Tuesday, February 23, 2021

From Ian:

Noah Rothman: Joe Biden’s Emerging Folly in the Middle East
APolitico report published Monday revealed that Joe Biden’s administration wants to rid itself of the troublesome Middle East. In terms of global priorities, one Biden adviser confessed that the region “is not in the top three.” The new administration would prefer to focus on instability in the Western Hemisphere, containing threats and pursuing diplomatic initiatives in Europe, and, of course, finally pivoting to Asia. “They are just being extremely purposeful to not get dragged into the Middle East,” another adviser said. But the Middle East has a habit of dragging the United States back in, and a heedless effort to withdraw from the region is one of the easiest ways to stumble back into open-ended commitments.

The Biden administration encountered one of the first tests of its resolve to disengage from Middle Eastern affairs earlier this month following a deadly rocket attack on an Iraqi military base in which one civilian contractor was killed and nine others were wounded, including a U.S. service member. The Shia militia Saraya Awliya al-Dam, which maintains close links with Tehran, claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Biden administration responded in a “measured” way, according to the New York Times. It does not want to see a nascent attempt to restart negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program derailed by this Iran-linked provocation. But that indefatigable commitment to the pursuit of “rapprochement” with Iran and its proxies has only invited more rocket attacks.

On Monday, locals observed as rockets were fired at the U.S. diplomatic presence in Baghdad within the so-called “Green Zone.” It’s the third attack on Western diplomatic stations in Iraq in a week. Iraq has responded by requesting a larger NATO military presence in the country, and NATO will oblige. In the coming weeks, the Atlantic Alliance will increase its deployments in Iraq from 500 to approximately 4,000, and the Pentagon is not ruling out additional deployments to supplement the Western presence there.

Iranian strategy may seem counterintuitive on its face; why would a rogue state desperate for the rewards associated with the resumption of diplomatic talks risk it all by testing the new administration so brazenly? But Iranians can read American news media, too. If Tehran believes that the Biden administration wants out of the region so badly that it will not absorb the costs associated with sticking around, why not test that proposition? Iran’s long-term objective isn’t just relief from economic sanctions, after all—its regional dominance, with the U.S. all but out of the picture.
Biden squanders leverage Trump stockpiled on Iran in pursuit of a defective nuclear deal
Unfortunately, we’ve seen this movie before. As the Obama administration courted Tehran for nuclear talks from 2012 to 2015, it restricted its counterterrorism and counternarcotics policies toward the regime’s proxies like Hezbollah. As Politico exposed in 2017, U.S. efforts against Hezbollah lessened as the importance of getting a nuclear deal with Iran grew.

The desire to achieve and maintain the Iran nuclear deal also had other negative regional effects. Some of those in the Obama administration arguing for a more robust Syria policy in support of protestors and against the atrocities of President Bashar al-Assad — Tehran’s man in Damascus — were overridden since targeting his regime would have necessarily aggravated the Islamic Republic.

Absent any reciprocity, the Biden administration reversed the Trump administration’s restoration of U.N. penalties on Iran’s military-related procurement and proliferation.

The Biden administration’s eagerness for diplomacy will likely be read by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as a vulnerability to exploit. And in response, Tehran will do what it has done for decades: intensify its aggression and only back down if presented with no other alternative.

Iran is watching Washington begin to dismantle maximum pressure in favor of “maximum diplomacy.” Absent a willingness to add to or even maintain existing sanctions, as well lacking broader efforts to tackle the clerical regime’s regional threat network, such an approach is indeed possible to prejudge: It will end in failure.
Joe Biden Must Respond to Attacks By Iran’s Iraqi Proxies
In addition to holding the Iranian regime to account for last week’s attack—something which Secretary Blinken and UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab both promised to do to the perpetrators—a renewed effort to bring Iranian compliance for nuclear non-proliferation should undoubtedly include robust measures put in place to curb Iran’s ballistic missile development.

