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Zarif takes apparent shot at Israeli ‘audacity,’ says Iran will never develop nukes – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Liberman and Zarif. (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM,REUTERS)

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said Sunday that Iran would never seek to build a nuclear weapon, taking an apparent shot at Israel for being the true nuclear-armed actor endangering the region.

Without naming Israel specifically, Zarif said at the Munich Security Council that there were certain non-members of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty who were spreading accusations about the Iranian nuclear threat.

“They have the audacity” to talk about the Iranian nuclear threat when they are “the destabilizing force in the region,” Zarif said.

“We will never produce nuclear weapons, period,” Zarif said. The Iranian foreign minister added that Iran had committed to this in the nuclear deal signed with world powers, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but has yet to receive the reciprocal fulfilling of the deal from the other side. “The international community still owes us,” Zarif stated.

In apparent response to US President Donald Trump’s comments that he was putting Iran “on notice” over ballistic missile tests last month, Zarif stated that, “We do not respond well to threats.”

Zarif said that under so-called “crippling sanctions,” intended to curb Iran’s construction of centrifuges for enriching uranium, Iran had gone from having 200 centrifuges to having some 20,000 centrifuges.

“We don’t respond to threats, we respond to mutual respect,” Zarif said.

Republican US Senator Lindsay Graham, speaking on a panel at the conference immediately after Zarif, said that not a word the Iranian foreign minister was saying should be believed.

“They’ve been trying to build a nuclear weapon,” Graham said. “If they say they haven’t, they’re lying.”

“You don’t build a secret nuclear facility if you don’t want to build a nuclear weapon,” he added.

Graham said that Iran was “a bad actor in the greatest sense of the word when it comes to the region,” calling Tehran out specifically for supporting Hezbollah and writing “Death to Israel” on its missiles.

“I think it it is now time for the Congress to take Iran on directly in terms of what theyve done outside the nuclear program,” Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee stated.

Graham said he and other Republicans would introduce measures to hold Iran accountable for its actions.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman was originally supposed to speak on the same panel as Zarif, however the event was changed and he spoke later in the day after the Iranian foreign minister.

The defense minister accused Iran of trying to undermine stability in every country in the Middle East.

Liberman called the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, Qassem Suleimani, “the number one terrorist in the world.”

Liberman said that Israel has not seen more moderate behavior from Iran since the signing of the JCPOA. To the contary, he stated, since the signing of the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, Israel has seen: a competition organized in Tehran for the best Holocaust denial cartoon, with a prize of $50,000; parades in Tehran featuring ballistic missiles with Hebrew inscriptions, reading ‘Israel must be wiped out’; a State Department report finding that Iran is the number one state sponsor of terror in the world; Iranian development of ballistic missiles in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231; the persecution of Iran’s ethnic and religious minorities; and 600 executions in 2016, often with little or no due process of law.

The defense minister said that the Iran nuclear deal was “an attempt to avoid reality,” and we were seeing similar results to what the nuclear deal with North Korea has yielded.

He called for world powers to enforce a policy of economic pressure, tough policy and following through on UN resolutions, such as in the case of Iran carrying out ballistic missile tests.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister also accused Tehran of being the main sponsor of terrorism in the world and a destabilizing force in the Middle East.

“Iran remains the single main sponsor of terrorism in the world,” Adel al-Jubeir told delegates at the Munich Security Conference. “Its determined to upend the order in Middle East … (and) until and unless Iran changes its behavior it would be very difficult to deal with a country like this.”

Al-Jubeir said Iran was propping up the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, funding the Houthi separatists in Yemen and violent groups across the region. He said the international community needed to set clear “red lines” to halt Iran’s actions.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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Zarif takes apparent shot at Israeli ‘audacity,’ says Iran will never develop nukes – Jerusalem Post Israel News

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Iranian commander: Attacking us would be ‘unwise’ – Arutz Sheva

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards

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Iran is continuing its verbal attacks on the United States, with the latest comments coming on Saturday from Mohammad Pakpour, a commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Speaking at a press conference in Tehran and quoted by the semiofficial Fars news agency, the commander warned American officials to be wise and stop threatening Iran with military aggression.

“U.S. statesmen should be very wise and avoid threatening Iran because the entire world has admitted this fact that the Americans cannot do such a thing,” said Pakpour, who added that attacking Iran would be unwise.

Tensions between Washington and Iran have risen in recent weeks, after the Trump administration imposed new sanctions on 25 individuals and companies connected to Iran’s ballistic missile program and those providing support to the Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qods Force.

The sanctions came in response to a ballistic missile test conducted by Iran last week, in violation of UN Resolution 2231, which bars Iran from conducting ballistic missile tests for eight years and which went into effect after the nuclear deal between Iran and the six world powers was signed.

Irans Foreign Ministry reacted angrily to the sanctions, vowing that it too would ensure “legal restrictions” were imposed on the “American individuals and companies which have a role in aiding extremist and terrorist groups or contribute to the suppression and murder of the defenseless people in the region.

The countrys Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, later dismissed calls from the Trump administration to cease the countrys ballistic missile tests, and said that Trump had showed the “true face” of America.

Iran has also threatened to attack Israel in response to an American attack on Iran. A senior Iranian official recently threatened his country would immediately strike Israel if the United States “makes a mistake” noting that “only 7 minutes is needed for the Iranian missile to hit Tel Aviv.”

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Pence: Iran won’t have nuclear weapons to use against US or Israel – Jerusalem Post Israel News

The United States will stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons that can be used against it or Israel, Vice President Mike Pence told the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, just days after meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington.

Under President [Donald] Trump, the US will remain fully committed to ensuring that Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon capable of threatening our country [or] our allies in the region, especially Israel, Pence said.

The issue of Irans threat to the region, Israel and the US was a priority in the series of high-level meetings held in Washington last week, as Netanyahu made his first visit to the Capitol since Trump was inaugurated last month.

Netanyahu plans to brief the cabinet about his trip at its weekly meeting on Sunday, before he departs for Australia.

While in Washington, Netanyahu spoke with Trump, Pence and congressmen about the dangers of Irans nuclear program and his belief that the deal the Obama administration and five other world powers worked out with Tehran in 2015 to curb its nuclear capacity doesnt mitigate that threat.

While the Obama administration had dismissed Netanyahus concerns, Trump and his administration are supportive.

Just before landing in Israel on Friday, Netanyahu told reporters on the plane that Israels strategic security interests in the region will be improved as a result of his three-day trip to Washington.

There is a joint strategic understanding and deep friendship, Netanyahu said of his conversation with Trump on Wednesday. The two men have known each other since the 1980s.

It was an excellent meeting.

It will have a large impact on our security, said Netanyahu, adding that under the Trump administration US-Israel ties, which are already strong, will be vastly improved.

Netanyahu said there will be joint follow-up meetings between his staff and members of the Trump administration on the issues that were raised during his trip. Aside from Iran, there were also security discussions on Syria, ISIS and terrorism.

In his weekly address to the American people on Friday, Trump said, The United States also reaffirmed our unbreakable bond this week with our cherished ally, Israel.

It was an honor to welcome my friend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House.

I affirmed to the prime minister Americas commitment to working with Israel and our allies and partners toward greater security and stability. The threat of terrorism and believe me, it is a threat must be confronted and defeated, and we will defeat it.

We share with Israel a deep conviction that we must protect all innocent human life, Trump said.

In an interview with Fox News before leaving Washington on Thursday, Netanyahu said the meeting with Trump was an historic one, best described as a meeting of the minds and of the hearts.

