Archive for August 16, 2018

Iran’s supreme leader admits mistake over nuclear talks

August 16, 2018

Source: Iran’s supreme leader admits mistake over nuclear talks – Israel Hayom

Turkey says ready to discuss issues with US without threats 

August 16, 2018

Source: Turkey says ready to discuss issues with US without threats – Israel Hayom

PM’s new security doctrine to boost defense spending by ‎billions

August 16, 2018

Source: PM’s new security doctrine to boost defense spending by ‎billions ‎ – Israel Hayom

Defense minister: Israel prefers to see Gazans ‎topple Hamas regime ‎

August 16, 2018

Source: Defense minister: Israel prefers to see Gazans ‎topple Hamas regime ‎ – Israel Hayom

Report: Israel-Hamas deal to include one-year truce – Israel Hayom

August 16, 2018

Source: Report: Israel-Hamas deal to include one-year truce – Israel Hayom

Trump restricts delivery of F-35s to Turkey, deepening rift with NATO ally

August 16, 2018

Gotta love Trump’s resolve and willingness to act: Turkey imprisons US pastor, Turkey gets thumped with a doubling of tariffs, currency plummets.


Transfer of fighter jets halted over Ankara’s interest in Russian air defense system amid diplomatic crisis sparked by detained American pastor

US President Donald Trump has restricted the delivery of 100 F-35 fighter jets to Turkey, exacerbating the strain between the two NATO allies over Ankara’s continued detention of an American pastor.

Trump on Monday signed a defense authorization act that prohibits the delivery of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to Turkey if it buys Russia’s S-400 air defense system.

The law requires a review of US-Turkey relations, including the US military’s use of Incirlik Air Base, and a risk assessment associated with delivering the stealth fighter jets.

Turkey has been a partner in the international consortium that financed the F-35 since 2002, and plans to purchase 100 of the stealth fighter jets from the US at a reported $1.2 billion.

Ties between the US and Turkey were already fraught over Washington’s support for Syrian Kurdish forces, but have been further strained by the trial of American pastor Andrew Brunson on terror-related charges linked to a failed coup attempt in the country two years ago.

Brunson has been held in Turkey since October 2016, and could face a jail term of 35 years if convicted. Trump has described his detention as a “total disgrace” and urged Ankara to free him immediately.

After Brunson’s appeal was rejected by a Turkish court earlier in August, Trump responded by doubling steel and aluminum tariffs on the country, causing its currency to plummet.

The diplomatic rift was further deepened after Turkey, despite being a NATO ally, entered into an understanding to buy Russia’s advanced S-400 air defense system.

Such a move would defy US sanctions on Moscow, and Turkey’s increasingly cozy relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin has alarmed both the US and the European Union.

On Friday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote in The New York Times that unless Washington can “reverse this trend of unilateralism and disrespect,” Turkey will “start looking for new friends and allies.” [Please do! Shut the door behind you as leave, Turkey.]

The warning came after Erdogan held a phone call with Putin to discuss economic and trade issues, as well as the Syria crisis.

Turkey’s dialogue with Russia has led some to question its reliability as a NATO partner, and even whether it should remain in the alliance.

Key air base

Incirlik, a Turkish air base in southern Turkey, just 70 miles (110 kilometers) from the border with war-torn Syria, has been a frequent pawn during decades of ups and downs in US-Turkey relations.

Incirlik’s location relative to the Middle East makes it a key strategic asset for the US military and for NATO, and the United States until recently flew bombing runs from there as it fought the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

Separately, the facility is thought to hold a stockpile of about 50 American nuclear bombs.

The arrangement works for Turkey too, as the US military provides Turks with intelligence and drone surveillance over the border region, and helps Ankara monitor the outlawed PKK.

Last year, Muharrem Ince, the main opposition candidate in Turkey’s presidential election, threatened to shut Incirlik unless the US extradited Fethullah Gulen, the exiled Muslim preacher Ankara blames for an attempted coup in 2016.

