Thursday, February 11, 2021

From Ian:

Truth behind killing of Iran nuclear scientist revealed
The Iranian nuclear scientist who was shot dead near Tehran in November was killed by a one-ton automated gun that was smuggled into the country piece-by-piece by the Mossad, the JC can reveal.

The 20-plus spy team, which comprised both Israeli and Iranian nationals, carried out the high-tech hit after eight months of painstaking surveillance, intelligence sources disclosed.

The Tehran regime has secretly assessed that it will take six years before a replacement for top scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh is fully operational.

Meanwhile, Israeli analysts have concluded that his death has extended the period of time it would take Iran to achieve a bomb from about three-and-a-half months to two years — with senior intelligence figures privately putting it as high as five years.

The disclosures come as the JC gives the fullest account yet of the assassination that made headlines around the world and significantly degraded Tehran’s nuclear capabilities.


Richard Kemp: The International Criminal Court Threatens Middle East Peace
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has long had its sights on what it no doubt considers an unholy trinity: Israel, the US and Britain.... First, these are the three Western democracies most active in using legitimate military force to defend their interests. This is anathema to the left-liberal doctrine of ICC officials and their soul-mates in such morally dissipated places as the UN Human Rights Council. Second, they wish to virtue signal, deflecting criticism that the court is biased against African states....

Yet by its charter, dealing with countries that lack the will or capability to bring their own to justice is the sole purpose of the ICC. This does apply to some states in Africa and elsewhere but demonstrably does not apply to Israel, the US or Britain, each of which have long-established and globally respected legal systems.

The ICC's design against Israel is the latest in a long history of endeavours to subjugate and scourge unwilling Jewish people deemed incapable of regulating themselves. When you examine the unexampled contortions the court has gone through just to get to this point, you have no choice but to question whether antisemitism is the motive.

The effects of the ICC's decision will be profound. This is only the end of the beginning. Unless halted, investigations into spurious allegations of war crimes will go on for years, perhaps decades, creating a global bonanza for all who hate Israel, including at the UN, the European Union, various governments and in universities and so-called human rights groups.

But the most detrimental effect of the ICC's decision will be felt by Palestinian Arab people who, for decades, have been abused as political pawns by their leaders and who would be the greatest beneficiaries of any peace agreement with Israel. The ICC's ruling makes such a deal even more remote today.

In an unprecedented move early last year Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Australia, Canada, Uganda and Brazil petitioned the ICC, of which all are members, arguing that a formal investigation could not be launched as the Palestinian Authority does not meet the definition of a state under the Rome Statute that established and governs the court.


Amb. Dore Gold: Israel Must Fight Back Against the ICC and Not Be Intimidated by Its Charges
In fact, over the next two decades, the ICC repeatedly failed to fulfill its mission to protect human rights. Take, for example, its decision to do nothing about the crimes of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. True, neither state was a member of the ICC, for neither signed the Rome Statute that would give the court jurisdiction. In April 2015, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda issued a statement that there was nothing she could do about ISIS, despite all the reports of mass executions, torture, and the wanton destruction of religious properties. Bensouda had not been motivated to explore the implications of the fact that ISIS was made up of volunteers from states that were signatories to the ICC statute. Had there been a will, there could have been a way. But the political will was clearly absent. It was noteworthy that Bensouda issued a statement that her office believed Boko Haram had committed crimes against humanity in Nigeria.

Still, the ICC did not serve as a factor in halting some of the most serious alleged abuses of human rights in recent years. It has not ordered an investigation of the assault on the Uighur minority in China, including their forcible mass transfer. It might be argued that China is a superpower. That has not held the ICC back from moving against the U.S. over its military’s actions in Afghanistan. ICC prosecutions fell apart in several high-profile legal actions over the last decade in Kenya, the Central African Republic, and the Ivory Coast.

Despite its flaws and past performance, the ICC has demonstrated striking determination to pursue legal actions against the State of Israel. But in these cases the ICC runs into a wall it fails to consider. For any legal process to proceed, the establishment of its jurisdiction is a prerequisite. But if there is no Palestinian state that can delegate to the ICC its criminal jurisdiction, then the jurisdiction of the ICC is a real problem. As Israel’s Deputy Attorney General for International Law, Roy Schondorf, points out, seven states have submitted their view that the ICC has no jurisdiction in this case, including Germany, Australia, Canada, Brazil, Hungary, Uganda, Austria, and the Czech Republic. Bensouda’s predecessor, Louis Morano Ocampo, stressed in an interview this week that when he was the ICC Prosecutor, his organization did not agree to recognize the Palestinians’ territorial jurisdiction because no Palestinian state existed and still doesn’t exist.

