Thursday, January 31, 2019

From Ian:

Palestinian Support for Two-State Solution Seen Declining
Among the Palestinians in recent years there has been growing interest in the idea of a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is in part linked to the growing connection between Palestinians in the West Bank and the Arab sector in Israel.

It is also related to the collective sense that the Palestinian national movement is currently at an all-time low, with growing alienation between the public and the Palestinian leaderships in the West Bank and Gaza, the lack of public belief in their ability to achieve the goal of independence, and the sidelining of the Palestinian issue from the focus of the regional and international agenda.

Consequently, there is a growing argument in the Palestinian discourse that all other strategies for realizing national objectives have been tried and failed.

Moreover, the growing support for the idea of one state is fed by internal trends. Above all, there is the collective desire to retain a relatively stable standard of living in the West Bank, together with a widespread trend toward de-ideologization and depoliticization, reflecting exhaustion after many years of violent conflict driven by revolutionary fighting slogans, which ultimately failed to achieve any Palestinian national objectives.

The lessons from the severe decline that engulfed Arab societies in the region following the Arab Spring revolutions has led to increased fear of sharing this fate.

In addition, most of the younger Palestinian generation are concerned with personal fulfillment and development, and harbor suspicion and even alienation toward the sources of authority around them, including the Palestinian leadership.

Benjamin Netanyahu and the “Strongmen”: Another Myth in the Making
In the past few months, numerous articles have appeared in the Western press about Prime Minister Netanyahu’s diplomatic outreach to “strongmen” and proponents of “illiberal nationalism.” Some have even accused him of abetting some of these leaders’ alleged anti-Semitism. Lahav Harkov explains how this narrative migrated from left-leaning Israeli publications to the diaspora press and from there to mainstream publications like the New York Times, and notes that it has been used to justify not just criticism of Netanyahu but forthright anti-Zionism. As she observes, such analyses recognize no distinctions among very different sorts of leaders, and pay little attention to diplomatic realities:

There are two elements at play in the claims of a nefarious new direction in Israel’s foreign policy: one is a pearl-clutching disgust at Netanyahu’s supposed embrace of illiberal regimes; the other concerns relations with leaders whose policies specifically impact Jews and . . . distort the memory of the Holocaust. . . . The new talk of Netanyahu and strongmen . . . conflates these two categories, [lumping] the necessary compromises of conducting international relations . . . with troubling assaults on the legacy of the Holocaust [by such figures as Hungary’s Viktor Orban].

Moreover, many analysts who lament Israel’s cozying up to strongmen ignore research showing that East European Jews feel safer from anti-Semitism than do those in the West, which may be because they perceive the greatest threat to their lives coming from Islamist violence rather than the populist right. . . . In general, it appears that East European Jews may not view their situation in the dire terms used by some of their self-appointed advocates in Israel and the West. . . .

It is, [furthermore], no defense of human-rights violators to say that Israel must sometimes hold its nose and keep up ties with [them]. As the Knesset member Avi Dichter—a Likudnik and former Shin Bet chief who could never be accused of being a bleeding heart—said before [the Philippines’ President Rodrigo] Duterte visited: “We may have to take a pill against nausea to receive him.”

But there are some too pure for such distasteful compromises. The leader of [the hard-left] Meretz party, Tamar Zandberg, wrote a letter to Netanyahu telling him not to strengthen relations with Brazil, one of the largest economies in the world, because it elected a president from the far right, months before Jair Bolsonaro even began his term. Yet Zandberg has also been photographed visiting the grave of Yasir Arafat, not a leader known for his exemplary human-rights record. And neither she, nor anyone else on the left, has called on Israel to cut ties with the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas, who wrote his dissertation denying the Holocaust, and whose regime jails people for criticizing him online or, God forbid, selling land to Jews.

Isi Leibler: Where Are America’s Jewish Leaders?
Israel is once again facing major new international military and political challenges. Yet despite our dysfunctional political system and the chaos associated with the impending elections, we have never been as militarily secure as we are today. We share a broad consensus across the nation and, allowing for minor nuances, any government elected will almost certainly maintain the broad outlines of the current security policy. These can be summed up as a desire to separate from our neighbors but an inability to do so until we have a partner for peace and can ensure our security. Alas, as of now that is not even on the horizon.

