Friday, July 19, 2019

From Ian:

Douglas Murray: Is Boris wrong to claim Islam set the Muslim world back?
Alas here again we must be disappointed. For in his book Johnson apparently argued that the Islamic religion caused the Muslim world to be ‘literally centuries behind’ the West. He furthermore said,

‘There must be something about Islam that indeed helps to explain why there was no rise of the bourgeoisie, no liberal capitalism and therefore no spread of democracy in the Muslim world.

‘It is extraordinary to think that under the Roman/Byzantine empire, the city of Constantinople kept the candle of learning alight for a thousand years, and that under Ottoman rule, the first printing press was not seen in Istanbul until the middle of the nineteenth century. Something caused them to be literally centuries behind.’

The Guardian, and Perraudin, along with the MCB and Tell Mama and various other professional offence-takers think it not just outrageous but seriously provocative for someone to point this out.

So rather than counter anger with anger, I would like to respond in a spirit of charity and generosity. Thus do I hereby offer a box of Roses chocolates to any Muslim or non-Muslim organisation or spokesperson who can prove that Johnson was wholly wrong in the above statements, and that rather than being a plausible and legitimate interpretation of the historical record, the statements in fact constitute a set of wholly made-up hate-claims. I have purchased the box of chocolates. They are sitting beside me, temptingly, indeed coquettishly, as I write. Yet I will not touch them. All that Tell Mama, the MCB or anyone else needs to do to get them, is to prove that wherever and whenever the religion of Islam arrives in a society, that society sees a burgeoning of capitalism, democracy and the free exchange of ideas. It can’t be that difficult, can it? I await the deluge of applications.
The Most Recent PFLP Hijacking: European Parliament
The European Parliament (EP) has a Palestinian terrorist problem.

The EP hosted an event last week featuring Khaled Barakat, a leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), according to the terrorist group’s website. He is also the president of the Palestinian NGO Samidoun.

The European Union designated the PFLP as a terrorist group in 2002 — and the designation is well deserved. The PFLP gained notoriety in the 1960s and 1970s for high-profile hijackings and attacks against Israelis. One of the hijackers was Leila Khaled, who speaks regularly at Samidoun events. In October 2001, the PFLP assassinated an Israeli minister. And in 2014, the PFLP claimed responsibility for a grisly attack on a Jerusalem synagogue that left six dead, including three Americans.

Manu Pineda Marin, a Spanish member of the European Parliament, hosted Barakat, along with Charlotte Kates, Barakat’s wife and Samidoun’s international coordinator, for a panel discussion in Brussels. The panelists also included Samidoun’s European coordinator and PFLP member Mohammad Khatib.

The fact that the event took place is curious. Weeks prior, Germany, an EU member state, prohibited Barakat from engaging in political activities due to his affiliation with the PFLP and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. This came just weeks after Germany’s parliament passed a resolution declaring that BDS is antsemitic.

Happy ending for Palestinian who was penalized for rescuing wounded Jews
Three years ago this month, thousands of Israelis attended the funeral of Rabbi Michael “Miki” Mark, director-general of the Otniel Yeshiva, who was killed in a drive-by Palestinian terrorist attack.

The father of 10 children was shot while driving with his wife and two of his kids on Route 60 in the South Hebron Hills. He was struck by a barrage of bullets and lost control of the car, causing it to overturn.

As Mark, 48, bled to death in front of his injured 14-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son – whose mother, Hava, was rendered unconscious in critical condition – a Palestinian Authority civil servant who happened by the scene of what he thought was a car accident rushed to assist the family.

For his swift and humane action, the young man from Hebron was thanked profusely by the Mark family. He and a Palestinian doctor who arrived a few minutes later to help were also granted an award for “outstanding citizenship and courage” by the Shurat Hadin-Israel Law Center during a conference at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem

In an interview at the time with Israel’s defunct Channel 2, “A” – whose name has been withheld since then – recounted seeing the Marks’ overturned vehicle and stopping on the side of the road.

