Archive for January 3, 2018

International Responses to Iran’s Mass Protests are Beginning to Emerge

January 3, 2018

International Responses to Iran’s Mass Protests are Beginning to Emerge, Iran News Update, January 3, 2018

Perhaps equally important is the escalation in the overall tone of protesters’ messages, respective to the 2009 demonstrations. While the earlier movement was primarily focused on the disputed reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, current slogans include calls for “death to the dictator,” in reference to Supreme Leader Khamenei and, by extension, the entire system of clerical rule.

It is reasonable to conclude that the suppression of previous demonstrations combined with the regime’s inability or unwillingness to address the underlying grievances is leading a growing number of Iranians to the conclusion that regime change is a necessary prerequisite for the improvement of their own future prospects.

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INU – International coverage of Iran’s nationwide protests continued on Tuesday and began to display common narratives as the demonstrations entered their sixth day. The initial protests in the city of Mashhad, allegedly organized around economic issues by conservative opponents of President Hassan Rouhani, led to unexpected expansion in both the geographic and ideological scope of subsequent gatherings. This in turn led to highly predictable government crackdowns, resulting in numerous arrests and several deaths.

CNBC was among the outlets to report that nine people had been killed in the midst of the demonstrations on Monday night. One hundred people were reportedly arrested that night in the capital city of Tehran alone, after 250 others had been arrested in the same locality over the previous two nights. Figures for the total numbers of deceased and arrested protesters appeared more inconsistent as of Tuesday. It was generally agreed that the nine deaths from the previous night had raised the total to more than 20.

Al Jazeera placed the figure at 22 and also reported that at least 530 people had been arrested. But the National Council of Resistance of Iran, drawing upon its intelligence network inside the Islamic Republic, specified higher figures in both instances, saying that at least 30 people had been killed and 663 arrested. The NCRI also provided a breakdown on the location of a number of these arrests, in addition to the 450 that took place in Tehran.

That breakdown demonstrates one key fact that has been widely observed about the current wave of protests: they are different from the 2009 Green Movement and generally unusual among Iranian protest movements insofar as they are not geographically diffuse, involving a number of rural areas that are considered to be conservative strongholds rather than being focused primarily on socially progressive urban areas like Tehran.

In fact, Iranian officials appear to have responded to the growing protests in part by insisting that their original economic focus remained the only significant driving force and that the demonstrations held limited appeal in the capital and in other major cities apart from Mashhad.

Following the first day of protests, it was reported that Tehran officials had declared that only 50 people attended a local gathering and that most of them dispersed immediately following police warnings. Similar messaging seemed evident in quotations cited in the Los Angeles Times, with officials asserting that despite 450 arrests in three days, the demonstrations in the capital were naturally dying down. Those remarks went on to speculate that the rest of the country would soon follow suit.

The nearly simultaneous claims about mass arrests and waning popularity are not the only instances of self-contradiction in the regime’s response to the protests, Al Jazeera raised this issue in the context of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s personal response to the situation, which emerged for the first time on Tuesday. Khamenei sought to portray the protests as primarily the work of outside agitators. Business Insider quoted him as specifically blaming “wicked enemies backed by westerners, easterners, as well as reactionaries of the region”.

In the first place, his decision to weigh in is at odds with other officials’ attempts to downplay the significance of what is happening. At the same time, Al Jazeera notes that by giving credit to foreign infiltrators for such widespread demonstrations, Khamenei is contradicting the regime’s official position that such infiltrators have little real influence in the Islamic Republic. In fact, Al Jazeera asserts that the latter position is correct and that Khamenei’s claims regarding a foreign hand in the protests are not at all credible.

This, of course, is not to say that there hasn’t been an outpouring of foreign interest as the demonstrations have stretched on. Neither does this observation lead to the conclusion that foreign support for a domestically-driven movement hasn’t been welcomed by Iranian activists. Indeed, aBBC report consisting of direct commentary from Iranian citizens includes one quotation embracing the supportive remarks delivered by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu via Instagram.

The Iranian activist, identified only as Zahi, addressed Netanyahu directly and then turned his attention to other countries: “Thanks a lot for supporting the oppressed. I expect the same from all other countries. This cruel regime is harsh on its own people. We shouldn’t be under batons and bullets. This isn’t our destiny. We have the right to protest and we ask other countries to support us.”
Netanyahu’s use of social media to express support for the protest movement was predictably emulated on Twitter by US President Donald Trump, who has posted on the topic several times since the demonstrations started. His messages repeated familiar condemnations of the Iranian regime and praised the Iranian people for speaking out about the misappropriation of their wealth for terrorism and projects of regional intervention. These issues had previously been raised by many of the protestors themselves with slogans such as “forget about Syria; think about us!”

