Friday, November 15, 2019

From Ian:

Gaza report card: Assassination revealed IDF's strengths and weaknesses
The bomb that flew through the window of Bahaa Abu al-Ata’s secret apartment in Gaza City did far more than just kill a top Islamic Jihad terrorist. It revealed a new relationship between Israel and Hamas, exposed the IDF’s strengths and weaknesses, and also dealt a critical blow to the possibility that Benny Gantz will form a government with the Arab Joint List.

From a military perspective, the IDF did an impressive job throughout the two days of fighting. First was the accurate targeted assassination of al-Ata, which killed him and his wife but no one else, not a small tactical feat. More importantly, the military showed that it has not lost its ability to strike terrorists on the move, even though it has been some time since it did so.

This was demonstrated by the numbers. In two days of fighting, the IDF struck and killed more than 20 Islamic Jihad terrorists and commanders, some moving on motorcycles and others in fields, ready to launch rockets. This was primarily thanks to what is known in the military as the “fire canopy,” a small war room located at the IDF’s Gaza Division.

It is here, in a heavily-fortified dome-like structure, where officers from the IDF’s different branches – Air Force, Ground Forces and Navy – sat alongside their counterparts from the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and Military Intelligence, received real-time intelligence on various targets, and then allocated the appropriate weapon to be used to attack, in most cases a missile launched from an IAF aircraft. The room is lined with screens, showing live footage of Gaza from Israel’s various sensors, be they ground-based cameras or reconnaissance drones overhead.

“This is a place where you see a synthesis and synergy of intelligence and operations,” one officer who has participated in these kinds of missions in the past explained. “The fire canopy is the center of everything that Israel does over and inside Gaza.”

What contributed to the success was the constant flow of high-quality intelligence that enabled the IDF to shorten the sensor-to-shooter cycle in ways that used to be unimaginable. If a few years ago it took five minutes or longer from the moment the IDF identified an enemy until it was able to attack, today it is just a fraction of the time.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the IDF misread what Islamic Jihad would do after the assassination of al-Ata and decided to close all schools and offices in the Tel Aviv area, sowing panic across the country.

The IDF Home Front Command explained that the initial decision was based on the assumption that Islamic Jihad would use the long-range missiles it has in its arsenal to strike at Tel Aviv and its surrounding areas. It is easy to criticize the decision after nothing happened, they say, but if a school or office building had been hit, people would be speaking a lot differently.
Assessing Operation Black Belt
The operations during Black Belt were managed from a mobile command and control center full of flat screens, showing troops everything that was happening.

With a dense network of surveillance and attack resources, from unmanned aerial vehicles to fighter jets over the Strip and significant intelligence resources from the Shin Bet, the military was able to spot and identify its targets and close the circle on them in real time.
While a total of 11 Palestinian civilians, including several children, were killed in the two-day operation, the IDF stressed that precision airstrikes reduced the number of civilian casualties and stopped the PIJ operatives from carrying out their attacks in real time.

That Hamas also stayed out of the violence was also considered a success in Israel’s books.

The killing of al-Ata allowed Hamas to breathe a sigh of relief, as the PIJ commander hampered the group’s ability to govern the Strip and adhere to the ceasefire arrangement with Israel, which gives them millions of dollars from Qatar and other much needed infrastructure, such as electricity, fuel and a new hospital.

Unlike PIJ, Hamas has the Gazan street to contend with. It needed to be the responsible adult.

Following intense mediation by Egypt, the two sides agreed to a ceasefire after 50 hours of fighting. Both sides claimed victory; but for the IDF, the fact that the conflict didn’t stretch into weeks of fighting was paramount.

“We are at high readiness and preparedness on all fronts, not only in Gaza,” Zilberman said. “We are facing a significant challenge against Iranian activity in a variety of arenas, and not only in Syria.”
Seth Frantzman: Did whacking al-Ata prevent two-front war?
THE STRUGGLE Israel has faced against Islamic Jihad is directly related to the escalating tensions throughout the region. It does not operate in a vacuum.

Israel’s ability to conduct an operation against it and isolate it by keeping Hamas out of the fighting was an extraordinary achievement.

