. The Gaza Strip is headed towards a situation of a state within a state. As of now, it is safe to call their arrangement a three-state solution: one Palestinian state in the West Bank and two in the Gaza Strip. Hezbollah and Hamas must be laughing their heads off as, under weak and impotent governments, they see their power grow.
Melanie Phillips: Has Interpol gone stark, staring mad?
Please join me in this clip as I discuss with avi Abelow of Israel Video Network the implications of the extraordinary decision by Interpol to admit a fictional country to its ranks.

Trump Expected to Declare Iran in Breach of Nuclear Deal
The Trump administration is expected to announce next week that it will not formally certify Iran as in compliance with the landmark nuclear agreement, a move that could kill the agreement and set the stage for Congress to reimpose harsh economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic, according to multiple U.S. officials and sources familiar with the situation.

While some senior Trump administration officials—including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis—are pushing for President Donald Trump to preserve the deal, it has become increasingly clear the president is frustrated with Iran's continued tests of ballistic missile technology and rogue operations targeting U.S. forces in the region, according to these sources.

Designating Iran as in non-compliance with the deal would loosen restrictions on how the United States can target Tehran and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, which has been the main entity behind Iran's military operations in Syria and elsewhere in the region. It also would allow the administration to save face in the short-term by not technically walking away from the agreement.

The final nail in the coffin, these sources said, was the recent admission by the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, that it cannot fully assess whether Iran is working on sensitive nuclear explosive technology due to restrictions on inspections and specific sites in the Islamic Republic.

This disclosure has roiled congressional opponents of the deal and is said to have finally pushed the Trump administration to stop certifying Iran as in compliance with the deal, a decision which must be made by Oct. 15.
MEMRI: The JCPOA's Critical Flaw Is Its Lack Of Real Inspection By The IAEA
Carrying out inspections in the other sites can take place only after political negotiations in the Joint Commission of the JCPOA – which comprises the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Russia, China, the IAEA, and Iran – and only after some 30 days have passed from the time of the submission of the intelligence information that prompted the request for inspection, and only after the sources of this intelligence have been fully revealed to Iran, Russia, and China. Under these conditions, there is no possibility of real and effective inspection of Iran's nuclear activity (see MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1325, Discussion Of Iranian Violations Of JCPOA Is Futile; The Inspection Procedure Designed By The Obama Administration Precludes Actual Inspection And Proof Of Violations, August 18, 2017).

Despite the above, IAEA secretary-general Yukiya Amano stated, on August 31 and September 11, 2017, that the IAEA is free to carry out inspections at any site necessary, regardless of whether the site is nuclear or military. Amano based this statement not on the JCPOA – which does not allow this – but on the Additional Protocol, that allows inspection of military sites. But Iran's agreement to accept the Additional Protocol was voluntary, and it can exit it at any time without this being considered a violation of the JCPOA.

Iranian officials, on their part, argue that Amano "fabricated" this claim of such a right, and reiterated the Iranian regime's position that it does not allow IAEA inspectors at military sites (see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7098, Iranian Regime Officials: We Will Not Allow IAEA To Enter Iranian Military Sites; 'The Claim Of Such A Right Is Fabricated By [IAEA Director] Amano Himself,' September 19, 2017).

Therefore, Amano's declaration that the IAEA has the right to inspect military sites in Iran can be tested only if an attempt is made to actualize it. However, when information requiring an IAEA inspection was presented to Amano, he refrained from doing so, in order not to confront Iran and in order not to reveal that he had agreed to a process that ties his hands professionally.
PMW: Jews are “wicked,” “oppressors,” and “evil” in rebroadcast of 1996 PA TV show
PA TV rebroadcast a scene defining Jews as "wicked," "oppressors," and "evil," during an interview with the Palestinian actor who played the role of one of the "evil" Jews in a 1996 PA TV show. Explaining why he is chosen to depict evil characters in films, such as this Jew, the actor, Sami Sattoum, explained:

"Evil roles are always more difficult than the roles of good characters... The directors say about my eyes, that I act well with them, and that 'evil comes out of them,' as they say."
[Official PA TV, Culture Talks, Sept. 28, 2017; Sept. 30, 2017]

The following is a longer excerpt from the 1996 TV show and the interview with Palestinian actor Sami Sattoum, who depicted a Jew in an "evil role" on the show:
Official PA TV program "Culture Talks", hosting actor Sami Sattoum, rebroadcast of a scene from the TV series "And You, Jerusalem" from 1996, in which Sami Sattoum plays a Jew.

