Thursday, May 09, 2019

From Ian:

A Looming Crisis in the Mideast
After raining down some 600 rockets that killed four Israelis this past week, the Netanyahu government responded with overwhelming force, deploying jet fighters to carry out multiple air strikes, killing 23 Gaza residents including a pregnant woman, according to Palestinian Authority officials. (The pregnant women and her child, however, are now confirmed as having been killed by a Palestinian rocket that feel short.)

And, so, the cycle of violence makes another cruel revolution. What makes the events of the past week different from earlier rockets-and-retaliation episodes? The reaction of Arab intellectuals and other thought leaders in Muslim world.

Consider the tweet of Dr. Turki Al-Hamad, a well-known Saudi author and thinker. He tweeted: "It's a repeating loop: rockets [are fired] from Gaza into Israel, Israel bombs [Gaza], someone or other mediates, the fighting stops – and the common Palestinian folks pay the price. This is 'resistance,' my friend. Iran and Turkey are in trouble, and the Palestinians are paying the price."

Note his use of scare quotes around resistance and his willingness to blame Iran and Turkey, two Muslim-majority nations, instead of the Jewish state. This marks a real rhetorical change.

And many influential Arab voices echoed the thoughts of Dr. Al-Hamad.

Muhammad Aal Al-Sheikh, a frequent contributor to the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah, tweeted: "The Persian ayatollahs have instructed their servants, Hamas, to escalate [the conflict] with Israel, and they obeyed. The result is seven Palestinians dead, versus one Israeli wounded. [The death toll increased after his tweet.] The Persians are tightening the pressure on the U.S. and Israel in retaliation for Trump's decision, and the victims are the people of Gaza."
Khaled Abu Toameh: The Middle East Anti-Peace Movement
[The Jordanian mayor] went on to say that he believes in the "liberation of Palestine, from the [Mediterranean] Sea to the [Jordan] River" – meaning that he supports the elimination of Israel.

The campaign against the Jordanian mayor is the direct result of anti-Israel incitement in Jordan and most of the Arab and Islamic states. While some of the leaders of these countries may appear to be relatively moderate in their views towards Israel, their people continue to reject any form of normalization with the "Zionist enemy."

For decades, Arab and Muslim leaders have been radicalizing their people on a daily basis against Israel. They have delegitimized Israel in the eyes of their people to a point where they can no longer be seen talking to or making peace with Israelis.

One is left wondering how any Arab leader would accept any peace plan with Israel when a mayor is being widely condemned and shamed for being caught on camera in the company of Israelis.

In order to achieve peace with Israel, Arab and Muslim leaders need to start preparing their people for peace, and not inciting them against Israel.

The War for the Golan Heights
When Syrian and Egyptian forces launched simultaneous attacks on Israel on Yom Kippur of 1973, the IDF found itself woefully unprepared. The high command, just ten days before the war began, finally acted on repeated warnings of imminent war and ordered Colonel Avigdor Ben-Gal to move his tank brigade from the Sinai to the Golan Heights; the last units were still arriving when the fighting began. Even with Ben-Gal’s tanks, Israel had a single, understrength division on the Golan, which faced an onslaught from three battle-ready Syrian armored divisions. Abraham Rabinovich tells the story of how Ben-Gal’s troops held the line:

The Syrians calculated that Israeli reserve units could not reach the Golan in less than 24 hours. Damascus expected to capture the Heights before then. Until Israel’s reserves joined the battle, the main burden of holding the enemy at bay would fall upon young conscripts—draftees—and their regular army commanders.

Informed by [his superiors] at 10 a.m. on Yom Kippur of the warning [that Syria would attack], Ben-Gal summoned his battalion and company commanders by radio to a meeting at the main army base in the northern Golan, Nafakh. . . . The officers would meet again at 2 p.m., by which time the situation might be clearer. With that, the brigade commander drove to the front. . . . The officers were just arriving for the 2 p.m. meeting when MiGs dropped bombs on the camp. “Everyone to your tanks,” Ben-Gal shouted. A sentry already lay dead at the gateway. . . .

After days of [intense fighting], Ben-Gal’s control was unraveling as officers were hit and orders not passed on. There appeared to be no alternative but to have the tanks fall back. Even if they managed to outrace the Syrians to a new line, however, they would not be able to hold it for more than half an hour, he estimated, in the absence of proper defensive positions. He decided on a last desperate bid to shore up the collapsing line. . . .


