Friday, August 31, 2018

From Ian:

Khaled Abu Toameh: Palestinians Step Up Verbal Attacks on U.S. and Israel
Palestinian officials in Ramallah on Thursday stepped up their verbal attacks on the US administration and its representatives, and again vowed to thwart President Donald Trump’s yet-to-be-announced plan for peace in the Middle East.

The officials accused the US administration of meddling in the internal affairs of the Palestinians and exploiting the “suffering” of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to create a separate Palestinian state there.

They also warned that any Palestinian who cooperates with the US and Israeli “conspiracies” would be considered a traitor.

The latest Palestinian condemnations of the US administration were triggered by a statement released on Thursday by Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s Special Representative for International Negotiations, concerning Egypt’s effort to bring calm to the Gaza Strip.

In his statement, Greenblatt said that the Palestinian Authority “should be part of the solution for the Palestinians of Gaza and Palestinians as a whole.” However, he warned that if the PA does not want to be part of the solution, “others will fill that void.” He added: “Leadership is about making hard choices. The people of Gaza, and Israelis in the area around Gaza, have suffered for far too long. It is time for the Palestinian Authority to lead the Palestinian people - all Palestinians - to a better future.”

PA presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh said in response that the Palestinians alone, and not the US or any other party, “could decide on their fate and elect their legitimate leadership.”

Accusing the US and Israel of being behind “conspiracies to eliminate the Palestinian cause,” Abu Rudaineh said that there was no alternative to the PLO as the sole, legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.”

Caroline Glick: The generals’ revolt
On Sunday, Hadashot News revealed that a “senior security official” warned against the Trump administration’s reported intention to defund UNRWA. The unnamed general said that if implemented, the move would destabilize the security situation.

President Donald Trump reportedly is poised to adopt a policy that reduces the number of so-called “Palestine refugees” by 90%, from five million to 500,000 to reflect the fact that under international law, refugee status is not hereditary. The US similarly reportedly intends to end all US funding for UNRWA activities in Judea and Samaria.

Reasonably, the government has heralded the reports. UNRWA was formed to prevent the resettlement of Arabs who left Israel during the pan-Arab invasion of the nascent Jewish state in 1948-1949. As such, UNRWA has arguably done more to prevent a resolution of the Arab-Israel conflict than any other single actor. Its operations are predicated on the view that Israel should be annihilated both physically and demographically through the open immigration of millions of hostile, foreign-born Arabs whom UNRWA have indoctrinated for 70 years to hate Israel and seek its destruction.

UNRWA facilities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, like its facilities in Lebanon, have been used openly as terrorist bases. Its personnel overwhelmingly support terrorist groups including Hamas, al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and Fatah. It is unquestionably in Israel’s interest to see the organization shut down and the fake refugees it has cultivated for four generations finally given the rights of all other refugee groups and resettled permanently.

And yet, despite this, the IDF opposes this move in defiance not only of the government, but in contempt of the Trump administration.

This is not surprising. After all, “senior military officials” also warned that moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem would destabilize the security situation.

The candidacy of Golan and Alon for chief of General Staff, along with the military’s open subversion of the government and the US administration, need to serve as an urgent warning to the government. The time has come to finally clean house in the General Staff. If this requires bringing in a retired general to take over or promoting more junior generals to lead, then so be it.

The General Staff’s actions to undermine the moral standing of the country while subverting the government – and the US government – have gone too far. It is time for the government to stand up to the generals and defend Israel’s democracy and national honor against its radicalized General Staff.

Why are Palestinian refugees different from all other refugees?
Meanwhile, the Arab-Israeli conflict produced even more Jewish refugees from the Arab world (and Iran). They, however, resettled elsewhere with little fanfare and no attention whatsoever from the UN.

Then, by design, the Palestinian refugees, and their descendants ad infinitum, were kept in UNRWA camps to serve as permanent reminders of the impermanence of their situation. Taught to focus their hatred on Israel, and to believe they will one day “return,” they’ve been denied chances for new lives. And they’ve been used to create the single biggest stumbling block to achieving peace — the Palestinian fantasy of ending Jewish sovereignty in Israel.

