Thursday, October 17, 2019

From Ian:

The Dream Palace of the Americans - Why Ceding Land Will Not Bring Peace
The Trump administration’s Middle East policies have been roundly attacked by the U.S. foreign policy establishment. There are various lines of criticism, including ones concerning its approaches to Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, but the administration’s gravest sin is generally held to be its support for Israel. By moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, blessing Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, and other gestures, the Trump team is said to have overturned half a century of settled U.S. policy, abandoned the Palestinians, and killed the two-state solution.

These are serious charges. But on close inspection, they turn out to say more about the hysteria of the prosecutors than the guilt of the defendant. Some of President Donald Trump’s policies are new, some are not, and it is too early to see much impact. So why all the hue and cry? Because the administration openly insists on playing power politics rather than trying to move the world beyond them. Trump’s real crime is challenging people’s illusions—and that is an unforgivable offense.

Israel’s conflict with the Arabs has long functioned as a screen onto which outsiders project their own psychodramas. Actual Middle East politics, meanwhile, churns on relentlessly, following the same laws of political physics as politics everywhere else: the strong do what they can, and the weak suffer what they must.

The United States entered the regional geopolitical game in earnest during World War II, drawn in by the strategic importance of the oil recently discovered under the Arabian Desert and elsewhere. With postwar power came regional responsibility, however, and Washington eventually had to decide how to deal with the messy residue of the British mandate for Palestine.

Dore Gold: American Withdrawal and the Future of Israeli Security
America's withdrawal from the Middle East validates the long-standing Israeli view that it must not rely on external guarantees, but rather do what's necessary to defend itself, by itself. This applies especially to the discussion over Israel's retention of the Jordan Valley.

Israel captured the valley and the rest of the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War. UN Security Council Resolution 242 did not insist upon a full Israeli withdrawal to the old armistice lines. Britain's Ambassador to the UN at the time, Lord Caradon, who helped draft 242, commented on PBS: "We all knew - the boundaries of '67 were not drawn as permanent frontiers."

Immediately after the Six-Day War, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Yigal Allon, who in 1948 had served as the commander of the pre-state Palmach strike force, became the architect of a string of mostly agricultural settlements in the Jordan Valley and along the hills that dominate it. Today, nearly 30 Israeli communities are situated in this area. Allon's map became known as the Allon Plan.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are structured around mostly reserve units. To match the quantitative superiority of its neighbors, Israel has to mobilize its reserve forces, which requires up to 48 hours. The terrain Israel captured in the West Bank, particularly in the Jordan Valley, provided Israel with a formidable barrier for the first time that would allow the IDF to buy the precious time it needed to complete its reserve call-up. The lowest parts of the Jordan Valley and its mountain ridge form a virtual strategic wall 4,500 feet high.

Even after the Oslo Agreements were signed in 1993, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin reiterated a vision for a final peace settlement that kept the Jordan Valley under Israel: "The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the widest meaning of that term." What he had in mind was Israel continuing to control the high ground along the eastern slopes of the mountain ridge that descended down to the Jordan River.

The Jordan Valley is to the West Bank what the Philadelphi Route was to Gaza. This refers to the border zone between Gaza and Egyptian Sinai. After Israel's Gaza Disengagement in 2005, Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel shot up as Palestinian terror organizations smuggled enormous quantities of rockets through tunnels under the border into Gaza. Three wars resulted from this escalation in Palestinian rocket fire.

Israeli public opinion has clearly internalized the importance of the Jordan Valley for Israeli security. In the last decade, as many as 81% of Israeli voters agreed that in any peace arrangement Israel must preserve its sovereignty over the Jordan Valley.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Why Are Palestinians 'Disappearing' in Saudi Arabia?
The Geneva-based Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor (Euro-Med), a youth-led independent organization that advocates for human rights across Europe and the Middle East, said it has collected names of about 60 Palestinians detained by the Saudi authorities in recent months

Euro-Med said it considers the "practices of the Saudi authorities a flagrant violation of the requirements of justice, which guarantees everyone the right to a fair trial, including knowing charges against and the right to defense and access to a lawyer... [and] affirms that the relevant authorities do not comply with the international legal rules that guarantee the simplest rights of litigation for any individual..."

The Saudi authorities have offered no explanation for the widespread campaign targeting Palestinians in the kingdom. It appears that PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his officials in Ramallah fear that any criticism of this behavior would jeopardize the financial handouts and political support they receive from Saudi Arabia.... For Palestinian leaders, Saudi money and political backing far outweigh the fate of a few dozen Palestinians held without trial in an Arab country.

