Merkel implicitly rejects Putin's call to help Syria reconstruction
Uri Avnery, Veteran Peace Activist, Dies at 94
Have you ever considered the possibility that almost everything that you have been told about the world by the Western mass media is a lie and fabrication?
I am sure you have, at least lately, when the insanity of Western propaganda is becoming very clear and obvious. But what about the extent of indoctrination you were subjected to?
If you live in Europe or North America, how poisoned are you by the lies about Cuba and Venezuela, Russia and China, North Korea and yes – about Iran? Are you beyond recovery? If you see the truth, if you were confronted by reality, would you still be able to recognize it, or would you perceive it as propaganda and lies?
I have just left Tehran, a city with a tremendous history and culture, overflowing with museums, theatres, wonderfully kept parks dotted with modern art sculptures.
It is a city with modern and fully subsidized public transportation, consisting of high-tech metro, ecological bus ways, as well as suburban trains. A city of tall trees, and quiet squares, of elegant cafes, and extremely educated and kind people. A city that could easily be part of the ‘top ten’ cities on Earth, were it not be the capital of a country that the West is trying to ruin...
What do most Westerners know about Iran; what were they told? I think the image the mass media outlets want to project is of “Iran – a radical Muslim country, some sort of Shia Saudi Arabia”, or perhaps worse. Much worse, as Saudi Arabia, the closest Arab ally of London and Washington,cannot be touched in the West, no matter what barbarity and terror it spreads all around the world.
Those who know both Jeddah and Teheran would laugh at such a comparison.
Saudi Arabia, and its semi-colony Bahrain, despite their wealth from oil, are some of the most compassionless societies on the planet, misery rubbing shoulders with repulsively vulgar and extreme showing off of wealth.
Iran is in its essence a socialist country. It is internationalist, in full solidarity with many oppressed and struggling nations on our planet.
No, I am not talking about Syria, Yemen or Palestine only; I am talking about Cuba and Venezuela, among many others. You did not know? It is not surprising: you are not supposed to know!
You are also expected to remain ignorant about Iran’s social system, clearly socialist. Free education and medical care, greatly subsidized public transportation and culture, huge public spaces and to some extent, strong government and at least partially, central planning.
Whenever I come here, I have this impolite urge – I want to shout at my readers: Come here and learn something! Iran is not perfect, but this is real – here, life is real and so are the people. Thanks to their culture and history, they somehow know how to separate precious stones from junk, pure thoughts from propaganda, cheap and deadly capitalism from the great strive for a much better world. If you don’t believe me, just watch their films; one masterpiece after another.
This country has more than 7,000 years of tremendous history. Instead of bombing it, read its poets, watch its films, and learn from its internationalist stand! And then, only then, decide, whether Iran is really your enemy, or a dear comrade and friend.
The mayor of Tel Aviv on Wednesday accused the government of turning the country into a theocracy after the transportation minister halted bridge construction work planned for Shabbat in the wake of objections from ultra-Orthodox lawmakers.
The comments from Ron Huldai came as opposition politicians and others railed against the decision to freeze the planned work, accusing ministers of caving to pressure, a step they said would cause massive traffic jams.
Yaakov Litzman: We are the majority
MK Tamar Zandberg, who leads the left-wing Meretz party, said her faction was calling for an urgent Knesset meeting during the parliament’s recess on the matter “to return Israel to be a liberal democracy where infrastructure work is done according to needs and not according to the whims of rabbis.”
“The ultra-Orthodox, the real leaders of this government, ordered Netanyahu to freeze the work on the Ayalon. So Netanyahu of course obeyed and froze it, and we’ll again have to be stuck in crazy traffic,” said MK Yair Lapid, head of the secularist Yesh Atid Party.
Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, whose ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party had spearheaded opposition to the bridge work, congratulated Katz.
“Katz… prevented unnecessary harm to the status quo and Israeli tradition,” Litzman said in a statement. “Cancellation of the Shabbat work on the Yehudit Bridge is a welcome and valued step which expresses correct judgment, instead of provocation and harm to the religious and traditional population which is the majority in Israel.”
It was four years ago this month when some 140,000 Christians were facing mass exodus as ISIS militants converged on Iraq's ancient Nineveh Plains.
"The program was to eliminate the population and to also eliminate the historical memory -- to get the people who lived there out of there," Andrew Walther of Knights of Columbus told CBN News.
For the past four years, the Knights of Columbus, the largest Catholic fraternal organization, has been working to help persecuted Middle East Christians. Walther says what took Iraq's Christians millennia to build in the Nineveh Plains was lost in a matter of hours.
"This is why they blew up Roman ruins in Palmyra. This is why they blew up the tomb of Jonah. This is why they had a systematic destruction of Christian cemeteries, of Christian churches, and the desecration of Christian graves," Walther said.
