Archive for August 29, 2018

Living in a State of Denial

August 29, 2018

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, second from left, arriving in Parliament in Tehran on Tuesday to answer lawmakers’ questions. He blamed United States sanctions for Iran’s troubles. Credit Vahid Salemi/Associated Press

By Richard Pérez-Peña Aug. 28, 2018 New York Times

Source Link: Iran’s Parliament Gives President a Rare Rebuke

{When politics has the power to define reality, you’re in big trouble. – LS}

LONDON — Iran’s Parliament summoned President Hassan Rouhani to answer questions on Tuesday about the country’s economic crisis, and then voted to reject his explanation, in a remarkable rebuke of a sitting leader.

Mr. Rouhani blamed United States sanctions, not government management, for his country’s troubles. But after he answered five questions about economic challenges like high unemployment and the collapsing value of the national currency, the rial, a majority of lawmakers voted that they were “not convinced” by four of his answers.

Elected by wide margins in 2013 and 2017, Mr. Rouhani is seen as a moderate in Iranian politics, and he campaigned on easing hostilities between his country and the West, and increasing economic opportunity. In 2015, his government struck a deal with the United States and other powers to give up elements of its nuclear program in return for the lifting of some sanctions.

But this year, President Trump withdrew the United States from that agreement and reimposed sanctions not only on Iran but also on companies doing business with the country. That has persuaded many European businesses to stay away from the Islamic republic, though their countries’ governments still support the deal.

Iran experts say that unwinding the agreement could strengthen the hand of hard-liners who oppose both the deal and Mr. Rouhani’s reformist agenda. His government runs many of the country’s daily affairs, but the ultimate power rests with the supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the unelected Guardian Council.

The lawmakers’ vote came two days after Parliament dismissed the finance minister. In the last few weeks, the country’s central banker and its labor minister have also been fired.

It was not clear what impact the rebuke of Mr. Rouhani would have. Officials said the matter could be referred to the judiciary, which could, in theory, find grounds for impeachment proceedings against the president.

Some analysts, however, said that impeachment was unlikely. They pointed to Ayatollah Khamenei’s recent admonition against calls for Mr. Rouhani to resign — even though Mr. Khamenei himself has been more critical of the president lately.

“Khamenei, and other members of the Iranian leadership, likely believe that removing a sitting president would further destabilize the country’s already precarious economy and potentially undermine support in the Islamic Republic’s structure,” said Henry Rome, an Iran analyst at the Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy.

More likely, Mr. Rome said, are further efforts to remove those members of Mr. Rouhani’s cabinet deemed responsible for Iran’s economic travails, including the agriculture and industry ministers.

Mr. Rouhani’s allies remain the largest faction in Parliament. And in a country where tensions are high and protests have cropped up in many places, the potential for civil unrest could tamp down any party’s appetite for trying to remove a president and call new elections.

In an arresting aside during the proceedings, Mr. Rouhani attributed much of the economic troubles to street protests that began on Dec. 26, “when people saw suddenly that some people were chanting on the streets, and the slogans little by little went out of bounds.”

The protests, he said, encouraged Mr. Trump to declare his intention to withdraw from the nuclear agreement. “His threat of withdrawal and the domestic turbulence and international threats frightened the people,” undercutting the economy, Mr. Rouhani added.

Lawmakers said that a decision on referral to the judiciary would not be made before next week, the Iranian news agency ISNA reported.

The agency quoted Mr. Rouhani as telling Parliament, “Nobody, including the noble people of Iran, our friends and enemies around the world, must think that today is the start of a rift between the government and the Parliament.”


Official: Israel won’t relent in effort to push Iran ‎away from its borders 

August 29, 2018

Source: Official: Israel won’t relent in effort to push Iran ‎away from its borders ‎ – Israel Hayom


August 29, 2018

UGETube an alternative for YouTube !

Perhaps we can make it a HUGETUBE !