The bid worked, and the remnants of the brigade managed to hold the northern Golan for five days, at which point reinforcements arrived and the Syrians retreated. Three-quarters of Ben-Gal’s tank crews were killed or wounded; he managed to get the survivors a one-day respite before beginning a counterattack.



Col Richard Kemp: Trump is right – the Iran deal is dead, and it's time to contemplate the unthinkable
How should the Europeans react to Rouhani’s ultimatum? By immediately reimposing their own sanctions against Tehran. They should not wait until his 60-day deadline expires, in case he lets it pass as with other deadlines. This would save face: it would not be in response to Trump’s demands but Rouhani’s. We can expect Tehran’s angry reaction. But it could possibly see the start of a long, hard road to achieving a new deal — one that actually achieves its objectives. The US currently remains open to that possibility.

More likely the ayatollahs would refuse any further deal-making. In any case no deal with the current Iranian regime is worth the paper it’s written on. They see nuclear weapons as their divine right and will never willingly give it up. In reality there are only two ways to prevent a nuclear Iran.

The first is to force them to cease or at least curtail their nuclear project through economic hardship and risk of regime overthrow. A renewal of comprehensive international sanctions could achieve that. It brought them to the negotiating table in the first place and renewed US sanctions led to Rouhani’s ultimatum. Economic suffering caused, in recent months, the widest-ranging protests against the regime since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

The second is military action. Of course that is not a path anyone in their right mind would want to follow. But the stakes could not be higher. A nuclear-armed Iran with an intercontinental ballistic missile programme would threaten not just the region but Europe and the US. It would also give impetus to a regional nuclear arms race that is already under starters orders involving Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey. And once Tehran gained nuclear weapons military action would no longer be on the cards.
Most Israelis Disagree With Alan Dershowitz’s Support for a Palestinian State
ZOA was pleased to honor professor emeritus of Harvard University Law School Alan Dershowitz at a recent ZOA gala. Nevertheless, we disagree with his advocacy for creating a Palestinian-Arab state. It will be an Iranian-Hamas proxy terrorist regime threatening Israel.

The respected Israeli BESA Center recently explained that a Palestinian state would be a grave danger to Israel’s security. It would be the self-inflicted “disaster of the century” to confer statehood on a regime that pays Arabs to murder Jews; calls for spilling Jewish and Christian blood; refuses to accept Israel within any borders; admits sending terrorists to kill Jews; and calls stabbing Jews a “peaceful, popular uprising.”

We thus must respond to Dershowitz’s April 17 op-ed on this issue.

First, Dershowitz mistakenly labels opposing a Palestinian-Arab state an “extreme position” and favoring such a state a “centrist” position. In fact, Israeli surveys reveal that opposing a Palestinian-Arab state is the sane, centrist, overwhelming view. Only a minority support the creation of a Palestinian-Arab state.

For instance, the March 2019 Geocartographia poll found that more than 73 percent of Israelis oppose creating a Palestinian-Arab state. The 2019 Haaretz poll showed that only one-third (34 percent) preferred a “two-state solution,” even though 25 percent of that poll’s respondents were mostly Arabs. And the 2017 Maagar Mochot poll found that an overwhelming 10-1 majority of Israelis oppose a Palestinian-Arab state and favor Israel sovereignty over Judea-Samaria.

Second, Dershowitz wrongly states that Israel’s Declaration of Independence was “based on the [November 1947 UN] partition plan.” In fact, Israel’s Declaration of Independence never mentioned partition.
The World Ignored Israel’s Restraint in Gaza — and the Larger Story
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), BDS leader Yousef Munayyer, and other anti-Israel activists claimed that Israel was using disproportionate force and intentionally harming civilians. Tlaib accused Israel of unjustly oppressing and targeting “Palestinian children and [their] families.”

However, the exact opposite is true. Israel’s targeting was highly selective.

Indeed, the IDF’s targeting — and its intelligence — enabled the Jewish state to take out huge swaths of the terrorists’ infrastructure, while largely avoiding any civilian casualties.

