Archive for July 5, 2018

Assad pulling out all stops on Syrian Golan – Israel Hayom

July 5, 2018

Source: Assad pulling out all stops on Syrian Golan – Israel Hayom

In unprecedented blitz, Russian jets pound southern Syria 

July 5, 2018

Source: In unprecedented blitz, Russian jets pound southern Syria – Israel Hayom

Rouhani threatens to cut level of cooperation with nuclear watchdog

July 5, 2018

Source: Rouhani threatens to cut level of cooperation with nuclear watchdog | The Times of Israel

Iranian president makes statement after meeting with IAEA head in Vienna, blaming Trump for any change the Islamic Republic makes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna on July 4, 2018. APA/GEORG HOCHMUTH/AFP)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna on July 4, 2018. APA/GEORG HOCHMUTH/AFP)

Iran could reduce its cooperation with the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog if the nuclear deal falls apart, President Hassan Rouhani warned Wednesday.

“Iran’s nuclear activities have always been for peaceful purposes, but it is Iran that would decide on its level of cooperation with the IAEA,” he said, according to state news agency IRNA.

Rouhani spoke after a meeting with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Yukiya Amano in Vienna.

“The responsibility for the change of Iran’s cooperation level with the IAEA falls on those who have created this new situation,” he added, according to the Reuters news agency.

Rouhani is currently in Europe to rally support for the 2015 nuclear deal. The foreign ministers of Iran and the five world powers still party to the agreement will meet in Vienna on Friday for talks on the troubled accord, state media in Tehran said.

The top diplomats of Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia will join Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in the Austrian capital, Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported, for their first talks together on the deal since Washington pulled out earlier this year.

During the meeting the ministers will discuss an “incentive package” the European Union is offering to try to persuade Iran to stay in the agreement, IRNA reported.

The meeting will seek “solutions to preserve the Iran nuclear deal after the illegal US action to withdraw,” it said.

US President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled out of the agreement in May, to the ire of the other signatories, which along with the European Union have continued to back the accord.

Trump said the “defective” deal did not sufficiently curb Iran’s nuclear program nor address its ballistic missile development and support for regional terror groups.

Iran has warned it is ready to resume uranium enrichment to 20 percent — above the level permitted in the deal — “within days” if the agreement falls apart.

Eric Cortellessa contributed to this report.

US vows to keep oil lanes open after Iran threatens to block key strait 

July 5, 2018

Source: US vows to keep oil lanes open after Iran threatens to block key strait | The Times of Israel

IRGC commander says Iran could halt crude going through Strait of Hormuz, after Rouhani warns of ‘consequences’ to US sanctions

In this Tuesday, March 21, 2017 photograph, an Omani naval vessel sails alongside the USS George H.W. Bush as it travels through the Strait of Hormuz.  (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

In this Tuesday, March 21, 2017 photograph, an Omani naval vessel sails alongside the USS George H.W. Bush as it travels through the Strait of Hormuz. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)

The US military on Wednesday reiterated its promise to keep Persian Gulf waterways open to oil tankers, after an Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander vowed to disrupt global oil trade if the US prevents Iran from exporting its own oil.

Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for the US military’s Central Command, said that American sailors and its regional allies “stand ready to ensure the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce wherever international law allows.”

Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Ismail Kowsari on Wednesday appeared to clarify Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s warning of “consequences” if the United States convinces its allies to stop buying Tehran’s oil.

“If they want to stop Iranian oil exports, we will not allow any oil shipment to pass through the Strait of Hormuz,” Kowsari said, according to the Young Journalists Club (YJC) website.

General Ismail Kowsari, Deputy Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Tharallah base, seen on Al-Alam TV on September 27, 2017. (YouTube screenshot/Middle East Media Research Institute)

Rouhani said Tuesday that regional oil supply could be jeopardized if the US continues to pressure Iran.

“It would be meaningless that Iran cannot export its oil while others in the region can. Do this if you can and see the consequences,” he said according to an English-language report of his statements provided by Iran’s Press TV.