“I tried to open the door, but the car was completely locked,” he said. “I saw two children inside screaming and asking me to help them. I put out my hand and for two minutes, I tried to open the door to get to the children who were suffocating in the car. I think that if they stayed there a little while longer, those children would have suffocated in the car. Out of the shock she felt, the young daughter spontaneously grabbed me and jumped onto me. I immediately put my hand on her head and spoke to her in Hebrew, of course. I told her, ‘Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, I will help you. Don’t worry.’ I did what I did out of humanity. These are children. There were children inside. There were people inside. I didn’t hesitate at all.”

In spite of Israeli efforts to assist, “A” remains anonymous for his own protection. The powers that be in Ramallah knew exactly who he was, and promptly penalized him for rescuing wounded Jews. As Israelis lauded him – not only for being a Good Samaritan, but for rekindling a ray of hope in peace – the PA promptly dismissed him from his job.

For a Quarter-Century, the Argentinian Government Has Sought to Cover Up Iran’s Role in the Bombing of a Jewish Community Center
Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires by Hizballah, carried out in close cooperation with Iranian embassy staff, some of whom now hold high office in Tehran. Avi Weiss documents the Argentinian government’s efforts to conceal the truth about the bombing, which likely included the assassination in 2015 of Alberto Nisman, the special prosecutor investigating the case:

Carlos Menem, who was the country’s president [at the time of the bombing], did all he could to quiet the calls for justice with ever more falsehoods and denials of knowledge about who was to blame.

One year [after the attack], when I returned to Buenos Aires to . . . seek the truth and console my fellow Jews in their undying grief, I got a personal look at the cover-up. Menem’s minions tried to shut me up. And the person appointed to be a special prosecutor for the bombing, Juan José Galeano, subpoenaed me to his office, bullied me, and tried to intimidate me with thinly veiled threats if I didn’t stop looking into the matter on my own.

Nor did it end there. In 2013, another Argentine president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, tried to bury history by signing a memorandum of agreement with Iran to jointly investigate the bombing. . . . The very idea was as absurd as asking al-Qaeda to investigate the men who flew into the World Trade Center.

Menem and Kirchner are now senators in the Argentine government, a position that gives them immunity from prosecution. But who have they been protecting? Was Menem trying to cover up the role of neo-fascist and ultra-right-wing thugs he had placed in important intelligence and security positions? . . . Did Kirchner sign the memorandum of understanding with the Iranians in exchange for oil and trade? Is that why Argentina—to this day—shamefully maintains diplomatic relations with Iran?
Years After the AMIA Attack Search for Justice Continues
On the 25th anniversary of the terrorist attack on a Jewish office building in Buenos Aires, Argentina's authorities designated Thursday Hezbollah a terrorist organization and ordered to freeze the group's assets in the country.

Chilling Account of the AMIA Terror Attack
25 years after the deadly Hezbollah terror attack on the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, rescuers at the devastating scene finally share their story.

U.S. not weighing ‘one state’ fix to Israel-Palestinian conflict, Greenblatt says
The United Staes is not considering a one-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, US special envoy Jason Greenblatt told PBS NewsHour in an interview aired on Thursday.

“Our plan does not contemplate one state,” he said. “I think if it did we would have released it over two years ago. I am not sure that there are many people that think that a one state is good for either side.”

Greenblatt spoke in theoretical terms about the political component of the Trump peace plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, whose publication was delayed in part due to the Israeli-elections.

The Palestinians and the international community are concerned that the plan does not include a Palestinian state. The Trump administration’s economic plan for the Palestinians, which it published in June, didn’t to mention Palestinian statehood.

Greenblatt and US envoy Jared Kushner, who are heading the peace process, have both refrained from speaking of a “two-state solution.”

