Friday, November 20, 2020

From Ian:

Caroline Glick: At a diplomatic crossroad, it's time for Israel to act
The leaders of the Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria are calling for the government to use the next two months to normalize the status of Israel's younger communities in the areas. It certainly makes sense to follow their advice with all due haste. It is similarly important for the government to restore the decision-making power for planning and construction schemes in Judea, Samaria and unified Jerusalem to local planning boards.

As part of the Obama administration's explicit efforts to demonize Jewish life in these areas, Obama coerced Netanyahu into agreeing that every new construction project in them would require the prime minister's signature to move forward. That move, made under duress, should be abrogated immediately.

More to the point, in the face of the open hostility Biden's team is now expressing towards those property rights and towards Israel's sovereign rights in Judea and Samaria more generally, it would be eminently reasonable, and indeed a matter of great urgency, for the Netanyahu government to secure Trump's permission to apply our sovereignty to Israel's communities in Judea and Samaria and to the Jordan Valley in the framework of the Trump peace plan.

A good target date for such a move would be Dec. 23 – the fourth anniversary of the Obama administration's facilitation of the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2234, which libelously defined Israeli communities and neighborhoods in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem as a "flagrant violation of international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace."

The Abraham Accords have ushered in an era of comprehensive peace. The two-state solution, such as it is, can only be viable if Israel has secure borders and if the Palestinians recognize the Jewish people's national rights to our ancestral homeland, which includes unified Jerusalem, the communities in Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley. And, as the Pompeo Doctrine made clear, the Israeli communities are not inherently illegal. Israel has sovereign rights to Judea and Samaria under international law.

The events of the last several days demonstrate clearly where we are and where we are heading. It is critical that Israel take advantage of where we are to secure its interests as it enters a new diplomatic reality in January.
Pompeo to JNS: ‘Trump administration will continue to be a force for good’
JNS: Is there a unifying theme between your policies regarding the Abraham Accords, isolating Iran and laying out a new vision for peace between Israelis and Palestinians?

Pompeo: The common theme is that in the United States, we recognize the reality of what’s best for humanity, for the people. And so, whether it’s the Iranian people or the Palestinian people, we want them to live in harmony and peace and be prosperous, not engage in historical feuds that don’t comport with the reality that is 2020.

JNS: Yesterday, you pledged to treat anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism and called BDS a “cancer.” You called on the U.S. government to identify and restrict funding to organizations working “to penalize or limit commercial relations with Israel.” And the United States will now require producers in “Area C” to mark their goods as “Made in Israel.”

The New York Times referred to your itinerary yesterday as “scarcely a mere victory lap,” and in a headline called your diplomatic announcements “parting gifts to the Israeli right.” Are these “parting gifts”? Why are these announcements coming now? And who are the beneficiaries?

Pompeo: Oh, these are the right things for the world. Again, our policy in the Middle East has been that we took our founders’ principles, a conservative worldview and a realism that comports with our central understanding and President Trump’s understanding about how American foreign policy should be effectively used.

This decision about how we ought to label products is simply an outcome of this understanding of the region. I’m sure the beneficiaries of this will be legion. I’m sure people will be more prosperous, more free and more capable of living autonomous lives as a result of the decision that we made yesterday. And we’re excited about that.

You know, as for timing, I’m the secretary of state. Every day, I’m the secretary of state. I get up just like I did the first day I was secretary of state and run at problem sets, and try to make President Trump’s foreign policy real and effective. That’s my mission. So long as I’m secretary of state, I’ll continue to do it.

JNS: Should we be expecting further announcements in the days and weeks ahead?

Pompeo: Oh yeah, we’re still working. Yeah. You seem to have a shocked look on your face, as if the secretary of state would stop working at some point in time. No, America’s still engaged and working throughout the world, and we will be.
Trump’s core righteousness shines through Pompeo's speech
While the Muslim Arab world and its sycophants who kowtow to them — throughout gutless, spineless, and penny-pinching skinflint Western Europe and elsewhere — continue to pursue the illusion that Jews ever will be uprooted from the so-called “West Bank,” Trump and Pompeo now have made clear that America recognizes the permanent legality and legitimacy of Jewish communities up and down the Biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria. From now on, products made in Judea and Samaria for export to the United States no longer must be labeled, as Obama and His Fraudulency required, “Made in the West Bank” — but instead henceforth are to be labeled as “Made in Israel.” Because Trump and Pompeo now have certified that Judea and Samaria — the so-called “West Bank” — in fact are regions that are part of Israel.

