Archive for September 10, 2018

Bolton warns ICC not to go after Israel, confirms closure of PLO’s DC office

September 10, 2018

Source: Bolton warns ICC not to go after Israel, confirms closure of PLO’s DC office | The Times of Israel

( Bolton is right.  Does ANYBODY actually believe the  ICC would be fair regarding Israel ? – JW )

Trump’s National Security Adviser vows to protect US and allies ‘by any means necessary’ from prosecution at The Hague, says ‘illegitimate, dangerous’ court ‘already dead to us’

US National Security Adviser John Bolton speaks at a Federalist Society luncheon at the Mayflower Hotel, Monday, Sept. 10, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

US National Security Adviser John Bolton speaks at a Federalist Society luncheon at the Mayflower Hotel, Monday, Sept. 10, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The United States on Monday warned the International Criminal Court against prosecution of US or Israeli officials for war crimes in the Middle East.

White House National Security Adviser John Bolton called the Hague-based rights body “unaccountable” and “outright dangerous” to the United States, Israel and other allies, and said any probe of US service members would be “an utterly unfounded, unjustifiable investigation.”

In remarks to the conservative Federalist Society in Washington, Bolton said: “If the court comes after us, Israel or other US allies, we will not sit quietly… The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court.”

While “in theory, the ICC holds perpetrators of the most egregious atrocities accountable for their crimes, provides justice to the victims, and deters future abuses,” he said, “In practice… the court has been ineffective, unaccountable, and indeed, outright dangerous.

“For all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us,” he stated.

Bolton added that “While the court welcomes the membership of the so-called state of Palestine, it has threatened Israel, a liberal, democratic nation, with investigation into its actions in the West Bank and Gaza to defend its citizens from terrorist attacks.”

Exterior view of the headquarters of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, January 12, 2016 (AP Photo/Mike Corder)

He noted recent suggestions “that the ICC will investigate Israeli construction of housing projects on the West Bank” and said “The United States will always stand with our friend and ally Israel.”

Israel last month lodged a formal protest with the ICC for launching a campaign to reach out to “victims of the situation in Palestine,” an unusual step which Jerusalem officials charge casts doubt on the court’s ability to treat the Jewish state fairly.

Bolton said the State Department’s decision to close the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s offices in Washington reflected “congressional concern with Palestinian attempts to prompt an ICC investigation of Israel.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton takes the stage to speak at a Federalist Society luncheon at the Mayflower Hotel, Monday, Sept. 10, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

“The Trump administration will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to take steps to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,” he added. “The United States supports a direct and robust process, and we will not allow the ICC or any other organization to constrain Israel’s right to self-defense.”

Bolton also threatened to arrest and prosecute judges and other officials of the International Criminal Court if it moves to charge any American who served in Afghanistan with war crimes.

The ICC, which is based in the Hague, has a mandate to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

President Bill Clinton signed the Rome Statute that established the court, but his successor, George W. Bush, renounced the signature, citing fears that Americans would be unfairly prosecuted for political reasons.


U.N. Security Council meeting, led by Trump, to increase pressure on Iran 

September 10, 2018

Source: U.N. Security Council meeting, led by Trump, to increase pressure on Iran – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

Experts expect the US president to use the occasion to mobilize international support for renewed economic sanctions.

 SEPTEMBER 10, 2018 05:18
U.N. Security Council meeting, led by Trump, to increase pressure on Iran

United States President Donald Trump will later this month chair a high-level United Nations Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, in a bid to tighten the diplomatic screws on Iran. The American leader is expected to use the session to focus the spotlight on Tehran’s regional expansionism through its proxies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen; its ballistic missile program; and its global arm sales—all of which, according to the Trump administration, violate existing UNSC resolutions.

“We want to make sure that [the Iranians] understand the world is watching [and] that is the biggest reason for this meeting,” US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley explained, leading analysts to posit that the primary American goal is to continue ratcheting up pressure on the mullahs.

In response, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the US president of hypocrisy, tweeting, “There’s only one UNSC resolution on Iran. @realDonaldTrump is violating it & bullying others to do same. Now he plans to abuse [the rotating] presidency of [the Security Council which Washington holds in September] to divert a session—item devoted to Palestine for 70 yrs—to blame Iran for horrors US & clients have unleashed across M.E. #chutzpah.”

Zarif was referring to the unanimous adoption in July 2015 of UNSC resolution 2231, which endorsed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal—and President Trump’s subsequent unilateral withdrawal from the pact in May.

Washington has to date failed to condemn Iran in the Security Council due to the veto power of the latter’s backers Russia and China. This past February, for example, Moscow torpedoed a US bid to denounce Tehran for shipping weaponry to Houthi rebels in Yemen.

