Wednesday, April 21, 2021

From Ian:

Israel blasts French ruling keeping Sarah Halimi’s killer from trial
Israel blasted on Tuesday the ruling by France’s highest court that the murderer of Sarah Halimi was not criminally responsible because he had smoked marijuana before the crime.

“Sarah Halimi was murdered for clearly anti-Semitic motivations, for the sole reason that she was a Jew, ” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Lior Hayat to the Times of Israel. “This was a despicable murder that harmed not only the victim herself and her family, but also the entire Jewish community’s sense of security.”

“The way to confront anti-Semitism is through education, zero tolerance, and heavy punishment,” Hayat continued. “This is not the message that the court’s ruling conveys.”

Halimi, an Orthodox Jewish woman in her sixties, died in 2017 after being pushed out of the window of her Paris flat by neighbor Kobili Traore, who shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great” in Arabic).

But in a decision last Wednesday, the Court of Cassation’s Supreme Court of Appeals upheld rulings by lower tribunals that Traore cannot stand trial because he was too high on marijuana to be criminally responsible for his actions.

Traore, a heavy pot smoker, has been in psychiatric care since Halimi’s death. The court said he committed the killing after succumbing to a “delirious fit” and was thus not responsible for his actions.

French President Emanuel Macron expressed support on Sunday for the country’s Jewish community and its efforts to bring Halimi’s killer to trial. He said he would seek a change to laws to prevent such a case from happening again.

In a rare and controversial critique of France’s justice system, Macron said that taking drugs and “going crazy” should not take away criminal responsibility.
Anger Outside French Consulate, NY Activists Hold Bigil for #SarahHalimi

Biden’s anti-Israel ‘point man’ is behind plan to fund Palestinians
“I was inspired by the Palestinian intifada,” Hady Amr wrote a year after September 11 while working with an anti-Israel group.

A few years later, the Beirut-born Amr had become an adviser on Muslim relations to the World Economic Forum, before heading up Brookings’ Doha Center for Qatar. The tiny Islamic tyranny is allied with Iran, Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. It’s a backer of Hamas.

The Obama administration appointed Amr deputy head of USAID’s Middle East Bureau, which put him in a key position to direct taxpayer money via an organization already notorious for funding pro-terrorist and anti-Israel groups.

A decade after Amr had responded to the death of a Hamas leader by ranting that “there will be thousands who will seek to avenge these brutal murders of innocents,” the Obama administration made him a deputy to its Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Amr decamped back to Brookings during the Trump administration, becoming one of Biden’s big bundlers, joining his transition team and getting picked as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. Within two decades of praising the intifada against Israel and a decade of working for a think-tank deeply compromised by its pro-Hamas regime sponsor, the foreign radical had climbed to a pole position in setting the Biden administration’s policy on Israel.

Politico described Amr as “the key U.S. official dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian issue.” The Times of Israel called him “Biden’s point-man on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Biden’s point man didn’t waste much time.

Watchdog Group Report Echoes Calls for More Oversight After Biden Administration Renews Aid to Palestinian Authority
With the resumption of US aid to the Palestinian Authority, a top watchdog group is urging the Biden administration to take a series of measures to prevent aid going to terrorist activities, the promotion of antisemitism, and other problematic entities.

The Biden administration approved $90 million in aid to the Palestinians earlier this month, including $15 million set for coronavirus relief, saying it was an attempt to regain “trust and goodwill” after the previous Trump administration ended almost all aid to the Palestinian Authority.

The State Department also restored $150 million in aid to the Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA. Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan, criticized the move, saying that Israel is “strongly opposed to the anti-Israel and antisemitic activity happening in UNRWA’s facilities.”

In a policy paper issued Monday, the Israel-based watchdog NGO Monitor argued that, with the resumption of aid, the US must undertake more aggressive and comprehensive oversight of aid recipients.

First, the administration must improve its vetting policies in regard to “terror-linked actors.” Current procedures, the paper says, are too weak, making the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) “vulnerable to engagement with grantees and/or partners linked to terrorist organizations, or with groups that support, glorify, or excuse violence.”

In response, the document recommends a more thorough investigation of any group or individual likely to receive US funds, including “media policy papers and posts, court documents, and other public records relating to potential partners.”

