Friday, August 21, 2020

From Ian:

Josh Hammer: Trump and Netanyahu Debunk the Failed Consensus
Nonetheless, this failed consensus persisted in the minds of Washington and Brussels simpletons. It reached an apex during the famously anti-Israel Obama administration, a coterie of quixotic liberal internationalists who preferred the hubris of trying to craft a Middle East anew — best embodied by 2015's harrowing nuclear accord with the Islamic Republic of Iran — over the prudence of addressing the Middle East as it actually is.

At long last, the U.S. has a president grounded in reality — who sees the world as it is, and not as academes and theorists would rather it be. The U.S. has a president who advances a hardened and realist foreign policy, grounded in a properly narrow conception of American nationalist interests, which properly rewards our allies as allies and punishes our enemies as enemies.

In the Middle East, this has translated into a famously pro-Israel, anti-Iran set of foreign policy initiatives. Trump has moved the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, defended Israel to the hilt at the United Nations, unveiled the most pro-Israel U.S. peace plan initiative ever, withdrew the U.S. from Obama's terrible nuclear deal and punished the Islamic Republic with crippling sanctions as part of a broader "maximum pressure" campaign. As Israel's relations, following the nuclear deal with Shiite Iran, began to clandestinely thaw with the region's Sunni Gulf states, those Sunni Arab countries saw a strong, militarily emboldened Israel that had unambiguous American support. They saw a nation unequivocally committed to opposing a nuclear Iran, which the Sunni Arab states also fear, by any means necessary. They saw an Israel, with the imprimatur of Trump's peace plan, confident that it would not be browbeaten by supercilious Western elites into yielding yet more land concessions for an illusory peace with an implacable Palestinian foe.

The Israel-UAE peace agreement is Israel's first with an Arab country since the 1994 accord with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. But it is the single most transformative peace agreement of them all. Israel has not given up any land. Nor, for that matter, has Israel been weakened in any way whatsoever.

The race is now on to see who will next follow the UAE and make peace with Israel: Bahrain, Oman and Morocco appear to be the leading contenders. This is the legacy of the Trump-Netanyahu doctrine: the latest proof of the age-old truth that peace comes when a historical foe is not weak but strong, and the evisceration of the elites' consensus that claimed the contrary.
Caroline Glick: Is the Palestinian veto alive or dead?
Since Israel was established the Palestinian veto doomed all efforts to forge peace between the Arab world and the Jewish state.

The Palestinian veto rests on a toxic proposition that Israel's right to exist is contingent on its satisfaction of Palestinian claims against it. So long as the Palestinians say they are unappeased, Israel cannot expect the Arab world to either recognize or live in peace with it.

The very existence of the veto has ensured that the Palestinians will never be satisfied with any Israeli concession and will never agree to peaceful coexistence with the Jewish state. After all, their global and regional importance is a product of the veto. The Arabs and much of the rest of the world support the Palestinians because they wield the veto. As holders of the veto, the Palestinians are viewed as the key – or the key obstacle – to Middle East peace. If they give up or lose the veto, they will lose their position and power to enable or block peace and foment war and instability.

As for the Arab leaders, for generations, the Palestinian veto was the key to their own power and stability. It enabled them to deflect the attention of their peoples and of the governments of the world away from their corruption, extremism, and failure at home and abroad. It enabled them to scapegoat Israel and blame the Jewish state for the suffering and stagnation of their people.

Given its toxic power, abrogating the Palestinian veto has always been Israel's highest goal. And given its centrality for both the Palestinians and the wider Arab world, for most Israelis, it seemed like a dream so impossible that it wasn't even worth dreaming.

The peace treaties Israel signed with Egypt and Jordan were concluded while genuflecting to the Palestinian veto. Egyptian president Anwar Sadat signed Egypt's peace deal with Israel in 1979 only after he concluded a framework deal for Palestinian autonomy with then-Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.

King Hussein of Jordan only agreed to sign a peace deal with the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1994 after Rabin signed the Oslo peace deal with PLO chief Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn.

Since signing their peace treaties with Israel, Egypt and Jordan have continuously breached them by refusing to implement the clauses of their deals that require them to normalize their relations with Israel. Both use the Palestinian veto to justify their material breaches, which have reduced both "historic" treaties into little more than long-term ceasefires.
Arsen Ostrovsky: From Israel: Celebrating Peace With the UAE and Looking to the Future
Though there are many differences between us, I believe there is far more that unites us.

We are both a proud people, with rich history and traditions. The fact that this agreement is called the "Abraham Accord" is a testament to this, because it also underscores our inextricable bond to the Prophet Abraham.

