Tuesday, May 28, 2019

From Ian:

PMW: Palestinian stabs Jew in Hamas music video
The same day that Hamas official Fathi Hammad promised to "slaughter, exterminate, and annihilate" Israel, Hamas TV broadcast a music video promising to "blow up" Tel Aviv and showing a staged stabbing of a religious Jew by a masked Palestinian:
"We have not yet drawn weapons, and yet we have [already] brought down the Zionists
We have brought down the Zionists...
They removed us from the land and stole our beloved homeland...
We haven't forgotten, the children have grown up, and we have started blowing up Tel Aviv
We have started blowing up Tel Aviv...
We will ambush them. We will trample the necks of the enemies.
Visual: A large knife is shown
On the trigger, on the trigger, [I'm] alert and my finger is on the trigger
Footage of Hamas missile hitting Israeli army bus
O occupier, wait for a green [light]. Receive this reduced image.
See how the Kornet [missile] travels slowly...
We are the ones who threaten, and no one threatens us
We are the nation's only sword
We will strike, we will blow up [and] not hesitate
We will do more against the enemy if he continues...
Staged: A Palestinian stabs a religious Jew."

[Al-Aqsa TV (Hamas), May 15, 2019]

IDF legal chief Afek: ICC probe of Israel part of PA delegitimization attempt
The International Criminal Court preliminary review of war crime allegations against Israelis is part of the Palestinian Authority’s delegitimization and diplomatic campaign against Israel, IDF Military Advocate General Maj.-Gen. Sharon Afek said at a Herzliya conference on Tuesday.

Speaking at the third IDF-sponsored gathering of top foreign military and academic experts on the laws of war from around the world, Afek said that, “As part of its campaign of lawfare and delegitimization, the Palestinian Authority is vigorously pushing for an ICC investigation of Israel.”

He said that, “We see these efforts as yet another attempt to abuse legal institutions in order to achieve political aims. These efforts serve to undermine the function and perception of the ICC.”

Continuing, Afek said that, “It is our firm position that the ICC does not have jurisdiction over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But even if it had such jurisdiction, Israel is a law-abiding state with a strong and independent justice system.”

“Israel’s actions are not relevant subject-matter for the ICC... Rather than serving as a court of last resort for cases of mass atrocities, the court is diverted from its main purpose and from situations within the court’s jurisdiction that really deserve its attention and limited resources,” he said.

Kushner, Greenblatt to visit Israel, Jordan this week to discuss US peace plan
A US administration delegation headed by US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner will travel this week to Jordan and then to Jerusalem, a White House official confirmed Tuesday, amid a political deadlock in Israel that could potentially set back US plans next month to unveil its Middle East peace plan and hold an economic workshop for Palestinians in Bahrain.

The White House official said Kushner, along with Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, and Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook, will travel to Rabat, Amman, and Jerusalem.

The group landed Tuesday morning in Morocco, according to Israeli media reports. They are expected to meet King Mohammed VI to discuss next month’s US-hosted economic workshop in Manama and the potential participation of senior Moroccan officials, Channel 13 reported.

The White House has announced that it will roll out the first phase of its peace proposal at a summit focusing on economic aspects that Jason Greenblatt said has the “potential to unlock a prosperous future for the Palestinians.”

But the Palestinian Authority has rejected the US invitation over its omission of the core political issues from the conference agenda, and has vowed to boycott the June 25-26 confab being co-hosted by the tiny Gulf Arab state.

Kushner and Greenblatt will travel to Amman, Jordan, on Wednesday and meet King Abdullah in an attempt to persuade him to express support for the workshop, the report said.
Abbas says Trump’s peace plan, Bahrain workshop will ‘go to hell’
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas personally commented Monday for the first time on the US-hosted economic conference planned to be held next month in Bahrain, saying that it will “go to hell.”

The White House announced Sunday it would co-host the June 25-26 meeting in the capital city of Manama and is expected to unveil the economic aspects of its long-awaited Middle East peace plan, with the declared aim of achieving Palestinian prosperity.

