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Netanyahu Slams Iranian Aggression; Tehran Threatens Nuclear Response to Deal Collapse

PM Netanyahu addresses Christian Media Summit in Jerusalem. Photo courtesy of Amos Ben-Gershom (GPO)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday had a litany of accusations to share about Iranian misdeeds in the Middle East, from religious persecution to attempting a regional takeover. Earlier that same day, Iran reminded everyone of their ultimate threat by openly warning they would halt additional nuclear inspections if the nuclear deal between them and the major powers were to be annulled. “If the nuclear deal is annulled, we will stop implementation of the Additional Protocol,” said Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi according to a report by the Fars News Agency.

That “Additional Protocol” refers to expanded access to Iranian sites and information for the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), according to the agency’s website. But even if the deal is kept as is, Salehi said Iran still isn’t letting international inspectors see everything, specifically emphasizing that Iran won’t permit inspections of their military sites.

Refusing access to those sites was one complaint from United States President Donald Trump, which he noted in last week’s speech are suspected of having played a role in Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program, per the White House website. Netanyahu, for his part, reemphasized the danger posed if the nuclear deal with Iran remains as is, while also detailing what else Iran has been doing in the region. He again applauded Trump for saying that too. … Continue Reading

Israel, Regional Allies Applaud Trump Call to Better or Bust Iran Nuke Deal

President Donald Trump delivers remarks on the Iran Strategy. (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen)

United States President Donald Trump on Friday delivered a message that American allies in the Middle East have been waiting to hear: either improve the Iran nuclear deal, or cancel it altogether. “I am directing my administration to work closely with Congress and our allies to address the deal’s many serious flaws so that the Iranian regime can never threaten the world with nuclear weapons,” said Trump in comments posted to the White House website. “…However, in the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated. It is under continuous review, and our participation can be cancelled by me, as President, at any time.”

In particular, Trump wants changes to the so-called “sunset clauses” that cut back on restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities in coming years. The Iran nuclear accord is a controversial multilateral agreement between the major world powers and Iran that was put in place during the administration of Trump’s predecessor, former-President Barack Obama. The deal offered sanctions relief to Iran in exchange for concessions by Iran limiting their nuclear activities.

In addition to Trump’s ultimatum to fix the nuclear deal or else, he also announced plans to place “tough sanctions” on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the powerful government-sponsored paramilitary group that has been involved in terrorism around the world. Israel, Saudi Arabia and others in the region expressed their support for Trump’s new approach to Iran. … Continue Reading

Hamas Refuses to Give Up Weapons; Gaza Rocket Fired at Israel

October 8, 2017 Peace and Conflict

Hamas has fired thousands of rockets at Israel over the years, among other acts of terror. Illustrative photo of spent Rockets fired from Gaza. By Joshua Spurlock.

The reconciliation efforts between the Hamas terror group and the Palestinian Authority (PA) may be moving along, but Hamas has made it clear what’s not changing: their weapons. Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem was quoted by the Ma’an News Agency as arguing on Saturday that their weapons “are legal” and are intended to defend Palestinians and take land they claim from Israel—“therefore, this should not be an issue to discuss.”

One day later, a rocket was fired from the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip at Israel. According to the IDF Spokesperson’s Twitter feed, no injuries were reported and the rocket ultimately landed inside of Gaza. Nonetheless, the Tweet noted that “this rocket fire endangered Israelis & violated Israeli sovereignty.” The IDF Spokesperson said that they responded with tank fire that destroyed a Hamas outpost.

“The IDF holds Hamas responsible for any terror activity perpetrated against Israel from the Gaza Strip,” tweeted the IDF Spokesperson. … Continue Reading

Trump Envoy Says Palestinian Unity Government ‘Must Commit to Nonviolence’, Recognize Israel

October 2, 2017 Peace and Conflict

Will Trump achieve Middle East peacel? U.S. President Donald Trump (left) meets Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right). Illustrative. Photo courtesy of Kobi Gideon (GPO)

While the United States is welcoming the efforts of the Palestinian factions to re-unite under the leadership of the supposedly moderate Palestinian Authority, they still have expectations as to what that new Palestinian government should do. In a statement published on Monday by the American Envoy on the Middle East peace process Jason Greenblatt to Twitter, the representative wrote that the U.S. “stresses that any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence.”

Greenblatt, the White House Special Representative for International Negotiations, said the Palestinians also must commit to “recognition of the State of Israel, acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties, and peaceful negotiations.”

Given that the Hamas terrorist group is the counterparty to the latest reconciliation process with the Fatah party that leads the P.A., those American expectations seem likely to be disappointed. Hamas has repeatedly refused to halt its violent attacks on Israel or to recognize the State of Israel. … Continue Reading

Palestinian Reconciliation Moves Forward as Hamas Leader Warns Process ‘Could Be Long’

October 1, 2017 Peace and Conflict

Could Abbas also shake hands with Hamas? U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson with Palestinian President Abbas. Illustrative. Photo Courtesy of U.S. State Department

The latest Palestinian governmental reconciliation process is underway, with officials from the Palestinian Authority (PA) led by the Fatah faction starting to enter Hamas-controlled Gaza on Sunday, according to report by the Ma’an News Agency. An Egyptian security delegation also arrived in Gaza, per the report. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum welcomed the Egyptians in a statement published to the Hamas website. “The visit is a result of the Cairo understandings between Egypt and Hamas and a continuation of the Egyptian efforts to support the Palestinian reconciliation and to end division. We, in Hamas, are working to lead the highly appreciated Egyptian efforts to success.”

Meanwhile, a news report on the Hamas website reported that the group’s political head, Ismail Haniyeh spoke by phone with PA and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas on the topic of receiving that PA official delegation. Despite the signs of progress, Haniyeh warned in a statement one day earlier that the overall process may take a while. … Continue Reading

Netanyahu: Palestinian Acts ‘Severely Impair Chances of Achieving Peace’

September 27, 2017 Peace and Conflict

PM Netanyahu at Ceremony Marking 50 Years of Settlement. Photo courtesy of Haim Zach (GPO)

The comatose peace process between Israel and the Palestinians has taken another round of near-death blows. The recent terror attack in Jerusalem that murdered three Israelis was troubling enough to Israel, but the Palestinian response to that attack—or lack thereof—was serious enough to not just result in a complaint from Israel to the United States. It led to a grim assessment by Israel of the potential for peace at all, delivered to the American envoy who was in town to discuss how to revive that very peace process.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told U.S. Envoy Jason Greenblatt that “the actions of the Palestinian leadership in recent days severely impairs the chances of achieving peace,” according to a press statement from Netanyahu’s office. … Continue Reading

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