Apart from offering personal support for the protesters’ cause, Trump has also overseen responses from the White House that are passing through more official channels. ABC News reported on Tuesday that the administration was keeping up pressure to prevent Iran from blocking the social media platforms that have been used as effective organizing tools for the ongoing demonstrations. The Associated Press added that the White House was actively encouraging Iranian citizens to use virtual private networks in order to evade some of the new blockages that the Iranian government is imposing on specific websites.

Both outlets quoted Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein as saying that the US has “an obligation not to stand by.” He added, “We want to encourage the protesters to continue to fight for what’s right and to open up Iran.”

Much of the international press has criticized President Trump over his direct commentary on the protests, suggesting that any American effort to influence their trajectory would feed into the Iranian supreme leader’s efforts to discredit the demonstrations as the work of foreign agents. Nevertheless, many of the same outlets have expressed earnest support for what the Trump administration is doing at the policy level, as opposed to at the level of pure public relations.

The Atlantic, for instance, insisted that any active American interference would help hardliners, but then advocated for Western powers the help facilitate the free flow of communication within Iranian society. Also, in an interview with PBS NewsHour, Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace recommended that the US could help to inhibit Iran’s ability to control communication, adding that one way of doing this would be by censuring any information technology companies that provide Iranian leaders with the tools to limit access within their country.

Sadjadpour also highlighted the considerable impact that the continued flow of information could have on the future of the still-emerging movement, which has reportedly been spreading in absence of centralized leadership or specific, across-the-board demands. He pointed out that whereas Twitter had been a highly successful organizing force in the 2009 Green Movement protests, those protests took place at a time when only one million Iranians could access the platform via smartphones. Today, 48 million Iranians have such devices.

The continued use of those devices as organizational tools would no doubt contribute to a situation that the BBC described as an “unpredictable challenge” for the ruling regime. The BBC also observed on Tuesday that momentum was still building for the grassroots movement. According to theIndependent, that momentum is such that protesters in some areas have actually overpowered security forces and members of the basij civilian militia, disarming and dispersing some of the forces that might otherwise have violently repressed the gatherings.

Of course, it is still widely expected that state authorities will implement a campaign of such repression on the orders of the supreme leader. Sadjadpour noted that the weeks-long protests in 2009 were a case study in the regime’s highly developed capacity for violent repression, which has likely grown since then. And the Washington Post described the office of the supreme leader as having “many loyal and ruthless troops at his disposal.”

This fact, combined with the lack of any notable defections near the top of the regime, leads the Washington Post to conclude that the current demonstrations are unlikely to lead directly to a political tipping point. But the same report suggests that the suppression of those demonstrations will lead to the later recurrence of the same. Other outlets agree with this assessment, and Reuters cited the likelihood of repression leading to further protests as one of the main points of interest for Western leaders who are watching the situation unfold.

Perhaps equally important is the escalation in the overall tone of protesters’ messages, respective to the 2009 demonstrations. While the earlier movement was primarily focused on the disputed reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, current slogans include calls for “death to the dictator,” in reference to Supreme Leader Khamenei and, by extension, the entire system of clerical rule.

It is reasonable to conclude that the suppression of previous demonstrations combined with the regime’s inability or unwillingness to address the underlying grievances is leading a growing number of Iranians to the conclusion that regime change is a necessary prerequisite for the improvement of their own future prospects.

Would Iranians really bring back the Shah?

January 3, 2018

Would Iranians really bring back the Shah? American ThinkerMonica Showalter, January 3, 2017

[T]here once was another Iran, one where women had freedoms; living standards were rising; human rights were improving (he learned that the Shah’s much vilified SAVAK secret police, for instance, committed far fewer crimes than Soviet-linked propagandists had claimed); and the country was integrated with, not isolated from the world community.  The Shah, Cooper argued, really did want to see his country advance in the world, and he enacted many democratic reforms.

Is it really that far-fetched that the [deceased] Shah[‘s son, Reza Pahlavi] might be seen as a legitimate alternative for Iran?  Not with these current things going on.  Right now, U.S. policymakers should be ignoring the Stanford establishmentarian elites on Iran and reading Cooper’s book as fast as they can.

He appears to have no ulterior motive other than doing what he can to help his countrymen in Iran and his willingness to become the necessary catalyst to dislodge the current brutal regime.  Reza Pahlavi wants the Iranian people to rise up against the regime and establish a parliamentary democracy based on democratic values, freedom, and human rights.