“The Palestinian Authority does not recognize this conference,” Abbas said at a Ramallah event.

“Trump’s ‘deal of the century’ will go to hell, as will the economic workshop in Bahrain that the Americans intend to hold and present illusions,” he continued.

“Whoever is interested in proposing a solution to the Palestinian issue should begin with a diplomatic solution.”

Abbas cut ties with the Trump administration in 2017 after it recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Palestinians envision East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Trump’s White House responded with a series of punitive measures, including severing assistance to the PA and defunding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

Last Wednesday, the PA formally rejected an invitation to the June conference.
Jordan and the ‘Deal of the Century’
The “Deal of the Century” is getting a lot of media attention lately. There is an important sidebar to the agreement that must be addressed.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II is in a very precarious situation. Abdullah, who was never a very strong leader, is now in a more weakened position than ever. He is in danger of becoming even weaker, and he is certainly in danger of being overthrown.

Countries in the region see Jordan’s king as irrelevant. They have no interest and no need for Jordan. Abdullah is not looped into any talks, strategy conversations or meetings. Washington barely speaks to him, and even when he travels to DC he gets little respect and even less information.

King Abdullah II of Jordan has been given no details on the famous peace plan.

Israel barely bothers to speak to the Jordanian king. And yet, Jordan needs Israel just like it needs backing from Washington and regional leaders like Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Jordan needs their economic aid and needs their commitment to protect and defend the monarchy – his monarchy. But that aid has been dwindling. Leaders do not see the value of Jordan.

Jordan is petrified of neighboring country Syria, petrified by its President Bashar Assad, ISIS, Hezbollah and Iran. On Jordan’s other border, Iraq is teaming up with Iran. Jordan has been the magnet for refugees fleeing Syria and Iraq. With those refugees come extremists from ISIS and al-Qaeda as well as Iranian agents.
The Trump tweet and Israel’s Future with US Democrats
Israel has benefited greatly from that closeness, but must be careful about where and how it shows that relationship to the world. Because what happens if Trump loses his re-election bid in 2020, and a Democrat will sit in the Oval Office for the next four years, or longer.

Netanyahu, no political tyro, certainly understands and is concerned about this, though he has made few serious public or visible attempts at building bridges with the Democrats, perhaps believing that the party is now a lost cause for Israel.

But is it? Are the Democrats a lost cause?

They are if the only part of the Democratic Party that you are looking at is at the ultra-Progressive wing peopled by people like congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib who skate close to antisemitism. and they are if looking at the Bernie Sanders-wing which -- like Jeremy Corbyn in Britain -- has adopted the Palestinian narrative and much of its rhetoric.

But the Democratic party is bigger than just those two camps – it also includes “moderate Progressives” like senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker who are supportive of Israel but are under pressure form the Progressive gatekeepers. The party includes the established wing of the party – represented by people like Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, who are strongly pro-Israel but genuinely concerned about the government's policies. It also includes hawks like Senator Bob Menendez who is fiercely pro-Israel, and Democrats from red states – like West Virginia’s Senator Joe Manchin -- who for all intents and purposes could be Republicans, including in their perspective on Israel and the Middle East.

The Democratic Party is a big tent that – if using the examples above – could be divided into six parts. Two of the parts are problematic -- if not downright hostile -- toward Israel, but the four others are not. And there is no need to drive the other four parts away, something that actions like the Trump pro-Netanyahu tweet has the capability of doing.

Then why do it? Why would Netanyahu trumpet the tweet in his speech to the nation on Thursday? Because Netanyahu wants to win, he wants to form a coalition and-- apparently – believes that Trump's intervention might help him do just that.

In other words, he is looking at the immediate short term gain, and ignoring – at least for now – the long term price.

Or, as Netanyahu’s campaign manager Ofer Golan said in a very instructive interview in Globes last week about the last election, “A campaign is something you first win, and then do damage control.”
Caroline Glick: Elite Contempt Is the Common Denominator in Populist Victories
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won a fifth term in office last month by running on a record of diplomatic and economic success that the leftist parties were unable to discredit.

