Tuesday, February 26, 2019

From Ian:

Douglas Murray: The UK’s Hezbollah ban is a victory for common sense
On the one hand was the military wing of Hezbollah, which has spent decades raising the levels of violence in Lebanon and bringing destruction to various neighbouring countries, including Israel and Syria, as well as further afield. But according to the UK Foreign Office this organisation was a totally separate entity from the one known as Hezbollah (political wing). Of course this division of labour within Hezbollah existed in no other realm other than the minds of a few officials in Whitehall and their counterparts across Europe. It didn’t exist in the eyes of anyone in the region. It didn’t exist when the terrorist group blew up a bus carrying tourists in Bulgaria in 2012, or attacked targets in South America. And it certainly didn’t exist in the eyes of Hezbollah itself, who must have been bemused by the division of labour which the British Foreign Office chose to impose upon people working in the same organisation.

So as I say, a victory for common sense. But also a victory for the many victims of Hezbollah’s terror across several continents. It should also be said that this is a victory for the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, who appears to be chalking up a set of wins at the moment. Though the action he announced this morning is only what any and all of his predecessors could have and should have done (these facts have all been known in Whitehall, as elsewhere, for many years) the fact that he has done it is commendable.

There is only one other thing to say. For years at radical and Islamist demonstrations in London it has been commonplace to see the flag of this terrorist organisation being waved. After such events – such as the Khomeinist ‘Al-Quds Day march’ which takes place in London each year – the police have said that they will not arrest people flying the flag of Hezbollah because the wavers might be demonstrating support for the (unbanned) political wing rather than the (already banned) military wing. From now on that distinction will quite rightly not be able to be held or claimed. So as well as pursuing any and all funds that go through the UK or UK banks for Hezbollah or any of its subsidiaries, it can be presumed from now on anybody flying the Hezbollah flag in Britain will be arrested, tried and imprisoned for supporting a terrorist group. I find myself almost looking forward to ‘Al-Quds day’ this year.
Labour Refuses to Support Hezbollah Ban
Just hours after Labour chose to impose only a one-line whip on the vote on banning Hezbollah, meaning that Labour MPs – including Corbyn – are under no obligation to vote for the ban, a Labour spokesman has gone further and directly challenged Sajid Javid’s decision to ban it:

“The Home Secretary must therefore now demonstrate that this decision was taken in an objective and impartial way, and driven by clear and new evidence, not by his leadership ambitions.”

Hezbollah is already banned in its entirety – including the political wing – by numerous states and organisations from the United States to the Arab League. Even apart from their direct terrorist and military activities, Hezbollah are prolific spreaders of Holocaust denial and egregious anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and their ultimate goal remains the destruction of Israel. Hezbollah itself has mocked the supposed distinction between its military and political wings that its apologists like to promote in the West…

Corbyn once again shows why he is completely unsuitable to be Leader of the Opposition, let alone Prime Minister. Labour MPs who talked themselves into not quitting the party yet because of his second referendum pledge must be having serious second thoughts already…

Pro-Maduro guerillas attack Jewish journalist Annika H. Rothstein
Jewish political writer and journalist Annika H. Rothstein was one of several journalists to be attacked and robbed on Venezuela’s border with Columbia.

Rothstein, a native of Sweden, was detained by paramilitary guerillas sympathetic to embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Saturday.

“I was taken by the pro-Maduro guerilla in San Antonio del tachira, robbed and beaten along with my security and then they forced us to get on our stomachs while they held guns to the back of our heads. They took everything we had,” Rothstein tweeted on Saturday from a stranger’s phone.

“The guerilla was HEAVILY armed and I truly believed they would kill us all, they saw my camera and press pass and put guns on us all. After they finally let us go we only got 10 minutes down the road before gunfire broke out on both sides and we hid in a shed for over an hour,” she also tweeted. “They yelled at me that I was trying to infiltrate Venezuela and that what I was doing was a crime, they took my things and called it contraband and slapped me across the face when I didnt move bc of shock.”
Ricochet Podcast: Annika Rothstein Alive from Caracas
Annika Rothstein @truthandfiction, an independent journalist, has been reporting for some time on the miseries – and resilience – of the Venezuelan people. Last weekend she went to the Colombian border, where government forces had assembled to keep an aid convoy from entering the country.

