Archive for May 29, 2018

Iran Plotting With U.S. Allies to Skirt Trump’s New Sanctions

May 29, 2018

Global showdown looming as Trump administration cracks down on Tehran

BY: Adam Kredo May 29, 2018 1:55 pm via Free Beacon

Source Link:
Iran Plotting With U.S. Allies to Skirt Trump’s New Sanctions

{The world has changed…for the worse. – LS}

Iranian officials are plotting with U.S. allies across the globe to develop a series a measures meant to counter new sanctions by the Trump administration following its abandonment of the landmark nuclear deal, setting up a global economic showdown between America and its allies over their future business dealings with the Islamic Republic.

Iranian leaders disclosed on Tuesday that they had recently held high-level meetings with European Union nations and leaders in India and Thailand to explore options for skirting new U.S. sanctions.

Iran’s efforts and the warm reception it is receiving from many nations has roiled leaders on Capitol Hill, where some lawmakers are already moving to confront these countries and ensure they face harsh repercussions for any breach of U.S. sanction law.

The State Department also is scrambling to respond to Iran’s efforts by building a counter-coalition aimed at isolating Tehran and any nation that works with Iran to skirt new U.S. sanctions, U.S. officials told the Washington Free Beacon.

Iranian Government Spokesman Mohammad Baqer Nobakht disclosed on Tuesday that the nation’s top leaders, including Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, have met with European leaders and others in the region to discuss skirting new U.S. sanctions, which have targeted virtually every portion of Iran’s economy, including its contested nuclear and energy sectors.

Zarif recently concluded a trip to India and Thailand, where he is reported to have made much progress in convincing these nations to help Tehran “bypass” the new U.S. sanctions, which were fully reimposed by the Trump administration after its decision to walk away from the nuclear agreement.

“In addition to the E.U., we are improving relations with other countries, especially the neighbors,” Nobakht was quoted as saying on Tuesday in Iran’s state-controlled press.

Meetings with leaders in India are said to have gone particularly well for Iran, sparking outrage in the United States where these same Indian leaders have been pleading with the Trump administration to boost relations.

India and China have already vowed to continue purchasing Iranian crude oil, despite the Trump administration’s crackdown.

“A major part of the oil is sold to India and China,” Nobakht said. “We are also in talks with Europe to continue oil sales to them, and Iran’s increased oil sales to them has even been under discussion with them to compensate any drop if some states decrease oil imports.”

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, in remarks following meetings with top Iranian leaders, vowed to ignore U.S. sanctions.

“India follows only [United Nations] sanctions and not unilateral sanctions by any country,” Swaraj was quoted as saying, emphasizing that India remains “independent” and immune to “pressure.”

A U.S. State Department official, speaking only on background, told the Free Beacon that under newly installed Secretary of State Pompeo’s leadership, American diplomats are already developing relationships aimed at ensuring U.S. sanctions on Iran have a maximum impact.

“We are hard at work in our efforts to build our new effort to counter the totality of Iran’s malign activity with our friends around the world. Secretary Pompeo speaks frequently with his counterparts from the UK, France, and Germany as well as our allies in the Middle East and Asia,” the official said.

Teams of U.S. diplomats are being sent across the globe to galvanize support for the new U.S. sanctions, the official said.

“We will be sending out teams of diplomats and specialists to talk about specific concerns with the plan for re-imposition of U.S. nuclear-related sanctions and next steps with Iran,” the official said. “We are fully engaged at all levels.”

On Capitol Hill, opponents of the nuclear accord are working on parallel efforts to ensure that any foreign nation caught skirting new U.S. sanctions on Iran faces harsh repercussions, including massive economic penalties and a possible cutoff from the U.S. financial system.

“India is going out of its way to alienate members of Congress, including many who have been sympathetic and trying to help them,” said one senior congressional official who works on the issue and has discussed the matter with the administration.

“They’re almost certainly violating the sanctions against Russia that overwhelmingly passed Congress last summer,” said the source, who would only speak on background about these efforts. “Now they’re bragging about violating Iran sanctions too. They keep telling us they want a new relationship with America but then they act in these destructive ways. It’s very troubling.”

Russia Just Blinked in Syria and It Isn’t an Accident

May 29, 2018

Russian President Vladimir Putin reacts during a joint press conference with Italian counterpart Sergio Mattarella after a meeting in Moscow’s  Kremlin, Russia, Tuesday, April 11, 2017. Sergio Mattarella is in Russia on an official visit. (Sergei Chirikov/ Pool photo via AP)

Posted at 12:30 pm on May 28, 2018 by streiff via Red State

Source Link:
Russia Just Blinked in Syria and It Isn’t an Accident

{Fair weather friends. – LS}

“When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse.”
–Osama bin Laden, terrorist mastermind and, as it turned out, prophet.

