- U.K. NGO, already embroiled in anti-Israel scandal, accused of funding Palestinian terror affiliates
- Iran doubles down on strict limits to nuke talks, refusal to negotiate over ballistic missiles
- Over 80 U.S. foreign policy figures call on Obama to confront Turkey over democratic downward spiral
Iranian officials ban reformist newspaper, send managing editor to notorious torture prison
- The Oxfam International aid group has been partnering with at least two subsidiaries of an internationally designated terrorist organization, and has been providing them with financial assistance and "additional forms of material support," according to a letter from The Israel Law Center sent to Oxfam and conveyed Thursday by the Washington Free Beacon. The letter called on the Oxford-based NGO to sever its ties with the Union of Health Workers Committees (UHWC) and the Union of Agricultural Workers Committees (UAWC), two Palestinian groups that center described respectively as the "health organization" and the "agricultural organization" of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The PFLP, in turn, has long been designated as a terrorist entity by the United States and European Union, due to terror attacks stretching back to the early 1970s. The letter cites a range of evidence linking both of the subsidiary groups to their alleged parent organization, and bluntly notes both that the groups are "instrumentalities" of the PFLP and that "Oxfam readily acknowledges it works very closely with" them. Oxfam has spent recent weeks mired in controversy after former goodwill ambassador Scarlett Johannson resigned her position due to Oxfam’s public position that Israeli communities beyond the country's 1949 armistice lines should be economically boycotted and isolated. The advocacy has been blasted by critics as an anti-Semitic call to wage economic warfare against Israeli Jews. Revelations that Oxfam has been supporting groups waging literal war against Israel are likely to deepen skepticism regarding the group's motives regarding the Jewish state.
- Iranian officials and media outlets on Thursday continued to press their recent and repeated position that the scope of comprehensive nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 global powers will be limited to topics addressed in the interim Joint Plan of Action (JPA), risking a scenario in which the Obama administration may appear as having been badly out-maneuvered by Iranian negotiators. The claim was made earlier this week by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who repeated it on Thursday in Geneva. Iranian media trumpeted both sets of comments, specifically emphasizing that the stance precludes discussions of Iran's ballistic missile program. The Iranian position threatens to deflate the Obama administration's air of confident diplomacy in multiple ways. White House officials had justified precluding certain topics from the JPA - up to and including the development of Iranian missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons - by insisting the interim agreement was designed to be limited, and that the momentum it provided would create opportunities for discussing broader issues later on. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman subsequently went further, explicitly assuring lawmakers that Iran's ballistic missile program would be a subject for final nuclear talks. Evidence that the administration has badly mismanaged the agenda of comprehensive talks is likely to fuel growing calls for strict Congressional oversight of administration moves as the diplomatic processes unfolds.
- The Daily Beast on Thursday conveyed the contents of a letter signed by what the outlet described as "more than 80 top foreign policy figures from across the political spectrum," calling on President Barack Obama to confront Turkey over Ankara's ongoing crackdown against civil liberties, human rights, and the rule of law. The letter came after a week in which analysts and journalists across at least three continents publicly worried that Turkey had de facto ceased to be a functioning democracy. The letter was organized by the center-right Foreign Policy Initiative and the center-left Center for American Progress, along with the Bipartisan Policy Center and Freedom House. A summary of the text is here and the full letter is here [PDF]. It assessed that that "[Turkish] Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is increasingly undermining... Turkey’s growing democracy," thereby threatening "a central pillar of the decades-long, strategic U.S.-Turkish partnership." Declaring that "silence will only encourage... Erdogan to diminish the rule of law in the country even further," the letter's signatories urged the President to "make clear to the Turkish public America’s concern about Turkey’s current path." Coverage in Turkish outlet Today's Zaman specifically picked out portions of the letter that described how Erdogan had last December lashed out against U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone, accusing Ricciardone of seeking to undermine the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and implying that he could be expelled from the country.
- Iranian officials on Thursday raided a reformist newspaper just days after its launch, banning the outlet and arresting its managing editor over published comments that described Islam's eye-for-an-eye vengeance doctrines as "inhumane." Abbas Bozorgmehr had already been forced to walk back his statements - the editor had declared to Iranian media that the description was an "unintentional mistake" - but he was nonetheless arrested and dispatched to Iran's notorious Evin prison. Reporting on the incident has been tangled, with outlets arguably seeking to reconcile the substance of the story with months of generous media coverage hailing the election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as a sign of impending reforms. Describing the controversy, the Associated Press made a point of emphasizing that while "Iran has banned newspapers and jailed journalists in the past... such measures haven't happened since moderate President Hassan Rouhani took office in August." In addition to appearing wrong - Iran's reformist Bahar daily was banned by authorities last August, and the reformist Hamihan was shuttered shortly thereafter - it is also difficult to align the statement with the rest of the article.
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