15 new treaties signed by Abbas - including multiple treaties Palestinians are currently violating - blasted for endangering negotiations
- 15 new treaties signed by Abbas - including multiple treaties Palestinians are currently violating - blasted for endangering negotiations
- Congress launches pushback against Iran's appointment of UN ambassador linked to 1979 hostage takers
- Turkish opposition shows photographs of vote count irregularities, amid swirling charges of election tampering
Palestinian officials on Wednesday issued a release listing 15 international treaties to which they will now seek to join as the "State of Palestine," adding detail to a Tuesday gambit by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas under which Ramallah renewed its campaign to upgrade the Palestinians' status in international institutions. The move was widely seen as violating the terms of U.S.-backed peace initiative pushed by Secretary of State John Kerry, which had among other things been explicitly premised on Palestinian commitments to abstain from such maneuvers. Abbas gave a speech declaring that abrogating those commitments should not be interpreted as a repudiation of the U.S. initiative, but interpretation may have fallen short of being persuasive. A meeting between the Palestinian leader and Kerry, originally scheduled for Wednesday, was promptly canceled. The Palestinians subsequently revealed the list of treaties to which they intend to ascend, with Abbas signing and Palestinian diplomats on Wednesday submitting papers codifying those intentions. The list appears to be a hodge-podge of international agreements, with some having to do with minority rights, others having to do with the trappings of statehood, and still others seemingly chosen as PR bludgeons against Israel. Analysts quickly raised concerns regarding the Palestinians' willingness or abilities to enforce those various treaties. Bar Ilan University Professor Gerald Steinberg, who also heads the watchdog group NGO Monitor, openly ridiculed the suggestion that Abbas - who sits atop of a Palestinian political infrastructure marked by endemic corruption, and who himself is serving a ninth year in his originally four year President term - would enforce the United Nations Convention against Corruption. It is unclear whether the Fatah-controlled PA will be able to enforce treaties such as The Convention on the Rights of the Child in the Gaza Strip, which Palestinian officials consider part of the "State of Palestine" but in which Hamas routinely trains thousands of child soldiers. There were several treaties signed by Abbas on Wednesday which the Palestinians appear to be in straightforward violation of. Northwestern University School of Law professor Eugene Kontorovich had early on Wednesday gestured toward a deep tension between the Palestinians joining The International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid while working towards a state from which Jewish settlers would be expelled. He might have added that Palestinian law currently bars West Bank Arabs selling their homes or properties to Jews on pain of execution.
Reuters reported Wednesday afternoon that Russia and Iran were advancing on a scheme that would see the Iranians bartering roughly 500,000 barrels of oil a day in exchange for Russian goods, a plan that the outlet said would "enable Tehran to boost vital energy exports in defiance of Western sanctions" and which the White house had previously gone so far as to identify as the source of "serious concerns." Iranian officials reportedly estimate that the oil-for-goods deal would be worth $20 billion to the Islamic Republic, gifting Tehran with revenue far beyond what was envisioned by the partial sanctions relief provided by the interim Joint Plan of Action (JPA). Diplomatically, the move would be read as in tension with State Department talking points - shared with lawmakers and journalists - insisting that Russia would "compartmentalize" tensions over Crimea and continue to back Western efforts to secure Iranian nuclear concessions. Substantively, the deal would deepen increasingly trenchant concerns that Washington had lost control of the partial sanctions relief provided by JPA, and that the patchwork of restrictions is in danger of coming undone. Both issues directly implicate renewed moves on the Hill to reassert a Congressional voice in negotiations with Iran. Bipartisan majorities of lawmakers in both parties have long sought to pass legislation that would impose financial pressure on Iran in the future should negotiations fail to convince Tehran to verifiably put its atomic program beyond use for weaponization. The White House fought something of a political war against those efforts, arguing that new legislation would cause divisions between the West and Russia, and that in any case no new pressure was needed because the sanctions regime was holding. A scenario under which Russia split from the West to bust the sanctions regime would likely complicate the administration's arguments.
