Wednesday, March 03, 2021

From Ian:

ICC prosecutor announces formal investigation into Israeli 'war crimes'
International Criminal Court Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced on Wednesday that she is opening a full war crimes probe against Israel and the Hamas terrorist group in the Gaza Strip

"The decision to open an investigation followed a painstaking preliminary examination undertaken by my office that lasted close to five years," Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement.

"In the end, our central concern must be for the victims of crimes, both Palestinian and Israeli, arising from the long cycle of violence and insecurity that has caused deep suffering and despair on all sides," she added. "My office will take the same principled, non-partisan, approach that it has adopted in all situations over which its jurisdiction is seized."

Bensouda's announcement comes less than a month after a February decision by the ICC Pre-Trial Chamber recognizing a State of Palestine and authorizing her to move forward.

The probe is expected to cover the 2014 Gaza War, the 2018 Gaza border crisis and the Israeli settlement enterprise in the West Bank as well as Hamas' rocket attacks against Israeli civilians.

War crimes suits could be leveled at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, defense ministers and any other high-level officials involved in such activity since June 13, 2014. Soldiers and commanders could also be targeted.


Israel attacks ICC for its 'scandalous' investigation
The International Criminal Court's announcement Wednesday that it would launch an investigation into Israeli conduct in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip sent shockwaves throughout the country, drawing condemnation from both sides of the political divide.

President Reuven Rivlin called the decision "scandalous" on Twitter and asserted Israel's right and duty to protect its citizens.

"The State of Israel is a strong, Jewish and democratic state, and it knows how to defend itself and also to investigate itself if necessary," the president tweeted. "We are proud of our soldiers, our sons and daughters. We will make sure that they are not harmed as a result of the decision."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the decision was "the essence of anti-Semitism and hypocrisy." He added that "there is only one answer: to fight for the truth with all our might, all over the world, and to protect our soldiers."

Echoing similar sentiment, the head of the newly created right-wing party New Hope Chairman Gideon Sa'ar accused the ICC of having been "hijacked by sponsors of terror" and vowed to work with Israel's "allies and friends around the world to defend our moral army, and brave soldiers who risk their lives to keep us safe."
StandWithUs TV: The ICC vs. Israel. Israel in Focus



Netanyahu: ICC war crimes probe is 'pure antisemitism'
"The biased International Criminal Court in The Hague reached a decision that is pure antisemitism," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday following the ICC's announcement that it is investigating alleged war crimes by both Israel and Hamas.

"It decided that our brave and moral soldiers who fight against the cruel terrorists are the terrorists," he continued. "It decided that when we build a house in our eternal capital, Jerusalem, it is a war crime."

President Reuven Rivlin called the decision “scandalous” and added that Israel is “proud of its soldiers, our sons and daughters… who keep watch over their land.”

Rivlin said, “We will all be on guard to ensure they will not be harmed due to this decision.”

Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said the ruling is a political attempt by ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to "try and set priorities" for her incoming successor, Karim Khan.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz condemned the decision as "rewarding terrorism."

"It is a decision that undermines the protection of regional stability and human life," Gantz said at an IDF graduation ceremony.
Palestinian Authority, Hamas welcome ICC decision to investigate Israel
The Palestinian Authority welcomed on Wednesday the International Criminal Court's decision to open a formal investigation into war crimes in the Palestinian Territories.

"This is a long-awaited step that serves Palestine’s tireless pursuit of justice and accountability, which are indispensable pillars of the peace the Palestinian people seek and deserve," the PA foreign ministry said in a statement.

The full war crimes probe against Israel and the Hamas terrorist group is expected to cover the 2014 Gaza War, the 2018 Gaza border crisis, the Israeli settlement enterprise in the West Bank as well as Hamas' rocket attacks against Israeli civilians.

Hamas also welcomed ICC decision to investigate into Israeli "war crimes" on and defended its actions as "legitimate resistance" on Wednesday. “We welcome the ICC decision to investigate Israeli occupation war crimes against our people. It is a step forward on the path of achieving justice for the victims of our people,” Hazem Qassem, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, told Reuters.

