Thursday, February 23, 2017

23-Feb-17: The fate of another Shalit Deal murderer and what this means for peace

New Yorkers standing up for the rights of another unrepentant, convicted
Islamist murderer - January 2017 [Image Source}
A Ma'an News Agency report ["Longest-serving Palestinian prisoner resentenced to life in prison plus 18 years", February 23, 2017] throws some light on how the catastrophic Shalit Deal is viewed in Palestinian Arab circles.

It starts by focusing on Nael Barghouthi, 59, whom it terms "the longest-serving Palestinian prisoner". It says he was sentenced yesterday by an Israeli court to life in prison with an additional 18-year sentence, and quotes the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society as its source.
PPS said in a statement that the court had ruled that Barghouthi, 59, was to serve the remainder of his previous sentence received prior to his short-lived release in 2011 as part of a prisoner swap deal between Israel and the Hamas movement. Israeli forces first detained Barghouthi, who is from the village of Kobar in the central occupied West Bank district of Ramallah, in 1978 when he was 20 years old for alleged membership in an armed resistance group. After being released as part of a prisoner swap exchanging Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit with more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, he was redetained in June 2014 when Israeli authorities claimed that he had broken the terms of his release, and was sentenced to 30 months in prison... However, he remained in Israeli custody after a military court rejected an appeal to release him in January... [Ma'an]
It then offers this piece of unsubstantiated analysis:
Since the Shalit deal, Israel has initiated mass detention campaigns to bring hundreds of former prisoners released in the exchange back into Israeli custody, in violation of the agreement.
Violation? Here's what really happened.

In October and November of 2011, some 1,027 convicted Palestinian Arab terrorists were released from their Israeli prison cells as part of the Hamas-driven extortion of the government of Israel to have a hostage, Gilad Shalit, freed. We know this as the Shalid Deal and have expressed our outrage repeatedly at the violation of fundamental principles of justice that this catastrophic transaction represents [see "13-Feb-17: Another Shalit Deal milestone" and our previous posts listed there]. The Arabs have recently taken to avoiding the Shalit label and instead call it the Wafa al-Ahrar prisoner exchange. (Orwell would have appreciated the double-speak of applying "exchange" to an act of cold-blooded and illegal extortion based on the holding of a hostage in an underground cellar for five years.)

All of them were let loose on explicit conditions. In some cases, the prisoners signed a document acknowledging those conditions which we know (from personally inspecting some of the documents) varied from convict to convict. (Na'el Barghouti's sentence commutation was certainly subject to conditions as an October 2011 Christian Science Monitor article made clear.) In many cases, for instance, the conditions included a restriction on where the terrorists could and could not live.

In every case, the commutations of sentence - note carefully: not pardons - were conditioned on the terrorists not returning to do more terror. Breaching that condition rendered the terrorists automatically liable to being returned to their cells and serving the remainder of the sentence. No fresh hearing, no parole, no flexibility.

In the Israel Prison Service table of prisoners walking free in the Shalit Deal, the name of prisoner 959266958 is given as Na'al Salah Abdullah Barghuti (in Hebrew: נאאל ברגותי סאלח עבדללה). The Ma'an editors say he was behind bars for
alleged membership in an armed resistance group.
That's the sort of disingenuous nonsense in which they routinely engage, along with calling every act of Arab-on-Israel terror "alleged". A Ynet report at the time conveys what anyone who looked up the prisoner's name in the widely-circulating IPS papers (or Wikipedia) would have known: that 
Nael al-Barghouthi, the longest-serving Palestinian prisoner... was sentenced to life in prison in 1978, for murdering an Israeli security officer... [Ynet]
Other Arab sources have hinted a little more broadly at the homicidal activity that earned him a life sentence. A Pal Arab advocacy site [here] says he was arrested after
carrying out a commando operation in which one Israeli was killed.
Aljazeera adds that the
"commando operation" which killed one Israeli [was] near the West Bank settlement of Halamish... "After 30 years in captivity, we are just soldiers returning to our bases," he told the Palestinian newspaper Falastin.
(Israelis know Halamish better as Neve Tzuf, the Jewish community that most closely abuts a notoriously violent Arab settlement about which we have written several times [see "17-Mar-13: A little village in the hills, and the monsters it spawns" and "29-Aug-15: Revisiting a Palestinian Arab village and its monsters".]

MEMO said he
joined an operation in June 1978 against military targets. Following their arrest, he and his brother were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Since the Arab media is famously free and loose with its facts, it's not surprising that a different article on the very same site [here] says he was
arrested at his family home in the village of Kubar on 4th April 1978 and sentenced to life imprisonment
which if true would mean he was arrested two months before the murder of which he was convicted. (The UN Security Council may yet be asked to get involved.) As for Ma'an, even saying he was arrested would be giving too much credit to the Israelis. They consistently write of him [here] and other terrorists that they were "detained".

Why was the freed murderer, let loose in 2011 despite his uncompleted life sentence, re-arrested in June 2014. Ma'an simply says
Israeli authorities claimed that he had broken the terms of his release... [Ma'an]
And as we noted above, it claims re-arresting those freed terrorists was
in violation of the agreement [Ma'an]
between Israel and the outlawed terrorists of Hamas. But it was in fact very much in accordance with the conditions of the commutation of sentence and therefore the terms agreed. (Haaretz refers to a hearing which considered his involvement with Hamas and with financing terror activities.) Ma'an then quotes a Hamas spokesperson saying
the Israeli decision to resentence Barghouthi was "another crime added to the criminal record of the Israeli occupation against the Palestinian people." He added that the decision was a "futile attempt to break the will of our people and stop their endeavor to gain freedom." [Ma'an]
No it wasn't another crime. It wasn't any crime. It was the straight-forward result of him breaching the terms of the disgraceful, unconscionable deal which got him his freedom. A Palestinian Arab source, Samidoun, says several dozen Shalit Deal beneficiaries have been sent back to Israeli prisons, some (we assume) fated to complete their original sentences. It names them as
Nidal Zaloum; Abd El-Men’em Othman To’meh; Majdi Atieh Suleiman ‘Ajouli; Ayed Khalil; Samer El-Mahroum; Alaa El-Bazyan; Adnan Maragha; Nasser Abedrabbo; Safwan Oweiwi; Rabee’ Barghouthi; Suleiman Abu Eid; Ibrahim Shalash; Ibrahim Al-Masri; Zuheir Sakafi; Ahmad Al-‘awawdeh; Bassam Na’im Al-Natsheh Abu Eid; Mahmoud Al-Swaiti; Mu’amar Al-Ja’bari; Khaled Makhamra; Abbas Shabaneh; Rasmi Maharik; Nayef Shawamreh; Na’eem Masalmeh; Mu’az Abu Rmouz; Amer Moqbel; Ashraf Al-Wawi; Muhamad Barakat; Ya’koub Al-Kilani; Aref Fakhouri; Waheeb Abu Al-Rob; Muhamad Saleh El-Rishek; Mu’amar Ghawadra; Imad Mussa; Abdelrahman Salah; Ashraf Abu El-Rob; Wael Jalboush; Nidal Abdelhaq; Taha Al-Shakhsheer; Zaher Khatatbeh; Hamza Abu Arkoub; Mahdi El-Assi; Shadi Zayed Odeh; Jamal Abu Saleh; Ismail Hijazi; Rajab Tahan; Samer Issawi; Khader Radee; Imad Fatouni; Muhamad Issa Awad; Suleiman Abu Seif; Ahmad Hamad; Khaled Ghizan; Ismail Musalam; Yousri Joulani; Nael Barghouthi; Imad Abdul-Rahim; Fahd Sharaya.
(We have not yet compared them with the names in the Israeli records. Stand by. On the IDF's law site in Hebrew [here] there's useful discussion about how the military viewed these prisoners and the rationale for why they were deemed liable to be sent back behind bars.)

