Friday, September 13, 2019

From Ian:

Melanie Phillips: Boltonism must not be allowed to disappear
Even when Iran was killing American and British soldiers in Iraq, or when its proxy army Hezbollah bombed the US embassy in Beirut in 1983, and the Israel embassy, and a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1992 and 1994, the West failed to treat these as acts of war.

It failed to do so even after Iran seized a British-registered oil tanker this summer in the Strait of Hormuz and harassed other commercial shipping there.

It was revealed this week that two British-Australian women and one man have been arrested and jailed in Iran, adding to a growing number of British nationals being effectively held as hostages in Iranian jails.

And yet, Britain has not only been a principal cheerleader for the Obama nuclear deal but, along with the European Union, is seeking ruses to get round the sanctions on Iran reimposed by America.

It is still possible that Trump will hold firm against Iran. If he does not, Israel will act alone to defend itself if that becomes unavoidable; and if that happens, the United States will find itself unavoidably sucked into a terrible war.

John Bolton’s steady and clear-minded focus on preventing this from happening was a standing rebuke to the feeble-minded West that has supinely stood by as this unconscionable threat by the Iranian regime has remorselessly increased.

Bolton has now left the West Wing; but Boltonism — the strategic grasp of how to defend the West against its mortal foes — must not be allowed to disappear with him.

With Bolton’s departure, the world has not become a safer place. It has become far more dangerous.

Caroline Glick: Israel and John Bolton’s departure
From the day he took up his duties a year and a half ago as Trump’s third national security adviser, Bolton was under assault. The campaign against Bolton was initiated by the Iranian regime.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blamed poor US-Iran relations on Bolton, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Zarif’s campaign was quickly joined by Obama administration officials who took to the US media parroting the same allegations. The Iranians, by their telling, were guileless lambs. The big bad wolves were Bolton, Netanyahu, and the crown prince.

In recent months, as Iran stepped up its aggression against international shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, the attacks against Bolton were joined by members of the isolationist wing of the Republican Party led by Fox News host Tucker Carlson and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul.

It is true that Bolton is known as a prickly policymaker, out of his element in the Trump world. But it is also true that Trump and Bolton agreed far more than they disagreed. Unfortunately, every time there was a dispute between the two men, former President Barack Obama's carry-overs in government and their allies outside government from the Obama administration and the media were quick to report those disagreements and angrily slander Bolton as a warmonger and a mercenary who had neither America’s nor the president’s best interests at heart.

The allegations were entirely false. But their force and volume transformed every normal and entirely legitimate disagreement between Bolton and Trump into a major, widely reported event.

Under the circumstances, it was probably a foregone conclusion that Bolton’s days would be numbered.

In other words, Bolton’s departure had more to do with the stress of working in the toxic environment in Washington than with a change in Trump’s basic predisposition regarding foreign policy.
JPost Editorial: Fair-weather friend
Asked on Wednesday whether the US would ease up its “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, Trump left open the possibility that he would ease sanctions, saying “We’ll see what happens.”

“I do believe they’d like to make a deal,” Trump added. “If they do, that’s great. If they don’t, that’s great too.”

Not long after, The Daily Beast reported that Trump is also open to a proposal from Macron to extend a $15b. line of credit to the Iranians if they comply with the Iran Deal.

These recent developments follow a trend that is extremely dangerous, and it appears that there is no longer someone in the White House fighting Iran.

Iran has never stopped cheating, and sanctions have been putting the necessary pressure on the regime. Lifting them now would squander all of Trump’s work before Tehran is ready to make real concessions. And a $15b. credit infusion would allow Iran to bolster its sponsorship of terrorism across the Middle East.

Trump has, thus far, been a good friend to Israel. Most of the Israeli political spectrum views his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and of the Golan Heights as part of Israel to be extremely positive; and while he plans to present his “Deal of the Century” later this month, he is not expected to put undue pressure on Israel.

But if Trump were to repeat his performance with Pyongyang – talking tough about North Korea before negotiating weakly without following up – in the Iranian arena, he would be putting Israel in great danger.

