Wednesday, June 01, 2022

06/01 Links Pt1: Why Is Israeli-Palestinian Violence Returning to Jenin?; Caroline Glick: Where were Hamas rockets on Jerusalem Day?; UN names Palestinian media program for slain Al Jazeera reporter

From Ian:

Joe Truzman: Why Is Israeli-Palestinian Violence Returning to Jenin?
All this started coming apart with the pandemic lockdowns in 2020 and the burgeoning internal rivalries of various Palestinian armed factions gearing up for an inevitable succession battle in the Palestinian Authority, as Abbas rounds out his ninth decade and begins the eighteenth year of a four-year term in office.

The Gaza conflict in May last year accelerated the return to violence. The escape of six militants (most of whom are members of PIJ) from a prison in northern Israel, just across the line from Jenin, also rallied fighters across the Palestinian territories. Lastly, IDF operations in the West Bank throughout 2021 resulted in an unusually high number of militant deaths.

These deaths prompted terrorist organizations in Jenin to reorganize and establish a joint operations room to respond to IDF incursions more effectively. The result was a marked increase in clashes with IDF troops.

Exacerbating the problem in Jenin was a wave of high-profile terrorist attacks deep inside Israeli territory beginning in late March this year. In some cases, the attackers were identified as residents of Jenin, which intensified both the almost daily IDF operations in the city and the militant’s response to the added incursions.

Though investigations are ongoing, the daytime raids by the IDF were a possible contributing factor in casualties, as the IDF usually operates at night, when fewer pedestrians are around. On several occasions, including when Aqleh and an Israeli counter-terrorism officer, Noam Raz were killed, the IDF operated in Jenin during the day.

At the extremes of violence and of (relative) quiet, Jenin, a city with little religious or symbolic importance to either Jews or Arabs, told its own story of conflict.

Once the nest of suicide bombers and Israel’s most aggressive military action in the West Bank, it became an island of calm. The combination of foreign training for Palestinian police, the evacuation of nearby Israeli settlements, and the continued presence of the IDF was something of an experiment in “managing the conflict.” Two months into a renewed wave of violence centered around Jenin again, that experiment might be nearing its end.

MEMRI: Palestinians Slam Hamas's Lack Of Response To Jerusalem Flag March: All You Do Is Sell Empty Slogans And Spew Baseless Threats
The Flag March held in Jerusalem on May 29, 2022 on the occasion of Israel's Jerusalem Day, passed with relatively little incident, despite concerns that it would result in an escalation of violence on the ground. These concerns were sparked by statements made in advance of the march by Hamas and other Palestinian elements, who threatened to carry out attacks during the march, to renew the rocket fire from Gaza and even to launch a "second Sword of Jerusalem" campaign that would be a continuation of the May 2021 round of Hamas-Israel conflict, which Hamas calls the "Sword of Jerusalem" campaign.[1]

Already in the evening of May 29 and on the morning after, many Palestinian elements in Gaza, the West bank and Jerusalem began voicing anger and criticizing Hamas and the other Palestinian resistance factions for failing to respond to the Flag March as they had threatened and promised to do. This criticism was expressed on social media, and later also in articles in the Palestinian and Arab press. The critics – including Palestinian journalists, analysts, citizens and an activist of the Murabitat organization at Al-Aqsa[2] – expressed disappointment with the Hamas leaders who, they said, had spewed slogans, made bombastic and boastful threats and created large expectations – and did nothing at all. Many of the responses specifically mentioned the statements made by Hamas' leader in Gaza, Yahya Al-Sinwar, in an April 30, 2022 speech, in which he called on the Palestinians to prepare for a large-scale campaign against Israel and even promised that this campaign would begin with a salvo of 1,111 rockets fired into Israel.[3]

The Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which is close to Hizbullah, published a large article about the flagging of the Gazans' morale and about the Palestinians' disappointment and anger with Hamas for its failure to respond to the Flag March. In fact, the article criticized not only Hamas but the entire resistance axis, which includes Iran, Syria and Hizbullah, for "failing to lift a finger" in defense of Jerusalem, and this despite the fact that this axis has recently begun calling itself "the Jerusalem axis" and even promised to launch a regional war against Israel if it continued its actions.[4]

