Tuesday, August 30, 2016

From Ian:

New Arab city in Israel refuses to take in UNRWA 'refugees'
The new Arab city of Rawabi being built in Samaria (Shomron) with Israeli approval refuses to allow "Palestinian refugees" from UNRWA camps to relocate to the city. This, despite past statements to the contrary, and the general impression that the need for a new Arab city was partly because of the suffering of said 'refugees', especially those still living in refugee camps.
So reports investigative journalist David Bedein of Israel Resource News Agency.
"The new Palestinian Arab city of Rawabi," writes Bedein, "has publicized in all stages of its development that it would build schools that would promote peace and reconciliation". He quoted Bashar al-Masri, Rawabi's chief developer, as telling the Guardian for a story on Rawabi, “We are not what they are led to believe, a bunch of terrorists…"
And yet, the town refuses to accept refugees – and why? "Because that would violate the PLO doctrine of the 'inalienable right of return' to homes which they left in Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Be'er Sheva, Tzfat, Ashkelon and more," writes Bedein.
This occurred in 1948 at the establishment of the Jewish State when the Arab leadership promised those fleeing that they would return to their homes once the Jews were slaughtered. When that failed to occur, the Arab world refused to resettle those who fled, purposely maintaining the only instance of multi-generational "refugeeism" in the world while Israel resettled and successfully absorbed an equal number of Jewish refugees from Arab lands during the same period.

Caroline Glick: The end of Mahmoud Abbas
Like it or not, the day is fast approaching when the Palestinian Authority we have known for the past 22 years will cease to exist.
PA leader Mahmoud Abbas’s US-trained Palestinian security forces have lost control over the Palestinians cities in Judea and Samaria. His EU- and US-funded bureaucracies are about to lose control over the local governments to Hamas. And his Fatah militias have turned against him.
Palestinian affairs experts Pinchas Inbari of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and Khaled Abu Toameh of the Gatestone Institute have in recent weeks reported in detail about the insurrection of Fatah militias and tribal leaders against Abbas’s PA.
In Nablus, Fatah terrorist cells are in open rebellion against PA security forces. Since August 18, Fatah cells have repeatedly engaged PA forces in lethal exchanges, and according to Inbari, the town is now in a state of “total anarchy.”
In Hebron, tribal leaders, more or less dormant for the past 20 years, are regenerating a tribal alliance as a means of bypassing the PA, which no longer represents them. Their first major action to date was to send a delegation of tribal leaders to meet with King Abdullah of Jordan.
Even in Ramallah, the seat of Abbas’s power, the PA is losing ground to EU-funded NGOs that seek to limit the PA’s economic control over the groups and their operations.
All of this fighting and maneuvering is taking place against the backdrop of the encroaching PA municipal elections, scheduled for October 8.
Does the Times Want Middle East Peace?
Something very odd has been happening in the Middle East and, as Sunday’s editorial in the New York Times illustrates, it has a lot of liberals seriously depressed. What’s bothering them? It turns out their collective noses are out of joint about progress toward Middle East peace and the fact that the Palestinian campaign that seeks to avoid direct talks and isolate Israel is failing. If that wasn’t bad enough, a series of diplomatic breakthroughs are happening on the watch of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the man that the Times and the so-called “peace camp” has been busy slandering as an opponent of peace.
After several decades of unremitting hostility, some of the fiercest opponents of Israel are starting to view the Jewish state very differently. Covert ties with Saudi Arabia are now becoming more open. Egypt, whose cold peace with Israel remained frozen in open hostility since Anwar Sadat’s assassination, has a government that is no longer shy about treating Israel as an ally if not a friend. Jerusalem’s relations with much of the Third World, especially African nations, are also warming up.
Those who care about thawing tensions between Jews and Arabs should be applauding all of this. That’s especially true of those voices that spend so much time deploring Israel’s isolation and the idea that it is an armed camp that is locked in perpetual combat with the entire Muslim and Arab world. But the Times and others on the left are lukewarm about these positive developments for their own reasons.