Song lyrics:
"Here is the oppressor, here they went and returned, here they walked around;
Here he walks around, he walked around the whole world,
and his eye is still on you, O house.
Come on [Palestinians], be strong! Protest! Let the land burn;
The fire will ignite and the wind will strengthen and burn the wicked.
Here is the oppressor. Here is the oppressor..."
Jew: "It is truly a beautiful house, Abu Awni!"
Jews are “wicked,” “oppressors,” and “evil” in rebroadcast of 1996 PA TV show

Eli Lake: Trump's Envoy Was Not Wrong on Israeli Settlements
Last week, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, was widely thought to have stepped in it.

In his first televised interview he said: "I think the settlements are part of Israel." He said that Israeli settlements comprise two percent of the West Bank's territory. Explaining U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, adopted after Israel won the six-day war, Friedman said, "The existing borders, the 1967 borders were viewed by everybody as not secure. So Israel would retain a meaningful portion of the West Bank -- and it would return that which it didn't need for, you know, peace and security."

These words caused a stir, to put it mildly. Americans for Peace Now, a group that has helped the U.S. government monitor the expansion of Israeli settlements, called on Friedman to be fired. Nabil Shaath, a senior adviser to the Palestinian Authority president, recorded an angry video denouncing the U.S. ambassador. "This alleged ambassador of the United States has absolute ignorance of facts of law of the position of the United States," he said, according to a dispatch from Noga Tarnopolsky in the Los Angeles Times. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said last week that Friedman's remarks do not reflect a change in U.S. policy.

Nauert is correct. They don't. While Friedman was imprecise, the gist of what he said has more or less been U.S. policy for some time. The major Jewish population blocks in and around Jerusalem will remain part of Israel in any final status deal to create a Palestinian state. The two sides have negotiated land swaps for more than 20 years to make up for the West Bank territory Israel is expected to retain.
PA slams Netanyahu’s ‘unacceptable’ pledge to develop Ma’ale Adumim
A top Palestinian official on Tuesday said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was trying to “destroy” the two-state solution by pledging to further develop and even effectively annex one of the biggest Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Nabil Shaath, a senior adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, called Netanyahu’s comments “totally unacceptable.”

“This is an attempt by Netanyahu to destroy the two-state solution and a clear refusal of any attempt to revive the peace process, especially by the United States,” he said.

Earlier Netanyahu, visited the city of Ma’ale Adumim where he vowed to build thousands of new homes and threw his support behind a bill to redraw Jerusalem’s municipal borders to include the settlement.

The comments drew an angry condemnation from the Palestinians and created a new test for the Trump administration, which has been working for over eight months to restart peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.
Trump told UN chief Netanyahu a ‘bigger problem’ than Abbas — report
During sit-down with Guterres, US president said to complain both sides 'problematic'; White House official disputes story

US President Donald Trump reportedly told United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres that in his efforts to mediate a Middle East peace deal, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been a “bigger problem” than Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

According to a report Wednesday in the Haaretz daily, Trump and Guterres sat down for a 15-minute meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on September 19. Western and Israeli sources told the paper that the leaders reserved a large chunk of the sit-down to discuss the US peace push.

“Trump said both leaders are problematic,” a Western diplomat briefed on the meeting said, adding, “The general context was that, from the two of them, Netanyahu is the bigger problem.”

A senior White House official disputed the account of Haaretz’s seven sources, insisting that the meeting between Trump and Guterres had been “productive” and that the pair barely discussed Washington’s peace efforts.

But according to the Western diplomat, Trump reflected on the sit-down he had with with Netanyahu the previous day.

After the US president emphasized the seriousness of his intentions to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, the UN secretary general encouraged Trump to continue his efforts, the report said.
Democrats remain stalwart supporters of Israel
Ever since president Harry Truman officially recognized the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, just 11 minutes after David Ben-Gurion proclaimed its independence, Democrats and the Democratic Party have supported the Jewish state. The Democratic Party always has had a special relationship with the Jewish People and the State of Israel. That strong bond remains unbreakable to this day.