The Al-Hayat Al-Jadida daily, the mouthpiece of the Palestinian Authority, naturally joined the criticism of Hamas, and accused it, in its May 31 editorial, of making empty threats while coordinating and cooperating with Israel.
Caroline Glick: Where were Hamas rockets on Jerusalem Day?
In this week’s episode of the Caroline Glick Mideast News Hour, Caroline was joined by historian Gadi Taub. They discussed the successful Flag Parade in Jerusalem in the context of the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Israeli government, and the previous Netanyahu-led government’s decision to cancel last year’s parade in the face of mass Arab Israeli violence and Hamas’s missile offensive. Caroline and Gadi talked about the increasingly palpable atmosphere of rebellion among Arab Israelis in the face of Israel’s elites who refuse to defend the country.

Laser air defenses will 'bankrupt' enemies firing rockets - Bennett
A laser system that Israel is developing to intercept incoming enemy rockets will not only make rockets ineffective against Israel but will also bankrupt Israel’s enemies, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Wednesday. Laser defense

Bennett made the remarks during a visit to a factory of Rafael Advanced Weapons Systems which is the lead contractor in developing the groundbreaking system.

“The system knows how to down mortar shells, unmanned vehicles and rockets," The prime minister said. "It is ground breaking not only because we can hit the enemy with military means but we can also financially bankrupt them.”

Iron Dome replacement
Bennett added that until now, an Iron Dome interceptor cost tens of thousands of dollars each to intercept a single incoming enemy projectile. With the laser system, “the enemy will invest tens of thousands of dollars and we will invest just two dollars of electricity,” he said.

In April, Israel took a significant step toward achieving the operational capability of its ground-breaking laser system by carrying out a series of experiments, downing a variety of aerial threats at “challenging ranges,” the Defense Ministry said at the time.

The experiments, which were carried out in Israel’s South by the Defense Ministry’s Directorate of Research and Development (DDR&D, or MAFAT in Hebrew) and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, saw the laser system known as “Iron Beam” successfully intercept a number of aerial targets including unmanned aerial vehicles, mortars, rockets and anti-tank missiles in various scenarios.

Berlin sponsors anti-Israel hate festival
The duplicity of Berlin’s political establishment is hard to match. On the one hand, city authorities recently banned the “Al-Quds Day” parade which during many years featured pacifist chants such as “Death to Israel!” and “Jewish swine come outside and fight alone!”

Realizing the harm the annual event did to Berlin’s global brand as an international capital of peace and tolerance, this year the city of Berlin banned the parade. The city of Berlin’s hypocrisy unfortunately did not end.

In order to fuel and foment antisemitism more effectively and with less collateral damage, the city’s “Haus der Kulturen der Welt”, (House of World Cultures) which focuses on celebrating non-European cultures, will hold in early June a four-day anti-Israel hate festival.

At face value, “Hijacking Memory: The Holocaust and the New Right” purports to present the danger of allowing populist right-wing discourse to taint the memory of the Holocaust. In reality, the thrust of its panel discussions and screenings is to showcase how Israel allegedly strengthens rightist populism around the world and how rightist populism strengthens Zionism.

Thus, for example, on Day 3, the anti-Zionist Israeli former politician Avraham Burg will delight Berliners with the following talk:

“The Hidden Agenda: The Holocaust in Israel between Tragedy and Strategy"

"In the first decades of its existence, the State of Israel did not identify with the Holocaust. Indeed, as Tom Segev and other historians have shown, the Holocaust was in conflict with the image the State wanted to convey: that Jews were finally agents of history and not its subjects, heroes rather than victims. Only later did certain Israeli politicians decide it was opportune to underscore the Holocaust as the prime example of murderous antisemitism in order to discredit all criticism of state policies as antisemitic. This lecture will describe the history of the deliberate strategies involved in this process.”

One-sentence takeaway: Israel ignored the Holocaust until remembering it became politically expedient.

Other lectures are even more open in their hatred of Jews and Israel:

“Whitening of the Jews and Misuse of Holocaust Memory" Gilbert Achcar
Argentine Jews Launch Legal Action Against Far-Left Politician Agitating for Israel to Be ‘Destroyed’
An Argentine politician is facing legal action launched by the country’s Jewish community over a series of statements deemed antisemitic and anti-Zionist, including one that called for Israel to be “destroyed.”

