Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

Iran Guards Commander Ties Pakistan, Saudi, UAE to Deadly Attack

February 16, 2019

The commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards criticized Pakistan for providing support to terrorists who killed 27 personnel in a suicide bomb attack in southeast Iran this week.

Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari said Pakistan’s government was sheltering groups behind the Wednesday attack and “had to be held accountable for the crime,” the semi-official Tasnim News Agency reported. The attack coincided with a U.S.-led summit in Warsaw focused on rallying support against Iran.

Image result for Mohammad Ali Jafari, pictures
Mohammad Ali Jafari

The general also singled out the United Arab Emirates and regional rival Saudi Arabia in connection with the incident, warning that Iran’s “patience” with them “will be different.” Jafari accused them of acting on behalf of the U.S. and Israel.

The attack, in Iran’s southeast Sistan-Baluchistan region bordering Pakistan, was the single deadliest assault on the IRGC since the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.



Pence warns of the ‘threat’ from China’s Huawei

February 16, 2019

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is urging allies to take seriously “the threat” posed by Chinese telecom giant Huawei as they look for partners to build 5G wireless infrastructure.

Pence said Saturday the U.S. had been “clear with our security partners on the threat posed by Huawei and other Chinese telecom companies.”

He told the Munich Security Conference they “provide Beijing’s vast security apparatus with access to any data that touches their network or equipment (and) we must protect our critical telecom infrastructure.”

He says “America is calling on all our security partners to be vigilant and to reject any enterprise that would compromise the integrity of our communications technology or our national security systems.”

China rejects the U.S. position, saying Washington has provided no evidence Huawei threatens national security.


12:25 p.m.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is doubling down on his criticism of European nations working to preserve a nuclear deal with Iran, saying they should follow Washington’s lead and withdraw from the agreement.

Speaking Saturday right after Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the 2015 Iran deal, Pence said “the time has come for our European partners to stop undermining sanctions” by continuing to offer economic incentives in exchange for Tehran limiting its nuclear capability.

He says Europe should withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal “and join us as we bring the economic and diplomatic pressure necessary to give the Iranian people, the region and the world the peace, security and freedom they deserve.”

France, Germany and Britain, as well as the European Union, Russia and China, have been struggling to preserve the deal since the U.S. pulled out last year.


12:10 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says U.S. authorities appear to have concluded that European cars are a threat to national security.

Merkel said at the Munich Security Conference that Germany is “proud of our cars, and we’re allowed to be,” and many of them are built in the U.S.

The European Union and the U.S. have been trying to ratchet down trade tensions in recent months and Merkel says she has “great hope” in the negotiations. But she added: “It is not entirely easy for me as German chancellor to read that apparently — I don’t have it in writing yet — the American Commerce Department says German, European cars are a threat to national security.”

Chancellor Merkel at CDU congress, 7 Dec 18

She noted that German automaker BMW’s biggest plant is in South Carolina “and if these cars … are suddenly a threat to the United States’ national security, that startles us.”

12 noon

Chancellor Angela Merkel is defending the development of the joint German-Russian Nord Stream 2 pipeline, dismissing American concerns it will weaken Europe’s strategic position and assuring Ukraine it won’t get cut off from Russian fuel.

Merkel on Saturday told Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at the Munich Security Conference his country would continue to be a transit country for Russian gas even after the Baltic pipeline is complete.

On security concerns, she says the question is “how dependent are we on Russian gas, and that has nothing to do with the delivery.”

She says Europe also has enough terminals to receive more LNG fuel from the U.S., has its own natural gas and has other options, too.

She says “there’s nothing that speaks against getting gas from the United States, but to exclude Russia is the wrong strategic signal.”


11:50 a.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is defending European powers’ decision to stand by the Iran nuclear deal, describing it as an “anchor” allowing the West to exert pressure.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence accused Germany, France and Britain of trying to “break” American sanctions on Iran and called on them to follow Washington in pulling out of the nuclear deal.

Merkel told the Munich Security Conference Saturday the split over Iran “depresses me very much,” but downplayed the substance of the differences.

She said: “I see the ballistic missile program, I see Iran in Yemen and above all I see Iran in Syria.”

But “the only question that stands between us on this issue is, do we help our common cause, our common aim of containing the damaging or difficult development of Iran, by withdrawing from the one remaining agreement? Or do we help it more by keeping the small anchor we have in order maybe to exert pressure in other areas?”


11:45 a.m.

