Wednesday, December 02, 2020

From Ian:

Knesset advances motion to disband, moving toward 4th elections in 2 years
The Knesset on Wednesday passed a bill to dissolve, setting the stage for the fourth round of national elections in two years as Defense Minister Benny Gantz and his Blue and White party broke from the coalition and voted in favor of the measure.

The bill passed with 61 MKs voting in favor and 54 against.

Gantz’s support for the opposition bill will likely spell the end of his ill-fated power-sharing partnership with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, some six months after agreeing to join a unity government in order to deal with the coronavirus crisis.

The measure must still go through committee and pass three more readings in the Knesset before new elections are called, likely for sometime in the spring or summer.

“The dissolution of the Knesset is not a victory, it’s the first step toward a different government, which will deal with the coronavirus and the economy and won’t cause Israelis to hate each other,” Opposition Leader Yair Lapid, who proposed the measure, tweeted after the bill was passed.

Coalition whip Miki Zohar, a Likud party ally of Netanyahu’s, accused Blue and White and the opposition of again “dragging” Israelis to the ballot box.

“The only thing in common between the factions that make up the opposition and Blue and White is their ambition to harm Netanyahu’s tenure,” he wrote on Twitter. “This is a sad moment for the Israeli people.”

Gantz on Tuesday night announced he would support the measure, accusing Netanyahu of committing an “economic terror attack” by refusing to allow the 2020 and 2021 budgets to move forward.

If the Knesset dissolution bill isn’t ultimately approved, the government has until December 23 to pass a 2020 budget or the government will fall and elections will automatically be scheduled for March 23, 2021.

Israel Aims To Make Iran's Nuclear Program a Risky Venture
Netanyahu's predecessor, Ehud Olmert, was even more explicit. In a 2018 interview with Israeli television channel Kan, the former premier suggested that the Iranian scientist represented a target of opportunity for Israel's clandestine service. "I know Fakhrizadeh well. He doesn't know how well I know him. If I met him in the streets, most likely I would recognize him," Olmert remarked. "He does not have immunity, he did not have immunity and I don't think he will have immunity." Israel now appears to have made good on Olmert's warning.

Yet Friday's killing has another facet, as well: It reflects what amounts to a significant shift in strategy on the part of the Jewish state. For years, speculation has abounded that Israel might ultimately decide to act unilaterally against Iran's nuclear program, which represents the gravest external threat to its security. The possibility of an Israeli military strike on Iranian nuclear sites is still very much on the table today, but it is an option hamstrung by a harsh reality: It is simply not possible to bomb knowledge.

Over the past two decades, Iran has amassed a formidable cadre of experts, scientists and engineers to power its atomic effort. In turn, the Iranian regime has taken great comfort in the idea that these specialists, spread over the length and breadth of its national nuclear endeavor, provide a guarantee of sorts that any military strike would turn out to be, at best, a temporary setback to the regime's path to the bomb.

Changing that calculus has naturally become a growing priority for Jerusalem. Over the past decade, no fewer than five high-level Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed in a variety of very public ways. The assassination of Fakhrizadeh is just the latest part of this pattern.

Whether this campaign has any lasting effect on Iran's nuclear trajectory remains to be seen. The larger message it is trying to convey, however, is crystal clear. Israel is putting Iran's nuclear scientists on notice that their chosen vocation could turn out to be downright hazardous to their health, and that they would be prudent to seek other employment.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Arabs Warn Biden: Do Not Embolden Hezbollah
The message they [nationals of Lebanon] are sending to a new US administration is: The Lebanese people are hoping that you will help them get rid of Hezbollah. Cozying up to Iran would further embolden Hezbollah and allow it to destroy Lebanon by turning it into an Iranian-controlled colony.

"The Lebanese people... are being held hostage today by a militia that is financed by Iran, whose weapons are coming from Iran, and even whose leader, Hassan Nasrallah, is stating clearly and publicly that he takes orders from Iran." — Samy Gemayel, leader of the Christian Kataeb Party, November 23, 2020.