A May 7 analysis by the ITIC found that of the 23 Palestinians killed before the May 6 cease-fire was reached, at least 17 — about 74 percent — have been linked to terrorist groups. This is a level of selective targeting that many — including the US and its allies in their anti-ISIS campaign — could only dream of.

Although many news reports failed to mention it, the IDF took drastic steps to prevent civilian casualties. Israel not only carried out precision strikes against high-value targets, but it frequently employed “roof knocking,” an IDF-developed practice of dropping non-explosive devices on the roofs of buildings prior to a strike. The IDF has used roof knocking for more than 10 years as a means of warning civilians of imminent bombing attacks, and to give them time to flee (even though this can also help terrorists and genuine targets escape).

No other nation in the region — and indeed, few in the world — employ “roof knocking.” The US itself didn’t adopt the tactic until 2016, when fighting ISIS, which, like Hamas and PIJ, uses human shields and stores its weaponry in the houses of civilians.

It is certainly newsworthy that a small country surrounded by terrorists ceaselessly seeking its destruction, expends the time, effort, money, and innovation to prevent civilian casualties. This is particularly true when one considers that Israel’s terrorist opponents have precisely the opposite objective.

After the 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas, then-chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey remarked that Israel went to “extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and civilian casualties.” Dempsey cited “roof knocking” and the IDF’s practice of dropping warning leaflets as proof. As the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) documented, Dempsey’s comments were widely ignored by major news outlets.

Five years later, Hamas’ tactics remain unchanged. Regrettably, so too does the media’s inability — or perhaps unwillingness — to honestly cover them, or to give Israel’s measured response the column space that it deserves.
'New State' Delusion: A Greater Gaza Would Be as Bad as It Sounds
All of this is academic, however, because there’s no evidence that President Sisi (or any other conceivable Egyptian ruler) would be willing to donate a major chunk of Sinai — hallowed ground for which thousands of Egyptian soldiers died fighting.

New Staters say Egypt would receive “massive global investment,” “international security assistance,” and a “place at the center of regional and even global leadership.” Don’t count on it. Using Egyptian territory, in effect, to resettle Palestinian “refugees” would violate a deep-seated taboo, which is one reason Sisi’s Islamist enemies often accuse him of scheming to do just that.

Sisi’s sole legitimacy to replace the Muslim Brotherhood rule was to stop Palestinians from acquiring land in Sinai. As minister of defense under Mohammed Morsi’s rule, Sisi issued a law that forbids foreign nationals from owning land in “strategic areas of military importance.” According to the Youm el-Sabeh newspaper, this legislation reportedly was a reaction to Morsi’s opening the borders with Gaza and giving Egyptian citizenship to 50,000 Palestinians.

Additionally, Egypt’s economy would be devastated by this plan. Drilling rights for natural gas in the North El Arish and Zohr offshore fields of the Levant basin would be handed over to the New State if Egypt were to cede territory. The loss could amount to billions of dollars in foreign currency for the Egyptian treasury. Portions of the Arab Gas Pipeline, and the entirety of the Arish-Ashkelon pipeline, significant sources of tax remittances for the Egyptian government, would be cut off from Egypt under the New State solution.

The Egyptian president surely cringes at the fact that a well-organized advocacy group thinks he’s ideal for the role.

It comes as no surprise, then, that Qatar, a longtime ally of the Muslim Brotherhood and nemesis of Sisi and which is isolated by most moderate Sunni Arab governments, gave Anthony’s organization, Our Soldiers Speak (OSS), a $100,000 donation in October 2017. After receiving the funds, OSS fell victim to the old Qatari two-step: Al-Jazeera and other Qatari-funded media outlets have taken the lead in denouncing NSS, often exaggerating its influence as a way of discrediting Sisi.

Granting more land to Hamas will not change the vision of many Palestinians to eradicate Israel; it will energize the Islamists and spur them to wage greater jihad against the Jewish state.
Fmr. Mideast Envoy Dennis Ross: Focus on Reconstruction in Gaza to Avoid Future Escalation
A former Middle East negotiator, who served both Democratic and Republican administrations, said the latest flare-up in Gaza was a threat against U.S. interests and those of its allies – orchestrated by the Islamist terrorist group, Hamas and its Iranian patrons – in the face of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure campaign” against the regime in Tehran.

