Tuesday, August 29, 2023

08/29 Links Pt1: PA readying diplomatic assault on Israel; HRW Erases the Evidence of Palestinian Minors Involved in Terror; Why Is Hizballah Escalating Tensions with Israel?

From Ian:

PA readying diplomatic assault on Israel
The Palestinian Authority is laying the groundwork for another major diplomatic assault on Israel on the backdrop of the United Nations General Assembly’s annual debate next month.

Speaking to the Palestinian Authority’s Voice of Palestine radio station on Sunday, Omar Awadallah, the head of the U.N. department in the P.A. Foreign Ministry, said that U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres is expected to travel to Ramallah after the UNGA meetings, while International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Karim Ahmad Khan is scheduled to visit in October.

Neither Guterres’s nor Khan’s office could confirm the plans to JNS, with the ICC stating that “this information is not accurate.” However, both officials have recently indicated their wish to visit P.A.-controlled areas in Judea and Samaria.

In December, during the ICC’s annual Assembly of States Parties in The Hague, Khan asserted that “God willing” he intends to visit “Palestine” in 2023. At the time, Israel’s Kan News public broadcaster quoted the court as confirming that “a visit to Palestine is one of the prosecutor’s goals for next year.”

At the same time, the U.N. Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP), which consists of 25 U.N. member states in addition to the PLO and other observers, said last week that it had persuaded Guterres to visit the region.

Riyad Mansour, the PLO envoy to the U.N., said on Aug. 22 following a meeting with Guterres, “He agreed that [for] the Palestinian people who are very fed up and frustrated and angered by the brutality of this Israeli occupation and the terrorist settlers, a visit from the secretary-general of the U.N.—and what the U.N. represents and what multilateralism represents to all of us—is extremely significant and important.

“We are happy and delighted that we are in the stage of preparing for this visit with the secretary-general to take place as soon as possible,” Mansour told journalists in remarks that went largely unreported.

Experts in Israel believe Ramallah is trying to capitalize on recent tensions between Jerusalem and the international community at a time when the Jewish state is facing a wave of Palestinian terror.

Lapid to meet US officials in DC as Netanyahu visit still up in the air
Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid Party will travel to the United States next week for high-level meetings in Washington, his office said on Tuesday.

Lapid is to meet with senior officials at the White House and the State Department as well as members of Congress.

During the meetings, U.S. officials intend to bring up the normalization process with Saudi Arabia. Riyadh has requested American help for a Saudi civilian nuclear program in exchange for ties with Israel, a demand that Lapid has publicly opposed.

“I am very much in favor of a normalization agreement with Saudi Arabia,” he said during a TV interview earlier this month, before adding, “But not at the expense of uranium enrichment that would endanger Israel’s security.”

Lapid’s planned visit comes as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been snubbed, so far denied a traditional White House visit. On July 17, more than six months after Netanyahu returned to the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, U.S. President Joe Biden invited Netanyahu for a meeting “somewhere in the United States” at some time “later this year.”

It is still unclear whether the long-expected meeting will take place at the White House.

Netanyahu is expected to fly to New York for the U.N. General Assembly general debate next month, during which he may meet with Biden in the city, although neither side has confirmed details.

“The details are going to be worked out by the different teams,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told journalists last month. “But they have committed to meeting and seeing each other.”

Australia must do more about Iran
Earlier this month, Canberra announced that it will officially refer to the West Bank, east Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip as “occupied Palestinian territory,” and, moreover, that it deems it “illegal” for Jews to live in the West Bank. In October of last year, the Australian government also reversed its predecessor’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Oved Lobel comments:

Apart from its criticism of Israel, the government says little about other issues and countries in the Middle East. There’s the slight exception of Iran, but even there Australia’s response falls short. [Foreign Minister Penny] Wong used Australia’s Magnitsky powers to impose thematic (human rights) sanctions against Iranian individuals and entities—long after the U.S., Canada, the UK, and the EU had begun doing so—in December 2022, in February this year, and again in March.

It also took Australia substantially longer than most of its allies to condemn Iran or impose sanctions against it for supplying drones and other weapons to Russia for its attack on Ukraine. Australia’s government has not criticized any action by Iran since the foreign minister condemned the May 19 execution of Majid Kazemi, Saeed Yaqoubi, and Saleh Mirhashemi. Iran has reportedly hanged at least 423 people since the start of 2023 and its “morality police” have returned to arresting women for not wearing their hijabs “properly.”

The government has had little to say about events in the Middle East outside of Israel and Iran even though 2022–23 has seen overwhelming regional shifts. In addition, an Australian citizen, Robert Pether, remains unjustly jailed in Iraq, something that ought to warrant a statement.

Meanwhile, pressure has been maintained on Israel despite the Palestinian leadership’s longstanding refusal to accept two-state peace offers or, in recent years, even to engage in negotiations on the subject.