For over 2000 years, Nineveh Plains was the historical homeland of Chaldean, Syriac and Assyrian Christians. ISIS emptied it within days.
"When ISIS swept through northern Iraq they decimated the Christian population. They gave people the option to convert, die or in some cases flee," Walther explained.
"ISIS wanted to stamp out any kind of difference and as a result, they undertook a program that didn't just remove people. It also removed property. It also removed anything that spoke to an earlier culture."
"(ISIS' goal was to) also blow up monuments, to blow up churches, to blow up things that indicated a religious belief that was at odds or just different from ISIS," Walther added.
Today, four years later, with ISIS routed from much of the region, the scars from their reign of terror are still everywhere across the towns and villages of the Nineveh Plains.
Rebuilding houses, roads and other infrastructure in the Nineveh Plains are going to be an enormous undertaking, estimated to cost around $200 million.
Ensuring that towns and villages are safe enough for families to return to is also a huge concern. Made all the more worrying by a new report that shows ISIS has as many fighters as it did at its peak.
The UN estimates that between 20,000 and 30,000 ISIS fighters are still operating in Iraq and Syria, and according to experts "is well-positioned to rebuild and work on enabling its physical caliphate to re-emerge."
President Donald Trump chose as the deputy chairwoman of the intelligence advisory board a Jewish national security expert who is well known in the pro-Israel national security community.
Samantha Ravich was named to the board, which helps shape intelligence policy.
Ravich, a former deputy national security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, is a senior adviser to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, an influential pro-Israel think tank. She is also a senior adviser to the Chertoff Group, founded by Michael Chertoff, a Homeland Security secretary in the George W. Bush administration, and has worked with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. One of her specialties is combating extremists.
She has also worked with the pro-Israel community helping to raise money for Israel Bonds.
Also Tuesday, Jeffrey Gunter, a dermatologist from Los Angeles, was nominated as the ambassador to Iceland. Gunter, a board member of the Republican Jewish Coalition, must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Samantha Ravich & Dick Cheney's 'Cabal of Zealots'
US sanctions on Iran are illegitimate, disproportionate, unjust, and harmful, United Nations Special Rapporteur Idriss Jazairy said on Wednesday, stressing innocent people must not be made to suffer in the “generalization of economic war”.
Jazairy, who was appointed in 2015 by the Human Rights Council as the first Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, said Washington’s unilateral actions undermine the UN Charter.
“The reimposition of sanctions against Iran after the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, which had been unanimously adopted by the Security Council with the support of the US itself, lays bare the illegitimacy of this action,” Jazairy said in a statement Wednesday.
“This illegitimacy was confirmed by the opposition of all other permanent members of the Security Council and indeed of all international partners. The UN Charter calls for sanctions to be applied only by the UN Security Council precisely to ensure such wanton attacks on nations are avoided.”
“International sanctions must have a lawful purpose, must be proportional, and must not harm the human rights of ordinary citizens, and none of these criteria is met in this case,” Jazairy said.
“These unjust and harmful sanctions are destroying the economy and currency of Iran, driving millions of people into poverty and making imported goods unaffordable,” Jazairy stressed
Together with a raft of US sanctions and trade tariffs imposed on Turkey, Russia, and China, Jazairy warned against the growing trend towards generalized economic war at a global level.
Sanctions on Iran have polarized opinion in the Middle East – nowhere more so than Iraq.
Baghdad is a close US ally and entirely dependent on US banks to grow its economy. However, the Shiite establishment now ruling Iraq enjoys close ties and sympathies with Tehran stretching back to the Saddam Hussein era.
Iraq also knows from bitter experience how harsh economic sanctions can be. After Saddam’s 1991 invasion of Kuwait and the resulting First Gulf War, the UN Security Council placed a comprehensive embargo on Iraq. The resulting collapse of infrastructure, shortages of medical supplies, and currency crisis caused intense suffering among civilians.
The head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees suggested that the United States slashed the UNRWA-budget early this year to punish the Palestinians for their criticism of the American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, but he warned that the Palestinian refugee issue will not go away.
The comments by Pierre Kraehenbuehl came amid signs that the US, with Israeli support, is aiming to abolish the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in an apparent attempt to remove one of the most contentious issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the negotiating agenda.
"One cannot simply wish 5 million people away," Kraehenbuehl, commissioner of the UN Relief and Works Agency, said in an interview with The Associated Press.
In January, the US, the largest donor to the agency, slashed some $300 million from its annual contribution to UNRWA, prompting what Kraehenbuehl called an unprecedented financial crisis.
Although he has made up some of the deficit by raising money from other countries, the agency still lacks over $200 million.
