Friday, September 20, 2019

From Ian:

Caroline Glick: The strategic cost of Israel’s political instability
When Yisrael Beytenu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman abruptly resigned his position as defense minister last November and started the countdown to the Knesset elections in April, he plunged Israel into a state of political instability. Following the April elections, by refusing to serve in a government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and so forcing Israel into a second election, Lieberman prolonged the instability he instigated.

Tuesday’s elections ended in deadlock. Neither major party can form a governing majority. And so, there is no end in sight for the instability Lieberman provoked and prolonged.

Israel’s prolonged political volatility and uncertainty have had a disastrous impact on Israel’s strategic flexibility. Indeed, it has induced strategic paralysis. Israel cannot respond in a meaningful way to threats or take advantage of strategic opportunities that present themselves.

The implications of this dire state of affairs were brought to bear twice in one day during the campaign. In a press conference last Tuesday, Netanyahu announced his intention to apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley after the elections. Netanyahu’s announcement included the revelation that US President Donald Trump supports the move. American officials backed his claim after the fact.

This was a stunning development. No US administration has ever supported Israel’s right to assert its sovereign rights in Judea and Samaria without Palestinian permission until now.

But the media and Netanyahu’s political opponents on the left and right ignored this basic fact and instead derided his statement as nothing more than a cheap election stunt to rally his base.

In a way, they were right. After all, all Netanyahu did was make a promise. But it was due to Israel’s strategic paralysis that he had no other option.
Where did Bibi go wrong? - analysis
‘Six things does the Lord hate,” observed King Solomon, and “seven are an abomination unto him” (Proverbs 6:17-19). Three of those – “a proud look, a lying tongue,” and “him that sows discord among brethren” – add up to Bibi Netanyahu’s moral meltdown and political demise.

Pride made Israel’s longest-serving prime minister misjudge the mainstream electorate’s size, priorities and feelings, which under his sleepy radar traveled steadily from respect through doubt to wrath.

The social discord he sowed as a matter of ploy and habit needs no elaboration, nor does the “lying tongue” he deployed while libeling almost everyone, from judges and cops to the entire press.

At this writing it is too early to say that Netanyahu’s 37-year public career is over. It is not too early to say that a critical mass of the electorate this week announced the beginning of its end.

Having entered this election with 41 lawmakers (Likud’s 35, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s four, and Moshe Feiglin’s equivalent of two) Netanyahu lost a fifth of this original electorate. Yes, in terms of parliamentary blocs we face a cloud that will take time to scatter, but on the personal level this poll produced a resounding vote of no confidence in a leader who lost touch with his nation and task.

NETANYAHU MISJUDGED the voters on three planes: the social, the institutional and the ideological.

Socially, he assumed that average Israeli Jews see Israeli Arabs as fair game. In his superficial reading of Israeli society – a binary us-and-them dichotomy between “the Left” and “the Right” – the former are ready to give “the Arabs” everything and for no price, while the latter trust not one Arab, will cheer any anti-Arab broadside, and will prize whoever delivers it.
Appeasement vs. incitement: two takeaways from the Israeli election
We don’t yet have a prime minister candidate, nor a clear path to a government. Both will take some time. But there are already valuable and useful lessons that have emerged from this week’s election.

The first relates to Israel’s Arab population. For years, the Arab Knesset members focused on nationalistic issues in the parliament, serving as the mouthpiece of the Palestinian Authority in decrying “the occupation,” criticizing the Israel Defense Force, and not indicating any desire to be partners in the leadership of Israel.

Arab MK’s would not even recommend anyone to be prime minister lest they be accused of having any association with Jewish candidates from Zionist parties. The recognition that their representatives would not be working for their interests and needs, and would not even consider joining a government which is where real societal reforms can be made, played a significant role in the low Arab voter turnout in past elections.

But in this election, MK Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint Arab List, changed course. He gave an interview in Yediot Aharonot just a few weeks ago in which he said, “I want to lead Arab politics from a politics of protest to a politics of influence. We are 20% of Israel’s population, and we are needed to bring equality, democracy and social justice to Israel.”

While Odeh ruled out the possibility of joining a Netanyahu-led government, he presented four conditions for entering a Gantz-led government:

“The first is the construction of a new Arab city and redoing the rules to allow for more Arab construction and stopping demolitions in Arab areas. Second is a government focus on fighting crime in Arab areas, including an operation to gather all the weapons that people own in the Arab population. Third is in the welfare realm including building a public hospital in an Arab city, and raising stipends for the elderly. Finally, there must be direct negotiations with the Palestinian leaders to bring an end to the occupation and to establish a Palestinian state, alongside canceling the Nation-State Law.”

