Friday, February 19, 2021

From Ian:

The Biden administration’s moral compass on Israel - opinion
It’s been less than a month since new US President Joe Biden has taken over the reins in the White House. And while it seems that Israel and the Middle East are currently not the administration’s top priority as the COVID-19 pandemic remains front and center, the initial hints of changes in policy when it comes to the Jewish state should not be ignored.

This past Thursday, State Department spokesman Ned Price, who serves under current Secretary of State Antony Blinken, was asked about reports that the JNF (KKL-JNF) was considering implementing a new policy to officially purchase private Arab land in Judea and Samaria in order to expand Jewish communities there.

It should be noted that according to an official KKL-JNF press statement, not much will change even if the organization makes things “official” since, “Throughout the years and till this very day, KKL-JNF has been operating in all parts of the land of Israel, including Judea and Samaria.”

Regardless, Price responded:
“We believe it is critical to refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tensions and that undercut efforts to advance a negotiated, two-state solution. And unilateral steps might include annexation of territory, settlement activity, demolitions, incitement to violence, the provision of compensation for individuals imprisoned for acts of terrorism... ”

It’s disappointing that the failed two-state solution approach might be revived, but perhaps even more disheartening is that Price called for refraining from “settlement activity” in the same breath as compensation for acts of terrorism.

In other words, in the new administration’s view, building kindergartens for Jewish children in Judea is just as big of a peace deterrent as the Palestinian Authority’s “Pay for Slay” program in which terrorists are incentivized and rewarded, along with their families, for murdering Israelis.
Biden Nominee for Top State Dept Post Contributed to Book About How ‘Israel Lobby’ Controls American Politics
President Joe Biden's nominee for a top State Department position played a key role in assembling a book on the nefarious influence of the "Israel lobby" while working for an organization that promoted claims about Jewish media control and dual loyalty to Israel.

As a staffer at the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Uzra Zeya compiled research for a book that argues that "the Israel lobby has subverted the American political process to take control of U.S. Middle East policy" by establishing a secret network of "dirty money" PACs that bribe and extort congressional candidates into taking pro-Israel positions. Zeya, a former U.S. diplomat who was nominated for undersecretary for civilian security, democracy, and human rights, worked for the Washington Report and its publishing group, the American Educational Trust, in 1989 and 1990. The news outlet is staunchly anti-Israel and has published articles questioning the national loyalty of American Jews and opposing taxpayer funding to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Zeya's work for the Washington Report and American Educational Trust raises questions about her views on Israel and could become an obstacle during her confirmation hearings. Biden's recent hiring moves on foreign policy and conflicting statements from staffers have made it unclear how his administration plans to approach Israel policy issues. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki recently declined to denounce the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, contradicting statements condemning the movement from Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Biden's nominee for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, the Washington Free Beacon recently reported. Biden also tapped anti-Israel activist Maher Bitar for a top intelligence post and is reportedly considering Matt Duss, an outspoken critic of Israel, for a State Department position.

Sean Durns, a research analyst at the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, called the Washington Report a "fringe organization" that has "published content with anti-Semitic themes," including claims that the Mossad was behind the JFK assassination and the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Organizations like the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs have a history of propagating fringe and sometimes anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and I think it's absolutely fair for questions to be raised in any sort of potential hearings," said Durns.
David Singer: Action – not platitudes– is required from Jordan’s King Abdullah
Jordan’s King Abdullah continues to engage in platitudes – rather than concrete action - as he pontificates but does nothing to help resolve the 100 years-old Arab-Jewish conflict.

Jordan – called Transjordan between 1922 and 1949:
- Comprises 78% of the territory of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine
- Is the key to resolving the long-running conflict.

Abdullah recently repeated one of his favourite mantras – insisting that peace should be:
"based on the two-state solution that guarantees the establishment of an independent, sovereign, and viable Palestinian state on the 4 June 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living in peace and security alongside Israel, in accordance with international law, recognized terms of reference, and the Arab Peace Initiative."

