Friday, October 20, 2017

From Ian:

Quoting Arafat, Palestinian mission in Colombia calls for Israel’s destruction
The official Palestinian mission to Colombia on Thursday night tweeted a quote from former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat calling for the destruction of the State of Israel.

The tweet read, “Our goal is the end of Israel, and there can be no compromises or mediations…. We don’t want peace. We want WAR and victory — Yasser Arafat,” according to a spokesperson for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Following a report on Israel’s Channel 1 television, the Spanish-language tweet was removed. No explanation or apology was offered.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry responded to the tweet by condemning Arafat for his “legacy of hostility” and death.

“A quote from one of Arafat’s statements clearly illustrates to us the hatred that was always his lot and the legacy of hostility he left behind,” the ministry told the TV station. “In his life and death, his entire legacy is death, hatred and disgust.”
Israel’s ambassador to Colombia said the matter had been raised with the local authorities.

“We brought the matter of the Palestinian mission’s tweet to the attention of the government in Bogata,” Marco Sermoneta told Channel 1. “Anyone who believes everything the Palestinians say must also believe them when they say this.” (h/t Yenta Press)
Senior UK Jewish Leader Criticizes British UN Diplomat Over Balfour Declaration Comments to UN Security Council
The top organization representing British Jews has lodged a complaint with the British government over remarks by the UK’s Deputy Ambassador to the UN suggesting that the absence of a Palestinian state represents the “unfinished business” arising from the 1917 Balfour Declaration.

In a speech to a UN Security Council debate on the Middle East on Tuesday, Deputy Ambassador Jonathan Allen underlined that the “UK is proud to have played a role in helping to make a Jewish homeland a reality” when it issued the declaration in November 1917. But Allen drew the ire of British Jewish leaders when he added, “let us remember, there are two halves of Balfour, the second half of which has not been fulfilled.”

“There is therefore unfinished business,” Allen said, a remark he repeated in a later tweet.

In a letter to Britain’s senior diplomat at the UN, Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, Jonathan Arkush – president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews – invoked Prime Minister Theresa May when he asserted that it is “completely inconsistent with the United Kingdom’s declared policy to mark, commemorate and celebrate the Balfour Declaration (all terms used by the Prime Minister and other ministers in recent weeks).”

“In just a fortnight’s time a commemorative dinner is to take place to be attended by the Prime Minister and Prime Minister Netanyahu,” Arkush said. “It is deeply unattractive for the UK’s Mission to the UN to strike a critical note and exposes the UK Government to a charge of hypocrisy.”
Yisrael Medad: Tweeting to UK UN Depty Ambassador Allen
It really is, my man, quite at matter of simple historical facts.

You are reading into the text things that are not in it, or intended to be. The Arabs of the area were to gain at least three national states, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, and the area known as Palestine was to be the Jewish state. The one Jewish state.

And in any case, as Jonathan Hoffman tweeted,
Oh rubbish. The 'civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in [former] Palestine' are completely protected.

Caroline Glick: Iran’s very good week
The same day Iranian-backed forces were taking control of Kirkuk, Israel both destroyed a Russian- made anti-aircraft battery in Syria in retaliation for Syria’s targeting of IAF jets, and welcomed Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to Israel for his first visit in office.

Israel’s willingness to attack the Syrian battery the day Shoigu arrived made clear that Russian support for its Syrian client is not unconditional.

This was brought home yet again and more powerfully the next day. On Tuesday, Maj.-Gen. Mohammad Bagheri, chief of staff of the Iranian military, made an official visit to Damascus.

While he was there Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Russian President Vladimir Putin to talk to him about Iran’s nuclear weapons program and its increased presence in Syria. Netanyahu also beseeched Putin to support Kurdish independence in Iraq.

Interestingly, it was Putin’s office, not Israel, which revealed the call had taken place.

Russia’s willingness to accept Israeli air strikes in Syria and to openly work with Israel indicates that Iran may have overstepped the boundaries. It is possible that Russia is not interested in having an empowered Iranian ally. Given past Russian practice, it is likely that Russia would like to see Iran weakened and therefore more dependent on Moscow.

Then there are the Germans and British. Whereas German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May came out strongly for maintaining the nuclear deal with Iran, both leaders indicated this week that they are willing to take a stronger stand against Iranian support for terrorism, missile development and regional expansion. Netanyahu reportedly has spoken at length to both leaders, and to a host of others, in recent days lobbying them to support the anti-Iranian Kurdish regional government.

