Wednesday, June 22, 2016

From Ian:

Isi Leibler: West must emulate Israel
The ongoing threat of terror attacks is affecting political attitudes. With the Islamic extremists boasting of sleepers embedded in Western society and poised to inflict further attacks, much of the population has lost confidence in its leaders. A genuine revolt against the established order is reflected in the radical disillusionment emerging across the entire spectrum. In Western Europe, there is a dramatic rise in populist right-wing support, which is clearly a response to fears from Islamic terror, and in the U.S., the populist appeal of Trump on the Right and Sanders on the Left signify a revolt against all establishments.
In this constellation, despite all the challenges facing it, Israel is in a remarkably strong position. The U.S., the Europeans and the U.N. will undoubtedly continue pressuring and passing discriminatory resolutions demanding further unilateral territorial concessions that would undermine our security.
Netanyahu noted that the strength of shared values and popular support outweighs the tensions, and that the U.S. remains our closest ally. But we have also made extraordinary progress extending relations with countries beyond North America and Western Europe, such as India and China. The warmth exuded toward Israel and the Jewish people by Russia has been remarkable. The Algemeiner newspaper even suggested that Putin may use Russia's veto at the U.N. to protect Israel should the U.S. abandon it. I would not hold my breath for this.
Israel is better positioned today than at any time to resist those willing to sacrifice it in order to appease the jihadists. The reality is that in an increasingly tough world in which no city is immune from terrorism, Israel can provide an example of security that other countries could well emulate, and that may ultimately assume an important role in the effort to strategize and neutralize the global jihad.
Palestinian terror appeasers
Can we agree that the politically motivated murder of civilians enjoying a night out is terrorism? That’s the global consensus regarding the Orlando massacre and the Paris slaughter last fall, among other instances. Yet, two Palestinian terrorists murdering diners in Tel Aviv’s Sarona Market receives different treatment. The New York Times overlooked Tel Aviv and Jerusalem when writing: “Orlando now takes a place with Paris, Brussels, Beirut, Bamako, San Bernardino and other cities struck by different incarnations of terrorism.” Even more outrageous, the weekend Orlando murders occurred, a despicable Politico article was titled: “How Israel is inciting Palestinian violence.”
Overlooking terrorism against Israel resurrects Shakespeare’s question for Jews: “if you prick us do we not bleed?” Why is our suffering invisible? Blaming Israel for being targeted by terrorists turns Shakespearean tragedy into Orwellian perversity. How are Palestinians guilty of brutal terrorism absolved, leaving their victims, slaughtered while wining or dining or commuting or schmoozing, guilty of DWI – Dining While Israeli (or With Israelis)? I wonder, as an occasional Politico contributor, whether my esteemed editors would ever run a piece titled, “How the US is inciting ISIS violence” justifying Islamist murders of Americans by detailing American drone warfare.
Yes, there are triggers to events, even to lunatics’ actions. But the civilized world has justifiably walled off terrorism, saying, “no matter your motivation, targeting civilians in a peaceful setting to express grievances is evil” – and generalizing to hold a group accountable in that way is perverse – unless, it seems, Jews are targeted.
It is not the ‘occupation’
As the blood dried at the scene of the latest Tel Aviv massacre, the city’s mayor rushed to empathize with the terrorists’ motives.
“We might be the only country in the world where another nation is under occupation without civil rights,” he claimed. “You can’t hold people in a situation of occupation and hope they’ll reach the conclusion everything is alright.”
This prognosis was quickly followed by the usual Israeli “hope” peddlers.
“The terror will continue as long as the Palestinian people have no hope on the horizon,” argued a Haaretz editorial. “The only way to deal with terrorism is by freeing the Palestinian people from the occupation.”
But this precisely what Israel did 20 years ago.