Lawmakers in both chambers of Congress are moving to enact legislation that would prevent Iran from securing a visa for its newly appointed ambassador to the United Nations, just a day after Businessweek had already described the choice of Hamid Aboutalebi as creating a "dilemma" for President Barack Obama's diplomacy toward the Islamic Republic. Aboutalebi was a member of the Muslim Student Followers of the Imam's Line when the group in 1979 seized scores of Americans inside the U.S.'s Iran embassy and subsequently held them for 444 days. Analysts had quickly assessed that allowing Aboutalebi to serve in New York on Iran's behalf would be seen by U.S. allies as evidence that "Washington is willing to ignore Iranian misbehavior in our pursuit of a nuclear accord." The Hill reported Tuesday that Senators were urging President Obama to act against the Aboutalebi appointed, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced legislation that would empower the president to deny a visa to any U.N. representative considered a terrorist. The legislation was reported as having bipartisan support - it garnered positive quotes from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) - and on Wednesday parallel legislation was introduced in the House by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO). The administration has sought to remain largely circumspect on the issue, with State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf describing visa procurement procedures as "obviously confidential." It is unclear how long such a stance can be maintained. Skeptics of the White House's engagement with Iran - which administration officials have sought to insulate from interference by insisting that a positive "spirit of Geneva" must be maintained - have portrayed the pick as a deliberate provocation.
An official from Turkey's main opposition party on Tuesday showed journalists a photograph of a top figure from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) standing next to a police chief and an election official as votes were counted in Antalya during the country's March 30 local elections, the latest in a series of alleged irregularities that have generated protests throughout the country. Devrim Kok, the head of the Republican People’s Party (CJP)'s Antalya office, expressed outrage over "a minister who comes to the courthouse and stands over the votes during counting." The controversy comes amid several others related to last weekend's polling, with AKP opponents calling attention to everything from discarded ballots marked for opposition candidates to mysterious blackouts in opposition-heavy areas. Turkey’s blackouts had initially been blamed on a cat said to have wandered into local electrical infrastructure, but subsequent investigation suggested that the NATO country’s electricity infrastructure has probably been hardened beyond the reach of stray felines, and that the blackouts seemed to correlate with areas supplied by pro-government electricity firms. Turkey has recently made a series of moves aimed at dampening criticism of the AKP government, with the most controversial being a series of internationally criticized bans on access to Twitter and Facebook instituted on the eve of the recent elections. The country's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Tuesday lashed out at the European Union over such criticism, declaring that EU diplomats should consult with Ankara before criticizing Ankara.
Reports: "Surprise move" by Palestinians to renew UN diplomatic warfare endangers peace process, U.S. interests
- Reports: "Surprise move" by Palestinians to renew UN diplomatic warfare endangers peace process, U.S. interests
- New figures estimate over 150,000 dead in Syria, as analysts warn Hezbollah involvement "could fan flames into a wider regional conflict"
The Associated Press reported late Tuesday on what the outlet described as a "surprise move" by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to go to a range of United Nations bodies requesting membership for the "State of Palestine." The AP noted that the declaration came "despite a promise to suspend such efforts during nine months of negotiations with Israel," and that it risked collapsing the delicate U.S.-backed effort to push forward a framework peace agreement. Israel had in recent days made an offer to extend talks, and had even reportedly teed up another prisoner release aimed at securing further negotiations. The Israelis had undertaken three previous rounds of releases to bring the Palestinians to the table and keep them there. The Israeli offer to extend talks was rejected, and the Palestinian announcement that they were turning to the UN came within days. Abbas said that he would like to continue pursuing negotiations with the Israelis despite the Palestinian gambit. The position is likely to come off as too clever by half. The entire basis of the nine month-long U.S.-backed peace initiative was that the Palestinians would abstain from seeking membership in UN institutions. Kerry almost immediately canceled a planned trip to Ramallah, which had been scheduled for Wednesday, in light of Abbas's decision. Any Palestinian success would immediately trigger black-letter U.S. laws that cut off funds to UN bodies that give the Palestinians membership. U.S. diplomats, hoping to avoid such confrontations, have long opposed unilateral moves by the Palestinians to gain membership in UN institutions. A Heritage Foundation report co-authored by Brett D. Schaefer and James Phillips a few years ago went even further, bluntly identifying past unilateral moves as "threaten[ing] United States and Israeli interests" and "undermin[ing] all internationally accepted frameworks for peace." Palestinian gambits at the UN have more pointedly been seen as corroding the basic framework of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The land-for-peace formula requires the Israelis to give up tangible, functionally irreversible concessions in exchange for Palestinian commitments. The fear has always been that the Palestinians will negotiate only as long as they can extract territory or prisoners, and that they will then pocket what they've gained and walk away. Abbas’s moves seem set to confirm those fears.
