Saturday, January 11, 2020

From Ian:

Dr. Martin Sherman: Terminating terrorists and assessing assassinations
Indeed, arguably the only case where a single targeting killing appears to have brought about the end of a terror organization is that of Zuheir Mohsen and the a-Saiqa movement which he headed. Once the second largest faction in the PLO after Fatah, since the demise of Mohsen, a-Saiqa has descended into insignificance and irrelevance.

Overall, however, it does appear that, unless targeted assassinations are part of a sustained, ongoing policy of lethal pursuit of adversaries, the effect of a “stand alone” assassination is, at best, short-lived.

The imponderable “What ifs”

Of course, one of the imponderable questions is that of what would have occurred had targeted assassinations not been undertaken.

After all, one thing is certain. If Israel’s enemies know that they are in danger of losing their lives, their modus operandi will inevitably be more constrained, cumbersome and costly than if they could operate unperturbed, secure in the knowledge that their personal safety was not at risk. With the threat of potential targeted assassination hovering over them, the resources, that need be devoted to their own security, may be considerable and hamper the freedom they might otherwise have.

There is, of course, one other consideration that militates strongly in favor of targeted assassinations. After all, whatever the operational efficacy of targeted assassinations may be—or not be—the conscience of every decent individual should rebel at the thought that arch-purveyors of terror should be permitted to pursue their deadly vocation with impunity.

Indeed, as Pulitzer Prize winner, Bret Stephens recently wrote in the New York Times:
“No U.S. president [or Israeli Prime Minister - MS]…should ever convey to an enemy the impression it can plot attacks against Americans [or Israelis - MS] with impunity. To do otherwise is to invite worse.”

Indeed it is!!
Noah Rothman: Democrats Are Out of Touch on Foreign Affairs, Too
Among general election voters, polling relating to the Soleimani strike has so far indicated that the issue does not mirror America’s partisan divides. A Huffington Post/YouGov poll conducted from January 4-5 found voters approved of the strike by 43 to 38 percent. A January 5-7 Economist/YouGov survey showed voters backed the strike by 44 to 38 percent. Reuters/Ipsos’s January 7-8 poll showed 42 percent of voters supported the strike while just 33 percent opposed it. If support for Trump’s actions in Iraq essentially mirrors his job approval rating, opposition to it most certainly does not. And while the press is more inclined to play up these polls’ findings below the topline (“Americans say Soleimani’s killing made U.S. less safe, Trump ‘reckless’ on Iran” was how USA Today characterized a poll that found only one-third of voters oppose Trump’s actions), the nuances these surveys uncovered are far more intriguing.

Another Reuters/Ipsos survey conducted from January 3-6 indicated that the deep reservoir of mistrust that has characterized Americans’ views toward Iran for the better part of a half-century persists even among Democrats. When asked if Iran represents an “imminent threat” to the U.S., a substantial plurality of all voters—41 percent—agreed. The number of Democrats who agreed with that sentiment precisely tracks with the country as a whole: 41 percent. Huffington Post/YouGov confirms that Democrats and Clinton voters are more inclined to view Iran as a “very serious” threat to the U.S. than even Trump voters and Republicans.

This isn’t necessarily the product of a news cycle dominated by Iranian aggression. A Fox News poll from July found that 57 percent of Democrats (and 60 percent of all respondents) said: “Iran poses a real national security threat to the United States.” And while 42 percent of Democrats oppose “taking military action to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons,” 38 percent support such an operation. Most polling on Iran over the course of the year presents analysts with an intuitive conclusion: Democrats are far more inclined to oppose military action against Iran than Republicans. But those surveys also suggest that the voting public, including Democrats, will support such a contingency under the right circumstances. It’s not hard to make the case that Iran’s months-long campaign of direct and undeniable attacks on Americans and their allies in the region meets those conditions.

That nuance is lost in the Democratic Party’s response to the crisis that has come to typify the opening days of 2020. Even among the party’s voices of moderation, it is fashionable to blame Trump even for reckless Iranian provocations like the downing of a commercial airliner on the night of January 7. According to Pete Buttigieg, for example, the blame for Iran’s mistaken attack on a plane full of Iranians taking off from an Iranian airport amid an entirely unreciprocated Iranian volley of rockets targeting U.S. troops 500 miles away should be laid at Trump’s feet.

Democrats are betting that their voters, much less all voters, are more or less inclined toward pacifism in the face of manifest threats to U.S. interests abroad, but the polling does not support that conclusion. Just as Democrats eventually learned that Medicare-for-all wasn’t the surefire winner its consultant class believed, they may soon discover that Americans are not as squeamish about killing terrorist commanders as they presume.
Jim Geraghty: Give Blame Where It’s Due, Please
Sure, the Iranian air-defense system would not have been on highest alert this week if the United States had not killed Soleimani outside the Baghdad International Airport January 3. But the Iranians made the choice to fire rockets into Iraq that evening, the Iranian government made the choice to permit civilian air traffic in the hours after their rocket attack, and ultimately it was the Iranian military that fired the surface-to-air missile. You really have to squint and stretch to say that this tragedy — which killed 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, eleven Ukrainians (including the crew members), ten Swedish, seven Afghans, and three Germans — is President Trump’s fault.