Trump needs to be a true friend to Israel, and not a fair-weather friend that would pander to those who seek to destroy us. The Iranian threat not only endangers Israel; it is a matter of national security, and, as Netanyahu said, the way to handle it is through “pressure, pressure and more pressure.”



NYPost Editorial: Netanyahu exposes more of Iran’s lies
His message to the “tyrants of Tehran”: “Israel knows what you’re doing … and will continue to expose your lies.”

His message to the rest of the world: Iran’s “consistent pattern of lies, deception and violations” about its nuclear weapons program is ample reason “to join President Trump’s sanctions to exert more pressure on Iran. The only way to stop Iran’s march to the bomb . . . is pressure, pressure and more pressure.”

Critics painted Netanyahu’s announcement as a ploy heading into next week’s Israeli elections. In fact, it was an answer to Iran’s ongoing efforts to restore its privileges under the nuke deal: Just days earlier, for example, its foreign minister threatened to resume research that Tehran (supposedly) had suspended under the agreement.

He wasn’t playing domestic politics, just fighting back against Iran’s relentless drive to manipulate European and US politicians into letting it off the hook.
Iranian, Hizbullah Escalations Force Israel to Rewrite Self-Defense Rules
Iran is concentrating all its resources today trying to save the formidable benefits it gained in the Iran nuclear deal (the JCPOA). In the eyes of the Islamic regime in Tehran, the deal is worth keeping even after the U.S. withdrawal because it allows Iran to move safely towards attaining a large arsenal of nuclear weapons in 11 years.

It could not make it to the first bomb before the deal, because Iran could not safely cross the threshold between accumulating enough enriched uranium to produce a bomb and actually making one. In addition, the deal legitimized Iranian efforts to develop long-range missiles and its wide intervention in Middle Eastern countries, and provided Iran with the financial resources necessary to pursue these policies.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei reacted to the American maximum pressure by turning to brinkmanship - taking action that clearly demonstrates to the U.S. that pressuring Iran is costly and could trigger unwanted escalation. He hopes to force the U.S. to succumb to Iranian pressure and ease the sanctions to avoid escalation.

Israel always considered the JCPOA as a dangerous and disastrous deal. It wants to make sure that the U.S. preserves its position of strength if and when negotiations with Iran start on a new agreement.

Iran's multi-national arms build-up forced Israel to alter its defensive strategies, triggering new and aggressive actions in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, where Iran stores medium-range rockets that can reach Israel at camps controlled by Shiite militias. It is understood in the region that Israel was forced to behave this way by Iran.

Israel has proved again that it enjoys a profound intelligence dominance (manifested by the Mossad seizing the nuclear archives from Tehran) and air superiority over Iran and its proxies. Israel has shown that it can protect itself and foil attempts to hurt it. Israel also proved beyond a shadow of a doubt to be a strategic asset for the U.S., for the pragmatic Arab states, and for the liberal democracies.
Daniel Pipes: How China Disrupts the Middle East
In the Middle East, this has meant that the Chinese government's ambitions have grown in the past five years from merely buying energy and selling arms to a far deeper involvement. Symbolic of this transformation, annual Chinese investment in the region a decade ago amounted to $1 billion; at just a single forum recently, it pledged $23 billion in loans and development aid. In August, it sent a $1 billion cash infusion to Turkey alone.

Militarily, Beijing become a leading contributor to UN peacekeeping operations, sent the People's Liberation Army Navy on visits to many ports, and opened its first regional base in Djibouti in 2015. The future presumably holds many more Chinese military bases.

As Beijing begins to "alter politics and security in the region," Berman notes "tremendous consequences." Here are three:

U.S.-Israel ties: China's leaders so appreciate the Jewish state's technological prowess that they invested $3.2 billion in the first half of 2019 and now are estimated to control or have influence over as much as one-quarter of Israel's tech industry, including military contractors working on confidential projects with American firms. Indeed China may soon replace America as Israel's single largest source of investment, a prospect that not only has official Washington "increasingly alarmed" but could damage a decades-long, particularly close and productive bond.