The first is that Israel and its Arab neighbors have been drawn together in large part through their mutual antipathy for Obama administration policies, and most specifically about the Iran nuclear deal. The Times has been one of the principal cheerleaders of the pact, which its advocates incorrectly claim has ended the nuclear threat to Israel and the Arab states. But those nations that are targeted most directly by Iran—Israel and Saudi Arabia—understand that U.S. appeasement of Iran advances the latter’s drive for regional hegemony as well as merely postponing the moment when it will achieve nuclear capability. The coming together of other Middle East nations in reaction to this travesty is evidence that those most at risk consider Obama’s false promises and his desire for a general U.S. retreat from the region a clear and present danger to the region.

Ben-Dror Yemini: Fuelling the flames in Hebron
When observing the conflict through Hebron—and that's what's happening in the international community—Israel's haters register more and more successes. The chance of changing the cursed status quo in the city is close to zero.
Hebron, the City of the Patriarchs, is an open, bleeding wound. Israel has been hit by ten measures of criticism, nine of which—in days when there isn't a confrontation with Hamas—hit Hebron. It doesn't matter that some of the "incidents" between the Jewish and Palestinian residents of the city are staged. It doesn't matter that some of the houses in the city are under Jewish ownership, both old and new, and completely legal. What's important is that Hebron has become the center of clashes in the territories.
Like a magnet, Hebron draws to it all of the "rights activists" from Israel and abroad who want to prove that Israel is an apartheid state. They don't go to Jenin or Jericho; there are no incidents there. And even if there are, they're mostly of Palestinians clashing with other Palestinians. The activists are not interested in that. They're looking for proof of Israel's crimes.
But only a blind person won't be able to see that there is a problem. With 97 percent Palestinians, and three percent Jews—the situation in Hebron is depressing. No amount of Israeli "hasbara" (public relations) can justify what happens in this city, and the state of affairs there make it clear there is no chance of coexistence. And it's not just because all of the Jews in the city act like barbarians, while all of the Palestinians there are victims. There's no chance for coexistence because such a thing doesn't exist where hostile populations live cheek by jowl.
Susiya: Media Disregards Rule of Law For Palestinian “Human Rights” Narrative
Nothing fits the media framing of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict better than supposedly impoverished Palestinians defending their homes and property from IDF bulldozers sent to clear them out of “their lands.” Add a neighboring Jewish settlement to the mix, some criticism from the international community and you get the perfect storm.
Even armed with facts to back up its case, Israel can almost never win in the eyes of the media where emotional impact always trumps cold, hard facts. So a photo of an elderly Palestinian woman or a small child standing next to the rubble of what they claimed to be their home will always take priority over an Israeli court document rendering that home as illegally built.
In every respect, the framework and language of “human rights” beats the rule of law. And if you believe that Israel’s control over any part of Judea and Samaria/ the West Bank is illegal or illegitimate then the rule of law becomes an irrelevance.
The Palestinians and so-called human rights organizations know the impact of negative publicity for Israel and the damage that can be inflicted through stories such as that of the Palestinian village of Susiya as featured in the Washington Post and an op-ed from a UN official in The Guardian.
The New Normal: Today’s Arab Debate Over Ties with Israel
All of this raises a delicate question: Is this revived movement toward some kind of dialogue leading toward peace with Israel just a policy of certain Arab governments, or perhaps of an elite fringe? In other words, does it enjoy any grassroots support? Here the evidence is surprisingly clear, and also surprisingly positive. While Arab publics overwhelmingly dislike Israel (and Jews), solid majorities in most recent surveys, on the order of 60 percent, nevertheless voice support for a “two-state solution,” which implies peace with the Jewish state. And they do so even when the question is worded to call explicitly for peace with Israel, or for abandoning the struggle to liberate all of Palestine. The exception that proves this rule, ironically, is the Palestinian public in the West Bank and Gaza, where support for a two-state solution has lately fallen to just below the halfway mark.
