Thursday, November 17, 2016

From Ian:

Kosovo arrests 19 in Islamic State plot to attack Israel soccer match
Kosovo police on Wednesday said they had arrested 19 people they suspected of being involved in an Islamic State plot to carry out terror attacks in Kosovo and neighboring Albania, including an assault during a football match between Albania and Israel this past weekend.
Police said the arrests were made over the past 10 days and that the suspects had planned “synchronized terror attacks,” without going into further detail.
“They were planning to commit terrorist attacks in Kosovo and also [an attack] against [the] Israeli football team and their fans during the Albania-Israel match,” Kosovo police said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that weapons, explosives, ammunition and a drone were seized during the sweep.
The police said the suspects were communicating and receiving orders from an Islamic State member, Lavdrim Muhaxheri, the self-declared “commander of Albanians in Syria and Iraq.”
Last week, a Kosovo court ordered seven of the suspects detained for a month while the investigation continued. The seven belonged to one network that notably planned to attack a stadium in the northern Albanian town of Shkodra during the country’s 2018 World Cup qualifier against Israel last Saturday, according to media reports.
Some Jewish Leaders Question Schumer’s Backing Of Israel Critic Rep. Keith Ellison For DNC Chair
There were questions Tuesday evening about the decision by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to throw his support behind Keith Ellison – a fiery critic of Israel – to become chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, Schumer got a taste on Monday of what it could be like to lead the out-of-power Senate Democrats in the age of Donald Trump. Some two dozen protesters came to Schumer’s Washington office and occupied it.
“The Democratic establishment cannot lead the opposition right now,” a protester said.
Another protester asked Schumer to step aside and give his Senate minority leadership to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
The protests were one reason for Schumer’s hard-for-some-to-swallow decision to back Ellison (D-Minn.) to chair the Democratic Party. Otherwise, there were concerns that someone else, like Sanders, could become Senate Minority Leader. Ellison was a Sanders supporter.
Prominent Jewish leaders told CBS2’s Kramer they are upset with Schumer for backing Ellison, who has been highly critical of Israel.

Why is Senator Schumer Supporting Keith Ellison, Who Accused Israel of "Apartheid"
Intense pressure from his base forced Senator Schumer to briefly come out against the Iran nuke sellout. But now he's at it again, backing Keith X. Ellison, who had a history of defending anti-Semitism in his Nation of Islam days, for DNC boss.
While Ellison's defenders claim that his defenses of anti-Semitism and Nation of Islam past are ancient history, there's plenty of more recent history.
Why is Senator Schumer in favor of putting an extremist with a history of defending anti-Semitic bigotry who believes that Israel is an Apartheid State in the key position at the DNC?

Palestinians Claiming Jews Falsified Their Religion
In his latest video, Corey Gil-Shuster interviews palestinians about a common claim of theirs that Israelis have no culture.
These videos are always illuminating, and this is no exception.
Note how especially in the first few minutes, the interviewee claims Jews falsified their religion. This is a common belief of many Muslims – that the Quran is the word of Allah and Jews and Christians (who received their holy books before the Muslims) were given the Quran but falsified it to remove all reference to Mohammed and Islam. In fact, the world “Infidel” derives from this notion of infidelity – not remaining true to the Quran.
These kind of attitudes are vital in understanding the conflict, which is so often reduced to an equation of occupation = violent reaction.
Palestinians: "Israel has no culture"

What would Trump have to do to bring the US embassy to Jerusalem? Nothing at all
In about three weeks, Barack Obama will do something he has done 15 times before during his two terms as president of the United States, something some Israelis hope his successor, Donald J. Trump, will not do even once: He will sign a presidential waiver halting his legal obligation to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Citing the “authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States,” Obama will determine once more “that it is necessary, in order to protect the national security interests of the United States,” to suspend Congress’s 1995 decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and transfer to it the embassy and the ambassador’s residence.
Obama is not the first president to sign this waiver. Bill Clinton and the born-again Christian George W. Bush did it twice a year, thus continually betraying their own campaign pledges.