However, we need to brace ourselves because our international position is becoming increasingly fragile. The Europeans are intensifying their biased policies against us, and Britain may soon elect an outright antisemitic leader.

The continued support of the US government at this time is thus immensely important. But there are perturbing developments.

President Donald Trump has thus far been a very good friend to Israel but displays erratic tendencies and at times ignores his own advisers as exemplified recently when he announced the withdrawal of American forces from Syria. There are also unsubstantiated but disturbing hints that the American peace plan may have some unpleasant surprises that Israel may find unacceptable. At the same time, the Democratic Party’s radical and anti-Israel wing is growing, and is already threatening the favorable congressional bipartisan consensus toward Israel that has prevailed for many years.

Today, Israel’s principal supporters in the United States are the evangelical Christians, whereas the Jewish community is utterly disunited, and betraying its loyalty and obligations to the Jewish state.
Florida recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital
Florida’s state cabinet took the unusual step of recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s “eternal and undivided capital.”

It issued a proclamation to on Tuesday in a move that places it one step ahead of the Trump Administration’s stance on Israel, which recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but has not spoken of whether it supports a united or divided Jerusalem.

In explaining the move, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis said that state governor, Republican Ron DeSantis had supported Trump’s decision to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, when he represented Florida in Congress last year.

“We have made it clear that we stand with our closest ally in the Middle East. I too believe in standing strong with our friend and partner and ally,” said Patronis, speaking at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting in the state capital of Tallahassee.

“As a state we must continue to demonstrate our broad and deep support of our ally and economic partner by implementing pro-Israel policies,” Patornis said. “Today we declare to the world that Florida stands united with Israel.”
Arab allies gather in Jordan, potential signal to Israel and Iran
The foreign ministers of a growing alliance of Arab states gathered in Jordan on Wednesday and Thursday, with Egypt, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia participating.

The meeting sought to build consensus among Arab states on regional security issues, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said on the sidelines of the meeting, according to the Jordanian newspaper Al-Ghad. The meeting was “positive and constructive,” according to local reports, and focused on “common Arab interests.” Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan of the UAE attended along with Sameh Shoukri of Egypt, Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah of Kuwait, Adel al-Jubeir of Saudi Arabia and Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa of Bahrain. Local reports and reports in the region, such as Kuwait’s Al-Jarida, provided scant details on what was discussed. The National in the UAE noted that there was no further information on the meeting except that it “will take place at the King Hussein Convention Centre at the Dead Sea.”

The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt all cut ties with Qatar in June 2017, and relations between Qatar and these countries remain strained. Qatar has become a close ally of Turkey, and is accused by Riyadh of supporting extremism in the region. However, Kuwait and Jordan have more amicable relations with Qatar. This rift runs deep, including alleged Kuwaiti support for Qatar in a recent soccer match with the UAE that provoked anger among officials.

Al Jazeera, based in Doha, said that the meeting showed a “growing willingness to reconcile with the government of Syrian president Bashar Assad,” asserting that these countries support having Syria re-admitted to the Arab League after it was suspended in 2011. Syria’s intelligence chief Ali Mamlouk went to Egypt in December.

THE MEETING AT THE DEAD SEA comes amid other regional concerns. The US is withdrawing from Syria, but Foreign Policy has reported that it may keep troops at Al-Tanf, a desert base near the Jordanian-Iraq border. Several of the countries meeting in Jordan also fear Iran’s growing power in the region.
Seth J Frantzman: U.S. Syria policy: Get others to pick up the slack
In the last two weeks of January the US carried out 645 strikes on Islamic State. As the Department of Defense says that ISIS has lost 99.5% of its territory in Syria, Washington hopes it can get its 78 Global Coalition allies to pick up the slack as it winds up operations.

An official told The Wall Street Journal that the US hoped a “coalition of Western nations” might be able to help create a “buffer zone” between Turkey and Syrian Kurdish groups as the US withdraws.

