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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

ANALYSIS: Why Iran is escalating conflict with Israel

Yochanan Visser is an independent journalist/analyst who worked for many years as Middle East correspondent for Western in Arizona and was a frequent publicist for the main Dutch paper De Volkskrant. He authored a book in the Dutch language about the cognitive war against Israel and now lives in Gush Etzion. He writes a twice weekly analysis of current issues for Arutz Sheva
A day after Israel celebrated its 70th birthday the conflict with Iran escalated, as a host of Iranian and Hezbollah leaders threatened the Jewish state with destruction and annihilationvia a two-front missile war which they said would drive the Jews into the sea.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu immediately responded to the new threats and said on Friday that anyone who dared to harm Israel would pay a heavy price.
"We hear threats from Iran, and the Israeli forces are prepared for every possible Iranian move. We will fight whoever tries to harm us. We will not shy away from action against those who threaten our security. They will pay a heavy price," Netanyahu said during a special cabinet meeting in honor of Israel’s 70th Independence Day.
The deputy head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Gen. Hossein Salami immediately shot back and said that Israel’s military bases are “within range” of Iranian missiles, which would be launched at Israel’s “vital interests.”
"Do not trust your air bases they are within the range of fire. Our fingers are on the trigger and the missiles are ready to launch. The moment the enemy decides to act against us, we will launch them," Salami said.
Tensions between the two countries spiked at the beginning of February when an explosive-laden Iranian drone entered Israeli airspace near the Sheikh Hussein border crossing between Jordan and Israel, in the northern Jordan Valley.
The drone, which apparently was on its way to launch an attack on the nearby Israeli city of Bet Shean, was shot down by an Israeli AH-64 Apache attack helicopter. The serious incident was followed by 12 Israeli airstrikes on Iranian targets in Syria and marked the first direct confrontation between Israel and Iran.
One of these targets was the T-4 air base near the northern Syrian city of Homs, where Iran was operating its fleet of drones.
The base was again attacked by the Israeli Air Force (IAF) on April 10th - this time to destroy an advanced Iranian air defense system which was installed after the earlier IAF strike on February 10.
Israel and the US military are reportedly working together to stop Iran’s encroachment on Israel’s border with Syria and to counter the Iranian attempt to take over the devastated country.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah last week said that Israel had entered a “face to face struggle” with Iran and on Saturday again threatened to launch his impressive missile arsenal at the Jewish state. READ MORE

Russia considers supplying S-300 anti-missile systems to Syria

Russia is considering supplying its advanced S-300 long-range surface-to-air missile systems to Syria, in the wake of airstrikes on Syrian military targets.
The Kommersant newspaper today reported that Russia was considering providing the anti-missile system at no cost as part of its military aid to Syria, citing unnamed Russian officials.
The newspaper cited the officials as saying that if Israel tried to bomb the systems, as they are predicted to do, it would be “catastrophic for all sides.”
The airstrikes cited in the Kommersant report are those by the United States, the United Kingdom, and France on April 13, however, and not the alleged Israeli attack on the T-4 air base, believed to be home to an advanced Iranian air-defense system.
Following the Kommersant report, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that the issue had not yet been decided.
“What decisions will be taken by the leadership of Russia together with the representatives of Syria have yet to be determined; there is no secret here,” Lavrov said.
Russia had agreed in 2010 to sell the S-300 system to Syria, but broke the agreement at Israel’s request.
Israel has in the past threatened to strike the S-300 system batteries should they be set up in Syria.

