Thursday, February 14, 2019

From Ian:

PMW: Gruesome Palestinian “ethical” dilemma: Should rapist murderer be recognized as hero?
It sounds absurd, right? The current "ethical" dilemma facing the Palestinian Authority is this:

A Palestinian man, Arafat Arfiah, murdered 19-year-old Ori Ansbacher last week. Israeli reports stated that Arfiah had not only murdered Ansbacher but raped her as well.

This possible rape presents the Palestinian Authority with an absurd "ethical" dilemma. The PA supports and pays a salary to anyone who is imprisoned for "fighting the occupation." This means that the PA pays a salary to anyone who murders an Israeli in a terror attack, and that the PA-funded Prisoners' Club provides legal representation to the terrorist in the Israeli court system.

However, rape is considered by the PA a "criminal act" and not a "nationalistic act" opposing "the occupation," and therefore a rapist is not entitled to any support - legally or financially.

Thus, according to PA "ethics," it is fine and even heroic to stab and kill a 19-year-old Israeli woman for "Palestine," but it is unacceptable to rape her. So when a Palestinian rapes and murders, like Arfiah did to an Israeli 19-year-old last week, what is the PA to do?

The chairman of the PA-funded Prisoners' Club Qadura Fares explained the twisted PA values and the resulting dilemma:
"The director of the prisoners club, Qadura Fares, told Haaretz that Irfaiya's family has not asked his group for any legal aid. 'If there will be such a request, we will consider it and send a defense lawyer to review his claims,' Fares, said. 'If it turns out there really was a sexual assault, we will pass on representation. That would make the case a criminal one, as far as we're concerned, and we object to anyone committing a criminal offense trying to pass it off as a nationalist act.'"
[Haaretz, Feb. 13, 2019]
Ruthie Blum: Crime and Punishment, Israeli-Style
Still, nobody took to the streets to demand that Nahmani or any of the others be put to death. Why? What is it about a murder committed by a terrorist that differentiates it in the Israeli mindset from one perpetrated by a “regular” criminal?

There are two answers. One has to do with the collective memory of the Jewish people. Eichmann’s much-publicized execution, which was carried out a mere 17 years after the Holocaust, constituted a statement — to the victims of Nazi atrocities and the rest of the world — that the Jews would never again be dragged to the slaughter for being Jews. Well, Arab terrorists slaughter Israelis for being Jews.

Nevertheless, until now, no Palestinian terrorist has met Eichmann’s fate.

It is a sorry situation that might even have continued to be accepted by most Israelis if terrorists were actually punished for killing Jews, rather than rewarded by their leaders and hailed as heroes by their peers for doing so.

Which brings us to the second, more pragmatic reason that Israelis place terrorists in a different category from other criminals.

While serving time in Israeli prisons, where they band together to study the Koran and plot additional attacks, terrorists and their families receive a hefty stipend from the Palestinian Authority’s Martyrs’ Fund. The PA recently acknowledged that its annual “pay-for-slay” budget was NIS 1.2 billion (approximately $33 million) in 2017 and 2018.

Terrorists also know that their incarceration is possibly temporary, due to what has come to be called “prisoner swaps,” which is a disgusting euphemism for the exchange of an innocent Israeli, dead or alive, for hundreds of Palestinian would-be “martyrs.”

Thus, Ansbacher’s killer will be in clover for his brutality and has the hope of being let out of jail at some point.

Has the Peace Process ‘Prevented Palestine’? Joel Singer vs. Seth Anziska
Joel Singer, a veteran Israeli peace negotiator, critically reviews Seth Anziska’s book, Preventing Palestine: A Political History from Camp David to Oslo, forcefully rejecting Anziska’s central claim that the peace process has ‘prevented Palestine’. Anziska replies to Singer in this issue of Fathom here.

Seth Anziska’s revisionist book, Preventing Palestine: A Political History from Camp David to Oslo, tells an alternative story to the conventional wisdom regarding the political road that led from the Camp David Accords to the Oslo Agreement (with a detour to the intervening 1982 Lebanon War, which appears to not completely fit organically within his story). As someone who was deeply involved in both ends of this political history, as well as in some other, similar developments in between, reading the book sometimes gave me the feeling that the events it describes belong to some alternate reality.