NGO Monitor: HRW Erases the Evidence of Palestinian Minors Involved in Terror
On August 28, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report titled West Bank: Spike in Israeli Killings of Palestinian Children. HRW’s primary accusation is that “The Israeli military and border police forces are killing Palestinian children with virtually no recourse for accountability.” HRW recommends that “The UN Secretary-General should list Israel’s armed forces in his annual report on grave violations against children in armed conflict for 2023 as responsible for the violation of killing and maiming Palestinian children.”

This is another HRW publication on Israeli-Palestinian issues that, as documented in detail, lacks credibility and reflects the organization’s consistent political and ideological objectives.

HRW bases its claims on four selected cases of Palestinian minors killed during operations. While it mentions in passing that the minors were actively involved in violence, HRW blatantly omits their affiliations to terror organizations, including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Further, HRW fails to provide the broader context – none of the minors in question were random passers-by; rather they appear to have been radicalized by the incitement of terror groups, and have public records of glorifying violence and death.

Typically, HRW repeats the claims of a number of anti-Israel advocacy NGOs, including PFLP affiliated NGOs Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P), and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR). Like HRW, these NGOs systematically and completely ignore the context and erase or minimize substantial evidence showing the direct involvement of these Palestinian minors in terror attacks that led to their deaths. Details on all four examples used by HRW are presented in NGO Monitor’s analysis below.

This report is part of an ongoing political campaign, in which HRW plays a major role, that invents and exploits allegations of violations of children’s rights in order to trigger UN sanctions against Israel. In particular, the NGOs have aggressively lobbied the UN Secretary General and the UNICEF-led Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) Working Group, to place the IDF on a UN blacklist of child rights abusers, alongside terrorist organizations such as the Taliban, Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, and Boko Haram.

Highlighting its lack of credibility and on-going bias, HRW offers no recommendations to Palestinian authorities and turns a blind eye to Palestinian CAAC violations. For instance, although clear evidence demonstrating the exploitation of minors by Palestinian terror organizations can be seen in the examples provided by HRW, the NGO completely ignores Palestinian recruitment and use of children (a grave CAAC violation). Similarly, HRW is silent regarding “Pay to Slay” – the PA’s program to financially incentivize attacks against Israelis – as well as on on-going Palestinian incitement of children in media, schools, and youth programming.

Peace with Libya is doubtful, but contact, aided by local Jews, started years ago
On Sunday, Israel announced that Foreign Minister Eli Cohen met with his Libyan counterpart, Najla Mangoush, last week in Italy, the first-ever official meeting between the countries’ top diplomats.

Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid al-Dbeibeh quickly distanced himself from the move, suspending Mangoush from her position and launching a probe, while the country’s Foreign Ministry insisted the two diplomats had met accidentally and ruled out any steps toward normalization with Israel.

Following Israel’s announcement of the meeting, various Libyan media outlets pointed to one man as the possible mastermind: Raphael Luzon, chairman of the Union of Libyan Jews.

While Luzon was not connected to the latest diplomatic get-together, in an interview late Sunday with The Times of Israel, he described the first contacts he facilitated between high-ranking Israeli and Libyan officials some six years ago, opening the way to last week’s meeting.

In June 2017, Luzon arranged a meeting on the Greek island of Rhodes that brought together delegations from the two countries. Israel was represented by then-social equality minister Gila Gamliel, whose mother hails from Libya, and by then-communications minister Ayoub Kara, deputy Knesset speaker Yehiel Bar and retired major general Yom Tov Samia, who is also of Libyan extraction.

The Libyan delegation in Rhodes was headed by then-minister of media, culture and antiquities Omar al-Gawairi. The country at the time was under two separate governments, a situation that persists today, though in a different configuration. Al-Gawairi was then a minister in the eastern government headed by Abdurrahim el-Keib, while Khalifa al-Ghweil, leader of the rival government based in the west, reportedly sent his blessings to Rhodes by fax.
Seth Frantzman: What can be learned from Libya's anti-Israel protests?
While the Abraham Accords appeared to reverse some of the anti-Israel trends, the accords will take time to catch on. The peace with Egypt and Jordan didn’t generally lead to wider public acceptance of Israel in those countries, for instance. The fact that Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat was assassinated after making peace with Israel was used as a fear tactic against others in the region.

In the past critics of peace deals with Israel have often claimed that authoritarian regimes make peace with Israel contrary to the demands of local people. This claim misses the other side of the coin, which is that authoritarian regimes such as the Iranian regime, Assad’s regime, and Saddam’s regime also were anti-Israel and exploited anti-Israel rhetoric to distract masses of people. This rhetoric seeps into the minds of people. During the Arab Spring, for instance, some of the protesters in places like Libya or Egypt would accuse their political opponents of being “Jews.”