"Hezbollah is the only party in Lebanon that has 20,000 soldiers on the ground.... it can do a lot to make our democracy totally fictive. Today, we are being treated as hostages, and therefore the international community must help us." — Samy Gemayel.

Rabi's expressed hope that Biden would refuse to follow the policies of former President Barack Obama toward Iran. "This mistake needs to be corrected," Rabi wrote, referring to Obama's policy of appeasement toward Iran. "Correcting it can only be done by adopting a policy different from the Obama policy."

The Lebanese and Arab warnings about a possible return to the nuclear deal with Iran and the resulting empowerment of Hezbollah need to be taken seriously by the new US administration. The Lebanese and Arabs are trying to tell Biden what they and the Trump administration have known for the past few years, namely, that Iran and its proxies -- such as Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Houthis -- are poised to wreak havoc in the Middle East.

Biden's team blind spot on terror
President-elect Joe Biden's first major foreign policy appointments are being hailed as centrists and experts. None of them are known as radicals, ideologues or Israel-bashers. News outlets have made much of the fact that the stepson of a Holocaust survivor is one of the key appointments. But a closer look at their backgrounds and associations raises disturbing questions about their views on Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Secretary of State-designate Antony Blinken, National Intelligence Director-designate Avril Haines, and UN Ambassador-designate Linda Thomas-Greenfield have an interesting professional association in common: They are among the cadre of leaders of a little-known advocacy group in Washington, DC called Foreign Policy for America, which has a very disturbing perspective on Israel.

Foreign Policy for America (FPA), established in 2016, has two leadership bodies, both of which are quite small, indicating that their members are not just window dressing or names on a letterhead. The board of directors has just twelve members, one of whom is J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami. It also has an advisory board, with just twenty members. Blinken, Haines, and Thomas-Greenfield are among them. Ben-Ami's J Street is also based in DC and is a Jewish pressure group that, judging by its actions, seems to have been created specifically, and almost exclusively, to lobby for an independent Palestinian state. The FPA's executive director, Andrew Albertson, also has a long record of supporting J Street and he can be seen on YouTube as far back as 2011 heaping praise on the group.

Blinken and Ben-Ami are both alumni of the Clinton Administration. A fact that Blinken pointed out when he addressed the J Street annual conference in March 2012. In his speech, Blinken showered compliments on J Street for having "emerged as an influential and constructive voice."

FPA says on its website that its purpose is to "oppose xenophobia and military-first foreign policy." It lists the twenty issues that are the group's top concerns. One is the "Israeli-Palestinian Conflict." That section of the website consists of a seven-paragraph summary of the causes and history of the conflict, with two large pull-out quotes from J Street publications and link to the J Street website, followed by tips on how to press Congress to be more sympathetic to the Palestinian Arabs.
Biden: We will lift Iran sanctions if they comply with nuclear deal
President-elect Joe Biden stood by his view that his administration would lift sanctions if Tehran returned to "strict compliance with the nuclear deal," when asked about Iran in an interview with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. Last month, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said his country would fully implement its 2015 nuclear deal if Biden lifted sanctions, adding that could be done swiftly with "three executive orders."

"In consultation with our allies and partners, we’re going to engage in negotiations and follow-on agreements to tighten and lengthen Iran’s nuclear constraints, as well as address the missile program," Biden added.
Biden on Iran: Nukes first – again - analysis
The waiting is over. After writing a more general article in mid-September, President-elect Joe Biden has finally gotten into the details of his strategy for dealing with Iran.

The bottom line is: Israel will not be happy, but it might be less disturbed than it was by the Obama administration’s approach.

Israel will not be happy because Biden told Thomas Friedman at The New York Times that his strategy would be nuclear weapons first.

Jerusalem may be less disturbed because Biden signaled that he may take seriously the issues of Iranian terror in the region – especially its shipping around of advanced precision-guided missiles, Iran's own ballistic missile program and extending nuclear restrictions beyond the current 2025 and 2030 cutoffs.

What is the problem with nuclear weapons first?

In a word: leverage.