Israel and the US always had a strong alliance, Netanyahu said, but now we have an even stronger alliance.

There is a change coming to the Middle East when it comes to Israels relationship with its neighbors due to the rise of radical Islam, with ISIS leading radical Sunnis and Iran leading radical Shiites, Netanyahu said.

The moderate Arab world is threatened by both, Netanyahu continued, as he explained that these countries view Israel as a country with a strong military that can stand against these threats, particularly Irans quest for hegemony in the region.

As a result, they do not view us as their enemy but increasingly they see us as their ally against a common threat, the prime minister said. In my conversation yesterday with President Trump, he saw things in the same way and that opens up opportunities, he added.

With regard to the nuclear deal with Iran, Netanyahu said Iran has become more dangerous since it was signed, is better funded and has sponsored more terrorism.

Now they are going to build ICBMs that can reach the US and have the multiple warheads to do that. That is horrible, it is dangerous for America, dangerous for Israel and dangerous for the Arabs.

Everyone now understands it and there is an American president that understands, and we are talking about what to do about this common threat, Netanyahu said.

At Wednesdays joint press conference with Netanyahu, Trump said, One of the worst deals Ive ever seen is the Iran deal. My administration has already imposed new sanctions on Iran, and I will do more to prevent Iran from ever developing I mean ever a nuclear weapon.

During Netanyahus time in Washington, there were issues raised that remain unresolved, including Israeli settlement construction and a request for the US to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

The US has asked Israel to hold back on settlement building. A mechanism is now being developed between the two governments, with the help of Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, to come to an agreement with regard to such activity.

In an interview with Channel 2 on Friday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said it was important to reach such an understanding with the US. He also cautioned politicians to refrain from their calls for unlimited building in Judea and Samaria, or to annex portions of Area C of the West Bank.

If someone thinks that you can apply Israeli sovereignty over all of Judea and Samaria or the blocs or build indefinitely without an understanding with the White House, he is mistaken, Liberman said.

In an interview with Channel 2 on Friday, Liberman said it is important to reach such an understanding with the US. He also cautioned politicians to refrain from their calls for unlimited building in Judea and Samaria or to annex portions of Area C of the West Bank.

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Liberman panel with Iranian, Saudi FM at security conference cancelled – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Avigdor Liberman speaks at the Saban Forum. (photo credit:SABAN FORUM)

After a schedule released Friday showed Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman sharing the stage with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif Sunday morning at the Munich International Security Conference, organizers have hurriedly rearranged.

The two leaders from enemy states were set to take part in a session entitled Old crises, new Middle East along with Saudi Arabias Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

The presentation was announced Friday despite the fact that Israel currently does not have diplomatic relations with Iran or Saudi Arabia. While Israel’s connection with Iran is a hostile one, Israel has an informal connection with Saudi Arabia due to their shared interests on the issue of threat posed by Iran.

Now, instead of having the four speakers together for a single session, with the BBCs Lyse Doucet moderating, organizers have cancelled the session and replaced it with four separate statements by the leaders.

Zarif is now set to speak at 9 am, with a panel on US policy following at 9.20am and Liberman speaking at 10.05 am with Cavusoglu and Jubeir after.

Speaking to Channel 2 news from Munich on Friday, Liberman said he had been looking forward to the panel, hoping to say exactly “what I think about the Ayatollah’s [supreme leader] regime in Tehran.”

“I hope he will be in the hall when I’m speaking and hear what I think about the ayatollah’s regime in Tehran, and everything I said to the other defense ministers whom I met – the greatest danger to the stability of the entire Middle East is Iran.”

During the conference Liberman is also set to meet with British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon,

German Defense Minister Dr.Ursula von der Leyen, Canadas Minister of Defense Harjit Sajjan, and Singapores Defense Minister Dr. Ng Eng Hen. Liberman will also meet the foreign ministers of Russia Sergei Lavrov and Moldovas Andrei Galbur, as well as President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the minister of Bavaria Horst Seehofer Lorenz, and the President of Lockheed Martin Marillyn Hewson.

According to a statement put out by his office, Liberman will discuss strengthening security cooperation between Israel and those countries as well as jointly dealing with the threat of regional terrorism.

Radical Islamic terrorism has long been not just a regional problem faced by countries in the Middle East, but a global problem that affects different countries, almost indiscriminately, as part of an insane fanatical campaign against the free world, the statement quoted Liberman as saying, adding that one of the most important factors in dealing with this threat is cooperating across borders and continents, between all governments and relevant security agencies.

On Friday morning Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman met with his American counterpart Gen.James Mattis in Munich for the first time since Mattis assumed his position as Secretary of Defense.

During the meeting, the two discussed several matters, with Iran first and foremost among them. A statement released by Libermans office said that the three central problems facing the two countries and that must be dealt with were “Iran, Iran and Iran.”

Lieberman stated that there is a need to build a genuine and effective coalition to deal with the terrorism that Tehran was spreading throughout the world, including the development of ballistic missiles and its continued attempts to develop nuclear weapons.

Israels Defense Minister also stated that North Korea and Iran are two ends of the axis of evil that also includes Hezbollah and the Assad regime and Iran is the common thread.

Mattis and Liberman agreed that they must act decisively against Iran, a statement put out by Libermans office read.

During their meeting, the two also discussed other security issues related to developments in the Middle East and ways to strengthen cooperation between Washington and Jerusalem in dealing with them.

The two concluded the meeting stating that the two countries are true allies and that they will continue to work together to maintain common interests of the two countries and agreed to meet again soon.

Liberman and Mattis have previously spoken only by phone.

The Munich Security Conference is held every year and hosts heads of state, foreign ministers, and defense ministers from around the globe. Over 30 heads of state of government and 80 foreign and defense ministers along with other officials are expected to attend the conference which opened on Friday.

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Liberman panel with Iranian, Saudi FM at security conference cancelled – Jerusalem Post Israel News

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Why the Iran Nuclear Deal Must Stand – New York Times


New York Times
Why the Iran Nuclear Deal Must Stand
New York Times
WASHINGTON Standing next to Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, at a news conference Wednesday, President Trump inveighed against the nuclear agreement with Iran, declaring it one of the worst deals ever made. On this matter, Mr. Trump …
Washington encourages Israel-Arab alliance against IranYahoo News
US, Israel at one against regional threat of IranThe Australian
Benjamin Netanyahu largely correct on Iranian missiles with Hebrew-language threatsPolitiFact
ABC News –Voice of America
all 3,810 news articles »

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Why the Iran Nuclear Deal Must Stand – New York Times

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February 17, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

Iran looks to improve ties with Gulf neighbours – euronews

President Hassan Rouhani has called for greater unity between Shiite and Sunni Muslims during his first official visit to the Arab Gulf since being elected in 2013.

On a visit to Kuwait he was welcomed by Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.

Relations between predominantly Shiite Iran and the mainly Sunni Arab countries of the Gulf,particularly Saudi Arabia, remain strained over their support for opposing sides in Syria and Yemen.

While Iran has supported Bashar al Assads regime in Syria and Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen, the Arab Gulf states namely Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have supported the Syrian opposition as well as the Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadis embattled government.

Saudi Arabia and Bahrain cut diplomatic relations with Iran in January 2016 after protesters torched the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates recalled their envoys in a show of solidarity with Riyadh.

Earlier Rouhani was in Oman for talks with Sultan Qaboos. Oman was prominent in helping mediate secrets US -Iran talks in 2013 that led to the historic nuclear deal signed in Geneva two years later.

