Thursday, August 15, 2019

From Ian:

Jonathan S. Tobin: Mahmoud Abbas’s time-machine politics dooms peace (again)
Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas' latest speech revealed that the new starting point for the Palestinian quest for "justice" is sometime in the 13th century BCE. That's when the tribes of Israel began the conquest of the land of Canaan they had been promised when they left Egypt a generation beforehand.

Abbas declared that the Jewish interlopers in the country would eventually be expelled. "They will be in the dustbins of history, and they will remember that this land is for its people, its residents and the Canaanites who were here 5,000 years ago. We are the Canaanites."

The notion that the current population that calls itself Palestinian can link themselves to the vanished Canaanites is pure fiction. Some Arabs arrived in the early 20th century from surrounding Arab lands as the country began to experience rapid economic development as a result of the return of the Jews and Zionist settlement.

It really doesn't matter when Palestinian Arabs arrived. What matters is that their leader is still doubling down on an effort to deny history and the right of the Jews to a Jewish state, no matter where its borders might be drawn. In his conversations this week with a delegation of visiting Democratic members of Congress, Abbas wasn't willing to say he recognized Israel or to admit that the Jews were also entitled to a state.

Israelis and Palestinians don't live in a theoretical world in which dividing adjacent land into states coexisting peacefully is the obvious answer to their problems. They live in the real world, where the only Palestinian leaders are the Islamists of Hamas, who still seek the death of Jews, and the "moderates" of Fatah led by Abbas, who is selling his people a fairy tale about Canaanites who will somehow use a historical time machine to expel the descendants of Joshua.
Only an Israeli Victory Can Bring Peace. America Can Help by Telling the Truth
The Israel-Palestinian conflict, writes Max Singer, cannot be resolved through compromise, but only through a decisive victory by one side or the other. But Singer does not envision the Jewish state winning on the battlefield of war; rather, the necessary triumph must be moral and psychological:

Israel’s essential goal is to continue to exist in its homeland, and the Palestinians’ essential goal is the elimination of Israel. Thus, if one side wins, the other side loses. There is no way Israel can continue in peace and at the same time be eliminated. The two essential goals clash, making compromise impossible. “Victory” is not a matter of declarations and celebrations. It means achieving your essential goal. Nor is “defeat” groveling and humiliation: it is giving up your central goal because you realize it cannot be achieved.

The Palestinians will have been defeated when they become convinced that Israel cannot ever be destroyed. That defeat would be tantamount to an Israeli victory, and it is required for peace to be possible. [Currently], a Palestinian who wants to argue for the advantages of peace can’t get anywhere so long as his audience believes that continued Palestinian resistance just might eventually defeat Israel.

To help bring about such a change in mindset, the U.S. can do much without expending blood or treasure:

A key component of U.S. strategy . . . should be a campaign of assertive truth-telling. . . . A major part of Israel’s problem is that most of the diplomatic world accepts key falsehoods about Israel and its conflict with the Palestinians and the Arab world. [For instance], there has never been any “Palestinian territory” anywhere. That being the case, there cannot now be “occupied Palestinian territory.” [Moreover], the Palestinian belief that the Jewish people are European colonialists invading the area with no historical claim or right is entirely false. . .

Amb. Alan Baker: A Ha’aretz Columnist Mangles History, Facts, and International Law
On August 9, 2019, the Ha’aretz newspaper featured an op-ed article entitled “The Ignorance of Trump Envoy Greenblatt Is Just the Tip of the Iceberg.”1

The author of the article, Shaul Arieli, described by Ha’aretz as a colonel in the IDF reserves, harshly criticized and attacked President Trump’s special envoy to the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt, who, in a speech to the UN Security Council on July 23, 2019, had expressed the Administration’s view on to how to achieve an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Greenblatt asserted in his speech that the accepted bases of the world order – international consensus, international law, and UN Security Council resolutions – have been proven to be unsuccessful in seeking an end to the conflict.

