Friday, January 14, 2022

From Ian:

Obsessed with Israeli Settlements, Americans and Europeans Turn a Blind Eye to Palestinian Violence
Dore Gold interviewed by Israel Kasnett
The U.S and some European nations continue to demonstrate an obsession with Israeli "settlements" and isolated incidents by small groups of radical Israelis, mostly wayward youths, while completely ignoring the much larger issue of Palestinian violence, incitement and terrorism. This obsession was clear during a routine meeting several weeks ago at Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs between diplomats from 16 European countries and Aliza Bin Noun, the director of the European Affairs Department.

Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, believes that "the obsession isn't with settlements; it's with Israel." Gold explained that the legal basis of European objections to settlement activity is the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, which forbids an occupying power from evicting the existing population or forcibly transferring its own population into the occupied territory.

"The two dimensions of the convention do not apply to Israel," Gold said, "yet the international community misinterprets international law and accuses Israel of violating the convention" while ignoring actual violations in other countries. When Turkey occupied northern Cyprus, there was a massive sale of properties there to Europeans who wanted a cheap vacation home. The UN Human Rights Council ignored it.

The one case "that really boils my blood" is what has been going on in the last decade in Syria. Pro-Iranian Shi'ite militias there have evicted thousands of Syrian Sunnis in order to change the demographic balance. Families have come from Afghanistan and Pakistan to settle in the vacated homes. In Israel's case, there has not been any forced eviction of Palestinians in Judea and Samaria. Yet the international community focuses on Israel and ignores Syria. "That is what I would call international legal hypocrisy. This is a glaring case of misapplying international law."

Gold pointed to Khan al-Ahmar, a Bedouin outpost situated on the main highway connecting Jerusalem to the Jordan Valley, and recognized as illegal by Israel's Supreme Court as a potential security risk. When he was director-general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gold met with German officials and "made a very strong point" that if Khan al-Ahmar is allowed to remain, hundreds of Israeli families that travel on that road will be at risk. Gold told the German ministry officials that if Israeli families are killed on this road after Germany insisted that Palestinian construction in "Area C" is legal, they share responsibility in what happens.

Foreign obsession with Israel and the settlements is not going away, "but it is imperative that Israel get its truth out," said Gold. "The Fourth Geneva Convention does not apply. Israel is in the right here."

Mark Regev: Arguing with the US over house demolitions - opinion
The experience of the last few weeks demonstrates that the terrorist threat against the Israeli civilian population remains very real, and it would be folly to remove from the counterterrorism toolbox a means that, according to security professionals, saves lives. Obviously, some in the international community are uninterested in the nuts and bolts of counterterrorism, claiming instead that Israel should focus on the root causes of violence and expedite a political solution that gives Palestinians their national freedom.

However noble such an intent, it contains limited practical utility. Terrorists like Fadi Abu Shkhaydam are not interested in any solution, other than one that excludes the existence of a Jewish state. They openly proclaim that civilians are legitimate targets, that negotiations with Israel are “a waste of time, an exercise in futility” and that there is “no solution for the Palestinian problem but jihad.”

The unvarnished reality is that for as long as this sort of extremism remains an integral part of Palestinian reality, Israel will require an effective counterterrorism strategy, and without an adequate deterrence-enhancing alternative, that will also have to include the judicious use of house demolitions.

During my time at Israel’s Washington Embassy, there was a period when George W. Bush’s administration expressed its opposition to Israeli “extrajudicial killings” targeting terrorist commanders. That criticism ceased after 9/11 when the United States adopted the same strategy, utilizing it conspicuously in the attacks the eliminated Osama bin Laden and Qasem Soleimani.

I hope there will never be circumstances when the terror threat against Americans will be such that it necessitates a State Department spokesperson justifying their own country’s policy of house demolitions.
President of Jewish Federation Talks US-Israel Ties

Until the Palestinian Authority Stops Inciting Violence, Engagement for Peace Is Hopeless
A look at Palestinian media compiled by Palestinian Media Watch since November shows that the PA is far from a good-faith peace partner.

The PA, the PLO and Fatah continue to endorse terrorism, spread libels against Israel, reject Arab normalization with Israel, and question the legitimacy of Israel itself.

