Monday, June 17, 2019

From Ian:

Bret Stephens NYTs: The Pirates of Tehran
On April 14, 1988, the USS Samuel B. Roberts, a frigate, hit an Iranian naval mine while sailing in the Persian Gulf. The explosion injured 10 of her crew and nearly sank the ship. Four days later, the U.S. Navy destroyed half the Iranian fleet in a matter of hours. Iran did not molest the Navy or international shipping for many years thereafter. Now Iran's piratical regime is back yet again.

While Iran categorically denied responsibility for Thursday's attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, the evidence against Iran is compelling. The U.S. Central Command noted that "a U.S. aircraft observed an IRGC Hendijan-class patrol boat and multiple IRGC fast attack the vicinity of the M/T Altair," one of the damaged tankers.

Staging deniable attacks that fall just below the threshold of open warfare on the U.S. is an Iranian specialty. But it would require a large dose of self-deception to pretend that Iran isn't the likely culprit, or that its actions don't represent a major escalation. Firing on unarmed ships in international waters is a direct assault on the international order. To allow it to go unpunished isn't an option.

The U.S. should declare new rules of engagement to allow the Navy to engage and destroy Iranian ships or fast boats that harass or threaten any ship, military or commercial, operating in international waters. The world cannot tolerate freelance Somali pirates. Much less should it tolerate a pirate state seeking to hold the global economy hostage through multiplying acts of economic terrorism.

Nobody wants a war with Iran. But not wanting a war does not mean remaining supine in the face of its outrages. We sank Iran's navy before. Tehran should be put on notice that we are prepared and able to do it again.

Iran says it will break nuclear deal’s uranium stockpile limit in 10 days
Iran will break the uranium stockpile limit set by its nuclear deal with world powers in the next 10 days, the spokesman for the country’s atomic agency said Monday, while also warning that Iran has the need for uranium enriched up to 20 percent, just a step away from weapons-grade levels.

The announcement indicated Iran’s determination to break from the 2015 accord, which has steadily unraveled since the Trump administration pulled America out of the deal last year and reimposed tough economic sanctions on Iran, sending its economy into freefall.

The spokesman for Iran’s nuclear agency, Behrouz Kamalvandi, made the announcement during a press conference with local journalists at Iran’s Arak heavy water facility that was carried live on Iranian state television.

“Today the countdown to pass the 300 kilograms reserve of enriched uranium has started and in 10 days time we will pass this limit,” he said, putting the date for the breach of a key provision of the agreement at June 27.

The development comes in the wake of suspected attacks on oil tankers last week in the region, attacks that the US, the UK and Saudi Arabia have blamed on Iran and which Iran has suggested were carried out by the US. It also follows four other oil tanker attacks off Fujairah in recent weeks. Iranian-allied rebels from Yemen have also struck US ally Saudi Arabia with drones and missiles.
Netanyahu urges world to reimpose sanctions if Iran ramps up nuclear enrichment
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday urged the international community to immediately snap back sanctions on Iran if it goes ahead with its threat to enrich uranium beyond the levels set by a landmark nuclear pact.

Iran said earlier Monday that it would break the uranium stockpile limit set by the 2015 accord in 10 days, and warned that Iran could enrich uranium up to 20 percent — just a step away from weapons-grade levels.

Netanyahu, one of the agreement’s most vociferous critics, said Israel was not surprised by the threat.

“In the event it acts upon its threats and violates the nuclear deal, the international community must immediately impose the sanctions that were set previously. Israel will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon,” he said at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, during a ceremony that commemorated Israeli presidents and prime ministers who have passed away.

The nuclear deal has steadily unraveled since the Trump administration pulled America out of the accord last year and re-imposed tough economic sanctions on Iran, deeply cutting into its sale of crude oil abroad and sending its economy into freefall.

The Monday announcement by Behrouz Kamalvandi, timed for a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, put more pressure on Europe to come up with new terms for the nuclear deal.

Europe has so far been unable to offer Iran a way around the US sanctions, and Netanyahu has urged other powers to follow the lead of the US and pull out of the deal as well.

‘International Criminal Court has no authority to hear Marmara case’
An Israeli advocacy group has recently appealed to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, demanding it be allowed to be a respondent in the complaints filed against Israeli soldiers and officers with respect to the Mavi Marmara ship.

