Monday, March 13, 2023

From Ian:

PMW: US aid to the Palestinians increases violence and terror, not peace
A comparison of the aid provided by the United States to the Palestinians over the period 2011 through 2022, with the number of people murdered as a direct result of Palestinian terror provides a glaring insight: US aid to the Palestinians fuels terror, not peace.

US aid to the Palestinians
According to statistics taken from periodic reports published by the US Congressional Research Service, from 2011 (the year Palestinian Media Watch exposed the PA’s terror-rewarding Pay-for-Slay policy) through 2022, US aid to the Palestinians was reflected by two trends.

As shown in the graph below from 2011 through 2019, both under the Obama and Trump administrations, US aid to the PA steadily dropped. Since 2020, under the Biden administration, US aid to the Palestinians was restored and has spiked.

The categories in the graph are the 3 main types of US aid to Palestinian Authority (Economic Support Fund (ESF); International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE); and Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO)) and US aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

Victims of terror
During that same period, the number of people (Israelis and foreigners presumed by Palestinian terrorists to be Israelis) murdered as a direct result of Palestinian terror shows parallel trends. During the years the US aid was rising the numbers murdered kept rising. During the years US aid was dropping the number of murder victims likewise dropped.

While in 2011, 23 Israelis and foreigners were murdered as a direct result of Palestinian terror, the number plummeted, predominantly following the policy of the Trump administration to cut all aid to the Palestinians, to 3 people murdered in 2020. Immediately after the Biden administration resumed the US aid to the Palestinians, Palestinian terror resurged with 19 people murdered in 2021 and - in parallel to a further growth in the US aid - 29 people murdered in 2022.

Slightly expanding the statistics and dividing them per each US administration shows the same picture.

During the period fromJanuary 20, 2009 through January 20, 2017, the Obama administration provided the Palestinians a total of US$ 6,466,700,000 in aid. During that same period, 140 Israelis and foreigners were murdered as a direct result of Palestinian terror, an average of 17.5 people per year.

During the period from January 20, 2017 through January 20, 2021, the Trump administration cut the aid (including stopping all aid to UNRWA) to the Palestinians to US$669,900,000. During that same period, 42 Israelis and foreigners were murdered as a direct result of Palestinian terror, an average of 10.5 people per year.

Israel is divided, but Palestinian terrorists target all Jews - opinion
Israelis are angry and divided. They’re yelling at each other and staging furious demonstrations. Accusations and name-calling abound. But once again, Palestinian Arab terrorists have reminded us that at the end of the day, what Israelis have in common is more important than the disagreements over this or that policy proposal.

On Thursday evening, a Palestinian Arab terrorist walked up to a cafe in Tel Aviv and started shooting. He wasn’t shooting at soldiers or “settlers.” He was trying to massacre unarmed Israeli civilians sitting at an upscale cafe in the heart of secular, politically left-wing Tel Aviv.

That same evening, 72 km. away, another Palestinian Arab terrorist was trying to massacre Israeli civilians. He boarded a bus in the Orthodox (haredi) town of Beitar Illit, near Jerusalem, and planted a bomb. Smoke began to come from the bomb but, in one of those countless miracles that Israelis experience every day, the device did not immediately detonate. That gave bomb disposal experts the crucial minutes they needed to neutralize it.

If the would-be murderer in Tel Aviv had sharper aim, countless secular Israelis would have been slaughtered. If the would-be murderer in Beitar Illit had more expertise in bomb construction, countless Orthodox Israelis would have been slaughtered.

Consider, for a moment, how vastly different those two segments of Israeli society are: What they wear. What they eat. How many children they have. The books they read. The movies they watch (or don’t watch). Where they go on vacation. What they do on Shabbat. By these measures, secular Israeli Jews and Orthodox Israeli Jews are as different as night and day.

But Palestinian Arab terrorists couldn’t care less about those differences. Like other violent enemies of the Jewish people throughout history, they never try to kill only a certain type of Jew. They don’t care if an Israeli Jew is more religious or less religious. They don’t care if he or she lives in Tel Aviv or in a hilltop outpost.

The automatic weapons that the terrorists shoot, the bombs they plant, the rocks they throw, the knives with which they stab, are aimed at all Jews.
Israeli Amb. Herzog: Our Enemies Don't Distinguish between Supporters and Opponents of Judicial Reform
Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog said in an interview on March 10 that the demonstrations in Israel indicate "that those people, almost all of them, deeply care about Israel. They're entitled to their voices and thoughts and concerns, and their voices are heard back home."