In a recent phone call with a newly released terrorist, PA President Mahmoud Abbas tells him, "May Allah bless you," and that what he did was a "great and important part."

On PA TV, a girl recited a poem saying, "We will trample the necks of the Zionists and make a path out of them."

A song on PA TV included the lyrics, "This is the day that Jihad is needed. Pull the trigger."

The official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida claimed that Israel "exported" Covid-19 to the PA "as a new weapon."

Seth Frantzman: China’s shift toward Iran can harm Israel, pro-US countries in Middle East - analysis
The long list of important contacts between China and Iran over the last year illustrates Tehran’s hunger for a closer relationship with Beijing. The question remains whether China will be influenced by this and whether it will have ramifications for its relations with other countries in the region. At present, it appears China would support Iran’s talks with Saudi Arabia and other states in which the Islamic Republic seeks to dial back tensions of the previous decade.

But Iran’s role in destabilizing the region through supporting proxy militias, as well as moving weapons to Yemen, Gaza, Lebanon and Iraq, may not be seen as a stabilizing force. Therein lies the question of long-term Chinese foreign policy goals in the region.

A stable Assad regime in Syria, for instance, is one that is not being hollowed out by Iranian militias and bases. Russia tends to prefer an Assad regime that is stable, rather than being eaten away by Iran’s tentacles. A stable Iraq is also one that reduces the pro-Iranian sectarian militias.

The same goes for Yemen and Lebanon.

Economic disaster has befallen Lebanon, at least in part due to Hezbollah’s role. War always looms with Israel. This can’t be a stable region so long as Iran plays a supportive role.

China could therefore also mollify Iran’s harsh view of Israel and encourage a reduction in tensions. The course set in motion by the China-Iran 25-year agreement, therefore, has major repercussions for the region.

This week’s visit is an important point in that new trajectory.
The Tikvah Podcast: Matti Friedman on China’s New Haifa Port
This past fall, Israel’s international shipping port in Haifa completed renovations, and it recently went operational. Almost all of Israel’s international trade comes and goes by sea, and Haifa’s is the busiest of the country’s ports.

The Haifa port is also where the U.S. Navy’s Sixth Fleet—based in Naples, Italy—comes to call when it needs fuel, and when it seeks to project power in the Eastern Mediterranean. Thus, it sits at the very center of Israeli trade and industry and is a vital part of its military and diplomatic relationship with the United States.

The company that won the tender to operate the port for the next 25 years is the Shanghai International Port Group—the state-owned corporation responsible for the public terminals at the Shanghai harbor. And Chinese cranes, Chinese software, and Chinese managers are now responsible for roughly half of Israel’s freight.

To get Israelis more used to working so closely with China, and to introduce China in the right way to the Israeli public, China Radio International—also a government enterprise—has dispatched the man who runs its Hebrew desk to mount a charm campaign. Widely known as “Iztik ha-Sini,” “Chinese Itzik,” he runs a popular, funny, and captivating YouTube channel, where he has produced hundreds of online videos that Israelis love. In this podcast we are joined by the Israel journalist Matti Friedman to learn more about the port in Haifa, its executives in Shanghai, and the propaganda mission that is dazzling Israeli citizens.

Robert F. Kennedy’s Assassin Sirhan Denied Parole by California Governor
California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Thursday he has denied parole to Sirhan Sirhan, the Palestinian refugee serving a life prison sentence for assassinating US presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy in 1968.

Newsom made the announcement after a California review board in August recommended Sirhan be released from prison, subject to review by the board’s legal staff and by the governor himself. Sirhan had previously been denied parole 15 times.

Outlining his decision in an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times, Newsom said he disagreed with the Board of Parole Hearings finding that Sirhan, 77, was suitable for parole.

“After carefully reviewing the case, including records in the California State Archives, I have determined that Sirhan has not developed the accountability and insight required to support his safe release into the community,” Newsom wrote.

Sirhan’s lawyer, Angela Berry, suggested in a written statement issued in response that Newsom had bowed to political considerations in denying her client parole.

“While I appreciate that the release of Mr Sirhan presents Governor Newsom with a challenging political calculation, the legal decision for his release is clear and straight-forward. We are confident that the judicial review of the governor’s decision will show that the governor got it wrong,” Berry said.