A statement on Monday from DAIA, the organizational umbrella representing Argentina’s Jewish community, said that it would be launching legal proceedings against Alejandro Bodart, the secretary general of the extreme left Socialist Workers Movement (MST) — a Trotskyist party that is a component of a wider left front with four deputies in the Argentine parliament.

DAIA insisted that Bodart’s posts on Twitter had violated both Argentina’s own Anti-Discrimination Law and the widely-accepted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which includes certain expressions of anti-Zionism among its examples.

At issue are two tweets posted by Bodart. On May 11, he posted the meme “Zionists = Nazis,” while on May 15, he denounced what he called “the racist and genocidal state of Israel.” According to the DAIA statement, Bodart’s Twitter posts represented an “attack on peaceful democratic coexistence” that was based on “culturally-rooted prejudices which society should not normalize.”

Responding to the DAIA statement, Bodart was unrepentant.

“DAIA demands that I ratify or delete within 48 hours the two posts made on my Twitter account,” Bodart said, referring to a letter he received from the Jewish organization’s legal department. “Neither I nor the MST are going to ratify or rectify anything for the DAIA or any other Zionist entity, no matter how many threats they make.” He went on charge that “seeking to silence any critical voice precisely reaffirms the political conviction that authoritarianism is an intrinsic component of Zionism.”

Bodart then asserted that there was no solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians “if the genocidal State of Israel is not destroyed to rebuild the state of Palestine.”

Negev Summit countries to reconvene in Bahrain next month
Senior officials from countries represented at this year’s Negev Summit plan to hold their first working meeting in Bahrain next month, sources confirmed from multiple countries involved.

The foreign ministers of Israel, the US, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Egypt gathered in March at Sde Boker, in Israel’s South, for the Negev Summit, where they announced they would be working on myriad areas of shared interests.

The Foreign Ministry described the summit as creating “a regional security architecture that will build deterrence against threats from the air and sea,” with several of the foreign ministers specifically mentioning threats from Iran at the event.

Top officials from the countries that participated in the Negev Summit, plus Jordan, are expected to attend the first follow-up meeting of a steering committee in Bahrain in mid-June, to be chaired by Bahraini Undersecretary for Political Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Ahmed Al Khalifa. Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz is expected to represent Israel

A diplomat from one of the participating countries said they are “trying to put meat on the bone” of the Negev Forum.

The delegates are expected to discuss regional cooperation and form working groups on security, health, education, tourism, food and water security, and energy. They will choose the leading countries for each group.

The steering committee meeting is still being planned, and its details are still subject to change.
IDF: Fighter jets downed Egyptian military drone that entered Israeli skies
An unarmed Egyptian drone was intercepted by Israeli fighter jets over the southern Negev desert earlier this week, the Israel Defense forces said Wednesday.

According to the military, the incident occurred Monday near Mount Sagi, situated only a few kilometers from the border with Egypt. The IDF said the unmanned aircraft was monitored as it crossed into Israeli airspace.

The UAV, operated by the Egyptian military to monitor Islamic State activity in the northern Sinai desert, apparently ran into technical issues causing the operators to lose contact as it accidentally entered Israeli airspace, a defense source said.

The downing of the aircraft was coordinated with Egypt, the source added. The IDF said the incident was being investigated.

The incident came as Israeli air defenses were on high alert following Iranian threats to respond to the assassination of a senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officer.

The military did not say why it kept the incident under wraps for two days, but Army Radio cited Egyptian sensitivities over the matter.

UN names Palestinian media program for slain Al Jazeera reporter
The United Nations announced Tuesday that it is naming the annual training program for Palestinian broadcasters and journalists after Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot dead May 11 while covering clashes between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen during an IDF operation in the West Bank city of Jenin.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, who made the announcement, said Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American, “had a distinguished career in journalism for a quarter of a century” and “was a trailblazer for Arab women, and a role model for journalists in the Middle East and around the world.”

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN ambassador, appealed to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a letter on May 11 “as a staunch supporter of the freedom of the press, and fundamental freedoms worldwide, to honor this brave and iconic woman journalist” by renaming the training program for her.

Guterres replied in a letter obtained by The Associated Press that he was “appalled” by Abu Akleh’s death and has called for “an independent and transparent investigation into the incident to ensure that those responsible are held accountable.”

