Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Study: Assad Used Chemical Weapons over 300 Times Since Obama’s ‘Red Line’ Speech

The Iranian- and Russian-backed regime of dictator Bashar al-Assad has used banned chemical weapons against its own people more than 300 times since former President Barack Obama declared in 2012 that such attacks would cross a “red line” that would trigger a U.S. military response, the Germany-based Global Public Policy Institute (GPPI) reported on Sunday.

In August 2012, then-President Obama declared that Assad’s use of chemical weapons was a “red line” that the regime should not cross. Instead of enforcing his “red line” warning, the Obama administration decided to reach a deal that mainly revolved around Russia overseeing the dismantling and destruction of his ally Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile.
GGPI noted in its new study unveiled on Sunday that there have been no confirmed uses of chemical weapons at the hands of Assad since U.S. President Donald Trump ordered retaliatory air strikes against the Syrian regime in April 2018, suggesting that the American military operation had a real impact on what the study refers to as the dictator’s “chemical weapons diplomacy.”
The study explained:
In building this dataset, we collected and reviewed 498 discrete reports of chemical weapons use in Syria from a wide range of closed and open sources. The first credible reported incident occurred on 23 December 2012, and the most recent one on 7 April 2018. As of 18 January 2019, we were able to assess 336 incidents as either “credibly substantiated,” “confirmed,” or “comprehensively confirmed.” We dismissed 162 reports.
GGPI acknowledged that while the Assad regime is responsible for the vast majority of chemical weapons attacks, the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) jihadist group has also used the same tactic.
The study revealed:
Our research found that there have been at least 336 chemical weapons attacks over the course of the Syrian civil war – significantly more than has commonly been known. Around 98 percent [329] of these attacks can be attributed to the Assad regime, with the Islamic State group responsible for the rest [7]. Approximately 90 percent [about 302] of all confirmed attacks occurred after the infamous “red line” incident of August [2012].
The study acknowledged that Assad continued to use chemical weapons without facing any repercussions, adding that the dictator is on the brink of defeating his enemies mainly due to his regime’s use of chemical weapons.
GPPI noted:
We show that the Assad regime did not merely “get away” with its use of these banned weapons, but succeeded in using them for strategic ends. More than two-thirds of Syria’s population are internally or externally displaced, and opposition-held communities have been buckling and surrendering under the cumulative weight – and eventually the mere threat – of violence, including the use of chemical weapons. READ MORE

Caroline Glick: Liberal Criticism of Warsaw Conference Proves It Was Success

The liberal media have been quick to pan last week’s Warsaw conference on Middle East security as a failure. And their unanimity of opinion is proof of the conference’s success.

At Warsaw last week, the U.S. delegation, led by Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, met with representatives of 60 countries. Together they forged a broad diplomatic coalition to advance the goal of ending Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons program and other malign, destabilizing, and aggressive Iranian actions in the Middle East and around the world.
A video from the opening dinner, briefly posted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, showed the foreign ministers of Sunni Arab states — including Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Saudi Arabia — discussing the threat Iran poses to their countries and to the Middle East more generally in language indistinguishable from Israeli rhetoric on the issue.
Sitting at the dinner with Netanyahu, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister blamed Iran for the absence of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The UAE’s foreign minister supported Israel’s bombing of Iranian targets in Syria. Saudi Arabia’s representative gave similar statements.
Noting the remarkable unanimity between Israel and the Arab states on Iran, former U.S. Middle East peace envoy, Ambassador Dennis Ross, who hosted the discussions at the dinner, wrote on his Twitter account, “At the Warsaw Conference, I conducted back to back discussions first with three Arab ministers and then with Israeli PM Netanyahu. Same room, same views of Iran’s aggressive, threatening posture in the Middle East, and unmistakable convergence of what should be done to counter it.”
Ross’s longtime deputy, Aaron David Miller, was similarly struck by the Arab-Israel diplomatic alliance. In an interview with Al-Monitor, Miller said, “What is so stunning, so preternaturally amazing is that at a time when there is no peace process and no prospect of one, and there is one of the most right-wing governments in Israeli history, and the [Trump] administration is waging a political and economic war against the Palestinians, Israel’s stock in the region and in the international community is higher now than at any point since the state was created.” READ MORE

Putin: Russia will target US if nukes deployed in Europe

President Vladimir Putin says Russia will target new weapons at the United States should it deploy new intermediate-range missiles in Europe following Washington’s withdrawal from a key arms control pact.
Putin, speaking at a state-of-the-nation address, rejected the US claim that its withdrawal from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty was prompted by Russian violations of the pact. He charges the US made false accusations against Russia to justify its decision to opt out of the pact.
Putin reaffirms that Russia will not be the first to deploy new intermediate-range missiles in Europe, but warned that it will retaliate if the US puts such missiles on the continent. He said it will not only target the host countries, but field new weapons that will target US decision-making centers.