But Tehrans January missile test has provoked new sanctions from the Trump administration and caused alarm in Israel at what has been called blatant violations of the deal.

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Benjamin Netanyahu largely correct on Iranian missiles with Hebrew-language threats – PolitiFact

President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a joint press conference on Feb. 15, 2017.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of the danger to his country from Iranian ballistic missiles in his first joint news conference with President Donald Trump.

Israel has been firmly opposed to the United States-Iran nuclear agreement even before it was signed during the Obama administration. Trump was often critical of the deal on the campaign trail.

Two weeks before the Feb. 15 news conference, Iran tested a medium-range ballistic missile that could theoretically reach Israel, as well as many other targets in the region. The Trump administration considers Irans Jan. 29 test to be against the terms of the agreement, while Iran considers it permissible. Days later, the Trump administration announced new sanctions on Iran, specifically citing the missile test as the reason.

At the news conference, Netanyahu said his goal, and Trumps, is to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

“I think beyond that,” he said, “President Trump has led a very important effort in the past few weeks, just coming into the presidency. He pointed out there are violations Iranian violations on ballistic missile tests. By the way, these ballistic missiles are inscribed in Hebrew, Israel must be destroyed. Iranian Foreign Minister (Mohammad Javad) Zarif said, Our ballistic missiles are not intended against any country. No, they write on the missiles in Hebrew, Israel must be destroyed.”

A reader asked us to check what Netanyahu said about the Hebrew lettering. So we took a closer look.

The Israeli Embassy in Washington did not reply to an inquiry, but we found news reports from March 2016, such as this one in the Times of Israel, that discussed such an incident. The claim was sourced to the Fars news service, which has been described as a “semi-official” organ of the Iranian government.

We tracked down the Fars article, dated March 9, 2016. It said that the the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had successfully launched two “Qadr H” ballistic missiles at a target in southeastern Iran 1,400 kilometers away. It described the Qadr as a liquid-fueled ballistic missile that “can reach territories as far as Israel.” (The Obama administration condemned the test.)

“One missile,” the Fars post said, “had a message written on it that said in Hebrew, Israel should be wiped off the Earth. ”

The English-language version of the Fars site didnt include the exact words, but the Times of Israel article showed a screenshot of the Farsi-language page, which specifies the Hebrew phrase “Yisrael Tsricha LeHimachek MeAl.”

The Times of Israel noted dryly that “the words mean Israel must be wiped out from. Apparently, Irans Hebrew writers intended to complete the phrase with something to the effect of the face of the Earth but messed up their translation.”

The translation of the Hebrew in the Times of Israel article is accurate, said Michael J. Koplow, policy director of the Israel Policy Forum, a group that advocates for a negotiated two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians.

Koplow and other experts said they see no reason to doubt the accuracy of the Fars post.

“This story has the ring of truth to it because I do not see why Iran would lie about it,” said Michael M. Gunter, a Tennessee Technological University political scientist who studies the region.

We wont quibble over the exact wording, which Netanyahu got wrong but which conveys the same message. But we will raise one caveat.

Hearing Netanyahus comments, one could assume that hes talking about the most recent missile tests from January 2017, rather than the ones from 2016. Not only did his comment about the Hebrew lettering immediately follow a mention of the most recent tests, but he used the present tense to say that “these ballistic missiles are inscribed in Hebrew.”

We found no evidence that the most recent round of tests included missiles with threats written in Hebrew letters.

“It is striking to me that Prime Minister Netanyahu must go back to an Iranian report of a March 2016 ballistic missile test to make his point about malign Iranian intentions,” said Greg Thielmann, a former foreign service officer and Senate Intelligence Committee staffer who is now a board member at the Arms Control Association.

He suggested that the Hebrew lettering may have been “a one-time event, and not necessarily authorized in Tehran.” The botching of the text may suggest that the gambit was ad-hoc “sloganeering” by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, “rather than an explicit policy dictated from the top,” Thielmann said.

Our ruling

Netanyahu said, “President Trump has led a very important effort in the past few weeks, just coming into the presidency. He pointed out there are violations — Iranian violations on ballistic missile tests. By the way, these ballistic missiles are inscribed in Hebrew, Israel must be destroyed. ”

Hes right that there was such an incident (with slightly different wording) during an Iranian ballistic missile launch in 2016. However, its worth noting that, despite Netanyahus implication, there is no evidence of a repeat when Iran undertook its most recent test in 2017. We rate the statement Mostly True.

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Trump to host Netanyahu in meeting focused on Iran, Middle East talks – ABC News

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet face-to-face with President Trump on Wednesday, setting the tone for what both leaders hope to be the dawn of a new era for the U.S.-Israel relationship. Analysts say that the meeting will hope to project a public theme of unity between the two governments on topics including Iran, Israeli settlements and the fate of the peace process.

“Both President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu have a very big stake in wanting to demonstrate that whatever the problems were with the last administration, they’re now gone,” Dennis Ross, a diplomat and former special Middle East coordinator under Clinton, told reporters on a call this week.

While close security and economic ties between the U.S. and Israel continued and expanded during the previous U.S. administration, Netanyahu and then-President Obama often sparred on a number of key issues, particularly over the contours of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement and the U.S.-brokered Iranian nuclear deal, which the Israeli leader forcefully denounced.

“There’s a strong presumption [now] to send a message how close things are between the two leaders … to demonstrate that the U.S. and Israel are on the same page strategically and practically,” Ross added.

Analysts say that while Iran is likely to figure at the top of Netanyahu’s agenda, Israeli settlements, the location of the U.S. Embassy and the peace process are also likely to factor in.

Iran

“The Prime Minister probably comes in with an agenda very heavily focused on Iran,” Ross said.

Much of that focus concerns Iranian policy in the region and the nuclear agreement signed in 2015 between Tehran and the so-called P5+1, which Netanyahu opposed.

During his campaign, Trump voiced strong opposition to the Iran nuclear deal and in recent weeks has taken to Twitter to directly threaten Iran. While the administration has thus far continued U.S. participation in the agreement, Trump has expressed an interest in re-negotiating its terms.

Ross said Netanyahu is unlikely to demand a scrap to the agreement altogether, in part because he is determined to work well with Trump out of the gate.

“I think what he [Netanyahu] wants is some understanding — and awareness not just about enforcement of the deal but that more needs to be done to deter the Iranians,” Ross said.

Writing on Facebook on Jan. 30 after an Iranian ballistic missile test, Netanyahu said that Iranian aggression must not go unanswered, pledging to discuss with Trump the renewal of sanctions against Iran in this context and in other contexts.

In retaliation to the ballistic missile test, the Trump administration on Feb. 3 announced sanctions against Iran, a narrowly tailored action that did not alter the terms of the nuclear agreement that saw Iran receive sanctions relief in exchange for curbs to Tehrans nuclear program.

Embassy moves

On the campaign trail, Trump pledged to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move opposed by past U.S. administrations because both Israelis and Palestinians claim it as their capital. The U.S. has long maintained that the status of the city should be determined in final status negotiations between the two parties.

Still, there have been some suggestions that Trump has slightly softened his stance.

“His policy seems to be settling back into the mean,” former U.S. Ambassador to Israel under President Obama, Daniel B. Shapiro, told Israeli TV channel i24, “which is to support efforts to a two-state solution, to support efforts to limit settlements and not to do things that might be disruptive and moving the embassy might fall into that category.”

“It’s not an easy decision,” Trump said last weekend to the Israeli right-wing newspaper Israel Hayom, a free daily which is supported by Trump donor and Netanyahu patron Sheldon Adelson. “It’s been discussed for so many years. No one wants to make this decision, and I’m thinking about it seriously.”