The declaration of principles (DOP, or Oslo I) signed on the White House lawn in September 1993 by the PLO and the Israeli government provided for Palestinian self-rule in the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip for a transitional period not to exceed five years, during which Israel and the Palestinians would negotiate a permanent peace settlement. By May 1994, Israel had completed its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip (apart from a small stretch of territory containing a small number of Israeli settlements that “occupied” not a single Palestinian and were subsequently evacuated in 2005) and the Jericho area of the West Bank. On July 1, PLO chairman Yasser Arafat made his triumphant entry into Gaza, and shortly afterward a newly- established Palestinian Authority (PA ) under his leadership took control of this territory.On September 28, 1995, despite the PA ’s abysmal failure to clamp down on terrorist activities in the territories under its control, the two parties signed an interim agreement, and by the end of the year Israeli forces had been withdrawn from the West Bank’s populated areas with the exception of Hebron (where redeployment was completed in early 1997). On January 20, 1996, elections to the Palestinian Council were held, and shortly afterward both the Israeli Civil Administration and military government were dissolved.
“What happened... in the territories is the Palestinian state,” gushed environment minister Yossi Sarid. “The Palestinian state has already been established.”

JPost Editorial: More than aid
Netanyahu also has an interest in signing the deal with Obama. Pushing off the signing of the deal until the next US president is elected could result in a delay in implementation. The incumbent will take office in January of 2017. Many months would likely go by before the new administration gets around to meeting with Israel and hammering out a deal. Negotiations could easily stretch into 2018.
By clinching now, Netanyahu would come away showing that he has survived a particularly tumultuous and partisan period with relations still intact. Despite all their differences, Netanyahu could prove that even with a right-wing prime minister and a liberal US president the ties between Israel and the US remain strong.
Any deal that is signed would automatically have strong bipartisan support.
Signing a robust military aid package sooner rather than later is something both Obama and Netanyahu should want. From an American standpoint, it is an important legacy to leave the US-Israel security relationship strong. From an Israeli standpoint it would provide stability, security and predictability for Israel.
And from a regional standpoint, a clinched deal sends out a message to Israel’s many enemies that the US-Israel partnership is as strong as ever despite all the rhetoric and tensions.
Liberman says Israel, US close to finalizing deal on defense aid
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) said on Tuesday that Israel and the US government were close to finalizing a multibillion-dollar defense aid package.
Speaking ahead of an unveiling ceremony Wednesday in Forth Worth, Texas, of the first F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter jet coming off the production line for Israeli delivery, Liberman expressed optimism that the agreement could be completed by November this year.
The roll-out is set to be livestreamed.
Israel will be the first foreign partner to receive the F-35, which US officials stressed will play a key role in maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge in the Middle East. The aircraft has a range of 2,200 kilometers (1,300 miles approximately) and can carry up to 8,200 kilograms of weapons.
Israel has so far purchased 33 such jets, all set to arrive by 2021, and is expected to purchase more, according to Hebrew media reports.
Former Amb. Oren Advises Netanyahu to Hold Off From Signing Defense Agreement with U.S.
The former Israeli ambassador to the United States advised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to hold off from quickly signing a new memorandum of understanding on American defense aid to Israel, The Jerusalem Post reported Tuesday.
“Israel requires [additional] funding and capabilities to handle the challenges it is facing in the Middle East,” said Michael Oren, a member of Knesset who served as Israel’s ambassador from 2009 to 2013. “A number of specific challenges and circumstances should caution Netanyahu to go slow.”
The first challenge that Oren observed is the Obama administration’s request that Israel refrain from asking Congress for additional funding, as it did in the past for missile defense. This would hurt Israel’s relationship with Congress—an equal branch of government—and could complicate matters if the strategic outlook of the Middle East changes in the next decade, Oren explained.
A second concern he noted is that the deal requires all of the American aid to be spent in the U.S., rather than allowing a quarter of it to be spent in Israel, as was the case in the past. This provision could hurt Israel’s own defense industry and cost it thousands of jobs.
The final issue Oren raised is the possibility that with an upcoming presidential election, Republicans can claim that Israel is influencing U.S. domestic affairs by signing a major deal with a Democratic administration. Oren also warned that by signing now, Israel would lose leverage in future efforts to advance peace talks, possibly on unfavorable terms, between Israel and the Palestinians.