This solution could have been implemented at any time between 1948 and 1967 after Transjordan had conquered and occupied East Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria (aka the 'West Bank' since 1950):

Driving out all the Jews living there and refusing to allow their return and
- Unifying those territories with Transjordan into a single territorial entity – renamed “Jordan”.
- That 19 years window of opportunity was squandered after Jordan lost those territories to Israel in the 1967 Six Day War. That opportunity is not going to return – no matter how many times Abdullah continues to repeat it as the solution.

Abdullah also asserts:
“The Palestinian cause is central to Jordan, and we continue to stand alongside our Palestinian brethren with all our power and capabilities as they seek to gain their just and legitimate rights. We are constantly communicating and coordinating with them in this regard”

Talk is cheap – action is necessary.

Abdullah could with the stroke of a pen – preferably with Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) approval - restore Jordanian citizenship to his “Palestinian brethren” living in the West Bank – a status they enjoyed from 1950 until Jordan revoked their citizenship on 28 July 1988 under article 2 of the Jordan: Disengagement Regulations for the Year 1988:

The real message Netanyahu should take from Biden's phone call
The White House claimed that the delay was not a substantive delay but rather illustrated a new systematic approach to foreign affairs. Biden, US officials said, made calls based on regions, and that when the time came to reach out to the Middle East, Netanyahu would be – as he was on Wednesday night – first on the line.

But as the days dragged on and the call didn’t come, it was clear that a message was being sent, and that it was personal. This wasn’t about a change in policy, like when the White House intentionally sought to create daylight with Israel during the Obama era, but rather something simpler: the Biden administration wanted to show that it won’t play according to Netanyahu’s beat.

Israeli officials in contact with members of the Biden administration spoke of what diplomatic correspondent Lahav Harkov wrote in Wednesday’s Jerusalem Post: Biden waited to make the call not because he was distancing himself from Israel, but rather because he wanted to distance himself from Netanyahu.

WHICH IS why as upsetting as the delay of the phone call might have been, it should not be viewed as a slight of Israel. That was not the point. Rather, it was being done to achieve three objectives.

First, after four years in which Donald Trump seemingly gave Netanyahu whatever he wanted, Biden and his aides wanted to put the Israeli politician back in his right place. He does not control Washington anymore.

The second objective was to show that the US-Israel relationship is not dependent on a single individual like Netanyahu. Israel is heading to an election in 33 days and no matter who wins, the White House was almost saying, we will learn to work with him. Making Netanyahu – who took his time congratulating Biden after the November election – wait was added benefit.

Finally, the administration did not want to give Netanyahu a pre-election gift of a quick phone call, something that would have immediately been used by Netanyahu for political gain.

Nevertheless, that was done anyhow late on Wednesday night, when Netanyahu released a photo of him sitting in his home office grinning ear to ear as he spoke with Biden. Was there a photo released from the White House? Of course not. It was just a phone call. Not for Netanyahu though. Heading toward an election, he needed to show the Israeli public that everything is seemingly okay on the US front. He needed to put on a show.
JPost Editorial: Welcome to UAE's ambassador to Israel
In another milestone in Israel’s relations with the United Arab Emirates, a new ambassador has been sworn in by Abu Dhabi: Mohammed Mahmoud Al-Khaja, who becomes the first UAE ambassador to Israel.

Israel already has a head of mission in Abu Dhabi, Ambassador Eitan Na’eh, who was dispatched in January. The exchange of diplomats is an important step in the right direction. The appointment of Al-Khaja is a symbol, but also illustrates how the UAE is continuing to build the foundations for a warm peace between the two countries.

The Abraham Accords were announced in August, Bahrain joined by September, and a signing ceremony took place at the White House. It’s extraordinary that just a year ago this was a dream, but in those dark early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Israel and the UAE were already inching closer to one another.

The countries share much in common. They are anchors of stability in the volatile Middle East; they both oppose extremism, and they often have common enemies. They are also well-established hi-tech hubs. The UAE is a leader in financial technology and also a major hub of trade for the region. It is interested in developing new and innovative food technology solutions, water technology, artificial intelligence innovations and pushing the envelope in everything from new tourism opportunities to diamonds.

