Thursday, June 17, 2021

From Ian:

Sen. Risch Won’t Lift Hold on Palestinian Aid Without Guarantee Taxpayer Money Is Kept From Terrorists
Sen. Jim Risch (R., Idaho), ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says he will not cave to demands from Democrats that he lift a congressional hold on a tranche of Palestinian aid money until he is provided with guarantees that the taxpayer funds will not enrich terrorist groups, including Iran-backed Hamas.

House Democrats led by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D., Md.) have been pressuring Risch to lift a hold on some $75 million in aid money in the wake of Hamas’s war last month with Israel. Raskin and 145 other Democrats pressed Risch on the matter in a letter sent earlier this month. They claim the money is needed for humanitarian reconstruction projects in the Gaza Strip, which came under intense fire from Israel as it struck scores of Hamas positions. Risch, who did recently lift his hold on a portion of these funds, maintains the outstanding allocation will aid Palestinian terror groups.

Risch rejected the Democratic pressure campaign on Wednesday in a response letter to the Democrats declaring that he will not release the funds until the Biden administration provides assurances the money will not be diverted to Hamas or be used by the Palestinian government to pay terrorists and their families, according to a copy obtained exclusively by the Washington Free Beacon.

Risch’s hardline stance is certain to rankle Democratic lawmakers who claim the money will be spent to address humanitarian needs in the Gaza Strip. As Democrats have broadly supported the Biden administration’s decision to unfreeze U.S. aid to the Palestinian government, potentially in violation of the law, they have also called for U.S. security assistance to Israel to be frozen. The growing divide between the parties on aid to Israel and the Palestinian government has emerged as a flashpoint in the weeks since Israel defended itself against an onslaught of more than 4,000 missiles fired by Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups.

"There are multiple holds on the longer-term projects, as they are under review for compliance with the law," Risch wrote. "I hope you and your colleagues are not suggesting we should turn a blind eye to the potential of U.S. funds being used to support terrorism."
Seth Frantzman: Will every Israeli airstrike now be front page news? - analysis
This appears to be a new pattern. The launching of arson balloons is not new, it has been going on for years. Israeli airstrikes in retaliation for these kinds of attacks and others, is also not new. Over the last several years Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have perpetrated many attacks, including firing rockets, using masses of people to attack the security fence around Gaza and launching incendiary balloons. This is in addition to the major attacks that began on May 10 and involved more than 4,000 rockets fired at Israel.

In general Israeli retaliatory strikes did not get major attention. That all changed with the recent conflict. A variety of factors have played into that, not the least of which is an agenda by some groups to try to increase coverage of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. This has resulted in attacks on Israel accusing the country of practicing “apartheid” and also the circulation of a letter around media outlets calling for more pro-Palestinian coverage.

The airstrike coverage is disproportionate because similar airstrikes by Turkey on Iraq or even by the US-led Coalition partners against ISIS, receive no coverage. It’s not a comparison, of some coverage compared to less coverage. There is in fact no coverage of Turkey’s widespread airstrikes on northern Iraq’s Kurdish region, which result in casualties and depopulation. The US-led coalition openly tweets about recent operations against ISIS, which get no coverage. Huge bombings and attacks by terrorist groups in Afghanistan and pitched battles with government forces get little to no coverage.

This speaks to a new kind of coverage of Israeli airstrikes and Gaza tensions. It is not clear if this is only the result of the recent war, or if this push for increased coverage will continue. For now, it is clear, that a new paradigm exists focusing on Israeli airstrikes, even if there are no casualties in the strikes. Over the last several years most Israeli strikes on Gaza, and claims of strikes in Syria by foreign reports, received relatively minor attention. Now that spotlight has shifted. It comes with a new Israeli government in office and may affect calculations regarding these strikes.

The Joshua and Caleb Network: Photos of Gaza That You Have NEVER Seen in the Media
If you are familiar with the Gaza Strip, you probably only think of war and carnage. A simple google search however, will show you a drastically different story. On today’s show, Joshua & Luke unpack photos of Gaza that will blow you away.

