Thursday, April 23, 2020

From Ian:

Israeli coronavirus vaccine developers target summer human trials
Scientists racing toward a vaccine against COVID-19 at Israel's MigVax will commence a safety and efficacy assessment in rodents in May prior to initiating human trials during the summer months, a senior company official said on Wednesday.

Kiryat Shemona-based MigVax, an affiliate of the Migal Galilee Research Institute, is working to adapt a vaccine developed over the past four years against infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) - a coronavirus strain causing bronchial disease in poultry - for human use.

Phase 1/2 clinical trials in humans will start during the summer of 2020 and last six to nine months, senior Migvax researcher and director Prof. Itamar Shalit told a webinar hosted by Jerusalem-based crowdfunding investment platform OurCrowd.

"People think the winner takes it all. We are going to need much more than one vaccine. Manufacturing the needed quantity for all the world will require different types of vaccines," said Shalit, who specializes in infectious diseases.

MigVax researchers aim to adapt the vaccine for the avian coronavirus into a new oral subunit human vaccine against COVID-19, based on their great genetic similarity and identical infection mechanism. Except for some required genetic adjustments, researchers say the same vaccination concepts should apply in humans.

"It is very important to understand that to suppress coronavirus and go back to our normal life, we have to invest in a vaccine that will be effective," Shalit said. "Once we have an effective vaccine, that will be the time to exit this pandemic situation and return to normal life."
Israeli NGO Steps Up to Help Americans in Time of Need During Coronavirus Pandemic
Twenty-two-year-old Amir Kashfi arrives early in the morning around 6:30 a.m. outside a Los Angeles school to set up boxes of canned goods, pasta, rice and other non-perishables to dispense. A number of recipients line up by car or by foot by 8 a.m.

The need for this food pantry has spiked during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

“There’s a huge increase in demand because of the pandemic,” said Kashfi, a volunteer with IsraAID, an Israel-based NGO that partners with Los Angeles Regional Food Bank and Team Rubicon, which is a US veterans organization, among others in these efforts. “It hurts my heart to see so many in need.”

“Our goal is to be there for the community,” said Seth Davis, chief executive officer of IsraAID US.

He noted that the short-term goal was to fill a gap and get food to people in need, but the long-term goal was to create a cadre in the community who can respond to such crises. In addition to Los Angeles, IsraAID has helped operate food banks in other California locations, including San Diego, Orange County, San Jose and Santa Barbara.

Davis said, “This deployment will go on for months, because even if the curve flattens, there’s going to be a long tail of people still in need of food and financial help.”

“These are unprecedented times,” Dr. Lucy Uber, another volunteer, said. “Food is a basic necessity that most of us take for granted.”


Defense Minister Bennett presents coronavirus exit strategy to PM Netanyahu
Defense Minister MK Naftali Bennett presented Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with plan for the immediate opening of educational institutions and stores, as an exit strategy following the coronavirus pandemic.

Bennett explained that at this stage the closure would crush the livelihood of Israelis, which is infinitely worse than the medical benefits of the closures.



Does Israel's Coalition Deal Means the U.S. Peace Plan Is Back on Track?
Israel finally has a government. Incumbent prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz signed a pact on Monday which will see them take turns at being premier. The U.S. peace plan assigns 30% of Judea and Samaria to Israel and the other 70% to a demilitarized Palestinian state. The U.S. intends to recognize Israeli sovereignty in areas of the West Bank provided Jerusalem agrees to map out a Palestinian state with its opposite numbers in Ramallah.

The Palestinians and their forerunner representatives have refused every offer of statehood made to them. One of the reasons for Palestinian rejectionism is that such behavior is rewarded by the international community. Israel makes concessions, the Palestinians spurn the concessions, the world demands Israel make more, Israel makes more, the Palestinians again rebuff them, and the world shakes its collective head at those hard-line Israelis who just refuse to give any ground.

Encouraging Palestinian intransigence keeps them stateless and their national fate in the hands of others. Indulging their rejectionism, their payments to terrorists who kill Israelis, and their kindergarten plays where children dress up as suicide bombers makes it all the harder to achieve a Palestinian state.

In preparation for likely changes to Israel's map, the UK should recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, commit to moving the UK's embassy there once the Covid-19 pandemic has subsided, and affirm, as the U.S. has, that civilian settlements are not per se inconsistent with international law.