One question for the military-technology experts: Does this tragedy stem from poor training on the part of the Iranian military, or does Russian air-defense system equipment do a lousy job of differentiating between civilian airliners and military jets?

Whatever the answer to that question is, the fact remains that right now, the Democratic grassroots believe that Trump is the root of all evil, and all bad things that happen lead back to him in one form or another. There’s a Democratic primary and impeachment battle going on simultaneously. No one of any stature in the Democratic party can afford the political risk of publicly arguing or even acknowledging that anything isn’t Trump’s fault. The Democratic presidential candidates, in particular, have to offer the biggest, most vocal, most emphatic, “yes, you’re right, grassroots” that they possibly can.

“Innocent civilians are now dead because they were caught in the middle of an unnecessary and unwanted military tit for tat,” Pete Buttigieg declared. The most common term floating around Thursday night was “crossfire,” even though Tuesday night only one side was firing any weapons. Keep in mind, so far in this conflict, the United States military hasn’t fired anything into or in the direction of Iranian territory.

If we really want to extend blame beyond the Iranian military, there is a long list of individuals and institutions who should be standing in line ahead of President Trump. Let’s start with Iranian aviation authorities who kept their local civilian aircraft flying, and the airlines who chose to keep flights taking off shortly after Iranian military action — when no one could know for sure whether the military action had concluded.

Trump says Soleimani was likely planning attacks on 4 US embassies
US President Donald Trump said Friday that he believes Iranian general Qassem Soleimani was planning attacks against four US embassies before he was killed last week in an American airstrike in Baghdad.

“I can reveal that I believe it would have been four embassies,” Trump said in an excerpt from an interview due to air Friday night on Fox News. “Probably it was going to be the embassy in Baghdad.”

The remarks added some detail to a series of often vague claims made by US officials when asked why Trump, who faces an impeachment trial and a tough reelection fight, ordered the high-risk operation to kill Soleimani.

The administration has pushed back against accusations that Trump acted recklessly, insisting that Soleimani was on the brink of launching an attack and had to be stopped.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the US had “specific information” on “imminent” attacks “against American facilities, including American embassies, military bases.”

Report: Swiss back channel helped defuse US-Iran tensions after Soleimani strike
Hours after ordering the strike that took out Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, the White House used a Swiss back channel to warn Tehran against escalating tensions, the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.

The encrypted message was sent to a fax machine located in a sealed room of Switzerland’s embassy in Tehran. Swiss Ambassador Markus Leitner then hand-delivered the message to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in the early hours of the morning after the attack.

While Zarif initially responded with frustration, calling US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a “bully,” according to the report, the US and Iran appear to have slowly walked back from the brink of war — thanks in no small part to the effective communications pathway provided by Switzerland.

A handful of other messages followed the initial American warning and they were characterized by officials with knowledge of the exchanges as far more measured.

In the days that followed, the White House and Iranian leaders exchanged further messages, which officials in both countries described as more reasoned than the heated rhetoric publicly employed by politicians from the two countries.
US unsuccessfully targeted another Iranian commander on day of Soleimani strike
The US military tried, but failed, to take out another senior Iranian commander on the same day that an American airstrike killed the Revolutionary Guard’s top general, US officials said Friday.

The officials said a military airstrike by special operations forces targeted Abdul Reza Shahlai, a high-ranking commander in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps but the mission was not successful. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss a classified mission.

Officials said both Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and Shahlai were on approved military targeting lists, which indicates a deliberate effort by the US to cripple the leadership of Iran’s Quds force, which has been designated a terror organization by the US. Officials would not say how the mission failed.

‘Disastrous mistake’: Iran admits it mistakenly downed Ukraine plane, killed 176
Iran announced Saturday that its military “unintentionally” shot down the Ukrainian jetliner that crashed earlier this week outside Tehran, killing all 176 aboard, after the government had repeatedly denied Western accusations that it was responsible. The Iranian president called the incident a “disastrous mistake.”

The plane was shot down early Wednesday, hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on two military bases housing US troops in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in an American airstrike in Baghdad. No one was wounded in the attack on the bases.

A military statement carried by Iranian state media said the plane was mistaken for a “hostile target” after it turned toward a “sensitive military center” of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The military was at its “highest level of readiness,” it said, amid the heightened tensions with the United States.

“In such a condition, because of human error and in a unintentional way, the flight was hit,” the statement said. It apologized for the disaster and said it would upgrade its systems to prevent such “mistakes” in the future.

It also said those responsible for the strike on the plane would “immediately” face military justice.

“We assure you that by pursuing fundamental reforms in operational processes at the armed forces’ level we will make it impossible to repeat such errors,” the general staff added in a press release.
Iran still hiding something about airline shootdown
This story makes little sense. Yes, there’s little doubt that an Iranian missile brought down the plane, but in order to believe the explanation behind it you’d have to believe:

1. The Iranian military and radar tracking didn’t know that airplanes still were taking off from the airport
2. The Iranian military and radar tracking are so unsophisticated they can’t distinguish between a large airliner climbing on takeoff from an incoming cruise missile
3. The airplane was not tracked until 10 seconds before firing, even though it was a large and relatively slow moving object that had just taken off from the airport.