The Remarkable Trajectory of Greece-Israel Ties
Recent developments underscore the remarkable trajectory of ties between Greece and Israel.

First, there was the quadrilateral summit in Paphos, also involving Cyprus and United Arab Emirates. Historic would not be an overstatement in describing this gathering, as it reflects the strategic results of last year’s Abraham Accords and connects the Eastern Mediterranean with the Arabian Gulf. Moreover, it would not be surprising to see other regional actors seeking to join this group in the future.

Second, the two countries just announced a large defense deal, indeed the biggest ever between Athens and Jerusalem. Needless to say, it didn’t come out of nowhere, but rather was the result of ever growing strategic and military cooperation — and the trust it bespeaks.

What may seem obvious today about overlapping interests and values between Greece and Israel was anything but obvious forty years ago, when I first became interested in the relationship.

At the time, I was shocked to learn that bilateral ties were quite frigid, to the point where Greece and Spain were the only two West European countries that had not established full de jure relations with Israel. And when Spain finally did so in 1986, Greece became the lone holdout.

It made no sense to me. Sure, I heard that Greece was closely tied to the Arab world and feared it would lose its standing if it also connected with Israel, but the argument didn’t hold water. Other West European nations were able to successfully juggle their ties with both sides of the political equation. Meanwhile, of course, Egypt and Israel had signed a peace deal in 1979.
China in the Middle East: "Silk Road" to the Levant
It is a historical irony that the revival of Chinese imperialism dovetailed with the surge of Turkish and Russian imperial ambitions to advance the BRI. By way of projecting its clout across Central Asia and the Caucasus, shoring its ailing economy, and developing its infrastructure and transportation system, Ankara effectively ditched the Uighur Muslims, apart from recurrent, perfunctory criticism of China's oppression of the community.[36] For its part, Beijing ignored Ankara's support for the anti-Assad rebellion and its tussles with other BRI-involved states (notably Israel and Greece) while focusing on incorporating the Turkish railway and port system into the BRI.

To shore up its economy and develop its infrastructure, Ankara ditched the Uighur Muslims.

At the same time, China benefitted from Moscow's military intervention in Syria. To be sure, the deepening Russian entrenchment in Syria has complicated the incorporation of Latakia and Tartus into the BRI, but, by saving the Assad regime and hastening the war's end, the intervention served the Chinese interest in two important respects: On the one hand, the return of stability will allow the resumption of the Levant's incorporation into the BRI, a process that was largely put on hold for the duration of the war. On the other, China is likely to play the leading role in Syria's postwar reconstruction as the Assad regime's two saviors, Russia and Iran, are no match to Beijing's economic prowess, let alone in view of their current economic predicaments.

Indeed, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread around the world, and tensions with Washington and to a lesser extent the Europeans were spiraling to new heights, Beijing sought to exploit the calamity it had sparked for political and economic gains while its global competitors were still reeling from the pandemic's economic woes. This ranged from extending COVID-19 aid and medical supplies to fifteen European states (notably to Italy at a time when it was cold shouldered by the EU at its darkest moment); to offering some 400 million Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccine doses to countries in Latin America, the Middle East, and Asia; to providing pandemic-related aid to Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon, including medications and medical equipment, money, masks, and protective gear; and carrying out clinical trials in Turkey for the third phase of the experimental COVID-19 vaccine developed by a Beijing-based company.[37]

Most empires and imperial aspirants tend to couch their expansionist designs by altruistic and/or universal pretenses, and today's China is no exception. Thus, President Xi Jinping presents the BRI as an altruistic drive for world peace and prosperity, just as imperial China's intercontinental land and maritime Silk Road had (supposedly) created a "2000-plus-year history of ... friendly engagement among nations, adding a splendid chapter to the history of human progress."[38] In reality, the BRI is China's grand bid for global economic supremacy and political influence.
Mansour Abbas, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Abraham Effect
Mansour Abbas, 46, an Israeli Arab dentist and chairman of the Southern Branch of the Islamist Movement in Israel, secured four seats in Israel’s March 2021 Knesset elections for his Ra’am party on a platform of cooperation, integration, and normalization, in order to advance the socio-economic agenda of Israel’s Arab population – breaking with decades of Arab nationalist and Islamist rejectionist rhetoric against Israel. Mansour Abbas’ success has positioned him as a prospective kingmaker in determining Israel’s governing coalition.

