Iran's Anti-U.S. Conspiracies - Michael Crowley (Politico)
A top Iranian general, Ahmad Reza Pourdastan, the commander of Iran's ground forces, recently claimed that the U.S. staged the 9/11 attacks as an excuse to invade the Muslim world.
Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, has repeatedly said that the Islamic State was deliberately created by the West to divide Muslims and bomb their countries.
Iranian state television recently claimed that Sen. John McCain met personally with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Sunni militant group's caliph.
Last September, Khamenei added that the West also created al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
During an appearance on state TV last July, Valiollah Naghipourfar, an Iranian cleric and professor at Tehran University, calmly asserted that Israel's intelligence-gathering prowess is fueled by supernatural powers. "The Jew is very practiced in sorcery," he said.
ICC Says Palestinians Too Could Face War Crimes Probes (AFP)
International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has said she is weighing opening war crimes investigations into Palestinians as well as Israelis after Palestine joined the tribunal's jurisdiction last month.
"We will of course look into the alleged crimes committed by all sides to the conflict, she told Israel's Ha'aretz on Friday.
"At this stage we are not investigating, as a decision on whether to open an investigation in the situation of Palestine has not been made," she said.
Yemeni Fighters Trained in Persian Gulf Are Said to Join Saudi-Led Mission - Saeed al-Batati and Kareem Fahim (New York Times)
Yemeni fighters believed to have received training and weapons in the Persian Gulf entered combat around the city of Aden on Sunday, joining with militiamen who are battling Houthi rebels.
The Saudis appear to be more aggressively empowering proxy forces on the ground, including tribes with longstanding ties to Saudi Arabia.
A Yemeni official said hundreds of tribal fighters had been trained by the Saudis to fight the Houthis in the central Marib Province. And local militias fighting the Houthis in Aden and Taiz say they have received weapons shipments from the Saudi-led coalition.
UN Report Outlines How Hamas Used Kids as Human Shields - Editorial (New York Post)
A UN report published last week confirmed that during last summer's war Hamas stored mortars and other weapons in at least three UN schools and fired rockets at Israel from two of them.
Hamas, desperate to win world sympathy by any means, has always been happy to use Palestinian innocents as human shields - the more casualties, the better.
Hamas has long used UN facilities as a staging grounds and observation posts for attacks on Israel. And the UN barely raised an objection - unless and until Hamas was caught and called out.
Iranian Support for Palestinian Terrorism (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
The Al-Ansar charity in Gaza is affiliated with Islamic Jihad, serving the Iranians as a pipeline for funds to finance terrorism in Gaza and as a way to increase Iran's influence over the Gazan population.
Al-Ansar supports the families of terrorists who were killed or imprisoned in Israel.
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- Top Iranian Commander Tells Negotiators to Block Enemy Infiltration "Under the Pretext of Nuclear Supervision and Inspection"
Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Maj.-Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi sent a message to his country's team of negotiators on Sunday mentioning specific redlines that should receive due attention in a final nuclear deal.
He reminded Foreign Minister Zarif and his negotiating team of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei's recent order to block any possible pathway that enemies could take to infiltrate "Iran's defense and security affairs under the pretext of nuclear supervision and inspection."
"Iran's military officials are not at all allowed to stop the country's defense development and progress on the pretext of supervision and inspection and the country's defense development and capabilities should not be harmed in the talks." "Our support for our brothers in the resistance (front) in different places should not be undermined in the talks at all," he added.
- Iran Steps Up Covert Action in Latin America - Adam Kredo
The Iranian government is significantly boosting its presence and resources in Latin America, posing a security threat to the region, according to U.S. and Latin American officials who met last week in Florida to discuss Iran's covert actions. "It is troubling in some of the briefings we get, particularly on the classified side, to see Iranian influence in Latin America," said Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), a member of the House Committee of Foreign Affairs.
Iran is providing its officials with passports from Venezuela and other countries, giving them free rein to travel throughout South America. Iran has forged close ties with Argentina, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Bolivia, among others. Luis Heber, a member of the Uruguayan senate, said at least 10 Iranian agents suspected to be members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards have been spotted in his country carrying Venezuelan passports. There is "a clear penetration of Iran in our country," he said.