Netanyahu: Fix Iran nuclear deal or cancel it

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke Monday (Monday) at the Begin Heritage Center in front of dozens of foreign ambassadors at a special event marking the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel.
Netanyahu addressed the Iranian threat and said that Israel's policy remained the same as that of former Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who ordered the destruction of the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq to prevent Saddam Hussein from acquiring nuclear weapons.
"Israel’s policy has not changed since Begin. Israel will not allow regimes that seek our annihilation to acquire nuclear weapons," Netanyahu said."
"This is why we opposed so resolutely the Iran deal, because it gives Iran a clear path to a nuclear arsenal. It allows, over a few years, unlimited enrichment of uranium, the core ingredient required to produce nuclear bombs—and nothing else—and it also does not deal with the ballistic missiles that can deliver this weapon to many, many countries. This is why this deal has to be either fully fixed or fully nixed.
"I believe that Begin exemplified for us the commitment to defend Israel’s security at all costs."
"We must act on the matter of the Iranian deal and say - fix it from the ground up or cancel it from the ground up," the prime minister stressed.
Later, Netanyahu said that "Begin's legacy teaches us that Israel will know how to stand and defend itself, and even then there were those who came out against the attack in the world and whom later supported it." Netanyahu said that Begin was outstanding in his leadership because of his desire for justice for the citizens and for Israel.
The head of the Begin Heritage Center, Herzl Makov, said: "Begin adopted the worldview of Ze'ev Jabotinsky. He wanted to listen and to share friends from among the nations, and at the same time he always made sure that he was act in Israel's interests, like when he decided to strike the reactor in Saddam Hussein's Osirak." WATCH

Franklin Graham Urges Parents: ‘Let Your Voice Be Heard’ on Sex Ed

Evangelist Franklin Graham gave his support Monday to parents in cities across the United States and abroad who are pulling their children out of public schools to protest what they view as pornographic sex ed provided by taxpayer-funded groups such as Planned Parenthood.
“Parents be aware,” Graham warned in a post on Facebook. “Your children are in danger of being exposed to ‘Pornography 101’ under the guise of sex education in many schools. Today some parents across the country are pulling their students out in protest of the sexualized school curriculum being promoted by the progressive agenda.”
“Know what is being taught in your child’s school and be prepared to walk out,” Graham urged. “I encourage you to be involved, know what’s going on, and let your voice be heard.”
Family Research Council (FRC) is a major sponsor of the Sex Ed Sit Out. FRC is urging all citizens – even those who have no children at school – to sign a petition, titled “Hands Off Our Children,” that states:
We, as concerned parents and community members, are sick of the sexualization of our children! We say NO to graphic, gender-bending, promiscuity-promoting sex education for our kids.
We demand that public schools stop treating our children like guinea pigs in some social engineering experiment. We demand that schools respect parents’ values and parents’ authority.
We will not stand for our tax money being used to promote sexual liberation, deviance, and gender confusion to our precious kids. In protest, we stand together with those parents pulling their children out of public school on April 23rd for the sex ed sit out. READ MORE

Iran, China Seek to Loosen Dollar’s Grip on Global Markets

A small but growing number of countries are stepping up efforts to wean themselves off the dollar, aiming to chip away at the U.S. currency’s decadeslong dominance.
Iran last week became the latest when it pledged to replace the dollar with the euro in its foreign-currency accounting.
China introduced the world’s first yuan-denominated oil contracts last month, part of a continuing effort to raise its currency’s global profile, while Venezuela launched a bitcoin-like cryptocurrency earlier this year. Russia has ramped up its gold reserves to diversify away from the dollar. Still, none of these new efforts has threatened the dollar’s global role.
Some analysts say the governments moving against the dollar may be trying to capitalize on growing unease among many nations, including U.S. allies, over recent or perceived shifts in U.S. trade policy, Washington’s approach to global alliances, and conflicting signals from the Trump administration about its preference for a strong dollar.
Increased uncertainty on those fronts could eventually fuel additional efforts to create an alternative to the dollar. For now, however, the attempts are unlikely to succeed, analysts and economists say, just as previous efforts had little or no success.
“The U.S. has been using financial sanctions very aggressively so, of course, countries like Russia and Iran will do what they can to move away from the dollar,” said Kenneth S. Rogoff, a professor at Harvard University and the former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund.
For other nations, boosting use of their currencies would require substantial changes in policy. China’s yuan, for example, is unlikely to increase its tiny share in global transactions until Beijing removes longstanding curbs on foreign investment, an effort that could take many years, analysts said.
The dollar’s dominance looks secure. Nearly 60% of all countries, accounting for 76% of the world’s gross domestic product, had exchange-rate regimes that were in some way anchored to the dollar in 2015, Mr. Rogoff’s research found. READ MORE