When pressured in the past, Iran has threatened to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz, through which one-third of the world’s oil supply passes.

Since the US pulled out of the nuclear deal with Iran, known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Washington has been pushing allies to cut oil imports from the Islamic Republic altogether by November.

The Trump administration vowed Monday to stick with its pressure campaign against Iran, affirming its strategy to change Tehran’s behavior by gutting its oil revenue and isolating the country globally.

“Our goal is to increase pressure on the Iranian regime by reducing to zero its revenue on crude-oil sales,” said Brian Hook, the State Department’s director of policy planning, at a briefing with reporters.

He also suggested, however, that there would be some wiggle room to allow some countries that import Iranian oil to avoid immediate sanctions, once they are set to be re-imposed come November 4.

“We are prepared to work with countries that are reducing their imports on a case-by-case basis, but as with our other sanctions, we are not looking to grant waivers or licenses,” Hook said, in comments that were seen as a softening of the United States’ prior demands.

Iran is OPEC’s second-largest crude exporter with more than 2 million barrels a day.

Rouhani has asserted that Iran will not buckle under US pressure and urged dialogue to resolve the differences between the nations.

“Iran’s logic has not changed, one party without logic has left the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with the goal of putting pressure on the Iranian nation,” he said Tuesday.

“We told all our foreign parties that if they speak to the Iranian nation with the language of logic and respect, then we can get problems solved… and that threats, pressure and humiliation will never work against the people of Iran,” he said.

Notable countries that import Iranian crude include Turkey, India, China and South Korea.

Since a US State Department official first told reporters on June 26 that the US was preparing to ask allies to cut their oil imports from Iran, the price of US crude jumped more than 8 percent.

Trump subsequently expressed concern about oil prices last week, announcing in a tweet that he and King Salman of Saudi Arabia had agreed to raise daily oil production by 2 million barrels.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

“Prices [too] high!” he said. “He has agreed!” It is not clear when that agreement will begin implementation.

Eric Cortellessa contributed to this report.

The ‘Nuts and Bolts’ of Iran’s Economic Troubles

July 5, 2018

Source: The ‘Nuts and Bolts’ of Iran’s Economic Troubles – International news – Jerusalem Post

In the past year, economic dissatisfaction is increasingly being expressed in terms of political dissatisfaction.

BY TERRANCE J. MINTNER/THE MEDIA LINE
 JULY 5, 2018 05:28
The ‘Nuts and Bolts’ of Iran’s Economic Troubles

As Iran decides the pathway forward after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal in May, economic pressures are beginning to weigh on the Islamic Republic.

In the last few weeks, Iran’s currency has been tanking rapidly against the dollar. Reports said it sank between 79,000 and 90,000 rials to the US dollar on the country’s unofficial market, according to the foreign exchange website Bonbast. At the end of last year, it stood at 42,890 to the dollar.

Furthermore, there has been a flare up of protests over economic concerns throughout the country. Vendors in Tehran’s central market staged a series of protests last week. They were upset about the rial’s collapse, which is havoc for businesses as the price of imports rises.

In the last few days, protests erupted around the southern city of Khorramshahr over a shortage of clean water. The problem has been exacerbated in the summer when temperatures in the southern region can reach up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 Celsius). The protests were initially peaceful but became violent when police and protesters clashed, resulting in at least one death.

Last month, protesters in Tehran shouted surprising slogans as they decried the country’s economic malaise. Videos posted to social media showed them chanting: “Death to Palestine,” “No to Gaza, no to Lebanon,” and “Leave Syria and think of us.” Others chanted “We don’t want the ayatollahs.”

The unrest seems to have rattled the leadership. Last week, President Hassan Rouhani called on the nation to “remain calm” and united in the face of the economic pressure. The country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also addressed the Iranian public, urging the government “to confront those who disrupt economic security.”

Economists in the country are urging the leadership to take bold action on the sinking rial and rising prices. Beyond these concerns, they have also flagged Iran’s record levels of unemployment, a private sector starved of investment, and the country’s banking system, which is crippled by loans.

