Monday, November 28, 2022

From Ian:

A New Strategic Landscape in the Middle East
Arab-Israeli relations are a source of good news these days. The conflict between the Jewish state and its radical enemies, Palestinians and others, is far from over, and the threat of the Iranian revolutionary regime may be greater than ever. However, a new strategic alignment promises a better chance for regional states to isolate and stand up to the radicals who continue to threaten the existing order. The old structure of the Arab-Israel conflict that defined the Middle East for generations is now being replaced by a strengthening Arab-Israeli coalition against Iran and its radical Arab proxies.

The erosion and ultimately the abolition of aggressive regional solidarity targeting the Jewish state has been the supreme objective of Israel's regional strategy since its inception. Breaking up regional solidarity is an indispensable precondition to any progress toward peace. Arab states would consider accepting Israel only following a painful recognition of the failure of the attempt to erase it at an acceptable cost.

The profound change in the strategic landscape of the Middle East in the recent decade may be characterized by four pillars: the magnitude of the Iranian regional threat, the inability of Arab states to stand up to that threat by themselves, the questionable steadfastness of American support, and the proven capacity and dependability of Israel.

Unlike most European and American officials, Arabs fully realize the magnitude of the Iranian determination to hegemonize the Middle East at their expense and the effectiveness of Iranian brutality and sophistication in the pursuit of that objective. Watching the impact of the Iranian takeovers in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen and its subversion in their own countries, they know they are in desperate need of external assistance to survive.

The most vulnerable Arab states turned to the only power that fully appreciates the magnitude of the Iranian threat and is capable and determined to provide a forceful response. Israel has been engaged for more than half a decade in a wide-scale preventive war in Syria and western Iraq to thwart the Iranian takeover where it threatens Israel most acutely. The historic all-Arab coalition against Israel has been replaced by a de facto Arab-Israeli coalition against the radical forces that threaten them both.
IDF arrests 3,000 Palestinians, thwarts 500 attacks in past 6 months
The IDF’s ongoing Operation Break the Wave in the West Bank has seen thousands of troops and reservists crack down on Palestinian terrorism, arresting over 3,000 suspects and thwarting over 500 terror attacks.

The operation began in late March after a series of terror attacks in Israeli cities left 20 people dead. Israeli security forces, including the IDF, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and Israel Police have been carrying out raids during day and night against Palestinians suspected of terrorism.

For more than six months, some 25 regular battalions have been deployed to the West Bank along with an additional 84 of reservists deployed to the area by the end of next year.

The large number of troops comes as the level of violence in the West Bank continues to remain unusually high, with massive amounts of gunfire directed against troops carrying out operational missions as well as against Israeli civilians.

The past year has seen a marked increase in terrorism, with 281 serious terror attacks by Palestinians: 239 against soldiers and 42 against civilians.

There were also a total of 8,483 violent incidents by Palestinians such as riots or stone throwings, about 40% of them against Israeli civilians and 60% against IDF troops. The number marked a significant rise of almost 20% from the 7,039 attacks last year.
Israel Upgrading Security Barrier in Northern West Bank
On Nov. 14, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz approved plans to upgrade a section of the West Bank security barrier after a series of terror attacks were committed by Palestinians who illegally entered Israel.

A tall fence, similar to those on the borders with Egypt and Gaza, will replace a 50-km. stretch of fencing from the Te'enim checkpoint near Avnei Hefetz to Oranit in the northwestern West Bank.

In the summer, construction began on a 9-meter tall concrete wall to replace another 50-km. stretch of fencing in the northern West Bank from Salem to the Te'enim checkpoint that was built 20 years ago.

Both upgraded sections will be equipped with surveillance cameras and sensors.

In July, the IDF began to strengthen defenses along the existing security fence in the Judean Desert in the southern West Bank, digging a deep trench over 20 km. to prevent the passage of people and vehicles.

Many credit the West Bank security barrier with helping to end the Second Intifada (2000-2005), though only 62% of the barrier was completed.


How not to condemn an Arab terrorist attack
So how could any Jewish group respond with anything except an explicit, unequivocal, non-political condemnation?

Here’s how.

The largest of the American Jewish “peace” groups, J Street, condemned the “terrorist bombings.” But it refused to name the perpetrators. It refused to acknowledge that Palestinian Arabs did it. It refused to admit why they did it.

