Monday, November 04, 2019

From Ian:

PMW: The missing billions of the Palestinian Authority
Since its creation, the Palestinian Authority has received tens of billions of dollars of international aid. Just since 2011, the European Union, the United States, and other countries have provided the PA with hundreds of millions of dollars and euros of aid.

While the PA has constantly complained about its financial difficulties, scrutiny of the PA’s own financial records for the years 2011 - 2018, shows that the PA transferred from its coffers over 7 billion shekels to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), some of which was then given to terrorist organizations. In that same period, the PA also spent over 440 million shekels to fund its non-functioning institutions.

Funding to the PLO and internationally designated terrorist organizations

The PLO, which is also headed by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, is an umbrella organization for several Palestinian groups. The largest and most dominant member is Abbas’ Fatah party. Other members include groups designated as terror organizations by the US and the EU such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Palestinian Liberation Front. PLO members are entitled to and receive funding from the PLO.

While international donors have demanded that the PA show financial transparency, the PLO is not subject to any financial regulation or demands of transparency. Accordingly, it is impossible to know what happens with billions of dollars of donor money the PA has given and continues to give today to the PLO.

Only on sporadic occasions are the financial workings of the PLO exposed. In June 2018, a senior PFLP official, Maher Mazhar, complained that the PFLP was not getting its monthly allocations from the PLO.

Denying the claim of the PFLP, PLO Executive Committee member and Fatah Central Committee member Azzam Al-Ahmad confirmed that Abbas and the Palestinian National Fund - the financial branch of the PLO - are responsible for funding the PFLP, and stressed that the allocations had not been stopped:

“PLO Executive Committee member [and Fatah Central Committee member] Azzam Al-Ahmad denied that the allocation from the Palestinian National Fund to any Palestinian organization, including the Popular Front [for the Liberation of Palestine] (PFLP), has been stopped. In a telephone conversation with Al-Ahmad from Amman, he said: ‘There is no truth to the rumors that [PA] President Abbas or any other party has stopped the allocation to the PFLP.” [Ma’an, (Independent Palestinian news agency), June 17, 2018]
The delusional one-state solution
Events like the Jaffa Riots of 1921 (95 dead) and the Riots of 1929 (249 dead) were a common fixture. When all out war inevitably emerged in 1948 due to Arab rejection of a Jewish state, it ended with the permanent exile of up to 90% of Palestinians from Israeli-controlled territory. Nothing unusual here. Population transfers are a common result of intrastate ethnic conflict. Those wishing to alleviate Palestinian hardship should consider this when contemplating a situation that would result in a power struggle similar to what emerged following the British Mandate.

And a power struggle it will be. One-staters envision shared governance between Jews and Arabs, who will work together under a liberal democratic framework, but the Palestinians have proven unable to do this even amongst themselves. Two years after Israel withdrew from Gaza, Hamas overthrew the PLO and instituted a totalitarian Islamist regime.

Things are not much better in the West Bank, where President Mahmoud Abbas is now in his 15th year of a four-year term. The “occupation” cannot be blamed. After all, pre-state Israel somehow managed to uphold democratic norms under the brutality of the British Mandate. Democracy is simply not presently part of the Palestinian lexicon.

The same goes for the “liberal” part of “liberal democracy.” Polls by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center show that the Palestinians hold beliefs vehemently at odds with an inclusive society. A majority support honor killings, and 93% of the population harbors antisemitic views, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Before the one-state solution as envisioned by Palestinian advocates is even discussed, Palestinians have a very long way to go. Looking at examples from the broader region, there’s good reason to believe that an Israeli-Palestinian utopia will forever remain a pipe dream.

Understandably, as US President Donald Trump continues to delay his vision for resolving the conflict, ideas counter to the mainstream two-state solution will be discussed. Some are worse than others, but few are as bad as the one-state solution.
Trump’s Middle East shake-up led to killing of al-Baghdadi
As it turns out, the killing of both Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his heir apparent, Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, was a direct result of Trump’s shake-up of the pre-existing order in northern Syria and northern Iraq. While it should be obvious, it bears repeating: the media and the American people are not privy to the vast trove of intelligence the commander in chief has at his fingertips. This is particularly important in the complex and multidimensional Middle East, where alliances and verbal agreements are the rule, rather than the exception.

We think in black-and-white terms, but the truth is often closer to gray and white, or black and gray. I have many theories as to just how our US special forces pulled off this miraculous assault against the No. 1 terrorist in the world, but overall, I would venture that what it boils down to is that the president caught al-Baghdadi off-guard.

Al-Baghdadi was no doubt celebrating America’s pullout from the region and got careless. Essentially, it flushed him out into the open. He was planning a new barrage of terror, especially against the Kurds and Yazidis. What he was not prepared for was the determination and steadfastness of Trump. He miscalculated regarding our president and suffered the consequences.