It is only Palestinians who are held by Israel for terrorist-related crimes who Abbas and his friends remember to mention in their endless litanies of complaints.

Evelyn Gordon: Trump’s Middle East moves show why Israeli deterrence is crucial
Moreover, though it has been decades since Israel last faced an enemy as formidable as Iran, the fact that the countries share no land border deprives Iran of its greatest advantage: its vastly bigger population, which enables it to field many more troops than Israel can. If Iran could send tanks across Israel’s border, it might be able to overwhelm Israel by sheer numbers. But it can’t because it would have to cross all of Iraq and Jordan to do so. Thus any fighting between Israel and Iran itself (as opposed to Iran’s many proxies) would be limited to air and missile battles, in which the superior equipment and skills of Israel’s air force provide a counterweight to Iran’s advantage in missiles.

Nor is there reason to fear, as one prominent Israeli pundit implied, that Trump’s reluctance to deploy American troops in the Middle East means that he would also refuse to replenish critical military materiel should Israel run short during a war. Putting soldiers in harm’s way is very different from providing an ally with the arms it needs to do its own fighting. Moreover, Israel still enjoys considerable support in Congress, which has proven critical to getting Israel needed arms in the past.

Nevertheless, since an Israel-Iran war could wreak devastation on both countries, it’s much better to prevent it from occurring. And that’s where all those Israeli airstrikes come in.

Despite Iran’s willingness to engage in military provocations, it has shown no desire to risk serious military consequences on Iranian soil. Indeed, it has escalated very carefully, moving up to each new level only after concluding – based on the non-response to previous attacks – that it could do so safely. And so far, it’s been right: Even the attack on the Saudi refineries, its worst to date, drew no military response from Riyadh or Washington.

But years of Israeli airstrikes against Iranian and Iranian-affiliated targets have proven that the Jewish state won’t let Iranian aggression go unanswered, and any Iranian escalation will be met commensurately. For instance, after Iran expanded the battlefield from Syria to Iraq, Israel apparently began striking Iranian targets in Iraq as well. All this sends Tehran the clear message that any major attack on Israel itself would likely result in direct Israeli retaliation against Iran.

That knowledge may well deter Iran from launching such an attack. And that is doubly important now that Trump has taken America out of the Middle East picture.
US Mideast pullback didn’t start with the Kurds, and it won’t end there either
US President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon his country’s Kurdish partners in Syria should come as no surprise. He has been loudly, explicitly declaring his intention to do so for over a year and a half.

Some may have been startled by the seemingly uncoordinated and sudden way in which Trump gave Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan a de facto green light to launch an offensive against the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northwest Syria — a campaign that in a just over a week has already killed dozens of people, mostly on the Kurdish side, and displaced over 150,000.

But the move itself, capricious and disorganized as it was, can still be seen as part of a White House foreign policy that has sought to disengage from the Middle East, including the Kurdish allies who have fought alongside US troops against the Islamic State terror group for years.

Trump’s latest move was a significant milestone in an ongoing pivot away from the region, a shift that began before the current administration and whose effects will be felt well into the next one, regardless of who occupies the Oval Office.

For Jerusalem, this may mean the loss of a key ally in the region and in the fight against Iran and its proxies. Filling the vacuum left by America is Russia, which is far less sympathetic to Israel, putting Israel on far poorer strategic footing.
Pence to Urge Turkey to Halt Syria Offensive as Threat of Further Sanctions Loom
US Vice President Mike Pence arrived in Turkey on Thursday on a mission to persuade Ankara to halt its offensive against Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria, but Turkish officials said the action would continue regardless.

The week-long assault has created a new humanitarian crisis in Syria with 160,000 civilians taking flight, a security alert over thousands of Islamic State fighters abandoned in Kurdish jails, and a political maelstrom at home for Trump.

Trump has been accused of abandoning the Kurdish fighters, who were Washington’s main partners in the battle to dismantle Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Syria, by withdrawing US troops from the border as Turkey launched its offensive on Oct. 9.

Trump defended his move on Wednesday as “strategically brilliant.” He said he thought Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would have a successful meeting, but warned of sanctions and tariffs that “will be devastating to Turkey‘s economy” otherwise.