Egypt’s president has called on Western countries to boost efforts at tackling extremist ideology in online media and mosques.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference Saturday, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi says countries must “tackle websites that are inciting hatred and spreading extremist and terrorist narratives among communities in the Islamic world and in the West.”

He also said authorities should “be very mindful of what is being promoted at houses of worship,” adding that extremists should not be allowed to preach. He underlined his efforts in Egypt to control the sermons in mosques.

Egypt has wide-ranging restrictions on free speech.

El-Sissi also mentioned that in the terrorism context, the failure to reach a fair and final settlement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict represents the main source of instability in the Middle East.


11:15 a.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is calling on China to join international disarmament negotiations after the collapse of a Cold War-era treaty on nuclear weapons in Europe.

The U.S. earlier this month announced that it was pulling out of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, accusing Russia of violating it. Moscow followed suit, strongly denying any breaches. The U.S. administration also worried that the pact was an obstacle to efforts to counter intermediate-range missiles deployed by China.

Merkel told the Munich Security Conference Saturday that the U.S. withdrawal was “inevitable” because of Russian violations. But she noted the end of a treaty conceived “essentially for Europe” leaves Europe trying to secure future disarmament to protect its own interests.

Associated Press

Mike Pompeo and Federica Mogherini (Reuters/O. Hoslet)

Pompeo, Mogherini hold tense meeting after Iran rebuke from US

Iran asks Pakistan to move against attackers, warns Saudi

February 16, 2019

Iran urged neighbouring Pakistan on Saturday to crack down on militants who killed 27 of its Revolutionary Guards in an attack near the border or expect military action by Tehran “to punish the terrorists”, state media reported.

Revolutionary Guards commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari also warned Iran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that they could face “retaliatory measures” for supporting militant Sunni groups that have attacked Iran’s security forces. Riyadh and the UAE deny this.

A bomb attack on a Revolutionary Guards bus in Iran’s Sistan and Baluchestan Province Wednesday killed some 40 people.

Anadolu Agency/Getty Images via Fars News Agency

“If Pakistan does not carry out its responsibilities, Iran reserves the right to confront threats on its borders … based on international law and will retaliate to punish the terrorists,” Jafari was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.

A suicide car bomber killed 27 members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards on Wednesday in a southeastern region where security forces are facing a rise in attacks by militants from the country’s Sunni Muslim minority.

The Sunni group Jaish al Adl (Army of Justice), which says it seeks greater rights and better living conditions for the ethnic minority Baluchis, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Iran’s Shi’ite Muslim authorities say militant groups operate from safe havens in Pakistan and have repeatedly called on the neighbouring country to crack down on them.

“They (attackers) are backed by reactionary regional states, the Saudis and the Emiratis, under orders from the Israelis and the Americans … and we will certainly take retaliatory measures,” Jafari told state television.

The remarks came amid heightening regional tensions after Israel and the Gulf Arab states attended a summit in the Polish capital Warsaw this week where the United States hoped to ratchet up pressure against Iran.

Reporting by Dubai Newsroom; Editing by Mark Potter



Iran general says Pakistan backs group behind suicide bomb

February 16, 2019

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards accused “Pakistan’s security forces” of supporting the perpetrators of a suicide bombing that killed 27 troops on Wednesday, in remarks state TV aired Saturday.

“Pakistan’s government, who has housed these anti-revolutionaries and threats to Islam, knows where they are and they are supported by Pakistan’s security forces,” said Revolutionary Commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, referring to jihadist group Jaish al-Adl (“Army of Justice”)

In this file photo from October 31, 2017, the head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Mohammad Ali Jafari speaks to journalists after his speech at a conference called 'A World Without Terror,' in Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

In this file photo from October 31, 2017, the head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Mohammad Ali Jafari speaks to journalists after his speech at a conference called ‘A World Without Terror,’ in Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

“If (the Pakistan government) does not punish them, we will retaliate against this anti-revolutionary force, and whatever Pakistan sees will be the consequence of its support for them,” he warned.

Members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the outbreak of the devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq, in the capital Tehran on September 22, 2018. (AFP/STR)

Members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the outbreak of the devastating 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, in the capital Tehran on September 22, 2018. (AFP/STR)

The general made the remarks in Isfahan City on Friday evening during a farewell ceremony held for those killed. Funerals are expected to follow on Saturday.

Jaish al-Adl was formed in 2012 as a successor to the Sunni extremist group Jundallah (Soldiers of God), which waged a deadly insurgency for a decade before it was severely weakened by the capture and execution of its leader Abdolmalek Rigi by Tehran in 2010.

