Friday, January 23, 2015

From Ian:

Caroline Glick: Iran, Obama, Boehner and Netanyahu
Obama's message then is clear. Not only will the diplomatic policy he has adopted not prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons (and the ability to attack the US with nuclear warheads attached to an ICBM), but in the event that Iran fails to agree to even cosmetic limitations on its nuclear progress, it will suffer no consequences for its recalcitrance.
And this brings us back to Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu.
With Obama’s diplomatic policy toward Iran enabling rather than preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power, members of the House and Senate are seeking a credible, unwavering voice that offers an alternative path. For the past 20 years, Netanyahu has been the global leader most outspoken about the need to take all necessary measures to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, not only for Israel’s benefit, but to protect the entire free world. From the perspective of the congressional leadership, then, inviting Netanyahu to speak was a logical move.
In the Israeli context, however, it was an astounding development. For the past generation, the Israeli Left has insisted Israel’s role on the world stage is that of a follower.
As a small, isolated nation, Israel has no choice, they say, other than to follow the lead of the West, and particularly of the White House, on all issues, even when the US president is wrong. All resistance to White House policies is dangerous and irresponsible, leaders like Herzog and Tzipi Livni continuously warn.
Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu exposes the Left’s dogma as dangerous nonsense.
The role of an Israeli leader is to adopt the policies that protect Israel, even when they are unpopular at the White House. Far from being ostracized for those policies, such an Israeli leader will be supported, respected, and relied upon by those who share with him a concern for what truly matters.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Islamic State Deepens Grip in Future Palestine
According to Israeli security forces, dozens of Hamas and Islamic Jihad members in the West Bank have defected to the Islamic State in recent months. Their main goal, according to sources, is to topple the Palestinian Authority and launch terror attacks on Israel.
Some 200 supporters of the Islamic State, who held up Islamic State flags, took to the streets of Gaza City to protest the latest cartoons published by the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. They also chanted slogans that called for slaughtering French nationals, and burned French flags. Attempts by Hamas to impose a news blackout on the protest failed, as photos and videos found their way to social media.
The glorification of terrorists and jihadists by the Palestinian Authority, and the ongoing anti-Israel incitement by both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, is driving many Palestinians into the open arms of the Islamic State.
Ben-Dror Yemini: An attack against coexistence
Make no mistake. This wasn't a terror attack against the occupation. This wasn't a national attack. There may have been such terror attacks in the past. No more. The terror attacks of the past few years are not attacks aimed at protesting a certain injustice.
Does anyone seriously think that the despicable terrorist used a long knife so that the Palestinians would have a sovereign state, prosperity, welfare, advanced education and human rights? Does anyone think that the vile terrorist is frustrated over the fact that the two states for two people solution has not been realized? Come on. Nearly all the attacks of the past few years are aimed at imposing Islam on central Tel Aviv, just like they are aimed at imposing Islam on central Paris.
The terrorist targeted bus No. 40 precisely because it represents Israeli normalcy. The normalcy of Israelis who go out to work every morning. The normalcy in which Arabs and Jews can live together despite everything.
This normalcy is irritating. It's not a simple normalcy. It's normalcy with numerous tensions and problems. But it's still normalcy. It can and should be improved. It's not that there is great harmony between the many different people who travel on the bus, but considering the lack of normalcy in every area in which this terrorist's friends gain their strength – and it's happening in too many places around the world – we should welcome what we have.

PMW: Fatah adheres to violent means and armed struggle
A few days ago, Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement posted the above picture to their official Facebook page. It demonstrates that the movement still favors violence as the way to obtain statehood.
A stone, a knife, a Molotov cocktail, a gun, a hand grenade, an assault rifle and an RPG illustrate Fatah's progress in terms of more and more sophisticated weapons. These are the means with which it works toward its goal - to "finish with a state," as the poster states:
"We started with stones .... and we will finish with a state
The Palestinian National Liberation Movement [Fatah]"
[Facebook, "Fatah - The Main Page", Jan. 18, 2015]

For years, the Palestinian Authority and Fatah have promoted violence. Palestinian Media Watch has documented numerous statements emphasizing their adherence to "armed struggle" and veneration for the rifle. This week's stabbing attack in Tel Aviv was encouraged by such promotion of violence by the PA and Fatah who have both explicitly encouraged attacking Jews and Israelis with knives.