Fatah: Israel 'playing with fire' on Temple Mount

The Fatah movement is calling on the Palestinian Arab public to arrive at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, to gather outside and hold a prayer until its entrances are opened by Israel.
The call follows riots and clashes on the Temple Mount in recent days, as Muslims have forcibly tried enter the closed Gate of Mercy compound.
The closure of the gates by Israel was described by the Fatah movement as “a crime and provocation of the feelings of all Muslims.”
The Gate of Mercy, known as Bab al-Rahma in Arabic, was closed by Israeli authorities several years ago because the group running the area was found to have ties to Hamas. It has been kept closed to stop illegal construction work by the Waqf.
Osama al-Qawasmeh, a member of Fatah's Revolutionary Council and its spokesman, said that Israel is “playing with fire” and igniting the entire region in order to turn the conflict from its political nature into a religious conflict that will destroy everything.
Qawasmeh blamed Israel for the consequences of the situation and called on the Arab and Muslim world to intervene immediately to prevent a "massacre in Al-Aqsa."
The Temple Mount was left in the hands of the Jordanian Waqf following Jerusalem’s reunification in the Six Day War in 1967. The Waqf has taken advantage of this and removed every sign of ancient Jewish presence at the most Jewish holy site.
Police, in an attempt to appease the Waqf, discriminate against Jews. They limit the number of Jewish worshippers allowed on the Temple Mount at one time in order to prevent conflict with Muslim worshippers. They often close the Mount to Jews in response to Muslim riots – despite evidence that Muslim riots have been planned in advance for the specific purpose of forcing Jews out.
Despite this, Palestinian Arabs regularly blame Israel for the Arab riots and violence on the Temple Mount and, in general, falsely claim that Israel is “Judaizing” Jerusalem, which they claim is their capital, in an attempt to erase the Muslim connection to the city.

Abbas: We will pay every penny to the martyrs

Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas responded on Tuesday evening to the Israeli Cabinet’s decision to implement the policy to offset the PA’s payments to terrorists.
Under the law passed by the Knesset in July 2018, 507,697,000 shekels ($140,350,300) in tax revenue will be withheld from the PA.
"Israel claims that the Palestinian Authority transfers funds to terrorists and therefore wants to offset these funds," Abbas said in a speech, according to Channel 13 News. "So I say that we do not want to receive these funds and every penny we have - we will transfer to the families of the martyrs."
PA officials have remained defiant and have made clear that the PA will never cease paying terrorists' salaries, threatening that Netanyahu would have to pay more if the salaries were deducted from the payments to the PA.
Abbas has in the past called the PA's continued payments to terrorists a "red line" that would not be halted under any circumstances.
In his remarks on Tuesday, the PA chairman also said that the peace process with Israel is on the verge of collapse. “We are not interested in this because this is dangerous to the Middle East region," he insisted.
Abbas also discussed the US peace efforts to achieve peace with Israel, which he has rejected before it has even been presented.
"During my meetings with Trump, I understood from him that he is a man of peace," he said, according to Channel 13 News. "During my last meeting with Tramp on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, I asked him if he believed in the two-state solution and he replied that he does. I asked him if he believed in peace between Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of the 1967 borders and he replied that he does. Our doors are still open to the United States and we will talk to the US again if it agrees to retract its recent decisions against us.”

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The historic significance of the Warsaw Conference

Exclusive: Iran charts active plans for fighting “Trump’s economic war”

Tehran is deep in hectic discussions on ways to fight crippling US sanctions – whether by terror or fast-tracked nuclear development, DEBKAfile’s exclusive military and intelligence sources reveal.

The first inkling of these deliberations came on Monday, Feb. 18 from Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani when he complained that “economic war is more difficult than military war.”  The heads of the Islamic Republican regime and military chiefs decided some weeks ago that it was time for action when they saw reports on the disastrous state of Iran’s economy and on the rising anti-regime disaffection in the streets over extreme hardship and shortages.

Rouhani spoke at the inauguration of new oil refineries at Bandar Abbas on the Gulf coast, an important port and the seat of several Revolutionary Guards command posts. His reference to “economic war” indicated that the regime’s discussions are focusing on a form of belligerence in reprisal for US sanctions. “Iran must fight Trump’s war with war,” is the precept put forward by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Guards chief, Gen. Ali Jaafari with majority support. After weeks of parley, they are close to a decision on tactics. Should Iran resort to the military or the nuclear path – or both?