Even now, 13 years after Israel totally withdrew from Gaza, astonishingly, over 500,000 Palestinians continue to live in UNRWA camps there. Why? Gaza is under Palestinian rule, not Israeli.

While the Palestinians are among the world’s largest per capita aid recipients, much of that assistance has been siphoned off to line the pockets of Palestinian officials — who then turn around and seek more funds for their allegedly neglected people.

It’s the same absurd logic that Hamas deploys when it decries energy shortages, while trying to shell the Israeli power plants that provide electricity to Gaza.

The whole process is abetted by an elaborate, well-funded UN apparatus, encompassing more than just UNRWA, created by a majority of member states to support the Palestinians. By contrast, among others, Kurds, who have a compelling case for statehood, and Cypriots, who have lived on a divided island due to Turkish occupation, have no comparable UN bodies to advance their causes.

This is not to say that Palestinians have had easy lives. They haven’t. It is to say that their leaders, with the complicity of too many, have pulled off one of the most successful spin jobs in history. Rather than resettle the refugees, they have shamelessly exploited them and their descendants.

Therein lies the irreducible tragedy — and the heart — of a decades-long conflict.
The UNRWA lobbyists
The Israeli defense establishment is the strongest advocate for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency in the country. In the U.S., UNRWA's strongest lobbyist is Saudi Arabia. In recent months, both the Israeli defense and security apparatus and Saudi Arabia have been working, separately and uncoordinated, on behalf of a shared interest: stopping the Trump administration's attacks on the organization.

Reports from the U.S. that the $200 million cut to American aid to UNRWA is only the beginning not only shook up the organization itself, they also came as a shock to the Office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Israel's main opponent to any punitive measures against the U.N. entity, as well as the Saudi royal family, which is the third-largest donor to UNRWA.

COGAT objects to cuts in aid to UNRWA on practical grounds. No one denies that for years, the organization has fostered the perpetuation of the Palestinians' refugee status and even expanded it by making refugee status something that can be passed down through the generations, but even so, the defense establishment hates sudden changes. It wants quiet, and is afraid that if UNRWA is unable to help hundreds of thousands of needy Palestinians due to budget cuts, Israel will see rioting, an escalation in violence, and terrorist attacks.

In the early 2000s, then-COGAT Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad was already working to protect UNRWA. A decade later, as head of the Diplomatic-Security Branch of the Defense Ministry, he coordinated with then-Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren to torpedo a congressional initiative against the organization. UNRWA might be bad, Gilad told Oren, but Hamas is worse. Gilad's successors have kept to that line, and like the IDF they see the UNRWA as the lesser of two evils.
Germany to boost funding to UNRWA as US pulls back
Germany said Friday it would boost funding to the beleaguered UN agency for Palestinian refugees, and called for an international effort to sustain the aid body.

Berlin’s announcement comes amid deep US cuts to funds it provides to the UN’s Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), and with reports proliferating that Washington has decided to halt support altogether. Early this year, the White House announced it was cutting its annual funding by $300 million.

“The loss of this organization could unleash an uncontrollable chain reaction,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said, according to Reuters. “We are currently preparing to provide an additional amount of significant funds.”

He did not say what amount those funds would come to, though he noted it would certainly not be enough to cover the deficit left by the US pullout.

Maas urged Germany’s international partners to work together for “a sustainable finance basis for the organization.”

Jordan said Thursday it would host a fundraiser at the United Nations headquarters in New York next month to keep UNRWA afloat.
Elliott Abrams: What is the role of UNIFIL?
What is to be done? Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, commented that UNIFIL should push back: UNIFIL should “use the tools the force already has, like drones that can monitor Hezbollah’s activities and relay the footage to control rooms around the world, with almost zero risk for troops on the ground.”

But that is not what troop contributor governments seek, so it is very unlikely to happen. Still, one may hope that General Del Col is somewhat tougher than his predecessor, the Irish General Michael Beary. It is almost impossible that he will be less tough. Del Col should, and perhaps he may, try to establish new limits to the ability of the terrorists to treat southern Lebanon as their domain.