The Mavi Marmara was a Turkish vessel that in 2010 attempted to breach the maritime blockade on the Gaza Strip. Upon approaching Gaza’s waters, the Israeli Navy hailed the ship several times, ordering it to stop and turn around. The Marmara refused and Israeli commandos raided the ship. The operation was met with violence by the passengers, 10 Turkish nationals were killed and several Israeli soldiers were beaten.

The incident caused a rift between Israel and Turkey, and the once warm diplomatic relations between Jerusalem and Ankara have become chilly, at best, despite Israel’s $20 million reparations to the victims’ families.

Despite the settlement, the ICC has recently ordered Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to reopen the investigation following an appeal by the IHH, which organized the flotilla led by the Mavi Marmara.

The Turkey-based IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation has been designated as a terrorist group by Israel, Germany and the Netherlands.

IHH Attorney Robert Feldmeier has reportedly presented Bensouda with a document he obtained on a special trip to Comoros, in Africa’s east coast.

Feldmeier was seeking documentation suggesting the Marmara was sailing under a Comoros flag, as the IHH claims.

This is essential to any potential IHH proceedings against IDF soldiers in The Hague, as the ICC can only try cases involving countries that are signatories to the Rome Statute – the treaty that established the International Criminal Court – and neither Israel nor Turkey have joined it.
Strategic affairs minister: Time for PA leader Abbas to go
Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan on Sunday urged the international community to take immediate action to oust Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, saying this move is the only way to ensure the diplomatic process with the Palestinians moves forward.

Speaking at The Jerusalem Post Conference in New York, Erdan lambasted Abbas over recent remarks in which the Palestinian leader said that even if Ramallah was on the verge of bankruptcy, the PA would continue paying the salaries of terrorists and their families.

“This is the number one priority for the Palestinians: encouraging and rewarding attacks against us,” Erdan said.

“Rewarding terror is so important to the Palestinian leadership that it’s cutting salaries and harming thousands of Palestinian families by refusing to accept the tax monies that Israel collects on its behalf, because we deduct the amounts paid to terrorists, as any normal and moral country would do, and as the US is doing through the Taylor Force Act,” he said.

He further lamented the fact that the PA is sparing no effort to undermine US President Donald Trump’s economic summit in Bahrain next week.

Abbas, Erdan said, should pay the price for his intransigence.

“This time they’re really breaking a new record in living up to their reputation of never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity. It’s truly unbelievable that the one leading the opposition to this effort is the Palestinian Authority. This is something that everyone must be made aware of. This is something that we all must speak out about. It’s time to say loudly and clearly, Abu Mazen [Abbas], who supports terror, incites murder, and promotes boycotts rather than coexistence, should exit the world stage and go home,” he said.

He further urged applying Israeli law to the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, a move he called “legal, moral and logical.”
Are the Palestinians Capable of Governing Themselves?
Not surprisingly, the Palestinian people have a very low opinion of the Palestinian Authority.

According to the latest poll conducted by the prominent Palestinian pollster, Khalil Shikaki, 82 percent of Palestinians believe the Palestinian Authority is corrupt. Only 34 percent are satisfied with the performance of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ government. And 60 percent want Abbas to resign.

Perhaps those sentiments shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, Abbas is currently serving in the 15th year of a four-year-term, since no elections were ever held at the official end of his term.

It’s understandable that the Palestinian people want change. Recent revelations from leaked documents show that the Palestinian Authority Cabinet enjoyed a 67 percent salary hike while the labor market was sputtering in 2017.

If good governance and institution-building have proven elusive to the Palestinian leadership, marketing their cause internationally has not.

This is despite the fact that a December 2018 study released by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace found that Palestinian leaders and institutions “do little policymaking, pursue no coherent ideology, express no compelling moral vision, are subject to no oversight, and inspire no collective enthusiasm.”

Nevertheless, the Palestinian Authority is one of the largest recipients of international development assistance in the world, averaging $2.3 billion per year from 2008 through 2016, according to the Carnegie study. This is about three times as much foreign aid as the Palestinian Authority received from 1994 through 2000.

Unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority uses far too little of the foreign aid it collects for the betterment of its own people and far too much to fan the flames of hatred and promote violence against Israel.