By not abandoning the Kurds and by continuing to press for the West – including the Trump administration – to support Barzani and his government, and by pushing back against Iran’s empowerment in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, Netanyahu is trying to exploit and expand Iran’s weaknesses. He does this even as Iran’s strengths become more obvious and Iran’s power rises against an America that remains strategically adrift.

Netanyahu’s actions alone will not stop Iran.

But they do make it clear that Iran’s rise is not unstoppable. There are plenty of actors with plenty of reasons to oppose Iran’s empowerment. And once they see the danger Iran poses to them, working together and separately, they can help to cut it down to size.
At some point, the Americans may come to their senses and finish off the job.
In Syria, Russian Air Defenses Involve Much Bark and Little Bite
In September, a Syrian chemical-weapons plant was destroyed, most likely by Israeli airplanes, not far from a high-tech Russian anti-aircraft installation. Yet Russian troops did not respond to—or attempt to prevent—this attack on their Syrian ally. Nor has Moscow acted to protect its coalition partners from numerous other Israeli airstrikes over the past few years. Likewise, Russia did not retaliate when the U.S. launched cruise missiles at a Syrian air-force base in April. Guy Plopsky concludes that, despite repeated threats, the Kremlin wishes to avoid conflict with either America or Israel:
Moscow’s warnings to Israel are . . . directed more toward the Syrian and Russian public than they are toward Jerusalem. Offering no threatening response to Israeli airstrikes would make the Kremlin appear weak, prompting pro-Assad factions to question Moscow’s commitment to the regime and weakening Russia’s influence.

At the same time, Russia has been rebuilding Syria’s air defenses in the hope that they would deter both Israel and the coalition from further strikes. Russia’s defense ministry has mentioned Syrian air defenses in warnings directed at coalition forces and has pledged to “increase [their] effectiveness.” . . .

As for Russia’s own air defenses, Moscow has not utilized them to defend Assad’s forces and is unlikely to do so for fear of an armed confrontation with the U.S. and its partners. Indeed, while Syrian fighters are known to have flown escort missions for Russian strike aircraft, the reverse has not occurred. Furthermore, like Israel, the U.S. maintains a de-confliction line with Russia and has developed agreements to avoid clashes. . . .
Justice needed for American victims of Palestinian terrorism
For over two decades, Palestinian terrorists have literally and figuratively gotten away with the murder of dozens of Americans, slaying at least 64 US citizens in a chilling variety of stabbing, shooting and bombing attacks.

And yet, despite Washington’s undisputed commitment to fighting terrorism, not a single Palestinian perpetrator has been brought to justice for spilling American blood, nor has the Palestinian Authority been held to account.

After eight years in which the Obama administration did virtually nothing to pursue Palestinians wanted in connection with the murder of American citizens, essentially giving the terrorists a free pass, now is the time for the Trump administration to take a much tougher line on this critical issue.

Indeed, this week marks the 14th anniversary of one of the more brazen examples of anti-American Palestinian terrorism. It was on October 15, 2003, that Palestinian terrorists set off a remotely controlled explosive device on a Gaza road as a US diplomatic convoy passed by. The bomb killed three Americans: John Branchizio, 37, of Texas, John Linde Jr., 30, of Missouri, and Mark Parsons, 31, of New Jersey. One other American was wounded in the blast.

Despite the fact that the attack took place in broad daylight and the American vehicles all bore diplomatic license plates, the Palestinian Authority, first under Yasser Arafat and then with Mahmoud Abbas at the helm, refused to take action, preferring instead to allow the murderers to roam free.

Not surprisingly, the incident came in the wake of weeks of ongoing anti-American incitement in the official Palestinian media.

Just five days prior to the bombing, Palestinian television broadcast a sermon delivered in Gaza in which the preacher threatened “destruction for the United States” and noted ominously, “From this place [i.e. Gaza] we warn the American people that this president is dragging them to the abyss.”
Replacing the old paradigm
Recently elected Labor Party Chairman Avi Gabbay's controversial remarks this week, arguing that Israel does not necessarily need to evacuate any settlements in a future peace deal with the Palestinians, sparked uproar mainly within the hard core of the Israeli Left. The Left still clings to the precarious paradigm of "land for peace." It was the same group that vehemently opposed the cabinet's simple assertion this week that Israel does not negotiate with Hamas because Hamas is a terrorist organization that seeks to destroy Israel and murder Jews.

Every so often, the Left becomes afflicted with dementia and becomes convinced that we are back in the 1970s or 1980s, before the colossal failures of the Oslo Accords, Camp David and the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza. We tried it. We exhausted the possibilities. Do we really want to ensure "safe passage" between the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria? Even at the cost of bisecting Israel's south? Is this the lesson you have taken away from our neighbors' behavior over the last 100 years?