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Pundits have marveled at what a big surprise it is that ordinary Iranians have revolted against the mullahs.  It’s a surprise to them, but no surprise to American Thinker’s readers, whose Iranian contributors have kept us posted for years about what is really going on in Iran.

Just look at these pieces by Hamid BahramiReza ShafieeHassan MahmoudiAmil Imani, and Shahriar Kia.  Over and over again, these writers warned there is a problem, and now Iranians’ protests against corruption, soaring prices, environmental ruin, Revolutionary Guards thuggery, poverty, and bank collapses have become the “surprise” story of the day.

One writer at Politico correctly noted that the “surprise” stems from reporters covering only Tehran’s elites, not the doings in the hinterlands.  The hinterlands, of course, are where the trouble started, beginning in Mashhad, and these are the parts of the country American Thinker’s writers have been bringing us information on.  These writers showed long ago that what we are seeing now isn’t your garden-variety protests of city elites seeking “reform” or “fair elections.”  These protests are smaller, but they’re the real kind, revolutionary ones, actual calls for the overthrow of the regime and the initiation of a new government.  Protests now aren’t coming from the comfortable elites who just want a little bit of tweaking.

Now with eyes on Iran, one essay, published six months ago at American Thinker, stands out: Amil Imani’s piece titled “Is Reza Pahlavi the Only Hope to Overthrow the Mullahs?

On the surface, it sounds ridiculous that anyone would want to bring back a king, even as a constitutional monarch in a democracy.  But it’s real.  Here is an account by Voice of America about the rise of the late Shah’s son, Reza Pahlavi, a smart, photogenic, democracy-oriented leader, waiting in the wings as an alternative to the corrupt, sneering mullahs.

 As Imani noted:

Reza Pahlavi is the son of the late Shah of Iran.  I have never had the honor of meeting or speaking with him, although I judge any man based on what he says and what he does.

As I watched this man grow and become a seasoned politician, my admiration for him grew stronger.  In my opinion, Mr. Pahlavi has become the very asset that the opposition has needed for many years.

He appears to have no ulterior motive other than doing what he can to help his countrymen in Iran and his willingness to become the necessary catalyst to dislodge the current brutal regime.  Reza Pahlavi wants the Iranian people to rise up against the regime and establish a parliamentary democracy based on democratic values, freedom, and human rights.

American Thinker’s writers, most recently Hassan Mahmoudi, have noted that in the shouted slogans in the crowds, many were calling for the return of the Shah.  Russian propaganda organ Sputnik has noted the phenomenon in the streets, too.

It’s worth noting that kings are easily understood by average people and for that reason have appeal, especially in light of the failure of the current regime.

I have one story of my own that suggests that a return to the Shah may not be as far-fetched as it seems.

An old friend, Andrew Scott Cooper, spent years of research to write a fascinating scholarly book about the last days of the shah of Iran, titled The Fall of Heaven, published by Henry Holt & Co. last year.  He actually managed to reach and interview the former shabanu, or, queen, of Iran, Farah Diba, who was living in exile in Europe.  From that, he wrote a fascinating, unique account of the Shah’s last days, largely told through her eyes.

It was a sympathetic analytic history, intended, as he told an audience at the Nixon Library last year, to show that there once was another Iran, one where women had freedoms; living standards were rising; human rights were improving (he learned that the Shah’s much vilified SAVAK secret police, for instance, committed far fewer crimes than Soviet-linked propagandists had claimed); and the country was integrated with, not isolated from the world community.  The Shah, Cooper argued, really did want to see his country advance in the world, and he enacted many democratic reforms.

Naturally, saying something out of the ordinary, or contradicting the conventional wisdom, is a good way to get panned, and so publication of the book was followed by several critical book reviews – in the top papers, often by Iranian-Americans affiliated with the elite establishment centers of Iran research, such as Stanford.  These were scholars who had an interest in maintaining the conventional wisdom and who may have had interests getting contracts from the mullahs.  These are the same people whom policymakers and newspaper editors tend to consult as experts and were the people who said all was well; just stay out of Iranian affairs and let them handle it.  In addition, there was a creepy campaign on Amazon to drive down the ratings of the book by similar people who had never even read it – and Amazon put a stop to it.  What this all showed is that there existed a large entrenched establishment with an interest in maintaining the status quo, and its operators were aghast at the idea – now being shouted in the streets of Iran – that maybe bringing back the Shah could be good.  Of course, they hated this louche idea.