Barghouti is a hero today, not despite the murder that Ma'an is too coy to mention but because of it. Palestinian Arab society demonizes those who speak of peace and reconciliation, and makes heroes of those who kill and perpetuate the hatred. There is no chance of better times as long as this is true. Na'el Barghouti started out as a terrorist with Fatah back in 1978. As a prisoner, he became a religious extremist and, according to Ma'an, owes his allegiance today to the Islamists of Hamas

The world would not be a better place - not our world, not the Palestinian Arab world - if men like these were handed back their freedom. Basic notions of justice (10-Jun-12: "Prime Minister Netanyahu: Honor the principles of justice and decency on which our nation is based.") dictate that not one of them ought to have gotten free via the kidnapping and ransom demands that were integral to the Shalit Deal.

The deaths and destruction that have followed have demonstrated via blood and tears how well-founded the outrage and anger at the catastrophic Shalit Deal were and are.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

21-Feb-17: Planning a trip got these British children arrested

No need to get overly concerned: it's just a
"drama/documentary" [Image Source]
Today is another of those fleeting moments when a Western country is again presented with evidence of something deeply malevolent festering in its midst.

Is this news going to get serious attention? Will it be reported in vague terms that carefully step around salient aspects? Will reasonable consumers of current events reporting come away with an actionable sense of a process underway that is gathering momentum?

From a variety of British sources, it emerges that police in the UK yesterday made a cluster of arrests of children on what sound like serious charges. In summary:
  • Five teenagers were arrested by Met Police in London on Monday. 
  • The suspicion is they were planning a trip "to join a banned terror group" [Daily Mail]. Their ages range from 15 to 19. All are males.
  • Prior to the Monday arrests, police had carried out raids at four different homes on January 14, 2017. It's said that the raids were the prelude to yesterday's arrests.
  • The police doing the arresting are all from the (London) Metropolitan Police Service Counter Terrorism Command. Internally, it's known as SO15 and defined on the London Metropolitan police website in these not-so-very-clear terms: "The Operations Strand comprises of those units who directly deliver disruptions through both proactive and reactive operations, as well as direct engagements with communities and partners. The strand comprises of five sections: Investigations, Specialist Investigations, Local Operations, Ports and International Operations."
  • It was formed in October 2006 with the merger of two predecessor units; the Anti-Terrorist Branch (SO13) and Special Branch (SO12) [source].
  • Quote: "Scotland Yard did not elaborate on which organisation the teenagers were attempting to join..." Naturally, the news reports we saw don't engage in idle speculation. 
  • Those arrested are a 17-year-old male living in south London; a 16-year-old male living in a different south London location; a 17-year-old male living in west London; a 19-year-old male also living in west London but at a different address; and a 15-year-old male arrested in east London at a residence that, from the context, appears not to have been searched last month but which was searched yesterday. Another home, this one in Lambeth (a neighbourhood right in the middle of London) was also searched on Monday "in connection with the investigation".
  • The five arrested individuals are said early this morning to have been detained under TACT, the name commonly given to the United Kingdom's Terrorism Act 2000. All five were being held as of a few hours ago in "a central London police station pending further enquiries" into their alleged "plans to travel to join a proscribed organisation". 
The BBC, which notoriously steps gingerly around the word "terror" in its news reports - unless it can quote someone authoritative using the word and then puts it between quotation marks - has a brief report on these events. Surprisingly, the current version of that BBC report ["London terror arrests: Metropolitan Police hold five teenagers", BBC, February 20, 2017] uses the actual word terror in the headline. But don't be surprised if that later gets removed by BBC editors (and note that we have it archived here just in case). It opens with this line:
"Five teenagers have been arrested in London on suspicion of the preparation of terrorist acts, the Metropolitan Police said."
Another British news source which knows the facts at least as well as we do, including the ages of those arrested, describes the people arrested as "men":
Five teenagers have been arrested on suspicion of terror offences in London. The five men, all aged under 20, were arrested on Monday on suspicion of the preparation of terrorist acts, the Metropolitan Police said... [Telegraph UK, February 20, 2017]
But at least four of them are not men. The average age of the five is 16.8. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child calls anyone under the age of 18 a child. And child offenders in the vague and ill-defined field in which the British arrestees allegedly engaged is not a British-only phenomenon as we tweeted a few days ago [here] in the wake of the arrest of a sixteen year-old girl in France.

How interesting it would be if we could find a common element, some shared belief or affiliation that ties her actions with the London Five? Come to that, what do the five Londoners have in common with each other, beyond being boys and residing in the British capital? Maybe something, maybe nothing, maybe a lust for travel. It's hard to know from the reports.

Still, here's a little context: according to a British news report from early this morning quoting a UK government source:
there were 255 terrorism-related arrests in Britain for the year ending 31 March 2016. The only age group to see a rise in the number of arrests was under-18-year-olds... 
So what might it mean for the UK if certain undefined groups of under 18s show an interest in the kind of travel that gets them arrested? Well, not being British, we wouldn't know. But we can't help noticing this report of a BBC television production that is going to be aired early next month:
The Attack: Terror in the UK | This World
With a mass-casualty terror attack in the UK seen as almost inevitable, this drama documentary dramatises what terrorism experts fear is the most likely scenario for Britain's next major terror attack. Counterterrorism police believe that the greatest threat to our security comes from Marauding Terrorist Firearms Attack (MTFA), which can result in dozens of fatalities even if armed police respond within minutes. There are more than a thousand high-priority terrorism suspects in the UK, but there are only enough surveillance officers to monitor a fraction of these at any time. Based on extensive research, The Attack: Terror in the UK tells the story of an Islamic State-inspired terrorist group planning a firearms attack and follows the ongoing police investigation. It focuses on Joseph, a young man who, while in prison for drug and firearms charges, is recruited, converted and radicalised by Islamic extremists - highlighting the fear that links are being forged between Jihadists and street gangs with access to automatic weapons.
It's scheduled to be screened on BBC Two television on Thursday March 2, 2017 at 9:00 pm, UK time. We hope there's an opportunity to view it from outside the UK. Could be interesting, not least because it got the BBC to speak the word "terror" without hanging it around some other person's neck. And as today's news shows, it's surely timely.

Though on reflection, wouldn't it be better for the Brits if the BBC - masters of selectively-opaque reporting, circumlocution and wrong-headed political "correctness" - were take this kind of robust approach in its news content and not only in its docu-dramas?

Monday, February 20, 2017

20-Feb-17: In Sinai, rocket-equipped ISIS jihadists remind Israelis this morning of an ongoing threat

Egyptian soldiers standing guard at a strategic site in Egypt's Sinai Desert, November 2015 [Image Source
Times of Israel reports this morning (Monday) that two rockets (mischievously and disingenuously described in a Guardian report today as "hand-made") were fired from Sinai into southern Israel's Eshkol region in the past hour. They crashed into open fields. It's reported that no one was injured and there are no signs of any damage caused in the attack, according to the IDF.