The story she got was one she was lucky to survive. We speak to her in relative safety, where she recounts the story of a very bad day in a dangerous country – and what the people she encountered say about the forces wrecking Venezuela.

Palestinians: "No Place for the Zionist Entity in Palestine"
Hamas and Islamic Jihad should be given credit for their clarity and honesty regarding their ambitions. The two groups are clearly saying that their ultimate goal is to see Israel removed from the region and replaced with an Islamic state. As far as they are concerned, the conflict with Israel is not about a settlement, a checkpoint or even Jerusalem. Instead, it is about the presence of Jews in what they regard as their own state and homeland.

What will happen the day after a Palestinian state is established? The answer, according to Hamas and Islamic Jihad (and other Palestinians) is that they will use it to continue the "armed struggle" until the liberation of the supposedly occupied cities of Tel Aviv, Nazareth, Tiberias, Haifa and Ashdod. Under these current circumstances, a Palestinian state will pose an immediate existential danger to Israel.

The Islamic Jihad threat to turn Israeli cities into "hell" by firing missiles at them needs to be taken seriously by those who are working on the upcoming US peace plan. Any land that is given to Abbas and his Palestinian Authority in the West Bank will be used in the future by Hamas and Islamic Jihad as a base for launching rockets and missiles at Israeli cities. Then, the terror groups will not need accurate, long-range rockets to achieve their plan to destroy Israel's population centers: they will be sitting right across the street from them.
Denmark, Australia: UNHRC must stop biased treatment of Israel
Denmark and Australia called on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to stop its biased treatment of Israel by eliminating the controversial Agenda Item 7, when they spoke Monday at the opening of the council’s 40th session in Geneva.

“As a member, Denmark will work for a council that treats all states in an equal and fair manner. It undermines the credibility of this council and its members when it insists on singling out one country, Israel, a democracy, under its own agenda item [7],” Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said.

He reference the UNHRC mandate that alleged Israeli human rights abuses must be debated at each session under Agenda Item 7. Human rights allegations against all other UN member states are debated under Agenda Item 4. Only Israel is singled out with its own separate listing on the agenda.

The United States has long worked to eliminate that agenda item without any success. The European Union has increasingly protested Agenda Item 7, with its member states often refraining from speaking during that debate.

On Monday, Samuelsen directly called on all of the 47 UNHRC member states to stay silent during the Item 7 debate, which will take place on March 18, days before the 40th session ends on March 22.

“All countries should be treated on an equal footing. Therefore, we will not speak under Item 7, but address the situation in Israel/Palestine under other country-specific items [Agenda Item 4] where it belongs. We encourage others to do the same,” Samuelsen said.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne added: “It is our firm view that a separate agenda item focusing on a single country situation – in this case Israel – is inappropriate. It does not occur in any other context for any other country.”

A number of countries, including Turkey and Qatar, took Israel to task for its treatment of the Palestinians and spoke in support of a two-state solution at the pre-1967 lines with east Jerusalem as its capital.

Reservists on Duty give testimonies at EU for the first time
Reservists on Duty addressed the EU Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday, the first time the group was offered the opportunity to do so.

Four combat soldiers told their personal stories while serving in the IDF.

The main focus was the use and indoctrination of Palestinian civilians - especially women and children - by Palestinian terrorist organizations in the West bank and the Gaza Strip.

The group told members of the EU that "if representatives of European countries are truly interested in helping the Palestinian people, they must invest money into fighting the true Human Rights violators like Hamas."