If Biden drops sanctions in exchange for the Islamic Republic to return to the nuclear deal, and only starts negotiating the other major issues after that point, he has lost most of his leverage.

Israel's defense establishment would prefer that he tie sanctions relief to progress, both on the nuclear issues and on the other issues. In fact, the IDF even considers the precision-guided missile issue a far greater threat in the short and medium term than the nuclear weapons issue.

Its reasoning is that Tehran may only want to reach the nuclear threshold, but not to go past a certain point so as not to risk Israel's wrath and a potential preemptive strike.

In contrast, precision guided missiles from Hezbollah, Syria, Iraq or elsewhere could be launched at any point and immediately cause massive death on the Israeli home front.

India looks to resume Iran, Venezuela oil imports under Biden
India wants to diversify its oil imports, including the resumption of supplies from Iran and Venezuela, after U.S. President-elect Joe Biden takes office, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said on Wednesday.

India was the key buyer of Iranian and Venezuelan oil before slashing purchases after President Donald Trump imposed unilateral sanctions on the two OPEC-members since taking office in 2017.

"As a buyer I would like to have more buying places. I should have more destinations to go for purchasing (oil)," Pradhan said in response to a question if he wants the Biden administration to relax sanctions on Iran and Venezuela.

India, which used to be Iran's biggest client after China, stopped buying oil from Tehran in May 2019 and has drastically reduced its intake of Venezuelan oil in recent months after Trump imposed sanctions in a bid to curb Iran's nuclear programme and oust Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Biden, who was vice president under President Barack Obama when the 2015 deal nuclear accord was struck between Iran and six world powers, has said he wants to offer Tehran a path back to diplomacy.

India, the world's third biggest oil importer and consumer, wants to diversify its oil imports to buy cheaper oil to cut its import bill and save foreign exchange.

Sanctions on from Iran and Venezuela have blocked up to 3 million barrels per day (bpd), or 3% of world supply.
Friedman on Feat of Abraham Accords: ‘Gulf Interests Largely in Line With Those of Israel’
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman detailed the negotiation process that led to the signing of the Abraham Accords, as well as talked about the future of other Arab countries expected to normalize relations with the Jewish state, in a virtual event on Tuesday.

The agreements signed by Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on Sept. 15, as well as the normalization agreement between Israel and Sudan signed on Oct. 23, are “all working beautifully,” the ambassador said during a Zoom event hosted by the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF). “I think there’s no going back. I think we’re really onto something extraordinary.”

When the Abraham Accords was announced by the White House on Aug. 13, the world should have seen it coming, said Friedman, who is helping to host a 40-person Bahraini delegation in Israel on Tuesday night.

“This was really a priority of the Trump administration since the day it began,” he said. “It was a shocking surprise that was four years in the making, and I think the momentum will continue.”

Among the nations involved in the Abraham Accords, Friedman said negotiations with UAE “was the hardest one” and posed the most challenges. One reason was that they asked if Israel could delay its sovereignty declaration regarding Judea and Samaria in order to advance the peace process.

“There were some tough moments,” he acknowledged, “but as in every negotiation, what really matters is are people operating in good faith, are people of goodwill, [and] do people have their hearts in the right place. I have no doubt at any point during this process that [with] Israel and the Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, people have their hearts in the right place. They were of goodwill and wanted to get to a good outcome.”

Visit to Dubai shows the enduring power of Trump’s peacemaking
While the Biden campaign was announcing a slate of radicals sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood to stack its foreign policy desk if it ever takes over the government, a very different sort of trip was underway in the Middle East that clarified how wrong and dangerous they were.

In an event that would have been inconceivable under Barack Obama, the Shillman Fellows of Reservists on Duty, an organization founded by Israeli military veterans that tours college campuses to speak about the realities of fighting terrorism, were on their way to Dubai.

Dubai, as part of the United Arab Emirates, had formerly banned Israeli travelers, but was now welcoming them in as part of the Abraham Accords overseen by the Trump administration.