Kraehenbuehl said he still has not received a straight answer from the Americans about why they made their decision.
But he said he believes it is connected to the uproar over the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December. The Palestinians, who seek east Jerusalem as their capital, condemned the decision and severed nearly all ties with the Americans.
"I can say with a great degree of confidence that the decision was not related to UNRWA's performance, because in November I had received very constructive and openly positive feedback on those issues," he said.
"A few weeks later, tensions increased around the question of Jerusalem," he added. "It appears that the humanitarian funding to UNRWA got caught up in the deep polarization around that question."
The United States, a major ally of Israel, has cut more than $200m in economic aid to Palestinians, in a move that comes months after also drastically cutting its contribution to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).
The US had planned to give the Palestinians $251m for good governance, health, education and funding for civil society in the current 2018 budget year that ends on September 30.
Washington gives Israel annual military aid of $3.1billion. Next year, that figure will increase to $3.8billion under a 10-year deal agreed by Barack Obama shortly before he stepped down as US president.
Naftali Bennett: “We will never agree to give up Jerusalem, a united city under Israeli sovereignty, and only Israeli. We will not accept a terrorist Palestinian state, we will not accept an agreement based on the  lines”
Ali Abunimah, cofounder of the Electronic Intifada publication, said Trump's decision on Friday might impact health and food assistance programmes but will not be "as severe as the cuts the US has already implemented for UNRWA, which have really inflicted great suffering on some of the most vulnerable Palestinians".
Speaking to Al Jazeera from Chicago, he said the political message of the cuts "is to tell the Palestinians that the American approach now is of putting essentially a gun to their heads - that they must go along with whatever the Americans and of course Israel dictates or the US will cut their funds.
"It's hard to see how the US thinks this will help them get their way," said Abunimah, adding that Washington's policy was driven by "the logic of bullying and bludgeoning Palestinians".
Has Israel been covertly fuelling claims of an “anti-Semitism crisis” purportedly plaguing Britain’s Labour Party since it elected a new leader, Jeremy Corbyn, three years ago?
That question is raised by a new freedom of information request submitted this week by a group of Israeli lawyers, academics and human rights activists. They suspect that two Israeli government departments – the ministries of foreign affairs and strategic affairs – have been helping to undermine Corbyn as part of a wider campaign by the Israeli government to harm Palestinian solidarity activists.
The move follows an outburst by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on social media last week, in which he accused Corbyn of laying a wreath at a cemetery in Tunisia in 2014 for a Palestinian faction that took hostage Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972. Eleven Israelis were killed during a bungled rescue bid by the German security services.
The Labour leader has insisted that the wreath was laid for Palestinian and Tunisian victims of an Israeli attack on Tunisian soil in 1985, an operation that was denounced by most Western leaders at the time.
The suggestion that Corbyn supported Palestinian terrorists is an escalation in long-running allegations of a dramatic rise in anti-Semitism in the Labour Party since he became leader. While initial charges of anti-Semitism in the party targeted mostly Corbyn supporters, the focus has increasingly shifted to the Labour leader himself.
This week Labour MP Joan Ryan, who heads Labour Friends of Israel, wrote a commentary in the Jewish Chronicle newspaper directly blaming Corbyn for what she termed the party’s anti-Semitism crisis. She said the party’s problems had grown out of his “past associations with ‘Holocaust deniers, terrorists and some outright anti-Semites’”.
Asa Winstanley, an investigative journalist who has extensively covered the claims of an anti-Semitism crisis in the Labour Party for the Electronic Intifada, argues that Corbyn is viewed by Israel as effectively the “figurehead of the delegitimisation network”.
“They hope that by taking action against him, they can decapitate what they see as the most powerful figure in this network,” he told Middle East Eye. “By making an example of him, they can sow division, spread fear and suppress speech on Israel.”
One Labour activist, who did not wish to be named given the purges taking place inside the party, told MEE: “Corbyn is up against an unholy, ad hoc alliance of right-wing MPs in both the Labour and Tory parties, the Israeli government and its lobbyists, the British security services and the media.
“They have settled on anti-Semitism as the best weapon to use against him because it is such a taboo issue. It’s like quicksand. The more he struggles against the claims, the more he gets sucked down into the mire.”
Andrew Feldman, a former chairman of the Conservative party in Britain, has claimed that many British Jews are “seriously contemplating” leaving the UK, due to the anti-Semitic climate in the British Labour party headed by Jeremy Corbyn and fears that Corbyn will take power.
In an open letter to Corbyn published on Friday in London’s Evening Standard, Feldman wrote:
“I want you to know that many Jewish people in the United Kingdom are seriously contemplating their future here in the event of you becoming Prime Minister. This is because they can see that Labour, a party with a proud tradition of tolerance and inclusiveness, is now a hotbed of feelings against Israel and therefore the Jewish people.”