Xinjiang: China's massive repression of its Muslim population, especially of the Uyghurs in its far western province of Xinjiang, has met with a collective shrug from such Muslim notables as Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This inexcusable lack of concern contrasts dramatically with the Muslim world's prolonged tantrum over little Israel's far milder treatment of the Palestinians, It also signals that China's size, power, and ruthlessness renders it free to repress Islamic religion and culture within its domains and perhaps beyond.
China’s Growing Interest in the Middle East is Anything but Benign
While Beijing insists officially that its rapidly growing involvement in the Middle East—arms sales, trade deals, technology-sharing agreements, and massive infrastructure projects—is purely economic and politically neutral, Ilan Berman discerns something more sinister. As an example, Berman points to the muted reactions of such Muslim rulers as Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Saudi Arabia’s Muhammad bin Salman to China’s massive and brutal persecution of the Muslim Uighurs of its northwest, noting that China has invested heavily in both Turkey and Saudi Arabia:

[W]hen the region’s most influential leaders have chosen to weigh in on China’s anti-Muslim offensive, they have done so in support of Beijing, rather than in opposition to it. . . . The result is tantamount to an abandonment of Chinese Muslims by their Middle Eastern co-religionists for economic reasons. The signal sent to Beijing is that its domestic policies, no matter how repressive, will be considered off-limits for criticism or inspection so long as the price is right. That, in turn, is likely to fuel Beijing’s current offensive of forcing assimilation and subservience among its Muslim minority by any means necessary.

Arguably the most profound effect of China’s expanding presence in the Middle East, however, has been its adverse impact on governance throughout the region. Today, the digitally enabled authoritarianism that China’s government has used to great effect to reshape its own society in a more rigid, censored, and compliant direction has begun to proliferate in the countries of the Middle East. Most blatantly, Chinese companies have long helped Iran’s clerical regime to repress its own people, [sometimes] doing so in violation of U.S. sanctions.

Egypt has similarly allowed the PRC to obtain a major stake in its communications sector and to disseminate technologies that have strengthened President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi’s grip on power at the expense of freedom of expression there. . . . Other regional states could soon head in the same direction. . . . The “China model” of social control could thus easily become an export commodity in Beijing’s dealings with the Middle East—much to the detriment of prospects for pluralism and democracy in the region.
Security experts stopped PM from annexing West Bank immediately – report
A "screaming match" occurred on Tuesday before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced his intention to annex the Jordan Valley after the elections between Netanyahu and senior security leaders.

The conversation involved a difficult exchange between the prime minister and the security officials over his upcoming announcement.

Netanyahu's announcement was delayed by over an hour due to the conversation.

According to some sources, Netanyahu told them of his intention to announce the immediate annexation of the West Bank but changed his position due to harsh criticism from several heads of security branches, as well as legal opinions which addressed potential difficulties attendant to such an annexation as this. Netanyahu had called the security officials a short time before he was to make his speech.

None of the heads of the security bodies who were said to criticize Netanyahu agreed to comment.
Fact Check: Seven myths in Netanyahu’s recent statements
With the election just four days away, Benjamin Netanyahu has gone on a blitz of interviews, yelling his trademark “Gevalt” to pull votes away from the smaller right-wing parties.

An examination of what the prime minister has said in interviews and his own broadcasts found that not everything has been entirely accurate. Here are seven incorrect statements from the past two weeks:

1. Likud will lose: Netanyahu told KAN on Thursday morning that if the election happened now, he would not win the election. But pollster Rafi Smith, who takes polls for both Netanyahu and Maariv, found that Likud would win the most seats in the election.

2. Mandelblit blocked annexation: In the KAN interview, Netanyahu said that he would have annexed the Jordan Valley before the election but Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit blocked him. The Justice Ministry released a statement shortly thereafter denying this, saying that Netanyahu asked a more general question about legislation in a transition government. The Central Elections Committee fined Likud on Thursday for saying Netanyahu’s Jordan Valley speech was not election propaganda when it was.