Iran's Fars News outlet reported on Tuesday that Tehran is aggressively courting foreign investors, conveying among other things statements made by Valiollah Afkhamirad, the head of Iran’s Trade Development Organization, declaring that the interim Joint Plan of Action (JPA) inked last November in Geneva had created "a suitable atmosphere... [for] investors in Iran and they have become highly interested in business" with the Islamic Republic. The article more specifically discussed a call made on Monday by Mahmoud Vaezi, Iran's Minister of Communications and Information Technology, emphasizing that "Iran has invited world countries to invest and collaborate in projects to establish partnerships for ultra broadband corridors" across the country. The calls echo a February boast by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif announcing that the sanctions relief outlined by the JPA had transformed Iran into a place that was "open for business." They came alongside other reports describing a "steady flow of Western executives" into Iran. Meanwhile British financial reporter Matt Lynn assessed on MarketWatch that Iran seems primed to become "one of the hottest investment opportunities of the next two decades." The Iranian strategy seems primed to deepen a very particular worry regarding the possibility that the JPA's partial erosion of the international sanctions regime will prevent financial pressure from being reimposed on Iran: Foreign entities that become invested in Iranian markets are likely to mobilize political pressure to prevent any moves to close those markets back off. Brookings fellow Michael Doran had already in January speculated that the JPA "has created an influential economic lobby in the West dedicated to ensuring" that sanctions are not tightened again. Such concerns have become more pitched in recent months, as Iran has moved in to encourage foreign investment across a range of industries.
Turkish security officials on Tuesday turned water cannons on protestors marching in reaction to widespread allegations that this weekend's local elections - which saw the Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan secure a plurality of the votes - were marked by fraud, intimidation, and mysterious power outages in opposition-heavy districts. Residents of the Turkey’s Duzici district, where the AKP candidate beat his nearest opponent by 440 votes, reported finding discarded ballots marked for an opposition party in at least six area polling stations. Reports of power outages were brushed off by municipal authorities as mostly the result of bad weather or - in one case - a rogue feline. Ankara, where the AKP candidate defeated the next opponent by less than a percentage point, was one of several cities in which protestors demanded recounts. The election had already been marked by irregularities, most prominently a government ban against Twitter and YouTube that had generated global ridicule and international condemnation. The new controversies, to say nothing of the government's response to those controversies, are unlikely to dampen growing criticism that Turkey has more or less ceased to be a functioning liberal democracy. In late February over 80 top U.S. foreign policy figures called on President Barack Obama to take action to halt "Turkey’s current path," and declared that "silence will only encourage Prime Minister Erdogan to diminish the rule of law in the country even further."
Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Tuesday conveyed recent figures from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) assessing that more than 150,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict, amid another string of prominently reported gains by forces fighting on behalf of the Bashar al-Assad regime. Exact figures have been notoriously difficult to come by - the United Nations has quite literally stopped trying to tally the deaths - but SOHR calculated that the numbers include over 7,900 children. On Monday Al Arabiya reported that pro-regime forces had "recaptured on Monday a key position in the coastal province of Latakia," a victory that came shortly after "government forces, backed by Lebanese Hezbollah fighters... triumphed against the opposition along the border area with Lebanon." The victories were seen as critical to Hezbollah's effort to stop the transit of Sunni jihadists across the Lebanon-Syria border, and triggered what local media described as "an atmosphere of contentment" in areas of Lebanon controlled by the Iran-backed terror group. Washington Institute Senior Fellow Andrew Tabler on Tuesday nonetheless emphasized that Hezbollah's activities in Syria were hardening sectarian divisions in Lebanon, with the result being "increased suicide car bombings, Sunni-Shiite tension, and armed clashes." The resulting political instability, according to Tabler, "could fan the flames into a wider regional conflict that Hezbollah and Iran cannot put out and cannot afford."