Sirhan was convicted of gunning down Kennedy, 42, in the kitchen pantry of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968.
JPost Editorial: Negev crisis: Seeing the forest for the trees
One would think that planting trees, especially in Israel, is an ecological enterprise that all should welcome. Except in Israel, as is often the case, how, where and when you do it can turn almost anything into an explosive political issue.

Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) on Wednesday concluded three days of a forestation project on state-owned land at Sawa in the Negev. The tree-planting angered the local Bedouin community and Arab parties so much that it sparked violent clashes and threatened the stability of the government.

Tensions eased when the government announced that future work by KKL-JNF in the Negev would be negotiated with its coalition partners after Welfare Minister Meir Cohen, who is the government’s point person on unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev, mediated a deal between the sides to hold discussions in an effort to reach a compromise.

It’s a classic case study of competing narratives from which all sides can learn a lesson. On the one hand, Israel has every right to exert its sovereignty within its territory, conduct forestation projects and plant trees wherever it wants on state land – including the Negev. On the other, the local Bedouin communities see the tree-planting on land they use for farming as part of an ongoing government campaign to expel them from their unrecognized homes. It’s the government’s job to negotiate a path between the two.

Wednesday witnessed the third day of violent clashes between police and Bedouin youth protesting the forestation work, with five officers lightly injured in rock-throwing and a total of 40 rioters arrested for disturbing public order.

Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas, who garnered many votes from the Bedouin sector in the South, triggered a crisis in the 61-member coalition when he announced that his four Knesset members would not vote with the government until the matter was resolved.
KKL-JNF Celebrates Its 120th Anniversary with Images of Israel’s Legendary Tree Planters
KKL-JNF is in the news these days, as its people carry on the Zionist mission of replanting the Holy Land with trees, especially in areas such as the Negev, where the trees are the only barrier before the incessant and illegal land-grabbing by local Bedouin.

KKL-JNF is celebrating its 120th anniversary (it was founded in 1901), and on the eve of Tu B’Shvat, the holiday that’s popularly associated with this Zionist agency, the KKL-JNF’s archives dug up some rare treasures including photos of past presidents, prime ministers, and notable figures planting trees throughout Israel.

See David Ben-Gurion inspecting the tree he just planted, Golda Meir getting her hands dirty as she digs up the soil, Itzhak Rabin carefully placing a sapling in the ground, and Albert Einstein adding the finishing bits of topsoil to his tree plot (then repeating it with the same results).

Efrat Sinai, Director of the KKL-JNF Archives, said: “There is no holiday more connected to KKL-JNF than Tu B’Shevat. Our archives document the most special moments of our leader planting trees in and helping to build Eretz Israel.”

Khaled Abu Toameh: Palestinians decry Israeli ‘crimes’ in Negev, urge Bedouins to revolt
The Palestinian Authority and several Palestinian factions said on Thursday that they see the recent tensions in the Negev as part of Israeli measures against “all Palestinians,” including the Arab citizens of Israel.

Voicing full support for the Bedouin citizens of the Negev, the PA and the Palestinian factions called for stepping up the protests against Israel’s practices.

The tensions erupted this week when Bedouin citizens protested the planting of trees by Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund on disputed lands in the Negev.

According to the Palestinians, the tree-planting in the Negev comes in the context of Israel’s “settlement policy” and “crimes” in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza Strip.

The PA and the Palestinian factions refer to the Arab Israelis, including the Bedouin, as “Palestinians” or “the Arabs of 1948.” Some of the factions called on the Bedouin citizens to launch an intifada (uprising) in protest of the Israeli attempts to confiscate “Arab-owned lands.”

“The crimes of the occupation state in the Negev are an extension of it war on the Palestinians,” the PA Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “The ministry strongly condemns the heinous crime committed by the occupation state against the Palestinian Arabs of the Negev and their lands and properties. This is a continuation of the war waged by Israel to destroy the future of Palestinian generations and force them to emigrate in order to replace them with settlers. The Palestinian people in the State of Palestine are paying a heavy price as a result of the same policy.”
The Israel Guys: The War for The Desert of Israel
Israel’s government passed a law to legalize more than a hundred thousand illegal Arab Bedouin structures in the Negev Desert and hook them up to electricity. At the same time, Israel is cracking down on Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria. Homesh, where Yehuda Dimentman was murdered several weeks ago, is currently in process of being destroyed.