Not only that, but after its weak and perfunctory condemnation of the attack (by unidentified attackers), J Street quickly pivoted to “both-sidesism.” Violence “only lead to more pain, suffering and loss for both Israelis and Palestinians.” Just like all that violence in World War II led to “suffering and loss” for both Jews and Germans, I suppose.

By the third paragraph of its pseudo-condemnation, J Street was in full political exploitation mode: “We urge our own US government to take every possible action to help Israelis and Palestinians reduce tensions, prevent further violence and suffering, and chart a path away from the abyss.”

This, of course, is J Street’s raison d’être: to get the United States to pressure Israel into making more concessions to the Arabs. Sure, it’s wrapped in sugary phrases about “reducing tension,” but the unshakeable agenda of J Street always has been to get the U.S. to put more pressure on Israel. And so. the Jerusalem bombings becomes just another convenient excuse to return to that despicable agenda.

The response of Americans for Peace Now (APN) was just as bad. Their measly statement was just 61 words long. It was as if the folks at APN didn’t want to be bothered with the whole thing; they just wanted to dash off a sentence or two lest anybody criticize them for being silent.

Following in J Street’s footsteps, Peace Now refused to acknowledge that the bombers were Palestinian Arabs. In fact, APN did not even call them “terrorists”—just “the perpetrators.” Pathetic.
FBI contacts victim of Palestinian terror bombing in Jerusalem
The FBI contacted the family of Naomi Pilichowski, an American-Israeli who was injured in the Jerusalem terrorist bombing last week.

Pilichowski, 18, was at the bus stop outside the Givat Shaul neighborhood, heading to Bet Shemesh to do her national service, when the bomb went off. She was evacuated to Hadassah-University Medical Center at Jerusalem's Ein Kerem, where she was treated for light injuries and released the same day.

The FBI’s Victim Services Division emailed Pilichowski’s parents on Monday and said that Naomi has been identified as a potential victim of a federal crime. The FBI said it was looking to investigate the crime.

“The FBI investigates suspected terrorist events that occur overseas in which American citizens are victims,” the e-mail reads. “The ability for the FBI to conduct a full investigation will be dependent upon the cooperation of the sovereign government in that country. The investigation of overseas crimes can be a complex and lengthy process, therefore we appreciate your patience and understanding during this time.”

The FBI offered to provide the family with the assistance they might need, and most of the email was about Pilichowski’s rights as a potential victim of a federal crime.


Revealed: Dozens of Judea and Samaria communities to get official recognition
Otzma Yehudit leader and the next national security minister, MK Itamar Ben-Gvir, plans to launch a new effort that could culminate with a boost to grant retroactive approval to unauthorized settlements in Judea and Samaria, Israel Hayom has learned.

According to the plan, under his new portfolio, Ben-Gvir plans to advance measures to expropriate land for developing infrastructure, as well as to allot hundreds of thousands of shekels to various unrecognized communities that have so far lacked official status The plan depends in part on having the necessary sign-off from the various other agencies outside his ministry. It also includes a boost to the staff in the Civil Administration, which administers civilian matters in Judea and Samaria on behalf of the Defense Ministry, to make the implementation go faster.

The plan is a direct consequence of the newly announced agreement between Likud and Otzma Yehudit that guarantees the latter's support in the upcoming confidence vote to swear in Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister for the sixth time. The decision to grant the party overall responsibility for the approval process of unauthorized settlements has led to a backlash on the Right, with some accusing Netanyahu of handing over this prerogative to Ben-Gvir despite him lacking the required experience, in an apparent effort to avoid any meaningful progress on this hotly contested issue.

Under the details of the plan obtained by Israel Hayom, the cabinet will pass a motion within 60 days of Netanyahu becoming prime minister. The motion would grant the necessary approval for 60 unauthorized communities in Judea and Samaria.
Canadian opposition leader vows to move embassy to Jerusalem if elected prime minister
Canadian Opposition Leader and Conservative Party head Pierre Poilievre vowed on Tuesday to move the Canadian Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem if he is elected prime minister.

“I announced my recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital [while campaigning] and now, as opposition leader and head of the Conservative Party, I repeat clearly and unambiguously: Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and when I am elected prime minister of Canada, I will ensure that our embassy is relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem,” said Poilievre.