While the break-out time for developing a nuclear weapon once Iran reaches 20 percent uranium enrichment (which they have assured under the guise of national sovereign law to implement from February 23 unless U.S. sanctions be lifted) is only a mere three and a half months, Iran will still require the delivery capability which will truly enable the regime to be a nuclear military power.

Only three weeks ago Iran tested a new rocket with improved technology which could be used in its missile program. The new Zuljanah rocket, developed to send satellites 310 miles into orbit, is easily transferable to Iran’s military missile program run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Any renegotiation of the JCPOA by the United States must factor in the requirement to limit Iran’s ballistic missile program, and Britain will be instrumental in helping shape this policy with fellow JCPOA signatories. Curbing Iranian uranium enrichment is only one side of the nuclear coin; the other lies in restricting the ballistic missile program needed to operationalize a nuclear warhead.

Due to the consistent pressure which Iran is applying on the new administration, time is running out for President Biden to show a stronger hand needed to deal with this repeated Iranian aggression. This includes publically acknowledging the role in which Tehran has over sponsoring and controlling the Shia Iraqi militias which continually cause the biggest source of U.S. and British casualties in Iraq. With the recently announced significant uplift of NATO troops to Iraq, this is not the time for appeasing an aggressive Iranian regime.
Netanyahu: Iran Will Fail like Haman Did 2,500 Years Ago
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invoked the story of Purim and the downfall of Haman the wicked who sought the Jewish nation’s destruction to warn Iran against threatening Israel with nuclear weapons.

Speaking on Tuesday at the state memorial ceremony for Yosef Trumpeldor and his comrades who fell in defense of Tel Hai in the north, Netanyahu declared that “on the eve of Purim, I say to those who seek of our souls, Iran and its proxies in the Middle East: 2,500 years ago another Persian tyrant tried to destroy the Jewish people and just as he failed then – you will fail today.”

Purim, celebrated this year on Thursday through Sunday, marks the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, an Achaemenid Persian Empire official who plan to annihilate all the Jews and failed, as recounted in the Book of Esther.

“We will not allow your extremist and aggressive regime to acquire nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu told Iran. “We did not make the journey of generations through thousands of years back to the Land of Israel, to allow the hallucinatory regime of the ayatollahs to end the story of the resurrection of the Jewish people.”

Rejecting a renewed agreement with Iran, Netanyahu underscored that Israel “does not rely on any agreement with an extremist regime like yours. We have already seen the nature of agreements with extremist regimes like yours, in the past century and also in this century, with the North Korean government. With an agreement and without an agreement – we will do everything so that you do not arm yourself with nuclear weapons.”

Netanyahu’s cautionary remarks came just hours after Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that Iran will continue its 20% enrichment of uranium, and will increase enrichment up to 60% “based on the country’s needs.”

Vaccination nation
But when it comes to vaccines, Israel is at the top of the list. Unsurprisingly, leaders and public health departments from around the world have been calling Jerusalem to understand how the country did it.

One answer is neither quantifiable nor transferable but seems clearly to play a role. That would be culture, or rather national character. It sounds silly, but the word that makes the most sense is chutzpah, a Yiddish word that is loosely defined as “audacity.”

“An outsider would see chutzpah everywhere in Israel: in the way university students speak with their professors, employees challenge their bosses, sergeants question their generals, and clerks second-guess government ministers,” Dan Senor and Saul Singer write in their 2009 book Start-Up Nation. “To Israelis, however, this isn’t chutzpah, it’s the normal mode of being. Somewhere along the way — either at home, in school, or in the army — Israelis learn that assertiveness is the norm, reticence something that risks your being left behind.”

It’s not just “pizza guy” who was getting leftover doses in Israel. Many showed up to vaccination sites repeatedly to check if there were spares.

And in Israel, Dr. Gokal would have been applauded, not just by a sympathetic public, but by the government and medical establishment. Israeli HMOs, after all, were sending out text messages to members to come to the local clinic for extra doses.