Israel must resist these efforts to turn the ICC into a political weapon against it. An ICC indictment might have the aura of international law. But Israel must not allow these moves at the ICC – which are essentially political – to undercut its own self-assurance about the fundamental justice underpinning its cause.
ICC’s historic declaration: We are a political entity
Well, astonishingly, the majority determined that there is no need to examine whether Palestine is a state because of a technical and marginal reason: its accession to the treaty. In addition, the judges ruled that there was no need to decide on Palestine’s territory or borders, relying on a variety of U.N. General Assembly resolutions discussing it in general and as a proposed future solution to the conflict based on the 1967 lines. Incidentally, the court also argues that although the Oslo Accords have already determined some of the cardinal issues it is facing now, they hold no actual meaning in this matter; therefore, there is no point in discussing them any further.

In conclusion, the majority opinion declared that it does recognize the fact that this is an extremely complicated legal reality, in addition to a factually and historically charged issue, but in an impressive juggling act eliminated any need to discuss this reality as a required preliminary step to reach its decision. This effectively eliminates the court’s need to examine international law, relevant legal precedents, international agreements and any historical or factual background that does not serve its coveted bottom line, which seems to have been determined in advance.

And what is that bottom line? The decisions of the U.N. General Assembly, which are political in nature and devoid of any legal validity. These, according to ICC, are the only ones of significance in deciding on this issue—a claim that is unprecedented in the history of international law.

As stated, the decision was made by a majority of two judges to one, and it should be noted that the opinions presented by this third judge included statements essentially similar to the arguments I’ve made here, including accusing the other judges of disregard, unprofessionalism and failure to take responsibility.

So now that the ICC has made it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are a political entity, is it all lost? Well, not necessarily.

For the first time in its history, the State of Israel has a real opportunity to generate broad support, as this decision by the tribunal is not only controversial in the Israeli context but may also be problematic for many other countries and hold far-reaching consequences. These unique circumstances may have been behind the support given to Israel and the opposition to ICC’s jurisdiction already demonstrated by quite a few countries, and so there is a high probability that Israel will be able to establish a wide coalition and create real change in the framework of these proceedings and in the court and beyond.
5 Facts About The International Criminal Court Decision

Another superficial BBC News report on the ICC
Late on February 5th the BBC News website published a 425-word report headlined “ICC rules it has jurisdiction over West Bank and Gaza ‘abuses’” and illustrated with an unrelated photograph.

The report does not provide readers with a link to the ruling itself, which is described as follows:
| “In their decision Friday, the ICC said it had decided by majority that the court’s jurisdiction “extends to the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, namely Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem”.

The court said the decision was based on rules in the court’s founding documents and does not imply any attempt to determine statehood or legal borders.”


Readers were not told that the “majority” was 2:1 or that one of the three judges published a partly dissenting opinion in which he wrote the following:

“The dissenting judge, Péter Kovács, rejected the argument that the PA is a state and that it therefore does not constitute the required “state inside whose territory the said actions took place.” Kovács wrote that he “felt neither the Majority’s approach nor its reasoning appropriate in answering the question before the Chamber” adding that in his opinion “they have no legal basis in the Rome Statute, and even less so, in public international law.””
Oman content with Israel relationship, despite Abraham accords
Oman is satisfied with its current relationship with Israel, the foreign minister said on Thursday, even after two fellow Gulf Arab states normalized ties with Israel and raised US hopes others would follow suit.

"As regards Israel we are content so far with the level of our current relations and dialog, which involves the appropriate channels of communication," Foreign Minister Badr al-Busaidi said. Oman, he added, was committed to peace between Israel and the Palestinians based on a two-state solution.

Gulf neighbors the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain normalized relations with Israel last year, becoming just the third and fourth Arab states to do so in more than 70 years. The administration of then-US President Donald Trump had hoped other Gulf states would also establish formal ties.

Away from the Gulf, Morocco and Sudan have also since normalized relations with Israel.

Busaidi also said Oman was ready to help with rescuing Iran's 2015 nuclear deal, fraying since 2018 when Trump withdrew the United States from the pact, but felt that existing US communication lines with Tehran could suffice.

Asked at an online event about the chance of Oman mediating in new efforts to restore the deal Iran signed with world powers, Busaidi said Muscat has a very good relationship with both Tehran and Washington and was ready to assist if needed.