The White House released a letter from Trump to Erdogan from Oct. 9 that said: “Don’t be a tough guy” and “Don’t be a fool!” Turkish broadcaster CNN Turk said Turkey had rejected Trump’s appeal to reach a deal to avoid conflict and the letter was “thrown in the trash.”

A Turkish official told Reuters: “The letter Trump sent did not have the impact he expected in Turkey because it had nothing to take seriously.”

“What is clear is that Turkey does not want a terrorist organization on its border and the operation will not stop because of the reaction that has been coming.”
Pompeo: U.S. Policy on Turkish Attack Hasn't Endangered Israel
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox Business Network on Wednesday that the U.S. mission was "to do counterterrorism all around the world in an effective way to protect the American people. Our efforts in Syria, our efforts in West Africa, our efforts in the Philippines, all across the world, have been aimed at that singular objective."

"Syria is a small part of this. It's a small part of our Middle East strategy more broadly....I have spoken a number of times about the world's largest state sponsor of terror, the Islamic Republic of Iran. To focus singularly on what's taking place in a part of Syria neglects the true risk to the American people."

"The Islamic Republic of Iran is feeling the full might, the full pressure, of the United States of America....We are still fully committed to that, and I am confident that ultimately we will prevail."

Q: "Is it your belief that Israel today is less safe as a result of this [U.S.] move?"
Pompeo: "No."
Pompeo to visit Netanyahu Friday to offer assurances over U.S. Syria pullout
The US pullout of its troops from northeast Syria has not endangered Israel, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said two days before his scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday.

The two men are expected to “discuss developments in Syria and the continued need to counter the Iranian regime’s destabilizing behavior in the region,” the State Department said on Wednesday.

News of the meeting came amid international furor regarding the US decision to remove its troops from northeastern Syria.

Prior to Netanyahu meeting, Pompeo will visit Turkey. He and Vice President Mike Pence will meet with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and ask him to halt his attack on the Kurds.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who is a strong supporter of Israel, tweeted that he worried that as a result of the pullout of US troops – a move seen as an abandonment of America’s alley the Kurds – “we will not have allies in the future against radical Islam, ISIS will reemerge, & Iran’s rise in Syria will become a nightmare for Israel. I fear this is a complete and utter national security disaster in the making and I hope President Trump will adjust his thinking.”

He warned it could prove to be a worse disaster than when former US President Barack Obama left Iraq.
Kurdish politician urges Israeli diplomatic intervention to stop Turkish assault
A Kurdish politician in a northern Syrian city has spoken to an Israeli radio station, asking the Jewish state to help his people and saying the whole region would suffer if the Turkish operation in the Kurdish area isn’t stopped.

“We hope Israel will take action in the diplomatic arena to save the Kurdish people,” the politician from the city of Qamishli, who was only named by the first Hebrew letter of his first name — Alef — told Army Radio on Thursday. “If the problems aren’t solved, the entire Middle East will be adversely affected.”

“As a result of the Turkish offensive, [Islamic State] terrorists have escaped prisons,” he added. “If they reach countries in the region they will be ticking time bombs.”

Kurdish authorities on Thursday also called in a statement for a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians from a flashpoint border town encircled by Ankara’s forces, as Turkey’s offensive entered its ninth day.
Ha'aretz: U.S. Withdrawal in Syria Isn't Such a Wonderful Gift for America's Enemies
Despite claims describing the U.S. decision to relocate U.S. special forces from areas under Kurdish control in northeast Syria as a "victory" for Moscow, Tehran, and Damascus, the reality is a bit more complex. Iran, Russia, and Syria are all urging restraint, if not outright condemning Turkey's actions. While the evacuation of U.S. troops actually represented more continuity than change in U.S. regional strategy, it elicited a large outcry in the West where public sentiment is more favorable to the Kurds.

Turkey is now headed into a campaign on foreign soil against a well-trained adversary in which its strategic goals and exit strategy remain unclear. Turkey's military incursion and refugee resettlement program could cost it tens of billions of dollars at a time when the country's economy is contracting.

Moscow may be enjoying its role of quite literally replacing U.S. forces in Syria, but it is also worried that this new element in the Syrian conflict might breathe new life into a war that had appeared to be drawing to a close, frustrating Russian efforts to convert its successful military campaign in Syria into a political victory.

Friedman: US peace plan won’t call for settlement evacuations
The US administration’s much-anticipated peace plan will not call for the uprooting of even a single settler, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said Wednesday, drawing sharp criticism from Ramallah.