Iranians mourn victims of a suicide bombing on a Revolutionary Guards bus in southeastern Iran, as the coffins arrive at Badr airport in Isfahan, some 400 kilometres south of the capital Tehran on February 14, 2019

Iranians mourn victims of a suicide bombing on a Revolutionary Guards bus in southeastern Iran, as the coffins arrive at Badr airport in Isfahan, some 400 kilometres south of the capital Tehran on February 14, 2019 fars news/AFP

The Wednesday bombing targeted a busload of Revolutionary Guards in the volatile southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan, which straddles the border with Pakistan.

The attack was one of the deadliest on Iranian security forces in recent years and came just days after Iran held more than a week of celebrations for the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, which overthrew the US-backed shah.

The commander also blasted “the support that the region’s reactionary states Saudi Arabia and the Emiratis” maintain for “conspiracies” that he said were ordered by Israel and America.

“We will certainly follow retaliatory measures,” he added, without elaborating.

Rouhani has warned that Iran will make those responsible for the attack 'pay for the blood of our martyrs' [ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH/EPA]

Rouhani has warned that Iran will make those responsible for the attack ‘pay for the blood of our martyrs’ [ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH/EPA]

Jafari’s comments came ahead of a two-day visit by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Pakistan, which is set to begin on Sunday.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has linked the prepetrators of the attack to “the spying agencies of some regional and trans-regional countries”.



At least 27 killed in suicide attack on Iran Revolutionary Guards’ bus

Hundreds of Palestinians join weekly protest at Gaza border

February 15, 2019

Demonstrators said attempting to sabotage security fence; Palestinian said seriously injured by Israeli fire in West Bank during riot near Nablus

A Palestinian protester carries a national flag and a slingshot during a demonstration near the fence along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on February 1, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)

A Palestinian protester carries a national flag and a slingshot during a demonstration near the fence along the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on February 1, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Hundreds of Palestinians were gathering near the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel Friday afternoon for weekly protests against Israel.

The army said some rioting was taking place, with demonstrators attempting to sabotage the border fence. Troops were responding with warning fire to push protesters away from the fence.

Meanwhile in the West Bank the Ynet news site reported that a Palestinian was seriously wounded by Israeli fire during a riot in a village near Nablus.

The riot began after villagers in Urief held a protest prayer session in the eastern part of the village, to challenge the army’s recent move to block a path leading to residents’ agricultural lands. It was not immediately clear why the path had been sealed off.

Last Friday three people died and 17 were wounded during protests at the Gaza border. At the time, the Israeli army said some 8,200 rioters and demonstrators had gathered along the border to throw stones and a number of explosive devices towards troops.

Since last March, the Gaza border has seen large-scale weekly clashes on Fridays, smaller protests along the northern Gaza border on Tuesdays, as well as periodic flareups between the Israeli military and Palestinian terror organizations.

For the past several months, Egypt, UN special coordinator to the Middle East peace process Nikolay Mladenov and Qatar have worked to try to restore calm in Gaza and prevent flareups between Israel and terror groups in the Strip.

Israel has demanded an end to the violent demonstrations along the border in any ceasefire agreement.

In recent weeks, tensions between Israel and terror groups in Gaza rose after a Palestinian sniper opened fire on a group of Israeli soldiers. The bullet hit the helmet of an officer, lightly injuring him.

Earlier this month Israel announced that it had begun the final phase of construction of a 20-foot (some 6 meters) high galvanized steel fence that will completely surround the Strip.

The barrier will extend 65 kilometers (40 miles) miles around the enclave and sit atop the subterranean concrete wall that Israel is constructing around Gaza to block terrorist groups’ attack tunnels.

An Israeli Military Intelligence assessment released Wednesday warned that Hamas, the terror group that controls Gaza, may seek to spark a war with Israel in the near future in an attempt to elicit international sympathy and an influx of international aid money to the Gaza Strip.

The Israel Defense Forces believes Hamas or the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the second largest terror group in Gaza, could attempt to draw Israel into a war by conducting an attack along the border — an anti-tank missile strike, an ambush from an as-yet-undiscovered tunnel or a similar low-level but significant attack.

In light of this view, IDF chief Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, whose tenure began last month, called for the military to update operational plans for fighting in the Gaza Strip.

AFP contributed to this report.

