Saturday, August 24, 2019

After deadly attack, right-wing calls to annex West Bank, criticizes PM

Right-wing lawmakers on Friday called for Israel to annex the entirety of the West Bank after security officials said an Israeli teenager had been killed in a terror attack in the
Ramallah area.
Seventeen-year-old Rina Shnerb was killed when a homemade explosive device detonated near a natural spring outside the settlement of Dolev where she was sitting with her family. It was not yet clear whether the bomb had been planted there in advance or hurled at the family. Shnerb’s rabbi father and 19-year-old brother were critically injured in the attack, and Israeli security forces launched a manhunt for the perpetrators.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered his “deep condolences” to the family and vowed to “continue strengthening” Jewish communities in the West Bank. Though he did not explicitly promise to extend sovereignty over the territory claimed by Palestinians for their future state, he promised to “spread our roots deeper and strike out at our enemies.
“Security forces are in pursuit of the vile terrorists. We will reach them. Our long arm will pay them their dues,” Netanyahu vowed.
Avigdor Liberman, the leader of the Yisrael Beytenu party who has in recent months become Netanyahu’s bitter enemy, blasted the prime minister’s policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians, calling the attack “a slap in the face to [his] policies of surrender.”
The Netanyahu government “has chosen to abandon the security of Israeli citizens in favor of buying quiet from the Palestinian Authority and Hamas until the elections,” he tweeted Friday afternoon.
The new right-wing union Yamina headed by Ayelet Shaked also called on Netanyahu to extend Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank in response to the attack. It blasted what it said was the current policy of “containment” in a statement.

Zarif: Nuclear deal cannot be renegotiated

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Friday held talks with French President Emmanuel Macron about the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, Reutersreports.
 
Zarif said the talks were “productive”, but stressed that it is not possible to renegotiate the nuclear deal.
 
“France had presented some suggestions and we presented some suggestions about how to carry out (the nuclear deal) and the steps that both sides need to take,” said Zarif, who was quoted by the Iranian ILNA news agency.
 
“The talks were good and productive of course it depends on how the European Union can carry out the commitments within (the nuclear deal) and also the commitments that they made after (the nuclear deal) and America’s exit,” he added.
 
US President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal last May. He later imposed two rounds of sanctions on Iran, the latest of which went into effect in November of 2018.
 
Iran, in turn, has scaled back its compliance with the 2015 deal.
The European signatories to the 2015 deal, which include France, did not agree with Trump’s decision to leave the agreement and vowed to help Iran evade the economic sanctions imposed by the US, shielding companies doing business with the rogue state in an effort to preserve the Iran nuclear deal.
 
Zarif’s meeting with Macron followed a back and forth between the US and France after Trump accused Macron of meddling in the dispute between Washington and Tehran.
“Iran is in serious financial trouble. They want desperately to talk to the U.S., but are given mixed signals from all of those purporting to represent us, including President Macron of France,” Trump tweeted two weeks ago.
 
“I know Emmanuel means well, as do all others, but nobody speaks for the United States but the United States itself. No one is authorized in any way, shape, or form, to represent us!” he added.
 
France later replied to Trump and said it "needs no permission" to work towards easing tensions between Iran and the US.

Former Iraqi PM warns Israel of 'strong response'

Former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warned on Friday of a “strong response” if it is proven that Israel was behind recent air strikes in Iraq.
 
In statements issued by his office and quoted by The Associated Press, he also said that if Israel continues to target Iraq, the country “will transform into a battle arena that drags in multiple countries, including Iran.”
 
Maliki’s comments follow a series of air strikes targeting munitions storehouses belonging to the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq.
 
The most recent attack took place this week and targeted an Iranian weapons depot in Baghdad.
 
On Thursday, two senior American officials told The New York Times that Israel was behindthe air strikes.
 
A senior Middle Eastern intelligence official told the newspaper that Israel had bombed a base north of Baghdad on July 19.
 
The attack on July 19 struck a base that the Middle Eastern intelligence official said was being used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to transfer weapons to Syria.
 
The Israeli strike, which was launched from within Iraq, the official told The New York Times, destroyed a cargo of guided missiles with a range of 125 miles.
 
Also on Thursday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the Russian language Channel 9 that “Iran is trying to establish bases against us in Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen. We are acting in many sectors against a country that aims to destroy us.”
 
During his visit to Ukraine this week, Netanyahu addressed the rumors that his country is behind the air strikes in Iraq.
 
“Iran has no immunity, anywhere. We will act — and currently are acting — against them, wherever it is necessary,” he said.