In a conference call organized by The Israel Project, which publishes The Tower, Dennis Ross said on Wednesday that Hamas, which exercises complete political and military control over the Gaza Strip, was responsible for the latest escalation triggered by sniper fire from Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Ross warned that an Israeli ground incursion into Gaza, which he said was “ultimately the only way to stop the rocket fire,” would likely result in the deaths of a “significant number of Israeli soldiers” because Palestinian terrorist organizations use the civilian population as human shields for their fighters and weapons.

This, he observed, creates a moral and strategic “dilemma” for Israel, which Hamas and other Iranian-sponsored proxies exploit. The question, Ross said, is what can be done to “change this dynamic.

Although there are no simple answers, Ross noted “one interesting new factor in the equation” – street demonstrations in Gaza, which took place last month against the terror group and the dire economic conditions in the enclave. Therefore, Ross asserted, Hamas attacked Israel out of a position of weakness to divert attention from the internal situation in Gaza.
Jewish voters overwhelmingly prefer Biden as US Democratic nominee, poll finds
Jewish voters overwhelmingly favor former US Vice President Joe Biden over Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont as the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, a new poll has found.

In the survey conducted by Morning Consult and released on Monday, 47.1 percent of Jewish registered US voters planning to vote in a Democratic primary or caucus cited Biden as their first choice, while 11.1 % favored Sanders, who is Jewish.

The next three choices: Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, at 8.9%; Senator Kamala Harris of California, 8.2%; and Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, 7.3%.

Pollsters interviewed 15,770 registered voters who are planning to vote in a Democratic primary or caucus, 581 of whom identified as Jewish, between April 29 and May 5. The margin of error is 1 percentage point.

Biden, first elected senator in 1972, has cultivated close ties with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and appeared to weather the pro-Israel community’s tensions with the Obama administration over the Iran nuclear deal and other disagreements.

Sanders, an independent and self-described “democratic socialist,” has defended Israel from attacks by the left but is also frequently critical of its current right-wing government.
17 US Democratic lawmakers ask Netanyahu to stop deportation of HRW director
Seventeen Democrat members of Congress sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu imploring him to block the imminent deportation of Human Rights Watch’s director in Israel, saying they rely on the organization to monitor rights violations and that kicking out the worker would be bad for Israel’s image.

“To carry out our own human rights work and responsibilities in the US House of Representatives, we rely on the reports of Human Rights Watch for balanced accounts of human rights violations wherever they may occur, including here in the United States,” they wrote on April 30.

Deporting Omar Shakir, a US citizen, would “reinforce the impression that Israel is increasingly hostile to human rights defenders and the work of reputable international, Israeli and Palestinian human rights advocacy and research institutions,” the letter warned.

Among those who signed the letter were Reps James McGovern, Jackie Speier, Jan Schakowsky, Ilhan Omar, Steve Cohen, and Rashida Tlaib.
Rashida Tlaib sets dates for congressional visit to West Bank
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., set the dates for her congressional visit to the West Bank.

Tlaib, a Palestinian American, proposed the trip last year after she was elected to Congress for the first time as a counterbalance to Israel trips organized by the American Israel Education Foundation, an affiliate of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

On Wednesday, Jewish Insider posted the flier that Tlaib was distributing to promote the Aug. 17-22 trip.

A sponsor appears to be the Humpty Dumpty Institute, a development nonprofit.

Reps. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the majority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the minority leader, are set to lead the AIEF trips for their respective party’s freshmen this summer.
Former U.N. Spokesman Harasses Holocaust Museum Over Holocaust Remembrance Day
A former United Nations spokesman, replying to a five-day-old post about Holocaust Remembrance Day, demanded a Holocaust museum respond to a ten-year-old Israeli comment.

Chris Gunness was the spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

On Monday, Gunness found a Twitter post from Yad Vashem, a museum and center for Holocaust research. The post commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day, observed last Thursday.

The museum's full post, written on Holocaust Remembrance Day, read:

Each year, six Holocaust survivors are chosen to light torches in memory of the six million Jews who were murdered during the #Holocaust. Watch the stories of all 6 torch-lighters chosen for the 2019 Holocaust Remembrance Day State Opening Ceremony here

Gunness took the opportunity to demand comment on a former Israeli official's comment about a "shoah" against the Palestinians.
Putin adviser denies anti-Semitic theory about Ukraine’s Jewish president
An adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin denied floating an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, saying an op-ed he wrote was interpreted incorrectly.