Trump’s victory is widely attributed to Hillary Clinton’s failure to rally the Democratic base in the Rust Belt and to counter Trump’s message of industrial renewal.

But one underlying issue is common in all of the elections. And until the progressive left and the establishment center right reconcile themselves to it, and find a respectful means to contend with it, they will continue to see populist forces grow stronger and win elections.

That issue is contempt. Throughout the Western world, beyond the economic issues and even beyond specific social issues like gay marriage or abortion rights, voters are motivated to vote for the populist, nationalist right in part due to their anger at the left and center-right’s undisguised contempt for them.

In the United States, the left’s snobbery reached its height with Hillary Clinton’s castigation of Trump’s supporters as “deplorables.” But her assertion wasn’t made in isolation. It was made in the midst of a general atmosphere in which Democratic politicians from Barack Obama to Nancy Pelosi and establishment Republicans felt comfortable putting down Americans who aren’t part of their club. Obama infamously referred to Clinton’s “deplorables” as “bitter” people in small towns who “cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”
Florida governor forges new ties, makes history on Israel visit
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a historic Memorandum of Understanding between Florida State University and Ariel University on Monday, becoming the first sitting governor to establish a relationship between a U.S. state and an Israeli university in Judea and Samaria.

The majority of the international community considers Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria as illegal, and shuns, or even boycotts, Israeli institutions located there, such as Ariel University.

In appreciation, DeSantis received an Honorary Fellowship Award from the university. At the ceremony were philanthropists Sheldon and Dr. Miriam Adelson, Ariel Mayor Eli Shaviro, and Ariel University President Yehuda Danon.

“I promised to be the most pro-Israel Governor in America and I sincerely thank Ariel University for presenting me the Honorary Fellowship Award,” DeSantis said at the event. “This recognition means a lot and I am humbled to be the recipient. Let it be known that Florida will always stand with Israel, our greatest ally in the Middle East.”

Dr. Miriam Adelson introduced DeSantis as “a true friend of the State of Israel” who supported the Trump administration’s recognition of Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights, and “understands that we as Israelis have the right on our holy land.”

MEMRI: Saudi Writers: Israel Is Destined To Disappear; Accepting It Is Treason Against Ourselves
In the last two years, the Saudi media has published no few expressions of support for Israel and for normalizing relations with it. The Iranian threat, and its tangible manifestations in Yemen, Syria and Iraq, have caused Saudis to view Israel as non-threatening and perhaps even as a potential ally in the struggle against Iran.[1] Moreover, the Arab and Western media has occasionally reported that Saudi Arabia is interested in economic cooperation and normalization with Israel and has even taken steps to actualize this.

In terms of its official position, however, Saudi Arabia has been careful to stress that it has no relations with Israel, and that it opposes Israel's policy towards the Palestinians and remains committed to the Arab Peace Initiative, which makes normalization conditional upon a permanent solution to the Palestinian issue. This position has been articulated by Saudi Arabia's representatives in the UN,[2] as well as by Saudi Arabia's former ambassador to the U.S., Turki Al-Faisal, who, in an interview on Al-Arabiya TV, denied any Saudi cooperation with Israel and clarified that there has been no change in the kingdom's position towards it.[3]

This ambivalent attitude towards Israel is also discernable in op-eds published in the Saudi press. Alongside articles supporting Israel and calling to establish relations with it, there have been articles expressing reservations about maintaining ties with it and even harshly attacking Israel and its policies and accusing it of cooperating with Iran against the Arabs. Some of these articles used brutal language, hoping for Israel's demise and describing any Arab rapprochement with it as treason.
IAF destroys Syrian missile launcher after missile fired at Israeli plane
The IAF destroyed a Syrian launcher that fired an anti-aircraft missile at an Israeli plane, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed on Monday night, stressing that Israel will not tolerate any aggression against it.

