Monday, June 27, 2022

From Ian:

David Singer: Saudi Arabia tells Biden & UN: No State between Israel & Jordan
Saudi Arabia has sent US President Joe Biden and the United Nations (UN) a clear message to abandon the idea of creating a new Arab State between Israel and Jordan in an article published in Al-Arabiya News on 8 June headlined: The Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine.

Its author – Ali Shihabi – is not your ordinary run-of-the-mill journalist. He supports and has the ear of Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman (MBS) – the controversial next successor to the Saudi throne.

MBS is the driving force behind NEOM – a brand new US$500 billion megacity to be built on 26500km² in northern Saudi Arabia – an area larger than Israel – powered by 100% renewable energy. The project includes a bridge spanning the Red Sea – connecting NEOM to Africa. NEOM will be close to the borders of Jordan, Egypt and Israel.

Shihabi has been a member of NEOM’s Advisory Board since 2020.

MBS has not sought to publically distance himself from Shihabi’s article.

Shihabi dismisses Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Jordan claims to be separate entities:
“Jordanians and Palestinians are as similar as any people can be. They are Sunni Arabs from the same neighbourhood. Merging them will not create any long-term ethnic or sectarian fault lines.”

Significantly Shihabi’s proposal does not call for Saudi Arabia to replace Jordan as Custodian of the Islamic Holy Sites in Jerusalem – a fear long-held by Jordan.

This Saudi concession should help embolden Jordan to begin negotiations with Israel on this Saudi Arabian initiative – which could see:
- The 1994 Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty extended to 100% of the territory of former Palestine – instead of the 95% currently covered
- The two-state solution contemplated by article 6 of the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine and article 80 of the 1945 UN Charter finally brought to fruition

Endorsement of this Saudi initiative by Biden and the UN will greatly advance the prospect of finally ending the 100 years-old unresolved Jewish-Arab conflict.
Anne Bayefsky: The UN Commission of Inquiry Is an Inquisition
This study on the UN Human Rights Council's Commission of Inquiry on Israel shines a spotlight on its disturbing methodology of peddling modern anti-Semitism on the world stage. The three members of the commission were appointed precisely because of their non-objectivity, partiality, and bias. Each was on record as having already declared Israel guilty of the crimes that they were tasked with investigating.

Commission chair Navi Pillay told the Human Rights Council: "We made a general call for written submissions, and we received several thousand written submissions." In fact, a group of NGOs submitted millions of unique written submissions and names of Jewish victims of Arab violence and incitement to Jew-hatred.

The inquisitors were mandated to look for root causes and the victims of systematic discrimination based on race and religion. But we now know the search will proceed only so long as the root cause is not Arab hatred of Jews, the masses of victims of such hate are not dead Jews, and the refugees are not Jewish.
Hillel Neuer on CBS News: “The U.N. inquisition against Israel”
CBS News “Eye on the World” radio features UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer. Hosted by John Batchelor and Malcolm Hoenlein, June 23, 2002. Navi Pillay has lobbied governments to “sanction apartheid Israel!” It is a travesty of justice for her to serve as chair of the U.N. inquiry on Israel.

Ruthie Blum: Let UNRWA die already
Bolstering terrorism isn’t the only violation of its mandate that UNRWA has committed, however. No, its misappropriation of millions in American and European tax dollars and euros extends to less lofty ideals than attacking Israel.

A damning internal report exposed in July 2019 by Al Jazeera and AFP revealed that then-UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl and other agency officials were engaging in “sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority, for personal gain, to suppress legitimate dissent, and to otherwise achieve their personal objectives.”

Ironically, the messy business came to light when Krähenbühl was discovered to have embarked upon a private fundraising campaign, using poor old cash-strapped UNRWA as his draw. But he was actually collecting money to pay for business-class trips with his mistress, whom he fast-tracked into a role that he invented for her in 2015—that of his “senior adviser”—so that she could accompany him around in style. It’s not clear what his wife had to say about this, but UNRWA staffers urged to tighten their belts were none too happy.