However, some question our strong support for the world’s only Jewish state. Senator Bernie Sanders has embraced a discussion of policies on US aid to Israel long advocated by the fringe Left. Sanders, who considers himself a “democratic socialist,” speaks for neither our party nor the greater American Jewish community on policies and support for the State of Israel.

So perhaps it was not surprising to hear him say that he would support a reduction in aid to Israel and a more “even-handed” approach to Iran – neglecting to mention Iran’s funding and support for many terrorist and vociferously anti-Israel groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah or the harsh antisemitic rhetoric coming out of Tehran.

Sanders also neglected to mention that aid to Israel is a fraction of a foreign aid budget that represents a minuscule percentage of the total US budget.

US policies and relationships in the Middle East have, and always will be, complicated. But, when it comes to Israel, what Sen. Sanders and people who share his viewpoint fail to understand is Israel’s multifaceted and strategic importance to the United States. A stalwart democracy surrounded by dictatorships and authoritative regimes, Israel is our strongest and most loyal ally in a region where other nations (even those we call our friends) harbor terrorists who seek to harm Americans and our interests. Democratic presidents and Democratic members of Congress have long understood that fact.
Congressman: Cut UNRWA funding until agency reforms
Dear Friend of Israel:
Yesterday, I was pleased to meet with officials from the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Center for Near East Policy Research to receive a report detailing how the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) allows inflammatory anti-Israel and anti-Semitic bias to be written into textbooks used in their schools. It is time to hold UNRWA accountable for the promotion of violence against Israelis and Jews that is poisoning the minds of Palestinian children.

This groundbreaking report was written by Arabic scholar Dr. Aaron Groiss and Israeli Defense Forces Lt. Col. Jonathan Halevi, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. David Bedein, the CEO of the Center for Near East Policy Research and Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, were also in attendance. The group is presenting the same report to U.N. Secretary General Guterres' office in New York City today.

All funding for UNRWA should be cut until reform conditions are met. Textbooks that delegitimize Israel, denigrate the Jewish people, promote the “right of return” through violent struggle, and glorify martyrdom must be banned. I have introduced two bills in Congress to reform the United Nations, and investigate how U.S. taxpayer dollars are spent in the international organization. H.R. 263, the United States Sovereignty and Commercial Freedom Act, states that U.N. Security Council Resolution 2334, which deemed Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem illegal, should have no effect under U.S. law. H.R. 264, the United Nations Review and Accounting Act, prevents U.S. funds from being transferred to the United Nations until Congress receives a comprehensive report on U.S. contributions to the U.N.

I hope that both of my bills are passed in the U.S. House of Representatives because it is imperative America stands with moral clarity in support of Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. The publication of this report marks the beginning of an important process to bring about much needed reform to UNRWA, and I look forward to sharing it with my colleagues in Congress and the State Department.

Congressman Doug Lamborn (CO-05)
Released in Shalit Deal, a pious Pal Arab murderer is going back (too late) to life in an Israeli prison
Another beneficiary of the catastrophic 2011 Shalit Deal was re-sentenced yesterday by an Israeli court. This has gotten only minor media attention, even here in Israel. That's a great pity. It highlights some lessons worth learning.

First about the deal. We're referring to the massive act of terrorist extortion that induced Israel to allow 1,027 convicted terrorists, fully half of them (by our careful count) convicted murderers or attempted murderers, to walk free in October 2011. This was done, we were told at the time, to secure the release from Hamas of an Israeli hostage, Gilad Shalit. Both of us (Frimet and Arnold Roth) put a lot of time, energy and effort into trying to persuade the public that this was a very, very bad idea.

And that one person in particular should never have been released. See "14-Oct-11: Please sign a petition to keep this particular terrorist behind bars" and "15-Oct-11: Video: The murderer of our child says: "I don't regret anything""]

Could the terrible results of the catastrophic Shalit Deal have been avoided? It's a question that has haunted us since the terrible deed was done.
Police, Shin Bet investigate suspected murder of Jewish man in Israeli Arab city
The body of a Jewish man from the West Bank settlement of Elkana was discovered with stab wounds on Wednesday in a storage space near the Israeli Arab city of Kafr Qassem a half-hour’s drive away.