Are the people of Gaza oppressed? Yes, but the people who are responsible just might shock you.

Also, a quick history lesson on the Gaza Strip beginning in the early 1900s and real facts about the area that might make you rethink your perspective on the middle east.

Daniel Pipes: Give War a Chance: Arab Leaders Finesse Military Defeat
This pattern of surviving or benefiting from defeat extends to other Muslim leaders. In the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965, for example, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto led his government into a disastrous conflict with India and emerged from the fiasco more popular than ever, and this took him to the prime ministry eight years later. As his biographer puts it, "The more outrageous his rhetoric became ... the more heroic Zulfi Bhutto appeared to Pakistani audiences."[51] Likewise, the Iranian leadership extended their war with Iraq and went on the offense from July 1982 to August 1988; when this failed, Ayatollah Khomeini "drank from the poisoned chalice," accepted a ceasefire, and neither he nor his regime suffered for their six years of folly. Most recently, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's dismal military adventures into Syria and Libya have not dented his power.

In contrast, losing wars usually has major implications for a non-Muslim leader. In the Middle East, Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan paid a heavy price for the disappointing Israeli showing in 1973 as did Nikol Pashinyan for the terrible Armenian performance in 2020. Even defeats in peripheral wars usually have a major impact: Algeria on French politics, Vietnam on American, and Afghanistan on Soviet. It is especially hard to imagine non-Muslim leaders surviving such devastating routs as Egypt's in 1967 and Iraq's in 1991.

That defeated rulers can celebrate defeats invites moral hazard and renders them more aggressive. Why worry if a defeat and its terrible implications do not affect you? This pattern goes far to explain why the Middle East hosts so many wars. Money for arms is always abundant, the population's suffering is irrelevant, the economic losses of little import, and the ruler can expect to survive unscathed. With the stakes so low, give war a chance and hope for the best.
Dr. Einat Wilf: How Not to Think About the Conflict
When visiting Belfast several years ago, the Protestant areas were flying Israeli flags and the Catholic areas had Palestinian flags, creating an eerie feeling that the Northern Irish conflict, supposedly ended in 1998, was still simmering. Catholics and Protestants alike described the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with intense emotion, which I realized had nothing to do with our conflict and everything to do with their own.

My colleague Igal Ram once termed this a "Disneyland of Hate": For those outside the actual Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it was a safe - Disneyland - way of experiencing the intense emotions missing from their post-peace lives. In a world that is actually more peaceful than ever, and where negative, violence-related emotions, such as hatred of groups, are less legitimate than ever, the continuing acceptance of hatred for Israel endures.

In the U.S., the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is cast as a mirror of race relations in America. Jews are bizarrely cast as "white," and Zionism as a movement of "white supremacy," while Arabs, who look exactly like Jews, are cast as "people of color." Since these analogies have nothing to do with Israel and everything to do with projections of domestic issues and animosities, the best response is simply to refuse to give them the respect of treating them as honest arguments.
Is 'pay-for-slay' no longer a US concern?
It's possible that the US State Department is adhering to the letter of the law, but given that money is fungible and that the Palestinian Authority is committed to its "pay-for-slay" policy, Washington certainly isn't adhering to the law's spirit.

Since taking the reins in January, the new administration in Washington has made a virtue of reversing former President Donald Trump's cuts in funding to the Palestinian Authority. Sums of $15 million for a COVID-19 containment project and $75 million of general economic support in March were followed in April by a package that included $150 million for UNRWA, which under Trump had seen its funding cut to zero.

Then in May, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with PA leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, where he announced an overall package in excess of $360 million for the Palestinian people. In a statement released by his office the following day, Blinken stated: "The US government is also firmly committed to ensuring all its assistance is provided consistent with applicable US law, including the Taylor Force Act."