"Our resistance is legitimate, and it comes to defend our people. All international laws approve legitimate resistance,” said Qassem. Hamas is regarded as a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union.


Honest Reporting: FROM THE ARCHIVES: ICC Gives Itself Authority to Adjudicate Israeli ‘War Crimes’
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague on Wednesday, March 3 announced that she was opening an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Israel and the Gaza-Strip based Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.

The move came weeks after the court ruled it had jurisdiction to open a probe, which prompted a furious response from Israel and condemnation from the United States.

Below is an article recently written by HonestReporting CEO Daniel Pomerantz that outlines the shaky ground on which the ICC stands.

In addition to publishing the following piece, Pomerantz was featured on Kan, Israel’s national radio station.

Last month, the International Criminal Court (also referred to as “the Hague”) announced its decision to exercise jurisdiction over Israel and within “Palestine” for the purpose of prosecuting Israel for alleged war crimes. Despite the legalistic sounding name of the “court” it actually functions as a political body: in this case a body that granted itself the authority to bring politically driven prosecutions against any country in the world, whether or not that country has agreed to be a part of the ICC’s activities. This prosecution will set a dangerous precedent not only for the Jewish state, its leaders, soldiers and private citizens, but also for citizens of all nations that may potentially become the next victims of this growing international populism. The decision may change the very nature of international law in a manner that stands to harm our growth as a global community.




UK’s silence over ICC’s dangerous precedent is problematic
With the ongoing distraction of a global pandemic, Israel’s enemies have seized the opportunity to ramp up attacks on the Jewish State in the international arena.

UK-Israel ties remain strong, from close collaboration in our world-leading Covid-19 vaccination rollouts to intelligence-sharing, yet the UK’s response to recent threats to our ally has been too muted.

The International Criminal Court’s determination that it has territorial jurisdiction over the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem and can therefore open a probe into war crimes is a case in point. Based on an extraordinary misinterpretation of international law, the decision was rightly condemned by some of our closest allies; the United States, Australia, Germany and Canada.

The UK’s silence over this dangerous precedent is problematic and was one of the pressing issues that the Parliamentary Officers of the Conservative Friends of Israel raised in our recent meeting with Middle East Minister James Cleverly. It was an opportunity to not only reflect on the strength of the bilateral relationship but also identify possible bumps in the road in the year ahead.

In our frank conversation, my colleagues and I expressed in clear terms the importance of the UK voting against all anti-Israel resolutions at the current session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNRHC). It is an expectation that unites hundreds of other Conservative parliamentarians from all corners of the UK.

Since its inception in 2006, the UNHRC has adopted resolutions condemning countries on 171 occasions – 90 of which targeted Israel. The terror-supporting, human rights abusing regime in Tehran has received a mere 10, while states including China, Russia, Pakistan and Zimbabwe have received zero. None. Nada.
‘We Are Changing the World,’ Netanyahu Tells UAE’s First Envoy to Jewish State
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with the UAE’s first-ever envoy to the Jewish state Mohammad Mahmoud Al Khajah on Tuesday.

The PM warmly welcomed the ambassador, congratulating him on his arrival to Israel.

“We are changing the Middle East, we are changing the world,” Netanyahu said, as cited by his office in a statement.

The PM and the envoy discussed the prospects of a range of bilateral and regional projects in multiple spheres.

Israel’s National Security Council chair Meir Ben-Shabbat and other key senior officials attended the meeting, which the statement described as “warm and friendly.”

On Monday, the ambassador arrived in the country with a three-day visit, set to be focused on finding the right location for the embassy, and presented his credentials to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in a solemn ceremony in Jerusalem.

In his remarks at the ceremony, the envoy hailed the US-brokered Abraham Accords between Israel and a number of regional neighbors, which enabled the normalization of ties with the UAE.