The book’s main thesis can be summarised as follows: A Palestinian state should and could have been created in 1978, when the Camp David Accords were negotiated. In late 1977, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat made his historic visit to Israel and offered to make peace with Israel in return for full Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula, which Israel had conquered and occupied since the 1967 Six-Day War, provided that Israel also agreed to recognise the right of the Palestinians to their own state. Thereafter, in September 1978, US President Jimmy Carter invited Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Sadat to a summit meeting at the presidential retreat, Camp David, in an attempt to achieve a comprehensive agreement that would include both an Israeli-Egyptian bilateral peace treaty and an agreement to allow Palestinian self-determination. Begin, however, decided to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state (or to ‘prevent Palestine’ in Anziska’s shorthand) and, therefore, he shrewdly devised an alternative idea — a plan for Palestinian autonomy. In Camp David, Begin twisted the arms of both Carter and Sadat and, as a result, the Camp David Accords reflected Begin’s autonomy idea, rather than an agreement to establish a Palestinian state. According to Anziska, this unfortunate outcome of Camp David has continued to haunt all subsequent political plans and agreements related to the Palestinians, all the way through the 1993 Oslo Agreement. In other words, all of these later developments, Anziska argues, have been contaminated by the autonomy plan that Begin advocated in Camp David to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state, and this has well served his objective, as well as that of all subsequent Israeli governments, to keep the West Bank.

Arab Message from Warsaw: No PA Veto over Contact with Israel
Whenever an Israeli prime minister attends a large international gathering where Arab representatives also participate, speculation swirls about whose hand he will shake, and whether there will be meetings – discreet or public – on the sidelines.

This was as true when then-prime minister Ehud Olmert went to Paris in 2008 for what French president Francois Sarkozy hoped would be the launch of a new Mediterranean forum, as it was in 2015 when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to the same city for a climate change conference, and again last November in Paris to take part in ceremonies commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

The same, too, is true today, with Netanyahu in Warsaw to take part in the US-Polish sponsored meeting on Mideast peace and security.

Representatives of some 60 states are on hand for the meeting, which was originally touted as a conference to try and thwart Iranian designs in the Mideast, but which – to make it more palatable to some Europeans – morphed over the last few days into a summit to deal with a whole basket of Mideast problems, from Syria, to Yemen, to Israel and the Palestinians. Among those Arab representatives on hand include the foreign ministers of Jordan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, UAE, Oman Kuwait and Morocco.

No sooner had Netanyahu landed than reports began to emerge that he would be meeting the foreign ministers of Morocco and Bahrain. And although those meetings have not yet occurred, Netanyahu did meet publicly with Oman Foreign Minister Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah.
Netanyahu sits beside Yemen foreign minister at Warsaw summit
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sat next to Yemen’s Foreign Minister Abdul-Malek al-Mekhlafi at the start of the formal talks at Thursday session of the Warsaw summit on the Middle East.

It was a historic moment for the two countries, which do not have formal diplomatic ties. Just one day earlier, Netanyahu met with the Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah.

US special envoy Jason Greenblatt tweeted: “A lighthearted moment- @netanyahu microphone was not working so FM of Yemen loaned him his microphone. @Netenyahu joked about the new cooperation between Israel and Yemen. Step by step.”

He added that during the meeting, Netanyahu “described the medical care given by Israel to thousands of Syrians who suffered from the tragic civil war in Syria. A great example of what Israel does to help the region. Imagine what can be accomplished if regional peace is achieved.”
Bahrain FM believes ties with Israel will be normalized ‘eventually’
Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa on Thursday told The Times of Israel that his country would “eventually” establish diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.

Asked on the sidelines of a regional conference in Warsaw if he believed such a scenario would come about, Khalifa said: “Yes, eventually.”

The remark came days after an Israeli TV news station reported that the Bahraini government had expressed interest in normalizing ties with Israel two years ago. According to Channel 13, Khalifa asked former foreign minister Tzipi Livni to convey the message to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a secret meeting on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference in 2017.

Both Khalifa and Netanyahu attended the US-led summit in the Polish capital this week, where the Israeli leader stood side-by-side with Arab leaders, hoping their common front against Iran could pave the way to greater normalization of relations.