Nisman Report: Iran and Argentina Considered Pinning AMIA Bombing on 'Right-Wing Groups'
A 300-page report by Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman accuses the government of cutting a trade deal with Iran to mask the nation’s role in bombing a Jewish civil center in 1994. The governments considered “ways to place blame for the bombing on right-wing groups and activists,” according to The New York Times.
With Nisman found dead in his apartment on Sunday, the report is his only remaining work detailing the evidence for his case.
In an article highlighting Nisman’s report, The New York Times notes that the prosecutor had evidence that Iran–and, specifically, the terrorist group Hezbollah–were involved in the 1994 attack on the Israeli-Argentine Mutual Association (AMIA), which killed 85 people and injured hundreds. It remains the deadliest terrorist attack in Argentina’s history.
For years, Nisman’s report alleges, the Argentine government attempted to cut a deal with Iran in which they would receive oil at moderate prices should they help the orchestrators of the attack escape charges. In brainstorming ways to redirect the blame so that the Argentine government could prosecute someone for the crime, the governments considered “ways to place blame for the bombing on right-wing groups and activists.”
Alberto Nisman Sent Backup Emails Before Death
Just days before Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found dead in his Buenos Aires apartment on Jan. 19, 2015, he took measures to make sure his research into the Jewish Center bombing and high-level conspiracy didn’t disappear with him, according to a Makor Rishon report.
Nisman sent an email to three friends with a backup of his research and report.
It was the last email that Israeli-Argentine writer and educator, Gustavo Daniel Perednik, received from Nisman. A few days later Nisman was found with a bullet in his head.
A month before, Perednik met with Nisman in a cafe, where Nisman told him about what he was working on. Nisman told Perednik, “In case someone murders me, all the data is saved.”
Group of Jewish backpackers tortured for hours in Argentinian hostel by locals who chanted they were 'trying to take over Patagonia'
Ten Israeli tourists have been robbed, beaten and burned in a four hour-long anti-Semitic attack at a hostel in southern Argentina.
The attackers shouted 'f******* jews' at the group and accused them of 'trying to take over Patagonia' as they pelted them with stones and fired a shotgun round at a cabin during the ordeal.
Police called to the incident 45 minutes after the attack began had to withdraw because they were unable to control the situation - one was hospitalized with a broken jaw and two lost teeth.
The group of tourists were staying at the Onda Azul hostel near Puelo Lake, a backpacker's accommodation popular with Israelis, when three neighbours arrived brandishing sticks and bottles and hurling anti-Semitic abuse at the visitors.
WaPo Columnist: SOTU May Signal a Growing Rift Between White House and Jerusalem
In her column today, Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin described “a quiet diplomatic war behind the scenes” as a political divide grows between the Obama administration on one side, and Congressional leadership and America’s Middle East allies, including Israel, on the other.
Rubin concluded:
What is certain is that the administration wants a deal so badly it wants no interference from anyone. Congress, the large majority of Americans, Israel (our closest ally in the Middle East) and the Sunni states understand that there will be no deal, only capitulation, unless pressure is increased on Iran. This is arguably the most serious break in U.S.-Israeli relations ever, a break that stems from a president who has the worst relationship with Israel since its founding. That it spilled over into the public tug and pull is a message of how badly relations have ruptured. Congress needs to act promptly to maintain solidarity with our allies and to stave off a catastrophically dangerous deal.
Fury in Israel Over Obama's Mossad 'Lies'
A senior Israeli official delivered an uncommonly harsh attack on US President Barack Obama's administration Thursday evening, following the American report that alleged that Mossad Head Tamir Pardo had warned US senators against further Iran sanctions, in contradiction of Israel's official stance.