Reports about Sergei Glazyev’s op-ed said he had suggested that Volodymyr Zelensky, the newly elected president of Ukraine, who is Jewish, is planning to replace ethnic Russians with Jews from Israel.

The reports on the op-ed, which was published Monday in the Zavtra news website, prompted an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson to call the op-ed “conspiratorial and anti-Semitic.”

But Glazyev on Wednesday rejected the accusation, saying he was the victim of a politically motivated misreading and that his op-ed did not mention Jews.

In the op-ed, Glazyev wrote that Zelensky, along with President Donald Trump and “the far-right forces in Israel,” could orchestrate “a massive move” in which the Russian population in eastern Ukraine would be cleared out and replaced “by the inhabitants of the Promised Land tired of the permanent war in the Middle East.”
Eurovision tickets going free to residents of South
The KAN public broadcaster will give free tickets to the semi-finals and to the rehearsals of the upcoming Eurovision to residents of the South.

KAN announced Thursday that the tickets will be available free of charge to those who live within 40km. of Gaza. The public broadcaster said the move was a "sign of support and appreciation" for the communities who were terrorized over the weekend by constant barrages of rocket fire.

The move is a double win for KAN, which has been struggling to sell tickets to the six rehearsal shows next week as well as to the two live semi-final shows. While tickets for the live grand finale sold out quickly, seats at all the remaining shows are still available.

High prices set by the public broadcaster appeared to drive away both tourists and locals. With just a few days until the first semi-final on Tuesday evening, more than 2,000 tickets to that show were still unsold. Such a state is unprecedented for a Eurovision, experts on the song contest have said. Sales to the rehearsals - two for each of the three live shows - have been even slower.

On Monday, Blue and White MK Zvika Hauser called on KAN to distribute the remaining tickets to the residents of the South, so that "their comfort will bring us a little comfort.”
Gaza artists call on Eurovision singers to boycott Israel
Palestinian artists are calling on Eurovision contestants to boycott the international music competition that Israel is hosting next week.

The Gaza Strip-based Palestinian Artists Association said Wednesday that Israel was using the event to “perpetuate oppression, promote injustice or whitewash a brutal apartheid regime.”

The artists cited the killing of over 60 Palestinians — 50 of whom were Hamas members, according to the terror group — during Gaza border protests and riots on May 14 last year, the same day Israel won the Eurovision, winning the right to host the 2019 edition.

The association held a sit-in outside the European Union’s Gaza office and wrote a letter of protest.

Palestinian terror groups fired almost 700 rockets at Israeli cities and communities over the weekend. Israel retaliated with airstrikes. Four Israeli civilians were killed, as well some 25 Palestinians, including at least 10 terrorists. The renewed violence threatened to disrupt the Eurovision festivities slated to begin May 14.
Israeli Arabs mark Palestinian ‘catastrophe’ of 1948 in annual march
Thousands of Arab Israelis on Thursday marked the “catastrophe” of Israel’s founding and the dispossession that accompanied the creation of the Jewish state in an annual march to the empty Palestinian village of Khubbayza in northern Israel.

The Nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic) is observed on May 15, but marches commemorating Palestinians who fled or were expelled from their homes during the War of Independence in 1948-9 are held annually on Israel’s Independence Day.

Participants in the march held near the city of Umm al-Fahm waved Palestinian flags and shouted slogans demanding the “right of return” for the tens of thousands of refugees and their descendants.

Khubbayza was captured by Jewish paramilitary forces in mid-1948. According to the Israeli group Zochrot, after the Wadi Ara area was incorporated into Israel, the remains of Khubbayza were razed by the Jewish National fund.

A number of lawmakers attend Thursday’s march, including MKs Ahmad Tibi and Ofer Kassif of the majority Arab Hadash-Ta’al faction.


Palestinian official lands in hot water for defending security coordination
A former Palestinian Authority minister has drawn strong condemnation from Palestinians for admitting that the PA conducts security coordination with Israel.