Today, the dreams of peace have already born fruit. Some 130,000 Israelis went to Dubai during a brief window when travel was possible before Israel shut down Ben-Gurion Airport in January. There have been some hurdles too, because Israel’s closing the airport to regular passenger travel coincided with controversial comments about the spread of different variants of the novel coronavirus in the UAE, and trips by many – including conferences and exhibitions – have been canceled. A visa-free waiver that was supposed to already be in place was put off until July.
In Preparation for Embassy Opening, UAE Delegation Visits Peres Center
The first official advance delegation from the United Arab Emirates Foreign Ministry visited the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation on Wednesday as part of a wider visit to prepare for the opening of the United Arab Emirates embassy in Israel as early as April.

The Emirati delegation requested to visit the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation to learn about the center’s work in promoting and advancing innovation and regional cooperation, and to lay the foundations for collaborative work in the near future.

The members of the delegation were given a tour and a comprehensive overview of its work by Efrat Duvdevani, director-general of the Peres Center of Peace and Innovation.

She outlined the Israeli startup ecosystem—its technologies, products and developments at the forefront of Israeli innovation. Duvdevani also summarized the center’s activities and projects promoting coexistence within Israel, and between Israel and its neighbors.

The delegation also stopped by the original office of longtime Israeli statesman Shimon Peres. Members of the delegation enthusiastically posed alongside his Nobel Peace Prize, noting that it had been one of the highlights of their visit to Israel.

“President Shimon Peres would have been delighted at your visit,” said Duvdevani. “I believe he would have viewed it as the practical realization of his vision for a new Middle East.”
Equatorial Guinea to relocate embassy to Jerusalem
Equatorial Guinea plans to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the first such pledge of its kind under the new administration of US President Joe Biden.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke about the matter with Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo on Friday, after which his office put out an announcement on the matter.

Netanyahu said he welcomed this trend in which countries relocate their embassies to Jerusalem, but he noted in particular that this pledge was part of Israel's growing ties with Africa.

Israel is returning to Africa and Africa and Africa is returning to Israel, Netanyahu told Mbasogo. The President said that the whole of Africa welcomed Israel with open arms.

To date the only two countries with embassies in Jerusalem are the United States and Guatemala. Until 2018, all embassies were located in the Tel Aviv area as a sign of the International community's rejection of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

In 2017, US President Donald Trump announced US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and relocated its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It then pushed along with Israel for other countries to follow suit, to shore up recognition of Israeli ties to the ancient Jewish Biblical city.
Israel agreed to more than just a prisoner exchange to get woman back from Syria
A central aspect of the agreement to secure the release of an Israeli woman who crossed into Syria that was brokered by Russia this week has been barred from publication by the military censor, despite the fact that the matter would be seen as deeply controversial to the Israeli public. (The woman, whose name has not been released for publication, was flown back to Israel, via Moscow, overnight Thursday-Friday.)

Knesset member Ahmad Tibi responded to the controversy from his Twitter account. Politicians are not bound by the military censor.

“Last week, I raised in the Knesset a demand to allow the entrance of thousands of vaccines to Gaza and to provide vaccines to Palestinians in the West Bank from the large inventory that Israel has (which is the responsibility of an occupying force). Did I need to wait for a Jewish wo/man to cross into Gaza so that [Palestinians] could get a vaccine?” Tibi wrote.

On Friday afternoon Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with the young woman’s mother, who thanked him for the efforts to free her from captivity, according to a statement from the premier’s office.

Netanyahu gave her his well-wishes and said Israel would always act to return captive citizens.

On February 2, the Israeli woman crossed the border into Syria in the foothills of Mount Hermon, an area where there is minimal fencing and spotty surveillance camera coverage. It was not immediately clear how the 25-year-old woman, who reportedly speaks fluent Arabic, knew that this location was a good spot to cross. The military said it was investigating the incident.

In signal to Iran, Israel, US begin developing Arrow-4 missile defense system
In the face of Iran’s continued development of long-range ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, the Defense Ministry announced on Thursday that it has started developing, alongside the US Missile Defense Agency, a new generation of the advanced Arrow missile defense system.