But Trump is a wildcard, and more than a week after he won the elections it still unclear what policies he will pursue in the Middle East — including whether he will adhere to widely accepted diplomatic dogma and join the list of presidents postponing the embassy’s move every six months, or actually make good on his campaign pledge and order the move.
President Trump Could Unilaterally Recognize Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel
As we all continue to digest the stunning election results from last week, I continue to focus on ways in which a President Trump could use his substantial powers over foreign affairs in unique and unprecedented ways. Withdrawing from trade agreements could be a major theme of his administration. Somewhat less noticed is the possibility that a President Trump fulfills his campaign promise to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
I don’t want to get into the merits of whether Jerusalem is in fact part of Israel under international law. I once wrote a whole legal memo on a topic related to Jerusalem as an intern at the U.S. State Department that is probably gathering dust somewhere, and the contents of which I’ve already largely forgotten.
For our purposes, what matters is that the U.S. Supreme Court recently confirmed in Zivotofsky v. Kerry that the U.S. Constitution grants the President the exclusive power to recognize foreign nations and governments. This power includes, the Court held, the exclusive power to withhold recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Congress cannot infringe on this power by requiring, for instance, that the President issue passports designating Jerusalem as part of Israel. Hence, the exclusive recognition power extends to recognizing how far a foreign sovereign’s rule extend, such as whether or not Israel has sovereignty over Jerusalem.
Brendan O'Neill: Anti-Semitism and the rise of the un-PC loudmouth
As the Guardian reports, the alt-right is motored by a feeling that “white identity is under attack”. On sections of the left, meanwhile, we often hear talk of evil banks and “hidden networks” (in the words of Wikileaks) that are invading our minds and lives. The alt-right and alt-left are weird mirror versions of each other, different expressions of the same sad politics of overblown victimhood and even conspiracy theorising.
This tells us something important about what drives anti-Semitism today. It isn’t the old politics of race; it’s the new politics of identity.
When people are encouraged to see themselves as a fragile identity under attack — a white guy in a multicultural world, a Muslim in the wicked West, a woman in a patriarchal world — the more they will come to see themselves as permanent victims of external forces.
And what scary external force do many people naturally orientate to, and sometimes view as the greatest power of all? Israel. Zionists. Jews. The end result of most political movements based on a narcissistic sense of victimhood, conspiracy theory and siege is the Jew — or at least something Jewish.
The rise of the alt-right and the “Zio”-bashing of the alt-left should remind us of the dark avenues identity politics can go down. To challenge anti-Semitism today, we need to call into question the fragile, identity-obsessed mindset of too many on both the right and left.
Report: Trump Donated Funds for Relocation of Evacuated Israeli Settlers
President-elect Donald Trump reportedly contributed money to help create new communities in Israel for settlers evacuated from the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip.
Due to the high cost of the evacuation project during Israel’s 2005 unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, the Israeli government reportedly sought assistance from numerous Jewish organizations such as the Jewish National Fund (JNF).
“We issued an appeal to all Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL) and JNF offices worldwide,” said Effie Stenzler, former chairman of the JNF, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Tuesday.
“KKL-USA sought donations in the US and one of them was sought from Trump, who is considered to be an avowed supporter of Israel, and he donated money toward the establishment of infrastructure in new communities,” Stenzler added.
Further, Trump donated towards helping Jewish evacuees from the Sinai Peninsula in the early 1980s, when Israel pulled out of the region as a result of the peace treaty it signed with Egypt in 1979.
Honest Reporting: Trump, Israel and the Media's Epic Fail
We just had an election and most journalists were shocked! Why? Because they had been reporting from their own bias instead of from reality, and some journalists even said so. But this isn't just about elections: it happens in many areas, including Israel and the Palestinians.

‘Unprecedented’ Spate of Antisemitic Vandalism Across US Colleges in Wake of Presidential Election Leaves Jewish Students Feeling Vulnerable, Campus Groups Say
Jewish students are feeling particularly vulnerable in the aftermath of the US presidential election, the result of which has sparked an unprecedented number of antisemitic incidents at universities across the country, campus groups told The Algemeiner on Wednesday.