For Omar and AIPAC, a tweet about money turns into a way to raise some

February 15, 2019

Democrats and pro-Israel lobby are not alone, as The Forward, ZOA and others use the anti-Semitism controversy to pitch donors

In this Jan. 16, 2019 file photo, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., center, walks through the halls of the Capitol Building in Washington. (AP/Andrew Harnik)

In this Jan. 16, 2019 file photo, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., center, walks through the halls of the Capitol Building in Washington. (AP/Andrew Harnik)

JTA — What do Ilhan Omar, AIPAC, the Forward and the ZOA have in common?

They’re all using the same controversy to ask for your money.

For those who haven’t been on the internet this week, here’s a recap: Omar, a Minnesota Democratic congresswoman, tweeted that politicians were being paid to be pro-Israel. Batya Ungar-Sargon, the opinion editor at the Forward, wondered who, exactly, Omar thought was paying the politicians.

Omar’s response: “AIPAC!” That would be the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a major pro-Israel lobby.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle denounced the freshman lawmaker’s tweets as an echo of anti-Semitic stereotypes involving Jewish money and power. She apologized. Then President Donald Trump called on Omar to resign.

And now the controversy has led to fundraising on all sides.

The Zionist Organization of America sent out a pitch saying it “does not accept her recent phony apologies since she has continued her ugly anti-Semitic statements.” Omar appealed to people who considered Trump’s intervention hypocritical after his and other racially charged comments by Republicans.

The Forward, whose opinion editor’s challenge helped spark the controversy, called on donors to help a legacy Jewish newspaper hold politicians to account. AIPAC said Omar’s actions were examples of how Israel is under attack and urged supporters to “renew your commitment to this important work today by clicking here,” offering suggested dollar amounts.

The AIPAC appeal appeared in an email.

“On Sunday, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar invoked old anti-Semitic stereotypes with tweets suggesting that the U.S. government supports Israel only because of Jewish money,” the lobby’s email said, according to media reports. “She has also said that AIPAC pays politicians to be pro-Israel. Aside from being offensive, divisive and ill-informed, the congresswoman’s assertions are plain wrong.”

Zionist Union party leader Avi Gabbay addresses the pro-Israel US lobby AIPAC at its policy conference in Washington DC, March 4, 2018. (John Bowel)

Some who shared the email said the request for money served as an ironic confirmation of Omar’s point, expressed in her apology for the AIPAC tweet, about the “problematic role of lobbyists in our politics.”

But AIPAC has noted that it does “not rate, endorse or direct funds to candidates,” and said in a statement on Omar’s tweet, “Our work is the best manifestation of American democracy: the ability to petition our government and advocate directly for the policies, principles and values important to us.”

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Eli Clifton


AIPAC just sent out an email denouncing @IlhanMN “suggesting the US government supports Israel only because of Jewish money… and that AIPAC pays politicians to be pro-Israel.”

“The congresswoman’s assertions are plain wrong.”

Then they LITERALLY asked for money.

134 people are talking about this

Omar also urged her followers to help her pursue the policies, principles and values they share in a fundraising message titled “Trump wants me to resign.”

Notes of support are posted on the name plate outside the office of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) in the Longworth House Office Building on February 11, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images/AFP)

“After their failed midterm strategy of tying Democrats to Nancy Pelosi, their desperation has given birth to a new plan: smearing women of color as radical, anti-Semitic, or crazy,” the email read, referring to Republican groups. “Running on racism may have worked for Trump in 2016, but it’s not going to work in 2020, as long as we all stick together and support one another.”

The email went on to reference times when Trump was accused of supporting bigotry, including in 2017, when he said there were “very fine people” on both sides of a standoff in Charlottesville, Virginia, between white supremacists and their protesters.

“Donate now to send a message to those who want to smear our movement and silence our voices,” the Omar email said.

In her apology, Omar had written that “Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.”

The Forward wouldn’t be the first publication to capitalize on a scoop or story it generated, and in a fundraising letter Wednesday titled “Battling the new anti-Semitism,” it said that Ungar-Sargon “sparked a major conversation early this week when she called out a congresswoman for her blatant anti-Semitism.”

The fundraising letter offered a blunter reading of the controversy than the opinion pages that Ungar-Sargon edits, which included a range of views on whether or not Omar was trafficking in anti-Semitism. They included op-eds with headlines like “Ilhan Omar Is Not Anti-Semitic. She’s An Anti-Imperialist”; “Ilhan Omar Shouldn’t Apologize. Her Critics Should”; “The Democrats Have A Jewish Problem”; and from Ungar-Sargon herself, “Ilhan Omar Tweeted Something Anti-Semitic. Again.”