In Libya in 2011 one account published on the Australian website of AIJAC noted “Now that Gaddafi has fallen, many feel that they are finally able to talk freely about Gaddafi. And what many of them are now saying is that he was a Jew. In March, NBC‘s Richard Engel reported from Libya that one in five rebels was fighting Gaddafi because of the belief the Libyan dictator was Jewish.”

Consider this logic that one in five people signed up to fight and die in a chaotic conflict because they were told someone was Jewish and their hatred of Jews is so deep that they feel this must guide them. Often the response to this kind of rhetoric is to note that the person in question is not Jewish, rather than ask why people run to fight just because they heard a Jewish person was present.

Overcoming this tendency of some people to have a knee-jerk hatred of Jews and Israel, based on decades of propaganda and cynical exploitation of these claims, will always be a hurdle for Israel. In divided states like Libya, overcoming the issue is impossible because politicians won’t commit to moderation when they are busy fighting each other.
What does the Libyan debacle teach Israelis ahead of Saudi talks
The riots demonstrate the gap between the apparent welcome extended to Israeli officials based on strategic considerations, and the emotions held by most Arabs, when it comes to Israel. Public opinion polls show Israel is still considered an enemy in most Suni Muslim countries, even those as far away as Tunisia and Algiers.

This is a lesson that must be learned by Israeli leaders who opt to promote the optimistic but false notion that mutual economic and strategic goals can bring about a breakthrough in ties with the Arab world, including with the man-on-the-street while circumventing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, West Bank settlements and police clashes with worshipers on Temple Mount, all together.

This is a critical conversation to have, while efforts to forge Israeli-Saudi relations are ongoing. Many observers are focused on the internal political obstacles that may be in the way of those efforts, on the U.S. administration and the Palestinian leadership. Few ask about how the average Saudi citizen feels about Israel – granted there is little known regarding the subject. A best-case scenario would be a similar response to that exhibited in the UAE. A worse option which is not unlikely, would be a popular uprising against the Saudi regime.

The Libyan debacle should indicate to the decision-makers in Jerusalem that they should review the foundations on which Israel's Middle East strategy relies. Along with an abundance of caution regarding any public contact with regional leaders, and a deep understanding of public perceptions among their citizenry, Israel should examine the effects of the conflict with the Palestinians, on the Arab world.

The challenges some countries have faced since the 2011 Arab Spring pushed the Palestinian struggle to the sidelines, but it still holds sway over public opinion.

Talks with the Palestinians will not necessarily change the disdain Arabs feel towards Israel, but they may reduce its potency and improve ties with most Arab governments. On the other hand, continued tension between Jerusalem and Ramallah, especially if one-sided policies to change the reality on the ground continue, hostility in the Arab world will grow, ultimately foiling attempts for diplomatic agreements.

Flight to Tel Aviv full of Israelis lands in Saudi Arabia because of technical issue
A plane traveling from Seychelles to Tel Aviv made an unscheduled landing in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Monday night.

Air Seychelles flight HM022, which was full of Israeli passengers, made the touchdown due to a technical issue, the airline said in a statement.

According to Hebrew media outlets, the problem was an electrical issue and pilots did not declare an emergency landing. There were said to be 128 Israelis on board.

“All the passengers are safe and a few minutes ago, a replacement flight departed [for Jeddah so as] to return the passengers and continue their flight to Israel. The Israeli Foreign Ministry has been updated,” the airline’s statement read, without detailing the problem.

Hebrew media reports said the replacement plane would fly the passengers to Tel Aviv on Tuesday morning.

The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said it was dealing with the issue. “The Foreign Ministry is in touch with passengers and the airline with the goal of finding a quick, safe solution,” a statement from the ministry said.

Israel does not have formal ties with Saudi Arabia, but the countries have inched closer in recent years and are reportedly nearing a possible US-brokered diplomatic breakthrough.

Passengers said they had been warmly treated by the Saudis.

“The reception we got from the Saudis was very surprising,” Emmanuelle Arbel, one of the passengers, told Radio 103FM from an airport hotel early Tuesday. “They said to us ‘You are most welcome’ and were smiling. In truth, we were not expecting this. ”

Arbel said when they first landed in Jeddah “we were a bit stressed, we did not know what was happening.”

128 Israeli tourists stranded in Saudi Arabia following flight diversion
Tel Aviv-bound flight makes an emergency landing in Saudi Arabia following technical issues. 128 Israeli's were aboard this flight and with Israel and Saudi Arabia having no full diplomatic ties there was concern over how they would be received. Two of the passengers share their experience.