Referring to the more than a dozen acts of vandalism, mainly involving the scrawling of swastika graffiti — perpetrated by members of both the political Left and Right — Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, co-founder of the watchdog group AMCHA Initiative, said, “When hatred is in the air, it often comes to roost on the Jewish doorstep.”
“There is a crossfire happening now on college campuses and Jewish students are caught in the middle,” she said. “Historically, Jews have frequently been scapegoated, and the use of Nazi imagery — which has undeniable resonance with the annihilation of the Jewish people — taps into a basic primal fear. What’s happening today is very frightening for Jewish students.”
Matt Berger, a spokesman for the Jewish campus organization Hillel International, called the spike in antisemitic incidents “of the highest concern.”
“We are working closely with Hillel professionals, university administrators, community partners and local law enforcement around the country to ensure campuses remain safe places for Jewish students,” he said.
Top Iranian Military Adviser Warns of ‘Harm to US’ If President-Elect Trump Succumbs to ‘Zionists,’ Cancels Nuclear Deal
A top military aide to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that “harm” would come to the US if President-elect Donald Trump cancels the nuclear deal signed between Tehran and world powers last year in July, the country’s semi-official news agency Fars reported on Wednesday.
According to the report, in an interview with Iran’s state-run TV channel on Tuesday, Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi threatened the soon-to-be leader of the free world that there would be severe consequences if he succumbed to Israeli pressure on this issue.
“Any president who is empowered in the US is compelled to support the Zionists but annulment of the nuclear deal will be a strategic mistake,” he said, without specifying what the repercussions of such a move would be.
Safavi then urged America and its allies to join Iran in creating “regional peace and stability.”
This echoed statements he made on Monday in a press conference in Tehran.
“We hope that the US president-elect will make a tangible turn on Iran and the region to uproot insecurity in the region,” Safavi told reporters, also expressing hope that Trump would withdraw US troops from Afghanistan and other parts of the Middle East. “Such a turn in the US president-elect is also possible, since the US is administered by a system and the system doesn’t allow the president to do whatever he wants.”
Fatah official: Trump’s “true face” - “Zionist and racist”
Deputy Secretary of the Fatah Central Committee, Jibril Rajoub: "Regarding [US President elect Donald] Trump, I think that even before he won, he revealed his true face, Zionist and racist, supporting and adopting the Israeli right-wing and racist policy. In my opinion, his predecessor [US President Barack Obama] is not better than him, even though at the beginning he tried to present himself in a different way."
[Al-Mayadeen TV (Lebanon), Nov. 11, 2016]
Jibril Rajoub also holds the following positions:
Head of the Supreme Council for Sport and Youth Affairs,
Chairman of the Palestinian Football Association,
Chairman of the Palestine Olympic Committee,
and Chairman of the Palestinian Scout Association (PSA)- a member of the World Organization of Scouts (WOSM)

PreOccupiedTerritory: Polls That Saw Clinton Victory Just Israeli Ruse To Break Palestinian Morale (satire)
Israeli Ministry of Defense and intelligence officials voiced satisfaction today after a post-mortem assessment of their clandestine activities related to the American presidential election, an important element of which included the building up of Palestinian hopes for a sympathetic personality in the White House, only to be crushed by the unexpected victory of the opponent, who had made unequivocally pro-Israel statements during the campaign.
Plaudits spread through the Ministry of Defense and Mossad headquarters Wednesday following a presentation by operatives who briefed senior officials on the success with which they manipulated polling data for almost two years to create the illusion that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton would defeat Donald Trump. The trend of polls published in every major media outlet pointed to a close but convincing edge for Clinton in the race, lulling Palestinians, their advocates, and opponents of Israel into complacency over the expected policies of Barack Obama’s successor, who, as a Democrat, would stick to Obama’s harsh treatment of Israel relative to his predecessors, and pressure the Jewish State in to far-reaching concessions to the Palestinians.