The old paradigm operates on the assumption that the "occupation" occurs only in those parts of the country that Israel seized in the 1967 Six-Day War. I wrote last week that the Jews keep arguing among themselves about the 1967 occupation while the Arabs scream something else entirely directly in their ears. I dare the Israeli Left to find one single Arab leader willing to officially declare that the Jewish-Palestinian conflict is about the territories captured in 1967.

Allow me to save you some time – there is no such Arab leader. For the Arabs, the very establishment of Israel is actually the original sin. The conflict begins in 1948 at the latest. Some of them would say that it began in 1917 with the Balfour Declaration. Others would go as far as to say that it began in 1880s with the first wave of Jewish immigration. Therefore, the conflict between us and the Arabs of the region clearly isn't territorial – it is over the Jewish people's basic right to a state in our homeland.
Netanyahu: If we are not in the Jordan Valley, Iran will be
Iran will take over the Jordan Valley unless Israel maintains a military and civilian presence in the area, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday night at a jubilee event marking the 50th anniversary of the state’s control of the region.

“If we are not here, Iran and ‘Hamastan’ will be here.

We will not let this happen,” said Netanyahu, as he made a rare visit to the Jordan Valley where some of the first settlements were built after the Six Day War.

The area is beyond the West Bank security barrier, and the future of its settlements was considered tenuous when the Obama administration was in power in Washington. It was feared that Obama’s diplomatic plans included Israel withdrawing from the settlements in the valley while leaving an Israeli military presence there.

Eliciting shouts, whistles and applause, Netanyahu pledged that he would not uproot the Jordan Valley settlements.

“The Jordan Valley will always be part of Israel. We will continue to settle it and invest in its industry and its tourism,” the prime minister said.

The region “has supreme security importance for the State of Israel,” he added.

“The Middle East is fickle and violent. The Jordan Valley is a strategic defensive belt for the state. Without it, a flood of fundamentalism could enter the country and reach as far as the Dan region. That’s why our eastern line of defense begins in this place,” Netanyahu said.
Labor chief: Settlements represent the ‘beautiful face of Zionism’
Labor Party leader Avi Gabbay on Thursday called the settlement enterprise “the beautiful and devoted face of Zionism” and said Israel must retain control over the Jordan Valley in any peace deal with the Palestinians.

“The settlement [project] was and remains the beautiful and devoted face of Zionism,” he said, in quotes carried by Army Radio in a pre-recorded video for an event celebrating 50 years of settlement in the Jordan Valley.

“Over the years, regardless of the party in power, the settlement project demonstrated commitment, determination, and love of the country. You, the settlers, are the pioneers of our generations, people who act in the face of adversity, who cause the wilderness to bloom, who realize the impossible,” he added.

Gabbay’s remarks marked further dramatic evidence of his shift to the right. They came days after he said in an interview he would not evacuate West Bank settlements as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians, in comments that represented a dramatic break from the historical stance of the dovish Labor party.

In the past week, he has also said he would not have the Joint (Arab) List as a member of any coalition he heads, and indicated he was “unsure” that Israel has a viable partner on the Palestinian side for a peace accord.

His position on ruling out the evacuation of settlements has been condemned by a number of lawmakers from the Zionist Union, an amalgam of Labor and the Hatnua party.
Hamas Chief: We Won't Discuss Recognizing Israel, Only Wiping It Out
The Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip on Thursday dismissed US and Israeli demands that it lay down its arms and recognize the Jewish state, saying the terror organization is instead debating “when to wipe out Israel.”

The remarks came during a closed roundtable discussion between Yahya Sinwar and Gazan youth about the ongoing reconciliation negotiations with rival Palestinian faction Fatah, to which some media outlets were invited to attend.

“Over is the time Hamas spent discussing recognizing Israel. Now Hamas will discuss when we will wipe out Israel,” Sinwar said, according to the Hamas-linked news agency Shehab.

A Hamas spokesperson released a few official quotes from the meeting. The Sinwar comment about discussing “when we will wipe out Israel” was not included in the transcript, which featured the Hamas leader again rejecting disarmament and Israel recognition.

“No one in the universe can disarm us. On the contrary, we will continue to have the power to protect our citizens,” Sinwar said, according to the official statement. “No one has the ability to extract from us recognition of the occupation.”

Since its inception nearly three decades ago, Hamas has sought to destroy the State of Israel. (h/t Elder of Lobby)
Report: EU to increase aid to PA
Nabil Shaath, adviser to PA Chairman Abbas, said that the EU plans to increase the amount of aid it grants to the PA from 80 million euro to 320 million euro a year.