But this came against another subplot of the publishing of this book, which was that a hell of a lot of those books, thousands of them (showing Iranians their own history and teaching them that Iran was once a very different place), somehow got smuggled into Iran, and the locals lapped them up.

As a result of this, within a few days, a full Farsi translation of the book will be coming out, which should stoke conversation about this in Iran even further, given the interest shown.  Publishers don’t publish books in non-Western languages if they don’t think they will sell.  Obviously, the publishers knew that something big is going on and published the costly translation.  Iranians, starved of information about their own history, are likely to lap this up just as they lapped up the English-language version.

Given what is going on in Iran now, call it fat on the fire.

Don’t think there hasn’t been wild interest on this side of the hemisphere, too.  Iranian-Americans on the West Coast flooded an author’s event held at the Nixon Library last year in September, shortly after the publication of Cooper’s book.  It was standing room only, and it’s important to note that the Nixon Library is not all that close to where most Iranian-Americans live in the Los Angeles area, which is Beverly Hills and its outskirts.  The Nixon Library is about an hour’s drive away from that in Yorba Linda, Calif., and it’s an arduous drive, through a truck-convoy-route highway.  Here is a photo I took of how the audience that night looked:

Here is Andrew Cooper signing copies of his book – which sold out with a line waiting.

Is it really that far-fetched that the Shah might be seen as a legitimate alternative for Iran?  Not with these current things going on.  Right now, U.S. policymakers should be ignoring the Stanford establishmentarian elites on Iran and reading Cooper’s book as fast as they can.

Iranian protest ebbs with failure to stage strike. Regime swamps rallies with security forces 

January 3, 2018

Source: Iranian protest ebbs with failure to stage strike. Regime swamps rallies with security forces – DEBKAfile

 The nationwide strike which the anti-government demonstrators scheduled for Tuesday, Day Six of their protest, failed to come off for lack of an identified leader to get it off the ground. No work stoppages occurred in any of the big or small towns across the country and the markets were as busy as usual.

DEBKAfile’s Iranian sources note that the protest movement is running out of steam – not least also because of its failure to attract essential support from the most powerful classes of society, the intelligentsia, the middle class, the bazaar merchants and the students. By Tuesday night, therefore, the number of rallies had declined by a third and participation by almost half.

Many of the protesters took fright from the menacing words they heard from supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday. He accused “foreign intelligence agents” of providing the protesters with “cash, arms and intelligence.” This raised the specter of being arrested for treason and collaboration with enemy agents, charges that carry the death sentence. Other regime officials reiterated that anyone caught attacking or setting on fire to government buildings would be executed. This is no idle threat in Iran, which tops world ranks for its prolific and swift executions.
The regime also showed gaining confidence in its ability to weather the upheaval by the way it was handled, DEBKAfile reports. No shooting or violent crackdowns. Instead, after three days, the demonstrators were still free to reach their rallying-points in the town centers, but when they arrived, they met thousands of regime loyalists and police reinforcements waiting quietly there and were often outnumbered.

The regime’s blockage of Internet media had mixed results. Although the Trump administration called on Tehran Tuesday to unblock the favorites, Instagram and Telegram, users had by then found the blockages lifted in many places. This was another sign that the regime was less worried about the outcome of the street dissent than in its early days.  DEBKAfile’s sources stress that the protest movement is by no means finished. Attempts will continue to keep up the rallies. They face their next test on Friday, Jan. 5. If the anti-government movement fails to bring masses out to the streets after Friday prayers, it will continue to fade for the moment. On Tuesday night, America’s UN ambassador, Nikki Haley said a UN Security Council session would be called to discuss the situation in Iran.

Hamas demands formal end to peace process

January 3, 2018

Hamas leader proposes to preempt Israel and US by announcing end of peace process and cessation of all normalization with Israel.

Mordechai Sones, 02/01/18 21:22

http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/240161

Hamas preparing the next generation

Flash 90

Hamas leader Ismail Haniya called today for the formulation of a new overall strategy aimed at thwarting US and Israeli decisions on Jerusalem and re-positioning the Palestinian issue as a national liberation struggle centered on “popular intifada”.

Speaking at a press conference Haniya stressed the importance of formulating “a united Arab-Islamic plan in coordination with international bodies that support Palestinian rights” and feel wronged by US policy in the region.

In order to preempt the “American blockade”, Haniya suggested working on two political levels: One – declaring the end of the peace process, and the other – a demand to cease all aspects of normalization with Israel.