In his article, Arieli presents this U.S. Administration viewpoint as a “threat to the post World War II international order” by dictating “an order based on force rather than decisions by the international community.”

He compared this viewpoint to a “giant iceberg threatening an ice-age on the existing international order” but ultimately melting away, leaving “international order to the forces of aggression.”

Arieli’s anxiety and fears for the integrity and future of the old international order would appear to be misplaced. Not being an international lawyer, he seems to be unaware of some basic principles underlying the very international order that he seeks to safeguard.

Interior minister confirms Israel will bar US lawmakers Omar, Tlaib
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri confirmed on Thursday reports that Israel has decided to deny entry to two US congresswomen, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, over their support for boycotting the Jewish state.

In a statement, Deri said the decision was supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and was made “after Minister Deri was convinced that [the visit] was part of boycott activism against Israel,” the statement said. It accused the two US lawmakers of “taking advantage” of their prominent political position “to support organizations that call for boycotts of Israel.”

“The state of Israel respects the American Congress as part of the close alliance between the two countries. But it is inconceivable that Israel would be expected to let into the country those who wish to hurt it, including by means of the visit itself,” the statement said.

The two lawmakers were slated to visit Israel and the West Bank over the weekend.

The decision Thursday marks a change in policy in recent days, amid pressure on Israel from the Trump administration to deny the two Democrats entry.

Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer said in recent days that Israel would not deny entry to any member of Congress. But reports surfaced earlier this week that Trump had expressed displeasure at the decision.
Trip is on: Congresswomen Tlaib and Omar set to arrive in Israel on Friday
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) will touch down in Israel on Friday, leading a tour dedicated to showing support for Palestinians and meeting various Palestinian leaders.

The US House members, who have been widely known for their criticism of Israel and affinity for the BDS movement, as well as outright anti-Semitic rhetoric, plan to visit Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem and Ramallah, where they will meet with Palestinians and discuss Israel’s security fence.

They may also be preparing to visit the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Israel’s Channel 13 news reported that Israeli officials would want such an event to be conducted without Palestinian Authority officials, so as not to lend support to PA claims to the holy site. Axios reported last week that Israel’s deputy national security adviser, Reuven Azar, held a classified interagency meeting to prepare for the congresswomen’s visit.

According to a report in Israel Hayom, Tlaib, who was born in Michigan and is a descendant of an Arab grandmother living in a PA-controlled town near Ramallah, was scheduled to arrive in Israel on Sunday, but advanced her trip “in an effort to mislead Israeli authorities.”
Did Israel Make Right Decision in Banning Omar, Tlaib?
It's been reported that Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib will be banned from entering Israel by the authorities. Was this the right move for Israel? Our Owen Alterman and Emily Rose analyze.

Why Israel errs in barring Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar - comment
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a slew of top advisers and officials from various security organizations and ministries have been hunkering down this week trying to decide what to do about Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar.

The arrival of the democratically elected US congresswomen from Michigan and Minnesota – along with other US reps for what is being called a “Congressional Delegation to Occupied Territories in Palestine” – has been shrouded in mystery, but their motives certainly are clear. The deliberations taking place in Jerusalem centered on whether to let them land and enter Israel.

Neither Tlaib nor Omar are friends of Israel. Their past inflammatory statements precede them and they don’t seem interested in learning anything about the Israeli perspective of the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians. Despite that, the answer to the question about allowing them into the country should be obvious: of course.

Israel has nothing to hide regarding its policies and treatment of Palestinians – some of it just and some of it is ugly. BDS advocates Tlaib and Omar may be coming to inspect and learn only about the ugly side, but there is no reason why Israeli officials shouldn’t make every effort to engage them in dialogue and host them for frank discussions on the issues.
Trump: Israel weak if it lets Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar enter country
US President Donald Trump called on Israel not to allow far-Left Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib into Israel, and wrote that admitting the two "would show great weakness."

The president tweeted that the congresswomen "hate Israel and all Jewish people, and there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace."