The Iron Dome incoming rocket alert system that has delivered breathtakingly-effective defensive results for the benefit of the thousands of Israelis living within range of the massively-well-equipped rocket jihadists in the Gaza Strip and the Sinai desert, was not activated this time. That's evidently because the system instantly computed that no populated Israeli area was threatened by the trajectory of the rockets.

So far, no terrorist group has claimed credit for the attack. But Times of Israel notes that it came hours after the Islamic State terrorists based in Sinai had accused Israel of killing five of its members in an airstrike.
According to Amaq news agency, an official media arm of the terror group, an Israeli drone struck a car with five Islamic State members in a village in the northern Sinai near the Egypt-Israel border on Saturday. The strike occurred near the village of Shabana, south of the town of Rafah, Amaq said. The Israel Defense Forces did not immediately respond to The Times of Israel’s request for comment, but generally refrains from confirming or denying strikes outside of Israel. ["Two rockets from Sinai hit southern Israel, IDF says", Times of Israel, February 20, 2017]
Ynet late last night (Sunday) quoted an ISIS news agency called al-Amaq saying that an Israeli unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) had attacked a vehicle in a village in the northern Rafah part of Egypt's Sinai desert the day before (Saturday). It said five members of its local group were killed in the Israeli attack and that, in Amaq's words they "fell as martyrs to the Jewish enemy", naming one of the dead jihadists as Hatab al-Maqdasi.

Ten days earlier, ISIS had claimed credit for four rockets fired into Eilat from Sinai [which we reported here]. ISIS had said then
A number of rockets were launched at Jewish centers in Eilat, known as Umm Rashrash. The Jews and Crusaders should know that the war of the apostles will not save them in any way. ["ISIS says Israel killed 5 of its members", Ynet, February 19, 2017]
A Financial Times article yesterday indicates the scale of what's at stake:
Isis operations in Egypt have largely remained confined to the jihadi group’s northern Sinai stronghold, but the group remains the biggest security threat facing the state. They have killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen and have periodically been able to strike beyond their area with devastating impact... The northern Sinai, a large desert region that borders Gaza and Israel has long been blighted by lawlessness, neglected by Cairo and roamed by smugglers. The Sinai jihadis started out as a local group targeting Israel. But they intensified attacks against Egyptian security forces in 2013 after the army’s ouster of an elected Islamist president. In 2014 they swore allegiance to Isis naming themselves “Sinai Province.” ["Civilians caught in crossfire as Egypt battles Isis in Sinai", Financial Times, February 19, 2017
A 2016 BBC Monitoring backgrounder [here] says the Sinai-based jihadists have given signs of softening a previously harsh towards the Islamists of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. It had previously criticized them for adopting "infidel democracy" but later called them "supporters of peacefulness" in encouraging them to revolt against Egypt's President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi.

While ISIS have a host of determined enemies, there are obvious strategic reasons why they prefer to be seen as losing martyrs to the Israelis rather than the Egyptians, whether or not the evidence is with them.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

16-Feb-17: When they talk to Arabic-speaking audiences, a different message about terror and a two-state solution

A Nov. 2012 Gaza City rally honoring an Arab military victory over Israel
Shaath, and to his left, Hamas chief Haniyeh, Islamic Jihad arch-terrorist
Mohammed Al-Hindi and Ahmed Bahar of the Palestinian Arab
parliament, Gaza City [Image Source: Reuters]
While impassioned speeches about a "two state solution" to the Arab/Israel conflict remain in the air, we think it's useful to publicize the views of one of the most central figures in the Palestinian Arab political firmament.

We're speaking about Nabil Ali Muhammad Shaath, also known as Abu Rashid, who has been the foreign minister of Palestinian Authority (between April 2003 and February 2005, the first person to occupy that office), a cabinet minister in the Palestinian Authority regime, the Acting Prime Minister of the Palestinian National Authority, a member of Fatah's Central Committee and currently the Commissioner of the Fatah Department of International Relations (whose website, we see today, has been hacked, evidently by pro-Israel vandals).
Shaath has established himself as an important Palestinian leader with close ties to European and other governments. He maintains a strong relationship with President Abbas but is viewed by a large part of the Palestinian public as corrupt. Still, he has never having spent time in prison, unlike most Fatah Central Committee members. He has developed a substantial fortune and owns an excellent collection of Palestine stamps. [Fatah Central Committee Profiles, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2015
Shaath is a figure of top-level seniority. He's also well-educated, having gotten both a masters degree and a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania. The consulting firm he established in the mid-seventies, TEAM International, is well-known and successful. What he says has significance.

So we're indebted to the good people at Palestinian Media Watch for translating into English the hateful and dangerous Shaath bombast reproduced below. They were recorded when Shaath was interviewed on Awdah TV, which PMW calls a Fatah channel, on January 23, 2017.

Watch it (above) and you will see Shaath manage three times in the course of a very brief interview to justify a claimed Palestinian Arab right to use what he terms "armed struggle", a well-established euphemism for terror.

"Our cause is just. Our right to the armed struggle is an indisputable right. The Israelis didn't come here through negotiations. They did not come at our request. They are usurpers who came with weapons to murder and tried to expel [us]. They succeeded in expelling a large part of our people by force. Therefore, our right to the armed struggle is indisputable... We are humane people. We want to liberate our homeland. After we liberate our homeland, we will have no problem with living in a democratic state in which Jews, Muslims and Christians live - in a Palestinian Arab democratic state... [As a Palestinian] - your cause is just. You are occupied. Your land was stolen. Your rights were taken. Therefore, I've never seen any problem with carrying out the armed struggle while diplomatic and political activity supporting your cause is being carried out." [Awdah TV, January 23, 2017]
Reaching for lethal violence - stabbings, shootings, bombings, truck-rammings - is an "indisputable" right, he asserts. Resorting to it is justified because it enables Arabs to "liberate our homeland". And once that liberation process runs its course, in Shaath's way of looking at things, a "Palestinian Arab democratic state" will then exist within whose borders Muslims, Christians and Jews will party together or something similar.

This is the kind of blather that Arab political figures reserve for their Arabic-speaking audiences. It used to have little traction or credibility outside those circles. But that has changed.

It's worthy of note that Shaath's speech puts the lie to numerous public undertakings given by Fatah and the PLO to stop doing terror at various points in the past three decades. Those commitments were a quid pro quo for things the Palestinian Arabs wanted to achieve in their political campaigning.

PMW refers to several key Palestinian Arab commitments to stop terror:
  • "The PLO renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence and will assume responsibility over all PLO elements and personnel in order to assure their compliance, prevent violations and discipline violators." [Source: Arafat to Rabin, Letters of Mutual Recognition, Sept. 9, 1993, attached to the Oslo Accords] 
  • "1. Both sides shall take all measures necessary in order to prevent acts of terrorism, crime and hostilities directed against each other, against individuals falling under the other's authority and against their property and shall take legal measures against offenders." [Oslo Accords ARTICLE XV]  
  • "2. Both sides will, in accordance with this Agreement, act to ensure the immediate, efficient and effective handling of any incident involving a threat or act of terrorism, violence or incitement, whether committed by Palestinians or Israelis... Each side shall immediately and effectively respond to the occurrence or anticipated occurrence of an act of terrorism, violence or incitement and shall take all necessary measures to prevent such an occurrence." [Oslo Accords Annex I, ARTICLE II]
Just how solidly does Shaath support the idea of a two-state solution? You can judge for yourself from this subtly-titled video:
"We Will Never Accept the "Two-States for Two Peoples" Solution to the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict". [ANB TV, Lebanon/London via MEMRI, July 13, 2011
Shaath's exhortations to violence over the years have had little impact on the public relations people at University of Pennsylvania, Shaath's alma mater, who wrote of Shaath that he "has devoted decades his life working toward peace between the Israelis and Palestinians" ["A Palestinian Voice for Peace", Wharton School, 2007].