Netanyahu turns up volume as Iran deadline nears

Jerusalem (AFP) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a fresh call Monday for an overhaul of the Iran nuclear deal as US President Donald Trump's deadline for further Iranian concessions edged closer.
Trump has threatened to tear up the 2015 agreement that lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs to its nuclear activity, unless it curbs its ballistic missile programme by May 12.
"Israel will not allow regimes that seek our annihilation to acquire nuclear weapons," Netanyahu told an audience of diplomats in a speech in Jerusalem.
"This is why this deal has to be either fully fixed or fully nixed," he said in English.
Iran says it is ready to relaunch its nuclear programme -- which the West suspects is designed to produce a bomb -- if Trump kills the deal.
Netanyahu said the 2015 agreement leaves Iran able to quickly reboot its nuclear programme to enable military production.
"It gives Iran a clear path to a nuclear arsenal," he said. "It allows, over a few years, unlimited enrichment of uranium, the core ingredient required to produce nuclear bombs."
The United States delivered much the same message Monday, at a meeting of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in Geneva.
Christopher Ford, US Assistant Secretary for International Security and Nonproliferation, said the Islamic republic's nuclear programme remained "dangerously close to rapid weaponisation".
Iran insists it never intended to build a nuclear weapon.

Monday, April 23, 2018

In the face of deadly violence, Nicaragua's president cancels social security overhaul

Pray for brother Pastor Donald Dolmus and his family. Donald is near this violence and in danger. Donald translates Dr. David Reagan and Bill Salus articles into Spanish.
Nicaragua's president on Sunday withdrew changes to the social security system that had triggered several days of deadly protests and looting. President Daniel Ortega said in a message to the nation late Sunday that the National Social Security Institute's board of directors had canceled the changes that were implemented April 16.
The overhaul was intended to shore up Nicaragua's troubled social security system by both reducing benefits and increasing taxes. But the changes touched off protests across the Central American nation that escalated into clashes with police as well as looting and vandalism. The demonstrations appeared to expand to include broader anti-government grievances.

Human rights groups said at least 26 people were killed in several days of clashes. Dozens of shops in the Nicaraguan capital of Managua were looted during unrest that extended into Sunday. Ortega announced the cancellation of the overhaul accompanied by business executives who account for about 130,000 jobs and millions of dollars in exports. (Read More)

Trump starts indirect negotiations with Iran ahead of his summit with Kim

The French president, the German Chancellor and the Iranian Foreign minister are present in the US this week, all bent on saving the 2015 nuclear accord. French President Emmanuel Macron begins a state visit to Washington Monday, April 23; German Chancellor Angela Merkel is due on Friday, while Iranian foreign minister Javad Mohammed Zarif is spending the week in New York. The two European leaders will try and persuade the US president not to quit the nuclear accord, while the Iranian foreign minister is already playing hard ball through the US media.
In a word, indirect negotiations were launched this week on the future of the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran. DEBKAfile’s sources report that these under-the-table negotiations are not restricted to the nuclear issue, but also touch on Iran’s interests in Syria. A month or more before his summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, US President Donald Trump has therefore set his feet on a negotiating track with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, channeling it through the two European leaders and the Iranian foreign minister.
Our sources reveal that working papers were prepared for the US-European summit in Washington by a team of US, French, German and British diplomats. They are to be the agreed guidelines for a new common Western policy line on Iran, on which the four allies were hitherto at odds. The paper has four parts:
  • General Intent
  • Iran is prohibited from developing nuclear weapon after the expiry of the nuclear accord in 2025.
  • International watchdog IAEA inspections will be intensified on site, including the military compounds where nuclear activity is suspected, and which Tehran closed to the monitors.
  • Tehran’s continuation of ballistic missile development will incur fresh sanctions. READ MORE