Friday, August 23, 2019

US will 'aggressively enforce' sanctions on Iranian tanker

The United States will aggressively enforce its sanctions to prevent the private sector from assisting an Iranian oil tanker that is traveling through the Mediterranean and that Washington wants seized, a State Department official said on Thursday, according to Reuters.
 
“The shipping sector is on notice that we will aggressively enforce US sanctions,” the official told the news agency.
 
Earlier this week, the Adrian Darya, formerly the Grace 1, left Gibraltar which detained it last month on the grounds that it was violating the sanctions against Syria.
 
Ship tracking data has shown the ship last heading toward Greece, although Greece’s prime minister said it was not heading to his country.
 
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that the United States would act against anyone who directly or indirectly helped the tanker.
 
“All parties in the shipping sector should conduct appropriate due diligence to ensure that they are not doing business with nor facilitating business for, directly or indirectly, sanctioned parties or with sanctioned cargo,” the official warned.
 
The ship was released from detention off Gibraltar after a five-week standoff over whether it was carrying Iranian oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions.
 
Soon after the detention order was lifted, a US federal court ordered the seizure of the vessel on different grounds, but that petition was rejected by Gibraltar.
 
Earlier this week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that the United States will take every action it can to prevent an Iranian tanker from delivering oil to Syria in contravention of US sanctions.
 
“We have made clear that anyone who touches it, anyone who supports it, anyone who allows a ship to dock is at risk of receiving sanctions from the United States,” Pompeo told reporters.
 
“If that ship again heads to Syria we will take every action we can consistent with those sanctions to prevent that,” he stressed.

Forebodings of war?

The security situation became a more central issue in Israeli politics this week due to a number of new terrorist attacks and attempted attacks. A car ramming attack took place near Elazar. One Israeli youngster was severely wounded, his sister, moderately so. The IDF thwarted an infiltration attempt from Gaza killing five armed Palestinian terrorists. Several rockets were fired from Gaza. Arson that began in Lebanon while the wind was blowing toward Israel spread fires close to Israels Northern border.
 
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reacted by saying that Israel will embark if needed on a wide scale campaign in the Gaza Strip irrespective of the upcoming elections. He said so at Ben Gurion airport on his way to Ukraine for a two day trip.
 
In reaction to an earlier lethal terrorist attack, Yamina leader Ayelet Shaked said that the government should act to stop the transfer of payments to convicted terrorists by the Palestinian Authority. She and another prominent candidate of her list, Naftali Bennett also asked the government to annex the Gush Etzion bloc of settlements.
 
Shaked came out strongly against a report in the Haaretz daily. It claimed that she had offered Netanyahu assistance in obtaining immunity from prosecution in return for him to allow her to become a candidate for Likud in the elections. She said that she never spoke to Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit about criminal probes of politicians especially not about Netanyahu.
 
Many election polls have so far been published. If one does not take into account MK Avigdor Liberman's Yisrael Beytenu - neither the government nor the combined opposition parties have a majority. Yet there seems to be hardly any compelling reason to cause voters from either block to switch sides. READ MORE

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Abbas countermands his PM’s order to scale down Israel-Palestinian security cooperation

Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas has overturned his Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh’s order to slow down the PA’s security cooperation with Israel, DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources reveal.

Shtayyeh, by profession an economist, has been trying since his appointment as Palestinian prime minister five months ago to assert his position as future successor to the octogenarian leader Abbas (Abu Mazen). Last week, he summoned heads of the Palestinian intelligence and security services and instructed them to stop meeting with their Israel counterparts for coordinating efforts to keep the peace. He explained that coordination should continue – but without the meetings.
 
Israeli security sources warned in response that this step would not only hamper the current give-and-take between the services and disrupt their counter-terrorism efforts, but it would remove the restraints holding back Abu Mazen’s own Palestinian rivals from malign activities.
As soon as he heard about Shtayyeh’s directive, Abbas urgently summoned the PA’s security and intelligence chiefs and told them to ignore it. To his associates he stressed that matters of security were outside the prime minister’s remit and his exclusive province.  The restoration of the former situation was welcomed by Israel’s military and intelligence officials.
 
Last month, PM Shtayyeh proposed separating the PA from the Israeli shekel and replacing it with a Palestinian national cryptocurrency. This step would have deprived Israel’s central bank of revenue from the shekel’s currency in Palestinian areas under the 1994 Paris Protocol, which allows the Palestinian Monetary Authority (PMA) to act in the capacity of a central bank but not to print its own currency. It was agreed that the shekel would be the official currency for all transactions. 

The Palestinian prime minister’s proposal never took off either. 