We are both forward-looking, understanding that the future belongs to those who innovate and look ahead—not those held back by past dogmas. Indeed, the UAE recently launched the Arab world's first mission to Mars, while Israel is universally acknowledged as the "start-up nation" for our technological prowess.

We are also both committed to advancing the cause of peace, both with our Palestinian neighbors and with the region more broadly. I believe the UAE and broader Gulf community can play a leading role in fostering this.

We both also have a shared strategic interest in the global fight against terror and extremism—most notably against the dark forces of Iran, Hezbollah and ISIS.

And finally, in a COVID-19-infused world, we have already started working together to find a cure.

Unlike Israel's peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, I believe what singles out the proposal with the UAE is that it is all-encompassing and, crucially, builds on a bottom-up, people-to-people framework—not a "cold" approach imposed by political leadership.

This agreement is already paving the path for an endless array of new opportunities, ready to be seized, from direct travel and phone calls to trade in tech and collaboration in research and culture.

Peace is not made overnight. It requires effort, courage and mutual commitment.

It is my sincere hope that other countries in the Arab and Gulf world will follow the brave and principled leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed to embrace relations with the Jewish state and build the foundation for a better future for all the people of the Middle East.

In the Jewish tradition, it is common to end our High Holiday prayers with the saying, "next year in Jerusalem." May indeed it be "next year in Jerusalem" for the people of the UAE and the Gulf, as we look forward to welcoming them as cherished friends and welcome guests in our country!

Shalom, salaam and welcome
Writing exclusively for Ynet, UAE diplomat Yousef Al Otaiba hails the new agreement with Israel, which is the gate to a better future across the Middle East, including growth and innovation, better opportunities for the young and a breakdown of long-held prejudices

This week, the United Arab Emirates and Israel announced an agreement to normalize relations and unlocked a gate toward a better future across the Middle East. We also closed the gate on annexation and created new dynamics in the peace process. It is an important win for diplomacy and for people of the region.

So what does this mean for Emiratis and Israelis and for the people of the region? As two of the Middle East’s most dynamic economies and vibrant societies, closer UAE-Israel ties will accelerate growth and innovation, expand opportunities for young people, and breakdown long-held prejudices.

It will help move the region beyond a troubled legacy of hostility and strife to a more hopeful destiny of peace and prosperity.
Normalizing ties has already begun this week and will progress in phases. Most urgently, we announced new cooperative efforts to fight the coronavirus.

We opened a direct telecommunications link when our foreign ministers spoke in a congratulatory phone call.

Near-term plans also include talks on air travel, telecommunications and shipping; collaboration on health, water and food security, climate change, technology and energy; cultural and educational exchanges; and ministerial-level visits. An exchange of Ambassadors and diplomatic missions will follow.

Our two governments also will start work on reciprocal visa access for tourists, students and businesspeople. With direct flights, our world-leading airlines will offer quick access to the UAE and beyond to virtually every major destination on earth.

And as we make progress against the coronavirus, we look forward to welcoming Israelis to visit their pavilion and more than 100 others at the World Expo in Dubai next October.
UAE envoy: With Israel deal done, we’ll directly advocate for Palestinian state
In his second op-ed for an Israeli newspaper, the United Arab Emirates’s ambassador to the US said the new normalization agreement with Israel would allow for “direct” advocacy for the Palestinian cause, including the establishment of a sovereign state, now with “stronger” tools.

“As we have for fifty years, we will forcefully advocate for these ends,” Yousef Al-Otaiba wrote in the piece for Yedioth Ahronoth. “Now, we will do it directly, face to face and empowered with stronger incentives, policy options and diplomatic tools.

“The UAE will remain an ardent and consistent supporter of the Palestinian people — for their dignity, their rights and their own sovereign state. They must share in the benefits of normalization,” he wrote.

“We also closed the gate on annexation and created new dynamics in the peace process,” Al-Otaiba said.

In his first op-ed in June, months before the normalization deal was clinched, Al-Otaiba warned Jerusalem against its plan to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank, saying such a move would destroy any hopes for further rapprochement between the Jewish state and the Arab world.

Al-Otaiba was one of the three Arab ambassadors to attend the White House ceremony during which US President Donald Trump unveiled his peace plan for the Middle East.