"The fraudulent claims against the Mossad Head were raised by the Americans yesterday, despite a message that had been transmitted to them on Tuesday by Intelligence Minister [Yuval] Steintz,” the senior Israeli source told Channel 2 news.
He added that Israel had gone over the minutes of the meeting between Pardo and the delegation of senators, and that Pardo had not said what was attributed to him.
"Leaking the Mossad Head's statements, even if they had not been falsified, is a serious breach of all the rules,” the senior source added. “Friends do not behave like this. Information from a secret meeting must not leak out.”
WH: Netanyahu 'Spat In Our Face'
The White House has interpreted the speaker’s invitation as an overt attempt to undermine the president’s continued negotiations with Iran on a nuclear deal—what Boehner blasted as a “bad deal” Wednesday in his announcement of Netanyahu’s visit, and a deal of which Netanyahu has been a vocal critic.
According to Haaretz, the White House is livid over Netanyahu’s planned congressional address, saying he failed to coordinate with the administration:
“We thought we’ve seen everything,” an unnamed senior U.S. official told Haaretz. “But Bibi managed to surprise even us. There are things you simply don’t do. He spat in our face publicly and that’s no way to behave. Netanyahu ought to remember that President Obama has a year and a half left to his presidency, and that there will be a price.”
The Times of Israel notes that insiders said the language used by the administration to describe Netanyahu made the infamous “chickenshit” epithet seem “mild” in comparison.
Pelosi (Who Visited Syria's Assad In 2007 Despite WH Objections) Blasts Boehner's Bibi Invite
Calling it "out of order," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) blasted Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress in March. According to a report in Roll Call, Pelosi's objection was primarily based on the fact that neither the White House or the House Democratic Party leadership was consulted.
Pelosi's visitor list may have been made in consultation with the White House, but in April 2007, she went to Syria for a meeting with Despot/ President Bashar al-Assad, ignoring the very public objections of the Bush Administration. Even worse, she attempted to negotiate for the U.S. without administration approval and she attempted to negotiate for Israel without the knowledge of then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
White House: Obama Won’t Meet With Netanyahu in DC Due to Israeli Election
The White House said Thursday that President Barack Obama will not meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the latter’s visit to Washington, DC, in March due to the visit’s close proximity to Israel’s national elections.
“As a matter of long-standing practice and principle, we do not see heads of state or candidates in close proximity to their elections, so as to avoid the appearance of influencing a democratic election in a foreign country,” Bernadette Meehan, spokesperson for the National Security Council, said in statement.
On Thursday, Netanyahu announced his acceptance of an invitation by U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) to address a joint-session of Congress on March 3 regarding Israel’s position on Western negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. Netanyahu’s address to Congress comes just two weeks before Israel’s national elections on March 17.
Amb. Alan Baker: Some legal truths about the Palestinian ICC exercise
From the tone and content of reports in the Israeli press, including The Jerusalem Post, following the recent spate of Palestinian threats and actions regarding the International Criminal Court, it is no wonder that the Israeli leadership and general public appear to be confused and even fearful.
This is exactly the point of Mahmoud Abbas’s exercise – to instill fear and to awaken doubt in the minds of Israelis as to the legitimacy of Israel’s actions, and to utilize what he perceives as a favorable international atmosphere in order to harm Israel internationally.
Beyond this hype, however, there are some very basic legal truths that seem to have escaped the notice of Mr. Abbas and his cohorts in their eagerness to malign Israel and its political and military leaders.
• The ICC is open to states only, not to entities that may claim to be states but do not have the requisite criteria for statehood required by international law.
• The Palestinians’ reliance on the 2012 General Assembly Palestinian upgrade resolution, which granted them “non-member-observer- state” status, and the procedural acts of acceptance of this by the UN secretary- general and the ICC prosecutor, cannot serve as legal grounds for their acceptance by the court. The UN General Assembly is a political, not a legal body. It cannot create statehood. While that resolution may indeed have supported their aims for statehood, it did not create a “State of Palestine.”
