Archive for July 25, 2019

Iran offers to return to nuclear deal even if U.S. doesn’t

July 25, 2019

Source: Iran offers to return to nuclear deal even if U.S. doesn’t – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

In Rouhani’s alternative plan, Tehran would still expect sanctions on its oil exports and international banking to be revised.

BY TZVI JOFFRE
 JULY 25, 2019 12:12

Hassan Rouhani

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has told French President Emmanuel Macron that the Islamic republic is ready to return to its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal if the US dials back sanctions, even without returning to the JCPOA deal, Radio Farda reported on Thursday.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi conveyed the offer from Rouhani to Macron in Paris as an alternative to the “freeze-for-freeze” plan proposed by the French president. In Macron’s plan, Iran would stop increasing its nuclear activities and the US would hold sanctions at the current level to allow for dialogue to resume, according to Politico.

In Rouhani’s alternative plan, Iran would not demand that the US return to the JCPOA, but would expect sanctions on Iran’s oil exports and international banking to be revised. In return, the Islamic republic would stop reducing its commitments to the nuclear deal, including exceeding the 3.67% uranium enrichment limit.

If European countries stop wrong measures such as detaining an Iranian oil tanker at Gibraltar, they will see an appropriate response from Tehran,” said Rouhani on Wednesday, referencing the seizure of the Iranian Grace 1 oil tanker.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claimed on Wednesday that the UK had sent a mediator to Iran to free the British-flagged Stena Impero oil tanker that was seized by IRGC forces last week. Britain denied the report.
In a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Rouhani said that Iran and other Gulf countries are in charge of maritime safety in the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. “The Strait of Hormuz is no place for joking or playing with international regulations,” said Rouhani.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced on Monday that the UK will also form a European-led maritime protection mission to support safe passage of both crew and cargo in the region. Discussions will be held later this week concerning how to best complement the plan with a recent US proposal for an international maritime coalition in the area.
The foreign secretary emphasized that the mission would be focused on “free navigation,” and would not be part of the “US maximum pressure policy on Iran,” as Britain is still committed to preserving the nuclear deal with Tehran.

“We have taken every available opportunity to reduce misunderstanding whilst standing by our rock-solid commitment to the international rule of law, which is the foundation of global peace and prosperity – but we must also react to the world around us as it is, and not how we would wish it to be,” said the foreign secretary in the House of Commons.

 

IDF on high alert along northern border following Syria strikes 

July 25, 2019

Source: IDF on high alert along northern border following Syria strikes – www.israelhayom.com

Israel keeping close tabs on developments in Syria after reports that Druze Hezbollah operative was assassinated in Quneitra.

IDF forces deployed along the nation’s northern border were on high alert Thursday following airstrikes in southern Syria overnight Tuesday.

According to the Syrian state news agency’s report, the country’s air-defense systems were activated against “hostile missiles” launched from the Israeli Golan Heights and Israeli aircraft west of Damascus. In addition, According to the report, two further explosions were heard around 1:00 a.m., one in the Quneitra area and a second in Tal al-Hara, adjacent to Quneitra.

Syria accused Israel of the strikes but Israel neither confirmed nor denied the reports. Israel is keeping close tabs on developments in Syria after reports earlier this week said that Druze Hezbollah operative Mashhour Zidan, had been assassinated in Quneitra.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the attack was directed, among other targets, against weapons storage sites used by Hezbollah and other pro-Iranian militias in Syria’s and housing long-range missiles and other weaponry. It was further reported that one of the missiles had exploded inside a base in western Damascus where large forces of pro-Iranian militias in Syria were stationed.

The zone has been a target of Israeli raids against Tehran-backed militias which have become entrenched in southern Syria and the Golan Heights near the border with Israel.

 

 

IDF on high alert along northern border following Syria strikes 

July 25, 2019

Source: IDF on high alert along northern border following Syria strikes – www.israelhayom.com

Israel keeping close tabs on developments in Syria after reports that Druze Hezbollah operative was assassinated in Quneitra.

IDF forces deployed along the nation’s northern border were on high alert Thursday following airstrikes in southern Syria overnight Tuesday.

According to the Syrian state news agency’s report, the country’s air-defense systems were activated against “hostile missiles” launched from the Israeli Golan Heights and Israeli aircraft west of Damascus. In addition, According to the report, two further explosions were heard around 1:00 a.m., one in the Quneitra area and a second in Tal al-Hara, adjacent to Quneitra.