The confirmation followed a report by Channel 12 that Interior Minister Arye Deri decided on Thursday not to allow the pro-BDS congresswomen to enter Israel.

It is believed that pressure from Trump led to Israel's decision.

The congresswomen were expected to arrive on Friday.
Jewish Dems urge Israel not to bar Congresswomen from visiting
The Jewish Democratic Council of America has urged the Israeli government to permit Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib to visit Israel. The council's executive director Halie Soifer said the following:

“As strong supporters of Israel and of the U.S.-Israel relationship, we urge the government of Israel to reject President Trump’s unprecedented and ill-advised recommendation to deny Congresswomen Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) entry into Israel.

“Banning members of Congress from visiting Israel, where they can see facts on the ground with their own eyes, is counterproductive and plays into President Trump’s goal of politicizing support for Israel," she said.

“Less than a month ago, Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer said that, ‘out of respect for the US Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America, we would not deny entry to any member of Congress into Israel.’ He was right – and Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu should not reverse this decision at the urging of President Trump."
Israel’s history of blocking entry to anti-Israel activists and others
In July 2019, a Spanish politician of Palestinian descent was denied entry at Ben-Gurion Airport. Lebanese-born Fouad Ahmad Assadi was kept from entering Israel to take part in a socialist conference, and deported.

In October 2018, Lara Alqasem was detained at Ben-Gurion Airport, but then allowed in. Alqasem, an American student hoping to study at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was accused of having been a member of a student group that backed a boycott of Israel. She had a student visa, but authorities wanted to deport her. A lower court ruled she could be sent back, but the Supreme Court allowed her entry.

In October 2018, BDS activist Isabel Phiri, a member of the World Council of Churches, was denied entry a second time, after being denied entry in 2016.

In July 2018, pro-Palestinian activist Ariel Gold was deported after landing at Ben-Gurion Airport. Reports indicated she was barred due to connections with Code Pink, one of many organizations that Israel seeks to bar activists from because of their support for BDS.

In 2017, Israel stopped Amnesty International USA staff member Raed Jarrar, when he sought to enter the West Bank. Amnesty condemned Israel for preventing him.

In 2015, Israel barred Makarim Wibisono, a UN special rapporteur on human rights who is from Indonesia, from entering the Palestinian territories. Israel said that his mandate was anti-Israel in nature.

In 2014, UK activist Garry Spedding was denied entry and banned from the country for five years. He said at the time he was coming to meet peace activists.

In 2012, at least 56 “Flytilla” activists, who came to Israel to protest for Palestinians in the wake of various sea-based flotillas being stopped, were refused entry at Ben-Gurion Airport.

In 2010, Noam Chomsky, the celebrated US professor, was supposed to speak at Bir Zeit University near Ramallah but was detained at the Allenby Bridge for several hours and then turned away. There was some discussion in Israel at the time about whether the decision was made against security services recommendations. Palestinian supporters of the boycott of Israel and others who were hoping to hear his lecture deplored the decision.
House Republicans indicate openness to alternatives to 2-state solution
Since the Oslo Peace process, the two-state solution has been viewed by most Democrats and Republicans as the end goal in settling land issues connected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet the reality on the ground these past two decades has revealed a corrupt Palestinian leadership, currently headed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, that foments ongoing terrorism and incitement as well as the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas controlling Gaza, which has led most Israelis to conclude that two states living side by side in peace is simply not achievable.

US House of Representatives Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who led a delegation of 31 Republicans to Israel this week, echoed such realism, telling Jewish News Syndicate that he believes it’s not his job to “pick a solution for the conflict.”

“The world is constantly changing. Look at Lebanon. Look at Syria. Things are always in flux in these areas, so how can we choose a solution now without knowing what’s going to happen in a few years?” he posed.