UN Gaza Rebuilding to Halt at End of January Due to Lack of Funds
A United Nations programme to rebuild Gaza and give aid and shelter to more than 100,000 Gazans made homeless by the 50-day summer war will be suspended at the end of January because world donors have reneged on promises to pay.
After the war, known as Operation Protective Edge in Israel, world donors, meeting in Cairo in October, pledged $5.4 billion to reconstruct the bombed-out Strip but only a small proportion has been paid.
A sum of $720 million was set aside for UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, for rebuilding the homes of Gaza’s refugees, who make up more than two thirds of the population. To date the UNRWA program is $580 million short. (h/t Yenta Press)
In '48 War, the Jews "Didn't Want These People to Leave the Village"
Alexander Galloway, a former UNRWA director in Jordan, famously said that the Arab world was not interested in solving the Palestinian refugee problem, but instead preferred to "keep it as an open sore, as an affront to the United Nations and as a weapon against Israel."
Today, ironically, it is UNRWA, the United Nations body responsible for Palestinian refugees, that's often charged with perpetuating the refugee status of Palestinians. And if the refugee problem is still used as a weapon against Israel, it is largely as a key component of the simplistic, hostile narrative that holds Israel as uniformly guilty and the Palestinian as fundamentally victims.
An example of this narrative: The claim in a The New York Times Op-Ed a few years back that, in 1948, "a people had been expelled from their land in a comprehensive ethnic cleansing operation."
But from those not enlisted in the war-of-words against Israel — from those who speak casually, as citizens and not as warriors — that narrative is often undermined. In today's Chicago Tribune (and in the LA Times last week) there is a story about the Arab-Israeli coastal town of Jisr az-Zarqa. One older resident is quoted talking about that allegedly "comprehensive ethnic cleansing operation":
In 1948, amid fighting between Arabs and Jews surrounding the creation of Israel, there was no fighting in Jisr.
Arabs living in nearby villages fled, but "we didn't even think about it, never even thought about leaving our lands," said Gamil Jarban, 72, a retired fisherman, who said his father built the first house in Jisr. He said the people of Jisr were left alone because they were peaceful.
"Even when the Jews came here, they didn't want these people to leave the village," he said.

To those most dedicated to talking points drawn up by Palestinian rejectionists, Jarban's frank remembrance might be viewed as a betrayal. But even Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas can't be angry. He's been known to contradict his own narrative now and again.
Ya’alon: Israel won’t tolerate provocations in the north
Israel will not tolerate any attempts to destabilize its northern border and will respond with force to any attack, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon warned Friday on a tour of the northern front with military leaders, as the army remained on high alert in the area.
The IDF bolstered its presence along the Lebanon border Thursday in anticipation of a possible retaliatory attack by Hezbollah for an airstrike on members of the terror group allegedly carried out by Israel on Sunday. The alert remained in force throughout Friday, although military sources said they had detected no change in Hezbollah deployment.
“We must be prepared for any attempt to challenge us, in view of the statements being made on the other said,” Ya’alon said, adding that Israel would hold the governments of its neighboring nations responsible for any attack.
IDF Chief of General Staff Lt-Gen. Benny Gantz also visited Northern Command’s headquarters and said security forces were “very alert, very primed, very prepared for any action that will be required” of them.
Though the leaders of the defense establishment made bold statements, the general public appeared unconcerned. Walla News reported that the tensions did nothing to dissuade Israelis from visiting Israel’s most popular winter tourism spot: Around 5,000 people had arrived at Mt. Hermon, the country’s only ski resort, by noon Friday.
The mountain straddles the borders of Israel, Syria and Lebanon.
'Hezbollah Terror Tunnel' Video Shatters Ya'alon's Claims
While Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon (Likud) has tried to allay fears claiming digging sounds residents on the northern border have been hearing for years are not Hezbollah constructing terror tunnels, a new video records what clearly appears to be the sound of underground digging.
When asked about the noises earlier this month, Ya'alon claimed "no tunnels have been located on the northern border. Noises that were heard beneath a home turned out to be a neighbor's horse stomping with his hooves."