Any country that considers itself a friend to the Palestinians should beg them to take the deal and end the conflict. Britain should affirm a promise it made a century ago and never again treat an ally like an "illegal occupier" in their own land.
Praising gov’t-to-be, Pompeo says West Bank annexation is up to Israel
Lauding Israel’s newly announced deal for a unity government, which is slated to begin advancing measures to annex large parts of the West Bank in July, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that the matter is not something for Washington to interfere with.

“The Israelis will ultimately make those decisions. That’s an Israeli decision, but we’ll work closely with them to share our views of this in a private setting,” he said during a press conference.

On the sealing of a deal for the formation of a government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White chief Benny Gantz, Pompeo added, “a fourth election we think wouldn’t have been in their best interest, but we’ll leave that to them. We think it’s not in the world’s best interest. We’re glad there’s now a fully formed government.”

Responding to Pompeo’s remarks, the B’Tselem rights group said they “closed the gap between what Israel – with American support – says, and what both governments do.”

“De-facto annexation and the reality of Apartheid are not waiting for July 1: they have long since arrived. At least Jerusalem and Washington are ceasing to lie about their intentions – and actions. The international community must stop stuttering and take action against the reality already in place, independent of any additional Israeli action,” the left-wing group said.

According to the unity agreement inked on Monday, Netanyahu “will be able to bring the agreement reached with the US on the application of sovereignty [in the West Bank]… for the approval of the cabinet and/or the Knesset starting July 1, 2020.”

Moreover, the deal stipulates that Netanyahu and Gantz will act in “full agreement with the US, including on the issue of [West Bank] maps, and in dialogue with the international community.”
EU foreign policy chief: Settlement annexation violates int’l law
Annexation of any territory in the West Bank would go against international law, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said on Thursday, in a statement noting the coalition agreement between Likud and Blue and White.

“The EU’s position on the status of the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 remains unchanged,” the statement reads. “The EU does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the occupied West Bank. The EU reiterates that any annexation would constitute a serious violation of international law.”

Borrell made similar statements in the soon after US President Donald Trump announced his peace plan, which includes Israel applying sovereignty to 30% of the West Bank, but at the time said that "steps towards annexation, if implemented, could not pass unchallenged." Hungary and several other EU states took issue with the implied threat in the statement, and the Foreign Ministry expressed its pique with it.

This time, Borrell said that the EU will “continue to closely monitor the situation and its broader implications, and will act accordingly.”
The Foreign Ministry said it's "unfortunate that Josep Borrell...chose to welcome the new government of a central partner of the EU in this way and chose to only see the relations between Israel and the EU through the prism of a plague and the status of the territories.

"In light of the depth of the relations and that this message did not receive the support of member states, we wonder what policies the honorable gentleman chose to represent and not for the first time," the Foreign Ministry added.
BBC WS radio presents a partial portrayal of ‘annexation’
The April 20th evening edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Newshour’ included a discussion (from 30:09 here) between presenter Tim Franks and BBC Jerusalem bureau correspondent Tom Bateman about the agreement to form a coalition government signed by the leaders of the Likud and Blue & White parties several hours earlier.

While the first part of the item presented listeners with a reasonable portrayal of the topic, from 33:12 the focus shifted away from Israeli politics.
Franks: “What chance do you think, Tom, now that this new government is being formed, that we could see President Trump’s peace plan – which involves swathes of the West Bank being…eh…eh…pretty much annexed by Israel – coming into fruition?”

Bateman: “Well the agreement says that the process can begin – the legislative process in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament – from the first of July. Now Mr Netanyahu has been very keen for that process to take place; it forms a key part of the Trump peace plan. The Palestinians vehemently oppose it. They’ve walked away, they’ve boycotted any relations with the Americans and tonight they say that this agreement means the end of the two-state solution and dismantling of the rights of the Palestinian people. But Mr Gantz has…although he supports the agreement in principle, he’s stood a little bit further back from it and he’s said that there should be international coordination, that there should be Knesset committees and also a full vote of the Israeli parliament itself that should give a green light to this annexation.”


As we know, the BBC’s portrayal of the ‘Peace to Prosperity’ proposal published in late January was far from impartial:
A review of the impartiality of BBC radio coverage of the US ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan
Reviewing BBC News website coverage of the US ‘Peace to Prosperity’ plan

That makes it all the more likely that those listening to this item would not be able to quantify Franks’ claim concerning “swathes of the West Bank” or put Bateman’s presentation of Palestinian statements concerning Israeli politics into their correct context. They would be unlikely to remember that the Palestinians rejected the US proposal and cut off ties with the administration long before it was published. Neither could they be expected to recall that the US proposal includes the transfer of areas in Judea & Samaria currently under exclusive Israeli control to the Palestinians, along with land swaps of Israeli territory.


