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Monday, January 22, 2018

Pence warns Egypt, Jordan: The Palestinians would pay more for continuing to fight Trump’s policies

DEBKAfile exclusive report: In an exceptionally stern warning, Vice President Mike Pence put Egyptian and Jordanian leaders on immediate notice to stop fighting President Donald Trump’s Palestinian policy and his decision to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Pence warned President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi and King Abdullah that, if they wanted to keep their good relations with President Trump and benefit from US economic and military assistance, they had better desist from their anti-Trump rhetoric and start playing ball with his approach to resolving the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. This was the main theme of his conversations with the two leaders in Cairo and Amman on Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 20-21.

The language Pence used in referring to the Palestinians was especially harsh, our sources reveal. He asked El-Sisi and Abdullah to convey a tough message to the Palestinian leaders, and Mahmoud Abbas in particular (who refused to receive him in Ramallah): If they continue to hurl insults at Trump, his decision to slash $60 m from the annual US budget for UNRWA projects for Palestinian refugees was just the beginning, he said. If it went on, Washington would block Palestinian Authority access to funding from western and international institutions. The message added: “If the Palestinians don’t cut it out forthwith, the administration will impose a total freeze on US economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority and embark on a reassessment of their relations. This process could drag on for many months or more, Pence warned, indicating that Washington-Ramallah ties would be put on ice in the interim.

In Cairo, Pence also discussed US-Egyptian cooperation in combating terror with the Egyptian President and in Amman, he affirmed US respect for the king’s role as custodian of the holy places in Jerusalem.

Report: Trump suggests annexation of 10% of Judea and Samaria

Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erekat revealed in a report prepared for the PLO Central Committee meeting last week details of the American proposal for a "deal of the century" aimed at advancing an agreement to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.
According to the report, the outline drawn up by US President Donald Trump's negotiating team included the annexation of 10% of Judea and Samaria by Israel and the placement of the capital of the future state of Palestine in the suburbs of Jerusalem.
The proposed Palestinian state would be demilitarized, and Israel would maintain a security presence along the Jordan River and in key strategic points in Judea and Samaria to maintain the security if Israel's citizens.
In addition, parts of Ben Gurion airport and the seaports of Haifa and Ashdod will be designated for Palestinian use. A passage would be constructed from Gaza to Judea and Samaria.
A senior White House official dismissed Erekat's report of the proposed outline.
“It is unfortunate that some parties are seeking to prejudice people against our unfinished plan, which the Palestinians have not seen. This outline is false and the Palestinians should not be basing their reaction, public or private, on it. In the meantime, we remain hard at work on the real draft plan that will benefit both sides," the official said.

Pence to Knesset: Embassy to move to Jerusalem by end of 2019

Vice President Mike Pence announced Monday that the US embassy in Israel would be relocated to Jerusalem by the end of next year, fulfilling President Donald Trump’s campaign promise in 2016 and implementing orders issued by the president last month to the US State Department.
During his address to the Knesset Monday afternoon, Pence said that the Trump administration was committed to moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv, and that the new embassy would be opened up before the end of 2019. The Vice President did not, however, provide any details as to the location of the new embassy or a precise date.
"In the weeks ahead, our administration will advance its plan to open the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem – and that United States Embassy will open before the end of next year," said Pence.
"Jerusalem is Israel’s capital – and, as such, President Trump has directed the State Department to begin initial preparations to move our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.”
Pence arrived in Israel Sunday evening, kicking off a three-day visit of the Jewish state, accompanied by his wife, Karen. The trip is the first visit by Pence to Israel since he took office in January, 2017.
The Vice President, who was originally slated to visit Israel on December 18th, had planned to meet with Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
Following President Donald Trump’s December 6th declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, however, the PA announced that Pence, as a senior figure in the Trump administration, was persona non-grata in the PA.