Beyond that, Secretary Pompeo stated that any entity that continues supporting “BDS” — calls to boycott, divest from, or to sanction Israel — will be deemed outright anti-Semitic and will suffer the full ramifications of American financial and other pressure for that hatred banned by our laws.

The thing about “BDS” — a movement founded and created by Arab terrorists and their supporters in Europe and America, and fostered throughout American campuses by Jew-hating Leftist professors and their ignorantly moronic student minions who do not know the difference between the Mideast and the Midwest — is that the same haters and criminals who would boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel never advocate BDS against a China that religiously persecutes and imprisons its Uighyur Muslim minority, suppresses and crushes freedom in Hong Kong and throughout its Communist mainland, and that knowingly criminally exported to the world the worst pandemic of the past hundred years. Imagine that: no BDS against China, but BDS against Israel.

There can be no clearer example of outright virulent Jew-hatred than that: applying one standard — tolerance and gleeful acceptance — for Communist murderers, international criminals, tyrants and dictators who persecute religion and speech . . . and simultaneously applying a completely different standard — zealous hatred and brutal economic warfare — against Jews.

BDS is the anti-Semitism and Jew-hatred of today. Obama and His Fraudulency went along with it and never stood up to it. By contrast, Trump and Pompeo — with no conceivable political benefit to be accrued, only the motivation of common decency — now have placed the force of American law to crush it.

Trump’s and Pompeo’s decency and friendship never will be forgotten. That 83 percent favorability among Orthodox Jews will stand in good measure for the next Trump presidential term, whether it commences by court orders in January 2021 or by popular and electoral vote four years from now. His Fraudulency will be gone before we know it. The Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria — now 800,000 strong and growing by leaps and bounds every day — is eternal.


Pompeo brought many gifts on farewell tour, but do they have long-term value?
It is too early to say if US President-elect Joe Biden will rush to formally return to America’s pre-Trump position on settlements. Since it will be preoccupied by a pandemic and a major economic crisis, reinstating the 1978 Hansell Memorandum — which found that settlements are “inconsistent with international law” — may not immediately top the incoming administration’s agenda.

But Biden has for decades been a vocal opponent of settlement expansion and will likely make his views on the matter known fairly soon after Inauguration Day.

The big finale of Pompeo’s farewell tour Thursday was a visit to Mount Bental on the Golan Heights — the first visit of a US secretary of state to the strategic high plateau claimed by Syria since Washington recognized Israeli sovereignty over the area last year (though not the first visit ever by a serving secretary).

“You can’t stand here and stare out at what’s across the border and deny the central thing that President Trump recognized that previous presidents had refused to do. But this is a part of Israel and a central part of Israel,” he declared.

It was a powerful endorsement of Trump’s March 2019 decision, but, again, one with scant concrete real-life implications. Washington remains the only capital in the world, besides Jerusalem, that recognizes Israel’s claim to the Golan. A quick visit by a supportive but lame-duck diplomat will not change that.

Biden is not expected to rescind his predecessor’s Golan recognition, but he is not likely to praise it much, either. His former boss, Barack Obama, once laughed Netanyahu out of the Oval Office after he asked the White House to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, according to a source familiar with the incident.

Pompeo may therefore also turn out to be the last secretary of state to visit the West Bank and the Golan, at least for the foreseeable future. But his image as a fearless champion of Israel, which he skillfully solidified Thursday, would certainly not hurt his chances to get the Republican nomination in the 2024 presidential race, if he chose to enter it.


White House to name rabbi with ties to Israeli right to Mideast development post
The Trump administration has chosen the first leader for a US investment fund aimed at advancing Israeli-Arab peace: a right-wing rabbi who once raised funds for an Israeli political group so extreme that even prominent pro-Israel leaders have cut off ties.

Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone, a senior adviser to David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, will head the Abraham Fund, sources told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

The fund is an outgrowth of the recent normalization agreements, called the Abraham Accords, between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

One of the fund’s first projects will be to modernize the checkpoints that West Bank Palestinians use to cross into Israel, which the agency said will ease their travel.

Congressional Democrats raised alarms about Lightstone’s appointment, saying it represents another example of Trump “burrowing” political appointees into sensitive career positions before he leaves office. In this case, they said, the appointment attaches the United States to Israel’s settlement enterprise, which is opposed by US President-elect Joe Biden.

Unlike political appointments, which new presidents always replace, placing someone in a career role like the one to which Lightstone is being named requires a more onerous process.


Joe Biden's victory brings Palestinians a sigh of relief
Is Joe Biden good or bad for the Palestinians? This is the question many Palestinians have been asking since the announcement that the Democratic presidential nominee has won the US election.

For now, it seems that while the Palestinians are divided on Biden, the vast majority agrees that the departure of US President Donald Trump and his administration is the best gift they could have hoped for.

The Palestinians’ longtime attitude toward US presidential elections was based on the claim that there is no real difference between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to the Israeli-Arab conflict. No matter who is sitting in the White House, the US will always be biased in favor of Israel, the Palestinians argued over the past five decades. “Two faces of the same coin” was the answer given by many Palestinians, when asked for their responses to previous US presidential elections.

But the past four years of the Trump administration have taught the Palestinians that there is a difference between one US president and another. For the first time, the Palestinians saw how a US president can be not only biased in favor of Israel, but also extremely hostile toward their leaders in particular and the Palestinian issue in general.

“Trump was the worst US president for the Palestinians,” a senior Palestinian official in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post this week. “This is a president who fully endorsed the agenda of the right-wing parties in Israel and acted as if he was working for [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu. He recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moved the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, closed the PLO diplomatic mission in Washington, DC, halted financial aid to the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees, closed the US consulate in east Jerusalem and even ruled that settlements are not inconsistent with international law.”
PLO member Ashrawi: 'Made in Israel' endorses land theft, plunder
Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian leader, activist and member of the PLO Executive Committee, condemned US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's visit to the West Bank Thursday, saying in a press release that it entrenches the occupation.

“The visit of [the] US Secretary to the occupied West Bank is a last ditch effort by the outgoing US administration to entrench its pattern of criminality, illegality, and direct complicity in the colonization of Palestine and dispossession of our people," Ashrawi said.

"It is also a cynical exploitation by Mr. Pompeo to advance his own personal political goals as the new face of far right ideologues in the US," she added.

Beyond criticizing the outgoing US administration, Ashrawi also noted that products made in the West Bank directly contradict international law, saying "Labeling products made inside illegal Israeli settlements as 'made in Israel’ or 'products of Israel’ is an outrageous and illegal policy tantamount to de facto recognition of Israel’s annexation of most of the West Bank."

"It is an attempt to legitimize the theft of Palestinian land and plunder of Palestinian resources that runs counter fundamental principles of international law and the global consensus," Ashrawi claimed.

"Further, Pompeo’s pronouncement of hostility against states and international organizations that properly label Israeli settlement products is an affront to the international community’s obligations under the law, including UN Security Council resolution 2334. These products are a product of theft. They must be boycotted, not supported."
Emirati mogul tells Israeli TV: Hezbollah must disappear from the Earth
A top Emirate businessman has told an Israeli TV network that Iran, Hezbollah and global terrorism are major threats that must be dealt with, and that he hopes Israel will make Hezbollah “disappear from the Earth.”

Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor is the head of Al Habtoor group, a major conglomerate that deals in real estate, education, hospitality, automotive industries, publishing and other areas. He is responsible for one of Dubai’s more iconic buildings, the Burj Al Arab hotel.

The billionaire had been a proponent of normalization with Israel even before the United Arab Emirates and the Jewish state signed an agreement to establish formal ties this year.

“I don’t really like the word of peace because we have no argument, we have no dispute between us and the Israelis,” he told Channel 13 in a report that aired Thursday night.