At the opening dinner Wednesday night at Warsaw’s Royal Castle, Netanyahu expressed delight to be addressing top officials from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain — none of which recognize the Jewish state.

“In a room of some 60 foreign ministers representative of dozens of governments, an Israeli prime minister and the foreign ministers of the leading Arab countries stood together and spoke with unusual force, clarity and unity against the common threat of the Iranian regime,” Netanyahu told reporters on Thursday.
In Warsaw, Pence hails sight of Netanyahu ‘breaking bread’ with Arab leaders
US Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday hailed the symbolic importance of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “breaking bread” with Arab leaders at a Mideast conference in Warsaw, saying he hoped it heralded further cooperation to come.

The two-day conference, which was originally called with a focus on countering Iran but now carries the toned-down and vague goal of seeking stability in the Middle East, opened with a dinner at the Royal Castle in Warsaw’s old town.

“Tonight I believe we are beginning a new era, with Prime Minister Netanyahu from the State of Israel, with leaders from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, all breaking bread together, and later in this conference sharing honest perspectives on the challenges facing the area,” Pence said, addressing the guests.

“Poland and the US welcome this outward symbol of this gathering, a symbol of cooperation and a hopeful sign of a brighter future that awaits nations across the Middle East,” Pence said.

“Let us recognize that we are stronger together than we would ever be apart,” he said.
Pence urges EU to pull out of nuclear deal, says Iran planning ‘new Holocaust’
US Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday demanded that European Union allies follow Washington’s lead in withdrawing from the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal and cease efforts he said are designed to evade US sanctions.

Speaking at a Middle East conference in Poland, Pence accused Iran of being the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, adding that it was the “greatest threat to peace and security in the Middle East,” and accused the clerical regime of plotting a “new Holocaust” with its regional ambitions.

He lamented that Britain, France and Germany created a special financial mechanism that Washington believes is aimed at “breaking” tough US sanctions on Iran. Those sanctions were eased by former US president Barack Obama’s administration under the terms of the nuclear deal but were reimposed after US President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement last year.

Pence said the EU had “led the effort to create mechanisms to break up our sanctions… against Iran’s murderous revolutionary regime.”

“It is an ill-advised step that will only strengthen Iran, weaken the EU and create still more distance between Europe and the United States,” he added, according to a transcript by the Reuters news agency.

Netanyahu says he 'looks forward' to receiving Trump’s peace plan
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he looks forward to receiving US President Donald Trump’s peace plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The prime minister made these comments after US envoy Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, spoke behind closed doors at the Warsaw summit on the plan, which is expected to be released after Israel’s election on April 9.

Kushner reportedly said both sides would need to make compromises and that the plan was a departure from the 2002 Saudi peace plan.

Netanyahu met with Kushner, US envoy Jason Greenblatt and US Vice President Mike Pence at the Museum of the History of the Polish Jews in what was once the Warsaw Ghetto.

Prior to the meeting, he said, “I look forward to receiving the plan. I will look at it once it is presented. I have to say that I know the Trump administration seeks to insure the security of Israel for generations. Even though I always say that Israel must always be able to defend itself, by itself, it is comforting to know that we have such a strong ally in the US.”
Saudi Prince Turki to Israeli TV: Netanyahu deceiving Israel about peace chances
In an unprecedented interview with an Israeli TV station broadcast Wednesday, the former Saudi intelligence chief and ex-ambassador to the US and UK accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of deceiving the Israeli public by claiming that Israeli ties with the wider Arab world can be warmed without the Palestinian issue being solved.

“Israeli public opinion should not be deceived into believing that the Palestinian issue is a dead issue,” Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud told Israel’s Channel 13 news in a lengthy interview in London. “From the Israeli point of view, Mr. Netanyahu would like us to have a relationship, and then we can fix the Palestinian issue. From the Saudi point of view, it’s the other way around.”

Asked by interviewer Barak Ravid whether that meant Netanyahu was “deceiving the Israeli public” by claiming to be able to “promote relations with the Arab world regardless of the Palestinians,” Prince Turki replied: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

Asked why Netanyahu would do that, the prince said: “For his own purposes.” Laughing, he continued: “He’s a man who runs for election on platforms of ‘look what I have done for you. I have brought you this. I have brought you that.’ Like all politicians.”