“[President Trump] is looking to mobilize the support of the international community, especially the signatories of the Iran nuclear deal,” with regards to economic sanctions, Dr. Raz Zimmt, a Senior Research Fellow at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies, asserted to The Media Line.

“[The Iranians] consider Trump’s appearance as a provocation and they expect him to use this opportunity to attack Iran,” he elaborated. “The main question is whether Trump wants to use this opportunity to arrange a meeting with [Iranian] President Hassan Rouhani, assuming he will be attending. We still don’t know because Zarif might be sent instead. My assessment is that Tehran will [anyways] never agree to that meeting.

“All we will see is continued anti-Iranian rhetoric so I don’t think [Trump’s speech] will change anything in particular,” Dr. Zimmt predicted.

“Each side is just going to use this opportunity to express their stance.” Dr. Eldad Pardo, an Iran expert at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, stressed to The Media Line that reining in Tehran is a “major foreign policy issue for the US” and that the UNSC meeting would be geared towards getting the Islamic Republic back to the negotiating table.

“Trump wants to change Iran’s behavior by exerting a lot of pressure on it,” he explained. “Most of all, the US would like to see Iran give up its nuclear ambitions” and destabilizing activities in the region.

“In order to pressure Iran, you need to rebuild the crippling sanctions and for this you need an international coalition,” Dr. Zimmt noted, arguing that other nations would likely abide by Washington’s demands in order to maintain crucial diplomatic and trade ties.

A second batch of US sanctions targeting Iran’s oil sector will take effect in November, with a report this week by Oxford Economics suggesting that the new penalties will “cripple the [Iranian] economy” which could to contract by as much as 4 percent next year.

President Trump on Wednesday contended that Iran is in “total turmoil” and that the Iranian regime is now “just worrying about [its] own survival.”

The Security Council session is slated to take place on September 26 during the annual opening of UN General Assembly in New York.

Charles Bybelezer contributed to this report.


Iran completes facility to build centrifuges

September 10, 2018

Source: Iran completes facility to build centrifuges

Iran’s nuclear Chief Ali Akbar Salehi says Iran completed advanced hall for construction of modern centrifuges, as part of massive deal with undisclosed European nation; adds ‘Trump can become a legend in his own lifetime if he manages to sign a new financial and political agreement with Iran.’

Iran has completed a facility to build advanced centrifuges, Iran’s nuclear chief was quoted on Sunday as saying, as Tehran prepares to increase its uranium-enrichment capacity if the nuclear deal collapses after the United States exits.

In June, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said the facility at the Natanz nuclear plant would be completed within a month.

Salehi’s statement in June came days after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said he had ordered preparations to increase the country’s uranium enrichment capacity if the nuclear agreement with world powers collapsed.

Ali Akbar Salehi (Photo: AP)

Ali Akbar Salehi (Photo: AP)

On Sunday, the official news agency IRNA quoted Salehi as saying: “(Ayatollah Khamenei) had ordered us to set up and complete a very advanced hall for the construction of modern centrifuges, and this hall has now been fully equipped and set up.”

Salehi said Iran’s announced plans to build nuclear reactors for ships, while staying within the limits set by its atomic deal with major powers, was “advancing well but would take 10 to 15 years to complete”, IRNA said.

“A third step (in reaction to the US withdrawal) might be to suspend some of the limitations within the nuclear agreement, for example on the volume and level of enrichment,” Salehi said, according to IRNA.

“And the final scenario can be a complete exit from the nuclear accord, which I hope will never happen, with the help of (remaining signatories), because everyone would suffer,” Salehi added.

Iranian officials have said they would decide whether to quit the 2015 nuclear deal after studying a planned European package of economic measures that could help offset US sanctions.

When asked what he thinks Trump was trying to achieve by withdrawing from the nuclear deal, Salehi replied that he believes Trump is attempting to reverse all decisions made by of his predecessor Barack Obama’s, and “break the spirit of Iran.”

“He has decided to sabotage the US relationship with Cuba, and hurt the Climate Deal,” said Salehi.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei  (Photo: Reuters)

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (Photo: Reuters)

“Trump has always believed that the nuclear accord was bad for the US and its allies in the Middle East, Israel and Saudi Arabia,” he continued.

Following Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s statement on Saturday saying that the United States is continually sending messages to the Islamic republic asking it to begin negotiations, Salehi implied that Trump has a lot to gain from such a move.

“Trump understands Iran’s power, and can become a legend in his own lifetime if he manages to sign a new financial and political agreement with it,” Iran’s nuclear chief opined.

Salehi also said that Iran was willing to discuss other matters alongside the nuclear deal but Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei refused, saying the US cannot be trusted since it breaks all of its promises. “Trump quitting the deal reinforces that decision,” he said.