Shaath added that 12 European parliaments had demanded their respective governments recognize a Palestinian state. He blamed Israel for lies, asserting that it doesn’t want peace and aims to steal more land in Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem by setting conditions for the recognition of a PA-Hamas unity government.

Shaath asserted that Israel tried to avoid a peace initiative and worked deceitfully with the Trump administration. According to Shaath, Israel will not agree to a peace process without international pressure, therefore he called on superpowers to pressure Israel to establish a Palestinian state within pre-1967 borders and to return “refugees.” The terms "refugees" or "right of return" are used by the Palestinian Authority to refer to the thrid and fourth generation descendants of Arabs who fled Israel in the1948 war.

Shaath also emphasized that the PA does not fear retribution from Israel. “We reject all Israeli conditions,” he said.
Republican Lawmakers Introduce Resolution Affirming Jewish Ties to Jerusalem
Following the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw the United States from the U.N.’s educational, scientific, and cultural body (UNESCO) over it’s anti-Israel bias, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) introduced a resolution that “recognizes and affirms the historical connection of the Jewish people to the ancient and sacred city of Jerusalem.”

The resolution states that “for over 3,000 years, Jerusalem has played a central role in the history and identity of the Jewish people” and notes that “Jerusalem is the location of the holiest site for the Jewish people, the Temple Mount, as well as the Western Wall, where Jews from across the world come to pray.”

It also notes that UNESCO “has passed a series of anti-Israel resolutions in recent years regarding Jerusalem” and points out that “these biased resolutions are attempts to erase or minimize the Jewish as well as Christian historical and religious ties to Jerusalem, and unjustly single out our close ally Israel with false accusations and criticism.”

“The Jewish people, and the people of Israel, have a deep and ancient connection to the holy city of Jerusalem,” Gaetz told the Times of Israel. “Yet the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization … is actively trying to rewrite history.”

Cruz reportedly said, “The Trump administration has demonstrated strong moral clarity in deciding to withdraw and continuing to withhold US taxpayer dollars from UNESCO as a result of its relentless hostility towards our close ally Israel.”
Unsettled under the Trump administration
Either way, it turns out that Israel has agreed not only to refrain from marketing new settlement housing before the end of the year but also to limit the number of construction plans to measured quotas that will not increase the population of the settlements disproportionately.

The meetings with the Americans in recent weeks have proven that when it comes down to it, Israel is complying with the latest decree to not build any new industrial areas – a demand that even the Obama administration never made. Trump's people claim that new industrial areas, even though they would not be zoned for housing, are not "near the edges," take up additional land and therefore go against the president's belief that the settlements should shrink, making do as much as possible with the land they already control.

Today, unlike in the past, the Judea and Samaria settler leaders are keeping mum. Off the record, they are speaking harshly about Netanyahu and believe that he has missed a historic opportunity to secure much more for Judea and Samaria. Other than Likud activist and head of the Samaria Regional Council Yossi Dagan, no one has dared to attack the prime minister directly for one simple reason: fear that the Prime Minister's Office will seek retribution by freezing the little they can still get.

The shift in the settlers' fighting spirit is evident in the fact that this time, heads of local settlement councils have refrained from seeking plans that were too big or "strategic" as part of the third round of planning approvals, fearing a brushoff from Netanyahu's staff. They didn't even take part in the meetings with the Americans.
'EU should worry about Hamas, not Jewish homes'
The YESHA (Judea and Samaria) Council slammed the European Union's harsh condemnation of the recent approval of new housing units in Judea and Samaria.

YESHA Council Chief Foreign Envoy Oded Revivi said in a statement: "As the Palestinian Authority cosies up with Hamas, all the European Union can focus on is the building of a few hundred homes for Jews in Judea. Had the European diplomats actually visited our towns and cities in Judea and Samaria, they would have learned that we are the key to building a peaceful future, every additional building equals opportunity and progress for everyone in the region."

1,292 housing units for Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria were advanced Tuesday, including the long-awaited 296 housing units in Beit El. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu first promised to construct the units in Beit El five years ago.
Isil attacks villages south of Kirkuk as Iraqi and Kurdish forces are distracted fighting each other
Islamic Stateof Iraq and the Levant (Isil) jihadists attacked villages south of the city of Kirkuk yesterday, exploiting the growing crisis between Iraqi and Kurdish forces in the area.

Three villages near the town of Daquq were briefly captured by Isil in a nighttime assault on Wednesday.

The region had until recently been controlled by Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, but they were driven out earlier this week by Iraqi forces looking to claim zones disputed with the Kurds after they voted last month to secede.