But a new video posted on YouTube Wednesday, said to have been filmed at nighttime in the moshav Shtula right on the border with Lebanon, has many seriously doubting Ya'alon's claims.
Bus drivers to be trained to neutralize terrorists
In the wake of Wednesday’s terror attack in Tel Aviv, during which a 62-year-old bus driver was injured while trying to fend off the stabber, the Israeli government is advancing a plan to train drivers to handle security emergencies and neutralize terrorists.
Israeli counter-terrorism, police and Transportation Ministry officials have drafted a plan that would see over 10,000 bus drivers undergo a specialized training course, Channel 2 reported Thursday.
Still, public transport companies are calling the plan insufficient, claiming that it does not provide an appropriate response to the dangers the drivers face, the report said. They said the drivers, restricted to their seats, cannot handle emergency situations single-handedly.
Drivers will be instructed on threat detection methods, including handling explosive devises, and will receive training in Krav Maga, an Israeli martial art.
In addition, they will be granted special search and detain rights, acting as temporary law enforcement agents during emergencies.
Attempted Car Terror Attack in Samaria
Arabs in a stolen Toyota vehicle attempted to run over IDF soldiers at Tapuach Junction in northern Samaria on Thursday evening.
The Arabs approached from the direction of Hawara, driving wildly and bypassing the cars that were waiting in line.
Their vehicle stopped at the checkpoint, but as policemen and Border Patrol officers approached the vehicle to inspect it, the driver pressed down on the accelerator and drove wildly toward the policemen, nearly running them over.
A Border Patrol officer fired warning shots in the air but the car continued to drive away. The police began chasing after the vehicle and it was located a few minutes later, abandoned, with its doors open.
ISIS Hints it Wants to Depose Hamas and PA
From the statement, it can be inferred that ISIS is calling for its followers to attack the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Judea and Samaria, and Hamas in Gaza, framing such a coup as a religious command.
The publication stresses that Jews and Christians will no longer enjoy "defense" among the Muslims as it claims was practiced in the past, calling for the non-Muslims to reach a new agreement with the Islamic State that aims for global domination.
Addressing the PA, the local ISIS branch added that any agreement reached with the "occupier" does not obligate Muslims, and is completely worthless.
The threats on the PA and Hamas come as Israeli security sources estimate hundreds of Hamas terrorists have been steadily switching over to ISIS, viewing Hamas as "too moderate" in comparison.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad Representative: In a Future War, Half the Galilee Will Fall within 72 Hours

Hamas Quietly Looking To Sell Giant Nude Portrait Of Muhammad (satire)
What has long greeted visiting journalists and dignitaries to the palatial Hamas headquarters in Gaza City was a surprise: an imposing, forty-foot-tall portrait of the prophet Muhammad, riding naked and bareback on a camel toward Jerusalem.
Called ‘Stallion of the Desert,’ it has long been admired in Islamic art circles and is one of the Gaza Strip’s major – and only – tourist attractions.
“It’s a wonder of the Muslim world for sure.” Said Hebrew University Islamic Art expert Shlomo Ben-Zion. “It hails from a time before the current prohibitions on depicting the prophet, and the Hamas leaders are said to have won it in a late night strip-poker game with the king of Saudi Arabia back in the 1970’s.”
Given current sensitives over images and depictions of the Prophet, Hamas have been looking to sell the painting for some time, with discreet inquiries becoming more intense over the last several weeks. A Hamas official in charge of their fine art collection, speaking on the condition of anonymity said, “Frankly, everything that’s going on with the cartoons scares the hell out of us. Even though this is high art, those philistines in ISIS probably don’t understand the finer points of Islamic culture.”
Offers to purchase ‘Stallion of the Desert’ have come in from as far afield as Las Vegas and Hong Kong. However, the Hamas official already thinks he might have found the perfect home for it.