UN makes world peace with yoga
[UNESCO Chief] Bokova continued to list the beneficial geopolitical benefits of the ancient practice, saying yoga builds "mutual bridges of dialogue, mutual respect and understanding between cultures and peoples. ... Yoga is a transformative force that can provide us with the strength and vision we need for more just and harmonious societies. Societies of solidarity, societies in balance with nature." Impressively, she kept a straight face throughout, but then she has probably done this sort of thing before.
She continued undeterred: "This resonates powerfully with UNESCO’s core message ... to deepen the moral and intellectual solidarity of humanity through mutual respect and understanding as the basis for lasting peace."
She must have been alluding to UNESCO's erasing of 4,000 years of Jewish culture and history on the Temple Mount in April this year, when UNESCO's Executive Board adopted a resolution referring to the Temple Mount area solely as Al-Aqsa mosque/al-Haram al-Sharif, except for two references to the Western Wall plaza that were put in parenthesis. The text also referred to the plaza area by the Western Wall as al-Buraq Plaza. That was indeed an exquisite example of intellectual and moral solidarity with the Jewish people and an expression of deep respect and understanding, which truly only the United Nations could have pulled off.
Last, but not least, Bokova did not fail to mention the primary threat to the world today: No, not Islamic and state-sponsored terrorism -- climate change. Apparently, yoga even has the power to solve that.
Father Naddaf: Beacon of Light to the Christians of Israel
Chapter one of this story began when Father Gabriel Naddaf, a Greek Orthodox priest in Nazareth, started to speak up for the idea that it was time for Christians to embrace their homeland, Israel, and their Jewish roots.
"Christian Arabs are hostages." — Father Gabriel Naddaf.
"We have a joint fate in this land [Israel], because whatever happens to the Jews here will happen to us." — Father Gabriel Naddaf.
"On what authority does President Abbas claim that Jesus was a Palestinian? The Bible says that He was born in the Jewish city of Bethlehem to Jewish parents from the city of Nazareth and was circumcised on the 8th day as a Jew and presented to the Jewish Temple by His parents according to the Mosaic law." — Father Gabriel Naddaf.
Father Naddaf has been providing leadership to unite Christians and Jews; a rapidly increasing number of Christians see him as offering them the opportunity to envision and build a tremendous future.
The Saudi Peace Plan Is Not About Peace
The reality is that the Arabs cannot be relied on to protect and respect Jewish Holy sites, just as they never have in the past. But I suppose what do you expect when their leaders deny Jews were ever in the Holy Land anyway? For Israel to carry out a “complete withdrawal” as the Saudi Initiative calls for is akin to drawing a line in the land and saying our history starts here, and everything that happened before doesn’t matter. As Jews, our past is as important as our future – and that’s something we must never turn our back on.
When it comes to a “just settlement” of the Palestinian refugee problem, this is equally problematic. For the criteria used for Palestinians refugee exist for no other refugees in history. The UN organisation UNRWA was created specifically for Palestinians only – all they had to do was be a resident in the area for less than 2 years and included in this ridiculous definition is their descendants! Those who fled from their homes lost their rights to live in Israel, while those who remained become Israeli citizens. At the end of the Israeli War of Independence, there were more Jewish refugees who were forced out of Arab countries than there were Arabs who fled their Israeli homes, but the Saudi Initiative makes no mention of that. There is no “just settlement” that can possibly allow Arabs who fled their homes, mostly of their own volitions, to be allowed to return, while turning a blind eye to the Jewish refugees who were forced from theirs.
The Saudi Peace Plan is not about peace, because any mechanism that allows foreigners to invade a sovereign country will not lead to peace. The Saudi Peace Plan is not about justice, because any agreement that rewards people who fled voluntarily while ignoring those were forced out will not lead to justice. And finally the Saudi Peace Plan is not about hope and freedom, because the future of the “Palestinian refugees” does not lie in the Jewish State their leaders want to destroy. It lies among their fellow Arab brothers who have denied them freedom and hope for 70 years. Only they are the ones who can build a future for them somewhere among the vast lands of Arabia.
The Middle East is a volatile place with constant infighting and civil wars taking place. The Arabs want us to believe that their peace agreement will bring stability and peace to a cauldron of chaos, but it won’t. It’ll only bring disaster, for in the vast Middle East of about 9 million square kilometers, there is only one country of around 20000 kilometers that is stable and secure and filled with freedom and hope – and that’s Israel.