What would happen if UNIFIL folded, and the troops went home? Given that the presence of the UNIFIL forces is beneficial to residents of southern Lebanon—the troops can limit Hezbollah’s absolute sovereignty there, and they do spend money there as well—their departure would be unpopular and would be blamed on Hezbollah. Shia residents of south Lebanon, who are already unhappy with the sacrifices Hezbollah is forcing upon them in the war in Syria, would have another grievance against the Hezbollah leadership. That gives Gen. Del Col and UNIFIL some space to work, make demands, and stand up for themselves. Presumably both the Lebanese and Israeli governments prefer to have UNIFIL there as a sort of buffer, but at least in the Israeli case they would clearly like an active buffer that actually tries to do what Resolution 1701 requires of it.

Del Col should test the limits. That will make Hezbollah angry, but if Hezbollah isn’t vexed by UNIFIL's presence then we are all wasting a lot of money--$500 million a year is the UNIFIL budget—and effort supporting that organization and making believe that it is enforcing resolution 1701.
UN warns of fresh Israel-Lebanon war as peacekeeping mandate renewed
The UN Security Council warned Thursday that violations of the ceasefire agreement between Lebanon and Israel could lead to a new conflict and urged international support for Lebanon’s armed forces and their stepped up deployment in the south and at sea.

The council’s warning against “a new conflict that none of the parties or the region can afford” came in a resolution adopted unanimously extending the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon known as UNIFIL until August 31, 2019.

Council members urged “all parties” to exercise “maximum calm and restraint and refrain from any action or rhetoric that could jeopardize the cessation of hostilities or destabilize the region.”

UNIFIL was originally created to oversee the withdrawal of Israeli troops after a 1978 invasion. The mission was expanded after a 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah so that peacekeepers could deploy along the Lebanon-Israel border, to help Lebanese troops extend their authority into their country’s south for the first time in decades.

The French-drafted resolution again urged all countries to enforce a 2006 arms embargo and prevent the sale or supply of weapons to any individual or entity in Lebanon not authorized by the government or UN force known as UNIFIL — an implicit criticism of the suppliers of weapons to Hezbollah, an Iran-backed terror group.

But the text adopted by the Council does not mention Hezbollah by name, despite US demands.
Twenty five years since Oslo: an insider’s account
The main error of Rabin and Peres in deciding to enter into the Oslo Agreement with Arafat in the early 1990s was that they were misled to believe that Arafat had changed from being a terrorist. Rabin and Peres had concluded that if Arafat was strong enough to prevent anyone else from making a deal with Israel, then he surely must be the only one capable of making such a deal.

The messages that Arafat sent to Israel in Oslo conveyed that he was prepared to make a historic deal. For these reasons, Arafat was perceived by Rabin and Peres as the ideal negotiating partner, a hawkish leader who, when circumstances changed, would be prepared to rise to the occasion and enforce his decisions against any opposition.

But, when Hamas and other terrorist organizations started killing Israelis, Arafat proved himself to be unable and unwilling to stop terrorism. Moreover, when the negotiating parties reached the important issues, Arafat constantly sought internal Palestinian consensus, which required the agreement of Hamas, whose main objective continued to be the destruction of Israel.

Arafat's heir, Mahmoud Abbas, while perhaps a bit more willing, is even less capable of making the kind of historic decisions that are required to bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. No wonder that the Oslo-based peace process has all but come to a standstill.

The most important accomplishment of Oslo is the existence of an autonomous Palestinian leadership in the West Bank that is handling most of the daily affairs of most of the Palestinians. They are building strong security forces that, at least in the West Bank, are cooperating quite successfully with Israeli forces. Oslo enables the two parties to keep building their relations even before they have resolved their most fundamental disagreements.
Analysis: Is the world conspiring against Abbas?
Abbas’s latest argument is that ending the Hamas-Fatah dispute should be the No. 1 priority of the Palestinians and should come before any truce deal. Otherwise, Abbas says, the truce deal with result in the creation of a separate Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip.

But Abbas’s conditions for reconciliation with Hamas are making it impossible to reach any deal. This week, Hamas leaders again reiterated their rejection of most of Abbas’s demands, particularly the one concerning surrendering Hamas weapons to the PA government.

The Egyptians and the Qataris are well aware that the chances of ending the Hamas-Fatah dispute are zero at this stage. This is why the two Arab countries have decided to push hard for a truce agreement between Hamas and Israel. Egypt stands to benefit from such a deal because it would bring some stability along its border with the Gaza Strip and enable the Egyptian security forces to devote more time and effort to combating Islamic terrorist groups in Sinai.