“There’s a gay club in New York that caters to Arabs, called the Oil Drill. They have great music, hookah, very cheap drinks, very cheap. It’s such a fun night; I think this painting will be well loved there.”
As ISIS ransom deadline passes, Japanese captive's mother continues to beg for his release
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said saving the men's lives is paramount but that Japan will not bow to terrorism.
In an online video released on Tuesday, a black-clad figure holding a knife stood between journalist Kenji Goto and troubled loner Haruna Yukawa, threatening to kill them if Tokyo did not pay Islamic State $200 million within 72 hours.
The Japanese government considers the deadline to be 2:50 p.m. local time (7:50 a.m. Israel time) on Friday.
"My son Kenji is not an enemy of the people of the Islamic faith. I can only pray as a mother for his release," Goto's mother, Junko Ishido, told a packed news conference, choking back tears. "If I could offer my life I would plead that my son be released, it would be a small sacrifice on my part.
"He only went to rescue his friend. He has always looked out for weaker people, he was always helping weaker children than him," she added.
Abe has ordered his government to make every effort to secure their safe release, setting off a flurry of activity among Japanese diplomats.
Japan Turns to Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Palestinians for Help Freeing ISIS Hostages
In their latest Internet hostage video, the Islamic State demanded $200 million from Japan in exchange for the lives of security contractor Haruna Yukawa and freelance journalist Kenji Goto Jogo, promising they would be killed within 72 hours if the ransom was not paid.
After vowing that his nation would not submit to terrorist demands, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has asked several prominent Middle Eastern leaders for help, including Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Japan has no official diplomatic presence in Syria, which has led to Abe contacting leaders in Turkey, Egypt, and Jordan, plus Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, to ask for help. According to the Hurriyet Daily News, sources within the Turkish government say Erdogan promised Abe that he would share all intelligence gathered by Turkey on the kidnapping of Yukawa and Jogo, which would seem like the sort of assistance more useful to a rescue effort than ransom payment. On the other hand, Turkey has experienced some success at negotiating the release of ISIS hostages in the past, notably 49 Turkish nationals kidnapped in Mosul last summer.
Australia: Islamist Leader Calls for the Raising of Army to Instill Sharia Law
LAKEMBA, Australia, Jan. 19 (UPI) — Radical Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir has called to raise an army of followers to implement Sharia law in Australia at a public event in a community center.
In a report by Yahoo!7 News, anti-terrorism police are said to be investigating the event that occurred Saturday in the city of Lakemba, on the outskirts of Sydney.
About 250 people attended the event. Group member Bilal Merhi said to the crowd that “Eventually, we will bounce back and we will reclaim everything that they have taken from us.”
He said the Australian government must be replaced with an Islamic caliphate.
Hizb ut-Tahrir called the Charlie Hebdo massacre a “cure” and organized the public event to discuss the “West’s desire to confront what it regards as the “Islamist threat.”
WaPo Fact-Checker Gives “Three Pinocchios” to Obama’s SOTU Claims on Iran Nuke Program
President Barack Obama’s claims in his State of the Union Address Tuesday night have earned the president “Three Pinocchios” for inaccuracies, The Washington Post’s fact-checker, Glenn Kessler, wrote today.
Kessler consulted with a number of experts about Obama’s claim that, “our diplomacy is at work with respect to Iran, where, for the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of its nuclear program and reduced its stockpile of nuclear material.” Specifically, Kessler focused on the words “halted” and “reduced” as used in this context.
Heinonen’s response reveals that the amount of nuclear materials that could be enriched to weapons grade have increased. Moreover, Iran’s enrichment program and construction of its heavy-water reactor have continued apace.
In practical terms, David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security told Kessler that over the course of the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) Iran has increased its stocks with “about a bomb’s worth” of additional nuclear material.
'The Iranians Don't Believe Obama's Threats' Former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton speaks with Arutz Sheva
US President Barack Obama has thoroughly bungled the US's approach to the Iranian nuclear program, former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton stated in a special Arutz Sheva interview.
"I think the President has said for some time that all options are on the table with respect to Iran's nuclear weapons program, but nobody really believes it," Bolton stated. "Worst of all, the Iranians don't believe it."