“The Abraham Accords will remain a beacon of light and hope in human history, for all of the peace-loving people,” he said.
Biden Appoints Another Israel-Hater: Uzra Zeya
First, there was Maher Bitar, a Palestinian-American and anti-Israel BDS activist, whom Biden has appointed to be the senior director of intelligence programs at the National Security Council. In this key intelligence role, Maher Bitar will be ideally situated to learn, for example, about American collaboration with Israel on moves to stop Iran’s nuclear program. Why should we assume Bitar would not try to limit that collaboration, or to alert others about these moves, or to try to influence policy by focusing on international criticism of Israel’s “settlement building,” in an attempt to manufacture an unnecessary crisis between the allies, and to fan its flames thereby turning that crisis into a reason for America to threaten to cut back on military aid to Israel unless it stops enlarging existing, or building new, settlements? Even without knowing Maher Bitar, a Palestinian and a Muslim, shouldn’t we assume from his lengthy BDS activism that he still harbors a deep anti-Israel animus, and while his outward demeanor may suggest a lack of bias and parti-pris, he may merely be a dab hand at assuming a sober mien of objectivity, while being a master of deception? “War is deceit,” said Muhammad. About Bitar, see here.

A second alarming appointment by the Biden Administration is that of Reema Dodin, a Palestinian-American, who will now be deputy director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs. In 2002 Dodin expressed her deep understanding of, and sympathy for, all those “desperate people” who became suicide bombers. Addressing a church audience in Loma, California, spreading the gospel of Palestinianism in her interfaith outreach, she said that the Palestinian “suicide bombers were the last resort of a desperate people.” Not a word of sympathy, not in 2002 and not in the 18 years since, for the Israeli victims of those suicide bombers whose “desperation” she finds so understandable. About Reema Dodin, see here and here.

The appointments of Reema Dodin and Maher Bitar are disturbing enough. But, as they say on late-night television ads, wait – there’s more!

Now comes news that Biden has nominated Uzra Zeya, who has a long record of denouncing the “Israel lobby” and the “secret money” it uses to control American politicians, to become undersecretary for civilian security, democracy, and human rights. That’s the very worst place to put her. As to “civilian security,” doesn’t that include security from terrorists – including Islamic terrorists? Uzra Zeya doesn’t seem too interested even in the “civilian security” of the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. She appears not to care that Hamas and the PLO (which is part of the PA), endanger their own civilians by placing weapons in schools, hospitals, mosques, and apartment buildings. Nor does her support of the despotic and corrupt regimes, of Hamas in Gaza, and the PA in the West Bank, suggest she should be in charge of defending “democracy” anywhere else. Finally, she is entrusted with defending “human rights” around the world – but human rights are trampled on in Gaza and the PA-held territories. She has never spoken out about the absence of “civilian security, democracy, and human rights” in the Palestinian territories.


MEMRI: Concern In Saudi Arabia And Gulf States That Biden Administration's Policy Of Appeasing Iran Will Come At Their Expense
With President Joe Biden's election, the Gulf states - especially in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain - are concerned that this administration will revive the Obama administration's lenient policy towards Iran and its proxies in the region, and will reinstate the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, from which Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, withdrew.[1] From the Gulf states' perspective, the main problem with this deal is that it ignored the issues of Iran's ballistic missiles and its interference in the countries of the region. They fear that the Biden administration will reinstate the deal without expanding it to include these issues, despite declarations by Biden and by State Secretary Antony Blinken that these issues will be addressed.[2] Furthermore, in the recent weeks the Gulf states have demanded to be included in the nuclear talks with Iran, should they be renewed. According to reports, Qatar is mediating between the U.S. and Iran, perhaps with the silent consent of Saudi Arabia, which recently ended the boycott of Qatar. Voices in the Gulf media are also urging the U.S. not to lift the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on Iran unless it changes its policy in the region.

