Archive for July 15, 2020

Australia only country to vote against all five UNHRC anti-Israel resolutions

July 15, 2020

Makes me proud to be Australian.

Although the voting result is only because the right wing/conservative party (Liberal Party) is in power. If it was to be the left wing party (Labor Party) then some/all of the votes would likely have been abstentions.

Some interesting bits of history in the article as well (my bolding).

Australia-Israel Relationship a ‘Mateship’ Based on Trade, Trust and Mutual Values

At the 43rd session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that recently concluded, Australia was the only country to vote against all five anti-Israel resolutions, including the notoriously biased Agenda Item 7.

In Australia’s position paper explaining the votes last month, it noted, “Australia has been consistent in its principled opposition to biased and one-sided resolutions targeting Israel in multilateral forums. We have reiterated this position before this Council every year of our membership. Our position has not changed. It is our firm view that the Human Rights Council’s disproportionate focus on Israel—through an unmatched five single country, targeted resolutions every year—damages its credibility. These resolutions do nothing to contribute to lasting peace and stability for Israelis and Palestinians.”

The perfect voting record, according to Australian leaders, underscores the vital relationship between the two nations.

“Australia regards the biased and one-sided targeting of Israel in multilateral forums as unhelpful to efforts to build lasting peace and stability,” Australian Ambassador to Israel Chris Cannan told JNS. “Australia has been consistent in its principled opposition to the singling out and unfair targeting of Israel, and one-sided resolutions, in the HRC,” he said. “It remains Australia’s firm view that the HRC’s agenda Item 7—the only standing agenda item that focuses on a single country situation—expresses this bias and is inappropriate.”

He said of the bilateral relations: “Australia and Israel have a close, longstanding and bipartisan, bilateral relationship.  … Our contemporary relationship is at a high point; with reciprocal prime ministerial and head of state visits having taken place in the past three years.”

Still, he noted, “Our support for Israel has always been accompanied by a commitment to a two-state solution, negotiated directly between Israel and the Palestinians.”

Today, posed Cannan, “Australia is continuing to contribute to Israeli and regional peace and security through our contribution to the Multilateral Force and Observers in the Sinai and the UN Truce Supervision Organization.”

In terms of business and shared resources, Australia has backed up the expanding trade relationship with resources, including through an Australian innovation “Landing Pad” in Tel Aviv for early-stage Australian start-ups, and the opening of an Australian Trade and Defense Office in Jerusalem. “We are also increasing our national security cooperation, including on defense and cyber security,” he said.

Cannan further noted that the Australia-Israel relationship is based on values. “Australia is a close friend of Israel. It is in our national interest to see Israel succeed as a liberal democracy in the Middle East, and Australia continues to strongly support its right to exist within secure and internationally recognized borders.”

Arsen Ostrovsky, an international human-rights lawyer and Israel Affairs Director at the Zionist Council of New South Wales, similarly told JNS that “Australia is a reliable and trustworthy ally of Israel, showing in word and deed that [it] stands out and speaks out, supporting Israel against the relentless one-sided resolutions that exist in all UN forums.”

He maintained that “there’s a word in Australia—‘mateship’—a friendship based on the values of loyalty, courage and respect. In terms of this Australian government and prime minister, who stand with Israel when it counts even if it means going against so many other nations, I don’t think Israel could ask for a better mate and ally. Australians stand up for their mates, and certainly in the UN”

Originally from Sydney but now living in Tel Aviv, Ostrovsky explained that the Australia-Israel relationship is centuries old, with Australian engagement in the region dating back to the Sinai-Palestine campaign during World War I, including the iconic victory in the Battle of Beersheva in 1917. Hundreds of horsemen from Australia and New Zealand were brought by the Australia New Zealand Army Corps to Israel, making history as they liberated the city of Beersheva on behalf of the British—a key milestone towards the UN partition plan.

Australia voted in favor of the plan on Nov. 29, 1947, despite pressure from the United Kingdom to abstain, having left the region after the British Mandate period. That vote of countries worldwide led to Israel’s independence on May 14, 1948.

Since then, the nation has played an important role in the world body, calling out the council for condemning Israel under the guise of human rights.