Inter alia, the Taylor Force Act conditions all US Economic Support Fund aid, which constitutes the bulk of US aid, on the PA's terminating "payments for acts of terrorism." Additionally, it must revoke "any law, decree, regulation or document" authorizing what amounts to the PA's "pay-for-slay" policy of rewarding terrorists and their families with a monthly stipend, payments of which can reach up to 12,000 shekels (approximately $3,700) per month for those convicted of the most heinous crimes.

But the PA has shown unwavering commitment to the policy. Abbas is on record giving his personal commitment to it, stating in October 2018: "I say this to everyone – the salaries of our martyrs, prisoners and wounded are a red line. … From 1965 until now, this matter is sacred to us. The martyrs and their families are sacred, [and so are] the wounded and the prisoners. We must pay all of them. If one penny remains in our hands, it is for them and not for the living."

It's possible that the US State Department is adhering to the letter of the law by using monies outside of the Economic Support Fund to pay the Palestinians; I'm not a lawyer, so I couldn't say definitely. But given that money is fungible, it is certain that the Biden administration is not adhering to the spirit of the law.

Why might this be?
Who is Thomas Nides? Former Israeli Ambassador on Biden's Pick for Ambasador to Israel

Texas becomes first state to officially adopt IHRA definition of antisemitism
Texas on Wednesday became the first US state to officially adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill after passing nearly unanimously in the State Senate and House of Representatives with no legislators voting against it.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations praised Texas for adopting the working definition of antisemitism that includes a 38-word statement on what antisemitism is followed by 11 examples, including seven related to Israel.

"[Texas adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism] sets an example for the rest of the country by joining the growing global coalition of countries, major cities, and institutions that have rallied behind this key instrument in addressing the urgent threat of antisemitism," the Conference of Presidents said in a statement. "It is essential to define antisemitism in order to combat it successfully."

Earlier this month, Switzerland became the 36th country to adopt the IHRA working definition of antisemitism.

In Ireland, a Pavlovian Response to Conflict in Middle East Is to Visit Ire upon Jews
Everyday reality when you are Jewish living in Ireland includes an existential threat that perpetually hangs over your head, especially whenever Israel is in the news, gnawing away at your sense of security, eroding and erasing your identity.

The threat includes normalizing the politics of exclusion. Oh, and desecrating your grandparents' graves. Daubing Nazi-era graffiti on the gates of your places of worship. Generating tsunamis of filthy online vilification.

There exists a sector of Irish society that includes people who attempt to cloak their anti-Semitism in a tissue of self-righteous justification. People whose Pavlovian response to conflict in the Middle East is to visit their ire upon Jews. Any Jews, anywhere. All Jews, everywhere. Always.

Anti-Semitism is the ancient, visceral hatred that clings on and spreads within societies even when other forms of institutional racism are purged.
UK Apologizes after Renewed Passport Lists British-Israeli's Birthplace as "Occupied Palestinian Territories"
A Jerusalem-born Israeli woman, Ayelet Balaban, whose father is British, was shocked to discover that her new UK passport listed her birthplace as the "Occupied Palestinian Territories."

A British Home Office spokesperson said: "We apologize for this error and are urgently investigating how this has occurred. We will contact Ms. Balaban about the issuing of a new passport showing the correct place of birth."

Government sources confirmed that there had been no change in British government policy.

Netanyahu Is Down, but Is He Out for Good?
Another major development was the historic Abraham Accords between Israel and Arab nations, including the UAE and Bahrain. As the accords, a Netanyahu achievement, mature, there is significant potential for (previously unimaginable) growth in the partnership between Israel and its neighbors on everything from energy to water and food security to biotech to cybersecurity. And there is still much to do to free Israel from the lingering vestiges of its socialist-leaning 1970s regulatory architecture, as Netanyahu pointed out in his Davos speech earlier this year, to ensure Israel’s ongoing prosperity.