This November 1, 1936, magazine section of The Forward, illustrates its evolution from a Socialist publication to a Social Democratic supporter of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal (Public Domain)

The email also incorrectly identified Omar as a congresswoman from Michigan instead of Minnesota. In addition to being another Midwestern state beginning with the letters “Mi,” Michigan is home to the other freshman Muslim congresswoman, Rashida Tlaib. The Forward corrected the email an hour later, but it was too late for some denizens of Jewish Twitter — and progressive Jews in particular, whocastigated the left-leaning paper for the email and perhaps confusing Omar and Tlaib.

Like most nonprofits, Jewish organizations regularly fundraise off events that touch on their business, some taking more credit than others.

Although the current Omar controversy was sparked by a round of tweets among Omar, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. (the House minority leader and former majority leader, who threatened “action” against Omar), Ungar-Sargon and Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept news site. The Zionist Organization of America took credit for “exposing” Omar.

“By now you may have heard how the ZOA and its President Mort Klein exposed Rep. Ilhan Omar for the vile, anti-Semitic and Israel hatred that she has spewed,” a Wednesday fundraising email from ZOA said.

Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) president Morton A. Klein (Joseph Savetsky/courtesy of ZOA)

The email said that ZOA leaders “were there first” on Jan. 16 when they called on Omar to be removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (while also misspelling her name as “Ihlan”). That same day, Omar appeared on CNN and defended her 2012 tweet in which she accused Israel of “evil doings” and said that nation had “hypnotized the world.”

The American Jewish Committee, another major Jewish group that advocates for Israel, didn’t take credit for being part of the controversy. But AJC did note, in a fundraising email Thursday, that it brought a delegation of high-school students to lobby on Capitol Hill as the scandal was unfolding — and that the students called on officials to condemn Omar’s statement.

“And shortly after meeting with the group, several members issued condemnations of Omar’s remarks,” the email said. “They didn’t do it because of Jewish money; they did it because our young leaders made the compelling case that silence in the face of anti-Semitism was not an option.”

The Anti-Defamation League also sent out an email Tuesday highlighting its work around the controversy, with a donation button reading “Support our work” in the footer.

The Omar controversy was a fundraising opportunity for anti-Zionist groups as well. In a fundraising email Thursday, Jewish Voice for Peace said the attack on Omar reflected anti-Semitism “being cheapened as it is weaponized to suppress and deny important political realities.” JVP said Omar was “attacked for speaking the truth,” along with other people of color who have criticized Israel.

Its email included a “Donate Now” button.


Pence urges EU to pull out of nuclear deal, says Iran planning ‘new Holocaust’

February 14, 2019

At Warsaw conference, US vice president calls Tehran the ‘greatest threat’ to peace and stability in Middle East

United States Vice President Mike Pence speaks at a conference on Peace and Security in the Middle East in Warsaw, Poland, February 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

United States Vice President Mike Pence speaks at a conference on Peace and Security in the Middle East in Warsaw, Poland, February 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

US Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday demanded that European Union allies follow Washington’s lead in withdrawing from the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal and cease efforts he said are designed to evade US sanctions.

Speaking at a Middle East conference in Poland, Pence accused Iran of being the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, adding that it was the “greatest threat to peace and security in the Middle East,” and accused the clerical regime of plotting a “new Holocaust” with its regional ambitions.

He lamented that Britain, France and Germany created a special financial mechanism that Washington believes is aimed at “breaking” tough US sanctions on Iran. Those sanctions were eased by former US president Barack Obama’s administration under the terms of the nuclear deal but were reimposed after US President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement last year.

Pence said the EU had “led the effort to create mechanisms to break up our sanctions… against Iran’s murderous revolutionary regime.

“It is an ill-advised step that will only strengthen Iran, weaken the EU and create still more distance between Europe and the United States,” he added, according to a transcript by the Reuters news agency.

US and European divisions over Iran led France and Germany to opt against sending their top diplomats to the Warsaw conference.

United States Vice President Mike Pence, left, speaks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a conference on Peace and Security in the Middle East in Warsaw, Poland, February 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

As Iran’s clerical state marks 40 years since the overthrow of the pro-US shah, Pence vowed maximum pressure while not explicitly urging regime change.

“As Iran’s economy continues to plummet, as the people of Iran take to the streets, freedom-loving nations must stand together and hold the Iranian regime accountable for the evil and violence it has inflicted on its people, on the region and the wider world,” he said.

US sanctions “will get tougher still” unless Iran “changes its dangerous and destabilizing behavior,” Pence said.