One of the many signature accomplishments of the Obama administration was inviting Russia to take a role in the war in Syria. If one were writing a John le Carre-style novel one could draw a straight line from our withdrawal from Iraq to the rise of ISIS to the Arab Spring to our attempt to overthrow Assad to the rise of ISIS to the increase of Iranian power to using the Russians as our intermediary with Iran to negotiate the now-defunct Iran nuclear deal to a Russian military presence in Syria.

But as Iran’s power has grown in the region and it looks more and more intent upon creating a Shia empire stretching from Tehran to the Mediterranean, it has become an existential threat to Israel. Israel has struck at Iranian bases in Syria and the intermixing of Russian and Iranian assets has now become a liability. Two days ago, Israel told Russia that it would no longer confine its attacks to Iranian targets along the Syria-Israel frontier but would now target them throughout Syria.

Israel has told Russia that it will broaden its military operations against Iranian positions in Syria to include the entire country, an international Arabic newspaper reported over the weekend.

According to London-based Asharq al-Awsat, Israel has decided to expand its “red lines” in Syria and will no longer confine itself to the area near its southern border. Israel has been cited as the source of numerous air and missile strikes in the country on sites connected to Iran and its Lebanese terror proxy Hezbollah.

Now Russia is trying to extract its Iranian client/master (because the Russo-Iranian relationship has Russia both leading and being the toady to the Iranians) from a no-win predicament. Iran can’t stay in southern Syria because they can’t project the force necessary to either deter Israeli attacks or to defend their own forces. They can’t leave, because to be seen as being booted out by the Jews would destroy the aura of invincibility and inevitability that Iran has tried to develop around its march to the sea.

Israeli political and military leaders believe Russia is willing to discuss a significant distancing of Iranian forces and allied Shi’ite militias from the Israel-Syria border, Israeli officials say.

The change in Russia’s position has become clearer since Israel’s May 10 military clash with Iran in Syria and amid Moscow’s concerns that further Israeli moves would threaten the stability of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

Russia recently renewed efforts to try to get the United States involved in agreements that would stabilize Syria. The Russians might be willing to remove the Iranians from the Israeli border, though not necessarily remove the forces linked to them from the whole country.

Russia, too, is dealing with a public relations problem. It is trying to link a withdrawal of Iranian forces from the Syrian border with a withdrawal of US forces around al-Tanf–this was the location where Russian mercenaries got the snot beat out of them by US forces back in February. Without some sort of face-saving deal, Russian prestige will suffer and the Iranians will start thinking the Russians are looking for an exit. And they are.

What had started out as a venture to procure a Mediterranean port and supporting logistics facilities and airbases to project Russian naval power into the Eastern Med has become an oozing ulcer, costing Russia cash and lives.

None of this just happened.Leon Hadar has an interesting article in The National Interest called Trump’s Strategy for the Middle East Is Working. In it he juxtaposes the way Middle East crises used to work and the deft change of calculus made by Trump (I’m using Trump as a metaphor for his administration because guys like Mattis and Bolton and Pompeo have watched the Middle East for a while).

Remember the days when any sign of growing tensions in the Middle East, not to mention a new act of violence involving Arabs and Israelis, would have immediately triggered pressure on Washington to “do something” as soon as possible.

Doing nothing, U.S. officials were warned, could risk a full-blown regional war, outside intervention by global adversaries, oil embargoes, the collapse of pro-American Arab regimes, the survival of Israel, and perhaps even the end of the world as we know it.

As the rest of the nation’s international and domestic problems would be placed on the policy backburner, the U.S. president would make urgent phone calls to Middle Eastern leaders, as he and the rest of Washington would consider sending the Marines, dispatching American envoys to the Middle East, launching another “peace process” and perhaps even convening another “peace conference.”

This kind of American diplomatic hyperactivity in the Middle East would be followed by the deployment of U.S. peacekeeping troops and the provision of huge financial assistance packages, with the Americans being drawn into never-ending efforts to resolve unresolvable conflicts, continuing to raise the costs of U.S. intervention in the Middle East.