PMW: Has the ICC prosecutor secretly colluded with the PA and already decided to prosecute Israel? A Jordanian news site says so
PA official to Jafra News:
- The Pre-Trial Chamber was requested to determine the scope of jurisdiction merely for show to “protect the ICC’s public image”
- The ICC prosecutor deceived the international community when she initiated a sham pre-trial request, supposedly to determine if the ICC has jurisdiction over the “situation in Palestine.” In fact the “decision is a foregone conclusion,” and she has already decided to initiate an investigation
- The PA committee working with the ICC prosecutor has Hamas and PFLP members

In response to Palestinian complaints against Israel, the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court (ICC), submitted in December 2019 a request to the ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber ostensibly asking the Chamber to confirm that the ICC has jurisdiction over “the situation of Palestine” and to confirm that the territory “comprises the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.” Palestinian Media Watch and dozens of other organizations and governments submitted Amicus Curaie (Friends of the Court) briefs showing that according to international law there is no “State of Palestine” and therefore the court has no jurisdiction. The prosecutor is meant to respond to the Amicus briefs by the end of the month.

Now it turns out, according to the Jordanian Jafra News, that this entire pre-trial legal process to determine if the court has jurisdiction and its scope is actually a mere charade with the puppeteer pulling the strings of deception being the General Prosecutor of the ICC herself, Fatou Bensouda. A PA source in contact with the general prosecutor’s office, told the Jordanian site that the request of the Prosecutor to the Pre-Trial Chamber was only initiated in order to protect “the ICC's public image… in a sensitive investigation such as this,” but in fact the decision of the court already is that there is jurisdiction:

“The general prosecutor’s office explained to the Palestinian side that it did not wait for the Preliminary Department's (i.e., Pre-Trial Chamber–Ed.) decision in order to begin preparations to open an investigation. This is because the aforementioned decision [that the ICC has jurisdiction] is a foregone conclusion, and a petition to this [Pre-Trial] Chamber was only done in the first place out of considerations related to protecting the ICC's public image and its proper activity, in the framework of its official authorities in a sensitive investigation such as this.”
[Jordanian news website jfranews.com.jo, March 5, 2020]


Palestinian rage is justified. They are just outraged at the wrong entity.
Tens of thousands of pages have been written about problems at the UNRWA. However, the most egregious and immoral is the perpetuation of Palestinian dependency on the organization itself. The UNRWA, after 70 years, has left the Palestinian people in a time warp. Their lives have stagnated, and this dependency means Palestinians cannot move forward in their lives.
The end of the UNRWA is an idea whose time has come

After over 70 years, the number of Palestinian suffering has increased dramatically. In those 70 years, very little has been accomplished, because the one who was supposed to help them abandoned them. The ones who were supposed to raise them up, left them in refugee camps, while the INRWA staffers stayed at the finest hotels in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Palestinians need to direct their rage not at Israel, rather at the UNRWA. They need to demand accountability and reform. The UNRWA accomplished little for the Palestinians since they have ignored their main mandate. And their entire raison d’etre seems to be to keep their bloated bureaucracy alive. When the Palestinians gain independence, the UNRWA would fade away, along with their staffers ocean-view hotel rooms at the Tel Aviv Hilton.

Moreover, the best reform would be to disband the UNRWA. The minute the UNRWA is disbanded, the clock can start moving forward for the Palestinians. However, as long as the UNRWA dominates them and looks out only for themselves, the dystopian world of self-interest and self-perpetuation that is the UN will continue the sad and tragic reality for the many Palestinian refugees.
UNRWA finds hand grenade, military vest in Gaza
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) discovered a hand grenade and a military vest in a vacant school in the Gaza Strip, the organization announced on Wednesday night.

“As soon as the items were discovered, they were removed and UNRWA informed the de facto authorities in Gaza and in Israel.

“UNRWA strongly and unequivocally condemns the individual or group responsible for this flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law and calls on the de facto authorities in the Gaza Strip to ensure that this inviolability is respected and upheld,” UNRWA said.

The organization which services Palestinian refugees, said that it implements “robust procedures” to maintain the neutrality of its of all its remises. It also said it has a “strict no-weapons policy.” It added that it regularly inspects its facilities to ensure that they are solely used for humanitarian purposes.

“Due to its funding crisis, UNRWA can no longer afford to have guards at its 276 schools but carries out routine inspections,” UNRWA said.