JNF, who has been planting trees in Israel for more than a hundred years, tried to plant trees in the Negev recently and the Arabs rioted. Mansour Abbas, leader of the Arab party in the government, pushed for the tree planting to stop, and Israel caved to the pressure.

Israel’s un-unified government is facing pressures from within themselves, and from the international community. How long will they hold up?

The more Ra'am gets, the more it wants
The political system has pointed to the electricity bill as a watershed moment, not only for Ra'am and the Negev Bedouin, but the Israeli public as a whole. Many, including some who support the government, didn't believe that something like this could happen. They believe it even less now after the government stopped planting trees this week at the demand of Ra'am and the Joint Arab List. Under fire, no less, while the Bedouin there were rioting, blocking roads and throwing concrete blocks on train tracks – an incident that miraculously ended without anyone being hurt.

Local authority leaders from southern Israel say that in the past few days, the atmosphere has been the same as it was during Operation Guardian of the Walls. Head of the Omer Local Council Pini Badash called the situation on the outskirts of Omer a "mini-intifada." Jews in the area are becoming more afraid. There is a sense of a total loss of control. There is neither law nor order. The first wave this week passed without anyone being killed, but it will happen.

The same "electricity bill" watershed moment sent leaders of communities in Judea and Samaria out in protest against the government. They set up a protest tent outside the Prime Minister's Office. The tent, which started out using the slogan "First, Homesh," expanded this week, when the Judea and Samaria mayors were joined by heads of communities in the Negev. They are already calling explicitly for a change of government, pointing out that there was no difference between the Negev and Judea and Samaria. By caving to Ra'am and radical left-wing elements in the coalition, the government crossed every line possible.

It's not easy for these community leaders to come out and openly oppose the government. Many work constantly with several of its ministers. The ministers aren't obligated to anything, and the community leaders have no real leverage to promote their interests. Still, they protest.

Court Dismisses Lawsuit Brought by Ari Fuld’s Family Against Palestinian Organizations
A US District Court judge in New York dismissed a civil case brought by the family of slain Israeli American pro-Israel activist Ari Fuld against the PLO and the Palestinian Authority, citing lack of jurisdiction in a decision that could have broad implications in how American victims of terrorists can hold perpetrators liable.

The lawsuit was brought by Fuld’s family and the US Justice Department after the 2018 murder of the 45-year-old father-of-four by a Palestinian terrorist.

While US District Judge Jesse Furman described Fuld’s killing as brutal and horrific, he concluded in a Jan. 6 decision that he could not exercise jurisdiction over the case, despite being allowed to by the Promoting Security and Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, which passed by Congress in 2019. The act was created to allow victims of terrorist acts by Palestinian terrorists and their families to sue in American courts.

The act gave courts in the United States jurisdiction if the PLO and the PA made “pay-for-slay” payments to perpetrators of crimes Americans and maintained offices in the United States.

Furman wrote in his decision that “Congress should not be permitted to circumvent fundamental constitutional rights through such sleight of hand.”
MEMRI: Lebanese Journalists: Hizbullah Behind Attacks By South Lebanon Residents On UNIFIL Forces
In the last few weeks, there were two incidents in which residents of South Lebanon attacked UNIFIL forces that are deployed in the area in keeping with UN Security Council Resolution 1701. On December 22, 2021, locals in the town of Shaqra clashed with a UNIFIL patrol that was photographing buildings in the town.[1] Several UNIFIL troops were injured and some of their vehicles were damaged before Lebanese army forces managed to extricate them from the town.[2] This incident occurred one day after UN Secretary-General António Guterres made a visit to Lebanon, on which he called to guarantee UNIFIL's freedom of movement and urged Hizbullah to become " a purely political party, like any other political force in the country," i.e., to surrender its weapons.[3] Some two weeks later, on January 4, 2022, a similar incident occurred when residents of the village of Bint Jbeil attacked UNIFIL troops, again on the grounds that they were taking pictures of their homes.