However, the published polls were merely misinformation spread by Mossad agents, and did not reflect the reality of Trump’s support, leading the Palestinians and their advocates to the shock and dismay of discovering that the next occupant of the Oval Office will be a man who has expressed nakedly hostile sentiments toward Muslims and promised to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
New ICC report takes Palestinians’ side despite Israeli optimism
The recent International Criminal Court Prosecutor’s Office visit to Israel and the West Bank was viewed as a success by the Israeli side, but the optimism may be premature.
On Monday, the ICC Prosecutor’s Office released its annual report, including its second preliminary report on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict regarding alleged war crimes committed by Israelis and Palestinians since June 2014, focused again on Operation Protective Edge in July-August 2014.
Though the document had many similarities with the 2015 report, it notably went out of its way to confirm that ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda views Gaza as legally still “occupied” by Israel for the purposes of her review of the 2014 Gaza war.
That determination could have a massive impact on whether Bensouda takes Israel’s or the Palestinians’ side on borderline laws of war issues as it frames the Palestinians more as the victims. It also makes it more likely that she will view even war-related issues more from the perspective of human rights law than from that of the law of armed conflict. Human rights law perspectives tend to demand more of militaries in avoiding collateral civilian casualties even as all legal paradigms show concern for civilians.
While Bensouda had alluded to the possibility of viewing Gaza as occupied in a previous unrelated case, her previous comments on the issue were not in the context of the 2014 Gaza war and were not a binding policy statement as much as they appeared to be her initial leaning.
PreOccupiedTerritory: ICC Offering Reduced Sentences For States That Remain Members (satire)
Plagued by a spate of recent withdrawals from the treaty that established the International Criminal Court, the body will try to prevent more nations from following suit by promising that nationals of the countries that elect to stay will be given preferential treatment in sentencing if convicted, a Court representative announced today.
Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda told reporters at a press conference Thursday morning that following the declaration by several member states that they will withdraw from ratification of the Rome Statue that established the ICC, the Court administrators formulated an incentive package to keep the remaining 120 countries from leaving.
South Africa, Burundi, Gambia, and now Russia have decided not to remain members of the body, giving rise to fears that the Court will lose the broad international support necessary for it to bring war criminals to justice. Philippine leaders voiced similar intentions yesterday, and Bensouda and her colleagues now face the prospect of a raft of withdrawals from the Court and the undermining of their effort to uphold international law. Several of the nations that have announced their withdrawal are involved in military actions that could be subject to the court’s jurisdiction, and numerous others in similar circumstances might consider shielding their military and political leaders from ICC prosecution by simply removing themselves from acceptance of the Rome Statue. To forestall such an exodus, the ICC has put forth specific leniencies for citizens of members convicted of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and other violations prosecutable before the Court.
Palestinians call for investigation into Israel at UN climate talks
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah called for an investigation into Israel at the latest round of U.N. climate talks in Marrakech, Morocco on Wednesday. Speaking to attendees, Hamdallah alleged that Israeli factories in Judea and Samaria are harming the environment and polluting the Palestinian water supply.
In his address to the conference, Elkin said, "It is such a shame that the Palestinians used this platform to attack [Israel] and make absurd, groundless allegations. I could provide you with many examples, but I will just give one from last month: The Palestinians are attempting to build a cement factory on a nature reserve. This is being promoted by the Palestinian Authority for the simple reason that it serves the interests of Abu Mazen's [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas'] sons."
According to Elkin, "This factory will hurt the population and harm the nature reserve. The Palestinian population even turned to us, the Israelis, for help because the [Palestinian] Authority is not helping them."
The U.N. Environment Program has issued scathing attacks against Israel in recent years. In a joint meeting earlier that day, Elkin told UNEP Executive Director Erik Solheim, "Instead of [issuing] more anti-Israel reports, cooperate with us and help us solve the real problems."
Israeli minister slams Palestinians for politicizing UN climate talks
Rejecting claims that Israel is intent on polluting the West Bank and Gaza, Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin sharply criticized the Palestinian Authority leadership at an ongoing United Nations climate conference on Wednesday night.
"It is sad that the Palestinians have chosen to take advantage of this platform not as a forum for unifying professional discussion but rather for making unrestrained and completely untrue claims, which we completely reject," the minister said.