The combination of data points suggests that the majority support for eventual peace with Israel reflects not affinity but the converse: common enemies, and therefore common interests. Those include common concerns – as measured in the same surveys – about jihadi terrorism; about Iranian aggression, subversion, and nuclear weapons; and about perceived flaws in American policies toward all those issues.
As far back as 2010, even before the Saudi-Iran proxy wars in Syrian, Yemen and elsewhere, a reliable private poll showed that one-fourth of the Saudi urban public supported quiet military cooperation with Israel against the Iranian nuclear threat. And in the past two years, polls not only in Saudi Arabia but also in Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, and the UAE show that “the Arab street” is much more concerned about the conflicts with Iran, with Assad, and with Daesh than about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The conclusion is clear: today a broader regional approach to Arab-Israeli peacemaking, rather than a strictly bilateral Israeli-Palestinian one, offers somewhat better prospects of success – whether at the official, elite, media, or even popular levels. Normalization with Israel remains controversial in Arab circles, but it is no longer taboo. For an increasing number of Arabs, the Israeli “enemy of my enemy” may not be a friend, but could become a partner. The next U.S. Administration would do well to ponder this unaccustomed situation, and to adjust its policies accordingly.
What Ever Happened to the Two-State Solution?
John McLaughlin, deputy director and acting director of the CIA from 2000 to 2004, teaches at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
Few foreign-policy prizes have been more eagerly sought by American presidents than a photo of themselves behind Israeli and Palestinian leaders as they shake hands at the White House or Camp David. The image, of course, symbolizes the president’s role in helping to solve one of the most intractable disputes of our generation. But winning that prize requires a significant investment of presidential time and energy.
Both Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump have reaffirmed strongly the U.S. commitment to Israel and implied they would work to thaw the U.S.–Israeli climate — frosty, as of late, thanks to the widely acknowledged bad chemistry between President Obama and Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. But improved personal chemistry is hardly enough to solve this decades-long conflict. In fact, a combination of fractious internal politics and Mideast regional trends may now have moved the Israeli–Palestinian problem into the category of “too hard.”
For starters, the regional context is entirely different than in 1993, when President Clinton presided over the signing of the Oslo Accord — in which Israel agreed that Palestinians would govern the West Bank, and the latter recognized Israel’s right to exist — or in 1978, when President Carter orchestrated the Camp David Accords, bringing peace between Israel and Egypt. Back then, Arab disputes with Israel were seen as the single most important roadblock to stability and peace in the Middle East. While Arab–Israeli tensions remain something of an obstacle to peace in the Mideast, they are overshadowed by the larger drama of war in Syria and Iraq, the regionwide tensions between Sunni and Shia and the general chaos that followed the 2011 Arab Spring.
In addition, at least five problems stand in the way of progress.
Report: Netanyahu Warns Visiting US Delegation Against Lame-Duck Moves by Obama on Israel-Palestinian Track
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conveyed a message of warning to US President Barack Obama not to make any moves on the Israeli-Palestinian front during his lame-duck period between November and January, the Hebrew news site Walla reported on Monday.
According to the report, Netanyahu expressed his concerns on Sunday, during a meeting at his summer house in Caesarea with a delegation of American hard-hitters from both sides of the political aisle, who are in the region on a fact-finding mission. Among members of the delegation visiting the Middle East (with stops in the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia and Turkey) are Democrats Dennis Ross and Philip Gordon, and Republicans James Jeffrey, Meghan O’Sullivan, Zalmay Khalilzad and Robert Danin. As one senior official told Walla, some of these are likely to hold key positions in the next American administration, whichever candidate wins.