He made the comments to fellow Canadian lawmakers and Israeli diplomats during a gathering on Parliament Hill in Ottawa organized by the Keep Jerusalem–Im Eshkachech group, which educates communities about the centrality of Jerusalem in Jewish life and the importance of maintaining the city united and secure under Israeli sovereignty.

“The purpose of our visit to Canada was precisely this: to hear this clear and official pronouncement from Canadian members of parliament and especially the opposition leader, who will potentially be the next prime minister,” said Keep Jerusalem–Im Eshkachech Founder and chairman Chaim Silberstein. “We intend to develop collaborative relationships with additional international parties on the issue of Jerusalem,” he added.

Canadian Prime Minister and Liberal Party head Justin Trudeau won a third consecutive term in office in Canada’s Sept. 2021 elections, and currently leads a minority government.


Seth Frantzman: What China’s unprecedented protests mean for the world
Meanwhile, in Tehran, the Islamic Republic is facing a similar crisis of confidence. It is also isolated and has angered the West by supplying Russia with drones while gambling on the fact that it no longer needs the West.

Iran is also joining the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, another milestone in the China-Iran connection. But the connection seems to be going off the rails.

Neither country is growing stronger, and both authoritarian regimes are now being called into question. Iran has been arresting more and more well-known people, including a niece of the ayatollah, as well as famous musicians. But the protests are growing, and today’s generation will not forget this revolution.

China now sits atop a similar volcano. A year ago, it looked like Beijing had successfully defeated every tiny bit of dissent, including in Hong Kong. We were told that China had its sights set on Taiwan and that as Russia was preparing to invade Ukraine, China might pressure the US regarding its support for Taiwan.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has become a setback for Moscow. The West rallied first against Russia, but now it is also more suspicious of China than at any point before. Gone are the days when neoliberals were embracing China and arguing for being open to Chinese technology and all sorts of other forms of influence peddling by Beijing.

The West is also far more suspicious of Iran than it was a few years ago, and it is willing to call out the regime, especially about the protests, weakening Iran’s hand at the UN and other international forums. The end result is that Iran needs China more than ever, as does Russia.

The protests in China, however, will lead Iran, Russia and other authoritarian regimes, such as Turkey, Qatar, Pakistan and Central Asian states, to wonder whether the authoritarian world order led by China, Russia, Iran and Turkey really is a model that will work.

Like Iran, China’s leadership will have to weigh how to confront the protests. Too much suppression could backfire. China’s leadership does well when it appears to use the consensus in its favor, getting people to compete to be better citizens or getting people to want to work within the system.

But if the system cracks, opposition may grow. What some commentators have noted is that protests are not that rare in China, but large protests across many cities at the same time are. A month after the leadership seemed to be uniform, it might wonder whether its policies of control can work forever.


Activist punched by soldier in Hebron said banned from city, put under house arrest
A left-wing activist who was assaulted by an Israeli soldier in the West Bank city of Hebron on Friday was reportedly banned from the city for 14 days and placed under house arrest for five days.

In all, three activists from the left-wing group Breaking the Silence were interrogated by police several times since Friday for their involvement in the violent altercation with soldiers posted in the flashpoint city, the Haaretz daily reported.

The Sunday report said two of the activists, including the one who was beaten by a soldier, were suspected of assaulting a public official and engaging in behavior that could disrupt the peace. Police also claimed that the activist who was beaten had tried to evade arrest.

A third activist who was present during the incident was also banned from the city for two weeks but was not put under house arrest. Police reportedly also confiscated the activists’ phones.

In footage shared by Breaking the Silence, which collects and publicizes mostly anonymous testimony by former Israeli combat soldiers about alleged human rights violations against Palestinians, the soldier can be seen tackling the activist to the ground and punching him in the face.
Two Israeli Arabs Convicted of Attacking IDF Soldier in Tel Aviv in 2021
Muhammad Iyash and Ali Mutzri were convicted by the Tel Aviv District Court on Thursday of aggravated bodily injury and incitement to terror and violence against an IDF soldier in Jaffa in southern Tel Aviv on May 13, 2021, during a round of fighting in Gaza. During a wave of Arab riots in Jaffa, Iyash called on a WhatsApp group to join in on the riots, giving a specific location. Mutzri went to where the soldier was standing, pinned him to the wall, and started to kick him. Others started to kick him also and sprayed him with tear gas.