The Gulf states regard Iran as an existential threat. Saudi Arabia has been suffering frequent rocket and armed drone attacks on vital targets within its borders by the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen and, according to some reports, also by Iran-backed militias in Iraq. Pro-Iranian forces have recently threatened to target the UAE as well, especially Dubai, and Iran is believed to be behind the attempted attack on the UAE embassy in Ethiopia in early February 2021[3] Since the advent of the new American administration the rocket attacks on Saudi Arabia have intensified, apparently in an attempt to pressure it into lifting the sanctions on Iran and resuming the nuclear deal. The administration's moves towards renewing the negotiations with Iran despite its escalating violence is perceived by the Gulf states as capitulation to the Iranian terrorism, and intensifies their concern that, under the new deal, Iran will manage to manufacture a nuclear weapon and thus become a permanent threat to their existence.

The concern regarding Biden's Iran policy intensified even further in light of his appointments, especially the appointment of Antony Blinken, who was deputy state secretary under Obama, as secretary of state, and of Robert Malley, who was a senior Obama advisor and is considered one of the architects of nuclear deal, as the U.S. special representative for Iran. Articles in the Gulf press warned that, given these appointments, the new nuclear deal is likely to be a replica of the original one.

Yet another move of the new administration that sparked apprehension in the Gulf is the freezing of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, including the sale of F-35 fighter jets to the UAE, which is part of its Abraham Accords with Israel and the U.S.[4] While Saudi Arabia has not officially responded to this decision, the UAE expressed fury over it. Emirati Ambassador to Washington Yousef Al-'Otaiba stressed the importance of these jets to his country as a strategic defense measure against Iran, and an article in an Emirati daily warned that this move could be perceived as an American act of betrayal.
The Pinsker Centre PodCast: Ep. 3 - To Be Or Not To Bibi? Exploring the Possible Outcomes of Upcoming Israeli Elections - with Paul Gross
On March 23rd, Israelis will go to the polling booth for the 4th time in two years. What's different this time around? Will Israel finally see a stable government formed? Will Benjamin Netanyahu be ousted?

In this episode, Daniel Sacks, a Pinsker Centre Policy Fellow and student at the University of Birmingham, interviews Paul Gross of the Menachem Begin Heritage Centre, asking him these questions, and more.
Saudi Arabia Source: We Hope Netanyahu Wins Election

US Blacklists Two Leaders of Yemen’s Houthi Movement
The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on two military leaders of the Houthi movement in Yemen, accusing them of procuring weapons from Iran and organizing attacks, in the Biden administration’s first punitive action against the group.

The sanctions contrast with the State Department’s decision last month to revoke terrorist designations on the group imposed by President Donald Trump’s administration on its last full day in office, over concern that they would exacerbate Yemen’s humanitarian crisis.

But President Joe Biden’s administration has signaled limits to US tolerance of the Iran-backed Houthi movement, warning that Washington will keep up pressure on the group’s leadership.

“The United States remains committed to promoting accountability of Houthi leadership for their actions, which have contributed to the extraordinary suffering of the Yemeni people,” Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control Andrea Gacki said in a Treasury Department statement.

Tuesday’s move blacklisted Mansur Al-Sa’adi, the Houthi naval forces chief of staff, and Ahmad ‘Ali Ahsan al-Hamzi, the commander of Yemen’s Houthi-aligned Yemeni air force and air defense forces.


Israel Locates and Seizes Ship Responsible for Dumping Tar on its Beaches
Israeli authorities located the ship responsible for dumping tar into the sea which landed and covered the majority of Israel’s beaches.

Minister of Environmental Protection Gila Gamliel announced Wednesday that the ship responsible for the pollution off the coast of Israel was seized.

“We got our hands on the criminal ship. Our long arm will reach everyone who harms our nature, the sea, and our beaches,” she declared.

No details on the nationality or identity of the ship were provided.

170 of 190 km of Israel’s coast were covered with tar and damaged in an ecological disaster last weekend, the worst environmental disaster in Israel decades.

Solid and semi-solid tar from an unknown source covered the majority of Israel’s beaches. It is estimated that a ship dumped hundreds of tons of tar that was brought over to the beaches by the massive winter storm.