This was not a short-term tactical move. In 2020, Abbas had publicly signaled his openness to work with Zionist coalitions. Abbas’ unilateral reset reflects the spirit of the Abraham Accords, creating an internal “Abraham Effect” on Israeli Arab politics.

On April 1, 2021, Abbas delivered a prime-time television address in Hebrew, reflecting an unprecedented outreach by an Arab politician to the Israeli Jewish public. He said that he would “courageously champion a vision of peace, mutual security, partnership, and tolerance between people.” Abbas’ campaign avoided incendiary statements on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that had characterized the Israeli Arab political leadership’s rhetoric for decades.

Yet, some in Israel were concerned that he was employing a recognized strategy of political Islam to penetrate a state’s political system to achieve Islamic ideological goals, comparing him to Turkish President Erdogan, Hamas in Gaza, and Iran’s Hizbullah in Lebanon.

Israel’s Arab citizens have increasingly sought economic and political integration, with 63% supporting Arab parties joining the Israeli coalition government. Ra’am’s electoral success reflects a societal shift in the Israeli Arab sector. Two polls in early 2020 indicated a growing Israeli identity as opposed to a Palestinian identity that had more commonly characterized Arab citizens of Israel.

While Israel’s Abbas and his Ra’am party have exhibited signs of political adaptiveness to the democratic demands of a broadening Arab constituency in Israel, Mahmoud Abbas and the ideologically immutable Palestinian Authority leadership in the West Bank demonstrate intractability and continued hard-line, anti-Israel messages, further isolating themselves from the Palestinian public, the Arab world, and the Israeli people. At present, there does not seem to be a West Bank equivalent of Mansour Abbas running for the Palestinian Authority leadership.
Mansour Abbas and the Islamist Ra'am Party: Partners or Enemies?
In “Why Palestinians Will Not Accept Advice from Arabs,” Khaled Abu Toameh, a fellow at Gatestone Institute, points out the problem the Arabs in Israel, Gaza and Judea and Samaria face currently. "The Palestinian leadership has lost its symbolism, even among the Palestinians," declared Abdullah Al-Ghathami, a distinguished professor of criticism and theory at King Saud University. "The Palestinian leadership has lost its credibility in the eyes of the new Arab generation, which is a generation of technology,” he said.” Once, for us the homeland was the whole Arab world. We were all an army of freedom fighters for the Palestinians. We used to accept their mistakes, even their insults because the Palestinian issue was Number 1 for us. Today the new generation thinks differently. The Palestinian leadership is irrelevant. Palestinians needs a young leadership that would be able to address the young Arab generation.”

Adding to the problem that is that Palestinian Arabs are a tribal society. According to AMAN, a nongovernmental organization that attempts to combat corruption and foster integrity, transparency, and accountability in Palestinian Arab culture, “some politicized religious groups, and the undeniable growth of the clans allied with them,” play a significant role in shaping policy in Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. The increase and expansion of tribal authority comes with a steep price for developing a consensus. This fact “will weaken official institutions and deepen the existing crisis of lack confidence in these institutions and in the political forces and parties.”

This phenomenon might also enable the rise of populism, the spread of separate local and regional movements; and further intensify the separation of the Gaza Strip from Judea and Samaria. Already, societal and clan pressure have emboldened some groups to create the “authority and influence of representatives of tribal institutions, as an alternative to state institutions.”

In general, the Arab population of the Middle East have remained loyal to their tribe, ethnic group, religious group, or sect observed Mordechai Kedar, Israeli scholar of Arabic culture, and spurned all the philosophies that were introduced to them from the West. The foundation of Middle Eastern culture has always been tribal culture.

A Final Note
Given Ra’am’s refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist, their desire to end the “occupation,” allow displaced Arabs from the War of Liberation into Israel and other demands which would lead to the demise of Israel, one must ask: how can Zionists allow individuals who openly seek to destroy the Jewish state sit with them in any coalition?
With Enough Supplies, Israel Looks to Re-Route AstraZeneca Vaccine Delivery
Israel no longer wants AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine and is exploring with the company whether a big shipment in the pipeline could be sent elsewhere, Israel’s pandemic coordinator said on Wednesday.