By taking out al-Baghdadi and al-Muhajir, Trump has now sent the clearest message yet to all of our enemies, including Iran and North Korea, that he means business. This was and is a major turning point in his presidency, and it is a crying shame that he can’t seem to get one iota of credit for it from his political opponents.

In the final analysis, the American people will ultimately decide how much credit to give him. I am a firm believer they will be much kinder and wiser judging his record in hindsight.




Netanyahu: Arab Countries Now See Israel as an ‘Indispensable Ally’ Against Iran
The Arab world’s perception of Israel is undergoing a seismic shift, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday.

Addressing a 200-strong crowd in Jerusalem at the kick-off event of the Christian Media Summit and inauguration of the Friends of Zion Museum’s new media center, Netanyahu said Israel has gone from being perceived as an enemy in the region to being seen as an “indispensable ally.”

“Something very big is happening: the transformation of Israel in the minds of many in the Middle East. It’s no longer being perceived as an enemy. We’ve become an indispensable ally against the enemy of militant Islam,” he said.

As evidence, Netanyahu cited the lack of violence following US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and then later of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

“People said there would be a tremendous convulsion. But what happened? Nothing,” said Netanyahu.

The Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem is an interactive facility that harnesses Christian support to combat BDS and antisemitism.

The impetus behind the Arab world beginning to band together with Israel, said Netanyahu, was Iran. Israel’s goal, he said, was “to make sure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons and that its march toward an empire and conquest has stopped.”

Netanyahu praised US President Donald Trump’s decision to impose hefty economic sanctions on Iran to curb its nuclear program, but said that “if Israel was not here, Iran would already have nuclear weapons.”


Thanks to the Likud, Israeli Arabs Are Flourishing
During Benjamin Netanyahu’s long tenure in office, and contrary to widespread perceptions that he is anti-Arab, the Jewish state’s Arab citizens have seen major social and economic improvements. Netanyahu himself displayed his characteristic savvy and tenacity in pushing through an important 2015 measure to increase government investment in Arab communities. Drawing on an interview with Ron Gerlitz—a staunchly leftist activist who advised the government in devising and implementing these policies—Netta Ahituv explains what they have accomplished. (Free registration required.)

Over the past seven years, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, the number of Arab students enrolled in universities and colleges in Israel has risen by 80 percent. Over five years the number of Arabs studying computer sciences, and the number of Arab students pursuing master’s degrees in all fields have both jumped 50 percent, while the number studying for a PhD has soared 60 percent.

In the last decade, the number of Arabs working in high-tech has increased eighteenfold, and one-quarter of them are women. . . . The proportion of Arab doctors in Israel has climbed from 10 percent in 2008 to 15 percent in 2018, and 21 percent of all male doctors are Arab, according to the Health Ministry. Educational institutions in Arab locales are receiving unprecedented levels of funding—including 130 million shekels ($37 million) for informal-education programs. Moreover, public transportation is finally making inroads into the smaller Arab towns, to the point where the Bank of Israel recently declared that the gap in access to such transport between Jewish and Arab locales with fewer than 20,000 residents has shrunk considerably.


In the interview, Gerlitz notes that some of the ministries that have contributed the most to these improvements have done so under the direction of right-swing politicians, such as Likud’s Yisrael Katz and the Orthodox Shas party’s Aryeh Deri. And he notes other kinds of good news as well, including major changes in the labor market:

Government investment, on the one hand, and a new spirit in Israeli Arab society, on the other, has led to Arabs enrolling in higher education and working in both the public and private sectors; [in fact], the proportion of Arab civil servants rose from 5.7 percent in 2007 to 11.3 percent in 2017.
Arabs and Jews speak up for Israel and foster coexistence
Israel is often accused by her enemies of being an apartheid state. Nothing could be farther from the truth. As one who grew up under the apartheid system in South Africa, I can attest to this. Arab citizens of Israel are accorded the same rights as any other citizen. They travel on our public transportation in safety without the fear of being attacked. They walk freely around our neighborhood streets, play with their children in the local parks, attend the local movie theaters, eat in Israeli restaurants, and are treated in all Israeli hospitals.

Until not long ago, some of the Hamas terrorist officials were sending their relatives to be treated in Israeli hospitals. The practice was stopped at the behest of the Hamas leadership, who forbade their citizens from seeking treatment in Israel – despite medical services in Gaza being woefully inadequate.

In Jerusalem, many of the main pharmacies are staffed and managed by Arab citizens. Arab women wear the Hijab and are often seen shopping in Israeli shopping malls and supermarkets with their husbands and families. Many of the doctors and specialists in Jerusalem are from the Arab sector. A friend’s daughter gave birth to her child at Hadassah-University Medical Center, on Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus. She shared a ward with another expectant mother who also happened to be Arab. The obstetrician was a Muslim Arab from East Jerusalem.