New York, Sept 20 – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has not nailed down the nine votes he needs in the United Nations Security Council to even get the world body to vote on his unilateral bid for full U.N. membership, western diplomats said this week.
One western ambassador said that according to his count, the Palestinians were at least one and possibly two votes short, with several members of the Security Council yet to announce their positions. Abbas has said he would formally submit the membership bid after delivering a speech to the United Nations on Friday.
“After all this time, the Palestinians have still not secured nine votes,” the senior diplomat said in a conversation with representatives from The Israel Project. Other sources said an actual vote might be put on hold for several weeks to allow the parties to avoid a showdown.
The Palestinian bid for membership is certain to fail in any case because the United States has promised to veto the resolution if necessary. Like Israel, President Barack Obama has made it clear that the U.N. move is a distraction and that peace can only be achieved through negotiations.
Under Security Council rules, a resolution requires nine positive votes and no vetoes from any of the permanent five members in order to win approval. The United States, Germany and Colombia are expected to oppose. Britain, France, Portugal, Bosnia, Nigeria and Gabon have not announced their positions.
"We decided to take this step and all hell has broke out against us,"Abbas said on Monday. "From now until I give the speech, we have only one choice: going to the Security Council. Afterwards, we will sit and decide."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address the United Nations shortly after Abbas on Friday. “I think we should go there and present our truth… of a people attacked over and over by those opposed to their very existence. That is the most basic truth," he said before leaving Israel.
Also on Tuesday, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Ron Prosor, said in an interview that Israel “is ready to negotiate tomorrow,” with the Palestinians.
Prosor discussed attempts to arrange a meeting between Abbas and Netanyahu while they were both in New York.
“We repeat that we are ready for negotiations with no conditions even early tomorrow morning,” the Israel envoy said.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said diplomats were still hoping to avert a crisis. A vote would be unlikely to take place on Friday, giving time for diplomacy aimed at restarting peace talks, he told Europe 1 radio.
"There's a procedure for dealing with such requests and it can take a few days or weeks more, which means there is room for other initiatives," Juppe said. "We hope to find a way of convincing all involved to get back around the negotiating table, and in a serious fashion."
If Abbas fails to muster nine votes in the Security Council, that would be seen as a stinging defeat. He could then go to the General Assembly and win a symbolic majority with the backing of non-aligned states, many of which are also non-democratic – but GA decisions are not binding on the world body and have no significance under international law.
Abbas also has to deal with the possible economic fallout of his move for the people of the West Bank. The U.S. Congress may cut the roughly $500 million in U.S. aid per year to the Palestinians if they go ahead with their U.N. bid.
"Really, the risk of PA collapse is very real under the financial strain," said Jihad al-Wazir, the Palestinian Authority's central bank chief.
Saudi Arabia said on Monday it would pay the Palestinian Authority $200 million, which could help in the short term but would not fully replace lost U.S. funding.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon warned that Iran is copying North Korea in order to develop its own nuclear weapons capabilities and the U.N. Security Council must take "firm, decisive and effective" action.
His comments came as press reports revealed Iran’s nuclear chief was present in North Korea last week when Pyongyang, known for having one of the worst human rights records on the planet, conducted its third nuclear bomb test in violation of international treaties.
According to the report, Iran’s Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi is currently pursuing technology that would enable his country to assemble a nuclear warhead compact enough to be attached to the ballistic-missile technology it already possesses, Western intelligence sources reportedly said.
The U.N. leader apparently disclosed that when he visited Tehran last year, he told Iranian leaders directly he did not believe their claims that their nuclear program was peaceful,The Telegraph newspaper reported.
Iran has repeatedly refused to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, with the IAEA concluding last year that “Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device.”