Tensions did occur at the time of the Yom Kippur War in 1973 under the short term of Labor Party government of Prime Minister Edward Gough Whitlam. Issues also centered on the “Zionism is racism” debate; the lack of support for the Likud Party and building in Judea and Samaria by former Prime Minister Bob Hawke in the 1980s [also Labor Party]; and an existing BDS movement within the country.

But that is in the past, and the two nations look towards the future.

While Australia has not commented on Israel’s planned application of sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, Ostrovsky said the country has been clear that it supports two states. It admittedly has concerns with the settlements while also recognizing Israel’s challenges—not least of which is Palestinian terror, incitement and payments to terrorists, which led Australia to stop its direct payments to the Palestinian Authority, he added.

“If Australia does express its concern with Israel applying sovereignty, it will be measured, and I hope they’d reiterate their support for Israel and the greater context of the challenges Israel faces from the region,” he said.

Politics aside, posed Ostrovsky, the relationship is based on economic interests and innovation: “There is an increasing number of Israeli companies on Australian stock market, and a lot to be gained in the future, from cyber security and tech to water security.”

Today, the two countries work together and share best practices with a small group of nations, including Austria, Denmark, Cyprus and New Zealand, to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

An interest in innovation

Paul Israel, CEO of the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, told JNS that the trade relationship between the two countries is meaningful for both nations. Israeli exports to Australia, especially in innovation, high-tech, agritech and medtech, are relevant for large Australian enterprises because of their quality, robustness and scalability.

The Chamber, which has offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth, Auckland and Tel Aviv, often hosts delegations from Australia to learn about Israel’s ecosystem and sustainable high-tech industry. “Innovation is relatively new to Australia, and Australia is in love with what Israel has built,” he said.

More than that, he explained, “there has been a consistent and well-documented history of bipartisan support from Australia to Israel, which has been consistent ever since. Australia is a pioneer in standing up for Israel in the United Nations, rooted in the dynamic, strong and vibrant Jewish community in existence since [the arrival of the Europeans] in 1780s, and based on values of democracy and freedom of speech.”

Ostrovsky agreed, saying that “Australia understands that Israel is a small democracy, surrounded by enemies.”

It is a “no-nonsense country that doesn’t tolerate bullies or intimidation,” he added. “Standing up for your friends is the definition of mateship—and that’s what Australia is doing.”


Iran’s nuclear facilities are mysteriously under attack

July 15, 2020

Lots of “work accidents” recently in Iran.


Black smoke rose as flames engulfed the Shahid Tondgooyan petrochemical plant in the Khuzestan province of Iran late Sunday afternoon.

Hours earlier, more than 500 miles away, detonations rocked the basement of an old, nondescript home in a northern pocket of Tehran. The two-story dwelling was said to have housed at least 30 gas cylinders that were used for unclear purposes.

Both incidents came fewer than two days after a string of explosions – and power outages – were reported west of Tehran in the early hours of Friday. Local reports indicated that multiple “mortar-like sounds similar to anti-aircraft missiles” were heard.

The blasts reportedly took place at an Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) missile depot.

While some Iranian officials denied the outbursts altogether, and others quoted a former mayor – who reportedly died more than a year ago – as saying it was caused by gas tanks, experts said there is something bizarre at play across the beleaguered country.

These most recent attacks happened on the heels of multiple other mysterious explosions at sensitive sites over the course of the last three weeks – and no one is precisely sure what is going on, other than its rattling of the regime and stymying its controversial nuclear program.

“The tempo and tenor of the recent explosions in Iran have been unusual. There is evidence of a concerted campaign underway to thwart Iran’s nuclear program,” Jason Brodsky, Policy Director of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), told Fox News. “The more Iran advances its nuclear program in violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the greater the likelihood for additional strikes.”

He continued: “Additionally, Tehran is distracted by the coronavirus and economic problems. The public is increasingly disenchanted with the regime’s ability to govern the country. The conditions are ripe for additional kinetic activity.”

The first enigmatic hit happened on June 26 at a known liquid fuel production center that makes ballistic missiles in Khojir, near Parchin, southeast of the capital. Despite a downplaying by officials, satellite images later emerged to show extensive damage on an arsenal of gas tanks, along with an entire hillside blackened in the blast.