A few months after the report was made public, in November of that year, Krähenbühl resigned, pointing to “dirty politics.” And the internal probe on by the United Nations, upstanding body that it is, subsequently concluded that the allegations against him had been unfair.

Oh well. At least they’ve now got Lazzarini to do their panhandling.

Speaking of which, while he was standing at the General Assembly podium on Thursday, the NGO U.N. Watch published a report detailing UNRWA teachers’ current anti-Semitism and support for terrorism against Israelis. And this is in spite of proclaiming “zero tolerance” for incitement.

According to U.N. Watch executive director Hillel Neuer, the fact that not a single educator in question has been fired means that UNRWA “should be considered complicit.” He’s got that right. But, then, so should the countries that continue to fork over funds to the deplorable body.

The good news is that if Lazzarini’s bleak forecast is correct, and the organization crumbles, the world will be a better place. UNRWA’s demise is long overdue. Let’s pray for its funeral.

Daniel B. Shapiro: Biden's Agenda for Israel Visit Unchanged, Despite Change of Israeli Prime Minister
President Joe Biden's July 13 visit to Israel will go forward as planned, despite the anticipated change in the country's prime minister. Regardless of who the prime minister is, the agenda remains the same.

First, Biden will focus on promoting Israel's integration into the region, building on the Abraham Accords and preparing for additional Arab states to normalize their relations with Israel.

Second, Biden will seek to deepen U.S.-Israeli security cooperation, which may include a readiness to fund Israel's anti-missile and anti-drone laser technology. These advances are linked to CENTCOM-led efforts to arrange integrated air defenses among U.S. partners across the region.

Third, Biden will advocate steps to improve the atmosphere between Israelis and Palestinians. At the same time, Biden sees no opening for political negotiations at present.

Fourth, Biden will seek to coordinate with Israeli strategists on the next phase in dealing with Iran, including the reality of Iran being a threshold nuclear state.

All of these priorities have long-term strategic significance beyond the term of any particular government.
DHS Releases Report Lambasting Trump Peace Deal Before Biden's Middle East Trip
The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) intelligence division distributed a report to other U.S. government agencies in 2020 warning a Trump-era Middle East peace deal would fuel terrorism on U.S. soil, according to The Intercept.

In 2020, Trump adviser Jared Kushner negotiated an agreement, the Abraham Accords, between Israel, the U.A.E. and Bahrain, which the administration claimed would normalize relations between formerly hostile Middle Eastern nations and bring peace to the Israeli-Arab conflict. DHS apparently disagreed, according to the report, which the Intercept obtained through a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request.

DHS argued in the October 2020 report that the Abraham Accords’ failure to resolve Israel’s occupation of Palestine could inspire U.S.-based terrorist foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) to conduct violence. The three-page document cited an incident at a Florida military base in 2019 when a Saudi officer attacked a classroom due to former President Trump’s decision to relocate the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

“We assess that US-based foreign terrorist organization (FTO) supporters’ existing grievances about the US Government’s Middle East foreign policy, such as viewing the United States as responsible for Israeli actions, will almost certainly be exacerbated by Israel’s normalization of relations with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates,” the document stated. It noted a lack of “specific and credible reporting” of FTOs preparing to retaliate.

The report became public just before President Joe Biden’s planned July trip to Israel, Palestine and Saudi Arabia where he will focus on “regional economic and security cooperation.”
Gantz: Israel is building a Middle East air defense alliance against Iran
Israel is building a regional air defense alliance to defend its members from Iran, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Monday, appearing to confirm, at least in part, a report that the Israeli military was in talks with its Saudi and Qatari counterparts on the matter.

“We are building our wide partnership with additional countries in the region to ensure a secure, stable and prosperous Middle East. Among other things, this also includes aerial defense,” Gantz said, speaking at the start of his Blue and White party’s faction meeting in the Knesset.

“We will strengthen this, as a stable Middle East is an international, regional and Israeli interest of the highest order,” he said.

Gantz was apparently alluding to a Wall Street Journal report from Sunday that said the United States organized talks earlier this year about countering the threat posed by Iranian missiles and drones in the Middle East with representatives from Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Jordan. Israel does not maintain official ties with either Saudi Arabia or Qatar.