The Al-Akhbar daily, with is close to Hizbullah, blamed both incidents on the UNIFIL forces. Following the first incident, it claimed that the UNIFIL troops had deliberately hurt two young men after locals asked them what they were doing.[4] The daily also claimed that, on both occasions, UNIFIL had violated Resolution 1701 by entering the localities without a Lebanese army escort. It added that UNIFIL had instigated the incidents as part of its bid to change the rules of engagement and increase its freedom of movement.[5]

Conversely, Candice Ardell, deputy director of UNIFIL's media office, condemned the attacks on the peacekeeping forces, calling them a violation of the Lebanese and international laws, which guarantee UNIFIL freedom of movement throughout its area of operation as defined by Resolution 1701. She denied that UNIFIL had taken pictures in Bint Jbeil, calling this "misinformation" and clarifying that the troops were on their way to a regular meeting with Lebanese army officers. She implied that the incidents had been deliberately instigated by Hizbullah, condemning "those who manipulate the residents of the area to their own ends", and urged the Lebanese authorities to prosecute those responsible for the attacks.[6] In an interview with the Lebanese daily Al-Nahar, Ardell again condemned the attacks, calling them a crime. Denying Al-Akhbar's claims that UNIFIL was violating the terms of Resolution 1701, she demanded "to respect UNIFIL's authorities and its freedom of movement," and said that this disinformation about the peacekeeping forces was "destructive, dangerous, and a threat to security and stability."[7]

Lebanon's foreign ministry likewise condemned the incidents, clarifying that aggression towards UNIFIL forces was unacceptable and that their safety must be ensured.[8] Hizbullah, for its part, did not respond to the events.
IDF airs clip of failed attempt by Hezbollah to launch spy drone into Israel
The Israel Defense Forces published a video on Friday of what it said was a failed attempt by Hezbollah’s drone unit to launch an intelligence-gathering UAV toward Israel.

The one-minute clip shared by the IDF’s Arabic-language spokesman shows two Lebanese men standing beside their car near the border with Israel. One of them activates the drone, which quickly hovers upward before crashing to the ground moments later. The two examine the drone briefly before returning to the car.

Spokesman Avichay Adraee used the opportunity to tweet out photos of one of the drone unit’s members, though he did not name the individual. Adraee said the IDF had obtained the photos of other members of the unit, which were left on the memory card of one of the Hezbollah drones downed by the Israeli military.

The IDF said a similar occurrence took place last week, when Israeli troops found photos of individuals in Hezbollah’s Radwan reconnaissance unit that were left on the memory card of another downed drone.

The IDF said that in 2021, 74 Hezbollah drones managed to cross into Israeli territory — 20 fewer than the year before. Most of the drones are designed to gather intelligence on IDF operations along the Lebanon border, the Israeli army said, noting that it managed to down most of them.

MEMRI: Palestinian PM Mohammad Shtayyeh Praises 'Martyrs' Of The 1929 Riots, Adds: We Will Defeat Israel Like We Defeated All Other Invaders
In a January 9, 2022 address on "Martryrs' Day" that aired on Palestine TV, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh praised three participants in the 1929 riots who were became "martyrs" when they were executed by the British Mandate authorities after they were convicted of murder. He also said that the Palestinians will defeat the "despicable" Israeli occupation just as they have defeated all other invaders who have passed through Palestine over the course of history.

"Martyrs' Day Is A Day To Remember, To Honor, And To Pledge Allegiance To Those Who Illuminated The Path For Us"

Mohammad Shtayyeh: "We weave beautiful stories about the martyrs so that they serve as role models, so they nestle in our minds, and so we remember them every day. We weave beautiful stories about the martyrs, so we are all Muhammad Jamjum, Atta Al-Zir, and Fuad Hijazi [executed by the British in 1930], whose feet rose above the executioner's neck.

"They were racing to achieve death. Martyrs' Day is a day to remember, to honor, and to pledge allegiance to those who illuminated the path for us and turned their bodies into a bridge for us saying: 'Pass through here.'

"We Have Defeated All The Invaders who Passed Through Palestine, And In The Name Of The Martyrs, We Will Defeat This Despicable Occupation"

"We defeated the Hyksos, the Romans, the Greeks, as well as the Persians, the Tatars, and the Pharaohs. We defeated all the invaders who passed through Palestine, and in the name of martyrs, we will defeat this despicable occupation, which will leave our lands."