Police suspect Reuven Schmerling was murdered at a local business in the town’s industrial zone. The Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, said it was investigating.

The motive was still unclear but the Shin Bet said it was checking whether the suspected murder was perpetrated for nationalistic reasons.

According to initial reports, Schmerling owned a business in the city, about 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) east of Tel Aviv.

Police initially suspected that a row between Schmerling and his workers may have been behind the incident, Channel 10 News reported. Police later said they were exploring all avenues and searching for people who were in the area at the time Schmerling was killed.
Israel’s defense minister says Syria’s Assad has won the civil war
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Tuesday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been “victorious” in Syria’s civil war and was now being courted by former enemies.

“Assad has emerged victorious in the battle,” Lieberman told Hebrew media news website Walla!.

“Suddenly, everyone wants to get closer to Assad,” he said.

“I see that there is now a long line of countries applauding and wooing Assad, including Western (and) moderate Sunni Muslim (states).”

Assad’s fortunes have changed dramatically since Russia launched a military intervention to shore up his forces in 2015 and he now appears well on top after a series of key victories.

Israel has previously called on Assad to step down, but officials have sought to avoid getting too heavily involved in the conflict.
Netanyahu Demands Palestinians Recognize Israel, Disarm Hamas
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke out on Tuesday against efforts by the rival Palestinian factions Fatah and the Gaza-ruling terror group Hamas to form a unity government.

Netanyahu’s statements came as Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah visited Gaza for the first time since 2014, with the Fatah-ruled PA and Hamas initiating the first steps in forming joint governance.

“We have a very straightforward attitude toward anyone who wants to effect such a reconciliation: recognize the State of Israel, dismantle Hamas’s military wing, sever the relationship with Iran, which calls for our destruction,” said Netanyahu, speaking from the city of Ma’ale Adumim in the West Bank.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas, in an interview Monday with the Egyptian television station CBC, also demanded the disarming of Hamas. Abbas said would not allow the terror group to keep its weapons and armed brigades if control of Gaza is transferred to the PA under the framework of a unity government.

“All control needs to be in the hands of the PA,” said Abbas. “The organizations in Gaza needs to relinquish their weapons. We want to be one state, with one governing body, with one law, and one military body.”
Top Arab MK calls Hamas leader to applaud reconciliation talks
Joint (Arab) List party leader Ayman Odeh on Tuesday night called Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads the Fatah movement, to congratulate them on the reconciliation talks between their respective movements.

According to a statement, Odeh stressed in both conversations that “all efforts must be made to unite and overcome any disputes in order to end the Israeli occupation.”

Haniyeh told the Israeli lawmaker, whose party holds 13 seats in the Knesset, that he appreciated the conversation as it represents the feelings of the Palestinian people everywhere, according to the statement. He also emphasized his goal of ending the disputes with Abbas’s Fatah and unifying Palestinians against “the occupation,” the statement said.

In response, Deputy Minister for Public Diplomacy Michael Oren (Kulanu) called for a police investigation of Odeh. “This likely violates Israeli law and must be investigated,” he said of the phone call with the Hamas leader.
EU representatives commend Fatah-Hamas reconciliation talks
The European Union Heads of Mission in Jerusalem and Ramallah have commended leaders on the recent reconciliation talks between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and the PA's cabinet traveled to Gaza earlier this week to hold a meeting with Hamas ministers.The larger focus of the meeting was to discuss territorial divisions of the West Bank and Gaza and how the PA would take over the latter. Despite little progress on this - and Israel's firm stance that it will not accept any conclusions reached by the various Palestinian leaders - the EU representatives celebrated the push by the PA to "assume its responsibilities in Gaza.''

The EU representatives also encouraged unfettered access for the Palestinians to humanitarian aid and ''a fundamental change tot he political, security, and economic situation in Gaza, including an end of the closure and a full opening of the crossing points, while addressing Israel's legitimate security concerns.'' The press release from the EU representatives made no mention of Egyptian security concerns.

Also on the agenda was including the PA's request that Hamas disarm, a request that has been firmly denied by the group's political chief, Ismail Haniyeh.
As Hamas sticks to its guns, Abbas pours cold water on reconciliation efforts
The Palestinian Authority government, headed by premier Rami Hamdallah, convened in the Gaza Strip Tuesday morning for the first time in three years.