I’m not buying it. They are hiding something. But what? I’m guessing that more senior officers were involved, and that it was not operator error.

Iran: Ukrainian plane flew too close to sensitive site
An Iranian commander has taken responsibility for downing a Ukrainian International Airlines civilian plane earlier this week, leading to the deaths of 176 people.

Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh on Saturday said the plane was downed due to "human error" and that his unit accepts "full responsibility" for the mistake.

In a statement, Hajizadeh said the plane few close to a sensitive military site which belonged to elite Revolutionary Guard units, and that it therefore led led to "heightened sensitivity" by the air defense units.

In a Saturday address broadcast by state TV, Hajizadeh said, "Iran's Revolutionary Guards take full responsibility for bringing down the plane."

"Our air defense systems sent a signal to the plane and after ten seconds in which no response was received, it was decided to shoot it down." He added that "the one responsible believed that the plane was a cruise missile" and that he "wished he was dead" after learning of his error.

Ukraine’s president demands punishment, compensation for plane downed by Iran
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded Saturday that Iran punish those responsible for the downing of a Ukrainian airliner and pay compensation.

“We expect Iran… to bring the guilty to the courts,” the Ukrainian leader wrote on Facebook, calling also for the “payment of compensation” after Tehran admitted downing the plane and killing all 176 people on board.

The about-turn came after officials in Iran had categorically denied Western claims that the Ukraine International Airlines airliner had been struck by a missile in a catastrophic error.

The plane, which had been bound for Kiev, slammed into a field shortly after taking off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport before dawn on Wednesday.

It came only hours after Iran’s armed forces launched a wave of missiles at bases hosting American forces in Iraq in response to the killing of Qassem Soleimani, one of Iran’s top generals, in a US drone strike.

“We hope the inquiry will be pursued without deliberate delay and without obstruction,” Zelensky said.

He urged “total access” to the full inquiry for 45 Ukrainian experts, and in a tweet also sought an “official apology.”
Hundreds protest against regime in Tehran after Iran admits it shot down plane
Hundreds protested against the Iranian regime in Tehran Saturday after the government acknowledged that it accidentally shot down the Ukrainian jetliner that crashed earlier this week, killing all 176 people aboard.

The admission came after Iranian officials had repeatedly denied Western accusations and mounting evidence that it was responsible.

Videos posted to social media showed demonstrators outside Tehran’s Amirkabir University chanting against the regime and urging Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to resign. Calls included “Death to the dictator,” “Shame on you Khamenei, leave the country,” “Death to the liars,” and “Shame on the Revolutionary Guards, let the country go.”

Police were reported to be responding with force during the rally.

The Fars news agency, which is close to conservatives, said the students chanted “destructive” and “radical” slogans.

Trump announces new sanctions against Iranian metal industry
US President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order on Friday, authorizing new sanctions against the Iranian metal industry, as well as against senior regime officials.

According to the Treasury Department announcement, the action includes the designations of Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council; Mohammad Reza Ashtiani, deputy chief of staff of Iran's armed forces; and Gholamreza Soleimani, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' Basij militia (who doesn't seem to be related to recently assassinated Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani).

"In addition, Treasury designated 17 Iranian metals producers and mining companies; a network of three China- and Seychelles-based entities; and a vessel involved in the purchase, sale, and transfer of Iranian metals products, as well as in the provision of critical metals production components to Iranian metal producers," the department added in a statement.

"This order will have a major impact on the Iranian economy," Trump said in a statement released on Friday. "Iran continues to be the world's leading sponsor of terrorism. The Iranian regime has threatened United States military service members, diplomats, and civilians, as well as the citizens and interests of our allies and partners, through military force and proxy groups.

"The United States will continue to counter the Iranian regime's destructive and destabilizing behavior," the president continued. "Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. These punishing economic sanctions will remain until the Iranian regime changes its behavior. The United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it."

Washington Rejects Iraqi Request to Remove Troops
Washington on Friday rebuffed an Iraqi request to prepare to pull out its troops, amid heightened US-Iranian tensions after the US killing of an Iranian commander in Baghdad.

Seeking to tighten pressure on its arch foe, the US meanwhile imposed more sanctions on Iran, responding to an attack on American troops in Iraq launched by Tehran in retaliation for the death of General Qassem Soleimani.

Iraq looks set to bear the brunt of any further violence between its neighbor Iran and the United States, its leaders caught in a bind as Washington and Tehran are also the Iraqi government’s main allies and vie for influence there.

Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi made his request in a phone call with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo late on Thursday in line with a vote by the Iraqi Parliament last week, his office said in a statement.

Abdul Mahdi asked Pompeo to “send delegates to put in place the tools to carry out the Parliament’s decision,” it said, adding without elaborating that the forces used in the killing had entered Iraq or used its airspace without permission.

The US State Department said any US delegation would not discuss the withdrawal of American troops as their presence in Iraq was “appropriate.”

“There does, however, need to be a conversation between the US and Iraqi governments not just regarding security, but about our financial, economic, and diplomatic partnership,” spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.
Iran said to warn Hezbollah chief he could be next in US crosshairs
Iran has warned Hezbollah terror chief Hassan Nasrallah that he could be the next target of the United States, Israeli television reported Friday.