Iran vows to maintain military presence in Syria despite US pressure

August 29, 2018

Source: Iran vows to maintain military presence in Syria despite US pressure – Israel Hayom

UNESCO: Israel‎ 2nd in global R&D spending as percentage of GDP 

August 29, 2018

Source: UNESCO: Israel‎ 2nd in global R&D spending as percentage of GDP – Israel Hayom

Arrest of Iranian Spies in U.S. Just ‘Tip of the Iceberg,’ Lawmaker Warns

August 29, 2018

Iran spies stationed across U.S. a result of Obama-era cash payouts

Rep. Peter Roskam

Rep. Peter Roskam / Getty Images


The recent arrest of two Iranian agents alleged to have been running spy operations on U.S. soil is just “the tip of the iceberg” in terms of the Islamic Republic’s efforts to conduct intelligence operations in America that could result in a terrorist attack, according to a leading lawmaker and U.S. officials who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon about the matter.

Following the arrest of two Iranian individuals charged with spying on Jewish and Israeli facilities in the California area, Rep. Peter Roskam (R., Ill.) told the Free Beacon it is likely Iran has stationed multiple regime-tied agents in the United States to conduct intelligence operations.

While the arrest of the two Iranians was met with shock in the press, Roskam said he was not surprised by the arrests, which have unearthed concrete evidence of the Islamic Republic’s efforts to foment discord across the globe, including on American soil.

“This is the tip of the iceberg,” Roskam said in an interview. “This is not a surprise and this is a result of the Iran regime getting financial support from the Obama administration in the Iran deal.”

Iran has been emboldened by the lack of international repercussions on its malevolent behavior and may have increased its intelligence operations in America in the years since the landmark nuclear deal, he said.

Iran is “acting with impunity, that deal emboldened them,” Roskam said. “This is an unmasking of that. Unfortunately it’s all too predictable. Give a malevolent regime huge amounts of cash with no restraining influence and this is what happens.”

The Trump Justice Department announced last week it had arrested two Iranians and charged them with spying on behalf of the hardline regime, a discovery that has refocused attention on the Islamic Republic’s global spy operations.

Lawmakers and experts have been warning for some time that Iran has stationed what some described as “sleeper cell” agents across the United States. These agents are believed to operate with impunity and could lay the groundwork for a large-scale terror attack on American soil.

The two Iranian individuals—identified as Ahmadreza Mohammadi-Doostdar, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, and Majid Ghorbani, an Iranian citizen and resident of California—were formally charged by the Trump administration “with allegedly acting on behalf of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran by conducting covert surveillance of Israeli and Jewish facilities in the United States, and collecting identifying information about American citizens and U.S. nationals who are members of the group Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK),” an Iranian opposition group that promotes regime change in the Islamic Republic, the DOJ announced.

One U.S. official, agreeing with Roskam’s assessment, told the Free Beacon Iran has been running “vast espionage and information operations in the United States” with virtual impunity. The arrest of the two recently charged Iranians denotes a significant shift in policy that could result in the capture of more agents.

“If there’s anything that’s become obvious in the last few months, it’s that the Iranians are running vast espionage and information operations in the United States,” said the source, who could only discuss the situation on background. “The Trump administration has been warning since day one that some of the windfall Iran got from the nuclear deal has been going into malign cyber operations.”

“The propaganda network that Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube uncovered was doubling as a hacking network that had been ramping up in the last couple of years,” the source said, referring the recent uncovering of a massive social media influence campaign believed to be organized by Iran.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), also a vocal critic of the Iranian regime, told the Free Beacon the recent arrest of the two Iranians is cause for major concern.

“I am deeply alarmed by the Justice Department’s new indictment against alleged Iranian agents,” Rubio said. “Iran’s regime has sponsored terrorist attacks against Americans abroad and our allies, and may now be seeking to target American citizens, as well as Jewish or Israeli facilities, on U.S. soil.”

Roskam, in his comment to the Free Beacon, noted that “Iran’s malevolence” toward Israel and other countries it considers an enemy is well documented.

“What’s new here is a level of aggression against the United States and an impunity with which they’re operating,” the lawmaker said, referring to the spy operations on Jewish targets—a cornerstone of Iran’s global terror operations, particularly its 1994 bombing of a Jewish facility in Argentina that sent shockwaves through the global Jewish community.

The operations on U.S. soil are “incredibly provocative and an indication where the Iranian regime is,” Roskam said.

Iran has publicly stated multiple times over the past years that it has a vast espionage network that includes the United States. While many have dismissed these claims as posturing, Roskam said Iran should be taken at its word.