“A short time ago, the Syrian army tried to hit an Israeli plane, it did not succeed,” Netanyahu said in a video statement. “The air force in response destroyed the launcher from which it [the missile] was fired. Our policy is clear: we will not tolerate any aggression against us, and we will respond to it with force and firmness.”
Netanyahu’s message came just two hours after he spoke to cameras live about the current political crisis stemming from his inability to form a coalition, just 48 hours before the deadline to do so expires.

The IDF spokesman said the Syrian missile did not hit the Israeli aircraft, which was conducting a routine flight over northern Israel, and fell within Syrian territory. The mission was completed as planned, the IDF said.

Arab media, meanwhile, reported on air strikes near Quneitra.

Syria’s SANA reported that “a military source confirmed that at 2110 hours the Israeli enemy targeted one of our military positions east of Khan Arnabeh in rural Quneitra.”

The source explained that the aggression resulted in the “martyr’s death and wounding another fighter.”

Elections to be held on September 17
The special committee discussing the dissolution of the Knesset determined on Monday evening that the elections for the 22nd Knesset will take place on Tuesday, September 17, 2019.

The date, however, is not final and is expected to change ahead of the final vote in the Knesset plenum. Committee chairman MK Miki Zohar (Likud) said at the start of the discussion, "Anyone who votes against the bill helps Benny Gantz form a government."

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is continuing his efforts to prevent elections and establish a right-wing government. The businessman who is conducting the coalition negotiations on behalf of MK Avigdor Liberman, Shmuel Hayek, is expected to return to Israel overnight Monday and continue with the talks.

Earlier on Monday, Netanyahu instructed Likud ministers and Knesset members to launch an attack against Liberman over his decision to oppose the establishment of a right-wing government.
Latest Poll Shows New Elections Would Strengthen Likud, Right-Wing Bloc
If Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fails to secure a coalition before the Wednesday deadline and Israel goes to another round of elections, Netanyahu’s Likud Party will win again, according to a survey conducted Sunday by Israeli daily Ma’ariv.

Conducted by the Politics Panels Research Institute on May 26 after a large rally led by the opposition Blue and White Party in Tel Aviv against a proposed law, which would give serving prime ministers immunity from indictment, the survey showed that a right-wing bloc would be victorious.

The poll showed that Likud would retain 35 seats, Blue and White would get 34, Shas and United Torah Judaism would hold at eight each, the Union of Right Wing Parties would grow from five to six seats, Israel Beiteinu—led by Avigdor Lieberman, who is causing the current coalition crisis—would grow from five to six seats, Meretz would rise from four to five seats, Ahmed Tibi’s Ta’al would rise from six to seven seats, and Labor would remain at six.

However, the New Right Party’s Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked would achieve a major turnaround and enter the Knesset with five seats, according to the poll, after shocking the country and defying the polls by failing to enter the Knesset in the April 9 election.

Both Kulanu and the United Arab List, which only met the minimum threshold of four seats, are expected to fail to meet the threshold and be knocked out of the Knesset.
Negotiations on Lebanese-Israeli border demarcations in final phase
Negotiations on demarcating the Lebanese-Israeli land and maritime borders are in their final stages after weeks of mediation by Washington, Lebanese media reported on Tuesday.

According to a statement from the Lebanese Foreign Ministry Minister Gebran Bassil met with Acting US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield, who has been shuttling between Beirut and Jerusalem holding discussions on the issue.

“No radical problems or obstacles are hindering the implementation of the Lebanese proposal; but the matter requires more round trips,” sources from Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry were quoted by LCBI news as saying following the meeting between the two.

“We started putting the final touches on the form of negotiations and the role of the concerned parties, including the United Nations, Lebanon and Israel, as well as the role of the United States,” they continued.

Last week, Lebanese officials said that Satterfield had informed them that Israel agreed to the negotiations. Israel had not commented at the time.
Lebanese rioters clash with IDF along border fence
The Israeli military clashed with some 15 Lebanese nationals along the northern border on Monday, firing tear gas and stun grenades at them, after two men scaled the border fence and attempted to damage it, the army said.

According to Lebanese media, a riot broke out after Israel installed security cameras along the Blue Line, the internationally recognized dividing line between Israel and Lebanon, near the town of Kafr Kila.