Tom Gross: No, Prigozhin was not Jewish
Last week, Yevgeny Prigozhin—the former leader of the Russian proxy military group Wagner—died in a plane mishap that was almost certainly retribution for his attempted mutiny in June. Since his death, headlines have appeared in Jewish publications claiming that Prigozhin had, or might have had, Jewish ancestry. Tom Gross puts paid to these claims, and traces their proliferation:

The first round of headlines claiming Prigozhin was Jewish appeared some months ago. As I said at the time, there is no evidence whatsoever that the claim is true. The rumors that Prigozhin “had Jewish blood” were started by Ukrainian websites that were trying to discredit Prigozhin among his fellow Russians.

These false claims were then picked up in an irresponsible way by prominent Israeli media outlets, no doubt eager for page clicks in today’s overly competitive, increasingly down-market media environment. These include the online edition of Israel’s best-selling newspaper Yediot Ahronot.

Prigozhin’s Wikipedia page, which appears in 71 languages, is now locked and cannot be edited. It says that Prigozhin’s father is Jewish, referencing an article in the Times of Israel. That article is also incorrect. It has been changed to reflect this, but the Wikipedia entry has not. Other media continue to promote this falsehood.

I have checked and, as far as I can tell, there is no evidence that Prigozhin was in any way Jewish. Indeed, his right-hand man Dmitry Utkin, who died alongside him, was an outright Nazi with swastika and SS tattoos. . . . In a world where anti-Semitism is unfortunately still rife, these kinds of headlines are unhelpful, to put it mildly.
In Latest Reversal, Vivek Ramaswamy Says He Won’t Cut Israel Aid Without Jerusalem’s Approval
Facing backlash for his proposal to halt U.S. funding to the Jewish state by 2028, Vivek Ramaswamy’s campaign now says he does not support cutting military funding to Israel unless the country "tells the U.S. that it no longer needs the aid."

The fact-check section on Ramaswamy’s website was updated Monday to say that he "won’t cut aid to Israel until Israel tells the U.S. that it no longer needs the aid."

"That’s what Vivek actually said, so don’t believe the opponents’ lies that he wants to cut aid to Israel—which makes zero sense as a foreign policy priority any time in the foreseeable future," said Ramaswamy’s campaign.

The statement is a reversal from the candidate’s promise earlier this month that "come 2028, that additional aid won’t be necessary." It is also the clearest sign yet that he supports continuing the funding, which accounts for roughly $3 billion annually and which Israel primarily spends on the U.S. defense industry.

The shift comes as Ramaswamy has come under fire from pro-Israel leaders and his Republican primary opponent Nikki Haley, who said during last week's debate that Ramaswamy was "completely wrong to call for ending America's special bond with Israel."

Ramaswamy hit back at Haley, a fellow Indian-American, in the campaign statement, writing "Keep lying, Nimarata Randhawa." Haley’s maiden name was Randhawa prior to her marriage to Michael Haley in 1996. Her first name is "Nimarata," although she goes by her middle name "Nikki."

His campaign said he would "also partner with Israel to ensure that Iran never acquires nuclear capabilities." He described Israel’s current affiliation with the United States as a "client relationship" and said his policies would turn it into a "true friendship."

Ramaswamy’s conflicting answers on aid to Israel have irked both supporters and opponents of the Jewish state.

Jewish shepherds attacked in Binyamin region
Four Jewish shepherds were wounded when dozens of masked Arabs attacked them as they were herding their flock in the Binyamin region of Samaria on Tuesday.

Video said to be from the scene of the terrorist attack shows the Arabs wielding clubs and throwing stones at the shepherds at a farm northeast of Jerusalem, between the Israeli communities of Ma’ale Mikhmas and Rimonim.

Other residents from the farm who came to help were also reportedly attacked. The Arabs also broke several cellphones of victims who were trying to record the incident.

Magen David Adom emergency responders treated the men, who were evacuated with minor wounds to Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.

A half-hour after the attack, Israeli security forces arrived at the scene and arrested three of the attackers.

“I was herding the flock of sheep near the farm and suddenly four masked Arabs ran toward me with clubs. I immediately called the other shepherds on the farm who called the army and hurried to the scene. Within a few seconds, dozens more Arab rioters came running to the scene and just started beating me with stones and clubs from all directions,” one of the victims said from his hospital bed, as quoted by Israel National News.
PMW: Palestinian-American enters Israel and expresses support for terrorists
As a condition for Israel to join America’s Visa Waiver Program, the United States demanded that Israel allow Palestinians with American citizenship to fly directly from the US to Israel's Ben Gurion Airport. Israel has been concerned for many years that Palestinian terror supporters or terrorists could enter Israel more easily this way.