But Netanyahu has long supported the move, and is likely to again bring it up.

Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and it is proper that not only should the American Embassy be here, but all embassies should come here, Netanyahu said in January.

Settlements

Since Trump took office on Jan. 20, Netanyahu has ratcheted up settlement expansion, a signal that the White House is far less critical of building in the occupied Palestinian territories than past administrations.

In the last three weeks, Netanyahu announced the approval of more than 6,000 housing units and the first new settlement since the 1990s. The United Nations considers settlements illegal, and they have long been a bone of contention between the U.S. and Israel.

But Trump’s pick for U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, is an ardent supporter of Israeli settlements and has opposed the two-state solution.

Nonetheless, Trump in the same interview with Israel Hayom seemed to moderate past statements, saying settlements were an obstacle to peace.

“There is limited remaining territory. Every time you take land for a settlement, less territory remains,” he told the newspaper. “No, I’m not someone who believes that advancing settlements is good for peace.”

Peace negotiations

President Trump has called reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace the “ultimate deal,” and has identified his son-in-law and senior adviser the president Jared Kushner as the man for the job.

“I think we can reach an agreement and that we need to reach an agreement,” Trump told Israel Hayom. “I want Israel to act reasonably in the peace process, he added.

Briefing reporters Tuesday night, a White House official said that the peace process was a priority, but would not commit to pushing the two-state solution which has been the cornerstone of U.S. policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades.

“Maybe, maybe not,” the official said in response to a question about the two-state solution. “It’s something the two sides have to agree to. It’s not for us to impose that vision.”

The official added: “We’re looking at the two sides to come together to make peace together and we’ll be there to help them.”

When asked by a reporter on the tarmac leaving Tel Aviv this week if he stands by a two-state solution, which he has at various times opposed or supported, Netanyahu responded: Come with me, you will hear very clear answers, very clear answers.”

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Trump Won’t Be Able to Talk Putin Out of His Alliance with Iran – The Weekly Standard

Since President Trump’s election, American allies and other foreign policy observers have been curious to know how the new White House intends to resolve an apparent contradiction. How is it possible that Trump seems keen to make some sort of deal with Vladimir Putin while expressing belligerent contempt for Russia’s key Middle East ally, Iran? There may be an answer: Recent press reports indicate the Trump team will try to lure Russia away from Iran. The chances for success are slim.

Moscow and Tehran’s alliance was cemented in Syria, where both have historically backed the Assad regime, first Hafez al-Assad and later his son Bashar. Both have supported Bashar al-Assad against an array of opposition forces since the Syrian conflict erupted in the summer of 2011. Four years later, with Assad and Iranian forces in danger of losing the war, Qassem Suleimani, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’s expeditionary Quds Force unit, visited Moscow to beg the Russians for more help. Putin consented. He escalated Russia’s position in Syria with men and materiel, and marked it with naval installations and airstrips. Ever since, Russian planes have flown in support of Iranian, Hezbollah, and other Iranian-backed ground forces. Rumors regarding points of conflict between Russia and Iran continue to circulate, but this is not, as many have called it, a “marriage of convenience,” but a strategic alliance in which each actor depends on the other.

The notion that it is possible to separate Moscow from Tehran is apparently based on two historical precedents. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was intelligence chief for Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq during the surge. Coalition forces were able to ensure relative stability in Iraq as the Sunni tribes were induced to turn their weapons on foreign fighters they had previously aligned with to battle coalition troops.

The second precedent is Egyptian president Anwar Sadat’s decision after the October 1973 war with Israel to leave the Soviet fold and ally with the United States. Sadat’s move proved such a boon to America’s Cold War efforts against Moscow that American policymakers tried to get other Soviet clients to jump, chief among them Syria’s Hafez al-Assad, who nonetheless clung to Moscow.

Even after the Cold War, American diplomats continued their efforts in the Levant by courting Hafez’s son Bashar, to see if he’d abandon his patrons in Tehran. Bashar never had any intention of jumping; he had simply learned from his father that dangling possibilities in front of American diplomats brings them to the table with incentives and promises, all of which you can pocket to enhance your own prestige without giving the Americans a thing.

What two generations of American policymakers who dealt with the Assad family seem to have missed is that Sadat came to his decision on his own. The Soviets were bad for Egypt, Sadat believed, and the Americans and their money were the future. The same was true three decades later of Iraq’s Sunni tribes, which concluded that al Qaeda and the foreign fighters who occupied Iraq to fight the Americans were a dead end. Better to work with U.S. forces to get rid of them. Both Sadat and the Iraqi tribes were, in the parlance of the intelligence world, walk-ins who volunteered to change sides. Washington added various incentives to facilitate decisions that greatly benefited the United States, but there was little even the subtlest and most creative diplomats, policymakers, or dealmakers could have offered had the tribes and Sadat not already shown signs they were looking to jump.

Now, it’s certainly possible that the Russians are privately sending messages to the Trump administration that they’re willing to entertain a deal to abandon the Iranians. But it’s highly unlikely. The Russia-Iran alliance is a strategic relationship in the most fundamental way.

When Vladimir Putin surveys the Middle East, he sees a post-1973 landscape, what the Middle East looked like after Sadat embraced the United States. The region is covered with American allies, from Israel to Egypt, from Turkey to Saudi Arabia and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. Sure, Barack Obama put American allies in a hard spot by forsaking them all, creating a vacuum filled by Moscow, where traditional U.S. regional partners were compelled to petition Putin on bended knee. But eight years is a relatively short period compared to the decades during which Washington established strategic relationships in the region, through arms deals and security arrangements and economic and cultural exchanges. When Putin looks at the region, he sees only one empty space on the boardIran. There is simply no way for the Russians to project power or manage their regional interests without Iran and its partners, like Hezbollah. Asking Putin to abandon the Iranians is like asking him to leave the Middle East.

And that’s the kind of deal the Trump administration should be angling for in the region. The United States doesn’t want Putin on NATO’s Turkish border. It doesn’t want Russia sending missiles to Syria, as it did last week. The White House doesn’t want Russia compromising Israel’s air superiority in the eastern Mediterranean, and it surely doesn’t want Russia backing Hezbollah and Iran’s approach to Israel’s Golan Heights border. So how do you get to yes?

You don’t have to be an artist of the deal to know that starting talks with the premise that you want to make the other players at the table happy puts you on course to losing your shirt. You surely don’t concede up front that Putin gets to keep his naval base in Tartus, for instance, or that Russia gets to carve out a mini-statelet for Syria’s Alawite community.

No, you start by not speaking directly with Russia at all. You negotiate with Putin by targeting Iran, through a variety of measures, including sanctions, clandestine operations, cyberwar, and a snare ready everywhere Tehran is likely to misbehave: the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, eastern Mediterranean, etc. And indeed, Flynn and the staff he’s put together at the National Security Council are eager to put Iranians back in the box that Obama let them out of.

In other words, the way to persuade Putin to abandon Iran is by showing him that it’s a bad investment, that his position in the region, which is based entirely on his partnership with an Iran that is growing in power and prestige, has been pulled out from under him, like a Persian carpet. Why keep throwing good money after bad?

It’s a risky gambit, which is perhaps why the Trump administration is floating rumors of trying to “talk” Putin out of his alliance with Iran, even as it seeks to target his allies. The other choice, however, is much riskier: to acquiesce to Obama’s vision of the region, where American allies and interests are at risk, and American adversaries are on the rise.

Lee Smith is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard.