The first three conditions focus on needs also relevant to the Israeli community and could be easily accepted by Benny Gantz. While the last condition is more complicated, the very fact that their leader is placing real day-to-day issues on the table as a possible entry into a government energized much of the Arab population, making them feel that it was worthwhile to vote to try to place their representatives in positions of influence. And that led to a larger Arab turnout than usual, which enabled them to stay in double-digit mandates despite the high turnout throughout the country.



Armenia to open embassy in Israel by 2020
Armenia has announced that it will be opening an embassy in Israel. The two countries established formal diplomatic ties in 1992.

According to an announcement from the Armenian Foreign Ministry, the embassy – which would be the 90th foreign embassy in Israel – will be located in Tel Aviv and opened "as quickly as possible," sometime between the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020.

The Foreign Ministry said, "Israel welcomes the Armenian government's decision to open an embassy in Israel.

"This decision reflects well on the closer diplomatic ties of the past year. The opening of an Armenian embassy marks a new and important chapter in bilateral relations, and we are sure that it will lead to even closer ties of friendship between the two peoples and increase cooperation between the two countries in all fields," the ministry statement continued.

Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz welcomed the decision.

"There is no doubt that this is testimony to Israel's rising status in the world," Katz tweeted.

"We will continue to work to strengthen Israel's international ties and anchor its international status," Katz added.
Ruthie Blum: Belittling Bibi’s mastery by calling it ‘magic’
THE TRUTH about Bibi, however, is that he is a master, not a magician. His maneuvering of Israel’s implausible political system – while running the country, conducting measured military operations against its many enemies, chief among them Iran, and diplomatic ones against the BDS movement – is nothing short of miraculous. Denigrating it by suggesting that it’s more a function of trickery than leadership is shameful.

Israelis who engage in that kind of sophistry are ingrates. Some are also ignoramuses with short memories who refuse to recognize that the bulk of Netanyahu’s antagonists abroad were just as hostile to previous Israeli prime ministers. Others oppose his policies – or hate his guts for personal reasons -- and have used every tool at their disposal, including the police and the courts rather than the ballot box, to try to oust him from office.

This is not to say that Bibi warrants no criticism, or that without him at the helm, Israel is doomed. On the contrary, the Jewish state was established five months before he was born. It managed not only to survive but thrive for nearly five decades before he became prime minister for the first time in 1996.

Nor is it reasonable or desirable to hinge the country’s continued resilience and strength on a single leader, no matter how great. If Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, is destined for destruction – whether at the hands of its enemies or through internal societal implosion – it might as well pack up shop now and be done with it.
Committee publishes ‘almost final’ results; Blue and White leads Likud 33-31
The Central Election Committee published early Friday what it said were the “almost final” results from Tuesday’s election, with Benny Gantz’s Blue and White centrist party maintaining a two-seat lead over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud.

The committee said that 99.8% of the votes had been tallied, with the exception of those from 14 polling booths where irregular activities had been recorded on election day, which were still being investigated.

Israelis voted at more than 10,000 polling stations.

The “almost final” results gave Blue and White 33 seats to Likud’s 31. Third was the Joint List alliance of Arab-majority parties at 13, followed by the ultra-Orthodox parties Shas with nine and United Torah Judaism with eight.

Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu also had eight seats. Rounding out the list were Yamina with seven seats, Labor-Gesher with six and the Democratic Camp with five.

The center-left bloc, including the predominantly Arab Joint List — which has never been a member of the government — has increased its power to 57 seats, with the right-wing and religious bloc at 55. Neither has the 61-seat majority necessary to form a coalition, leaving Yisrael Beytenu in the kingmaker position.
I did the math and don’t see a coalition
Even the much-discussed union of Likud and Blue and White, which Netanyahu is apparently considering, looks like a pipe dream. Why? Because it would necessitate two highly unlikely scenarios. The first is that Netanyahu would be replaced as leader of Likud, something he’d fight to the death. The second is Gantz teaming up with Netanyahu, something he’s sworn he’ll never do.

And in the middle of this messy stalemate is President Reuven Rivlin, who has promised he’ll do everything he can to ensure a coalition is established so as to prevent yet another “do-over” election.

But numbers are numbers. No amount of effort from Rivlin or anyone else can fit square pegs into round holes. Over the next few days and weeks, we can expect lots of posturing and horse trading, lots of analyses about cynical politicians selling their souls to gain power, but that won’t change the stubborn numbers.

Of course, this is Israel, the land of miracles, so it’s always possible something dramatic will happen to break the deadlock, like a revolt in Likud against Netanyahu, who has now failed twice this year to bring victory to his party.