Analysis: A new anti-Israel axis is forming

With Hamas running out of options in its terror war against Israel from Gazan soil, the Islamist terrorist organization is looking for other options to hit Israel.
After Israel proved it can virtually neutralize every rocket launched at southern Israel from Gaza and developed what is dubbed ‘an underground Iron Dome’ in order to combat the increasing threat of Hamas’ terror tunnels, the Palestinian terror group is now threateningIsrael from the north.
Last week, senior Hamas official Mohammad Abu Hamza Hamdan escaped an assassination attempt on his life in the coastal city of Sidon in southern Lebanon, when a bomb which was planted underneath the driver’s seat of his expensive BMW destroyed the vehicle, but only moderately wounded the terrorist.
Mohammad Abu Hamza Hamdan is the brother of Osama Hamdan, the official Hamas envoy to Beirut and the co-author of Hamas’s new charter which continues to call for the destruction of Israel.
Lebanese media later reported an Israeli plane or drone had been spotted in the skies above Sidon at the moment the booby-trapped car exploded, fueling speculation the Mossad had something to do with the assassination attempt.
The Hezbollah affiliated paper al-Akhbar reported this weekend that Lebanese intelligence found out Ahmed Battiyah, a Dutch Muslim, had been recruited in Amsterdam by the Mossad and was tasked with preparing the assassination plot.
Israel’s Minister of Intelligence Yisrael Katz responded to the accusations by Hamas and Hezbollah about a "Zionist plot" by denying any involvement in the assassination attempt and said if Israel had been involved Hamadan wouldn’t be alive now.
Whether Israel was involved in the attempted assassination or not will probably remain an open question, but the fact is Hamas is cooperating with Hezbollah in south Lebanon and is building “a terror infrastructure” in the country, according to Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman.
“The sudden friendship between senior Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri and Hezbollah (leader) Nasrallah is something we are following, and every development will have an appropriate response,” Liberman said last week. READ MORE

'US will never let Iran get nuclear weapons'

Vice President Mike Pence pledged that the United States will never permit the Tehran regime to acquire nuclear weapons, calling the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran deal, a “disaster”.
Pence, a long-time backer of the Jewish state, arrived in Israel aboard Air Force Two Sunday evening, kicking off a three-day visit to Israel – his first since he took office last January.
On Monday, Pence addressed the Knesset, making him the first senior US official in a decade to speak before the Israeli legislature. The last US leader to address the Knesset was President George W. Bush, who spoke at the Knesset in 2008 to mark the 60th anniversary of Israel’s establishment.
During his address, Pence vowed that the US would “never allow” the Tehran regime to possess nuclear weapons – a message meant not only to reassure Israeli leaders, but also Sunni Arab states across the Middle East concerned by President Barack Obama’s efforts to reach out to Iran.
"I have a solemn promise to Israel, to all the Middle East and to the world -- the United States of America will never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon," Pence said.
In October, President Trump announced that he would not recertify Iranian compliance with the JCPOA, setting in motion a process requiring Congress to either reinstate sanctions on Tehran, or alter the sanctions regime.
At the Knesset, Pence slammed the JCPOA as “a disaster”, and vowed that the US would withdraw from the deal unless it “is fixed”.

"The Iran nuclear deal is a disaster and the United States of America will no longer certify this ill-conceived agreement," Pence said.
"Unless the Iran nuclear deal is fixed President Trump has said the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal immediately."
During his speech, the Vice President also touched on the planned relocation of the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the capital city of Jerusalem. While he gave no firm date or location for the new embassy, he stated that the move would be completed before the end of 2019.
"In the weeks ahead, our administration will advance its plan to open the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem – and that United States Embassy will open before the end of next year," said Pence.

'We loot or we die of hunger': food shortages fuel unrest in Venezuela

Amid desperate food shortages Venezuelans are picking up new survival skills.
On the night of 9 January, for example, a hungry mob took just 30 minutes to pick clean a grocery store in the eastern city of Puerto Ordaz. By the time owner Luis Felipe Anatael arrived at the bodega he’d opened five months earlier, the looters had hauled away everything from cold cuts to ketchup to the cash registers.
“It makes you want to cry,” said Anatael in a telephone interview. “I think we are headed for chaos.”
Evidence for his prediction can be found in towns and cities across Venezuela that have been hit by an outbreak of looting and mob violence. Angry about empty supermarket shelves and soaring prices, some people are breaking into warehouses, ransacking food trucks and invading outlying farms.
During the first 11 days of January the Venezuelan Observatory for Social Conflict, a Caracas rights group, recorded 107 episodes of looting and several deaths in 19 of Venezuela’s 23 states.
But the figures don’t fully capture the level of desperation. Recent headlines from Venezuela read like notes from the apocalypse:
  • On Margarita Island dozens of people waded into the ocean and forced their way aboard a fishing boat, making off with its catch of sardines
  • In the city of Maracay, just west of Caracas, thieves broke into a veterinary school, stole two pregnant thoroughbred horses and slaughtered them for meat.
  • A recent video from the western state of Mérida shows a group of people cornering a cow before stoning it to death as bystanders yell: “The people are hungry!”  READ MORE

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Kurdish militia repels Turkish Afrin invasion amid continuing Turkish air blitz

Russian forces did not interfere when 72 Turkish jets Saturday night pounded 100 Kurdish YPG targets in the north Syrian enclave of Afrin. Early Sunday, Jan. 21, Kurdish and Syrian opposition sources confirmed that Turkish troops trying to enter Afrin clashed with the Kurdish militia on the northern and western edges of the enclave and were pushed back. Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan continued to issue dire threats, saying, “Beginning from the west, step by step, we will annihilate the terror corridor up to the Iraqi border. No one can say a word. Whatever happens we don’t care anymore.”