McCarthy’s comments come amid a larger push to re-evaluate the long-standing policy of a two-state solution. The Trump administration, which has not yet unveiled its own peace plan, has broken with the consensus and so far has not endorsed a two-state solution. This past week also saw 21 right-wing Israeli Knesset members, including two deputy ministers, tell Congress that they view the establishment of a Palestinian state as “far more dangerous to Israel than BDS.”

McCarthy pointed to the 2005 disengagement from Gaza as an example of how solutions that look promising at one moment can turn dangerous very quickly.

“The idea looked good at the time, but then Hamas took over, and now we have missiles falling in Israel,” he said. “I would not tell Israel, ‘Here is the solution,’ but would rather give Israel whatever it needs for its security.”

In first-ever review, UN racism panel presses Palestinian Authority
The United Nations’ anti-racism committee began a mandatory two-day review on Tuesday of the policies and practices of the Palestinian Authority, whose delegation responded by criticizing experts of the 18-member panel for asking about anti-Semitic incitement based on evidence provided by the international human rights group UN Watch, whose 32-page shadow report on Palestinian discrimination was labeled by the Palestinian Authority as “propaganda.”

Prior to their questioning of the PA, members of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination were addressed by UN Watch legal adviser Dina Rovner in a meeting with non-governmental organizations, as well as in a private briefing. Rovner highlighted the gross and systematic anti-Semitism by the PA and Hamas, as documented in a written submission by UN Watch.

It also called attention to the failure of the Palestinian delegation – headed by Ammar Hijazi, deputy foreign minister for multilateral affairs – to acknowledge any of this in its submissions to the world body.

“Our shadow report and presentations today exposed how the PA’s submissions to the committee completely ignored racist and discriminatory Palestinian practices, and how they tried to evade responsibility by shifting the focus of the review onto Israel,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer.

Notably, groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, which lobbied for the Palestinians to be recognized as a state for the purpose of signing human-rights treaties saying that this would hold them to account, did not make a submission or statement for this first-ever review of the Palestinians by the UN's anti-racism
Human Rights Experts Hail Challenge to Palestinian Authority Antisemitism at UN Committee Session
Prior to the review by the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), a number of pro-Israel NGOs submitted documentation of Palestinian violations of the convention, prompting searching questioning of the Palestinian delegation on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, the Palestinian delegation seemed to be surprised by the adversarial tone of many of the questions and insisted that “96 percent of the Palestinian curriculum is in with UN and international standards.”

“Palestinian officials have a standard set of phrases and accusations about Israel, which they repeated in the first round. They almost never have to respond to detailed criticism, particularly in the UN. So in this case, they were obviously surprised when the committee asked real questions,” Gerald Steinberg — president of Israeli research institute NGO Monitor — explained to The Algemeiner.

He added: “To respond, they could only invent ridiculous claims that had no factual support to defend themselves. The Palestinians and their allies, including the committee chair from Algeria, clearly lost this round. The question is whether the final report will reflect this outcome.”
In his statement to the CERD, Steinberg noted that the Palestinians in their submission used the term “apartheid” 32 times.
UN Watch Legal Advisor Discusses UN Racism Committee's Review of Palestine
UN Watch Legal Advisor Dina Rovner responds to the UN anti-racism committee's first-ever review of Palestine after she took the floor twice to expose fallacies in the Palestinian delegation's report.

Brazilian Ambassador Questions Palestinians on Antisemitic Textbook Content
Brazilian Ambassador Silvio Josรฉ Albuquerque e Silva, member of the UN's anti-racism committee, questions Palestinian textbook content during the body's first-ever review of the Palestinian Authority.

NGO Monitor: NGO Monitor Statement to the 99th Session of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
For more than 20 years, I have been the president of an NGO dedicated to promoting universal human rights. I am also an Israeli and a Jew, and have witnessed the terrible violence and its victims on all sides.

It is from this perspective that I offer my observations and remarks before the expert committee in this review in the context of the treaty.

I start with the report submitted by the Palestinian delegation. I do not claim to be surprised or disappointed because I have been at many other international meetings, including in sessions of the Human Rights Council, and unfortunately there is nothing in this report that departs from the standard Palestinian accusations and allegations against Israel.