Austrian European Parliament member Heinz Becker commended the group and said he was impressed by the testimonies "and
the way you're expressing your ethical background."
Argentina chief rabbi severely beaten in ‘anti-Semitic’ home invasion
Argentina’s chief rabbi was hospitalized in serious condition Monday after being beaten during a home invasion Monday.

The attack on Rabbi Gabriel Davidovich in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Once was condemned by Jewish groups as an anti-Semitic attack.

The attackers, who entered the home of Davidovich in the pre-dawn hours, shouted “We know you are AMIA’s rabbi,” while beating him, according to local press reports.

Davidovich’s wife was restrained and the assailants took money and belongings from the home before fleeing, according to press reports.

He was hospitalized with several fractured ribs and a punctured lung, La Nacion reported. Hebrew-language press accounts reported his condition as “serious.”

AMIA said in a statement that the comments by the attackers were a cause for “alarm.”
Netanyahu calls for action after violent assault on Argentina chief rabbi
The violent assault on Argentina’s chief rabbi overnight drew widespread condemnation in Israel, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, along with lawmakers and Jewish leaders, demanding that more action be taken to combat rising anti-Semitism worldwide.

At 2 a.m. Monday morning, unknown assailants broke into the Buenos Aires home of Rabbi Gabriel Davidovich and beat him severely. The intruders, who also stole valuables and money from the home, shouted: “We know you are the rabbi of the Jewish community” during the attack, according to local reports.

Davidovich’s wife was reportedly restrained and the assailants took money and belongings from the home before fleeing.

Netanyahu condemned the attack, saying in a brief statement Monday morning that “anti-Semitism must not be allowed to rear its head.”

“I strongly condemn the recent surge in anti-Semitic incidents and I call upon the international community to act,” Netanyahu said.
Argentine leader condemns attack on head rabbi as son doubts anti-Semitic motive
Argentina’s president on Tuesday condemned the violent assault on the country’s chief rabbi Gabriel Davidovich, vowing to support efforts to bring the attackers to justice.

The vow came as Israeli leaders and others condemned an assault they described as anti-Semitic, though Davidovich’s son cast doubt on Jew-hatred being behind the attack.

At 2 a.m. Monday morning, unknown assailants broke into the Buenos Aires home of Davidovich and beat him severely, breaking nine of his ribs. The intruders, who also stole valuables and money from the home, shouted: “We know you are the AMIA rabbi” during the attack, according to the local Jewish umbrella group.

“We denounce the attack that chief rabbi Gabriel Davidovich suffered in his home,” Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri wrote on Twitter. “We are with him as he recovers and he has our support for an investigation to find those responsible.”
Pompeo on Israeli Elections: US Not Getting ‘Involved’
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declined to comment on last week’s controversial merger between the Jewish Home and the far-right Otzma Yehudit parties ahead of the Israeli elections in April.

“We’re not about to get involved in an election, to interfere in an election of a democracy,” Pompeo told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday. “Election campaigns are tough. We’ll allow the Israeli people to sort this out, and I am confident that when the election’s over the United States will continue to have a strong, important, very, very deep relationship with Israel that protects the American people and benefits Israel as well.”
Yishai Fleisher: Why the Otzma Party is a legitimate political voice
My own discomfort with Otzma comes from a very conscious decision I have made to distinguish between the Jihad and its various supporters and Arabs generally, many of which want none of it. While I’m a “settler,” I think that the right-wing has the key to Arab-Jewish reconciliation and harmony. Just this week, members of the Hebron Jewish Community took part in an amazing event called the Israeli-Palestinian Economic Forum run by the Judea and Samaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The event was attended by Palestinian business leaders, Muslim religious clerics and settlers who all live together in the Israeli heartland. On hand were also innovators from around the world hoping the create joint projects in the fields of tourism, energy and production. U.S. Ambassador David Friedman was there, as well as Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.). Not surprisingly, the two-state proponents including Peace Now and the Palestinian Authority were not in attendance.