Al Habtoor said Iran presented a threat to the whole Middle East. “It supports all the terrorists in the world. I am against war personally, but I am with erasing all the terrorists on Earth,” he said.

He also cited Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group as a major regional problem.

“Hezbollah must disappear, must disappear from the Earth,” he said. “Hezbollah controls everything [in Lebanon], if Hezbollah’s there we cannot help. Somebody, someone, some country must get rid of this, and the only one I think [can do it] which is on the border is Israel.”
David Collier: The Conservative government dumps on Israel – again and again
The Conservative Government has an 80-seat majority. It means that for the first time in over a decade, we have a government with legroom. The signs were good. Boris has ridiculed the BDS movement and the Conservative party is publicly vocal about the anti-Israel bias in international forums such as the United Nations. In June 2018, Boris attacked the UN Human Rights Council, calling the permanent anti-Israel fixture, ‘disproportionate and damaging,’ and vowed to vote against these resolutions if they persist.

But when they Conservative government is actually put to the test – it stabs Israel in the back.

United Nations Israel bashing
The United Nations is currently sitting for the 75th session of the UN General Assembly. On the agenda are twenty-four resolutions. Incredibly seventeen of them are attacking Israel. Looking around at the state of the world, any sane person would have to wonder how it is possible that Israel warrants almost 75% of the UN’s time.

This disproportionate, damaging, obsession is exactly what Boris Johnson referenced about the UNHRC, also taking place at the UNGA. Every year without fail. An endless list of anti-Israel resolutions put forward by the world’s worst despots. The Conservative government sides with despots

The Conservatives have been in power now for over a decade. They have as large a majority as they could possibly hope to have. Yesterday they voted against Israel. They did the day before too. The co-sponsors of yesterday’s resolution were Syria, Venezuela & North Korea. What possible excuse can a British Conservative government have for voting with the likes of Syria and North Korea against the only democracy in the Middle East?

Earlier this month, the UK abstained on an anti-Israel resolution that referred to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount solely by its Muslim name of Haram al-Sharif. What have the Jews done to the British Government to deserve such treatment? The UK voted for five of the six anti-Israel resolutions passed on that day.

It is true that all the EU states are also guilty. So what? These same EU states failed to introduce a single UNGA resolution on the human rights situation in China, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Turkey or Pakistan. Don’t we expect more from the Conservative government than bowing down before an antisemitic, anti-Israel, pro-Islamist obsession?


UK lists Jerusalem separately from Israel on COVID-19 travel advisory
Jerusalem is listed as a separate entity from Israel in the UK's updated list of countries to which citizens may travel without a quarantine requirement upon return.

Conservative Friends of Israel expressed outrage at the listing.

"The announcement of a travel corridor with Israel is excellent news," the CFI said. "However, the [Foreign Office's] decision to define Jerusalem as a territory separate from Israel is offensive and hostile."

The group pointed out that Jerusalem is Israel's capital, and "to describe Jerusalem as anything other than an integral part of Israel is a fiction divorced from reality and the travel advaice must be immediately corrected."

The UK, along with most of the world, with the noted exceptions of the US and Russia, among others, does not recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

Starting on Saturday morning, travelers arriving in England from Israel will not have to enter quarantine, the UK's Department of Travel announced on Thursday.

Israel is one of many countries added to the UK's safe travel corridor list. The West Bank is not included on the list.


UN panel votes 163-5 in support of Palestinian statehood, end of occupation
The United Nations voted overwhelmingly to approve a draft resolution in favor of Palestinian self-determination, with Israel and the United States voting against.

The proposal on Thursday in the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee — the committee that deals with human rights and humanitarian affairs — passed 163 to 5, with 10 abstentions. Canada, which typically votes alongside Israel in such resolutions, stood with the majority.

The resolution emphasized “the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the right to their independent State of Palestine” and “stressed the urgency of achieving without delay an end to the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace settlement between the Palestinian and Israeli sides,” based on a two-state solution.

It is part of a large package of 20 pro-Palestinian resolutions that are passed by the General Assembly every year, which the Israeli Mission to the UN has long argued proves the bias of the international forum.