So it remains to be seen if the change coalition can deliver on Iran and the economy, or if its only raison d’être is not being Netanyahu. The only thing for certain in Israel this summer is going to be uncertainty. One wild card is the outcome of Netanyahu’s various corruption trials. While largely ignored by the media, recent developments have been favorable to him, and if he can get his legal situation resolved, it will significantly strengthen his hand — and remove a burdensome distraction. Being in the opposition could be similarly liberating: Relieved of the day-to-day responsibilities of governing, as the leader of the opposition Netanyahu can force votes on legislation pertaining to just the sort of Palestinian-related thorny issues that will be so difficult for the governing coalition to manage.

And then there will be the behavior of the coalition itself, which will have to choose between focusing on devising laws dedicated solely to keeping Netanyahu out of the premiership in perpetuity, or focusing on the national-security and economic issues that kept him in it for so long. If the coalition members choose the former, it will not endear them to voters concerned about a possible U.S. accommodation with Iran and eager to recover economically from the pandemic, and it may well increase sympathy for Netanyahu.

Israel is a democracy, and one hallmark of democracies is that they have no indispensable men. So perhaps Netanyahu’s ouster was simply inevitable. If he is out for good, there will be plenty of time to assess his legacy, a process in which Netanyahu, as the son of an eminent historian, will no doubt play a central role. But such assessments may well prove premature. Netanyahu may be down at the moment, but I, for one, would be cautious about betting against him in the long term.
The Caroline Glick Show Ep10 -- Netanyahu is ousted just as the charges against him disintegrate
In Episode 10 of the Caroline Glick Mideast News Hour, Caroline and her co-host Gadi Taub analyze the nature of Israel’s new government led by Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett and what its implications are going forward for Israel’s core strategic interests vis-à-vis Iran and the Palestinians.As the new government was being sworn in, the principle cause that led to Israel’s long-standing political deadlock – the Attorney General’s pursuit of corruption charges against Netanyahu – fell apart in Jerusalem’s District Courthouse. The prosecution’s claim that Netanyahu accepted bribes fell apart as Netanyahu’s attorneys cross-examined the prosecution’s “star witness.”Gadi and Caroline discussed the earth-shattering developments in the case, and compared them to the Russia-hoax the U.S. Justice Department concocted against Donald Trump and used to paralyze his presidency for his first three years in office.Finally, they discussed the prospects for Netanyahu, now Opposition Leader to make a comeback. Join Caroline and Gadi as they walk you through the maze and misery of Israeli politics with warrior hearts and healthy senses of humor. Subscribe to their YouTube and Rumble channels and podcasts. And share their information – which you won’t get on the network news – far and wide!

Alan Dershowitz: Israel's New Government Is Among the Most Diverse in the History of Democracies
[B]igots... in the United States and Europe, insist on characterizing Israel as an apartheid state. Nothing could be further from the truth. Israel has real diversity, not the kind of phony diversity that characterizes many American institutions. American diversity is simply a euphemism for more Blacks, and especially more Blacks who hold the same views about political and racial matters.

The best evidence of this truism came from Google's appointment of a chief diversity officer who had expressed anti-gay and anti-Jewish views.... He is Black and that is all that diversity means at Google and many other American institutions. It is different in Israel, because Israel is such an inherently diverse nation that takes its diversity seriously.

Every Muslim majority nation is officially a Muslim state that bestows considerable benefits on members of that faith. Great Britain is an Anglican Christian state with an established religion. Catholicism is the official religion of several European countries. Many national flags and emblems have crosses, crescents or other distinctly religious symbols.

So stay tuned to see how the now government manages to survive the challenges of diversity. In the meantime, however, stop singling out Israel for demonization by mislabeling it as apartheid or undemocratic.
How Naftali Bennett’s kippah stays on his bald head and why it matters
Israel’s new prime minister is probably the first one who has stuck a wad of chewing gum to his head right before a public event.

Naftali Bennett, who took office this week, is the first prime minister in the country’s history to regularly wear a kippah, or Jewish ritual head covering. Unlike his secular predecessors, he identifies as a religious Zionist and practices Modern Orthodox Judaism, which requires men to cover their heads.