Amit Deri, the executive director of Reservists on Duty, who had served in command and combat positions and is a major in the Israeli reserves, had been searching for a way to push back against the hatred he was seeing from the BDS movement. Now, even as support for BDS hate is growing in America and Europe, Amit and his fellow Reservists on Duty were on their way to one of the countries that had been boycotting the Jewish state for generations.

Reservists on Duty had been set up with the generous support of Dr. Robert Shillman to fight the good fight on college campuses, but now its Shillman Fellows were bound to where few Israelis had gone before in a flight that would have been impossible before President Trump.

“This is all part of a coalition being built by President Trump with our countries, Israel and the Emirates to fight evil,” Amit told me when I spoke with him over the phone after he had just returned from a whirlwind week in the United Arab Emirates.

Hanging over the trip was the shadow of the election that had just taken place in the United States. And yet even with the threat that the old contingent of Obama and Clinton foreign policy people would be in charge by next year, restarting the flow of money to Iran and political support for the Muslim Brotherhood, neither the Israelis nor the Emiratis were abandoning the coalition.

Like Prime Minister Netanyahu’s trip to Saudi Arabia, it was a signal that the coalition against Iran that President Trump had built through the Abraham Accords was here to stay.
flydubai CEO: Demand will rise to 100 weekly flights
Ghaith Al Ghaith says the current 60 weekly flights on the Tel Aviv - Dubai route won't be enough for both tourism to UAE and connection flights.

flydubai CEO Ghaith Al Ghaith believes that the 60 weekly flights between Tel Aviv and Dubai this winter will not be enough to meet demand. He believes there will be demand for 100 flights a week.

Al Ghaith was in Israel last week for the launch of flydubai's Tel Aviv - Dubai route with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in attendance at Ben Gurion airport. Low-cost UAE carrier flydubai initially planned two daily flights but quickly increased it to three daily flights because of his demand.

In addition, Israir Airlines and Tourism Ltd. is operating two daily flights to Dubai from today, Arkia Airlines Ltd. begins two daily flights from Thursday and El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. (TASE: ELAL) launches two daily flights from December 13.

Al Ghaith said, "Dubai is a destination that justifies this frequency of flights not just for one or two weeks but more than that. A special situation has been created by the coronavirus. Our country is safe and green and because there are not many destinations that you can fly to without going into isolation, there is an opportunity that we are seizing with both hands. We have identified the potential in the field, both through travel agents and wholesale tourism and mutual demand."

flydubai, which was founded in 2009, has a fleet of 51 Boeing 737s, 3,900 employees and flies to dozens of destinations in 50 countries. The airline is government owned and is represented in Israel by Open Sky.
UAE expects 'warm peace' and progress with Israel and Palestinians
The United Arab Emirates values the warm peace that is emerging with Israel. It also expects to see progress in negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis.

“While US involvement remains and international processes continue, if both sides do not sit down and talk about this, then we will have a long period of regional uncertainty,” said Jamal al-Musharakh, director of the UAE Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ministry’s Policy Planning Department, in an interview.

The peace agreement with the UAE has seen rapid expansion of ties in the past weeks, especially on the economic front. Tourism is expected to grow in the coming months. The initiative to move forward on normalizing ties with Israel has always had multiple angles for the Emirates. Among these is the importance of stability in the region. That means stability in institutions in places where conflict and instability have been a concern, such as Yemen, Libya and Syria.

Musharakh says that people in these countries should be able to have their “grievances addressed by their own governments rather than relying on an outside government with ill intentions.”

The UAE’s foreign policy team, including Ambassador to the US Yousef al-Otaiba and Hend al-Otaiba, director of strategic communications at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, have both said in recent interviews and articles how the peace deal came about in recent weeks. At the online Jewish magazine Tablet, Hend wrote that “we were certain that Israeli annexation would kill the two-state solution once and for all. So we acted fast, offering normalization of ties, in exchange for a stop to annexation.”