It noted its opposition to any use of its schools for military purposes.
Israel Spares Hizbullah Fighters to Avert a War
When the missile exploded near their vehicle, three Hizbullah operatives leapt out and ran for cover.

The attack was caught on closed-circuit video and shows that a moment later, appearing to know they had time, the men returned to get their bags, and strolled away before a second missile obliterated the SUV.

No one was killed or wounded in the attack, but that was the point.

According to several current and former Israeli and Middle Eastern officials, Israel has adopted a policy of warning Hizbullah operatives in Syria before bombing their convoys to avoid killing them and risking war.

Hizbullah operatives in Syria have received surprise phone calls from Israeli officials warning them to evacuate their bases before they are bombed, according to an official from the pro-Iran regional alliance.

The idea, a senior Middle Eastern intelligence official said, is to tell Hizbullah, "We can see you, even if we don't kill you."
Hizbullah Suffers Blow to Funding from Iran amid Pandemic
Hizbullah is set to lose 40% of its income from Iran after the dramatic fall in oil prices, Dr. Matthew Levitt of the
Washington Institute for Near East Policy told the Royal United Services Institute on Wednesday.

Levitt said that on three previous occasions Tehran has "very suddenly cut back its financing for Hizbullah" by 40%, according to Israeli intelligence. "I should imagine it's happening again."

But the group's financing has become so sophisticated that it can rely on significant income from activities in Europe through fundraising that includes fake orphanages.

"The group's independent fundraising, conducted alongside its generous subsidies from Iran, are also intended to guarantee the group's future independence through diversified funding no matter what happens to Iran."


PreOccupiedTerritory: Social Distancing Stymies Palestinian Plans To Ram Cars Into Israeli Crowds (satire)
A ramming and stabbing attack against an Israel Border Guard checkpoint yesterday by a Palestinian van driver highlights the challenges now facing operations to undo Jewish sovereignty, Palestinian figures noted today, in that the various measures Israel has implemented to slow and contain the spread of a deadly pandemic have also rendered Palestinian efforts to kill as many Jews as possible by driving motor vehicles into them at high speed moot, now that those measures have by and large eliminated significant gatherings of Israelis in locations with easy access by a ramming vehicle.

Aides to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told reporters Thursday morning that Wednesday’s failed – from the Palestinian perspective – attack, in which a Palestinian man drove his vehicle into a border guard, then jumped out and tried to stab him with scissors, only to be shot dead moments later, demonstrates the diminishing returns of recent resistance operations. A pipe bomb was also later found in the area, according to Israeli media reports.

“Our cause depends to some degree on large-scale or dramatic murders of Jews, preferably both,” explained Nabil Sha’ath. “Successful operations of that nature energize the movement – they attract financing, recruits, and headlines, and they put our cause at the forefront of the international agenda. Unfortunately the world has other things occupying it, if you’ll pardon the term, of late, and in the years before that, ever since we made it clear we’re not interested in actually resolving the conflict, because resolving it would mean we no longer generate those dramatic headlines and have no legitimacy in international eyes to seek the deaths of Jews so blatantly. Wait, did I say that out loud?”
Arab Looters Use Pandemic Lull in Law Enforcement to Rob Ancient Treasures
The suspension of law enforcement in guarding Israel’s national treasures in Judea and Samaria due to the coronavirus outbreak is giving Arab robbers of antiquities an opportunity to pursue illegal excavations undeterred, according to the Shomrim Al Hanetzach (guarding eternity) NGO, which is calling on Defense Minister Naftali Bennett to return the inspectors to the field.

(Bennett could divert some of the 600 Border Patrol and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories officers he’s been sending to evict the Jewish settlers of Yitzhar – DI).

COGAT’s enforcement activity was cut to only 30% in the wake of the pandemic, and as a result, grave robbers and treasure hunters have been roaming unmolested throughout the ancient sites of Judea and Samaria. A week ago, members of Shomrim Al Hanetzach reported a particularly intense robbery dig, in a cave located inside the ​​Mount Kabir Nature Reserve, between Elon Moreh and the Jordan Valley.

A survey tour Shomrim Al Hanetzach conducted on Tuesday discovered that over the past week, three new openings had been dug in the rock wall, apparently in order to reach the depths of the cave.


PMW: Itamar Marcus: How Palestininan Authority demonize Israel
Special presentation for MIFF on Zoom 22. april 2020. Itamar Marcus is the director of Palestinian Media Watch. We regret that the sound is not the best at all times during the recording, due to narrow bandwith of internet.