“Having seen the experience of the evacuation of Gaza [in the summer of 2005], I don’t believe that there is a realistic plan that can be implemented that would require anyone — Jew or Arab — to be forced to leave their home,” Friedman told the pro-settler Israel National News website.

“We think that’s just a recipe for disaster. It almost caused a civil war on much less aggressive circumstances in Gaza, compared to Judea and Samaria,” he said, referring to Israel’s 2005 disengagement from Gaza, in which some 8,000 settlers were moved in a several-day operation. “And so we are not of the view that any forced evacuations are achievable,” he said.

There are an estimated 350,000 Israelis living in West Bank settlements, plus hundreds of thousands more in East Jerusalem neighborhoods that Palestinians claim for their future state.

Friedman called uprooting settlers was “an inhumane process,” confirming that the peace plan would not include it.

He cited the “extraordinary adverse reaction” the Gaza disengagement triggered among many Israelis, “many of whom probably hadn’t been to Gaza but they felt viscerally uncomfortable with the idea of uprooting anyone from their home. And I think it’s failed policy and it’s not something we would advance,” Friedman said.
JPost Editorial: A Cold Peace
There are other issues that are also contributing to the tension between the countries. The large Palestinian population in Jordan, the presence of a powerful Muslim Brotherhood, and the government’s refusal to fight against the anti-normalization campaign all contribute to a cold peace.

There is also the issue of the Jordan Gateway Bridge, inaugurated in February by Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi and slated to serve a long-promised, joint Israeli-Jordanian industrial zone. But the whole project has been frozen, partially because Israel has not approved funding for an access road to get there.

The Jordanian frustration reached a peak last year when King Abdullah informed Israel that he would not renew two annexes of the 1994 treaty concerning agricultural land leased to Israel at Tzofar, north of Eilat, and Naharayim, near the Kinneret.

Israel has been engaged in ongoing talks with Jordan to persuade the king to change his mind, and on Wednesday it seemed that a new deal may have been reached. Either way, though, the uncertainty surrounding Naharayim is just another manifestation of the unhealthy relationship today between Israel and Jordan.

To enhance Israeli-Jordanian peace it is important that both Jerusalem and Amman work to forge better ties between the peoples and not just the nations’ security organizations. Abdullah should do more to stop the anti-normalization campaign in Jordan that pressures businesses to stay away from doing trade with Israel. Both countries need to abide by previous agreements and work together to ensure their continued success.

As tensions rise in the Middle East over Iran’s nuclear program and Turkey’s invasion of Syria and its military action against the Kurds, Israel needs to shore up its peace pacts with its two key allies in the region: Egypt and Jordan. It is in the interest of all three countries to work closer together to show the world, and especially this region, what peace can look like and how it can effect positive change for all people.
Anger as Israeli Official Attends Morocco Conference
Moroccan anti-normalisation activists have expressed their anger as a former Israeli interior minister attended an international symposium in Marrakech and gave a presentation, a move the activists described as a “crime of penetration”.

Former Knesset member Meir Sheetrit attended the World Policy Conference, which was held last weekend in Marrakech. The event was attended by ministers and officials from Moroccan and all over the world, according to Al-Quds Al-Arabi.

The Morocco Observatory Against Normalisation with Israel said the presence of Sheetrit is a “new Zionist crime of penetration”, denouncing conferences in Morocco that allow current and former Israeli officials to attend.

No Arab country has established formal political, economic, or cultural relations with the occupying state, except for Jordan and Egypt, which have signed peace agreements with Israel.
Path to Israeli Unity Government May Be Opening, With Gantz Indicating a Willingness to Sit With Netanyahu
Despite the current impasse in the Israeli coalition talks, signs emerged on Wednesday that a path to a unity government might be opening, with Blue and White leader Benny Gantz reportedly expressing a positive attitude toward such an arrangement.

The Sept. 17 Knesset elections ended in a stalemate, with neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party nor Gantz’s centrist Blue and White able to form a majority coalition. Despite pressure to form a unity government, negotiations have thus far failed.

The Israeli news Mako reported on Wednesday, however, that sources close to Gantz were saying the former IDF chief of staff was leaning toward a unity government along lines recommended by President Reuven Rivlin.

“We will hold our noses,” Gantz was quoted as saying, “but Netanyahu will have an expiration date.”