According to Feldman, “Quietly, discreetly and extremely reluctantly, [British Jews] are making their contingency plans.”
Addressing Corbyn’s rhetoric against “Zionists,” Feldman emphasized, “Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are the same thing. They are two sides of the same coin. Anti-Zionism is the belief that the state of Israel should not exist. That it should be dismantled.”
"You argue that some of your good friends are Jewish — and explain that Israel is different as it is a powerful, military state that behaves badly to its Palestinian neighbours. You cite a few of these Jewish friends in support of this argument. But these people are representative of nothing. History is littered with self-hating Jews who denounce their own".
He concludes by calling on Corbyn to take “aggressive steps to erase anti-Zionism from the Labour Party. A failure to do so would be a stain on the history of the Labour Party, and on the history of the United Kingdom.”
The open letter comes amid a series of controversies in recent weeks...
The latest of these controversies involved footage which surfaced on Thursday of Corbyn in 2013, in which he criticizes a group of Zionists for not “understanding English irony,” despite “having lived in this country for a very long time.”
“Zionists … clearly have two problems. One is they don’t want to study history, and secondly, having lived in this country for a very long time, probably all their lives, they don’t understand English irony either.
They needed two lessons, which we could perhaps help them with,” Corbyn said in a clip of the speech published by the Daily Mail.
Following uproar over the incident, Corbyn issued a statement on Friday, quoted by the Guardian, in which he claimed that he had used the term Zionist “in the accurate political sense and not as a euphemism for Jewish people.
Carter: West should accept Assad will remain in power
John McCain: Hero at home, hawk in Middle EastAfter his election to the US Senate in 1987, representing the state of Arizona, McCain backed US military intervention from the first Gulf War to the later invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
The US senator's final chapter began in 2017 with an announcement that he had brain cancer and was going to reduce his duties in the Senate, as he underwent treatment. On August 24, McCain's family announced that treatment for his illness would discontinue and a day later, announced his death.
"Iran, Russia, Turkey and Saudi-Arabia are not our friends... So, the U.S. must lead efforts to resolve the crisis in Syria." (Kimberley Kagan, 2016)
When a violent insurgency swept through Libya in 2011, McCain parachuted into the country to meet with leaders of the main insurgent outfit, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), battling the government of Moamar Gaddafi. His goal was to make kosher this band of hardline Islamists in the eyes of the Obama administration, which was considering a military intervention at the time.
What happened next is well documented, though it is scarcely discussed by a Washington political class that depended on the Benghazi charade to deflect from the real scandal of Libya’s societal destruction.
Following the NATO-orchestrated murder of Libya’s leader, McCain tweeted, “Qaddafi on his way out, Bashar al Assad is next.”
Like Libya, Syria had resisted aligning with the West and was suddenly confronted with a Salafi-jihadi insurgency.
Once again, McCain made it his personal duty to market Islamist insurgents to America as a cross between the Minutemen and the Freedom Riders of the civil rights era.
To do so, he took under his wing a youthful DC-based Syria-American operative named Mouaz Moustafa who had been a consultant to the Libyan Transitional Council during the run-up to the NATO invasion.
In May 2013, Moustafa convinced McCain to take an illegal trip across the Syrian border and meet some freedom fighters. McCain’s office released a photo showing the senator posing beside a beaming Moustafa and two grim-looking gunmen.
Days later, the men were named by the Lebanese Daily Star as Mohammad Nour and Abu Ibrahim. Both had been implicated in the kidnapping a year prior of 11 Shia pilgrims, and were identified by one of the survivors.
Months after his Syrian boondoggle, the ornery militarist turned his attention to Ukraine, then in the throes of an upheaval stimulated by U.S. and EU-funded soft power NGO’s.
On December 14, 2013, McCain materialized in Kiev for a meeting with Oleh Tyanhbok, an unreconstructed fascist who had emerged as a top opposition leader. Tyanhbok had co-founded the fascist Social-National Party, a far-right political outfit that touted itself as the “last hope of the white race, of humankind as such.”
“Ukraine will make Europe better and Europe will make Ukraine better!” McCain proclaimed to cheering throngs while Tyanhbok stood by his side.
The only issue that mattered to him at the time was the refusal of Ukraine’s elected president to sign a European Union austerity plan, opting instead for an economic deal with Moscow.
Ukraine is now the sick man of Europe, a perpetual aid case bogged down in an endless war in its east.
Israeli Housing Minister Galant: 'Settlements bring security'
Ken Livingstone is an English politician, he served as the Mayor of London between 2000 and 2008. He is also a former MP and a former member of the Labour Party.