Musharakh said that “the Abraham Accords came at a very unique time during the beginning of a new decade when the global focus has been on countering the COVID-19 pandemic. When the Abraham Accords came about, it surprised the region and the international community. The impact has been a positive one, and the reactions that we have received were expected.”
Bahraini minister: We will make peace with Israel a success story
Israel and Bahrain are working to quickly bring the normalization of their ties to fruition, Bahraini Industry, Commerce and Tourism Minister Zayed bin Rashid Al Zayani said in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

Al Zayani said “the whole world is watching, and we are determined to make this a success story and a case study for others.”

The Bahraini minister led the first-ever trade delegation from his country to Israel, since normalization was announced in September. He arrived on Tuesday with 40 government officials and businesspeople. Israel and Bahrain signed agreements to cooperate in tourism and culture during Al Zayani’s visit.

Al Zayani met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi on Wednesday.

Peace between Bahrain and Israel “leaves this world a better place for future generations than the one we inherited,” he told Netanyahu. “Peace has been signed, the foundation has been laid. It is now upon us…to move forward and forge peace by having direct, constant integration between business communities, which we believe will filter down to the common citizen.”

“We are genuine about this and fully committed…We’re moving at quite a fast pace because we want to catch up on lost time,” Al Zayani said.

i24NEWS EXCLUSIVE: Israeli Stars and Politicians Wish UAE a Happy National Day

Sudan puts Israel ties on hold until US grants immunity
Sudan will not proceed with normalizing relations with Israel until the US Congress passes legislation giving Khartoum immunity from future lawsuits from terror victims, Sudanese leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan reportedly told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Burhan set a deadline of the end of this year for Congress to pass the “legal peace” bill, in a conversation first reported by The New York Times and confirmed by diplomatic sources.

Pompeo responded that the immunity would be finalized in the coming weeks.

If Congress does not pass the bill before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20, it would likely become a much lower-priority item and take months to get back on the agenda.

In late October, Sudan pledged to become the third Arab state, after the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, to join the Abraham Accords and establish diplomatic relations with Israel.

That commitment was deeply controversial in Sudan, and came amid heavy pressure from the US, during negotiations for Sudan to be removed from the US’s state sponsors of terrorism list and receive economic aid.
Iranian media claims newly freed Australian-British academic was Israeli agent
Iranian media claimed on Tuesday that an Australian-British academic freed from Iran on spying charges last week was an Israeli intelligence agent.

Middle East scholar Kylie Moore-Gilbert was released after 804 days behind bars in a swap for three Iranians linked to a botched plot to kill Israeli officials in Bangkok.

She was arrested for alleged espionage by Iran’s hardline Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in 2018, after attending an academic conference in the holy city of Qom in central Iran.

In new reports, Iranian media said Moore-Gilbert’s father was Jewish, that she had converted to Judaism in the UK in 2007 and had visited Israel many times since, Channel 12 reported.

The Iranian reports also said she married her partner, Ruslan Hodorov, an Israeli man of Russian heritage, in a Jewish ceremony in 2017.

The reports claimed she learned Hebrew and connected with an employee of the Shin Bet internal security service while in Israel. Intelligence officers then told her to shift her field of studies from Iranian involvement in Syria to opposition activities in Bahrain, the reports said.

The Iranian reports said Moore-Gilbert was trained for intelligence work in Israel, including learning Farsi and using encrypted communications, then was sent to Bahrain to collect information on Shiite opposition leaders in Iran.

She attempted to arrange a meeting with a Bahraini opposition figure based in Iran, arousing the suspicion of Iranian authorities and leading to her arrest, the reports said.
Israel transfers billions to Ramallah, does not deduct for terror stipends
Israel transferred NIS 3.7 billion ($1.12 billion) in tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority to Ramallah on Wednesday, without deducting the cost of stipends the PA pays out to Palestinians wounded or jailed by Israel for security offenses and the families of those killed, Israeli and Palestinian officials said.

“The Israeli government is transferring all financial dues regarding the tax revenues to the account of the Palestinian Authority, amounting to 3.768 billion shekels,” senior PA official Hussein al-Sheikh wrote on Twitter.