He accused Israel of seeking to ignite religious wars in the region in order to exhaust the Arab states and involve them in their internal problems. Haniyeh said that the “war for Al Quds” would be decided “in the streets, hills, and houses of Jerusalem and the rest of the Palestinian areas through struggle and determination”.

Hamas continues to incite the Arab public into confrontations with Israel, in addition to attempting numerous terror attacks from Judea and Samaria and persuading the Palestinian Authority to renounce the Oslo Accords, stop security coordination, and return to confrontation with Israel as a policy instrument.

Among Netanyahu’s reasons for backing Iran protests: aligning with Trump

January 3, 2018

Source: Among Netanyahu’s reasons for backing Iran protests: aligning with Trump | The Times of Israel

PM overrules some of his own security advisers, believing demonstrators need to know the Mideast’s only democracy supports their struggle, source says

US President Donald Trump and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House on February 15, 2017 in Washington, DC.  (AFP/Mandel Ngan)

US President Donald Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House on February 15, 2017 in Washington, DC. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu overruled some of his most senior security advisers in expressing support on Monday for Iranian protesters, The Times of Israel has learned.

Netanyahu broke his five-day silence on the wave of anti-government demonstrations both because he wanted to support the Iranian public in its struggle and because he felt it was important he remain fully aligned with the US administration, a well-placed source said.

In his first public comment on the matter after Iranians started taking to the streets Thursday in angry protest of the regime, Netanyahu passionately backed the protesters’ “noble quest for freedom.”

Before the video was published, the prime minister and his staff held an in-depth discussion on how Israel should best react to the unrest, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

Dismissing concerns by some of his security advisers, who argued that official Israeli support could harm the protesters’ cause, Netanyahu ultimately decided to speak out, according to the source.

“I heard today Iran’s President [Hassan] Rouhani’s claim that Israel is behind the protests in Iran. It’s not only false. It’s laughable,” he said in the clip, issued in the evening on his social media accounts and distributed to journalists on several channels.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani sits during a meeting with Pakistan Army Chief General in Tehran on November 6, 2017. (AFP/Atta Kenare)

One of the three main reasons for Netanyahu’s decision was his conviction that Rouhani’s accusation should not go undisputed, the source said. Israeli silence could have been interpreted as a tacit acknowledgement of involvement.

Furthermore, the prime minister felt that the Iranian people needed to know that the Middle East’s only democracy supports their struggle against the oppressive regime, according to the source.

“The Iranian people are smart,” Netanyahu said in the video. “They are sophisticated. They are proud. Today they risk everything for freedom.”

Perhaps most importantly, the prime minister felt it was important for Jerusalem to remain in lockstep with Washington on crucial regional issues. In light of upcoming discussions over the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the future of the Iran nuclear deal and the Syrian civil war, Netanyahu has been seeking to align himself with the administration of Donald Trump on these matters, the source said.

In sharp contrast to the Obama administration, which hesitated to back Iranian protesters during a previous round of unrest that began in 2009, the current White House has taken a clear anti-regime stance.

In this Monday, June 15, 2009 file photo, hundreds of thousands of supporters of leading opposition presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, who claims there was voting fraud in the election, turn out to protest the result of the election at a mass rally in Azadi (Freedom) square in Tehran, Iran. Iran is marking the anniversary of the end of the 2009 protests it calls “the sedition”(AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

“The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom,” Trump tweeted on Monday. “Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!”

It was the last of a series of statements made by US officials in support of the protests.

In contrast, Netanyahu in his video Monday criticized “many European governments” for remaining silent “as heroic young Iranians are beaten in the streets.”

“That’s just not right. And I, for one, will not stay silent,” he said.

Some Israeli analysts, however, took issue with the prime minister’s decision to back the Iranian protesters, arguing that the last thing they need right now is the official support of Israel’s leader.

“Let’s be clear: Netanyahu’s analysis might be spot on, but this kind of PR gesture is self-serving and doesn’t help the cause of those protesting in Iran,” tweeted Gabriel Mitchell, the US representative of Mitvim – the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies.

Earlier on Monday, leading Israeli politicians, including Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid, had declined to comment on the current unrest in Iran, arguing that the Iranian people are best served if Jerusalem remains quiet.

“I don’t see advantages in Netanyahu’s reaction. I don’t understand why he did it,” said Yoel Guzansky, a senior researcher at Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, where he focuses on Iran and the Arab Gulf states.