Whilst the issue of Britain leaving the EU has dominated our media for the last two years, a close runner-up has been much of the media claiming the Labour Party has a major problem with anti-Semitism.
I had been doing many interviews, pointing out that this was a distraction to undermine the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the first socialist leader in over a generation.
As I turned up at a television studio I was confronted by a right-wing Labour MP with a television crew filming as he shouted in my face that I was a Nazi apologist. This clip went global immediately and the MP then claimed I had said Hitler was a Zionist.
A couple of hours later I received a phone call from the Labour Party saying I had been suspended because of the accusations. No one from the party bureaucracy phoned to check if I had said Hitler was a Zionist.
I was besieged by journalists, but when I asked if they had bothered to check whether I had said that, none of them had.
I didn’t say Hitler was a Zionist but I did point out that back in 1933 his government negotiated a deal with the German Zionists in which they agreed to collaborate on moving Germany’s Jewish population to Palestine.
In the three hours after I made this comment, no journalist bothered to phone me about it because you only have to go on Jerusalem’s Holocaust Memorial website where you can download the paper that spells out the detail of the agreement.
Or you could contact Frances Nicosia, professor of Holocaust studies at the University of Vermont, who has researched and written about the Holocaust for over 40 years and whose most recent book specifically identifies the overwhelming support amongst German Nazis for German Zionists.
This wasn’t because they liked each other, but the Nazis wanted a Germany free of Jews and the German Zionists wanted all Jews to return their ancient homeland.
Part of the problem was that although Jeremy Corbyn had been elected Labour leader with a landslide, the party machine remained in the firm grip of old Blairite right-wingers.
I suspect that the motive behind my suspension was not because of these bizarre claims but because I had been defending Jeremy and claiming that his socialist policies could win the next election.
The vast majority of Labour MPs had been elected during the Blair years when socialists weren’t allowed to stand for winnable seats, and they believed that we were facing a wipe-out at the next election. When that election took place the following year, most of them were stunned to see Labour’s vote increase by more than at any time since 1945, and we came within two percent of overtaking the Tories.
Since that election, the bulk of Labour MPs have stopped undermining Jeremy and recognise that he could be our prime minister within months.
This hasn’t stopped another wave of anti-Semitic claims. Under Jeremy, Labour adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s full definition of anti-Semitism, but it hasn’t included all the examples which were tacked on at the end, including one which relates to claims about the state of Israel being a racist endeavour. Were that included, it runs the risk of prohibiting legitimate criticism of Israel.
I have no doubt that with Jeremy as our prime minister anti-Semitism, racism and homophobia will decline on his watch as it did under mine, when I was the Mayor of London.
The Zionist Federation of Germany And The Third Reich
Six months after Hitler came to power, the Zionist Federation of Germany (by far the largest Zionist group in the country) submitted a detailed memorandum to the new government that reviewed German-Jewish relations and formally offered Zionist support in "solving" the vexing "Jewish question":
"Zionism believes that the rebirth of the national life of a people, which is now occurring in Germany through the emphasis on its Christian and national character, must also come about in the Jewish national group.
On the basis of their similar ideologies about ethnicity and nationhood, National Socialists and Zionists worked together for what each group believed was in its own national interest.
Many believe that the easily observable dominance of the friends of Israel over some aspects of government policy is a phenomenon unique to the United States, where committed Jews and Christian Zionists are able to control both politicians and the media message relating to what is going on in the Middle East.
What we do: CFI works to promote its twin aims of supporting Israel and promoting Conservatism in the UK. With more than 2,000 activists as members, CFI is active at every level of the Conservative Party. CFI organises numerous events in and around Westminster, takes Conservative parliamentarians and candidates on delegations to Israel...
British Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn has been under unrelenting fire due to the fact that he is the first major political party leader in many years to resist the demands that he place Israel on a pedestal.
Corbyn is indeed a man of the left who has consistently opposed racism, extreme nationalism, colonialism and military interventionism. Corbyn’s crime has been that he is critical of the Jewish state and has called for an “end to the repression of the Palestinian people.” As a reward, he has been hounded mercilessly by British Jews, even those in his own party, for over two years.
There are two principal objectives to the “get Corbyn” campaign. The first is to remove him from the Labour Party leadership position, thereby ensuring that he will never be elected Prime Minister, while also eliminating from the party any and all members who are perceived as being “too critical” of Israel.
And second it is to establish as a legal principle that the “hate crime” offense of anti-Semitism specifically be defined to include criticism of Israel...
Iran and Syria signed a deal for military cooperation in a meeting between the two defense ministers in Damascus, the Tasnim news agency reported on Monday. Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami traveled to Damascus on Sunday for a two-day visit, meeting Syria's Bashar Assad and senior military officials, Tasnim reported.