Ashraf Ajrami, who served as PA Minister for Prisoners Affairs between 2007 and 2009, said in an interview with i24 News that the Palestinians have “contributed to Israel’s security more than Israel contributed to the security of the Palestinians.”

Defending security coordination between the PA and Israel in the West Bank, Ajrami said: “This is not treason. There’s a basic Palestinian interest in maintaining security and stability in the Palestinian Authority so that the Palestinians would be able to build their economy.”

Following the interview, many Palestinians took to social media to voice their condemnation of Ajrami and called for his punishment.

The PA leadership has long been facing sharp criticism from many Palestinians for its policy of conducting security coordination. PLO and Fatah institutions have advised that the PA suspend security coordination with Israel, while many Palestinians view it as a form of treason and collaboration.

In 2014, PA President Mahmoud Abbas was strongly criticized by Palestinians for stating that security coordination with Israel was “sacred.” Abbas’s statement came during a meeting in Ramallah with Israeli peace activists.

Ajrami has previously been accused by Palestinians of promoting normalization with Israel because of his recurrent meetings with Israelis. He is also a member of the Palestinian committee for “interaction with Israeli society,” a body that regularly organizes visits by Israelis to Ramallah for meetings with Israeli officials.
Iran partially quits nuke deal, threatens to resume high-level enrichment
Iran threatened Wednesday to enrich its uranium stockpile closer to weapons-grade levels in 60 days if world powers fail to negotiate new terms for its 2015 nuclear deal, raising regional tensions as a U.S. aircraft carrier and bombers headed to the Middle East to confront Tehran.

A televised address by President Hassan Rouhani, who once pledged that the landmark deal would draw Iran closer to the West, saw the cleric instead pressure Europe to shield Tehran from the sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump withdrawing the U.S. from the agreement exactly a year earlier.

Rouhani’s threats put the world on notice that it cannot continue to rely on Iran complying with terms of the unraveling deal in the coming weeks.

Rouhani compared the situation to a medical emergency for the Islamic Republic, only 40 years after its founding.

“We felt that the nuclear deal needs a surgery, and the painkiller pills of the last year have been ineffective,” Rouhani said. “This surgery is for saving the deal, not destroying it.”

Iran on Wednesday stopped its sale of excess uranium and heavy water as a first step, Rouhani said, something required under the deal. The US last week ended deals allowing Iran to exchange its enriched uranium for unrefined yellowcake uranium with Russia, and to sell its heavy water, which is used as a coolant in nuclear reactors, to Oman.


Trump Vows ‘Tougher Sanctions Than Ever Before’ on Anniversary of Nixing Iran Nuclear Deal
On the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump abandoning the landmark nuclear agreement with Iran, the White House vowed to impose "tougher sanctions on Iran than ever before" for its continued nuclear buildup and sponsorship of global terror operations, according to the White House.

Referring to the deal negotiated by former President Barack Obama and abandoned by Trump as "the worse deal ever negotiated," the White House promised to continue imposing crippling sanctions on the regime in a bid to collapse it. Already, the United States has denied Iran some $10 billion in cash windfalls from its crude oil industry.

Iran continues to pursue nuclear weapons, despite its claims otherwise, according to the White House, which announced a new salvo of sanctions on Wednesday on Iran's iron, steel, aluminum, and copper sectors.

Relations between the United States and Tehran have reached new lows as the Trump administration seeks to squeeze its already teetering economy. After issuing a recent round of sanctions designating Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps, or IRGC, the regime's paramilitary force, Tehran has amped up its anti-American rhetoric and defied international bans on its most sensitive nuclear work, particularly regulations barring it from stockpiling enrich uranium, the key component in a weapon.
Iran, EU Close to Signing Oil Deal Despite US Sanctions
Iran is close to reaching an oil sales deal with the European Union, in direct violation of the U.S. sanctions, Reuters reported. The EU and Iran were “on the brink” of an oil agreement, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif confirmed Tuesday.

The news comes days after Britain and the EU came out openly against the Trump administration’s recent decision to restrict further waivers on oil imports from Tehran. Last week, European countries renewed their pledge to keep the Obama-era nuclear deal with the Islamic regime afloat despite the U.S. withdrawal exactly a year ago on May 8, 2018.

The EU along with the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany issued a joint statement expressing “concern” over the U.S. move “not to fully renew waivers for nuclear nonproliferation projects in the framework (or the 2015 Iran Deal).”