One part of Israel’s success that is transferable: flexibility.

“We were not stuck to strict guidelines,” Israeli Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kisch explained. “We had central planning and distribution but gave a lot of flexibility to the local management of the health clinics. We gave the HMOs a certain amount of doses on a daily basis, based on our expectations, but once a problem arose, they would solve it themselves. They went with the plan but had the flexibility in order not to lose any doses.”

Chutzpah is the fun answer to the vaccine success question, but policy still did most of the heavy lifting.

Who gets the credit? Was it Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government’s leadership, fast action, and creativity? Or was it Israel’s excellent public healthcare system, the current incarnation of which is the brainchild of former Labor minister Chaim Ramon?

The answer is both, and more.
Virus transmission rate rises as ministers set to debate Purim restrictions
The transmission rate showed initial signs of rising on Tuesday in data released ahead of the coronavirus cabinet meeting regarding potential restrictions on the upcoming Purim holiday.

The R-value — the average number of people each positive person infects, based on new case numbers from 10 days earlier due to the virus’s incubation period — rose slightly to 0.86.

On Friday, the R-value had dropped to 0.79, the lowest number seen in months, according to data from a military taskforce. The transmission rate staying below 1 means each virus case is infecting on average less than one person — a sign of decline in the spread of the virus.

The taskforce’s report warned, “In the coming weeks increased infection may be noted, due to lifting of restrictions and the widespread British [coronavirus] variant,” adding that the UK-originated mutation is “30-70% more deadly compared to the original virus.”

Ministers will convene Tuesday to discuss restrictions on the Jewish holiday after Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said a day earlier that his ministry would push to clamp down on Purim festivities and prevent violations of limits on public gatherings that could cause a rise in coronavirus infections.
Edelstein to SNL: Israel Has Vaccinated More Arabs Than Most Other Countries
Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein gave a pointed reminder to the producers at NBC and Saturday Night Live on Monday in a response to the antisemitic “joke” delivered during the program this past Saturday night by “comedian” Michael Che, accusing Israel of vaccinating only its Jewish population.

“I inform you that antisemitism is not funny,” Edelstein wrote in a statement on his Twitter account. “It is dangerous and false. In Israel, we have vaccinated more Arabs than most countries in the world. Satire is meant to be entertaining, not shocking. Your “joke” is an antisemitic lie that can have dangerous consequences in a country where two and a half years ago, 11 Jewish worshipers were murdered just because they were Jews.”

Edelstein was referring to the 2018 slaughter of 11 Jewish martyrs at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania by Robert Bowers, 46, a racist goon who posted antisemitic conspiracies on social media and who was committed to killing Jews simply because they were Jews.

COVID vaccine: Israel sets up station for Palestinians in east Jerusalem
As part of Israel's efforts to combat the coronavirus crisis through rapid, mass-vaccination, Magen David Adom's EMTs and paramedics will operate a COVID-19 vaccination drive at the Qalandiya Crossing in east Jerusalem on Tuesday.

The compound will be set up in cooperation with the Health Ministry, the Home Front Command and the Jerusalem Municipality, and is intended to inoculate thousands of residents from the neighboring Palestinian villages who work in Israel, as well as "blue ID card holders" - Israeli citizens who live in settlements across the fence.

The complex will operate from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and people do not require a previous appointment for vaccination.

On Tuesday morning, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion visited Kfar Aqab, located near the Qalandiya Crossing, in order to hear the needs of the residents of the neighborhood and take a closer look at the many problems they face.

Can the US under Biden change the UNHRC? - opinion
One of the first decisions of the newly-elected administration of US President Joe Biden was to return to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Former president Donald Trump left the organization claiming it was extremely biased against Israel.

The American decision to return to the council is the right decision bringing a lot of hope. It is worth transforming the problematic organization from within instead of leaving it to our enemies to do all they wish. On several occasions, Israel stated that the UNHRC is so biased and corrupt from the inside that we don’t need to be there. Practically speaking, it is true, but as you do not desert a military outpost even considered secondary in importance you do not leave an international organization that gives you a hard time.