But Otzma’s rhetoric in the past—and the rage they previously expressed—has not reflected a precise distinction between Jihadist Arab and tolerant Arab. And while I share Otzma’s strong feelings of Jewish defense, and am deeply committed to fighting land giveaway, I still see a future in which Arabs and Jewish communities can exist harmoniously. And I would like my political representation to reflect this. I am hopeful that Otzma will gain political experience and maturity and broadcast a more nuanced message.

However, even with some boorishness, Otzma, an ultra-nationalist Jewish party, certainly has the right to run for representation in the parliament of the Jewish state. Let the people decide who should sit in the Knesset. Moreover, it would be refreshing if the Jewish left would reveal as much rancor as they have shown this week for Otzma, for some members of Israeli Arab Knesset parties who in any other country would be tried for sedition. If Ahmad Tibi, the former assistant to the arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat, has a right to be in the Israeli Knesset, then so does Otzma.

The Israeli parliament is all about debate in the great Jewish tradition. Even if you don’t like them, Otzma, like similar European ultra-national parties, represents a legitimate voice and has a right to a seat at the table. Maybe Israel would benefit from debating their ideology from the floor of the democratically elected Parliament.
Honest Reporting: The Gaza Blockade: An Explainer
Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade of Gaza since Hamas seized control of the Strip in 2007.

Often overlooked, forgotten or taken for granted in media coverage and public discussion is the reason for the blockade: the threat of Hamas weapons smuggling.

Egypt captured Gaza during the 1948 Israeli War of Independence. The Strip would remain under Egyptian military occupation until the Six-Day War of 1967. Israel’s administration allowed Jews to settle in the Strip. (The Jewish Virtual Library expands on historical Jewish ties to Gaza). When Israel unilaterally disengaged from Gaza in 2005, 8,000 settlers were evacuated from 21 settlements. The Fatah-led Palestinian Authority managed Gaza’s affairs until 2007, when Hamas violently seized control of the Strip, killing and expelling Fatah personnel.

The Hamas takeover destroyed international agreements between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt over Gaza’s border crossings. PA personnel and European monitors manning the crossings fled the violence.

Since Hamas seized power, Israel has fought three wars in Gaza (Operation Cast Lead in 2008-09, Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, and Operation Protective Edge in 2014). The IDF has foiled a number of attempts to smuggle Iranian arms to Gaza. Egypt has also has also periodically moved against Gaza-Sinai smuggling tunnels. Hamas has an up-and-down relationship with jihadist insurgents in the Sinai fighting the Egyptian military.
Gaza’s Strawberry Exports Skyrocket Since Last Year
In a piece of good news for residents of the Gaza Strip, revenues from the coastal enclave’s strawberry exports have risen 290 percent over the previous year.

“Strawberries are an important source of income in Gaza for Palestinian farmers and their families,” the Israeli Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) unit, which facilitates the exports, said.

“The export and sale of strawberries from the Gaza Strip has yielded revenues of about 13m NIS so far this harvest season, a 290% improvement over last year,” COGAT added.

PA said to nab Hamas-led cell that was readying to carry out attacks in Israel
The Palestinian Authority security forces recently collared a six-person Hamas-led cell in Nablus that was preparing to carry out terrorist attacks in Israel employing explosive devices, Channel 12 news reported earlier this week, without citing a source.

The PA security forces first arrested the commander of the cell, a Hamas terror group operative whose deputy chief, Saleh al-Arouri, transferred $50,000 through the United Arab Emirates, and then nabbed its remaining five members, the report said.

The entirety of the cell, which was receiving orders from the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, did not belong to Hamas, the report added, stating that its commander had recruited persons unaffiliated with the terror group in an effort to make it more difficult for the PA security forces and Israeli intelligence to identify them.

A PA security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he could not confirm or deny the details of the report, but noted Ramallah’s security forces constantly work to crack down on all Hamas terror activity in the West Bank.