Since we are not here to make peace, to resolve this conflict, or to argue about history again, (we have battled over different claims for the past 71 years and more), I will simply note that the Palestinian submission to this committee does not serve the cause of peace, but rather the opposite. Making claims about a conflict that is yet to be resolved, and about the conditions that derive from that conflict, without considering the history of warfare against Israel, the ongoing terrorism, poisonous incitement, the thousands that have been brutally murdered, including 19 year old Dvir Sorek just last week, and without considering the measures that are fundamental to the protection of the Israeli population from such attacks, is not only misleading but in violation of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I believe that the experts on this committee are familar enough with the basic factors and history in this conflict and so I will refrain from addressing the inaccuracies and omissions that are found throughout the Palestinian submission.
Terror attack in Old City of Jerusalem
One person was wounded in a terrorist stabbing attack in the Old City of Jerusalem Thursday.

According to initial reports, the incident occurred near the Temple Mount’s Iron Gate at just after 6:00 p.m. Thursday.

The victim, a 30-year-old police officer, was stabbed in his arm, and is said to be in light condition and fully conscious.

MDA emergency first responders have been dispatched to the scene, and are treating the victim.

While initial reports suggested that two terrorists were neutralized, it was later reported that one terrorist had been killed by Israeli security forces after the officer was wounded.

Security forces have been deployed to the area following the attack.

“At 18:08, a report was received in MDA's Jerusalem Regional Dispatch regarding a wounded man next to the Iron Gate in Jerusalem's Old City," MDA said in a statement.

"MDA EMTs and paramedics are treating and evacuating to the hospital a man in his 30s with stab wounds while he is fully conscious and alert."
Palestinian youth arrested near Nablus on suspicion of raping girl in Tel Aviv
Police announced on Wednesday that they had arrested a Palestinian minor suspected of serial sexual assault, including the rape of a minor in Tel Aviv.

The suspect was arrested in the West Bank village of Kabalan, near Nablus, where he has been in hiding to avoid Israeli authorities.

Undercover Border Police officers raided a compound of several homes in the village earlier Wednesday morning after a lengthy and “complex” undercover investigation, police said in a statement.

Officers found the suspect sleeping in one of the homes.

The youth is accused of raping a girl he came across on a Tel Aviv street, as well as multiple other “indecent acts” toward women and girls. Police said he had entered Israel illegally from the West Bank.

A juvenile court in Tel Aviv subsequently ordered his remand extended by five days.

Khaled Abu Toameh: Palestinians Condemn Abbas Meeting with Israeli Candidates
Palestinian factions on Wednesday expressed outrage over the meeting between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud and Democratic Union candidates, particularly Noa Rothman, the granddaughter of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

In addition to Rothman, MK Esawi Frej attended the meeting with Abbas in Ramallah on Tuesday. The two are members of the newly-formed Democratic Union.

Several Palestinian social media users also condemned the meeting and accused Abbas of acting against his own decision to halt all signed agreements with Israel.

A Facebook page called “Abbas Doesn’t Represent Me” drew hundreds of comments strongly condemning and ridiculing the PA president alongside a picture of him hugging Rothman.

Hamas denounced the meeting with the Israeli candidates as a “form of normalization” with Israel and said it reflected “disregard for the sacrifices of our people.”

Hamas spokesman Abdel Latif Qanou said in a statement that the meeting also “provoked the feelings of the families of martyrs, with whom Abbas did not even meet on the occasion of [the Muslim feast of] Eid al-Adha.”
Palestinian Authority Is Ill-Prepared to Live Up to its Threat of Economic Disengagement From Israel
The recent violence between Israel and the Palestinians highlights the heightening tensions between the parties since February, when Israel began deducting from the taxes it transfers to the Palestinian Authority (PA).