Dead marine animals have been washing up on Israel’s beaches, including a 17-meter baby fin whale.
PMW: PA attacks Hamas for prohibiting women’s travel alone, after recently making same ruling
When a Hamas affiliated Islamic institution recently issued a ruling that “travel is forbidden for an unmarried woman who has no children… without the permission of a guardian,” the PA’s Supreme Shari’ah Judge in Ramallah, Mahmoud Al-Habbash, stated that Palestinians are not obligated by this ruling.

However, this seems to be an attack on Hamas’ religious authority more than an attack on Hamas’ limitation of women’s rights. In fact, the top PA religious official issued a similar ruling just three months ago, denying women the right to travel abroad alone. When asked on official PA TV if a Palestinian woman may travel to Dubai on her own, the Grand Mufti Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, who was appointed by PA Chairman Abbas himself, answered that “there has to be an accompanying man from her family on the trip.”

Leaving unheeded the PA Mufti’s ruling prohibiting women’s travel alone, Al-Habbash – who is also the handpicked advisor of PA Chairman Abbas on religious affairs – responded to Hamas’ ruling, and told Palestinian civilians not to act according to the notice signed by Sheikh Dr. Hassan Ali Al-Joujou who is head of the Supreme Council for Shari’ah Justice and of the Supreme Shari’ah Court in “the southern districts of Palestine” – i.e., the Gaza Strip ruled by Hamas, which stated:
“Travel is forbidden for an unmarried woman who has no children, whether or not she is a widow, without the permission of a guardian who is connected to her.”

[Twitter account of Nadeen Odeh, Palestinian activist, Feb. 15, 2021]
PA admits some of its 1st vaccines went to gov’t officials, soccer stars, Jordan
After public pressure and calls for greater transparency, the Palestinian Authority acknowledged Tuesday that some of the few COVID-19 vaccines in its possession did not go to healthcare workers, but rather to government officials, the Jordanian royal court and the Palestinian national soccer team.

The news infuriated many Palestinians, as the Palestinian leadership has yet to begin a public vaccination campaign. The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry had previously said that the handful of doses available would be given first to healthcare workers and then to the elderly and other at-risk groups.

Among those given vaccines were security officials working in the offices of PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, 100 Palestinian students heading abroad to study, fieldworkers in the Central Elections Committee, PA government ministers, Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee members over the age of 65, and some foreign embassy staff in Ramallah.

Given that Abbas is a PLO Executive Committee member, it is likely that the PA President was vaccinated as well. A spokesperson for the PA Presidency did not respond to a request for comment.

The Palestinian national soccer team was also quietly immunized. The Health Ministry explained that the team had been asked to play a match abroad representing Palestine, and that a coronavirus immunization was a condition for their participation.


Seth Frantzman: Biden administration cannot return to Iran deal - JINSA
The Gemunder Center’s Iran Policy Project of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA) released a report on Wednesday arguing that “simply abiding by the letter of the JCPOA would leave Iran with too advanced a nuclear program for the United States to accept and too many economic constraints for Tehran to abide.”

The new US administration of President Joe Biden came into office hoping to reduce tensions with Iran and possibly reverse many of the Trump administration’s policies in the Middle East. The Biden administration has listened keenly to Israel’s concerns.

JINSA president and CEO Dr. Michael Makovsky argued Wednesday that “Right now Washington and Tehran are arguing over who should take the first step to reenter the JCPOA, but that may be the smallest of the many hurdles to reviving the nuclear agreement.”

He notes that it may not be possible to ever return to the JCPOA as it was pre-2018 without damaging US interests. “Despite Tehran’s adamancy that it can easily and quickly walk back all its violations, its work on newer centrifuges and construction of new facilities has already irreversibly advanced its nuclear program beyond the four corners of the JCPOA,” he says.