Isil had been mostly driven out of the province after an Iraqi army offensive in the major city of Hawija saw more than a thousand of its militants surrender.

But the current chaotic security situation has given Isil room to manoeuvre.

The US and its coalition partners had warned Kurdistan’s President Masoud Barzani against holding the referendum, saying that pursuing independence would undermine the war Iraq was still fighting against Isil.

Washington has stressed it would like its allies in Iraq to work together against the militant group, and warned it may consider halting its massive train-and-equip program for Iraqi forces if they continued their offensive against the Kurds.

“As long as there will be problems between Baghdad and Erbil, Isil extremists benefit from the conflicts,” said Kamal Chomani, a nonresident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.

“Isil can easily reorganise itself when there is a political and security vacuum, this is the strength of any extremist groups here as the ideology remains the same.”
Germany approves controversial submarine deal with Israel
Germany has secretly approved a Memorandum of Understanding with Israel for the construction of three dolphin type submarines that will be added to Israel’s fleet of six submarines despite an ongoing corruption investigation into the deal, Hebrew media reported on Friday.

Germany had held up the signing of the deal amid an ongoing and wide-ranging corruption investigation in Israel into a series of naval contracts signed between the two countries.

According to the reports citing Israeli officials, over the past few weeks the text of the MOU was amended to include a paragraph saying it will not be advanced so long as the investigation continues. It also gives Germany the right to withdraw from the deal if any criminal activity is found, the Ynet news site reported.

President Reuven Rivlin, on a recent visit to Germany, defined the submarines as an existential need for Israel.

The three additional submarines will cost 2 billion euros. All changes in the MOU were done at Berlin’s behest, Channel 2 reported.
IDF tanks strike Syrian army post after errant mortar fire
Israeli tanks struck a Syrian army mortar position near the city of Quneitra on Thursday, hours after a shell from Syria landed in the northern Golan Heights, the Israel Defense Forces said.

On Thursday afternoon, the mortar shell landed in an open field on the Golan Heights in an apparent case of spillover fire from the fighting in Syria, the army said.

There were no reports of injuries or property damage.

In response to the shelling, Israeli tanks stationed near the border fired back at the Syrian military position on Thursday evening. The IDF said the mortar position it attacked was the same one that fired the shell earlier in the day.

“The IDF holds the Syrian regime responsible for any aggression from within its territory, and will not tolerate any attacks threatening the Israeli sovereignty and the safety of its civilians,” the army said.

No siren was sounded as the warning system detected the projectile would land in an uninhabited area.
Rambam hospital prepares for chemical attack on Haifa
The Rambam Medical Center, the largest hospital in northern Israel, carried out a drill Thursday, simulating rocket and missile attacks on the city of Haifa, including a scenario involving projectiles carrying chemical warheads.

During the drill, Rambam was forced to transfer activity to the Sammy Ofer underground hospital and treat hundreds of wounded there, some of whom had been exposed to chemical substances.

The exercise, that enjoyed cooperation of the Home Front Command, the rescue forces, and various government ministries, took place throughout the morning and many of the hospital emergency personnel as well as dozens of soldiers from the Home Front Command participated. During the course of the scenario, the professionals got experience transforming the underground parking lot at Rambam into a protected underground hospital, populated with casualties who would arrive in a real war scenario from the entire northern region and treating them when it is understood that they were exposed to chemical substances whose nature is unknown.

"As a trauma center and the largest hospital in the north of the country, we have a responsibility to provide treatment to soldiers and civilians even in times of emergency," says Prof. Rafi Beyar, Director of Rambam. "The reality around us forces us to practice different situations and prepare ourselves for a reality that could come to pass. I hope we will never have to face the test of reality, but we are prepared for any scenario."
September terror attacks against Israelis at 5-year low
Israel’s domestic security agency recorded 103 attacks against Israelis in September, the lowest tally in five years for that tense month.

The figure for September, published last week by the Shin Bet internal security agency in its monthly report, is 25 percent lower than the average for September attacks in the years 2012-2017.

The attacks resulted in the slaying of three Israelis.

Israeli security services consider September and October months with elevated risk of attacks because they have many Jewish holidays, motivating Arab terrorists and their groups to carry out attacks.

As in previous year, Israel closed border crossings from Judea and Samaria to Palestinian Authority Arabs for the holiday period as a precaution.
Police: Palestinian nabbed with stolen truck, planned ramming attack on soldiers
Police on Thursday chased down and arrested a Palestinian man driving a stolen truck who had allegedly planned to use the vehicle to carry out a ramming attack on Israeli soldiers.