Though Gantz did confirm the efforts to form a regional air defense alliance, he did not comment specifically on the direct coordination with Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The report came just ahead of US President Joe Biden’s visit to the region, including to both Israel and Saudi Arabia.

“Of course, we are all preparing for Biden’s visit to the Middle East and Israel, which I hope will have a positive influence and maybe even bring a breakthrough in our ability to act against Iranian aggression in the region,” Gantz said.
Report: Israeli, Saudi Military Chiefs’ Meeting Suggests Regional Defense Alliance Already in Place
The wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, citing officials from the US and the region, that last March, the US convened a secret meeting of top military officials from Israel and Arab countries in Sharm El-Sheikh, the resort town on the southern tip of the Sinai, to explore how to coordinate against Iran’s growing missile and drone capabilities (US Held Secret Meeting with Israeli, Arab Military Chiefs to Counter Iran Air Threat). According to the WSJ, the previously undisclosed talks, which were held at Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, marked the first time that such a range of ranking Israeli and Arab officers have met under US military auspices to discuss how to combat Iranian aggression in the region.

Haaretz pointed out Monday morning that the US is operating a kind of one-two punch strategy, on the one hand, with vigorous European mediation, there’s the imminent resumption of nuclear talks between Iran and the superpowers; on the other, the US is stepping up its efforts to establish a regional defense system, which will include Israel and some friendly Arab countries. and focus on dealing with Iranian drones and missiles.

Earlier in June, the WSJ reported that Saudi Arabia is engaging in serious talks with Israel to build business ties and create new security arrangements as the conservative Islamic kingdom senses a shift among its public in favor of establishing official ties with the majority Jewish state (Saudi Arabia Moves Toward Eventual Ties with Israel).

Participants in the American-initiated Sharm El-Sheikh meeting included IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, Saudi Army Commander Fayyadh bin Hamed al-Ruwaili, and senior officers from the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. The meeting was part of the Biden administration’s effort to advance its regional air defense initiative, in the face of the Iranian threat. The meeting was convened a few weeks after American fighter jets intercepted over Iraqi soil two Iranian UAVs that were apparently on their way to attack inside Israeli territory.
Jordan's Abdullah expresses support for Mideast military alliance
Jordan's King Abdullah has expressed support for the formation of a Middle Eastern military alliance similar to NATO, NBC reported on Friday.

"I would be one of the first people that would endorse a Middle East NATO," said the Jordanian leader during an interview last week with the American media outlet.

The Hashemite Kingdom works actively with NATO and sees itself as a partner of the alliance, having fought "shoulder-to-shoulder" with NATO troops for decades, NBC quoted King Abdullah as saying.

"I'd like to see more countries in the area come into that mix," he stated.

However, he added, "The mission statement has to be very, very clear. Otherwise, it confuses everybody."

Middle Eastern countries have also begun cooperating to deal with challenges that stem from the Russia-Ukraine war, he added.

"All of us are coming together and saying 'how can we help each other,'" he said.
Israel, Arab States to Deepen ‘Negev Forum’ at Bahrain Confab
The director-general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Alon Ushpiz, travelled to Bahrain Sunday ahead of meetings with representatives from four Arab states and the US, following an historic multilateral gathering held earlier this year in Israel’s Negev desert.

“Landed in Bahrain ahead of the Negev Summit steering committee meeting, aimed at changing things in our region,” Ushpiz tweeted Sunday.

In March, the Negev Summit convened the foreign ministers of the US, Israel, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco and the UAE, a first since the signing of the US-backed Abraham Accords that normalized relations between Israel and several Arab states. The diplomats announced a new “regional architecture” to pursue shared goals, as well as to confront common threats like Iran.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said that the Negev Summit’s Steering Committee would commence Monday in Manama.

At the summit, a permanent “Negev Forum” was conceived with six working groups, the ministry said Sunday, covering food and water security, energy, health, education and tolerance, tourism, and regional security. Monday’s meeting will advance the work of those groups, and also serve as a “milestone” in advance of US President Joe Biden’s planned tour of the region.