3. Quitting before disengagement: In an August 30 Facebook Live post, Netanyahu said the Right was wrong to blame him for the 2005 Gaza Strip withdrawal. “The moment [then-prime minister Ariel] Arik Sharon said he would evacuate communities, I quit,” Netanyahu said. Netanyahu not only stayed in the cabinet, he repeatedly voted for disengagement and refused the calls of rebel Likud MKs to stop it. Netanyahu only quit on August 9, 2005, six days before the withdrawal, when it was no longer possible to prevent the withdrawal.


Five EU powers 'concerned' over annexation announcement
France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom issued a statement on Friday expressing “deep concern” at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's announcement Tuesday of intention to annex the Jordan Valley.

“We are deeply concerned about the announcement of possible annexation of areas in the West Bank, particularly the Jordan valley and the northern portion of the Dead Sea,” the statement read.

“This would, if implemented, constitute a serious breach of international law. France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom will continue to call on all parties to refrain from actions in contravention of international law that would imperil the viability of a two-state solution, based on the 1967 lines, and make it harder to achieve a just and lasting peace.”

The statement said that the five countries “are clear about Israel’s right to security and strongly condemn recent attacks on Israel from Gaza.”

Interestingly, the statement came in the name of those five countries, and not the whole 28-member EU. While the EU did not issue a formal condemnation, an EU spokesperson was quoted this week as saying that the EU “will not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties.”
Trump Says He Does Not Believe Israelis Are Spying on the US
US President Donald Trump said on Thursday he did not believe Israel was spying on the United States after a published report said Israel was most likely behind cellphone surveillance devices found near the White House and elsewhere in Washington, DC.

Politico reported the miniature surveillance devices, colloquially known as “StingRays,” were discovered and that they were most likely linked to the Israelis.

Israel has denied the report.

“I don’t believe that,” Trump stated on Thursday about the report. “No, I don’t think the Israelis were spying on us. I really would find that hard to believe.”

“My relationship with Israel has been great,” he added. “You look at Golan Heights. You look at Jerusalem — with moving the embassy to Jerusalem becoming the capital. You look at even the Iran deal — what’s happened with Iran. Iran is a much different country right now than it was two and a half years ago. It’s a much — it’s in a much different position.”

“No, I don’t believe that,” Trump reiterated. “I wouldn’t believe that story. It could — anything’s possible, but I don’t believe it.”
Jason Greenblatt tells 'Post' why he is walking away from Deal of Century
IT WAS a family Shabbat dinner with his wife and children at his home in New Jersey when he raised the possibility of leaving the administration. “It started over many discussions over Shabbat, but it lasted way into the Sunday night barbecue,” he says.

Asked why he wouldn’t stay to try to promote direct negotiations between the sides once the plan is revealed, he says it could take a long time.

“Originally, I planned to stay approximately two years. I’ve stayed close to three years now. I do have an obligation to be a father and a husband. I’ve neglected my family in many ways, and I think the time has come for me to start transitioning out so I could go back to being a father and a husband.”

Some of his kids, he says, told him to keep working on the peace team. “My family has been exceptional. They all have that attitude, which is that I should stay, but I know on their faces that it’s hard. It’s hard on Sunday when we separate until Friday. They’ve been incredibly supportive. I have to say that after last Thursday, after the announcement, we all felt a sense of tremendous relief, knowing that at some point over the coming period – we don’t know if it’s weeks to months, we’ll see – knowing that I’m finally going to be back home.”

He says he still believes that despite the Palestinian refusal to engage with the US peace team, the plan can still succeed.

“I think that we have crafted something that’s different than the past but gives both sides a tremendous hope for the future,” Greenblatt says. “So, I think that if both sides study it and stay away from the political talk and understand that we delivered a realistic plan – one that is actually implementable, not one that just talks in lofty ideals, I think there is a chance that something good could come out of it”
New Sanctions Could Extend to Allies of Hezbollah in Lebanon: US Envoy
Future US sanctions could target allies of Hezbollah in Lebanon, extending beyond direct affiliates of the Iran-backed Shi’ite Muslim group, a US envoy said on Thursday.