For example, the Palestinian Authority’s 2018 annual budget allocated more than $330 million for its aptly nicknamed “pay-for-slay” program. The program gives cash payments to the families of Palestinian terrorists and people killed, injured, or imprisoned during the course of violent demonstrations against Israel.
Khaled Abu Toameh: The Palestinian Leaders' War on Preventing Corruption
The Palestinian Authority has chosen to crack down on anti-corruption activists as part of an effort to silence its critics and deter others from demanding transparency and accountability.

Stories concerning rampant financial and administrative corruption in the Palestinian Authority do not surprise those who have been reporting on Palestinian affairs in the past two decades. What is surprising is the growing number of Palestinian individuals and groups who are openly defying Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his senior officials by talking about and exposing corruption.

What Palestinian leaders are actually telling their people, in other words, is that anyone who complains about corruption is a traitor working with the Americans and Israelis against the interests of the Palestinians. This charge not only carries the death penalty, it brings shame to the accused and his or her entire clan. Palestinians are thus understandably wary of such an accusation.

Palestinian leaders not only deny their people the right to institutions of proper governing, they are now doing their best to block any chance of improving their living conditions by boycotting the upcoming Bahrain conference, whose main goal is to offer Palestinians economic prosperity and rid them of failed leaders whose sole interest seems to be enriching their own bank accounts and those of their family members.
Arab League Head Warns No Mideast Peace Deal Without Palestinian State
The head of the Arab League warned on Monday that attempts to solve the Israel-Palestinian conflict will be in vain without the establishment of a Palestinian state on all territories taken control of by Israel from Jordan and Egypt in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Ahmed Aboul Gheit’s comments appeared directed at a still unpublished peace plan that US President Donald Trump has dubbed the “deal of the century.” As part of the plan, a US-led conference will be held next week in Bahrain on proposals for the Palestinian economy.

The Palestinian leadership is boycotting the conference, saying Trump’s peace plan is likely to be heavily weighted in favor of Israel and to quash their aspirations for statehood in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

While the precise outlines of the draft plan have yet to be revealed, Palestinian and Arab sources who have been briefed on it say it jettisons the two-state solution.

“Whatever is rejected by the Palestinian or the Arab side is unacceptable,” Aboul Gheit said during an event at the Arab League.

“What is acceptable from our side as Arabs as a solution is the establishment of a Palestinian state on the June 4, 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital,” he added.

Based in Egypt, the Arab League is often seen as a talking shop rendered ineffective by regional rivalries, but it remains the main forum for Arab opinion on international matters.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt are its most influential members.
Israel will only send business delegation to Bahrain summit – report
Israel will not send elected government representatives to the June 25-26 peace summit in Bahrain, the Reuters news agency reported Monday.

The Israeli delegation will instead consist of private citizens involved in business, high-tech and innovation, said the report, which cited two unnamed sources “briefed on the event.”

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon was widely expected to attend the meeting in Manama. Channel 13 news reported last week that US organizers of the conference were waiting for more Arab countries to RSVP before extending a formal invitation to the Jewish state to attend the confab, where the Trump administration is said to be planning the unveiling of the economic component of its long-simmering plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have said they will attend.

But after a discussion between American and Bahraini officials, the organizers reportedly concluded that Israeli political leaders should not be invited, in part because Israel is currently led by an interim caretaker government ahead of the September 17 elections.
Buttigieg says embassy should stay in Jerusalem
In an interview published Sunday, Mayor Pete Buttigieg told Axios that he would not relocate the U.S. embassy in Israel to Tel Aviv if elected president in 2020.

“I think what’s done is done,” Buttigieg acknowledged in an interview with Mike Allen on Axios on HBO. “I don’t know that we’d gain much by moving it to Tel Aviv.”

The 2020 Democratic candidate explained it was a mistake to make the move without getting a concession out of Israel, something that could’ve come as part of a negotiated settlement. Instead, he argued, the Trump administration “gave it away” as a gift to Netanyahu, as well as recognizing Israeli rule over the Golan to have “an impact in Israeli domestic politics.”

The U.S. embassy is currently in the Talpiot neighborhood of Jerusalem.

Buttigieg, who outlined his foreign policy views in a speech at Indiana University last week, was also asked about his stance of the refugee issue—the “right of return”—a core issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “I think that concept can be honored in the context of a negotiated peace,” he said, refusing to take a definitive stance on the issue as a presidential candidate.