The prince said the Saudi public has “a very negative view of Mr. Netanyahu because of what is happening on the ground,” and because of what he termed Netanyahu’s “hubristic attitude… praising himself.”
Israel Rejects Official Visit by UN Security Council to Assess Lands for Future Palestinian State
Israel has rejected a request by the UN Security Council to come to Israel and assess lands the Palestinians demand be given to them for a Palestinian state, according to a report by Ynet.

Equitorial Guinea’s UN Ambassador and current UNSC President Anatolio Ndong Mba was authorized to pitch the idea to Israeli and Palestinian ambassadors.

While Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour was reportedly enthusiastic about the idea, Kuwaiti Ambassador Mansour Al-Otaibi said Ndong Mba told the council in a closed-door session on Wednesday that Israel has declined the idea, adding that individual ambassadors would still be welcome to visit.

The request came after the United States thwarted an Security Council statement promoted by Indonesia and Kuwait, and blocked by additional Arab delegates expressing regret that Israel did not renew the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) mandate, which it has resigned every six months since 1994.
New Details on Brutal Slaying of Ori Ansbacher and Arrest of Murderer Arafat Irfaiya
New details of the arrest of Arafat Irfaiya, the Palestinian terrorist who murdered 19-year-old Ori Ansbacher on Feb. 7, emerged on Monday, including surveillance footage from a mosque near Ramallah in which the arrest took place.

The Palestinian Authority Islamic trust posted footage from its camera inside the Jamal Abdel Nasser mosque on its Facebook page, showing Israel Defense Forces’ soldiers searching and ultimately finding Irfaiya.

Irfaiya was discovered by an IDF service dog named Zili, who trapped him and enabled the arrest by the Yamam counter-terrorism unit of the Border Police. IDF soldiers searched the premises twice, unable to find him on the first attempt, but ultimately locating him after examining CCTV footage from buildings in the neighborhood.

Upon extracting him from the site, 15 kilometers north of Jerusalem, forces were attacked by Arabs with Molotov cocktails, pipe bombs, stones and burning tires.

Police revealed that Ansbacher was found with multiple stab wounds to her upper body in the woods of Ein Yael on the outskirts of Jerusalem, with officials adding a rape charge to Irfaiya’s murder charge.

Irfaiya’s DNA was on record with the Israel Police, allowing them to positively identify him through DNA samples taken from the scene. Moreover, Irfaiya admitted to the crimes and told police that he left his home in Hebron with a knife, intending to kill a Jews. He also re-enacted the brutal assault and killing for police.
JCPA: Weapons Smuggling from Jordan into the West Bank
Reports emerged in early February 2019 that Fatah’s Tanzim military arm in the West Bank has been purchasing weapons smuggled from Syria through Jordan to arm itself for the succession battle when PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ rule comes to an end. The reports may still be unconfirmed, but we should take note of what is going on in southern Syria, which could grow into dangerous complications between Jordan and Israel.

Iran is entrenching itself in Syria and concentrating on the south of the country, along the border with Jordan, not far from Israel. In contrast to reports of Assad’s army taking control of the area, the true situation is far from that. The Sunni resistance forces are still strong and active. The expected U.S. withdrawal from the Tanf border crossing, between southern Syria with Iraq, has provoked a race for control of the crossing. The competition even involves various divisions of the Syrian army, who do not hesitate to shoot each other. For them, this is a struggle over the smuggling routes between Syria and Iraq. However, there is also the political angle – Iran schemes to turn southern Syria into a Shiite stronghold, and the Alawites are strongly opposed to this. Within the Syrian army, there are soldiers who wear Syrian military uniform, but they are Shiites loyal to Iran, recruited from Iraq and Afghanistan and maybe even from Iran itself.

Israeli artillery struck Shiite positions near Quneitra, which were established along the border with Israel on February 11, 2019. The observation positions were reportedly manned by Shiite militia, and possibly Hizbullah and Iranian Revolutionary Guard soldiers.
Egypt gassed tunnelers, Israel wouldn’t. Why the double-standard?
Egypt reportedly gassed Hamas tunnelers on Monday leading to two deaths and several injured as part of ongoing efforts to eliminate Hamas’ cross-border tunnels between it and Gaza.

Although deadly gas has been banned as a method of war even against combatants for a century there were no global outcries against Egypt.