Under Rivlin’s plan, Gantz and Netanyahu would both be designated prime ministers in a rotation government. However, Netanyahu would be allowed to go on “recess” to deal with his legal issues stemming from corruption charges.
Driver tries to ram IDF troops in West Bank; is shot, badly injured — police
A driver from East Jerusalem attempted to carry out a car-ramming attack against Israeli troops operating near Ramallah in the early hours of Thursday morning before he was shot and seriously injured, Border Police said in a statement.

There were no Israeli injuries reported.

In a statement, Border Police said the force had during the night raided the al-Am’ari refugee camp near Ramallah and arrested two wanted terror suspects.

As the troops were leaving the area, a car sped up to the officers’ armored vehicle and collided with it “with the intention of running over the combat fighters,” the statement said.

The troops then “identified the terrorist making a suspicious movement and holding a suspicious object in his hand that turned out to be a knife.” They subsequently shot and subdued him.

The statement identified the alleged assailant as a 20-year-old resident of East Jerusalem. It quoted medical officials as saying he had been seriously injured and taken to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.
Police remove Jews praying from Temple Mount as hundreds enter complex
Hundreds of Israelis entered the Temple Mount complex on Thursday, according to the Director of Al-Aqsa Mosque Omar Kiswani, reported the Palestinian WAFA news agency.

WAFA’s English-language website claimed that about 432 Israelis entered the complex, however the news agency’s Arabic-language website put the number at 814 Israelis. WAFA claimed that the Israelis performed "Talmudic rituals and prayers" on the Temple Mount.

Jews are prohibited from praying or bringing religious items onto the mount – and are removed and sometimes detained if caught doing so.

According to the movement, over 650 Jews also entered the Temple Mount complex on Wednesday. A video posted by the "Students for the Temple Mount" movement on Twitter showed attorney Aviad Visoli praying there near the western side of the complex, with Israeli police demanding that he leave.

Another video, tweeted by the "Return to the Mount" movement, showed a Jewish Israeli prostrating within the Temple Mount complex before quickly being taken away by Israeli police on Wednesday.

The Waqf, an arm of the Jordanian Ministry of Sacred Properties, administers the Temple Mount site. Visits by religious Jews to the are monitored by Waqf guards and Israeli police – and all Jewish prayer, including silent prayer, is forbidden, according to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. No sacred Jewish objects, such as prayer books or prayer shawls, may be brought onto the mount, according to the tourism website Tourist Israel.

IDF downs drone flown in from Gaza Strip
Israeli forces brought down a drone on Thursday as it was flying in the area of the border fence along the Gaza Strip, the Israel Defense Forces said.

The drone was detected in the area of the southern Gaza Strip and “was brought down by IDF troops,” the army said in a statement.

The army did not give details on the size or design of the drone, or how it was stopped.

There were no injuries in the incident. It was not clear from the IDF statement if the drone came down in Israeli territory or not.

Security forces were investigating if the drone was carrying explosives.

On Sunday Israeli troops in the Golan Heights opened fire on what they thought was a drone infiltrating Israeli airspace. The Israel Defense Forces determined after the incident that no aircraft had crossed the border.
Palestinian prime minister says Israeli doctors should treat in West Bank
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has proposed that Israeli medical doctors work in Palestinian hospitals in the West Bank as a way to save on the cost of sending patients for treatment in Israel.

Shtayyeh made the suggestion during a meeting with a delegation from Physicians for Human Rights-Israel held in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The prime minister said that such a move would mean that “instead of Muhammad coming to the mountain, the mountain will come to Muhammad,” the Kan public broadcaster reported.

The PA has long paid for most medical bills of Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip who are referred to Israeli hospitals for treatment that is not available in Palestinian hospitals.But it stopped paying for the treatments in March amid a financial crisis caused by a dispute with Israel over the transfer of tax revenues to the PA.

A PA Health Ministry spokesman at the time said the decision to stop the medical care payments came because Israel was overcharging for the treatments.
Fake PA compliance, Fake PLO Charter change, Fake NYT story
At his recent UN General Assembly speech, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas threatened to cancel all diplomatic agreements with Israel if the next Israeli government carries out Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s campaign promise to apply Israeli sovereignty over parts of the 'West Bank'. In his address to the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, Abbas slammed Netanyahu for “arrogantly” promising the annexation of the Jordan Valley and Israel’s “colonial settlements,” and warned a religious war could break out over Israel’s policies in Jerusalem.