“He was outstanding,” our friend told us. “Apart from being an excellent doctor, he was also so kind and considerate. In fact, my daughter was so impressed with him that she asked if she could come and see him at his consulting rooms in East Jerusalem. Unsurprisingly, he advised against it. He told her that it would not be safe for her to come to the neighborhood where he worked.”

Many years ago, a few years after the Six Day War, I lived in Jerusalem for a short while. In those days relations between Jewish and Arab citizens were particularly cordial to the extent that we young people would patronize some of the Arab discotheques. This was before the days of fundamentalism (on both sides). We spent many Saturday nights learning the moves of the exotic oriental disco music. Both Arabs and Jews mingled on the dance floor and had a great time. We shopped in the Arab shuk, and would regularly visit the souvenir stores of Bethlehem and Beit Jala.

Despite the feeling of gloom and hopelessness, there are chinks of light. One of my first voluntary activities was to coach young Israelis. I ended up coaching two remarkable young people. One was an Israeli Arab from a virulently ant-Israeli town in the north, where “A” was brought up to hate Israelis and Jews. When the IDF offered young Arab youths the opportunity to attend an engineering course for free, A decided to sign up.

“After all,” he told me, “anything we could take from the Israelis for free was almost considered an obligation.”

A recounted his first encounter with Israelis. He was surprised and almost shocked to discover how friendly and “nice” the personnel were.
JPost Editorial: Gaza policy
Ten rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip at the South on Friday night. Although they were fired after a month of relative calm, it’s hard to say they came out of the blue. Israelis, and particularly residents of the western Negev, are aware that rocket attacks from Gaza can happen at almost any time.

The main difference with the rockets this weekend was that they did not seem to be fired for any particular reason. There had been no Israeli operation in the area and no casualties in the ongoing “March of Return” border protests. The rockets, one of which scored a direct hit on a home in Sderot, were reportedly fired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and not Hamas, which controls the Strip.

Although this is not the first time, this should be of concern because the large number of rockets launched indicates that Hamas might be losing its grip to more radical terrorist organizations, and that an internal struggle among these terrorist groups could result in them trying to gain points by attacking Israel or even trying to drag Israel into an escalated conflict.

Until now, Israel has seen Hamas as in control and responsible for what happens in Gaza. But it should be kept in mind that PIJ is affiliated with Iran and relies on the Islamic Republic for funds and weapons. In this sense, the events in the South cannot be seen in isolation from the tension with Iranian-proxy Hezbollah on the northern border.

The general opinion seems to be that Hamas is not interested in another mini-war with Israel – what would be the fourth serious conflict since 2008 – and Israel does not want another war on its southern border.

The fact that there is not a fully functional government following two rounds of elections – and a serious possibility now of a third round – might act as an encouragement to the terrorists in Gaza. It will be clear to the Palestinian extremists that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not want to face a third election in a state of war on the southern border.
Only Decisive Action on the Ground, Not Precision Firepower from Afar, Can Defeat Israel’s Enemies
In its conflicts fought in the past two decades with Hamas in Gaza and Hizballah in Lebanon, the IDF has a used a strategy based on the combination of precision weapons with detailed intelligence. David M. Weinberg, basing himself on a recent, extensive report, argues that this doctrine has proved to be a failure, and calls for a return to the military principles that served the Jewish state so well in the first three decades of its existence:

In most clashes, a deleterious dynamic has repeated itself. At first, Israel successfully launches a salvo of firepower based on accurate intelligence gathered over a long period of time. Then follows a decline in the quality of targeting intelligence with an attendant reduction in the number of targets that justify a strike, and a recovery by the enemy and a continuation of its attacks against Israel.

Subsequent Israeli frustration leads to attacks on targets with high collateral damage or on useless targets, alongside an immense effort to acquire new quality targets, which can lead to an occasional success but does not alter the general picture. What follows is a prolonged campaign—leading to public anger and frustration—and a maneuver by ground forces that is not sufficiently effective to bring the enemy to the point of collapse.

Consequently, a return to combat along more traditional lines is inevitable in many cases. This means maneuvering into enemy territory, locating and destroying enemy forces (or capturing them, thus undermining the myth of the self-sacrificing jihadist “resistance”). Only this will break the spirit of the enemy.

Consider this, too: while no large conventional armies today threaten Israel, the situation could change. If a radical Muslim Brotherhood regime should rise in a country like Egypt, or if the Syrian army is rebuilt after that country’s civil war, the IDF must be ready. Bear in mind that building ground forces is a complex process that takes time. Neglecting IDF ground-maneuver capabilities is therefore a dangerous gamble.
Caroline Glick “The Joint Arab List is Unified to Wipe Israel Off the Map”
The Joint Arab List is a political party in Israel’s parliament. It currently has 13 seats.