Khaled Abu Toameh: Palestinians: Saudi Arabia behind anti-Palestinian smear campaign
Some Palestinians are convinced that the oil-rich Saudi Arabia is responsible for a hashtag that has recently been trending on Twitter titled, “Palestine is not my cause.” Others believe that some Israelis may also be involved with the anti-Palestinian smear campaign.
Recently, similar anti-Palestinian accounts and posts have also popped up on Facebook.

"There's no doubt that several people from Saudi Arabia are behind this campaign," said a Palestinian political analyst in Ramallah. "It's also obvious they are receiving help from Israeli activists."

Palestinians also believe that many of the offensive posts published under the hashtag do not belong to real people, but are Internet bots (also known as web robots) – software applications that run automated and repetitive tasks over the Internet.

Several anti-Palestinian posts, however, do seem to belong to real people, particularly from Saudi Arabia.

The anti-Palestinian posts also target Qatar, which has been accused by Saudi Arabia of embracing various terrorist and sectarian groups aimed at destabilizing the region, including the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. In 2017, Saudi Arabia officially cut ties with Qatar and banned the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera television network from operating in the kingdom.

To “disgrace” Qatar, several Arab social media users posted photos of meetings between Qatari and Israeli officials. Those behind the posts used, as profile photos, images of Saudi monarchs and the current crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.






Noah Rothman: Trump and His Critics Overinterpret Iranian Provocations
The Islamic Republic spent much of 2019 engaging in unprecedentedly provocative acts of war: seizing and sabotaging commercial shipping vessels in the critical Strait of Hormuz, downing an unarmed American surveillance drone, and executing a brazen multi-drone strike on the world’s largest petroleum processing facility deep inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In the final two months of last year, the pace and precision of Iranian proxy attacks on U.S. positions in Iraq increased. In December, one such attack killed an American contractor and wounded three uniformed service personnel. To this, the U.S. responded as it had in the past, with a proportionate strike on the militia responsible for the attack.

But Iranian provocations did not end there. That militia, with the logistical support of its Iranian commanders, laid siege to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. A mob breached the outer wall of the compound, set the facility on fire, and sent the U.S. diplomatic presence in Iraq into safe rooms for the next 24 hours. The siege was only lifted after 100 U.S. Marines dispatched to the embassy. The episode sent a clear signal that Iran was undeterred. Its escalatory and confrontational conduct would continue until it had crossed a line that would necessitate an overwhelming response from Western nations against Iranian military and government targets. In short, war.

The balance was tentatively restored after the Soleimani strike and a face-saving retaliatory missile volley targeting U.S. positions in Iraq from inside Iranian territory, but Iran was not suddenly transformed into a placid and responsible international actor. Iranian proxies in Iraq continued to execute sporadic missile attacks on U.S. positions and, as we’ve seen, IRGC boats still harass Western ships in the Gulf. This is suboptimal, but it’s also the status quo ante.

The Iranian regime is a rogue entity. It will forever need to be reminded of the Western resolve to contain it until and unless the regime abandons its destabilizing activities. That is the essential nature of deterrence; it is a dance that does not end. Capabilities evolve. Strategic considerations shift. Windows of opportunity open and close. Deterrence doesn’t maintain itself, and one day Iran will once again threaten the balance in intolerable ways. But this particular IRGC harassment campaign doesn’t cross that threshold.

It’s perfectly within the character of the administration’s critics to overinterpret the implications of this event if only to undermine the administration’s claim to be a competent manager of the adversarial relationship with Iran. But why would the president give his critics ammunition by lending credence to their criticisms? That’s a true mystery.
Without Sanctions, Iran’s Provocations Would Be Deadlier
For critics of President Donald Trump’s Iran policy, the latest display of bravado by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’s naval wing is proof that the U.S. “maximum-pressure” sanctions campaign isn’t working. These “dangerous and provocative” maneuvers around U.S. warships, goes the argument, torpedo the administration’s claim of having “restored deterrence” with the Islamic Republic. More broadly, they also demonstrate that the sanctions have failed to restrain the Iranian regime’s dangerous and provocative tendencies.

True, the Trump administration exaggerates the effects of its campaign against the regime. But it also has the unenviable task of proving the negative. To understand the true impact of the sanctions on Tehran’s behavior, imagine how much more dangerous and provocative Iran would have been in their absence.