The head of the Lebanese group has been advised to boost security measures after the US killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani on January 3, according to the unsourced report by journalist Ronen Bergman on Channel 13 news.

Hezbollah, which is designated as a terror organization by the US and Israel, has vowed to avenge the killing of Soleimani, who oversaw Iran’s regional security strategy.

The TV report also claimed that Israel repeatedly considered killing Soleimani since 2011 and had opportunities to do so, but did not act because of concerns over the retaliatory response from Iran and Hezbollah.

Responding to the report, Likud Minister Yoav Gallant noted that Iran and Hezbollah have seen Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al-Baghadi and now Soleimani all killed by the US over the past decade.

“The most prominent figure left in Middle Eastern terror is without doubt Nasrallah. Their simple assessment must be that he should be wary,” Gallant, a member of the high-level security cabinet and a former IDF general, told the network.

“The Middle East is a safer and calmer place today without Soleimani,” he added.

No Senate Democrats Support Measure Praising Military For Killing Soleimani. All GOP Senators Supported Same Resolution About Bin Laden During Obama Years.
No Senate Democrats have thrown their support behind a measure from their Republican colleagues this week that praises the U.S. military and intelligence community for their work in killing Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani.

President Donald Trump authorized a drone strike on Soleimani last week which was carried out as Soleimani was riding in a convoy that was leaving Baghdad International Airport.

“Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) and 42 of his GOP colleagues in the Senate earlier this week forwarded a resolution honoring American military and intelligence community members who helped conduct the raid that killed Iran’s chief terror mastermind,” The Free Beacon reported. “No Senate Democrat has voiced support for the resolution.”

The move by Democrats, who have repeatedly attacked Trump over the last week for killing one of the world’s most notorious terrorists, comes in stark contrast to how Republicans acted when the Obama administration killed al-Qaeda in 2011.

The resolution put forward by Republicans this week “is structurally identical to the 2011 Senate resolution praising former president Barack Obama for the operation that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden,” the Free Beacon added. “At that time, all 100 Democratic and Republican members of the Senate joined to support that resolution.”
J Street the sole major Jewish group to back House vote on Iran war powers
Progressive Middle East advocacy group J Street was alone among major American Jewish organizations to support a House resolution this week to limit US President Donald Trump’s Iran war powers.

The US House of Representatives approved a measure Thursday asserting that Trump must seek approval from Congress before engaging in further military action against Iran. It passed 224-194, with just three Republicans voting in support. Eight Democrats opposed the measure.

“J Street commends the House of Representatives’s passage of a war powers resolution to prevent the president from carrying out a disastrous, unauthorized war of choice with Iran,” the organization said. “By taking this step, Congress has acted to restrain an out-of-control president and assert its constitutional authority to decide whether, when and where our country goes to war.”

J Street’s backing for the measure was hardly surprising. The group was a vigorous supporter of the Iran nuclear deal — and vehement critic of Trump’s decision to withdraw from it — and accused the US president of escalating tensions with Iran by ordering an airstrike on Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

Earlier in the week, J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami called for Congress to pass the resolution. “President Trump and Secretary [Mike] Pompeo may want a war, but the American people do not,” he said. “Congress must stand up and do everything in its power to restrain the White House — before it’s too late.”

No other major Jewish group took a similar stand in response to Soleimani’s killing on January 3.

Kerry on $1.7 Billion Payment to Iran: ‘We Gave Them a Little Bit of Money’
Former secretary of state John Kerry, who along with his wife Teresa Heinz is estimated to be worth $1 billion, on Friday referred to the $1.7 billion payment the United States made to Iran in 2016 as a "little bit of money."

Discussing President Donald Trump's claims that the Obama administration helped fund the Iranian regime's terror initiatives, Kerry told CNN that the Obama administration saved American taxpayers from accruing interest by settling old debt when it did.

"We gave them a little bit of money that was released in that period of time, not as part of the nuclear arrangement," Kerry said. "But the fact is the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] had all the money it wanted. The IRGC wasn't starving at that point in time, and in fact, Iran owed billions upon billions of dollars. Most of that money went to pay off their debts and to facilitate their economic initiatives."

Kerry admitted in 2016 that the billions in sanctions relief Iran got under the nuclear deal would go partly to financing terrorism.

"Money is fungible in any budget," he said on Friday.

Ilhan Omar Promotes Smear Of Famed Anti-Iranian Regime Journalist. Journalist Issues Stunning Response.
On Monday, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) promoted an article attempting to smear famed journalist Masih Alinejad, an outspoken opponent of the theocratic and despotic Iranian regime. That prompted a withering ten-tweet blast from Alinejad, who pointed out Omar’s silence while others were suffering at the hands of the Iranian regime.

Iranian writers and actors slammed Omar: Iranian-Canadian writer/editor Maryam Nayeb Yazdi tweeted, “Masih Alinejad is receiving death threats. Rape threats. Her brother’s being held hostage by the IRGC. Is it suspicious to work for VOA? Negar Mortazavi (the Rania Khalek for Iran) who you support worked for VOA. How could you ever explain this tweet, Ilhan? My heart’s crying.”