In addition to Israel and the US, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Nauru also voted against the resolution. Australia, Cameroon, Guatemala, Honduras, Kiribati, Palau, Papa New Guinea, Rwanda, Togo and Tonga all abstained.
Canada votes for Palestinian self-determination at UN for second year
Canada voted in favor of an annual draft United Nations General Assembly Resolution in support of Palestinian self-determination for the second year in a row.

The resolution, one of close to 20 that the UN General Assembly will approve this year, is voted on annually.

The UNGA’s Third Committee approved it Thursday with a 163-5 vote and 10 abstentions.

Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, and the United States voted against it.

Countries that abstained were; Australia, Cameroon, Guatemala, Honduras, Kiribati, Palau, Papa New Guinea, Rwanda, Togo and Tonga.

Canada often votes against such annual resolutions and or abstains, as a protest against UN bias against Israel. More UN resolutions are passed against Israel than against any other country. Nations who oppose the pro-Palestinian and or anti-Israel resolutions, often do so as a protest vote against bias rather than direction opposition to the text themselves.


Meet Mansour Abbas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's unlikely ally
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas surprised no one by not making much of an effort in recent years to build their relationship.

But a different Abbas is currently surprising Israelis by adopting a new strategy of actively seeking an alliance with Netanyahu that could change Israeli politics forever.

Deputy Knesset Speaker Mansour Abbas heads Ra’am (the United Arab List), an Islamic party that has four of the 15 MKs on the Joint List. His strategy has faced both criticism and praise from other Arab MKs and all ends of the political map.

His critics on the Left say he is wrong to trust Netanyahu, who has made Arabs the enemy in his last four election campaigns and according to one critic is “acting like a preacher who does not practice what he preaches with his cynical romance with Abbas.”

“We oppose his behavior, his collaboration with the inciter,” Joint List head Ayman Odeh said.

But sources in the Joint List say that by cooperating with Abbas, Netanyahu and Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman have laid the groundwork for future partnerships with their party that will enable governments to be formed, removing that taboo forever.
When Egyptian President Anwar Sadat addressed the Knesset
Egyptian President Anwar Sadat made history on November 20, 1977 when he became the first Arab leader to officially visit Israel to meet with then Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, and spoke to the Knesset.

Coming four years after Egyptian forces attacked Israel in the Yom Kippur War, Sadat addressed Israeli lawmakers on how to achieve peace between the two nations and a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

In his opening remarks to the Knesset, Sadat said, "I come to you today on solid ground, to shape a new life, to establish peace. We all, on this land, the land of God; we all, Muslims, Christians and Jews, worship God and no one but God. God's teachings and commandments are love, sincerity, purity and peace."

"After long thinking, I was convinced that the obligation of responsibility before God, and before the people, make it incumbent on me that I should go to the farthest corner of the world, even to Jerusalem, to address Members of the Knesset, the representatives of the People of Israel, and acquaint them with all the facts surging in me. Then, I would leave you to decide for yourselves. Following this, may God Almighty determine our fate."

In his own address to the Knesset, Begin spoke of his hope for peace with Israel's largest Arab neighbor. "Today, Jerusalem is bedecked with two flags - the Egyptian and the Israeli. Together, Mr. President, we have seen our little children waving both flags," the prime minister said.
Israel accuses Lebanon of changing stance in maritime border talks
Israel has accused Lebanon of changing its position in talks on their disputed maritime border and warned it could lead to a “dead end” that would be damaging for the whole region.

The two countries, which remain technically at war, opened negotiations on the border dispute under US and UN auspices last month to clear the way for offshore oil and gas exploration.

“Lebanon has changed its stance on its maritime border with Israel seven times,” Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz tweeted late Thursday.

“Its current position contradicts not only its previous one, but also Lebanon’s stance on its maritime border with Syria, which takes into account Lebanese islands close to the border,” Steinitz said.

Earlier on Thursday, Lebanese President Michel Aoun had set out his country’s position on the maritime border, which he said should be “based on the line that departs on land from the point of Ras Naqoura.”