Then another rioter, Nur Yusef, who is being tried for attempted murder of the soldier, struck him in the head with a brick and he fell to the ground. Iyash took a video of the soldier as blood was streaming out of his head and sent it to the WhatsApp group with the voiceover saying, "He is done. This is him after he got beaten." Later, Iyash sent additional messages calling for more violence against Jews, including a specific call to throw firebombs at Jewish homes.
3 Druze IDF soldiers arrested, suspected of hurling bombs at Palestinian home
Two Israeli-Arabs have been convicted of a mix of causing aggravated bodily injury and of incitement to terror and violence against an IDF soldier during the May 2021 Gaza War by the Tel Aviv District Court.

The verdict was handed down on Thursday as part of a plea bargain deal in a case running parallel to the case against Nur Yusef for attempted murder against the same soldier, known as L.S. (his true name is under gag order).

On May 13, 2021, Muhammad Iyash and Ali Mutzri were part of a group of rioting protesters involved in the attack against an IDF soldier on Sderot Jerusalem Street in Jaffa.

The prosecution will request that the court impose a jail sentence of five years on Mutzri and 22 months on Iyash.

According to the state, the sentences requested were longer because the crimes included ideological motivations to indirectly support the conflict with the IDF during that period.
3 Israeli Druze soldiers arrested for alleged retaliatory attack on Palestinian home

Belligerence to Israelis at Qatar World Cup was more than expected
One of the biggest stories in Israeli media this weekend was the unpleasant encounters of Israeli journalists with Arab fans at the World Cup in Qatar. Having spent four days in Doha and living through a similar experience myself I can say that it is clearly far from pleasant and yet, the headline in one of the Israeli outlets, "World Cup of hatred," is completely exaggerated.

Most of the encounters of Israelis, fans or journalists, with Arab fans end with those fans walking away. Some give a dirty look, others add a dirty comment. Usually, this is where it ends. Not much different from meeting Palestinians, Saudis, or Tunisians anywhere else in the world.

At the London 2012 Olympics I had an incident with a Palestinian woman who was a volunteer at the games. The fact that she had some role in the games makes that incident far worse than anything we hear is happening in Qatar, but it didn't make those games the Olympics of hatred, and this World Cup has nothing to do with hatred towards Israel.

I don't know why there was any expectation that meetings with the Arab fans in Qatar would be different. Did peace suddenly descend upon the Middle East simply because the World Cup is underway? The answer is obviously no.

Israel is still, unfortunately a hated entity for many in the Arab world despite the very happy developments seen in recent years with the Abraham Accords. Put an Israeli journalist in a main street in Cairo, Amman, or Khartoum, all of them in countries which have peace agreements with Israel, and the reception will probably be far worse than it is in Doha.

I am especially surprised by those who thought there would be a different response from the Saudi fans. The ties between Jerusalem and Riyadh may be a well-known secret but only on the government level as both states see a common enemy in Tehran. None of that is trickling down to the Saudi people.

As far as they are concerned Israel is still an occupying power. Don't expect any change in the stance of the Saudi people until the Palestinian issue is resolved.

Finally, I am hearing a few complaints about Qatar. Frankly, I don't understand why. Qatar promised to allow Israeli citizens in and treat them just like every other passport holder. They are living up to that promise.

Thousands of Israelis are coming to watch the games in a country seen on paper as an enemy state. Qatar also allowed for a temporary Israeli diplomatic mission to open and approved direct flights from Tel Aviv to Doha for the duration of the World Cup.

I had no incidents while showing my Israeli passport, and it happened various times. It's the same story for anyone else coming to Qatar with an Israeli passport, tourist or journalist.
Israeli comedian forced to leave World Cup amid death threats
An Israeli comedian said he had to cut short his Qatar World Cup trip and already booked a flight back to the Jewish State after receiving death threats.

Guy Hochman, who has blown up on social media for making "comic on the street" videos where he asks random Israelis controversial questions, journeyed to the historic World Cup in Qatar to create content for his social media platforms under the title "trying to make peace."

Hochman is seen in several videos, speaking to Arab fans from various countries, presenting himself as an Israeli, and waiting for their responses, most of them unpleasant.

In his latest video, the Israeli comedian is seen during the Iran-Wales match in the Iranian fan section of the stadium.

“Do you like Iran?” Hochman asks an Iranian fan with long blond hair, and to her affirmative answer he retorts: "But you can't go dressed like this in Iran".