Immigration New Zealand “fact sheet” erases Israel and distorts history.
Immigration New Zealand’s ‘State of Palestine Refugee Quota Factsheet’ presents a one-sided, distorted and politicised narrative of the Israel/Palestine conflict and totally erases Israel from the map.

The fact sheet is on the Immigration New Zealand’s website and its purpose is to inform people about Palestinian refugees coming to New Zealand.

It is entitled ‘State of Palestine’, even though Palestine is not officially recognised as a state by New Zealand or by most western nations. In addition, the map in the document shows the whole of sovereign Israeli territory as “Palestine”.
Map published by Immigration New Zealand as part of its ‘State of Palestine, Refugee quota factsheet’

The geography of the map is so inaccurate that it does not even include the West Bank in what it calls “The State of Palestine” – it simply replaces Israel (according to pre-1967 borders) with “Palestine”.

It notes that East Jerusalem is the designated capital of this state, but does not explain who has designated it as such. The Palestinians’ seat of government and administration in the West Bank is in Ramallah; Hamas rules Gaza from Gaza City.

The fact sheet provides a cursory overview of the Israel/Palestinian conflict that conveniently ignores facts that would throw a different light on the situation. It states that ‘Following the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel gained control of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip’, but it does not mention that Israel won the territory in a defensive war from Jordan and Egypt, not from ‘Palestine’, as there was no such entity.

The document talks about the settlement of Israeli population in Gaza and East Jerusalem, but fails to mention that Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005. There have been no Israelis living there since that time.
The Underground Arms Race in the Middle East
Conclusions: Responding to the Growth of the Subterranean Threat

The IDF has been dealing with underground threats for a long time, but now it is clear the use of subterranean networks for offensive operations in hybrid warfare is a tactical challenge with significant strategic implications. The threat is evolving as experiences and capabilities are shared, as seen in Hezbollah’s incorporation of lessons learned from Hamas’ use of tunnels against Israel. Addressing these threats requires a multidisciplinary, collaborative, and sustained effort, including the continued development and adaptation of intelligence, technology, combat doctrine, and training.

Though at first Hamas and Hezbollah went underground to hide and protect their arsenals, they now also pursue offensive objectives, including penetrating borders and barriers to attack stealthily and unexpectedly. This makes tunnels a “spherical” threat, one that denies the existence of a front line and erases the distinctions between combat and supporting forces, and between combatants and civilians. Tunnels allow terrorists to project their power 360 degrees, including underground and above. As seen in the 2014 Gaza conflict, this is a threat with a deep mental and psychological impact that goes beyond the military. Hezbollah’s plan for invading the Galilee through extensive and massive penetration, including tunnels, is even reminiscent of tactics that could be employed by North Korea in a conflict with the south.

Accordingly, the development and use of tunnels should be understood as a new form of arms race – a learning response by adversaries seeking to negate and overcome the IDF’s technological advantages. The more the IDF improved its intelligence and precision-strike capabilities, the more Hezbollah and Hamas pushed underground.

Hezbollah and Hamas seem to have decided that the value of subterranean capabilities remains high enough to justify continued improvement and expansion. The first terror tunnels, in the Gaza Strip, were dug manually. Today, Hezbollah and Hamas have the technology to make tunneling easier, faster, and quieter. It is even possible for them to control the acoustic signature of digging operations and hide working entrances and construction material from overhead surveillance. The discovery during Operation Northern Shield of a tunnel at an unprecedented depth of 55 meters (180 feet) attests not only to Hezbollah’s advances in underground construction, but also its incentive to tunnel ever deeper.

In short, despite the success of Operation Northern Shield, the threat from subterranean networks is likely to continue in the foreseeable future. The continued use, evolution and proliferation of subterranean networks requires concerted investment in the most effective methods to counter and stay ahead of these threats. For armed forces likely to confront hybrid adversaries, adapting to underground combat should be seen as a strategic and operational imperative on par with with developing suitable weapons for warfare in other domains such as land, air, sea and cyber.

As it has in these other domains, Israel's knowledge and experience in this field should serve as a font of cooperation with its allies to offset the underground capabilities of terrorist organizations, both in wartime and in between the wars.
Palestinian indicted for brutal rape of 7-year-old Jewish girl
The Ofer Military Court on Sunday indicted a Palestinian man for the aggravated rape, assault and kidnapping of a seven-year-old Jewish girl.