In recent weeks, Abu Mazen is more sensitive than ever on matters of security and intelligence as he sees mounting efforts by his personal rivals to grab positions of authority.  After a long absence, agents of Abbas’ veteran rival, Muhammed Dahlan – once the strongman of Gaza – are again dabbling in Ramallah. Dahlan is reported by our sources to have established ties with his foremost foe, Jibril Rajib, another contender for the Abbas throne, and providing him with funds for his activities.
 
Dahlan, who during his years in exile developed a flourishing business empire, was sighted of late commuting between Yugoslavia, Austria and Abu Dhabi, while wheeling and dealing in business ventures, mostly arms transactions.  His chief partner is Muhammed Rashid, a financial wizard, who was a close adviser to the late Yasser Arafat.

Unveiling new missile system, Iran’s president says talks with US are ‘useless’

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s president struck a belligerent tone on dealings with the US, saying Thursday that “talks are useless” as Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers crumbles further.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani made the comment in a speech in Tehran during the unveiling of the Bavar-373, a long-range surface-to-air missile system that he described as an improvement to the Russian S-300.
“Now that our enemies do not accept logic, we cannot respond with logic,” Rouhani said in the televised speech.
He added: “When the enemy launches a missile against us, we cannot give a speech and say: ‘Mr. Rocket, please do not hit our country and our innocent people. Rocket-launching sir, if you can please hit a button and self-destroy the missile in the air.'” READ MORE

ANALYSIS - Turkey and Iran exacerbating crisis in Syria and Iraq

As I wrote on August 14 the war in Syria still has the potential to turn into a global conflict after Turkey threatened another ground incursion into Kurdish-controlled regions along the Turkish Syrian border and after the Syrian army breached a cease-fire agreement and started an offensive against Islamist rebel groups in the north-western Province Idlib in Syria.
 
At the time, the Americans tried to convince Turkish autocratic leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan not to launch another military operation in what is called Rojava, the Kurdish autonomous region along the Turkish border in Syria.
 
Turkey and The United States agreed on the establishment of a 250 miles wide and 18 miles deep ‘safe zone’ along the Turkish border in Syria and decided to form a joint operations center which should implement what they termed the “peace corridor” decision n.
The agreement (temporarily?) prevented the Turkish operation against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) but Erdogan then decided to send his forces into the Idlib Province in northwest Syria.
 
On Sunday, Turkish army units tried to reach the town of Khan Sheikhoun which was under attack of the Russian-Iranian-backed pro-Assad coalition.
 
The convoy of heavy weaponry, including tanks, was officially meant to reinforce the Turkish observation posts in Idlib but Arab media reported that the weapons were to be delivered to the coalition of Islamist rebels in Idlib which is led by former al-Qaeda offshoot Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.
 
It would have been the first time that NATO member Turkey tried to deliver weapons to the Syrian Islamist in broad daylight. READ MORE

'We'll prevent Iranian tanker from delivering oil to Syria'

The United States will take every action it can to prevent an Iranian tanker from delivering oil to Syria in contravention of US sanctions, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned on Tuesday.
 
“We have made clear that anyone who touches it, anyone who supports it, anyone who allows a ship to dock is at risk of receiving sanctions from the United States,” Pompeo told reporters.
 
“If that ship again heads to Syria we will take every action we can consistent with those sanctions to prevent that,” he stressed.
 
His comments come two days after the Adrian Darya, formerly the Grace 1, left Gibraltarwhich detained it last month on the grounds that it was violating the sanctions against Syria.
 
Ship-tracking data showed the vessel was heading toward the Greek port of Kalamata.
Pompeo’s comments were made hours after Western intelligence sources told Fox News that a tanker filled with Iranian oil is headed towards Syria, in violation of American sanctions. WATCH

Abbas: 'We'll enter Jerusalem as millions of fighters'

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said in an address at the Jalazun Refugee Camp near Ramallah that the "Palestinians" cannot be removed from their homeland and that every building built by the Zionist occupation will be destroyed and thrown in the garbage bin of history, reports the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
 
In the video, uploaded to to Abbas' Facebook page on August 10, he claimed that the "Palestinians" are the Canaanites who have lived in Palestine for 5,000 years, and he rejected the conferences in Warsaw and Manama as unacceptable to the "Palestinian people".
 
He said that Jerusalem belongs to the "Palestinians", and the audience began to chant: "To Jerusalem we march, martyrs by the millions!"
 
Abbas continued, saying that the entire Palestinian nation will enter Jerusalem as millions of fighters, along with the Arab, Islamic, and Christian nations, and he said that he rejects the designation of "Palestinian" martyrs as terrorists. He added that the families of "Palestinian" martyrs, injured people, and prisoners will continue to receive salaries from the PA because they are the most sacred thing the "Palestinians" have. WATCH