After the celebratory pictures and many handshakes, the government reached its first decision: the sanctions Hamdallah’s government has imposed on the enclave will not be removed until representatives of the Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas meet in Cairo next week, at the earliest.

In other words: Let’s first see what Hamas has to offer and then we’ll talk. There is no such as thing as a free lunch, and PA President Mahmoud Abbas wants to make sure Hamas knows it.

While Egypt’s intelligence services were trying to organize a show of unity in Gaza, Abbas poured cold water on the Hamas, Egypt and even senior Fatah officials who had traveled to the Strip.

In an interview late Monday with the Egyptian news station CBC, Abbas delivered a message to all those concerned: The path to reconciliation is long and hinges on one key point — Hamas’s guns.
Despite Jewish alarm, Britain refuses to outlaw pro-Hezbollah demonstration
The United Kingdom’s home secretary rejected in early September London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s request to ban the annual al-Quds Day march because it is a pro-Hezbollah demonstration that promotes antisemitism and support for terrorism.

“The group that reportedly organized the parade, the Islamic Human Rights Commission, is not a proscribed terrorist organization. This means they can express their views and demonstrate, provided that they do so within the law,” wrote Home Secretary Amber Rudd in a letter to Khan that was first published Monday on the website of The Jewish Chronicle.

According to the London newspaper, a source close to Khan said he was “extremely disappointed” that the Home Secretary will allow the al-Quds Day march to continue.

Rudd said: “The flag for the [Hezbollah] organization’s military wing is the same as the flag for its political wing. Therefore, for it to be an offense under Section 13 of the Terrorism Act of 2000, for an individual to display the Hezbollah flag, the context and manner in which the flag is displayed must demonstrate that it is specifically in support of the proscribed elements of the group.”

The United Kingdom banned Hezbollah’s entire military structure in 2008. The UK government said at the time: “Hezbollah’s military wing also provides support to Palestinian terrorist groups in the occupied Palestinian territories, such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”
Top Hezbollah commander killed fighting IS in Syria
Lebanon’s terror group Hezbollah says one of its top commanders has been killed while fighting Islamic State militants in Syria.

The 44-year-old Ali Al-Hadi Al-Ashiq is the latest fatality for the Shiite group that has fought alongside Syrian government forces in the civil war next door since 2012.

Hezbollah said on Wednesday that he was killed fighting IS in the central desert of Palmyra on Monday.

Hezbollah sent thousands of fighters to Syria, helping government forces in major battlefields victories against armed opposition and Islamic militants.

More than 1,000 Hezbollah fighters have been killed there.

Al-Ashiq, also known by his nickname Alhaj Abbas, was among the first Hezbollah commanders sent to Syria and he took part in the key battle in al-Qusair, near the Lebanese border.
With nuke threat rising, Iran deal trio seen as Nobel favorites
As the North Korean crisis rekindles the Cold War-era threat of nuclear catastrophe, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize could honor efforts to limit the spread of atomic weapons, several experts suggest.

With tensions between Washington and Pyongyang sending the risk of a nuclear confrontation soaring, the highlight of the Nobel awards season will be announced in Oslo on Friday at 11:00 a.m. (12 p.m. in Israel).

Who will bag the prestigious prize is anyone’s guess, as the names of candidates — a total of 318 this year — are by convention kept a closely guarded secret for 50 years.

After President Juan Manuel Santos won the prize last year for his efforts to bring peace to Colombia following a half-century-long conflict with rebel guerrillas, a peace prize honoring non-proliferation efforts would be appropriate this year, commentators say.

“The Nobel committee would make a big splash if it awarded the prize to the Iran nuclear deal,” said Asle Sveen, a peace prize historian.
To save face and Iran deal, US seeking ways around recertification minefield
The future of the Iran nuclear deal may hinge on a face-saving fix for President Donald Trump so he doesn’t have to recertify the Islamic Republic’s compliance every 90 days, according to US officials.

Several officials familiar with internal discussions say the periodic reviews mandated by Congress have become such a source of embarrassment for Trump that his national security aides are seeking ways for him to stop signing off on the seven-nation accord without scuttling it entirely.