HonestReporting: Unreported: PA Prioritizes Life of Palestinian Terrorist Over Palestinian Child
Virtually all major news outlets have covered the case of Palestinian prisoner Hisham Abu Hawash, who ended his hunger strike after some 140 days. According to the Israeli Security Agency, Abu Hawash -- a member of the US-designated Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group -- was arrested in October 2020 due to "involvement in terror activity."

The Abu Hawash story garnered international attention, with articles being published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian and numerous other mainstream publications. Many articles cited Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, who claimed to have sent "letters to all international and human rights entities and institutions to put pressure on Israel to speed up his release."

But while the media widely covered a Palestinian detainee's hunger strike and the PA's advocacy on his behalf, the fate of a child from the Gaza Strip was entirely ignored.

JCPA: The Palestinian Authority Is Losing Control of the Jenin Region
The Israeli security establishment is concerned with the weakening of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the Jenin area and its inability to control the anarchy.

Hamas is breathing down the PA’s neck, and Israeli security officials warn, that in the end, there will be no escape from a major IDF military operation in the Jenin area.

The PA’s operation to collect illegal weapons and arrest wanted suspects in the Jenin area has run into significant difficulties, Israeli security sources say: “They are unable to control what is happening on the ground, and the alienation between the PA and the population in the Jenin area is only getting worse.”

On January 7, 2022, the security situation in the Jenin area escalated after Palestinian security personnel beat three young Palestinians with clubs. [Video.1] One of the arrested teens was Mohammed Zubeidi, the son of Zakaria Zubeidi, a former commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades who is held in high respect in the Jenin area, and was among the six prisoners who escaped Israel’s Gilboa prison through their “Freedom Tunnel” last September.

The PA security forces’ motive for the attack and arrest of the three is unclear, but the incident provoked outrage among the residents of Jenin and increased tensions between the security forces and the armed groups in the city.

The streets of Jenin interpreted the arrest as part of the security coordination between the PA and the Israeli General Security Agency (Shabak) and the campaign to exact revenge against Zakaria Zubeidi for escaping from an Israeli prison.

In response to the incident, Palestinian militants opened fire and detonated explosive devices at the Mukata’a building in Jenin, which serves as the PA’s provincial headquarters. A few hours later, the three, including Mohammed Zubeidi, were released.
UPI Improv Unsubstantiated Report Claims Elderly Palestinian Dies In Israeli Military Custody
Jan. 14 UPDATE: United Press International Corrects

In response to communication from CAMERA, UPI commendably amended the headline and article to remove the unfounded claim that the man died while in custody of the Israeli military. In addition, editors appended a note to the bottom of the article alerting readers to the changes. See below for a detailed update.

Palestinian news agency WAFA reported that an elderly Palestinian-American was found dead in a village near Ramallah after being detained by the Israeli military, and according to the Israel Defense Forces, the army detained the man, then released him alive. It's not clear, then, how United Press International has determined that 80-year-old Omar Abdalmajeed As'ad died while in Israeli military custody, a claim not found even in the Palestinian news story, and contradicted by the Israeli military.

Daniel Uria's UPI article yesterday, "80-year-old Palestinian man dies in custody of Israeli military in West Bank," begins: "An 80-year-old Palestinian man died while in custody of Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday."

Other media outlet report that he was detained by Israeli troops and then later his body was found in a village outside Ramallah. They do not report that As'ad died while in Israeli custody. Moreover, the very same Haaretz article which Uria cited in his story included this key information:
The Israeli military confirmed he had been held by soldiers "after resisting a security inspection," but said he was then released and only later, in the morning, found dead near his village.

US: Only ‘a few weeks left’ to save Iran nuclear deal, we’re eyeing ‘other options’
There are only “a few weeks left” to save the Iran nuclear deal, and the United States is ready to look at “other options” if negotiations fail, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday.

Talks to restore the 2015 accord between Tehran and world powers — United States, France, Britain, Russia, China, and Germany — began last year but stopped in June as Iran elected ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi.

The talks resumed in November.

“We have, I think, a few weeks left to see if we can get back to mutual compliance,” Blinken said in an interview with US public radio station NPR.

“We’re very, very short on time,” because “Iran is getting closer and closer to the point where they could produce on very, very short order enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon,” he said.