Actress Nazanin Boniadiechoed, “This piece is a defamatory hit job against @AlinejadMasih, a journalist who is already facing death and rape threats and whose brother has been taken hostage by the IRI to silence her. Why is a member of the U.S. Congress — a female member at that — endorsing it?”

But the most powerful rejoinder came from Alinejad herself, who wrote:

Iran Admits Shooting Down Civilian Airliner – UK Left Doesn’t Care
From the BBC:
Iran has admitted “unintentionally” shooting down a Ukrainian passenger jet, killing all 176 people on board.
An investigation found that “missiles fired due to human error”, President Hassan Rouhani said. He described the crash as an “unforgivable mistake”.
The military said the jet turned towards a sensitive site belonging to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and was then mistaken for a cruise missile.
Iran had previously rejected suggestions that it was to blame.


Right now there is a Stop the War Coalition demonstration going on in central London.

As always there is more concern for those who took the lives of innocent civilians, in this case including three Britons, than those who perished. There is no prospect of a war on Iran.

Ironically a month ago the regime was found to have murdered 1500 Iranians (more than the number of demonstrators out in London today) for doing the same thing they’re doing right now; exercising their right to demonstrate.
Maajid Nawaz's brilliantly takes down caller when he brings up Israel in debate on Iran
The LBC presenter was discussing the escalating tensions in Iran following the US airstrike on General Qassem Soleimani.

Shabir called up to give his take and said the West were responsible for the difficulties in the region.

He said: "By the West weakening the Middle East - look at Iraq, look at Syria, look at Yemen - look at the bigger picture."

Maajid made it very clear that the West were not responsible for the Iranian revolution or for Soleimani backing Assad in Syria.

Shabir then said: "Was the West responsible for backing Israel over Palestine?"

But an angry Maajid told him: "We're not talking about Israel today. Why did you have to drag Israel into this conversation. We're talking about Iran, Syria, Iraq and the US.

"It's such a cliche to drag Israel into this debate. Listen to yourself. And you wonder why people think you're anti-Semitic. Why are you dragging Israel into a conversation that has nothing to do with it?"
Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who modernized Oman and welcomed Israel ties, dies at 79
Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who ruled Oman for almost half a century, has died at the age of 79, the Omani news agency said Saturday.

During his reign, Qaboos transformed Oman from a backwater into a modern state while pursuing a moderate but active foreign policy, including by building ties with Israel and acting as a mediator for the US in the region.

The state-run Oman News Agency announced his death late Friday on its official Twitter account. The sultan, the longest ruling Arab monarch, was believed to have been in poor health in recent months, and traveled to Belgium for a medical checkup last month.

“With sadness… the Omani Sultanate court mourns… our Sultan Qaboos bin Said… who God chose to be by his side on Friday evening,” the agency said.

According to the agency, the Omani royal court has announced three days of mourning and declared flags be placed at half-staff for the next forty days.

The sultan had ruled Oman since overthrowing his father in a bloodless 1970 coup and pulled his Arabian sultanate into modernity while carefully balancing diplomatic ties between adversaries Iran and the US.

The British-educated, reclusive sultan reformed a nation that was home to only three schools and harsh laws banning electricity, radios, eyeglasses and even umbrellas when he took the throne.
Netanyahu hails Oman’s ‘incredible leader’ Qaboos, welcomes successor
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday offered his condolences to Oman over the death of Sultan Qaboos, whom he called “an incredible leader,” and welcomed his successor’s commitment to continue the departed ruler’s peace-seeking policies in the region.

“I send condolences to the people in Oman and share in their deep sorrow for the passing of Sultan Qaboos bin Said,” the premier said in a statement.

“About a year ago he invited my wife and myself to an enormously important and stirring visit,” Netanyahu said, in reference to his historic visit to the country in 2018.

“He was an incredible leader who worked tirelessly to promote peace and stability in our region. Under his leadership Oman became a central and advanced nation,”

Netanyahu went on to “congratulate the new sultan Haitham bin Tariq and welcome his statements that Oman’s foreign policy and work for regional peace will be upheld.”
Iran’s Presence in Yemen Poses a Strategic Threat to Israel
As recent attacks on American positions in Iraq have shown, the Islamic Republic maintains a significant arsenal of rockets, which play an essential role in its military doctrine. And in typical fashion, the Iranian-made missiles that killed an American contractor on December 27 were fired by one of Tehran’s many proxy militias, which it has supplied amply with such weapons. The ayatollahs have also armed Hizballah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen with numerous missiles, some of them quite sophisticated. Their aim, writes Uzi Rubin, is to surround the Jewish state with a “ring of fire”:

At present, the Israeli heartland is threatened by Iranian-supplied rockets and missiles from the north (Lebanon) and the southwest (Gaza). [Reportedly], Tehran has [also] begun to supply its affiliated militias in Iraq with missiles that can reach Israel. . . . Iran can hit Israel with missiles from within its own territory and has no need to base them in Iraq, but its proclaimed “no first strike” policy prevents it from threatening Israel directly unless it is first attacked by Israel. [However], Iranian missiles in Iraq—repainted and rebranded as “Iraqi-developed”—would not need the excuse of justified retaliation to be employed against Israel and would allow Tehran to maintain a smokescreen of deniability.