Earlier at the same conference, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that “confronting Iran” was an essential requirement for achieving peace in the Middle East.

“You can’t achieve peace and stability in the Middle East without confronting Iran, it’s just not possible,” he told reporters ahead of a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Islamic Republic is a malign influence in Lebanon, in Yemen, in Syria and in Iraq, the US top diplomat went on.

“The three H’s — the Houthis, Hamas and Hezbollah — these are real threats, and there are others as well. But you can’t get peace in the Middle East without pushing back against Iran,” Pompeo said.

On Wednesday night in Warsaw, Netanyahu used a joint photo op with 10 Arab foreign ministers to urge Arab states to continue normalizing relations with Israel, hailing the opening event of the so-called “Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East” as a “historic turning point.”

“Yesterday was a historic turning point. In a room of some 60 foreign ministers and representatives of dozen of governments, an Israeli prime minister and the foreign ministers of leading Arab countries stood together and spoke with unusual force, clarity and unity against the common threat of the Iranian regime,” Netanyahu said.

The summit appears to be the first time an Israeli leader and senior Arab officials attended an international gathering centered on the Middle East since the 1991 Madrid peace conference, which set the stage for the landmark Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians.

The two-day conference, which was originally called with a focus on countering Iran but now carries the toned-down and vague goal of seeking stability in the Middle East, opened Wednesday with a dinner at the Royal Castle in Warsaw’s old town.

Pence addressed the guests: “Tonight I believe we are beginning a new era, with Prime Minister Netanyahu from the State of Israel, with leaders from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, all breaking bread together, and later in this conference sharing honest perspectives on the challenges facing the area.”

Palestinians have been heavily critical of the conference, with officials describing it as an effort by the US to advance anti-Palestinian positions.

Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.

Kushner: Mideast peace deal will be unveiled after Israeli election

February 14, 2019

President Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner said Thursday that he is optimistic about his father-in-law’s Mideast peace plan – the much-touted “Deal of the Century,” which will be unveiled after the Israeli elections on April 9.

Kushner said during a closed session at a Middle East security conference in Warsaw that the parties involved must “keep an open mind,” according to the Jerusalem Post.

“We hear Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Israel and we understand that there is a chance,” Kushner told participants at the conference, adding that “they do a better job than me to explain why there is a reason to be optimistic.”

He added: “Once, the unifying factor in the Arab world was the hatred towards Israel. Today they are concerned about the citizens.”

A diplomat who saw the presentation quoted Kushner as saying that Trump had given him the Israeli-Palestinian “file” to give the long-elusive goal of a peace deal “a shot.”

Despite the long odds, he said he believed “privately, people are much more flexible.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he won’t judge the plan before he sees it — and hopes the Palestinians will do the same.

“I look forward to seeing the plan once it is presented. I have to say that I know that the Trump administration seeks to ensure the security of Israel for generations,” he said, according to the Israeli Haaretz newspaper.

The Palestinians have preemptively rejected the plan, saying Team Trump is biased toward the Jewish state.

A Palestinian official said the conference lacks credibility.

“By fully siding with the Israeli government, (the Americans) have tried to normalize the Israeli occupation and the systematic denial of the Palestinian right to self-determination,” Nabil Shaath, an adviser to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, wrote in a column published Haaretz.

Shaath said the Palestinians had refused to attend the two-day conference, titled “Promoting a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East,” which the US initiated in the Polish capital as it seeks to isolate Iran.

“A peace process cannot be turned into an attempt to obtain amnesty for war crimes or to make one of the parties surrender its basic rights under the UN charter,” he wrote.

The Palestinians have refused to talk to Washington since Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017.

The Warsaw talks have drawn little interest from European powers, which are deeply suspicious of Trump’s intentions.

Iran has slammed the meeting as an American anti-Iran “circus.” Russia has said it would skip the event and the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, also did not attend.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who hailed the presence of Arab and Israeli leaders”in the same room, sharing a meal and exchanging views,” said the world “can’t achieve peace and security in the Middle East without confronting Iran.”

“They all came together for a single reason — to discuss the real threats to our respective peoples emanating from the Middle East,” Pompeo said.

“There are malign influences in Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Iraq,” he added. “The three H’s- the Houthis, Hamas and Hezbollah. These are real threats.”

During the event, Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa was asked when his country would establish diplomatic ties with Israel.

“It will happen when it will happen,” he said. When pressed on whether this will happen soon, Al Khalifa said: “Eventually.”