The larger problem is that PIJ is one of the smaller Iranian-backed forces arrayed against Israel. It is dangerous because it is so close to Israel. But it has only 5% of the number of rockets that Hezbollah has.

When compared to the IRGC’s roots in Syria and the Iraqi Shi’ite militia bases, and even the technology Iran has transferred to the Houthis in Yemen, PIJ is less important. It is also blockaded and isolated.

Breaking its ability to threaten Israel in the case of a two-front war is important; the 450 rockets it fired over 48 hours on November 12-13 are 450 rockets it no longer has. It has saved some of its long-range ordnance. This is a concern.

Iran has used PIJ in the past to pester and threaten Israel and heat up conflicts at times of Tehran’s choosing. By striking Al-Ata, Israel turned the tables on this Iranian “ticking bomb.”

But the larger context is still an Iranian threat across Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Removing one of PIJ’s pawns from the board was a move in a larger conflict.

Israeli Military Says It ‘Achieved All of Its Objectives’ in Latest Gaza Fighting
The Israeli news site Walla quoted IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Hidai Zilberman as saying that the operation, code-named “Black Belt,” had “achieved all of its objectives quickly and completely, and all of this in 48 hours.”

He also revealed that the operation was in the planning stages for “five to six months” and was undertaken when the opportunity presented itself under favorable circumstances. He called al-Ata a “ticking bomb” and “the explosive material on the ground that prevented stability.”

“The purpose of the plan was to improve the security reality, weakening PIJ while isolating Hamas,” he explained. “In this action, we dealt a heavy blow to PIJ and its operational capabilities.”

“During the assaults that were relatively surgical and with a large number of non-combatants, we relied on high intelligence capabilities,” he said, referring to the relatively low number of civilian casualties in Gaza.

“We went for quality and not quantity in the strikes,” Zilberman explained.

He also pointed out that Israel’s air defenses had performed well, saying, “We did everything we knew how to do to protect this country. In the context of the Iron Dome batteries, there was about a 90% success rate.”

Not everyone was as positive as Zilberman. The Israeli news site Mako reported that residents of the southern Israeli city of Netivot were outraged by the rocket fire that followed the announcement of a ceasefire.
IDF: Islamic Jihad: 48 Hours Under Fire
Islamic Jihad in Gaza aims to kill Israeli civilians.
We. Will. Stop. Them.

IDF launches fresh strikes in Gaza in response to rocket attacks
The Israel Defense Forces said it launched fresh airstrikes on Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza Strip in the predawn hours of Friday morning, in response to four rocket attacks from the coastal enclave which violated a ceasefire agreement announced the day before.

Palestinian media reported that Israeli drones and fighter jets conducted strikes on PIJ facilities in the cities of Khan Younis and Rafah in the southern Strip.

“We are currently striking Islamic Jihad terror targets in Gaza. This comes after rockets were indiscriminately fired from Gaza at Israeli civilians today,” the IDF said in a statement.

The military said it attacked a PIJ facility used to manufacture rocket parts in Rafah and a brigade headquarters in Khan Younis “in which there were several offices belonging to PIJ commanders.”

“The IDF views with great severity the violation of the ceasefire and the firing of rockets at Israel. It is at high alert and will continue to act, as necessary, against attempts to harm Israeli citizens,” the army said.

Palestinian media reported that at least two people were injured in the Israeli strikes on PIJ posts.

Late Thursday night, terrorists in Gaza fired two rockets at southern Israel, which were shot down by soldiers operating the Iron Dome air defense system, the army said.
IDF said probing deaths of 8 family members in Gaza strike, believed home empty
The Israeli military is investigating a Thursday strike that killed eight family members in the central Gaza town of Deir el-Balah, the IDF said Friday.

“According to the information available to the IDF at the time of the strike, no civilians were expected to be harmed,” the army said. “The IDF is investigating the harm caused to civilians by the strike,” it said in a statement.

Military sources quoted by the Haaretz daily said the army was unaware of the family’s presence in the building when it conducted the strike, and that it had intended to hit Islamic Jihad infrastructure.