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Trump Won’t Be Able to Talk Putin Out of His Alliance with Iran – The Weekly Standard

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February 14, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

Zarif takes apparent shot at Israeli ‘audacity,’ says Iran will never develop nukes – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Liberman and Zarif. (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM,REUTERS) Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said Sunday that Iran would never seek to build a nuclear weapon, taking an apparent shot at Israel for being the true nuclear-armed actor endangering the region. Without naming Israel specifically, Zarif said at the Munich Security Council that there were certain non-members of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty who were spreading accusations about the Iranian nuclear threat. “They have the audacity” to talk about the Iranian nuclear threat when they are “the destabilizing force in the region,” Zarif said. “We will never produce nuclear weapons, period,” Zarif said. The Iranian foreign minister added that Iran had committed to this in the nuclear deal signed with world powers, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but has yet to receive the reciprocal fulfilling of the deal from the other side. “The international community still owes us,” Zarif stated. In apparent response to US President Donald Trump’s comments that he was putting Iran “on notice” over ballistic missile tests last month, Zarif stated that, “We do not respond well to threats.” Zarif said that under so-called “crippling sanctions,” intended to curb Iran’s construction of centrifuges for enriching uranium, Iran had gone from having 200 centrifuges to having some 20,000 centrifuges. “We don’t respond to threats, we respond to mutual respect,” Zarif said. Republican US Senator Lindsay Graham, speaking on a panel at the conference immediately after Zarif, said that not a word the Iranian foreign minister was saying should be believed. “They’ve been trying to build a nuclear weapon,” Graham said. “If they say they haven’t, they’re lying.” “You don’t build a secret nuclear facility if you don’t want to build a nuclear weapon,” he added. Graham said that Iran was “a bad actor in the greatest sense of the word when it comes to the region,” calling Tehran out specifically for supporting Hezbollah and writing “Death to Israel” on its missiles. “I think it it is now time for the Congress to take Iran on directly in terms of what theyve done outside the nuclear program,” Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee stated. Graham said he and other Republicans would introduce measures to hold Iran accountable for its actions. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman was originally supposed to speak on the same panel as Zarif, however the event was changed and he spoke later in the day after the Iranian foreign minister. The defense minister accused Iran of trying to undermine stability in every country in the Middle East. Liberman called the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, Qassem Suleimani, “the number one terrorist in the world.” Liberman said that Israel has not seen more moderate behavior from Iran since the signing of the JCPOA. To the contary, he stated, since the signing of the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, Israel has seen: a competition organized in Tehran for the best Holocaust denial cartoon, with a prize of $50,000; parades in Tehran featuring ballistic missiles with Hebrew inscriptions, reading ‘Israel must be wiped out’; a State Department report finding that Iran is the number one state sponsor of terror in the world; Iranian development of ballistic missiles in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231; the persecution of Iran’s ethnic and religious minorities; and 600 executions in 2016, often with little or no due process of law. The defense minister said that the Iran nuclear deal was “an attempt to avoid reality,” and we were seeing similar results to what the nuclear deal with North Korea has yielded. He called for world powers to enforce a policy of economic pressure, tough policy and following through on UN resolutions, such as in the case of Iran carrying out ballistic missile tests. Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister also accused Tehran of being the main sponsor of terrorism in the world and a destabilizing force in the Middle East. “Iran remains the single main sponsor of terrorism in the world,” Adel al-Jubeir told delegates at the Munich Security Conference. “Its determined to upend the order in Middle East … (and) until and unless Iran changes its behavior it would be very difficult to deal with a country like this.” Al-Jubeir said Iran was propping up the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, funding the Houthi separatists in Yemen and violent groups across the region. He said the international community needed to set clear “red lines” to halt Iran’s actions. Reuters contributed to this report. Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin Prev Article ‘Blind sheik’ convicted in 1993 World Trade bombing dies in US prison

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February 19, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

Iranian commander: Attacking us would be ‘unwise’ – Arutz Sheva

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Reuters Iran is continuing its verbal attacks on the United States, with the latest comments coming on Saturday from Mohammad Pakpour, a commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Speaking at a press conference in Tehran and quoted by the semiofficial Fars news agency, the commander warned American officials to be wise and stop threatening Iran with military aggression. “U.S. statesmen should be very wise and avoid threatening Iran because the entire world has admitted this fact that the Americans cannot do such a thing,” said Pakpour, who added that attacking Iran would be unwise. Tensions between Washington and Iran have risen in recent weeks, after the Trump administration imposed new sanctions on 25 individuals and companies connected to Iran’s ballistic missile program and those providing support to the Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qods Force. The sanctions came in response to a ballistic missile test conducted by Iran last week, in violation of UN Resolution 2231, which bars Iran from conducting ballistic missile tests for eight years and which went into effect after the nuclear deal between Iran and the six world powers was signed. Irans Foreign Ministry reacted angrily to the sanctions, vowing that it too would ensure “legal restrictions” were imposed on the “American individuals and companies which have a role in aiding extremist and terrorist groups or contribute to the suppression and murder of the defenseless people in the region. The countrys Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, later dismissed calls from the Trump administration to cease the countrys ballistic missile tests, and said that Trump had showed the “true face” of America. Iran has also threatened to attack Israel in response to an American attack on Iran. A senior Iranian official recently threatened his country would immediately strike Israel if the United States “makes a mistake” noting that “only 7 minutes is needed for the Iranian missile to hit Tel Aviv.”

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February 19, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

Pence: Iran won’t have nuclear weapons to use against US or Israel – Jerusalem Post Israel News