"There is no credible American military threat against Iran's nuclear weapons program, and that's a possible reason why Iran continues to stall, continues to drag out the P5+1 negotiations, continues to ask for more concessions - because they don't fear a strong United States response," he continued. "The pressure that's on Iran now is due to the collapse of international oil prices - not the sanctions, and certainly not fear of the United States."
EU court annuls sanctions on Iranian bank, shipping firms
The European Union's second highest court on Thursday annulled EU sanctions on an Iranian bank and 40 shipping companies hit with asset freezes as part of pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program.
But they will remain under sanctions for now after the General Court gave the EU time to appeal or to decide whether to reimpose sanctions using different legal grounds.
The court's rulings were handed down as six major powers and Iran strive to meet an end-June deadline for a long-term agreement to curb Tehran's nuclear activities in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.
The EU put Bank Tejarat, an Iranian commercial bank, under sanctions in 2012, saying it had helped Iran's nuclear efforts.
Peres, Rivlin mourn loss of Saudi king
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin mourned the late Saudi monarch, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud who passed away aged 90 early Friday morning, praising his regional policies. This despite the fact that Israel and Saudi Arabia do not have diplomatic relations.
The king “was an example of grounded, considered and responsible leadership, with a deep religious tradition,” Rivlin said in a statement Friday.
“As ‘Guardian of the Holy Places’ of Islam, King Abdullah acted as a moderator, respecting the sensitivity and sanctity of Jerusalem and sought to promote a vision of prosperity for the region. His wise policies contributed greatly to our region, and to the stability of the Middle East,” Rivlin said.
Saudi King Dies; Prince With Dementia Takes Throne
The King of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Adbul Aziz, died Thursday night and paved the way for his brother, Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, to become the country’s new monarch — despite Salman reportedly having dementia and being in poor health.
The Washington Post reports that the 79-year-old Salman’s ascension will likely prompt a power struggle within the oil-rich nation.
“Despite so many people saying it will be a smooth transition, there’s every reason to believe that Saudi Arabia is heading for rough times,” Simon Henderson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy told The Post. “Having a king with dementia is the last thing they need at this difficult time. Yemen is falling apart, ISIS is knocking at the door… this is an extraordinarily dangerous Middle East from a Saudi perspective.”
Saudi Arabia operates on a unique rule of succession. Instead of the crown passing to the eldest son of the deceased monarch, it has traditionally passed to the next oldest son of the country’s founder, King Adbulaziz bin Saud. There are only a few of Adbulaziz’s sons still alive and capable of ruling the country.
Before he died, Abdullah appointed a younger, healthier brother as “deputy heir” in what many consider was a measure done in response to Salman’s poor health. That “deputy heir”, Prince Muqrin, is expected to be appointed crown prince by Salman, even though in Saudi tradition a king is free to choose who he designates as his heir.
Saudi Arabia to again postpone flogging of blogger
Rights group Amnesty International said Thursday that Saudi Arabia would postpone the flogging of blogger Raef Badawi, whose case has sparked international criticism, for a second week on medical grounds.
“The planned flogging of Raef Badawi will be suspended this Friday after a medical committee assessed that he should not undergo a second round of lashes on health grounds,” the London-based watchdog said in a statement.
He has been sentenced to 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam and is serving a 10-year jail term.
How the legal punishments handed out in Saudi Arabia compare to those of Isis
Following the lashing of blogger Raif Badawi and leaked footage that showed the public execution of a woman accused of beating her daughter, Saudi Arabia's harsh interpretation of sharia law and its use of capital punishment have come under international scrutiny.
For many, the Saudi justice system sounds not unlike that of Isis, the extremist Islamist group also known as Islamic State, which has struck fear in much of the Middle East.
This week, Middle East Eye, a website that focuses on news from the region and is frequently critical of Saudi Arabia, contrasted a set of legal punishments recently announced by Isis with the corresponding punishments in Saudi Arabia.

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