Haaretz said the building was in the IDF’s “target bank” several months ago, listed as a place of Islamic Jihad infrastructure. However, it reported, the list was not updated in recent months and no additional checks were made to see that the building was empty before the strike.

The report said the strike was aimed at destroying terror infrastructure and was not an attempt to target an Islamic Jihad leader.

On Thursday, IDF Arabic-language spokesperson Avichay Adraee identified the father of the family, Rasmi Abu Malhous, 45, as the head of an Islamic Jihad rocket unit.

However, the IDF sources told Haaretz that Abu Malhous had no ties to Islamic Jihad and that Adraee’s statement, and a picture he tweeted purportedly showing Abu Malhous, were false and were based on social media rumors.

Israeli Woman Wounded in Rocket Strike Celebrates 88th Birthday With Help of Hospital Staff
A southern Israeli woman wounded in a rocket attack on Wednesday celebrated her 88th birthday on Thursday with the help of the hospital social workers, who have essentially adopted her as a substitute grandmother.

The Israeli news site Mako reports that when the social workers at Barzilai Medical Center in Ashdod found out that Olga Luria was having a birthday while hospitalized, they got together and brought her cake, flower, and balloons while singing birthday songs in Hebrew and Russian.

Luria was struck in the hands and head by flying shrapnel after her home took a direct hit from a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip during the 48-hour conflict between Israel and Islamic Jihad that wound down with a shaky ceasefire on Thursday morning.

Her condition is described as good to moderate, though due to her age doctors remain concerned.

“The blast wave threw me through the air,” said Luria of the rocket strike. “Everything flew at me. Blood splashed all over my body.”

In spite of her experience, Luria’s spirits have been buoyed by the kindness shown her by the hospital staff.

“I hope I get well around such good people,” she said.

Honest Reporting: Israel Under Fire - 55 Hours Later
After 55 hours, Palestinian Islamic Jihad has fired over 450 rockets towards Israel, forcing over one million Israelis to run into bomb shelters, most of which have less than 15 seconds to take cover.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad has already broken the ceasefire agreement and media outlets like Reuters are choosing to tell their own version of the story. Share this video and help us share Israel's reality.

Zaki Ghannam: Islamic Jihad Terrorist
Palestinian lies fly faster than their rockets, with roughly the same degree of accuracy.

Meet Palestinian "organizer" Alexandra Halaby, over 13 thousand followers, and possessor of the coveted blue checkpoint on Twitter.

Halaby tweeted "My cousin Zaki Ghannam was killed in his home by an Israeli missile in #Gaza. Zaki was a university student in no way affiliated with Palestinian resistance. His pain is over and he is finally free from the siege of Gaza he endured most of his life. His father will never recover."

Doesn't appear that Alexandra Halaby knew her cousin quite as well as she thought.

"Palestinian Islamic Jihad confirms the death of one of its northern branch militants, Zaki Adnan Mohammed Ghannam. He was killed by an IDF airstrike earlier today. #Gaza #Israel "

Reports: Jihad in Crisis, Weighs Total Split with Hamas for Allowing IDF’s Devastating Blow
Hamas’s decision to refrain from entering this week’s violent cycle has led to a severe crisis within the Islamic Jihad leadership, Arab sources said Friday. Early Thursday morning, the terror group’s military arm pressed exacerbating the attacks on Israeli civilians, while the political arm supported the decision to seek a ceasefire.

Both factions are becoming convinced of the need for complete cessation of the military coordination with Hamas.

An anonymous political source in Jerusalem told Ynet earlier this week that “the Jihad is pleading for a ceasefire,” and vowed to abide by Israel’s policy of “Quiet will be answered with quiet.”

Minister Tzahi Hanegbi told Ynet that “Israel has reestablished its deterrence after this last round of hostilities – because Hamas stood up to the pressure exerted on it in Gaza and avoided entering this cycle.”

Hanegbi also said: “We have no problem with the fact that Hamas armed forces chased away the Palestinian Authority in 2007, becoming the leading, sovereign force in Gaza. We demanded that Hamas put an end to the Islamic Jihad activity, because over the last few months Hamas has committed not to act aggressively against us. But we saw that Hamas was not prepared to confront the Islamic Jihad, because their patron is probably Iran, and Hamas didn’t conflict with the Iranians. So we had to take the responsibility into our hands.”