“Even prior to the nuclear deal, Khamenei approved sporadic talks with US officials. Iranian and US ambassadors secretly met in Baghdad,” Salehi disclosed.

He added that Khamenei have said recently that the meeting between Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Former US Secretary of State John Kerry was a mistake, since he did not approve it personally.


Air Force marks planes to commemorate bombing Syria reactor in 2007

September 10, 2018

They must have changed the name of the operation, it was “Operation Orchard” previously I believe.

At Hatzerim Air Base ceremony, stickers with the operation’s symbol placed on F-15i and F-16i jets that destroyed facility in Deir el-Zour

Pilots and crews who took part in the 2007 bombing of the Syrian nuclear reactor in Deir a-Zour take part in a ceremony marking the planes that participated in the operation, on September 6, 2018 at the Hatzerim Air Force Base in southern Israel. (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

The Israeli Air Force marked the 11-year anniversary of its destruction of Bashar Assad’s secret nuclear reactor, in a ceremony that saw special markings placed on the warplanes that took part in the strike.

The strike against the reactor in the Deir el-Zour region of Syria took place on the night between September 5 and 6, 2007, but was only officially acknowledged by Israel earlier this year. The reactor had become operational a short time earlier, leading then-prime minister Ehud Olmert to order its destruction.

Three squadrons took part in the attack, dubbed by the military “Operation Outside the Box”: Squadron 69, known as “Hapatishim,” or “The Hammers” flying F-15i fighters; Squadron 119, “Ha’atalef,” or “The Bat” and Squadron 253, “The Negev,” flying F-16is.

The ceremony at the Hatzerim Air Force Base, west of Beersheba, saw the marking of the planes from squadrons 69 and 253. Squadron 119’s planes will be marked in a separate ceremony on September 14.

Pilots who took part in the operation, technical crews who armed the planes in 2007 and the commander of Squadron 69, Lt. Col. G., placed on the planes stickers bearing the symbol of the operation, the army said in a statement.

The symbol includes a triangle, symbolizing an attack and painted in the colors of the Syrian flag, with a radioactivity symbol at its center, symbolizing the nuclear reactor.

Israel armed Syrian rebels to fight Iranian proxies?

September 10, 2018

Below this article from the JPost I have copied in a link to the source Foreign Policy article.

The picture of the tanks is from the FP article. I wouldn’t mind having a large version of this pic up on my wall at home….

According to foreign reports, Israel’s aim in providing weapons and cash to rebel groups in Operation Good Neighbor was to keep troops belonging to Hezbollah and Iran away from Israel’s border.

Israeli soldiers near the Syrian border in the Israel-occupied Golan Heights on May 10. (Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

Israel reportedly armed and funded at least 12 rebel groups in southern Syria to prevent Iranian-sponsored insurgents affiliated with Islamic State from becoming embedded near the Golan, according to a report in Foreign Policy magazine.

Testimonies from more than 20 commanders in Foreign Policy noted that Israel supplied the weapons and cash to rebel groups throughout “Operation Good Neighbor” – launched in 2016 and shut down in July once the Assad regime regained control of the Syrian side of the Golan Heights – to keep troops belonging to Hezbollah and Iran away from the border of the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.

On Monday, the IDF maintained its position that the IDF did not interfere in the Syrian Civil War.

In addition to allocating funds for Syrian insurgents to purchase arms on the Syrian black market, Israel reportedly paid $75 monthly per soldier, according to testimonies from journalists and rebel fighters in Syria.

Through Operation Good Neighbor, the Israeli military provided more than 1,524 tons of food, 250 tons of clothes, 947,520 liters of fuel, 21 generators, 24,900 palettes of medical equipment and medicine.

Reports first surfaced of Israel providing arms and cash to rebel groups several years ago. The regime of Bashar Assad claimed Israel was providing arms to terrorist groups, and that its forces regularly seized arms and munitions stamped in Hebrew.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Israel had been arming at least seven different rebel groups in Syria’s Golan Heights, including the Fursan al-Joulan rebel group which had around 400 fighters and was given an estimated $5,000 per month by Israel. “Israel stood by our side in a heroic way,” the group’s spokesperson, Moatasem al-Golani, told the The Wall Street Journal in a January 2017 report. “We wouldn’t have survived without Israel’s assistance.”

Israel has repeatedly warned against Iran’s entrenchment in Syria, has stressed that the country cannot serve as an Iranian forward operating base, and warned against Damascus becoming a way station for arms smuggling to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

While Israel’s military had been carrying out operations against Iranian targets in Syria for several years, its extent only became public after an IAF F-16 was downed by Syrian air defenses in February.

