Sunday, March 24, 2019

British Government Rules Christianity Is Not a Religion of Peace, Rejects Convert

The Home Office has rejected the asylum application of a Christian convert from Iran who said they had been drawn to the faith by its peaceful nature, due to a Government official ruling that Christianity is not peaceful.

The applicant indicated that they had converted to Christianity from Islam because of its peaceful nature, stating that “In Islam there is violence, rage and revenge. In Christianity in the contrary it is talking about peace, forgiveness and kindness.”
This earned the ire of the Home Office bureaucrat or bureaucrats charged with assessing the application, the Times reports.
The official cobbled together six passages from the King James Version and New Internation Version of the Old and New Testaments — such as Matthew 10:34, in which Christ proclaims he “came not to send peace, but a sword” — in an effort to prove that the applicant’s view of Christianity was wrong, and that Christian scripture is in fact “filled with imagery of revenge, destruction, death and violence”.
“These examples are inconsistent with your claim that you converted to Christianity after discovering it is a ‘peaceful’ religion, as opposed to Islam which contains violence, rage and revenge,” the rejection letter to the applicant admonishes passive-aggressively; an implicit ruling that Christianity is not peaceful — certainly not relative to Islam — and indeed is so clearly not peaceful that the Home Office does not consider perceived peacefulness a credible reason for conversion.
“I am extremely concerned that a Government department could determine the future of another human being based on such a profound misunderstanding of the texts and practices of faith communities,” commented Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham for the Church of England.
“To use extracts from the Book of Revelation to argue that Christianity is a violent religion is like arguing that a Government report on the impact of Climate Change is advocating drought and flooding,” he added.
The United Kingdom is, at least nominally, a Christian country, with the Queen also serving as the Supreme Governor of the established Church of England, and charged with defending the Protestant faith by her Coronation Oath.
Meanwhile the Islamic Republic of Iran is, as the name would suggest, officially Islamic, with a religious cleric acting as Supreme Leader.
Conversion from the state religion of Islam to Christianity in Iran is officially deemed as “apostasy” — a criminal offence which is punishable by death.

US boosts forces in Iraq/Syria, backing recognition of Israeli sovereignty over Golan

Exclusive: The US has continued to buttress its military presence in E. Syria and W. Iraq in six bases, since the buildup was first reported by DEBKAfile on March 9. On March 20, President Donald Trump confirmed the decision to leave 400 US troops in Syria – 200 in the north and 200 at Al Tanf on the Jordanian border. (He did not speak about 200 on the Israeli border, as widely reported.) Two days earlier, Gen. Joseph Danford, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, denied a Wall Street Journal report that the US planned to leave 1,000 soldiers in Syria, while unnamed US military sources spoke of 1,500 American troops that would remain in North Syria.
 
DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources have sorted out the conflicting reports and can confirm that the US has substantially boosted its military strength in both countries and distributed the strength among six bases:
 
Three are located in Iraq. For the first time since ISIS was defeated there in early 2016, US Marines have been posted to a base near the Iraqi town of Ramadi, capital of the western governorate of Anbar and 1110km from Baghdad. (See attached map.).
 
Reinforcements have also reached the US K1 military base near Kirkuk. Earlier this year, the US army converted this facility into its main depot for the intake of American troops and equipment withdrawn from Syria. Since the withdrawal has wound down, K1 has been built up for controlling the northern sector of the Iraqi-Syrian border from Iraqi Kurdistan.
The third US base consolidated in Iraq this week was the big Ayn al-Asad Airbase (which President Trump visited last Christmas).
 
A glance at the attached map reveals that by dint of their newly-reinforced and deployed strength, US forces in Iraq are able to afford the American Middle East command full control of central, western and northern Iraq.

The US bases augmented in Syria this month are located in three regions:
The southern Al Tanf base, just 24km west of the Syrian-Jordanian-Iraq border junction, has been strengthened with additional Marine and artillery forces.
 
Al Raqqa, the Islamic State’s stronghold in Syria until its ouster by US-backed Kurdish forces in 2017, is the second base.
 
And the third is the US air base at Remelin northeast of Hasakeh, the Syrian Kurds’ political center.
 
The six bases are focal points of US military command control of around 1,500 sq.km of territory between Ramadi in central Iraq, up to Hasakeh in northern Syria, and down south to Al Tanf. This wedge of land is bisected down the center by the Iraqi-Syria border.
 