We're guessing they don't speak Arabic.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

15-Feb-17: Things Iran is good at

Genuflecting: The caption to this Iranian news photo is: "Minister
of Communications and Information Technology Mahmoud Vaezi 
and the Swedish Minister of European Union Affairs and Trade Ann Linde
seen in this Feb 11 photo meeting in Tehran" [Image Source]
There are some striking photos in the news today and yesterday, showing Swedish political leaders - among them, self-avowed feminists - bowing their heads to men, the females donning hijabs and head scarves and generally conveying a sense of deep deference to the Islamist regime ruling Iran with an iron fist - a posture rarely seen in international affairs or among people espousing the views that the Swedes claim to hold dear.

Sweden's prime minister Stefan Löfven led the visiting delegation, and has come under angry criticism from opposition politicians and female rights among others.
“This is disastrous for what is being called a feminist foreign policy,” says Jan Bjorklund of the Liberal Party. According to him, the Swedish government should have demanded not to make the hijab compulsory for the female members of the delegation. And if Iran did not agree to that, then the trade agreements should have been signed in Sweden or a third country. The Swedish government calls itself the “first feminist government”, but Linde has defended her decision to wear the hijab in Iran, saying that the only other option would be to send an all-male delegation. Swedish companies have been lining up to gain access to Iran’s lucrative market after the lifting of international sanctions... ["Sweden defends officials wearing headscarves in Iran", Tehran Times, February 14, 2017]
The Swedish delegation to Iran has had a significant impact outside
Iran. The caption reads: "Sweden's "first feminist government" has been
called hypocritical for wearing the hijab in Tehran"
[Image Source: Screen grab from a Sydney Morning Herald video]
But Löfven would have been heartened by the local reception his team got. They were
greeted with praise from Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who hailed the positive relationship between the two countries during a meeting with the Swedish premier in Tehran. "America and many European powers have played a role in causing traumatic events in Syria and Iraq, and the people of the region are aware of this interference and are rightly skeptical," Khamenei was quoted as saying by Iranian television... [Löfven] also met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani... who hailed the "moderation" in Sweden's foreign policy, ["Iran hails relations with Sweden during prime minister's visit to Tehran", DW (German State Radio), February 11, 2017]
The Swedes must have had the case of Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali on their minds while in Tehran. He's an academic physician born in Iran who has taught at universities in Belgium, Italy and Sweden. His field is disaster medicine and he traveled to Iran in April 2016 to take part in a professional conference. With no warning and without any warrant, Iranian Ministry of Intelligence officials arrested him there and charged him with “collaboration with enemy states”. The New York Times reported earlier this week [click] that he is being held in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison and faces the death penalty. 

An image from last Saturday in Tehran that has already gone massively
viral: Swedish "feminist" government officials' walk of shame
Djalali's wife and two children live in Stockholm so the case has a higher profile there than in the countries where most of this blog's readers live. His wife is surely wondering what, if anything, those Swedish feminists did that was helpful to his cause during their well-publicized visit with the Mullahs. We were unable to find any reference to it in the media reports of the "feminist: visit to Iran, but we may have missed it.

For the past year, there's been a serious rush of vendor delegations from Europe, Asia and North America visiting, and showing extreme deference to, the Iranian regime along with an impressive flow of cross-border business deals with the Iranians [click here for a Google search results listing]. No doubt that this is a happy time for the people in charge of Iran.

But beyond the embarrassed faces and unmistakable humiliation of the visitors on show, there are significantly more disturbing next-moves emanating from the Iranian regime as flagged, for instance, yesterday by the Washington Times:
Iran’s hard-line Islamic regime has escalated its overseas terrorist operations, establishing a network of over a dozen internal training camps for foreign fighters, the regime’s largest resistance group said at a press conference on Tuesday in Washington. The National Council of Resistance of Iran issued its intelligence report specifying the camps’ locations and the countries represented... The council’s largest member is the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK). It boasts an extensive spy network inside the mullah-run government, including the all-powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its special forces wing, the Quds force, and has a track record of exposing clandestine parts of the Iranian national security apparatus.
The Quds force played a significant role in the Iraq War by training Iraqi Shiites on how to make bombs that killed scores of American troops. The Quds force is now directing thousands of Iraqi Shiite militia members in Iraq, some of whom have gone to Syria to fight for the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The U.S. calls Iran the world’s No. 1 state sponsor of terrorism. However, neither the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps nor the Quds force is on the State Department’s list of designated terrorist organizations. The Treasury Department in 2007 designated the Quds force as a material supporter of terrorism, but National Council of Resistance of Iran officials say the U.S. government should go much further.
“The Iranian resistance has emphasized on countless occasions that the source and the epicenter of terrorism, fundamentalism and regional meddling is the fundamentalist regime ruling Iran,” said Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the council’s Washington office. [Iran growing network to train foreign terrorists, dissident group says”, Rowan Scarborough in Washington Times, February 14, 2017]
The Washington Times report goes on:
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has approved a directorate inside the Quds force “in order to expand its training of foreign mercenaries as part of the regime’s strategy to step up its meddling abroad, including in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, Afghanistan and elsewhere.” “The camps have been divided based on the nationality of the trainees and the type of training,” the council said. “Both terrorist training and also military training for militias are provided, enabling them to better infiltrate and advance the regime’s regional objectives.”
What skills can aspiring jihadists acquire under the Iranian auspices?
The training is divided into two types of courses; a crash-course of 45 days for troops that will be used to fight in paramilitary forces like the IRGC’s Basij force or a full training course which lasts from between 9 and 12 months... The full training course has many different sections: Heavy weaponry; Missile Launches; Marine Training; Theoretical Training (how to spend terror rhetoric); Survival Training; Commando Training; Paratrooper Training; Security Training... The report makes clear that the IRGC is in control of these terror training camps, in an attempt to export terrorism, destabilise other countries and take control in those countries. ["IRAN’S  IRGC’S TERROR TRAINING CAMPS REVEALED", Iran News Update,., February 15, 2017]
Here's something else the Iranians know to do well: fomenting yet more mischief in Gaza. It stems from the choice of a seasoned murdering terrorist to become the new head of Hamas in Gaza [we analyzed this here: "13-Feb-17: Another Shalit Deal milestone: Four terms of life imprisonment but this murdering jihadist now heads Hamas in Gaza"]
The implication of the selection means that Iran has retaken the reins in Gaza after a long hiatus during which Egypt, on one hand, and Turkey and Qatar, on the other, tried to fill the vacuum. Iran chose to take back the reins in Gaza because of the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States.  Iran fears that in the upcoming talks in Washington, President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu will discuss an aggressive option vis-à-vis Iran. It is doubtful if any “elections” were held in Gaza to choose Sinwar. The result is due to pressure by Hamas’ military wing on the political wing, and the announcement’s timing is Iran’s way of conveying a message before the Trump-Netanyahu talks. If that’s the case, don’t expect that Sinwar’s “election” foretells a new escalation from Gaza against Israel. Just the opposite, Iran will restrain Hamas in order to keep the Gaza front available for Iran’s own needs, and Iran’s alone. ["Iran Grabs the Reins in Gaza", Pinhas Inbari, JCPA, February 14, 2017]
Velayati on Aljazeera this past week [Image Source]
In the interests of fairness, we will point out that Iran does have its fans, and the Iranians don't necessarily see themselves as being the bad guys or in any great trouble. You can get a sense of that from published pieces like "World owes Iran debt of gratitude for sacrifices in fight against terror" [PressTV, February 13, 2017] and "Lavrov: Exclusion of Iran from anti-terror coalition is a mistake" [Tehran Times, February 12, 2017].