Netanyahu to meet Kerry in Rome to discuss peace talks
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was set to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome amid growing international pressure for the resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu’s office said Wednesday that the prime minister will meet Kerry early next week, without providing further details.
The two are set to discuss resuming talks with the Palestinians that collapsed two years ago.
Netanyahu faces mounting pressure over the conflict with the Palestinians. He opposes a French initiative, insisting a deal can only be reached in direct negotiations between the two sides. Palestinians have welcomed the French initiative.
On Monday a meeting of the EU’s 28 foreign ministers in Brussels unanimously endorsed the French plan to host an international peace process later this year.
Israel has repeatedly rejected the French initiative, arguing that it hardens Palestinian negotiating positions and thus distances peace.
Israel seeks to postpone publication of Quartet report
The diplomatic report, intended to go public in the coming days, will place the blame for the moribund peace process on Israel. It is expected to be endorsed by the UN Security Council.
Israel has launched diplomatic efforts aimed at halting the publication of a report by the Quartet (an international diplomatic body comprised of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, and Russia. Its purpose is to oversee the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and attempt to end the conflict), which is expected to blame Israel for the current impasse in the peace process with the Palestinians.
The report is set to be published on Thursday or Friday, but diplomats in Israel estimate that it will only be published after Prime Minister Netanyahu meets with US Secretary of State John Kerry. The two are set to meet in Rome early next week.
Israeli officials say that the report is not expected to contain any major surprises but is likely to place full blame at Israel's door step for the stalled peace process. The report will also reportedly condemn Israel's construction in the settlements, settler violence, home demolitions, and other steps seen as jeopardizing the prospects of a two-state solution.
NATO chief says upping cooperation with Israel ‘essential’
The head of NATO called for ramped up ties with Israel Tuesday, as President Rueven Rivlin visited the alliance’s headquarters ahead of the creation of a mission for the Jewish state there.
The new mission had been discussed for several years but was held up by opposition from Turkey, a key NATO member which is reportedly on the verge of normalizing ties with Israel, once its close regional ally, top officials said Tuesday.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Israel had been an active alliance partner for 20 years and now it was “essential” to step up cooperation and go a step further.
“Violence in North Africa and in the Middle East is a clear threat to all our nations…. It is vital that countries which share the same values … stand together against hate and terrorism,” Stoltenberg told reporters alongside Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at NATO headquarters.
Rivlin said opening the mission “will help Israel and NATO in strengthening our cooperation and our good relations. It will help us share best practices and information.”
US intelligence community: Pollard could still cause damage with what he knows
The US intelligence community favors continued restrictions on Jonathan Pollard, arguing that the one-time spy for Israel could still damage U.S. interests by revealing methods and identifying characteristics of US assets.
Intelligence community “sources and methods must be protected from disclosure in every situation where a certain intelligence interest, capability, or technique, if disclosed, would allow our adversaries to take countermeasures to nullify effectiveness,” said the June 17 filing by Jennifer Hudson, the director of information management for the office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The filing, first reported Tuesday by the Daily Beast, was in response to a petition by Pollard’s lawyers to a Manhattan federal court to ease some of Pollard’s parole restrictions. His lawyers have argued that Pollard, a former analyst for the U.S. Navy who was released on parole from his life sentence last November, was jailed 30 years ago and would no longer possess relevant intelligence.
Hudson said Pollard also had access to human intelligence that could still prove harmful should it be disclosed.
Family of Hamas-held man calls for including him in Turkey deal
The family of an Israeli man presumed held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip called on the government Wednesday to reject an emerging reconciliation agreement with Turkey that is expected to include an easing of Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Avraham Abera Mengistu, 29, a Jew of Ethiopian descent, has been held in Gaza for nearly two years. According to his family, he suffers from mental illness and stumbled across the border into the coastal territory by accident.
Mengistu’s family is asking that the government demand as a condition for signing the agreement that Turkey obtain a clear sign of life and other information about his fate.
Hamas on Wednesday said Turkey had dropped its key demand for rehabilitating ties with Israel — an end to its blockade of Gaza.