Suzanne Maloney, an expert on Iran and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told The Media Line that what is happening in Iran is a “continuation of the unrest that we’ve seen over the course of the last several years, but certainly on an intensified basis.”

She explained that there is a long history of economic protests and labor strikes in Iran. But in the past year, economic dissatisfaction is increasingly being expressed in terms of political dissatisfaction. “There is a willingness among Iranians to publicly embrace positions that are obviously quite dangerous in a system that relies continuously on repression.”

During the Iranian Revolution of 1978-79, she explained, there was an economic dimension to the unrest—a period of fast growth, inflation, and crackdowns on speculation. What began as individual economic protests became linked over time, amounting to a rejection of the system itself. “And I think that has to be of particular concern for the Iranian leadership.

“Those protesting in the streets are rejecting all elements of the leadership. They have been as critical of the reformists as are of hardliners.”

Maloney concluded by outlining Iran’s most pressing economic concerns. “The long-term challenge, which the Iranian government has failed to address, is how to generate sufficient opportunities for the post-revolutionary ‘baby boom’ which is now reaching maturity.”

She added that corruption and the perception that life has gotten harder are also driving the unrest. “Expectations were raised around the 2015 nuclear deal, and it didn’t produce the anticipated ‘peace dividends.’”

The other crucial issue for Iran is what European businesses will do after Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear pact. Tougher US sanctions could greatly deter European companies from doing business or investing in Iran.

Mahdi Ghodsi, an expert on Iranian trade and industrial policy at The Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies, told The Media Line that “it is very difficult for European signatories of the deal to incentivize companies to stay in Iran, at least in terms of investment.”

He explained that there could be a procedure to support European countries trading with Iran, but not those that seek to invest in the country. Investment is problematic because of the lack of guarantees. “If my company wants to invest in Iran, and then the US prevents it from doing business with American companies as a penalty, then it will be difficult for the Europeans to pay back that penalty.”

But for trade issues, he concluded, they could take their case to the World Trade Organization to settle the dispute.

Tom Wilson, a Research Fellow in the Center for the New Middle East at London’s Henry Jackson Society, told The Media Line that “the Iran deal as we knew it from 2015 is dead – and nothing will concentrate European minds more on this than the re-imposition of US secondary sanctions on European companies that continue trading with Iran.

“If European businesses will not face the stark choice between maintaining their operations and being hit with sanctions or pulling out of Iran, then their governments must urgently engage with and address American concerns about the deal – not least Iran’s ballistic missile capability.”

PA whines about the Aussies taking action against “pay for slay”

July 5, 2018

Following on from this post by joop about the Aussie government taking action in regard to aid $ being put towards “pay for slay” payments….

Australia ends direct aid to PA over payments to terrorists

https://warsclerotic.com/2018/07/02/australia-ends-direct-aid-to-pa-over-payments-to-terrorists/

… we now have the Palestinian response.

Can you guess their response?

Yep, that’s right, they do what they always do.

They whine.

And lie.

Boo. Hoo.

The Palo’s sickening response is below.

PA lambastes Australia for nixing aid, says decision ‘not grounded in facts’

https://www.timesofisrael.com/pa-lambastes-australia-for-nixing-aid-says-decision-not-grounded-in-facts/

Ramallah accuses Canberra of siding with Israeli ‘colonialism’ under US pressure, insists foreign aid was never used to pay stipends for Palestinian terrorists

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop at United Nations headquarters, March 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The Palestinian Authority on Tuesday slammed Australia’s “cruel” decision to end its direct aid to the Ramallah government, calling the move politically motivated and saying it “has no grounding in facts.”

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced Monday that Australia had ended its direct government aid to the PA over fears its funds would be used to pay welfare stipends to families of Palestinians killed or jailed for attacks on Israel.

The funds will instead be provided to UN aid efforts to Palestinians.

In a statement, the Palestinian envoy to Australia, Izzat Abdulhadit, expressed the PA’s “deepest disappointment and concern” at the decision.