In contrast to Egypt, Israel has declined to use gas or flooding tunnels with sewage water.

Recently, Israel has also favored filling tunnels with cement, which may be among the least lethal methods of neutralizing tunnels. Were Israel to use Egyptian methods, it would presumably face a wave of global criticism as it does nearly any time it uses force.

What principles of international law apply to tunnel warfare, how does Israel try to clear tunnels without violating the law and why the double-standard?

First, Egypt is not the only one to use gas against adversaries in tunnels.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Palestinians: "Journalism" Hamas Style
Like Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, with the help of its associates in the syndicate, is apparently seeking to control the news and narrative to make sure that journalists direct their criticism only against Israel. Like Hamas, the Palestinian Authority has been relatively successful in its effort to limit the flow of information from areas under its control. A Palestinian journalist living in Ramallah will think at least a dozen times before he or she writes or says a word that could rile Abbas or one of his senior officials.

The latest Hamas decision targeting journalists will undoubtedly make it harder for journalists to operate in the Gaza Strip. Many have already been facing a campaign of intimidation and threats by Hamas. The new decision will now force many of the Palestinian journalists there to change their profession: unless they have been cleared by Hamas's security forces, they will no longer have access to sources.

The continued Palestinian Authority crackdown on Palestinian journalists in the West Bank has become every journalist's nightmare; many now practice strict self-censorship for fear of being punished by Abbas and his security agencies. In the absence of a free and independent media under the Palestinian Authority, several Palestinian journalists have been forced to seek work in Israeli, Western or Arab media organizations.

It now remains to be seen whether Western journalists and media outlets will voice any concern at all over the ongoing attempts by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to silence and intimidate Palestinian journalists. If the foreign journalists continue to ignore the situation of their Palestinian colleagues, the day will soon come when they themselves will fall victim to the unacceptable and unprofessional measures imposed by Palestinian leaders against the media.
Got a question for Hamas or Palestine?
A Hamas spokesperson is offering to answer the public's questions on Thursday at 8 p.m. Israel time.

A tweet, which was put out by the Hamas Movement (@HamasInfoEn) on Wednesday calls on the public to summit their questions to the Hamas official email. Answers will be published on Twitter.

Good Relations with Hamas Advance Moscow’s Desire for Involvement in the Israel-Palestinian Conflict
Although an official visit to the Kremlin by Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’s senior leader, has been postponed, the Russian foreign ministry has made clear that it will host him another time. And Haniyeh’s intended visit should come as no surprise, since his predecessor, Khaled Meshal, was a regular guest in Moscow. Micky Aharonson explains how staying on cordial terms with the terrorist group fits into Russia’s broader Middle East strategy.

Unlike the United States and the European Union, Russia doesn’t regard Hamas as a terrorist organization. Russia’s stance is that Hamas’s rule in Gaza is legitimate since the organization was democratically elected. . . . Just several weeks ago, Russia voted against a U.S. proposal in the UN to condemn Hamas terrorist activities. Moscow then went a step farther by actively seeking to broker talks between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

Russia’s stance regarding Hamas is based on a general strategy of bolstering anti-Western movements, especially those that are anti-American. This approach dates back decades, to when the USSR supported [America’s adversaries] in Vietnam and Afghanistan. This policy reflects Russia’s “zero-sum-game” [rationale that], wherever the U.S. is present, Russia is by default excluded. Wherever Russia can increase its influence, U.S. influence must therefore be reduced. Indeed, Russia is making headway in regions and countries where the U.S. is in the process of shrinking its involvement, [such as] Libya and Syria. . . .

Another reason for Russia’s support of Hamas is Moscow’s longstanding desire to take a leading role in resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict. As an interim measure, Russia is working to promote intra-Palestinian reconciliation among the various factions. . . . Moscow views its roles in intra-Palestinian and Israel-Palestinian affairs as important to strengthening its position in the Arab and Muslim worlds. . . .

Terrorist Chief Nasrallah Thanks Iranian FM Zarif for Help in Fighting “Zionist Aggression”
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the head of the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, thanked Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for his regime’s help in fighting what he called “Zionist aggression,” The Times of Israel reported Monday.

Earlier this week, Zarif had met with top Lebanese officials in Beirut, including Nasrallah.