"I believe the channels are open directly between the foreign policy teams in Washington and Iran. I see no reason why those channels can't be reactivated," Busaidi told the Atlantic Council event.
Beitar Jerusalem FC withdraws sale to UAE Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa
Two months and four days ago, Beitar Jerusalem FC celebrated a historic day: At a press conference in Dubai, Israeli businessman Moshe Hogeg celebrated with Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa the sale of 50% of the club's ownership.

The sheikh's son was to be a senior board member, and the whole world covered the historic deal which stated that the club from Israel's capital, which has long struggled with racism and Islamophobia from fans, will be headed by a person from the United Arab Emirates.

On Thursday however, after a long and tedious process of procrastination, the deal fell through.

The Committee for the Transfer of Rights on behalf of the Israeli Football Association (IFA) announced on Thursday that Beitar Jerusalem had officially withdrawn the request to transfer 50% of the club's ownership to Sheikh bin Khalifa, after the latter did not issue all the required documents, including a certificate of integrity.

The IFA did say however, that the club could re-apply to approve the deal in the future.

In January, the Rights Transfer Committee announced that Sheikh bin Khalifa had not provided all the documents required to approve the deal, including the Integrity Certificate, which Beitar Jerusalem claimed that those in Abu Dhabi have a difficulty in issuing.
MEMRI: Al-Qaeda Media Releases New Video With AQAP Leader Khalid Batarfi Citing U.S. Capitol Riot, COVID-19, Civil Unrest, Economic Crisis As Divine Signs of America's Collapse
On February 10, 2021, Al-Malahim Media Foundation, the media arm of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released a new video titled: "America and the Painful Seizure." The video features Khalid Batarfi, AQAP top leader, discussing several topics, including the January 6, 2021 Capitol riot. [1]

Batarafi's appearance is highly significant, as it refutes a UN report released on February 5 that confirmed Batarfi was arrested in Yemen in October 2020.[2]

The 20-minute video, which includes English subtitles, opens with archival footage showing American rioters forcing their way into the Capitol building while the Capitol police try to repel them. It then shows text highlighting a statement by European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell condemning the riot as "an assault on democracy and the authority of the law" and stressed that the results of the U.S. elections "must be fully respected."
Joe Biden is just Barack Obama's third term in the White House - opinion
On March 25, 2019, the US formally recognized the Golan Heights as part of Israel via a presidential proclamation. But earlier this week, in an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN, Blinken retreated from that stance, refusing to say outright that the Golan belongs to the Jewish state.

While acknowledging that “control of the Golan” is important to Israel so long as the Assad regime remains in power, he added that, “Legal questions are something else and over time if the situation were to change in Syria, that’s something we look at but we are nowhere near that.” If Blinken is unwilling to stand by US policy vis-à-vis the Golan Heights, who is to say that the Biden administration won’t also try to walk back recognition of Jerusalem as capital of the Jewish state?

Similarly, Biden has indicated that he will reverse Trump policies on withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and pulling out of the UN Human Rights Council, one of the most biased, anti-Israel institutions in the entire United Nations system.

Many of these steps herald a return to the bad old days when Israel was manhandled by Obama for eight years.

Of course, none of this should be surprising given the fact that Biden was right there by Obama’s side serving as his loyal vice president. But it is nonetheless disappointing and concerning. After all, if Biden can do so much damage in just under four weeks, one shudders to think what he might aim to “accomplish” in four years.
Duss Boosts Omar Tweet Praising Court Decision to Investigate Israeli ‘War Crimes’
The Bernie Sanders aide rumored to be in line for a State Department job has refrained from tweeting for several days, but has taken the time to boost a tweet from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) praising an International Criminal Court decision to investigate Israel over alleged war crimes.

Matt Duss, who has come under fire for criticizing the Jewish state in terms that watchdog groups have called anti-Semitic, has not tweeted in five days. He "liked" Omar’s Monday tweet, however, urging the Biden administration to back the ICC’s bid to prosecute alleged Israel war crimes—an investigation that Israel and the Trump administration said is politically motivated.

"If the U.S. doesn’t support the International Criminal Court's investigations into alleged war crimes, where should people go for recourse?" Omar wrote. "When we try to block peaceful means of pursuing justice, it undermines any claims of credibility we have on human rights."

Duss’s recent silence on Twitter is likely related to the renewed scrutiny he has faced after Politico reported earlier this month that he was leaving the Sanders team to join the State Department. The Washington Free Beacon has reported extensively on Duss’s ties to the anti-Israel movement and activists who promote boycotts of the Jewish state.

