Archive for March 10, 2019

Nasrallah: Israel, US waging economic war on Hezbollah 

March 10, 2019

Source: Nasrallah: Israel, US waging economic war on Hezbollah – Israel Hayom

{ Damn right…! – JW )

“This economic war that Hezbollah is fighting is not aimed solely against us, but [also] against Iran and Syria. What America and Israel and their allies didn’t achieve in battle, they are trying to achieve through economic war,” Hezbollah leader says.

Daniel Siryoti, News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff // published on 10/03/2019

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah 

Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah on Friday accused Israel and the United states of waging economic war against the terrorist organization, and called on its supporters to donate money as the organization comes under increasing Western sanctions intended to isolate it financially.

The United States deems all parts of Hezbollah a terrorist organization and has been steadily increasing financial sanctions against the Iranian proxy.

“I announce today that the resistance is in need of its [popular base],” Nasrallah said, adding that donations were needed to support the group’s activities.

“This economic war that Hezbollah is fighting is not aimed solely against us, but [also] against Iran and Syria. What America and Israel and their allies didn’t achieve in battle, they are trying to achieve through economic war,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech.

Hezbollah was founded in 1982 by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Its influence has expanded at home in Lebanon and in the region. It is represented in the Lebanese government and controls three out of 30 government ministries in the government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

The group is also heavily armed and has sent militants to fight in neighboring Syria and beyond.

Last month, Britain said it was joining the U.S. in listing all branches of Hezbollah as terrorist organizations, due to the role Hezbollah plays in destabilizing the Middle East. The move broke ranks with the rest of the European Union, which proscribes only Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist entity.

Hezbollah itself does not acknowledge having separate political and military wings.

Nasrallah added that other nations could follow Britain’s example.

“The sanctions and the terror lists are a form of war … we should deal with them as if they are a war,” he said.

Nasrallah called on Hezbollah supporters to remain steadfast in the face of these pressures and said the group’s enemies would be “disappointed.”

“Their actions will not be able to make us poor, hungry or isolated. Those that support us will continue in their support – be they countries, people or our people and the people of resistance in Lebanon,” Nasrallah said.

Meanwhile, German Minister of State Niels Annen said on Friday that his country would not follow Britain’s lead, a decision that might fuel tensions with Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Annen, speaking to weekly news magazine Der Spiegel after a visit to Lebanon, said Hezbollah remained a relevant factor in Lebanese society.

Britain’s decision would have no direct impact on the position of Germany or the European Union, Annen said.

Annen rejected U.S. criticism his nation was doing too little to combat Iran’s influence in the region and said Berlin’s foreign policy remained focused on finding political solutions, even in tough situations.

Germany’s refusal to ban Hezbollah as a whole could add to tensions with Riyadh over Saudi Arabia’s leadership of a coalition fighting the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, and because of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

France, Britain and European arms makers are pressing Germany to end a unilateral freeze in arms shipments to Saudi Arabia imposed by Berlin after Khashoggi’s death that is holding up billions of euros of weapons deliveries.

Hezbollah was founded in 1982 by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Its influence has expanded at home in Lebanon and in the region.

The group controls three of 30 ministries in the Lebanese government led by Western-backed Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the largest number ever.


‘Many in UN oppose Israel cutting terror salaries from PA taxes’ 

March 10, 2019

Source: ‘Many in UN oppose Israel cutting terror salaries from PA taxes’ – Israel Hayom

U.S. Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt tells U.N. Security Council PA’s decision to reject latest tax transfer only hurting Palestinians • Kuwait’s U.N. envoy Mansour Al-Otaibi: Palestinians “have the right … to do whatever they want with their money.”

Associated Press and Israel Hayom Staff // published on 10/03/2019
Kuwait’s Ambassador to the U.N. Mansour Al-Otaibi 

An “overwhelming” number of U.N. Security Council members oppose Israel’s decision to deduct money that Palestinians transfer to the families of terrorists who carried out attacks on Israel from their monthly tax revenue, Kuwait’s U.N. ambassador said Friday.