The new reports come amid a storm that is brewing in the US. The State Department is hosting foreign ministers from the Global Coalition on February 6. The foreign ministers will meet in Washington and discuss the “important next steps in degrading ISIS’s global network.”

The US says it is determined to prevent a resurgence of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, but that it is also withdrawing. The last meeting of the coalition took place in Morocco in June. Therefore this is an important meeting that comes at a crossroads in the campaign.

The Office of Director of National Intelligence released its Worldwide Threat Assessment this week as the US prepares for the next stage. The map accompanying the assessment is sobering.

It shows ISIS active across a swath of countries in the Sahara and Sahel in Africa and across the Middle East to India and East Asia. The jihadists have “expanded” their abilities to strike at US interests, the report says.
EU, Italy, Norway concerned over ouster of Hebron observers
The EU, Italy and Norway expressed their concern over Israel’s decision to oust an international observer force from Hebron.

Fearing for the safety of its observers, the World Council of Churches said it plans to also halt its mission in the West Bank city, which is one of the flash points for violence between Palestinians and Israelis.

A Palestinian girl shakes hands with a member of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) during a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision not to renew the mandate of TIPH, in Hebron January 30, 2019. Mussa Qawasma / ReutersA Palestinian girl shakes hands with a member of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) during a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision not to renew the mandate of TIPH, in Hebron January 30, 2019. Mussa Qawasma / Reuters

Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi, who is visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories this week, said he regrets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement Sunday that Israel does not intend to renew the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH).

The mandate for the observer mission in Hebron, whichbegan in 1997, is signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority twice a year. Its 64 observers come from five countries: Norway, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.

“We learned about this decision with regret, but we maintain our commitment,” said the minister in a press statement.

“We will discuss it also with the other states involved,” said Milanesi in a statement that was posted on the Palestinian news agency Wafa.

He met on Tuesday with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah and with Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Monday.
Reaction to Gamliel's $250 billion compensation claim
Earlier this month, the sensationalist claim by Gila Gamliel (pictured), Israel's minister for Social Equality, that Israel will be seeking $250 billion in compensation for property and assets lost by Jews driven from eight Arab countries, caused a flurry of interest in the Israeli and western media. (Note: It is not known how Gamliel arrived at this figure, nor why she left out Lebanon and Algeria from her list of countries who owe Jews compensation). Point of No Return has been looking at international reaction to the story.

Middle East Monitor quoted Al-Wattan Voice as its source:
"The prospective American peace deal, dubbed as the “deal of the century”, is to include that $250 billion be paid by Arab states in compensation for Jewish property left behind after the creation of Israel, Al-Wattan Voice said yesterday.
Reporting Israeli media, the news site said that the occupation government had valued Jewish property in the Arab states of Libya and Tunis to be worth $50 billion, while Jewish property in the entire region to be $250 billion.
According to Al-Wattan Voice, talling the cost of losses began one and half a years ago secretly in Morocco, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, in addition to Iran."

The Russian TV channel RT balanced Jewish with Palestinian claims:
"Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has also sought $100 billion in compensation from Israel for assets left by Arabs forced to leave the lands controlled by Israel today. Palestinians have also sought a “right of return” for the surviving refugees and their descendants — a demand that has repeatedly been dismissed by Israel. The Trump administration also seems to have taken Israel’s side on that issue, halting funding for the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) last year."

The most trenchant reaction came from Ramzy Baroud writing in Arab News. In an article titled The moral travesty of Israel seeking Arab, Iranian compensation, Baroud denied the Jewish exodus altogether:
"Contrary to what Israeli historians want us to believe, there was no mass exodus of Jews from Arab countries and Iran, but rather a massive campaign orchestrated by Zionist leaders of the time to replace the Palestine Arab population with Jewish immigrants from all over the world.
To hold Arabs and Iran responsible for this bizarre and irresponsible behavior is a transgression on the true story, in which neither Gamliel nor her ministry are interested."
Israeli orphans to face accused Brussels Jewish museum killer
Two young Israeli women will Thursday face for the first time the alleged killer of their parents when they attend his trial for the Jewish museum attack in Brussels.