[In addition], there is already a covert Iranian missile force masquerading as a “Yemeni-developed” arsenal in Houthi-controlled Yemen, and it is directed against Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies. This arsenal has been used over the past four years to strike deep into Saudi Arabia, including eight attacks on the capital city of Riyadh. . . . The Iranians may now be striving to extend the capability of their missile force in Yemen to cover Israel, too.

Yemen lies southeast of Israel, a direction from which no strategic threat has been envisaged to date. Deployment of Israel-range ballistic and cruise missiles in Yemen would force Jerusalem to dilute its existing north- and southwestern-facing defenses in favor of a southeastern-facing defensive shield, or to invest heavily in additional early-warning and active-defense systems to close the gap.
French Senator Takes Aim at Legal Protection for ‘Murderous Predators’ as Anger Over Sarah Halimi Trial Decision Persists
A prominent French senator announced her intention this week to fundamentally revise her country’s laws on criminal responsibility, following last month’s decision by prosecutors in Paris to excuse from trial Kobili Traore — the accused antisemitic murderer of Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old Jewish woman — on the grounds of temporary insanity caused by his intake of cannabis.

Nathalie Goulet — who represents the centrist UDI Party in the French Senate — told the newspaper Le Figaro on Thursday that her primary goal was to defend the victims of such attacks.

“The bill I am tabling is not intended to deny dementia or irresponsibility,” Goulet said. “It aims to clarify the law, and above all to strengthen the rights of the victims of these murderous predators who use our legislation to evade their responsibility.”

Under Goulet’s proposal, the French penal code would be revised to prevent pleas of temporary insanity by offenders who — as was the case with Kobili Traore on the night of Halimi’s murder — voluntarily consumed drugs or alcohol prior to committing their crimes.

“Taking drugs should not give safe conduct to [those charged with] antisemitic murders and other proven crimes,” Goulet said.

Traore — a resident of the same public housing project in eastern Paris as Halimi, a child development expert who lived alone — broke into her apartment during the early morning hours of April 4, 2017.

Terrified neighbors who alerted police after hearing Halimi’s cries for help reported that Traore had shouted the words “Allahu akhbar” and “Shaitan” (Arabic for “Satan”) as he rained kicks and punches on his victim, before picking up her bruised body and throwing her out of the window.

Police investigations later revealed that Halimi had told relatives that she was scared of Traore, who insulted her visiting daughter as a “dirty Jewess” a few weeks before the killing.

Traore’s lawyers, however, have insisted throughout the initial legal process that their client was too intoxicated from his ingestion of cannabis to be held responsible for his actions. In March of this year, a third psychiatric report commissioned by the investigating judge in the Halimi case concurred with this assessment, arguing that Traore’s consumption of cannabis had eliminated his “discernment” (a clinical term for “judgment”).
Spanish politician who called Israel ‘illegal state’ named deputy prime minister
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez appointed as his deputy a politician who has called Israel an “illegal country” and hosted a talk show with allegedly anti-Semitic content that aired on an Iranian-funded TV station.

The appointment Thursday of Pablo Iglesias Turrión, leader of the far-left Podemos party, follows an election in November that forced the Socialist party to partner with far-left movements to create the first coalition government in Spanish history. The government will have four deputy prime ministers.

Podemos, which won 20 percent of votes in the Spanish general election in 2015 just a year after its creation, has called for a blanket boycott of Israel and has repeatedly accused its government of pursuing apartheid-like policies.

In an interview in 2018, Iglesias said: “We need to act more firmly on an illegal country like Israel.”

Iglesias was also host of the talk show “Fort Apache,” which aired on HispanTV, a station funded by Iran.

In one discussion from 2018, journalist Teresa Aranguren said during a discussion hosted by Iglesias that “The pro-Israel lobby has the power to determine American policies from within, raising questions whether it directs that policy.”
PMW: Palestinian Authority, Fatah Hold Military Training Camp For Girls, Named After Imprisoned Terrorist Karim Younis
The Palestinian Authority's National Security Forces (NSF) and the Fatah movement recently held a training camp for high school girls, at which the participants wore military-style uniforms and took part in various activities, some of them military, such as training with mock weapons.[1] The camp was named after Karim Younis, an Israeli Arab who is serving a life sentence for the kidnapping and murder of an Israeli soldier in 1980.[2] Younis, who is the longest-serving Palestinian prisoner in Israeli custody, and has served 38 years of his 40-year prison term, is greatly revered by Fatah and the Palestinian Authority (PA). In 2017 he was even elected to Fatah's Central Committee, and PA officials refer to him as "the eldest of the prisoners."

To mark the 38th anniversary of his imprisonment, and as part of promoting the ethos of armed struggle against Israel, Fatah websites and the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida published statements and articles praising him,[3] while stressing the commitment of PA President and Fatah Chairman Mahmoud 'Abbas to continuing the payments to the prisoners and the martyrs' families.[4]

This document reviews the reports on the Karim Younis training camp, and a statement issued by Fatah in his honor.