Ramallah has a longstanding policy of compensating Palestinians jailed by Israel for security offenses, as well as those wounded or killed by Israeli forces — including those killed while committing violent terror attacks.

Israel has long sought to clamp down on the practice, which it says encourages terror. A 2018 law requires the government to deduct the estimated cost of the stipends from monthly tax revenues that Israel transfers to the Palestinian Authority. The legislation states that the funds withheld are to be used to support victims of terror attacks.

Under the 1994 Paris Economic Protocol, Israel collects over $100 million in taxes on imports and exports and transfers them to Ramallah on a monthly basis. The revenues constituted over 60 percent of Ramallah’s 2019 budget.

Israeli officials with knowledge of the matter confirmed al-Sheikh’s statements. Some funds had been deducted for utilities such as electricity and water, which Palestinians largely purchase from Israel, they said.

But the officials confirmed that no money from the multi-billion shekel transfer was deducted to offset what some Israeli politicians call “terror stipends.”
The Palestinian Authority Deceives American Audiences
The PA’s latest comments and mixed messaging are part of a wider Palestinian effort to curry favor with the incoming Biden administration.

The PA’s foreign minister claimed last week that his government has indirectly communicated with Biden’s transition team and signaled its willingness to restart peace talks with Israel. Earlier this month, a close associate of PA President Mahmoud Abbas announced that the Palestinians would renew security coordination with Israel — relations that were unilaterally severed by Abbas since May.

While the restoration of security ties is welcome news, Palestinian refusal to coordinate with the Jewish state had prevented Palestinians from seeking emergency medical attention in Israel, leading to at least two reported deaths of Palestinian civilians. The PA clearly prioritized its disdain for Israel and the Trump administration’s peace proposal over the well-being of its population.

In a goodwill gesture to the next US administration, the PA offered to delay joining international conventions and institutions as an independent state in recent communications with Western diplomats, according to a November 20 report on Israel’s Kan News and the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center. The PA reportedly is also ready to reassess claims of widespread incitement in Palestinian textbooks in return for renewed US aid and increased diplomatic engagement.

However, it is highly unlikely that the PA will abandon its long-standing approach to violent incitement. In fact, the PA continues its systematic campaign of demonizing Israelis. An official PA TV reporter said that Palestinian kids are “subjected to random summary executions” by Israel on November 20, according to a PMW translation. The next day, the host of a popular children’s program on official PA TV warned Palestinian kids that Israel is “deliberately killing” them.

As the Palestinian leadership works to restore relations with the United States and Israel, it is important to take stock of the PA’s actual position on key issues that inhibit prospects to resolve the conflict. Despite Palestinian efforts to present a more moderate face abroad, Palestinian incitement against Israel and the PA’s salary program for convicted terrorists are not going away anytime soon.

Nuke chief’s killing is a big blow to Iran, but the price may be high
However, Tehran need not directly implicate itself by openly attacking the Jewish state. Over the past 40 years the Islamic Republic has built up networks of proxies around the world to do its bidding while giving it deniability — plausible or otherwise.

Such was the case in the aftermath of previous alleged Israeli assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists — at least four of them — between 2010 and 2012.

Throughout 2012, a series of attacks targeted Israeli officials and civilians across the globe in attacks tied to Tehran, apparently in response to the Mossad spy agency’s clandestine activities in Iran. On February 13 of that year, bombings took place in New Delhi, India and Tbilisi, Georgia — all apparently targeting Israeli officials or locations. The New Delhi bombing was directed against Israel’s defense attaché to India, injuring his wife, their driver and two bystanders, while the Georgian attack was thwarted after an Israeli embassy driver found the bomb under his car before it could be detonated. A day later, several bombs exploded in Bangkok, Thailand, injuring five people, which were suspected of being botched efforts to attack Israeli targets.

Later that year, a Hezbollah operative was arrested in Cyprus, where he admitted he had been conducting surveillance on Israeli tourists, apparently in preparation for attacks against them.