The new system known as the Arrow-4 will become a major part of Israel’s multilayered missile defense architecture.

The Arrow-3 currently serves as the upper layer of Israel’s multi-tier missile defense array, designed to protect Israel from long-range missiles particularly those produced in Iran.

It includes advanced radar systems, developed and produced by Elta, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries. It also includes a BMC system developed by Elbit Systems, and a Launch Array including interceptors produced by MLM, a subsidiary of IAI. Defense industries Rafael and Tomer are also involved in the development and production of the Arrow interceptor.

The development of the new generation of the Arrow is being conducted by the Israel Missile Defense Organization (IMDO), located within the Directorate of Defense R&D (MAFAT) of the Defense Ministry, in conjunction with the US MDA.
Seth J. Frantzman: BANG: Israel’s Meprolight Unveils the Future of Gun Sights
Special forces and militaries around the world need the best sights to put on their rifles. The modern battlefield is also seeing advances in technology. Infantry and ground forces, including the kit individual soldiers have, has often lagged behind the fancy gadgets that air forces and other units may get. Meprolight, an Israeli company that is part of the SK Group, has unveiled its new Mepro 02, a “red dot sight, featuring multi-pattern reticle for optimal tactical advantage for armed forces and law enforcement,” the company said on February 16.

In a special briefing with the designer of the sight, Meptrolight showed off its new light weight and versatile sight. “We worked hard on this design,” they note, seeking to create an advanced sight that is a solution to a gap that exists for tactical forces. Users, such as special forces, need the best technology and they also need flexibility and sights that can operate for long hours, day and night and not give away their position. That also means jamming their Pitatinny rails on their rifles with night-vision, thermal imaging and magnification. Meprolight says its new sight is the “first-ever MIL-SPEC red dot sight with multi-pattern reticle enables the user to switch between aiming patterns quickly and easily for all tactical scenarios and in all-weather/light conditions.”

The five-segment reticle allows for using different patterns inside the sight. It also enables pre-set aiming patterns. The sight also has flexibility for different ammunition, such as .556 and .762 calibre and supersonic ammunition. Merolight says “welcome to the future” when it comes to this sight, which is ready to ship.

Israel has been pioneering electro-optics and surveillance, as well as add-ons to weapons and platforms, achieving status as one of the best defense providers of technology for modern armies. This matters because Israeli defense giants are now seeking inroads in the Gulf countries, and are showcasing systems such as Fire Weaver and Spike missiles to the U.S. army. Israel already provided two Iron Dome air defense batteries to the United States and has its Trophy defense systems on American tanks. New scanning and surveillance technology is also being rolled out and Israel is working closely with militaries and defense contracts from the United Kingdom to Netherlands and India, to provide solutions.
New Gaza educational materials continue to promote violence
One month after the head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) acknowledged that anti-Israel content had been printed in workbooks distributed throughout Gaza in the fall, the organization is again under scrutiny for materials distributed in December and January that glorify violence and characterize Israelis as “our enemies.”

A report released Wednesday by IMPACT-se, an Israel-based watchdog organization that monitors Arabic-language educational content, highlighted learning materials that it claims glorify violence. Much of the material, including numerous references to Israelis as “enemies,” was created by UNRWA-trained educators and does not appear in textbooks and workbooks issued by the Palestinian Authority.

In a January grammar exercise, a flashcard reads “the Occupier commits all kinds of torture.” An exercise in verb conjugation includes the line “jihad is the road of glory.” Social studies curricula don’t acknowledge the existence of Israel, referring to the area known before 1948 as the British Mandate as “Palestine.”

In a Twitter thread last month, UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini said that “Local reference to inappropriate pages [from] textbooks that were mistakenly distributed during #COVID19 lockdown were quickly replaced with content that adheres to UN values.”

Lazzarini did not respond to a private message from Jewish Insider at the time asking how the pages were retrieved from the 300,000 students the organization services in Gaza.