Israel and the UAE announced an agreement last week to establish full normalized relations. The agreement makes the UAE the third Arab country, after Egypt and Jordan, to have full, active diplomatic ties with Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denied reports the deal included a green light for the US to sell Abu Dhabi its most advanced fighter jets and UAVs.
UAE: Israel deal about halting annexation and economic boost, not Iran
The burgeoning peace deal with Israel had more to do with suspending West Bank annexation and boosting the economy, than with regional tensions over Iran, the United Arab Emirates’ Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash told the US based think tank called the Atlantic Council.

“We felt that tying this with the suspension of annexation will actually give us a good deal in many ways. Even in the Arab context,” Gargash said in a wide ranging interview on Thursday.

He clarified that as part of the deal Israel had agreed to suspend annexation, a move which could preserve the option for a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“It’s a firm commitment by the Israeli government which gives you space for a two-state solution. And if you look, really, at the Arab peace initiative, the Arab peace initiative is really about a two-state solution. You know, peace for normalization, that’s also important,” Gargash said.

He referenced the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative which offered Israel normalized ties with 57 Arab and Muslims States, if it agreed to a two-state resolution based on the pre-1967 lines. Israel has rejected any option of return to the pre-1967 lines, which would include giving up half of Jerusalem and its Old City. It has instead argued that the best way to move forward with peace, was to forge ties first with the Arab world.

“In the 18 years since the Arab peace initiatives, the biggest threat to a two-state solution has been annexation,” Gargash said.

This deal, he said, "delivers a clear promise of suspension of annexation” and there is no “time-frame” with respect to that suspension, he added.
Axed Sudanese spokesman defends opening up on talks with Israel
The former spokesman of Sudan’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday that he does not regret confirming the existence of normalization talks between Khartoum and Jerusalem even after the revelation led to his firing earlier this week.

“I don’t regret it at all,” Haidar Badawi Sadiq told Israel’s Kan public broadcaster in an interview.

Sadiq was fired on Wednesday, a day after he sparked a diplomatic flurry by publicly disclosing normalization talks with Israel, apparently without authorization.

Sadiq told Sky News Arabia Tuesday that Sudan was looking forward to establishing ties with Israel and predicted that a treaty between Jerusalem and Khartoum could be signed by the end of the year or in early 2021.

His comments which came amid feverish speculation that other countries may soon join the United Arab Emirates in agreeing to normalization with Israel.

The official Sudanese News Agency reported the next day that acting Foreign Minister Omar Qamar al-Din Ismail “issued a decision relieving Sadiq of his position.”
Could an Israeli-Saudi Peace be Next? Yes, With One Caveat
Yesterday's announcement by Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister that there will be no normalization with Israel unless there is peace with the Palestinians, shows how much work is yet to be done, and how much Israel will have to reform if it really wants to become a fully accepted part of the region.

This is not to detract from last week's agreement between the UAE and Israel, which was attacked by the extremists who want the Middle East to be at the mercy of divisive Islamism and Iranian projection of power, rather than on a path to unity and peace.

I see the UAE's move as a milestone toward a more harmonious region. As such, the agreement should be celebrated.

Still, real normalization of Israel in the region, and across the Arab and Muslim worlds, can only happen if and when there is a deal struck between the Jewish State and the birthplace of Islam, Saudi Arabia. At the same time, Saudi remains committed to a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, based on 1967 borders. The desire to welcome Israel into the region is real. But the question now is just how much change and reform Netanyahu is willing to implement make to secure this acceptance.

The benefits of reform and reconciliation to Israelis and Palestinians cannot be overstated. But opening the path to friendship with Riyadh is a benefit in its own right. Riyadh, the cultural capital of the Kingdom amongst the world's 2 billion Muslims is second to none. And when much anti-Israeli rhetoric is based on the sanctity of the Al Aqsa Mosque and on the perceived conflict between Jews and Muslims there, it is those 2 billion hearts and minds that must be part of a resolution to this conflict.

There will certainly be other milestones on the possible route to that ultimate achievement—there is already speculation that Bahrain, Morocco and others could follow in the UAE's footsteps. But there is no doubt about the ultimate prize for those who desire normalization between Israel and its neighbors: full relations with Saudi Arabia.
Can the Temple Mount be a trading card to entice the Saudis?
US President Donald Trump didn’t even pause when asked by a reporter in Washington if Saudi Arabia would follow the United Arab Emirates, which last week signed a peace deal with Israel to normalize ties.

“I do,” he said on Wednesday.

Trump was so eager to answer that question from the White House podium he didn’t even wait for the reporter to finish before interrupting her in the affirmative.