“We have very clear orders to stamp out Hamas military activity and we are always making efforts to that end,” he told The Times of Israel on Monday. “We confiscate every transfer of funds to Hamas from Gaza or abroad. We also regularly arrest its members we suspect of planning operations and take away their weapons.”
PA: Hamas, Islamic Jihad behind anti-Abbas protests
The Palestinian Authority and its ruling Fatah faction have begun organizing rallies throughout the West Bank in support of PA President Mahmoud Abbas. The move came in response to recent demonstrations in the Gaza Strip during which protesters condemned Abbas and called for his removal from power.

On Monday, hundreds of Abbas loyalists took to the streets in various parts of the West Bank to voice their support for the 83-year-old PA president. The protesters denounced the demonstrations in the Gaza Strip and accused Hamas and Islamic Jihad of launching a campaign of incitement against Abbas.

The West Bank protesters also expressed support for Abbas’s rejection of the US administration’s yet-to-be-unveiled plan for peace in the Middle East, also referred to as the “Deal of the Century.”

The anti-Abbas protests in the Gaza Strip are being held under the banner “Get Out!” while the protests sponsored by the PA and Fatah are titled “We Chose You!” and “President Abbas Represents Me!”
Amnesty International calls on Hamas to cancel reporter's trial
A leading rights group is calling on Gaza's Hamas rulers to cancel the trial of a Palestinian journalist who exposed government corruption.

Amnesty International said Monday the prosecution of Hajar Harb was "an outrageous assault on media freedom."

A 2016 report by Harb highlighted misconduct at the Hamas-run Health Ministry, where healthy people purportedly paid doctors to help them get around the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip by issuing referrals to hospitals abroad.

A year later, a Hamas court sentenced Harb in absentia to six months in prison and a fine. She appealed the ruling and a hearing was set to be held on Tuesday.

Rights groups often charge that fair litigation is not guaranteed in Hamas' judiciary system. Hamas wrested control of Gaza from the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority in 2007.
Hizbullah's Tunnels Offer Peek at Looming Conflict with Israel
For weeks, Israeli and Lebanese soldiers have eyed each other uneasily at close range while Israeli engineers neutralize cross-border infiltration tunnels. These sophisticated tunnels, clearly intended to attack civilians, embody Hezbollah’s ongoing efforts to threaten substantial harm to Israel. They are also a reminder of that border’s fragile calm, and the potential for major destruction and suffering that would befall both Israeli and Lebanese civilians in another conflict on Israel’s northern front.

Israel undoubtedly could deal Hezbollah a crippling military blow in such a conflict. Indeed, Hezbollah has no illusion of military victory. Instead, it will seek to delegitimize Israel in the court of public opinion by illegally exposing civilians to harm on both sides of the border and then exploiting widespread misunderstanding about the laws of war.

These concerns were central to the Jewish Institute for National Security of America’s (JINSA) Hybrid Warfare Task Force and its fact-finding mission to Israel earlier this year. The ensuing task force report examined the operational and legal challenges Israel would face in another northern war.

Though unknown by us or the public during our visit, the ongoing discoveries of these terror tunnels offer valuable glimpses into this looming war.

Gonen Segev, ex-minister, gets 11 years in jail for spying for Iran
Disgraced former minister Gonen Segev was sentenced by the Jerusalem District Court to 11 years in prison on Tuesday in a plea deal for spying for Iran.

The sentence follows a conviction on January 9, but much of the case's details remain under gag order.

Channel 10 previously reported that Segev had admitted to the spying charges, but explained he was trying to help Israel and return as a "hero" under the guise of spying for Iran.

Former minister Gonen Segev sentenced to 11 years in prison for spying for Iran, February 26, 2019 (Reuters)

The former energy and infrastructure minister – who also spent time in jail in the past for drug smuggling, forgery and fraud – was extradited from Equatorial Guinea and arrested in May on suspicion of assisting the enemy in a time of war, spying against the State of Israel and providing intelligence to the enemy.
The Iranian Nuclear Archive Suggests Iran's Nuclear Weapons Program Never Ended
Iran's "nuclear archive" seized by Israel last year is extremely rich in new information about Iran's substantial, rapidly advancing nuclear weapons effort in the early 2000s. Iran aimed to develop and manufacture five 10-kiloton nuclear weapons and build a missile suitable to deliver them. The archive documentation supports that rather than ending the program in 2003, Iran reoriented it to a more disguised nuclear weapons program.