“Is Iran strong?” he asks another fan. “Of course,” replies a young fan wearing an Iranian flag T-shirt. “But Israel is even more powerful,” Hochman says, watching the disappearing smile on the face of the Iranian.

Others, however, were seen reacting with enthusiasm when he revealed his Israeli comedian. "Israel? No problem,” says a different Iranian fan, and shakes Hochman's hand. “Everything for peace,” another woman replies.

But, the comedy project went sideways when the video with the Iranian fans sparked incitement and threats toward Hochman.

On Sunday, Palestinian-American journalist Samar Dahmash Jarrah posted a video on her Twitter page - which has 170,000 followers - featuring Hochman, titled - "Expose them. Criminals."


Hook, Line and Sinker New York Times’ Gaza Fishing Story Reels In Readers, Forgoes Facts
A great deal has been written about Gazans’ resourceful in face of incredibly challenging circumstances. But no one before has ever put their finger on this particular stroke of Gazan ingenuity: The coastal territory must be the only place in the world with a collapsing fishing industry which nevertheless manages to more than double its catch.

Even the New York Times’ Nov. 27 article (“Amid Israeli Blockade on Gaza, a Fishing Fleet Limps Along“), in which Raja Abdulrahim describes the Gaza fishing industry like a fish out of water gasping for air, collapsing under Israel’s suffocating blockade. fails to detect this unprecedented ingenuity at play.

“Not far from the edge of the port in the Gaza Strip lies its boat cemetery: two rows of beached fishing vessels that even Gazan ingenuity cannot salvage,” she waxes on about the ailing sector which is said to be in or near its death throes.

“This is a war on our livelihoods,” she quotes a local fisherman, who is “standing on the bow of one of his family’s boats, which has been in the cemetery for years.” The graphically-described emotive story that she wants readers to buy hook, like and sinker is exactly as her Tweet says: “For Gaza’s fishermen, Israel’s blockade has prevented import of materials needed to repair boats and maintain a functioning fishing fleet. It has damaged a vital but shrinking part of the economy in the coastal enclave.”

Introducing readers to the forlorn boat cemetery, she explains: “The boats began piling up in Gaza 15 years ago after Israel, aided by Egypt, imposed a land, air and sea blockade on the small Palestinian coastal enclave in 2007.” The blockade, she says, means that fishermen can’t obtain critical supplies like motors, propellers, fiberglass and more needed for their trade, leading boat owners to abandon their broken, useless vessels in the ship cemetery.


Al-Quds Open University Holds Ceremony Commemorating Yasser Arafat: Tell Them with Bullets Not Words
On November 19, 2022, Awda TV (Palestinian Authority) aired a ceremony held by Al-Quds Open University in the West Bank city of Ramallah commemorating the 18th anniversary of Yasser Arafat’s death. At the ceremony, an emcee praised Fatah and all its related Palestinian factions throughout history, and he said: “Oh brigades of Abu Ammar [i.e. Yasser Arafat]! Tell them with bullets, not words, that Jerusalem is Arab alone!” Hussein Hamayel, a Fatah spokesman who also serves as the director of the Ramallah and Al-Bireh branch of Al-Quds Open University, also spoke at the ceremony, and he praised the Palestinian “martyrs” and prisoners.


PA raids ‘large Palestinian Islamic Jihad bomb lab’ in Jenin
Palestinian Authority security forces on Thursday raided a Palestinian Islamic Jihad bomb lab in Jenin, arresting two members of the terror group, seizing a number of bombs and a large quantity of explosives, Israeli media reported on Sunday.

Five large bombs and six smaller pipe bombs were seized, according to Kan News.

A second, related raid was conducted in the city of Tubas, northeast of Nablus, according to the report.

Two Israelis were killed and over 20 injured in a pair of bombings in Jerusalem on November 23.

Israeli security forces continue to hunt for the perpetrators.
Palestinian Authority security forces seize explosives in Jenin

PMW: PA TV host and Egyptian journalist agree: Israel is “doomed to disappear”
Egyptian journalist Hani Al-Jamal: “The occupation state (i.e., Israel) is forever doomed to disappear. As time passes, sooner or later, the Zionist entity will be removed from the sacred lands for which that which is most precious is always sacrificed: The Palestinians’ blood and sweat, and the sweat of the noble humanity.”