According to Al-Manar TV, a Hezbollah-affiliated broadcaster, Zarif pledged continued Iranian support for Hezbollah. The Iranian-backed terrorist group has an arsenal believed to consist of more than 130,000 rockets that it threatens to use against Israel.

“Nasrallah thanked the Islamic Republic of Iran and its officials and people for what it has offered to Lebanon, Palestine and the region’s resistance movements and peoples in the confrontation against Zionist aggression and takfiri terrorism,” the Al-Manar report stated, according to a translation at the NaharNet website.

Nasrallah added that Iran’s assistance had led to “victories.”

Zarif responded, boasting of Iran’s “firm stance that supports Lebanon and its state, people and resistance.” Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria are often referred to as the “axis of resistance.”
Hezbollah hints at attacks on Israeli passenger aircraft
In a video circulated on social media to mark the anniversary of former Hezbollah military commander Imad Mughniyeh's death, the terrorist group appears to be threatening to attack Israeli passenger flights and popular tourist destinations in Israel.

Mughniyeh was assassinated in Damascus in 2008, in an operation that Hezbollah has attributed to the Mossad and CIA.

Images in the video include El Al planes as well as pictures of Ben-Gurion International Airport, passports, and the arrivals and departures board at Ben-Gurion.

Hezbollah has not been officially confirmed as the entity that compiled the video, which was published by Mughniyeh's sister, Zeinab.

The general message of the video is one of revenge for airstrikes on weapons stockpiles belonging to Hezbollah and Iran in Syria and Lebanon, attributed to Israel.

Hezbollah has been busy on social media in general. On Tuesday, the organization launched a campaign targeting senior Israeli politicians and other public figures via the WhatsApp and Telegram instant messaging applications.
Pence ‘Rips Europe a New One’ for Helping Iran Skirt U.S. Sanctions
Vice President Mike Pence, speaking before leaders from more than 50 countries, offered a stinging rebuke of leading European nations for their back-door efforts to help Iran skirt U.S. sanctions, demanding these countries follow the White House's lead and scrap the landmark nuclear deal, which has been on life support since President Donald Trump abandoned the Obama administration's chief foreign policy achievement.

Pence was direct in his rebuke of key European allies—most notably France, Germany, and the U.K.—expressing a level of frustration that has not often made its way into the public discourse.

The forum itself was noteworthy: Pence slammed European leaders in front of foreign ministers from scores of countries, including leading Arab nations.

Pence's remarks put the issue of Iran and its contested nuclear program back on the front burner as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and international leaders met to discuss a wide-range of challenges facing the Middle East. The ministerial, initially billed as an effort to counter Iran, was notable in recent days primarily because it appeared Iran had disappeared from the agenda.

Pence put the focus squarely back on Tehran, warning European leaders their efforts to appease Tehran and keep its economy from collapsing will not be treated kindly by the Trump administration.
Seth Frantzman: Pompeo wants to confront Iran, but how?
The US policy to confront Iran, therefore, boils down to supporting Israel. Israel is more than capable of confronting Hamas, but Israel faces an uphill struggle in confronting Iranian support for Hezbollah and Iran’s role in Syria. Netanyahu said that Israel carried out a strike in Syria on Monday. Foreign reports said the strike targeted Iranian sites in southwestern Syria.

The Iranian entrenchment in Syria appears to be growing, instead of being reduced. This includes Iranian encroachment toward the Golan Heights and Iran’s existing network of bases in Syria.

The US doesn’t seem to have any plan for confronting this challenge.

Reports indicate that the US might keep soldiers at a lonely desert base at Tanf, in southern Syria near Jordan’s border. Some see that base as a way to interdict Iran’s “road to the sea,” a network of Iranian influence that stretches across Iraq into Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean Sea. But it is not entirely clear that the Tanf base actually performs that function or that Iran cares about the presence of the base.

Similarly, the Arab states that ostensibly want to confront Iran don’t seem to have a plan in place for doing so.

Kuwait, Egypt, Bahrain, the UAE, Jordan and Saudi Arabia gathered at the Dead Sea in late January to talk regional security. Some of these countries are in Warsaw to discuss the same issues, but they don’t appear to be willing to formulate a plan for confronting Iran or working with Israel to do so.