Meanwhile, as Walla reported, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, efforts are under way to coordinate a meeting between Netanyahu and Obama during the former’s trip to the US in mid-September to attend the 71st session of the UN General Assembly. The White House, too, according to Walla, is interested in such a meeting, particularly as negotiations on America’s military aid package to Israel reach completion.
Amid talk of Obama peace push, Israel invokes his vow not to impose solution
Israel’s concern is that any of these moves might be used to try and impose a solution on the conflict from the outside.
Government officials have in recent days highlighted Obama’s 2011 speech to the UN General Assembly, which at the time was debating the issue of Palestinian statehood.
“Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations – if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now,” he said. “Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians who must live side by side. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians – not us – who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and on security, on refugees and Jerusalem.”
One official said that this speech was Israel’s “reference point” regarding possible Obama moves in the coming months. “That speech was clear and unequivocal, and hopefully there will not be any surprises,” the official said.
Veteran Mideast negotiator Dennis Ross, who was part of the delegation that met with Netanyahu on Sunday, said earlier this month at a Washington conference that he did not believe the “administration will make a big effort at the Security Council,” because it realizes this could make things worse.
Instead, Ross said it was likely Obama will deliver a Middle East speech, but added, “presidents giving speeches at the end of a term frankly don’t have that big of an impact on anybody.”
Israel lambastes UN Mideast envoy for 'distorting history'
The Prime Minister's Office on Monday lambasted the U.N.'s Middle East envoy after he leveled harsh criticism at the government's Judea and Samaria settlement construction policies.
Briefing the U.N. Security Council via video conference, Nikolay Mladenov urged Israel to end settlement construction and called for joint efforts to restore hope for the two-state solution.
He accused Israel of "ignoring" the recommendations by the Middle East Quartet, comprising the U.S., Russia, the EU and the U.N., seeking to ensure a return to meaningful negotiations.
"Let me be clear: No legal acrobatics can change the fact that all outposts -- whether 'legalized' under Israeli law or not, whether located on state land, or absentee land, or private Palestinian land -- just like all settlements in Area C and east Jerusalem, remain illegal under international law," Mladenov told the Security Council.
A statement by the Prime Minister's Office said Mladenov's remarks "are distorting history and international law and are only pushing peace further away. ... Jews have been living in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria for thousands of years and they are not the obstacle for peace. The obstacle for peace is the Palestinians' incessant attempts to deny the Jews' link to their historical homeland, and their refusal to accept that [Jews] belong here.
"Claiming that Jewish construction in Jerusalem is illegal is as absurd as claiming American construction in Washington or French construction in Paris is illegal," the statement rebuked. "The Palestinian demand for the ethnic cleansing of Jews from a future Palestinian state is appalling and the U.N. should condemn it -- not embrace it."
Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon also condemned Mladenov's remarks, calling them "a reward to the Palestinians."
UN Security Council to convene 'Arria-formula' meeting on Israeli settlement building
The UN Security Council will hold a meeting on October 14 to address Israeli settlement building.
News of the upcoming meeting emerged after UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov appeared in front of the Security Council on Monday and slammed Israel for continuing to build settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Mladenov said Israel’s actions go against the Quartet’s recommendations, which were published in July.
The Quartet’s report outlined what the group believes are the threats to the two-state solution and offered practical recommendations to enable an eventual return to peace negotiations.
“Its recommendations continue to be ignored, including by a surge in Israeli settlement- related announcements and continuing demolitions,” Mladenov said. “We heard that settlement construction is not an impediment to a two-state solution; that ‘a few houses’ are not a problem for peace,” he added.
“Let me ask in return: How will advancing the construction of over 1,700 housing units bring the parties closer to negotiated peace, uphold the two-state solution, create hope for the Palestinian people, or bring security to Israelis?”