“We should not give much more time to the Iranians, and we should not waste time,” Ban told The Washington Post. “We have seen what happened with [North Korea].”
North Korea has supplied advanced missile technology to Iran, stoking fears that North-Korean-designed missiles may be used to launch Iranian atomic bombs. For decades Iranian leaders have held massive public rallies where masses of Iranians chant “death to America, death to Israel.”
Iran’s Shahab-3 long-range missile is based on the North Korean Nodong-1 and is estimated to have a range of up to 2,000 kilometers. In December, Iranian agents were reportedly on hand in North Korea for a long-range missile test.
Both Iran and North Korea are already under severe sanctions for their refusal to comply with several Security Council resolutions.
Western nations and the U.N. have held three rounds of negotiations in the past last year with Iran, but failed to make any progress in getting Iran to allow IAEA inspectors into its top secret nuclear development sites. Another round of talks is schedule for February 26 in Kazakhstan between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers.
Media reports Sunday suggest a damaging explosion at Iran’s top-secret Fordow nuclear development site took place last week, leaving as many as 190 workers dead.
Following the blast, the main road from Qom to Tehran was closed for several hours, the German newspaper Die Welt reported. If the reports are to be believed, the explosion was perhaps the most serious blow against the Iranian nuclear program to date.
However, Fordow is only one of several key Iranian nuclear sites that contribute greatly to the widely-suspected weaponization of the Iranian nuclear program. Critical damage to the Fordow facility would slow down, but not end the Iranian nuclear program.
Fordow, one of Iran’s largest fuel-enrichment plants, is located in a fortified secret bunker buried outside the city of Qom. In violation of international agreements, Iran failed to declare the construction of the facility, and admitted to its existence only after it was exposed by Western intelligence. Iran also admitted to violating United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions by enriching uranium to 20 percent at Fordow. Enrichment of this kind is militarily significant as it enables an easy and quick shift to weapons-grade 90% enriched uranium in a matter of months.
The U.N. banned Iran from enriching uranium after the repeated failure by Tehran to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nuclear watchdog. The IAEA concluded “Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device.”
The international community fears that a nuclear Iran would make the region even more volatile, and would continue to enable violence and terrorism throughout the world. As the leading sponsor of international terror, Iran, even without nuclear weapons, has supported attacks directly targeted at Americans and Israelis across the world.
Syria, as a satellite of Iranian-backed terror, has killed over 60,000 of its own citizens in its current civil war. Senior Iranian official Ali Akbar Velayati threatened that the overthrow of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad is a clear “red line”, declaring that “any foreign attack on Syria would be considered an attack on Iran.”
Reaffirming the Iranian commitment to the destruction of the “Zionist regime,” Iranian Armed Forces Chief of Staff Major General Hassan Firouzabadi reiterated Iran is “standing for its cause that is the full annihilation of Israel.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented Sunday as the world marked international Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Iranians were continuing both to deny the Holocaust and pursue their goal of destroying the Jewish state. “They are not halting their unceasing and methodical race to obtain atomic weapons for the purpose of realizing this goal. We are not taking these threats lightly.”
Jerusalem, Jan. 13 – The director of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog agency is pessimistic that Iran will end years of obstinacy and begin cooperating with the international community in talks scheduled for later this month.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Yukiya Amano said the “outlook is not bright" for hopes that his agency will be able to resume its stalled investigation into suspected atom-bomb research by Iran. The IAEA wants access to a military base Western powers suspect has been used for nuclear weapons-related work.
"Talks with Iran don't proceed in a linear way. It's one step forward, two or three steps back...So we can't say we have an optimistic outlook" for the meeting slated for this month, Amano said.
Western diplomats say Iran has worked for the past year to cleanse its top-secret Parchin nuclear facility of any evidence of illicit activities, Reuters reported. The Islamic republic has been under increasingly-harsh international sanctions over its refusal to abide by repeated U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding it open its nuclear program to inspection.
Iran’s image appears to be suffering, according to a global-attitudes poll that shows it is one of the most unpopular countries in the world.The Washington Post commented: “It doesn’t give you much faith in Iran’s supposed leadership of the Muslim world that they’re not even liked in most surveyed countries.”