“UNRWA has both said they had no choice but to teach [the curriculum] but also has always said they have all these guardrails about how it can be moderated,” IMPACT-se CEO Marcus Sheff told JI. “Nobody has ever extracted from UNRWA a real practical example of how this is done. Does a teacher in an UNRWA school in Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip tell people not to read that particular sentence about Dalal Mughrabi [a Palestinian militant who died in a 1978 terror attack that killed 34 Israelis] because it is problematic? We’ve never understood it, [and] they’ve never explained it.”
Palestinians: EU Facilitating Hamas Victory
It is important to note that Israel did not stop the Palestinians in the past from holding presidential and parliamentary elections in 1996, 2005 and 2006.

Israel did not even stop Arab residents of Jerusalem from running in the 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council election as candidates for Hamas, the Islamist movement that does not recognize Israel's right to exist and seeks to replace it with an Islamic state.

Hamas ran under the slogan "Islam is the solution" and promised to end corruption and bring good governance to the Palestinians... [and] also promised voters that it would resort to an "armed struggle" against Israel.

[W]hen Hamas participated in the 2006 election, which was also encouraged by the EU, the Islamist movement was still on the EU's list of terrorist organizations. The EU, however, did not try to stop the terrorist organization from running in that election.

The Quartet members should have set the conditions before, not after the election. They had every right to do so: the Hamas-led government was expecting the international community to continue providing financial aid to the Palestinians.

The Hamas-led government that was formed after the 2006 election was boycotted by the EU and most of the international community. Why? Because Hamas, in their eyes, is a terrorist organization. If so, why did the EU and other Western countries not object to Hamas's participation in the elections before the vote? Did Hamas become a terrorist organization only after it won the election?

The EU and other international parties perfectly well see that Hamas will run in upcoming election and again promise Palestinians to continue the "armed struggle' against Israel. They can perfectly well hear Hamas saying that its goal is to "liberate Palestine, from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea." It seems that Hamas's goal -- finishing what Hitler started, annihilating the Jews -- is precisely what the EU and the international community secretly, or unconsciously, want.

Those who are allowing Hamas to run unconditionally in the election are facilitating the terrorist group's next victory and certain rise to power.

Hamas begins secret leadership election as Mashaal said eyeing comeback
With Palestinians set to head to national elections in May, the Hamas terror group officially began its own internal leadership elections on Friday.

“Hamas is proud of the start of the internal electoral process to choose its leadership according to democratic foundations,” spokesperson Hazem Qasim wrote on Twitter.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas issued a decree in mid-January ordering the first Palestinian national elections in more than 15 years. The long-running rift between Abbas’s Fatah movement and Hamas has thwarted attempts to hold a national vote since a landslide victory by Hamas in 2006 legislative elections.

The internal Hamas vote had already been scheduled before the decree, with the first round reportedly already held by Hamas members in secret ballots in Israeli prisons.

Hamas divides the vote into four areas — Gaza, the West Bank, the diaspora and Hamas prisoners in Israeli jails. The elections occur once every four years and appoint members at every level in the terror group’s hierarchy: from local leaders in Gaza and the West Bank to the Shura Council, a quasi-legislative branch.
IDF asks Wikipedia to edit ‘Hezbollah’ entry to reflect terror designation
The official IDF Twitter account posted a call on Tuesday for Wikipedia in English to edit its article on the Lebanese organization Hizbullah (spelled “Hezbollah” in Wikipedia) to reflect its identification by 26 countries as a terrorist organization. Wikipedia is a battleground for competing viewpoints, experts say, and the “Hezbollah” page is no exception.

The Shi’ite organization Hizbullah is a Lebanese political party with a military wing. It is also known for its virulent animosity towards Israel, and its actions against the country situated on its southern border – including against civilian targets. These have brought more than 20 countries and international organizations to designate it a terrorist organization, including the US, the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Arab League and the European Union.

Yet, the organization’s English Wikipedia entry currently describes Hizbullah as “a Shia Islamist political party and militant group,” adding only further in the paragraph that many countries have designated it as terroristic in nature. This prompted the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit on Tuesday to tweet that “it’s time for an update,” calling for the organization’s definition to reflect its labeling as a terrorist group.