At least one thing is for sure: Both sides will have plenty to pray for during the coming High Holidays.
Results aren’t even official, but already nightmare 3rd election scenario looms
As the prospect of a third election — the mandatory last resort if nobody can form a coalition — looms larger, he hopes, Likud’s legislators will start to calculate that their party will do less well next time. It seems to have dropped about four seats from its 35 in April, but really shed more, given that on Tuesday it included Kulanu in its ranks, a party that won four seats on its own last time. The ultra-Orthodox parties gained some ground, but the rise of the Joint List, and the significant rise in support for Liberman — whose voters knew on Tuesday, unlike in April, that a vote for Yisrael Beytenu was no longer an automatic vote for a Netanyahu-led government — will not have been lost on Likud legislators.

By the time a third election comes around, moreover, Netanyahu could well have been indicted in the corruption cases against him. And while he may then seek to portray himself still more desperately as the victim of a political witch hunt, that gambit manifestly did not play to his advantage on Tuesday. Indeed, several of his familiar gambits backfired — including the cameras in the Arab polling stations “voter fraud” ploy, the demonizing of the Arab electorate campaign, and the “gevalt… we’re losing” interviews and social media blitz.
While Gantz is hoping Likud will start to crack, Netanyahu is scouring for options — playing for time, with the advantage of being prime minister. And this is the Middle East, where external affairs can intrude at any moment on the plots and schemes of politicians; where external affairs can also be encouraged to intrude

Netanyahu is on the defensive, compelled to cancel his trip to the UN in New York next week, and thus forced, ignominiously, to cancel a planned meeting with US President Donald Trump, who responded Wednesday with the devastating revelation that he hadn’t spoken with Netanyahu since the elections and, anyhow, “our relationship is with Israel.” But, for now, his party is standing by him.

While Gantz is hoping Likud will start to crack, Netanyahu is scouring for options — playing for time, with the advantage of being prime minister. And this is the Middle East, where external affairs can intrude at any moment on the plots and schemes of politicians; where external affairs can also be encouraged to intrude.

The Israeli electorate has had its say. The one man who could single-handedly break the deadlock we produced, Liberman, is insisting on the unity partnership both of the big party leaders claim to want but not really with each other.

And so our president will on Sunday begin the sensitive task of trying to convert the will of the people, the diverse will of the people, into a viable leadership for Israel — to cajole our elected representatives into some kind of stable government. Otherwise, if Netanyahu sees it as his last hope, and Gantz thinks he’ll emerge from it stronger, we may yet have to go through this all again.
Tom Gross on international views of Israeli election results (Sept 19, 2019)
Tom Gross on international views of Israeli elections. Israel Channel 13 (Sept. 19, 2019). Starts in English at 43 seconds into the video. With observations about the New York Times and Haaretz at the end.


Let Liberman be Deputy Prime Minister and call it a day
The September elections in Israel were not much different than the April elections. Each a statistical tie with neither Benny nor Benjamin willing to join forces so it led to this election which was the essentially same result. Clearly neither Ben has a sole mandate, although the Right (without Liberman) has 12 more Jewish party seats than the Left (without Liberman) which needs the Arab parties to reach that number, proving that a clear majority of Israeli Jewish voters are Right wing. So what’s a politician to do?

Easy, stop being a politician and be a statesman.

Here’s the natural solution: Prime Minister should offer a Deputy Prime Minister position to his former ‘natural coalition partner,’ Avigdor Liberman.

Huh, did I hear that right? Certainly, you meant to say to offer Benny Gantz that right-hand-co-governing position. No! You heard right. Far Right. Not need to offer Leftist Benny Gantz anything. And following a logical process of elimination, Netranyahu can’t offer the job to anyone on the Arab list since their sole mission in life purpose is not necessarily to see Israel shine and thrive - they were never part of a coalition in the history of the Jewish State, at most vowed to support a reigning coalition in opposition voting to dismantle it. So, who does it leave? Liberman! Natural coalition partner Avigdor Liberman—Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Liberman.

Ok, I know jaws might drop over this suggestion, and Trump haters might even go so far as to suggest an investigation as to Russia’s possible ties to the ‘mad’ Russian Avigdor, but there is nothing wrong with being mad like a fox.
Liberman denies Gantz deal, says will be fine sitting in opposition or coalition
Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman on Friday denied that he has any kind of agreement with Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, saying his party would be fine either joining a coalition or sitting in opposition.

Addressing a Channel 13 report that Gantz would take Yisrael Beytenu into any coalition, Liberman wrote on Facebook that a reported agreement under which Blue and White will not join a coalition without him “does not exist,” adding that, “we will get along fine in either the coalition or in the opposition.”