The high-level military delegation headed by Hatami is expected to boost cooperation between the two countries, and Iranian media reported that the leaders were expected to sign new military and defense agreements.
Iran has provided key support to Assad in the seven-year civil war, sending military advisers and allied militiamen to bolster his forces.
Hatami said Sunday his country will continue its support to ensure improved security in the region, adding that the nature of the two countries' cooperation won't be decided by a "third party."
"Iran will spare no effort to maintain Syria's territorial integrity, because security in the country will help (improve) regional stability," Hatami said in a meeting with his Syrian counterpart, General Ali Abdullah Ayyoub, in Damascus... Hatami said he hopes Iran can play a "productive role" in Syria's reconstruction. He later met with Assad.
The two-day visit comes as the Assad regime gears up for an expected offensive in the northern Idlib province, the last major rebel stronghold, which also has a large al-Qaida presence.
Idlib was on top of the agenda during talks between Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow on Friday. Turkey has sought to delay any offensive, while Russia has expressed growing impatience, accusing insurgents of targeting its forces from the province.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin agreed on Tuesday to set up a joint team for the enforcement of economic sanctions against Iran during their meeting in Washington.
Kahlon said that "the sanctions on Iran contribute to removing a threat to Israel's security..."
Most of the meeting focused on the issue of Iran, concluding with the decision which pertains in particular to sanctions in the high-tech sector. Responsibility for economical sanctions rests with the ministries of finance of both countries. The joint ream will count with staff from both Israeli and US ministries.
In May, the US pulled out of the nuclear deal with Tehran in which sanctions were lifted. They were then reimposed reimposed upon US withdrawal. In addition to cutting off Iran from dollars and gold, the US sanctions enforced earlier this month also restrict Iran’s access to industrial metals and target the country’s automotive sector, its exports of carpets and its sale of pistachios.
Washington’s harshest sanctions will come back into effect on November 4, by which date the Trump administration hopes to decimate Iran’s oil export market.
"The economic sanctions led by the US on Iran are proving themselves [effective]," Kahlon said Wednesday. "They contribute to the removal of the threat to Israel's security [..], and this is why we should be thankful to the US.
My meeting with Finance Secretary Steven Mnuchin is intended to further our strategic economic ties with the US. The joint team that we have established will be of great importance in tightening sanctions on Iran."
Kahlon also addressed the new development in a tweet Wednesday morning, saying "We are working with true friends in Washington, and together are looking after Israel's security interests."
Flashback 2006: The United States of Israel?
Robert Fisk, CounterPunch, April 27, 2006
Steven Terner Mnuchin (born December 21, 1962) is an American former investment banker, who is serving as the 77th and current United States Secretary of the Treasury as part of the Cabinet of Donald Trump.|
Previously, Mnuchin had been a film producer and hedge-fund manager.
After he graduated from Yale University in 1985, Mnuchin worked for investment bank Goldman Sachs for 17 years, eventually becoming its Chief Information Officer. After he left Goldman Sachs in 2002, he worked for and founded several hedge funds. (Wikipedia info)
Statement from Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin,
in response to President Trump’s decision
US Department of the Treasury, 8-5-2018
“President Trump has been consistent and clear that this Administration is resolved to addressing the totality of Iran’s destabilizing activities.
Unilateral US sanctions against Iran resemble an act of war and it was the UN's obligation to interfere, but it chose to do nothing, putting its own credibility in doubt, political commentator Seyyed Mostafa Khoshcheshm told RT.
“Imposing sanctions on nations – state or non-state actors – resembles a declaration of war – that entitles the United Nations and other international bodies to take action by every means to stop the hostile party," Khoshcheshm said, adding hat the UN could have used countersanctions, boycotts and even military means to make Washington fall in line.
By withdrawing from the landmark Iranian nuclear deal, which was approved by the UN Security Council, the Americans showed "full disrespect" of the UN charter and the UNSC, he added.
"The UN should've already taken action to stop the US, and not just that, but also to have punished the US for this violation. And the UN hasn't done anything, unfortunately. That's why many believe that the UN is becoming increasingly an instrument in the hands of the US and its allies to exercise force against smaller and weaker countries or independent nations," Khoshcheshm told RT.
On Monday, Tehran went to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in an attempt to abolish the US sanctions – what the analyst called "the least Iran should've done." As a victim of restrictions imposed outside of the UN Charter Chapter 7 or a UNSC sanctions resolution, Iran had every right to address the court in The Hague.