"I have no idea how the debate over judicial reform will end. I know that there are behind-the-scenes efforts to bring about a solution." "Voices from America or from world Jewry are heard in Israel and people understand that....We are in the middle of that debate. We are in the middle of that process. And don't inject yourself into the internal Israeli debate with a judgmental point of view before we have an outcome." "You want to raise concerns, questions or some warning, all is well, but be careful [in] the way you air it and don't be judgmental before we reach a certain outcome that you can judge."

Israel is "still surrounded by enemies and we are still subjected to a campaign of BDS, and our enemies do not distinguish between those who support judicial reform and those who oppose judicial reform, left and right, they just don't want us to be there, and we have to be aware of [that]."

"I say to those who criticize the State of Israel, that criticism is legitimate if you want to criticize certain policies, but do not cross the line of joining the hands of providing a tailwind to those who want to delegitimize us [and] cast a question mark over our very right to exist as a nation-state of the Jewish people."

The Sbarro bomber says she has rights and she's demanding them
The Sbarro bomber, FBI Most Wanted fugitive terrorist Ahlam Tamimi, has embarked on a pre-Ramadan campaign to get her husband back.

Where did he go? To Qatar, as we wrote at the time ["04-Oct-20: The Sbarro bomber's husband has been forced to leave Jordan: A snapshot of developments"].

He appears - that's what reports are saying - to be taking up residence in Qatar. But note that the government of Jordan has said precisely not one word. And no reports of him actually being in Qatar have emerged yet. There's room to be cautious in interpreting what's happened.

We noted back then, some two and a half years ago, that the abandoned wife had issued this "special statement":
The expulsion of her husband from the Hashemite Kingdom came "suddenly and without prior coordination" [the special statement of Ahlam Tamimi said] and "at a very sensitive time... in light of increasing American demands to extradite me to there... The deportation of my husband Nizar was met with much joy and pleasure in the Zionist newspapers." The husband's deportation is, she fears, "a prelude to handing her over to the American authorities." This is very wrong since, as she puts it, "it is my right for my husband to live with me on Jordanian lands with dignity just like all other Jordanian women married to non-Jordanians."

Ahlam Tamimi is a stunningly cold killer who boasts of her central role in two bombing atrocities in Jerusalem, one of which actually happened.

She has never expressed a single word of remorse for the massive loss of innocent lives including that of our precious fifteen year-old daughter Malki. Those murdered by her bomb get no mention in this latest of her publicity campaigns.

Daniel Greenfield: Hollow Sanctimony Over Hawara
Modern Orthodox Jews who fall into the trap of holding Israeli Jews to one standard and their Arab Muslim attackers to a much lower one are duplicating the infamous Israel double standard. Under such double standards, survival becomes all but impossible. If the targets of terrorism are chained down by liberal pieties with everything expected of them and nothing of their enemies, that’s not morality, it’s a suicide pact. And there’s nothing Jewish about a suicide pact. either.

The ugly reality is that violence works. Building a society that transcends violence requires the cooperation of both sides. Without such cooperation, civilization doesn’t exist, neither does law and order. Israeli law, or that of any country, is completely inadequate to such a problem. The Israeli military or security service going in to occasionally arrest a few terrorists is a band-aid.

In a tribal society, tribal violence is a natural resort. Last fall, the Druze, a Muslim minority group in Israel, threatened to storm an Arab Muslim city after terrorists kidnapped one of their own from the hospital and tried to hold him hostage. Druze men brandished rifles and warned that if the body wasn’t returned to the family, they would take it. The Hawara rioters played by those rules. Unless a new Israeli government can cut a better deal than tribal violence, that may be the reality. Governments exist, among other things, to protect people from violence. If they show that they are unwilling and unable to systemically do so, they leave their people no other choice.

And American Jews would do better to understand than to sanctimoniously condescend.

Jews, even pro-Israel Jews, all too often embody Robert Frost’s line, “a liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.” Those who condemned the protesters, while offering hardly a thought for their killers, boasted that they “been accused of being blindly pro-Israel” in the past, but now they had disproven it. There is nothing shameful about being “blindly pro-America”, “pro-Israel” or “pro-civilization” when faced with a struggle to the death. It’s a liberal fallacy to think that objectivity is the way to confront the moral issues that arise when trying to survive.