“I do see disadvantages,” he added. “Why connect Israel with that? The Iranian regime already says, ‘Look, it’s the Israelis who are behind this wave of of protests.’ Why would we give them more ammunition?”

A more democratic Iran is in Israel’s interest, Guzansky went on, and Jerusalem should look for quite ways to encourage change in this country. “But official Israel should be quiet.”

Why would you do that? It’s stupid

Guzansky, who used to hold the Iran portfolio at Israel’s National Security Council — a body operating within the Prime Minister’s Office — said that in his current role he closely monitors the Saudi reaction to the unrest in Iran.

“It’s silence; not a word; nothing,” he said. “And why would they say anything? It would immediately put the spotlight on them. Why would you do that? It’s stupid.”

Netanyahu’s statement was counterproductive, agreed Meir Javedanfar, an Iran native who teaches about his home country at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya and the Meir Ezri Center for Persian Gulf studies.

“It’s best if Israeli politicians, especially the prime minister, and especially Netanyahu, don’t comment on these issues — because he’s not a very popular figure, even among the Iranian opposition,” Javedanfar said. “In general, if foreign statesmen show support for the people of Iran, the regime may use it to say that the people [calling for change] represent that particular foreign government, be it Israel, the US or England.”

Rather, foreign governments should focus on condemning the regime’s abuse of human rights, including considering imposing new sanctions, said Javedanfar, who left Iran in 1987, eight years after the Islamic Revolution. “But to say that they support one group or another in Iran is something the regime can use to its advantage.”

Iranian protesters chant slogans at a rally in Tehran, Iran, December 30, 2017. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

On the other hand, Ze’ev Maghen, who chairs the Department of Middle East Studies at Bar-Ilan University, said that Netanyahu had acted in Israel’s strategic interest to bolster the current protests, arguing that Iranian leaders will blame Israel and the West either way.

“They accuse the Israelis and the American and the British of being behind this regardless of what the Israelis and the American and the British say or don’t say. They always do it,” he said.

Netanyahu thus did the right thing for Israel and for Iran, as the public’s unhappiness with the regime “is some kind of a trend in the direction that might lower the hostility and the tension between Iran and Israel,” Maghen said.

All analysts interviewed for this article agreed that Netanyahu’s full-mouthed support for the protesters did not occur in a vacuum, but rather was inspired by Trump’s position on the matter.

“Under Obama, Iran had managed to get the support of America and China and Russia, all at the same time,” Maghen said. “Now that there is that change, Netanyahu and Trump are lining up together against Iran and the ayatollahs.”

The current demonstrations in Iran are fundamentally different from those of the so-called Green Movement in 2009-10, which were the result of alleged irregularities during presidential elections, Maghen said.

“In 2009, the most you heard was ‘Death to the dictator,’ but these were still statements against a particular person. Now we hear for the first time in these demonstrations slogans that seek to undermine the very basis of the Islamic Republic.” Today, protesters “across a wide swath of cities in Iran” are calling for a return to an Iran before the Islamic Revolution, he added.

“Netanyahu is picking up on this as well, and saying to himself: There might be a chance here, not to get a reformist candidate in — like Rouhani, who is kind of semi-reformist — but to actually cultivate regime change, which has been the goal of the Americans and the Israelis all along.”

Trump rails against Palestinians on Twitter, threatens to cut aid dollars

January 3, 2018

Source: Trump rails against Palestinians on Twitter, threatens to cut aid dollars – Israel News – Jerusalem Post

BY JTA, REUTERS
 JANUARY 3, 2018 07:17
US President says Israel would have had to pay in return for Jerusalem recognition, but Ramallah backed away from talks.
 President Donald Trump, near an Israeli flag at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem

 President Donald Trump, near an Israeli flag at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

WASHINGTON  — US President Donald Trump appeared to threaten to cut off assistance to the Palestinians, saying they were not interested in making peace with Israel.

Trump’s apparent threat came Tuesday in a tweet, one in a succession in which he upbraided Pakistan for taking American aid and not doing enough to combat terrorism.

“It’s not only Pakistan that we pay billions of dollars to for nothing, but also many other countries, and others,” he said. “As an example, we pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect.

“They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue peace treaty with Israel,” he continued. “We have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more. But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?”

It’s not only Pakistan that we pay billions of dollars to for nothing, but also many other countries, and others. As an example, we pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect. They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue…

It’s not clear what Trump meant by having taken Jerusalem “off the table.” The Palestinians last month walked away from Trump administration attempts to revive the peace process after Trump broke with 70 years of US executive branch policy and recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Trump emphasized at the time that his recognition did not presume the final status of the city, which the Palestinians also claim as a capital.