The daughters of murdered Israeli couple Miriam and Emmanuel Riva will be in the Brussels courtroom with Frenchman Mehdi Nemmouche, the accused gunman in the May 24, 2014 attack.

Only 15 and 16 at the time of the shootings, the pair traveled from Tel Aviv with an aunt and uncle to testify about the couple who were married 18 years when they died.

The experience will be “extremely difficult” for Ayelet and her older sister Shira, said one of their Belgian lawyers, David Ramet.

“They will come face to face with their parents’ murderer, whom they will be able to look at, and be just meters from the weapon that killed them,” Ramet told AFP.

On display in the courtroom are the pistol used to kill the Rivas and other evidence against Nemmouche, 33, who allegedly killed two others in the anti-Semitic attack.
Israeli Stabbing Victim Confronts Palestinian Terrorist in Court: ‘You Didn’t Succeed’
An Israeli man seriously wounded in a stabbing attack in Jerusalem in December 2017 confronted the terrorist who assaulted him on Wednesday, telling him in a courtroom, “You did not succeed in doing what you wanted, because I am standing here alive and well.”

Yassin Abu al-Qara’a stabbed security guard Asher Elmalich at Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station. Police believe he committed the attack in reaction to US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Shortly before heading to the bus station, al-Qara’a composed a Facebook message reading, in part, “I sacrificed my blood for the motherland, everything for you, oh Palestine.”

Al-Qara’a concealed a kitchen knife in his coat and attempted to enter the station. Several guards, including Elmalich, became suspicious and stopped him, at which point al-Qara’a stabbed Elmalich in the chest and attempted to flee. He was subdued by the other guards and several passersby.

The Hebrew news site Walla reported that, speaking at a court hearing on al-Qara’a’s sentencing, Elmalich described the extent of his residual trauma, which he called “drastic.”

“I’m afraid to walk down the street, afraid to go to crowded places.” he said. “I look to see who’s behind me.”

Elmalich added, “I came to look Yassin in the eyes and say to him: Mr. Yassin, you didn’t succeed in doing what you wanted to do, because I am standing here alive and well.”
PreOccupiedTerritory: IDF Condemned For Shells With ‘Learn To Code’ Inside (satire)
Human rights organizations slammed Israel’s military this week upon learning that the IDF has printed on tens of thousands of small pieces of paper a phrase that Twitter has banned for its offensive capacity, and loaded the papers into bombs, artillery shells, and other projectiles for use against Hamas, Hezbollah, and other enemies.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, B’tselem, and several other groups leveled the criticism today, following revelations that the epithet “learn to code” now features in the weapons that the IDF will bring to bear in any conflict. spokespersons for the organizations called the move “immoral” and a “flagrant violation of norms.”

Twitter announced earlier this week it will suspend or deactivate accounts using the phrase, which rose to prominence amid news that media companies such as Buzzfeed will lay off numerous employees, a development that prompted some users to suggest the now-jobless pursue careers in computer programming, a field with greater stability and income prospects than journalism. The tech giant judged the phrase too powerful and destructive to tolerate, an assessment that the rights groups share.

“It’s pretty clear Israel has no qualms about acting inhumanely toward Palestinians and others,” stated Omar Shakir, a Human Rights Watch representative. “The only way we’ve determined that can restrain them from committing atrocities is to call public attention to their outrageous behavior. “‘Learn to code’ can only serve to destroy Palestinian self-esteem, similar to the anticipated effect it will have on ex-Buzzfeed personnel, and the world cannot stand by while Israel again inflicts such disproportionate abuse on Palestinians.”
Minister of Public Security extends ban on PA operations in east Jerusalem
Several Palestinian Authority organizations will continue to be banned from east Jerusalem.

Gilad Erdan, the Public Security and Strategic Affairs Minister, signed an extension of the order preventing the activity of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in east Jerusalem on Thursday, based on a recommendation by the Shin Bet and the Israel Police.

The order limits the activities of Orient House, a building located in east Jerusalem that served as the headquarters of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the 1980s and 1990s. It also limits the operations of the east Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce, the Supreme Council for the Arab Tourism Industry, the Center for Palestinian Studies, the Palestinian Prisoner Club and the Ministry for Social and Statistical Studies, all of which are affiliated with the PA.