The United States will stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons that can be used against it or Israel, Vice President Mike Pence told the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, just days after meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington. Under President [Donald] Trump, the US will remain fully committed to ensuring that Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon capable of threatening our country [or] our allies in the region, especially Israel, Pence said. The issue of Irans threat to the region, Israel and the US was a priority in the series of high-level meetings held in Washington last week, as Netanyahu made his first visit to the Capitol since Trump was inaugurated last month. Netanyahu plans to brief the cabinet about his trip at its weekly meeting on Sunday, before he departs for Australia. While in Washington, Netanyahu spoke with Trump, Pence and congressmen about the dangers of Irans nuclear program and his belief that the deal the Obama administration and five other world powers worked out with Tehran in 2015 to curb its nuclear capacity doesnt mitigate that threat. While the Obama administration had dismissed Netanyahus concerns, Trump and his administration are supportive. Just before landing in Israel on Friday, Netanyahu told reporters on the plane that Israels strategic security interests in the region will be improved as a result of his three-day trip to Washington. There is a joint strategic understanding and deep friendship, Netanyahu said of his conversation with Trump on Wednesday. The two men have known each other since the 1980s. It was an excellent meeting. It will have a large impact on our security, said Netanyahu, adding that under the Trump administration US-Israel ties, which are already strong, will be vastly improved. Netanyahu said there will be joint follow-up meetings between his staff and members of the Trump administration on the issues that were raised during his trip. Aside from Iran, there were also security discussions on Syria, ISIS and terrorism. In his weekly address to the American people on Friday, Trump said, The United States also reaffirmed our unbreakable bond this week with our cherished ally, Israel. It was an honor to welcome my friend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House. I affirmed to the prime minister Americas commitment to working with Israel and our allies and partners toward greater security and stability. The threat of terrorism and believe me, it is a threat must be confronted and defeated, and we will defeat it. We share with Israel a deep conviction that we must protect all innocent human life, Trump said. In an interview with Fox News before leaving Washington on Thursday, Netanyahu said the meeting with Trump was an historic one, best described as a meeting of the minds and of the hearts. Israel and the US always had a strong alliance, Netanyahu said, but now we have an even stronger alliance. There is a change coming to the Middle East when it comes to Israels relationship with its neighbors due to the rise of radical Islam, with ISIS leading radical Sunnis and Iran leading radical Shiites, Netanyahu said. The moderate Arab world is threatened by both, Netanyahu continued, as he explained that these countries view Israel as a country with a strong military that can stand against these threats, particularly Irans quest for hegemony in the region. As a result, they do not view us as their enemy but increasingly they see us as their ally against a common threat, the prime minister said. In my conversation yesterday with President Trump, he saw things in the same way and that opens up opportunities, he added. With regard to the nuclear deal with Iran, Netanyahu said Iran has become more dangerous since it was signed, is better funded and has sponsored more terrorism. Now they are going to build ICBMs that can reach the US and have the multiple warheads to do that. That is horrible, it is dangerous for America, dangerous for Israel and dangerous for the Arabs. Everyone now understands it and there is an American president that understands, and we are talking about what to do about this common threat, Netanyahu said. At Wednesdays joint press conference with Netanyahu, Trump said, One of the worst deals Ive ever seen is the Iran deal. My administration has already imposed new sanctions on Iran, and I will do more to prevent Iran from ever developing I mean ever a nuclear weapon. During Netanyahus time in Washington, there were issues raised that remain unresolved, including Israeli settlement construction and a request for the US to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. The US has asked Israel to hold back on settlement building. A mechanism is now being developed between the two governments, with the help of Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, to come to an agreement with regard to such activity. In an interview with Channel 2 on Friday, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said it was important to reach such an understanding with the US. He also cautioned politicians to refrain from their calls for unlimited building in Judea and Samaria, or to annex portions of Area C of the West Bank. If someone thinks that you can apply Israeli sovereignty over all of Judea and Samaria or the blocs or build indefinitely without an understanding with the White House, he is mistaken, Liberman said. In an interview with Channel 2 on Friday, Liberman said it is important to reach such an understanding with the US. He also cautioned politicians to refrain from their calls for unlimited building in Judea and Samaria or to annex portions of Area C of the West Bank. Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin

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February 18, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

Liberman panel with Iranian, Saudi FM at security conference cancelled – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Avigdor Liberman speaks at the Saban Forum. (photo credit:SABAN FORUM) After a schedule released Friday showed Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman sharing the stage with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif Sunday morning at the Munich International Security Conference, organizers have hurriedly rearranged. The two leaders from enemy states were set to take part in a session entitled Old crises, new Middle East along with Saudi Arabias Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. The presentation was announced Friday despite the fact that Israel currently does not have diplomatic relations with Iran or Saudi Arabia. While Israel’s connection with Iran is a hostile one, Israel has an informal connection with Saudi Arabia due to their shared interests on the issue of threat posed by Iran. Now, instead of having the four speakers together for a single session, with the BBCs Lyse Doucet moderating, organizers have cancelled the session and replaced it with four separate statements by the leaders. Zarif is now set to speak at 9 am, with a panel on US policy following at 9.20am and Liberman speaking at 10.05 am with Cavusoglu and Jubeir after. Speaking to Channel 2 news from Munich on Friday, Liberman said he had been looking forward to the panel, hoping to say exactly “what I think about the Ayatollah’s [supreme leader] regime in Tehran.” “I hope he will be in the hall when I’m speaking and hear what I think about the ayatollah’s regime in Tehran, and everything I said to the other defense ministers whom I met – the greatest danger to the stability of the entire Middle East is Iran.” During the conference Liberman is also set to meet with British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon, German Defense Minister Dr.Ursula von der Leyen, Canadas Minister of Defense Harjit Sajjan, and Singapores Defense Minister Dr. Ng Eng Hen. Liberman will also meet the foreign ministers of Russia Sergei Lavrov and Moldovas Andrei Galbur, as well as President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the minister of Bavaria Horst Seehofer Lorenz, and the President of Lockheed Martin Marillyn Hewson. According to a statement put out by his office, Liberman will discuss strengthening security cooperation between Israel and those countries as well as jointly dealing with the threat of regional terrorism. Radical Islamic terrorism has long been not just a regional problem faced by countries in the Middle East, but a global problem that affects different countries, almost indiscriminately, as part of an insane fanatical campaign against the free world, the statement quoted Liberman as saying, adding that one of the most important factors in dealing with this threat is cooperating across borders and continents, between all governments and relevant security agencies. On Friday morning Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman met with his American counterpart Gen.James Mattis in Munich for the first time since Mattis assumed his position as Secretary of Defense. During the meeting, the two discussed several matters, with Iran first and foremost among them. A statement released by Libermans office said that the three central problems facing the two countries and that must be dealt with were “Iran, Iran and Iran.” Lieberman stated that there is a need to build a genuine and effective coalition to deal with the terrorism that Tehran was spreading throughout the world, including the development of ballistic missiles and its continued attempts to develop nuclear weapons. Israels Defense Minister also stated that North Korea and Iran are two ends of the axis of evil that also includes Hezbollah and the Assad regime and Iran is the common thread. Mattis and Liberman agreed that they must act decisively against Iran, a statement put out by Libermans office read. During their meeting, the two also discussed other security issues related to developments in the Middle East and ways to strengthen cooperation between Washington and Jerusalem in dealing with them. The two concluded the meeting stating that the two countries are true allies and that they will continue to work together to maintain common interests of the two countries and agreed to meet again soon. Liberman and Mattis have previously spoken only by phone. The Munich Security Conference is held every year and hosts heads of state, foreign ministers, and defense ministers from around the globe. Over 30 heads of state of government and 80 foreign and defense ministers along with other officials are expected to attend the conference which opened on Friday. Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin Prev Article Netanyahu temporarily gives up control of communications ministry US and Israel defense ministers meet to discuss ‘Iran, Iran and Iran’ Next Article

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February 18, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

Why the Iran Nuclear Deal Must Stand – New York Times

New York Times Why the Iran Nuclear Deal Must Stand New York Times WASHINGTON Standing next to Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, at a news conference Wednesday, President Trump inveighed against the nuclear agreement with Iran , declaring it one of the worst deals ever made. On this matter, Mr. Trump … Washington encourages Israel-Arab alliance against Iran Yahoo News US, Israel at one against regional threat of Iran The Australian Benjamin Netanyahu largely correct on Iranian missiles with Hebrew-language threats PolitiFact ABC News  – Voice of America all 3,810 news articles »

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February 17, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

Iran looks to improve ties with Gulf neighbours – euronews

President Hassan Rouhani has called for greater unity between Shiite and Sunni Muslims during his first official visit to the Arab Gulf since being elected in 2013. On a visit to Kuwait he was welcomed by Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah. Relations between predominantly Shiite Iran and the mainly Sunni Arab countries of the Gulf,particularly Saudi Arabia, remain strained over their support for opposing sides in Syria and Yemen. While Iran has supported Bashar al Assads regime in Syria and Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen, the Arab Gulf states namely Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have supported the Syrian opposition as well as the Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadis embattled government. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain cut diplomatic relations with Iran in January 2016 after protesters torched the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates recalled their envoys in a show of solidarity with Riyadh. Earlier Rouhani was in Oman for talks with Sultan Qaboos. Oman was prominent in helping mediate secrets US -Iran talks in 2013 that led to the historic nuclear deal signed in Geneva two years later. But Tehrans January missile test has provoked new sanctions from the Trump administration and caused alarm in Israel at what has been called blatant violations of the deal.