Knesset dispersal process hampered as coalition, opposition resume talks on details
A key parliamentary committee had yet to discuss advancing legislation to disperse the 24th Knesset on Monday afternoon, after continued delays that have prevented the bill from progressing further amid long-shot efforts by the opposition to form an alternative government rather than call elections.

The House Committee meeting came as coalition and opposition lawmakers resumed their negotiations — which had been stalled since Wednesday — on finalizing some details for wrapping up the current Knesset. A source in outgoing Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s Yamina party said that the coalition and opposition were discussing final wrap-up items, such as setting a date for elections, deciding which pieces of legislation would be passed before the Knesset disperses, and the pace of the dispersal process.

Although 11 separate dispersal bills passed their preliminary readings on Wednesday with broad-based support, they have been stymied from advancing further until the House Committee meets. The committee chair, Yamina’s renegade MK Nir Orbach, who has allied himself with the opposition, first delayed the committee meeting from last week until Monday, and then repeatedly delayed the meeting throughout the morning and afternoon, in order to give the opposition more time to try to form an alternative coalition without resorting to elections – a process that has yet to bear fruit.

On Sunday, a Knesset legal adviser said that Orbach could not unduly delay the bill.

After the committee meeting began around 1 p.m., it was halted at the request of coalition whip Boaz Toporovsky to give the negotiators time.
BBC News again promotes ‘conclusions’ about Abu Akleh’s death
On the afternoon of June 24th another report by Raffi Berg promoting a supposed investigation into the death of Shireen Abu Akleh appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page.

Headlined ‘Shireen Abu Aqla: UN says an Israeli shot killed Al Jazeera journalist’, the report relates to a statement issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the same day.

However, at no point in the entire report are readers provided with any background information concerning the UN HRC’s infamous record on Israel or the fact that it currently includes the undemocratic state which owns the media outlet that employed Abu Akleh and which (as the BBC knows full well), just hours after the incident, accused Israel of “state-sponsored terrorism”.

The BBC surely understands full well that no definitive conclusion about the circumstances of Abu Akleh’s death can be reached by the UN or anyone else so long as the Palestinian Authority refuses to cooperate with ballistic analysis of the bullet it holds. Nevertheless, Berg’s report repeatedly and exclusively presents that as an ‘Israel says’ issue:

IDF soldiers arrest 17 wanted Palestinians, seize guns in overnight West Bank raids
Israeli troops operated extensively throughout the West Bank in the predawn hours of Monday morning, arresting 17 wanted Palestinians and seizing several firearms, the Israel Defense Forces said.

In the Jalazone refugee camp, north of Ramallah, troops detained four Palestinians over suspected involvement in terror activities and weapons were confiscated at the scene, the IDF said.

At the same time, IDF special forces from the Golani brigade with police commandos operated in the northern West Bank city of Jenin to arrest three wanted Palestinians. The IDF said troops came under “massive fire” from a passing vehicle during the operation, with no injuries caused.

The military said another three terror suspects were arrested in the Dheisha refugee camp near Bethlehem, and one man in the Jordan Valley village of an-Nassariya, among other suspects across the West Bank.

A hunting rifle and a makeshift “Carlo” submachine gun were seized from the suspect in an-Nassariya.

Israeli security forces have stepped up their operations in the West Bank following a deadly wave of terror attacks that left 19 people dead between mid-March and the beginning of May. The raids have concentrated on the increasingly unstable Jenin area, from where several of the attackers hailed.
The sheer audacity of Mahmoud Abbas
First, he wrote a dissertation in Moscow that denied and distorted the Holocaust.

Next, he adopted the policy of Judenrein—no Jews allowed to live or buy property in ancient Jewish lands. He made laws declaring death to any Arab who sells land to Jews.

He heads the Palestine Liberation Organization, a designated terrorist entity.

He supports Iran, the world’s worst sponsor of terror.

He denies the right of the Jewish people to live in the land of Israel, and completely rejects the legitimacy of the State of Israel.

He has refused talks with Israeli leaders for more than a decade. He would not speak with anyone in the Trump administration.