The ICC on Friday decided to officially investigate what it claims are Israeli war crimes committed in the West Bank and other Palestinian territories. The Israeli government, which has long boycotted the ICC over its anti-Israel bias and lack of jurisdiction to prosecute crimes, slammed the court’s decision. The Trump administration also boycotted the court and criticized its efforts to launch a probe into Israel.


Drone strike reported on pro-Iran militia arms shipment on Iraq-Syria border
Unidentified drones have targeted a weapons shipment making its way from Iraq to Syria near an illegal military crossing used by pro-Iranian militias, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Wednesday afternoon, citing unnamed sources.

Several Iraqi news outlets attributed the strikes to Israel.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has had its credibility questioned in the past, said the rare daylight incident happened near Albu Kamal in the eastern Deir Ezzor province.

The report said the vehicle was loaded with weapons and ammunition, adding that there is no information on casualties and the extent of the damage.

Israel has reportedly bombed sites connected to Iran’s alleged missile production and transport efforts in the area before.

The Israel Defense Forces refused to comment on the strikes, in accordance with its policy to neither confirm nor deny its operations in Syria, save for those in retaliation for an attack from the country.
Israelis Protest Illegal Palestinian Authority Land Seizure and Construction in Gush Etzion
Hundreds of Israelis, including politicians and public figures, gathered on Wednesday at a protest rally near the community of Nokdim in eastern Gush Etzion following the illegal land seizure and construction by Palestinian Authority Arabs on Israeli land in the area.

The illegal Arab outpost consists of four structures, including three large stone structures and a shed, built over the past week. Two of the buildings have been manned in recent days by invading families from the nearby villages.

According to Israeli residents in the area, there is a lot of activity of vehicles coming and going around the buildings, and people who are constantly working for the Palestinian Authority takeover of the land while establishing facts on the ground.

The establishment of the illegal Arab outpost joins the illegal work in the area during the past year and a half, only a few hundred meters from the Israeli communities.

Residents told TPS that so far the IDF’s Civil Administration has failed to act against the illegal construction, despite repeated petitions by them on the issue.

The action committee to prevent the takeover of the Jewish land in the area told TPS that the construction of four buildings in one week is a serious uptick in the theft of Nokdim’s lands and the other Israeli communities of Kfar Eldad of Sde Bar, and poses a strategic threat that could suffocate the three towns and rob them of future construction intended for hundreds of families.
The Wonders of Khirbet Humsa, A “Thrice-Demolished Village”
Khirbet Humsa is a “village” like none other in the world.

“In thrice-demolished village, a Mideast battle of wills,” the Associated Press reported that after its initial demolition in November, the Jordan Valley Bedouin encampment was demolished again on Feb. 2 and a third time Feb. 4.

What other village in the world is demolished one day, magically rises phoenix-like from the wreckage the next, and is demolished again the following day?

Where else does demolition of 15 makeshift structures (according to the Israeli authorities, seven tents and eight goat pens) take on mythical proportions, amounting to the destruction of an entire village, then metastasizing into the destruction of villages (in plural), and finally culminating in the “burning” of multiple villages?

Where else does the evacuation of civilian squatters from a military firing zone amount to a “war crime under international law?”

The ‘Razing’ of a ‘Village’
In November, media outlets including CBS falsely reported that Israel “bulldozed a Palestinian village,” omitting that Israeli authorities said the demolition involved a grand total of seven tents and eights.

Last week, journalists hit rewind, again claiming the “village” was “destroyed,” while data from COGAT, the Israeli authority responsible for building enforcement in Area C of the West Bank, pointed to a much less sensational story: the dismantlement and confiscation of three residential tents, four goat pens, four bathrooms (donated by international organizations), five water containers, and two private vehicles that were located in the firing zone (one belonging to Walid Asaf, the head of the Colonization and Wall Resistance Committee). COGAT added that an hour after the confiscations detailed above, a truck arrived at the site, and Asaf along with other members of the resistance committee, which is a Palestinian Authority entity, began building the tents and pens anew. The Israeli authorities returned, and confiscated a truck loaded with equipment, iron rods, plastic, fencing, and four vehicles.