As for Qatar, a truce agreement would keep its Hamas allies in power in the Gaza Strip, allowing the emirate to continue meddling in the internal affairs of the Palestinians and the Middle East peace process.

Of course, Hamas also stands to benefit from such a truce, as well as Israel, the US, the UN and everyone else – except Abbas and his PA.

For Abbas, this is a disaster that needs to be prevented, as he faces growing isolation in the local and international arenas. If he fails to foil the truce talks, Abbas will have to face the reality that he is no longer the president of all Palestinians, certainly not those living in the Gaza Strip, and that his power does not extend beyond certain parts of the West Bank.

A truce deal between Hamas and Israel, he fears, would turn him into the “mayor” of Ramallah, whose survival would depend on the presence of the IDF in the West Bank. This would be a blow not only to Abbas, but also to his Fatah faction.
The PA at the end of Abbas’s reign
Quite a few research papers and intelligence assessments have been written on the performance of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and especially on what will follow him. The problem is the sheer number of possible scenarios they propose.

Abbas inherited from his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, a governmental authority that was partially defunct. However, that was not a result of its political, social, leadership, managerial or administrative perspective.

Exactly as it did 10 or 20 years ago, the PA today still relies entirely on international aid on the one hand, and on the tax collection, electricity and transportation infrastructure of the State of Israel on the other. Over all these years, the PA has not developed its own economy and has continued to rely entirely on Israel’s, so that nearly all Palestinian households depend entirely on livelihoods earned from Israeli employers.

The refugee camps in the West Bank today look exactly as they did when Israel pulled out of these areas in 1991. Since then, the PA has done nothing to improve the status or living conditions of the people living there.

Abbas, as was clear from the start, is a very weak leader who lacks charisma and administrative ability. In all his years of control, he has not carried out one important move to benefit his people or strengthen his authority. Due to of this weakness and lack of political leadership, Hamas began to sneak into West Bank politics in recent years, with the intention of instigating a popular coup that would end Fatah’s dominance, similar to what happened in the Gaza Strip.

Fatah leaders themselves already understand that Abbas will not make any significant decisions before the end of his term. The struggle for succession over the Palestinian leadership already began two or three years ago, without Abbas officially announcing the end of his rule.
Bipartisan Bill Introduced to Sanction Terrorist Groups for Using Humans as Shields
Eight senators introduced a bipartisan bill in July to end the use of civilians as human shields.

Introduced by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), David Perdue (R-Ga.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the STOP Using Human Shields Act, if enacted, would impose sanctions on US-designated terrorist groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS and Al Qaeda, all of whom use human shields.

The bill is pending before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“America, Israel and our other allies are engaged in a fight against radical Islamic terrorist organizations, from Hamas and Hezbollah to Al Qaeda and ISIS, who cynically use human shields against us,” Cruz said in a press release with by the offices of the bill’s sponsors.

“Unfortunately, organizations like the United Nations incentivize this barbaric tactic by blaming civilized countries, who do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties, for whatever civilian casualties that do occur,” he added. “The United States should hold accountable the monsters who commit these war crimes. This bill will impose consequences on those who enable and facilitate the use of human shields.”

The Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) said “the barbaric terrorist organization Hamas sees all human life as completely disposable. Hamas regularly uses innocent civilians, including women and children, as ‘human shields’ as a PR tactic against the State of Israel. This abominable tactic must be put to an end.”
Breaking the Silence, Peace Now leaders arrested at West Bank outpost
Left-wing activist groups Breaking the Silence and Peace Now say their leaders and activists were detained by Israel Defense Forces troops on Friday when they arrived at the Mitzpeh Yair outpost in the southern West Bank for a tour of the area.

Breaking the Silence’s CEO Avner Gvaryahu and head of its media arm, Ahiya Shatz, were “arrested,” the group said, after being told by troops that the area, just south of the flashpoint city of Hebron, had been declared a closed military zone.

A Border Police spokesperson said they had been detained for violating the military order. By Friday afternoon they were still being held.

Attorney Michael Sfard was also detained, according to Peace Now.