Official PA TV host: “The occupation state is definitely temporary, Allah willing.” [Official PA TV, Palestine and the World, Nov. 7, 2022]


PMW: World Cup exposes PA priorities, again!
Leaked Palestinian Authority documents about the participation of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, his entourage, and his extended family in the events surrounding the football World Cup in Qatar have again exposed Abbas’ priorities and the priorities of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

In the past, Palestinian Media Watch had claimed that the PLO/PA “Pay-for-Slay” terror reward policy was the highest priority of Abbas, the PLO and the PA. PMW’s claim was based on the manner in which Abbas, the PA and PLO allocated funds, and showed that rewarding the terrorists was even more important than the health of the Palestinians, (including treating Palestinian cancer patients, as well as children): the education of the Palestinians; and providing for the Palestinian needy.

For over a year, Abbas, the PA, and the PLO have been claiming to be suffering from a severe financial crisis. As a result of the crisis, the PA has only been paying its employees (including the terrorists) 70-80% of their monthly salaries. Some Palestinian officials have even argued that the partial salary payments have been the excuse for the increasing open participation of the PA Security Forces in acts of terror.

The leaked documents - correspondence between the office of Abbas, the Palestinian Embassy in Qatar, and the Qatari Foreign Office - expose a new list of priorities for Abbas and the PA to spend the money of the Palestinians, as follows:
Hezbollah could use chlorine rockets as ‘last resort’ in future war
On Nov. 20, the Saudi Al-Hadath news website published a report claiming to detail an Iranian plan to supply rockets—with chemical warheads—to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

According to the report, the rockets are stashed at the Masyaf area in northwestern Syria, and are due to be transferred to Al-Qusayr in the western part of the country, and then to the Bint Jbeil area in south Lebanon, via the Beka’a Valley.

The name Masyaf might ring a bell for those following Israel’s campaign against Iranian activity in Syria. On Aug. 25, international media reported that a facility at Maysaf belonging to the Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), better known by its French name, CERS, was hit by an airstrike.

However, according to IDF Maj. (res.) Tel Beeri, head of the Alma Center’s Research Department, which specializes in the Syrian and Lebanese arenas, while the report’s claims with regard to chemical weapons smuggling should be taken with a grain of salt, the scenario of Hezbollah using crude chemical warheads is not imaginary.

“The geographical area described in the [Al Hadath] report … makes sense. That is the area of the Iranian land corridor used to smuggle weapons to Syria and Lebanon,” said Beeri. Nevertheless, he continued, “Al-Hadath is a Saudi media platform whose sources of information are questionable. It is also well known that the Saudi authorities employ Al-Hadath to disseminate material in order to gain influence.”


NYTs: U.S. Enters a New Era of Direct Confrontation with Iran
A new era of direct confrontation with Iran has burst into the open. President Biden's hope of re-entering the U.S. into the deal with Iran that was struck in 2015 has all but died. At the White House, national security meetings on Iran are devoted less to negotiation strategy and more to how to undermine Iran's nuclear plans, provide communications gear to protesters and interrupt the country's supply chain of weapons to Russia, according to several administration officials. Robert Malley, the State Department's special envoy for the Iran negotiations, has usually been more optimistic about the chances of a diplomatic solution, but said on Tuesday, "Iran turned their back on a nuclear deal that was within grasp."

"Imagine telling the incoming administration in January 2021 that within two years, Iran would be enriching to near weapons-grade uranium at Fordow, deploying its most advanced centrifuges in large numbers, accepting severely limited international monitoring, accumulating multiple bombs' worth of highly enriched uranium and rejecting diplomatic efforts," said Henry Rome, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "That's not quite a worst-case scenario, but it's pretty close....The administration must now contend with the fact that, in essentially all fields, the Iranian threat to international peace and security is greater today than it was two years ago."
‘The world is watching’ as Iran teeters, but regime is unlikely to fall
However, Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president of research at the Washington, D.C.-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), sees the focus on women’s rights as being more significant. Noting that the last major protest in 2009 was about rigged elections, “this one is being led by women primarily,” he said. “They are rejecting what is often described as the third pillar of the regime … the repression of women.” (The other two are rejection of the United States and of Israel.)

“When protesters start to come out to contest a key pillar of the regime, not just a political outcome, or a specific action taken by the theocracy, then the tone and tenor of the protests begin to convey a different message,” he said.