Hamas: Turkey dropped condition that Israel lift Gaza siege before normalization
Amid reports about an approaching normalization deal between Israel and Turkey, Hamas claims that Turkey has renounced the condition that Israel lift the siege on Gaza that it has defined as a prerequisite for reconciliation.
In a conversation with the daily-Arab London-based newspaper Rai al-Youm, unnamed Hamas officials said: "Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced to Hamas's leadership that he has done everything possible to lift the siege or ameliorate it, but the Israeli government stubbornly rejected his attempts."
"Erdogan told the leadership that he must make progress on the normalization deal with Israel in order to serve Turkey's interests," the officials in Hamas added.
These officials said that they expect Turkey to take strong measures against senior Hamas officials residing in Turkey, mainly by limiting their freedom of movement within the state, to meet Israel's condition for normalization.
Daraa Islamists say bombed by Israel: monitor
A commander of an Islamist group active near the Golan demarcation line has accused Israel of conducting an airstrike against the faction, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Although the monitoring NGO did not name the insurgent group, it said the attack took place in the vicinity of As-Shajarah, a village in Yarmouk basin controlled by Jaysh Khalid Ibn al-Waleed, a recently formed faction affiliated with ISIS.
The Observatory reported on Sunday that an Islamist commander told the monitoring NGO’s activists that Israeli warplanes destroyed a base in the raid, which he claimed was conducted from Israeli airspace.
The report added that the Israeli jets had targeted a missile system captured by the unnamed group when rebels captured the regime’s 82nd Brigade base outside Daraa’s Sheikh Maskin in January 2015.
While the SOHR did not specify when the airstrike took place, reports emerged late Friday night of a blast in the western Daraa village.
“The sound of a huge explosion rocked As-Shajarah,” a self-proclaimed fighter in Jaysh Khalid Ibn al-Waleed wrote Saturday at 2:39 a.m. local time on Twitter.
Israeli watermelons delivered to Gaza, ending 8-year Palestinian ban
The Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday approved the transfer of Israeli watermelons into the coastal enclave in an effort to bring down local prices which were driven up by limited supplies.
General Director of marketing and crossings Tahsin al-Saqqa said the fruit entered Gaza via the Kerem Shalom crossing ending an eight-year ban, the Maan News Agency reported.
A shortage of areas cultivated for watermelons in Gaza this year led to reduced crops pushing up prices in the local market.
In 2015 4,500 dunams [1,112 acres] were farmed for watermelon but in 2016 that number dropped to just 3,500 [865 acres].
The ministry said it approved watermelon imports from Israel for a period of three days during which some 1,000 tons were to cross into the Palestinian enclave.
PreOccupiedTerritory: Hebrew Spies Steal Palestinian Fruit (satire)
Twelve Israelite men sent to reconnoiter the Holy Land prior to an intended invasion and conquest have stolen produce belonging to local Palestinian farmers, eyewitnesses allege.
Observers in the Israelite camp at Kadesh-Barnea said that the men, who entered Palestine illegally and spent forty days conducting sinister espionage, returned carrying tremendous pomegranates, figs, and a cluster of grapes so large that they required two men each to carry on a stick – fruits they had viciously taken from simple, wholesome, hardworking Palestinian growers. They further alleged that the pilfering of the produce was part of their mission as given by Moses, and wondered whether such an order constitutes a war crime.
“Moses actually said, ‘Take from the produce of the land,’ when he sent them there,” said Meragel Alpher, who writes for a publication called The Land. “No formal state of war exists between the Israelites and the Canaa – I mean the Palestinians, and espionage itself is not per se an act of war, but that shouldn’t stop the international community from treating it as such. I mean, this is Israel we’re talking about. Imagine the hardship they have caused to those farmers – it’s unconscionable, and, I would say, undermines the entire enterprise of Israelite nationhood.” Local Canaanite Palestinian sources denied knowledge of Israelite spies in their midst during the period in question.