Once again, the news stories spoke of the destruction of a village. In addition to the aforementioned AP story about the “thrice-demolished village,” Agence France Presse published: “Israel destroys West Bank Bedouin village again,” “Israel razes Palestinian Bedouin village for second time,” echoed Reuters. A series of Reuters photo captions falsely claimed the “village” “was razed by Israeli forces”:


Young Terrorist Caught and Punished by His Arab Victims
A young Palestinian Authority Arab boy got a taste of his own medicine this week after he was caught throwing stones at Israeli vehicles near the Jewish town of Ofra.

The young terrorist managed to hit a vehicle in which Israeli Arabs were traveling, not realizing the occupants were the wrong kind of “Israeli” targets.

An eyewitness said the Arab passengers got out of their vehicle, grabbed the young Palestinian Authority stone-thrower, and gave him a good beating, according to Israel’s Hebrew-language Kann News public broadcasting network news reporter Carmel Dangor.

An Israeli army force eventually arrived at the scene and arrested the young terrorist for his actions.
Now It’s the Turn of the Palestinian Voter
Recent surveys of Palestinian society show that 62% of the respondents think the two-state vision is no longer achievable, and 87% believe Israel has not abandoned the aim of annexing 30% of the territory as proposed in the Trump plan. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, 48% of the respondents said they favor renewing the “intifada.” More than two-thirds said Abbas should resign in light of the PA’s resumed security coordination with Israel. More than 70% support holding elections for the Legislative Council and the PA presidency as soon as possible.

Although Hamas has yet to present a candidate, it can reasonably be assumed that it will be Haniyeh, head of the Hamas political bureau and of the Hamas government from 2007 to 2014. An analysis of all Palestinian surveys over the past year indicates that in any contest between Haniyeh and Abbas, Haniyeh would likely win by at least 8%. The only Fatah figure who could defeat a Hamas representative in democratic elections for the PA presidency is Marwan Barghouti, the former head of the Fatah Tanzim who is serving several life sentences in an Israeli prison. In the Legislative Council elections as well, it appears that despite a slight lead for Fatah, Hamas, together with the other terror organizations comprising the PLO, would win most of the seats.

The issue of whether or not the Arabs of East Jerusalem will be eligible to vote, which is still a matter of dispute between Israel and the PA, will not provide a pretext to cancel the elections. According to Hanna Nasser, head of the committee for the 2021 elections, coronavirus-era Palestinians are prepared for mail-in voting. East Jerusalem Arabs with Israeli residency may be able to vote in booths located in the outskirts of the city.

For a number of reasons, the elections are perceived as a legitimate way out of the current Palestinian crisis — one that can restore the lost legitimacy of the Palestinian government and afford it greater room to maneuver, perhaps even enabling a united front against Israel. Those reasons include the ascent of a Democratic administration to the White House; domestic political pressures on Abbas to resign; distrust of political institutions, which keeps many young Palestinians out of the political arena; medical and economic crises wrought by COVID-19; and distrust of the Palestinian leadership, primarily because of the renewed security coordination with Israel. The basic idea is that if Hamas is prominently incorporated into PA institutions as a consequence of democratic elections, Israel will have to accept the results and find a way to deal with the elected leadership — particularly as pressure to do so will likely be exerted on Israel by the Biden administration and the European community.
Hamas member urges Palestinians not to vote for terror group
A member of Hamas in the Gaza Strip has called on Palestinians not to vote for the party in the upcoming general elections, cursing it with profanities, and claiming the Islamist movement was “trampling on the dignity” of the people.

Later he apologized.

Bilal al-Abadseh posted a video on Facebook in which he swore and cursed Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The video apparently came in response to a parking ticket he received from Hamas policemen.

Abadseh is the nephew of Yayha Musa, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip.

“People vote for Hamas while it is oppressing them and trampling on their dignity,” Abadeseh said in the video, which he later removed from Facebook.

“The Hamas government are sons of prostitutes. They are screwing us. They are bastards. They do not fear God. Their place is in hell. Anyone who votes for Hamas is a son of 66 dogs.”


MEMRI: Remembering Lokman And Honoring His Struggle
In the wake of his murder last week, some apologists for the terrorist group Hizbullah have sought to downplay Lokman Slim as some sort of nobody. He was actually a bigger man than most of the big names that make headlines from Lebanon because he combined three extremely powerful, rare – and for Hizbullah – dangerous personal attributes: He was a man who could not be bought, he was a man without fear, and he was a man with something to say.