Hamas announces: No Gaza border protests this Friday - report
Hamas announced on Thursday that there will not be 'March of Return' this Friday, according to a Channel 13 report. This would be the first time that the protests are cancelled since March 2109, over half a year ago.

According to the report, the Hamas announcement came in an attempt to deescalate the situation following over 400 rockets that were launched at Israel by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as a response to IDF operation 'Black Belt' that killed PIJ commander Bahaa Abu al-Ata.

The weekly protests along the Israel-Gaza border began on March 30, 2018, they were planned to be a six-week campaign to demand that Israel allow Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to their former homes in Israel. That’s why the organizers, mostly social media activists, chose to call the protests the “Great March of Return.”

It appeared on Thursday morning that both the UN and Egypt had secured a restoration of calm, after two days of fighting between the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza and the IDF.

"#Egypt and the #UN worked hard to prevent the most dangerous escalation in and around #Gaza from leading to #war. The coming hours and days will be critical. ALL must show maximum restraint and do their part to prevent bloodshed. The #MiddleEast does not need more wars,” UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov tweeted on Thursday morning.

Hamas’ failure to join the round of fighting between Israel and PIJ was one of the main reasons why PIJ agreed to the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire, Palestinians said on Thursday.
UN Watch: 2019 UN Fourth Committee Resolutions Against Israel
The UN General Assembly’s decolonization committee, which includes all 193 member states, will on Friday adopt eight resolutions against Israel, and zero on the rest of the world.

The texts condemn Israel for “repressive measures” against Syrian citizens in the Golan Heights, renew the mandate of the corrupt UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), and renew the mandate of a UN special committee to investigate “Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people.”

Following are the resolutions, to be updated with vote sheets and tallies as they come in:
“Assistance to Palestine refugees” [A/C.4/74/L.10] Adopted by a vote of 170 – 2 – 7
“Persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities” [A/C.4/74/L.11] Adopted by a vote of 162 – 6 – 9
“Operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East” [A/C.4/74/L.12] Adopted by a vote of 167 – 5 – 7
“Palestine refugees’ properties and their revenues” [A/C.4/74/L.13] Adopted by a vote of 170 – 2 – 7
“Work of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories” [A/C.4/74/L.14] Adopted by a vote of 82 – 11 – 78
“Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan” [A/C.4/74/L.15] Adopted by a vote of 156 – 6 – 15
“Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including EastJerusalem” [A/C.4/74/L.16] Adopted by a vote of 154 – 8 – 14
“The occupied Syrian Golan” [A/C.4/74/L.17] Adopted by a vote of 155 – 2 – 19
UN expected to renew UNRWA’s mandate Friday in spite of ethical probe
The United Nations is expected to renew the mandate of its humanitarian agency for Palestinian refugees on Friday, despite an ongoing ethical probe that has weakened the already financially strapped organization.

“I appeal to all our partners and the membership to focus on enabling the agency to continue to implement its mandate on which Palestine refugees are dependent,” UNRWA’s acting chief Christian Saunders pled earlier this week in New York during a debate before the Fourth Committee.

Saunders replaced former UNRWA Commissioner General Pierre Krahenbuhl, who was among a number of top officials in the agency targeted by the probe conducted by the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).

The OIOS said earlier this month that it had found management issues regarding Krahenbuhl’s work. The UN has clarified that there is no suspicion of fraud. Krahenbuhl has denied any wrongdoing.

His departure earlier this month and the appointment of Saunders was designed to help restore confidence in the 70-year-old organization, particularly in advance of Friday’s vote. The UN traditionally renews the UN Relief and Works Agency’s mandate every three years, and it was only the news of the ethical probe that had raised a question on the matter. Friday's vote at the Fourth Committee is preliminary and will be followed by a second vote in December.

Families of Israeli terror victims suing Hamas for half a billion shekels
The families of five terror victims will file a lawsuit against Gaza’s Hamas rulers and three money changers with US assets who allegedly helped fund attacks against Israelis, demanding compensation totaling half a billion shekels ($144 million), a report said Friday.