That message, in addition to the main slogan, “Women, Life, Freedom,” includes chants like, “This year is the year of blood, Khamenei will fall,” “Your end is near, Khamenei,” and “death to the dictator.”

The regime’s inability to snuff out the protests may not be due to slow-moving tactics but to an inability to handle “the magnitude” of the protests, he said. “I just don’t know if there is sufficient manpower to crush these protests,” he added.

Schanzer would like to see the United States do more, from issuing regular public statements in support of the protesters to helping fund them (a fund for Iran’s workers to help them weather strikes is entirely possible, he said).

The protests provide a golden opportunity for Washington, and the risks involved in failing to act are great, he added.

“The last time we saw a protest of this scale was 13 years ago, and in those 13 years the Iranian nuclear program expanded significantly, as has the campaign of regional aggression by Iranian proxies, Iran’s malign activity across the Middle East, its support for terrorist groups and its repression of the Iranian people. If we wait another 13 years, I shudder to think about what Iran would be capable of.”
Israel, US to hold air drill simulating striking Iran nuclear program
The Israel Air Force this week will hold one of its largest drills in years with the United States Air Force simulating offensive strikes against Iran’s nuclear program.

The drill will take place from Tuesday until Thursday over the Mediterranean Sea and Israel and will include long-range flights such as those that Israeli pilots might need to make in order to reach the Islamic Republic.

The exercise will include refuelers as well as fighter jets from both forces.

Washington and Israel have signed an agreement that would see the US come to assist Israel with missile defense in times of war and the two militaries have held numerous joint air defense in recent years.

Tensions between Israel and Iran remain high
Iran, which possesses over 1,000 short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, continues to smuggle weapons to countries and non-state actors such as Hezbollah, which is assessed to have an arsenal of between some 50,000 missiles on Israel’s northern border.

With tensions high over Iran’s nuclear program and regional hostility, Israel and the Islamic Republic have been threatening each other with senior officers stating that their militaries are capable of striking the other.

Israel has significantly increased its readiness level and has taken steps throughout the past year to prepare a credible military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Seth Frantzman: Iran publishes list of 'sensitive' sites in Israel to strike in future war
The report also examined “airports and military and intelligence bases.” It mentioned “civilian” airports, such as Ben-Gurion Airport and Ramon Airport near Eilat. A list of military bases followed.

This appears to be one of the few times that Iranian media close to the regime have so openly published what it claims is a list of Israeli sites that could be targeted in a future war. This appears to point to Iran and its proxies’ estimates of their targeting ability.

In the last conflict with Hamas, the terrorist group claimed to have targeted Ramon Airport. Operations at the airport were briefly suspended during that conflict. Hamas also appeared to target other sites that have infrastructure, using large-scale salvos of rockets to try to overwhelm the Iron Dome air-defense system.

Hezbollah has also made threats regarding targeting Israel’s infrastructure, including threatening gas rigs off the coast and industrial sites near Haifa.

What does Iran mean for this list to do?
The overall context of Iran can be seen as merely bragging and threatening. But it also illustrates the shift in thinking in Tehran and among Iran’s proxy groups. The proxies include Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, the Houthis in Yemen and members of Hashd al-Shaabi in Iraq.

Recent reports that an Iranian IRGC member linked to Iran’s drone program was killed in Syria, and that Iran wants to move air-defense systems to Syria, show Iran’s possible concerns regarding these latest tensions and threats.

Publishing the kind of list that Iran’s pro-regime media published on Monday, listing sites that Iran thinks are sensitive, can be seen as a message to Israel. It can also be seen as illustrating that Tehran believes the conflict with Israel is entering a strategic stage in which Iran would like to supply proxy groups in Lebanon and Syria with more advanced weapons, including drones and precision-guided munitions, that can target the sites Al Mayadeen listed.

Iran has increased its drone threats against Israel in recent years, and Tehran works closely with Hamas and Hezbollah to try to learn from past conflicts and tensions with Israel.
Seth Frantzman: Iran, North Korea think they can become nuclear powers without obstacle
A recent article at CNN asked whether it was time to accept that North Korea was a nuclear power. This comes as Pyongyang continues to threaten Asian countries by firing missiles.

The article asserts that since it’s impossible to get North Korea to disarm, another solution should be found. One expert who is quoted asserts that the US should accept Pyongyang as a nuclear state.