Officers were alerted that the vehicle was stolen from the coastal city of Holon, and located the truck in Beit Dagan, adjacent to Rishon Lezion, near Tel Aviv, according to a police statement on Friday morning.

Cops called on the driver — a 39-year-old resident of the West Bank city of Ramallah — to stop but were ignored. That set off a car chase during which the truck smashed into a police car and another vehicle.

The truck driver was eventually arrested on Moshe Dayan Boulevard in Rishon Lezion, police said.

The Palestinian man admitted during questioning that he had stolen the truck in order to carry out a vehicular ramming attack against Israeli soldiers, according to the police statement.
Amid Egyptian-led reconciliation efforts, Hamas delegation arrives in Iran
A high-level Hamas delegation led by Hamas Deputy Politburo chief Salih al-Arouri arrived in Tehran on Friday to meet with Iranian officials, Hamas’s official website reported.

The delegation’s arrival in the Iranian capital came just a week after Hamas and Fatah signed an agreement to advance national reconciliation efforts under the auspices of Egypt. Iran and Egypt have cold ties.

The Hamas delegation plans to meet with Iranian officials, with which it will discuss “the latest developments in the Palestinian arena, bilateral relations and developments in conflict with the occupation” the Hamas website report said.

A senior Hamas delegation also visited Iran in August to attend the swearing-in ceremony for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s second term and meet with senior Iranian officials.

The Hamas officials visiting Tehran include Aroui, Hamas Politburo member Ezzat al-Rishq, senior Lebanon-based Hamas official Osama Hamdan, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri and other high-ranking Hamas officials.

The visit is slated to last “several days,” according to the Hamas website report.
Taking Stock of Hizbullah's Losses in Syria
Many scholars studying the civil war in Syria have declared Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shi’ite militant group sponsored by Iran, one of the few “winners” in the conflict. But for all the praise enjoyed by the “Party of God,” much of the analysis has failed to highlight how participating in the war has hurt Hezbollah.

In many ways, Hezbollah has overextended its organization, its brand and reputation have been sullied and it has ceded the autonomy it is so notorious for protecting.

As a result of its role in the Syrian civil war, Hezbollah faces real-world blowback – serious negative consequences.

Hezbollah militants have been involved in some of the most serious skirmishes in the nearly six-year conflict in Syria, including the May 2015 battles in the Qalamoun region near the border with Lebanon. The fighting has been taxing on Hezbollah as an organization, which has been asked to do some heavy lifting to make up for shortcomings of the inferior military forces of Syria’s Assad regime.

The body count is high. Hezbollah has lost between 1,700 and 1,800 fighters, including many seasoned veterans. In comparison, Hezbollah lost 1,200 fighters during its 18-year conflict with Israel between the years 1982 and 2000.

To replenish its ranks, the group has been forced to recruit younger and less qualified fighters, making Hezbollah seem desperate.
Dr. Martin Sherman: Decertifying Iran- A moral imperative. But now what?
Decertification- what now?

So how is the US (and Israel( to deal with a post-JCPOA reality? What strategies are available to prevent a good initiative from making the situation worse? According to its adherents, the JCPOA was the best possible agreement. This is clearly an untenable contention—unless the underlying assumption is that the only feasible alternatives are those Iran deigns to accept.

However, if the rationale is not to accommodate the ayatollahs, but to coerce them or replace them, the alternatives are clear:
The first of these options is to enhance US sanctions, backed by a credible threat of military action aimed at destroying Iran’s nuclear facilities and their attendant infrastructure.

Skeptics as to the efficacy of such a harsh alternative should be reminded of the events of 2003, when Iran, in effect, curtailed its nuclear program after the US-led invasion of Iraq created a tangible threat which US-military presence projected in the eyes of the Islamic Republic. As a result “Iran agree[d] to suspend its uranium–enrichment activities and ratify an additional protocol requiring Iran to provide an expanded declaration of its nuclear activities and granting the IAEA broader rights of access to sites in the country.”

Significantly, once the threat perception receded, Tehran annulled this agreement and reverted to accelerating its nuclear program.

What now? (cont.)
The only effective alternative to coercing the ayatollahs to abandon their nuclear program is to replace them –i.e. induce regime change. Sadly, just as it has greatly reduced the possibility (or at least, greatly increased the cost) of coercing them to forgo nuclear weapons capability, so it has dimmed the prospects for regime change. In the words of one well-known Iranian expatriate: “The Vienna [i.e JCPOA] deal bears a very grave danger for Iran’s civil society. Not only won’t we see their economic situation improve, but the regime will also have an incentive to abuse human rights more severely. A flood of cash is going into the pockets of this leadership. It will be used to tighten their grip [on power] and to further imprison, torture and kill innocent Iranians.”