The demarcation should be “according to the general principle known as the median line, without taking into account any impact of the occupied Palestinian coastal islands,” Aoun tweeted, referring to the Israeli coastline.
MEMRI: At Anti-France Protests, Pakistani Clerics Call For Jihad, Atom Bomb Against France; 50 Million Rupees Offered For Beheading President Macron
This report reviews recent anti-France protests in Pakistani towns led by Islamic scholars, who have declared jihad against France. The clerics are demanding the beheading of French President Emmanuel Macron, the expulsion of France's French ambassador from Pakistan, and a boycott of French products.

By September 1, 2020, the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo had made international headlines for deciding to republish cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.[1] However, this news did not reach the front pages of Pakistan's leading Islamist daily, Roznama Ummat, until a few days later. Islamic clerics who spoke at conferences held by the Pakistani religious organization and movement Khatm-e-Nabuwwat on September 7 did not appear to mention France. In Peshawar, where one of the largest such conferences took place, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) emir Maulana Fazlur Rehman, spoke to a large crowd in rejection of any attempt to alter Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws, but does not appear to have mentioned France.[2]

However, since religious extremism has seeped into mass consciousness in Pakistan, this issue had nevertheless by then made its entry. On September 4, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), headed by the wheelchair-bound cleric Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi, organized perhaps the first anti-France protests in Lahore, Karachi, and elsewhere, but this, too, was not widely reported by the press.[3]

On September 5, the Urdu daily Roznama Dunya published a short report on a protest by another group, the Muslim Students Organization, which had burned the French flag in Islamabad on September 4.[4] Subsequently, religious groups began organizing protests exclusively targeting France, at which Islamic scholars urged that the French ambassador be expelled from Pakistan and demanded that President Emmanuel Macron apologize or suffer beheading.

Most of these protest rallies were held on Fridays, when worshippers congregate in large numbers for weekly prayers. September and early October were largely peaceful, despite some occasional protests, and there were a few anti-France protests. This changed quickly, however. On October 27, Maulana Fazlur Rehman of JUI-F urged his followers to hold a week-long series of protests against France.[5] Towards the end of October and in early November, not a week passed without an anti-France rally in Pakistan.


Pompeo to 'Post': All options still on the table to counter Iran
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrapped up a visit to Israel replete with dramatic policy announcements with a conversation with The Jerusalem Post on Friday.

Just the day before, Pompeo became the first US Secretary of State to visit a West Bank settlement, as well as the Golan Heights. And while he was at the Psagot Winery in Sha’ar Binyamin, he announced that products imported by Israelis in Judea and Samaria to the US would be labeled “made in Israel,” and that the US would consider the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement to be antisemitic and all funding would be revoked from its affiliates.

But there are many more issues regarding Israel on the agenda, from continuing the maximum pressure campaign on Iran to the momentum created by the Abraham Accords.

Pompeo wouldn’t quite admit that his time in office is, in all likelihood, ending in two months, in keeping with his boss, US President Donald Trump’s continuing challenge to the apparent election results in favor of Democratic candidate Joe Biden. But much of his remarks still had the air of a retrospective, of someone looking back at a job that he considered to be well done.
What’s behind Iran’s terror campaign in Europe?
A trial due to begin next week in the Belgian city of Antwerp is set to cast further light on the Islamic Republic of Iran’s use of official diplomatic missions in its ongoing campaign of violence and harassment of its opponents across the globe. While the threat of activities by non-state Sunni jihadi organizations remains high on the agenda of many Western countries, the flouting by Iran of global norms in pursuit of the regime’s perceived enemies has received little focus. The Antwerp trial may serve to change this.

The four people to be tried in Antwerp stand accused of seeking to place an explosive device at a rally of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), held at Vellepinte, outside Paris on June 30, 2018. The NCRI is the public and diplomatic wing of the Mujahidin al-Khalq or Peoples’ Mujahidin of Iran (MEK). This organization was responsible for the first public revelations regarding the Iranian nuclear program, in 2002. Led by Massoud and Maryam Rajavi, the MEK is a veteran opponent of the Iranian regime. It has succeeded in recent years in forging deep links with influential political circles in both the US and Western Europe.