As soon as Israel changed its policy, one of the first Palestinians to enter Israel on his American passport, Mazen Khalil, immediately gave an interview in which he expressed support for terrorists. Speaking to official PA TV, he explained that he sees Palestinian terrorists as “freedom fighters.” On the other hand, Israel's tracking down and killing terrorists who are responsible for numerous terror attacks and murders of Israelis, he considers “assassinations”:
Palestinian-American citizen Mazen Khalil: “If a person carried out an operation (i.e., terror attack) [the Americans] need to think why. Think about the assassinations (i.e., Israel's killing terrorists) in Nablus. [The Israelis] are going and searching for young people and killing them. Of course, you can’t keep quiet. I always say, according to your viewpoint as an American you can call my compatriot a terrorist, but I think he is a freedom fighter, that’s how we see it.”

[Official PA TV, Personal Encounter, July 27, 2023]
PA honors released terrorist murderer as “national and international hero”
Official PA TV News reports on the premiere screening of the film “Karim is Free” about released terrorist prisoner Karim Younes, who murdered 1 together with his cousin Maher Younes. The film was produced by the Palestinian Public Radio and TV Corporation.

General Supervisor of the Official PA Media Ahmad Assaf: “Our goal was to document the status of this national and international hero Karim Younes (i.e., terrorist murderer)... We had an additional goal: To focus attention on the prisoners’ cause…”

Official PA TV reporter: “The film was produced by the [Palestinian Public] Radio and TV Corporation, and was launched in the presence of [PA] Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh, members of the Fatah Movement Central Committee, members of the PLO Executive Committee…”

PA Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh: “Karim, perhaps this prize is less than is fitting for you, but today we honor you and honor all your prisoner brothers.”
[Official PA TV News, July 27, 2023]

Karim Younes - Israeli Arab terrorist who kidnapped and murdered Israeli soldier Avraham Bromberg in 1980 together with his cousin Maher Younes. Younes was originally sentenced to life in prison, but Israeli President Shimon Peres reduced his sentence to 40 years in 2012. In May 2017 Younes was appointed by PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to the Fatah Central Committee. Younes was released from prison on Jan. 5, 2023.

PreOccupiedTerritory: We’re Helpless, Powerless Victims. Watch Our Mighty Warriors Humiliate The Cursed Jews! by Khaled Mash’al, Hamas official (satire)
We Palestinians have suffered more than anyone in history. Our cause is more just than any other cause, now or ever, and we face a potent enemy who stops at nothing, knows no bounds or restraint, in inflicting the most heinous, brutal measures against us. We cannot handle them on our own, if at all, and need the international community to step in, lest we be wiped out or driven from our land, which we know is the Zionist ambition. Global assistance is all that stands between us and annihilation! Also, the Zionists are cowardly weaklings who will run at the first sign of resistance, our potent operations that strike at his pusillanimous heart, meaning our victory over those spineless dhimmi is but a heartbeat away! We will stomp them!

Palestinian resistance movements, especially ours, have long boasted of our endless courage; our creative use of every resource, even our own children, as weapons; our endless capacity to deal death and injury to the enemy. That is why we run to the UN, human rights groups, fellow Islamic nations, Western progressives, and anyone else who will listen, begging for immediate help in our dire circumstances, since we cannot hope to defeat a well-armed foe who recoils from nothing, whose incessant genocide is displacing and killing us in unparalleled numbers, whom we are powerless to stop. We are the ultimate victims, in desperate need of rescue. Please slay this monster for us! Send another flotilla! We cannot handle this!

Look how precarious our situation has become. Always has been. We have stood at the brink of annihilation since the Zionists began massacring us in untold numbers in 1948. But we stand defiant still. They will never defeat us! We will restore the greatness of the Islamic empire and crush the Jews into their proper place beneath us. Those pathetic, weak rejects who could never withstand the might of Allah as wielded through us.
Seth Frantzman: Jordan sees increasing threat from Syrian drug drones
The Jordanian Armed Forces on Monday said it downed a small drone for the third time this month. The drone appeared in Jordan’s eastern military region, which stretches from Ramtha along the Syrian border to the Iraqi border, it said.

The Jordanian Armed Forces “continue to protect national security and confront any threat to it with full force and firmness,” the army wrote on social media.

The drone appears to have been a commercially available quadcopter that could be used by smugglers for surveillance, it said.

Jordan's ongoing battle against Syrian drug smuggling gangs
Jordan has been confronting increased threats from drug smugglers in Syria, including many gangs that are linked to Iranian-backed proxies. The Jordanians have met with the Syrian regime over the last several months to press Damascus to crack down on the drug trade, which they say destabilizes the border region.

Syria is a center of the Captagon drug trade. Some of these drugs are sent to the Gulf states and elsewhere. The use of drones by smugglers is a new phenomenon as cartels innovate.

The use of drones to smuggle drugs is an emerging threat, and media outlets in the Gulf have reported on it, including Riyadh-based Arabic news channel Al-Arabiya and The National, an English-language daily newspaper published in the UAE. Previously, a drone was found to be carrying explosives, The National reported.
FDD: ‘Ghosts of Beirut’ gets Hezbollah’s most wanted all wrong
Over his lifetime, Mughniyeh launched suicide truck attacks in Lebanon, targeting the US Embassy in Beirut (killing 17 Americans), the US Peacekeeping Marine Force (killing 241 American servicemen), and the headquarters of the French Peacekeepers. All these bombings happened in 1983.