The only way the Anti-Bibi Netanyahu forces can form a government without Netanyahu is if it has the support of this Joint Arab List party. Yet how can any Israeli, or Israel supporter, support having this list or these politicians in an Israeli government or even in Israel’s parliament?

Nobody else is saying the truth about this party like Caroline.

Israeli Transportation Ministry Pushing ‘Sovereignty Through Transportation’
Israel’s Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich is pursuing a policy that would bolster the road and rail infrastructure in Judea and Samaria with the goal of creating de facto annexation of the territories, according to a report by Israel Hayom.

The program, described by the ministry as “sovereignty through transportation,” would see the road connecting Jerusalem to Gush Etzion expanded at a cost of about NIS 1 billion ($283 million). A major new road from Gush Etzion southward would be built at a similar cost under the plan.

According to Smotrich’s office, this new policy, which includes additional projects, is designed to “end the current isolation of Judea and Samaria when it comes to transportation planning, so that the area is just like any other region in Israel.”

To promote this agenda, Smotrich has also created a special bureau for Judea and Samaria planning in his ministry. He has also had Judea and Samaria transportation projects integrated with national projects so that the residents of those areas can have their concerns addressed over the long term.

This means that a variety of issues that have previously been ignored by state agencies will have proper oversight, including road safety. It would also allow residents of Judea and Samaria to use the same general monthly or daily public transportation passes used all over Israel, known as the Rav Kav.
EU slams Israel for okaying 2,342 settler homes, road that ‘fragments’ West Bank
The European Union on Monday condemned Israel after construction plans for 2,342 settlement homes were green-lighted last month.

The bloc said its position on Israel building in the West Bank remains unchanged: “All settlement activity is illegal under international law and it erodes the viability of the two-state solution and the prospects for a lasting peace.”

The EU also criticized the decision to approve the expansion of a road that connects settlements to Jerusalem while bypassing Bethlehem, referred to by locals as the tunnel road, saying it is “entrenching the fragmentation of the West Bank.”

The Peace Now settlement watchdog has speculated that the project would “dramatically increase the number of settlers in the Bethlehem area.”

The bloc made its statement after the Civil Administration’s High Planning Subcommittee — the Defense Ministry body responsible for authorizing settlement construction — published on Thursday the protocol from a meeting it held earlier this month when it made the approvals, capping off a record year for such plans since US President Donald Trump took office.

The quarterly session was the last held during the 2019 calendar year, during which plans for 8,337 homes were advanced — the most since 2013. Each of Trump’s nearly three years in office saw an increase in settlement approvals, with 6,742 green-lit in 2017 and 5,618 advanced in 2018.
This Ongoing War: In Washington, a step towards bringing the Sbarro bomber to justice
So did the legislators ask King Abdullah II to extradite Tamimi so she can be put on trial for the terrorism charges she faces in Washington? We still don't know and it's not for lack of trying. But at least we know now this isn't because Jordan is free of the obligation to hand her over. We know the State Department has an actual view on this. That view is the Jordanians surely are obliged and that justice demands it.

Jordan's government tracks what was published in yesterday's Country Report about Jordan and Ahlam Tamimi. We know because it's a front page item in today's Jordan Times, the English-language newspaper said to be controlled by the government (and which blocks us on Twitter):

The US Department of State has hailed Jordan as a “committed partner” in counterterrorism and countering violent extremism (CVE). In its Country Reports on Terrorism 2018, the Department of State commended Jordan’s “leading role” in the global coalition to defeat the Daesh terror group...

Hailed and commended, yes. As for the State Department report saying the US regards the extradition treaty as valid, that part the authoritative Jordanian daily's editors simply ignore. They just choose not to report it. And for those laboring under the illusion of a free, liberal and fair-minded Hashemite Kingdom, you might want to glance at "20-Jan-18: Shutting down media critics in Jordan isn't quite the challenge it might seem to be". According to Freedom House, Jordan has one of the world's most unfree news industries, media and human rights environments.

Nonetheless, what's just happened amounts in our eyes to a welcome step in the direction of overdue justice.
Jordanians held in Israel to be sent home, Amman set to return envoy after row
Two Jordanian nationals who were recently detained by Israel will return to the Hashemite Kingdom in the coming days, authorities in both countries said Monday.

Ayman Safadi, Jordan’s foreign minister, made the announcement on Twitter Monday afternoon. It was later confirmed by Israeli authorities, who pointed to the importance of Jerusalem’s ties with Amman.