So over two years after it was agreed upon, all the JCPOA has really achieved is to empower the Iranian tyranny militarily, enrich it economically and entrench it politically—for nothing more than a dubious delaying of its acquisition of weaponized nuclear capability.
Which, of course, is why decertifying it was no more than a moral imperative.
CIA Director: Iran Deal Failed to Permanently Block Tehran's Path to Nukes
The Iran nuclear deal failed to permanently cut off Iran's path to a nuclear weapon, as well as thwart its Middle East terror activities, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said at a conference Thursday.

US President Donald Trump had concluded the deal had only delayed Iran’s nuclear program, and that “the notion that entry” into the deal “would curtail Iranian adventurism, the terror threat, proved to be fundamentally false.”

Pompeo was being interviewed on stage by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance chairman Juan Zarate, just days after Trump decertified Iran’s compliance with the deal in a major speech.

Though he evaded a question about whether Iran had violated the nuclear deal on a technical level, Pompeo focused on the Islamic Republic's continued testing of ballistic missiles, prompting of Hezbollah to threaten Israel and being “at the center of so much turmoil in the Middle East.”

He admitted the deal’s inspection provisions had put things “in a marginally better place” in following Iran’s nuclear activities, but said he hoped Trump’s new pressure on Iran would lead to “more intrusive inspections.”

The CIA director expressed concern that the exchange of nuclear technology between Iran and North Korea was a major danger, and specifically mentioned them assisting each other in the area of nuclear weapons testing.
McMaster says Trump ‘absolutely’ prepared to terminate Iran deal
US President Donald Trump is prepared to withdraw from a nuclear agreement reached with Iran and other international powers in 2015, his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said on Thursday.

Speaking at a forum hosted by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a think tank that contributed research and scholarship to the Trump administration’s new strategy on Iran unveiled last week, McMaster said the president’s first choice is to get Congress and European allies on board with a “pressure” strategy that will force Iran back to the negotiating table.

Trump’s national security team hopes to negotiate an addendum to the nuclear deal that will address its greatest concerns with the current agreement: its expiration dates, its omission of any restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile work and its opaque language on granting international nuclear inspectors swift access to Iran’s military bases.

If Congress fails to pass legislation that helps bolster Trump’s diplomatic leverage, and if European powers refuse to come along with his strategy, the president will “absolutely” terminate the deal, McMaster said. Trump last week threatened to terminate the accord wholesale if his more measured approach fails to deliver.

“This is a gift that gives over time” to Iran, McMaster said of the nuclear accord. “There’s the fundamental flaw of the sunset clause,” he added, characterizing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as “cover” for Iran to reach a nuclear “threshold capability.”
Iran's Revolutionary Guards say missile program will accelerate despite pressure
Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) said on Thursday its ballistic missile program would accelerate despite U.S. and European Union pressure to suspend it, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.

In a significant US policy shift on Oct. 13, President Donald Trump disavowed Iran's compliance with a landmark 2015 nuclear deal and launched a more aggressive approach to the Islamic Republic over its missile development activity.

"Iran's ballistic missile program will expand and it will continue with more speed in reaction to Trump's hostile approach towards this revolutionary organization (the Guards)," the IRGC said in a statement published by Tasnim.

The Trump administration has imposed new unilateral sanctions aimed at impairing Iran's missile program. It has called on Tehran not to develop missiles capable of delivering nuclear bombs. Iran says it has no such plans.

Tehran has repeatedly pledged to continue what it calls a defensive missile capability in defiance of Western criticism.

"Trump's anxiety and trembling voice in his speech was a sign of beginning of the era of failure for America's hegemony," Tasnim quoted IRGC chief commander Mohammad Ali Jafari as saying. "Boosting Iran's defense power remains our top priority."

Iran has one of the most advanced ballistic missile programs in the Middle East, viewing it as an essential precautionary defense against the United States and other adversaries, primarily Gulf Arab states and Israel.
New York Times Launches ‘Strident’ Attack on Ambassador Haley for Iran Truthtelling
The New York Times cheerleading for Iran is spilling over from its editorial and op-ed pages into its news columns.

The Times recently published seven editorial or op-ed pieces in 12 days supporting the Iran nuclear deal that the Israeli government and its American friends oppose. But now you don’t even have to read the Times editorial or op-ed page to find pro-Iranian commentary: it’s available in the news columns, starting with a dispatch by Rick Gladstone that is just terribly tilted.