I first met Lokman 20 years ago when, as a mid-level US diplomat based in Amman, I visited Beirut book publishing houses. My purview at the US Embassy in Jordan included the State Department's Arabic Book Program, which had once been based in Beirut, before the Lebanese Civil War. Lokman and his sister Rasha, a dynamic figure in her own right, ran a wonderful Arabic publishing house, Dar al-Jadeed.[1] The beautifully designed books selected by Lokman and Rasha reflected their discerning tastes and wide interests: political and religious reform, art, literature, free inquiry. Lokman, his friends and family had other projects and initiatives during the years, all of them connected to his primary concerns, which were always human dignity, justice, and freedom, both inside Lebanon and in the region.

Another early effort was research and a documentary film on the 1984 Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camp massacre, interviewing six Lebanese Forces fighters involved in that horrible episode of the Lebanese Civil War.[2] A parallel effort, also from 2005, was UMAM Documentation and Research, which served as an umbrella organization for a variety of initiatives, from preserving the heritage and memory of Lebanon's recent conflict to a rare cultural and artistic space in Beirut's heavily populated southern suburbs, to the MENA Prison Forum.[3]

A later (2016) documentary by the documentary filmmaker Monika Bergmann, Lokman's wife, and Slim focused on Syria's notorious Tadmor prison.[4] Hayya Bina, still another initiative, focused on providing opportunities and alternatives for Lebanon's impoverished southern Shia population until precipitously cut off from US government funding in 2015 by an Obama administration eager to reconcile with the Iranian regime.[5] Lokman was passionate about the community from which he came and among whom he still lived. Indeed, he could have easily gone and lived in Paris if he wished but he preferred to stay and work in Haret Hreik.
In Memorial Service, US Ambassador Calls Killing of Lebanese Activist Slim Unforgivable
The US ambassador to Lebanon paid a rare visit to a quarter of Beirut that is a Hezbollah stronghold on Thursday to attend the memorial service for political researcher and activist Lokman Slim.

He was shot dead and found in his car last Thursday in south Lebanon — the first killing of a high-profile activist in years.

“This was a barbaric act, unforgivable and unacceptable,” Dorothy Shea said in a speech at the service, which was held at the Slim family home in Beirut’s Dahiya quarter.

Slim ran a research centre, made documentaries with his wife and led efforts to build an archive on Lebanon’s 1975-1990 sectarian civil war.

He spoke out against what he described as the intimidation tactics of the Iranian-backed, armed Shi’ite Hezbollah group and its attempts to monopolize Lebanese politics.

Hezbollah has condemned the murder, but Slim’s sister has suggested he was murdered because of those views.

On Thursday, his mother, Salma Merchak, quietly cried as she listened to Muslim and Christian prayers for her son at the service, which was also attended by the ambassadors of Germany, Canada, Britain and Switzerland.
MEMRI: Lebanese Journalist: Lebanon Has Become A Bankrupt Country Where Life Is Cheap; Hizbullah Harms Us More Than Any Enemy
In a January 20, 2021 article titled "Resistance Through Defending the People," Lebanese journalist Michelle Tueini, deputy general manager of the daily Al-Nahar, wrote that the Lebanese resistance, i.e., Hizbullah, does not actually fight for Lebanon but rather destroys it more than any enemy. Tueini, who is the daughter of renowned journalist Gebran Tueini, a staunch opponent of Hizbullah and of the Syrian presence in Lebanon who was assassinated in 2005,[1] added that the Lebanese are starving and their lives are held worthless by their own regime. In this situation, she said, nobody can wage effective resistance against Israel.

Tueini noted that the "failing, devastated and bankrupt country" of Lebanon has not prosecuted a single official for the deadly explosion in Beirut last year,[2] and has not even begun to vaccinate its citizens against Covid, She contrasted this with "the enemy state of Israel," which, valuing the lives of its citizens, has already vaccinated over a quarter it its population and is willing to release dozens of prisoners even for the dead body of one of its soldiers.

She concluded by saying that true resistance means waging an "ideological, cultural and scientific" campaign to build a well-governed and prosperous state that cares for its citizens and protects them.
Turkish Reforms: From Imperial Repression to Thuggish State
The Turks' political journey toward the West began a century and a half ago, but Turkey now remains as distant from universal democratic values as the Ottoman Empire was at its collapse.

Modern Turkey's darkest years came between 1976 and 1980, when a campaign of political violence, wrought by a multitude of far-left and far-right urban guerilla groups, killed more than 5,000 people. That era only came to an end when the military took over the country in a completed coup d'état and the violence subsided.