“In the future we will designate, because we have to, individuals in Lebanon who are aiding and assisting Hezbollah, regardless of their sect or religion,” the new US assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs David Schenker said in an interview with Lebanon‘s LBCI television.

When asked by the interviewer if this means sanctions will target allies of Hezbollah, Schenker said “absolutely,” adding that the United States is constantly reviewing its sanctions lists.

The proposed targeting of allies of Hezbollah has been a sensitive subject for Lebanon in the past.

In 2017 a draft copy of proposed, tighter US sanctions on Hezbollah caused disquiet in Lebanon because the wording, seen by Reuters, implied the legislation could target the Shi’ite Amal movement of parliament speaker Nabih Berri for investigation.

Lebanon‘s Maronite Christian President Michel Aoun is also a political ally of Hezbollah.

Targeting both Amal and Hezbollah and their associates — the two parties representing Lebanon‘s Shi’ite population — risked marginalizing a large section of society, banking and political sources said at the time.
Netanyahu: War in Gaza could break out ‘before the elections’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday morning, upon returning from a brief visit to Russia, that war with terror groups in the Gaza Strip could break out “at any moment.”

Rockets have been fired at Israeli cities and communities multiple times over the past week — with most intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system or landing in open areas — drawing retaliatory Israeli airstrikes. On Tuesday night, two rockets were launched at Ashdod during a campaign rally in the city by the premier, who was whisked off the stage by his bodyguards to take shelter.

In his comments, which came hours after he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Netanyahu asserted, “An operation in Gaza could happen at any moment, including four days before the elections. The date of the elections does not factor [into a decision to go to war].”

Israelis go to the polls on Tuesday, September 17. Netanyahu, who is facing stiff competition in his bid to reclaim the premiership, has been seeking to hammer home his credentials and past achievements in security and diplomacy, but ongoing attacks from Gaza have remained a nagging thorn in his side, repeatedly exploited by his political rivals.

For many of those rivals, the scenes of Netanyahu being forced to take shelter from rockets provided a counterpoint to the image he has attempted to cultivate as Mr. Security, highlighting what they say is his government’s failure to deal with ongoing attacks from Gaza terror groups.
Army tells families of Dvir Sorek’s alleged killers it will raze their homes
The Israeli military has informed the families of two Palestinians suspected of murdering Israeli student Dvir Sorek last month that it plans to demolish their homes.

On August 7, Nazir Saleh Khalil Atafra, 24, and Qasem Araf Khalil Atafra, 30, are believed to have stabbed to death the 18-year-old Sorek outside of his religious seminary in the West Bank settlement of Migdal Oz.

The two were arrested two days later after a manhunt.

The army said Thursday that the families were also informed they “can request an injunction against the demolition.”

The army’s notice comes exactly a month after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised on August 12 that the homes of the two suspects’ families would be demolished in the near future.
The Ori Ansbacher Memorial Tapestry
Ori Ansbacher, 19, was brutally murdered in a Palestinian terrorist attack in Jerusalem on Feb. 7. Feeling that she could not be the only one who felt the outrage and pain, Bat Sheva Sadan posted on Facebook that others should send her 10cm x 10cm embroideries that she would put together to make a chuppah (a marriage canopy). She was expecting around 20 and hoping for 80. People of all ages and from all over the world created and sent in 5,000 intricate and beautiful pieces of embroidery work.

With a lot more than enough for the chuppah, she decided to make a tapestry. The stories behind the embroideries were amazing as well. Someone gave a piece of her wedding dress. Another used special fabric she got from her grandmother. Some of the fabric survived the Holocaust.