He not only refuses to revise his regime’s school textbooks that teach hatred of Jews, Zionists and Israel, but maneuvers the EU to release funding to publish them.

Now he demands money from U.S. President Joe Biden, but refuses to stop using it to pay the terrorists he hails as martyrs.

In anticipation of Biden’s scheduled visit to Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Saudi Arabia, P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas has the audacity to suggest that it is Israel that needs to be pressured to come to the table.

The following excerpts come from my new book, The Bloody Price of Freedom, published by Gefen Publishing House in Jerusalem and New York, which demonstrates the linkage between terror and anti-Semitism:
PA concerned new Middle East alliance will 'marginalize' Palestinian issue
Palestinian Authority officials have expressed concern that potential agreements toward a new Israeli-Arab alliance to be signed during US President Joe Biden's upcoming Middle East trip will "marginalize" the Palestinian issue.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, the US in March held talks with Israeli, Saudi Qatari, Bahraini, Egyptian, Jordanian, and Emirati military heads that were described as the first steps toward regional cooperation and covered aerial threats posed by Iran, including drones, and how to defend against them.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Amman on Sunday for talks with Jordan's King Abdullah II, following a series of meetings among Fatah party officials in Ramallah over the future of relations between Palestinians and Israel, The Jerusalem Post reported.

The Palestinians are also concerned Saudi Arabia is on its way to normalization with Israel, a move that Ramallah fears would increase the Palestinians' isolation in the Arab world.

Abbas's talks with Abdullah were held in the context of continuing coordination between the Palestinians and the Jordanians, according to The Jerusalem Post. The Jordanian monarch emphasized to Abbas that a two-state solution was only way to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
PA Adds 70 Illegal Structures in Khan al Ahmar, Arrests Arab ‘Traitors’ Who Sold Land to Jews
According to the Jerusalem Envelope Forum, despite the High Court’s ruling in favor of demolishing the illegal Arab shantytown in Khan al Ahmar, situated between Ma’ale Adumim and Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority has, over the past year erected more than 70 new structures and construction upgrades at the site.

Meanwhile, in Yata village, at the heart of Masafer Yatta, a collection of 19 Arab villages in the Hebron district, the PA security forces managed to get their hands on a “gang of Palestinian traitors” who sold land to Jews, the most recent sale being of 60 acres near Beit Hagai in the southern Hebron hills.

The Palestinian Authority has banned the sale of Arab-owned land to “any Israeli person or corporation living in Israel or on its behalf,” which in reality means Jews. In September 2010, a PA court ruled that a PA resident who sold land to Jews should receive the death penalty. Executions in the PA require the approval of its chairman, and Mahmoud Abbas has not approved executions since coming to power in January 2005. On October 21, 2014, Abbas signed an order stating that a PA Arab who sells his land to Israelis would receive life imprisonment with hard labor. But alongside the official proceedings, Palestinian Authority security personnel execute land sellers in unofficial ways, by throwing them from rooftops, leaving them in a prison cell next to career murderers, and even shooting them in the street. They also work systematically to prevent the sale of land to Jews in eastern Jerusalem, including kidnapping and arresting the sellers.

Back to Khan al Ahmar: the Jerusalem Envelope Forum surveillance has shown that in 2021, illegal construction continued uninterrupted in Khan al Ahmar, where the Bedouin residents are taking advantage of the government’s reluctance to evacuate the outpost and are working to create a territorial sequence of outposts that would make future evacuations difficult.

Historically there was no substantial settlement called Khan al-Ahmar. According to the 1931 census conducted by the British Mandate authorities, Khan al-Ahmar had a population of 27, of whom 25 were Muslims and 2 Christians. They dwelled in 3 houses.