American liberal Jews have all too easily forgotten what life and death struggles look like. They panic when they see Jews fighting back and condemn even the mildest reactions with far more outrage than they do the terrorists who are murdering them. That perhaps is why ‘Zachor’ or ‘Remember’ had to be a divine mandate. Most peoples would not need to be ordered to remember to strike back, but Jews are uncomfortable with such things and easily forget.

A voice from heaven had thundered, “Remember!” while a thousand smaller voices still command, “Forget”.
Biden Still Hasn’t Extended White House Invite to Netanyahu Five Months into New Term
President Joe Biden has failed to extend an invitation to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit the White House for “a number of reasons,” a senior Israeli official said over the weekend, adding Washington would be in a better position to provide an explanation for the ongoing snub.

According to The Times of Israel, which cited both U.S. and senior Emirati officials, plans by the U.S. and the UAE to host Netanyahu have been shelved amid discontent with the Netanyahu government towards the Palestinians.

The two countries “are waiting to see what unfolds on the ground during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins later this month. The Ramadan period has historically added another layer of tension between Israelis and Palestinians,” the report said.

In January, Netanyahu’s office informed reporters that the Israeli premier would likely visit Washington at the end of February or the beginning of March. A visit by Secretary of State Antony Blinken early last month was seen as an opportunity for Biden to issue an official invitation. But the visit ended with no such gesture.

Meanwhile, Jordan’s King Abdullah was welcomed that week at the White House with open arms for a meeting with Biden.

JPost Editorial: Where was the US when Iran, Saudi Arabia restored ties?
It is no secret that the Biden administration – and the Obama administration before it – viewed their role as moving away from the Middle East. Obama did this by setting redlines in Syria that were never enforced, allowing Russia to enter the country. The Biden administration has done the same by signaling to the Saudis and Emiratis that they are on their own when it comes to fighting the Houthis in Yemen.

China has outshone the US in the Middle East and that will have repercussions on Israel, whose alliance with America directly affects its own standing in the region. As we have long argued, when the US is strong and perceived as engaged in the region, this empowers Israel and vice versa.

On the other hand, Israel will need to wait and see if the normalization of ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia means that Riyadh will have more influence and connections when it comes to reining in Iran.

When Iran is more aggressive, whether in weapons trafficking to Lebanon or Yemen, or destabilizing Iraq and Syria, then Israel and Saudi Arabia are both threatened. Saudi Arabia cares deeply about Yemen and Lebanon, and also Iraq and Syria; and this means that Iran’s actions will be in the spotlight after the agreement.

We should welcome diplomacy as a pathway toward peace and stability in the region. At the same time, we should make it clear that the redlines relating to nuclear weapons production remain the same as in the past.

Riyadh does not want Iran to have a nuclear weapons program. It is likely true that China also does not want an Iranian bomb, even if Beijing has chosen to remain silent on this issue, or appear to support Iran against US sanctions in the past.

Israel’s other interest is to maintain its track of emerging and potential ties with Saudi Arabia. As we have seen with reconciliation with Turkey – which has warm relations with Tehran – relationships can evolve on separate tracks.

The deal between Saudi and Iran is a significant development in the Middle East. Israel needs to speak with its allies in Washington and urge the Biden administration to become more active. Sitting on the sidelines is not smart policy; other players will fill the void.
‘Israel not a factor in Saudi decision’ to renew ties with Iran
According to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Iranian state media reported that the agreement with the Saudis emerged after a week-long meeting in Beijing between Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Saudi national security adviser Musaad bin Mohammed Al Aiban, and Wang Yi, China’s most senior diplomat.

“Renewed Iran-Saudi ties as a result of Chinese mediation is a lose-lose-lose for American interests,” said FDD CEO Mark Dubowitz. “It demonstrates that the Saudis don’t trust Washington to have their back, that Iran sees an opportunity to peel away American allies to end its international isolation, and it establishes China as the majordomo of Middle Eastern power politics.”

Richard Goldberg, FDD senior adviser, described the move as the “ultimate hedge for Riyadh as a direct result of U.S. policy. Hedge against a lifting of sanctions and a return to a nuclear deal. Hedge against a U.S. pullback from the region by entering a new China-brokered Middle East architecture.”