Heba al-Labadi and Abdel Rahman Miri were detained several months ago over suspicions of ties to terror groups and held without charge, sparking a diplomatic row between Jerusalem and Amman.

Jordan recalled ambassador to Israel Ghassan Majali last week to protest the pair’s detention.

“Heba al-Labadi and Abdel Rahman Miri will return home before the end of the week,” Safadi tweeted.

“The government has worked to secure their release since the first day [they were arrested] in accordance with strict instructions from his Majesty King Abdullah II to take all measures necessary to bring them back safely,” he added.

Israel detained Labadi, 32, and Miri, 29, at the Allenby crossing in the Jordan Valley on August 20 and September 2, respectively. The Palestinian Authority Prisoners Affairs Commission has said that both of them were held under administrative detention orders.

Administrative detention is a measure that allows Israel to detain certain suspects for months at a time without indicting them or presenting details of the accusations against them.
'We'll turn Israeli cities into ghost towns,' Hamas leader warns
If Blue and White leader Benny Gantz "dares" to order a "foolish operation" against the resistance movement in the Gaza Strip, he will "rue the day he was born," leader of the Hamas in Gaza Yahya Sinwar declared on Monday.

Sinwar was speaking in response to remarks Gantz made about a possible military response to rockets fired from the Gaza Strip toward southern Israel.

In a meeting at which Hamas' politburo leader Ismail Haniyeh and UN Special Coordinator for the Gaza Strip Sergey Mladenov were also present, Sinwar called Gantz "the next leader of the occupation."

According to a report on the Al Ghad TV station, at a separate meeting with young people in Gaza, Sinwar said, "If Israel continues to tighten the siege on Gaza, we'll shoot rockets at Tel Aviv for six months straight. We'll turn the cities of Israel into ghost towns."

Over the past few days, Sinwar had made a number of stringent anti-Israeli declarations. In an interview Sunday, he said that a prisoner exchange deal was not currently possible because of the political situation in Israel and the "leadership vacuum it has created."

Sinwar also said that "They don't even have a government that can agree on a budget, or a limited government to discuss security issues such as the Iranian threat, for example."
How Hezbollah Recruits Palestinian Terrorists
A lot of attention has been devoted to the Islamic State’s use of the Internet to inspire or direct international terrorist attacks. But little has been written about how Hezbollah uses similar approaches to recruit and execute attacks. A new study published this month in the CTC Sentinel explores this development by analyzing several cases of Hezbollah’s alleged social media efforts to recruit Israeli Arabs and Palestinians to kill Israelis.

From the end of 2015 through 2017, both the Islamic State and Hezbollah recruited terrorists outside their base countries using social media and encrypted communications platforms to help people form cells and conduct terrorist attacks abroad. Several high-profile Islamic State virtual plots were carried out successfully, killing people in Europe and beyond during this period. Hezbollah, on the other hand, has thus far failed to execute an attack using Palestinians recruited online. But foiled, covert plots still point to a major, yet poorly understood, terrorist threat to Israel. By hiding behind anti-Israel Facebook groups, Hezbollah can oversee plots from afar, at a limited cost to the organization.

The latest study compares and contrasts six publicly available cases of Palestinians recruited by Hezbollah handlers online. In each case, Hezbollah operatives develop ties with individual Palestinians through anti-Israel Facebook groups. After establishing a relationship, the Palestinian recruit is instructed to continue discussions over encrypted email and other communications platforms. The recruit is then asked to form cells with other trusted people in the West Bank. According to the analysis, all of the recruits and cell members were young men from across the West Bank between the ages of 18-32. The sole exception was 49-year-old Mustafa Ali Mahmoud Basharat — who did not make it very far in the planning process before Israel foiled that plot.

In most cases, Hezbollah used secure platforms to send instructions on how to build explosive devices. Palestinian recruits usually conducted surveillance of Israeli military targets, unless Israeli authorities disrupted the cell early on the planning process. Hezbollah’s instructions ranged from kidnapping Israelis, carrying out bombings, and conducting shooting attacks against Israeli military targets. In one case, a Hezbollah-led cell started to build explosives to use in a suicide bombing targeting an Israeli bus.
It’s Time for the US and NATO to Give Turkey the Boot
No wonder. Despite a long, friendly relationship with Turkey, Ankara under Islamist strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become increasingly belligerent towards the United States and our allies, especially Israel, and, most recently, the Syrian Kurds.