Iranian lawyers said the country had no choice but to bring the sanctions issue to the ICC as the US refused to negotiate a solution on a diplomatic level. The US is attempting "bring Iran to its knees," they said, adding that the American sanctions violated a bilateral accord struck between Tehran and Washington back in 1955.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Seyed Abbas Araghchi, stressing that The Hague’s ruling is not legally binding, said Iran’s complaint against US was simply aimed at proving our legitimacy to the international community...
"Our policy is establishing all-encompassing ties with the East and the West. Except for one or two countries, we have relations with all the countries. To counteract US efforts to confront the Islamic Republic of Iran, we also need to take a global move against US policies and establish special interactions with the world,” he said.
According to Iran’s agreement with the United States in 1950s, he added, a lawsuit has been filed at the International Court of Justice against the country. Based on the treaty, re-enforcing sanctions is against the Law.
He added that ICJ’s jurisdiction over the issue must be recognized; “this process may take a long time, and the ultimate decision is not binding under international law."
"We are seeking to show the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the international community, to prove that the Islamic Republic of Iran has been committed to its obligation in this regard and the United States is the wrongdoer," he noted.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that “there’s no place for the weak” in the Middle East, and that Israeli forces will continue to oppose alleged attempts by Iran to expand its influence in Syria.
Commenting on the recently announced cooperation agreement between Iran and Syria, Netanyahu said that it will not deter Israel, Haaretz reports.
"Whoever threatens us with demise puts himself in similar danger, and anyway won't achieve what they set out to do," Netanyahu declared, adding that "no threat will deter us."
The Prime Minister also said that Israel will continue to oppose Iran’s alleged attempts to strengthen its positions in Syria, adding that Tel Aviv "won't give up this goal, as we didn't give up the effort to cancel the bad nuclear deal with Iran."
According to the newspaper, Netanyahu claimed that the pressure applied by Israel on Iran allegedly helped scare the Iranian government, citing a speech made by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as proof.
"We saw the fruits borne [out of the pressure applied by Israel] in the words of the Iranian President, who said that many among the Iranian people have lost faith in Iran's future and strength due to the renewed financial sanctions," Netanyahu said.
He added that "in the Middle East, and in many parts of the world, there's a simple truth: there's no place for the weak,” and that "the strong are the ones who are respected, the strong are the ones with whom alliances are struck, and eventually the strong are the ones with whom you make peace."
Earlier this week, the defense ministers of Iran and Syria signed a deal to develop military and defense cooperation between the two countries.
"Syria is passing the phase of crisis to the phase of reconstruction and as a result, the signed agreement will define the areas of presence, contribution and cooperation between Tehran and Damascus," Iranian Minister of Defense Brig. Gen. Amir Hatami said.
As Syrian forces mobilise for a final assault to retake the last rebel-held province of Idlib, an international tug of war between Turkey, Iran, Russia and the United States is taking shape that will decide the fate of two million residents.
Retaking Idlib will enable the Syrian government to finally regain control over most of the country for the first since the outbreak of the bloody civil war in 2011.
While Syrian forces backed by Russian air and naval firepower prepare for an attack on opposition fighters - including the once al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay'et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) group - Moscow and Ankara are trying to negotiate a solution to spare the province from a devastating assault and avoid an influx of millions of Syrian refugees into Turkey.
Analysts, however, say the Idlib offensive is inevitable because negotiations between the various parties in Syria have consistently failed to end the civil war so far.
"I doubt if Turkey or others would be able to avoid an attack on Idlib or its takeover by the regime," said Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at Oklahoma University.
Turkey maintains several military bases in the province. Recent Arabic press reports said Turkey has demanded that HTS - formerly known as al-Nusra Front - and other armed groups dissolve and leave Idlib.
Abu Mohammed al-Joulani, leader of Hay'et Tahrir al-Sham, has reportedly declared he will not heed Turkish demands and ordered his fighters to "follow God, not Turkey" and prepare for battle.
Landis agreed that time was up for the armed group as Hay'et Tahrir al-Sham's options have become exhausted, especially with Turkey.
The Turkish government will not allow HTS members to resettle in Turkey for fear of being accused of harbouring "terrorists", thereby complicating ties with Western intelligence agencies. "HTS has reached the end of the line," said Landis, also the author of the Syria Comment blog.
The only option the group's fighters might have is relocation to northern Syria near Aleppo, where other rebels still have control. But even that option is complicated and could ignite fighting among the opposition factions.
Russia's deputy foreign minister, Mikhail Bogdanov, discussed options for a peace settlement in Syria with opposition leader Nasr al-Hariri, the ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
The foreign ministry said Bogdanov stressed the need to establish dialogue between the Syrian government and the "constructive" opposition.
