Archive for September 11, 2019

Iran denounces ‘U.S.-Israeli plot’ over nuclear program 

September 11, 2019

Source: Iran denounces ‘U.S.-Israeli plot’ over nuclear program – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

Iran says its aims are entirely peaceful.

BY REUTERS
 SEPTEMBER 11, 2019 15:56
Trump, Rouhani and Netanyahu

VIENNA – Iran has denounced a “U.S.-Israeli plot” to put pressure on the U.N. nuclear watchdog, after the IAEA called in recent days for more cooperation from Tehran following what diplomats say was the detection of uranium particles at an undeclared site.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has broad powers to inspect Iran under its 2015 nuclear agreement with major powers. The IAEA has issued its calls in recent days for Iran to cooperate, without saying specifically what prompted them, saying this is confidential.

Diplomats told Reuters the agency wants Iran to explain how traces of uranium were found at a site that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described a year ago as a “secret atomic warehouse.”

“Since two days before this session of the Board, we are witnessing a U.S.-Israeli plot with the support of their affiliated media,” Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA, Kazem Gharibabadi, said in a statement to an IAEA Board of Governors meeting that began on Monday.

He singled out former U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton, a hawk on Iran who left his job on Tuesday. On Saturday, hours before the IAEA’s acting chief flew to Tehran for a visit, Bolton had said that Iran “may be concealing nuclear material and/or activities.”

John Bolton

@AmbJohnBolton

IAEA Acting Director General going to Iran just as IAEA informs its Board that may be concealing nuclear material and/or activities. We join with other @iaeaorg Board member states eager to get a full report as soon as possible.

Netanyahu, who like U.S. President Donald Trump opposes Iran’s nuclear deal with major powers, also said on Monday that Iran had been developing nuclear weapons at a different site that Tehran has since destroyed.

Iran says its aims are entirely peaceful.

“John Bolton’s remark wishing to set an agenda for the visit of the Acting DG on the night that he was on his way to Tehran, along with the media campaign done by two news agencies, as well as the show played by the Israeli regime Prime Minister, all-in-all indicate that a joint project is underway,” Gharibabadi said.

He did not identify the news agencies he was referring to. The Reuters report on the uranium traces was published on Sunday.

“These show-off measures are aimed at increasing pressure on the Agency, hitting the last straw on the JCPOA,” he said, referring to Iran’s nuclear deal with major powers by its full name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Washington exited the nuclear agreement last year and has reimposed sanctions on Iran. Iran has responded by announcing some steps to exceed thresholds in the agreement but says it still aims to keep the pact in place.

When asked by reporters whether traces of radioactive material had been found and why the IAEA is pushing for better cooperation, Gharibabadi said such issues are confidential and Iran is “timely and proactively cooperating” with the IAEA.

He also took a swipe at Israel, which is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons and has a policy of deliberate ambiguity about its nuclear capabilities.

“Israel talking about adhering to non-proliferation is like (the) mafia talking about adhering to the laws against organized crimes,” he said.

 

President Trump and The First Lady Participate in a Moment of Silence

September 11, 2019

 

 

Rocket fire hustling Netanyahu from Ashdod rally – Palestinian propaganda gift to Iran & Hizballah – DEBKAfile

September 11, 2019

Source: Rocket fire hustling Netanyahu from Ashdod rally – Palestinian propaganda gift to Iran & Hizballah – DEBKAfile

Israeli air strikes against 15 Hamas targets in Gaza overnight Tuesday, Sept. 10 did not rub out the scenes of prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Blue-White opposition leader Gaby Ashkenazi being whisked away from their election rallies in Ashdod and Ashkelon under rocket fire from Gaza.

The Palestinian attack was accurately timed to cut short the two campaign speeches just as they began and depict the crowds in panicky flight, pointing to precise advance intelligence. Netanyahu returned to the stage a few minutes later, but the damage was done.

The Palestinian terrorist organizations in Gaza knew where, when and who would be staging these pre-election events. They did not aim to kill anyone this time, only achieve a striking propaganda coup against Israel’s top security figures. They also moved with unusual speed. In past instances, Palestinian rockets were usually aimed first at near targets before escalating in the next round to the cities further away from the Gaza Strip. This time, Ashdod and Ashkelon were targeted directly  before the usual preamble.

The Gaza terrorist groups followed the pattern of swift reprisal set by their allies, Iran and Hizballah, in Syria on Monday, Sept. 9, when the Shiite Imam Hossein militia fired two rockets at the IDF Hermon positions on the orders of their Al Qods officers, hours after an air strike in Iraq.

All these violent groups are pulling together, under Tehran’s baton, for a major effort to bring the Netanyahu government low and destroy voter confidence in the prime minister as guardian of national security in time for the Sept. 17 general election, The collective tactic for toppling the Likud prime minister was set forth, as DEBKAfile first revealed, at a secret summit in Beirut on Aug. 23 attended by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Gen. Hossein Salami, Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Hizballah’s Hassan Nasrallah.