Turkey’s invasion of Syria this month to subdue US Kurdish allies has generated condemnations from Western European and Arab nations, as well as from Russia, India, China, and, surprisingly, even Iran

But this is only the latest dust-up: Erdogan’s Turkey is guilty of a string of international offenses.
In 2015, Turkey, unprovoked, shot down a Russian fighter jet.
To Egypt’s annoyance, Turkey supports its enemy, the radical Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.
Erdogan frequently issues antisemitic calumnies, is a reliable foe of Israel, and in 2010 attempted to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which ended in the deaths of 10 Turkish activists.
Turkey deployed a team of thugs to the streets of Washington, DC to abduct anti-Erdogan Turkish activists.
Turkey illegally occupies most of Cyprus.
After buying American F-35 fighter jets, Erdogan contracted with Russia to purchase anti-aircraft batteries against stern US objections.
Erdogan runs Turkish politics with an authoritarian fist, just a short step from totalitarianism

To make matters worse, Turkey is a member of NATO, and the alliance’s only Eurasian member; all others are North American or European, but Turkey has been in the group since 1952. Under Erdogan’s leadership, Turkey has moved further from the goals and policies of other NATO members, often standing in stark opposition to the body’s will, as it is currently doing in Syria.

US Vice President Mike Pence insisted that “the United States of America is not going to tolerate Turkey’s invasion of Syria any further.” Defense Secretary Mark Esper is encouraging NATO members to take “diplomatic and economic” measures against Turkey. President Donald Trump threatened Erdogan with devastating economic sanctions, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted that “military action” may be needed.
Turkey’s Erdogan May Call Off US Trip After Congress Votes: Officials
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may call off a visit to Washington next week in protest at votes in the House of Representatives to recognize mass killings of Armenians a century ago as genocide and to seek sanctions on Turkey, three Turkish officials said.

Erdogan is due in Washington on Nov. 13 at President Donald Trump’s invitation, but said last week that the votes put a “question mark” over the plans.

“These steps seriously overshadow ties between the two countries. Due to these decisions, Erdogan’s visit has been put on hold,” a senior Turkish official said, adding that a final decision had not been taken.

Turkish sources say Trump and Erdogan have a strong bond despite anger in Congress over Turkey’s Syria offensive and its purchase of Russian air defenses, and despite what Ankara sees as Trump’s own erratic pronouncements.

Those personal ties could be crucial given NATO member Turkey’s purchase of Moscow’s S-400 missile defense system, which under US law should trigger sanctions.

Turkey is already suspended from the F-35 fighter jet program in which it was both joint producer and customer, and the offensive it launched against Kurdish forces in northeast Syria on Oct. 9 set the stage for further US retaliation.
Turkish pro-gov media orders Qatar to 'weed out' critical journalists
In a withering attack on Al Jazeera and Qatar, the pro-government Daily Sabah slammed Al Jazeera English for being critical of Turkey’s foreign policy and demanded that it “weed out” journalists.

Turkey, which Amnesty International calls “the world’s largest prison for journalists,” appears to be using its far-right nationalist media to try to order Qatar to muzzle Al Jazeera in English. The lead editorial at Daily Sabah calls the network a “threat against the Turkey-Qatar alliance.”

The editorial begins by noting that Turkey and Qatar are “strategic partners” and accuses Israel and other countries of “ganging up” on Qatar. But the Turkish newspaper accuses Al Jazeera English, “Qatar’s flagship news channel,” of “spreading anti-Turkey propaganda under the pretext of independent and objective journalism.” Turkey’s pro-government media now accuses Qatar’s media of “jumping on the Western media’s Turkey-bashing bandwagon” and “smearing last month’s Turkish operation into northeastern Syria.”

The US State Department slammed Turkey on Saturday as one of the “worst offenders” in crimes against journalists. Amnesty International says Turkey has arrested hundreds of people for being critical of Turkey’s invasion of Syria. The Daily Sabah article now reflects Turkey’s demands that regional media of other authoritarian states abide by Turkey’s demands and control critical journalists. There can be no critique of Turkey’s military operation, either in Turkish media or abroad.
Turkey vows to return jihadists to countries that revoked their citizenship
Turkey said Monday it would send jihadist prisoners back to their countries of origin, regardless of whether they had been stripped of citizenship.

Interior Minister Soleyman Soylu said Turkey had nearly 1,200 foreign members of the Islamic State terror group (IS) in custody, and had captured 287 during its recent operation in northern Syria.

“Of course, those that are in our hands, we will send them back to their countries,” he said, state news agency Anadolu reported.

“However, the world has devised a new method. They say ‘Let’s strip them of their citizenship… Let them be tried where they are.’

“It is impossible for us to accept this view… We will send Daesh (IS) members to their countries whether they strip them of their citizenship or not,” he added.

It remains unclear whether Turkey will be able to do so in practice.

Western countries have often refused to accept the repatriation of citizens who left to join IS in Syria, and have stripped many of their citizenship.