Saudi Daily: Only Way For U.S. to Deter Assad Is to Target His Palace

TEL AVIV – If the U.S. really wants to stop the massacres in Syria, it needs to target President Bashar Assad’s palace in Damascus, an article published in Saudi’s government daily suggested.
“This is not the first time Bashar Al-Assad’s regime has used chemical weapons against its own people, nor is it the first time it will be punished with a military strike. But the criminal did not stop his crimes and the military penalties failed to deter him,” Okazcolumnist Khaled Al-Suleiman wrote, according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
The U.S. and its allies, Suleiman wrote, must choose “between an effective strike that will cause [Syria] to think 1,000 times before repeating its crime” and attacking “empty targets that have been evacuated.”
In a joint operation with the UK and France, chemical weapons sites, including a storage facility and a research base, were targeted in the pre-dawn hours, constituting the largest military intervention since the civil war began. However, according to Russian reports, no one was harmed in the strikes. The military assault was a response to the chemical gas attack on the Syrian town of Douma last week in which 42 people reportedly died and many others, according to images and video, were left gasping for breath and foaming at the mouth.
Suleiman’s article comes amid an intense debate in Saudi Arabia surrounding the joint military strike. Four days prior to the missile assault, Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman said in a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron on April 10 that Saudi Arabia was “ready to join [its] allies in any military action in Syria, should this be necessary.” READ MORE

Abbas: Palestinians Won’t Allow Any Country to Open Embassy in Jerusalem

The Times of Israel reports: The Palestinians will not allow US President Donald Trump or anyone else to say that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday.
The Palestinians, Abbas said, will continue to fight Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as they have been doing for the past few months. “The Palestinians will not allow any country to move its embassy to Jerusalem before there’s a solution [to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict],” Abbas said, during a meeting with Arab delegates attending a conference in Ramallah on laboratory medicine.
On May 14, the US will hold an official dedication ceremony for the US embassy in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood. Trump, who formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announced the embassy relocation on December 6, had mulled attending the inauguration but reportedly decided against it.

Rouhani: Iran Ready to Aid Syria in ‘Defending Against Evil’

The Jerusalem Post reports: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed in a letter to Syrian President Bashar Assad on Saturday his country’s willingness to aid in the post-civil war reconstruction of Syria, Iran’s Tasnim news agency reported.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran… stands beside the country and people of Syria and will continue to aid it in defending against the forces of evil and returning security and stability throughout the Syrian Arab Republic,” the letter states.
“We hope to swiftly witness the achievement of a final victory,” Rouhani continued. “Just as the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has stood beside the Syrian nation in its struggles and opposition to terrorism, we are also prepared to stand with you in every way possible as regards to Syria’s reconstruction.”

Iran says 'either all or nothing' on nuclear deal: Zarif tweets

ANKARA (Reuters) - The European signatories of Iran's nuclear deal with major powers should convince U.S. President Donald Trump not to exit the accord as there is no "plan B" for the agreement, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif Tweeted on Monday.
"It is either all or nothing. European leaders should encourage Trump not just to stay in the nuclear deal, but more important to begin implementing his part of the bargain in good faith," Zarif wrote on his Twitter account.
Under Iran’s settlement with the United States, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China, Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear program to satisfy the powers that it could not be used to develop atomic bombs. In exchange, Iran received relief from sanctions, most of which were lifted in January 2016.
Trump has given the European signatories a May 12 deadline to "fix the terrible flaws" of the 2015 nuclear deal, or he will refuse to extend U.S. sanctions relief on Iran.
French President Emmanuel Macron said in a Fox News Sunday interview he has no "plan B" for the deal and the United States should stay in the agreement as long as there is no better option.
"President Macron is correct in saying there is no "plan B" on JCPOA," Zarif Tweeted. The JCPOA or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is the formal name of the accord.
Iran has said it will stick to the accord as long as the other parties respect it, but will "shred" the deal if Washington pulls out.