“The extension of the closure of these Palestinian institutions is a message to the Palestinian Authority and the residents of east Jerusalem that the State of Israel does not intend to relinquish in any way its sovereignty over east Jerusalem and will not allow any foothold in the capital,” Erdan said on Thursday.

He noted that the PA has recently been trying to strengthen its presence in east Jerusalem, including transferring significant amounts of funding to support activities there. Intelligence and police forces are constantly working to trace and stop these transfers.

“I will continue to strengthen Israeli sovereignty and sovereignty throughout Jerusalem, and prevent any Palestinian attempt to establish a foothold in the eastern part of the city,” Erdan said.
PMW: Palestinian pride – Murderers are cool!
Terrorist murderers are cool! That is the message from the Palestinian Authority to Palestinians. The PA continues to stress to its population that terrorists and murderers of Israelis are "heroes" by glorifying them and rewarding them with salaries.

As Palestinian Media Watch has documented, events are named in honor of the terrorist prisoners, PA and Fatah officials thank and praise them in speeches, and official PA TV broadcasts several programs about and specifically for the prisoners and visits their families.

The following two recent broadcasts on official PA TV show that the Palestinian population embraces this role modeling of murderers:
Mother to children of murderer: “Your father is a hero”
TRANSCRIPT: Terrorist prisoner Yasser Rabai'ah's wife: "I always encourage [my children] and tell them: Your father is a hero. Our homeland deserves such heroes." Terrorist prisoner Yasser Rabai'ah's daughter: " I want to say that father is one of the Palestinian heroes we are proud of." [Official PA TV, Giants of Endurance, Jan. 19, 2019] Yasser Rabai'ah – Palestinian terrorist who together with an accomplice murdered Greek Orthodox monk Tsibouktsakis Germanus in an attack on the Jerusalem-Ma'ale Adumim road on June 12, 2001.

Father of attempted suicide bomber: “All prisoners are our sons… You are a source of pride for us”
TRANSCRIPT: Father of terrorist Muhammad Sa’id Bisharat: “I want to send a message to Muhammad [Sa’id Bisharat] (i.e., terrorist, attempted suicide bombing) and to all the brothers and the loved ones, our sons, the prisoners, the sons of the Palestinian people. Not only Muhammad is my son – all the prisoners are our sons. We say to them: You are a source of pride for us. By Allah, with your endurance you have outlined the most beautiful picture in history. You are the history. You are the symbol of the Palestinian cause. You are the ones [we mean] when we say “Giants of Endurance.” [Official PA TV, Giants of Endurance, Jan. 12, 2019] Muhammad Sa'id Bisharat - Palestinian terrorist and Islamic Jihad member who attempted to carry out a suicide bombing on a bus on Aug. 2, 2001. Bisharat was prevented from boarding by the bus driver, and Israeli security forces arrested him. Bisharat is serving 18 years in prison.

IsraellyCool: Why AP’s Latest Gazan “Sob Story” Is Actually Worth Highlighting
The Associated Press has a report about a Gazan actor and playwright who can’t attend the Sundance Film Festival, where his documentary about Gaza will be showing.

It is the usual sob story, except for the fact it isn’t actually blaming lsrael!

Trapped in Gaza, star of Sundance doc misses film festival

A new documentary called “Gaza” is hitting the screens at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival this week, providing a colorful glimpse of life in the blockaded Hamas-ruled territory. But one of its main subjects, Gaza actor and playwright Ali Abu Yaseen, won’t be attending the gathering due to the very circumstances depicted in the film.