Some Israelites defended the behavior of the spies, saying that the command to take the fruit was of divine origin, but that claim failed to convince Alpher and other outspoken tribal leaders. “No matter how you try to dress this up as some divine mission, this is nothing less than a subtle attempt at genocide of Palestinian farming,” charged Gideon the Levite. “The whole notion of the land belonging, or promised to, our ancestors is a bunch of nonsense, and we’re better off staying in the Diaspora, maybe going back to Egypt where we spent hundreds of happy years.”
Hamas 'Qassam' Twitter account suspended
Twitter has suspended the account of Hamas’s military wing, the Izzadin Kassam Brigades, the most recent iteration of which was up and running just two weeks ago as @ALQassamilitary.
According to MEMRI, several of the group’s previous accounts have been blocked in the past, but they often rebounded with new ones, starting fresh each time.
A 2014 MEMRI report, for example, said: “Since it began tweeting on November 21, 2009, Al-Qassam Brigades has used the following Twitter handles, all since shut down: @alqassambrigade; @qassambrigade; @Qassam_Arabic; @ qassamfeed; @qassamarabic; @qassamhebrew.”
Most of those have been suspended, though @qassamarabic, oddly, remains untouched, but hasn’t Tweeted in two years. Further iterations such as @qassam_arabic1, @qassam_arabic2 have come and gone, as well.
Denis Ross: To Defeat ISIS, We Must Take the Iranian Threat Seriously
We need to destroy the group's image and achievements, and give Sunnis reason to help us do it.
Fifteen years after 9/11, it might seem strange that terror and securing the American homeland are central to the presidential campaign. After all, combating terror was a priority of the Bush and Obama administrations. Both presidents invested a great deal in preventing external terrorist groups from being able to carry out terror attacks here and were successful in doing so.
Yet the San Bernardino and Orlando attacks, demonstrating the threat of homegrown terrorists and their shockingly easy access to semiautomatic weapons, make the choices even starker, the stakes even higher.
Slogans won’t prevent such attacks but intelligence (particularly on email and social media posts), early detection of possible radicalization, and active cooperation with Muslim communities will all be part of the answer. Obviously, alienating Muslim communities is not a smart way to make them active partners in the effort. Nor is it effective in countering the Islamic State terrorist group, which portrays a world against Muslims as a recruiting tool.
Defeating and discrediting ISIL is essential for any strategic plan to deal with terror. Though there are other terrorist groups, ISIL represents a unique threat for at least three reasons. First, its use of social media is slick, professional and designed to appeal to those young people who are alienated and outcast socially. Second, it is a source of inspiration for lone-wolf attacks — especially with its calls to “kill non-believers” and its claims of heroic martyrdom for those who do so. Third, it defines as its mission the need to produce a cataclysmic confrontation with the non-believers to yield Islam’s final victory. And that means even if we do not attack ISIL, it will attack us.
ISIS committed genocide of Yazidis while world watched
A friend posted an article on Facebook claiming that “ISIS is to Islam what the Westboro Baptist Church is to Christianity.” That would be accurate if the Westboro Baptist Church had murdered thousands of people, ethnically cleansed 300,000 indigenous people from America, blindfolded men and elderly women and shot them in the back of the head and buried them in mass graves and then sold 6,000 women into slavery and mass rape. But the Westboro Baptist Church didn’t do any of that. Islamic State (ISIS) did. “Genocide has occurred and is ongoing,” the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic said in a statement recently on the crimes of ISIS against Yazidis.
The desire to ignore, excuse or diminish the crimes of Islamic State is evident in media and popular culture, and is part of a general tendency toward genocide denial.
We deny that genocide takes place because, as a US State Department official noted during the Rwandan genocide, “a genocide finding could commit [us] to actually do something.”
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the basketball champion, wrote an article for Time magazine discussing ISIS and claiming that “the problem with some fundamentalists – whether Christians, Jews or Muslims – is that they want to impose their values on us through violence.” Abdul-Jabbar needs to visit northern Iraq and see the mass graves of Yazidis himself. ISIS doesn’t want to impose its values through violence, ISIS has imposed its values through violence and genocide.
Islamic State Expands with Six Armies on Three Continents
The Islamic State terrorist group has created at least six functioning armies outside its Iraq-Syria base that threaten governments in Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan, according to a new report to Congress.