A new law that came into force at the time allows Israel to deduct sums transferred by the PA to support the families of Palestinians who have died during an attack on Israeli forces or civilians, or who are imprisoned in Israel for alleged terrorist activity.

The tax money in question is value-added tax (VAT) and customs fees for imports into and exports out of the PA and Gaza, collected by Israel and transferred to the PA according to the Paris Protocol on Economic Relations. Signed in 1994, the protocol outlines the agreed-upon economic relations between the two entities, establishing a customs union, naming the Israeli shekel as the legal tender for the PA, and affirming Israel’s willingness to issue permits for Palestinian workers looking to enter its territory.

Effectively, in accordance with the Paris Protocol, Israel controls over 50 percent of the Palestinian economy, a fact which many Palestinians feel means holding the PA’s economy hostage and at the grace of Israeli economic decisions, such as the above-mentioned deduction.

In the six months that passed since the law took effect, Israel has tried on several occasions to deposit the tax money post-deduction into Palestinian banks but was refused by the PA, which has gone on to cut state worker salaries to account for the loss in its revenue.

PreOccupiedTerritory: Palestinians In Israeli Prison Riot After Pizza Toppings Restricted (satire)
Inmates serving time for terrorism and terrorism-related offenses barricaded themselves in the cafeteria and began hurling food and other objects at guards in response to an announcement that only olives and onions would be available this week as additions to the scheduled Thursday pizza supper. A spokesman for the inmates called the move an illegal abridgment of their rights and demanded that military prison authorities restore and even expand the menu options.

Administrators at this facility north of Jerusalem curtailed pizza toppings in advance of today’s evening meal following a reported increase in smuggling activity, a disciplinary measure that the unit commander stated will last until all contraband has been removed from circulation. Prisoners organized this morning at breakfast to protest this violation of their human rights, which they claimed adds insult to injury over already having their civil right to harm Jews infringed by being in prison in the first place.

“We will not stand for this new injustice,” declared self-appointed representative Bebba Roni. “It is bad enough that the Zionists restrict our God-given right to kill them – now they deprive us of essential items for living. As Al-Aqsa is the lifeblood of every true Muslim, so sausage, peppers, pineapple, anchovies, mushrooms, broccoli, and peppers are the lifeblood of the noble Palestinian. The world must cut short this latest outrage of the infidel usurper of our sacred land.”
Satellite firm says images of bombed Iraqi site indicate it was hit in airstrike
An Israeli satellite imaging firm on Wednesday released photos of a weapons depot in southern Baghdad controlled by a pro-Iranian militia that was hit in an alleged Israeli airstrike earlier this week.

ImageSat International said that damage characteristics identified from the photos show “it is probable that the blast was caused by an airstrike, followed by secondary explosions of the explosives stored in the depot.”

On Tuesday, a former Iraqi deputy prime minister appeared to blame Israel for the massive explosion on Monday.

“We believe they are weapons we were holding onto for a neighboring state and they were targeted by an oppressive colonial state on the basis of a treasonous Iraqi act,” former deputy prime minister Baha al-Araji wrote on Twitter.

Iran: Using Torture, Execution to Defy Human Rights
"[T]orture is widely used against suspects after their arrest and in the pre-trial phase in order to extract a confession," in spite of the fact that "Article 38 of the Iranian Constitution bans all forms of torture and forced confessions." — Latest Annual Report on the Death Penalty in Iran, Iran Human Rights.

"In 2014, a man who had confessed to the crime but was absolved of all charges 48 hours before his execution was to be carried out was asked as to why he had confessed to a murder he had not committed. He answered: 'They beat me up so much that I thought if I don't provide a false confession I would die during the interrogation.'" — Latest Annual Report on the Death Penalty in Iran, Iran Human Rights.

"So far in 2019 [just the last six months] at least 140 people have been executed and 80% of them were charged with murder. At least two of them were juveniles, under the age of 18." — Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, a neuroscientist who fled to Norway from Iran, to Gatestone Institute.