The Turks have cynically dubbed their assault on the Kurds, “Operation Olive Branch.”  Kurdish leaders are reported to have opened secret negotiations with the Assad regime for opening the door to the Syrian army to enter their enclave on the assumption that Erdogan will not wish to open a new warfront with Damascus. Turkey’s deputy prime minister Bekir Bozdaq said that Ankara would preserve Syria’s territorial integrity after it achieved its objective and Turkish troops would cross back home.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the Turkish army has so far not gone further than exploratory steps in its campaign against the Kurdish YPG in Afrin. A major offensive with large numbers of foot soldiers and tanks has not taken place as yet. Erdogan appears to be pulling his punches to test whether the US will come to the aid of its Kurdish allies. But the question still open is: Will he go through with his threat to capture Kurdish lands spanning northern Syria from the Turkish border to the Syrian border with Iraq? If he does and succeeds in pulling off this ambitious campaign, Turkish troops will override the region declared just a few days ago as being under American military protection and secured by a new US-trained and armed Border Defense Force of 30,000 men. Will the 2,000 US military personnel deployed in the bases there then intervene? Russia has made its position clear by refraining from interfering with the Turkish air offensive although its forces control the skies over Afrin.

Pence: We'll support 'two-state solution' if both sides agree

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi on Saturday that the United States would support a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinian Arabs if the two sides agreed to it, Reuters reported.
Pence was in Egypt on the first leg of a three-country tour that includes stops in Jordan and Israel.
“We heard President Al-Sisi out,” Pence told reporters after the meeting, saying the Egyptian leader described his objection to Trump’s decision as a “disagreement between friends.”
Pence said he assured Sisi that the United States was committed to preserving the status quo of holy sites in Jerusalem and had come to no final resolution on boundaries for the two parties.
“My perception was that he was encouraged by that message,” Pence said, according to Reuters.
The Egyptian presidency said in a statement that Sisi noted that only negotiations based on a two-state solution could bring an end to the conflict adding that “Egypt would spare no effort to support this.”
Pence said he also pressed Sisi about two Americans who have been imprisoned in Egypt since 2013, as well as for reform of Egypt’s restrictive laws on non-governmental organizations.
In his meeting with Egypt’s president, Pence pledged firm U.S. backing in the nation’s fight against Islamist militants and said ties between the two countries had never been stronger after a period of “drifting apart.”
“We stand shoulder to shoulder with you in Egypt in the fight against terrorism,” Pence told Sisi. READ MORE

Jordan: Eastern J'lem must be capital of Palestinian state

Jordanian leader King Abdullah expressed to US Vice President Mike Pence “worry” over President’s Trump’s historic recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, warning that it would lead to “instability” in the region, Channel 2 reported.
Pence is currently in Amman for discussions with the Jordanian King during the second leg of a three-country tour that began yesterday with a visit to Egypt and will continue tonight with a visit in Israel.
During his meeting with Pence, Abdullah said that he had "continuously voiced over the past year [his] concerns regarding the US decision on Jerusalem that does not come as a result of a comprehensive settlement to the Palestinian Israeli conflict," according to AFP.
"Jerusalem is key to Muslims and Christians as it is to Jews," he added. "It is key to peace in the region. And key to enabling Muslims to effectively fight some of the root causes of radicalization."
Abdullah told Pence that Jordan still supports the two-state solution, seeing it as “the only solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian Arab conflict, according to Channel 2. He reportedly emphasized to Pence that eastern Jerusalem must be the capital of a Palestinian state in any agreement reached by the sides.
On Saturday, Pence told Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi that the United States would support a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinian Arabs if the two sides agreed to it, Reuters reported.
“We heard President Al-Sisi out,” Pence told reporters after the meeting, saying the Egyptian leader described his objection to Trump’s decision as a “disagreement between friends.”
Pence said he assured Sisi that the United States was committed to preserving the status quo of holy sites in Jerusalem and had come to no final resolution on boundaries for the two parties.
“My perception was that he was encouraged by that message,” Pence said, according to Reuters. READ MORE

President Trump to Pro-Life Marchers: U.S. Abortion Law ‘Has to Change’