The only country to give Iran a positive rating was Pakistan, while in the Arab world the best Iran could do was a 39% rating in Lebanon. Despite Tehran’s massive intervention in their country through its proxy Hezbollah militia, the majority of Lebanese appear to dislike Iran’s meddling that dragged Lebanon into a war with Israel after Hezbollah launched an unprovoked attack in 2006.
Jerusalem, Sep. 16 – As the Jewish New Year 5773 is set to begin at sundown on Sunday, here is a timeline of some of the significant events that occurred during the Hebrew calendar year of 5772:
September 29, 2011: New Year 5772 in the Hebrew calendar begins.
October 11, 2011: U.S. officials reveal Iranian plot to assassinate Saudi ambassador in Washington.
October 18, 2011: Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is released after being illegally held hostage for more than five years by the Hamas terror group in Gaza. Israel releases 1,027 Palestinian prisoners including convicted terrorists.
October 29, 2011: Terrorists in Gaza fire a rocket into Israel, killing a man in his apartment in Ashkelon. The attack is just one of 58 rocket and mortar attacks by terrorists in October.
November 8, 2011: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) releases damning report indicating that it has “credible evidence” that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.
December 27, 2011: Iran’s Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi threatens to block the vital Strait of Hormuz to choke the world’s oil supply.
January 1, 2012: Bulgarian authorities uncover a bomb aimed at a bus taking Israeli tourists to a ski resort.
January 4, 2012: The European Union responds to Iran’s refusal to respect repeated U.N. Security Council resolutions and decides in principle to impose an embargo on purchases of Iranian oil.
January 12, 2012: Thai police arrest a Lebanese Hezbollah operative trying to flee the country and trace him to a stash of chemicals for manufacturing explosives.
January 24, 2012: A three-man terror cell traced to Iran is arrested and charged with plotting to carry out attacks on the Israeli ambassador and Jewish targets in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.
February 13, 2012: Attacks on Israeli and Jewish targets in Thailand, India and Georgia. Iranians arrested.
- In New Delhi, India, a terrorist attaches a bomb to an Israeli embassy car that explodes, injuring the driver and a passenger.
- In Tbilisi, Georgia, an Israeli embassy employee discovers a bomb attached to his car. Police successfully neutralize the explosives.
- On February 14, a bomb destroys an apartment only blocks from the Israeli embassy in Bangkok, Thailand. Two Iranians flee the scene, while a third is wounded after throwing bombs at a taxi and police car that end up injuring him. A fourth Iranian is arrested trying to flee to neighboring Malaysia. A day later another Iranian traced to the same terror cell is arrested in Malaysia.
February 17, 2012: Israel's Counterterrorism Bureau issues warning that attempts to harm Israelis around the world will continue.
March 17, 2012: Indian investigators conclude Iranians linked to earlier bombing attacks in India and Thailand. Police issue arrest warrants for three Iranian men who fled the country.
March 19, 2012: Terrorist gunman claiming to be an Al-Qaeda member attacks a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, murdering a teacher and three young schoolchildren. The terrorist had previously shot and killed three French soldiers, wounding a fourth who was left a quadriplegic.
May 20, 2012: Iranian press publishes a statement by Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Hassan Firouzabadi who says: "The Iranian nation is standing for its cause that is the full annihilation of Israel."
May 25, 2012: IAEA issues new report stating: “Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation” and that the IAEA “is unable … to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.”
June 1, 2012: Israeli soldier shot and killed by gunman from Gaza, who is killed by return fire.
June 18, 2012: Terrorists attack across the Egypt-Israel border and kill an Israeli civilian.
June 25, 2012: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacts to the election of Mohamed Morsi as Egypt’s new president saying: “Israel looks forward to continuing cooperation with the Egyptian government on the basis of the peace treaty between the two countries, which is a joint interest of both peoples and contributes to regional stability,”
July 2, 2012: Iranian nationals with explosives trying to attack Israeli targets arrested in Kenya.