Liberman also said that he has spoken to neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor Gantz, and does not intend to do so ahead of his Sunday meeting with Reuven Rivlin where he will tell the president who he recommends be tasked with forming a government.

Liberman also said that Ayman Odeh, leader of the Joint List alliance of Arab parties, owed his party’s success to Netanyahu, joking he send Odeh a bouquet of flowers ahead of the Sabbath as a token of his appreciation.

Liberman said the Joint List’s jump to 13 seats was a result of Netanyahu’s scaremongering and the furor around the placing of cameras in or outside polling stations.

Voter turnout among Arab Israelis rose by about 10 percent to 60% on Tuesday as compared to the last national elections on April 9. Joint List MK Ahmed Tibi on Wednesday also attributed the higher than usual turnout to the prime minister’s attempts to suppress the minority vote and demonize them.

The Yisrael Beytenu leader concluded his message by saying that he welcomed the recent decrease in name-calling from the ultra-Orthodox parties, noting dryly that he is no longer called “Hitler” by religious leaders.


Will Joint List leader Odeh start to receive national security briefings?
Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh could make history as the first-ever Arab opposition leader in Israel, which would involve his receiving monthly briefings from the prime minister and his top advisers on matters of national security.

“Opposition leader is an interesting job, and an unprecedented one for the Arab public” in Israel, Odeh said outside his home in Haifa on Wednesday.

Odeh argued that Arab-majority parties have always been the “real opposition” in the Knesset, and therefore the Joint List leader is the most appropriate for the job.

Asked about the security briefings the opposition leader receives, by law, from the prime minister, Odeh said he is focused on a different aspect of the position.

“What is most important is that this is an important platform to meet with the prime minister and meet world leaders and tell them about the Nation-State Law,” Odeh posited. “Finally, there will be an opposition.”

Odeh and the Joint List are still considering whether to recommend Blue and White leader Benny Gantz for prime minister. There may be a split between the Arab nationalist party Balad and the other parties in the Joint List on this matter, with Balad recommending no one. Historically, Arab parties have recommended only Yitzhak Rabin as prime minister.

Even if most of the Joint List does recommend Gantz, the bloc is unlikely to be part of a coalition in light of Israel’s continued control of the West Bank, the country’s Jewish character under law, and other policy positions that are anathema to it.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Do Palestinian Leaders Want a Better Life for Their People?
"We talked about the general situation of Palestinian refugees who have been living in Lebanon for the past 72 years. We told them that Palestinians in Lebanon are banned from working in 70 professions and have no right to own property. We gave them a list of 2,300 Palestinian refugees from Syria who want to go to Canada." — Mu'awya Abu Hamideh, a representative of the Palestinian refugees who fled from Syria to Lebanon after 2011, akhbarten.com, September 9, 2019

Human Rights Watch says that Palestinian refugees in Lebanon live in "appalling social and economic conditions" and are barred from employment in at least 25 professions, "including law, medicine, and engineering."

"The Palestinian factions and others who benefit from our stay in Lebanon are denouncing us as traitors and of serving foreign agendas... but if anyone has another solution, he should bring it to the table. We are sure, however, that these voices are designed to prevent us from living in dignity." — Mu'awya Abu Hamideh.

Instead of encouraging and assisting their people to move on with their lives and seek a better future for their children, Hamas and other Palestinian groups continue to lie to the refugees by promising them that one day they will go back to their villages and towns in Israel.
Russia Casts 13th Veto of UN Security Council Action During Syrian War
Russia cast its 13th veto on Thursday of UN Security Council action on the Syrian conflict, blocking a demand for a truce in northwest Syria because it does not include an exemption for military offensives against UN-blacklisted militant groups.

China backed Russia by also blocking the text, drafted by Kuwait, Belgium and Germany. It was Beijing’s seventh veto on the Syrian conflict. Equatorial Guinea abstained and the remaining 12 members of the council voted in favor.

Russia and China then put forward their own draft resolution demanding a truce in northwest Syria — with an exemption — but it failed to get enough votes. Only Russia and China voted in favor of their own text. Nine members voted against and South Africa, Indonesia, Ivory Coast and Equatorial Guinea abstained.

A resolution needs nine votes and no vetoes by Russia, China, France, Britain or the United States to pass.

Western states have accused Russian and Syrian forces of targeting civilians in northwest Syria, a charge they deny. They say they are targeting militants.

Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the council before the votes that he believed the “real objective” of the draft resolution by Germany, Kuwait and Belgium was “to save the international terrorists who are entrenched in Idlib from their final defeat.”
Hezbollah member arrested for scouting possible terror sites in New York, Boston
A man suspected of being an operative in New York for the terrorist group Hezbollah was recently arrested.