IDF razes home of PA security member involved in deadly shooting of Rabbi Mark
Acting on government orders, the IDF and Border Police demolished overnight between Monday and Tuesday the home of Palestinian Authority security force member Muhammad Abd Al-Majid Amaira, who allegedly acted as the driver in the deadly drive-by terrorist shooting attack on Route 60, which killed Rabbi Michael Mark and injured two of his family members on July 1.
Security forces working with the Civil Administration entered the West Bank town of Dura, seven kilometers southwest of Hebron, to demolish the home. Amaira has been in Israeli custody since mid-Juy.
At the end of July, 29-year-old Muhammad Fakia, who was the gunman in the attack, was killed in an exchange of fire with the IDF in the West Bank village of Tzurif, near Hebron.
Fakia barricaded himself inside a home, and opened fire on security personnel with a Kalashnikov rifle. The army fired anti-tank missiles at the building, before bulldozing it.
Prior to that exchange of fire, security forces arrested Amaira, 38, of Dura, who served in the Palestinian Authority national security force in connection with the attack. After the arrest, the suspect confessed to acting as the driver as Fakia fired shots out of the moving vehicle at the Mark family on Route 60, near Otniel, according to the Shin Bet.
The domestic intelligence agency seized the firearm and vehicle used by the terrorists.
JCPA: Middle East Analyst Yoni Ben Menachem: Palestinian Ballots and Bullets.
Anarchy in the West Bank in the run-up to October elections.
Yoni Ben-Menachem, the Jerusalem Center’s senior Middle East Analyst: The Palestinian Authority has arrested 100 suspects and in Nablus confiscated some one million shekels’ worth of weapons, including rockets.

JCPA: Arab Affairs Expert Pinhas Inbari on Instability in Palestinian Cities
Tensions and even anarchy in Nablus, Hebron, and Ramallah on the eve of Palestinian local elections. The Palestinian Authority has little control in the municipalities.

Sinai Attacks Decline as Egypt's Fight Against IS Yields Results
There has been a steady and significant decline in terror attacks carried out by the Islamic State in the Sinai Peninsula in recent months, according to both Egyptian and Israeli sources.
Though the Islamic State’s armed activities continue apace in the northeast triangle framed by the Israel, Gaza and Egypt borders, there have been fewer terror attacks on the Egyptian army, with a smaller number of casualties than last year, and the attacks have been less ambitious than those IS carried out in 2014 and 2015, as a result of the group’s weakened force and diminished weapons supply.
The Egyptian military’s operations in the central Sinai Peninsula and a series of airstrikes in the Jabal Hilal region — a terrorist-controlled area — have dealt a powerful blow to IS’s military capabilities, the sources said.
For the past few years, Jabal Hilal has been the stronghold of the extremist group in the peninsula, mostly due to its topography.
The region’s extensive cave system — it is considered the “Tora Bora of the Sinai,” an allusion to the rugged region of Afghanistan that Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters made into a bastion against the United States — has made it the preferred destination for IS, the current iteration of the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis group.