Also: Iran doesn't see any reason to discontinue its rapid development of long-range offensive missiles [reviewed here two weeks ago]. As Ali Akbar Velayati (a former Iranian foreign minister and today Supreme Leader Khamenei's Advisor on International Affairs) said three days ago in an Al-Jazeera television interview [translated into English by MEMRI here]:
"If America imagines that threats and sanctions will lead Iran to stop its missile program, this is a misconception, a mere fantasy... America is not strong enough to bring us to our knees... Mr. Trump is fickle and changes his policies every other day... Running a country like America is not an easy thing. All of Trump's predecessors faced similar problems. The most important things is that he has failed, especially with us in Iran. Mr. Trump does not possess special qualifications that would enable him to claim that he wants to take over the world. His policies are immature and have led him to a confrontation with the whole world"
This sounds like bluster - something the Iranians are also good at - but it's more serious than customary bluster given the threats that have emanated from Iranian leaders at various points since the JCPOA, the infamous unsigned "agreement" that has brought such unearned benefits to Iran, came into effect. For instance, this comment which we quoted in an earlier post ["28-Jun-16: Is Iran now threatening more nuclear plotting?"]
Discussing what president Obama has called snapback and "real consequences"] "Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said the country will be able to “immediately” reverse its commitments under a final nuclear deal with world powers if it finds out that the other side has breached commitments under the [JCPOA]... Whenever Iran feels the other side has not honored its commitments, the “reversibility” of Tehran’s nuclear program will happen immediately, he said." [Tasnim News Agency, Iran, July 28, 2015]
We think they're good at that sort of thing too.

Monday, February 13, 2017

13-Feb-17: Another Shalit Deal milestone: Four terms of life imprisonment but this murdering jihadist now heads Hamas in Gaza

Sinwar, the day Israel let him walk free [Image Source]
Associated Press is reporting this afternoon that Hamas has a new leader in Gaza, and calls him "one of the Islamic militant group's most hard-line figures".
The appointment of Yehiya Sinwar, who was freed by Israel in a 2011 prisoner swap, solidifies the takeover of Gaza operations by the armed wing of the group. The military wing, which controls thousands of fighters and a vast arsenal of rockets, has battled Israel in three wars since Hamas seized Gaza a decade ago...  Sinwar replaces Ismail Haniyeh, who served as the prime minister of Hamas' government following the 2007 takeover of Gaza. Haniyeh is now expected to take over as Hamas' supreme leader, replacing Khaled Mashaal, who lives in exile. Khalil al-Haya, another political hard-liner, was elected as Sinwar's deputy. ["Hamas Names Top Militant as New Leader in Gaza", Associated Press via Bloomberg, February 13, 2017]
We're pleased to note that AP's story skips the customary nonsense about the Islamists wanting desperately to create a Palestinian Arab homeland and itching to build more kindergartens, nicer maternity wards and child-friendly museums. Instead:
Hamas is sworn to Israel's destruction and has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings, shootings and other attacks... Gaza is mired in poverty and widespread destruction. International organizations estimate the unemployment rate at over 40 percent, and the movement of people and goods in and out of the war-battered territory remains restricted. [Associated Press]
Sinwar was released from Israeli prison in the catastrophic Shalit Deal of 2011, having been arrested on January 21, 1988 and sentenced a year later after being tried in an Israeli court to four life terms for multiple offenses including (according to AP) masterminding the abduction and murder of two Israeli soldiers.

But a Haaretz profile two days ago reveals that Sinwar (sometimes written Sanwar) was sentenced by Israel
to life in prison in 1989 for the murder of Palestinian [Arabs] suspected of collaboration. His younger brother Mohammed was a commander in the Khan Yunis sector and was involved in the operations in which Shalit was abducted in June 2006, which five years later led to Sanwar’s release. ["Palestinians Freed in Shalit Deal Running the Show for Next Prisoner Swap", Haaretz, February 12, 2017]
It goes on to paint a portrait of an unusually vicious personality, even by Hamas' satanic standards:
Palestinians who have met with Sanwar describe him as an extremist, even in the context of his organization, and as someone who speaks in apocalyptic terms about perpetual war with Israel... [For example] the case of Mahmoud Ishtiwi, a Hamas battalion commander in the Gaza neighborhood of Zeitoun who was executed about a year ago. In the past, claims circulated in Gaza about the reasons for his execution, ranging from collaboration with Israel to suspected homosexuality... Ishtiwi’s sister [said] in April 2015, three months after Ishtiwi’s arrest, Sanwar visited the Ishtiwi family at home with Ishtiwi in tow – and Sanwar threatened them with a gun. In February 2016, Ishtiwi was executed... The Hamas leadership said the decision was based on “security and moral reasons.” [An Israeli source however] cites a power struggle within the Hamas military wing. The young battalion commander had accumulated influence and dared to try to undermine Sanwar. So in a highly unusual move, Sanwar decided to get rid of him... [Haaretz]
Sinwar is kissed in 2011 by the man (Haniyeh) he has replaced in 2017
[Image Source]
A Ynet profile today ["Hamas elects new radical leader in Gaza"] says Sinwar
is considered to be ascetic, strong, tough and the possessor of extreme discipline. He distances himself from the media, which accounts for one of the reasons why he is less well known in Israel, despite his key role in Hamas.
It's especially galling (to us at least) how this sociopath was released from behind Israeli bars five years ago with barely a mention of the risks his unwarranted freedom represented.

For instance: Israel Prison Service records, issued at the time the 1,027 Shalit Deal terrorists walked free and which we have filed away, indicate merely that Sinwar - named there as Yihia Ibrahim Hasan Al-Sinwar, יחיא סנואר אברהים חסן, prisoner ID 955266978 - was serving time for
הריגה ; אימונים בנשק ; פעילות חבלנית עוינת ; הסתה
Manslaughter; weapons training; hostile terrorist activity; incitement 
Mild language in the context. No hint, in other words, of the man's distinctive malevolence or leadership role. But today, with Sinwar free, unconstrained and ascendant, the expert assessments start to appear.

This one for example from the Associated Press piece we cited above:
Kobi Michael, a former head of the Palestinian Desk at Israel's Ministry for Strategic Affairs, said Sinwar represents "one of the most radical and extreme lines of Hamas." He described Sinwar as a "bitter enemy" of Egypt who is focused on building Hamas' military capabilities. "The idea that he was elected is a very dangerous and concerning indication of the destabilization of the region," Michael said.
New York Times backgrounder ["Hamas Appoints Hard-Line Militant as Gaza Leader"] quotes Israeli security experts saying Sinwar "had the status of prisoner No. 1" and that he was the "most senior prisoner released, and clearly destined for leadership".