The tapestry is 22 meters long and 3 meters tall and is currently hanging in the Cardo, in the Old City of Jerusalem. Everyone who sees it is moved by the expression of hope and solidarity.
Most Arab Israelis Satisfied with Life in Israel
71.5% of Arab Israelis are satisfied with their life in Israel, according to a poll commissioned by the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University.

65.2% believe they are generally treated equally, and 64.7% have an overall positive view of the state.

But when asked to rate their sense of belonging in the country on a scale of 1 to 10, the average response was 4.

Respondents defined their identities thus: 33.5% Arab Israeli, 17.3% Israeli, 16.3% Palestinian Israeli, 14.1% Arab, 14.1% Palestinian, and 4.6% "other."

59.2% said crime, unemployment, welfare, and housing should top the Arab parties' political agenda; only 13.3% said Arab lawmakers should focus on the Palestinian issue.
Lebanese-American to be prosecuted for dealing with Israel
Lebanon said Friday that a Lebanese-American has been referred to prosecutors after confessing he’d worked for Israel.

Amer Fakhoury was detained after returning to his native Lebanon from the United States earlier this month. He had worked as warden at the Khiam Prison in southern Lebanon that was run by an Israeli-backed militia, known as the South Lebanon Army, until Israel ended an 18-year occupation of the area in 2000.

Lebanon and Israel have been officially at war since Israel’s creation in 1948.

The Lebanese General Security Directorate said Friday Fakhoury used an Israeli passport before Israel’s withdrawal to travel from Israel to the US

Hundreds of former Lebanese members of the militia had fled to Israel, fearing reprisal if they remained in Lebanon. Others stayed and faced trial, receiving lenient sentences.
Israel cuts medical permits for Gazans to halt migration to West Bank — report
Israel has been cutting down on the number of medical treatment permits it issues to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, fearing that they are being abused to move illegally to the West Bank, state prosecutors reportedly told the High Court of Justice this week.

Prosecutors disclosed the efforts on Wednesday in a response to a High Court of Justice petition filed by Arab human rights groups, the Haaretz daily reported.

According to Haaretz, the prosecutors said cutting the number of permits issued was part of active steps to “halt the growth” of Palestinians moving from Gaza to the West Bank without a permit from Israel. The response said that Israel regards them as “illegal aliens.”

Prosecutors said that since 2017, there has been a sharp uptick in the number of Gazans making the move.

As of mid-2018, 2,671 Gazans were living in the West Bank without an Israeli permit. Just over half of them, 1,397, were granted a permit to leave Gaza for medical reasons but never returned.
Palestinian Teachers' Guides Reveal Anti-Jewish Indoctrination
The recent study "Israel, Jews and Peace in Palestinian Authority Teachers' Guides" by Dr. Arnon Groiss, based on 89 Palestinian teachers' guides published in 2016-18, showed that they promote delegitimization, demonization and war indoctrination instead of peace education. Groiss told JNS that Jewish "cowardice," "slyness," "deceit," and "greed" are repeated in teachers' guides to define Jews as enemies of Islam.

Educational material consistently describes a future where there will be an Arab removal of Israel, with any surviving Israeli Jews exterminated. A poem taught to third-grade students says: "I will sacrifice my blood in order to...remove the usurper [Israel] from my country and exterminate the foreigners' defeated remnants."

By referring to war, rather than peace and coexistence, Palestinian educators impose on their students "a bleak future of hatred and misery, with no hope other than becoming a martyr in an endless struggle," says the study. "This is hate education - a war of indoctrination against peace, in which the UNRWA agency has clearly been involved for the last 70 years," said Groiss.


Assad's Hollow Victory
Bashar al-Assad destroyed whole cities and gassed and starved his own people. Against all the odds, the monster has won. Yet it is a hollow victory. Assad has displaced half the population. Eight years of civil war have destroyed the economy and cost 500,000 lives. What rebels remain are holed up in Idlib province. The area is controlled by the hardest core jihadists linked to al-Qaeda, who will not go quietly.