It was as if the Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan had not just hours earlier announced that his country had no intention of signing a peace deal with Israel prior to its withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines within the context of a final status agreement for a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

Trump’s son-in-law and Special Adviser Jared Kushner has been more cautious about Saudi Arabia, when predicting which countries might agree to recognize Israel prior to any deal with the Palestinians, noting that it would happen, but perhaps not right away.

Former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk speculated on Twitter this week and then in an interview with The Jerusalem Post, that one way to get Saudi Arabia to the table, was to offer them some form of custodianship over Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, known to Muslims as al-Haram al-Sharif.

It was, he clarified, a speculative idea and not one which he would recommend.
Saudi price for ties with Israel is Palestinian state
Saudi Arabia's price for normalizing relations with Israel is the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, a senior member of the Saudi royal family reaffirmed on Friday.

Prince Turki al-Faisal was apparently responding to US President Donald Trump who said on Wednesday he expected Saudi Arabia to join a deal announced last week by Israel and the United Arab Emirates to normalize diplomatic ties.

The UAE is only the third Arab state in more than 70 years to forge full relations with Israel. Under the US-brokered deal, Israel shelved plans to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank, which Palestinians seek as part of a future state.

The UAE said Israel's commitment had kept alive the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israel hitherto had no formal ties with Gulf Arab states but shared concerns with the UAE about Iran's regional influence and actions, along with the UAE's role as a regional business hub, led to a limited thaw and discreet contacts in recent years.

The deal raised speculation that other US-backed Gulf Arab countries might follow. But Prince Turki said Saudi Arabia, the biggest Gulf Arab power which has traditionally guided policy towards Israel, expected a higher return from Israel.

"Any Arab state that is considering following the UAE should demand in return a price, and it should be an expensive price," he wrote in the Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat.

At joint Hamas-Fatah rally in West Bank, 2,000 protest Israel-UAE deal
Several thousand Palestinians on Wednesday held a protest in the West Bank against last week’s announcement that Israel was normalizing ties with the United Arab Emirates.

Members of terror group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and the Fatah faction of president Mahmoud Abbas’s West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, took part in the rally in a rare joint initiative.

“Today we tell the world that we are united against ‘the deal of the century,’ annexation and normalization,” Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh told the rally in the village of Turmusaya.

The bombshell announcement last week that Israel and the energy-rich UAE would normalize ties sparked fury among Palestinians, with both Hamas and the PA leadership denouncing the US-brokered agreement.

Under the deal Israel said it would suspend its plans to unilaterally annex settlements and other territory in the West Bank.

The allocation of some 30 percent of West Bank territory to Israel, with the Palestinians allocated the rest and additional land from within Israel for a conditional Palestinian state, was outlined in the Middle East peace proposal unveiled in January by US President Donald Trump.

EXCLUSIVE – Knesset Christian Caucus Head: Trump Will Declare Israeli West Bank Sovereignty Before Election
President Donald Trump will make a formal declaration recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank in the lead up to the 2020 presidential elections, the head of a Christian Knesset caucus claimed in an exclusive interview with Breitbart News on Wednesday.

“I believe that right before the election Donald Trump will make a statement recognizing Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria,” the director of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus, Josh Reinstein, said.

According to Reinstein, Trump is likely to say something along the lines of a May statement made by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, asserting Israel’s right to decide to apply its law over the West Bank.

Reinstein’s remarks follow the recently signed U.S.-brokered peace deal between the United Arab Emirates and Israel which included a clause to suspend Israel’s annexation plans.

According to remarks made both by Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following the deal, the issue of sovereignty was shelved at the U.S.’ behest.

“Israel has agreed not to do it. More than off the table, they have agreed not to do it,” Trump said. “I think that very important. I think it was a great concession by Israel, I think it was a smart concession.”

However, according to Reinstein, Trump’s history of pro-Israel policies makes it likely that the postponement will not last long.

“If you look at his track record, he’s done all the big things that [his base] wants from him,” Reinstein said. (h/t Gnomercy)
The PA is the one building in Judea and Samaria
While the normalization deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates is real cause for joy, and the historic missed opportunity to apply sovereignty in Judea and Samaria is a serious disappointment, what is taking place on the ground on Netanyahu's watch when it comes to promoting and preserving the settlements, is mostly a source of deep sadness. In truth, it's nothing less than a scandal.

In the past few years, the Palestinians have been spreading out in Area C, which is officially under Israeli defense and security as well as civil control. They are on the offensive and are working in an orderly and consistent, not to mention well-funded, manner. Hundreds of thousands of dunams of state land or land that is currently in the process of being registered have been grabbed and turned into farmland. The Palestinians are also building tens of thousands of homes at the most strategic points, which will ultimately decide the battle for Area C. In the past decade, the number of illegally-built Palestinian structures has risen from about 30,000 to 50,000.