A great pity Israelis weren't told any of this before the Shalit Deal went through and this man was set loose despite the four uncompleted life-terms to which he had been duly sentenced. The prison system surely had some assessments of this thug on its files. They knew him and what the price of letting him loose might entail.

Sinwar comes accompanied with a pair of loyal deputies who likewise are Shalit Deal graduates:
At Israel’s Nafha Prison, Sanwar created a circle of activists who were loyal to him. Two of them, who were released along with Sanwar, are now in key posts in the Hamas security apparatus. Ruhi Mushtaha is in charge of the prisoner portfolio and Tawfik Abu Naim heads the internal security apparatus in Gaza. [Haaretz]
As parents of a child whose murderers - several of them - walked free in the catastrophic Shalit transaction, we wonder when its tragic harvest will be more widely acknowledged. It represents a moment of massive misjudgment which, we fear, will haunt Israel and the Jewish people for years to come.

Some background reading: 
23-Jan-17: Another Shalit Deal outcome, another life sentence, another bereaved family13-Sep-16: Could Israel be about to release convicted terrorists in another deal? • 24-Dec-15: Another terror outrage narrowly averted - and Shalit Deal releasees are again at the heart of the darkness • 11-Dec-15: The price of the Shalit Deal and the countries that help it keep rising  • 27-Nov-15: Our daughter won't be with us today as we remember her birthday23-Aug-15: Do they understand the price of freeing the hunger-striking terrorists?Palestinians freed in Shalit deal killed 6 Israelis since 2014" [Times of Israel, July 20, 2015] • 20-Jul-15: Pausing for a moment to reflect on when we lost our collective senses19-Jul-15: Another catastrophic outcome of the 2011 Shalit Deal27-Nov-14: Hamas terrorist ring is busted; Israel says the handlers operate from Turkey; Qatar is involved • “Ten lessons the Shalit deal taught us”, Frimet Roth, Times of Israel, October 15, 201430-Sep-14: Martyrs and monsters11-Sep-14: Freeing terrorists: The price in human lives lost and in justice perverted keeps getting clearer11-Aug-14: Shalit Transaction revisited: At what point does facing up to the cost of a disastrous decision become unavoidable?23-Jun-14: Quietly, inexorably, almost entirely unreported, the lethal consequences of the Shalit Transaction grow4-May-14: Who cares about justice? About the victims? About truth?16-Apr-14: Capitulating to terrorism and lessons for a people in search of leaders18-Mar-14: Most don't understand what's so terribly wrong about freeing convicted terrorists before they complete their lawful prison sentences27-Jan-14: Finally, they're starting to quantify the outcomes of the Shalit Transaction22-Dec-13: Delving into how those prisoner releases worked out18-Oct-13: Two years after the mass release of killers and other terrorists, a cry of pain22-Sep-13: Quote of the week: A growing understanding of what the Shalit deal has actually cost us27-Aug-13: Justice devalued, lives demeaned, principles cheapened: the high price of freeing murderers25-Aug-13: Wake up call for those who thought the terrorists are walking free for peace27-Jul-13: To defeat the terrorists, what one thing must a government never do?21-Jul-13: In the debate over whether Israel should free convicted terrorists, one key argument is mostly ignored13-Jun-13: Little-known sides to the post-Shalit careers of unjustly released killers10-Dec-12: The Gilad Shalit transaction continues to haunt and endanger us18-Oct-12: The Shalit deal a year later - a personal reflection17-Oct-12: Yediot: "Dozens of terrorists released in Shalit deal arrested by Shin Bet during past year"10-Jun-12: "Prime Minister Netanyahu: Honor the principles of justice and decency on which our nation is based17-Apr-12: Turns out the terrorists freed for Shalit are still doing terrorism. Who would have thought it?19-Oct-11: Haaretz: Shalit prisoner swap marks 'colossal failure' for mother of Israeli bombing victim18-Oct-11: "The statistical likelihood of more murders in the wake of a mass release of terrorists... is a certainty"  • 18-Oct-11: Frimet Roth speaks about our daughter's murderer going free (audio)17-Oct-11: "The public has been given a false sense that there were no other options"17-Oct-11: Releasing terrorists: "The calculation is based on extortion"16-Oct-11: "Do not free my daughter's murderer" (Haaretz today)15-Oct-11: From today's NY Times: "This deal is a disaster"15-Oct-11: Video: The murderer of our child says: "I don't regret anything"20-Jul-11: How the media hijacked the campaign to free Gilad Shalit23-Nov-09: On freeing a monster22-Jul-08: The once and future child murderer

Sunday, February 12, 2017

12-Feb-17: Yelling at each other about travel bans, some weighty issues are liable to get lost

Image Source: CBS News, November 28, 2016
From where we sit, it's deeply troubling that major matters of policy and public security have divided Americans, and to a great extent people elsewhere as well, according to their views about the new president of the United States and his nascent administration. 

If life were like Saturday Night Live, we might be able to laugh it off. But as the title of our blog indicates, that's not how we feel about terror, those who practice it and those who become its victims.

How much it's not like a TV show is borne out by a news report published today in Boston. Everyone's free to choose whether to accept its claims as factual or significant. But it's a mistake (we say) to treat questions of whether and how to protect our societies to the margins of some domestic political slugging match:
Report: Dozens of terror convicts from ban countries | Owen Boss | Sunday, February 12, 2017 | Boston Herald | 
Dozens of people from the seven Muslim-majority nations included in President Trump’s executive order on immigration have been convicted on terrorism-related charges in the U.S. since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, according to a review that contradicts an appellate court decision against the travel and refugee ban.
A recent analysis of information gathered last year by the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration and the National Interest led the conservative Center for Immigration Studies to publish a report yesterday revealing that 72 people who entered the United States from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen have been convicted on criminal charges stemming from terror cases since Sept. 11, 2001... The center’s director of policy studies, Jessica Vaughan, said the review’s findings “stand in stark contrast to the assertions by the 9th Circuit judges who have blocked the president’s order on the basis that there is no evidence showing a risk to the United States in allowing aliens from these seven terror-associated countries to come in.”
“This is just another myth that’s been put out there by people who are upset by restrictions on Syrian refugees that say, ‘There’s never been a refugee that’s committed a terrorist act in the United States.’ Well, there’s been 17 just from these seven countries, according to this information,” Vaughan told the Herald.
Vaughan said the subcommittee report, which is no longer available on the Senate website, relied on open sources because the Obama administration refused to turn over government records and found that of the 580 people convicted in terror cases since 9/11, 380 were foreign-born.
“I was shocked that there were that many since 9/11, and even more shocking that 380 of them were foreign-born, which debunks this idea that it’s all homegrown terrorism,” Vaughan said. “The information shows the threat from the inadequate vetting in our immigration system has been present for a long time and I don’t think the public is fully aware of that.”
In a ruling Thursday, three judges of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled against reinstating President Trump’s ban on travelers from the seven predominantly Muslim countries — and noted in court documents that the government “has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the Order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States.”
And though the subcommittee report was never referenced in court, Vaughan says the proof is in the numbers.
According to the analysis, 20 people from Somalia, 19 from Yemen and Iraq, seven from Syria, four from Iran, two from Libya and one from Sudan were convicted in terror cases since Sept. 11, 2001. Vaughan said the subcommittee report — which includes names of offenders, dates of conviction, terror group affiliation, federal criminal charges, sentence imposed, state of residence, and immigration history — also found that 33 of the 72 were convicted of “very serious terror-related crimes” and were sentenced to at least three years behind bars.
Charges included use of a weapon of mass destruction, conspiracy to commit a terror act, material support of a terrorist or terror group, international money laundering conspiracy, possession of explosives or missiles, and unlawful possession of a machine gun, she said.
And though she admitted opponents argue the Senate report was flawed because it included people who were not necessarily terrorists because they were convicted of crimes such as identity fraud and making false statements, she was quick to point to the case of Abdul Razak Ali Artan, who was shot and killed after attacking and wounding 11 people at Ohio State University in November 2016. Artan was a Somalian who arrived in 2007 as a refugee.
“It shows that every category of immigration has seemed to be exploited by terrorists,” Vaughan said. “It’s not just people coming in on legal visas, it’s people we have admitted on green cards, some of whom have become citizens and that’s something that I don’t think has been fully appreciated.”
The sting is in how factual evidence - the kind people need in order to form serious views and make life-impacting decisions - is being manipulated to advance ideological arguments. So the Boston Herald continues by showcasing these skeptical views:
But Council on American-Islamic Relations spokesman Ibrahim Hooper dismissed the Center for Immigration Studies review as “push-back from the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim crowd.”
“They’ll spin whatever they can to try and make Muslims or immigrants or refugees look bad to promote their own particular agenda. It’s unfortunately expected in the world we live in,” Hooper told the Herald. “Our nation is so divided now that you get people promoting their particular agenda based on their own spin, on their own view of whatever issue, instead of looking at the reality of the situation.”
The reality is different from what the CAIR man says. Terror and what our societies do about it are not a matter of spin, but involve complex and weighty issues that in the literal sense of the words are a matter of life and death. It would be better if the discussion were conducted in sober and unemotional terms - but we might not have time to wait until that happens.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