China, a major importer of oil and petroleum products from the Sunni Arab countries that compose the Gulf Cooperation Council, and from Iran, has taken advantage of Saudi fears of a gradual U.S. withdrawal from the region, the FDD said in a statement.

It noted that in 2021, the U.S. State Department removed Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi terrorist organization, which fired missiles and suicide UAVs at Saudi Arabia for years prior to an April 2022 ceasefire, from America’s Foreign Terrorist Organizaitons list, and pressured Riyadh to end the war in Yemen.

In February, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and a large Iranian delegation visited Beijing, where they signed 20 cooperation agreements on trade, agriculture and renewable energy.

Hours before announcing its agreement with Iran, Saudi Arabia revealed its terms for normalization with Israel, according to a report on March 9 by The Wall Street Journal. The Saudi proposal asks for security guarantees from the United States, assistance in developing a civilian nuclear program, and fewer restrictions on U.S. arms sales to Riyadh.

“With its offer to the United States, Riyadh appears to be leaving the door open for a stronger U.S.-Saudi relationship but is making clear by pursuing a hedge with China that they will not be waiting around,” said the FDD.

Saudi Arabia blocks Israeli delegation from attending UN awards ceremony
Saudi Arabia has blocked a group of Israeli Muslims from attending a United Nations event being held in the Gulf Arab state.

The U.N. World Tourism Organization invited villagers from the Circassian town of Kfar Kama in the Lower Galilee region of northern Israel to the event honoring their village, but Saudi authorities denied them visas, according to a report in Bloomberg.

Kfar Kama, home to the descendants of Muslim immigrants from the North Caucasus, was one of 32 places chosen as Best Rural Tourism Destinations of the year. Israel’s Tourism Ministry announced in December that Kfar Kama was included on the U.N. World Tourism Organization’s exclusive Best Tourism Villages 2022 list.

It marks the first time that an Israeli locale has been so recognized by the UNWTO.

Villagers from Kfar Kama and Israeli officials were invited by the UNWTO to the two-day event that started on Sunday in the ancient desert city of Al-’Ula, located in the Medina province of northwestern Saudi Arabia. However, the Israelis never received visas, despite an appeal by the United Nations.
NYTs: Saudi Arabia Offers Its Price to Normalize Relations with Israel
Saudi Arabia is seeking security guarantees from the U.S., help with developing a civilian nuclear program, and fewer restrictions on U.S. arms sales as its price for normalizing relations with Israel, people familiar with the exchanges say. If sealed, the deal could set up a major political realignment of the Middle East.

Riyadh's request offers President Biden the chance to broker a dramatic agreement that would reshape Israel's relationship with the most powerful Arab state. However, such an agreement would likely encounter firm resistance in Congress, where many Democrats have recently pressed to downgrade relations with the Saudi kingdom. "Our relationship with Saudi Arabia...should not run through Israel," said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT).

Saudi researcher Abdulaziz Alghashian noted, "The Saudi ruling elite do not want Biden to be the American president to take credit for Saudi-Israeli normalization, but they don't mind Biden taking the blame for its absence." Still, the fact that discussions are happening at all highlights the way Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman has emerged as more of a pragmatist than an ideologue.
Netanyahu rejects ‘baseless’ report claiming fraying Israel-UAE ties
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday dismissed a Channel 12 report of a crisis in relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

“The report is baseless. Israel and the UAE are holding productive diplomatic contacts in all areas, including today,” said Netanyahu in a statement.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry also rejected the report, stating, “Contrary to advertising, relations between Israel and the UAE are strong and solid. Evidence of this is, among other things, the agreement reached in recent days on the text of the customs agreement, which will lead to the entry into force of the free trade agreement between the countries and expand the relations between Israel and the UAE.”

The UAE did not respond to the report. However, Israeli Ambassador to the UAE Amir Hayek tweeted on Sunday, “From conversations with senior sources in Abu Dhabi who are involved in details of the relations between the countries and know both sides well, the news in the Israeli media this evening is simply not true. Period.”

According to Channel 12, the UAE had announced its intention to stop the procurement of defense systems from Israel.

The report claimed the decision was due to statements and action of the governing coalition’s more right-wing members, including National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich.

Washington Post ‘Investigation’ More Hit Piece Than Serious Analysis
In its recent investigation of an Israeli counter-terror operation in Nablus at the end of February 2023, the Washington Post claimed to show that Israeli forces purposefully and needlessly fired into a group of civilians while exiting the West Bank city.