That they share common interests with Israel regarding Iran’s threats is possible, but when it comes to confrontation and push back the US appears to lack substantive models and goals of how it envisions rolling back Iran in any of the countries Pompeo mentioned.
MEMRI: Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei Announces The Goals Of 'The Second Phase Of The Islamic Revolution' For The Next 40 Years: 'The Challenge Is Mighty Iran's Presence At The Borders Of The Zionist Regime'
On February 13, 2019, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei released an "important announcement on the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution" directed at Iran's younger generation. The announcement included guidelines for actions and goals to be achieved for the next 40 years – a period he called "the second phase of the Islamic Revolution."

Khamenei told Iran's young men and women: "The coming decades are your decades, and you must preserve your revolution with motivation and knowledge and bring it closer and closer to its great aspiration – creating a new Islamic civilization and readiness for the sun of the Mahdi to rise."

After summarizing the achievements of the Islamic Revolution in Iran to date, Khamenei went on to state that the challenges facing Iran today include the following goals:

"Today, like at the dawn of the revolution [i.e. in 1979], Iran has challenges against the arrogance [the West, led by the U.S.] but with a significant difference: If the challenge then vis-à-vis America was chopping off the hand of the foreign agents [at home], or closing the embassies of the Zionist regime in Tehran, or exposing [America's] nest of spies [i.e. the U.S. Embassy in Tehran], today the challenge is mighty Iran's presence at the borders of the Zionist regime, and expelling America's illegitimate influence from the Middle East region, and the Islamic Republic's support for the Palestinian fighters in the heart of the occupied territories [i.e. Israel], and defending the waving flag of Hizbullah and of the [Islamic] resistance throughout this region.

"And if in those days the problem of the West was to prevent Iran from acquiring the most primitive weapons, today the problem of the West is to prevent the transfer of advanced Iranian weapons to the resistance forces [in the region]..."[1]
Israeli Foreign Ministry Entered a Satirical Iranian Twitter Contest and Won
Leading up to the 40th anniversary of the Iranian revolution on February 11, a popular satirical Iranian Twitter account with over 115,000 followers asked for nominations for “the most absurd or foolish” quote the revolution has produced over the past 40 years.

The Israeli Foreign Office’s Persian-language account responded, offering “Israel would not exist in 25 years” with a big smiley emoji, referring to a September 2015 remark by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The tweet received nearly 1,500 likes and more than 100 retweets.

Two days later, the satirical account officially declared the foreign office’s tweet the winner, adding: “I will report this race every year to see if this account can win another 25 years.”

Tensions between Israel and Iran have been escalating in recent weeks.

On Tuesday, before taking off to Poland to attend a US-led Iran-focused summit, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened Iran, saying that if the country were to try and attack Israel, it “will be the last anniversary of the revolution that they celebrate, this regime.”
Report: Secret US program sabotages Iranian missiles
The Trump White House has accelerated a secret program to sabotage Iran's ballistic missile and rocket projects, the New York Times reported Wednesday, quoting current and former administration officials.

The officials said the operation was part of an expanding campaign by the United States to weaken the Iranian military and isolate its economy.

Officials told the New York Times it was impossible to precisely quantify the success of the classified program, but that in the past month alone, two Iranian attempts to launch satellites failed within minutes.

Those two rocket launch failures – on Jan. 15 and another unacknowledged attempt on Feb. 5 – were part of a pattern over the past 11 years. In that time, 67% of Iranian orbital launches have failed, an exceedingly high number compared to the 5% failure rate worldwide for similar space launches.

Hours after the Jan. 15 attempt, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran's satellite launchers had technologies "virtually identical and interchangeable with those used in ballistic missiles."

The setbacks have not deterred the ayatollah regime, however, and earlier this week Iranian President Hassan Rouhani vowed to "continue our path and our military power."
Rouhani claims Israel, US behind deadly suicide bombing in Iran
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday blamed the suicide bombing of a bus carrying Revolutionary Guards troops that killed 27 in southeastern Iran on Israel and the United States, vowing revenge against Jaish al-Adl, the “mercenary group” that committed it.

“The crime will remain as a ‘dirty stain’ in the black record of the main supporters of terrorism in the White House, Tel Aviv and their regional agents,” he said, according to the Reuters news agency.