Mansour Al-Otaibi told reporters after a closed-door council meeting that Israel’s action was “in violation of existing bilateral agreements.”

U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt came to New York from Washington to defend close ally Israel.

He told the council that the Palestinian Authority’s decision to reject the latest tax transfer was only hurting the Palestinian people because they were rejecting the 95% of the tax revenue that Israel is not withholding, according to a diplomat at the meeting.

Greenblatt said it was “inappropriate” to focus on Israel, which was withholding 5-7% of the monthly tax revenue because of Ramallah’s “abhorrent practice” of paying that money “to terrorists and their families,” the diplomat said.

Kuwait’s Mansour, who called for the Security Council consultations along with Indonesia’s U.N. Ambassador Dian Djani, said the Palestinians “have the right … to do whatever they want with their money.”

He said U.N. Middle East envoy Nikolay Mladenov, who briefed the council by video, said “there is a need for mediation on this to solve it.”

Mansour said an “overwhelming” number of members of the 15-nation Security Council “think that this is a unilateral decision, it’s not acceptable, it’s a violation of the Oslo agreement and Paris protocol, and this is Palestinian money.”

Indonesia’s Djani said Israel’s suspension of international observers in Hebron coupled with the withholding of tax revenue were making things “more and more difficult once again for the Palestinian people, so that’s why we are raising this issue, because we don’t want to continue to escalate an issue.”

Djani said Greenblatt told the council that members who disagreed with Israel’s decision to withhold the customs revenues were free to discuss it with the Israeli government.

But in the meantime, the diplomat said, Greenblatt asked the Security Council to send a united message to the PA to stop “its irresponsible decision to reject the transfer of the remaining funds.”


Off Topic:  U.S. said to pass Saudi Arabia in oil exports in 2019

March 10, 2019

Source: U.S. said to pass Saudi Arabia in oil exports in 2019 – International news – Jerusalem Post

The United States exports three million barrels of crude oil and five million barrels of natural gas and petroleum daily.

 MARCH 10, 2019 11:48
Pump jacks operate in front of a drilling rig in an oil field in Midland, Texas U.S. August 22, 2018

The United States will export more oil, natural gas and petroleum, a research firm found over the weekend.

The energy research firm Rystad Energy published the findings, carried by CNN, which revealed the Middle Eastern kingdom exports nearly seven million barrels of crude oil daily and two million barrels of natural gas and petroleum. The United States exports three million barrels of crude oil and five million barrels of natural gas and petroleum daily.

The research firm, however, said the Saudis would maintain their perch atop the rankings of the world’s top exporter of crude oil.

The change, should it come to pass, would be the first time the US has topped the Saudis since the latter began selling oil to overseas customers, the report said.

US-Saudi relations were strained in October after Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.


Shi’ite militia leader in Iraq threatens US, slams ‘Zionist regime’ 

March 10, 2019

Source: Shi’ite militia leader in Iraq threatens US, slams ‘Zionist regime’ – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

Powerful Iraqi party leader Hadi al-Amiri embraces visit by Iranian president, opposes US bases in Iraq

 MARCH 10, 2019 10:32
Shi’ite militia leader in Iraq threatens US, slams ‘Zionist regime’

Two Shi’ite militia leaders spoke out over the weekend, with one threatening the US, and the other demanding American troops leave Iraq.

Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba spokesman Hashim al-Mousawi slammed the US and Israel after the US last week designated the group as a terrorist threat.

Iraqi Transportation Minister Hadi al-Amiri said he was looking forward to a visit by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and that he opposes the continued US presence in Iraq.

On March 5, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control placed Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba on its Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List, under what the office calls its Counter Terrorism Designation.

The US pointed to the organization itself and its leader as a threat, saying it has “committed, or poses a significant risk of committing acts of terrorism.”

The group, which is closely linked to Iran, in 2017 said US troops were a legitimate target. In February 2018, the group vowed to support Hezbollah in Lebanon in a war against Israel.