Israel only has diplomatic relations with two Arab countries, neighboring Egypt and Jordan.

At an opening dinner Wednesday night at Warsaw’s Royal Castle, Netanyahu spoke in the same room as top officials of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

“In a room of some 60 foreign ministers representative of dozens of governments, an Israeli prime minister and the foreign ministers of the leading Arab countries stood together and spoke with unusual force, clarity and unity against the common threat of the Iranian regime,” Netanyahu told reporters as he arrived for Thursday’s main session at a football stadium.

“I think this marks a change and important understanding of what threatens our future, what we need to do to secure it, and the possibility that cooperation will extend beyond security in every realm of life,” he said.

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Iran’s 40 Years of Darkness

February 14, 2019

Tehran’s behavior gives the lie to the idea that it matches conciliation with conciliation. It matches conciliation with contempt.

By Bret Stephens

Opinion Columnist

From its beginning 40 years ago this week, the Islamic Republic of Iran has enjoyed the generous benefit of the doubt from credulous observers in the West. History hasn’t been kind to their sympathy.

“The depiction of him as fanatical, reactionary and the bearer of crude prejudices seems certainly and happily false,” wrote Princeton’s Richard Falk of the Ayatollah Khomeini in an op-ed for The Times on Feb. 16, 1979. “Having created a new model of popular revolution based, for the most part, on nonviolent tactics, Iran may yet provide us with a desperately-needed model of humane governance for a third-world country.”

A decade later, after a reign of unbridled terror that culminated with the infamous fatwa against Salman Rushdie and the 1988 mass murder of thousands of political prisoners, including children, there was another false dawn. Several, in fact.

Image result for exiled Iranians protest in Paris, pictures, february, 2019

Thousands of exiled Iranians protested against the regime in Paris last week.

Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, who became Iran’s president after Khomeini’s death, was viewed as a reformer. In truth he was a kleptocrat who orchestrated an international bombing and assassination campaign stretching from Buenos Aires to Berlin. Rafsanjani’s successor, Mohammad Khatami, was supposed to be a moderate. That didn’t stop the bloody crackdown on student protests in 1999 or Iran’s illicit pursuit of a nuclear weapons program during his tenure.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (left) with Iranian President Mohammad Khatami

Mohammad Khatami, with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was one Iranian leader who got little international sympathy. Yet even under him Western reporters penned flattering tributes to Iran’s purported openness — right up until the moment the regime stole the 2009 election and brutally suppressed the failed, if inspiring, Green Movement that followed.

Image result for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, pictures, nuclear

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

Next was Hassan Rouhani, a man the West imagined it could do business with. Business it did, in the form of the Iran nuclear deal and — until the Trump administration put an end to it — the lifting of sanctions.

Image result for Hassan Rouhani with Xi Jinping, pictures

Hassan Rouhani with Xi Jinping

Yet as goodwill flowed toward Iran, malice flowed out. In 2015 the government executed close to 1,000 people, roughly double the figure of 2010. Last month, it publicly hanged a 31-year-old man on charges of kidnapping and having sex with another man; he’s one of an estimated 5,000 gays and lesbians killed by the Islamic Republic.

Abroad, and not just in the Middle East, Iran and its proxies continue to plot violence. An Iranian attempt to bomb the meeting of an opposition group near Paris was foiled last summerIn October, Copenhagen recalled its ambassador to Tehran after another Iranian assassination attempt was prevented in Denmark. In January,Germany banned Iran’s Mahan Air because of its role in ferrying arms and fighters to commit atrocities in Syria. German intelligence officials have also accused Iran of trying to acquire nuclear materials in 2016, after the nuclear deal went into effect.

These are countries that want better relations with Iran, and have made efforts to steer a course independent from the Trump administration. Tehran’s behavior gives the lie to the idea that it matches conciliation with conciliation. It matches conciliation with contempt.


Donald Trump’s foreign policy has mostly been shambolic, but credit where it is due: Other than the stunning folly of the announced withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, where they could help check Tehran’s regional ambitions, he has gotten Iran mostly right.

America’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal has not led Iran to resume its nuclear program (despite some gesturing to that effect). A tougher U.S. tone is likely behind the sharp drop in Iranian harassment of U.S. Navy ships in the Persian Gulf. The resumption of sanctions has put Iran under acute economic stress.

Most importantly, ordinary Iranians know where to pin the blame. Last summer, social media captured Iranian protesters chanting “Death to Palestine,” “No to Gaza, no to Lebanon,” and “Leave Syria and think of us.” These are people sick of going hungry and unpaid while singing the “Death to America” theme song.