For the revolutionary regime, “military” would translate as a wave of terrorist attacks on American forces and facilities across the Middle East. This was first attempted on Feb. 2 when three Iranian missiles were caught pointing ready to fire at the US Ain Al Asad air base in western Iraq near the Syrian border.

The nuclear path would mean fast-tracking Iran’s nuclear weapons program as a provocation for raising war tensions with the US and Israel.

'Abbas about to inflict serious humanitarian crisis on PA'

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has officially announced the PA will refuse to accept all tax money Israel transfers to the PA if Israel deducts the amount the PA uses to reward terrorists, reports Palestinian Media Watch (PMW). This PA policy may lead to a grave humanitarian crisis.
The Israeli Cabinet announced yesterday that Israel will be deducting 502,697,000 shekels/year - $139,638,000 - from taxes to be transferred to the PA. This is the amount reported exclusively by PMW that the PA paid in 2018 in salaries to imprisoned and released terrorists. This sum does not include the PA's financial rewards to families of dead terrorists, the so-called "martyrs," or to wounded terrorists. The deduction will be made in 12 monthly portions of approx. $11,636,500 million/month - almost 42 million shekels/month.
Information obtained by PMW from Israel's Finance Ministry in response to a request based on Israel's Freedom of Information Act, shows that the taxes Israel collected and transferred to the PA in 2018 amounted to $2.2 billion (8 billion shekels) - an average of $186,121,569/month (670,037,651 shekels) - while PA payments to terrorist prisoners, released prisoners, and families of dead terrorists in 2018 averaged at least $204 million/year (732 million shekels/year), or $17 million/month (61 million shekels) according to PMW calculations.
Earlier this month, Abbas declared that if Israel deducts a sum equal to what the PA spends on rewarding terrorists from next month's transfer - approx. $11.6 million according to the sum announced by the Israeli Cabinet - he will refuse to accept the entire remainder - approx. $174.5 million/month - that the PA population needs to keep the economy functioning:
"[PA] Minister of Civil Affairs [and Fatah Central Committee member] Hussein Al-Sheikh said yesterday [Feb. 10, 2019] that he has conveyed an official message at the request of [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas that emphasizes that 'He will refuse to receive the collected [tax] money if Israel deducts even one penny from it'." [Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 11, 2019] READ MORE

Rouhani: US sanctions are 'economic war'

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Monday described US sanctions imposed on Iran as an economic war being waged on his country, stressing that "economic war is more difficult than military war."
Rouhani, who was quoted by The Associated Press, spoke as he inaugurated the third and final phase of the sprawling Persian Gulf Star refinery built in the Persian Gulf port city of Bandar Abbas. Construction of the refinery began in 2006 and it now has the capacity of 400,000 barrels a day, which amounts to about 20 percent of Iran's 2.1 million barrels of daily refining capacity.
Rouhani praised the inauguration, saying in a televised speech that it comes despite America's "imposing the harshest sanctions" on Iran.
"We have inaugurated huge national projects in this situation," Rouhani said, according to AP, adding that this comes despite efforts by the US, Israel and their allies to increase pressures on Iran.
US President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal last May and reimposed the sanctions that were frozen as part of the deal, causing Iran to feel the pressure.
Rouhani has changed his tone regarding the sanctions. He initially insisted that the new US sanctions have had no effect on Iran’s economy because Washington had already practically reimposed them earlier.
In December, however, Rouhani said US sanctions against his country amounted to "economic terrorism".
The Iranian president has vowed that the US will not succeed in bringing Iran to its knees with the sanctions.

Report: Qatar won't finance Gaza's electricity after April

Qatari envoy Mohammed Al-Emadi recently said in closed-door meetings that Qatar does not intend to continue financing Gaza’s electricity after April, Kan 11 News reported on Monday, citing Palestinian Arab sources.
The reason for the move, according to the sources, is Qatar’s disappointment with the foot dragging on several major projects in Gaza.
Qatar had pledged to finance diesel fuel for the Gaza power plant for six months, and since last November has been transferring $10 million a month for this purpose, according to Kan. The supply of funds is due to end in April, and the Qatari envoy has indicated that it will not be extended beyond that.
At the same time, the Palestinian Arab sources estimated that Emadi's message was intended to pressure the relevant elements in Gaza to accelerate the large-scale projects in the field of electricity. At the top of the list of projects is a high-voltage power line from Israel, which could double the amount of electricity to Gaza.
Under Emadi’s supervision, Qatar recently transferred cash to Gaza through Israel which was meant for the salaries of Hamas employees in the enclave.
Israel allowed two installments of the Qatari money, which was to have been distributed in six installments, to enter Gaza, but postponed the third last month following the shooting of an IDF soldier by a terrorist from Gaza.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Security Cabinet subsequently approved the transfer of the third installment, but Hamas refused to accept the money “in response to the occupation policy”.
Emadi subsequently announced his country will no longer fund salaries of Hamas employees in Gaza and would instead donate the remaining $60 million in aid mostly through United Nations programs.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Israel, Gulf States Commend Kushner’s Peace Effort