The President’s tweets follow plans disclosed by his UN ambassador earlier on Tuesday to stop funding UNRWA, a United Nations agency that provides humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees.

“The President has basically said he doesn’t want to give any additional funding, or stop funding, until the Palestinians agree to come back to the negotiation table,” Ambassador Nikki Haley told reporters when asked about future US funding for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees.

“The Palestinians now have to show to the world that they want to come to the table. As of now, they’re not coming to the table but they asked for aid. We’re not giving the aid, we’re going to make sure that they come to the table and we want to move forward with the peace process,” she said.

The US is the largest donor to the agency, with a pledge of nearly $370 million as of 2016, according to UNRWA’s website.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has since said that he is not willing to return to talks as long as the United States is the sole mediator.

Abbas has called the Trump administration’s decision on Jerusalem the “greatest crime” and a flagrant violation of international law, and said it was unacceptable for the United States to have a role in the Middle East peace process because it was biased in favor of Israel.

Trump’s top negotiators in the peace process are his son-in-law Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt. Neither has indicated that they see the peace process as suspended; Greenblatt was in Israel last week to advance the effort.

US funding for the Palestinians is $260 million, separate from about $50 million that helps pay for Palestinian security services. Congress is considering measures, backed by the centrist and right-wing pro-Israel community, that would slash all but a small portion of the humanitarian aid. Israel opposes slashing security assistance, as it is seen as a means of keeping the West Bank quiet.

Old Chestnuts to Mark a New Year

January 3, 2018

Old Chestnuts to Mark a New Year, PJ MediaBruce Bawer, January 2, 2018

(AP Photo/Thibault Camus)

Only to the East could you find guts, straight talk, substance. Czech president Miloš Zeman spoke not like a parent lullabying his children to sleep but like a CEO being accountable to his shareholders: “The Czech Republic is the sixth safest country in the world…..We have the lowest level of unemployment in the European Union and also the lowest degree of income disparity.” Economic growth is high, public investment low; GDP is going up, but so should living standards. Welfare rolls and government bureaucracy should be cut; the EU must protect its external border and NATO must combat Islamic terrorism more vigorously. (Yes, he actually used the words “Islamic terrorism.”) “Nobody can dictate to us,” Zeman said, “whom we will allow onto our territory.”

Polish prez Andrej Duda also talked like a grown-up, focusing on his country’s economic growth and national security, celebrating its freedom and “the greatness of our history.” And Hungary’s Viktor Orbán was even more blunt, vowing that, unlike many peoples elsewhere in Europe, Hungarians would not “retreat behind concrete blocks” on Christmas or be “harassed in the New Year’s Eve crowd.” He emphasized the importance of protecting “Christian culture” at a time when “fundamentals of European life are under attack.” Where does Europe’s future lie? These Christmas and New Year’s speeches certainly left no doubt about the matter.

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Another year, another raft of televised Christmas and New Year’s speeches by the Western European heads of state and government who are busy whitewashing terrorism, buttressing the EU, and generally running their countries into the ground. As always, the Christmas addresses tended to be short on meaningful references to Christianity, while pretty much all the leaders skirted the harsh realities of mass immigration and steady Islamization, preferring instead to speak, in sunny, saccharine, and consistently vague terms, about community and volunteerism.

Take Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustav. His country is racing toward its doom, but you’d never know that from his fatuous Christmas oration, which began on a religious note (“A child is born”) only to pivot to the idea that Christmas’s message of “peace, joy, and fellowship” can be grasped by everybody, no matter “where one comes from or what one believes.” Similarly, while referencing the April 7, 2017, terrorist attack in Stockholm, in which five people died, the king did so within the context of praising those who’d helped others on that day – which enabled him to leave terrorism behind pronto and begin waxing poetic about mutual respect and community service. It was as if he believed one could heal social divisions with platitudes.

In the Netherlands, which are also undergoing galloping Islamization, King Willem-Alexander observed that even as Christmas is a family time, it “connects us emphatically with each other” – a fact that should lead us to ask “What are we doing for our community?” and “How do we live with differences?” His prescription: volunteer, help strangers, show curiosity about others, and seek out similarities with them. Like his brother monarch in Sweden, Willem-Alexander spoke as if his subjects’ problems could be cured with clichés.