The suspect, a janitor at a school in the Binyamin region of Judea and Samaria, met the girl at the school and fostered a relationship with her by occasionally speaking to her and giving her candy.

On the day in question, the suspect took the girl by the hand and forcefully led her to a nearby house, where he brutally raped her. After the act, the suspect released the girl.

A police statement said that they would investigate and use “all the means at our disposal to quickly apprehend and bring to justice sex offenders who harm innocent children, and bring to bear all evidence leading to their punishment to the full extent of the law.”

Attorney Haim Bleicher from the right-wing Honenu ‎legal aid organization, who represents the family, ‎issued a statement saying, “This was an exceedingly brutal and appalling incident, as other people were present [during the rape], apparently Palestinian laborers who humiliated the girl, degraded her and aided the suspect. It appears to be an act of pure hatred by a group of scum who flouted all human decency simply because the victim was Jewish.”
Stolen Torah scrolls found in Palestinian barn
Israeli security forces recently discovered four Torah scrolls stolen from a synagogue in the city of Bnei Brak hidden in a barn in a Palestinian Authority town near Nablus, along with a hunting rifle and ammunition.

The scrolls, worth tens of thousands of dollars, were stolen on June 10 from the Orot Hatorah synagogue on Rabbi Akiva Street, one of the oldest synagogues in the city and which was used by the famed Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz, the Chazon Ish.

The synagogue itself was vandalized, with holy books strewn across the floor.

The scrolls were located in a barn housing sheep in the Palestinian town of Aqraba. Five men in their 20s from Aqraba and east Jerusalem have been arrested in connection with the theft.

A hunting rifle, ammunition and fireworks – which are often used as weapons due to their explosive capabilities – were also discovered in the barn.
Egypt in $500 Million Settlement with Israel Electric Corp.
Egypt has signed a $500 million settlement with state-owned Israel Electric Corp over a defunct natural gas deal, the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC) and Egyptian Natural Gas (EGAS) said in a statement on Sunday.

The statement said under the agreement signed on Sunday, Egypt will pay the amount over a period of 8-1/2 years in exchange for the Israeli company dropping all other claims resulting from a 2015 arbitration decision.

The International Chamber of Commerce in 2015 ordered Egypt to pay Israel Electric about $1.8 billion in compensation after a deal to export gas to Israel via pipeline collapsed in 2012 after attacks by insurgents in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.

Egypt appealed the decision and began discussions on a settlement. The EGPC and EGAS statement said the agreement was reached with government support and as part of efforts to ensure a “conducive investment environment”.

Israel’s Delek Drilling and its partner Noble Energy signed a landmark deal early last year to export $15 billion in natural gas from Israeli offshore fields Tamar and Leviathan to a customer in Egypt.
Israel Lays New Water Pipeline to Gaza, the Largest Yet
Israel’s national water company Mekorot has begun work on an upgraded pipeline to Gaza that will increase the flow of drinkable water into the blockaded enclave.

The new pipeline will enter Gaza at its center, crossing over from the Eshkol Regional Council in Israel to connect to the Strip’s water system, the Ynet news site reported Monday.

There are three pipelines currently carrying freshwater from Israel into Gaza at three sites along the border. In agreements with the Palestinians, Israel committed to transferring 10 million cubic meters (2.6 billion gallons) of water each year to Gaza, but in practice transfers a bit more, roughly 11.5 million cubic meters (3 billion gallons).

The new pipeline will be the largest yet, and will run alongside one of the old pipes and work in tandem with it.

Construction work began in recent days, and is being conducted under heavy military guard out of fear that Gazan terror groups will open fire on the crews as the pipeline-laying work nears the border.
Hamas endorsement of UNRWA elections underscores the agency’s inherent flaws
Following the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA) union elections in Gaza on April 24 and the publishing of the results mid-May, various terror groups, including the Islamic Jihad, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Hamas, have endorsed the new leadership of UNRWA’s union of teachers and administrators.

According to David Bedein, director of the Israel Resource News Agency and Center for Near East Policy Research, while the endorsement is no surprise for an agency that was “effectively taken over” by Hamas 18 years ago, the news further underscores the problematic education that UNRWA provides—an indoctrination and brainwashing that is “beyond the imagination.”