He said the UN Department of Global Communications, which conducts the training program, “welcomes the proposal to honor the bravery and legacy of Ms. Abu Akleh by renaming the training program for Palestinian broadcasters and journalists to “The Shireen Abu Akleh Training Program for Palestinian Broadcasters and Journalists.”

The program was set up in 1995, following the adoption of a General Assembly resolution requesting the UN public information department to provide assistance to the Palestinian people in the field of media development. Since then, about 200 Palestinian journalists have participated in the program.

HRC Prompts CTV To Correct False Claim That Palestinian Journalist Killed By Israeli Gunfire
CTV’s broadcast report stated the following:
CTV Anchor: “A memorial mass was held in our city to honour a Palestinian journalist killed while on the job. Shireen Abu Akleh had been covering life in Palestine under Israeli rule for the last 25 years. She was shot and killed by Israeli forces earlier this month. Many believe she was targeted. A community spokesperson says it’s important the world knows about her death.”

Joe Hak, Community Spokesperson: “Because she was really fighting for her country, she was fighting for her people and she died just like Jesus carried the cross on the road of Galilee, she carried Palestine as a cross on her shoulders and then she died for it.”

CTV Anchor: “Akleh was a household name across the Arab world, revered for her coverage of Palestinian life for the satellite channel Al Jazeera. She was 51-years-old.”

In truth, the veracity of the matter is still unknown. There’s no concrete evidence which confirms that Israeli forces killed this Al Jazeera journalist. It’s very possible that she was killed by Palestinian terrorists during the Israeli raid, whether accidentally in a crossfire, or even, the possibility remains, on purpose to achieve a propaganda win. Meanwhile, Israeli forces who engaged in a gunfight with Palestinian terrorists during an arrest raid of terror suspects, could also be responsible, but the facts are unknown at this time.

HonestReporting Canada liaised with senior executives at CTV News calling for immediate corrective action to remedy these serious errors.

We are pleased to report that subsequent to our action, CTV News broadcast the following on-air clarification on May 31:
“A clarification earlier this week. CTV News reported on a vigil here in Edmonton for a Palestinian journalist killed on the job. We reported that she was killed by Israeli forces, when in fact, it’s still in dispute as to who is responsible for her death. We sincerely regret this error.”
Female terrorist shot dead after Gush Etzion knife attack
A female Palestinian terrorist was shot dead in Gush Etzion on Wednesday morning after trying to carry out a stabbing attack.

According to initial reports from the scene, the terrorist had targeted soldiers at Al-Aroub Junction, who were able to return fire and foil the attack.

None of the soldiers involved were wounded in the attack.

The IDF Spokesperson's Unit said in a statement: "A report was received about an attempted stabbing attack near the Al-Aroub refugee camp in the area under the jurisdiction of the Etzion Brigade. A female terrorist armed with a knife advanced toward an IDF soldier who was safeguarding Highway 60. The force responded by opening fire. There are no wounded among our forces, the terrorist was neutralized."

Palestinian Authority Grabs More E1 Land
The Palestinian Authority is again working to seize territory, this time in the “E1 corridor,” an area comprised mostly of Israeli state land, sandwiched between eastern Jerusalem and the city of Ma’ale Adumim.

A new illegal orchard has been planted, and a section of land has been illegally fenced off with a locked gate by Palestinian Authority Arabs from a nearby village, according to a report Tuesday by Israel Hayom.

The move was documented by the Jerusalem Periphery Forum as another attempt to annex Israeli land via Palestinian Authority “facts on the ground,” in accordance with the Fayyad Plan.*

“The State of Israel needs to wake up and take immediate action to stop the obtrusions whether in E1 and throughout the entire Jerusalem periphery area and Route 417, which leads to the capital of Israel,” said an official from the Jerusalem Periphery Forum.

“We are losing our land, losing our capital, and need to wake up today.”

The E1 sector is in Area C, which the Oslo Accords placed under the sole administrative and security control of the State of Israel. However, spanning only seven kilometers (four miles), E1 is strategically located at the narrowest point of Judea and Samaria.