Their strategy won a major propaganda coup for Tehran, Hizballah and Gaza on Tuesday night, when video clips beamed far and wide depicted security guards bundling Netanyahu off the Ashdod platform to the sound of wailing rocket alerts and an audience fleeing in all directions.

Israeli aircraft later struck some 15 Hamas terror targets in the northern and central Gaza Strip, including weapons workshops, several locations in the organization’s naval compound and a terror tunnel, in response to rockets fired from Gaza earlier.

In that response, however, Israel continued to pull its punches, still holding back on a major counter-offensive six days before the national election.

 

Gaza rockets fired at southern Israel for second day in a row

September 11, 2019

Source: Gaza rockets fired at southern Israel for second day in a row | The Times of Israel

In response, Israeli tank destroys two Hamas posts in northern Gaza; attack comes less than a day after two projectiles fired at Ashdod and Ashkelon from the Strip

An impact site in an agricultural field in the Hof Ashkelon region of southern Israel caused by a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip on September 11, 2019. (Hof Ashkelon Region)

An impact site in an agricultural field in the Hof Ashkelon region of southern Israel caused by a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip on September 11, 2019. (Hof Ashkelon Region)

Three rockets were fired toward Israeli communities north of the Gaza Strip on Wednesday afternoon, in the second such attack from the Palestinian enclave in as many days, the army said.

One of the projectiles struck inside an Israeli community, causing light damage to a home. The other two appeared to have landed in open fields. There were no reports of injuries, according to the Magen David Adom ambulance service.

In response, the Israel Defense Forces targeted two Hamas observation posts in northern Gaza.

“An IDF tank attacked two military posts belonging to the Hamas terror group in the northern Gaza Strip. This attack was carried out in response to the rocket launches at Israeli territory,” the army said in a statement.

Palestinian media reported that several people were injured in the Israeli retaliatory strike, but that was denied by the Strip’s Hamas-run health ministry, which said that there were no casualties.

The rocket attack triggered sirens in the communities of Netiv Ha’asara and Yad Mordechai, sending hundreds of residents running to bomb shelters.

A window shattered by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip in a home in the Hof Ashkelon region of southern Israel on September 11, 2019. (Hof Ashkelon Region)

One rocket struck inside a community in the Hof Ashkelon region of southern Israel. Fragments of the projectile hit a home, breaking one of its windows, according to a spokesperson for the region.

A police sapper was called to an agricultural field in the Hof Ashkelon region to remove one rocket that landed there. The third impact site was not immediately located.

A police sapper removes the remains of a projectile fired from the Gaza Strip that struck an agricultural field in the Hof Ashkelon region of southern Israel on September 11, 2019. (Israel Police)

In the predawn hours of Wednesday morning, the Israeli Air Force launched strikes on 15 targets belonging to the Hamas terror group, which rules the Gaza Strip, in response to an attack earlier in the night in which terrorists fired two rockets at the southern cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was holding an election rally.

The IDF said the targets included “a number of targets in a military base producing arms, a number of targets in a compound belonging to the naval forces and a terror tunnel belonging to the Hamas terror group.” The army said it held Hamas responsible for the rocket fire, as it is the de facto ruler of the enclave.

Palestinian sources reported heavy strikes and explosions in Beit Lahiya just north of Gaza City, Deir el-Balah in central Gaza and in Khan Younis in the south. There were no reports of injuries.

The IDF reprisal strikes came after Netanyahu, who is also defense minister, met with army chiefs, along with the heads of the Mossad and the Shin Bet security agency, at the military headquarters in Tel Aviv

Israel Conflict News@IsraelGazaICN

Initial video of one of the strikes

Embedded video

Netanyahu was forced to seek shelter during the campaign event in Ashdod on Tuesday night as rocket sirens went off. Both rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

Israeli analysts said it appeared that Gaza terrorists deliberately targeted the southern cities, knowing that Netanyahu and other politicians were holding rallies there. Netanyahu’s rally was announced in advance and was live-streamed on his Facebook page.

Most recent rocket fire from the Strip has targeted surrounding communities, only firing at large Israelis cities during major flareups or if trying to provoke a heavy Israeli response.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd R) meets, following a rocket attack from Gaza, with his defense chiefs at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv on September 10, 2019 (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

One woman, 46, in Ashdod was treated for anxiety after failing to reach shelter, medics said, but no other injuries or damage were reported.

Netanyahu — who bills himself as “Mr. Security” — was widely panned by his political rivals for being forced offstage by a gaggle of security guards as the sirens sounded.