WARSAW—President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, said that a show of unity among Israeli and Arab officials at a U.S.-backed conference here made him feel “optimistic” about prospects for peace in the Middle East, according to officials who witnessed the presentation behind closed doors on Thursday.
But Mr. Kushner provided no details of the Trump administration’s peace plan, which he has been developing for more than two years, the officials said. Mr. Kushner said in public comments later Thursday that he planned to present the document following Israeli elections in April.
During Thursday’s session, U.S. officials including Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Iran of causing instability and conflict across the Middle East, bringing together a group of countries including Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf nations that share that view.
Mr. Kushner, in his closed-door presentation, focused his appeal for support of his peace efforts on the same group—Israel and the Gulf Arab countries—with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu present in the meeting room.
Mr. Netanyahu congratulated Mr. Kushner in response to the presentation during the session, and for being “crazy enough” to “come up with ideas.”
The “normalization” of relations with the Arab world would help, Mr. Netanyahu continued, adding, “I am happy to say there is progress on that.”
Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Adel al-Jubeir, echoed his assent and offered assistance for Mr. Kushner’s plan. “We strongly believe it’s time to find a solution to this long-running conflict,” Mr. Jubeir told the session, officials said.
Mr. Netanyahu’s meeting with senior Arab officials a day earlier was the first such appearance by an Israeli premier in more than two decades. READ MORE

Limbaugh: Immigration Is an Emergency — Our ‘Culture’ at Risk from ‘Parade of Illegal People Who Are Uneducated’

On this weekend’s broadcast of “Fox News Sunday,” nationally syndicated conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh said President Donald Trump was right to declare a national emergency on the U.S.-Mexico border to build a wall.
Limbaugh, “We have an emergency. This is an invasion. The very existence and definition of American culture, American society, the rule of law. Why does nobody talk about the fact that millions and millions and millions of people are breaking the law coming here illegally and that the Democrat Party wants that to happen?”
He added, “It is undeniable that we have a major immigration problem and a political party that needs a permanent underclass of voters that wants that parade of illegal people who are uneducated, don’t even speak the language, they want them here. It is a crisis.”

Pence’s Calls to Pressure Iran Fall on Deaf Ears in Europe

MUNICH—European officials brushed off U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s calls during a diplomatic trip to the continent this week to ratchet up pressure on Iran, saying they will continue defending the 2015 nuclear deal and stay engaged with Iran’s government.
At the annual Munich Security Conference over the weekend, where world leaders gather to debate issues from the Middle East to trade, senior European officials met with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Mr. Zarif on Sunday blasted what he called Mr. Pence’s arrogant demands on European soil for Europeans to pull out of the deal.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel set out a starkly different vision from the vice president, urging greater European and multilateral cooperation and raising questions about recent U.S. decisions like the planned drawdown of troops from Syria. She lamented the split between the U.S. and Europe on Iran and raised common European and U.S. worries about Iran’s role in Syria and Yemen and its missile program.
Speaking after Ms. Merkel, Mr. Pence echoed comments he made earlier at a Polish-U.S. conference in Warsaw, saying “the time has come for our European partners to stop undermining U.S. sanctions” on Iran. “The time has come for our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.”
Privately, some Western officials said Mr. Pence’s remarks could weaken Washington’s efforts to draw a line under differences over the 2015 deal and tighten coordination on shared U.S.-European concerns about Iran’s behavior.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said, following his meeting with Mr. Zarif, that Europe needs “a constructive dialogue with Iran” on Syria and Yemen.
On Friday, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the Iranian nuclear deal, which saw Iran accept strict but temporary demands on its nuclear activities, was “fundamental and crucial for our security.” READ MORE

Iran to unveil submarine equipped with guided cruise missile system

Iran said Saturday a new submarine being developed by its military would be outfitted with guided cruise missiles.
Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami said the Fateh-class submarine was undergoing final tests before being integrated into the Islamic Republic’s fleet.
“The advanced Fateh submarine will soon join the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Navy after success in final tests,” Hatami said, according to Iran’s semi-official Fars news site.
According to the Mehr news site, the sub will be officially unveiled on Sunday by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
He said the vessel would be equipped with guided undersurface to surface missiles, as well as a missile defense system and other “advanced” equipment.
Iran says the vessel is not based on any foreign model, but is 100 percent domestically developed.
Last August, Iran unveiled a self-produced fighter jet, though experts concluded that it was only an improved version of an old American F-5 model.