Syria accused Israel of the strikes but Israel neither confirmed nor denied the reports. Israel is keeping close tabs on developments in Syria after reports earlier this week said that Druze Hezbollah operative Mashhour Zidan, had been assassinated in Quneitra.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the attack was directed, among other targets, against weapons storage sites used by Hezbollah and other pro-Iranian militias in Syria’s and housing long-range missiles and other weaponry. It was further reported that one of the missiles had exploded inside a base in western Damascus where large forces of pro-Iranian militias in Syria were stationed.

The zone has been a target of Israeli raids against Tehran-backed militias which have become entrenched in southern Syria and the Golan Heights near the border with Israel.

 

Top Khamenei aide: No talks with US under any circumstances

July 25, 2019

Source: Top Khamenei aide: No talks with US under any circumstances – www.israelhayom.com

Remarks by Hossein Dehghan reflect a toughened Iranian stance to Western proposals to bolster security in the Strait of Hormuz after Iran seized a British-flagged oil tanker last week.

The top military adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that Tehran would not negotiate with the United States under any circumstances, an apparent hardening of its position as the Gulf tanker crisis escalates.

The Swedish operator of a British-flagged oil tanker seized by Iran in the Gulf last week said it had been able to speak to crew members and all 23 of them were safe.

“We had direct contact with the crew on board the vessel last night by telephone and they’re all okay and in good health and they’re getting good cooperation with the Iranians on board,” Stena Bulk spokesman Pat Adamson said.

The company said it had no evidence that the ship had been involved in a collision, one of the reasons Iran has cited for sending commandos to capture it last Friday.

Video: Reuters

The tough remarks by Khamenei’s aide, Hossein Dehghan, a senior commander of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards whose views are seen as reflecting those of Khamenei, appeared to take a firm line in response to Western proposals to beef up security in the Strait of Hormuz in the wake of the seizure of the ship.

Dehghan said Iran would take action if the status of the strait were altered, and that no country would be allowed to ship oil through it unless all countries can.

His remarks were reported by Al Jazeera television which did not supply direct quotes of an interview with him. He singled out the United Arab Emirates for criticism, saying it had become a base for attacks on Iran, and repeated earlier Iranian threats to attack all US targets in the region in the event of war.

Dehghan’s remarks appear to shift the Iranian position on talks with the United States. In the past Tehran has said talks are possible although Washington must lift all sanctions first and return to the nuclear deal it abandoned last year.

The Trump administration says the purpose of its sanctions is to force Iran to the negotiating table, and it is open to talks, but Iran must make the first move.

Earlier on Wednesday, Iran’s pragmatist president, Hassan Rouhani, who has drawn fire from hardline clerical leaders for reaching the nuclear pact with world powers in 2015, said Iran was ready for “just negotiations” but not if they mean surrender.

Britain has called for a European-led naval mission to ensure safe shipping through the world’s most important oil artery after Iran seized the Stena Impero last week. The United States is trying to rally support for a global coalition to secure Gulf waters, although allies have been reluctant to join a US-led mission for fear of escalating confrontation.

France, Italy and Denmark gave initial support to the British plan. A German Foreign Ministry spokesman said Berlin was talking to Britain and France about the idea.

The Trump administration abandoned the nuclear deal last year arguing that it was too weak because it did not cover non-nuclear issues such as Iran’s missile program and its regional behavior. Dehghan repeated Iranian assertions that its missile program is non-negotiable.

 

Off Topic: ‘Red Sea Diving Resort’ recounts an unreal Jewish refugee rescue story

July 25, 2019

Source: ‘Red Sea Diving Resort’ recounts an unreal Jewish refugee rescue story | Datebook

( On Netflix July 31… – JW )

The film, starring Chris Evans, shows how Israeli spies used a fake tourist trap to smuggle Ethiopian Jews out of Sudan

The San Francisco portion of the Bay Area-wide San Francisco Jewish Film Festival closes Sunday, July 28, at the Castro Theatre with a screening of “The Red Sea Diving Resort” starring Michael Kenneth Williams and Chris Evans.Photo: Marcos Cruz, Netflix

Gideon Raff remembers being in Croatia in 2014 filming his USA network archaeology-mystery series “Dig” when he got a call from a film producer with a promising movie idea. “He asked me, ‘Have you ever heard of the hotel that was used by the Mossad to get Ethiopian Jews out of Sudan?’ ”

Raff is the Israeli writer-director best known for creating “Prisoners of War,” the hit Israeli television series that was the framework for Showtime’s “Homeland” series, which he co-created. He’s also a former paratrooper in the Israeli military and a screenwriter who’s been drawn repeatedly to the subject of espionage and international intrigue. So Raff, 46, knows a great deal about the famously bold and fiercely secretive operations of Israel’s intelligence service.