The inclusion of the Gaza-based money changers in the lawsuit — set to be filed Sunday at the Jerusalem District Court — is a precedent, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily said. The trio — named as Mohammed Alai, Fawaz Nasser and Kamel Awwad — are accused of working for Hamas and funneling money to it from Iran via a holdings company called Beit al-Mal.

While normally, the chances of compensation actually being paid in similar cases is small, this case could be different since the money changers have bank accounts and other assets in the United States, which have been frozen by authorities under sanctions announced by the Treasury Department. A ruling in favor of the plaintiffs could thus be at least partially enforced due to bilateral agreements between Jerusalem and Washington.

The plaintiffs are the families of Shir Hajaj and Erez Orbach, two of four IDF officers killed when a terrorist from East Jerusalem rammed his truck into a group of soldiers at the Armon Hanatziv promenade in the capital in January 2017; Rabbi Nehemia Lavi, killed in October 2015 in a stabbing terror attack in Jerusalem’s Old City; Elhai Taharlev, a soldier killed in a West Bank car-ramming attack in April 2017; and Amiad Ish-Ran, a newborn baby who was delivered prematurely after his mother was seriously injured in a West Bank shooting attack in December 2018 and who died after several days.

In all cases, the lawsuit claims, the perpetrators were linked to Hamas, the terror group that runs the Gaza Strip since taking over in a bloody coup in 2007, and which openly seeks Israel’s destruction and gets funding from Iran.
UPDATE: Messi and Argentina to play soccer game in Israel after Gaza fighting subsides
Messi’s soccer match in Israel could be canceled over Gaza fighting
The current fighting between Israel and terror groups in the Gaza Strip is likely to cause several high-profile soccer matches, including the much-anticipated friendly game between Argentina and Uruguay, to be canceled, according to reports on Tuesday.

After hundreds of rockets were launched at Israeli cities and communities, leading many schools in the south and center to shut down for at least two days, Israel’s UEFA Cup qualifier against Poland planned for Saturday in Jerusalem will probably be postponed, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

Kan quoted the spokesperson for Poland’s team, Jakub Kwiatkowski, as saying: “Of course [we are concerned]. It’s not a situation we face on a daily basis. For us it’s something new. In case we find that even one person thinks that it’s not safe to go there, we will do everything to protect the players and protect the team.”

The One sports website cited unnamed officials estimating that Monday’s Argentina-Uruguay match, featuring superstars Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, would likely be called off. However, the site later said the teams had agreed to wait until Thursday to make their decision.

The Uruguayan team is scheduled to arrive in Israel on Saturday, while Argentina is expected to come on Monday.

Israel has a lot to lose from the cancellation of that match, planned for Tel Aviv’s Bloomfield stadium.
MEMRI: Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad Denies Use Of Chemical Weapons, Adds: The Terrorist Organizations Are Proxies Of The U.S.; Al-Baghdadi Was Trained And Supervised By U.S. Government
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad said in an interview on Russia Today that was published on November 10, 2019, that the Syrian Army did not use chemical weapons before handing its stockpile over to the international community and that the accusations and purported evidence of rebel groups using chemical weapons that were given to them by the regime are faked. He said that many members of the White Helmets are terrorists, that the White Helmets are a PR stunt, and that they are an offshoot of the Al-Nusra Front. President Al-Assad also said that Western accusations that Syria attacks humanitarian targets and kills its own people are false and misleading narratives.

In addition, he said that the United States uses terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda as proxies in order to maintain its hegemony in the region and that Israel is also working with terrorist organizations against the Syrian government. He added that ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, who was recently killed by American forces, had been trained, supervised, and handled by the United States government and that his death is an attempt by America to whitewash its involvement with terrorist organizations. Al-Assad also said that the Qatari government had paid demonstrators in Syria during the Arab Spring.

To view the clip of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad on MEMRI TV, click here or below.

"Never Ever [Has] The Syrian Army Used Chemical Weapons Before It Handed Over All Its Arsenals To The International Committee"

Bashar Al-Assad: "Never ever [has] the Syrian army used chemical weapons before it handed over all its arsenals to the international committee."
Interviewer, Afshin Rattansi: "Any truth in the rumors – arguably on your side – saying video evidence is being manipulated and that rebels were using chemical weapons via the Saudi Arabian government and chemical weapons were, indeed, used but by the so-called 'rebels'?"