Without the economic sanctions, Iran’s rulers would by now have had access to tens of billions of dollars in assets and revenues from trade with the world, the economic dividend it was promised, in exchange for limiting its nuclear program, in the 2015 deal with the world powers. Given the regime’s longstanding ambitions for dominance of the Middle East — as well as its paranoia about the Western presence there — much of this windfall would have gone into military spending.

This is no mere supposition. In the first year after the nuclear deal was signed, Iran’s military budget spiked — by anywhere between 30% and 90%. (The regime conceals its true spending.) The budget swelled again the following year, before the sanctions were reinstated, imposing some curbs. The Trump administration’s estimate of a 28% cut is probably exaggerated, as is the Iranian regime’s claim that it has made no cuts at all.
Iran’s Launch of Military Satellite a Cover for Nuclear Weapons Advancement, According to U.S. Officials
Iran's launch Wednesday of a military satellite that it says will be used to conduct "intelligence warfare" against the United States violates international accords and represents a significant step forward in the Islamic Republic's ballistic missile program, U.S. officials told the Washington Free Beacon.

Iranian military officials claimed they successfully launched a satellite into space that enables the country's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to track Western forces across the globe.

Major General Hossein Salami, the IRGC's chief commander, announced his forces completed the launch of the nation's first-ever Noor-1 satellite, which he said "creates powerful grounds for us in intelligence warfare."

As the coronavirus pandemic has ravaged Iran, its ruling regime has spent billions on foreign military intervention and its nuclear infrastructure. Wednesday's launch was an attempted show of force by Iran that marks a significant step forward in its military efforts even as U.S. sanctions cripple the country's economy.

"Iran's space program is clearly a cover for its intercontinental ballistic missile aspirations," Brian Hook, the administration's special representative for Iran, told the Free Beacon. "Any claims that Iran's space program is peaceful are pure propaganda."

The Trump administration is closely tracking the launch and says Iran is using its space program as a front to continue its illicit development of a ballistic missile, which could carry a nuclear payload great distances.
Iran's Ayatollahs Will Struggle to Survive the Oil Slump
The scale of Iran's deepening economic crisis is reflected in the regime's recent decision to seek $5 billion in emergency funding from the IMF, its first request for outside help since the 1979 revolution.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has tried to put a brave face on the latest setback to hit the regime, claiming that Iran is unlikely to suffer as much as other countries from the oil price drop because it is less reliant than others on crude exports.

If that were truly the case, then Tehran would not be asking the IMF for a bailout, and Mr Rouhani, together with Javad Zarif, Iran's Foreign Minister, would not be begging Washington to remove sanctions.

The truth of the matter is, for all the regime's attempts to claim it has everything under control, that the country is teetering on the brink of collapse, and the ayatollahs are fast running out of options to save themselves.

One indication of the growing disconnect between the regime and ordinary Iranians is the claim by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) that it has successfully launched a military satellite into orbit for the first time, an undertaking that seems completely inappropriate for a country teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.

In times of crisis, the regime has often resorted to stirring up tensions in the Gulf, and elsewhere in the Middle East, as a means of increasing pressure on the US and its allies. To that end, Iran's IRGC have been accused of conducting a number of confrontational operations in the Gulf this month, including the temporary seizure of a Chinese tanker in the Strait of Hormuz, which proved to be deeply embarrassing for Tehran, as China is one of the few countries still buying its oil.

There has also been an increase in Revolutionary Guard patrol boats harassing US warships operating in the Gulf, a development which has prompted U.S. President Donald Trump to order the US Navy "to shoot down and destroy" Iranian gunboats if they continue with their provocative actions.

The ayatollahs may still believe they can survive the current crisis, but the reality is that their prospects of overcoming all the obstacles they face, from coronavirus to the collapse of the Iranian economy, become more challenging by the day.


US Re-Invades Iraq to Return Worthless Oil (satire)
American forces have once again launched an invasion of Iraq, with the US now looking to return oil to the Middle Eastern nation after prices for crude dropped below zero.

The drop in oil demand amid a glut of cheap oil has forced American refiners to pay offtakers to rid them of product. Shortly after US Marines reached Baghdad, American oil tankers appeared in the Persian Gulf fill with crude to be pumped back into Iraqi oil fields.

“Obviously, our invasion of Iraq is aimed at restoring democracy and preventing the spread of nuclear and chemical weapons,” a spokesman for US President Donald Trump said. “The fact that we’ll also be dumping 100 million barrels a day on them is just an added bonus.”

As of press time, Kuwait is preparing to invade Iraq after accusing its neighbor of slant drilling to avoid its abundant oil reserves.




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