Israel is dealing with this phenomenon, which is critical to the future of these parts of the homeland, by doing almost nothing. The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, headed by MK Zvi Hauser, recently discussed what is taking place in that no-man's-land and discovered to its amazement a secret cabinet decision made a year ago, according to which Israel must thwart the Palestinians' plan to snatch Area C. That same decision even demanded that the Defense Ministry map the area, appoint a coordinator and bring the cabinet facts and recommendations. But nearly none of that happened.
IDF carries out three waves of airstrikes as 12 rockets launched from Gaza
The IDF struck targets belonging to Hamas in the Gaza Strip during three rounds of airstrikes as 12 rockets were fired towards southern Israel from the coastal enclave on Thursday night.

Of the 12 projectiles fired from the Strip, 9 were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system and others landed in open fields or within Gaza.

Emergency services said three people were treated for shock after an unexploded rocket fell on a house in Sderot and two others were injured while running for safety following the sirens.

A house in the college town of Sderot was also severely damaged by Iron Dome rocket interceptor fragments which landed on it, destroying windows and blasting large house in the walls.

In response to the rocket fire, Israeli military said that Israeli Airforce jets and helicopters struck sites belonging to Hamas in three waves, including underground facilities, a rocket-building site, and a cement facility used to provide materials to build tunnels used by the group.
‘It’s a miracle we’re ok,’ says Sderot man after rocket ‘cut the house in two’
A man whose home in the southern city of Sderot suffered serious damage in a rocket attack from Gaza overnight said he believed he and his wife miraculously escaped after warning sirens failed to wake them.

“It’s a miracle [that we’re okay],” Shlomo Malka told Hebrew media outlets. “We did not hear the alert at all, we were awoken by the explosion.”

“It cut the house in two. It hit the roof of the secure room,” he said, referring to the shelter within the house. “Suddenly we heard explosions and smelled smoke. We ran to the police station,” he told the Ynet news site. “It was only after we left [the house] that we saw the destruction.”

“It was very scary but luckily nobody was hurt. My granddaughters were supposed to come to stay for Shabbat but the whole kitchen has been destroyed. I still haven’t internalized what has happened,” Malka said.

Pictures of the home showed the kitchen blown apart, windows smashed and large holes in the walls and roof.

Reports indicated that the damage may have been caused by an unexploded rocket that hit the house or large pieces of shrapnel from an interception by the Iron Dome defense system.
3 Gaza rockets knocked down by Iron Dome after IDF strikes Strip
The Israel Defense Forces struck Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Thursday night for the tenth day in a row amid ongoing arson balloon attacks and several rocket launches on southern Israel, as the tense border region appeared to heat up.

The strikes were preceded by a failed rocket attack and drew three more launches, which were intercepted by the Iron Dome air-defense system, in a marked escalation of already high tensions. There were no casualties or damage.

The IDF said fighter jets and other aircraft struck “a concrete plant used for building underground infrastructure and tunnels for the Hamas terror group.”

It said the strike was in response to balloons carrying incendiary devices and explosive launched into Israel throughout the day.

Palestinian media reported that the Israeli strikes targeted a Hamas military wing facility in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza. Palestinian sources reported light damage but no casualties.

The reported strikes came shortly after the army confirmed that several rockets had been fired fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, but apparently landed inside the coastal enclave.

The earlier rockets did not trigger warning sirens in any Israeli communities near the Hamas-run coastal enclave and there were no reports of injuries.

Khaled Abu Toameh: Qatar-Egypt rivalry preventing calm in Gaza
Political tensions between Qatar and Egypt are hindering efforts to avert a military confrontation between Israel and Hamas, Palestinian sources said Thursday.

The two Arab countries are separately trying to mediate an end to tensions between Hamas and Israel after Gaza-based terrorists resumed incendiary-balloon attacks on Israel over the past two weeks.

Earlier this week, an Egyptian security delegation visited the Gaza Strip for talks with leaders of Hamas and other Palestinian factions on ways of easing tensions with Israel.

The Egyptian intelligence officials received a list of demands from the Palestinian factions that include an increase in the number of permits for Palestinians to work in Israel, from 5,000 to 10,000, solving the electricity crisis in the coastal enclave, expanding the fishing zone and raising the Qatari cash grant to Palestinian families to $40 million, the sources said.

The latest Qatari cash grant, estimated to be $20m., is scheduled to end next month.