“The reason we do not use the term is that you can not take a conflict as complex as this and boil it down to those three words,” Greenblatt told PBS.
Israel, Bahrain foreign ministers talk Iran in groundbreaking public meet
at the State Department in Washington on July 17, 2019. (Courtesy)
Foreign Minister Israel Katz met his Bahraini counterpart for talks on Iran in Washington and the two posed for a rare photograph, marking what Jerusalem said was a boost in ties with the Gulf nation.

The photo of Katz and Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, which was posted on Twitter Thursday by US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt and later shared by Katz as well, was taken at a State Department event on religious freedom. It marked the rare instance in which a top Arab official is publicly documented meeting a senior Israeli figure.

Greenblatt described the encounter as a “friendly exchange” and hailed it as “tremendous progress.”

Katz said the public meeting with the Bahraini minister was “another example of our growing diplomatic connections.”

“I will continue to work with [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu] to advance Israel’s relations with the Gulf countries,” he said.

Katz later put out a statement, saying the meeting was organized by State Department officials and that he and Khalifa “discussed Iran, regional threats and bilateral relations, and agreed to remain in contact.”

Bahrain applauds Argentina for blacklisting Hezbollah as terror organization
Bahrain on Friday joined Israel in commending Argentina for branding the Hezbollah a terrorist organization and freezing its assets, 25 years to the day after a bombing blamed on the Iran-backed group destroyed a Jewish community center in Argentina’s capital, killing 85 people.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kingdom of Bahrain welcomed the decision of the Argentine Republic to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and freeze its members’ assets on its territory,” the Gulf state said in a statement.

“The Ministry highlighted the decision as a new step towards the international community’s recognition of the danger of this terrorist group to international peace and security.”

The statement came as Foreign Minister Israel Katz met his Bahraini counterpart for talks on Iran in Washington and the two posed for a rare photograph, marking what Jerusalem said was a boost in ties with the Gulf nation.
'Egypt, Jordan, Saudis pressuring US to delay rollout of peace plan'
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan are pressuring the US to hold off on announcing US President Donald Trump's "deal of the century" peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians, according to a report in the London-based pan-Arabic Asharq Al-Awsat that quoted spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeineh.

Rudeineh also told reports that the rift between the Palestinians in Gaza and in the West Bank was the result of a split in Arab funds, and argued that the split was intentional.

Touching on the possibility of intra-Palestinian reconciliation, Rudeineh said that there was agreement on holding an election, but that Ramallah was waiting to receive written confirmation from Hamas that the elected government would have freedom of action in Gaza after the election.

According to the report, Rudeineh said that the Arabs favored an Arab-backed peace proposal, which centers around Israel withdrawing from the "occupied territories" and the establishment of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital. In exchange, Arab states would normalize relations with Israel. Rudeineh stressed that Arab states normalizing ties with Israel "for nothing" was unacceptable to the Palestinians.

Rudeineh also laid out the positions that he said Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan held: "Saudi King Salman; Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi; and the Jordanian royal family have made it clear that they support the two-state solution, the establishment of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital, and a just peace that does not perpetuate the occupation."
Israel Thrives: The question that we should ask the pols
In assessing how candidates for office would affect Israel, we tend to ask either what policies they would enact regarding Israel or whether they consider the Likud Party to be serious about peace. All of the questions along those lines are worthwhile. We do want to know if someone intends to support Israel and what response we can expect to see during the next eruption coming from Hamas and the inevitable collateral damage from Israel's response. However, there is a more fundamental question that should be asked.

That question is "What is the Israeli-Arab conflict about?" The wrong answer to that question is that the conflict is about two peoples desiring the same piece of territory for their homeland. The correct answer is that the conflict is about Arab-Muslim irridentism for the social order that prevailed until the 19th century. This question is fundamental because the answer frames the approach to all the others.