Taliban Build Dome of Rock Replica in Kabul in Solidarity With Palestinians
The Taliban published issue No. 196 of its official Arabic-language monthly magazine, Al-Somood, which included an article comparing Kabul to Jerusalem, the Middle East Media Research Institute’s Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (MEMRI-JTTM) stated in a report shared with JNS.

In the editorial, a parallel is drawn between Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, and its “sister city.”

The writer argued that Kabul was the first of the two cities to achieve liberation when freed from “the oppressive American occupation that lasted 20 years.”

On May 18, the Kabul municipality inaugurated a replica of Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock.

The article asserted that the replica represents the unity of the Islamic nation and serves as a “reminder of the dangers, threats and repeated violations to which Al-Haram Al-Sharif [the Arabic name for the Temple Mount containing the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa mosque] has been exposed.”

According to MEMRI, several ISIS supporters criticized the project.

A pro-ISIS media outlet, the Al-Adiyat Foundation, printed a poster arguing that the building of a Dome of the Rock model had initially been proposed by Libya’s former leader Moammar Gaddafi and was widely mocked at the time.

Turkey is blackmailing NATO to justify its invasion of Syria
Turkey has vowed a new invasion in Syria, modeled on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Claiming a need to “clean” or “clear” an area near the border of “terrorists,” Ankara has vowed to invade.

Its last invasion of Afrin in 2018 and later Sere Kaniye in 2019 led to hundreds of thousands of people being forced to flee and minorities being ethnically cleansed. Kurds, Yazidis and Christian minorities are Turkey's main targets.

Ankara has been talking up its invasion while it prevents democratic Finland and Sweden from joining NATO. This is part of its blackmail strategy. It uses its membership in NATO to give it cover for invasions.

Whereas Russia is critiqued for attacking peaceful Ukraine, and whereas countries like Serbia were similarly slammed in the 1990s for conflicts that led to ethnic cleansing, Turkey can openly expel minorities and invade and occupy Syria apparently without criticism.

This is because countries like Sweden that may have critiqued Ankara in the past now need its support to enter NATO. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives at NATO Headquarters for meetings with NATO allies about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Brussels, Belgium March 24, 2022. (credit: EVAN VUCCI/POOL VIA REUTERS) Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrives at NATO Headquarters for meetings with NATO allies about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in Brussels, Belgium March 24, 2022. (credit: EVAN VUCCI/POOL VIA REUTERS)

Turkey waited until the crisis with NATO to begin talk of a new invasion. It has done this in the past. In 2018, it worked with pro-Ankara voices in the Trump administration to get the White House to open the gates for invasions in Syria.
Iran could have 4 ‘crude’ nukes in 3 months – think tank
Albright’s supposition that a crude nuclear bomb can be made using 60% enriched uranium is somewhat theoretical, because discussion about nuclear weapons developed from uranium in recent decades has focused on the 90% enrichment level.

That level has thus far been Israel’s focus; the US and other parties seek to prevent the Islamic Republic from developing a nuclear device.

Even if Tehran reaches the 90% level, Israeli intelligence and nuclear experts have said that Iran would need another six months to two years to perfect methods for detonation, warhead miniaturization, missile reentry and other issues to be able to deliver such a weapon.

Still, another recent report by Albright and Burkhard said, “As soon as mid-to-late April, Iran is expected to reach a new, dangerous, destabilizing threshold, having enough highly enriched uranium (HEU) to fashion a nuclear explosive, about 40-42 kilograms of 60% enriched uranium (uranium mass). With this quantity, an enrichment level of 60% suffices to create a relatively compact nuclear explosive; further enrichment to 80 or 90% is not needed.’

“According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, 41.7 kg of 60%-enriched uranium is a significant quantity, which the IAEA defines as the ‘approximate amount of nuclear material for which the possibility of manufacturing a nuclear explosive cannot be excluded,’” wrote Albright.

“A common fallacy is that Iran would require 90% HEU, more commonly called weapons-grade uranium, to build nuclear explosives,” he said.

“Although Iran’s nuclear weapons designs have focused on 90% HEU and likely prefer that enrichment, modifying them for 60% HEU would be straightforward and well within Iran’s capabilities.” David Albright

He added that, “historically, the term ‘highly enriched uranium’ was developed in the nuclear weapon states to distinguish between enriched uranium able to fuel a practical nuclear weapon versus enriched uranium, labeled low enriched uranium, unable to do so. Their cutoff is at 20% enriched uranium.”