Alexei Saab, 42, of Morristown, NJ, has been in federal custody in the US since July, facing charges for scouting dozens of targets for the terrorist entity, including the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and the George Washington Bridge.

According to the Justice Department, he also traveled to Istanbul more than a decade ago and tried to kill a person he believed to be an Israeli spy.

He is also accused of scouting and taking pictures of possible targets for Hezbollah's external terrorism arm.

In addition to New York, Saab allegedly scouted places in Boston and Washington, D.C.

“In particular, (Saab) focused on the structural weaknesses of locations he surveilled in order to determine how a future attack could cause the most destruction,” said the US Attorney’s Office in Manhattan.

Saab became a naturalized American citizen in 2008, even though, according to the US government, he has been a Hezbollah member since 1996 and has an extensive background in making explosives. He began training with Hezbollah in 1999.

“Even though Saab was a naturalized American citizen, his true allegiance was to Hezbollah, the terrorist organization responsible for decades of terrorist attacks that have killed hundreds, including US citizens and military personnel,” Manhattan US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said. “Thankfully, Saab is now in federal custody and faces significant prison time for his alleged crimes.”
Australian Court Finds Second Man Guilty of Plotting to Blow Up Airliner
An Australian court has found a man guilty of planning to blow up an Etihad Airways flight from Sydney to Abu Dhabi nearly two years ago with a bomb hidden in a meat grinder, a spokeswoman for the New South Wales Supreme Court said on Friday.

Police had accused the man, Mahmoud Khayat, and his brother Khaled Khayat of planning two terrorist attacks: the bomb and a chemical gas attack on the flight to Abu Dhabi in July 2017.

Khaled was found guilty by the New South Wales Supreme Court in May, but the jury was unable to reach a verdict against Mahmoud. His retrial ended with a guilty verdict on Thursday afternoon for planning “the terrorist act,” the spokeswoman said.

Khaled and Mahmoud Khayat were arrested after police raids in Sydney. Police had said that high-grade explosives used to make the bomb were flown from Turkey as part of a plot “inspired and directed” by the Islamic State.
September 20, 2019 9:59 am
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Trump: ‘I’d Give Visas to Iranian Leaders to Attend UN’

JNS.org - US President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that he would give visas to Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, and...

The court will hear sentencing submissions later, the Australian Associated Press reported.

The verdict in Mahmoud’s case came only a few hours before Lebanon’s military court acquitted another brother, Amer Khayat, of the plotting to blow up the Etihad flight.
IDF officer hit by rock while driving in West Bank, moderately hurt
An Israeli military officer on leave was moderately wounded Friday afternoon after being hit in the face with a rock while driving in the northern West Bank.

The 23-year-old was hit when the rock flew through the windshield of his car near the settlement of Ma’aleh Shomron, west of Nablus. The officer’s father was with him in the car at the time.

The wounded man was treated by medics at the scene and taken to a hospital in Petah Tikva.

Several other rock-throwing incidents against Israeli cars were reported in the area, with no injuries.

Rock-throwing attacks against Israeli vehicles are common in the West Bank, though they rarely cause casualties. Extremist settlers have also been known to attack Palestinian drivers with rocks, and in one incident last year an Israeli teen is accused of having thrown a rock that killed a Palestinian woman.
Israel defends fatal shooting of knife-wielding woman as video raises concern
Israeli police said Thursday that security guards at a checkpoint near Jerusalem were in “immediate danger” when they shot and killed a Palestinian woman carrying a knife, after a widely circulated video of the shooting raised concerns about excessive force.

The video of the shooting early Wednesday appears to show a private security guard firing at the woman from several meters (yards) away at the Qalandiya checkpoint, just outside Jerusalem. The woman drops what appears to be a knife before falling to the ground. Three other armed guards move in and one of them kicks the knife away. The woman crawls a short distance before lying motionless.

Palestinians have carried out dozens of stabbing attacks against Israeli security forces and civilians in recent years, many of them fatal. But human rights groups say Israeli forces often use excessive force, opening fire when suspects could have been disarmed and detained through non-lethal means.

There have also been cases in which distraught Palestinians appear to have deliberately ended their lives by attacking Israelis, a variation of the “suicide by cop” phenomenon.

This has been especially true with attacks at checkpoints, which are heavily guarded and are specifically designed to limit the possibility of stabbings

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the woman was armed with a knife and walking in an area reserved for vehicles.

“She shouldn’t have been there in the first place, which shows clearly that she had intentions of carrying out an attack,” he said. The security guards “made a decision at a time when they were in immediate danger and they opened fire according to the danger, the life-threatening situation.”
Thousands of Palestinians take part in weekly protests along Gaza border
Several thousand Palestinians were taking part in weekly protests along the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel Friday afternoon.