He’s also bald. That makes it a challenge to keep the small crocheted disc on the back of his head, where it’s traditionally worn. The traditional methods of securing a kippah — bobby pins and metal hair clips — are of no use to Bennett.

Yet it stays on. No matter where Bennett is — in parliament, on the campaign trail, giving a news interview — the kippah is there, mounted on his scalp, or sometimes on the thin layer of buzzed hair that surrounds his bald spot.

Appearing on a comedy talk show in 2013, when he was a freshman lawmaker, Bennett said that he uses a mixture of tape and gravity to keep the kippah on his head.

But once, he recalled, he had to give a speech outdoors in the wind and discovered that he was out of tape. So he took a piece of chewing gum (presumably ABC) and used it to glue the kippah to his head.

“I had to improvise,” he said. “So we MacGyvered it.”

Bennett doesn’t use ordinary Scotch tape. His adhesive of choice is a product invented and sold beginning in 2013 by Haim Levin, a 65-year-old bus driver living in a largely Modern Orthodox suburb of Tel Aviv.

IDF destroys Syrian outpost used by Hezbollah
The IDF struck a Syrian outpost near the city of Quneitra on Thursday, marking the first strike on the northern border by the government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

The post, some 150 meters away from the border, was affiliated with the Syrian Army’s 90th Brigade and First Corps, and had been frequented by Hezbollah officials and used as a reconnaissance post against IDF forces on the Golan Heights. According to Syrian opposition reports, it was destroyed by tank fire.

Two weeks ago, the IDF destroyed another observation post in the same area, built in the demilitarized zone.

Writing on Twitter, Avichay Adraee said that the military “destroyed a forward observation post of the Syrian army that was set up in an Israeli area west of the Alfa line in the Golan Heights.”

Israel, he said, “would not tolerate any attempts to violate our sovereignty.”

At least two other strikes have been blamed on Israel since the beginning of May.
Pro-Iranian Militia: Brigade Ready to ‘Liberate the Golan’
he pro-Iranian Shi’ite Iraqi Al-Nujaba movement announced that its Golan Liberation Brigade is ready to embark on a campaign to “liberate the Golan” when the Syrian government gives the command, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute’s Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (MEMRI-JTTM).

In an interview with Hezbollah’s Al-Ahed News website, spokesman Naser Al-Shammari said the brigade’s fighters have received advanced training and have weapons that can attack deep inside Israel.

Shammari said that “the Golan Liberation Brigade was established by the Al-Nujaba movement to serve as its main pathway to participation with the brothers in Syria in the campaign to liberate the Golan [Heights], which is drawing nearer every day.”

He voiced support for the proposal by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah that a violation in Jerusalem would mean regional war.

In a speech last month marking the anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon, he expressed his “personal opinion” that a new equation should be determined to deter Israel, according to which “[a violation] in Jerusalem means regional war.” He claimed that all resistance movements would join against the Jewish state.
9 Arabs Charged with Lynching Attempt on Jewish Family
Israel Police and the Shin Bet announced on Thursday that they have cracked the case of an attempted lynching of a Jewish family that accidentally entered their village. The attack took place on May 13, at the height of anti-Semitic riots by Israeli Arabs across the country.

The suspects, residents of the village of Zalafa, about 2 miles northeast of the town of Umm al-Fahm, were arrested on suspicion that on May 13 they identified the Jewish family’s vehicle in their village after the family had driven there by mistake due to the blocking of the Megiddo junction on Route 65. The suspects had been waiting on the main road for Jews to stray into their village when the junction was blocked, and when they identified the Jewish-owned vehicle they began throwing stones at them and shouting “Jews, Jews.”

The father of the family, who realized that his and his family’s lives were in danger, began to flee into the village with the suspects chasing close behind. After a long race, when the vehicle reached Umm al-Fahm, the suspects blocked the Jewish vehicle’s path and began throwing stones at them and hitting the vehicle with bats. The family’s dog was stolen during the attack and was located several hours later by police detectives at the local station.