It is possible to correctly identify what the conflict is and still oppose the settlements, and even have some positive words about UNSC 2334. Notably, Einat Wilf who is as strident as anyone in identifying Palestinian irredentism as the root of the conflict calls for the removal of the settlements from all but a small portion of the Jordanian Conquest. However, there are at least two ways Wilf distinguishes herself from the bulk of the western intelligentsia. First, while Wilf opposes settling the land that she views as being for a Palestinian state, she calls for maintenance of the occupation until they abandon that irredentism. Second, Wilf's opposition to Israel's growth past the Green Line is not as doctrinaire as most of the western intelligentsia's.
Yisrael Medad: Who Suggested Partition?
From this this article:
In November 1933, Chaim Weizmann, the head of the Zionist Organization, raised the possibility of partition in Palestine in a meeting with Vito Catastini, the head of the mandates section of the League of Nations secretariat.29

Catastini's apparent support of the idea perturbed members of the Colonial Office who felt that the subject lay beyond the League's purview. Weizmann seemed to think otherwise, discussing his idea for a territorial division with the head of the Permanent Mandates Commission, Marquis Theodoli, and with Italian head of state, Benito Mussolini, who was beginning to style himself as a protector of the Jews and came out strongly in favour of partition.30

29 This was certainly not the first time that a Zionist leader had suggested partition as a possible solution. The roots of partition in Zionist thought could arguably be traced back to the notion of transferring Arabs out of part or all of Palestine. See for an early example, Theodor Herzl, The complete dûmes of Theodor Herzl, trans. Harry Zohn (New York, NY, i960), 1, p. 88; or for one during the British mandate, TNA, GO 733/231/1. See also Tom Segev, One Palestine, complete: Jews and Arabs under the British mandate, trans, Haim Watzman (New York, NY, 2001), pp. 403-8.

30 Minute, O. G. R. Williams, 4 Dec. 1933; letter from Sir Eric Drummond, British ambassador in Rome, 13 Dec. 1933: TNA, GO 733/248/20.

Footnote 30 is inexplicable as the idea of "partition" is keeping everyone, more or less, in place but simply dividing the territory.
While Her Brother Worked to Obtain Britain’s Support for Zionism, Fanny Weizmann Spied for Germany
During World War I, Chaim Weizmann and his associates sought to align the Zionist movement with the Western allies—a policy that brought enormous success in the form of the Balfour Declaration. But many Jews found Britain and France, allied as they were with viciously anti-Semitic Russia, unworthy of sympathy. So it is perhaps unsurprising that Weizmann’s own sister, Minna—who went by the name Fanny—agreed to spy for the Germans from, of all places, Palestine. Lenny Ben-David writes:

Fanny was . . . a young, attractive Berlin-trained doctor who immigrated to the Jewish homeland from near Pinsk in Russia in 1913. She was the first of her family to undertake aliyah. Perhaps her loneliness [there] made her easy prey for Curt Prüfer, a polyglot German diplomat known for his philandering. But Prüfer was also the head of German intelligence in Palestine, and he charmed Fanny into becoming one of his spies against the British. . . .

Prüfer provided intelligence to the Ottoman leaders and assisted in planning the Turkish attack on the British-controlled Suez Canal. He dispatched his recruit and paramour to Egypt in May 1915, where she was welcomed as a doctor at the overcrowded British military hospitals and as an ingenue in British, Russian, French, and Jewish circles in Cairo and Alexandria. Egypt was a candy shop for the young, attractive German doctor and spy. . . .

In Egypt, Minna ran into a dilemma: how to deliver her information to her German spymasters. She embarked across the Mediterranean accompanying a badly wounded French soldier. In Rome, she delivered her information to the German ambassador to Italy, not aware that the embassy was under British surveillance.
Khaled Abu Toameh: The 'Slow Death' of Palestinians in Lebanon
The Lebanese authorities' measures against Palestinians again highlight the discrimination Palestinians have long been facing in this Arab country. "Palestinians in Lebanon," according to a 2017 report by the Associated Press, "suffer discrimination in nearly every aspect of daily life..." Lebanese law restricts Palestinians' ability to work in several professions, including law, medicine and engineering, and bars them from receiving social security benefits. In 2001, the Lebanese parliament also passed a law prohibiting Palestinians from owning property.