The overarching goal of Western policy cannot be to appease Iran into making partial and temporary concessions on its nuclear program, purchased at the cost of financing its other malignant aims. The goal must be to put an end, finally, to 40 years of Persian night.

This should not be a military campaign. But it can be a campaign of economic pressure, to put Iran’s leaders to a fundamental choice between their ideological ambitions and the needs of their people. It can be a campaign of diplomatic pressure, to underscore that a regime that routinely flouts the rules of civilized countries can’t be treated as one itself. It can be an intelligence campaign, to continue to expose and subvert Iran’s efforts to acquire and field strategic arms.

Above all, it has to be a human-rights campaign. Liberals and progressives should not find it difficult to join conservatives in championing the rights of women in Iran, particularly women removing their headscarves in public and courageously facing the consequences. Nor should it be difficult for liberals and conservatives alike to call attention to the plight of Iran’s political prisoners, much as both sides were once moved to action by the plight of political prisoners in the Soviet Union or China or South Africa.

Back when there was an idea of something called the free world, led by the United States, Americans cared about such things, and were willing to act. It is not too late for Americans to do so again, when so many are still in the dark.

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Bret L. Stephens has been an Opinion columnist with The Times since April 2017. He won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary at The Wall Street Journal in 2013 and was previously editor in chief of The Jerusalem Post.

Poland, US hold controversial Middle East conference in Warsaw

February 14, 2019

The US is seeking allies in central and eastern Europe, teaming up with Poland for a Middle East conference in Warsaw. Ahead of the event, expat Iranians protested the regime in Tehran. Monika Sieradzka from Warsaw.

Anti-Iran protesters in Warsaw (Reuters/Agencja Gazeta/J. Nowick)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo struck a chord in Poland this week when he said that the US had steered clear of the region for too long, leaving Russia to fill that “void.”

Warsaw sees Washington as a guarantor of security in the region. The Polish government is proud to have purchased 20 US-made HIMARS rocket launchers — a deal that was struck just before the start of the conference.

As the contract was signed — in the presence of Polish and US soldiers — the US vice president, Mike Pence, assured Warsaw the US would “stand behind Poland.”

A Middle East conference – without Iran

US support for Poland is also the reason why Warsaw is organizing the Middle East conference – inspired by the US.

Seventy countries have been invited to the conference. Eastern and central European countries have sent their foreign ministers; Germany has sent the deputy foreign minister, Niels Annen. Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu is attending, but Russia is not. Iran has not even been invited.

Poland’s Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz insists the conference does not focus on Iran. The official agenda comprises topics such as efforts to curb rocket and missile armament, cybersecurity and the fight against terrorism.

Iran’s ambassador to Poland, however, said Warsaw would have to “suffer the consequences” if those attending the conference would try to “exert pressure on Iran.”

Protests against the conference

Both left-wing and right-wing nationalist groups agree that no one should debate issues concerning one country without its representatives taking part.

Robert Winnicki, a lawmaker from Poland’s “National Movement” party, met the Iranian ambassador ahead of the conference in Warsaw. He says the Polish government is organizing “a conference dictated by the US.”

On Wednesday, the leftist movement “Stop the War” protested at the Royal Castle in Warsaw. “We are against the submissive attitude that Poland is displaying with regard to the US,” the protesters said.

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“We used to have Soviet rockets stationed on our territory — why do we now have to put up with American ones? We don’t want Poland to constantly be a frontier state,” they complained.

Protests aimed at Tehran

Hundreds of expatriate Iranians from various European countries demonstrated against the regime in Tehran at Warsaw’s National Stadium, where the conference takes place on Thursday.

The protests were organized by the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), also known as the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, or MEK.

The formerly armed group, which was labeled a terrorist organization by the US until 2012, sees itself as the true representative of the Iranian people and is in favor of regime change.

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Shahin Gobadi, who heads NCRI’s international committee, told DW that the fact that Iran had not been invited to the conference was not the problem, “since Iran is the source of all the problems in the region.”

Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City and US President Donald Trump’s lawyer, was a special guest at the protests. He spoke in a personal capacity. “There is no better place to talk about freedom than Warsaw,” he said, stressing that Poland had been oppressed by Russia for years.

Strengthening trans-Atlantic ties

Even though many high-ranking European politicians, among them the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, declined to attend the Warsaw conference, the Polish government has already hailed the event as a success, as it strengthened the trans-Atlantic bond, according to Warsaw.