Rather than shrinking, the Islamic State — also known as ISIL and ISIS — is metastasizing globally by attracting waves of henchmen in Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Afghanistan, the Congressional Research Service said in a June 14 report for lawmakers.
The fact that six irregular Islamic State armies are operating in three world regions, not to mention various cells in Europe and the U.S., is in contrast to the Obama administration’s generally upbeat reports on containing the violent group.
In another break from that positive White House message, CIA Director John Brennan told the Senate intelligence committee last week that, while the Islamic State has lost territory in Iraq and Syria, as well as thousands of fighters in those two countries, its ability to direct or inspire terrorist attacks remains robust.
“Our efforts have not reduced the group’s terrorism capability and global reach,” Mr. Brennan said.
JCPA: Cracks in the Iran-Syria-Hizbullah-Russia Axis
Reports from Syria are proliferating about clashes between the Syrian army and Hizbullah fighters in the Aleppo area on June 16, with seven or eight Hizbullah men having been killed, some after an attack by Syrian aircraft. The organization, for its part, hastened to deny the reports and accused “regional intelligence mechanisms” and the United States of trying to drive a wedge between the group and Russia. These reports, however, point to tensions in the relations between the sides. The tensions apparently center on Russia’s growing involvement in devising a diplomatic solution to the ongoing Syrian crisis as it tries to mediate between the various opposition elements and the regime.
In particular, Russia is leading an effort to formulate a new constitution for Syria. According to the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, which is affiliated with Hizbullah and usually reflects the view of its leadership, Russia is even framing main sections of this constitution. The newspaper claims to have in its possession a draft of the proposed constitution that includes comments written by the Syrian leadership. Assad, for his part, denies any such involvement. Already at the end of May 2016, Al-Akhbar published an initial report on the issue of Russia’s role in crafting the constitution.1
Iran and Hizbullah are not happy about Russia’s stepped-up efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis. Despite the cooperation between Iran and Russia, which apparently is piloted by Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, they disagree more and more on Syria’s future once the crisis comes to an end. This dispute also bedevils the Syrian regime (and Hizbullah), which finds itself between the Russian hammer and the Iranian anvil especially as the clashes escalate among the various forces and militias operating in different regions of Syria.
Nuclear Experts: IAEA Needs Access to Parchin to Determine if Iran is Following Nuclear Deal
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) discovery of uranium particles at the Parchin military complex in Iran underscores the need to grant the agency full access to monitor the site, nuclear experts warned in a brief published Monday. The Obama administration recently acknowledged that the presence of uranium, reported by the IAEA in December, was a sign that nuclear weapons work took place at Parchin.
The Institute for Science and International Security’s president, David Albright, as well as associates Serena Kelleher-Vergantini and Andrea Stricker, argued that determining whether Iran is engaging in proscribed nuclear activities at Parchin will require giving the IAEA greater to access to the site than Iran has so far allowed. Regarding the uranium, they observed that such a discovery would typically prompt a followup investigation to ascertain the nature of the material and whether it was linked to prohibited activities. However, the IAEA has not reported any plans for such a followup.
The lack of certainty over the nuclear activities that have taken place at Parchin remains “an outstanding verification issue affecting the status of Iran’s compliance with its safeguards obligations,” they added. It may be that the IAEA, which was granted only “walk-through” access to Parchin last year, has not insisted on gaining renewed access to the site so as not “to restart a conflict with Iran over this issue.”
However, the IAEA needs to revisit Parchin not only to establish the origin of the uranium, but more generally to ensure that Iran is not “working on key aspects of a nuclear explosive device,” as per last year’s nuclear deal. Without access to Parchin and other military sites, such assurances will be “unverifiable.”
Iranian Paper Shut After Criticizing Revolutionary Guards as Crackdown on Freedoms Continues
An independent Iranian newspaper said it was shut down by authorities after criticizing the country’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The publication, Ghanoon, had run afoul of the IRGC for publishing an article critical of the force’s seizure of 10 U.S. Navy personnel in January, the Associated Press reported. The article compared a video showing the detained American sailors kneeling with their hands on their heads, which was broadcast on official Iranian state television, to beheading videos taken by the Islamic State. At the time, IRGC commander Ali Jafari called the report “a big mistake” and threatened that the paper “must repent for what it had said.”