Elkin was addressing delegates to this year's UN Conference on Climate Change – Conference of Parties 22 (COP-22), held from November 7-18 in Marrakesh, Morocco.
Earlier at the convention, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah had attacked Israel, claiming that the country is polluting and causing damage to the Palestinian environment and water resources by constructing factories in the West Bank, according to the Environment Ministry. Calling upon UN delegates to investigate Israel for its actions, Hamdallah went so far as to say that the country intentionally harms the Gazan and West Bank environments in order to directly harm civilians, the ministry said.
Visiting mayors slam UNESCO holy sites stance
Twenty mayors from around the world who are part of a delegation visiting Israel have expressed opposition to two recent UNESCO resolutions that omitted Jewish and Christian links to Israeli holy sites in Jerusalem.
The mayors, visiting Israel as part of a conference organized by the American Jewish Congress and the American Council for World Jewry, signed a joint statement criticizing the recent adoption by two UNESCO committees of resolutions that ignore Jewish ties to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount and other holy sites in Israel, while highlighting the Islamic connection.
The statement was signed during a ceremony at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre declined to sign the statement. Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Coderre’s decision had nothing to do with his opinion on the statement, but was due to a personal policy not to sign petitions.
The statement was to be presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the 21 mayors’ meeting with the premier on Thursday afternoon.
The mayors resolved “to work to end politically inspired falsehood and distortions, and to speak the truth about all relevant history.”
Israel Puts the Spike Missile on its Apache Helicopters
For this reason, Israel concluded that the U.S. under Obama was not a reliable supplier of either helicopters or missiles.
Israel's Spike is superior to the Hellfire. It has longer range, making it safer to use against an enemy that possesses shoulder-fired ground to air missiles.
Worse yet, despite Saudi Arabia's horrible bombing performance in Yemen, the U.S. continues to sell billions of dollars' worth of weapons and has stepped up shipments of munitions.
The Spike is a better option than the Hellfire and safer to use, which is why 25 nations now use the missile and 25,000 or more have been produced.
Massive missile-proof blood bank planned by Israel medical service
The site, a weedy lot abutted by a Skoda service center and some railroad tracks, doesn’t look like much now, but in a few years this parcel of land in a working-class town near Tel Aviv could hold the key to saving thousands of lives when war, or nature, strikes.
On Wednesday, the Magen David Adom medical service laid the cornerstone for a state-of-the-art blood bank between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, saying the underground building will be protected against missile strikes and earthquakes.
Prof. Eilat Shinar, head of MDA’s blood services, said she expects the NIS 385 million ($100 million) facility will be built within the next three years, but admitted she’s “an optimist.”
“There are some people who say it will be five years,” she told The Times of Israel after the ceremony.
Source: Hamas Arrests Top Salafist Militant Wanted by U.S.
Hamas has arrested Abdullah Alashqar, a prominent Salafi leader in Gaza, who has been on the government’s wanted list for more than four years, a Salafi source in the Strip told Breitbart Jerusalem.
Alashqar is accused of masterminding dozens of rocket attacks on Israel as well as attacks on Israeli targets in Sinai, making him a prime target for Israel.
In 2012, Alashqar founded the Shura Council of the Mujahideen in the Holy Land, and maintained intimate ties with Salafi militants in Sinai. In 2006, as a member of the Army of Islam, then a group affiliated with the Saladin Brigades, he blew up a CIA vehicle in Gaza.
In January 2015, his name was added to the list of terrorists wanted by the American government, after his organization pledged allegiance to the Islamic State organization.
Source: Iran Pressuring Palestinian Jihadists to Resume Terrorism Against Israel
Iran has been prodding Palestinian jihadists to resume hostilities against Israel, a Palestinian security official told Breitbart Jerusalem.
He said that Palestinian security services have noticed increased efforts on the part of the Iran-financed Islamic Jihad terrorist organization in Gaza to recruit West Bank operatives, especially in and around the cities of Hebron and Jenin.
Palestinian Authority officials have been prevented from operating in Gaza since the 2007 coup in which Hamas seized control of the territory, but according to intelligence collected by the PA, Iranian Revolutionary Guard officials have pressured Islamic Jihad to set up a terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank.