The new information provides a more complete picture of successor activities which were intended to allow Iran to continue to pursue key nuclear weapons-related work that had no plausible civilian justification in a more covert, dispersed manner. The information in the archive suggests that the nuclear weapons program never ended - and it could be continuing today.

The archive materials suggest that Iran can produce deliverable nuclear weapons more quickly than earlier assessed. It supports replacing the nuclear deal with a more comprehensive, long-lasting approach aimed at blocking Iran's latent pathway to nuclear weapons.

The archive information is in a form that is actionable in terms of: better carrying out of inspections of Iran's nuclear activities; challenging Iran's prior incomplete and duplicitous statements about its nuclear weapons programs; more adequately understanding the threat Iran's nuclear programs pose today and in the future; and better designing policies to address this issue.

It is difficult to see how storing and curating an extensive nuclear weapons archive focused on developing and building missile-deliverable nuclear weapons is consistent with Iran's pledge under the JCPOA that under no circumstances will it ever seek nuclear weapons.
JCPA: Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif Announces Resignation
Zarif’s resignation (if accepted by the president) may sharpen the internal dispute within Iran even further with regard to keeping to the nuclear agreement. It symbolizes the continuation of a process weakening the status of the executive authority (the Rouhani government) while strengthening the Revolutionary Guard and the Supreme Leader’s office (which serves as a kind of shadow government, with former government members in advisory positions). According to the law, the Rouhani government is meant to stay in power until 2021. However, even now, there are calls for the resignation of the government, and it is not clear whether the resignation of Zarif, which is an admission of the failure of the conciliatory policy toward the West and is an attempt to use him as a scapegoat in the crisis that has befallen Iran, will put a stop to this trend.

In this 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, Iran is now at a crossroads, and Zarif’s resignation is one road sign. Is Iran looking to change its policy in the regional and international arena, as Zarif, who led the conciliatory trend despite difficulties at home, had reportedly hoped? Zarif was very determined in his stance despite the difficulties at home. He faced criticism from the Revolutionary Guard, difficulties in legislating the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which would ease trade with Europe, and the discovery of the involvement of the Iranian intelligence services in the assassination of regime opponents in Europe. Abroad, Zarif faced the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear agreement and the difficulties in negotiating a mechanism with Europe for getting around the sanctions.

Or is Iran going to take a firmer stance on everything to do with strengthening its power in the region, in the spirit of recent fiery pronouncements by the commanders of the Revolutionary Guard and the army. The Iranian military and leaders’ declarations include continuing entrenchment in Syria and Lebanon, promoting missile and nuclear research, increasing aid to Palestinian terrorist organizations, intensifying its involvement in Yemen, and even possibly increasing its attempts to subvert the Gulf states.

This policy could lead to conflict between Iran and the United States. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo already tweeted about Zarif’s announcement, “Either way, he (Zarif) and @HassanRouhani are just front men for a corrupt religious mafia. We know @khamenei_ir makes all final decisions. Our policy is unchanged—the (Iranian) regime must behave like a normal country and respect its people.”7
Netanyahu bids 'good riddance' after Iranian FM Mohammed Zarif resigns
"Zarif is gone - good riddance," Prime Minister Netanyahu said on Tuesday after Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Zarif announced his resignation.

Writing on Twitter, Netanyahu said that "as long as I'm around, Iran won't get nuclear weapons."

"Many thanks for the generosity of the dear and brave people of Iran and its authorities over the past 67 months," Zarif wrote on his Instagram page jzarif_ir late Monday. "I sincerely apologize for the inability to continue serving and for all the shortcomings during my service. Be happy and worthy."