The Gladstone article appears under the online headline “U.S. Ambassador to U.N. Escalates Confrontation With Iran.” At least three times, it applies different standards to covering the Iran-Israel-US dispute than the Times applies in other situations.

The first double standard is a sexist one. Describing comments made at the UN by the American ambassador, Nikki Haley, the Times said “her remarks were among the most strident denunciations Ms. Haley has made of Iran since she became President Trump’s ambassador in January.”

My authoritative Webster’s Second unabridged dictionary defines “strident” as “creaking; harsh; grating.” When it is applied to liberal women, like, say, Hillary Clinton, the Times says it is a term that can signal sexism. Here, for example, is a 2008 column by Times public editor Clark Hoyt, discussing coverage of Clinton: “I asked my assistant, Michael McElroy, to run a database search for some key words that might indicate sexism in The Times — ‘shrill,’ ‘strident,’ ‘pantsuit’ and ‘giggle,’ among them.” A 2016 opinion piece in the Times by the president of Smith College, Kathleen McCartney, published after Clinton’s election loss, said, “If women stay boxed in by the norms of our gender — passive, gentle and congenial — we may not be viewed as leadership material. If women adopt the norms of a leader — commanding, decisive and assertive — we may be punished for being too bossy, too pushy, too strident, too ambitious, too scary.”

What the Times describes as “strident” coming from Haley strikes me as “principled” and “brave.” It’s another example, among too many, of the Times hurling negative adjectives at Israelis or at pro-Israel politicians or public figures.
US spies can make it harder to do business with Iran. Here's how, says CIA chief Mike Pompeo
The U.S. intelligence community and Treasury Department can make it harder for Iran to meddle in regional affairs by exposing Iranian businesses that have ties to the nation's elite security force, CIA Director Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said on Thursday.

Their comments suggest the investment climate in Iran could become more challenging just as foreign firms seek to build or restore ties in the country following the lifting of sanctions last year.

The remarks also come as the administration overhauls its policy toward the U.S. adversary. Last week, President Donald Trump refused to certify the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, marking the beginning of a campaign to toughen the terms of the agreement and rein in Iranian activities not addressed by the accord.

Those "transgressions" include Tehran's support for the U.S.-designated terror group Hezbollah, its threats to Israel and Lebanon and its support for Shiite Muslim militias in neighboring Iraq, according to Pompeo.
Pompeo: Al-Qaeda-Iran Connection an "Open Secret"
CIA director Mike Pompeo described the connection between Iran and al-Qaeda as an “open secret” Thursday, a relationship that he and others criticized the Obama White House for downplaying.

“It’s an open secret and not classified information that there have been relationships, there are connections,” Pompeo said during an event held by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “There have been times the Iranians have worked alongside al-Qaeda.”

Pompeo said that that cooperation sometimes occurs because the two view the West as a common enemy.

“They’ve cut deals so as not to come after each other, that is, they view the West as a greater threat than the fight between the two along their ideological lines,” he said.

He added that the intelligence community is still monitoring those ties, especially given the complexity of the situation in Syria.
PreOccupiedTerritory: Allies Regret Cannot Screw Over Kurds As Deeply As They Did Europe’s Jews (satire)
Diplomats in Washington, London, Paris, and other capitals voiced disappointment this week that despite betraying Kurds and insisting they not pursue sovereignty after years of indispensable Kurdish help in defeating the Islamic State and stabilizing their portion of fragmented Iraq, they would be unable to guarantee that the Kurds would suffer the same fate as Europe’s Jews after the Allies decided against direct targeting of death camps and other instruments of the Holocaust during World War Two.

Speaking to reporters at the State Department in the presence of officials from other countries in the anti-ISIS coalition, Deputy Undersecretary for the Middle East and North Africa Charles Coughlin described the sense of letdown that the coalition would not be able to duplicate against the Kurds the impact and extent of the abandonment they had so successfully pursued between 1939 and 1945 when Jewish survival hung in the balance.

“Unfortunately, under current circumstances, only a pale imitation of that episode remains possible,” explained Coughlin, who also holds ordination as a Catholic priest. “The Kurds have been at the front of the fight against the Islamic State and its predecessors since forever, after decades of repression under Turkish, Iranian, Syrian, and Iraqi rule. Now that they, the most distinct ethnicity in the region without a nation-state, are finally in a position to attain one, we can certainly deny such an entity recognition and discourage the Kurds form declaring themselves sovereign, and even withhold protection, but the consequences, in terms of body count and atrocities, will far far, far short of those that occurred after our analogous withholding of assistance from European Jews during the Holocaust. And that’s a shame. We like to think big.”

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