The IDF said approximately 15 people participated in the riot, which was held near Fatima Gate, once known as the Good Fence Crossing, was used from 1982 to 2000, during Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon.

According to the IDF, during the riot “two suspects climbed the security fence and tried to damage it.”

The military said the demonstration dispersed shortly after the soldiers fired the riot-control munitions at them.

There were no Lebanese injuries reported.

Over the years, the area around Kafr Kila has seen a number of protests and clashes between Lebanese citizens and the Israeli military.
'Hamas fired more than one anti-tank missile during last round of fighting'
Hamas fired more than one anti-tank missile towards Israeli civilians during the last round of fighting between the two, the head of the IDF’s Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Hertzi Halevy said on Tuesday.

Only one of the anti-tank missiles struck a target, said Halevy, who was speaking at the third international law conference in Herzliya, adding that the Kornet anti-tank missile which killed Moshe Feder near Kibbutz Erez earlier in May was fired from a multi-story residential building in Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip.

“Any place is okay to launch rockets from Gaza’s civilian homes and school yards – wherever they have human shields – meanwhile Israelis need to run for shelter,” Halevy told the audience of top foreign military and academic experts on the laws of war from around the world.

According to Halevy, had they known of the building being used to carry out attacks, the IDF would have “absolutely” struck it.

“Our civilian communities, which are mostly agricultural, are very close to the border, some even a few hundred meters. You don’t have time for mistakes. Time is ticking – you must retaliate quickly in order to not have civilians directly attacked by terrorists.”

According to Halevy, Israel has “an enemy rich with military capabilities,” but Hamas knows that it cannot win a war against the IDF. “So they would rather use something against us that won’t lead to war” like the Great March of Return protests along the security fence.
Hamas to Palestinians during rocket attacks on Israel: "Set out on the path of Jihad and resistance"
Senior Hamas official and PA Parliament Member Abd Al-Rahman Al-Jamal: "The time has come for this world to stand by the Palestinian people, which is defending its rights, land, and honor. We are continuing, Allah willing, [because] our honor and greatness are [achieved] by our Jihad and resistance… Set out with Allah’s blessing on the path of Jihad and resistance." [Al-Aqsa TV, May 4, 2019] May 2019 Gaza rocket attacks – The Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations in Gaza launched a rocket barrage on Israeli civilian population centers on May 4, 2019, firing more than 600 rockets and murdering 4 Israelis in the course of two days. Israel responded by striking terror targets; 23 Gazans, many of them terrorists, were killed during the exchange of fire. On May 6 a ceasefire agreement was reached between Israel and Hamas.

Hamas TV song during rockets against Israel: “You will be crushed”
Lyrics: "Advance, [Israeli soldier], and await your grave, advance and be defeated; So that you will see the gate of death, you will see suffering from us… Here are the battlefields of heroism and rage Here are drawn and flaming swords Be careful – worry will imprison you Be careful – the tunnel will capture you… You will be crushed if you draw near You will be crushed if you remain Here we have men who bear lethal [weapons] for you… Advance, [Israeli soldier], and await your grave Advance and we will teach you a lesson… Here we have men who passionately love Martyrdom-death… Advance, [Israeli soldier], and the fire will burn you Advance and shame will pursue you." [Al-Aqsa TV (Hamas), May 4, 2019]

Hamas TV song: “O Martyrdom-seeker, tighten your [suicide] belt”
Hamas TV song: “We’ll fight with the rifle, the Molotov [cocktail]… O Martyrdom-seeker, tighten your [suicide] belt” Song lyrics: “An ember lights an ember and quickly the fire ignites A wave chases a wave, a storm causes a storm… Pull your trigger, O son of my land, and break the walls of the settler who crossed the border on your land and was oppressive Burst forth, O rebels, and defend the home’s honor… We’ll fight with the rifle, with the Molotov [cocktail], and with rocks And by Allah, we won’t give up until the home returns Even if the path is long, after the night comes day… O Martyrdom-seeker, tighten your [suicide] belt, and water the laurel tree (i.e., a symbol of victory) The night of tyranny has been long, but it will certainly collapse Your weapon is fire and embers against the treacherous enemy… We are passionate for our land, and we have burst forth from it as free people And the revolution is a tree that we water with the blood of the pure We’ll stand firm, regardless of what happens, and we’ll not accept humiliation." [Al-Aqsa TV (Hamas), May 4, 2019]