In 1945, Khan al-Ahmar had 4047.5 acres of land, but zero population. Of this land, 133 acres were used to grow cereals, while the rest was classified as non-cultivable land.
Head of PIJ’s Women’s Framework Esmahan Abd Al-Aal Praises Female Terrorists, Mothers of “Martyrs”
Esmahan Abd Al-Aal, the head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s Women’s Framework, said in a June 6, 2022 show on Palestine Today (Gaza) that female terrorists and the mothers of “martyrs” are role models and “icons” of struggle, resistance, and tenacity in the fight for rights and land. She gave several examples of “glamorous” female “role models”, including Palestinian terrorists Dalal Mughrabi, Leila Khaled, and Hanadi Jaradat.

Mother proud of imprisoned terrorist son who transported would-be suicide bomber
Mother proud of imprisoned terrorist son who transported would-be suicide bomber: “This is something that brings pride”

Mother of terrorist Tareq Basalat: “I am proud of my son Tareq. Praise Allah, he makes me hold my head up high. We miss him, and all the people of the neighborhood loved him... Praise Allah, we know where our son is. This is something that brings pride to us, his family, his city, and his homeland Palestine.”

[Official PA TV, Giants of Endurance, June 9, 2022]

Tareq Basalat – Palestinian terrorist and member of the Islamic Jihad terror organization who attempted to transport would-be suicide bomber Shadi Bahloul to Netanya to commit an attack on Feb. 6, 2003. They were unable to reach their target and were arrested on their way back to Nablus. Basalat is serving a life sentence while Bahloul is serving 20 years.

Seth Frantzman: Can Saudi Arabia work with Iraq’s PM?
These talks “represented a road map for mending relations and returning to the right course of strengthening bilateral relations” between Saudi Arabia and Iran, an official was quoted as saying according to The National. “Since April last year, Riyadh and Tehran have held five rounds of talks in Baghdad to mend relations that have been damaged since 2016.”

Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein has praised the talks. But Iraq itself is in political chaos after Muqtada al-Sadr told his parliamentary members to walk away from the Iraqi parliament. This has strengthened the pro-Iran parties such as the Fatah Alliance and Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Party.

According to other reports in the Gulf, the meetings included talks with the deputy prime minister and also minister of defense of Saudi Arabia. Reports spoke generally of the “bilateral” relations between the countries and “joint cooperation.” According to Al-Ain media, “the two sides also exchanged views on a number of issues, which contribute to supporting and strengthening security and stability in the region.” Baghdad stressed that it could help bring peace to the region.

Iranian media did not seem to shine much light on these meetings, leaving one to wonder what Iran thinks it is achieving.
Israel Tamps Down Dissent in Its Ranks Over Possible Iran Nuclear Deal
Israel’s defense minister on Sunday said policy on the Iranian nuclear talks was set by the government, not the security forces, after a newspaper reported that key Israeli generals favor a deal between Tehran and world powers.

The chiefs of military intelligence and strategic planning believe a revival of a 2015 deal that restricted Iran’s nuclear program would gain time for Israel to prepare an attack aimed at denying its arch-foe the means to make a nuclear weapon, the Yedioth Ahronoth daily said on Friday.

While the Israeli security forces have a say on Iran policy, “it is the government echelon that makes the decisions,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz tweeted.

“We will continue holding the open and deep dialogue behind closed doors only. Any other manner harms the State of Israel’s security.”

An Israeli military spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the unsourced Yedioth report.

Gantz’s rebuke was apparently also aimed at the Mossad spy service, which Yedioth said opposed any new Iran nuclear deal.
Iran is worried about US-Israel-Saudi talks ahead of Biden's trip - analysis
At the end of the day, the reason for Biden’s trip is probably more complex than this report makes it out to be. It’s not all about Israel or oil. It is about managing the ties with Riyadh.

US-Saudi ties used to be a key pillar of US partnerships in the region, one that goes back many decades and was a key to the US policy in the Cold War. After the Baghdad Pact partnership countries fell apart after 1979, the US relied on Saudi Arabia and arms deals and support flowed to Riyadh. This was cemented with the Gulf War but also raised alarms due to the threats from Osama Bin Laden, who was from Saudi Arabia.

A shift came later with voices in Washington who believed the US should distance itself from Riyadh, and this policy was in part embodied by the Obama administration’s embrace of the Iran Deal. A brief shift back under Trump and the Khashoggi controversy has rocked US-Saudi ties.