The last of Mughniyeh’s truck bombings killed Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. Mughniyeh’s name wasn’t among the six Hezbollah militants that a UN tribunal found guilty of the assassination, but included was Mughniyeh’s longtime associate, maternal cousin, and his wife’s brother, Mustafa Badreddine.

Outside Lebanon, Mughniyeh’s explosive attacks hit the US Embassy in Kuwait in 1983, and the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, killing 19 US Air Force personnel.

After America went to war in Iraq in 2003, Mughniyeh planned attacks that killed American troops. While “Ghosts of Beirut” covered these attacks well, it incorrectly implied that some of them were ordered by Mughniyeh without IRGC knowledge.

Perhaps it was the CIA’s 1985 attempt to kill Fadlallah that knocked “Ghosts of Beirut” off balance. Because Washington incorrectly blamed Fadlallah for Mughniyeh’s attacks, the Showtime miniseries depicted Mughniyeh as the mentee of Fadlallah, and therefore independent of Tehran. This was never the case.

In 2005, Naqqash told Al Jazeera that, together with a senior Iranian official, he met with a top Hariri aide shortly before the Lebanese leader was killed. Naqqash said that they tried to convey to Hariri Tehran’s view of regional events. When that failed, the Baghdad bureau of the Saudi channel Al Arabiya was bombed. It was part of a larger split fueled by America’s war in Iraq.

The Saudis originally opposed the Iraq war, but fearing Iran would swallow post-Saddam Iraq, they took America’s side and helped recruit Iraq’s Sunni tribes that, together with American troops, managed to eject Al Qaeda from the country. But Riyadh’s cooperation with Washington wasn’t welcome in Tehran.

That’s what prompted Iran to orchestrate the bombing of Al Arabiya in Baghdad. Iran also took out Riyadh’s ally in Beirut – Hariri. Mughniyeh essentially pulled the trigger on these and other attacks, helping Iran kill 603 of the 4,431 Americans who died in Iraq.

To depict Mughniyeh as anything other than a Tehran pawn goes against everything that is known about this IRGC ace. A well-done miniseries shouldn’t have committed such a faux pas.
Hizbullah’s Increased Activity among Arab Israelis Intensifies the Security Risks Israel Faces
The successful infiltration of Israel with at least two large Iranian-made explosive Claymore mines – even if initially intended for criminal purposes – deeply concerns the Israel Security Agency. While initially intended for criminal activities, these powerful devices could potentially end up in the hands of terrorist groups, serving as tools for attacks.

Hizbullah’s attempts to establish new smuggling routes and refine its operational methods are ongoing.

While the terror organization previously focused on recruiting individuals with extremist views within Israel’s Arab population, the current surge in crime rates among Arabs has led Hizbullah to target potential recruits from the criminal underworld. Arab Israelis intimately know Jewish Israeli society, its vulnerabilities, economic dynamics, and social connections.

Their insight makes them valuable sources of intelligence for Hizbullah, which can then be channeled to Iran.

There is a genuine concern that Arab criminals seeking retribution may form alliances with Hizbullah, mobilizing and cooperating in ways that could threaten national security.

Introducing hazardous Iranian explosive devices, like the Claymore mines, into Israel poses a substantial threat, even if intended for internal criminal conflicts.

Such devices could potentially find their way into the hands of terrorist factions in Judea and Samaria, endangering both IDF soldiers and settlers.

The disclosure of Iranian explosive devices results from the Israel Security Agency’s expansion of duties into investigating criminal activities tangentially linked to terrorism.

The boundary between these realms is thin, and the Israel Security Agency acknowledges the dual nature of weapon trafficking, which not only fuels the illegal arms market within Israel’s Arab community but also supplies armed terrorist groups in Judea and Samaria.

Iran’s strategy includes smuggling weapons into northern Samaria through Jordan, alongside substantial financial support for terrorist groups in Samaria, enabling them to procure weapons on the black market among Arab Israelis.

Hizbullah’s Support for Palestinians
Commentators in Lebanon speculate that the weaponry found among criminal elements in the Arab community may eventually be turned against Israel’s security forces if tensions escalate, as happened in October 2000 and May 2021, particularly in response to events at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

During Operation “Guardian of the Walls” in May 2021, Hizbullah lauded the efforts of Arab Israelis who engaged in riots and targeted Jews and security forces in Arab and mixed cities.