Reuters reported the impeding EU-Iran oil deal:

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Russian news agency RIA on Tuesday that Iran was close to an oil sales deal with the European Union, despite the sanctions which have been re-imposed by the United States.

“Iran and the EU are on the brink of agreement, which, despite the return of unilateral American sanctions, will make Iranian oil sales possible,” he was quoted as saying.


The Iranian announcement coincides with the German government’s admission that the European payment mechanism designed to circumvent U.S. sanction was nearing completion. “Currently, the last steps need to be taken for this corporation to be able to operate – that includes Iran making the necessary preparations on its side,” Chancellor Angela Merkel’s personal spokesman disclosed at a regular news conference Wednesday.
Iran gives Europe sixty days to step up to demands
Iranian media reported on Wednesday that the Islamic Republic was increasingly seeking to pressure European countries to come to terms with Tehran’s demands under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or ‘Iran Deal.’ Effectively Iran is saying that it is monitoring European actions over the next 60 days and that it is time for European countries to “fulfill their commitments” or Iran’s behavior could become “unpredictable.” Iran announced this week a partial withdrawal from the deal.

In an interview with ISNA Hossein Naghavi-Hosseini discussed a recent statement from the Supreme National Security Council about Iran’s upcoming actions. He indicated that not only the US had walked away from the deal but that other western states were not upholding their end of the bargain. He termed it a failure of European countries to live up to their side of the agreement. Nahghazi-Hosseini is a conservative politician in the parliament. “We will monitor European actions within 60 days,” he said.

Iranian media present the decision of Iran to begin preparations for a greater withdrawal from the deal as a way to pressure not only Europe but also other countries to come to terms with Tehran. The concept is to create a cleavage between the western powers and other states such as Russia, Turkey and China, and get those countries to also pressure Europe to do more for Iran. It is a complex game of chess combined with setting in motion a potential crises over the summer. Mehr News says that the recent comments by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani are raising eyebrows in the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China.
EU rejects any ultimatums after Iran's move on nuclear deal
European countries said on Thursday they wanted to preserve Iran's nuclear deal and rejected "ultimatums" from Tehran, after Iran scaled back curbs on its nuclear program and threatened moves that might breach the pact.

Iran announced steps on Wednesday to ease curbs on its nuclear program, in response to new U.S. sanctions imposed after Washington abandoned the deal a year ago.

Tehran's initial moves do not appear to violate the accord yet, but President Hassan Rouhani said that unless world powers protect Iran's economy from U.S. sanctions within 60 days, Iran would start enriching uranium beyond permitted limits.

"We reject any ultimatums and we will assess Iran's compliance on the basis of Iran's performance regarding its nuclear-related commitments...," read a statement issued jointly by the European Union and the foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany.

"We are determined to continue pursuing efforts to enable the continuation of legitimate trade with Iran," said the European states, adding that included getting a special purpose vehicle aimed at enabling business with Iran off the ground.
Cotton Warns Europe, Businesses Against Caving Into Iran’s ‘Nuclear Blackmail’
Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) warned European allies and international business community members against giving into Iran's "nuclear blackmail" on Wednesday as he marked the one-year anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal.

Cotton, who fiercely opposed the Obama administration's efforts to pass the deal, discussed the latest belligerent behavior out of Tehran in a speech on the Senate floor and wished the Islamic Republic's leaders a "Happy Anniversary."

"Just this morning, Iran threatened to renew its rush to the bomb, stockpiling more uranium and producing more heavy water, even threatening to enrich nuclear fuel to dangerous levels in the months ahead if the civilized world does not cave to its demands," Cotton said. "But we know better than to cave into the ayatollahs. The United States will remain steadfast in our pressure campaign against Iran until that regime abandons its nuclear and missile program and its support for terrorism."

"As for our European allies and partners, and members of the business community abroad, I hope Iran’s threats serve as a needed wakeup call. Any attempt to invest in Iran's market, under any circumstances other than Iran’s complete and verifiable cessation of its full range of malign activities, will be fraught with huge legal and financial risks. Huge risks," he added. "Businesses shouldn’t put themselves in that compromising position, and European partners shouldn’t give in to Iran’s high-stakes nuclear blackmail."




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