In fact, Albright explained to The Jerusalem Post that lower levels of enriched uranium were used in nuclear weapons designs by the US in the 1940s as well as by South Africa.

Little Boy, the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima, mixed the highest level of enriched uranium with some uranium enriched to as low as 50%.

Also, he said that 60%-enriched devices require a greater amount of high explosives to initiate the detonation process.

“At the least, a device made from 60% HEU would be suitable for underground nuclear testing or delivery by a crude delivery system,” he said.

Albright also released newly translated Iranian documents relating to their efforts to conceal their nuclear program from the IAEA nuclear inspectors.
Ex-IDF chief: If not for Israeli action, Iran would have had nukes 7-10 years ago
Iran would have obtained nuclear weapons years ago if not for undercover Israeli operations against the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, the former head of the Israel Defense Forces said Wednesday.

“Israel carries out diverse operations, most of which are covert, to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear capabilities,” Gadi Eisenkot declared during a security conference held at Netanya Academic College.

“Without these actions I believe Iran would have already become a nuclear state some 7-10 years ago.”

The former military chief also said Israel may need more than military might to address future security challenges, citing the situation in Ukraine as an example.

“When I examine the strategic balance, I see a cup half full and a cup half empty,” he said, explaining that on the one hand, Israel has built “an impressive and massive security force” that provides Israel with a good reason to be confident.

“But if you look at the events unfolding between Russia and Ukraine, you see a country with very impressive military capabilities facing a very weak army, and you can see what international perception and support can do to a country’s prowess,” Eisenkot noted.

The remarks came after the Israeli Air Force simulated a widescale strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities Tuesday night.

The simulated attack was part of the broader exercise that involves nearly all branches of the IDF and is focused on training for fighting on Israel’s northern borders, including against the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Iran Not Waiting for Nuclear Weapons to Destabilize the Middle East
The goal of Iran's mullahs is to spread their control to as many countries as possible by using their terrorist proxies, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Houthi militia in Yemen.

Iran's rulers are also seeking to increase their political influence in these countries. They aim to turn Iran into a superpower and major player in the Middle East at a time when US influence in the region appears to be dwindling.

Needless to say, Iran's mullahs are not only opposed to peace with Israel. They and their proxies have repeatedly stated that their real goal is to eliminate Israel.

Some even warned that Iran's real intention is to destroy and isolate Iraq....

"Iran, not Israel, is the greatest affliction for Iraq." — Farouk Yusef, Iraqi author, Al Arab, May 29, 2022.

The Iraqis, Yusef added, would have preferred to see a law criminalizing working for Iran because they do not want to end up like Lebanon, which has been destroyed by Hezbollah.

"The forces affiliated with Iran accuse everyone who refuses to be subordinate to Iran of seeking normalization with Israel." — Hamid Al-Kifaey, Iraqi journalist, Sky News Arabia, May 15, 2022.

This is how Arab dictatorships regularly seek to discredit the opposition or anyone who speaks out against corruption and bad government: by accusing them of being Israeli or American spies and traitors.
Israeli Air Force simulates widescale strike on Iran nuclear facilities
Dozens of Israeli Air Force fighter jets conducted air maneuvers over the Mediterranean Sea on Tuesday night, simulating striking Iranian nuclear facilities.

According to a statement by the Israel Defense Forces on Wednesday, the drill included “long-range flight, aerial refueling and striking distant targets.”

Earlier this month, The Times of Israel learned that the drill — as part of the military’s major Chariots of Fire exercise — would simulate a widescale strike in Iran, including against its nuclear facilities.

Chariots of Fire, which involves nearly all branches of the IDF, has been focusing on training for fighting on Israel’s northern borders, including against the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group in Lebanon.

In light of growing uncertainty regarding a return by Iran to the 2015 nuclear deal amid long-stalled negotiations with world powers, the past year has seen the Israel Defense Forces ramp up its efforts to prepare a credible military threat against Tehran’s nuclear facilities.

At the beginning of last year, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi announced that he had instructed the military to begin drawing up fresh attack plans against Iran. By September, Kohavi said the army had “greatly accelerated” preparations for action against Tehran’s nuclear program.