Although under the New York Convention of 1961, it is illegal to leave someone stateless, several countries, including Britain and France, have not ratified it, and recent cases have triggered prolonged legal battles.
JCPA: The Mystery Successor of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
U.S. intelligence officials told the New York Times that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi paid sums of money to the “Hurras al-Din“ (Guardians of Religion Organization) which is affiliated with al-Qaeda, to provide protection for ISIS members and their families, who fled Deir ez-Zor and Mosul.

The main difference between ISIS and al-Qaeda was that ISIS initiated the establishment of the Caliphate through the occupation of huge territories in Iraq and Syria and founded the “Islamic State,” whose capital was Raqqa. Al-Qaeda, meanwhile concentrated on establishing its affiliates in various parts of the world.

As a result of ISIS’s success, terrorist branches in various parts of the world such as Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and other South Asian countries, such as the Philippines and Myanmar abandoned al-Qaeda and swore allegiance to ISIS instead.

The death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is a severe blow to the morale of ISIS, but ISIS has already lost leaders such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, so the death of the latest leader may be a temporary blow from which the organization can recover.

The new leader of ISIS will find it very difficult to re-take control of the vast territories the “Islamic State” lost in Syria and Iraq and will have to devise a new strategy.

The dream of the Islamic Caliphate ended even before Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death.

ISIS’s new leader is now expected to become the number one target of U.S. intelligence, who the U.S. will also seek to assassinate because ISIS and its new leader pose a threat to U.S. national security.
Protests in Iraq Have Turned against Iran
At the beginning of last month, anti-corruption demonstrations spread through Iraq. They were put down, violently, by the government, sometimes with the help of the Iran-backed militias that have come to exert increasing influence in the country. The deaths of protestors at the hands of these militias have, however, only stoked popular anger and diverted much of it toward the Islamic Republic itself. David Adesnik and Nicholas Wernert write:

From the onset of the unrest, Tehran has played an integral role in shaping Baghdad’s response. After the first protests, Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, the organization’s expeditionary branch, flew to Baghdad and—in place of the prime minister—chaired a meeting of Iraq’s top security officials.

The U.S. has supported the elected Iraqi government’s efforts to assert the rule of law over the militias, yet their parliamentary factions serve as key power brokers in Baghdad. The current protests also demonstrate Iraqi voters’ complete loss of confidence in their prime minister, in part because of his failure to resist Tehran.

Until now, the U.S. government has been extremely hesitant to designate Iraq’s Iran-backed militias as terrorist organizations, fearing a potential popular backlash. Yet Iraqis’ own resentment of Iran’s proxy forces is now obvious. Washington therefore should designate these groups [as terrorists] under human-rights as well as counterterrorism authorities in order to highlight their atrocities and demonstrate that America stands with the Iraqi people.
Iraqi security forces open fire on protesters, killing 5
At least five people were killed as Iraqi security forces opened fire on protesters in Baghdad on Monday, a Reuters witness said, as thousands continued to gather in the largest wave of anti-government protests for decades.

A Reuters witness saw one man shot dead, his body carried away by fellow protesters, when security forces opened fire with live rounds on demonstrators near Baghdad's Ahrar bridge.

A Reuters cameraman saw at least four others get killed.

However, security and medical sources put the toll at one dead and 22 wounded, adding that rubber bullets and tear gas, not live ammunition, were used. The Interior Ministry could not be immediately reached for comment.

More than 250 Iraqis have been killed in demonstrations since the start of October against a government they see as corrupt and beholden to foreign interests.
‘Death to America! Death to Israel!’ Iran marks 1979 takeover of US Embassy
Reviving decades-old cries of “Death to America,” Iran on Monday marked the 40th anniversary of the 1979 student takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran and the 444-day hostage crisis that followed as tensions remain high over the country’s collapsing nuclear deal with world powers.

Demonstrators gathered in front of the former US Embassy in downtown Tehran as state television aired footage from other cities across the country.

“Thanks to God, today the revolution’s seedlings have evolved into a fruitful and huge tree that its shadow has covered the entire” Middle East, said Gen. Abdolrahim Mousavi, the commander of the Iranian army.

However, this year’s commemoration of the embassy seizure comes as Iran’s regional allies in Iraq and Lebanon face widespread protests. The Iranian Consulate in Karbala, Iraq, a holy city for Shiites, saw a mob attack it overnight. Three protesters were killed during the attack and 19 were wounded, along with seven policemen, Iraqi officials said.

Associated Press video showed a fire burned the consulate’s gate as demonstrators threw gasoline bombs and climbed its walls, some waving an Iraqi flag. Iranian media only reported a “protest outside” of the diplomatic post, adding that things had returned to normal.
Iran announces fresh violations of nuclear deal with extra, advanced centrifuges
Iran on Monday broke further away from its collapsing 2015 nuclear deal with world powers by announcing it’s doubling the number of advanced centrifuges it operates, calling the decision a direct result of President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement.