UNRWA, like Hamas, Bedein told JNS, is “run on one principle”—namely, “the so-called ‘right of return’ of the Palestinian people to the land by force of arms.”

“Palestinian ideas about the nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic, referring to the exodus of Palestinians upon the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948) and ‘right of return’ are not a nostalgic issue,” said Bedein. Rather, he said they are current subjects of the Palestinian curriculum in UNRWA schools, resulting in a population raised to yearn for a violent takeover of Israel.

School textbooks from the last two to three years, which Bedein received from the Palestinian Ministry of Education, “show pictures and portrayals of people who have murdered Jews.”
Iranian Attacks in the Persian Gulf Require a Firm Response
In the past few days, Iran has carried out several attacks on oil tankers in the vicinity of Persian Gulf, and attempted to shoot down a U.S. observation drone. These attacks follow other recent acts of sabotage on the oil trade in the region—and that’s not to mention the Iran-backed Houthi militia’s missile strike last week on a Saudi civilian airport that injured 26 people. David Adesnik urges the White House to send a clear message to Tehran:

It’s important to keep in mind that the Iranian attack on the tankers is just the latest in a long series of aggressive and unprovoked military actions that Iran has launched in the Middle East. Iran is waging an offensive across the region designed to undermine America and its Arab allies. And Iran has pledged to wipe Israel off the map and funds terrorist groups that attack the Jewish state to achieve that goal. . . .

On top of this, Americans should never forget that Iran is responsible for the death of about 600 American troops during the war in Iraq. . . . Here’s the lesson we need to remember: when America avoided confronting Iran in Iraq, the Iranian attacks intensified. . . . . When our troops went on the offensive, Iran and its Iraqi proxies started pulling back.

This does not mean we need to take an eye for an eye and sink two Iranian ships. That would be fair, but there are smarter ways to hurt Iran, [although] the American Navy should ramp up its presence in the Gulf to give President Trump [a military] option. Just this week the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on an Iraqi front company that the department said “trafficked hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of weapons” into Iraq on behalf of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. . . .
Iran: We will stop all export of oil in Gulf if we want
Slamming US sanctions, Iran’s armed forces commander Major General Mohammad Bagheri announced that if it wanted to stop the export of all oil from the Persian Gulf, it could, according to Iranian media reports. “Because of the strength of the country and its armed forces,” Iran has the power to stop the oil trade. On June 13 two tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman off the coast of Iran. The US blamed Iran for the attack.

Iran has threatened in the past that it could close the Straits of Hormuz, where around one third of the world’s sea-borne oil is shipped. Bagheri said that Iran was “vigorously, precisely and continuously monitoring all movement of enemies.” Iran fired at a US Reaper drone on June 13, a sign that Iran is monitoring US moves. “We will defend our interests and the nation,” he said. He accused the United States of being a terrorist regime, according to Fars News.

Tasnim news reported Bagheri’s comments similarly. “If it is the will of the Islamic Republic of Iran to prevent the export of oil through the Persian Gulf, it will reveal this ability, through the strength of the country and its armed forces.” He slammed the US for using “psychological war” against Iran.

Bagheri’s comments come as Iran has said it will break uranium enrichment limits imposed by the Iran Deal and amid tensions with the US.
It's time to hold Iran accountable
This week during the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) conference in Orlando, Iran must be held accountable for money laundering and its financing of terror and nuclear proliferation. It's time to reinstate countermeasures to cut Iran's lifeline to terrorism.

Bolton: America Willing to Talk to Iran But Ready to Retaliate
White House National Security Adviser John Bolton said the United States is willing to talk to Iranian leaders to ease tensions but also is set for retaliatory action against Iranian military provocations.

Bolton revealed in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon that intelligence reports over the past month warned of covert attacks in the Middle East and South Asia by Iranian proxies, including the Quds Force, Iranian intelligence operatives, and other Tehran surrogates. The Quds Force is part of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Tehran's Islamic shock troops.

"It's a very precarious situation," Bolton said during a meeting in the White House West Wing when asked about the standoff with Iran.

The national security adviser spoke two days before Iran's latest military provocation on Thursday—sea mine attacks against two tankers transiting the Gulf of Oman near Iran's coast.