Yet, somehow, Lebanon's discriminatory and racist measures against Palestinians do not seem to bother pro-Palestinian groups around the world. These groups regularly turn a blind eye to the misery of Palestinians living in Arab countries. Instead, they set their sights on Israel, scrutinizing it for imagined abuses against Palestinians.

It is high time for the pro-Palestinian groups on university campuses in the US, Canada, Britain and Australia to organize an "Arab Apartheid Week" instead of accusing Israel of "discriminating" against Palestinians. It is also high time for the international media to take notice of anti-Palestinian measures taken by Lebanon against the Palestinians at a time when Israel is increasing the number of Palestinian workers allowed to enter Israel for work.

Who will address the following question: Why are the UN and other international institutions remaining silent as Palestinians are being thrown out of their jobs in an Arab country while more than 100,000 Palestinians enter Israel on a daily basis for work? Will we see an emergency meeting of the Arab League or the UN Security Council to denounce Lebanese apartheid and racism? Or are they too busy drafting resolutions condemning Israel, which has opened its doors wide open to Palestinian workers?
Palestinian soccer chief loses appeal over Messi incitement
The international Court of Arbitration for Sport on Thursday dismissed an appeal by the head of Palestinian soccer against his ban for “inciting hatred and violence” toward Argentine superstar Lionel Messi.

In August 2018, international soccer’s governing body FIFA banned Jibril Rajoub from attending matches for a year and fined him 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,600) after he called on fans to burn posters and shirts of Messi if he played in a game against Israel in Jerusalem in June of that year.

The court, a quasi-judicial body which handles international sports disputes, said in a statement that its judging panel had decided that FIFA’s sanctions against Jibril Rajoub “were not disproportionate.”

“After taking due consideration of all the evidence produced and all arguments made, the CAS Panel found that Jibril Rajoub had failed to establish that any procedural violations were committed in the proceedings… that could justify the annulment of such decisions,” the court said in a statement.

Rajoub’s ban expires next month, on August 23, before the Palestinian national team’s first 2022 World Cup qualifying game at home against Uzbekistan on September 5. However, he is currently still able to continue running the federation and attend FIFA meetings.
JPost Editorial: S-400 politics
The S-400 delivery is a major victory for Russia. If it was only about Moscow seeking influence through defense sales, the S-400 would not be as symbolic. But, it is Ankara’s worldview that represents the greater challenge for the region. Turkey has embraced the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, groups that are viscerally hostile to Israel. A Hamas member recently called to kill Jews worldwide.

The 1988 Hamas charter is a vicious, antisemitic document embracing conspiracies, hate and the annihilation of Israel through holy war. This hatred of Jews is also ingrained into Muslim Brotherhood programming. Although sometimes hidden for the sake of public image, it’s often just beneath the surface.

Despite Ankara’s leadership claiming to be against antisemitism and that the country was historically a place of shelter for Jews during Ottoman times, the fact is that there is rising animosity to Jews in sectors of Turkey. Furthermore, whenever Israel-Palestinian tensions flare, Turkey has sought to make it an Islamic cause, embracing Jerusalem and other issues through a pan-Islamic lens. This is a dangerous and toxic mix, adding religious fuel to the fire rather than seeking to mollify such situations.

Ankara’s drifting away from Washington calls into question the larger role that it will play in the region. Turkey is a vibrant and diverse country, which has historic ties to Israel and the West. But it cannot have it both ways. Erdogan needs to make a decision: Will Turkey side with the US or not? That is what is at stake.
The F-35 Has Already Changed Everything in the Middle East
Standing in front of an F-35 jet parked at an Israeli Air Force base, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel can reach Iran, but Iran cannot reach Israel. He didn't add the words "undetected by radar," but it was surely implied. During the months leading up to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, reports in the Israeli news media surfaced about how Israelis working on F-35 prototypes had managed to double the jet's flight and stealth capacity. The extension meant Israeli Air Force pilots could use the F-35 to fly from Israel to Tehran and back without detection.