The announcement — which also included Iran saying it now has a prototype centrifuge that works 50 times faster than those allowed under the deal — came as demonstrators across the country marked the 40th anniversary of the 1979 US Embassy takeover that started a 444-day hostage crisis.

By starting up these advanced centrifuges, Iran further cuts into the one year that experts estimate Tehran would need to have enough material for building a nuclear weapon — if it chose to pursue one. Iran long has insisted its program is for peaceful purposes, though Western fears about its work led to the 2015 agreement that saw Tehran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.

Tehran has gone from producing some 450 grams (1 pound) of low-enriched uranium a day to 5 kilograms (11 pounds), said Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.

Salehi dramatically pushed a button on a keyboard to start a chain of 30 IR-6 centrifuges at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility, where he was being filmed, increasing the number of working centrifuges to 60.
Iran remains worst state-sponsor of terror, works with al-Qaeda
The US State Department’s new report on terrorism lists the Islamic Republic of Iran as the top international state-sponsor of terrorism and cites Tehran’s work with facilitating the activities of Sunni terrorist organization al-Qaeda.

“Iran remains the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism,” noted the document titled, “Country Reports on Terrorism 2018” that was released on Friday. “The regime has spent nearly one billion dollars per year to support terrorist groups that serve as its proxies and expand its malign influence across the globe. Tehran has funded international terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. It also has engaged in its own terrorist plotting around the world, particularly in Europe.”

The report said that “Tehran continued to allow an AQ [al-Qaeda] facilitation network to operate in Iran, which sends fighters and money to conflict zones in Afghanistan and Syria, and it has extended sanctuary to AQ members residing in the country.”

“At the same time, the United States and its partners continued to pursue al-Qa’ida (AQ) globally, and the United States applied maximum pressure on Iran-backed terrorism, significantly expanding sanctions on Iranian state actors and proxies and building stronger international political will to counter those threats,” the State Department said.

Germany and the EU have refused to designate Hezbollah’s entire organization a terrorist group. According to German intelligence reports reviewed by The Jerusalem Post, 1,050 Hezbollah members and supporters operate in Germany. The Hezbollah operatives raise funds for Hezbollah in Lebanon, recruit new members and spread antisemitic and jihadi ideologies in Europe. The Netherlands, Canada, the US, Israel, Britain and the Arab League proscribed Hezbollah’s entire entity a terrorist organization.

“Hezbollah remained Iran’s most powerful terrorist partner and the most capable terrorist organization in Lebanon, controlling areas across the country,” wrote the State Department’s counterterrorism experts. “Iran’s annual financial backing to Hezbollah – an estimated US $700 million per year – accounts for the overwhelming majority of the group’s annual budget. Hezbollah’s presence in Lebanon and Syria continued to pose a threat to Israel.”
European Union warns Iran over nuclear deal after uranium claims
The European Union on Monday warned that it could back away from supporting the Iran nuclear deal, after Tehran announced a major increase in enriched uranium production.

Following a series of steps away from its commitments under the 2015 accord, the head of the Iranian atomic energy agency said Monday that production of enriched uranium had reached five kilos a day and two new advanced centrifuges had been developed.

Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini, said that the EU’s backing for the deal depends on Tehran keeping up its end of the pact.

She said the bloc “took note” of the announcement but would wait for confirmation by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency before responding.

“We have continued to urge Iran to reverse such steps without delay and to refrain from other measures that would undermine the nuclear deal,” Kocijancic told reporters in Brussels, saying the EU “remained committed” to the nuclear deal.

“But we have also been consistent in saying that our commitment to the nuclear deal depends on full compliance by Iran.”
Iran's decision to speed up uranium enrichment 'unacceptable,' says German FM
Iran's announcement that it has developed advanced machines to speed up its uranium enrichment jeopardizes an agreement with world powers, Germany's foreign minister said on Monday, urging Tehran to return to the original accord.

"Iran has built very advanced centrifuges, which do not comply with the agreement," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told a news conference in response to a question about the announcement.

"They have announced in early September that they would not comply with the nuclear accord and we think this is unacceptable," he said through an interpreter.

On Monday, Iran broke further away from its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers by announcing it was doubling the number of advanced centrifuges it operates, calling the decision a direct result of US President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the agreement.

The announcement – which also included Iran saying it now has a prototype centrifuge that works 50 times faster than those allowed under the deal – came as demonstrators across the country marked the 40th anniversary of the 1979 US Embassy takeover that started a 444-day hostage crisis

By starting up these advanced centrifuges, Iran further cuts into the one year that experts estimate Tehran would need to have enough material for building a nuclear weapon – if it chose to pursue one.






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