And you could always count on America’s European allies, in another demonstration of their free-riding on American power, to press the United States to “do something” and then criticize Washington’s policies as a way of pandering to the Middle Easterners (“See, we aren’t as pro-Israeli as the Americans”).

Now, it is the Russians in that position. Though I think Hadar goes to obscene lengths to not criticize the Obama administration–they are the ones that turned a routine Syrian massacre of political opponents into a regional war complete with genocide and ethnic cleansing–what has happened is completely right:

Although President Trump has yet to state a coherent foreign-policy doctrine (something that he shares with his predecessor), it seems that his idea of U.S. disengagement from the region has been to support Saudi Arabia and the other Arab-Sunni states and Israel to encourage them to use their military power to contain what they considered to be an Iranian threat to their security. At the same time, he supported allowing the Russians to establish some sort of stability in Syria, and make it possible for the United States to end its military presence in the Levant now that the Islamic State has been defeated.

It is interesting to note that many officials and pundits in Washington continue to operate under the belief that what happens or would happen in the Middle East, including the prospects for a military confrontation between Iran and Israel, depends on what the United States says and does.

Hence, the notion that the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal accelerated the military tensions between the Iranians and Israelis (because the Iranians were supposedly “humiliated” and the Israelis were “emboldened” by Trump’s abrogation of the 2015 accord.)

In fact, both sides are being driven by other considerations (Iran’s interest in exerting its influence in the region; Israel’s concerns over Iranian military presence across its border with Syria), and nothing that Washington would do is going to change their respective strategic calculations, short of deploying U.S. troops to Syria.

But this time around, the global actor that needs to be worried about the possibility of a military confrontation between Iran and Israel in Syria is Russia that recognizes that that could threaten its evolving Pax Russiana in the Levant.

President Putin would, therefore, need to use Russia’s military and diplomatic power, including his close personal ties with the Israeli and Iranian leader, to prevent that from happening. As the Americans learned in the past, that kind of diplomacy ends up being the target of criticism by all the major players, as Putin discovers that he has no choice but to bribe the Iranians and the Israelis, without receiving any gratitude from either side.

If Putin succeeds in his efforts, and convinces the Iranians and the Israelis to adhere to a set of rules of engagement in Syria. he would win a few diplomatic brownie points for averting an Iran-Israel war. If he fails, Russia and not the United States would be blamed the ensuing mess this time, allowing the Trump Administration to pick up the pieces, if it so desires.

And there is more:

But isn’t the withdrawal of the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and the tough posture the Trump Administration has embraced in dealing with the Islamic Republic, run contrary to President Trump’s goal of reducing U.S. military presence in the Middle East since it supposedly would lead to a confrontation between the United States and Iran?

That is not necessarily the way President Trump sees it. He is counting on the Saudis and the Israelis, joined by Egypt, Jordan and the other Arab Gulf states to stand-up to the Iranians, by using their enormous military power to mention the high financial resources at their disposal, with the United States providing indirect intelligence and military assistance, and ready to intervene only as the “balancer of last resort.”

I think Hadar misses a larger point here. This forcing of the Arab states and Israel into an alliance, and this was a stated objective of Trump in his visit to Saudi Arabia–a visit that was overshadowed in some quarters by his participation in a sword dance and Toby Keith performing to an all-male audience–has defanged the Palestinians. They are seeing that no one really cares about them and while the Arab states are willing to say pleasing things, the Palestinian issue is a secondary concern to states fighting for their very lives against Iran. This is a generational, if not permanent, re-ordering of the Middle East.

At the same time, while much of the conventional wisdom has been that the opposition to revoking the by America’s European allies is driven by their business interests in Iran, the fact is that they, and in particular France and the other southern European countries, are even more concerned about the more direct threat that a nuclear Iran and its ballistic missiles could pose to their security. That explains why France was insisting on tougher restrictions on Iran during the negotiations over the JCPOA, and why French President Emanuel Macron is interested in working on some sort of a compromise that would prevent the Iranians from restarting their nuclear military program. He is fully aware that only the United States could guarantee such a deal.

And, amazingly, this is serving to reduce Germany’s ability to call the shots for the EU on how it relates to Iran.

In sixteen months the Trump administration has beaten ISIS to rags, forced Israel and Saudi Arabia into a virtual alliance, and has the Russians looking for the exit. This is not a bad start.

A month of hypocrisy and moral decadence

May 29, 2018

Source: A month of hypocrisy and moral decadence – Israel Hayom

Isi Leiber

Never have we witnessed such decadent political behavior as what has transpired these past weeks.