Qatar has agreed to renew its financial aid to the Gaza Strip for another six months, Hezbollah-affiliated Al Akhbar newspaper reported Thursday.

Hamas officials said they have not received confirmation from Qatar about its purported readiness to continue the payments to nearly 100,000 families in the Gaza Strip.

Qatar’s reluctance to clarify its position regarding the future of cash grants to the Gaza Strip is likely aimed at sabotaging Egypt’s efforts to persuade Hamas and Israel to abide by ceasefire understandings reached earlier this year under the Egyptians, Qataris and the United Nations.
Hamas demands more money from Qatar
Hamas is demanding that Qatar increase the amount of money it sends to the Gaza Strip each month to $40 million, to allow it to move ahead with a number of civilian projects in Gaza.

Hamas made its demand this week as party of efforts by Egypt and the UN to calm escalating security tensions between Hamas and Israel. Currently, Qatar sends $30 million to Gaza each month, in cash.

Israel allows the money to be transferred after it reviews a detailed list of the residents and projects for which it is earmarked, although it believed that some of the money finds its ways into the hands of Hamas, which uses it to build up its military capabilities.

Qatar starting sending funds to the Gaza Strip less than two years ago. At first, the amount stood at $5 million monthly. It was increased to $10 million, than $20 million, and this past year the amount has grown to $30 million.

Now, in addition to asking for another $10 million per month, Hamas is demanding that the money be transferred on a regular basis and for a pre-determined "long-term" period.

Qatar has yet to respond to Hamas' demand – among other reasons, because it wants to know where the money will go. Israel is also deliberating about how to respond, and the top diplomatic and military echelons have a few different ways to approach the issue.

One official has said that Israel must accede to Hamas' demand as part of a long-term truce with Gaza, whereas another official said that there were options other than sending Hamas money, such as approving projects Hamas sees as important, particularly in the fields of health care and infrastructure. The second official said that by seeking alternatives to infusions of cash, Israel would reduce the risk of the Qatari money "reaching places that could put Israel's security at risk."

Western Intelligence Services Questioning Hezbollah Claim of Innocence for Beirut Blast, German News Report Says
Western intelligence agencies are questioning the veracity of Hezbollah’s insistence that it had nothing to do with the devastating explosion in Beirut’s port area earlier this month, a German news outlet claimed this week.

Citing unnamed “Western intelligence sources,” a report in Die Welt stated that while it remained unclear who had owned and stored the ammonium nitrate that caused the Aug. 4 blast, the terrorist group had received at least three deliveries of the same explosive material from its patron, the Iranian regime.

These deliveries to Hezbollah were allegedly made in late 2013 and early 2014 — around the same time that ammonium nitrate that caused the port blast arrived in the Lebanese capital.

“The Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC-QF), which is responsible for foreign operations and which has a key political position in Iran, is said to have been responsible for the transport,” the report said.

The IRGC-Quds Force’s former commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, was killed by a US drone strike in Iraq in January of this year. Die Welt revealed that Soleimani had been in charge of the transport of ammonium nitrate to Hezbollah, which functions as Iran’s Shi’a proxy force in Lebanon.

UN Supports 'World's Worst State Sponsor of Terrorism,' Iran
Europe's leaders also did not support extending the arms embargo. They have been arguing that they want to preserve the nuclear deal. What deal? The deal that Iran never signed? The deal that Iran has been violating anyway?

The European powers have also ignored a recent plea by Iran's neighbors to extend the arms embargo, as well as a recent statement made by the IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, who raised serious concerns about possible clandestine and undeclared nuclear sites in Iran.

The six-country Gulf Cooperation Council -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates -- submitted a plea to the UN Security Council to extend the Iranian arms embargo. The letter accurately stated that "Iran has not ceased or desisted from armed interventions in neighboring countries, directly and through organizations and movements armed and trained by Iran. As such, it is inappropriate to lift the restrictions on conventional weapons' movement to and from Iran until it abandons its destabilizing activities in the region and ceases to provide weapons to terrorist and sectarian organizations."

The UN's decisions to allow "the world's worst state sponsor of terrorism," freely to have an unlimited supply chain of conventional weapons may sadly go down in history as one of the most dangerous acts against stability and world peace.
Richard Grenell: Why would our allies allow an enemy like Iran to rearm?
The United Nations Security Council surpassed itself last week when it rejected Washington’s effort to extend a 2007 arms embargo on the Islamic Republic of Iran, granting approval to the world’s largest state sponsor of terror to import and export conventional weapons again. The U.S. expected China and Russia to veto the measure, as Beijing and Moscow will be the likeliest new suppliers of aircraft and tanks to the mullahs in Tehran. But what made less sense to U.S. policymakers — and what makes Americans less safe — are the countries that abstained from voting at all, notably Britain, Germany and France.