He asserted the Australian aid was never used to pay the stipends of convicted terrorists, and said the “stringent auditing procedures” of the governing World Bank trust fund could prove it.

“We have therefore concluded that this decision is political in nature, for its justification has no grounding in facts,” the statement said. “It has less to do with genuine concerns about terrorism and the stifled peace process than it does with domestic political expediency.”

Abdulhadit went on to say that by “ignoring Israel’s ever-expanding colonial project,” Australia had sided with the Jewish state, and “again apportioned all blame to only one side, the much weaker and disenfranchised one at that.”

PA official Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, said in a statement that Australia “seems to have succumbed to the US administration’s pressure in compounding the injustice of Israel’s military occupation by punishing its Palestinian victims.

“This unjustified and cruel move further targets the Palestinians who are already being held captive, while ignoring the persistent violations and war crimes being committed by the Israeli occupation.”

The statement insisted that the Palestinians are committed to nonviolent resistance, and urged Bishop to reverse the decision.

“We strongly urge the government of Australia to reconsider its decision and not embolden Israel in its unilateral and illegal policies,” Ashrawi said. “Bringing Israel to compliance with international law and international humanitarian law would be the most constructive action for governments interested in peace and justice.”

Israel has long accused the PA and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, of encouraging terror attacks against Israelis by rewarding perpetrators and their families with monthly stipends, and on occasion has withheld millions of dollars in tax revenues over Ramallah’s unwillingness to change the controversial policy.

On Monday, Bishop announced that state funding to the World Bank trust fund for Palestinians had been cut after she requested assurances from the PA earlier this year that Australian funding was not being misspent.

The minister expressed concern that providing further aid would allow the PA to use the funds for activities that “Australia would never support.”

“Any assistance provided by the Palestine Liberation Organization to those convicted of politically motivated violence is an affront to Australian values, and undermines the prospect of meaningful peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” Bishop said in a statement. “I wrote to the Palestinian Authority on May 29, to seek clear assurance that Australian funding is not being used to assist Palestinians convicted of politically motivated violence.”

“I am confident that previous Australian funding to the PA through the World Bank has been used as intended,” Bishop added. “However, I am concerned that in providing funds for this aspect of the PA’s operations there is an opportunity for it to use its own budget to activities that Australia would never support.”

Australia’s AUD 10 million ($7.4 million) donation to the trust fund will now be rerouted to the United Nations’ Humanitarian Fund for the Palestinian Territories, which provides Palestinians with health care, food, water, improved sanitation and shelter.

Bishop said the UN body “helps 1.9 million people. Approximately 75 percent of its funding will be spent in Gaza where the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate.”

Australia allocated AUD $43 million for humanitarian assistance in the region for the current fiscal year, which began on July 1.

According to Israel’s Defense Ministry, the PA in 2017 paid NIS 687 million ($198 million) to the so-called “martyrs’ families fund” and NIS 550 million ($160 million) to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club — some 7 percent of its overall budget.

Palestinian prisoners serving 20- to 30-year sentences for carrying out terror attacks are eligible for a lifetime NIS 10,000 ($2,772) monthly stipend, the Defense Ministry said last week, citing PA figures. Those prisoners who receive a three- to five-year sentence get a monthly wage of NIS 2,000 ($554). Palestinian prisoners who are married, have children, live in Jerusalem, or hold Israeli citizenship receive additional payments.

The Defense Ministry last month released figures alleging that some terrorists who killed Israelis will be paid more than NIS 10 million ($2.78 million) each throughout their lifetimes by the PA.

Hours after the Australian announcement, Knesset lawmakers voted in favor of a bill that would officially see Israel deduct customs fees it collects on behalf of the PA by the amount Ramallah pays out to convicted terrorists each year.

The bipartisan bill, proposed by Yesh Atid MK Elazar Stern and Likud MK Avi Dichter, passed by 87 to 15 in a late-night vote.

The PA has refused to cease its payments to Palestinian prisoners.