Elliott Abrams: Deja vu and the coming PA elections
There is one difference from 2006 that is very much worth mentioning. The myth exists ‎that the United States forced the Palestinians to hold those elections over the objections of ‎the PA leadership. That's false (as I explained at length in my book about Bush ‎administration policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, "Tested by Zion"). In fact, the ‎Palestinians had held a successful presidential election in January 2005 whose purpose was ‎to establish the legitimacy of Mahmoud Abbas as Yasser Arafat's successor. They wanted ‎parliamentary elections, again to strengthen Fatah's legitimacy, and were confident they ‎would win. We did not force them to hold the 2006 elections. Today, at least that argument ‎is over: No one is claiming that these elections of 2016 are being demanded by the United ‎States and imposed by the Obama administration on a reluctant PA leadership.‎
But the similarities to 2006 are very striking, including the most fundamental one: allowing ‎a terrorist group, Hamas, to contest the election without the slightest nod to stopping its ‎terror or giving up its rule of Gaza. This is wrong for many reasons, but here are the top two. ‎First, Hamas may win power in a number of West Bank cities but Fatah will not be able to ‎contest elections as freely in Gaza. In this sense the dice are loaded, or to mix ‎metaphors, Hamas can say heads I win in the West Bank and tails you lose in Gaza. Second, ‎those who wish to contest elections should be forced to choose between bullets and ballots. ‎This is what happened in the Northern Ireland agreements, where the Irish Republican Army had to end its ‎guerrilla and terrorist war and could then run for office. It is a mistake with global ‎implications to allow terrorist groups to have it all: to run for office like peaceful parties, but ‎continue their violent activities. That was the mistake we made in 2006, and it is being ‎repeated.‎
There is an argument for holding these elections, of course, and a powerful one. There have ‎been no parliamentary or presidential elections in the West Bank and Gaza since 2006 and ‎these elections provide at least a taste of democracy. They will tell us a good deal about ‎Palestinian public opinion. And perhaps in some cases they will produce better, meaning ‎more responsive and competent, municipal governments. But perhaps their clearest ‎achievement will be to show that nothing has changed since 2006 and indeed for decades ‎more: Fatah and Hamas are implacably at odds, Palestinians are split, the Palestinian ‎‎"national" government and national movement are hopelessly divided, Hamas' brand of ‎rejectionism and terror remains widely popular, and a negotiated peace agreement between ‎Israel and the Palestinians is nowhere in sight.‎
Well, one thing has changed since 2006: Abbas is 10 years older and his time in office is ‎closer to its end. Until succession issues are dealt with, the notion of serious Israeli-‎Palestinian negotiations is completely unrealistic -- whatever happens at the United Nations, ‎whatever the French suggest or the Russians try, and whatever the Obama administration ‎or its successor believe.‎
Voting on October 8 to take place in relatively few Palestinian locales
The Palestinian Central Elections Commission (CEC) revealed on Tuesday that only 196 out of 416 municipalities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip had submitted multiple lists for the October 8 local elections.
Voting takes place only if multiple lists are submitted, meaning that there might be no voting at all in the majority of locales.
The committee said that 181 municipalities had turned in consensus lists, 38 had failed to file any lists, and one submitted an incomplete list.
With regard to the municipalities that filed no lists or an incomplete list, CEC spokesman Farid Tanallah told The Jerusalem Post that the Palestinian Authority would hold “completion” elections after October 8, appoint new municipal councils or allow the current councils to stay in place.
The vast majority of the municipalities submitting consensus lists, no lists or incomplete lists are in rural areas.
The West Bank’s most populous cities – including Hebron, Nablus, Jenin and Ramallah – were among the 196 locales submitting multiple lists.
PreOccupiedTerritory: You May Have A Play Date When You Finish Assembling That Bomb By Rania Massoul, Palestinian mother of 6 (satire)
Waleed, you know the rules: all chores and homework must be finished before you are allowed to play with your friends, no matter how far in advance you arranged this play date. You get cracking on that bomb, and if you finish it in time, you may go to your friend’s house. That’s the rule. No exceptions.
I will accept no excuses, buster. This has always been the rule in our home, and it is unlikely to change. You might be planning to build the same bombs with your friends later, but the ones you’ve been assigned to make here and now are the ones you will make here and now. As long as you are a member of this household, you will abide by its rules. Make those bombs.
Look at your brothers. Both of them followed the rules assiduously. Muhammad used to make extra bombs and Molotov cocktails, in fact, and even used time he could have been with friends to plan and practice stabbing Jews. If he hadn’t been shot trying to run over a Zionist soldier two years ago, he could show you what it means to have the right priorities.
Why America’s foes feel safe playing chicken with the Navy
And it’s not just Iran: In other corners of the world, Russian and Chinese jets this year have been buzzing US ships in a clear-cut test of Washington’s resolve — a test this president is flunking.