According to the Walla news site, some of the demonstrators attacked Israeli soldiers with improvised explosive devices and rocks, and others attempted to sabotage the security fence.

Palestinians were reporting that several had been injured by Israeli military fire.

The demonstrations come after a week in which seven Palestinians were wounded when a rocket fired from the Strip towards Israel exploded near a house inside the coastal enclave.

Palestinian eyewitnesses said two of the three rockets struck outside a home in the southern city of Rafah Wednesday, and a third fell near the fence separating Israel and the Gaza Strip.
Ha'aretz: The Egyptian Army Is Making a Fortune in Sinai
Egyptian President Sissi said tens of billions of Egyptian pounds had been allotted to develop the Sinai Peninsula. The government now realizes that restoring the Sinai economy, especially in the northern peninsula, may create jobs for the many Bedouin who joined terror groups or helped them as a way to support their families. So Sinai residents are starting to see change brought about by the new policy.

In southern Sinai, particularly in the tourist areas along the Red Sea coast, the president gave the army control over 47 islands in the Red Sea and over hundreds of thousands of acres along the shore. In some places the military will build resorts and sports facilities, while some of the already operating tourist sites will now be managed by the National Services Projects Organization, a subsidiary of the armed forces. Egypt is expecting 12 million tourists this year, most of them at the Red Sea resorts. Most of the profits will go to the military.
How Saudi Arabia Failed to Protect Itself from Drone and Missile Attacks
Saudi Arabia, the planet's third-highest defense spender, fell victim to a drone and missile attack on the world's largest oil facility. The kingdom's defenses are designed for entirely different threats. The low-flying and relatively cheap drones and cruise missiles used in the attack are a fairly new challenge that many nations are not prepared to counter. It also doesn't help that massive oil plants are just easy targets.

"Saudi oil assets are vulnerable for the simple reason that when flying over them at night, they stick out against the desert background like a Christmas tree," said Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official and Middle East expert at the American Enterprise Institute. "This means that enemies don't need high-tech GPS-guided drones, even though they might have them, but can also use relatively lower technology drones."

Saudi Arabia boasts an arsenal of sophisticated and expensive air defense equipment. They have the American-made Patriot, German-made Skyguard, and France's Shahine mobile anti-aircraft system.

But, as Jack Watling, a land warfare expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told CNBC, "The track record of Patriot engaging missiles of any kind is pretty awful, they very rarely hit the target."

The other issue, he says, is that it's designed for shooting down high-altitude ballistic missiles, not cruise missiles and drones. "These were low-flying cruise missiles. They were coming in far below the engagement zone for Patriot."

"The Saudis have a lot of sophisticated air defense equipment. Given their general conduct of operations in Yemen, it is highly unlikely that their soldiers know how to use it," Watling said. He added that Saudi forces have "low readiness, low competence, and are largely inattentive."
MEMRI: Saudi Journalist: U.S. Taking Weak Position Vis-à-vis Iran, While Blackmailing Us; We Must Fend For Ourselves
Following the September 14, 2019 Iranian attack on the oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, many Saudi officials called on the international community to take active measures against Iran's regional policy and play a role in defending the world's energy supply.[1] Similar calls were also made by writers in the Saudi press, some of whom condemned what they called the hesitant and feeble policy of the U.S. and the international community towards Iran. Prominent among these responses was a September 18 article by Hamoud Abu Taleb in the daily 'Okaz, titled "We Have No Ally But Ourselves." Abu Taleb wrote that the superpowers are not interested in taking any significant action against Iran, because the chaos sowed by Iran in the Middle East actually serves their long-term interests. He urged Saudi Arabia to calculate its course based on the assumption that it is alone in the fray against Iran, while warning that the kingdom faces an existential threat of unprecedented proportions.

The following are translated excerpts from his article: [2]
"It is almost certain that neither the international community, nor the superpowers, nor the U.N. and its Security Council will take any serious practical action in response to the significant, dangerous and unprecedented attack carried out on Saturday [September 14, 2019] against the Saudi oil facilities. An examination of [their] positions leads to this conclusion. The statements of [U.S.] President [Donald] Trump, which contradict those of the heads of his administration, and the contradictory nature of Trump's own statements, teach us that the U.S. position on Iran, which was unclear to begin with, is feeble. The position of the European [countries], such as France and Germany, is always inclined in Iran's favor. Britain – which follows the lead of the U.S. – is preoccupied with its domestic crises and ultimately adopts America's [position]. [As for] Russia, despite Putin's polite and diplomatic expressions of support for Saudi Arabia, [this country] is known to be closely aligned with Iran when it comes to regional issues, especially the Syrian one. China has almost completely disregarded the events, although it is among [the countries] most dependent on Saudi oil. So who is left? The real answer that emerges is that nobody will forcefully intervene to stop Iran's extreme [behavior] and its threats to the security of the region and to the world's most important energy sources.