However, a closer examination of the Post’s evidence and analysis exposes much more about the newspaper’s own biases than about the Israeli army’s actions.

The Washington Post’s Faulty Investigation
The Washington Post’s investigation revolves around an incident where Israeli soldiers returned fire at a man who the IDF said had fired at their vehicles as they were exiting Nablus.

As shown in a witness video provided by the publication, as Israeli military vehicles pass by, a man raises his arm and two loud gunshots can be heard.

However, the Washington Post disputes the IDF’s assertion, claiming that the man did not fire at the Israeli military vehicles and that those loud bangs heard in the video are not connected to him (the Post’s own experts are undecided on whether they were gunshots or not).

As analyses by HonestReporting and other organizations have shown, the evidence provided by the news outlet belies its conclusion that the man was not a gunman and seems to substantiate the IDF’s claims:
As pointed out by the Elder of Ziyon blog, a witness video shows the gunman running toward the group of civilians with something heavy in his arms, presumably the gun he just used to fire at the IDF.
While the gunman is running, a group of civilians can be seen fleeing the scene. As the IDF has yet to open fire, this is suggestive of them escaping the fire of the Palestinian gunman, not the Israeli soldiers.
As pointed out by the organization NGO Monitor, the organization Defense for Children International – Palestine, which the Washington Post relied on for its analysis further on in this piece, substantiated the IDF’s claim by reporting that soon after the event, a Palestinian gunman had fled toward a group of civilians after firing at the IDF.

Another conclusion of the Washington Post’s investigation is that Israeli soldiers knew they were shooting at Palestinian civilians when they opened fire on the Palestinian gunman.

The Post arrives at this conclusion by utilizing witness videos and recreating the interior of the IDF’s Wolf armored personnel carrier (APC) as well as the street that the vehicle was traveling on using advanced 3-D imaging technology.

Israel releases octogenarian behind Karine A arms smuggling ship from prison
The oldest Palestinian prisoner in Israeli jail was released on Monday after serving 17 years for arms smuggling, an advocacy group and his son said.

Fuad Shubaki, 83, was released from Ashkelon prison and was “on his way to Ramallah” in the West Bank, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Prisoner’s Club said, which was confirmed by Shubaki’s son Hazem.

Shubaki, a senior member of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s movement Fatah, was sentenced by Israel in 2009 for his role in attempting to smuggle weapons from Iran to the Gaza Strip aboard the Karine A ship, which was seized by Israel in the Red Sea in early 2002.

The Israeli military claimed the ship was carrying 50 tons of weapons, including short-range Katyusha rockets, anti-tank missiles and explosives from Iran and the Lebanese-based Shiite terror group Hezbollah.

Shubaki, who dealt with financial issues for then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, was convicted of purchasing the weapons and contacting a foreign agent.

Morocco explains Israel normalization, commitment to Palestinians
Morocco's royal palace on Monday asked the largest Islamist party, the PJD, to stop taking aim at the country's ties with Israel after the party rebuked the foreign minister for defending Israel at the expense of Palestinians. The palace issued a statement explaining the importance of the decision to normalize relations with Israel while, at the same time, retaining a clear focus on the Palestinian issue.

Renewed violence between Israelis and Palestinians poses a challenge to Arab countries that have normalized ties with Israel.

Morocco resumed diplomatic ties with Israel in late 2020 after a deal brokered by the Trump administration that also included Washington's recognition of Rabat's sovereignty over Western Sahara, a disputed territory where the Algeria-backed Polisario Front seeks to establish its own state.

"The general secretariat condemns the recent stand by the foreign minister in which he appears to be defending the zionist entity... at a time the Israeli occupation continues its criminal aggression against our Palestinian brothers," the PJD said in a statement last week. Foreign policy is not subject to blackmail

The palace said that foreign policy was a prerogative of the King and it would not be "subject to blackmail."

"The Kingdom's international relations cannot be the subject of blackmail by anyone or for any consideration whatsoever, particularly in the current complex global context. The instrumentalization of the Kingdom's foreign policy in a domestic partisan agenda thus constitutes a dangerous, unacceptable precedent," the palace said.
Moroccan Islamic Scholar: Protocols of Elders of Zion Translated into Arabic, Yet Arabs Do Nothing
Moroccan Islamic scholar Sheikh Abou Younes Elfraani said in a video posted to his YouTube account on December 17, 2022 that the “schemes” of the Jews have been documented in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and translated into Arabic, yet the Arabs and Muslims do nothing in response. He claimed that former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who he referred to as a “villainous cunning Jew”, had said that the Jews plan for the country to span from the Nile River to the Euphrates River, and he said that the two blue stripes on the Israeli flag represent these two rivers.