In the latest incidents, Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessels last week twice veered dangerously close to US warships in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf, forcing one to actually fire warning shots.
But that’s as far as it’s likely to go. After all, Iran last January took 10 US sailors captive, forced them to kneel at gunpoint and apologize on camera and paraded them with hands in the air — all multiple violations of international law.
Washington’s reaction? Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry publicly hailed Iran’s “appropriate response.” Diplomatic repercussions? None whatsoever.
Just as there have been no repercussions for Iran’s post-deal tests of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, in clear violation of UN sanctions.
The worst players on the international scene are seeing how far they can push their territorial ambitions. And instead of showing backbone by standing up to them, our president keeps backing down.
So the stakes will only keep rising. If Iran managed to snag $1.7 billion for five American captives, imagine how much the mullahs will demand when they take a billion-dollar battleship hostage.
US ‘concerned’ by advanced air defense battery at Iran nuke site
The US State Department has expressed concern at recent reports that Iran has deployed an advanced air defense system to guard a secretive nuclear site.
On Sunday, Iranian state television claimed Tehran had stationed a recently delivered a Russian-made long-range missile system to central Iran to protect its Fordo nuclear facility, suspected to have housed nuclear arms development work.
A video showed an S-300 carrier truck in Fordo, raising its missile launchers toward the sky, next to other counter-strike weaponry.
State Department spokesman John Kirby told a press briefing Monday that the US was unhappy with the sale of the S-300 system as well as its placement at Fordo.
“We’ve seen the reports of this deployment. Obviously, that’s of concern to us because we have long objected to the sale of Iran – of these kinds of capabilities,” Kirby said.
Khamenei warns Iran will ‘hit hard’ in response to US aggression
Amid escalating tensions between US and Iranian vessels in the Persian Gulf, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday warned any military aggression against the Islamic Republic would be met with a harsh response.
In an apparent reference to the US, Khamenei told soldiers at a Tehran air base “the enemy should understand that if it makes any aggression, it will be hit hard and our defense will also include response,” according to the state-run Fars news agency.
Khamenei also called to bolster Iran’s military capabilities “to the extent that the enemy doesn’t even allow itself to think about aggression.”
Referring to Iran’s controversial purchase of the S-300 missile defense system from Russia, Khamenei charged the US “doesn’t respect our nation’s right of defense and actually wants us to remain defenseless so that they can launch aggression against our country whenever they want.”
His remarks come days after US seamen complained of being harassed by Iranian gunboats in the open waters of the Persian Gulf, ramping up tensions.
Iranians destroy US Navy with willpower in video
A newly released Iranian propaganda film shows American warships in the Persian Gulf attacking the Islamic Republic before being foiled and destroyed by the will and endurance of the Iranian people.
The video, titled “Steadfastness 2,” was produced by an office under the supervision of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the Middle East Media Research Center (MEMRI) reported.
It shows US ships attacking and destroying an Iranian passenger plane — Iran Air Flight 655, which was accidentally targeted and destroyed by US forces in 1988, killing all 290 people on board. The ships, along with jet fighters, proceed to bomb civilians on the shore.
However, young men waving Iranian flags hold fast. Singing of their approaching victory, they weather the storm and then turn the tide on their attackers, defeating and sinking them through their battle cries and sheer willpower.
Report: Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez Illegally Bought Weapons Materials from Iran
The Brazilian magazine Veja has published what it claims to be an official Venezuelan government document authorizing the purchase of multiple chemicals used to make weapons from the government of Iran, a violation of UN sanctions, in 2009.
Veja has published excerpts of the document, including what it claims to be the signature of late dictator Hugo Chávez, on the document. The document allegedly authorizes the purchase of nitrocellulose, as well as the purchase of several necessary items for the establishment of a gunpowder factory and nitroglycerin production. The document is dated August 3, 2009.