“The takeaway is we can take the Iranians at face value,” he said. “They were declarative during the Iran negotiations: They were not willing to make any commitments as it relates to their state sponsorship of terror. It’s clear they haven’t. This can’t be a surprise to anyone. It is entirely consistent with what they’ve been communicating. The surprise is the idea anyone thought they were slowing down or giving up their aggressive disposition.”

Congress will play a prominent role in investigating the matter in the months to come. This will include working with federal law enforcement to ensure Iranian agents are not able to coordinate terror attacks on Jewish or Israeli facilities.

Earlier this year, Congress heard testimony from a panel of experts of former U.S. officials about Iran’s “sleeper cell” networks in America.

Iran, through terrorists affiliated with Hezbollah, could easily launch strikes in America.

“They are as good or better at explosive devices than ISIS, they are better at assassinations and developing assassination cells,” Michael Pregent, a former intelligence officer who worked to counter Iranian influence in the region, said during the April hearing. “They’re better at targeting, better at looking at things,” and they can outsource attacks to Hezbollah.

Ambassador Haley: UNWRA Can Stay, But Must Offer Accurate Number of Refugees

August 29, 2018

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, August 28, 2018

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Tuesday questioned the figures on “Palestinian refugees” being offered by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), suggesting they are significantly inflated.

Speaking at the pro-Israel think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Haley was asked by FDD President Cliff May about the US relationship with UNRWA, following the restrictions imposed on the agency by the White House and statements from President Trump and others in the administration questioning its viability.

“UNRWA can stay there, and we will be a donor if it reforms what it does,” Ambassador Haley said. “If it goes and makes sure that they’re not doing those teachings [of hate] in textbooks, if they actually change the number of refugees to an accurate account. We will look back at partnering them. But otherwise, you’re just molding an organization that has flaws into another organization, and that’s not fixing the problem. I think we have to go further than that.”

UNWRA claims to provide services to five million “Palestinian refugees,” the vast majority of whom were not yet born in 1948. Most are descendants from individuals who fled their homes in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence.

May inquired about Haley’s definition of “who is a Palestinian.”

“Right now, you have this interesting and kind of illogical situation where somebody who is a Palestinian, living in a territory he considers to be Palestine, can also say, ‘And I’m a refugee from Palestine. Here I am in Ramallah, I’m a refugee from Palestine,’” May argued, wondering: “And why isn’t the Palestinian Authority, which claims to be governing these people, assuming some responsibility as opposed to saying no, there’s a UN agency that does it, it’s funded by the donor community, which means us and a few others, we don’t need to worry about this, we can worry about other things.”

“It’s bigger than that, even,” the ambassador responded. “When you look at UNRWA, there’s a couple of issues there. First of all, you’re looking at the fact that, yes, there’s an endless number of refugees that continue to get assistance, but more importantly, the Palestinians continue to bash America. This is the government, not the people, not the Palestinian people.

“So the government continues to bash America. They have their hand out wanting UNRWA money. We were supposed to […] give them $130 million. We cut it in half, saying that they really needed to reform and fix the things they were doing, because they teach anti-Israeli and anti-American things in their textbooks. They are not necessarily doing things that would cause peace…

“So instead of the $130 million, we give them $65 million. They didn’t say thank you. UNRWA had them protest in the streets that we didn’t give more. So at the last Security Council meeting we had on the Palestinian issue and UNRWA, I went and said, ‘You are all so quick to wag your finger at us for not giving more. Where is Saudi Arabia? Where is United Arab Emirates? Where is Kuwait? Where are all of those countries? Do they not care enough about Palestinians to go and give money to make sure these kids are taken care of?”

At this point the audience applauded the ambassador.

She continued: “If the region doesn’t invest in those areas, why are we being faulted for not investing in those areas? They have to have skin in the game. They have to – they’re the ones that fight me every day on Israel issues. But yet they don’t give a penny when it comes to – any more than they have to. They give tokens, and then we still are the largest donor of UNRWA at the same time.

“So it goes to a second set. Our job is not to take the beatings that you give us, saying we’re not kind to Palestinians and then turn around pay for them. Our job is to make sure that, look, we’ll be a partner with you, but only on a partner basis of something you believe in. So you show us you care, and then we’ll come back and decide if we’re going to give.”