In addition, Elfraani claimed that Begin’s people asked him whether this design might lead to a confrontation with the Arabs, but that he had studied the mentality of the Arabs known that they wouldn’t respond. Moreover, he said that former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, whom he claimed had been Israel’s first prime minister, had feared an Arab and Muslim uprising, but that the Arabs and Muslims remained asleep. Later in the video, Elraani said that the Protocols include a plot to “confuse” the masses and “divert their attention” through sports and entertainment. It is noteworthy that Elfraani’s video was posted at the end of the FIFA 2022 World Cup tournament in Qatar.

Fatah: “All fingers are on the trigger… we don’t want the olive branch, we want the rifle” Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades spokesman Abd Al-Rahman Abu Al-Rub: “All fingers are on the trigger, all fingers are on the Al-Aqsa [Martyrs’] Brigades, all fingers are on [Palestinian Islamic] Jihad, all fingers are on the [Izz A-Din] Al-Qassam [Brigades]. Almighty Allah says: “Are you satisfied with the life of this world rather than the Hereafter?” [Quran 9:38]. See the warning of Almighty Allah to those who do not mobilize for Allah… “If you do not go forth, He will punish you with a painful punishment” [Quran 9:39]… The political talk in Fatah today, and prior to this, and since its foundation, is the rifle and the olive branch. Regarding the olive branch – we don’t want it. Rather we want the rifle, in order to fight the enemy of Allah and our enemy. This is the belief of Fatah with its military wings, in the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades – Martyrs’ Division and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades – Palestine, and the rest of the heroic resistance members.” [Fatah Movement – Bethlehem Branch, Telegram channel, March 3, 2023]

Posted text on Fatah Telegram channel: “The speech of the Fatah Movement – Jenin Branch [delivered] by Abd Al-Rahman Abu Al-Rub, during the eulogy rally organized by the ‘Jenin Brigade’ (i.e., the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades – Martyrs’ Division, Fatah’s military wing that is apparently associated with Jenin) in the Jenin [refugee] camp, in honor of the top team of Martyrs of the Jenin district in the recent period”

The China-Iran-Saudi Arabia Deal Might Be Less Than Meets the Eye
On Friday, senior officials from Tehran and Riyadh announced the restoration of diplomatic ties between their respective countries. The agreement appears to signal a Saudi pivot away from the U.S. It is also a way for China, which brokered the deal, to assert itself as a a major powerbroker in the Middle East. But Bobby Ghosh cautions against reading too much into this development:

[T]he presence of full-fledged ambassadors in Tehran and Riyadh did little to ameliorate antagonism in the past. As for regional security, the greatest threat to the Gulf is posed by Iran’s attacks—mostly through proxies in Yemen and Iraq—on Saudi targets. The fox can hardly be trusted to cooperate in the security of the henhouse.

For the agreement to have any substance, the Iranians would have to call off their surrogates in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia has been bogged down in a conflict with the Tehran-backed Houthi militia. That the announcement in Beijing wasn’t preceded, or even accompanied, by an openly stated Iranian promise to this effect is a measure of Riyadh’s desperation to extract itself from the quagmire. It is conceivable that secret assurances have been given, but the Saudis will know not to trust the word of the party holding the catspaw.

The Saudis will also be keenly aware of the direct threat from Iran, whether through its nuclear ambitions (its uranium-enrichment program is now within a whisker of weapons-grade output), its production of ballistic missiles of progressively longer range, and its reported purchase of state-of-the-art Russian fighter jets. That is why Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the kingdom’s de-facto ruler, is now seeking a U.S. security guarantee and access to more American weapons, in exchange for normalization of relations with Israel.

Belarus and Iran sign cooperation deal for 2023-2026
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi signed a cooperation road map for the years 2023-2026 following talks in Tehran, the BelTA news agency reported on Monday. This was also reported in Russian state media.