“We are trying to find the best solution. After all, we don’t want (the vaccines) to get here and have to throw them into the trash,” the official, Nachman Ash, told Army Radio, saying Israel’s needs were being met by other suppliers.

In his remarks, Ash made no reference to AstraZeneca’s vaccine having been associated with very rare blood clots in Europe. Many countries there resumed administering it after the European Union’s drug watchdog said benefits outweighed risks.

Israel cast a wide net last year when trying to secure vaccine doses at the height of the pandemic and pre-ordered from a number of companies.

It largely settled on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, launching one of the world’s swiftest rollouts. COVID-19 infections in Israel have dropped dramatically and the economy has reopened.

Israel is also buying the COVID-19 vaccines from Moderna, which uses a similar messenger RNA (mRNA) technology.

Ash said that with supplies secure through 2022, Israel no longer required the 10 million doses it agreed to purchase from AstraZeneca.
Coronavirus: Rollout of electronic bracelets to start in May
The rollout of electronic bracelets to monitor that those who enter Israel from abroad comply with quarantine requirements will likely start in the month of May, a Health Ministry spokesperson told The Jerusalem Post.

Israelis who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from the virus are exempt from quarantine, but all others will be required to isolate either at home wearing a device or in a state-run facility.

The bracelets have been described by health authorities as a key part of the strategy to prevent new coronavirus variants from abroad from spreading in the country. However, over a month after Israel reopened its skies for its citizens and the Knesset approved legislation to allow the rollout of the devices, the deployment has not started yet.

The bracelet cannot monitor any details about the person wearing it, except whether they are respecting the quarantine’s rules, SuperCom president and CEO Ordan Trabelsi told the Post at the end of February, shortly before a pilot using some 100 bracelets kicked off.

The pilot took place in the first week of March. According to the company, the bracelets were in high demand, with over 91% of travelers arriving at the airport opting for the program. Reception of the program was positive, and was accompanied by a high satisfaction rate.
Big blast at rocket factory jolts central Israel in ‘controlled test’
A large explosion occurred at a state-owned rocket factory in central Israel on Tuesday morning, causing no injuries or damage, in what the defense contractor called a “controlled test.”

The blast sent up a massive plume of fire and smoke outside the central Israeli town of Ramle, which could be seen from miles away.

The explosion took place at the government-owned Tomer defense firm, which manufactures propulsion systems for a variety of rockets and missiles.

Videos of the blast were widely shared on social media, prompting speculation that that it was the result of a malfunction or sabotage, especially in light of ongoing tensions between Israel and Iran. Indeed, the explosion at the sensitive military site was featured prominently in Iranian media, which insinuated that it may have been a form of retaliation by Tehran for the recent blast at its Natanz nuclear facility that has been widely attributed to Israel.

The Israeli defense contractor maintained that the images were misleading and that it was a deliberate explosion as part of a trial.

“This was a controlled test, without any irregular incidents,” a spokeswoman for the firm said.
Iran media celebrates 'explosion' at 'sensitive Israel missile factory'
Iranian state media highlighted a “powerful explosion” that they said took place at a “sensitive Israeli missile factory” during a test.

A similar report appeared in Haaretz, and it appears Iranian media took their information from there.

The Iranian reports come in the wake of Iran accusing Israel of “nuclear terrorism” for an incident at the Natanz enrichment facility earlier this month, a day after The New York Times ran an article about Iran being “rattled” by “Israeli strikes.” The incident thus occurred at a sensitive time, and some pro-Iranian voices online mocked Israel for the explosion.

Tasnim quoted pro-Hamas Palestinian media as referring to the “terrible explosion.” It said it took place at a “sensitive military-industrial site in the Gush Dan area.” It quoted eyewitnesses as seeing flames at a “great height.”

It noted that the “Zionist regime” had not commented on it but that “Zionist sources” had said the site was responsible for the production of advanced weapons of war, including various missiles.
Palestinians' Institutional Decay Can't Be Masked
In the new PLC, "major players in Palestinian political life will have to deal with each other and will have an institutional framework," Brown argued. As PLC members are automatically members of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), Hamas jihadists will also enter the PNC. He discussed this without acknowledging the obvious dangers of giving terrorists even more political power. The PLC will also have to elect a speaker, an action with important consequences for the succession of an aging Abbas. On the other hand, his 14 years of decrees will require review by the PLC, which "could produce paralysis" in a split PLC.