The new US military deployment in Syria and Iraq gives substance to President Trump’s statement that the time has come to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. Most significantly, it is a high impediment for the plan hatched between Tehran and the Assad regime to go forward without delay for the establishment of an Iranian land bridge to the Mediterranean after first reopening the Iraqi-Syrian border. Iranian, Syrian and Iraqi generals began planning this project when they met on March 18 in Damascus.

'I'll talk to Trump about the Golan Heights and Iran'

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu took off for Washington on Saturday night, where he will meet US President Donald Trump and speak at the AIPAC annual policy conference.
Before taking off, Netanyahu said, "I'm going to talk to President Trump about the historical recognition of the Golan Heights and about Iran. The cooperation is unprecedented. "
Netanyahu added, "There has never been such a connection between an Israeli prime minister and an American president."
 
He also discussed the rare interview he gave to Channel 12 News on Saturday evening and said, "You saw that I gave a full interview and answered a lot of questions. When I do not give interviews, they ask why, and when I give an interview, they ask why," he said.
Netanyahu will meet with Trump at the White House on Monday, and the two will hold another meeting as part of a dinner on Tuesday.
 
Netanyahu will discuss with President Trump the Iranian aggression, Iran's attempts to establish military bases in Syria and how to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The two will also discuss strengthening security and intelligence cooperation.
 
Netanyahu will be hosted at the Blair House, the official guesthouse of the US president, and will address the annual AIPAC conference on Tuesday morning.
 
After his speech at AIPAC, Netanyahu will hold a series of political meetings on Capitol Hill, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, with the leadership of the Senate and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. There will also be meetings in the House of Representatives with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with the leadership of the House of Representatives and with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

IDF attacks in Gaza

An IDF aircraft on Saturday night attacked two observation posts of the Hamas terrorist organization in southern Gaza.
 
The attack was carried out in response to multiple explosive devices that were hurled and exploded during Gaza riots near Israel’s border fence on Saturday evening. There were no injuries.
 
Earlier, the “Red Alert” siren was activated in the Eshkol Regional Council as a result of an explosive device that was hurled at the security fence as part of a riot that took place in Gaza.
 
The explosive device did not cross the security fence. The sounds of explosions being heard in the area are also as a result of explosive devices that are being hurled in the Gaza Strip.
 
During the course of the Sabbath, IDF aircraft attacked terrorist squads that detonated explosives in the southern Gaza Strip toward Israeli territory.
 
Gazans regularly launch kites and balloons carrying explosive or incendiary devices into neighboring Israel, causing extensive damage to farmland and private homes.
 
Often, the deadly balloons are colorful and decorated with lights and toys, in order to entice young children into playing with them.
 
At least one rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) was found attached to a balloon sent from Gaza.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Pompeo warns against Hezbollah's 'terror and threats'

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday called on the Lebanese people to stand up to Hezbollah’s “criminality, terror and threats,” and claimed US sanctions on Iran and its Lebanese Shiite ally were working and that more pressure on them was forthcoming, The Associated Press reported.
 
Pompeo’s comments were made during a visit to Beirut and were in strong contrast to those of his host, Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil who minutes earlier, while standing next to Pompeo, insisted that Hezbollah is “a Lebanese group that is not a terrorist organization and was elected by the people.”
 
Pompeo, however, warned that “the Lebanese people face a choice: Bravely move forward or allow the dark ambitions of Iran and Hezbollah to dictate your future.”
He added that the US would continue using “all peaceful means” to curb Hezbollah and Iran’s influence.
 
The US ambassador to Lebanon recently expressed concerns over Hezbollah’s growing role in the new Cabinet, saying it does not contribute to stability.
 
Hezbollah and its allies gained more than half the seats of the 128-member Lebanese parliament in the election which took place in May of 2018.
 
In the newly formed Lebanese cabinet, which was announced last month, Hezbollah has named a health minister and two other posts. US officials have called on Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s new government to ensure the group does not receive support from public resources.
 
Pompeo on Friday highlighted US concerns about Hezbollah’s “destabilizing activities” in Lebanon and the region in talks his with Lebanese leaders.
 