The United States earlier had dispatched the aircraft carrier strike group led by the USS Abraham Lincoln and also deployed bombers to the region—clear signs of the danger and steps designed to deter Iranian action as well as retaliate for attacks.

"The National Security Strategy lists Iran as one of the four top threats, and we just need to be sure we've got the capability to deter them from these kinds of activities, threatening American lives and facilities, threatening the international oil market," Bolton said of the deployment of military forces. Additional forces could be dispatched in the coming days.

On Iranian provocations, Bolton issued a blunt warning: "They would be making a big mistake if they doubted the president's resolve on this."
End appeasement toward Iran's regime, urges top selling German paper
The largest mass circulation paper in Germany, Bild, called on Sunday for an end to the federal republic’s appeasement policy toward the Islamic Republic of Iran.

“That’s why there must finally be an end with the appeasement, the talk of Iranian partners, an agreement that supposedly makes the world safer. The current Iranian government, the mullahs, are not partners. For us and for our most important allies, they are only one thing: a threat,” wrote Bild journalist Maximilian Kiewel.

Kiewel’s opinion article was authored before Iran’s regime announced on Monday that it will violate the limit on its stockpile of enriched uranium that was agreed to as part of the 2015 nuclear deal with the world powers.

Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, visited Iran last week as part of an effort to preserve the atomic deal and boost trade with Iran’s clerical regime. Maas is working with France and the United Kingdom to jumpstart a financial mechanism to circumvent US sanctions against Iran. Germany sold 2.7 billion euros worth of goods to Iran in 2018, and Berlin is the third-largest import country for the Islamic republic.

“The world is safer with the Iran agreement than without,” Maas said in a Bild interview, according to Kiewel a month ago.
The United States withdrew from the Iran deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, in 2018 because US President Donald Trump asserted it did not stop Tehran from building a nuclear weapons device.

Kiewel also chronicled Iran’s jingoism in the region, including the Iranian regime’s attack on vessels in the Gulf of Oman. Kiewel wrote: “Whom do Western intelligence agencies blame for these attacks? The Iranians.”
Bloomberg Op-ed Suggests Iran Tanker Attack Was a False Flag
Bloomberg ran an opinion piece Thursday suggesting that the recent attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf were false-flag operations meant to frame Iran.

"Iran Has Little to Gain From Oman Tanker Attacks," read the headline from Bloomberg oil strategist Julian Lee.

"Fingers will certainly be pointed at Iran as the mastermind behind these events. But the potential benefits to the Persian Gulf nation are outweighed by the risks. And even if Tehran isn’t responsible, it will still suffer the consequences," he wrote.

Lee then goes on to admit, "Who gains from these attacks? The obvious answer is Iran. If Tehran is attacking tankers leaving the Persian Gulf — either directly, or through proxies — it sends a message that transit through the world’s most important choke point for global oil flows is not safe without its consent."

Still, he writes, the attack also benefits "the people who want to see the U.S. step up its campaign against Iran and move from an economic war to a military one. There are plenty of those, both in the U.S. and among its allies in the Persian Gulf and wider Middle East regions.

Lee wrote that "the timing of the attacks also raises questions" given that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is visiting Tehran at the same time a Japanese ship was attacked.

"This would seem very clumsy timing from a country seeing the first tangible signs of any easing of the crippling sanctions imposed by the Americans. But it is absolutely understandable if you’re someone whose ultimate goal is to derail any easing of tensions between the two nations, and to effect regime change in Tehran. Whoever is behind the attacks is no friend of Iran."
Iranian Music Video Titled "Death = America" Depicts Lady Liberty as Skeleton Holding a Menorah
On May 31, 2019, Hamoon TV (Iran) aired a music video to a song titled "Death = America", by Iranian singer Hamad Zamani. The video shows Zamani sculpting a skeleton holding stone tablets and a Jewish menorah in the fashion of the Statue of Liberty. Zamani sings: "How many people paid with their blood for your stars… Even death is too small a punishment for you… Like a ghost, it roams the streets of Las Vegas… Death lies in the purposeless lives [led] in the godless homes… All your promises are illusions… The land is strewn with corpses of doves…Your lifeline is pulling the world towards death." The music video was produced by NASRTV, an Internet channel, as part of Iran's "Down with USA Grand Award" competition, which first took place in 2013.

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