Elgindy asked whether elections will "heal this division" between Hamas and Fatah. "Heal is a strong word; no, they won't," Brown responded. While "some minimal level of coordination was necessary for these to go forward," Brown said, the division between Hamas-ruled Gaza and the PA's West Bank will not disappear. But Brown said the elections will "give specific actors a structure in which to hammer out some of these differences, a limited structure, a problematical structure, but again, it's more than no structure at all."

Limited international enthusiasm for the PA elections is clear given such underwhelming benefits. The international community has responded with "whatever," with "vague support," Brown noted. By contrast, the PA's initial elections in 2006 were "incredibly internationalized," with monitoring and political support.

Elgindy asked whether the elections could revive a peace process with Israel, but, unsurprisingly given that Fatah and Hamas both support terrorism and Israel's destruction, Brown dashed such hopes. "There is only one ingredient missing, and that's a time machine" to go back 15 years when many globally hoped that elections would create a PA interested in peace with Israel, he said. "There is no peace process," he noted, and suggested younger Palestinians would say, "Peace process, oh yeah, my parents told me about that."

Reflecting upon current Palestinian leadership, many Palestinians feel that "this generation has failed," Brown observed, and his own analysis indicates that new PA elections will hardly bring any improvement. Palestinians like Quran, a supporter of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, to say nothing of Hamas and Fatah, have shown no ability to create a stable Palestinian state that could live alongside Israel in peace. Intentionally or not, Brown and his Middle East studies colleagues revealed that new structures cannot alter a fundamentally decrepit Palestinian "national movement."
Abbas adviser: Palestinian elections ‘very likely’ to be postponed
A senior adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday that the upcoming Palestinian national elections are “very likely” to be postponed if Israel does not allow voting in East Jerusalem.

Nabil Shaath told the An-Nahar newspaper that if Israel continues to ignore the PA’s request to hold the elections in East Jerusalem, “the electoral process will be postponed.”

He noted PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki has been dispatched to Europe to push for international pressure on Israel on the issue.

The Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, while Israel considers the entire city its undivided capital and bars any PA activity from taking place in the city.

Israel has yet to say whether it will permit voting in East Jerusalem, which it captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed in a move not recognized by most of the international community. The Oslo Accords, a series of bilateral agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, stipulate that Palestinians can vote at designated post offices throughout Jerusalem.

Shaath’s comments came a day after the Palestinian Elections Commission said most Palestinians in East Jerusalem will be able to vote in next month’s elections, regardless if Israel permits voting in the city.

PreOccupiedTerritory: Gov’t: Jewish Prayer On Temple Mount More Dangerous Than Agricultural Terrorism, Theft From IDF Warehouses, Negev Lawlessness (satire)
Israeli law enforcement authorities confirmed today that their policies stem from the assumption that Jews engaging in quiet worship rituals near the faith’s holiest site pose a greater hazard to public safety than do rampant protection rackets in the south, vandalism directed at Jewish farmers, flagrant Arab beatings of Jews in broad daylight, and the recurring phenomenon of military equipment being carted off in broad daylight by Bedouin.

Minister of Internal Security Amir Ohana acknowledged Monday that the government places a greater priority on preventing Jews from praying on the Temple Mount than it does on securing military sites that have proved tempting, repeated targets for equipment and weapons theft; combating lawlessness among Negev Bedouin and migrant workers in South Tel Aviv; mitigating pervasive gun crime in the Arab sector; preventing and demolishing illegal construction; fighting domestic violence; opposing polygamy; and deterring Arab attacks on Jews and Jewish agricultural sites, including destruction of property and theft of equipment and livestock.

“You can’t imagine how dangerous it is for all of us when a Jew moves his or her lips in prayer near the site that the Prophet Isaiah calls ‘a house of prayer for all the the nations,'” he observed in an interview. “Many people simply don’t understand that. We need to concentrate our resources on preventing such a hazardous thing from happening, and on arresting and prosecuting the offenders promptly when it does happen, and then, once the threat has passed, perhaps we can devote our attention to those other, lesser concerns. Unfortunately, provocateurs continue to insist Jews should enjoy the same religious, human, and civil rights as others do, in this case Muslims, who built their shrine on top of where two Jewish temples stood; those provocateurs require constant vigilance to deter.”
Chemical weapons watchdog strips Syria’s rights over poison gas attacks
The global chemical weapons watchdog voted Wednesday to take the unprecedented step of stripping Syria of its rights at the organization after a probe blamed Damascus for poison gas attacks.