The State Department’s deputy spokesman, Robert Palladino, said Pompeo highlighted in the meetings US concerns about Hezbollah’s “destabilizing activities in Lebanon and the region” as well as the need to maintain calm along the border between Lebanon and Israel.
Hezbollah is blacklisted as a terrorist organization by the West and even by some Arab countries, but some of those designations, most notably in the EU, make a distinction between Hezbollah’s “military wing” and its political arm.
 
Britain recently blacklisted Hezbollah’s political arm as a terrorist group, following warnings by MPs that the UK had drawn a false distinction by proscribing Hezbollah’s military wingbut not its political side.
 
This loophole in British law has allowed participants in the annual Al-Quds Day to march through central London to wave the Hezbollah flag, featuring an assault rifle.

Syria vows to 'liberate' the Golan

The Syrian government on Friday vowed to recover the Golan Heights after US President Donald Trump said it was time to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the region, Reutersreports.
 
Damascus said on Friday the Golan would remain “Syrian, Arab” and added that Trump had shown contempt for international law.
 
“The Syrian nation is more determined to liberate this precious piece of Syrian national land through all available means,” the Syrian government said, according to Reuters.
 
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu welcomed Trump's announcement on Thursday and described it as a "Purim miracle."
 
The Arab world, unsurprisingly, condemned the move. Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said in criticizing the move that “The territorial integrity of states is the most fundamental principle of international law.”
 
“Attempts by the US to legitimize Israel's actions against international law will only lead to more violence and pain in the region. Turkey supports Syria's territorial integrity,” he added.
The Arab League also rejected Trump’s announcement, saying it fully supports Syrian sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
 
PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat, meanwhile, claimed the move would result in regional “destabilization and bloodshed”.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Trump recognizes Golan to counter Iran’s first steps for annexing Lebanon to Syria

US President Donald Trump’s declared recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan on Thursday, March 21, had a time-sensitive object, unconnected to the Israeli election or Binyamin Netanyahu’s run for reelection, as his rivals contended. DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources reveal that it was an arrow aimed by the US president at Iran, Syria, Iraq and Hizballah, and the machinations plotted at Syrian President Bashar Assad’s meeting with Iran’s supreme leader ayatollah Ali Khameini on Feb. 25. Present at their meeting, our sources reveal, were two figures, Al Qods chief Qasem Soleimani, supreme commander of Iran’s Mid East fronts, and, for the first time, a high-ranking Hizballah military official, who is a senior strategic adviser to Hassan Nasrallah.
 
In answer to a question put to him in an Israel TV interview on Thursday, visiting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pointed out that Qassem Soleimani doesn’t’ consider elections in Israel when he acts day by day against the US and Israel. Pompeo was referring that groundbreaking conversation in Khamenei’s office on Feb. 25. The presence of a highly representative Hizballah official at that meeting, alongside Assad and Soleimani, signified Tehran’s decision to treat Syria and Lebanon as a single political and military entity.
 
Iran in fact is taking the first steps towards Syria’s annexation of Lebanon.
 
Neither Washington nor Moscow are ready to countenance this step. It is therefore possible that President Vladimir Putin may agree to overtly join or quietly support US and Israel counter-action.
He already sent Defense Minister Gen. Sergei Shoigu to Damascus on Tuesday, March 19, the day after the Iranian, Syrian and Iraqi chiefs of staffs sat down to prepare joint operations in line with their new orders. Shoigu warned Assad against going through with the plan to join Iran, Iraq and Hizballah in a new axis non-aligned with any world powers. Shoigu told him that Russia was ready to put a stop to it taking off.
 
The Trump administration is setting two steps in train:
  1. It was announced that the time had come for the US recognize the Golan as sovereign Israeli territory.
  2. Pompeo arrives on Friday, March 22, for a two-day visit with a warning to deliver to Lebanese President Michel Aoun: If his government joins the Iranian-Syrian-Iraqi-Hizballah axis, the US will hit hard against it, including the imposition of sanctions against Lebanon’s banking system.
US recognition of Israeli sovereignty in the Golan, though important, does not mark the end of the struggle for this strategic plateau; just the beginning.