David Gerard is a veteran Wikipedia editor based in the UK. In a conversation with The Media Line, he explained the contentious phrasing, as well as Wikipedia’s treatment of controversial subjects in general, saying that the site’s “political position is basically very centrist about things, and always gives both sides of every issue.” Because of this, he said, “you end up with these understated, overly polite descriptions that people may consider quite controversial.”

Russia Shrugs Off Map Shown On Turkish State Channel Showing An Expanded Turkey Incorporating Territories Currently Part Of Russia
A recent program on the state owned Turkish national channel TRT1, showed a map that included the territories that Turkey will annex in the next thirty years attracted attention in Russia. The lands in question included the southern Russian territories of These were the regions of Rostov, Volgograd, Astrakhan, Saratov, Samara oblasts, Chuvashia, Chechnya, Dagestan, Adygea, North Ossetia, and Crimea, Sevastopol. [1]

As Russia has invested a great deal in its relations with Turkey, the fact that Turkey coveted areas currently controlled by Russia, was embarrassing. Russian officials and pro-regime experts elected to sidestep the issue by arguing essentially that it was foolish to get excited over a threat that had no chance of turning into a reality given the disparity between Turkish and Russian power. Another tactic was to claim that the station did not represent the policies of Turkish President Recep Erdogan, and TRT1 was following its own highly nationalist inclinations.

A report on Russian reactions to the map of an expanded Turkey follows below:
Senator Dzhabarov: Russia Will Not Rise To The Provocation
The basic reaction in the Duma was that the map should not be taken seriously, because Russia would never allow Turkey to annex Russian territories. Andrei Krasov, First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Defense Committee, believes that the Turkish authorities are striving to restore the Ottoman Empire. Turkish aspirations aside, he doubted that Ankara would try to forcibly annex Russian territories. If they had such notions they were advised to study Russia's history

"If they want to test the strength of the Russian spirit and our weapons, let them try," warned Krasov.

Israel: US paving path to Iranian nuclear bomb with push to rejoin JCPOA
Israel warned that the United States was helping Iran develop a nuclear weapons arsenal with its decision late Thursday night to push to rejoin the 2015 Iran deal.

"Israel remains committed to preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons and its position on the nuclear agreement has not changed," the Prime Minister's Office said.

"Israel believes that going back to the old agreement will pave Iran’s path to a nuclear arsenal. Israel is in close contact with the United States on this matter," it added.

From the onset, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had opposed the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known as the Iran deal, that was agreed upon between Tehran and the six-world power: the US, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia and China.

Former US President Donald Trump had exited the deal in 2018, which had been brokered during the tenure of the administration of former US President Barack Obama. Trump then reimposed crippling US sanctions on Iran, which had been lifted in exchange for the deal.

US President Joe Biden's administration has now formally declared its intent to seek a return to that deal and is willing to hold talks with Iran about rejoining the deal.
Iran will reverse nuclear actions when US lifts sanctions - Zarif
Iran will "immediately reverse" actions in its nuclear program once US sanctions are lifted, its foreign minister said on Friday, reacting coolly to Washington's initial offer to revive talks with Tehran aimed at restoring the 2015 nuclear deal.

President Joe Biden's administration said on Thursday it was ready to talk to Iran about both nations returning to the accord, which aimed to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons while lifting most international sanctions. Former President Donald Trump left the accord in 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Iran.

Tehran said Washington's move was not enough to persuade Iran to fully respect the accord.

When sanctions are lifted, "we will then immediately reverse all remedial measures. Simple," Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Twitter.

Since Trump ditched the deal, Tehran has breached the accord by rebuilding stockpiles of low-enriched uranium, enriching it to higher levels of fissile purity and installing advance
GOP Lawmakers Demand Investigation Into Iran’s Nuclear Violations
A group of Republican lawmakers is petitioning the House Foreign Affairs Committee to organize hearings on "Iran’s nuclear program, their support for terrorism, and their attempts to intimidate our allies," citing the Islamic Republic’s revamped march toward a nuclear weapon.