July 14, 2012: Police in Cyprus arrest a man for allegedly planning attacks against Israeli interests there.
July 17, 2012: Three more rockets are fired from Gaza into Israel, bringing to at least 513 the number of rockets and mortars fired at Israeli civilians from Gaza so far in 2012.
July 18: Terrorist bomb in Burgas, Bulgaria kills seven and wounds more than 30 – three of them critically. Attack comes on the 18th anniversary of the Hezbollah bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, that killed 85 people.
August 5, 2012: Terrorists affiliated with “Global Jihad” kill 15 Egyptian security officers and steal two vehicles, using one to blow their way through the border. Israeli forces destroy the second vehicle inside Israel and kill the attackers. Egyptian sources say attackers had help from Jihadists in Gaza.
August 22, 2012: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei orders new terror attacks on Western targets.
September 14, 2012: Terrorists fire a rocket from Gaza that misses its target in Israel. During 5772 at least 676 rockets and mortars were fired at Israeli towns and cities.
September 15, 2012: U.N. envoy to Syria says more than 18,000 people, mostly civilians, have died since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began 18 months ago. Some 2.5 million Syrians are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
Washington, Sept. 14 — Jews worldwide are preparing to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, amid a new burst of violence in the Middle East and heightened threats by Iran, which is seeking to develop a nuclear weapon.
Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown on Sunday (Sept. 16). During the two-day holiday that kicks off the High Holy Days, Jews listen to blasts from the shofar and reflect on their actions during the past year untilYom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Yom Kippur begins at sundown on Sept. 25.
Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, is marked by a 25-hour period of fasting and prayer. In Israel, most activities are suspended, including TV and radio broadcasts and public transportation. Roads are closed, as are entertainment venues.
Jews in Israel and around the world will beef up security during the High Holy Days because enemies have in the past used the period to carry out attacks. The most notable example is the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when Arab armies attacked Israel as Jews were in synagogues praying and fasting.
This year – 5773 on the Jewish calendar – begins as demonstrations once again rock Arab countries, from Egypt and Libya to Iraq and Yemen. Rioters this week killed four people at the Libyan Consulate in Benghazi - U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stephens and three other diplomats.
Protesters said they were incited by an obscure film that depicted the Prophet Mohammed in insulting ways.
Iran, meanwhile, is increasing the pace in its quest to develop a nuclear weapon, despite U.N. Security Council sanctions and a new rebuke this week from the international community. In the near-unanimous condemnation, the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expressed “serious concern” about Iran’s continued defiance of sanctions that demand the Islamic republic stop enriching uranium that could be used for a nuclear bomb and answer questions about its nuclear program.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog reported last week that Iran had boosted its capacity to enrich uranium at its Fordow underground site. On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported new intelligence over the past month indicating that Iran has moved further toward the ability to build a nuclear weapon. The intelligence shows that Iran has advanced its work on calculating the destructive power of an atomic warhead through a series of computer models that it ran sometime within the past three years.
Iran’s leaders, who deny the Holocaust, have called repeatedly for the destruction of Israel – the only United Nations member-country that has made such threats. The Islamic republic also trains, arms and funds terrorist groups including Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, and has promised to share its nuclear know-how with like-minded countries.
Such threats haven’t stopped leaders such as President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from offering traditional well-wishes for a sweet and happy New Year.
Netanyahu’s video greeting includes a timeline of major events during the past year. In the video, the prime minister said, “We will continue to successfully navigate our country… protect our security, workplaces, our economy in the face of a tumultuous and volatile region and unstable international economy."
President Obama extended New Year’s wishes for a “year full of health, happiness, and peace.” In his video message, the president said, “At a time when our public discourse can too often seem harsh; when society too often focuses on what divides us instead of what unites us; I hope that Americans of all faiths can take this opportunity to reach out to those who are less fortunate; to be tolerant of our neighbors; and to recognize ourselves in one another.”
Washington, Sept. 5 - The Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will take place in Vienna Sept. 10-14. This closed meeting of the governing body of the United Nation’s nuclear watchdog will focus on Iran’s illegal nuclear weapons program.