"Deception by means of internal contradictions, [and by creating] crises and instability, is part of the superpowers' policy in managing their interests. They disagree on minor issues but agree on the overall strategy. It would be superficial and naïve to think that they are interested in the security of the region. They clearly and openly decided to sow anarchy in the region by means of the Arab Spring in order to make it fragile and rearrange the balance of power within it. It will benefit them if Iran keeps escalating [its aggression] and drags the region to the brink of the abyss. If Iran has its agents in the Arab countries, it [itself] is one of the most important agents of the superpowers, who make plans for the region as they please.
Strikes on Saudi facility will not have major impact on prices
The drone strikes on Saudi oil facilities last Saturday caused the global price of oil to go up nearly 15 percent earlier this week, but experts say the worst is behind us.

Saudi Arabia’s oil output was temporarily cut by more than 50 percent, or 5.7 million barrels per day (mb/d), according to the state-owned petroleum and natural gas company Saudi Aramco.

The Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack on two massive facilities, while the US government alleges Iran is responsible for the hit that lowered the global supply of oil by 5%.

However, the House of Saud and its subjects will not feel the financial impact. There are also indications that if oil production is down only short-term, there will be minimal effect on the cost of gasoline in the West, especially in America, despite media reports stating otherwise. Asian countries, particularly China, will disproportionately feel the impact of the drone attacks, and Russia has the most to financially gain.

According to George Dix, an oil analyst at the London office of Energy Aspects, an international energy research consultancy, the 5.7 mb/d shortfall has already been improved to 3.2 mb/day, and he expects Aramco to plug the gap this week.

“We believe an optimistic scenario is that by end of September, Saudi Aramco could have restored over 4.5 mb/d of lost production, with the remaining 1.0–1.2 mb/d returning by end of November. This still represents a significant loss of oil supply that will provide support to oil prices,” Dix told The Media Line.
Wiesenthal Nazi-hunter says Merkel appeasement of Iran echoes 1938
The human rights organization Simon Wiesenthal Center’s chief Nazi-hunter, Dr. Efraim Zuroff, on Wednesday accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her administration of placating Iran’s regime by promoting business with Tehran in Berlin.

Zuroff told The Jerusalem Post that the German government’s foreign policy recalls “Shades of Munich 1938, only this time it's the Germans who think that they can achieve ‘Peace in our times,’ by appeasing a totalitarian, fundamentalist regime intent on genocide of Jews. The participation of German ministry officials in an event to encourage business with the mullahs makes the pronouncements by Chancellor Merkel ['Israel's security is a national interest of the Federal Republic'] and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas ['I entered politics because of Auschwitz'] ring embarrassingly hollow.”

The reference to Munich is the failed attempt by former British prime minister Neville Chamberlain to appease Adolf Hitler in 1938 by allowing Nazi Germany to annex territory of Czechoslovakia.

Merkel claimed in 2008 Knesset speech that Israel's security interests are of part of Germany's reason for being (raison d'etre) and are "non-negotiable." Maas said last year he went into politics "because of Auschwitz."

Zuroff response was in connection with the German federal government’s participation in a Thursday pro-Iran business conference titled: “8th Banking and Business Forum Iran Europe: Change through Trade and Détente.”
JPost Editorial: The West Cannot Ignore Iran's Attacks
Iran is the greatest threat to the West. It has worked for decades to undermine moderate Arab regimes in the Middle East, to develop and acquire nuclear weapons, and to arm and support some of the worst terrorist organizations known to man: Hizbullah, Hamas, and the Houthis.

Israel has single-handedly been fighting Iran along its different borders for years. Israel's conflict with Hamas and Hizbullah is, in reality, against Iran. Both groups are Tehran's proxies. The world cannot let Iran continue to get away with its attacks. The time has long come for Tehran to pay a price for its violence, support of terrorism and nuclear violations.

If Iran can get away with attacking the U.S., attacking Saudi Arabia, and violating restrictions on its nuclear program, what will stop it from building a nuclear weapon one day and then using it against Israel or another Western country - especially when some of their leaders have made no secret of their intentions to do just so? If Iran's attacks go unanswered they will only intensify.
When Iran Attacks in the “Gray Zone,” the U.S. Should Respond in Kind
Since its war with Iraq ended, writes Michael Eisenstadt, the Islamic Republic has taken to operating in a “gray zone” between war and peace, using proxy militias, terrorist groups, and plausibly deniable attacks to achieve its goals without open warfare. Taking the recent attack on Saudi Arabia as an example of this strategy, Eisenstadt urges the U.S. to retaliate by giving Tehran a taste of its own medicine:

Pursuing a gray-zone strategy of its own represents Washington’s best chance of avoiding significant escalation while buying time for its pressure campaign to work. U.S. policymakers need to abandon the notion that Tehran has a high tolerance for risks and costs, and that the path from local clash to regional war is a short one.