Suddenly, U.S.-Israeli air superiority in the region had risen to a new level. In July 2018, a Kuwaiti newspaper reported that Israel had flown a test mission of at least three F-35 jets to Tehran and back from an airbase near Tel Aviv. The same Kuwaiti newspaper said that Iran's military leadership kept news of the stealth mission from reaching Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

When Khamenei found out about the mission, he reportedly moved to fire Iran's air force chief and the powerful commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. That's major impact without even firing a shot. And since reports of the Israeli stealth enhancement first surfaced, Lockheed Martin shares are up more the 75%.
Erdoğan's American Gamble
"Turkey's decision to proceed with the acquisition of the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system presents a serious national security threat to the United States and to our NATO allies. By purchasing and integrating a sophisticated Russian missile defense system into NATO hardware, Turkey not only stands to jeopardize NATO security in the region but also presents Russia with a victory in its ongoing effort to sow division and distrust among NATO member states." — U.S. Representative John Sarbanes (D-Md.) July 12, 2019.

The S-400 can engage targets at a range of up to 400km (250 miles). It has been designed to shoot down NATO's aerial assets -- including U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets.

What Erdogan fears most is the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, passed by the US Senate in 2017: the CAATSA sanctions. The unemployment rate in Turkey is 13%, with 4.2 million people looking for work. The economy is in recession and the lira rate unstable.
Michael Oren: The Myths of the Iran Deal
The majority of Israelis and Arabs would agree that negotiations are preferable to war with Iran, but only if they put an end to Iran's nuclear ambitions, its support for terror and construction of intercontinental missiles, and its campaign to dominate or destroy other states in the region. But diplomacy will be fruitless, and war eventually guaranteed, if the illusions surrounding the Iran deal persist.

One myth is that the nuclear deal must be maintained because Iran is honoring its terms. But why wouldn't Iran hold to a treaty that preserved its nuclear infrastructure, enabled it to develop more advanced centrifuges, and ignored its construction of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads?

The agreement does not require Iran to come clean on its previous military nuclear efforts, to sever its ties with international terror, or to stop threatening neighboring states. It does not open all Iranian nuclear sites to unrestricted inspection. It even contains "sunset clauses" that will lift most of the minimal limits on Iran's enrichment capacities within a decade.

In theory, negotiations offer the best way forward. But if diplomacy is to succeed, it must be backed by punishing sanctions and a credible military threat. Indeed, the more credible the threat, the less chance it will have to be used. Only when confronted with the choice between pursuing their aggression and risking economic ruin, threatening global security and facing armed action, will Iranian rulers forfeit their nuclear program and their dreams of empire. Only then will our region, and ultimately the world, be safer.
Gibraltar extends detention of Iranian tanker to Aug. 15
Gibraltar's supreme court has granted a 30-day extension to allow authorities there to continue to detain the Iranian oil tanker Grace 1 until Aug. 15.

The vessel was seized earlier this month by British Royal Marines off the coast of the British Mediterranean territory on suspicion of violating sanctions against Syria.

"At a private meeting of the Supreme Court on an application by the Attorney General, the Court has extended the period of detention of the vessel, Grace 1, for a further 30 days and has set a new hearing for 15 August 2019," the Gibraltar government said on Friday.

The issue has stoked tension in the Gulf and Britain last week said it had fended off Iranian ships that tried to block a British tanker in the region. However, both sides have said they do not want the situation to escalate.