Ghanoon also published an article criticizing conditions at a Tehran prison on June 11, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported. That article was dismissed as a “lie” by the city’s prosecutor, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, who warned that the paper’s editor-in-chief would be prosecuted.
Ghanoon said it was closed by the Iranian judiciary following complaints from the IRGC’s Department of Intelligence. A notice that appeared on the publication’s website on June 20 stated that it had been accused of “libel and publishing falsehoods to create public anxiety.”
Ghanoon’s closure comes as Iran continues to restrict freedoms in the wake of last year’s nuclear deal.
The National Iranian American Council (NIAC)
Some Iranian-Americans argued that NIAC's policies did not seem to be aimed at improving the lives of Iranian-Americans, but were political and partisan policies more likely aimed at making more money, getting more fame, media publicity and self-promotion, satisfying those who provide funding to them, or going towards where the money is.
"I think Trita Parsi does not belong to the Green Movement. I feel his lobbying has secretly been more for the Islamic Republic." — Mohsen Makhmalbaf to the Washington Times.
"It appears that this may be lobbying on behalf of Iranian government interests. Were I running the counterintelligence program at the bureau now, I would have cause to look into this further." — Kenneth Piernick, FBI special agent in counterintelligence and counterterrorism.
Obama Admin Battling Internal War Over Giving Iran Access to U.S. Dollars
The Obama administration is at odds over whether to give Iran access to the U.S. financial system, a move that is opposed by parts of the administration, according to communications exclusively obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
Tensions have been brewing between the State and Treasury Departments over contradictory statements about U.S. efforts to boost Iran’s economy and give it unprecedented access to U.S. dollars, according to conversations with sources who described a deepening internal divide over the issue.
While top administration officials had promised Congress that such access would never be granted under last summer’s nuclear agreement, some in the administration have changed their tune.
Secretary of State John Kerry recently participated in a public diplomacy campaign to encourage European governments and businesses to reengage with Iran, a move that was undertaken at the behest of the Iranians, who had publicly griped that the Islamic Republic was not receiving enough economic benefits as promised under the nuclear deal.
The administration’s efforts on Iran’s behalf sparked anger on Capitol Hill among critics of the nuclear accord, who have been pressuring the administration to promise that it will not grant Iran access to the U.S. dollar, either in the United States or abroad.
Saudis, Gulf states could all become nuclear threshold states, former PMO official says
“Gulf states are gradually going nuclear” and Saudi Arabia is likely to develop its nuclear program to Iran’s level, said on Tuesday Yoel Guzansky, a former Israeli official at the National Security Council in the Prime Minister’s Office and research fellow at the INSS.
Guzansky was one of many international top experts on Saudi Arabia and the Gulf who spoke during the first day of a two-day conference on at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (the BESA Center).
He argued that the Iranian nuclear deal sets a precedent where the US would deal with each country on a case by case basis. Guzansky also said that, mainly because of the Iranian threat, Saudi Arabia is probably going to accelerate its program as part of a hedging strategy.
The nuclear deal between Iran and world powers “buys the Saudis a decade to rearm without breaking non-proliferation commitments,” he said, noting that there are plans in the works for 16 plants as part of a civilian program. However, the drop in oil prices probably affects the pace of these plans, he added.
Western World Shocked by Islamist Belief that Radiohead is Still Relevant (satire)
After radical Islamists attacked a Radiohead listening party in Istanbul last Friday, the Western world has begun to awaken to the shocking fact that many Islamists still care about Radiohead.
“Until Friday’s attack, I was under the impression that radical Islam could be controlled,” President Obama admitted in a press conference following Friday’s attack by Islamists in Turkey’s largest city. “It’s now clear, however, that these people are completely detached from civilization and modernity.”
Obama continued, “I mean, ‘Creep’ was released 25 years ago. Have they even written any songs since then? Can we really trust a group of individuals who knows when every Radiohead listening party is held?”
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was quick to seize on the attack, tweeting, “Appreciate the congrats on being right about Radiohead – I knew these jihaders (sic) had shit taste in music! Embarrassing!”

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