Abu Yaseen had hoped to make his first-ever trip to the U.S. to take part in the festival. But the continued closure of Gaza’s border with Egypt, and Hamas’ bureaucratic inefficiency, made it impossible for him to reach Cairo in time to receive a visa from the American Embassy needed to travel to Utah.
Why Europe Should Pull Out of the Iran Deal Now
As parties to the 2015 nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic, Germany, France, and the UK have continued to comply with its terms after the U.S. withdrawal last year. Meanwhile, Frederica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign-policy chief, has been an enthusiastic proponent of the deal and supporter of diplomatic and economic engagement with Tehran. Sruan Stevenson, citing Iran’s own violations of the agreement and its attempts to carry out terrorist attacks on European soil, urges European governments to follow Washington’s example:

Despite clear evidence that Iranian embassies in Europe were being used as terrorist bomb factories, EU lawmakers on July 5 of last year—less than a week after an Iranian diplomat from Vienna was arrested [for his involvement in a plot to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in France]—approved plans for the European Investment Bank to do business with the ruling theocracy in Iran, in a desperate bid to keep the 2015 nuclear deal alive. Europe’s leading appeaser, Mogherini, has been a frequent visitor to Tehran, where she pays homage to the ayatollahs, donning a headscarf to offer submission to the clerical regime’s misogyny, [and] even posing for selfies with the mullahs. Now she has decided to snub an anti-Iran conference organized by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Warsaw in mid-February.

But Mogherini’s efforts at conciliation appear to have fallen on deaf ears in Europe. It has been reported that a delegation of leading EU diplomats from France, the UK, Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands had a volatile meeting earlier this month in Tehran. They told senior Iranian officials that the EU could no longer tolerate ballistic-missile tests in Iran and assassination attempts on European soil. Apparently, in an unprecedented breach of protocol, the Iranian officials stormed out of the room, slamming the door. . . .

The time is right for the EU to follow America’s example and pull the plug on the nuclear deal.
Europe set to announce plan letting Iran bypass US sanctions
Britain, France and Germany will launch a special payment mechanism Thursday that the EU hopes will help save the Iran nuclear deal by bypassing US sanctions, European sources told AFP.

The entity, to be registered in France with German governance and finance from all three countries, will allow Iran to trade with EU companies despite Washington reimposing sanctions after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 accord.

The three countries — the European signatories to the landmark deal that curbed Tehran’s nuclear ambitions in return for sanctions relief — are expected to issue a joint communique launching the project, which has been in preparation for months.

While the new institution, called INSTEX — short for Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges — is a project of the three governments, it will receive the formal endorsement of all 28 EU members.

The announcement may come on the sidelines of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Bucharest.
US President Donald Trump signs a Presidential Memorandum withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal from the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, on May 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Washington has warned the EU against trying to sidestep its sanctions on Tehran, while the Europeans — along with the deal’s other signatories Russia and China — say Iran has not broken its side of the deal and should be allowed to trade.
ODNI releases annual overview of Islamic State and al Qaeda networks
The Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released its annual “Worldwide Threat Assessment” today. The written statement accompanied oral testimony given by Director Daniel Coats to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

The ODNI warns that both the Islamic State and al Qaeda maintain global networks that are far from defeated. The Islamic State still has “thousands” of fighters in Iraq and Syria alone, contradicting claims by President Trump and other administration officials that the so-called caliphate has been defeated.

The map above is the ODNI’s assessment of the areas where the Islamic State, al Qaeda and affiliated groups operate. The Islamic State and al Qaeda remain bitter rivals, often clashing in some of the areas shown. However, both have a significant global footprint.

Al Qaeda’s senior leadership and global network

Despite years of counterterrorism pressure, al Qaeda’s senior leadership remains active and in command of a widespread network.

Al Qaeda’s senior leaders (AQSL) are “strengthening the network’s global command structure and continuing to encourage attacks against the West, including the United States,” the ODNI states.

The ODNI’s map officially recognizes the presence of AQSL in Iran, as well as in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. (FDD’s Long War Journal assesses that members of AQSL have been stationed in other countries as well, including in Syria, Turkey and Yemen.)

Tehran down the sinkhole: How drought threatens Iranian stability
For the first time, Iranian officials admit that the ground around Tehran is sinking.

Slower than an earthquake, sinkholes and massive cracks can be just as destructive over long stretches of time.

A 30 year drought and excessive water pumping created a series of underground air-pockets which then implode, creating cracks or massive holes in the ground that endanger agriculture, roads and public safety, the Christian Science Monitor reported.

In the neighborhood of Yaft Abad in Tehran, residents fear poorly built buildings will collapse after water-pipes already burst and cracks appeared on several walls.