"They Staged [A] Play... Not Only With The Chemical Weapons, Even With The Bombardments... Somebody Is Being A Victim, At The End Of The Shooting... He Will Stand Up And Go, Move Along"

Bashar Al-Assad: "Yes, it is on YouTube, you can see it. I mean they staged [a] play, [a] full play, where somebody played the role of a victim – in many incidents, not only with the chemical weapons, even with the bombardments. They staged a play that somebody is being a victim. At the end of the shooting [of the video], it is a normal person, he will stand up and go, move along. You can see it on YouTube. It is very clear, we can offer you these evidence.
"It is very simple, to see the same faces of those 'angels', the White Helmets, the same face of the same one in the White Helmets was a fighter with Al-Qaeda. You can see they make it very clear. The same one who is being beheading or cutting [off] heads and one of them will be eating the heart of a [Syrian] soldier. I mean this is very common to see on the Internet. The evidence... No one in this region believes the PR stunt of the White Helmets. They are an offshoot of Al-Nusra."
Iran Commits Multiple Violations of Nuclear Deal
On November 11, 2019, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its latest safeguards report on the verification and monitoring of the Iran nuclear deal in light of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 (2015). This report details a large number of violations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and possibly Iran’s Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement. The main violations, some of which are not fully reversible, are highlighted here; several are discussed in more detail below:

  1. The IAEA found natural uranium of “anthropogenic origin” at an undeclared site in Iran;
  2. Iran introduced uranium hexafluoride and started uranium enrichment at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP);
  3. Iran further increased its quantity of low enriched uranium above the JCPOA’s 300 kilogram (kg) cap (uranium hexafluoride mass), ramping up monthly production significantly;
  4. Iran continued to produce enriched uranium above the limit of 3.67 percent, producing at a level of up to 4.5 percent;
  5. Iran initiated the operation of many advanced centrifuges at the Natanz Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) to accumulate enriched uranium;
  6. Iran increased the number and type of centrifuges enriching uranium above the limit of 5,060 IR-1 centrifuges. The total separative work involved in uranium enrichment has increased from an estimated 4,550 to 6,200 separative work units (SWU) per year, a 36 percent increase over the enrichment capacity allowed by the JCPOA; 1
  7. Iran withdrew advanced centrifuges from storage for installation at the PFEP. It reinstalled a cascade of 164 IR-4 centrifuges and one of 164 IR-2m centrifuges in the PFEP and initiated the collection of enriched uranium;
  8. Iran installed and operated several new advanced centrifuge types at the PFEP not listed as permitted for installation in the nuclear deal;
  9. Iran enriched uranium in a cascade of 30 IR-6 centrifuges at the PFEP and initiated the installation of a total of 164 IR-6 centrifuges that would accumulate enriched uranium;
  10. For twelve days, Iran conducted mechanical testing of three IR-4 centrifuges simultaneously at the Tehran Research Center;
  11. Iran “prepared a new location,” beyond those specified in the JCPOA and unidentified in the report, for mechanical testing of centrifuges;
  12. Iran used declared centrifuge manufacturing equipment for activities beyond those specified in the JCPOA, such as for producing centrifuges in type or number not allowed by the JCPOA;
  13. Iran continued to use carbon fiber in making rotor tubes that was not subject to continuous IAEA containment and surveillance measures, in violation of conditions in the JCPOA and a January 14, 2016 Joint Commission implementing decision on how rotor tubes would be manufactured with materials such as carbon fiber that must be taken from a designated storage location under IAEA monitoring. This case implies that Iran’s nuclear program had hidden stocks of carbon fiber or had acquired it from abroad or from another Iranian entity without subjecting the carbon fiber to the rules established on storing it under IAEA monitoring prior to its use in manufacturing rotor tubes. (Any such carbon fiber was likely obtained via illicit procurement from abroad);
  14. As described by U.S. authorities, Iran may be violating the JCPOA’s procurement restrictions by illicitly importing nuclear dual-use equipment.
Iranian Man Sentenced to 46 Months in Prison for Illegally Exporting Nuclear Materials to Iran
An Iranian man convicted of exporting sensitive nuclear-related materials to Iran has been sentenced to 46 months in prison, according to an announcement from the Justice Department.