Syria will have its own voting rights revoked at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and will be banned from holding any offices at the Netherlands-based agency.

The measures are in response to an OPCW investigation last year that found the Syrian air force had used the nerve agent sarin and chlorine gas in three attacks on the village of Lataminah in 2017.

It is the first time a country has been hit with such punishment in the history of the OPCW, which was founded nearly a quarter of a century ago to rid the world of chemical weapons.

Syria and its ally Russia have consistently denied that Damascus has used chemical weapons during the ten-year civil war, arguing that the watchdog has become politicized by the West.

A two-thirds majority of the regulator’s 193 member states voted in favor of a proposal by 46 nations including France, Britain, and the United States to deprive Syria of “rights and privileges.”

NYT reports Israeli actions have led to 'paranoia' in Iran
A series of incidents in Iran, including a mysterious blackout at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility last week and the killing of top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh a few months ago, indicate that Israel is repeatedly breaching the country's most sensitive points and have sparked calls for reforms in the Revolutionary Guards Corps, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

The New York Times report said these recent occurrences have "highlighted" how apparently easy it was for Israeli intelligence to penetrate deep inside Iran's borders, often with the help of Iranians on the inside, creating a "cloud of paranoia."

According to the NYT report, Israel has also managed to reach equipment earmarked for Iran and either destroy it or plant devices that would cause it to detonate after the equipment was installed.

The report also cited growing concern in Iran about the possibility that local collaborators were cooperating with attempts to sabotage its nuclear program, and said tthat the former head of the Revolutionary Guards Corps has demanded that Iran "overhaul" its security and intelligence systems, while legislators are calling for high-ranking security and intelligence officials to resign.

Ongoing actions against the Iranian nuclear program, the report said, have resulted in immediate assumptions of foul play whenever any mishap occurs.
Congressional GOP Introduces Largest Package of Iran Sanctions in History
Congressional Republicans unveiled on Wednesday what they described as the largest package of Iran sanctions in history, a largely symbolic move meant to handicap the Biden administration's diplomacy with Tehran and send a message that GOP lawmakers will not roll over as crippling economic sanctions on the hardline regime are lifted.

The legislation, dubbed the Maximum Pressure Act, would formally codify the Trump administration's tough sanctions campaign on Iran and force the Biden administration to submit any revamped nuclear deal with Iran to Congress for review before it is approved. The bill, spearheaded by the Republican Study Committee, was unveiled during a morning press conference on Capitol Hill with former secretary of state Mike Pompeo, who led the Trump administration's efforts to isolate Iran and defund its regional terrorism enterprise.

As the Biden administration inches closer to rejoining the 2015 nuclear accord and unwinding American pressure on Iran, Republicans in Congress are using their legislative and oversight authority to hamper negotiations and make clear that any such deal will not last beyond Biden's term in office. While the sanctions bill stands little chance of passing a Democrat-controlled Congress, it is yet another sign that Republicans are united in opposition to a revamped accord that provides the Islamic Republic with potentially billions in cash assets. It is also likely that hawkish Democrats, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Menendez (D., N.J.), will not back the Biden administration if it grants sanctions relief before Iran dismantles its nuclear program.

Pompeo and Rep. Jim Banks (R., Ind.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the Republican Study Committee's chairman, said the legislation is a signal to the White House and Iran that Congress will not abide by any deal that is not first brought before it for a vote. The Obama administration never brought the Iran deal before Congress for a vote, fearing that it could not pass. Because the agreement was never formally ratified, the Trump administration was easily able to scrap it in 2018. Banks and several colleagues formally notified the Biden administration earlier this month that Congress will not be bound to an agreement that grants Iran sanctions relief, as the Washington Free Beacon first reported.