The council was created a little more than a decade ago, on the ruins of the Human Rights Committee. During a full year of debates, in which I took part, we discussed the best mechanism for the new body. We had a lot of hope in creating a fair and just organization. Indeed the new council became more efficient than the committee. All countries without exception would have to face the scrutiny of the council during two days of debate regarding human rights in their countries and would be subject to implementing recommendations. However, negative elements were also inherited by the new council. One of them is the “hunch” of the committee, the special article on Israel… we failed in stopping that discrimination. My frustration was skyrocketing.

With the declaration of its return to the UNHRC, Washington expressed its intention to initiate changes in the mechanism of the body. This intention is to be praised and encouraged. Only a superpower like the United States can lead such a profound process.

Two steps, if taken, will allow both the US and Israel to live in peace with the council. The first is to annul the article which singles Israel out for criticism. Israel shall be equal to all members of the UNHRC. Like all others, Israel will face the scrutiny of the council – fairly.
Blinken: 2-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel's future
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke Monday with Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi.

The State Department said in a statement that the two discussed regional security challenges and the importance of continued cooperation in addressing these issues.

Blinken addressed the US approach towards a more peaceful, secure, and prosperous future for Israelis, Palestinians, and the greater Middle East.

He also "emphasized the Biden Administration's belief that the two-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace alongside a viable and democratic Palestinian state," the statement said.

Blinken further stressed the United States' "continuing commitment to opposing unfair, one-sided actions against Israel in the multilateral arena."

Ashkenazi and Blinken acknowledged the steadfast partnership between the United States and Israel, and that the two countries would work closely together on challenges ahead.

US brings Israel into CENTCOM
Though the move will take some time to go into effect, the Pentagon's recent decision to relocate Israel to the area of responsibility (AOR) of the US military's Central Command (CENTCOM, which operates in the Middle East) is a direct operational reflection of the Abraham Accords, in which Israel normalized relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, with Saudi support.

The head of CENTCOM, General Kenneth F. McKenzie, recently told the Middle East Institute, "We do a lot of business with Israel now just as a practical matter of fact because their threats generally emanate from the east. In a certain way, this is just a natural recognition of that at the operational level."

In comments reported by Defense News, McKenzie said bringing Israel into CENTCOM will enable the United States to place an "operational perspective" on the Abraham Accords, setting up "further corridors and opportunities to open up between Israel and Arab countries in the region" on a military-to-military level. This, in turn, will pave the way toward a collective regional approach to common Middle Eastern threats.

McKenzie stated that the move also lines up with a US vision in which "our friends in the region do more for themselves" and in which neighbors work closely together, adding that the CENTCOM move is "a step in that direction."

US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress from the 2nd Bomb Wing, flying with Royal Saudi Arabian Air Force F-15SAs during a bomber task force mission over the US Central Command area of responsibility, Jan. 27, 2021 (EPA via the US Air Force/Sentir Airman Roslyn Ward)

Prior to the Pentagon's decision, a detailed report released by the pro-Israel Washington-based Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), which includes a number of former high-ranking American military officials as members, made the case for bringing Israel into CENTCOM's area of responsibility.
Promoter of ‘Israeli Apartheid’ Attacks, Betty McCollum is New Chair of Defense Appropriations
This Wednesday, the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee will hold a hearing on future defense spending, with Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), the new chairwoman, at the helm. The subcommittee will hear testimony from Todd Harrison, Director of Defense Budget Analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and Dr. Thomas G. Mahnken, President, and CEO of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

The above reads like a routine announcement from some Congressional body that does its routine work, day in and day out. But this is not routine news at all because of the name at the top of the story, Betty McCollum, the new chairwoman. McCollum is a staunch enemy of the state of Israel.