On July 18, 2012, a suicide bomber attacked a bus of Israeli tourists in the Bulgarian city of Burgas, killing five of them and their driver and injuring dozens more. Hezbollah is widely believed to have carried out the attack, likely at Tehran’s behest.

The bombing of the AMIA Jewish community offices (Argentine Israelite Mutual Association) in 1994, which killed 85 people and injured hundreds more, has also been traced back to Iran’s nuclear program. According to Argentine prosecutors Alberto Nisman and Marcelo Martínez Burgos, the bombing was ordered by Iran in response to a decision by then-Argentinian president Carlos Menem to call off an agreement to supply Tehran with nuclear material and knowhow.

In light of the current threat of retaliation, Israeli embassies and Jewish sites around the world have gone on high alert. At the same time, the Israel Defense Forces has not changed its official level of alertness or significantly changed its deployments, an apparent indication that it does not anticipate an Iranian retaliation in the form of an immediate military strike.
An Extremely Puzzling Assassination
Pictures of Fakhrizadeh's Nissan Teana raise other questions. Taken from different angles, the pictures show a car that seemed remarkably intact with a few bullet holes in its windshield and the small rear window. The images do not match the dramatic shootout described by Iranian state media.

Later, official news denied that bodyguard Haamed Asghari had been killed, saying he suffered slight injuries as a result of his heroic action and will soon leave the hospital.

This report was followed by a completely revised narrative published by the official Fars News Agency. It claimed that there were no assailants at the scene, but Fakhrizadeh was killed by a remote controlled machine gun with Israeli military markings that was on the back of the Nissan pickup truck.

Later, Iran's Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), Ali Shamkhani made a bizarre claim that Iran "knew Fakhrizadeh was going to be assassinated and when and where the hit was to take place and we were ready for it. However, they used a new professional specialized technique unknown to us."

At the same time, the regime issued posters of four Arab separatists wanted in conjunction with the assassination.

Based on all the above, there can be many different scenarios as to what actually happened. Was he killed by a highly elite foreign agency? Or is it possible that it was yet another internal purge that got rid of Fakhrizadeh?

Without committing to any of the possible scenarios, there are definite advantages for the regime from Fakhrizadeh's death. One is that if the Islamic Republic is keen to get back to renegotiating the nuclear deal, given the possibility of a new administration in the United States, they no longer have to worry about a precondition of letting the IAEA interview Fakhrizadeh.

Claiming Israel was behind the assassination also provides Iran with the justification to further violate the nuclear accords by enriching more uranium, for Iran lobbyists and Israel haters like the former CIA chief John Brennan to accuse Israel of violating international laws, and to justify possible Iranian retaliatory missile launches.

As the world collectively bemoans this "criminal act" and almost gives a license to Iran to retaliate against Israel, the only ones really smiling today are the mullahs in Iran.
Swedish-Iranian scientist faces execution for allegedly helping Israel
Swedish-Iranian scientist Ahmadreza Djalali, sentenced to death in Iran on espionage charges, may face imminent execution, rights groups said on Tuesday.

"On 1 December, a judge said Ahmadreza was to be transferred to Rajai Shahr prison today to proceed with his imminent execution," Amnesty International said on Twitter.

"His lawyer was informed that Ahmadreza would be transferred to Rajai Shahr Prison ... [Tuesday, Dec. 1]," Iran Human Rights said in a statement, quoting his wife Vida Mehrannia.

There was no official Iranian reaction to the reports.

Sweden's foreign minister said last week she had spoken to her Iranian counterpart after reports Iran may soon carry out Djalali's death sentence.

Djalali, a medical doctor and lecturer at the Karolinska Institute in the Swedish capital Stockholm, was arrested in Iran in 2016 and later convicted of espionage, having been accused of providing information to Israel to help it assassinate several senior nuclear scientists.

Djalali had been on a business trip to Iran when he was arrested and sent to Evin Prison. According to Amnesty International, he was held in solitary confinement for three months and tortured. The humanitarian aid group said Djalali wrote a letter from inside prison in August stating he was being held for refusing to spy for Iran.

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