Hamas song during rocket attacks against Israel: “I will dig your grave with my hands”
Song lyrics: "We’ll make our enemy live in fear, in fear, in fear… I’ll dig your grave with my hands… I’ve reached you from all fronts, and with the will of the heroes. We don't have planes, but we have men… At the gates of the precious Al-Aqsa Mosque… Leave, leave O foreigner. We’ll turn your day into night. From Rafah to the Galilee, (i.e., all of Israel) the powerful wave will reach you… If [the settler] thinks to take a walk in the [Al-Aqsa Mosque] plaza, set out towards him with the sharp sword… Strike, strike, strike – we won’t let him approach the Al-Aqsa Mosque… The response, the response, the response, the response - we’ll punish the occupier…" Visual: Footage of stabbing attack

The Nuclear Deal Crumbles
Iran cannot break the nuclear agreement and intend to stay in it at the same time.

Iran's tactic of nuclear extortion is not aimed at Russia or China but rather explicitly at the European Union. Rouhani is giving the E3-Great Britain, France, Germany-an ultimatum: either you protect us from the stepping up of sanctions by the United States or the nuclear deal collapses and we resort to the nuclear option once again, whatever the cost.

Even on May 8, 2019, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas celebrated the nuclear deal as "a defining moment of diplomacy." For Germany's government, this deal is indeed more than just any agreement. The P5+1 talks enhanced Germany's status: for the first time, Germany was able to shape global policy together with the veto powers of the Security Council.

In addition, there is an ideological aspect: Germany is economically a superpower but militarily a dwarf. As soon as there is a threat of military force, Germany is no longer relevant.

Face the facts: the course of the German Iran policy has failed and that with the beginning of Iran's exit from the nuclear deal something fundamentally has changed.
Iran Must Understand Returning to the Negotiating Table is the Only Way Forward
As Mr Trump has made clear at his press conference in Japan, where he is currently on a state visit, his main objective is to agree a new deal with Tehran, one that, unlike Mr Obama's flawed arrangement, addresses all aspects of Iran's nuclear ambitions, as well as its malign activities in the Middle East.

"I really believe that Iran would like to make a deal... I think that's very smart of them, and I think that's a possibility to happen. It has a chance to be a great country with the same leadership." — US President Donald J. Trump, press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo, May 27.

Mr Pompeo told me that that Washington was not pushing for regime change in Tehran, but was instead seeking a revised agreement that satisfied all of Washington's concerns about Iran's conduct, and not just the narrow issue of uranium enrichment.

To date, the Iranians have responded to the Trump administration's actions by threatening to intensify their policy of destabilization in the region.
Yemen's Houthi rebels begin raising funds for cash-strapped Hezbollah
A radio station broadcasting in support of the Houthi rebels in war-torn Yemen has launched a fundraising campaign for Lebanon’s Hezbollah which is facing increasing financial pressure from American sanctions on Iran.

The radio station, SAM FM, called on its listeners on Friday to “support the masters of the mujahideen in this world, the purest people, Hezbollah,” and to donate to the “From Yemen the Faithful to the Resistance of Lebanon” campaign during the final 10 days of Ramadan.

A report in The National reported that SAM FM Broadcaster Hamoud Mohammad Sharaf told the Houthi-run Saba news as saying that his station’s fundraising efforts for Hezbollah would “have a significant impact in strengthening the Axis of Resistance” in reference to groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.