Twenty years later, a militant Islamist, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, pledged radically to reform Turkish democracy and make it an inseparable part of Europe -- via full membership in the European Union. Two decades after that pledge Turkey's democracy remains as remote from Europe's civil liberties, democratic culture and checks and balances as Abdulhamid's empire was in 1876.
Jonathan Tobin: Biden’s Already Backing Down on Iran
In his first major foreign-policy speech delivered last week, President Joe Biden sent a variety of confusing and mixed messages, but one thing was clear: Whatever Donald Trump was for, he was against. Thus, he sounded tough on Russia but soft on China. And though he paid lip service to the idea that his administration would emphasize cooperation with allies, once you got into the details about that idea, it was obvious that Biden wasn’t terribly interested in working with Israel and Saudi Arabia—America’s two most important friends in the Middle East.

That contradicted the narrative about Trump’s “America First” policies and those Biden says he will pursue. So did the president’s assertion that there would be no line between foreign and domestic policy, and that the best interests of American workers would be paramount in his objectives, which sounds like an echo of Trump’s policies.

But the real contradiction about his foreign policy is not the one between Biden and Trump. It may be the one between Biden and Biden. If a major Biden policy stand on Iran can’t last even a day, then it’s not certain who’s in charge—the president, or his handlers and staff, who may think the president can’t be trusted to stick to the policies they’ve drawn up for him if let loose in an interview on television.

On Sunday, Biden appeared in a much-publicized pre-Super Bowl interview on CBS with Norah O’Donnell. When she asked about Iran, he sounded as tough as nails when it comes to talks to get them back into compliance with the dangerously weak nuclear deal that his Obama administration colleagues negotiated in 2015.

In response to O’Donnell’s question as to whether he will lift sanctions on Iran before it ceases its illegal uranium enrichment activities in order to entice them back to the negotiating table, Biden was firm: “No,” was his reply. She followed that up by asking, “They have to stop enriching uranium first?” Biden solemnly nodded in assent.
US said weeks, IDF said years - How long will it really take Iran to get a bomb?
In late January, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Iran could be “weeks away” from having enough material for a nuclear bomb. An IDF intelligence estimate reported on February 9 that it would take Iran about two years to build a bomb if it decides to do so.

These kinds of estimates, which have been repeated over the years, often leave people confused. They also lead to contradictory headlines, some appearing to justify Israel’s concern and also appearing to justify claims that Israel is fearmongering about the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

On Wednesday, reports emerged that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has found Iran is making small amounts of uranium metal at Isfahan, which could be used in a core of a nuclear weapon. This is yet another violation of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or Iran deal, which was supposed to stop Iran making this type of metal until 2030.

Like many things, understanding the reports requires a bit of healthy skepticism blended with expertise and also taking time to understand that what one is being presented with is not a simple zero-sum issue. Both could be true: Iran is years away from a nuclear weapon and also could have enough material to make a weapon within weeks or months. Think of nuclear material like bricks for a building. You can produce enough bricks to build a building, but if you don’t actually start building then you never have a building in front of you. So you could be “weeks away” from enough bricks, but still years away from actually finishing the building.
Iran Produces Uranium Metal, IAEA Says, in Latest Breach of Deal
Iran has carried out its plan to produce uranium metal, the UN atomic watchdog confirmed on Wednesday, despite Western powers having warned Iran that would breach their 2015 nuclear deal as uranium metal can be used to make the core of an atom bomb.

Iran began breaching its nuclear deal with major powers step by step in 2019 in response to US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the deal the previous year and Washington’s reimposition of sanctions on Tehran.

Iran has in recent months accelerated those breaches of the deal’s restrictions on its atomic activities, potentially complicating efforts to bring the United States back into the deal under President Joe Biden.

A law passed in response to the killing of its top nuclear scientist in November, which Tehran blames on Israel, called for steps including opening a uranium metal plant. Iran told the International Atomic Energy Agency in December it planned to produce uranium metal fuel for a research reactor.

“Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi today informed IAEA Member States about recent developments regarding Iran‘s R&D activities on uranium metal production as part of its stated aim to produce fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor,” the IAEA said in a statement.
Former IAEA official: Israeli airstrike in Iran can buy time, not eliminate the problem
An Israeli airstrike against Iranian nuclear facilities is technically feasible and can help Israel buy some time, but it cannot completely resolve the problem, Dr. Olli Heinonen, former deputy director-general at the International Atomic Energy Agency and a senior research fellow at the Stimson Center think tank, told Israel Hayom on Wednesday.