The new report warns against Washington trying to get back to a nuclear deal by giving up too many sanctions, in exchange for too few nuclear concessions from Tehran. “Thus, the first step in realizing the Biden’s Administration’s oft-stated desire to pursue a more comprehensive agreement should be to recognize there is no returning to the JCPOA,” the report argues.
Richard Goldberg: Biden Risks Repeating Mistakes of the Past if He Ignores the Evidence on Iran
The U.N.’s nuclear chief on Monday all but accused Iran of lying to international inspectors about the existence of undeclared nuclear material and sites inside the country—an alarming development in an investigation that predates America’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. The statement raises an important question for the Biden administration: Will Iran be required to account for its past and present clandestine nuclear work before President Joe Biden agrees to lift U.S. sanctions? If the answer is no, Biden will be repeating the mistakes of the past—rewarding Iranian nuclear deception, shredding the integrity of the global nonproliferation regime, and guaranteeing Iran continues its long-term pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Iran, a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), has a long track record of willfully concealing its nuclear activities in violation of its treaty obligations. In late 2002, an Iranian dissident group revealed the existence of a secret uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and a heavy water facility at Arak. In 2009, the Obama administration exposed another secret enrichment facility buried deep underground near the city of Qom. In both cases, Iran declared its nuclear activities to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) only after getting caught. The regime’s nuclear modus operandi is simple: Conceal unless and until exposed.

The 2015 nuclear agreement—formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA—nominally required Iran to open up about its past work on nuclear weapons. The deal stipulated that sanctions relief and other key benefits would not be forthcoming until Iran allowed IAEA inspectors to pursue leads indicating Iran sought not only to enrich uranium, but to build an actual nuclear weapon.

Iran agreed, understanding that Obama and his European partners would declare the issue settled regardless of whether Iran allowed a serious investigation. Unsurprisingly, the IAEA reported “ambiguities” in the answers Iran submitted and its inspectors were prevented from visiting a suspected nuclear weapons site until Tehran finished cleaning it up. Regardless, America lifted sanctions, giving Iran access to tens of billions of dollars, and the U.N. Security Council ended its prohibition on Iran’s enrichment of uranium. Iran had ostensibly come into compliance with the NPT and abandoned its quest for nuclear weapons—or so we thought.
GOP Opposition to Top Defense Pick Grows
Republicans are closely eying Kahl's background and expect to raise a number of their disagreements during his hearing, which "is going to be sporty, to say the least," according to the source.

Kahl, who has also served as Biden's longtime foreign policy adviser, was one of the Obama administration's most vocal advocates for the Iran deal and a staunch opponent of tougher U.S. sanctions on Tehran. He wrote a policy proposal for containing a nuclear Iran in 2013, arguing that the United States "would likely be forced to shift toward containment regardless of current preferences" if Iran obtained nuclear weapons.

In 2017, Kahl opposed a bill to sanction the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which carries out Iran's global terrorism operations, arguing that the United States already had the ability to sanction individual IRGC members. The legislation was "gratuitous" and "a symbolic gesture to basically rub it in the nose of the IRGC," he said.

Kahl also criticized the Trump administration's targeted strike on Iranian terror chief Qassem Soleimani last year, calling it "an overt act against perhaps the second-most-prominent official in Iran."

"From an Iranian perspective, the assassination is the equivalent of another country taking out the director of the CIA, secretary of defense, and shadow secretary of state all rolled into one," Kahl said, arguing that the attack was likely to prompt reprisals from Tehran.

Kahl has spoken at numerous events hosted by the National Iranian American Council, a group that has been accused of lobbying for policies supportive of the Iranian government and has attempted to broker meetings between Iranian regime officials and U.S. lawmakers.
Rockets Land at Iraqi Air Base Hosting US Forces
At least 10 rockets landed on Wednesday at Iraq’s Ain al-Asad air base that hosts United States, coalition and Iraqi forces, the Iraqi military said.

It was the second rocket attack in Iraq this month and came two days before Pope Francis is due to visit the country.

The attack caused no significant losses, Iraqi’s military said without going into further detail.

A Baghdad Operations Command official told Reuters earlier that about 13 rockets were launched from a location about 8 km (5 miles) from the base, which is in western Anbar province.