Paradoxically, this occurred in the wake of a series of incredible achievements.

The Trump administration has moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, abrogated the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, and demanded that Iran pull out of Syria, desist from terrorism, and cease calling for Israel’s destruction.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu maintains friendly relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who also called on Iran to withdraw from Syria.

Last month, Israel virtually destroyed Iran’s infrastructure in Syria. This was followed by the dramatic disclosure that the Mossad purloined half a ton of Iranian documents which prove that Iran was lying when it claimed to have no intention of developing nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, after the Hamas efforts to undermine Israel with rockets and tunnels were thwarted, it used the opening of the U.S. Embassy and 70 years of the Nakba as the pretext to launch a new anti-Israel campaign, enlisting thousands of Gazans to storm the borders and actualize their claimed “right of return.”

Participants were provided maps of nearby Jewish towns and encouraged to attack, take hostage, and kill as many Jews as possible. They descended en masse to the borders hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails, and were equipped with pipe bombs, grenades, machetes and guns as well as lobbing burning kites to destroy Israeli fields.

The Israeli government responded as would any nation whose borders were attacked by swarms of terrorists. While doing their utmost to avoid needless casualties, soldiers had no choice but to resort to live fire when terrorists tore down the barriers and penetrated Israel.

Hamas operatives were dressed as civilians. Their families were also bused in and promised payment for their services and larger sums if they are injured. Maps were distributed displaying locations of border-adjacent Israeli homes, schools and daycare centers.

Youngsters were pushed to the forefront, forced to be human shields. During two months of attacks on the border, over 100 people were killed, most of them Hamas activists, and thousands allegedly wounded.

Despite clear evidence of violent attacks to break through the borders, the liberal media carried screaming headlines describing bloodthirsty Israelis killing peaceful protestors.

Political leaders joined in the hysteria, accusing Israel of responding disproportionately. Some, like Turkish President Recep Erdogan, accused Israel of treating the Palestinians worse than the Nazis treated the Jews.

The U.S. stood by Israel’s right to defend itself, vetoing a U.N. Security Council call for a commission of inquiry. In the Human Rights Council, a resolution was passed calling for a commission of inquiry into Israel’s actions without even referring to the Hamas provocation.

Fourteen countries stooped to the depths of depravity when they stood aside and abstained. Included among these were purported friends of Israel like Germany and Britain. Their passivity when Israel is condemned for defending itself against terrorists is nothing short of moral turpitude. Shame on them!

Setting aside this despicable behavior, what is truly macabre is that fringe Jewish groups in the U.S. and U.K. have been publicly demonstrating in favor of Hamas, even holding surreal recitations of the mourner’s kaddish for killed terrorists. This is the equivalent of reciting kaddish for dead SS soldiers who shared Hamas’ genocidal objectives – truly a desecration of God’s name.

Many other Jews are also expressing grief at terrorists’ deaths. Yet they do not express any indignation that our adversaries are providing human sacrifices by positioning women and children in the line of fire for public relations purposes.

Rabbinical sermons have referred to the bulk of those killed as innocents, even though Hamas leaders themselves claim that 85% of them were their operatives. On May 14, at its graduation and ordination ceremony, the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College shamelessly chose as its guest speaker the anti-Zionist author Michael Chabon.

Anti-Defamation League head Jonathan Greenblatt wrote that “it is a horrific tragedy that so many people have been killed and wounded at the Gaza border.” Would Greenblatt have said this about the masses of Nazis and German civilians killed during World War ll?

There is a serious sickness among Jews when so many display more concern about the death of enemies than anxiety for their own kinsmen.

No country would fail to take such steps to protect its territorial integrity and the life and limb of its citizens. And no army facing such attacks would act with greater restraint than the IDF.

Nevertheless, the world is stubbornly clinging to the malicious lies promoted by Hamas, a terrorist organization that does not even try to hide its goal of murdering Israelis.

Hamas co-founder Mahmoud al-Zahar explicitly told Al Jazeera TV, “When we talk about ‘peaceful resistance’ we are deceiving the public.” And in the midst of the campaign, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar told his people, “We will tear down the border and we will tear out their hearts from their bodies … and eat the livers of Israelis.”

Peaceful demonstrations?!

Isi Leibler’s website can be viewed at http://www.wordfromjerusalem.com. Email: ileibler@leibler.com.