Here are some key facts certain to be debated:
- IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano filed a 14-point document to the agency’s 35-member Board of Governors on Aug. 30. The day before, the IAEA established a special task force on Iran. The team will include experts from several fields to pool the Vienna-based watchdog's limited resources more efficiently.
- Negotiations between the IAEA and Iran to bring the Iranian program under international inspection and supervision have completely failed. International sanctions have also failed so far to rein in the Iranian program.
- Western nations are expected to ask to present a resolution to the IAEA board of governors to formally rebuke Tehran over its failure to cooperate with the agency's inquiry.
- The report made several key points about the Iranian program.
- Uranium Enrichment Continues Unabated: In the three months since the IAEA's last report, Iran has steadily added to its inventory of enriched uranium at all three of its declared centrifuge plants. Iran's total stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium, including from the underground fortified Fordow plant, is now nearly 200 kilograms, about 50 kilograms more than three months ago. Iran's biggest enrichment plant, at Natanz, has now put out just under 7,000 kilograms of uranium enriched to 3.5 percent, compared to about 3,500 kilograms at the beginning of 2011 and 1,000 kilograms at the beginning of 2010.
- No Iranian Cooperation on Weapons Allegations: Last November, Amano published detailed evidence suggesting that, since the late 1980s, Iran had carried out nuclear weapons-related research and development activities. The new report spells out that Iran has persistently refused to comply with IAEA requests to address these allegations.
- Iran also developing plutonium plant: The U.N. Security Council has ordered Iran to suspend construction at Arak of a heavy-water reactor typically used to generate weapons-grade plutonium. Iran has continued to defy those resolutions.
- Explosives testing at Parchin: Iran continues to deny IAEA inspectors access to this plant 20 miles south of Tehran where they suspect nuclear simulation explosions have been tested, a strong indicator of weapons development. The IAEA has surveillance evidence that Iran is working hard to cover up traces of these tests.
According to an analysis by the Institute for International Science and Security, Iran has increased its production of 20 percent enriched uranium, bringing it close to weapons-grade while the number of installed centrifuges at the underground Fordow enrichment plant has doubled.
Iran has produced enough low-enriched uranium to build five nuclear devices if that material were further enriched to weapons grade.
The IAEA gave the following details for journalists covering the meeting:
Amano will open the meeting with an introductory statement which will be released to the public after delivery. He will then hold a press conference around lunch time on Sept. 10.
Jerusalem, Aug. 26 – Iran rejected the latest attempt by the International Atomic Energy Agency to have international inspectors determine if its nuclear program is not military, with a news report calling the failure a “setback in efforts to resolve the stand-off diplomatically.”
Diplomatic sources said Iran installed many more uranium enrichment centrifuges at its secrete Fordow underground site where it has refused repeated IAEA requests for inspection, Reuters reported. The IAEA concluded previously that Iran has taken steps to develop nuclear weapons. Iran insists its program is peaceful, but refuses to allow the IAEA to confirm.
The IAEA’s frustration has grown over the past decade as Iran continues to reject the findings of 37 IAEA reports, 15 IAEA resolutions and six United Nations Security Council resolutions, which all demand that Iran come clean on its nuclear program. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano in a damning speech earlier this year said his agency could not conclude that the Iranian nuclear program was for peaceful purposes.
“It is hard to believe that anyone – not least Israel– would disagree with the conclusion that diplomacy is the preferred strategy for dealing with Iran,” two top Israeli experts on Iran wrote in the Times of Israel. “Not only has a string of diplomatic initiatives been attempted for almost a decade, all of these efforts have met with failure,” said Ephraim Asculai and Emily Landau. “Indeed, (U.S. President Barack) Obama came into office with his hand outstretched to all U.S. adversaries, and got a slap in return from Iran.”
Beyond the festering nuclear issue, U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague slammed what he called “Iran’s utter disregard for the most fundamental human rights.”
“Iran’s continued, widespread persecution of ethnic minorities, human rights defenders and political prisoners is a disgrace and stands as a shameful indictment of Iran’s leaders,” Hague said.