The three-day camp, held at the Al-Nu'eima base, was attended by 93 high school girls active in the Fatah movement,[5] and its launching ceremony, on January 5, was attended by Fatah and PA officials.[6] Fatah spokesman Jamal Nazzal said that the objective of training the girls was to build up their discipline, with an eye to their future recruitment to the NSF.[7] At the camp's graduation ceremony, Fatah Central Committee member 'Abbas Zaki stressed the importance of such camps for "strengthening the national spirit and true loyalty to the homeland," and praised "the struggles of the imprisoned commander Karim Younis."[8]

As stated, the camp participants wore military-style uniforms and took part in military activities, under the guidance of NSF commanders, including a nighttime march, drilling exercises, training with police dogs, training with mock rifles, joining NSF motor patrols in the city of Jericho and rappelling from a tower. [9] Below are pictures:
Fatah officials jockeying for power as Abbas’s tenure enters 15th year
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas enters the 15th year of his four-year term of office amid reports of a behind-the-scenes war of succession in Ramallah.

According to the reports, Hussein Al-Sheikh, head of the PA’s General Authority for Civil Affairs and member of the Fatah Central Committee; and Majed Faraj, head of the PA General Intelligence Service, have been working to prepare for the post-Abbas era.

The reports said that Al-Sheikh and Faraj have been trying to convince PLO and Fatah officials to support PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh as Abbas’s successor.

Mahmoud Aloul, deputy Fatah chairman, is also seen by several Fatah members as a “leading and natural candidate” to succeed Abbas.
The efforts of Al-Sheikh and Faraj seem to have enraged some Palestinian officials, including Jibril Rajoub, chairman of the Palestinian Football Association and veteran member of the Fatah Central Committee.

Palestinian sources in Ramallah said on Saturday that Rajoub supports the candidacy of jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, who is serving a five life sentence in prison for his role in terrorist attacks against Israelis during the Second Intifada.

“Rajoub has been complaining about the alliance between Al-Sheikh, Faraj and Shtayyeh,” Fatah officials told the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar. “That’s why Rajoub has recently been in contact with Barghouti, and has even visited him in prison a number of times.”
Democratic candidate for House accuses Israel of ‘human rights violations,’ supports BDS
A Democrat running in New York for the U.S. House of Representatives this year has accused Israel of “human rights violations” and has expressed support for boycotting the Jewish state.

“Shan believes all people including Israelis and Palestinians should have equal rights. The U.S. continued support of any government not abiding by international human right laws are subject to human rights violations,” states the campaign website of Shaniyat Chowdhury, who is running for the Democratic nomination in the state’s 5th Congressional District, which is currently served by Democratic Rep. Gregory Meeks. “With millions of lives lost, the people in the Middle East are exhausted from the conflict and seek peace.”

“The people of Palestine have not only been displaced from their homes, but are classified as second-class citizens in the region,” he continues. “Palestinians should be protected as equal citizens with equal rights.”

The campaign website also states that “the U.S. government needs to stop enabling conflicts by reducing aid from nations committing human rights violations,” a reference implied of Israel.

Finally, “Shan supports protecting the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement in accordance of First Amendment rights to free speech.”

Civil Rights Complaint Accuses Georgia Tech of Failing to ‘Confront Antisemitism, Protect Rights of Jewish Students and Faculty’
A civil rights complaint has been filed with the US Department of Education against the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), alleging that the school refused to “confront antisemitism and protect the rights of Jewish students and faculty.”

The complaint — which joins several that have been filed in recent weeks, following the passage of an executive order on antisemitism — was submitted late last month to the Office for Civil Rights by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) on behalf of Hillel of Georgia. It calls for an investigation into whether “Georgia Tech has engaged in discrimination, in permitting a hostile environment, and other violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

The complaint stems from an April 1 incident, when the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) club refused to allow Lauren Blazofsky, the director of the Jewish club Hillel at Georgia Tech, to enter a “Palestine 101” teach-in it hosted on campus. The complaint claims Blazofsky was prevented from attending the public event, which was organized as part of a week-long anti-Zionist festival, because she was “Jewish and affiliated with a Jewish organization on Georgia Tech’s campus.”

According to reporting in Technique, Georgia Tech’s student-run newspaper, Blazofsky “was stopped at the entrance of the event by a co-chair of YDSA who recognized her.” She was accused of coming to disrupt the event and told that she would not be allowed to proceed, despite her status as a staff member.

The ACLJ complaint claims YDSA sent Blazofsky an email on the same evening of the event, saying she turned away since, in the past, YDSA had “experienced a Hillel-affiliated faculty member Dr. Lubinsky repeatedly harassing our members & spying on our meetings. “
IBT Misinterprets Israeli Media to Fit Its Own Biases
The tragic story of two young Israelis who died in a flooded elevator in a Tel Aviv apartment building made international news. Dean Yaakov Shoshani and Stav Harari, both 25, drowned after the elevator became stuck as water flooded into the building as a result of severe rainfall.

The International Business Times covered the story and included the following:
The Times of Israel reported that residents of the area blamed the police for neglect. The residents claim that the working-class south Tel Aviv area with a predominantly Arab population is being neglected by city officials, while the north and central areas get preferential treatment.