On Monday, the military announced that in the past year and half alone, Israel has carried out 200 strikes against Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria.

Last year former Israel Air Force head Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amir Eshel stated that the IAF carried out 100 airs trikes in Syria over the past five years.

The Syrian army, backed by Russian airpower and Iranian Shi’ite militia fighters, has recaptured large swathes of territory formerly held by rebels, and is now believed to have control over 70% of the war-torn country.

While Syrian troops have once again been deployed to the border with Israel, in order to prevent an escalation between the two enemy countries, Russian military police have been deployed along the Golan Heights border along with UN Peacekeepers.

Inside Israel’s Secret Program to Back Syrian Rebels

Inside Israel’s Secret Program to Back Syrian Rebels



U.S. Seizes Thousands of Iranian Weapons From Mystery Ship

September 10, 2018

Article from a few days ago…

September 6, 2018

USS Jason Dunham

U.S. military officials confirmed Thursday the seizure of more than 2,000 Iranian arms stockpiles that had been stashed on a mystery ship floating in international waters near the Gulf of Aden.

The seizure of the ship was first announced last week, but at the time Central Command officials said the origin of the weapons was unclear.

This afternoon, Centcom confirmed the USS Jason Dunham, a guided missile destroyer stationed in waters near the Persian Gulf, had discovered 2,521 AK-47 rifles “that plausibly derive from Iranian stockpiles, according to Conflict Armament.”

The stateless skiff was first discovered floating in the Gulf of Aden on Aug. 28.

“As a part of our counter-trafficking mission, we are actively involved in searching for illegal weapons shipments of all kinds,” Vice Adm. Scott Stearney, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, and the Combined Maritime Forces, said at the time. “Ensuring the free flow of commerce for legitimate traffic and countering malign actors at sea continue to be paramount to the U.S. Navy and its regional partners and allies.”

The mystery ship “was determined to be stateless following a flag verification boarding, conducted in accordance with international law,” according to U.S. military officials. “The origin and intended destination of the skiff have not yet been determined.”

This is the fourth weapons seizure in the area since 2015.

Jewish People Have ‘Flourished and Thrived as an Example of Humankind,’ Trump Declares in Rosh Hashanah Message

September 10, 2018

“Over the centuries, the Jewish people have suffered unthinkable persecution, yet you have not only endured, you have thrived and flourished as an example of humankind”

Never a truer word has been said.

US President Donald Trump spoke once again of his “personal connection” to Judaism on Thursday, as he held a telephone call with American Jewish leaders to mark Rosh Hashanah — the Jewish New Year which begins on Sunday night.

“I am the very proud father of a Jewish daughter, Ivanka, and my son-in-law, who I’m very proud of also — I will say that very loudly — Jared, and my several Jewish grandchildren, namely three beautiful Jewish grandchild that I love,” Trump declared.

Over a period of 20 minutes, the president spoke glowingly about Jewish contributions to the US, his efforts to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, the recent deportation to Germany of Nazi collaborator Jakiw Palij, and his determination to combat antisemitism in America.

“Over the centuries, the Jewish people have suffered unthinkable persecution, yet you have not only endured, you have thrived and flourished as an example of humankind,” Trump said.

On Israel, Trump emphasized that he had “kept my promise to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, as we have since moved our embassy to Tel Aviv to its rightful home in the holy city.”

Regarding his peace efforts, Trump praised his team’s progress on the issue. “Ambassador Friedman, Jason [Greenblatt], Jared [Kushner], and others are working hard to reach a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”

Said Trump: “All my life I’ve heard that’s the hardest deal to make, and I’m starting to believe that maybe it is. But I will say that if it can be delivered, we will deliver it.”

Both Kushner and Friedman were present on the call, along with Norm Coleman, the chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, a Jewish Democrat now widely viewed as a Trump confidante. “It’s an honor to be asking you a question,” Dershowitz told the president, going on to inquire whether the Jewish community should “be optimistic that you can help bring about a peaceful resolution of the conflict that we all pray for all the time?”

“I think the answer to that is a very strong yes,” Trump responded.

While there was no discussion of the current storm over an anonymous oped by a White House official in The New York Times that accused Trump of acting “in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic,” Trump was candid in his explanation of his evolving policy toward Iran.

“I had a secretary of state that didn’t like terminating [the 2015 Iran nuclear deal],” Trump said, referring to his first selection for that post, Rex Tillerson, who was fired in March. “I played that little game for a while, and then ultimately I decided I’m just doing it. And I did it.”

Withdrawing from the Iran deal had “a tremendously positive impact on, I think really, world security — because Iran is no longer the same country,” Trump added. “From the day I did it, they’ve lost their mojo.” [Hahahah!]