When the fighting stops, the tensions that originally threatened the regime will remain - but they will be worse than ever. Millions of Sunnis have fled the country, but millions remain. They have seen their homes looted, property confiscated and districts overrun by Assad supporters. Resentful, fearful and oppressed, they will be a source of opposition to the regime.

Then there is Assad's cruelty. His secret police has tortured and killed at least 14,000 people in the regime's prisons. Nearly 128,000 people are thought to remain in the dungeons, though many are probably dead. Even as the war nears its end, the pace of executions is increasing.

Some European leaders think it is time to engage with Assad, participate in reconstruction and send the refugees home. This is misguided. The refugees will not return willingly. Reconstruction will only benefit the regime and the warlords and foreigners who backed it.

Syrian Rebels Say Russian-Backed Forces Prepare to Resume Offensive
Syrian rebel fighters on Wednesday said Russian-backed forces were amassing troops in preparation for resuming a five-month offensive in northwest Syria after a second day of raids by jets believed to be Russian threatened to end a fragile ceasefire.

The jets that flew overnight at high altitudes struck a village near Kafr Takhareem and an area near the town of Darkoush, both in rural areas in western Idlib province, two opposition sources and a resident in the area said.

The overnight bombing raid came hours after air strikes hit a part of the northwest for the first time since the truce was declared 11 days ago, according to activists and a monitor. Moscow denied conducting the first strikes.

Russia said the Syrian government unilaterally agreed to a truce on Aug. 31 in opposition-controlled Idlib, where a “de-escalation zone” was brokered two years ago between Russia and Turkey.

Since then, there has been an end to the intense air strikes by Russian and Syrian warplanes that since late April had accompanied the Russian-backed ground offensive to retake the last rebel bastion.
Michael Oren: Israelis Will Not Sit Passively While Iran Nuclearizes and Threatens Their Existence
The JCPOA enabled Iran to maintain key parts of its nuclear infrastructure, to preserve its blueprints for producing atomic bombs, and to develop the intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of carrying them. With many of the deal's provisions expiring in less than a decade, Iran could have eventually carried out plans to make hundreds of nuclear weapons and mount them on ICBMs. Overnight, Iran would become a global power. Only one obstacle remained.

The Israelis, of course, would not have sat passively by while Iran nuclearized and threatened their existence. But Iran clearly had another plan: to surround Israel with tens of thousands of terrorist rockets and proxies. Any Israeli attempt to stop an Iranian nuclear breakout would inevitably be met with devastating fire from Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, and Iraq, as well as from Iran itself. Paralyzed, Israel would be helpless to prevent the Islamic Republic's emergence as a nuclear power.

Then came Trump's decision to end the nuclear deal, followed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's demands on Iran -- including an end of all support for terror, withdrawal from Syria, and the cessation of the ICBM program. With its economy buckling under the sanctions, Iran had to choose between negotiating under Pompeo's severe terms or proving that it could plunge the entire Middle East into chaos.

Whether Iran assumed that Trump would be reluctant to take on the Iranian militarily ahead of the 2020 election or believed that he would fail to win a second term, the regime apparently concluded that provocations would suffice to lift the sanctions. The results: Iran's harassment of US forces, seizure of a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf, accelerated enrichment of uranium, and heightened hostilities against Israel. Such actions were ostensibly designed to show the United States that Iran could exact a price for sanctions in terms of regional stability and global oil prices.
Full Extent of Iran's Nuclear Defiance Becoming Clear
Iran's theocratic establishment is spreading the narrative that Europe and the U.S. are to blame for Tehran's violation of the nuclear deal. Iran has clearly been blackmailing the Europeans, and the European powers' efforts to satisfy the Iranian regime's demands have been unsuccessful.

They came up with a special purpose vehicle to facilitate trade and payments to Tehran, but it has failed. Even though the European governments agreed to participate in the plan, corporations, firms and private financial institutions have been reluctant to do so. It quickly became clear that the European business giants were not willing to run the risk of losing access to the $18 trillion U.S. market for the sake of Iran's $400 billion market.