He gave no specific reasons for his decision.

Netanyahu and Zarif sparred at the 2018 Munich Security conference, when the prime minister brandished a piece of an Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle the IDF had downed over the Golan Heights a week earlier.

Netanyahu said at the conference that Israel “will act not just against Iran’s proxies that are attacking us, but against Iran itself.”
Majority of Iran's parliament signs letter to ask for Zarif to stay in job
Fighting between parties and factions in Iran is a "deadly poison" undermining foreign policy, Mohammad Javad Zarif was quoted as saying in an interview published on Tuesday, a day after he resigned as Iranian foreign minister.

Zarif's comments suggest he may have quit over pressure from hardline elements who have long criticized his role in negotiating a landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers."We first have to remove our foreign policy from the issue of party and factional fighting," Zarif told the Jomhuri Eslami newspaper.

"The deadly poison for foreign policy is for foreign policy to become an issue of party and factional fighting," he added.

The Fars news agency reported that the interview had taken place last week, before the resignation.

President Hassan Rouhani has not formally accepted the resignation which Zarif announced on Monday on Instagram.
Code Pink Co-Founder Laments Iranian Foreign Minister’s Resignation
Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin on Monday lamented the resignation of Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

"So terrible that iranian foreign minister Javad zarif resigned [sic]," Benjamin wrote on Twitter. "Our delegation had just met with him and we were blown away by his brilliance and commitment. This is bad news for Iran and the world."

Benjamin, whose anti-war activist group has a history of supporting the Islamist terrorist group Hamas and the late Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, met with Zarif on Sunday. After the meeting, she criticized Donald Trump for "ramping up confrontation with Iran" as the president prepares to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un this week.

"We are meeting with Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif in Tehran," Benjamin wrote. "White [sic] Trump gets ready to meet North Korea chairman, he is ramping up confrontation with Iran. #peacewithiran."

Syria's Bashar Assad visits Iran in rare trip abroad
Syrian President Bashar Assad has made an unannounced trip to Iran, where he met with the supreme leader and other top officials to discuss the planned U.S. troop withdrawal and Turkey's efforts to set up a buffer zone in northern Syria, state media reported Monday.

The visit to Iran comes a day before a trip by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Russia for talks expected to focus on Iran's role in Syria. Israel has said it will not tolerate a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria, and it has carried out scores of airstrikes against Iran-linked targets there.

Assad met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani on the rare trip abroad – his third since the civil war broke out in 2011. The other two trips were to Russia.

Tehran has given the Syrian government billions of dollars in aid and sent Iran-backed fighters to battle alongside his forces – assistance that, along with Russian air power, has helped turn the tide in Assad's favor.

Syrian and Iranian media released photos showing Assad warmly embracing Khamenei and shaking hands with Rouhani. The visit was not announced beforehand, and both countries made it public late Monday.

Iran's semiofficial Fars news agency said Khamenei told the visiting Assad that "the buffer zone the Americans are after in Syria is among the dangerous plots that should be rejected," and that the U.S. plan to maintain a presence in Syria near the Iraqi border "is another sample of their designs."
Qods Force Commander Qasem Soleimani: Wahhabism Is American Islam with Jewish Roots
Qods Force Commander Qasem Soleimani said in a speech that aired on IRINN TV (Iran) on February 22 that the spreading of the culture of Jihad and martyrdom has "unique and positive implications on moral, religious, and national aspects." He said that the Islamic Revolution has yielded a "powerful deterrence" in the form of Hizbullah and Islamic movements like Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and other Palestinian Islamic groups, and he assured the crowd that no decision is made or implemented without first taking Iranian national interests into consideration. Soleimani also said that Wahhabism has Jewish roots and that the Saudi Arabia has been conspiring with the Zionist regime to "shatter" Pakistan. The speech was delivered at a ceremony commemorating Iranians "martyrs" from the city of Babol and who had been killed in Syria against the backdrop of claims that Iran is wasting money fighting in Syria and Iraq.

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