The official states that Iran, encouraged by Hamas’ success in restoring its infrastructure in the West Bank, charged Hezbollah with recruiting militants formerly associated with Fatah’s military wing, and has more recently turned to Islamic Jihad in hopes that the terror group would rebuild its own West Bank infrastructure, which was left in ruins at the end of the second intifada.
Last week, the Israeli media reported that members of an Islamic Jihad cell were arrested after they planned to carry out an attack on a wedding in the south of Israel and kidnap soldiers.
The Lebanese Army Is Misusing U.S. Aid
Over the weekend, pictures of a Hezbollah parade in the Syrian city of Qusayr showed Hezbollah fighters using American-made M113 armored personnel carriers (APCs). If the vehicles were transferred by the Lebanese Armed Forces, a recipient of U.S. aid and equipment, to Hezbollah, as some analysts have speculated, the consequences could be significant. After all, the purpose of American support for the LAF is to strengthen it to fight terrorism, which includes Hezbollah. However, this recent episode highlights the fact that the Lebanese military is simply an auxiliary of a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organization.
Lebanon is the fifth largest recipient of American military aid, receiving $220 million in 2016, including an August shipment that included 50 armored vehicles. If the M113s, or any other weapons, were transferred to Hezbollah, the State Department is obliged to notify Congress. Indeed, even if the APCs are part of a U.S. package from an earlier period, it still requires notification.
Some analysts believe that the APCs may be a vestige of the Lebanese civil war, 1975-1990. The LAF split into factions and various militias walked away with its equipment. Also, Israel gave some of the U.S.-made vehicles over to their local ally, the South Lebanese Army. After Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah moved into the security zone and took over the SLA's arsenal, including M113s. Hezbollah was supposed to turn all its arms over to the Lebanese government, i.e., the army, but clearly never did.
Repairing the Iran Nuclear Deal's Damage
Finally, the sunset clauses of the JCPOA must be revisited, and no automatic passage from one stage to the next should be permitted, unless the P5+1 unanimously agree. More importantly, Iran’s international and internal behavior should be the benchmark against which the expiration of restrictions is assessed, including not only its nuclear behavior, but support for terror and rejection of Israel’s place in the Middle East. Indeed, the decision made by the P5+1 to deal exclusively with the nuclear issue, purposely neglecting the major issues of human rights, the aggressiveness of Iran in the Middle East and its support of terrorism, can dangerously backfire. Iran’s aggressive statements and activities, including construction and testing of more precise long-range missiles that can carry a nuclear payload do not bode well. The world has enough collective power to pressure Iran on these points.
Ironically, the initial Iranian reactions to Trump’s election were that he not tamper with the JCPOA; Iran’s President Rohani said the deal cannot be changed by one vote, and threats were issued that Iran “has options” if the nuclear deal fails. Why? Most likely Iran is attempting to deter any changes because so far things are going quite well from its perspective. But Iran also wants to get the full economic benefits it expects from the deal, and probably to squeeze more money in exchange for prisoners taken on bogus charges. In addition, Iran has strengthened its position across the Middle East and does not want the US to be able to slap more sanctions on it, or begin interfering with its plans. Better to keep the JCPOA façade for now.
In conclusion, despite Trump’s pre-election rhetoric, it is reasonable to assume that he will not rip up the deal. Instead, he should focus on the weaknesses of the JCPOA, and on repairing the damage that has been done. To do so, the new administration should fully utilize the provisions of the JCPOA, the valid safeguards commitments of Iran to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and introduce some essential additions and modifications. In addition to improvements regarding the JCPOA itself, things need to change in terms of US-Iran interactions. Iran has been exploiting the eagerness of the Obama administration to ignore and/or attempt to explain away all moves Iran has made over the past year to strengthen its position in the military realm, and across the Middle East. This trend can still be reversed. Until Iran indicates that it plans to be a willing international and regional player, it cannot be treated as one, especially when it comes to the nuclear realm.
House votes 419-1 to extend Iran sanctions
The House voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to extend an Iran sanctions law for another 10 years, amid growing worries that the U.S. needs to keep some leverage over Iran as it pushes for that country to implement the nuclear agreement.