The House Subcommittee on Defense is part of the House Committee on Appropriations, which, together with its Senate counterpart, has jurisdiction on all appropriations bills in Congress. Article One of the Constitution, section 9, clause 7, states that “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law,” which determines that Congress has the power to make budget appropriations, and the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee holds the purse on all defense spending. So that should this committee be chaired by an enemy of a certain Jewish state in the Middle East, it would be a bad thing.
Leaders from 10 African countries gathered online by Israel Allies Caucus
The Israel Allies Foundation (IAF) organized a virtual conference on Monday gathering parliamentarians and political leaders from 10 African countries including South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda and Malawi to discuss current issues between Israel and the African continent.

The IAF oversees Parliamentary Israel Allies Caucuses in 50 countries worldwide, including 12 in Africa.

The participating parliamentarians chair and directors of the caucuses in their countries are leading efforts to strengthen the ties between their country and Israel.

The topics discussed included a review of the Israeli political system related to the upcoming election, and a strategic approach to expanding Israel's humanitarian reach in Africa.

Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), a non-profit Israeli research institute known internationally for its in-depth research of Palestinian society from a broad range of perspectives, also briefed the participants about the goals of the Palestinian Authority, exposing the messages it conveys to Palestinian adults and children.

“Mistakes by Israeli and world leaders who were deceived by their negotiating partners have brought great tragedies," PMW director Itamar Marcus said, stressing that his presentation was "necessary information for Israelis before talking peace with the PA and for world leaders who must be informed.”
Cabinet approves restitution bill for families of abducted Yemenite children
In a historic vote, the cabinet unanimously voted on Monday in favor of a restitution package to compensate the families of some 1,050 new immigrant children from Yemen, Arab countries, and the Balkans who "disappeared" in the early years of the state.

The matter of the unaccounted-for children of new immigrant families from these countries has been a painful one for Israeli society for decades and the focus of three different governmental commissions of inquiry.

In every case in which the commission of inquiry determined that a child died but his or her family was not informed about their deaths at the time will be paid 150,000 shekels ($46,000). If the fate of their children is undetermined, they family will be awarded 200,000 shekels ($61,300). The total cost of the restitution payments totals 162 million shekels ($49.6 million).

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "I brought the cabinet a decision to pay restitution to the families hurt in the affair. This is one of the most painful episodes in the history of the state. It is time for the families who babies were taken from them to be recognized by the state and the government, and also receive restitution.

"The restitution cannot make up for the terrible suffering the families endured and still endure, which is intolerable. We need to give them the small comfort to which they are entitled," Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu said he wanted Education Minister Yoav Gallant to make sure that the Yemenite children affair was covered in the Israeli history curriculum.

"I thank the ministers, the MKs, and former MK Nurit Koren, who worked on this matter, as well as cabinet secretary Tzahi Braverman, who successfully spearheaded the issue," the prime minister added.
Israeli, 17, indicted for stun grenade attack on Palestinians, vandalism
Prosecutors filed an indictment o Tuesday against a 17-year-old Israeli settler who is accused of throwing stun grenades into Palestinian homes in the West Bank, as well as causing damage to their property.

The filing of the charges at the Central District Youth Court in Ramle made public an undercover investigation into an attack that occurred on January 4.

The unnamed defendant was indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit a crime for racist motives, aggravated battery, carrying a weapon, attempted destruction of property using explosives, deliberate damage to a vehicle as well as other crimes, the Israel Police said in a statement.

The defendant was arrested last week along with four other suspects in connection with the attack in the Palestinian village of Sarta in the northern West Bank.

He has been under house arrest since, while the other suspects are still under investigation, police said.
PMW: PA libel: “Al-Aqsa in danger of being bombed”
A so-called Israeli affairs “expert” explained to viewers of official PA TV that the “true and serious Zionist threat” is Israel's “plan” to empty Jerusalem of Christian and Muslim holy sites. Nawaf Al-Zaru went as far as accusing Israel of planning to “burn monasteries and churches,” “destroy” Islamic holy sites, and “bomb” the Al-Aqsa Mosque:
Official PA TV Israeli affairs “expert” Nawaf Al-Zaru: “Since the start of the occupation they have been working to empty the holy city of the Christian Arab presence, limiting the Christian holy sites, and even pushing the Jewish terrorist settlers to burn-“
Official PA TV host: “The monasteries and churches.”