President Donald Trump encouraged participants in their opposition to abortion as he delivered his March for Life satellite address Friday from the Rose Garden; he assured them that “every life is sacred, that every child is a precious gift from God.”
The president told the tens of thousands of marchers that the ignominious Roe v. Wade1973 Supreme Court case “resulted in some of the most permissive abortion laws anywhere in the world,” likening the United States to China and North Korea in its abortion legislation.
“Right now, in a number of states, the laws allow a baby to be born [torn] from his or her mother’s womb in the ninth month. It is wrong; it has to change,” Mr. Trump said.
“I’m honored and really proud to be the first president to stand with you here at the White House to address the 45th March for Life,” Trump said. “That’s very, very special—45th March for Life.”
After his address, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted that Mr. Trump was “the most pro-life president in the history of the United States.”
In his address, Trump noted that “Americans are more and more pro-life. You see that all the time. In fact, only 12 percent of Americans support abortion on demand at any time.”
“Under my administration,” he promised, “we will always defend the very first right in the Declaration of Independence, and that is the right to life.” READ MORE

Turkey INVADES Syria – tanks and soldiers cross the border

Forces entered the country's Afrin province today just 24 hours after pounding the region with airstrikes.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim reportedly said they are targeting US-backed Kurdish fighters.
Shocking pictures show dozens of tanks and armoured vehicles crossing over the border in a terrifying display of military might.
But the Syrian-Kurdish YPG militia has denied there is a full-scale invasion underway, claiming forces clashed in Afrin but Turkish soldiers were beaten back.
YPG official, Nouri Mahmoudi, said "all the Turkish military's ground attacks against Afrin have been repelled so far and they have been forced to retreat."
A statement from the militia said: "Our people are holding on to their land and do not accept surrender... we repeat our determination to protect our people in Afrin against the attacks."
Turkey has claimed the massive movement of military hardware into the country is simply to create a 30km-deep "safe zone" in the north of the country.
It came just hours after Turkey launches airstrikes in Afrin, with the military claiming it had hit 153 targets so far, including shelters and hideouts used by Kurdish militants.
But the YPG – which is backed by the United States but classed as a terrorist organisation by Turkey – said they had killed six civilians and three of its fighters.
Turkey has dubbed the action "Operation Olive Branch", which has seen them carry out relentless airstrikes yesterday.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, wrote on Twitter: "In its second day, OliveBranchOperation continues to ensure peace and security for our people, protect Syria's territorial integrity and eliminate all terrorist elements in the region.
"Turkey expects its allies to support its fight against terrorism in all of its forms."
Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reported that four rockets fired from Syria hit the border town of Kilis overnight, damaging houses. Turkish security forces then retaliated, it said.
The operation pits Turkey against Kurdish fighters allied to the US at a time when ties between Ankara and Washington – NATO allies and members of the coalition against ISIS – reach breaking point.
Turkey sees the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has carried out a deadly, three-decade insurgency in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast.
But the US is backing the YPG in Syria, seeing it as an effective partner in the fight against ISIS.

EU BOMBSHELL: Macron admits France would vote to LEAVE EU if country held referendum

FRENCH president Emmanuel Macron shocked Andrew Marr during their interview when he admitted that had France held a referendum on membership of the EU after Brexit, the French people would vote to leave.

Emmanuel Macron has sent shockwaves throughout Europe after he conceded that French voters would quit the EU if France held an in/out referendum on the Brussels-led bloc.
No other European Union country has risked putting membership of the bloc to a public vote since Britain surprised member-states by voting to leave the bloc in 2016,
However, speaking to Andrew Marr on the BBC, Mr Macron admitted that he would lose a French referendum on EU membership.
Asked about the Brexit vote, the candid president told Marr: "I am not the one to judge or comment on the decision of your people.
"But, my interpretation is that a lot of the losers of globalisation suddenly decided it was no more for them."
Marr then pushed the French president, regarded by many as the EU's new leader, on whether Britain's decision was a one-off.
The BBC journalist asked: "If France had had the same referendum, it might have had the same result?"
Macron responded: "Yes, probably, probably. Yes. In a similar context. But we have a very different context in France."
He added: "I wouldn’t take any bet though - I would have fought very hard to win.
"My understanding is that middle classes and working classes and the oldest decided that the recent decades were not in their favour, and the adjustments made by the EU were not in their favour.
"I think the organisation of EU went too far with freedom without cohesion, free markets without rules."
The French leader hit out at David Cameron for holding a referendum with a simple yes / no response on membership, instead of asking how to improve the situation. 
Twitter lit up after the interview was aired, with many questioning if the French leader had just admitted that he "does not listen to his own people" since he has refused to hold a referendum on the EU.