Another Iraqi security source and a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the rockets were launched from the Baiader area, west of Baghdadi city.

The Pope will visit Iraq from March 5-8 despite deteriorating security in some parts of the country.
Israeli Ambassador Tells UN Security Council to ‘Hold the Iranian Regime Responsible’ for Gulf of Oman Blast
Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations filed a letter of complaint to the UN Security Council Tuesday over a recent attack on an Israeli ship in the Gulf of Oman, calling for the body to “hold the Iranian regime responsible for this attack and for destabilizing the region.”

Gilad Erdan, who also serves as the Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, referred to the “ongoing malign activities of the Iranian regime in the Gulf of Oman, which threaten to destabilize the Middle East and pose a great threat to international peace and security.”

The attack last week struck the Israeli-owned MV Helios Ray vehicle-career, officials have said, tearing holes in both sides of the ship’s hull using limpet mines.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said it was “clear” that Iran was behind the blast, telling Kan radio Monday that he was “determined to fend it off. We are striking at it all over the region.”

The letter from Erdan was sent to Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US Ambassador to the UN who for the month of March is serving as the Security Council’s rotating president, and to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
Inside the GOP Plan to Oppose Biden’s Iran Deal
Congressional Republicans are working on a range of measures to stop the Biden administration from reentering the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, an effort that includes a full-court press to block sanctions relief for Tehran until it fully dismantles its contested nuclear program, according to conversations with multiple GOP foreign policy leaders.

Republicans face an uphill battle given Democratic control of Congress and the Biden administration's ability to steer U.S. foreign policy during the next four years. But the opposition to full-scale sanctions relief on both sides of the aisle could force the administration to recalibrate its approach to diplomacy.

As part of this effort, the Republican Study Committee—Congress’s largest caucus of GOP lawmakers—unveiled on Tuesday the most detailed plan yet to counter the Biden administration’s overtures toward Tehran and block it from unraveling former president Donald Trump’s "maximum pressure" campaign on the country, which included crippling sanctions.

The caucus vowed to "fight against and work to reverse any and all sanctions relief for Iran" until the country halts its nuclear program, releases all U.S. hostages, halts its missile program, and ends its global support for terrorism, according to a copy of the GOP plan that was unanimously approved on Tuesday morning and obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. Sources close to the RSC said it is among the most comprehensive policy positions that caucus has ever taken in its 47-year history.
Kentucky Rep Moves to Defund Biden Iran Deal Efforts
Rep. Andy Barr (R., Ky.) will introduce a resolution Tuesday morning that forbids the Biden administration from using federal funds to reenter the Iran nuclear deal.

The legislation elevates the role of the Senate in foreign policy matters, mandating that any part of the Iran deal that requires federal dollars must be accompanied by written statements to Congress from the administration and that the Senate can assume its powers to oversee the agreement as a treaty process.

"The Obama Administration completely bypassed Congress and the treaty process in agreeing to the disastrous Iranian Nuclear Deal," Barr said. "Congress must reclaim its oversight of the international treaty process and not allow the Biden Administration to govern through Executive fiat."

Barr will push the act through both the House Foreign Affairs and Financial Services committees under the title of the "JCPOA Advise and Consent Act of 2021." The Kentucky Republican said the act intends to make Congress a firewall for any executive action related to the Iran deal, from which then-President Trump withdrew in 2018.

"No Federal funds may be obligated or expended in furtherance of rejoining the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed at Vienna on July 14, 2015, by Iran and the United States … unless the Biden Administration submits in writing to the House of Representatives and the Senate its commitment to submitting any JCPOA successor agreement to the Senate for advise and consent as a treaty rather than as an international agreement," the proposal says.

The bill comes as the Biden administration inches toward officially reentering negotiations with Iran either to rejoin the nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration or construct a new deal. Iran envoy Rob Malley and climate czar John Kerry reportedly met with Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif several times between 2017 and 2019. Malley has repeatedly signaled his own commitment to restoring a dialogue between Washington and Tehran, and President Biden campaigned on a platform supporting the Iran deal.







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