EU says it will not follow Trump in recognizing Israeli sovereignty over Golan

Heights in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s declaration that Washington would do so, a spokesperson for the EU said Friday morning.
“The European Union, in accordance with international law, does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the territories it occupied since July 1967, including the Golan Heights, and does not consider them as part of Israeli territory,” Maya Kosyanchich, a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, said in a statement carried by several news outlets.
Her comments came as Trump’s move was condemned strongly by Syria and its allies Russia and Iran, as well as by the president of Turkey.
In signature fashion, Trump made the announcement in a tweet Thursday, reversing over 50 years of US policy since Israel’s capture of the strategic plateau from Syria during the 1967 Six Day War.
Syria’s official SANA news agency, quoting an unnamed foreign ministry official, slammed the decision as “irresponsible” and a violation of United Nations resolutions concerning the territory’s status.
“Syria strongly condemns the irresponsible declaration of the American president, which again proves the US’s blind tendency in favor of the Zionist entity and its unreserved support for its aggression,” the official said. “The Syrian people remain committed to the liberation of the Golan Heights by all means at its disposal.”
The source added that Trump’s statement won’t change “the fact that the Golan was and will remain Arab and Syrian.” READ MORE

Netanyahu to Trump: You performed a Purim micracle

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke with US President Donald Trump shortly after the president called on the US to "fully recognize" Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
 
In a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Netanyahu called Trump's announcement a "Purim miracle."
 
"President Trump has just made history," Netanyahu said. "I called him. I thanked him on behalf of the people of Israel."
 
"He did it again," Netanyahu observed. "First he recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moved the embassy here. Then he pulled out of the disastrous Iran treaty and reimposed sanctions. But now he did something of equal historic importance: he recognized Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights."
 
"He did so at a time when Iran is trying to use Syria as a platform to attack and destroy Israel. The message that President Trump has given the world is that America stands by Israel.
 
"We're celebrating [the holiday of] Purim, when, 2,500 years ago, other Persians, led by Haman, tried to destroy the Jewish people. They failed then. And today, 2,500 years later, again, Persians, led by Khamenei, are trying to destroy the Jewish people and the Jewish State. They are going to fail again," he said.
 
Secretary of State Pompeo said that he studied the battles on the Golan as a cadet in the US military.
 
"There's a famous battle called the Battle of the Valley of Tears (during the 1973 Yom Kippur War). It was Israeli heroism at its most amazing, saving this great nation at a time of enormous challenge, a threat that came from east of the Golan, from Syria. A tank battle of amazing and historic proportions, of amazing Israeli bravery," Pompeo said.
 
"Tonight, President Trump made the decision to recognize that that hard-fought real estate, that important place, is proper to be a sovereign part of the State of Israel.
 
"The people of Israel should know that the battles they fought, the lives that they lost on that very ground were worthy, and meaningful, and important, for all time," he said.

Khamenei: Europeans stabbed us in the back

ran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Thursday dismissed a trade mechanism launched by European countries to bypass renewed US sanctions as a "bitter joke", AFPreports.
 
The European Union launched the trade mechanism that would bypass US sanctions on Iran, known as Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX), in late January in hopes of saving the 2015 nuclear deal.
 
US President Donald Trump withdrew last May from the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, and later imposed two rounds of sanctions on Iran, the latest of which went into effect in November of 2018.
 
The European signatories to the 2015 deal 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.
 
Khamenei, however, rejected the European efforts in a televised address at a shrine in the northeastern city of Mashhad, where he speaks every year to mark the Iranian New Year.
"This financial channel they recently set up resembles a joke, a bitter joke," he said, according to AFP.
 
"The difference between what they are obligated to do and what they are proposing is as far as the earth is from the sky," continued the Supreme Leader, who also stated that Europe cannot be trusted.
 
"We should completely forego (any hope) of help or cooperation from Westerners in strengthening our economy, we shouldn't wait for them," he said, adding, "Once again the Europeans have stabbed us in the back, they have betrayed us." Khamenei said.
He added, "They wear suits, they put on ties and eau de cologne and carry Samsonite briefcases but they are savages.”
 
"What I am saying does not mean (Iran) should cut Western ties, not at all... there is no problem in having relations with them, but trusting them is a mistake, don't trust them," stated Khamenei.
 
The US sanctions on Iran have had an effect on its economy, leading to a weaker rial currency in Iran that has fed into higher inflation.
 
As a result, Iranian leaders have struck an aggressive tone in recent weeks. On Wednesday, Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said that Iran will expand its ties with nations equally tired of “bullying” by the United States, calling the US sanctions “unprecedented, inhumane and illegal”.
 
Earlier in the week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani declared that his country would sue US individuals involved with the economic sanctions.