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February 16, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

Benjamin Netanyahu largely correct on Iranian missiles with Hebrew-language threats – PolitiFact

President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a joint press conference on Feb. 15, 2017. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of the danger to his country from Iranian ballistic missiles in his first joint news conference with President Donald Trump. Israel has been firmly opposed to the United States-Iran nuclear agreement even before it was signed during the Obama administration. Trump was often critical of the deal on the campaign trail. Two weeks before the Feb. 15 news conference, Iran tested a medium-range ballistic missile that could theoretically reach Israel, as well as many other targets in the region. The Trump administration considers Irans Jan. 29 test to be against the terms of the agreement, while Iran considers it permissible. Days later, the Trump administration announced new sanctions on Iran, specifically citing the missile test as the reason. At the news conference, Netanyahu said his goal, and Trumps, is to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. “I think beyond that,” he said, “President Trump has led a very important effort in the past few weeks, just coming into the presidency. He pointed out there are violations Iranian violations on ballistic missile tests. By the way, these ballistic missiles are inscribed in Hebrew, Israel must be destroyed. Iranian Foreign Minister (Mohammad Javad) Zarif said, Our ballistic missiles are not intended against any country. No, they write on the missiles in Hebrew, Israel must be destroyed.” A reader asked us to check what Netanyahu said about the Hebrew lettering. So we took a closer look. The Israeli Embassy in Washington did not reply to an inquiry, but we found news reports from March 2016, such as this one in the Times of Israel, that discussed such an incident. The claim was sourced to the Fars news service, which has been described as a “semi-official” organ of the Iranian government. We tracked down the Fars article, dated March 9, 2016. It said that the the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had successfully launched two “Qadr H” ballistic missiles at a target in southeastern Iran 1,400 kilometers away. It described the Qadr as a liquid-fueled ballistic missile that “can reach territories as far as Israel.” (The Obama administration condemned the test.) “One missile,” the Fars post said, “had a message written on it that said in Hebrew, Israel should be wiped off the Earth. ” The English-language version of the Fars site didnt include the exact words, but the Times of Israel article showed a screenshot of the Farsi-language page, which specifies the Hebrew phrase “Yisrael Tsricha LeHimachek MeAl.” The Times of Israel noted dryly that “the words mean Israel must be wiped out from. Apparently, Irans Hebrew writers intended to complete the phrase with something to the effect of the face of the Earth but messed up their translation.” The translation of the Hebrew in the Times of Israel article is accurate, said Michael J. Koplow, policy director of the Israel Policy Forum, a group that advocates for a negotiated two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians. Koplow and other experts said they see no reason to doubt the accuracy of the Fars post. “This story has the ring of truth to it because I do not see why Iran would lie about it,” said Michael M. Gunter, a Tennessee Technological University political scientist who studies the region. We wont quibble over the exact wording, which Netanyahu got wrong but which conveys the same message. But we will raise one caveat. Hearing Netanyahus comments, one could assume that hes talking about the most recent missile tests from January 2017, rather than the ones from 2016. Not only did his comment about the Hebrew lettering immediately follow a mention of the most recent tests, but he used the present tense to say that “these ballistic missiles are inscribed in Hebrew.” We found no evidence that the most recent round of tests included missiles with threats written in Hebrew letters. “It is striking to me that Prime Minister Netanyahu must go back to an Iranian report of a March 2016 ballistic missile test to make his point about malign Iranian intentions,” said Greg Thielmann, a former foreign service officer and Senate Intelligence Committee staffer who is now a board member at the Arms Control Association. He suggested that the Hebrew lettering may have been “a one-time event, and not necessarily authorized in Tehran.” The botching of the text may suggest that the gambit was ad-hoc “sloganeering” by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, “rather than an explicit policy dictated from the top,” Thielmann said. Our ruling Netanyahu said, “President Trump has led a very important effort in the past few weeks, just coming into the presidency. He pointed out there are violations — Iranian violations on ballistic missile tests. By the way, these ballistic missiles are inscribed in Hebrew, Israel must be destroyed. ” Hes right that there was such an incident (with slightly different wording) during an Iranian ballistic missile launch in 2016. However, its worth noting that, despite Netanyahus implication, there is no evidence of a repeat when Iran undertook its most recent test in 2017. We rate the statement Mostly True. https://www.sharethefacts.co/share/ae08540a-2931-4912-8149-8db6ea117789

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February 15, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

Trump to host Netanyahu in meeting focused on Iran, Middle East talks – ABC News

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet face-to-face with President Trump on Wednesday, setting the tone for what both leaders hope to be the dawn of a new era for the U.S.-Israel relationship. Analysts say that the meeting will hope to project a public theme of unity between the two governments on topics including Iran, Israeli settlements and the fate of the peace process. “Both President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu have a very big stake in wanting to demonstrate that whatever the problems were with the last administration, they’re now gone,” Dennis Ross, a diplomat and former special Middle East coordinator under Clinton, told reporters on a call this week. While close security and economic ties between the U.S. and Israel continued and expanded during the previous U.S. administration, Netanyahu and then-President Obama often sparred on a number of key issues, particularly over the contours of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement and the U.S.-brokered Iranian nuclear deal, which the Israeli leader forcefully denounced. “There’s a strong presumption [now] to send a message how close things are between the two leaders … to demonstrate that the U.S. and Israel are on the same page strategically and practically,” Ross added. Analysts say that while Iran is likely to figure at the top of Netanyahu’s agenda, Israeli settlements, the location of the U.S. Embassy and the peace process are also likely to factor in. Iran “The Prime Minister probably comes in with an agenda very heavily focused on Iran,” Ross said. Much of that focus concerns Iranian policy in the region and the nuclear agreement signed in 2015 between Tehran and the so-called P5+1, which Netanyahu opposed. During his campaign, Trump voiced strong opposition to the Iran nuclear deal and in recent weeks has taken to Twitter to directly threaten Iran. While the administration has thus far continued U.S. participation in the agreement, Trump has expressed an interest in re-negotiating its terms. Ross said Netanyahu is unlikely to demand a scrap to the agreement altogether, in part because he is determined to work well with Trump out of the gate. “I think what he [Netanyahu] wants is some understanding — and awareness not just about enforcement of the deal but that more needs to be done to deter the Iranians,” Ross said. Writing on Facebook on Jan. 30 after an Iranian ballistic missile test, Netanyahu said that Iranian aggression must not go unanswered, pledging to discuss with Trump the renewal of sanctions against Iran in this context and in other contexts. In retaliation to the ballistic missile test, the Trump administration on Feb. 3 announced sanctions against Iran, a narrowly tailored action that did not alter the terms of the nuclear agreement that saw Iran receive sanctions relief in exchange for curbs to Tehrans nuclear program. Embassy moves On the campaign trail, Trump pledged to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a move opposed by past U.S. administrations because both Israelis and Palestinians claim it as their capital. The U.S. has long maintained that the status of the city should be determined in final status negotiations between the two parties. Still, there have been some suggestions that Trump has slightly softened his stance. “His policy seems to be settling back into the mean,” former U.S. Ambassador to Israel under President Obama, Daniel B. Shapiro, told Israeli TV channel i24, “which is to support efforts to a two-state solution, to support efforts to limit settlements and not to do things that might be disruptive and moving the embassy might fall into that category.” “It’s not an easy decision,” Trump said last weekend to the Israeli right-wing newspaper Israel Hayom, a free daily which is supported by Trump donor and Netanyahu patron Sheldon Adelson. “It’s been discussed for so many years. No one wants to make this decision, and I’m thinking about it seriously.” But Netanyahu has long supported the move, and is likely to again bring it up. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and it is proper that not only should the American Embassy be here, but all embassies should come here, Netanyahu said in January. Settlements Since Trump took office on Jan. 20, Netanyahu has ratcheted up settlement expansion, a signal that the White House is far less critical of building in the occupied Palestinian territories than past administrations. In the last three weeks, Netanyahu announced the approval of more than 6,000 housing units and the first new settlement since the 1990s. The United Nations considers settlements illegal, and they have long been a bone of contention between the U.S. and Israel. But Trump’s pick for U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, is an ardent supporter of Israeli settlements and has opposed the two-state solution. Nonetheless, Trump in the same interview with Israel Hayom seemed to moderate past statements, saying settlements were an obstacle to peace. “There is limited remaining territory. Every time you take land for a settlement, less territory remains,” he told the newspaper. “No, I’m not someone who believes that advancing settlements is good for peace.” Peace negotiations President Trump has called reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace the “ultimate deal,” and has identified his son-in-law and senior adviser the president Jared Kushner as the man for the job. “I think we can reach an agreement and that we need to reach an agreement,” Trump told Israel Hayom. “I want Israel to act reasonably in the peace process, he added. Briefing reporters Tuesday night, a White House official said that the peace process was a priority, but would not commit to pushing the two-state solution which has been the cornerstone of U.S. policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades. “Maybe, maybe not,” the official said in response to a question about the two-state solution. “It’s something the two sides have to agree to. It’s not for us to impose that vision.” The official added: “We’re looking at the two sides to come together to make peace together and we’ll be there to help them.” When asked by a reporter on the tarmac leaving Tel Aviv this week if he stands by a two-state solution, which he has at various times opposed or supported, Netanyahu responded: Come with me, you will hear very clear answers, very clear answers.”