In nearby Ashkelon, Blue and White MK Gabi Ashkenazi had to cut a campaign event short due to the rocket fire. The city opened its public bomb shelters after the sirens went off as a precautionary measure in case rocket attacks persisted.

Netanyahu warned Hamas on Saturday that Israel would respond forcefully to any attempt to harm its citizens and soldiers, following two days of violent incidents on and near the Gaza border.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

 

Trump Fires Pro Israel National Security Adviser John Bolton 

September 11, 2019

 

 

Trump-Rouhani Meeting Unlikely to Reach Political Solution

September 11, 2019

 

 

Trump ready to meet Rouhani without preconditions 

September 11, 2019

Source: Trump ready to meet Rouhani without preconditions | The Times of Israel

Top officials insist that willingness, announced just hours after departure of hawk John Bolton, does not indicate softer line against Tehran

President Donald Trump calls out as he arrives to speak at the 2019 National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week Conference in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

President Donald Trump calls out as he arrives to speak at the 2019 National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week Conference in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Two of Donald Trump’s top lieutenants said Tuesday he is ready to meet his Iranian counterpart without preconditions after the US president sacked his hawkish national security adviser, while insisting there will be no easing of pressure on Tehran.

Even as the removal of national security hardliner John Bolton triggered speculation that Trump might soften his approach to Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joined Israel in alleging “possible undeclared nuclear activities” by Tehran, and the US administration imposed new terrorist designations on leaders of some groups linked to the Islamic republic.

Amid the fraught political climate, Trump loyalists signaled he is prepared to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani — something that French President Emmanuel Macron had proposed in an effort to salvage a 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran from which Trump withdrew the United States.

“Now the president has made clear, he is happy to take a meeting with no preconditions, but we are maintaining the maximum pressure campaign,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, just days after Iran announced it had fired up centrifuges to boost its enriched uranium stockpiles.

Pompeo, standing alongside Mnuchin in the White House, said “sure” when asked whether Trump could meet Rouhani later this month at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

In this photo released by the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran, September 4, 2019. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

The remarks came just 90 minutes after Trump announced he had sent Bolton packing, and Pompeo and Mnuchin cautioned that Bolton’s exit should not be seen as heralding major policy shifts.

“I would say Secretary Pompeo and myself and the president are completely aligned on our maximum pressure campaign,” Mnuchin said.

Tehran reacted swiftly to Bolton’s departure, with a Rouhani aide saying it signaled Washington’s pressure was failing.

“Bolton’s marginalization and his subsequent removal isn’t an accident but a clear sign of the defeat of America’s maximum pressure strategy” against Iran, Hesameddin Ashena tweeted.

“Have no doubt that we have the power to manage the US approach towards Iran and will never back down. The blockade of Iran will break.”

Going ‘soft?’

If Tehran sees optimism in Bolton’s ouster, some hawkish US lawmakers warned that easing the squeeze on Iran would be an enormous mistake, enabling Europe to, in Senator Ted Cruz’s words, “send an economic lifeline to the Ayatollah.”

Cruz tweeted that he hoped Bolton’s departure “does not mean that the deep-state forces at State and Treasury — who have been fighting tooth and nail to preserve the Obama Iran nuclear deal — have finally convinced the president to go soft on Iran.”

Meanwhile, the Trump administration announced new terrorist designations against leaders or operatives of organizations with close ties to Tehran, among them Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force and Hezbollah.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin laugh as they speak with reporters in the briefing room of the White House during a briefing on terrorism financing Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The US also designated leaders of groups within the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda, and the operational arm of Hamas.

“You know we’ve done more sanctions on Iran than anybody, and it’s absolutely working,” Mnuchin said.

Tensions have been escalating between Iran and the United States since May last year, when Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran and began reimposing sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy.

On Tuesday, Washington joined Israel in accusing Iran of new deceptions about its nuclear program, a move that further strained European-led attempts to salvage a multinational deal.

Iran denounced the accusations leveled on Monday by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said that the clerical regime operated a previously undisclosed site aimed at developing nuclear weapons but destroyed it after it was detected.

Pompeo, without directly referencing Netanyahu, urged Iran to comply with the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“The Iranian regime’s lack of full cooperation with @iaeaorg raises questions about possible undeclared nuclear material or activities,” Pompeo tweeted.

“The world won’t fall for it. We will deny the regime all paths to a nuclear weapon.”

A potential summit between Trump and the Iranian leadership sparked interest from the mogul-turned-president, but it is adamantly opposed by Netanyahu, who faces elections next week and sees Iran as an existential threat.

In a live television address, Netanyahu showed pictures of an alleged site near Abadeh, south of Isfahan, where he said Iran conducted experiments to develop nuclear weapons.

Netanyahu said Israel found out about the site during a daring raid into Tehran and that the regime demolished the site sometime between late June and late July after realizing that Israel was aware.