Ince went on to lose the election to Erdogan by a large margin, but Incirlik remains a key issue.

Following the coup attempt, the Turkish base commander at Incirlik was arrested on suspicion of complicity in the plot.

And according to Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet, pro-Erdogan lawyers have filed a lawsuit calling for the arrest of US troops at Incirlik on similar suspicions.

Both sides stand to lose if US-Turkey military relations go south, but experts say it would hurt Turkey more.

Trump should release secret report on the true number of Palestinian refugees

August 16, 2018

Inshallah, the report gets released in full.

The shenanigans of the State Dept is interesting, but not surprising.

Israel Palestinian Refugees

The Trump administration is supposedly considering declassifying a State Department report that tallies up the true number of Palestinian refugees.

If Trump does this, the repercussions could go a long way to settling the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, or UNRWA, classifies refugees unlike any other organization in the world, and in a way that contradicts common sense. Whereas the number of refugees from the original 1948 Arab/Israeli war would likely number in the tens of thousands, the UNRWA also counts people generations removed from the conflict, many of whom are citizens of new countries, in addition to everyone living in their internationally recognized homes of Gaza and the West Bank.

This politically motivated definition raises the number of “refugees” to an estimated 5.3 million. And that number is used by Palestinians to claim a “right of return” to Israel for a number greater than half of Israel’s entire population.

Until today, there has been no official acknowledgment of the true number of refugees. Governments and international organizations around the world instead pay lip service to UNRWA’s fiction that the number of refugees has expanded many times over since the 1948 war.

This will change if the Trump administration releases the classified report.

The origin of the report goes back to 2012, when the Middle East Forum’s Washington Project approached then-Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill. with the idea that America should adopt a policy that only recognized as refugees those who would fit its own legal definition of a refugee. Kirk proposed sweeping language to appropriations legislation to that effect, but President Barack Obama’s State Department objected that this would be prejudicial to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides wrote that the provision “would be viewed around the world as the United States acting to prejudge and determine the outcome of this sensitive issue.” Largely as a result, Kirk’s original language was not adopted.

But Kirk did manage to get compromise language, requiring the State Department to issue a report on the issue of the true definition, passed as part of the fiscal 2015 appropriations legislation. But then no one heard anything more about the report for over a year. Kirk assumed the State Department had simply ignored the committee’s direction.

But as it turns out, that wasn’t so. The Middle East Forum learned that the report had, in fact, been written. Committee staffers in the House of Representatives were even informed of its existence. But instead of making it public, the clear intent of the legislation, the State Department classified it. Moreover, it failed to inform Kirk’s office, which had the largest stake in the report, or relevant Senate committee staffers that it had been completed.

Upon learning this, Kirk moved in 2016 to pass another provision forcing the State Department either to produce a nonclassified version of the report, or to inform the Committee why it could not do so. State still chose not to declassify the report.

This year, Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., wrote a letter to President Trump signed by 50 other members of Congress, asking that the report be declassified. Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, viewed the report, and said in a subsequent interview that “there’s no reason in the world it’s classified.”

The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies also called for declassification, as did Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, saying “The American people deserve to see this reported State Department assessment, so Congress and the administration can have a transparent and productive debate about America’s role in the organization.”

In July, the American Center for Law and Justice obtained a version of the report via a Freedom of Information Act request and a subsequent lawsuit. Unfortunately, it was heavily redacted and omits the most crucial information — the true number of refugees. A recent story citing State Department sources pins the total at just 20,000 refugees, nowhere near the 5.3 million that UNRWA claims and the State Department has previously adopted. The public won’t know for sure unless the Trump administration finally releases an unredacted version of the report.

Hopefully, the Trump Administration will release this report. Telling the truth about the number of refugees, rather than the fictional number provided by UNRWA, would be a big step to unraveling expansive “right of return” claims, ending a threat to Israel’s existence.

Cliff Smith is Washington project director for the Middle East Forum.