According to a Twitter post by Fatima Abo Alasrar, a senior analyst for the Arabia Foundation, they were able to raise $120,000 from the campaign in the past month alone.
The Islamic Republic Might Be Close to the Breaking Point, but It’s Not There Yet
While headlines report escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran, Amir Taheri sees evidence that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is signaling his readiness to back down in the face of growing economic pressure. To understand why, Taheri argues, one must first understand the ideological forces that shape Tehran’s behavior:

Iran and the U.S. do not have a border problem; they are not fighting over access to natural resources; and they do not seek to snatch market share from one another. Nor are they in conflict over the oppression of one side’s kith-and-kin by the other. The two are not fighting over water resources, access to open seas, or calculations about national security. . . . The reason [for tensions] is that Iran no longer behaves as a nation-state but as a vehicle for an ideology. . . .

I find it hard to imagine the Islamic Republic, under Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s weird leadership, ever sacrificing its ideological pretensions in order to advance the interest of Iran as a state. And, yet although it is hard to imagine, provided that the current level of pressure is maintained both by internal opposition and by its many enemies and adversaries from without, [the regime] may be forced to ponder other options besides destructive defiance. . . .

There are [several] signs that Khamenei may be contemplating what he has called “heroic flexibility.” [Among them] is that the date fixed by the supreme leader for Israel to disappear from the face of the earth has been extended to 2050. . . .
Why Iran's Cash Crunch Isn't Disabling Hizbullah Yet
Iran's global battering ram, the U.S.-designated terrorist group Lebanese Hizbullah, has entered such dire financial straits that it can no longer supply free groceries to its employees and beseeches the people to fill donation boxes. So said The Washington Post and The New York Times.

Hizbullah is not on the ropes. As Iran's global tool of retribution and coercion, and battle-hardened from years of fighting in Syria, it remains a highly dangerous threat to the United States and its allies.

Left unsaid by both the Post and the Times is that Hizbullah achieved significant financial autonomy from Iran more than a decade ago. How? Starting in about 2006, it moved into Latin America and hit it very big in the international cocaine trafficking industry.

Experts point out that while Iran was providing Hizbullah up to $200 million per year, our own Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Treasury Department said just one Hizbullah smuggling ring in Central America generated more than $200 million every month.

Hizbullah's trafficking and globally circuitous money-laundering operations are extensive now, well-reported and notorious in 10 countries across Latin America.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman, in an analysis for Brookings, noted that Hizbullah is Iran's "force-multiplier" to carry out its coercive diplomatic agenda. Late salaries to social service employees and delayed payments to suppliers may be interpreted as signs that U.S. sanctions are taking a toll. But, he writes, the organization remains "revolutionary Iran's most successful export and one of its primary tools for deadly mischief regionally and internationally."
Iranian Revolutionary Guard Officials Threaten to Sink U.S. Naval Vessels
The escalation of the current crisis in the U.S.-Iran conflict continues with public statements directed to the United States from Iran, and the United States announcing its intention to send 1,500 troops on “defensive missions” in the Middle East (not infantry, but engineers, anti-aircraft batteries, etc.) This follows the intensification of threats from Iran and suggests that the IRGCN (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Navy) is behind the strikes on Saudi tankers around the Fujairah port. Senior IRGC officials continue to threaten U.S. forces in the region. At the same time, diplomatic efforts by Iraq, Oman, and other Gulf States are attempting to dispel the tension between the parties. The Iranian foreign minister is visiting Iraq, and his deputy embarked on a visit to Oman, Kuwait, and Qatar.

Gen. Morteza Qurbani, special adviser to the commander of the IRGC and previously advisor to the Iranian Chief of Staff on the lessons of the war with Iraq, warned that if the U.S. forces stationed in the region attempted any foolish steps, even the most minor, “We would send them to the depths of the sea by means of missiles and the newest secret weapon that we possess.”1 Qurbani served as the commander of the 25th Karbala Division of the Special Forces, which carried out several distinctive operations during the Iran-Iraq war.

In the same vein, Gholam Ali Rashid, head of the Khatam al-Anbiya command (the construction corps of the IRGC, responsible, among other things, for national infrastructure projects in Iran) warned, “The enemy will pay a heavy price” if it does not reckon the power of Iran correctly.

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