Behzad Pourghannad was dealt the prison sentence on Thursday for his role in a conspiracy to illicitly export to Iran carbon fiber, a restricted and controlled material that has applications in military and aerospace technologies.

The sentence reflects the Trump administration's commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and the materials necessary to bolster its program.

Pourghannad arranged a scheme to obfuscate the export of these materials to Iran, which is prohibited under U.S. sanctions meant to stop Tehran from obtaining sensitive materials that could be used in its nuclear and military programs. The defendants fooled a U.S. manufacturer of carbon fiber by making it appear as if the materials were not destined for Iran. After channeling the material through a complex network of companies based in Europe and the Middle East, Pourghannad and his associates worked to ensure the carbon fiber ultimately ended up in Iran.

"Pourghannad falsified shipment documents and used front companies to export carbon fiber to Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions," Assistant Attorney of National Security John C. Demers said in a statement. "Carbon fiber is used by the Iranian regime to further its nuclear, military, and aerospace programs. We continue to thwart the efforts of the Iranian regime to evade our sanctions and work steadfastly with our international partners to investigate, prosecute, and bring sanctions violators to justice."
‘Not anti-Semitic’: Khamenei defines Iran’s goal of ‘wiping out Israel’
When Iran speaks of wiping Israel off the map, it doesn’t mean the mass slaughter of the country’s Jews but rather eliminating the Jewish state’s “imposed regime,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Friday.

“The disappearance of Israel does not mean the disappearance of the Jewish people, because we have nothing against [Jews],” Khamenei said, speaking alongside senior Iranian officials at the so-called 33rd International Islamic Unity Conference.

“Wiping out Israel means that the Palestinian people, including Muslims, Christians and Jews, should be able to determine their fate and get rid of thugs such as [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu,” Khamenei continued, according to Iranian media.

Khamenei further argued that “had the Islamic world been committed to unity, there would have been no tragedy in Palestine.” He lamented that Muslims couldn’t even adhere to what he called the lowest level of unity — non-aggression between Muslims.

“We are not anti-Semitic. Jews are living in utmost safety in our country. We only support the people of Palestine and their independence,” he said.

“Our position on the case of Palestine is definitive,” he said. “Early after the victory of the [1979 Islamic] revolution, the Islamic Republic gave the Zionists’ center in Tehran to the Palestinians. We helped the Palestinians, and we will continue to do so. The entire Muslim world should do so.”

Erdogan Wants to Redraw the Middle East's Ethnic Map
The region’s most infamous incident of forced displacement was the Armenian genocide—not the first massacre of Armenians during Ottoman times—which was recently formally recognized by the U.S. House of Representatives to punish Turkey for its Syrian incursion. Under the guise of tehcir (relocation), most likely over a million Armenians were killed, the majority of them through death marches periodically interrupted by mass killings. Concentration camps in Syria’s Deir Ezzor were some of the final destinations for those who survived the marches.

Demographic engineering and forced displacement also played a central role in the development of the Turkish republic that emerged from the smoldering empire in 1923. “It’s something that was at the basis of the imposition of a unitary state over the whole of Anatolia. It was seen as a legitimate and effective device to impose a national culture over the entirety of the land and its people,” said Gingeras, who has written several books about the republic’s violent foundations.

The few Armenians, Assyrians, and Chaldeans in Turkey’s southeast who survived the various massacres of Christians during World War I soon found themselves in a country eager to finalize their erasure. Newspapers portrayed them as enemies and set deadlines for them to leave. Many ended up fleeing to northern Syria, then governed as a French mandate. The French, eager to support minorities deemed friendly in order to weaken the Sunni Arab majority, were only too happy to accommodate them. The Christian refugees’ descendants today, some of whom have reportedly fled Ras al-Ain, are vehemently opposed to Turkey’s operation, which has rekindled past traumas.