The president has called the agreement one of America’s “worst and most one-sided transactions” ever. Officials say what Trump hates most, however, is a provision in a 2015 US law — known as the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act — that requires him to tell Congress every three months if Iran is meeting promises to scale back its nuclear program in exchange for broad international relief from oil, trade and financial sanctions.

Because the UN nuclear watchdog has found Iran in compliance, it’s difficult for the US administration to say otherwise.

But Trump has said repeatedly that he doesn’t want to certify Iranian compliance again after having done so twice already, declaring last month he even had made his mind up about what he’ll do next. “Decertification” could lead Congress to reintroduce economic sanctions on Iran that were suspended under the deal. If that happens, Iran has threatened to walk away from the arrangement and restart activities that could take it closer to nuclear weapons.
Iranian FM Zarif Says Europe Has His Back, Not Trump’s, on Future of Nuclear Deal
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif has bashed President Donald Trump ahead of what looks certain to become a showdown over the legacy of former President Barack Obama’s top foreign policy achievement — the Iran deal.

Zarif, a key architect of the 2015 accord, gave an interview to Politico that shed light on the fraught multilateral discussions the US, Europe, and Iran hold over the continued recertification of the Iran deal — and according to Zarif, Europe is taking his side.

Trump campaigned vigorously on the idea of ripping up the 2015 deal that prohibits Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons, but since he came into office he has paid relatively little attention to the agreement, instead focusing on North Korea’s burgeoning, unchecked nuclear advances.

But Trump has not forgotten his convictions.

Every 90 days the US has to confirm that Iran has complied with the terms of the deal. For the first six months of Trump’s presidency, he has gone through with the procedure, albeit begrudgingly, according to the Associated Press.

Reports, citing sources in the administration and the State Department, said Trump has been looking for a way out of the deal by drumming up “foolproof intelligence” that Iran has violated the deal.
Pro-Iran Deal Echo Chamber Struggles to Save Obama’s Iran Nuclear Accord
A prominent Washington, D.C. think-tank funded by a who's who of organizations that played a key role in misleading the American public about the nature of the landmark Iran nuclear deal will hold a massive forum aimed at preserving the accord, a sign that the so-called pro-Iran deal "echo chamber" is scrambling to save a deal President Donald Trump could kill in the coming weeks.

The Center for a New American Security, or CNAS, will hold a forum on Tuesday titled, "Consequences of a Collapse of the Iran Nuclear Deal," which will feature a plethora of prominent speakers advocating in favor of preserving the deal, including former senior Obama administration official, Colin Kahl, a chief proponent of the agreement.

The CNAS forum comes as the Trump administration inches closer to formally designating Iran as in violation of the deal due to its continued nuclear endeavors, arms buildup, and repeated test firing of ballistic missiles, among other activities.

CNAS played a key-role in what the Obama White House called its pro-Iran deal "echo chamber," a network of organizations and senior U.S. officials who publicly championed the deal and helped mislead the American people and Congress about the nature of the agreement.

CNAS is funded by several high-profile organizations and entities that have sought to benefit from the deal and ensure that it continues to be upheld by the Trump administration.
Mossad chief: Iran ‘closer than ever before’ to Israel’s borders
The head of the Mossad intelligence service warned on Monday that Iran, through its proxies, is operating closer “than ever before” to Israel’s borders with Lebanon and Syria, though he also said Israel was operating deep in enemy territory.

Spy chief Yossi Cohen said that in addition to arming the terrorist groups Hezbollah and Hamas, the Islamic Republic was working to develop its own nuclear capabilities with the goal of weaponizing them.

Cohen made his remarks at a ceremony in which six teams from the espionage service received a special commendation from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Due to the sensitivity of the operations, the details of the teams’ activities were kept secret.

However, the spymaster said that the ones chosen were representative of the type of missions the service is capable of carrying out.

According to Cohen, the intelligence service “carries out hundreds, thousands of activities every year — some of them complicated and deep within the heart of enemy countries.”

The comments were something of a rarity, as Cohen does not often speak in public forums.

He said his intelligence service is “focused only on the top national, security and political priorities.”

First on that list is Iran, according to Cohen.
Mattis: Staying in Iran nuclear deal is US national security interest
US Defense Secretary James Mattis told US senators on Tuesday the United States should remain a party in the Iran nuclear deal.