But this question about a Sudanese hotel and Mossad was a mystery to him.

“I had heard about Mossad’s bigger, more famous operations, such as the emergency airlift of thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel (in 1991), but I had never heard of this mission in Sudan, which was earlier and even more secret,” said Raff, who now lives in Los Angeles. “Once I heard the basic details of how they pulled it off, I realized this is so crazy that if I just made it up, somebody would say, ‘No way, it’s not realistic.’ But because it happened in real life, it was too cool not to tell.”

The “very cool, stranger-than-fiction” rescue mission became the subject of Raff’s new thriller, “The Red Sea Diving Resort.” It will screen at the Castro Theatre on Sunday, July 28, as the closing night film of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival before being released globally via Netflix on July 31.

The intricately plotted film recreates the audacious scheme in the early 1980s (code-named “Operation Brothers”) by which Mossad agents purchased a deserted holiday retreat — a string of seaside bungalows once owned by an Italian hotelier, and situated on a pristine Sudanese beach near a prime diving reef on the Red Sea — to use as a front to ultimately smuggle thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel.

The refugees had already made the 500-mile trek to Sudan, fleeing civil war and famine in their home country, and were longing to fulfill a 2,700-year-old dream of getting to Jerusalem. (The film gives a concise history of the “Beta Israelis,” Jews of Ethiopia who claim their lineage dates  to the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon; they were officially granted inclusion in Israel’s official “Law of Return” in 1977.)

Brought to the beachfront resort at night, the Ethiopians were helped onto rafts in darkness and met at sea by the Israeli navy to transport them during the three-day journey across the Red Sea to Sinai.

Raff’s “Homeland” bona fides helped him land an A-list cast: Chris Evans, “Captain America” himself, plays Ari Levinson, the idealistic Mossad spy who was the mastermind behind the mission; Alessandro Nivola (“Disobedience”) as his medically trained Mossad comrade, Michael K. Williams (Omar from “The Wire” ) as the courageous local Ethiopian community leader who shepherds the refugees to the resort under the constant threat of them being caught by Sudanese rebels; and Ben Kingsley as the Mossad leader who authorizes the mission. Greg Kinnear plays the American CIA analyst who suspects what the Israelis are up to and winds up lending American air support to the mission.

While interviewing the spies who led the missions and the Ethiopians they helped shepherd to safety, Raff heard enough to make the film’s you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me details jump to life, starting with the outlandish fact that the agents legitimized their operation by distributing colorful brochures advertising their fake resort to European travel agents.

Michiel Huisman (left), Michael Kenneth Williams, Haley Bennett and Chris Evans in “Red Sea Diving Resort.”Photo: Marcos Cruz, Netflix

“Real tourists were the best cover they could ask for,” said Raff, who shot most of the film in South Africa and re-created the hotel in Namibia. So when busloads of German and Japanese travelers showed up, the Mossad’s trained assassins took on the nitty-gritty demands of actually running the hotel — leading dive expeditions and exercise classes on the beach — and they hired a staff of Sudanese workers to cook and clean, “further blurring the line between fact and fiction,” Raff said.

“Red Sea Diving Resort” shows the Mossad going to unimaginably risky lengths in Sudan (a Muslim country and adversary of Israel) out of a sense of obligation to help their fellow Jews on another continent. Yet, Raff said he feels strongly about emphasizing their mission’s more universal, humanitarian impulse as well.

“This is a very Jewish story of Jews helping Jews, and yet when I met with everyone involved, I realized how relevant their story is today. They displayed the heroism and courage we need right now when there are 65 million displaced people in the world who are looking for a better future.

“The movie’s not about one policy or politics at all. It’s about humanism. It’s about people coming together and thinking, Hey, we can do something to make the world better. It might sound absolutely outlandish on paper, but we can still try and it just might work.”

“The Red Sea Diving Resort”: Writer-director Gideon Raff scheduled to attend as part of the 2019 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. 7:15 p.m. Sunday, July 28. $25. Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., S.F.  jfi.org/sfjff-2019

 

The IDF’s Newest Class of the Elite Submarine Unit 

July 25, 2019