Speakers at the Paris rally included Newt Gingrich, former US speaker of the House of Representatives, and Rudy Giuliani, former New York City mayor and attorney to President Donald Trump. The specific target of the bombing, according to Western media reports, was NCRI leader Maryam Rajavi. The bomb would have caused large-scale loss of life at the rally had it been placed and detonated.

Four people are accused of involvement in the planned bombing of the NCRI rally. Three of them have been named: Assadollah Assadi, 48, an Iranian diplomat and third secretary at Iran’s embassy in Vienna; Amir Saadouni, 40, and his wife, Nasimeh Naami, 36. The identity of the fourth person has not yet been announced.
Iran the big loser in Nagorno-Karabakh war
Firstly, it remains to be seen how Azerbaijan’s victory will play out with Iran’s sizable Azeri minority. Azeris are the second-largest ethnic group in Iran. During the conflict there was a lot of pro-Azerbaijani rhetoric and protests on social media and on the streets in support of Baku by ethnic Azeris. The Iranian regime was very careful to appear balanced during the conflict, but at the same time stifled many of these pro-Azerbaijani protests. There is a constant low-level push for self-determination and increased autonomy in northern Iran for the Azeri minority. Although this has not materialized into a mass movement for independence, it makes some in the Iranian leadership nervous.

Secondly, Iran will have to devote time, resources, and troops to adjust to the new geopolitical reality along its northern border with Azerbaijan. This could mean less Iranian focus on other places such as the Gulf and Syria. Part of the Azerbaijan-Iran state border has been under Armenian occupation since 1994. Now that this border is back under the control of Baku, a new security dynamic has been created between the two countries. Also, the presence of 2,000 Russian peacekeepers — now only 100 km from the Iranian border — is bound to make many in Tehran nervous. Although Russia and Iran have enjoyed good relations in recent times, the two have been rival powers in the region for centuries. Iran has already started to deploy more military assets along its northern border. It remains to be seen whether this is just a temporary measure or will become permanent due to the new security situation on the ground.

Finally, it is unclear how Azerbaijan’s success in the war will affect its bilateral relationship with Iran. Azerbaijan has strived to maintain cordial relations with Iran because it relied on access to Iranian airspace and territory to supply its autonomous region of Nakhchivan — an exclave of Azerbaijan nestling between Iran, Armenia and Turkey. In addition to transit rights, Azerbaijan also relied on Iran to provide natural gas to Nakhchivan. As part of the recent peace deal, Armenia is opening up a corridor through its territory to allow Azerbaijan to transport goods directly to Nakhchivan. In addition, earlier this year Turkey announced a new natural gas pipeline to supply Nakhchivan with energy. Iran is less important for Azerbaijan now and it is likely that the dynamics in the bilateral relationship will change in Baku’s favor. Iran has many problems. A stagnant economy, political unrest at home, the fallout from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the never-ending costly interventions in places such as Syria and Iraq. The last thing Tehran needs right now is a change to the cozy status quo it has enjoyed in the South Caucasus for the past three decades.

Unfortunately for Iran, this is exactly what is happening.
UN condemns Iran’s extrajudicial killing of champion wrestler
The United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday cited the Iranian regime’s hanging of the champion Greco-Roman wrestler Navid Afkari in a resolution that condemned the regime for its widespread human rights violations.

The sponsors of the resolution called on the “Islamic Republic of Iran to launch a comprehensive accountability process in response to all cases of serious human rights violations, including allegations of excessive use of force, arbitrary arrest and detention, and torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment against peaceful protesters and political prisoners, failure to respect fair trial guarantees, and the use of torture to extract confessions, such as in the case of Navid Afkari and others.”

The resolution added that accountability inquiry should also include "cases of suspicious deaths in custody, as well as long-standing violations involving the Iranian judiciary and security agencies, including enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions, and calls upon the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to end impunity for such violations.”

Hillel Neuer, the executive director of UN Watch, tweeted:
“GOOD: Despite opposition by the world's most murderous regimes, the U.N. just condemned the Islamic Republic of Iran for arbitrary arrest & detention, torture of peaceful protesters & political prisoners--and specifically cited the case of Navid Afkari.”





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