UAE paper: Hezbollah chief’s net worth is $250 million, mainly thanks to drugs 

May 29, 2018

Source: UAE paper: Hezbollah chief’s net worth is $250 million, mainly thanks to drugs – Israel Hayom

Netanyahu to discuss Iran with French, German leaders next week 

May 29, 2018

Source: Netanyahu to discuss Iran with French, German leaders next week – Israel Hayom

Netanyahu announces program to enhance IDF’s intel with ‘quantum technology’ 

May 29, 2018

Source: Netanyahu announces program to enhance IDF’s intel with ‘quantum technology’ | The Times of Israel

At first-of-its-kind international science ministers convention in Jerusalem, PM says he hopes Israel will become a global leader in the field

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) at an international science ministers convention in Jerusalem on May 28, 2018. (Jorge Novominsky/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) at an international science ministers convention in Jerusalem on May 28, 2018. (Jorge Novominsky/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday announced a new technological project that he said would help enhance Israel’s intelligence gathering capacity, at an international science ministers convention in Jerusalem.

“I will soon declare the ‘technological scientific program to strengthen Israel’s security,’” Netanyahu told the crowd, which included science ministers and delegations from 25 countries as well as Israel’s Science Minister Ofir Akunis.

“A team of experts will promote Israel in fields that are critical to security,” the prime minister added. “Among others, the revolutionary program will advance Israel in quantum technology. That field is vital for Israel’s intelligence.

“What we are talking about today is promoting Israel as a world leader in quantum information science,” Netanyahu continued, describing that as a significant challenge but also an achievable goal. “We will provide more details in the future.”

The field includes efforts to maintain secrecy in digital messages containing sensitive information.

Scientists and leaders of international science organizations are also participating in the three-day event.

It is a first-of-its-kind convention showcasing Israeli scientific achievements alongside discussions of new technological developments.

Participating countries include India, Argentina, Poland, Thailand, Bulgaria, Uganda, Singapore and the Czech Republic.

The convention’s second and third days will feature presentations from Facebook’s Israel CEO Adi Soffer-Teeni; award-winning Austrian-American neuroscientist Prof. Eric Kandel; Uri Levine, founder of navigation app Waze; and Jewish British scientist Prof. Robert Winston.

India says it will continue trading with Iran, ignoring US sanctions

May 29, 2018

Source: India says it will continue trading with Iran, ignoring US sanctions | The Times of Israel

We don’t make our foreign policy under pressure from other countries,’ says Delhi’s foreign minister ahead of meeting with Iranian counterpart

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj addresses an annual press conference, with Junior Foreign Minister V. K. Singh seated beside her in New Delhi, India, May 28, 2018. (AP Photo)

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj addresses an annual press conference, with Junior Foreign Minister V. K. Singh seated beside her in New Delhi, India, May 28, 2018. (AP Photo)

NEW DELHI, India — India will keep trading with Iran and Venezuela despite the threat of fallout from US sanctions against the two countries, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said Monday.

Swaraj, asked at a news conference whether US action against Iran and Venezuela would damage India, said the country would not make foreign policy “under pressure.”

US President Donald Trump this month withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and ordered the re-imposition of sanctions suspended under the 2015 accord.

Washington has also tightened sanctions against Venezuela over the controversial re-election of President Nicolas Maduro.

Both countries are key oil suppliers to India and the United States has warned that foreign companies that deal with Iran could themselves be punished.

But Swaraj said New Delhi did not believe in “reactionary” policies and would not be dictated to by other countries.

“We don’t make our foreign policy under pressure from other countries,” she told a news conference.

“We believe in UN sanctions but not in country-specific sanctions.”

In this April 24, 2018, file photo, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is interviewed by The Associated Press in New York. (AP Photo/Richard Drew,)

Swaraj’s comments came just before a meeting with her Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in New Delhi.

Bilateral trade between India and Iran amounted to $12.9 billion in 2016-17. India imported $10.5 billion worth of goods, mainly crude oil, and exported commodities worth $2.4 billion.

India has other interests in Iran, in particular a commitment to build the port of Chabahar on the Gulf of Oman.

The port is being touted as a way for India to establish trade routes that bypass rival Pakistan.

Media reports have speculated India could revive a rupee-rial payment arrangement with Iran to shield exporters from the heat of US sanctions.

India’s close trading relationship with Iran has become a sticky issue for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has looked to expand ties with Delhi.

Swaraj also said India would continue trading with Venezuela, but there was no plan to use its local cryptocurrency in oil trade.

“We cannot have any trade in cryptocurrency as it is banned by the Reserve Bank of India. We will see which medium we can use for trade,” she said.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.