"If President Biden bypasses Congress and rejoins the failed Iran deal, our adversaries should know that conservatives in Congress will continue to fight to support President Trump's successful maximum pressure campaign and work to pass this legislation which would reimpose all sanctions until Iran" shutters its nuclear program and stops supporting terrorist groups across the Middle East, Banks said in a statement.
Iranian President Insists on ‘No More, No Less’ Than Original Nuclear Deal
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday that the resolution of the nuclear issue lies in a return to the original Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), signed in 2015.

“It is obvious to everyone, to the 5+1, Europe and the region, that the deal should be implemented accurately … no more and no less,” he stated during a Cabinet meeting, Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported.

Rouhani made the remark a day after the deputy secretary-general of the EU’s diplomatic service, Enrique Mora, expressed satisfaction with the progress made in Vienna in negotiations regarding a possible return to the JCPOA.

Mora, who chaired Tuesday’s meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission, tweeted: “Joint Commission today. Progress made over the last two weeks. But much more hard work needed. Third expert group was created to address sequencing issues. I continue to think that diplomacy is only way forward for the #JCPOA to address ongoing challenges.”

In a statement issued after the meeting, the Joint Commission said that talks would resume next week towards “the possible return of the US to the JCPOA and its full and effective implementation.”
Growing suspicions, frustration between US and Israel over Iran deal — report
As international negotiations progress on restoring the 2015 accord limiting Iran’s nuclear program, suspicion is growing between Israel and the US as the Biden administration looks to rejoin the accord, according to a report Wednesday.

Officials told Axios that National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat had raised Israeli worry with American officials that Jerusalem’s concerns were not being given proper consideration as Washington attempts to reenter the deal. Israeli officials said the Americans countered that Israel was not sufficiently heeding the administration’s request for “no surprises” from either side concerning Iran policy.

The report described growing frustration on both sides over feelings of lack of trust and insufficient transparency.

Despite the disagreements between the sides, an Israeli official told the Walla news site that Israel was still holding out hope it could influence the US position.

“We don’t think everything is lost and as long as we have the opportunity to voice our stance, we are going to try in the hope that we’ll succeed,” the unnamed official said.

The comments came before Israeli security chiefs fly to Washington next week for high-level talks on Iran.
Jerusalem Limits Focus to ‘Influencing’ Nuclear Deal, Israeli TV Report Says
Concluding that Washington is “rushing towards” a nuclear agreement with Iran, Jerusalem is limiting its goal to “influencing” the deal as much as it can, Israel’s Kan 11 TV reported on Tuesday.

According to the report, Israel has submitted a request to the administration in Washington that any version of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action reached with Iran include increased powers by inspectors to monitor Tehran’s nuclear activities.

The report also alleged that though Israel has in the past called for any new nuclear agreement include restrictions on Iran’s ballistic-missile program and terrorism-sponsoring, its “understanding” that the US will not insist on such clauses has led Jerusalem to focus on improved supervision of nuclear sites.

Meanwhile, according to Kan, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Mossad director Yossi Cohen and National Security Council Adviser Meir Ben Shabat are due to visit Washington early next week to meet with their respective American counterparts and discuss the Iranian issue.

Activists urge sanctions on Iran Olympic program for avoiding Israeli matchups
A group of athletes and human rights activists is calling on the International Olympic Committee to sanction Iran’s Olympic program for what it says is the country’s long-running pattern of ordering athletes to avoid competing against Israelis in international events.

The head of the United for Navid campaign, formed to protest the execution of Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari, sent a letter to IOC president Thomas Bach this week highlighting more than a half-dozen examples over the past 16 years of Iranian athletes intentionally losing matches that would set up meetings against Israelis, or withdrawing from competitions against athletes from that country.

“The fact that Iranian athletes are being forced to throw matches to avoid competing against Israeli athletes is a clear breach of the Olympic charter and Olympic values,” former Iranian wrestler Sardar Pashaei wrote to Bach.

An IOC spokesman said, “The IOC takes note of the letter and continues to evaluate the alleged issues.”

Last month, the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned Iran’s suspension from international judo events in a case stemming from former world champion Saeid Mollaei’s departure from the Iranian team; Mollaei had claimed he was ordered to lose matches and withdraw from competitions to avoid facing Israelis.

CAS judges decided the International Judo Federation overstepped its own authority with such a severe ban, which was imposed in October 2019.
U.N. Elects Iran to Top Women's Rights Body for 2022-2026 Term


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