The problem for Abbas’ threat, however, is that for Abbas’ threat of rescinding the PA-Israel Peace Agreements to mean anything, the PA would have had to have first complied with the Peace agreements to begin with. Abbas’ threat to rescind “agreements” that the PA never abided by to begin with is fake threat. Fake PA compliance to begin with equals a fake PA threat of rescinding compliance to end with.

And one of the PA’s most important obligations that the PA has faked compliance with is its obligation to have removed the ugly and virulently anti-Israel clauses of the PLO Charter that was last amended in 1968. And to add to the fake mix, leave it to the New York Times to write fake stories claiming the PLO changed its ugly Israel-hating charter.

In sum, a fake PLO Charter change wrapped in several fake NYT articles equals a fake Palestinian threat to rescind its Oslo agreements.
Firstly, the PLO Charter was never changed because Clause 33 of the PLO Charter as amended in 1968 specifically states that there can be no change to the Charter unless 2/3s of the full membership of the Palestinian National Council and such a vote can only be made in a meeting specially noticed for an amendment change. This did not occur.
Who exactly is Abbas threatening?
The speech delivered by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the United Nations General Assembly last month included, as usual, degradation of Israel. Less customarily, it also contained harsh criticism of the US over its unreserved support for Israel and its recognition of Jerusalem as its capital. Abbas also warned that if Israel acted on its intention to annex the Jordan Valley he would withdraw the PA from its agreements with Israel. He then said he would continue paying monthly salaries to the families of killed terrorists or those imprisoned in Israel.

Abbas, however, also offered a surprise twist by declaring his intention to call for presidential and parliamentary elections. As a reminder, the previous election, which brought him to power, took place in January 2005, almost 15 years ago. The election for the PA parliament, meanwhile, which he has since dispersed, was held in January 2006.

This isn't the first time Abbas has promised elections, although in recent years he has swapped the "threat of elections" with the threat of "returning the keys" – or in other words dismantling the PA in its entirety – if Israel failed to meet his demands.

It goes without saying that these threats and promises are baseless. After all, it's not for nothing that Abbas has avoided elections for the past 15 years. He knows with virtual certainty, as testified by public opinion polls in Judea and Samaria and Gaza, that support for him and the PA are at all-time lows and that he could lose the elections to Hamas.

And yet, he continues with his threats. His threats to resign from office and dismantle the PA, but also his promise to hold elections, which under the current circumstances will almost assuredly lead to his downfall, are essentially two sides of the same coin. They are expressions both of distress and a lack of direction, and their purpose is to extricate himself personally, the Palestine Liberation Organization which he heads and, seemingly, the Palestinian national movement in general, from the dead end in which it is mired.
Today: Iraq to win election to U.N.’s top human rights body, experts predict
Iraq’s bid for re-election to a seat on the UN’s top human rights body should be rejected, as it fails to meet the basic membership criteria. The election of 14 new countries to the Human Rights Council will be held at the UN in New York on Thursday, October 17, 2019. See our full report on all candidates, and press release.

In a previous election to the UNHRC, Iraq won no less than 173 of 193 votes, and is expected to win today as well.

“Electing a government that uses Iranian-backed snipers to kill its own people as a UN judge on human rights would be like making a pyromaniac into the town fire chief,” said UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer.

In its bid for a renewed UN Human Rights Council term, from 2020 to 2022, the Iraqi government submitted a list of voluntary pledges. Following are five of Iraq’s most absurd claims, contrasted with the reality.

Iraq’s UN Pledge #1: “Iraq strives to ensure harmony among cultures, religions and civilizations through respect, tolerance and solidarity to eliminate hate speech and disrespect to any kind of cultural differences.”

Reality: When Miss Iraq Sarah Idan took the floor at the UN Human Rights Council to support peace with Israel, the Iraqi Parliament’s Security and Defense Committee reportedly called for her Iraqi citizenship to be revoked, labeling her advocacy a “crime.”

Iraq’s UN Pledge #2: “Iraq emphasizes the role of Civil Society Organizations and other stakeholders as main partners towards developing the work of the Human Rights Council and permit those partners to address the Council on human rights issues.”

Reality: According to a December 2018 report by Minority Rights Group International and the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights, “the outbreak of large-scale popular protests in Basra and other Iraqi cities has led to a wave of violent repression of civilian activists.”
Iran-Backed Militias Deployed Snipers in Iraq Protests, Sources Say
Iran-backed militias deployed snipers on Baghdad rooftops during Iraq’s deadliest anti-government protests in years, two Iraqi security officials told Reuters.