Heinonen, 75, is intimately familiar with the Islamic republic's nuclear program. After all, he spent entire days in underground Iranian nuclear sites when the nuclear program was in its infancy, and later on after it had expanded and developed. He served in numerous capacities at the IAEA, climbing the ladder to become the organization's second most senior official, during which he was charged with monitoring nuclear programs across the globe.

The interview with him was conducted via Zoom. When he was asked how many times exactly he had visited Iran, he says: "Quite a lot, over 25 years. I was there for years, sometimes five or six times a year, but I never counted."

The time aspect is critical here because it helps us understand the scope of technological development the regime in Tehran has presided over and its sprint toward a nuclear bomb. Heinonen has monitored this process from the very beginning, in the 1980s, during the Iran-Iraq War.

"From the outset, I felt great discomfort over several aspects of the program," Heinonen, a Finnish national, admits. "I was at all the nuclear sites except for the one Fordo, but we had already known about it for a few years before my departure. We had good times and more difficult times, ups and downs," he says.
Houthis Bomb Civilian Airport Days After Biden Removes Terrorist Designation
Iranian-backed Houthi militants in Yemen bombed an airport in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, just days after the Biden administration lifted the group’s terrorist designation.

The drone strike targeted Abha International Airport in Saudi Arabia, an airport just 75 miles from the Yemeni border that is frequently targeted by the militant rebel group. The attack set one civilian plane on fire, according to the Saudis, who say they intercepted and destroyed two armed drones launched by the Houthis from across its southern border in Yemen.

Last Friday, the Biden administration removed the terror designation placed on the Houthis by former secretary of state Mike Pompeo earlier this year. The Houthis, who control significant territory along Saudi Arabia's border with Yemen, have called for cooperation with the terrorist group Hezbollah in future wars against Israel, and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in 2019 that Iran has sought ways to launch missiles at Israel from Houthi-controlled territory.

Biden's State Department said it removed the designation because it undermined humanitarian efforts in Yemen. In a press briefing Wednesday, spokesman Ned Price said Wednesday's bombing would not change the administration's course on lifting the terror designation.

"We can ensure that we are not adding to the already substantial suffering of the Yemeni people," Price said, "while we continue to hold the Houthis to account."
‘Death to Israel’ on wheels: Iran marks 1979 revolution anniversary
Struggling with the region’s worst outbreak of the coronavirus, Iran is marking the anniversary of the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution on Wednesday on wheels — cars, motorcycles, bicycles — instead of traditional rallies and marches.

Tens of thousands were expected to drive through cities and towns as part of the manifestations after the government decided to replace traditional rallies and demonstrations with motorcades.

The death toll from COVID-19 in Iran is nearing 59,000. Since the pandemic erupted last year, Iran has reported some 1.48 million confirmed cases of the virus. The country on Tuesday launched its coronavirus inoculation campaign, administering recently delivered Russian Sputnik V vaccines to healthcare professionals.

In the capital, Tehran, processions of cars and other vehicles started out from 12 different points on Wednesday morning, driving through the streets to circle Tehran’s iconic Azadi Square, the traditional place of gatherings for anniversaries.

Demonstrators carried placards reading, “Death to America,” “Death to Israel” and “Death to Britain,” according to the semi-official Fars news agency.
Teaching hate: Iran textbooks push anti-Semitism, say COVID hyped to harm regime
Iranian schoolkids are studying anti-Semitism, hatred and conspiratorial material in their textbooks, including a theory that Western media hyped up the COVID-19 pandemic to thwart large-scale attendance at last year’s celebration of the Iranian revolution, according to a comprehensive study published by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Thursday.

The ADL said its report, “Incitement: Antisemitism and Violence in Iran’s Current State Textbooks,” is the first comprehensive study of anti-Semitism, intolerance and extremism in the official Iranian school curriculum in nearly half a decade.

The study was published on the 42nd anniversary of the 1979 revolution that saw the rise of the current autocratic, conservative Islamic regime which has long threatened to destroy Israel and which is now battling US sanctions imposed to curb its nuclear activity.

Specific examples include teaching students to chant “Death to Israel,” a nation the books describe as a fake regime that must be eliminated. They teach that Jews have conspired against Islam from its earliest days, forging Islamic scriptures and using warfare and even Freemasonry to achieve evil aims

Students are also taught that US-led sanctions against Iran are part of a “satanic plan” to eliminate Muslims’ religious beliefs, and that the Iranian people, through their nuclear scientists in particular, “have achieved a blessing with your great jihad and the blood of your bounteous youths.”







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