This was a particularly troubling decision by Germany, which recently took the bold step of circumventing EU policy by designating the entirety of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Germany also regularly reaffirms its special commitment to the security of Israel, the country most threatened by Iranian arms. Germany’s decision not to prevent Iran from importing Chinese and Russian weapons systems is so consequential for Hezbollah’s resourcing capacities that it effectively neutralizes the positive step Berlin had taken by revising its Hezbollah policy.

The reason for German, British and French abstention — and the reason for an expiration date on the original embargo from 13 years ago — is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 Obama-Biden nuclear deal with Iran. That agreement was endorsed by U.N. Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2231, which mandated an end to the Iranian embargo on Oct. 18, 2020. The Europeans want to save the JCPOA, and the Russians and Chinese want to end the embargo. The incentives for this deal were aligned against American interests from its inception.

As many predicted at the time, there would be grave consequences for the Obama-Biden insistence that U.S. foreign policy must be negotiated by consensus with Europe. Traumatized by the rise of anti-American sentiment in Europe during the George W. Bush administration, President Obama and Vice President Biden made sure that U.S. Middle East policy would be first approved by the major European powers, giving Berlin, Paris and London a veto over American policy. And, of course, that veto power is wildly popular in Europe. But that conviction subordinated U.S. interests in the Middle East — such as regional stability, balance of power, violence reduction and Israeli security — to the interests of Europe, which have always been more commercial.
Former US intel director slams Germany for lifting Iran arms embargo
The former acting director of intelligence for the US Richard Grenell authored a stinging indictment of Germany’s government for its failure to vote in favor of an extended weapons embargo against Iran’s regime, a deadly adversary of the United States, Israel as well as the West.

Writing in his The Hill column, Grenell, a former Ambassador to Germany, declared “this was a particularly troubling decision by Germany, which recently took the bold step of circumventing EU policy by designating the entirety of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Germany also regularly reaffirms its special commitment to the security of Israel, the country most threatened by Iranian arms.”

He added that “Germany’s decision not to prevent Iran from importing Chinese and Russian weapons systems is so consequential for Hezbollah’s resourcing capacities that it effectively neutralizes the positive step Berlin had taken by revising its Hezbollah policy.“

Germany banned all Hezbollah activities within the territory of the Federal Republic in April. Grenell said the reason for Germany’s vote, along with France and the United Kingdom, to abstain last week at the United Nations Security Council, was due to its goal to preserve the controversial 2015 Iran nuclear deal, formerly known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The US withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018 because the unsigned agreement did not advance American national security interests to stop Iranian terrorism and its nuclear weapons ambitions, according to the Trump administration.
China moves to block US triggering of snapback UNSC sanctions on Iran
China was among at least six UNSC member states who objected to the move, after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited United Nations headquarters on Thursday to formally request that UNSC sanctions against Iran be reinstated.

Those sanctions had been rescinded in 2015 when the Iran deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was signed between Tehran and the six world powers: the United States, China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom and Germany.

The US withdrew from the deal in 2018, arguing that it was flawed. The US and Israel have charged that in addition Iran is not in compliance with the deal.

On Thursday, Pompeo activated a clause in UNSC Resolution 2231 under which terms the Iran sanctions were revoked in 2015, which allowed a UNSC member to snapback those sanctions due to Iranian non-compliance.

Iran and UNSC member states such as China, who oppose the move, have said that the US has no legal standing to call for the snapback sanctions because it withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018. There must also be a good-faith effort to resolve issues around compliance, they said.

China's UN Ambassador Zhang Jun asked Indonesia, which holds the rotating UNSC presidency for August, "not to identify and circulate the US communication as a notification" to trigger the snapback process, and to consult with all council members on how to proceed.

Russia's UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia rejected the US plan as "nonexistent." Russia called for the council to meet on Iran on Friday but diplomats said that Washington blocked the request.

Don't buy into UN fearmongering on the Iran deal
The Trump administration announced that the United States would begin the process of triggering the Iran sanctions snapback mechanism that will restore the robust sanctions regime that was terminated in 2015 as part of the Iran nuclear deal. Supporters of the deal (namely the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and an army of well-wishing foreign policy elites from the Obama administration) are desperate to keep it on life support to preserve the possibility of a Biden administration reentering the deal if he wins.