Lawmakers voted 419-1 in favor of extending the Iran Sanctions Act, the foundation of a range of U.S. sanctions against Iran.
The only vote against the bill came from Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky.
The vote is a sign the bill should easily pass the Senate. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said passage shows that Congress is ready to take a tougher stance on Iran than that of President Obama. While Obama has moved to ease sanctions against Iran, Republicans and even some Democrats say the U.S. needs to impose tougher measures to ensure Iran's compliance.
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"The nuclear deal has provided cover for Iran," he said. "They are exerting more and more control in Iraq, sending arms to rebels in Yemen, and continue to support terrorist groups like Hezbollah that antagonize Israel."
"All the while, the Obama Administration has refused to hold Iran accountable or even call Iran out for violating the nuclear deal by exceeding limits on heavy water," he added. "But we cannot let Iran increase its regional influence and undermine American interests unopposed."
UN nuclear watchdog criticizes Iran for overstepping deal limit
Iran must stop repeatedly overstepping a limit on its stock of a sensitive material set by its landmark deal with major powers, the UN nuclear watchdog said on Thursday.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is policing the deal, said in a report last week that Iran had slightly exceeded the 130-tonne soft limit on its stock of heavy water for a second time since the deal was put in place in January.
Officials from the six other countries that signed the deal, including the United States, have expressed frustration over the breach and said the limit should be seen as firm.
Iran's overstepping of the 130-tonne threshold also raises questions about how US President-elect Donald Trump - who has strongly criticized the deal and said he will "police that contract so tough they (the Iranians) don't have a chance" - would handle any similar case once he takes office.
"It is important that such situations should be avoided in future in order to maintain international confidence in the implementation of the JCPOA," IAEA chief Yukiya Amano said in the text of a speech to his agency's Board of Governors, using the acronym for the deal's full name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Obama Promises to Veto Bill to Block U.S. Aircraft Exports to Iran
Putting U.S. financing off-limits for Iran to buy or lease commercial Boeing aircraft was the first order of business for the House Rules Committee, on its first day back after a long recess and the presidential election of Donald Trump.
The measure passed the committee 7-2 late Monday, but President Barack Obama has promised to veto the bill, saying it would undermine U.S. commitments to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the Iran nuclear deal.
“The bill would undermine the ability of the United States to meet our JCPOA commitments by effectively prohibiting the United States from licensing the sale of commercial passenger aircraft to Iran for exclusively civil end uses, as we committed to do in the JCPOA, and seeking to deter companies from pursuing permissible business with Iran,” an administration statement on the bill says.
“Our allies have steadfastly supported us when Iran has brought concerns to the Joint Commission, but they would be unable to do so if this legislation were enacted. We would lose the P5+1 unity on this issue that has been and will remain critical to preserving the deal,” the statement continues.
U.S. financial institutions had received the go-ahead in September from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to proceed with financial transactions that would permit the sale of up to 97 combined Airbus and Boeing aircraft to Iran Air, the country’s national airline.
In rare dissent, Iran scholar slams regime’s anti-Israel rhetoric
In a rare, albeit minor, instance of pro-Israel dissent, a prominent Iranian intellectual slammed the regime’s policy of aggression toward Israel in an interview with an Iranian internet news site.
According to watchdog group MEMRI, which posted translated edits from the lengthy interview, Professor Sadegh Zibakalam criticized Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s talk of a referendum on the future of Israel, calling this both unrealistic and none of Iran’s business. He asserted that Iran’s open commitment to destroy Israel — as evident in its parading of long-range missiles with slogans in Hebrew pronouncing that “Israel must be destroyed” — was a breach of UN-mandated respect for member states.
“The UN officially recognized Israel and Iran as a member state,” Zibakalam said. “According to Article 1 of the UN charter, the UN member states must not conduct acts of aggression against one another and must not wish death or destruction upon another nation.”
“Iran must first withdraw from the UN, before it may chant ‘Death to Israel’ and ‘Israel must be destroyed,'” Zibakalam added.

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