Asked at a Senate Armed Serviced Committee hearing by Sen. Angus King, an Independent from Maine who caucuses with the Democrats, whether he believed it was in America’s national security interests to stay in the deal, Mattis said: “Yes, senator, I do.”

“The point I would make is that if we can confirm that Iran is living by the agreement, if we can determine that this is in our best interest, then clearly we should stay with it,” Mattis later added. “I believe, at this point in time, absent indications to the contrary, it is something that the president should consider staying with.”

His comments came ahead of a looming October 15 deadline, when US President Donald Trump must report to Congress whether Tehran is abiding by the terms of the landmark pact forged under his predecessor.

For the last several months, Trump has signaled that he intends to decertify Iran and potentially exit the international accord.

“I think they’ll be noncompliant,” Trump told The Wall Street Journal in August. “I do not expect that they will be in compliance.”
Judge rules Iran must pay $63m to US ex-Marine imprisoned there
Iran must pay $63.5 million to a former US Marine who was jailed in that country for more than four years, according to a ruling by a US judge announced Monday.

Judge Ellen Huvelle of the US District Court in Washington, DC, on Friday granted Amir Hekmati’s motion for a default judgment after Iran failed to respond to the complaint. Hekmati, who was released in January 2016 as part of a prisoner exchange, alleged he was falsely imprisoned and tortured.

It’s unclear if Hekmati will get any of the money, which consists of economic and punitive damages as well as those for “pain and suffering” during and after imprisonment.

An email sent Monday by The Associated Press seeking comment from Hekmati’s family was not returned. Hekmati’s attorney Scott Gilbert said in a statement they are pleased with the decision, and “will do everything in our power to ensure that Amir’s claim is paid in full.”

Hekmati, who has said he went to Iran to visit family and spend time with his ailing grandmother, was detained in August 2011 on espionage charges. A death sentence was later overturned by Iran’s supreme court and he was instead given a 10-year sentence before his release.

Hekmati was born in Arizona and raised in Michigan. His family has lived in the Flint area.
Iran, Turkey vow to halt Iraqi Kurds' secession

The presidents of Iran and Turkey vowed during talks in Tehran on Wednesday to work closely together to prevent the disintegration of Iraq and Syria and to oppose the Iraqi Kurds' drive for independence.

Shi'ite Muslim Iran and mainly Sunni Muslim Turkey, a NATO member, have traditionally had cool relations but both have been alarmed by the Iraqi Kurds' vote for independence in a Sept. 25 referendum, fearing it will stoke separatism among their own Kurdish populations.

"We want security and stability in the Middle East ... The independence referendum in Iraq's Kurdistan is a sectarian plot by foreign countries and is rejected by Tehran and Ankara," Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said, according to state TV.

"We will not accept a change of borders under any circumstances."

Iran and Turkey have already threatened to join Baghdad in imposing economic sanctions on Iraqi Kurdistan and have launched joint military exercises with Iraqi troops on their borders with the separatist region.

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan, who is on a one-day trip to Tehran that will also include talks with Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Ankara was considering taking further measures against Iraqi Kurdistan.
Only 24 Jews remain in Turkish capital
The ancient Turkish community dates back to biblical times but today its 24 members struggle to make a minyan on Yom Kippur. Article in Haaretz (with thanks: Lily)

“The Jews of Ankara are so far and few between that I can fit them all around my dining room table,” says Israel's ambassador to Turkey, Eitan Na’eh, as he surveys the congregants for Yom Kippur services in the nearly empty synagogue.

Located in Ulus, the tumbling old quarter of Turkey’s capital, the synagogue dates back to the 19th century and was radically refurbished by an Italian architect in 1906. Na’eh is surrounded by a sea of little carpets that are laid out on the synagogue benches, which remain unoccupied throughout the holy day.

In 1923, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk proclaimed Ankara the capital of the newly founded Turkish republic, but the history of the city — and that of its Jewish community — date back much further.

The Jewish community of Ankara can be traced back to the biblical period. The Byzantine-era Jews, known as Romaniots, inhabited central Anatolia well before a wave of thousands of Sephardi Jews came to the region following their expulsion from Spain in 1492. The community peaked at about 5,000 members in the 1930s, according to researcher Enver Arcak, who has produced a new documentary, “Hermana,” (“Sister” in Spanish) on the history of the local Jews.

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