The lynching attempt continued until the family was rescued by local Arabs, residents of Umm al-Fahm, who helped them reach the local clinic, and from there they were evacuated with a police escort to the Emek Medical Center in Afula.
Gaza incendiary balloons spark 8 fires in Israel as assault from Strip continues
Eight fires erupted in Israeli land near the Gaza Strip on Thursday, as Palestinians in the enclave continued to send incendiary balloons across the border into Israel for a third consecutive day.

Seven fires were reported in open areas of the Eshkol region, and another in a field in the Sha’ar Hanegev region.

Firefighters, along with IDF units and teams from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, worked to bring the flames under control.

On Wednesday, Kan news reported that Israeli officials have considered a strong response to the balloons, but that Egyptian mediators have conveyed that Hamas, the terror group that rules Gaza, is not interested in an escalation.

Four major fires were started by balloons on Wednesday.

Overnight Tuesday, the IDF bombed Hamas targets in Gaza in response to a wave of incendiary balloons earlier that day, against the background of a controversial march by Jewish nationalists in Jerusalem.

Al-Qassam Brigades announces military training camp for children and teenagers
On June 13, the military wing of Hamas – al-Qassam Brigades – published a statement saying it had opened registration for basic military training at a yearly summer camp held by the militant group.

Under the moniker ‘Sword of Jerusalem’ – a reference to the recent conflict against Israel – al-Qassam Brigades invited preparatory to university-aged males to register at various locations in the Gaza strip for an opportunity to learn basic combat skills under the guidance of al-Qassam Brigades military advisors.

The group has openly recruited children to its summer camp in previous years and published documentation of their military training via its Telegram channel.

The children, often referred to as ‘Qassam cubs,’ are trained in the use of firearms, educated in Hamas doctrine and learn guerilla warfare.

Promotional material published by the group depicts a mock capture of IDF soldiers and an armed trainee emerging from an underground opening equipped with a GoPro.
Hamas Reaffirms Position on Two-State Solution, U.S. Applauds (satire)
While packing up the last of his personal belongings at the official residence of the Prime Minister after a 12-year stay, former Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated that he does not believe a two-state solution is possible. Surprisingly, Hamas decided to second that notion, stating, “We do not believe a two-state solution is possible at this time, or ever. We have never been in favor of a two-state solution. Nothing has changed.”

U.S. officials were quick not to condemn the remarks, calling them “whatever”, “typical Hamas!”, and “Israel’s fault”.

“We’d like to applaud Hamas for being consistent,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. “Sometimes countries adapt to the changes of the region and choose to reevaluate their policies accordingly. Not Hamas. That group is totally badass and something we could learn from. They’re so woke.”

Other U.S. officials applauded Hamas for upholding their admirable, traditional values of rabid intolerance.

Germany's Failed Hezbollah Ban
In retrospect, Germany's much-vaunted Hezbollah ban appears to have been little more than a publicity stunt aimed at silencing critics of the German government's pro-Iran foreign policy.

Hezbollah has effectively evaded the ban by transferring many of its activities to charities and cultural centers controlled by Iran.

Iran's main base of operation in Germany is the Hamburg-based Shiite Imam Ali Mosque and the associated Islamic Centre of Hamburg (Islamisches Zentrum Hamburg, IZH).

"Like all pro-Iranian institutions, IZH is based on the model of the Islamic state of Allah and the ideas of the 1979 revolution with the aim of expanding and Islamizing the entire world. Western values, liberal ideas or the free democratic basic order are in contradiction to this. Due to the history and the animosity between Iran and Israel, the teachings of IZH have a strong anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli attitude." — Annual Report for 2020, Germany's domestic intelligence agency, Hamburg branch.

"Although it contains 'democratic' elements, this doctrine does not serve to establish the rule of the people, i.e., democracy, but rather to establish the rule of Allah, whose 'guardians' are Shiite Islamic scholars. Therefore, Hezbollah spreads an extremist Islamist ideology and represents a threat to the constitutional order." — Annual Report for 2020, Germany's domestic intelligence agency, North Rhine-Westphalia branch.