Advocates are now claiming that since the Trump administration made the mistake of withdrawing from the nuclear deal, the U.S. cannot now use the deal’s snapback mechanism to reimpose sanctions. They’re wrong.

The Trump administration is seeking to invoke the nuclear deal's snapback provision in order to preserve the arms embargo on Iran that the United Nations Security Council just decided to let expire in October. The arms embargo prevents the sale of advanced military weapons such as fighter planes and tanks to Iran. A snapback would not only maintain the much-needed arms embargo, but also extend the ballistic missile ban, which limits Iran’s capacity to procure or build the missiles regime it would need to deliver a nuclear weapon — a ban set to expire in 2023 but which Iran repeatedly violates.

Opponents of the snapback argue that because the U.S. withdrew from the nuclear deal, it doesn’t have the legal standing to reimpose sanctions. But this is plainly untrue. The snapback provision is enshrined in U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the nuclear deal. The resolution both suspended prior sanctions and included a snapback provision that allowed for the reimposition of those U.N. sanctions and restrictions on Iran.

According to the convoluted (even by U.N. standards) language of the resolution, any "participant state" (that is, any of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council) is eligible to trigger the snapback if it considers Iran in “significant nonperformance” of the nuclear deal. The U.S., according to this resolution, is deemed a participant state in perpetuity.

The resolutions counterintuitive snapback mechanism allows any participant state to reimpose the multilateral sanctions and restrictions, effectively killing the Iran nuclear deal. This mechanism isn’t a technicality: The ability of the U.S. to unilaterally “snap back” sanctions was one of the Obama administration’s major selling points for the deal. Further, the U.N. resolution is worded such that Security Council unanimity would be required to stop the snapback process and preserve the nuclear deal.

Thus, the Trump administration can effectively kill the deal once and for all, as it has correctly chosen to do.

Iran Rolls Out New Missiles Named After Commanders Killed by American Airstrike
Iran announced the creation of new missiles named in honor of two commanders killed in an American airstrike, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

The Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi missile systems vary in size and range, but analysts expect both to have the ability to strike areas of vital importance.

With a range of more than 800 miles, the Qassem Soleimani missile system allows Iran to target Israel, while the Abu Mahdi naval cruise missile's 620-mile range enables strikes on the Persian Gulf, where Iran shares an aquatic border with the United Arab Emirates. The new missiles are massive upgrades for the Islamic Republic—Iran's previously known naval cruise missiles have a range of fewer than 200 miles.

"This is quite sophisticated. It's the kind of system that state-of-the-art militaries would want to use," said Fabian Hinz, research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

Both missiles are named for military leaders killed in an American airstrike in Iraq in January. Qassem Soleimani was a general for Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which the White House designated as a terrorist organization last year.

Soleimani was instrumental in building the Iranian "fifth column," a network of paramilitary and terrorist organizations backed by Iran throughout the Middle East. Attacks committed by the fifth column forces have been responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American service members.
Iranian Defense Minister General Amir Hatami: Our Missiles Can Penetrate the Enemy’s Defenses

Iranian-backed front group claims to target American supply convoy in Iraq
A likely Iranian-backed front group has claimed responsibility for an alleged attack against an American supply convoy in Iraq’s Anbar province near the Jordanian border on Aug. 16. The claim was published by People of the Cave, a group belonging to the so-called Islamic Resistance in Iraq.

The group said it targeted and destroyed “an American military convoy” and “completely” wiped it out “within the borders of the noble Anbar province,” but similar recent attacks have been disputed.

Footage of the attack released with the statement began with the voice of Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah referencing former commander Imad Mughniyeh.

In darkness, the video showed what appeared to be the taillights of several vehicles stopped on a road. A few moments later, several explosions occurred beside the vehicles and the scene was repeated several times before the video ended.

The footage of the publication slightly deviated from previous videos. A watermark in the video showed the publication was produced by the War Media Department (دائرة الإعلام الحربي), which is the first time the watermark has appeared with this particular front group.

War Media (الإعلام الحربي) is the standard watermark for both Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthi movement, as well as several Iraqi and Bahraini militias within Iran’s network.

It is likely that as the group has grown, it has attempted to evolve its media apparatus to mirror that of Hezbollah or other groups within the so-called “Islamic Resistance.”

It is clear that People of the Cave was also trying to market itself within the “Axis of Resistance,” or Iran’s network of various state and non-state actors across the Middle East opposed to US presence in the region.

Additionally, the footage released by People of the Cave failed to show the effect of the blast on the convoy, making it difficult to determine if the convoy was destroyed.

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 14 years and 30,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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