The international community must not be distracted from the larger picture. The JCPOA deal was never a permanent solution to Iran's nuclear threat and, more importantly, new evidence points to the fact that Iran was most likely not in compliance with the nuclear deal from the outset.
Iranian Tanker Fiasco Exposes Britain's Muddled Thinking
The ensuing diplomatic stand-off between London and Tehran eventually resulted in Britain agreeing to release the Grace One, but only after the British authorities received written assurances from Iran that the oil would not be delivered to Syria.

Now it appears that Iran has deliberately misled the British government about its intentions after satellite photographs revealed the ship, which has now been renamed the Adrian Darya 1, is in Syria, where its $130 million oil cargo has been handed over to the Assad regime.

"Anyone who said the Adrian Darya-1 wasn't headed to #Syria is in denial. Tehran thinks it's more important to fund the murderous Assad regime than provide for its own people. We can talk, but #Iran's not getting any sanctions relief until it stops lying and spreading terror!" — Ambassador John Bolton, then US National Security Advisor, September 7, 2019.
MEMRI: On Ashura Day, Iran Delivers Message To U.S., Muslim World: The Resistance Camp, Including Iraq, Stands With Khamenei; Nasrallah: Khamenei, You Are 'The Hussein Of Our Time,' 'We Will Not Abandon You'
The Ashura[1] ceremony held annually by the Iranian regime was attended this year by Muqtada Al-Sadr, a senior Shi'ite leader in Iraq known for calling to preserve Iraq's political independence. Moreover, Al-Sadr was given a place of honor beside Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, taking precedence over high-ranking military commanders such as Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani, Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commander Hossein Salami, and others. It is noteworthy that Iranian President Hassan Rohani was absent from the ceremony.

Al-Sadr's presence at the ceremony had not been publicized in advance. According to the pro-Iranian Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, Al-Sadr has been staying in Iran for the last three months.[2]

The photos below, posted September 11 on the website of Iran's Supreme Leader (farsi.khamenei.ir) and also published the same day by Iran's official news agency Mehr, show Al-Sadr sitting beside Khamenei at the Ashura ceremony, with Soleimani and Salami on Al-Sadr's other side.

The public appearance of Muqtada Al-Sadr – a prominent Shi'ite Iraqi leader who has called for Iraqi political independence – alongside Khamenei, the leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, indicates his return to the Iranian regime's orbit of influence after several years in which he preferred to distance himself from this regime. One of the factors that prompted his rapprochement with Iran is presumably the rising status and strength of the Hashd Al-Sha'bi (Popular Mobilization Units – PMU), the umbrella organization of Shi'ite militias in Iraq affiliated with Iran and at the same time embedded in the Iraqi army, a possibility which seriously threatens Al-Sadr's power in Iraq.

Another possibility is that Al-Sadr's visit to Iran is actually part of his efforts to keep Iraq independent and prevent it from becoming a theater of struggle between Iran, the U.S. and Israel, a struggle that has escalated recently with the aerial attacks on bases of the Iran-backed militias in Iraq and threats by officials in these militias to attack U.S. interests in response.[3]
Iran's Properties in Canada Sold, Proceeds Handed to Terror Victims
Tens of millions worth of seized Iranian government properties have been sold off in Canada and the proceeds handed to victims of terrorist groups sponsored by the regime, Global News has learned.

According to a document filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice last month, the victims got a share of the money earned through the sale of Iran’s buildings in Ottawa and Toronto.

The properties went for more than $28-million, documents show. The recipients were victims of Hamas and Hezbollah — terrorist groups bankrolled, armed and trained by Iran.

“The distribution to creditors as authorized by the court has been made,” the Toronto law firm appointed as the court-appointed receiver, Albert Gelman Inc., informed the judge on Aug. 7.

READ MORE: Toronto charity disputes CRA accusation it was formed to spread ‘Iranian revolutionary ideology in Canada’

Normally that would be an unremarkable statement but the creditors in the case were terrorism victims and the assets were Canadian properties seized from the Iranian regime.



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