In a letter sent on Wednesday to leaders on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the lawmakers, led by Rep. Bryan Steil (R., Wis.), petitioned the committee’s leadership to probe Iran’s recent moves to enrich uranium to levels needed to power a nuclear weapon. Congress, they say, must "review existing policies and programs designed to counter the full range of Iranian threats," according to a copy of the letter obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. The House has not held a hearing on Iran’s nuclear program since February 2020, when lawmakers were briefed on general developments in the region.

The letter—signed by Steil and Reps. Dan Crenshaw (R., Texas), Paul Gosar (R., Ariz.), and Joe Wilson (R., S.C.), chairman of the Republican Study Committee's National Security and Foreign Affairs Task Force—comes as the Biden administration gears up to reengage in diplomacy with Iran in pursuit of a revamped nuclear deal. The lawmakers say they are concerned the Democratic administration will grant Iran significant sanctions relief as part of an effort to entice it back to the bargaining table. Such concessions would reward Iran at a time when it is believed to be just months away from building a nuclear weapon.

Iran has been systematically violating the 2015 accord in an effort to pressure Western nations into granting it sanctions relief. The United States left the accord in 2018, but it is still being implemented by European nations, Russia, and China. While the Biden administration maintains it will not negotiate with Iran until it recommits to its obligations under the deal, GOP lawmakers fear the desire for diplomacy could lead to dangerous concessions by the United States that will revitalize Iran’s economy.
Biden Admin Says It Is Ready for Negotiations With Iran
The Biden administration said Thursday evening that it is ready to begin conducting diplomacy with Iran, an announcement that has rankled Iran hawks in and out of Congress who see the new White House as rushing into talks with a regime that continues to sponsor terror attacks against U.S. forces and build its nuclear weapons program.

"The United States would accept an invitation from the European Union High Representative to attend a meeting of the P5+1 and Iran to discuss a diplomatic way forward on Iran’s nuclear program," State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon, confirming reports from earlier in the day indicating the United States would sit down with Tehran and European nations still party to the nuclear agreement.

The Biden administration's desire for talks marks a departure from its early rhetoric on the Iran deal. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other senior State Department officials have publicly stated that Iran must cease its enrichment of uranium, the key component in a nuclear weapon, and come back into compliance with the 2015 accord if it is to be granted relief from U.S. sanctions. Iran is likely to press this demand in any negotiations with the United States, European powers, China, and Russia. While the United States pulled out of the deal in 2018, all of these countries still remain committed to the accord.

The announcement was not well received by Republican foreign policy leaders in and outside of Congress who fear the Biden administration is on the path to providing Iran with sanctions relief and concessions in return for little or no shift in its nuclear program and support for terrorism.

Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo told the Free Beacon that European nations "wanted to appease the Iranian theocracy for my entire time as secretary of state. We refused. The ayatollah understands only strength. I led a response to the Iranian threat that protected the American people from its terror and supported the Jewish state of Israel."

"Adopting the European Union model of accommodation," Pompeo said, "will guarantee Iran a path to a nuclear arsenal."

Iran uses server in Netherlands for spying on dissidents - report
The Islamic Republic of Iran used a server in the Netherlands to conduct surveillance on Iranian dissidents across the planet. According to a Thursday report on the Dutch public broadcaster NOS, the security company Bitdefender and the radio program Argos located the server in a data center near Haarlem that they said was devised by Tehran’s regime to spy on Iranian dissidents.

Rik Delhaas, a journalist with Argos, provided an account of the alleged Iranian espionage operation to NOS.

Argos identified the server because an Iranian man based in the Netherlands provided the tip and an Iranian dissident on the social media platform Telegram received a file with respect to the surveillance operation. "Fortunately he did not open it and his computer was not infected," Delhaas said.

Delhass said some of the targets of the regime’s surveillance were in the Netherlands but the largest number were abroad.

NOS reported that Iranian regime surveillance operation was not the first act of hacking. In late 2020, Argos and Bitdefender located a server that enabled Iran to illegally access devices.

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