“We will certainly make this mercenary group pay for the blood of our martyrs,” the official IRNA news agency quoted the Iranian president as saying in response to Wednesday’s attack.

“The main root of terrorism in the region is America and Zionists, and some oil-producing countries in the region also financially support the terrorists,” he added.
US says ex-intel official defected to Iran, revealed secrets
A former U.S. Air Force counterintelligence specialist who defected to Iran despite warnings from the FBI has been charged with revealing classified information to the Tehran government, including the code name and secret mission of a Pentagon program, prosecutors said Wednesday.

The Justice Department also accused Monica Elfriede Witt, 39, of betraying former colleagues in the U.S. intelligence community by feeding details about their personal and professional lives to Iran. Four hackers linked to the Iranian government, charged in the same indictment, used that information to target the intelligence workers online, prosecutors said.

Witt had been on the FBI's radar at least a year before she defected after she attended an Iranian conference and appeared in anti-American videos. She was warned about her activities, but told agents that she would not provide sensitive information about her work if she returned to Iran, prosecutors say. She was not arrested at the time.

"Once a holder of a top secret security clearance, Monica Witt actively sought opportunities to undermine the United States and support the government of Iran – a country which poses a serious threat to our national security," said FBI executive assistant director Jay Tabb, the bureau's top national security official.

Tabb said "she provided information that could cause serious damage to national security," though he did not provide specifics. "Her primary motivation appears to be ideological."
Iran spends billions on war, terror & on its nuclear program

Apple Will 'Take a Look' at Saudi Women-Tracking App Following Outcry
Apple CEO Tim Cook said he would “take a look” at a Saudi Arabian app being hosted by Apple on the App Store, which allows men to track women’s movements and stop them from escaping the country.

After NPR asked Cook about the app in an interview, the Apple CEO replied, “I haven’t heard about it… But obviously, we’ll take a look at it if that’s the case.”

Despite Cook’s claims that the company would look into the controversial app, it currently remains on the App Store. Google, which is also hosting the app, did not respond to NPR.

Last week, it was reported that both Apple and Google were hosting the “Absher” app.

According to Insider, Absher is “a government web service which allows men to specify when and how women can cross Saudi borders, and to get close to real-time SMS updates when they travel.”

The app reportedly notifies men “when a woman uses her passport at a border crossing or airport check-in,” and lets male owners “decide how many journeys a woman can take,” and “how long” a “woman can travel for.”
MEMRI: Article In Qatari Daily: 'Kill Valentine's Day'
On February 14, 2019, on the occasion of Valentine's Day, the Qatari government daily Al-Sharq published an article titled "Kill Valentine's Day," by journalist Ibtisam Aal Sa'd, in which she lamented the fact that some Qataris celebrate Christian holidays such as Valentine's Day and adopt Western customs and norms. She called to return to the "days of chastity" when women wore long black abayas and lowered their gaze when a man passed by, and men lowered their gaze when women passed by.

The following are excerpts from the article:

"It's a shame that, at a time when we see and hear that thousands of people in the West are becoming familiar with our Islam and tens of thousands of people are joining it every day, finding in Islam a safe haven from waylessness, ignorance and the struggle among [different] religions that pulled this way and that, there are some among us who turn to Western nonsense and Western customs, which Allah did not validate in any way... It's a shame that this nonsense exists among us while others search for serious [meaning]. I refer to the disturbing [phenomenon] that I am seeing: some stores and markets are already putting in their windows red-colored ads for so-called Valentine's Day...

"As I write, I am tiring myself out trying to count all the made-up 'holidays' [celebrated] in our Arab homeland, which we treat as historic occasions, giving them all our attention and making sure to mark them, as though there is a competition for marking these silly occasions and dragging the young people and teens to become preoccupied with these temptations and perversions. After Valentine's Day there will be Mother's Day and Halloween and Christmas and the madness of the Silvester [celebrations]...

"What's going on? Why are these made-up holidays thriving while our authentic holidays are losing their shine? What brought us to this state, which we [once] thought impossible? I am not talking only about the so-called holidays, because the issue is broader and more complex. I, and no doubt many others as well, cannot countenance what we are seeing. I see young men shedding their manliness and putting on tight feminine clothes, and young women like me who insist on denying their femininity and wearing men's jalabiyas...

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