If confirmed to be a real document, Veja’s reporting would prove that Iran was continuing its weapons development long after the United Nations attempted to shut it down. It also proves Venezuela was violating UN sanctions to continue doing business with Iran. Iran’s transgressions in selling chemicals for weapons development to Venezuela suggest the Islamic nation was even more flagrantly in violation of sanctions against it than previously anticipated during the development and subsequent approval of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the “Iran deal”) in 2015.
Following the signing of the Iran deal, which will allow the nation to continue its nuclear development in a decade or sooner, the nation’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei issued a statement declaring that the United States had “surrendered” to Iran. The deal has been widely criticized for providing Iran a pathway to a nuclear weapon, an existential threat to neighboring Israel, as Iran’s leaders have repeatedly asserted their will to destroy the nation.
French environment minister, visiting Iran, announces new partnerships
French Environment Minister Segolene Royal met with her Iranian counterpart in Tehran on Sunday to announce plans for a number of joint projects addressing energy, water shortages and pollution.
Royal held talks with the head of Iran’s Environmental Protection Organization, Massoumeh Ebtekar, and said they would build several key partnerships by February.
“Several highly operational subjects were discussed,” Royal told reporters.
The French minister is travelling for three days with senior business figures from environmental and renewable energy firms specialising in water, pollution and energy efficiency — including the boss of multinational Engie.
“They were chosen by Iran on the basis of the challenges they face,” said Royal.
“Since we face the same type of challenges in France, this is a terrific opportunity for cooperation.”
Iran releases jailed Texas graduate student
Iranian authorities have released a man jailed while home from his graduate studies in Texas after nearly five years, state media reported Tuesday.
The report by the government-owned IRAN daily quoted Saeed Khalili, the lawyer for Omid Kokabee, as saying the country’s judiciary will allow Kokabee to enjoy “conditional freedom” for the rest of his 10-year sentence.
Khalili said Kokabee was released from jail in April to undergo medical treatment on his kidneys and “will not return to prison, anymore.”
Kokabee, an Iranian citizen, had been studying optics in the physics department at the University of Texas. He was arrested in February 2011 and convicted of having “relations with a hostile country” and receiving “illegitimate funds.”
What if no one wants to win the Syrian war?
Last week a new player fully entered the Syrian war as the Turkish army rolled into Jarabulus along with thousands of Syrian fighters with whom it is allied. To placate the Turks, US Vice President Joe Biden happened to be on hand to tell the Kurdish-backed YPG to go back across the Euphrates. The Turkish intervention, supposedly directed at “fighting Islamic State,” was also directed at interdicting any attempt by Kurdish forces to connect their Afrin canton with their existing areas in northeast Syria.
Others have written extensively about the various sides in the Syrian civil war and also about what an ideal outcome might be. Jonathan Spyer in The Spectator asked, “Who should rule Syria?” and concluded that none of the major players should.
“The Assad regime should not be permitted to reunite Syria under its rule, the Islamist rebels should similarly not be allowed to establish a Jihadi state in the country, and the Islamic State should not be permitted to remain in existence,” he said.
A deeper problem in Syria is that no one wants to win the war.
Report: UN funneled millions to Assad regime via aid program
The U.N. has violated U.S. and EU sanctions by paying associates of Syrian President Bashar Assad tens of millions of dollars through an aid program, The Guardian reported on Monday.
According to the report, the U.N. has awarded lucrative contracts to blacklisted entities run by people who are closely linked to the Assad family to facilitate its relief efforts in the country, where a civil war has been raging for more than five years. One of the organizations is a charity run by Assad's wife Asma and another is run by his cousin Rami Makhlouf.
The U.N. dismissed the allegations, telling the paper it has only so many organizations to choose from when it sends aid funds to Syria.
"Of paramount importance is reaching as many vulnerable civilians as possible," a spokesman said. "Our choices in Syria are limited by a highly insecure context where finding companies and partners who operate in besieged and hard to reach areas is extremely challenging," he said.

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