Iran International, a media group based outside of Iran critical of Tehran’s regime, noted that the Belarus leader was in Iran to discuss bilateral ties on economic issues. He was scheduled to meet with Iran’s Vice-President Mohammad Mokhber and the parliament speaker Mohammad Qalibaf (Ghalibaf) as well as the supreme leader.

Talks focused on industry, agriculture and other issues. It was not clear if defense ties were on the agenda.

Talks follow Iran-Saudi Arabia rapprochement
These talks come after Iran signed a deal with Saudi Arabia in China, a deal that was also aided by Iraq. Iran claims it is also in talks with the US on a prisoner swap, leading to an image of itself as in a new era of diplomacy.

It was also reported recently that Russia is sending munitions captured in Ukraine to Iran for possible reverse engineering. These would likely be western munitions that were sent to Ukraine.

Russian state media TASS said that the road map signed includes “comprehensive cooperation in the fields of politics, the economy, consular services, science and technology, education, culture, art, the media and tourism.”
Yemen in focus after Iran-Saudi deal - analysis
The war in Yemen gave Iran a chance to also try to project its power into the Red Sea and Gulf of Oman. It has attacked commercial ships over the last several years, sometimes hundreds of kilometers from Iran. The IRGC is also believed to have sent ships into the area to monitor what is happening. Once again, a key question will be whether Iran will reduce this kind of activity.

Media in the Gulf noted that Saudi Arabia’s normalization agreement with Iran will not impact the war in Yemen. The Houthis claim they don’t take orders from Iran, a spokesperson for the group told Al-Mayadeen.

“Saudi Arabia must know that our relationship with Iran is not one of subordination. It is an Islamic brotherly relationship. Resolving the Yemen issue [can only be achieved through negotiations] between Sanaa and Riyadh, and not Tehran and Riyadh,” said a member of the Houthis’ political wing Abdulwahab al-Mahbashi, according to Al-Arabiya.

This leaves many questions up in the air after the Iran-Saudi deal. Will Iranian weapons shipments to Yemen dry up? Will Iran pressure the Houthis? Or will Iran pretend there is plausible deniability in its continued arming of the Houthis? Will Saudi Arabia make an issue of this and ask China to pressure Iran? Was this part of the deal or not?

The Houthis also threaten Israel and reports over the last years said that Iran provided them with technology for drones that could threaten Israel. As Iran shifts its drone exports to Russia, including the types of Shahed-136 drones it had once sent to Yemen, it’s unclear if the drone export continues to the Houthis. Some of the drones are made locally so the Houthis can make some of these systems themselves.

The Houthis official rhetoric includes slogans about “death to Israel” and “death to the US” and “curse the Jews.”

Clearly, the Houthis have wanted to expand their regional role and link up with Hezbollah. This means Iran’s two major partners, Hezbollah and the Houthis, will be in the spotlight after the deal. Saudi Arabia cares about Yemen and Lebanon and it’s unclear if the deal will impact this arc of Iranian influence and power that stretches from Lebanon several thousand miles via Syria and Iraq to the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman and Yemen.
Iran Upholds Death Sentence of Swedish-Iranian Arab Dissident
Iran’s supreme court has upheld the death sentence handed down to a Swedish Iranian dual national convicted of leading an Arab separatist group accused of attacks including one on a military parade in 2018 that killed 25 people, state media reported on Sunday.

Iran said in 2020 that its security forces arrested Sweden-based Habib Farajollah Chaab in Turkey and took him to Tehran, without saying where or how he was captured.

“Chaab was sentenced to death after several court sessions with the presence of his lawyer … The Supreme Court confirmed his death sentence,” Iran’s judiciary’s Mizan news agency reported.

In 2022, Iran started trial of Chaab on charges of leading the separatist Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz, which seeks a separate state in the oil-rich Khuzestan province in southwestern Iran, and plotting and carrying out “numerous bombings and terrorist operations”.

He was sentenced to death for being “corrupt on earth”, a capital offense under Iran’s strict form of Islamic law, Iranian state media said.

Sweden’s foreign ministry said its representatives had been in continual contact with Iran’s authorities about Chaab’s situation and had repeatedly requested permission to visit him and be present at the trial.

“The death penalty is an inhuman and irreversible punishment and Sweden, along with the European Union, condemns its use in all circumstances,” Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said in an emailed statement.

“The foreign ministry and Sweden’s embassy in Tehran are working intensively to get further clarity about the information (of the confirmed sentence).”

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 19 years and 40,000 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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