Then on June 30, 19 people died following an explosion at a medical center in Tehran.

Two days later, on July 2, the notorious Natanz uranium enrichment plant – which became active in 2018 as Iran’s principal place to develop centrifuges required to produce uranium and other nuclear weapons were in-development – was struck by a mammoth blast, as confirmed by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI).

Tehran conceded that a severe attack had impaired an “industrial shed,” and AEOI officials acknowledged to the Iranian media that the blow had “set back Iran’s nuclear program by months.”

According to an analysis by the Kuwait-based publication Al-Jarida, the target of the assault was the UF6 gas – uranium hexafluoride – which Iran uses to infuse into its most advanced IR-6 centrifuges – of which 80 percent has been decimated as a result of the attack.

Then, on July 3, an unexplained fire erupted at a power plant in the southwest city of Shiraz, triggering a power outage in the region.

The next day, yet another explosion and inferno tore through a power plant in Ahwaz, while at the same time, a chlorine gas leak was detected at a Karoun petrochemical plant in Mahshahr, about 75 miles away.

“While one can never ignore the potential for an accident or gross incompetence, the locations of these explosions coupled with the increasing number of things exploding in the last few weeks does make a strong case for this being foreign sabotage,” underscored Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD). “Let’s not forget, they are all occurring on or near, nuclear, missile, or military installations.”

Nonetheless, a swirl of suspicion continues to linger around the series of seemingly harmonized attacks, with many suspecting Israel – and the United States – as pulling strings.

But adding to the peculiarity, BBC Persian reported that just after midnight on June 30, some of its journalists received an email from a group purporting to be the “Homeland Cheetahs” – comprised of anti-government, underground dissidents – claiming credit for earlier attacks. The outlet also said they were informed of the Natanz attack hours before it was documented by officials.

Several intelligence sources told Fox News that they had never heard of the outfit prior to the BBC’s report, and suspected it to be a ruse or a front for a much more sophisticated operation.

While almost all experts conclude that the attacks that have occurred are physical, some say cyber warfare may additionally play a part – especially given that Natanz was targeted by the infamous Stuxnet malware kindled by Israel and the U.S. in 2010. That attack successfully crippled controls at the site by altering the spin cycles of the centrifuges and left scientists scratching their heads.

“Although many are asking the question, was this a cyber-attack or physical sabotage, the answer could be ‘both.’ The most likely suspects are the U.S. and Israel working in tandem. Both countries have very sophisticated cyber warfare units and significant capabilities when it comes to cyber-kinetic attacks,” explained David Kennedy, CEO of TrustedSec and a former NSA and Marine Corps cyber-intelligence expert. “An attack of this magnitude would require a great deal of planning and preparation, and is very complex because you are exploiting industrial control systems and air-gapped devices.”

Jeff Bardin, CIO of security firm Treadstone 71, concurred that their assessment “indicates this was a physical attack likely with cyber used for reconnaissance and support.”

“The explosion was far beyond what is believed cyber sabotage could have created,” he said. “If Iran complains too loudly that adversaries destroyed their nuclear weapons development, the IAEA and the world will want a local inspection – Iran has claimed they are not creating nuclear weapons. If they complain too loudly, we can confirm those locations for nuclear weapons development. If Iranian authorities claim adversary actions occurred, internally, they look weak, where they already suffer a lack of confidence. If they openly respond, they risk more attacks.”

Experts have also pointed to the glaring holes in Tehran’s intelligence apparatus – essentially allowing its country’s most guarded sites to be slaughtered with convention weapons, with little means of foiling it or fighting back.

“Tehran has not yet retaliated for the Natanz explosion. (But) I would expect to see an uptick in Iranian cyber operations against the U.S., Israel, and our Mideast allies like Saudi Arabia, but I don’t expect a serious conflagration,” Kennedy surmised. “The Iranians have suffered a major setback to their nuclear program and their domestic security. They’ve been badly embarrassed. And the truth is, they may not know the full extent of what happened in that attack. They also don’t know what else is coming.”