The ground is sinking under airports, oil refineries, and factories without distinction. Leading many in the Islamic Republic to support much over-due reforms in water usage and agriculture.
'Iran was at the cutting edge of technology'
When talking with Nissan Soleimani about what it was like living in Iran before the Islamic Revolution he says: "All my memories from that period are good ones."

Soleimani, 55, arrived in Israel in October 1979, several months after the overthrowing of the monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and the creation of a Shiite theocracy.

The Islamic Republic of Iran was founded on in April, but Soleimani, who was a teenager at the time, still remembers his former home as a pro-Western place where one could live in freedom. "Iran was at the cutting edge of technology," he said. "Iran had ATMs and color TV in the 1970s, when those things were considered novel. I can still remember watching the 1974 World Cup in color."

"Under the Shah, a Jew would not feel different, because the education system was pluralistic and we studied with Muslims. My best friend was a Muslim called Rashidi, it was the most natural thing," he said.

Soleimani, who now lives in Rishon Lezion and is a father of three, says the decision to make Aliyah was his. "My friends began making aliyah one after another and I was practically left alone," Soleimani says. "Over the past 40 years, I have become convinced that my decision was correct, and the thank God everything turned out fine."

JCPA: Sunni and Arab Opposition Attack the Iranian Regime’s Security Forces and Critical Infrastructure
Toward the end of January 2019, two terror attacks were carried out in Iran by Sunni (the Army of Justice – Jaish ul-Adl) and Arab (the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahvaz, or ASMLA) opposition movements. Both of these opposition movements, as well as other opposition organizations, have increased their attacks on the security forces of the Iranian regime in recent months, as well as on the regime’s energy and economic infrastructures.

On January 29, 2019, in the city of Zahedan (which is located close to the tripoint of the borders between Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan), capital of the province of Sistan and Baluchestan, activists from the Balochi organization, the Army of Justice, set off explosive charges at the local police station used by members of Iran’s intelligence services and Revolutionary Guard. The media in Iran reported that at least four people were injured among the police forces in the area. They were apparently wounded when they attempted to neutralize one of the explosives. According to the organization, the second explosive charge was detonated when additional forces arrived in the area following the explosion of the first bomb.1

On October 15, 2018, the Army of Justice abducted 14 members of the Iranian security forces in the province of Sistan and Baluchestan and transferred them to a secret location in Pakistan. About a month later, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard announced that five of these captives were released and handed over by the Pakistani security forces. Iran is continuing with its efforts to release the rest of the captives.

Christian Asia Bibi Free To Leave Pakistan After Spending Nearly A Decade On Death Row Under Blasphemy Charges
In October, Pakistan’s Supreme Court overturned the death sentence placed on Asia Bibi, a minority Christian woman who was convicted in 2010 of blasphemy under section 295-C of the Pakistani Penal Code.

Led in part by the extremist Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan party (TLP), thousands filled the streets in the following days, protesting Bibi’s acquittal. There were calls for Bibi’s death, as well as the deaths of the three judges who acquitted her.

In an attempt to appease the TLP and other hardliners who railed against the ruling, the prime minister’s administration reportedly agreed to look into placing Bibi on the "exit control list" while a petition against the acquittal was reviewed. This would prevent her from leaving Pakistan despite the court’s decision in her favor.

On Tuesday, however, Asia Bibi’s acquittal was upheld by the Pakistani Supreme Court, and she is now free to leave Pakistan. According to the BBC, she "is being kept by authorities at a secret location in Islamabad." This secrecy will likely continue until such a time that Bibi can leave the country.

The Associated Press writes that Bibi watched the announcement on TV, and is ready to see her daughters, who previously fled to Canada. An anonymous friend relayed the following quote from Bibi: "I am really grateful to everybody. Now after nine years it is confirmed that I am free and I will be going to hug my daughters."

The original complaint against Bibi came in June 2009. As the Christian mother of five picked berries in a field with a number of Muslim women, she became thirsty, and went to a nearby well for water. One Muslim woman allegedly accused Bibi of contaminating the water because of her Christian faith, making it unfit for the Muslim women to drink.

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