Hizbullah’s media outlets proclaimed, “Palestinians inside Israel understand that this is first and foremost their own battle.”
Why Is Hizballah Escalating Tensions with Israel?
In the past few months, the Lebanon-based terrorist group Hizballah has issued threats against the Jewish state, set up tents on the Israeli side of the border, and even allowed Hamas to launch attacks into Israel from South Lebanon. Hanin Ghaddar, Assaf Orion, and Matthew Levitt examine the guerrilla organization’s motivations, which include a desire to divert attention from its misrule of Lebanon, a perception of Israeli weakness, and urging from its patrons in Tehran. Above all, argues Levitt, Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah appears to have concluded that his massive rocket arsenal has successfully deterred the IDF from significant retaliation. (Moderated by Robert Satloff. Video, 75 minutes.)
Iran pushing Hezbollah to launch terror attacks on Israel, Gallant tells UN
Iran is pressing its proxy group to attack Israel along its northern border, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told the United Nations Secretary-General as he urged him to ensure that the organization’s peacekeeping force is empowered to monitor the situation.

"The potential for escalation on the northern border is increasing following a blatant violation of Lebanon's sovereignty” by Hezbollah’s military build-up,” Gallant said.

“The UN must urgently intervene to reduce tensions by strengthening the freedom of movement of UN Interim Force in Lebanon in the region, and implementing its mandate on the northern border,” Gallant told Guterres.

Gallant pointed specifically to Hezbollah’s breach of Israeli territory by placing a military tent there and the establishment of dozens of other military compounds on Israel’s northern border. There is also an increase in Hezbollah patrols in that area, he said.

The two men met as the United Nations Security Council is set on Wednesday to renew the annual mandate of its 10,500-member peacekeeping force on that border, known as UNIFIL.

The UNSC strengthened UNIFIL’s power of independence to monitor Hezbollah’s activity when it renewed the mandate last year. Lebanon, however, has pushed this year to constrict UNIFIL’s activity by placing language in the mandate that would require it to seek approval from the Lebanese army before inspecting any suspicious site.

Israel is so concerned by the possibility that Hezbollah’s activity will be constricted that both the foreign ministry and the defense ministry have sent delegations to New York in the last month.

Lebanon detains 2 Russians over alleged spying for Israel
Two Russian citizens who were recently detained in Beirut on suspicion of spying for Israel have been referred to an investigative military judge who issued arrest warrants for them, two judicial officials said Monday.

The two Russians were detained "several weeks ago" in Beirut as they were leaving the country through the capital's Rafik Hariri International Airport, the officials said. The two judicial officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

The head of Lebanon's General Security Directorate Maj. Gen. Elias Baisari announced Friday that two foreigners were detained while leaving Lebanon through the airport, describing them as "part of a network spying for Israel." He did not give their identities or say when they were detained.

Russia's Sputnik News on Saturday quoted "a Russian embassy source" as saying that the Russian consulate is trying to contact the detainees to know why they are being held. The Russian Embassy in Beirut refused to comment when contacted by The Associated Press, adding that the Sputnik News report is accurate.

The officials said an investigative judge at the military tribunal, Fadi Sawwan, questioned the two and charged them with "crimes of dealing with the Israeli enemy by supplying security information that endangers Lebanon's security." He referred them to another judge to continue the investigation. Lebanese or Arab citizens charged with spying for Israel can get up to a death sentence in Lebanon. Other nationals get harsh sentences.

The Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar said the two Russian citizens are a man and wife who were recruited by Israel's intelligence service to go to Lebanon and collect information and take photos of facilities belonging to the terrorist group Hezbollah.
White House Mum on Hostages-for-Criminals Swap
The VOA report identified the following Iranians who may be candidates for release or clemency by the United States.

Dual U.S.-Iranian dual nationals Kambiz Attar Kashani and Behrouz Mokhtari, U.S. permanent resident Amin Hasanzadeh, and non-residents Mehrdad Ansari and Reza Sarhangpour Kafrani were convicted or are awaiting trial for violating U.S. or international sanctions.

Manssor Arbabsiar, a U.S.-Iranian dual national, was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison in 2013 for conspiring to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States.

Niloufar “Nellie” Bahadorifar, a U.S.-Iranian dual national, is on supervised post-sentence release for planned medical treatment after receiving a four-year sentence in April 2023 for providing funds to Iranian intelligence assets plotting to assassinate Iranian dissident journalist Masih Alinejad.

Reza Olangian, a U.S.-Iranian dual national, received a 25-year sentence and five years of supervised release in 2018 for conspiring to sell surface-to-air missiles and military aircraft parts to the Iranian government.

Kaveh Lotfolah Afrasiabi, a U.S. permanent resident, is on pre-trial release after being charged with working as an unregistered agent of Iran. He had previously pitched himself to policymakers and media as a neutral Iran expert while secretly being on the Iranian government’s payroll.