The activists were visiting Mitzpeh Yair after five left-wing activists were allegedly assaulted by a group of some 15 Jewish settlers near the illegal outpost last Saturday.

According to a Facebook post by Ta’ayush, a Jewish-Arab rights organization to which the activists belong, five of its members were hospitalized after being attacked with sticks and stones. Police said they were investigating the incident.
Soldiers nab 3 Palestinians with pipe bombs in northern West Bank
Israeli troops on Thursday arrested three Palestinians who were in possession of “a number” of pipe bombs in the northern West Bank, the army said.

The suspects were spotted outside the village of Deir al-Hatab, near Nablus, by soldiers monitoring surveillance cameras, and the troops were dispatched to arrest them.

The three suspects were handed over to the Shin Bet for questioning.

The incident came hours after police arrested two other Palestinian teenagers who were found holding improvised explosive devices outside a nearby military courthouse.

The entrance to the Samaria Military Court in the village of Salem was briefly blocked and the area cordoned off, while a police sapper inspected the devices, which were found in plastic bags.

Police said in a statement that officers noticed the “suspicious behavior” of the teens — aged 14 and 18 — and stopped them, thus foiling a terror attack at the court.
Truce talks with Israel exclude prisoner swap, Hamas official says
The Egyptian-led efforts to broker a long-term ‎cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas do not ‎include discussions on a potential prisoner exchange, Hamas military leader Yahya Sinwar said ‎Thursday.‎

He stressed that a truce and a potential prisoner ‎swap are two separate issues that Hamas will not ‎agree to link. ‎

Hamas is holding the remains of two Israeli ‎soldiers, Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul and Lt. Hadar ‎Goldin, who were killed in the Gaza Strip in 2014, ‎as well as two living Israeli captives, Ethiopian ‎Israeli Avera Mengistu and Bedouin Israeli Hisham ‎al-Sayed, both suffering from mental health issues, ‎who crossed into Gaza willingly in 2014 ‎and 2015 and were captured by the terrorist group.‎

Sinwar ‎reportedly said that a full cease-fire ‎between Israel and Hamas could be in place in two ‎months' time but reiterated that at this time, any ‎reports of an agreement are false, as no such ‎outline has been finalized. ‎

He further warned against another war with Israel, ‎saying that Hamas' military abilities have "greatly ‎improved" since the 2014 conflict.‎

‎"What the resistance did for 51 days in 2014, it can ‎now do for six months. We can put everyone in Tel ‎Aviv in bomb shelters every day," he said. ‎
Jerusalem: Why Palestinian Leaders Say Don't Vote
Another encouraging development that shows that the Arabs in Jerusalem are no longer willing to listen to what Palestinian leaders are saying: almost 60% of east Jerusalem's Arabs believe they should participate in the city's municipal election, while only 14% oppose doing so, according to a poll commissioned by Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Palestinian leaders have once again shown that they do not hesitate to act against the interests of their own people. The call for boycotting the municipal election in Jerusalem should be seen in the context of continued Palestinian incitement against Israel. Moreover, the call should also be seen in the context of the Palestinian Authority's campaign of intimidation and threats against its own people.

Contrary to the Palestinian leadership's claim, Arab participation in the municipal election does not come with any political implication. The Arabs who are taking part in the election are not being asked to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Nor are they being required to swear allegiance to Israel.

Palestinian leaders and their religious clerics do not want to see Arabs live a comfortable life under Israel. They are afraid that the world would see that Arabs can have a good life under Israeli sovereignty. They are also afraid that Palestinians living under the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip will start envying the Arabs living in Israel -- and then demand from their leaders similar conditions.
Iran said to give Iraqi militias ballistic missiles capable of hitting Israel
For the first time, Iran is deploying ballistic missiles in its western neighbor Iraq with a range that makes them capable of hitting Israel and Sunni rival Saudi Arabia.

According to a report by the Reuters news service, several dozen such rockets are already deployed with Iran’s Shiite proxies in Iraq, while Tehran is working to make sure its allied militias in the country are capable of building more rockets indigenously. That includes the installation of manufacturing facilities in al-Zafaraniya, which lies east of Baghdad, in Jurf al-Sakhar, north of Karbala and in Iraqi Kurdistan, according to various sources cited in the report. Iran has also been training militia members in operating the new weapons.