This appears to be the model that Iran is also pursuing. The theory of both regimes is that countries won’t stop them from doing what they want. They gamble that if they just keep threatening others with missiles, and eventually nuclear arms, nothing will happen in response. Russia’s recent threats to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine likely puts wind in the sails of both Iran and North Korea.

The argument asserts that a country driving toward nuclear arms cannot be stopped – and that denuclearization is “like chasing a miracle” and is emblematic of the failed approach to Iran’s threats.

The policies put forward by the West generally admit that nothing can be done when countries choose to fire ballistic missiles, when they threaten other countries, or when they build nuclear weapons. This calls into question the whole concept of international relations and the ”rules-based international order.”
Australia is the West's weak link against Iran's aggression - opinion
Australia has been slow to condemn the violence in Iran. Penny Wong, the Australian minister was one of the last Western foreign affairs ministers to issue a statement in this regard. Her tardiness stands in marked contrast to her rush to declare that Australia did not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Her recent comments on Iran were that “the world is watching.” Watching and stern words alone aren’t enough, however.

In 2009, when Iranians took to the streets to protest the regime, Western leaders issued supportive statements but took no practical steps. Barack Obama, who was president at the time, recently admitted this was a mistake as the protests were violently crushed. The West cannot make the same mistake again.

In terms of action, Australia is woefully behind their allies. Canada has led the way, by, inter alia, permanently banning 10,000 senior Iranian regime operatives from Canadian soil. The US, Britain and the EU have all gone further than Australia, with recent announcements of new sanctions.

Australia is the weak link in Western opposition to Iranian regime brutality. The Australian Jewish Association (AJA) recently made submissions to a Senate inquiry into human rights abuses in Iran. Along with sanctions on Iran’s vicious “Morality Police” and its drone and missile exports, the AJA proposed that Australia should follow the American lead and proscribe the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization. But there is another action Australia can and should take.

In 2016, the Australian trade office in Iran – previously closed in 2010 – was reopened in the hope that Iran would moderate its behavior. This has clearly not happened. Australia’s focus on increasing trade with Iran is an anomaly among our close allies. It allows the Iranian regime to use trade as a fig leaf for their human rights violations. The AJA believes that Australia should shut its trade office in Iran.

Taking these practical steps would be a strong display of support for the victims of the regime that includes the LGBTQ, Baha’i and Jewish communities, as well as the Ukrainian people.

More importantly, Australia would stand with the women of Iran who have captivated the world’s attention. They are the ones who are literally risking their lives to oppose this brutal government. Failure to act now may sentence the Iranian people, and innocents worldwide, to decades more suffering under this oppressive regime.


Inside the Drug Trade That Funds Iran’s Levantine Empire
Dubbed “captain courage” by some, the amphetamine Captagon became popular among Islamic State fighters along with other combatants in the Syrian civil war. Paul Wood investigates the major role this powerful stimulant plays in the economy of Bashar Assad’s Syria and, to a lesser-extent, that of Hizballah-dominated Lebanon—two countries that are clients of the Islamic Republic:

You might find Captagon fueling a party in Riyadh or keeping a Baghdad taxi driver awake through a double shift. It is, of course, illegal. And horribly addictive. It is said to be by far Syria’s biggest export, providing more than 90 percent of the country’s foreign currency. The Assad regime may be the world’s biggest narco state.

Much of [the revenue generated by Captagon sales] goes to the Syrian mukhabarat, or secret police; “the intelligence”; and the army’s 4th Division, led by President Assad’s brother, Maher. . . . It works the same way in Lebanon. [As drug dealer] has to pay off the local police, the mukhabarat, the intelligence services, and Hizballah, the Shiite militia that is controlled by Iran and which has fought for the Syrian regime.

The Assad regime’s involvement in Captagon is much, much bigger than just extorting smugglers. . . . Last year, $5.5-6 billion worth of Syrian Captagon was seized abroad. The total value of Syria’s legal exports is $800 million. But . . . the Captagon trade is at least five times what was seized, if not ten-to-twenty times bigger, given how easy it is to smuggle across borders in the Middle East. . . . By comparison, the total value of drugs exported to the U.S. by the Mexican cartels is thought to be $5-7.5 billion a year.






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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 18 years and 38,000 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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