"For Hezbollah, Germany represents a space for logistical and financial support services. Although its supporters in Germany are well networked internally, they are not very visible to the outside world because they are careful not to be openly connected with Hezbollah." — Annual Report for 2020, Germany's domestic intelligence agency, Rhineland Palatinate branch.

"One gets the impression that no one has really tried to completely shed light on and smash the structures of Hezbollah in Germany." — German MP Benjamin Strasser.

The Hezbollah ban was in fact a compromise measure between German lawmakers who wanted to take a harder line against Iran and those who did not. As a result, the ban fell far short of a complete prohibition on Hezbollah and was apparently aimed at providing the German government with political cover that allowed Germany to claim that it had banned the group even if it had not.
New Report Exposes Shadowy Network of Hezbollah’s ‘Weapons Point Man’
A Lebanese businessman with reportedly close ties to Hezbollah’s weapons procurement network has established new “business shields” to disguise his activity, a new report released on Tuesday by the Israel-based Alma Research and Education Center watchdog finds.

The report focuses on Ali Abd Al Nur Shalan (nicknamed Mouyas’ar).

“Shalan is multi-skilled in buying and transporting weapons and chemical compounds. He has been doing this for many years,” former IDF intelligence officer Maj. (res.) Tal Beeri, who heads Alma’s research department, told the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT). Shalan also plays other key roles that serve Hezbollah.

“Shalan is a Lebanese businessman whose business is carried out mainly in Syria, and has close ties to senior Hezbollah figures,” the report said. Thanks to his longstanding experience in acquiring weapons for both Hezbollah and the Assad regime, Shalan played a central role in Hezbollah’s weapons acquisition program during the Syrian civil war, working under directives provided by the Iranian overseas Quds Force, Beeri said. “He is therefore considered a key facilitator for Hezbollah’s weapons smuggling networks, and the organization’s main point man when it comes to purchasing and transporting weapons and explosives.”

The US Treasury Department sanctioned Shalan in 2015, describing him as “Hezbollah’s point person” for obtaining weapons and ensuring they get to the terrorist group and to “Hezbollah personnel in Syria.”
While Biden envoys give away the store in Vienna
Diplomacy is in bloom in Vienna this spring. According to The Washington Post, the indirect talks taking place in the Austrian capital between the United States and Iran with diplomats from Britain, France and Germany carrying messages between the two parties have been a huge success.

A "senior administration official" assured the paper that progress is being made toward a reinstatement of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal "on every issue, every time we meet." While there are still issues remaining to be negotiated, at this rate the remaining gaps between the two countries' positions are expected to be closed "within a matter of weeks."

The completion of the process is expected to wait until after Iran's faux presidential election on June 18 in order for Tehran's efforts to entice the West to resume financing the tottering regime to be a fait accompli. While the usual nonsense about a battle between mythical Iranian moderates and hardliners is used as an excuse for delays, it's clear that what the nation's theocrats want to avoid is any kind of distraction from its plans.

The Post article does its best to maintain the fiction that the Biden administration, which has treated the Iran talks as its No. 1 foreign policy priority, is being careful not to be too generous with concessions. Still, given the history of negotiations between Democratic administrations and Iran, in addition to the tough line that the regime has taken on refusing to commit to more intrusive monitoring of its facilities or to cease its support for terrorism, there's little doubt that the "progress" has again been the result of American surrenders. There's equally little doubt that there will be nothing in whatever it is that comes out of Vienna this summer that will commit Tehran to renegotiate a pact whose already weak restrictions will expire by the end of the decade.
Iran’s misdeeds, terror efforts dismissed in Biden push for new nuclear deal
The U.S. and its allies in Europe also speak out consistently against Iran‘s support for terrorism, and it’s not certain whether that issue will be absent from any potential nuclear deal. The Biden administration has taken some direct action against Iranian proxy groups, including airstrikes in late February against the Syrian base of the militant organization Kait’ib Hezbollah, which had targeted U.S. personnel stationed in neighboring Iraq.