The deployment of militia fighters, which has not been previously reported, underscores the chaotic nature of Iraqi politics amid mass protests that led to more than 100 deaths and 6,000 injuries during the week starting Oct. 1. Such militias have become a fixture here with Iran’s rising influence. They sometimes operate in conjunction with Iraqi security forces but they retain their own command structures.

The Iraqi security sources told Reuters that the leaders of Iran-aligned militias decided on their own to help put down the mass protests against the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, whose one-year-old administration is backed by powerful Iran-backed armed groups and political factions.

“We have confirmed evidence that the snipers were elements of militias reporting directly to their commander instead of the chief commander of the armed forces,” said one of the Iraqi security sources. “They belong to a group that is very close to the Iranians.”

A second Iraqi security source, who attended daily government security briefings, said militia men clad in black shot protesters on the third day of unrest, when the death toll soared to more than 50 from about half a dozen. The fighters were directed by Abu Zainab al-Lami, head of security for the Hashid, a grouping of mostly Shi’ite Muslim paramilitaries backed by Iran, the second source said. The Hashid leader was tasked with quashing the protests by a group of other senior militia commanders, the source said. The sources did not say how many snipers were deployed by militia groups.
Iran said planning to limit international inspector access to its nuclear sites
Iran on Wednesday warned that it would start limiting international inspectors’ access to its nuclear sites as it continues to move away from its commitments under the nuclear deal.

Hossein Naghavi-Hosseini, the spokesman for the Iranian parliament’s national security committee, said that Iran was taking the step because “when the other party doesn’t fulfill its commitments, there is no necessity for us to meet our part of commitments.”

“In the fourth step of reducing JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) commitments, we will probably impose limits on inspections, which means the International Atomic Energy Agency’s surveillance on Iran’s nuclear activities will be reduced,” the Guardian newspaper quoted him as saying.

“Europeans have not honored their part of the commitments and we have not seen any practical step taken by the other side,” he said.

Iran has steadily increased its breaches of the nuclear accord as it pushes its European partners to find a way around US sanctions that have kept it from selling oil abroad and crippled the Iranian economy.
IAEA mum on Iran’s illicit nuclear activities in Germany
Material in a batch of German intelligence documents on Tehran’s illegal nuclear conduct in the federal republic as late as 2018 necessitate “confronting Iran with the intelligence and asking hard questions,” according to one of the leading international authorities on arms control.

Emily B. Landau, director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Project at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, told The Jerusalem Post that the documents prove that Iran has not kept to its commitment outlined in the 2015 nuclear deal.

“First, it is important that this intel be widely published and that it become part of the public debate over Iran, as it indicates that Iran has not complied with its commitment not to work on military nuclear capability,” she said.

“From my perspective, [the] most important thing at this point is to have it widely known that Iran did not stop everything in 2015 [when the nuclear deal was reached], because the debate in Europe ignores this,” she said, adding, “The point is that it [Iran] has continued these efforts well after the JCPOA [(Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) was reached].”

Landau is the author of Arms Control in the Middle East: Cooperative Security Dialogue and Regional Constraints. She noted that the Iran deal “set up a special channel regarding procurement for checking issues of this sort,” which is of the sort detailed in the German intelligence documents. “The problem is that the deliberations there get close to zero attention.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency, tasked with ensuring Iran’s regime is in compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, declined to comment on the documents.

When asked whether the IAEA had reviewed the German intelligence documents, Fredrik Dahl, an IAEA spokesman, told the Post: “We have no comment.” Dahl also declined to answer follow-up questions about whether the IAEA will review the reports.
France: Iran Must Refrain From New Reductions to Nuclear Commitments
France demanded on Wednesday that Iran refrain from entering a new phase of “especially worrying” reductions to Iran‘s obligations to a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

“Iran must abstain from crossing an especially worrying new phase of new measures that could contribute to an escalation in tensions,” French foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnès von der Muhll told reporters in a daily briefing.

She was responding after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday that Tehran was working on advanced IR-9 centrifuges for uranium enrichment. Those centrifuges do not appear in the 2015 accord.
France Says Iranian Activist Zam Had Refugee Status in France
Iranian activist Rouhollah Zam, who has been captured by Iran, had refugee status in France, the French Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday, condemning his arrest.

The ministry also said it had no details of the circumstances surrounding Zam’s arrest.

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