A recent article by Steven Cook and Martin Indyk in Foreign Affairs asserts that the US should “go big” in Saudi ties; and that Biden should strike a “new strategic compact with the Kingdom.” That would indicate a push for a much broader policy than just Israel ties or oil. Billions in defense deals matter as well.

France and the UAE have done defense deals as well. The UAE is buying French warplanes, as part of an $18 billion deal in December 2021. And France wants to support UAE’s air defense needs. The UAE land forces commander was at the recent Eurosatory defense expo and reports say Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are looking for drone deals and other systems. There is thus a much wider context here regarding US-Riyadh ties.

For Iran the talks via Iraq with the Saudis matter. Iran is capitalizing on outmaneuvering Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq and potentially winning some ground there. But Iran is also continuing to threaten Erbil with attacks by proxies. Iran wants to talk to Turkey but also uses proxies to attack the Turkish base at Bashiqa in Iraq. This means everything is in flux. Iran is paying close attention to potential Israel-Saudi ties as part of this regional shift.
Qatar named as site of indirect talks between Iran and US on nuclear deal
Qatar will host indirect talks between Iran and the US aimed at saving a crumbling 2015 nuclear deal, a media adviser to the Iranian negotiating team told the semi-official ISNA news agency, Reuters reported Monday

“Iran chose Qatar to host because it is our friend,” Mohammad Marandi said.

European-sponsored talks to revive the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action have been stalled for months. The US participated indirectly in those negotiations.

The European Union’s top diplomat, in Tehran over the weekend, had said that talks would resume in the coming days in a Persian Gulf country.

EU policy chief Josep Borrell also indicated that participants will include the US and the three West European signatories to the JCPOA, Britain, France, and Germany. Other parties to the pact, China and Russia, who have participated in the Vienna talks, will not take part in the coming round.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Monday at a weekly press conference that talks will be held this week on ending US sanctions, but added that the exact date and location had not yet been finalized.

France wants Iran, Venezuela return to oil markets
The international community should explore all options to alleviate a Russian squeeze of energy supplies that has spiked prices, including talks with producing nations like Iran and Venezuela, a French presidency official said on Monday.

Venezuela has been under U.S. oil sanctions since 2019, and could reroute crude if those restrictions were lifted.

Indirect talks between Iran and the United States to revive a nuclear deal that could see sanctions on Tehran lifted and its oil exports resume have been on hold since March, but are due to resume in Doha soon. read more

"There are resources elsewhere that need to be explored," a French official said on the sidelines of a G7 summit in Germany, when asked about how to alleviate high oil prices.

The outstanding issue between Iran and the United States was no longer linked to the nuclear dossier but to U.S. terrorism sanctions, he said.

"So there is a knot that needs to be untied if applicable... to get Iranian oil back on the market," the official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity. "We have Venezuelan oil that also needs to come back to the market."
Cyberattack forces Iranian state-owned steel plant to stop production
One of Iran’s major steel companies said on Monday it was forced to halt production after being hit by a cyberattack, apparently marking one of the biggest such assaults on the country’s strategic industrial sector in recent memory.

The state-owned Khuzestan Steel Company said experts had determined the plant had to stop work until further notice “due to technical problems” following “cyberattacks.” The company’s website was down on Monday.

The company’s CEO, Amin Ebrahimi, claimed that Khuzestan Steel managed to thwart the cyberattack and prevent structural damage to production lines that would impact supply chains and customers.

“Fortunately with time and awareness, the attack was unsuccessful,” the semiofficial Mehr news agency quoted Ebrahimi as saying, adding that he expected the company’s website to be restored and everything to return to “normal” by the end of Monday.

A local news channel, Jamaran, reported that the attack failed because the factory happened to be non-operational at the time due to an electricity outage.

The company did not blame any specific group for the assault, which constitutes just the latest example of an attack targeting the country’s services that has embarrassed authorities in recent weeks. In a major incident last year, a cyberattack on Iran’s fuel distribution paralyzed gas stations across the country, leading to long lines of angry motorists.

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This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 14 years and 30,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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