Still, defense officials estimate that while some aspects of the IAF’s strike plans, which are still in their early stages, could be ready within a short period of time, others would take more than a year to become fully actionable.
US, E3 Want IAEA Board to Demand Immediate Cooperation From Iran: Draft
The United States, France, Britain and Germany are pushing for the UN nuclear watchdog’s Board of Governors to rebuke Iran for failing to answer longstanding questions on uranium traces at undeclared sites, a draft resolution seen by Reuters showed.

The move is likely to anger Iran, which generally bristles at such resolutions, and that in turn could damage the prospects of rescuing the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Indirect talks on that between Iran and the United States are already stalled.

Western powers have held off submitting a draft resolution to previous quarterly meetings of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation Board of Governors over this issue precisely because it risked derailing those talks, which have not been held since March.

The issue has, however, come to a head since the IAEA told member states this week that Iran had not given it credible answers on the particles found at three mainly old but undeclared sites despite both sides agreeing in March to revive their discussions and try to resolve the open issues by now.

The IAEA Board “calls upon Iran to act on an urgent basis to fulfill its legal obligations and take up immediately the (IAEA) Director General’s offer of further engagement to clarify and resolve all outstanding safeguards issues,” the draft text sent to IAEA member states and seen by Reuters on Wednesday said.
Seth Frantzman: Iran’s lies about its nuclear program foreshadow worse to come
Iran has been misleading the world for decades about its nuclear program. And at various junctions, it has even revealed part of what it is up to. This has led to a great deal of knowledge ostensibly about its enrichment program as well as other elements of Iran’s nuclear program.

However, assertions that it continues to lie and obfuscate reveal a deeper problem. Most nuclear programs are clandestine, but Iran has always actively used its program to wring concessions from the West. As such, its nuclear program is not a pure one, like the Manhattan Project in the 1940s or the Pakistan and India nuclear arms race.

What Iran’s program reveals, particularly the way it is shoehorned into a Clausewitz-like war-politics-policy mold, means that the program is not in itself an end to a means. The Islamic Republic may not want to build or test a bomb – yet. It may not have a way to test it yet either. And it may not have a way to put it on a missile yet. Yet it continues to enrich and stockpile uranium.

Israel has recently accused Iran of lying to the world regarding its banned nuclear activity. The BBC noted that Israel’s prime minister made these accusations “ahead of a meeting next week where International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi is due to present a report on its probe into unexplained nuclear material found at three undeclared sites in Iran.”

The report also noted that “Western countries suspect Iran might be seeking to build nuclear weapons in violation of conventions – something Iran strongly denies. Israel considers Iran, which does not recognize Israel's right to exist and calls for its elimination, a major threat to both Israel and the wider world.”

Why is this important?
Iran is indeed misleading the world. It is not only purposely enriching uranium and installing advanced centrifuges; it does some of this openly to wring potential concessions – and it is also doing things in secret. The precise amount of secrecy as compared to what Tehran wants to show the world is key to how its engineers cover up its program. This means that there is also a conflict that plays out between Israel, which is seeking to warn others about the program, and Iran, which hopes the world doesn’t notice what it is up to.
Iran Decries ‘Unfair’ IAEA Report on Nuclear Activities
Iran accused the International Atomic Energy Agency on Tuesday of publishing an unfair report on its investigation into Tehran’s nuclear activities, possibly setting up a fresh diplomatic clash with the West.

The UN watchdog on Monday said Iran had not credibly answered long-standing questions about the origin of uranium particles found at three undeclared sites, despite a fresh push for a breakthrough.

“Unfortunately this report does not reflect the reality of talks between Iran and the agency,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters on Tuesday.

“This is not a fair nor balanced report, and it seems that pressure from the Zionists and other actors has diverted the path of technical reports to the political field — and we expect this trend to be corrected,” he said.

The lack of progress could set up a new diplomatic clash with the West when the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 35-nation Board of Governors meets next week. If Western powers seek a resolution criticizing Tehran, it could deal a further blow to stalled efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

Those powers have until now repeatedly shied away from admonishing Iran at the board on the same issue fearing it could jeopardize the nuclear talks.