King Harald V of Norway seemed to be using the same hack speechwriters as his Swedish and Dutch cousins. After lecturing his subjects about the good in every person, he celebrated – what else? – volunteerism and community service and argued that building a better society means including people from every background and letting them “contribute on their own terms” (whatever that means). Harald, who has previously dismissed the importance of Norwegian culture and identity, went there again, proclaiming that “there are over five million different stories about who we are” (that’s Norway’s population) and that “we shouldn’t be surprised that different people in Norway live by different values.” Even more than Carl Gustav and Willem-Alexander, this clown has no business on a throne.

Belgium’s King Philippe is no prize either. In his annual salutation, he recalled a palace visit by a group of children, one of whom “mentioned how lucky we are to live in a country as beautiful as Belgium.” This led to a stretch of insipid rhetoric about the “rich inner beauty” in each of us “that deserves to be cultivated.” Philippe also recounted a recent meeting with some “young people of immigrant origin” who “developed social-integration projects” to cultivate their “self-esteem” and whose “beautiful” facial expressions “spoke volumes.” (Philippe spoke on Christmas Eve, but was mum on the holiday itself, even though his opening bit about those children visiting the palace would’ve made it natural to precede it with a reference to “a child being born.”)

Which one of these kings is worst? Hard to say. As usual, Queen Margrethe of Denmark outdid them all: she didn’t say anything brave or profound, but at least she didn’t say anything downright idiotic. And Queen Elizabeth was even better, perorating with refreshing candor and near-eloquence about her Christian faith at the end of a year when London and Manchester had undergone “appalling attacks.” (Unlike others, QE2 didn’t feel called upon to be religiously inclusive when speaking on a Christian holy day as head of an established church.)

Then there were the elected nabobs. Were they worse than the crowned heads or better? You decide. In France, the streets of whose major cities have become crowded with immigrant tent camps, President Emmanuel Macron promised to “end homelessness” but not mass immigration, which he framed as a moral issue. (Meanwhile, as a result of that mass migration, more than 1,000 cars were burned up across France in what has become a cherished New Year’s Eve tradition, and French cops were being beaten up by culture-enhancers, a development that Interior Minister Gerard Collomb called “savage.”)

As for Angela Merkel, she admitted that while many Germans like their country as it is – and even work with refugees – others “are worried about social cohesion,” apparently because they’re “unable to keep up with the pace of our time.” (Get it? If they have a problem, it’s their fault.) After agreeing that high crime and immigration levels are “realities” and thanking the police – who at that very moment, she said, were “protecting our country’s many New Year’s parties” (you’d think there’d have been a glint of embarrassment in her eyes when she brought up the cops, but nope) – Merkel stressed that Europe should remain “one community.” (It’s presumably in pursuit of that objective that Beatrix von Storch, deputy leader of the Alternative für Deutschland party, risks being charged with “incitement to hatred” after criticizing Cologne cops for tweeting a New Year’s message in Arabic.)

Theresa May, for her part, was brisk and businesslike, claiming to make progress toward Brexit and promising more cash for “our schools, our police, and our precious NHS.” After some predictable pabulum about “peace” (good) and “extremism” (bad), May asserted her goal of “eliminat[ing] all prejudice and discrimination” and of establishing “a public sphere where debate is constructive and courteous.” (Which, I suspect, means: we’ll keep letting in jihad preachers but retain the ban on Islam critics like Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller, and continue the policy of ignoring actual crimes while vigorously investigating and prosecuting “hate speech.”)

So much for Western Europe. Only to the East could you find guts, straight talk, substance. Czech president Miloš Zeman spoke not like a parent lullabying his children to sleep but like a CEO being accountable to his shareholders: “The Czech Republic is the sixth safest country in the world…..We have the lowest level of unemployment in the European Union and also the lowest degree of income disparity.” Economic growth is high, public investment low; GDP is going up, but so should living standards. Welfare rolls and government bureaucracy should be cut; the EU must protect its external border and NATO must combat Islamic terrorism more vigorously. (Yes, he actually used the words “Islamic terrorism.”) “Nobody can dictate to us,” Zeman said, “whom we will allow onto our territory.”

Polish prez Andrej Duda also talked like a grown-up, focusing on his country’s economic growth and national security, celebrating its freedom and “the greatness of our history.” And Hungary’s Viktor Orbán was even more blunt, vowing that, unlike many peoples elsewhere in Europe, Hungarians would not “retreat behind concrete blocks” on Christmas or be “harassed in the New Year’s Eve crowd.” He emphasized the importance of protecting “Christian culture” at a time when “fundamentals of European life are under attack.” Where does Europe’s future lie? These Christmas and New Year’s speeches certainly left no doubt about the matter.