09-Feb-17: Islamists claim credit for today's Arab-on-Israeli rockets, shootings, stabbings:

Eilat by night [Image Source]
Two very different Arab-on-Israeli terrorist attacks today are major talking points within Israel - and almost entirely unreported and unanalyzed beyond our borders.

Around 11 o'clock Wednesday night, a barrage of missiles were fired at nearby Eilat from a site in the Sinai desert. The Jerusalem Post, quoting the IDF's Southern Command, reported that four rockets were fired, three of them being safely intercepted in mid-air by its Iron Dome defense system. (Click for a video of one such intercept.) Several people were treated for shock in Eilat's Yoseftal Medical Center hospital.

Haaretz reported during Thursday afternoon that ISIS is claiming to be behind the attack:
The Islamic State group's affiliate in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula has claimed responsibility for the barrage of rockets fired at the southern city of Eilat Wednesday night. The ISIS-aligned Amaq news agency announced that the affiliate, which calls itself the Sinai Province, fired several Grad rockets toward the Red Sea resort city. The report stated that the war against "the infidels" will continue and that the war against ISIS will not help the unbelievers. It added that future attacks would be much more severe.
Then this evening (Thursday), between five and eight people (accounts vary) were injured in a shooting/stabbing attack on Baron Hirsch Street, Petah Tikva near the city's outdoor market during it busiest hours of the week. The attacker, armed with what Ynet calls a makeshift rifle, opened fire on unsuspecting civilians standing at a bus stop and walking around the market. His weapon jammed as he got to a sewing-machine shop and at that point he began attacking people with a screwdriver. Someone threw (yes) a sewing machine at him, causing him to fall to the ground. Eye witnesses say he screamed "help, help" and was then helped by being arrested.

He turns out to be a 19-year-old male from a village near Nablus. (Ma'an News Agency names it as Beita.) Tonight he is under arrest and in an Israeli hospital where his injuries are being treated. Several of the people he attacked were rushed to nearby Rabin Medical Center at the Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva. No one's life is in danger, fortunately.

He was still in possession of the gun used in the attack when arrested, according to a police spokesperson quoted by Times of Israel.

The Islamist terror regime in Gaza, Hamas, praised the attack as a “natural result” of Israeli crimes, according to a Times of Israel report but stopped short of claiming credit - though, in traditional manner, it urged other Palestinian Arabs to follow the attacker's example.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

08-Feb-17: Migrant challenges, deep polarization and new findings in Europe

The shouting and name-calling on all sides of the ferocious debate over Trump's January 27, 2017 Executive Order halting all refugee admissions for now and temporarily banning travel into the US from Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Somalia ["Is this a Muslim ban? Trump's executive order explained", The Guardian, January 28, 2017] – reflects how deep the polarization is on the issues.

But it's not just the US.

A few hours ago, a UK newspaper published the findings of a poll carried out by the London-based Royal Institute of International Affairs - better known as Chatham House. The study, released yesterday, is entitled "What Do Europeans Think About Muslim Immigration?".

The data, based on polling done shortly before Trump signed that executive order, indicate that
majorities in all but two of the ten states opposed immigration from mainly Muslim countries... ["Most Europeans want immigration ban from Muslim-majority countries, poll reveals", The Independent UK, February 8, 2017]
Our brief summary of the findings follows. On the whole they seem to be strikingly decisive:
  • A majority of Europeans want a ban on immigration from Muslim-majority countries. On a pan-European basis, only 20 per cent disagree. Undecideds are 25 per cent. 
  • Overall opposition to Muslim immigration is "especially intense" among older people.
  • On average, 55 per cent of people across the 10 European countries surveyed want all future immigration from mainly Muslim countries into their own part of Europe to stop.
  • Ranked from most opposed to least opposed, the ban is supported by 71% of Poles, 65% of Austrians, 64% of both Belgians and Hungarians, 61% of French, 58% of Greeks, 53% of Germans, 51% of Italians, 47% of Brits.  
  • By contrast, a 2016 Pew survey showed unfavorable views of Muslims were held by 28% of Brits, 29% of Germans and 29% of French. Something's changed in the past year, and not for the better. 
  • 50% of Spaniards were said to have unfavorable views of Muslims in last year's Pew study, but yesterday's Chatham House poll findings put Spain at the bottom of the "immigration ban" support list with 41% favoring a ban.
The Chatham House people say their survey results were based on asking 10,000 people from 10 European countries. The results, in their words -
"are striking and sobering. They suggest that public opposition to any further migration from predominantly Muslim states is by no means confined to Trump’s electorate in the US but is fairly widespread."
Another commentary notes that
the survey found little correlation with the number of Muslim people already settled in a country.
Worth keeping in mind as coverage in the mainstream media and the social media keeps sinking to ever lower levels of fairness and mutual respect.

As a postscript, the parents of one of us (Arnold) who at the end of World War II were orphaned, destitute survivors of the systematic Nazi destruction of the European Jews (not threatened destruction but the actual thing - genocide) and desperately wanting to get away from Europe, tried to be admitted as refugee immigrants to the United States. They, along with most Jewish survivors of that period, were unable to get the necessary American approvals. (The doors of the United States were famously closed to Europe's Jews before and during the Holocaust.) They eventually found refuge in a remarkably hospitable country - Australia - leaving their son with a lifetime resistance to sanctimonious advice from Americans and Europeans about the moral obligation to give shelter to the homeless and imperilled.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

02-Feb-17: What's the US view of Iran's friendly-ties initiative and the nuclear-capable rockets it doesn't plan to use?