Nawaf Al-Zaru: “The monasteries and churches and all the holy sites, in order to cause those Christian Arabs who remain in the holy city to leave it, to emigrate, so that nothing will remain of the Christian religious symbols. This is very important for them in their plan to empty the holy city, so that they can claim that this city is a Jewish city with no Christians and no Islamic holy sites. The Islamic holy sites are also in danger of being destroyed. The Al-Aqsa Mosque is in danger of being bombed and destroyed. This is a true and serious Zionist threat.”
[Official PA TV, From Amman, Dec. 15, 2020]

PA demonization: Snow fell in Jerusalem “to clean it of the colonialists’ filth”

PA denies Jewish history in Jerusalem: Jerusalem is only “Islamic, Christian, Palestinian, and Arab”

Syria set to be elected to top post in UN human rights forum
The United Nations announced on Thursday that Syria is set to be elected to a senior post on a UN “decolonization” committee charged with upholding human rights including the “subjugation, domination and exploitation” of people.

The Syrian regime headed by dictator Bashar Assad has waged a bloody civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people since it started in 2011. The regime is believed to have committed widespread war crimes, including by using chemical weapons and barrel bombs against civilians.

Also on Thursday, the UN released a report that said actions by the regime during the war likely constituted “crimes against humanity, war crimes and other international crimes, including genocide.”

Syria will be elected to the UN’s Special Committee on Decolonization, a 24-nation body that aims to “decolonize” the US Virgin Islands, Guam and American Samoa, and other areas, according to the UN Watch NGO, which reported Syria’s election to the forum.

Syria’s new UN envoy, Bassam al-Sabbagh, is set to join the forum in June, the UN announced at its opening session.

“The Special Committee will take up, at a later date, the election of the Special Rapporteur of the Committee pending the arrival in New York of His Excellency Ambassador Bassam al-Sabbagh, nominated by the Syrian Arab Republic,” said Keisha McGuire, permanent representative of Grenada to the UN.

Seth Frantzman: Why is Iran so good at nuclear diplomacy?
It’s hard to go a day without some new headline about Iran’s nuclear efforts.

On the one hand, the US signals it wants to strengthen the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or Iran deal, that was signed in 2015. The US left the deal in 2018 during the Trump administration. On the other hand, Iran is seeking a deal with the IAEA about inspections.

You would not be remiss if you begin to glaze over the more you hear about this. This is the goal of Iran. Its regime understands that Western countries like complexity. Iran understands that Western nations largely compartmentalize foreign policy. That means the West doesn’t view its foreign policy as a Clausewitzian sum of all the country’s parts.

That is why Iran can do economic policy, military policy and foreign policy in dealing with Iraq, while Western countries pursue one policy through their military and another slightly different policy with diplomats and yet a third possibly policy with their economic interests.

Of course, Western countries don’t say this. They say they care about their “interests.” But the interest of diplomats is to talk. They like discussions and minutiae and engagement. For a Western diplomat, endless discussions about discussions are prized over the use of force.

Western policy-makers tend to see the use of force as a last resort, despite talk about “holding Iran responsible” for its recent attacks in Iraq, or “all options are on the table,” or “proportionate response.”
Ex-Antisemitism Envoy: Any Deal Must Hold Iran Accountable for ‘Heinous’ Rights Violations
Former US deputy special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism Ellie Cohanim is urging the Biden administration “not to overlook” Iran’s human rights violations and genocidal calls to eliminate Israel, as well as hold the regime “accountable” for its actions before re-engaging in negotiations with the Islamic Republic.

