Archive for January 1, 2019

CEOs of companies active in Iran should not travel to U.S., expert says

January 1, 2019

Source: CEOs of companies active in Iran should not travel to U.S., expert says – International news – Jerusalem Post

“The business people are paralyzed” with Iran trade, legal consultant said.

BY BENJAMIN WEINTHAL
 JANUARY 1, 2019 04:58
People shop at the Grand Bazaar in the center of Tehran, Iran, August 2, 2017

A leading legal management consultant said in December that CEOs of medium-sized businesses should not travel to the United States because they could face a fate similar to that of Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, who was arrested in Canada for alleged violations of US sanctions against Iran.

José Campos Nave, a top executive with the management company Rödl & Partner, told the business publication WirtschaftsWoche, “At the moment, I would not advise a CEO of a company that has a lot to do with Iran, and that has a certain economic relevance, to travel to the United States.” Campos Nave made his comment in answer to a question about Wanzhou’s arrest, which sent shock waves through the global business community.

Rödl & Partner provides “attorneys, tax advisers, management and IT consultants and auditors,” according to the company, and is “presently with 111 of own offices in 51 countries. Worldwide, our clients trust our 4,700 colleagues.”

The US reimposed bank, airline and energy sanctions against Iran in November. The potent economic sanctions are designed to stop Tehran’s drive to develop a nuclear weapon, blunt its revolutionary Islamic terrorism, and halt Tehran’s expansionism in the Middle East.

Campos Nave told the business publication the sanctions are effective in the sense that they create “chaos” and “at this time there is no clear line between what is allowed and what is prohibited” regarding trade. “The business people are paralyzed,” he said, adding,“the trade volume with the US is 80 times bigger than that with Iran. No one wants to spoil US business, even if the industry may not be affected by the sanctions. That’s why almost everyone left Iran.”

The Jerusalem Post exclusively reported last week that the German company Krempel – which provided construction material to Tehran businessmen that was used in rockets produced by the Iranian regime to gas Syrians earlier this year – has stopped trade with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The American government classifies the Iranian regime as the leading international state sponsor of terrorism.

Campos Nave said it is not possible to deliver products to Iran because payment methods have been blocked by the US. The management consultant, who has knowledge of German mid-size companies active in Iran, said, “As a company, you can deliver products to Iran that are not affected by the sanctions, but you will probably not receive any payment.”
Germany remains Iran’s largest European Union trade partner. In response to Post questions about German support for trade with Iran, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s efforts to bust US sanctions, Israel’s Ambassador to Germany Jeremy Issacharoff wrote on Twitter on Monday, “After four Netanyahu-Merkel meetings and phone calls this year, senior confidential dialogues in Berlin and numerous other exchanges/briefings, I feel certain that Berlin is fully aware of Israel’s stand on Iran.”

Issacharoff wrote in an earlier tweet: “Iranian regime’s highest level of fanaticism, hostility and aggressive intent toward Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States (sic). Iran is a quintessential regional security threat by its own admission. Europe cannot and should not ignore this stark reality.”

When asked about the so-called Special Purpose Vehicle – an EU payment mechanism intended to evade US sanctions against Iran – Campos Nave told the WirtsschaftsWoche the EU is a “toothless tiger. There have already been several attempts by special purpose entities to maintain trade in exchange opportunities. That has not been successful so far.” He said he fears efforts to bypass US sanctions will not function.
In October, President Reuven Rivlin urged Merkel to join the US sanctions against Iran. Rivlin told Merkel, “The Iranian monster should be starved, not fed.”

Merkel ignored Israel’s request to sanction Tehran.

 

Mystery surrounds Trump’s new ‘slow withdrawal’ Syria policy

January 1, 2019

Source: Mystery surrounds Trump’s new ‘slow withdrawal’ Syria policy – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

There are new questions about the degree to which the withdrawal will be coordinated with Turkey.

BY SETH J. FRANTZMAN
 JANUARY 1, 2019 15:54
U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks to U.S. troops in an unannounced visit to Al Asad Air B

US Senator Lindsey Graham had been slamming US President Donald Trump’s Syria policy for more than a week when he finally met the president in the White House on Sunday. He was “reassured,” he said, that Trump would make sure that any withdrawal from Syria doesn’t result in Iran filling the void left by America, and that US Kurdish allies “are protected.”

Now, reports indicate that the US will allow “months” for the withdrawal, as opposed to a specific 30-100 day timeline. This is in contrast to Trump’s speech at Al-Asad airbase in Iraq on December 26, where he emphasized that he was bringing the troops home. Trump has been adamant on this since his December 19 decision to end US involvement in Syria.

The new timeline presented and reported in the US now appears to be within 120 days; Trump says that the US is “slowly” bringing the troops home.

There are also new questions about the degree to which the withdrawal will be coordinated with Turkey. Trump made his decision after a conversation with the Turkish president on December 14. Ankara had threatened a military operation in northern Syria against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which it accuses of being linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Trump claimed on December 23 that the US withdrawal would be “slow and highly coordinated” with Turkey.

But those plans appeared dashed on Friday when the Syrian regime announced that it would send forces to Manbij, a city where the US has forces and which is run by a local council affiliated with the Syrian Democratic Forces, the main US partners on the ground. The SDF and YPG were concerned that Turkey would launch an attack on Manbij, backed by Syrian opposition forces. Some of the Turkish-backed forces are extremists and locals fear them.

The Syrian regime seemed to be riding to the rescue, but it would be an embarrassment for the US to be seen as handing over parts of Syria to the regime which the US officially opposes. Damascus is also allied to Iran, so it would mean that the US was turning over these area to an Iranian ally, the opposite of the policy that Washington had been advancing throughout 2018.