Iran's foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif [Image Source] There's
probably a simple reason for why he's laughing in so many
published news photos
There's some elaborate dancing going on as the US, Iran and Hamas make efforts to explain their relations with each another.

From a disturbing Reuters report published this afternoon:
Iran has tested a cruise missile called "Sumar" that is capable of carrying nuclear weapons in addition to test-firing a medium-range ballistic missile on Sunday, German newspaper Die Welt reported Thursday, citing unspecified intelligence sources... The newspaper said the Sumar cruise missile was built in Iran and traveled around 600 km in its first known successful test. The missile is believed to be capable of carrying nuclear weapons and may have a range of 2,000 to 3,000 km, the paper said, citing intelligence sources... [T]he biggest advantage from Iran's point of view, a security expert told Die Welt, was that cruise missiles are not mentioned in any United Nations resolutions that ban work on ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons... Iran confirmed on Wednesday that it had test-fired a new ballistic missile, but said the test did not breach the Islamic Republic's nuclear agreement with world powers or a U.N. Security Council resolution endorsing the pact.
A nuclear agreement? As we (and others) keep saying there is no nuclear agreement. That's because the astoundingly ineffective JCPOA was never signed by the Iranians - deliberately. See "09-Sep-15: Figuring out what people have figured out about Iran and its nuclear plans" where we explain ourselves. But that's the undoubted bottom line: despite all the reportorial and editorial claims to the contrary, there is no signed agreement with Iran on its nuclear weapons program. And there almost certainly never will be.

What did happen, as the Reuters piece recounts, is that massive sanctions on the Iranians were lifted in January 2016 under the JCPOA in exchange for their agreeing to curb - such an ambiguous term - the Iranian nuclear program.

But according to the terms of a 2015 U.N. resolution endorsing the JCPOA, Iran
is still called upon to refrain from work on ballistic missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons for up to eight years. [Reuters]
Aren't they the same as cruise missiles? No.
Cruise missiles are harder to counter than ballistic missiles since they fly at lower altitudes and can evade enemy radar, confounding missile defense missiles and hitting targets deep inside an opponent's territory... [Reuters]
Also yesterday, President Trump’s national security adviser announced in Washington that the US is putting Iran "on notice" for its ballistic missile test and warning of new sanctions:
Calling Iran a “destabilizing influence” in the Middle East, National Security Adviser Mike Flynn declared Wednesday: “As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice.” The pronouncement marked a pivot away from the Obama administration’s policy of diplomatic engagement, which led to a 2015 multinational nuclear deal that has been denounced repeatedly by President Donald Trump and his aides. Iran has warned that new U.S. sanctions could constitute a violation of the nuclear deal, setting up a scenario in which the agreement could unravel—something that hardliners in both countries would welcome. Administration officials, while providing few specifics, said Mr. Trump has begun a process of reviewing current U.S. policy and is “considering a whole range of options,” including tougher sanctions. Asked if military force also was one of the options, the officials didn’t rule it out... “The important thing is here is that we’re communicating that Iranian behavior needs to be rethought by Tehran,” one senior official said. “That is something Tehran needs to think through, because we are considering these things in a different perspective.” Mr. Flynn said the latest missile launch was a violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the nuclear deal and “called upon” Iran to avoid any activity related to missiles designed to be capable of carrying nuclear warheads. ["Trump White House Puts Iran ‘On Notice’ After Missile Launch", Wall Street Journal, February 1, 2017
Iran's propaganda machine didn't see things that way and had already pushed back by Wednesday evening via FARS (often called a "semi-official" news agency of the Iranian regime), asserting that Iran's
missile program is legal as per International Law, has nothing to do with the nuclear deal, and is non-negotiable...  [and that] Washington's latest cat-and-mouse games with Tehran... seeks pretexts to decrease international pressures and condemnations following their thoughtless decision to ban Muslims and Syrian refugees from travelling to the United States... Missile tests are Iran’s inalienable right to defend its security and interests. No country or international body can have any say in this regard... Over the past decade, Iran has made steady and gradual advances in its missile development, pursuing advancement of its strategic missile capabilities with incremental increases in range and payload technology. Iran is developing all these defense capabilities through international cooperation, legal purchases, and indigenous development. As per International Law, nothing is wrong with that. Nothing at all. ["A Risky Proposition: Is Iran Ready to Drop Missile Defense?", FARS News Agency, February 1, 2017] 
So to what extent do the Iranians now see themselves as having to comply with American wishes? The answer suggested by the FARS article is: not so much:
Whatever one thinks of Iran, it has no ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons – unlike the United States, Israel, and their NATO allies. But it is always under constant military threat... [E]very now and then, the bloodthirsty warmongers reveal the real reason for viewing an Iranian missile defense capacity as unacceptable: The war against Iran is a risky proposition. Iranian ballistic missiles and military capabilities would prevent the US from attacking Iran at will. What scares the US is Iranian armed forces that have combat experience and a fighting doctrine of their own, able to take advantage of local and geographic factors, and design their combat style outside the traditional American box. That is what’s intolerable. [FARS]
We might be hearing more in the coming days about how intolerable US policy seems to the Iranians. Iran was
among seven Muslim-majority countries whose citizens he barred from the U.S. in an executive order Friday the White House said is aimed at keeping terrorists from entering the country. [National Security Adviser] Flynn said agreements Iran has made with the Obama administration and the U.N. are “weak and ineffective.” “Instead of being thankful to the United States for these agreements, Iran is now feeling emboldened,” he said... The senior U.S. officials briefing reporters on Mr. Flynn’s comments said the president at the moment doesn’t want “to take any action that would foreclose options or unnecessarily contribute to a negative response.” They also sought to separate the nuclear deal from U.S. concerns about Iran’s other actions such as ballistic missile tests. Tehran has maintained its nuclear program is for peaceful power generation and research, and that its missiles are conventional and for defensive purposes. [Wall Street Journal again]
A few hours ago, Bahram Qassemi who speaks for Iran's Foreign Ministry told interested parties that Flynn’s claims are “baseless, repetitive and provocative”. His statements appear in a report on the oddly-named Iranian PressTV website [here]:
Qassemi further expressed regret that instead of expressing gratitude for the Iranian nation’s continued anti-terror struggles, the US administration keeps leveling groundless accusations and adopting unwise policies, which practically promote terrorist groups... [He] further slammed as “inappropriate and discriminatory” Washington’s recent ban on the entry of travelers from seven Muslim-majority nations as well as refugees into the US [and] stressed that the Islamic Republic's regional policies are transparent, expressing Tehran’s keenness to have friendly ties with all regional states based on mutual respect and non-interference in their domestic affairs. ["US claims on Iran missile tests baseless, provocative: Foreign Ministry", PressTV, February 2, 2017]
If you're wondering how "Friendly ties with all regional states" translates into action, the jihadists of Hamas might have an answer.

Sami Abu Zuhri who, in addition to being an advocate for the usefulness of human shields, a groper of women, a sexual molestor of visiting reporters, a fan of slashing praying Jews to death in their synagogues and a one-time smuggling "mule" [all explained here], is one of Hamas' official spokes-thugs. He visited Algeria last weekend and while there was quoted [here] saying Hamas is keen to build "strong relations with all Arab and Islamic states, including Iran". Without giving any details, he said “Efforts and contacts are underway to boost relations with Iran and we hope we will achieve something positive”.

From here in Jerusalem, something positive is not the most likely of the outcomes we're expecting to see.