According to the top US diplomat, Tehran has made nuclear advances that “will become increasingly hard to reverse because they’re learning things, they’re doing new things as a result of having broken out of their constraints under the agreement.”
Will the Ukraine Standoff Affect the Iran Nuclear Talks?
Some Western policymakers seem to believe that Russia can be helpful on Iran even as it threatens to attack Ukraine, but they’re missing the bigger picture.

Although Russia has always played a key role in multilateral nuclear negotiations with Iran, its recent escalation in Ukraine is casting an especially wide shadow over the current talks in Vienna, which aim to resurrect the imperiled 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Between the threat of open war with Kyiv, an ongoing crackdown in Kazakhstan, and assorted interventions in the Middle East, Russian relations with the West have reached perhaps their most dangerous inflection point since the fall of the Soviet Union. What does this mean for President Vladimir Putin’s approach to the Iran talks?

Russia’s Iran Strategy
Understanding Putin’s current mindset requires a clear-eyed look at his past approach to Iran’s nuclear program and related diplomacy. Although Moscow has always preferred a non-nuclear-armed Iran, it does not necessarily share Western goals, methods, or redlines on this issue. The Kremlin has supported sanctions against Tehran while simultaneously working to dilute them, claiming that Western concerns were overblown and were hurting its efforts to expand bilateral trade with the Islamic Republic. Russia has also used its support for sanctions as leverage to extract concessions from the West.

Indeed, as negotiations waxed and waned over the years, many Russian analysts privately concluded that Putin could live with a nuclear Iran if necessary—of greater concern to him was the prospect of Iran turning pro-Western. As reported recently by the New York Times, this notion is supported by leaked audio of former foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif admitting that his Russian counterparts in past negotiations did not want a nuclear agreement to succeed “because it was not in Moscow’s interests for Iran to normalize relations with the West.” Although it is debatable whether this concern was ever warranted in the case of the narrowly focused JCPOA, Zarif’s revelation nevertheless highlights Moscow’s chief priorities.
Veterans, families urge administration not to release billions in frozen funds to Iran until terrorism cases are settled
U.S. military veterans and their families called on the Biden administration Thursday not to release frozen funds to Iran as part of nuclear negotiations until U.S. victims of terrorist attacks carried out by the Tehran regime or its proxies are compensated.

More than 1,000 veterans and family members of those killed or wounded in bombings and other attacks in Iraq and elsewhere asked President Joe Biden in a letter to meet with some of the families whose loved ones were killed.

“We share your view that Iran must never be allowed to develop or acquire nuclear weapons, but we do not believe that any sanctions on Iran should be lifted or suspended that result in the release of frozen funds until all outstanding judgments and pending claims against Iran and the IRGC have been fully satisfied,” said the letter, which was obtained by NBC News. The IGRC is the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“In our view, Iran’s frozen funds should go first to the regime’s American victims before a single dollar goes to the regime itself,” the letter said.

The letter estimated that $60 billion in terrorism lawsuit judgments and associated liens have gone unpaid because of U.S. court cases against Iran, with billions more tied up in pending claims.
Iran Tested Solid-Fuel Satellite Carrier Rocket Amid Vienna Nuclear Talks: State Media
Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) has successfully tested its first solid fuel satellite carrier rocket, the Islamic Republic’s state-run news agency claimed Thursday.

Brig.-Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, chief of the IRGC aerospace unit, was cited by the IRNA news agency as saying that in last week’s successful test, a solid-fuel satellite carrier was used, made of non-metal materials to save energy and costs. IMA Media, an Iran-based social media channel, posted a video showing footage of the test, saying that the solid-fueled space engine uses lightweight composite materials.

Hajizadeh further announced that Iran plans to launch more satellite carrier rockets into space.

Jason Brodsky, policy director at United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) noted that the “use of solid-fuel is important as pure solid-fuel rockets are mostly associated with ballistic missiles systems.”

“This shows Tehran is choosing to focus its advancements on ballistic missile technology — as opposed to additional nuclear steps — for leverage in Vienna,” Brodsky tweeted. “Tehran may calculate this is a safer bet, rather than increasing levels of enrichment right now, as it will only elicit repetitive statements of condemnation.”

The report comes after the US, France and Germany last month sharply criticized Iran’s satellite rocket launch to send three research devices into space, as indirect US-Iran talks resumed in Vienna to try to salvage a 2015 nuclear deal.

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