“The people of Iran have a right to basic human rights,” Cohanim told JNS; as such, “it is incumbent” on President Joe Biden and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken “not to further entrench into power this murderous thug regime.”

“The Iranian regime has engaged in what I call an ‘obsessive antisemitism’ with the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei himself making genocidal calls for the ’elimination of Israel,’ while Israel holds half of the world’s Jewish population,” she said. “There is no justification for President Biden putting the Iranian regime on the pathway to nuclear capability without the Islamic Republic first renouncing its desire to wipe Israel off the map of the earth.”

Cohanim examined human rights in Iran—and its tools of violence, abuse, oppression and repression—in a virtual webinar on Feb. 18 hosted by the Jewish Policy Center. She detailed how the Islamic Republic “abuses” its citizens in order to maintain its power and control over them; Iran’s judiciary system has become “notorious for its travesties of justice”; and noted the regime’s “obsessive antisemitism.”
South Korea Says Will Release $7 Billion in Frozen Iranian Assets After ‘Consultations’ With US
Iranian assets worth an estimated $7 billion locked in South Korea will shortly be released following consultations with the United States, after Tehran announced Monday that it has reached a deal with Seoul over how to transfer the funds, reported the Korea Times.

The agreement was reportedly reached during a meeting between Iran’s Central Bank Gov. Abdolnaser Hemmati and South Korean Ambassador to Iran Ryu Jeong-hyun.

For months Tehran has been pressuring Seoul to unblock the assets held in two South Korean banks due to US sanctions. Seoul has been in talks with Washington on ways to release the money without violating the sanctions, including expanding humanitarian trade with the Middle Eastern country, according to the Korea Times.

“Our government has been in talks with Iran about ways to use the frozen assets, and the Iran side has expressed its consent to the proposals we have made,” the foreign ministry said, without providing further details of the proposals.

“The actual unfreezing of the assets will be carried out through consultations with related countries, including the United States,” the ministry said.
Seth Frantzman: Another win for Iran in South Korea deal - analysis
Iran’s Fars News celebrated a deal with South Korea that will unfreeze Iranian financial assets.

According to reports, Iran’s Central Bank Governor Abdolnasser Hemmat met with South Korean Ambassador Ryu Jeong-Hyun in Tehran to discuss transferring of the funds.

“The South Korean envoy, for his part, said Seoul was ready to cooperate with Tehran in facilitating the release of Iranian funds from South Korean banks,” the report said.

According to the report, Iran also wants “damages” from the East Asian country for the wait time accumulated while the assets were frozen. This is the latest win for Iran, as it has also been wringing concessions from Europe, as well as the IAEA, and has been using proxies in Iraq and Yemen to attack US partners and allies.

"Although Iran welcomes the change in the approach of countries and increase in cooperation, the legal pursuits of this bank (CBI) to claim damages due to non-cooperation of Korean banks in recent years will remain strong," Iran said.

According to the reports, up to $9.2 billion in Iranian assets are frozen in South Korea. The Islamic Republic has used maritime piracy to pressure South Korea, seizing a South Korean-flagged vessel back in January.

Iranian woman dies of heart attack before execution, still gets hanged
An Iranian woman who died of a heart attack shortly before her execution last week was hanged anyway to placate her alleged victim’s mother, her lawyer said.

Zahra Ismaili had been convicted of murder for killing her husband. Ismaili’s lawyer, Omid Moradi, said her husband was abusive and that she killed him out of self-defense, The Times reported.

Moradi said Ismaili was sent to be hanged in the Rajai Shahr Prison, in the town of Karaj, near Tehran.

She was forced to wait behind 16 men who were executed and watch. While in line, she collapsed, apparently from a heart attack, and died.

Her lifeless body was hanged anyway so her husband’s mother could kick the chair out from under her legs, which was considered her right.

Her cause of death was listed as “cardiac arrest,” according to Al-Arabiya.

The woman’s husband, Alireza Zamani was an official in the Iranian intelligence ministry, Moradi said. The couple had two children.


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