Last year, Iraqi MP Karim Alawi said the US was spying on Shi’ite militias in Iraq. Iran’s PressTV sought to argue that the move was dangerous and that Harakat Hezbollah had played a key role in the war on ISIS.

Mousawi told Fars News that the region faces a variety of US-driven plots, including a push for normalization with the “Zionist regime” and economic pressure on Iran. He argued that the Iranian backed “axis of resistance,” of which Harakat Hezbollah is a part, has defeated these plots, including attempts by the US to loot Syrian resources.

“Hezbollah [in Lebanon] today represents a large part of the Lebanese people and an integral part of Lebanon,” he boasted. He said the commanders of Harakat Hezbollah were prepared for a confrontation with the US. “We will not retreat in the face of any country that violates Iraqi sovereignty.”

Mousawi also said the group would use parliamentary means first, but that it viewed the conflict as a regional struggle. He made a point of condemning the US role in the Gulf and said the group had its own “Golan unit” to fight against Israel.

The presence of Shi’ite militias in Iraq, some of which fought the US after the 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein, and most of which are closely linked to Iran, raises questions about the continued presence of US troops in Iraq. US forces returned to Iraq to help fight ISIS in 2014.

Initially that footprint was small, but it had grown with the war on ISIS, and to provide logistic support for US forces in Syria. When US President Donald Trump in December 2017 said the US would withdraw from Syria, he also told US forces at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq that the US would pull troops back to Iraq and “watch” Iran. This comes in the context of a US push against Iran’s role in the region and new sanctions rolled out last year.

Iraqi officials have rejected the US using Iraq to “watch” Iran. Iraqi President Barham Salih has said at least three times in the last two months that Iraq must not become a center of the Iran-US power struggle.

He and other Iraqi officials reiterated this statement at the Sulaimani Forum last week. Iraqi officials have said it is up to parliament to decide if US forces will stay. Hadi al-Amiri, the head of the Fatah Alliance, the second largest party in parliament, has indicated that he opposes the US presence in Iraq. Amiri, a former fighter alongside the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war, is head of the Badr Organization, one of the largest of the Shi’ite militias which became part of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) in 2014.

The PMU helped defeat ISIS and became an official Iraq paramilitary group in 2016. In 2017, then-US secretary of state Rex Tillerson caused controversy in Iraq when he said the Shi’ite-dominated PMU should “go home” now that the war on ISIS was over.

Haider al-Abadi, then prime minister of Iraq, told Tillerson that the PMU were the hope for the future of Iraq and the region. Their regional role has been on display as many of these Shi’ite units are not only closely allied to Iran, but also to Hezbollah. Qais Khazali, of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq, visited the Lebanese border near Israel, and indicated he would support Hezbollah in a war with Israel. This is part of Iran’s plan to create a “road to the sea,” or a network of allied groups in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon that are either part of the state, or work as a parallel states supporting Iran and local armed groups.

The US sees this as a threat but doesn’t know how to confront it. US officials, such as National Security Adviser John Bolton, have called for the US to stay in Syria to counterbalance these Iranian-allied groups. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Lebanon this month, according to reports. This will raise tensions with Hezbollah.

The issue of US bases in Iraq is also coming to a head this year. Amiri was quoted in Tasnim News over the weekend as saying he disagreed with any US presence. He also said he welcomed the visit of Iran’s president to Iraq.

The overall picture in Iraq is one in which the US faces an uphill struggle to maintain its presence as ISIS is defeated. The pro-Iranian parties sense that they are in control. Although the Kurdistan autonomous region has tended to support the US staying in Iraq to help fight ISIS remnants, the tensions with pro-Iranian Shi’ite parties and armed groups is growing.

Some Shi’ite militias have attempted to interrupt US patrols in Anbar Province and Mosul in recent months. US Inspector-General reports at the Defense Department also frequently mention these pro-Iranian groups as a threat in Iraq. That the leaders of the groups say they will use parliament for now to oppose the US presence means they seek a political solution at the moment, and are wary of an armed confrontation.