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February 15, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed

Trump Won’t Be Able to Talk Putin Out of His Alliance with Iran – The Weekly Standard

Since President Trump’s election, American allies and other foreign policy observers have been curious to know how the new White House intends to resolve an apparent contradiction. How is it possible that Trump seems keen to make some sort of deal with Vladimir Putin while expressing belligerent contempt for Russia’s key Middle East ally, Iran? There may be an answer: Recent press reports indicate the Trump team will try to lure Russia away from Iran. The chances for success are slim. Moscow and Tehran’s alliance was cemented in Syria, where both have historically backed the Assad regime, first Hafez al-Assad and later his son Bashar. Both have supported Bashar al-Assad against an array of opposition forces since the Syrian conflict erupted in the summer of 2011. Four years later, with Assad and Iranian forces in danger of losing the war, Qassem Suleimani, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’s expeditionary Quds Force unit, visited Moscow to beg the Russians for more help. Putin consented. He escalated Russia’s position in Syria with men and materiel, and marked it with naval installations and airstrips. Ever since, Russian planes have flown in support of Iranian, Hezbollah, and other Iranian-backed ground forces. Rumors regarding points of conflict between Russia and Iran continue to circulate, but this is not, as many have called it, a “marriage of convenience,” but a strategic alliance in which each actor depends on the other. The notion that it is possible to separate Moscow from Tehran is apparently based on two historical precedents. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was intelligence chief for Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq during the surge. Coalition forces were able to ensure relative stability in Iraq as the Sunni tribes were induced to turn their weapons on foreign fighters they had previously aligned with to battle coalition troops. The second precedent is Egyptian president Anwar Sadat’s decision after the October 1973 war with Israel to leave the Soviet fold and ally with the United States. Sadat’s move proved such a boon to America’s Cold War efforts against Moscow that American policymakers tried to get other Soviet clients to jump, chief among them Syria’s Hafez al-Assad, who nonetheless clung to Moscow. Even after the Cold War, American diplomats continued their efforts in the Levant by courting Hafez’s son Bashar, to see if he’d abandon his patrons in Tehran. Bashar never had any intention of jumping; he had simply learned from his father that dangling possibilities in front of American diplomats brings them to the table with incentives and promises, all of which you can pocket to enhance your own prestige without giving the Americans a thing. What two generations of American policymakers who dealt with the Assad family seem to have missed is that Sadat came to his decision on his own. The Soviets were bad for Egypt, Sadat believed, and the Americans and their money were the future. The same was true three decades later of Iraq’s Sunni tribes, which concluded that al Qaeda and the foreign fighters who occupied Iraq to fight the Americans were a dead end. Better to work with U.S. forces to get rid of them. Both Sadat and the Iraqi tribes were, in the parlance of the intelligence world, walk-ins who volunteered to change sides. Washington added various incentives to facilitate decisions that greatly benefited the United States, but there was little even the subtlest and most creative diplomats, policymakers, or dealmakers could have offered had the tribes and Sadat not already shown signs they were looking to jump. Now, it’s certainly possible that the Russians are privately sending messages to the Trump administration that they’re willing to entertain a deal to abandon the Iranians. But it’s highly unlikely. The Russia-Iran alliance is a strategic relationship in the most fundamental way. When Vladimir Putin surveys the Middle East, he sees a post-1973 landscape, what the Middle East looked like after Sadat embraced the United States. The region is covered with American allies, from Israel to Egypt, from Turkey to Saudi Arabia and the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. Sure, Barack Obama put American allies in a hard spot by forsaking them all, creating a vacuum filled by Moscow, where traditional U.S. regional partners were compelled to petition Putin on bended knee. But eight years is a relatively short period compared to the decades during which Washington established strategic relationships in the region, through arms deals and security arrangements and economic and cultural exchanges. When Putin looks at the region, he sees only one empty space on the boardIran. There is simply no way for the Russians to project power or manage their regional interests without Iran and its partners, like Hezbollah. Asking Putin to abandon the Iranians is like asking him to leave the Middle East. And that’s the kind of deal the Trump administration should be angling for in the region. The United States doesn’t want Putin on NATO’s Turkish border. It doesn’t want Russia sending missiles to Syria, as it did last week. The White House doesn’t want Russia compromising Israel’s air superiority in the eastern Mediterranean, and it surely doesn’t want Russia backing Hezbollah and Iran’s approach to Israel’s Golan Heights border. So how do you get to yes? You don’t have to be an artist of the deal to know that starting talks with the premise that you want to make the other players at the table happy puts you on course to losing your shirt. You surely don’t concede up front that Putin gets to keep his naval base in Tartus, for instance, or that Russia gets to carve out a mini-statelet for Syria’s Alawite community. No, you start by not speaking directly with Russia at all. You negotiate with Putin by targeting Iran, through a variety of measures, including sanctions, clandestine operations, cyberwar, and a snare ready everywhere Tehran is likely to misbehave: the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, eastern Mediterranean, etc. And indeed, Flynn and the staff he’s put together at the National Security Council are eager to put Iranians back in the box that Obama let them out of. In other words, the way to persuade Putin to abandon Iran is by showing him that it’s a bad investment, that his position in the region, which is based entirely on his partnership with an Iran that is growing in power and prestige, has been pulled out from under him, like a Persian carpet. Why keep throwing good money after bad? It’s a risky gambit, which is perhaps why the Trump administration is floating rumors of trying to “talk” Putin out of his alliance with Iran, even as it seeks to target his allies. The other choice, however, is much riskier: to acquiesce to Obama’s vision of the region, where American allies and interests are at risk, and American adversaries are on the rise. Lee Smith is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard.

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February 14, 2017   Posted in: Iran  Comments Closed


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