The talks with Hariri, who represents the official Syrian opposition, came as the Russian-backed Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad has been preparing an offensive on northwestern Idlib province, the last major rebel enclave.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has insisted on clearing the region of rebels, describing them on Wednesday as "a festering abscess".
Syrian forces are preparing a phased offensive, a source close to Damascus said, that would focus on southern and westerns parts of the province but not Idlib city itself.
"The final touches for the first stage will be completed in the coming hours," the official added, without saying when it would start. There were still negotiations over the offensive going on between Russia and Turkey, as well as with Iran, which also supports Damascus in the war, the official said.
Turkey, which borders Idlib and has a small military presence there, has warned against such an attack.
At the US State Department, spokeswoman Heather Nauert said there were indications that Syrian forces were preparing an offensive on Idlib.
She said Washington's new representative for Syria, Jim Jeffrey, raised concerns about the possible offensive in a recent meeting with Russia's ambassador to the United States.
US Central Command (Centcom) announced late on Thursday that it had conducted six air strikes in Yemen which targeted the Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) terrorist network in three separate governorates since May 16. The latest actions bring the total number of air strikes against AQAP in Yemen to 34.
The most recent strikes took place on May 25, June 23 and 30, July 22 and 24, and on August 14. All of these took place in the Shabwa, Hadramawt and Al Bayda governorates.
“AQAP has taken advantage of the conflicts in Yemen, to plot, direct and encourage terror attacks abroad,” said Lieutenant Colonel Earl Brown, a Centcom spokesman.
“We will not relent on our pursuit of AQAP terrorists as they remain a significant threat to regional security and stability, and the safety of Americans at home and abroad.”
On Tuesday, secretary of defense James Mattis said his country is “focused on defeating ISIS and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” in Yemen. “That's what we do where we conduct operations,” he told reporters.
AQAP is known for its lethality and has plotted several attacks against the United States over the last two decades. A recent United Nations report assessing AQAP leaders recognised Yemen as a hub for their external operations.
In recent months, its scope has been weakened by operations of the Saudi-led Arab Coalition supporting the government in Yemen.
Flashback: In Yemen, Our Intervention
Al-Qaeda-leader Qasim al-Raymi: On 16 June 2015, following the death of former AQAP Emir and founder Nasir al-Wuhayshi, al-Raymi had been elected by the group's leadership council to succeed Wuhayshi.
On July 9, al-Raymi swore allegiance to al-Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri. He congratulated the recent successes of the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, al-Nusra Front, and the gains made by Army of Conquest coalition in Syria. He called for renewed attacks against the United States, remarking "All of you must direct and gather your arrows and swords against [America]."
The real winners in this war are al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) which has taken advantage of the collapse of central government to create its own mini-state.
Unnoticed by the outside world, AQAP has been swiftly expanding its own statelet in Yemen in 2015/16, just as Isis and Al-Qaeda did in western Iraq and in Syria in 2013/14...
As has happened repeatedly since 9/11, the US and countries like Britain fail to combat terrorism because they give priority to retaining their alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies...
Filippo Grandi, head of the United Nations' refugee agency (UNHCR), has warned that a potential government offensive in the last rebel-held stronghold in Syria risks causing renewed displacement and discourage others Syrians from returning home.
Speaking to reporters in Beirut, Grandi said an offensive was going to make the situation "very difficult" and appealed to the Syrian government to find a way forward that would "spare civilian lives".
"You risk also sending a message to refugees that the situation is not secured," Grandi said. "Refugees will be watching very closely what is happening in Idlib in the next few months."
Idlib is largely controlled by Hay'et Tahrir al-Sham, which is dominated by a rebel faction that was previously known as al-Nusra Front until it cut its ties to al-Qaeda.
Turkey has been trying to avoid a large-scale assault on Idlib, primarily by utilising pledges made via the Astana diplomatic track to maintain a lasting ceasefire.
On Friday, Turkey - which has 12 military observation posts inside Idlib aimed at monitoring a de-escalation zone and backs other rebel groups in the province - officially designated HTS as a "terrorist" organisation.
Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters that Ankara "is trying to prevent an attack on Syria's Idlib, which could be a disaster".
"It is important for all of us to neutralise these radical groups," he said. "But we have to distinguish the civilians from the terrorist groups."
Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the Syrian government had every right to chase fighters out of Idlib. He also said that negotiations are under way to establish a humanitarian corridor for civilians to be able to leave Idlib. The UN on Thursday proposed establishing the corridor, which would channel civilians to government-held areas.
TEHRAN (FNA) 31-8-2018: Over 9,000 civilians have left the terrorist-held region for army-controlled regions via Abu al-Dhohour corridor, army closed off Abu al-Dhohour humanitarian corridor in Southeastern Idlib which was set up by the army for exit of civilians from terrorist-held regions