Turkey, which Trump appeared to want to be in coordination with, sent a high level delegation to Moscow on Saturday, including the defense minister, foreign minister, presidential adviser and intelligence chief. Ankara was basically sending every key official it could to discuss with Russia – an ally of the Syrian regime – how to coordinate the US withdrawal. In short, Turkey and Russia were discussing the US withdrawal, not Turkey and the US. Not the coordination that Trump had promised.

John Bolton, the national security adviser, is now planning a trip to the region – along with chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford and Syria envoy James Jeffrey – to discuss the withdrawal in Turkey and Israel. According to CNN’s Kevin Liptak, only Bolton will travel to Israel, not the whole delegation. This comes on the heels of reports that Israel had sought to convince Trump to slow down the withdrawal.

US POLICY is still an opaque mystery. Neither the Pentagon nor the State Department appear to be closely coordinating with the White House on how to make the withdrawal a success – and not allow the kind of instability and question marks that appeared last week as the Syrian regime appeared poised to rush into Manbij.

It is also not clear how the US can coordinate with Turkey when it wants to launch an offensive against US partners on the ground. How does one coordinate with one ally who wants to attack another ally? The official US stance is that the SDF is not an “ally” but rather a “temporary, tactical and transactional” partner. But Graham, who has pressured the White House to change its moves, calls the SDF an ally.

Graham also said this week that the US was going to talk to Turkey about creating a “buffer zone” along the border so that Ankara’s security concerns regarding the YPG are met. How does the US intend to create a 400 km. buffer zone? The US has observation points along the border but it seems contradictory to try to withdraw 2,000 troops while adding layers of complexity to northern Syria with a “buffer zone.”

The area along the border is also a key agricultural area where much of the Kurdish population lives. It is precisely the area that Kurdish forces would not want to withdraw from, and the US has no clear plan to use alternative forces along the border. It is difficult enough for the US to patrol a few dozen kilometers in Manbij along the line of control between the SDF and Turkey with its Syrian rebels.

This has left observers mystified. Wladimir Van Wilgenburg, a journalist who has covered eastern Syria for several years, wrote that he wonders, “what this buffer zone plan means.” Author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon notes that what one sees firsthand in northeast Syria, “is how much fragile progress on the ground there truly is, and the spirit with which people, of all backgrounds, are pushing forward post-ISIS with their own lives for sake of their children.”

Bolton will have a difficult hurdle to get over in Turkey because the US does not seem to have a plan on the ground for what to do in eastern Syria. Deciding to withdraw suddenly cast its SDF partners into confusion – and they now know that the US will eventually leave. This came after almost a year where the US indicated it would stay for years in eastern Syria.

The SDF now wants other European countries to help guarantee the post-ISIS peace, or it will be forced to reach out to Russia, the Syrian regime or others. Iraq has also decided to increase its role of fighting ISIS in Syria, launching numerous airstrikes in the southern Euphrates Valley where the US and the SDF were battling ISIS. Sensing US withdrawal, many countries such as Russia, Iran and the Syrian government in Damascus will angle for what comes next, whether it is 100 days or 120 days.

 

Netanyahu says Arab countries see Israel as ‘ally’ against Iran

January 1, 2019

Source: Netanyahu says Arab countries see Israel as ‘ally’ against Iran | The Times of Israel

In interview with Brazilian TV, PM laments that ‘half’ of the Palestinians are ‘already under the gun of Iran and radical Islam’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) talks with Sultan Qaboos bin Said in Oman on October 26, 2018 (Courtesy)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) talks with Sultan Qaboos bin Said in Oman on October 26, 2018 (Courtesy)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Arab countries view Israel as an “indispensable ally” fighting Iran and the Islamic State group.

That evaluation, he told Brazil’s Globo TV during a visit to Rio de Janeiro, has caused “a revolution in relations with the Arab world.”

The comments came as Israel has reportedly been stepping up airstrikes on Iranian positions in neighboring Syria, and digesting an abrupt decision by US President Donald Trump to withdraw US troops from Syria.

Netanyahu has repeatedly warned that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons to destroy his country.

Israel, he said, had shown itself to be active in battling “radical Islam, violent Islam — either the one led by radical Shiites led by Iran, or the one led by the radical Sunnis led by Daesh (Islamic State) and al-Qaeda.”

“Unfortunately we have not made any advance with the Palestinians. Half of them are already under the gun of Iran and of radical Islam,” Netanyahu added, referring to Hamas-controlled Gaza.

Asked if he could ever contemplate sitting down with an Iranian leader to talk peace, Netanyahu replied: “If Iran remains committed to our destruction the answer is no.”

The only way, he said, would be “if Iran undergoes a total transformation.”

Netanyahu was in Brazil to attend Tuesday’s inauguration of the Latin American country’s new pro-Israel president, Jair Bolsonaro.

On the sidelines of the ceremony, Netanyahu was to hold talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is also among the visiting dignitaries.

They were expected to discuss the US troop pullout from Syria and Iranian activities in the Middle East.

 

UK counterterrorism police investigate Manchester stabbings 

January 1, 2019

Source: UK counterterrorism police investigate Manchester stabbings – Israel Hayom

 

Iran says it plans to upgrade speedboats with stealth technology 

January 1, 2019

Source: Iran says it plans to upgrade speedboats with stealth technology – Israel Hayom

 

As 2019 begins, Israel’s population stands at 9 million 

January 1, 2019

Source: As 2019 begins, Israel’s population stands at 9 million – Israel Hayom

 

US, Israel exit UN cultural agency over its biased practices 

January 1, 2019

Source: US, Israel exit UN cultural agency over its biased practices – Israel Hayom