"The escalation of military tension is something that the Iranian authorities are seeking, as a way of diverting all the world's attention to the Persian Gulf, thus enabling them to get away with abusing their own people. Leaders of the Islamic Republic consider the freedom-seeking Iranian people as their main threat." — Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam to Gatestone Institute.
Seth Frantzman: Iran’s Zarif exploits US partisanship on foreign policy
In April, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif spelled out what he called the “B team – Bolton, Bin Salman, Bin Zayed, and Bibi.” This refers to US National Security Adviser John Bolton, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, UAE Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Iran is increasingly seeking to send a message to Western powers, particularly in English to the United States, trying to make US foreign policy a partisan issue and painting certain countries as allies of the Trump administration, while soft-selling Iran as an ally of the opposition to President Donald Trump. Iran is not the only country doing this: Increasingly foreign countries have discovered that the best way to influence US policy is not just to influence it as a whole, but to try to create cleavages among parties so as to manipulate it within each election cycle.

On Wednesday, former Obama administration adviser Ben Rhodes slammed what he called “the depth of corruption of US foreign policy in the Middle East due to Saudi/UAE efforts of many years,” asserting that a new Democratic president should turn the page “on all this.” His tweet included one by Colin Kahl, another former assistant from the Obama administration who had criticized the “lengths Saudi Arabia and the UAE have gone to shape Trump’s Middle East policy and the agenda’s of DC think tanks.”
U.S. bid to seize Iranian tanker halts its release from Gibraltar
The United States applied on Thursday to seize an Iranian tanker detained by Gibraltar, halting its expected release at the last minute and preventing a possible swap for a British-flagged tanker held by Iran.

The two seized tankers - an Iranian one in Gibraltar and a British one in Iran - have become pawns in the standoff between Iran and the West, with their fate tangled in the diplomatic differences between the EU's big powers and the United States.

The Iranian Grace 1 oil tanker was seized by Royal Marine commandos in a landing in darkness off the coast of the British overseas territory on July 4.

Gibraltar said the tanker was suspected of selling oil to Syria in breach of European Union sanctions. Two weeks later, Iran's Revolutionary Guards seized the British-flagged Stena Impero in the Gulf on July 19.

Gibraltar was widely expected to release the Grace 1 on Thursday, but just hours before, the US Department of Justice sought to seize it.

"The U.S. Department of Justice has applied to seize the Grace 1 on a number of allegations which are now being considered," the government of Gibraltar said, adding the matter would return to the supreme court of Gibraltar at 1400 GMT on Thursday.

Further details were not immediately released about the grounds for the U.S. Justice Department's application. The U.S. Justice Department was not immediately available for comment.
Swiss intel report: Iran will wait Trump gov’t out on nuclear pact
Switzerland’s Intelligence Service of the Federation revealed in its recent report that the Islamic Republic of Iran will stay in the nuclear deal and wait out the November 2020 US election in the hope that US President Donald Trump suffers an electoral defeat.

The Jerusalem Post examined the 79-page document, which cited Iran’s clerical regime 50 times, and included sections on Tehran’s nuclear, missile, terrorism, espionage and cyber spy activities.

“The Iranian leadership will try to wait President Trump out with strategic patience. Iran will continue to adhere to the provisions of the nuclear agreement that ended, in 2016, its far-reaching international political isolation. But Iran will also continue to support anti-Israeli forces in the region, albeit with much less financial commitment. Iran will not abandon its ballistic missile program... which it already has targeted short-range missiles,” said the intelligence document.

The Swiss intelligence findings were disclosed in May. However, the conduct of Iran’s regime can be viewed as refuting some of the key conclusions in the document. In July, Iran’s rulers violated the nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), via increased uranium enrichment from the agreed upon 3.7% level to 5%.

The rise in enriched uranium puts Iran’s regime back on course to develop atomic weapons. If the regime hits the 20% level of enriched uranium, the threshold to building a nuclear bomb at a rapid-fire pace could be reached. (h/t MtTB)

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