British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said Britain would facilitate the release of the Grace 1 if Iran gave guarantees that the tanker would not go to Syria, once the issue had followed due process in Gibraltar's courts.
Iran releases video showing seized tanker same as missing UAE vessel
Iran on Thursday released a video showing a United Arab Emirates-based oil tanker that vanished in Iranian waters over the weekend, hours after admitting its Revolutionary Guard had seized a foreign vessel and its crew of 12 for smuggling fuel out of the country.

Iranian TV released footage of the ship surrounded by Guard vessels and showed the registration number painted on its bridge, matching that of the UAE-based MT Riah.

The Panamanian-flagged tanker stopped transmitting its location early Sunday near Qeshm Island, according to data on the tracking site Maritime Traffic.

However, it often did so over the past two years when nearing Iranian waters, other tracking data shows.

US Central Command, which oversees American military operations in the Middle East, declined to comment.
Pence says US sanctioning 2 Iraqi militia chiefs over Iran ties
The United States is sanctioning two Iraqi militia leaders and two former governors for human rights abuses and corruption, the US Treasury Department announced on Thursday.

Ahmed al-Juburi, the former governor of Iraq’s Salaheddin province, was sanctioned for corruption and has also “been known to protect his personal interests by accommodating Iran-backed proxies,” the Treasury said in a statement.

The two militia leaders, Rayan al-Kildani and Waad Qado — one of whom is Christian and the other a member of the Shabak minority — were both sanctioned over “serious human rights abuse” by them or their organizations.

US Vice President Mike Pence said the United States was imposing sanctions on the leaders of two Iranian-linked militia groups in Iraq, but the Treasury statement made no mention of the commanders being tied to Iran.

“Let me be clear, the United States will not stand idly while Iranian-backed militias spread terror,” Pence told a high-level meeting on religious freedom, without naming the individuals targeted.
Trump Says US Navy ‘Destroyed’ Iranian Drone in Gulf
President Donald Trump said on Thursday that a US Navy ship had “destroyed” an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz after the aircraft threatened the ship, in the latest incident to stir tensions in the Gulf.

Speaking at the White House, Trump said that the drone had flown to within 1,000 yards of the USS Boxer and had ignored “multiple calls to stand down.”

“This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters. The United States reserves the right to defend our personnel, facilities and interests,” Trump said.

“The drone was immediately destroyed,” he added.

The Pentagon said in a statement that the USS Boxer, an amphibious assault ship, had taken “defensive action” against a drone, but did not mention if the aircraft was Iranian. Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said the incident took place on Thursday morning as the Boxer was moving into the Strait of Hormuz.

Tensions in the Gulf region are high, with fears that the United States and Iran could stumble into war.

What's Pushing Iran-US Tensions to Possible War?
Iran and the U.S. may be closer to a war after, for a week, it seemed like they were close to try negotiating. What's behind the rising tensions? Iran expert Meir Javedanfar and our Daniel Tsemach analyze.

Iranian tennis player goes against grain, plays Israeli
Despite Iranian-Israeli tensions, two tennis players remained focus purely on sport. During a tennis doubles match in a youth tournament in Yerevan, Armenia, Israeli Noam Cohen faced off against Iranian Miro Sarkissian.

Cohen and Russian doubles partner Egor Tsarapkin came out victorious against Iranian opponent Sarkissian and Russian Daniil Zhibul.

Speaking about an interaction with the Iranian during the game, Cohen said, "At one point my partner accidentally hit me in the head with the ball and the Iranian immediately asked me if I was all right."

Cohen immigrated to Israel from France and trains at the Tennis and Education Center in Ramat Hasharon with coach Eliran Doev.

"I knew I was going to play against an Iranian player, and I knew he was not going to drop out. He represents Iran, but he lives in Armenia," Cohen told Ynet. "One of the Israeli tennis players, Eitan Michaeli, who trains at the tennis center in Beeersheba, is friendly with him, always shakes his hand, talks to him and says he is a good guy. He told me that it doesn't bother him to play an Israeli."

"Of course we shook hands," Cohen said after the game.

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