Plenty of media buy into the framework that Israel discriminates against its own Arab citizens. So is the IBT suggesting that the Hatikvah neighborhood where this horrific incident took place, is neglected because it is predominantly Arab?

A look at The Times of Israel report from where the IBT took this information tells a different story:
Residents of working class south Tel Aviv and adjacent Jaffa, home to several Arab-majority neighborhoods, have long complained of neglect from city officials and others compared to better-off neighborhoods in north and central Tel Aviv.

Actually, the Hatikvah neighborhood of south Tel Aviv is, as one tourist website describes it, a “genuine melting pot of cultures, ethnicities, and ages.” It is not an Arab-majority neighborhood, it is predominantly Jewish.
How the British Media Turned a Holocaust Survivor’s Name into a Byword for Shady Landlords
Born in Poland in 1919 to an acculturated Jewish family, Peter Rachman was captured by the Germans in World War II, escaped to the Soviet Union—where he was sent to a Siberian prison camp—and then was able to join a Polish army unit fighting under British command in the Middle East and Italy. After the war Rachman settled in England and began a career in real estate, eventually amassing a small fortune and dying in 1962. A year later, his incidental connection to a major political scandal attracted the attention of the tabloid press, as Caryl Phillips explains:

On July 14, 1963, The Sunday People published a lead story supposedly exposing the late businessman’s nefarious practices under the banner headline “Rachman—These Are the Facts.” The paper identified Rachman as a central figure in an “empire based on vice and drugs, violence and blackmail, extortion and slum landlordism the like of which this country has never seen and let us hope never will again.” With no fear of a libel suit from a dead man, other newspapers followed and targeted Rachman, although there were plenty of examples of unscrupulous landlords at work in London.

The BBC reported that in order to extract maximum profit from his houses, Rachman would not hesitate to [rent properties to black people], so that rent-controlled white tenants would feel they had little choice but to leave, enabling the landlords to let out their flats at a higher rate. Panorama reported that, if this didn’t work, Rachman would pay Caribbean immigrant tenants to play deafening music at all times of the day and night. The BBC also reported claims that Rachman hired black hoodlums to intimidate white tenants, or, conversely, white hoodlums to harass black tenants.

But something else had happened to Rachman’s name: it was turned into a noun, “Rachmanism,” by no less a figure than the Labor party leader Harold Wilson, who would become prime minister little more than a year later. In a 1963 parliamentary debate on housing, Wilson condemned “the disease of Rachmanism,” and the term soon entered the Oxford English Dictionary.
Dutch return rare, Nazi-looted porcelain, to Jewish heirs
A precious porcelain set with 435 pieces dating back to the 18th century was found to have been looted from its original Jewish owner by the Nazis and will be returned to his heirs, Dutch News reported on Wednesday.

The original owner was a Jewish banker named Herbert Gutmann who was forced to sell them to a German man during the Nazi regime. The set was then sold in parts in the 1970’s to the Het Loo palace, the Rijksmuseum and the Zuiderzeemuseum. Currently, 14 pieces had been discovered by Art detective Arthur Brand in the Hey Loo collection after he was hired by the heirs to discover what happened to the set. The heirs requested the objects be returned in 2015.

The formal decision to return the pieces was taken by the Dutch Ministry of Culture yet it is unclear at the moment if the family would insist on the physical return of the objects or might be content to leave them on display where they are safe. While the purchases which eventually landed the items in Dutch hands were legal, the Ministry of Culture decided that the original sale to the German man had been under duress.

The set was given by its manufacturer, Meissen porcelain, as a present to the last Stadtholder of the Dutch Republic William V, Prince of Orange. His son, also named William, was to become the first King of the Netherlands with the title of Stadholder [steward] being replaced by the Monarchy.
Israeli Holocaust survivor to address central UN remembrance event
Shraga Milstein, 87, a survivor of Bergen-Belsen and an Israeli, is set to address the UN General Assembly on International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27.

Milstein, a guest of Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, will speak at the UN’s central memorial ceremony, which UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Ambassador Danon, US Ambassador Kelly Craft, the ambassador from Germany and others are expected to address.

“As a child in a concentration camp, who lost his parents and family, I never imagined that one day I would speak to the world about the darkest era in the history of the Jewish people,” Milstein said.

“Just as people continue to deny the Holocaust, witness testimonies to the atrocities are diminishing,” he added. “The Holocaust was not only a once-in-a-lifetime event, but a lesson to the world about the power of hatred and our commitment to make sure our voices are never silenced.”

Milstein was born in Poland and liberated from Bergen-Belsen by the British army in 1945 when he was 12 years old. An orphan, he immigrated to Israel and later became the head of the Kfar Shmaryahu local council and the chairman of the Massua Institute for Holocaust Studies. Last year, he was elected chairman of the International Council for Holocaust Memorial Sites in Germany, and is the chairman of the Bergen-Belsen refugee association in Israel. He has written his memoirs in a book titled The Journey of Life.

Danon said Milstein’s story “is the story of the Jewish spirit: from a helpless people, we have grown into a strong and successful nation.”

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 14 years and 30,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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