“We call on Iran to respond without delay to the questions and needs of the IAEA under its safeguards agreement,” France’s deputy foreign ministry spokesman, Francois Delmas, told reporters.
‘A Pathetic Slap in the Face’: Dissidents Blast Biden’s Tepid Support for Iranian Protesters
As protests in Iran stretch into their second week, the Biden administration is facing pressure from dissidents and regional experts to more forcefully back anti-regime demonstrators, with one Iranian activist telling the Washington Free Beacon that the administration’s stance is a "pathetic slap in the face" to pro-democracy reformers.

Cameron Khansarinia, policy director at the National Union for Democracy in Iran, a pro-human rights Iranian-American organization that supports democracy, said the Biden administration’s hesitance to actively support protesters is helping the hardline regime remain in power. He and other activists say the administration’s tepid response is driven by its desire to ink a new nuclear deal and avoid upsetting the Iranian government as talks continue. Top U.S. officials, including President Joe Biden, have notably avoided commenting on the protests, which has not gone unnoticed in the activist community.

"Iranians have now been in the streets of cities across the country for two weeks and the Biden administration is not only asleep on the job, it is harming both the people of Iran and U.S. national security interests by prolonging the life of the Islamic Republic dictatorship," Khansarinia told the Free Beacon. "It is fair to say that Joe Biden and his team not only don’t care, but view this movement for freedom and democracy to be a nuisance they wish would go away."

Iranian protesters took to the streets last month amid economic turmoil and the deadly collapse of an apartment building, which was blamed on the regime’s failure to care for its own people. Since that time, efforts by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his top associates to quell the unrest, including the use of tear gas and beating protesters, have failed.

A State Department spokesman who declined to be named said the administration opposes the government’s violent crackdown.

Iranian foreign minister: ‘The national interests of the United States have been taken hostage by the Zionists’
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian appeared to repeatedly invoke antisemitic stereotypes when discussing the Iran nuclear deal.

“The national interests of the United States have been taken hostage by the Zionists,” Amir-Abdollahian said at the gathering in the Swiss resort where world leaders convene annually to discuss global affairs.

CNN host Fareed Zakaria, who was moderating the discussion, did not acknowledge Amir-Abdollahian’s comment and proceeded to ask a question about the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Later in the conversation, Amir-Abdollahian dismissed a Wall Street Journal report that Iran evaded international nuclear investigations using secret U.N. documents, saying, “Unfortunately the Zionists are spreading a lot of lies.”

Zakaria did not respond to Amir-Abdollahian’s remark.

Amir-Abdollahian also blamed “Zionists” for the stalled talks aimed at restoring the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. “I think if the Zionist lobby distances itself from the national interests of the U.S. just a little, Mr. Biden will be able to make the decision required for making a good deal,” he said.
Exposed: How China Helps Iran Evade Sanctions Through Multibillion-Dollar Oil Scheme
A network of Chinese petrochemical refiners is behind an upswing in the importation of illicit Iranian crude oil, providing the hardline regime in Tehran with at least $22 billion in revenue since President Joe Biden took office.

Chinese refiners known as teapots, which are semi-independent and not state-controlled, are primarily responsible for "funding this illicit and uniquely lucrative trade" with Iran, according to information obtained by United Against a Nuclear Iran (UANI), an advocacy group that works to expose those who help Tehran to evade economic sanctions.

China's use of these teapots is part of a coordinated effort to evade international sanctions on Iran's oil trade, according to UANI. Through this network, Beijing has been able to purchase Iranian crude well below market price while obfuscating its origins. Teapots allow Beijing to bypass its state-controlled refineries and misrepresent the purchases as originating from countries not subject to sanctions.

This oil scheme has allowed China to import at least $22 billion in Iranian crude since the Biden administration took office and relaxed sanctions on Tehran as part of a bid to secure a revamped nuclear agreement. China was importing an average of 400,000 barrels of oil per day from Iran before Biden became president. That number has risen to around 1,000,000 per day since Biden took office, according to figures published by UANI.

Documents obtained by UANI show that "the bulk of Iranian oil is indeed being imported by the teapots." Records seen by the group detail at least 40 different shipments of Iranian oil to China dating back to 2019. By using these smaller and semi-independent teapot refiners, China is able to protect its big-name oil firms from sanctions and say it is winding down Iranian imports to comply with international sanctions on Tehran's crude, according to UANI.

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