The deployment is meant to improve Iran’s ability to retaliate against any Western or Arab attacks on its territory, as well as to expand its options for attacking opponents in the region, Reuters said.

Iran’s proxies, allied militias and even its own forces are involved in internal conflicts in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen.

The report cited “three Iranian officials, two Iraqi intelligence sources and two Western intelligence sources.” It said the missiles are of the Zelzal, Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar types, with ranges from 200 to 700 kilometers (124-435 miles), enough to hit the Saudi capital Riyadh from southern Iraq and Israeli territory from western Iraq.
Satellite photos said to show new Iranian missile factory in Syria
Satellite photos published Thursday purported to show the establishment of an Iranian surface-to-surface missile factory in Syria, raising fresh concerns over the extent of the two countries’ military cooperation on Israel’s northern border.

The photos, which were taken by ImageSat International and published by Channel 10 news, were said to show a facility outside Wadi Jahannam in northwest Syria resembling Iran’s Parchin facility, which has been linked to the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs.

Beyond noting an apparent surge in construction work at the site and the building’s seeming similarity to Parchin, Channel 10 did not say how it was identified as a missile factory.

Unlike other Iranian facilities in Syria that have been targeted in Israeli airstrikes, the report said the site was likely spared due to its close proximity to a Russian S-400 ant-aircraft battery, which is considered to be one of the most advanced air defense systems in the world.

In July, Israeli jets reportedly targeted a missile production facility in nearby Masyaf, where a leading Syrian chemical weapons and missile scientist was killed earlier this month in a car bombing attributed to Israel.
'Hezbollah is planning terror attacks in Judea and Samaria'
A senior Hezbollah commander told the Lebanese media Friday that the Shiite organization is planning to infiltrate Judea and Samaria and carry out terrorist attacks there in the event of conflict with Israel.

In an interview with the Lebanese paper Al Akhbar, conducted at a former Israeli military post in southern Lebanon, the commander said that Hezbollah was preparing "many surprises for the enemy."

"A small number of well-armed fighters, who are very familiar with the enemy's defenses, can infiltrate and enter the West Bank and cause great damage," the commander said.

Hezbollah, whose fighters have been deployed in Syria to support the forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad in a yearslong civil war there, has been given "a perfect training ground for the resistance," the commander said.

The civil war in Syria has provided training "in operational combat in a residential area and an opportunity to test the various weapons. The battle against the takfiri groups [Islamist groups that accuse other Muslims of apostasy] has prepared us for battle with the Zionist enemy," he said.

"The war is coming. Going on this assumption, we are now preparing for battle," he continued.
Iran's forgotten persecuted Christian minority
According to official statistics, the Islamic Republic is home to 117,700 Christians, although the real number is probably closer to 350,000. The regime, while never tolerant of non-Muslims, seems lately to have intensified its anti-Christian policies. Earlier this month, twelve Iranians were reportedly each sentenced to a year in prison for “propagating against the Islamic Republic in favor of Christianity.” Julie Lenarz and Benjamin Weinthal note some other examples, and urge the West to take action:

Last year, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) arrested two Christians—a mother and her son—as part of a vicious crackdown on Catholicism in the country’s West Azerbaijan Province. . . . Iranian authorities regularly arrest worshippers, raid house churches, and confiscate Bibles, Christian CDs and other religious literature while regime-controlled media outlets spread anti-Christian propaganda.

Four evangelical Christians were arrested in May 2017 and sentenced each to ten years in prison for house-church activities and evangelism. Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani stood trial in July along with three co-defendants because of their house-church activities. They were all sentenced to ten years in prison. It is worth recalling that Nadarkhani was sentenced to death in 2010 for his conversion to Christianity. After a global pressure campaign ensued, Iran’s regime released him from prison, after a three-year incarceration. . . .

The 125,000-member-strong IRGC has a long record of brutality targeting Christians and democracy movements opposed to the mullahs’ regime. The U.S. administration of President Donald Trump designated the IRGC as a terrorist organization in October 2017. Europe, so far, has declined to sanction the IRGC for its blatant human-rights violations.

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