Malek Mohammad Balouchzehi, who has no legal status in the United States, is currently in federal detention awaiting sentencing in October. He had been convicted on international drug trafficking charges for conspiring to sell hundreds of kilograms of heroin in the United States.

Erfan Salmanzadeh, a U.S.-Iranian dual national, is currently in post-sentencing detention awaiting transfer to a federal prison. The Department of Justice convicted Salmanzadeh for setting off a bomb in his backyard, stashing a suicide vest, and plotting to blow up a local high school. On July 18, he was sentenced to 11 years in federal prison.

Two of the prisoners are nearing the conclusion of their prison terms: Ansari, whose sentence ends in December 2023, and Kashani, whose sentence ends in February 2024.
Seth Frantzman: Iran boasts new submarines, demands US leave Syria
A new generation of Ghadir midget submarines and Fateh submarines will be made for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ navy, Iran said Monday.

Tehran also slammed the “illegal presence of the US in Syria” in statements by Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani on Monday at a weekly briefing.

Iran made many comments about the Mideast region. It boasted of working on improving ties with Bahrain and Egypt and slammed continued US sanctions.

The Iranian navy is historically quite small, but Iran does operate several submarines. Iran has several Russian submarines it has used since the 1990s, according to naval expert H. I Sutton. Iran also constructed midget submarines, which it calls the Ghadir. It also has the 157-foot Fateh class of submarines.

The Iranians intend to equip the IRGC with both Ghadir and Fateh submarines, according to the report. This is supposed to expand Iran’s power in the Persian Gulf.

The US recently appointed a new commander for US anti-ISIS forces. US forces have facilities in Erbil and also in Syria.

“The presence of the US military and the military in Syrian territory is completely illegal,” Iran said Monday. “The Syrian government has not invited the American military, and the official request of the Syrian government is the withdrawal of the American military forces from the territory of this country as soon as possible.”
Leaked Document: Robert Malley's Security Clearance Revoked Over Handling of Sensitive Info, Personal Conduct, and Use of Classified Networks
Embattled U.S.-Iran envoy Robert Malley had his security clearance and State Department credentials pulled in late April after "serious security concerns" were internally raised about his handling of sensitive information, personal conduct, and use of classified networks, according to a leaked letter sent by the State Department's security division.

Government investigators "received information regarding you that raises serious security concerns and can be disqualifying under" top-secret security guidelines, according to the letter, which was published over the weekend by the Tehran Times, an Iranian state-controlled media outlet.

The letter indicates that, contrary to Malley's public comments on the matter, the now-suspended official knew as early as April exactly why his security clearance was revoked. The letter details how Malley may have breached three separate security guidelines meant to protect classified information. Malley was put on unpaid leave earlier this year after it was revealed that his security clearance was revoked and the matter turned over to the FBI for investigation.

"Your national security eligibility, including your Top Secret security clearance, is suspended pending an ongoing investigation," the letter states. Malley was required at the time to hand over his State Department identification badge, all government-issued credentials, and his diplomatic passport.

A State Department spokesman told the Washington Free Beacon it is aware of reports about the internal document, but would not comment on its authenticity.

"We are aware of these reports," the spokesman said. "The department does not comment on internal matters. Rob Malley remains on leave.  We have nothing further to share at this time due to privacy considerations."

Former U.S. officials have indicated the letter is real, prompting further questions about whether Malley was truthful when he told reporters in late June that he had "not been provided any further information" about his suspension.

"The letter looks authentic to me," Gabriel Noronha, a former State Department adviser on Iran, wrote on X, formerly Twitter. The document "indicates Malley also lied about not knowing why his clearance was pulled."

Sweden accuses Iran, Russia of targeted 'misinformation’ about Quran burnings
Sweden continues to be targeted by information and influence campaigns from Russia and Iran, Sweden’s Minister of Civil Defense said on Tuesday.

The “actors who were active in the campaign against the social services have partly switched to spreading misinformation about Quran burnings,” said Carl-Oskar Bohlin (M), Minister for Civil Defence, according to Sweden’s national television station SVT.

This is the second time that officials in Stockholm have said that they are the target of misinformation and disinformation campaigns by “Russian-backed actors.” The same accusation was made in July with Russia and Iran having both tried to exploit or enflame anger over activists who burned the Quran in Sweden.

"Sweden is the target of a disinformation campaign supported by state and state-like actors with the aim of damaging Swedish interests and ... Swedish citizens," the minister, Carl-Oskar Bohlin, told reporters at a press conference in July.

Now the government has provided an update on who has been behind the campaigns and has warned that this could lead to increased extremist threats. While the July report spotlighted Russia’s role, today the report also notes that there are connections to Iran according to Bohlin. Stockholm has seen an escalation in the campaigns targeting Sweden.

“These actions have not infrequently been carried out by people with vague connections to Sweden and thereby been reproduced in an incorrect way in the international information environment,” the report said.

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