Having eliminated most Christians in the genocide and the 1923 forced population exchange with Greece, Turkey subsequently targeted the large Kurdish minority. Near-constant uprisings in the 1920s and 1930s in the fledgling republic’s Kurdish-majority southeast were answered with massacres and forced the relocation of tens of thousands of Kurds to western provinces, where Turkish identity and culture was imposed on them. Tens of thousands more fled to Syria’s northeastern Jazira region, only to be subjected to Baathist Arabization policies decades later and the Turkish onslaught today. The 1934 Resettlement Law aimed at Turkifying the country, or, in the words of then-Interior Minister Sukru Kaya, “to create a country speaking with one language, thinking in the same way and sharing the same sentiment.”

Turkey’s long record of forced relocations has continued well into recent history, with Kurdish people continuing to bear the brunt of it. “You see evidence of it relatively recently, as late as the ’90s and later. One could argue that demographic engineering was at the core of the counterinsurgency strategy against the PKK in 2015 and 2016,” Gingeras said, referring to the Kurdish militant group known as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK. Millions were displaced when Turkish forces evacuated and often burned down thousands of villages in the 1990s. After a cease-fire ended in 2015 and widespread fighting erupted in cities in the southeast, Amnesty estimated that almost half a million civilians were displaced.

It remains to be seen whether or not Ankara will go through with its plan to move Syrian refugees into the country’s new supposed safe zone. But it’s clear that this isn’t how those refugees, and the Syrians still at home, imagined that their country would one day be made whole—with the crimes of the war followed by potential new crimes in an ostensible time of peace.
Turkey Threatens to Punish E.U. and Release All Islamic State Prisoners
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned European nations Tuesday they should “revise” their thinking towards his country or risk being flooded by Islamic State terrorists now being held in Turkish jails.

Erdogan’s threat came in response to E.U. sanctions over Cyprus.

Speaking to reporters before a visit to the United States, Erdogan also said Turkey would continue repatriating foreign Islamic State militants to their home countries, even if those countries refused to accept them.

Erdogan’s comments were in response to the E.U.’s unveiling on Monday of a system for imposing sanctions on Turkey over its unauthorized gas drilling in Mediterranean waters off Cyprus.

Erdogan warned E.U. countries: “You should revise your stance toward Turkey, which holds so many IS members in prison and controls them in Syria.”

His threat came 24-hours after it was revealed a trickle of Islamic State terror operatives has already begun being repatriated by Turkey.

As Breitbart News reported, Turkey began following through on its promise to repatriate captured Islamic State terrorists on Monday, signalling NATO allies France, Germany, Denmark, and the U.S. will be the first on the receiving end of returned jihadists.
The U.S.-Israel Military Partnership Should Remain Outside Presidential Politics
Linking U.S. military support for Israel to the decades-old Palestinian conflict would reverse the well-considered approach of President Barack Obama, who made a conscious decision to separate the strategic benefits of the U.S.-Israel alliance from the intractable peace process.

More importantly, it would ignore the pressing realities that currently confront American national security - in particular, the U.S. need to devote greater resources to countering China and Russia at the same time threats to its interests in the Middle East remain extremely challenging. In that environment, Israel's value as one of America's closest allies and the region's preeminent military and intelligence power is only likely to grow.

At no point during the three years of talks on the 10-year Memorandum of Understanding governing U.S. assistance to Israel signed in September 2016 did the U.S. team ever attempt to use military assistance as leverage to reduce Israel's objections to the nuclear deal with Iran or to change its approach to the Palestinian conflict.

Both sides appreciated the significant benefits that they gained from deepening their strategic ties and didn't want to hold them hostage to their disagreements over any specific policy issue. Indeed, in private, the U.S. and Israeli lead negotiators actually agreed to "rules of the game" for their talks - with the main rule being that neither the Iran issue nor the Palestinian question would be part of their discussions.

Israeli breakthroughs are rapidly finding their way into the U.S. national security arsenal and helping to protect American lives, including missile defense, cybersecurity, tunnel detection, drones, space and counter-terrorism technologies. No country has a greater capability (or will) to help protect U.S. interests than Israel.

We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.

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