Meanwhile, the presidential election in Iran has put extra pressure on the administration. With hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi widely expected to win, Iran‘s position on nuclear negotiations may change and its appetite to deal with the U.S. could diminish.

“For the Iranians, the challenge is they’ve got the elections. The question is: Can the Biden administration make concessions fast enough to beat the Iranians to their election punch, understanding that after the election things may change?” said Danielle Pletka, senior fellow in foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. “The administration‘s assessment is that they may be harder pressed to make a deal with the new guys.”

Iranian officials have said the nuclear negotiations are proceeding no matter who wins the election and that the next president would respect any deal reached in Geneva.

“The nuclear file is a national dossier that is being advanced with consensus in the Islamic republic, is unrelated to domestic developments and is being pursued by the governing organizations, Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei told reporters in Tehran last week.

Ms. Pletka and other critics argue that the administration‘s willingness to let virtually all other issues slide is driving the U.S. negotiating strategy.

“One of the things the administration has signaled to the Iranians is … ‘We are never going to comingle anything else you do with the nuclear accords,’” she said. “‘We don’t care what you do. … We are not going to let that interfere with our desperate desire to get a nuclear deal.’”

On Capitol Hill, top Republican lawmakers have demanded that Congress review — and approve or deny — any U.S. nuclear deal with Tehran.
Is Russia Going to Provide Iran a Spy Satellite and What Are the Implications?
Despite Putin’s denial, if the report is correct, the relatively high resolution of the satellite, its collected data, and Iranian control should cause considerable concern to Israel and the United States:
1. It may enable Iran to acquire updated information about Israeli, American, and American allies’ targets in the region. This is especially dangerous because Iran has developed in recent years many offensive capabilities such as ballistic and cruise missiles and underwater and aerial assault vehicles that are precision-guided. Satellite data could provide them with precise and real-time information which could significantly improve their accuracy and lethality. It should be noted that until now, Iran relied on commercial imagery that is limited and sometimes omits sensitive military data. Iranian intelligence also relies on HUMINT (human intelligence) as a significant component of the Iranian intelligence effort.
2. This satellite may enable Iran to share valuable information with its proxies in the region, such as Hizbullah, the Iraqi militias, the Houthis in Yemen, and the forces under its control in Syria. Since Iran supplies these groups with precision-guided munitions, the provision of accurate and close to real-time information will considerably improve the proxies’ military capabilities, as well.
3. The deal may give the Iranians access to advanced technical capabilities that they may use to develop independent satellites with higher resolutions.

In view of these concerns, it is imperative that the United States and Israel, together with their Arab allies, convey a clear message to Russia that this deal should not materialize.

PreOccupiedTerritory: Twitter To Address Khamenei Anti-Israel Incitement By Locking Zionist Accounts (satire)
Years of user complaints that the official Twitter account of Iran’s Supreme Leader repeatedly engages in overt and veiled threats to commit, abet, or encourage the genocide of Israel’s more than six million Jews have finally produced results, with an announcement by the social media giant today that it will disable or shut down the accounts of those who defend Israel’s interests on the platform.

The official Twitter account posted today (Thursday) that in response to numerous complaints about anti-Israel and antisemitic abuse by the account operated on behalf of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the company will launch a new policy to lock or ban accounts that report further such abuse by Khamenei.

“Enough is enough,” read the tweet.

Since 2009 the Twitter account has interspersed among its spiritual, political, and other content a heavy dose of calling for or predicting the destruction of the world’s only Jewish State. The company has failed to enforce its Terms of Use on Khamenei, violation of which terms triggers a locked account, with further violations prompting a longer-term or permanent ban.

Such selective enforcement has not spared other prominent accounts penalized for less egregious content, such as that of President Donald Trump. To date, the few rationalizations offered to frustrated users who report Khamenei for incitement to violence or hateful conduct have included mention of special considerations that might apply to the public interest in the words of a head of state, an explanation that the platform did not apply to Trump.

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