Forty years of experience have taught Tehran that it can conduct gray-zone activities (including lethal operations) against American interests without risking a U.S. military response. [Thus] Washington has frequently failed to deter the regime. Bolstering U.S. deterrence is therefore central to [dealing with the Islamic Republic’s current behavior]. This means responding to Iran’s probes and provocations in the region in order to show that Washington is now more willing to accept risk than in the past.

Just as the [most recent] strike demonstrated the vulnerability of Saudi oil facilities, Iran’s own oil industry is vulnerable to sabotage, cyberattacks, and precision strikes that could threaten its current export flow of several hundred thousand barrels per day. . . . Undue restraint can increase the risk of escalation by inviting new challenges. Conversely, abandoning restraint and opting for escalation can unnecessarily increase U.S. risks while engendering domestic and foreign opposition to further action.

In gray-zone competitions, the advantage is often achieved by incremental, cumulative gains rather than rapid, decisive action. Washington should therefore resist the desire to escalate in order to achieve quick results.
Iran Entrenches Its "Axis of Resistance" across the Middle East
In 2016, Iran's Revolutionary Guard started shipping kits to convert Hizbullah's short-range rockets into longer-range missiles, with precision guidance systems capable of hitting strategic targets in Israel, from an electricity grid to an airport or a desalination plant. "That's what's called a game-changer," said Uzi Rubin, the former head of Israel's Missile Defense Organization. "They converted a weapon of terror into a military weapon for war. They'd only need two hundred to stop Israel's ability to wage its own war."

By early 2018, the Revolutionary Guard had deployed at 40 military facilities in Syria, with their own headquarters, drone-control rooms, and training centers. At least a third were deployed to target Israel, Israeli defense officials said. The Iranians are not visible. They dress in Syrian military uniforms.

Iran's so-called axis of resistance - which totals more than a hundred Shiite militias - has become entrenched across the Middle East, right up to Israel's borders with Syria and Lebanon. Iran's network spans half a dozen countries and has fundamentally altered the region's strategic balance.
MEMRI: Editor Of Kuwaiti Daily Calls To 'Rescue The World From The Persian Nazism'
In a September 17, 2019 article titled 'Rescue the World from the Persian Nazism,' Ahmed Al-Jarallah, editor-in-chief of the Kuwaiti English-language daily Arab Times, wrote that the issue of confronting Iran is no longer just a matter of thwarting the Persian expansion project but a matter of countering a threat to global security. In this situation, he said, American and European notions of going back to the Barack Obama policy of rapprochement with Iran are no longer feasible; the world must act to ensure a steady supply of oil at reasonable prices, for a failure to do so will result in a global recession. Al-Jarallah added that a failure to respond to Iran's aggression will be a degrading surrender, even more humiliating than the 1938 Munich Agreement with Nazi Germany, which led to World War II.[1]

The following is his September 17 article, as it appeared in Arab Times.[2]
"The issue of confrontation with Iran has gone beyond self-defense and thwarting the Persian regional expansion project, over which the Arab coalition forces are clashing with Houthi gangsters in Yemen, to threat against global interests and stability.

"For this, the equivocal and softening doors policy behind political skirmishes and crossfire for possible US-Iranian summit on the sideline of the United Nations General Assembly meetings is no longer an election tool through which President Donald Trump can win military opposition votes for war in his country.

"There is no more room for European mediation on the issue of relationship with Iran. The world either defends its interests to ensure oil supply at moderate prices or succumb to the state of terrorism by allowing the Mullah regime, which stakes success in blackmail, to dictate the pace.
Soccer: FIFA Tells Iran It Is Time to Allow Women Into Stadiums
FIFA President Gianni Infantino has told Iran it is time to allow women into football stadiums and the global soccer body expects “positive developments,” starting with their next home match in October.

While foreign women have been allowed limited access to matches, Iranian women have been banned from stadiums when men’s teams have been playing, since just after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Infantino said in a FIFA statement he was hopeful that the Iranian football federation and government authorities had been receptive to “our repeated calls to address this unacceptable situation.”

He added, “Our position is clear and firm. Women have to be allowed into football stadiums in Iran. Now is the moment to change things and FIFA is expecting positive developments starting in the next Iran home match in October.”



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