Iran currently hosts at least 80 so-called cultural centers in the region and has doubled the number of embassies in the region since 2005. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), vice-chair of the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, asked: "How is it they have Iranian consulates in Latin America?...Iran is penetrating the Western Hemisphere and it's not for cultural exchanges or approval of travel documents....This makes no sense...other than espionage, subterfuge, and illicit activities." (Washington Free Beacon)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Netanyahu: "No Iran Deal Is Better than This Bad Deal" - Shlomo Cesana, Daniel Siryoti, and Dan Lavie
In an interview with Israel Channel 10 TV on Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry accused critics of the framework nuclear deal with Iran of "hysteria." Meanwhile, in a video message marking the Washington Institute for Near East Policy's 30th anniversary on Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "Preventing Iran from being able to build nuclear weapons is the foremost challenge of our generation. Unfortunately, the Lausanne framework fails to meet this challenge and if it will be realized, it will make the world a much more dangerous place."
"But it's not too late. Countries around the world must have the courage and the resolve to hold out for a better deal, one that will actually do the job of blocking Iran's path to the bomb. Now, there are those who say that the Lausanne framework will make Israel safer. As the prime minister of Israel, I can tell you categorically: This deal will endanger Israel, big time."
"But it's not just Israel that will be endangered. The Middle East and the entire world will be threatened. A better deal is necessary. A better deal is possible. A better deal must and can be achieved. But if not, no deal is better than this bad deal." (Israel Hayom)
- Body of Missing Israeli Found in Nepal - Noa Shpigel
The body of Or Asraf, 22, the last Israeli unaccounted for after the earthquake in Nepal last week, was discovered on Sunday following a wide-scale rescue mission in the area where he was last known to be hiking, Israeli rescue services said.
Asraf's body was found by a rescue team composed of his former comrades from the IDF's elite Egoz reconnaissance unit and commanded by his unit commander after a long and intensive search in impossible conditions, the Asraf family said in a statement. Asraf fought in the 2014 Gaza war, "during which he retrieved dead and wounded comrades during the difficult battle of Shuja'iya and was himself moderately wounded in the battle." (Ha'aretz)
See also Father of Hiker Killed in Nepal: "I Am Happy We Can Bring Him Home" - Tovah Lazaroff
For over an hour, 20 Israeli rescuers in Nepal walked on foot on Sunday night with the body of Or Asraf out of a remote area of the Langtang to a safe spot in a nearby village, eight days after he was killed in an avalanche after a massive earthquake. (Jerusalem Post)
- A First-Person Account of the Tragic Earthquake in Nepal - Rabbi Chezky Lifshitz
The Chabad-Lubavitch Jewish center in Kathmandu, Nepal, has become a pseudo-embassy for Jewish visitors and Israeli travelers. On Saturday morning the ground began trembling beneath our feet. Running outside, I witnessed absolute destruction. Buildings crumbled in front of my eyes. My first reaction was to worry about the trekkers we knew, who may be trapped on remote mountain trails.
We immediately got to work, gathering the names of the missing. Then the calls began coming in from abroad: "Please help locate my son, my daughter." Since last year's ferocious blizzard, we began stocking satellite phones that we give to backpackers. It was much easier to locate trekkers this time as a result of these phones.
Soon after the initial quake, volunteers began to treat a number of injured at the Chabad center. Many of the travelers in Nepal come from Israel after their military service and we organized volunteers with military medic training. We dispatched 20 Israeli volunteers on motorcycles, who can get to the very distant places.
All throughout the day, hundreds of trekkers return to Kathmandu, coming from the mountains and villages. They arrive, weak, tired and hungry. We were constantly bringing huge pots of hot soup out of the kitchen, and we started spreading out sleeping bags and blankets everywhere, arranging places for hundreds to sleep.
Dozens of Israelis who came to Nepal to rest or to trek the Himalayas are now out in the field, volunteering and helping the local population. They have joined our team and are now feeding thousands of people. The writer is director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Nepal.
- Can Congress Help Obama Get a Stronger Iran Deal? - Francine Kiefer
Supporters of congressional review of any final deal with Iran believe that overwhelming support for the bill can help U.S. negotiators reach a better nuclear deal with Iran, particularly when it comes to verification and sanctions relief - two areas where Tehran and Washington disagree. "A united Congress with the White House...gives the administration a stronger hand on negotiations," said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the lead Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Tehran says publicly it expects sanctions relief as soon as a deal is reached. The White House and Congress argue that Tehran needs to prove itself first. Strong resolve on the Iran bill now could give the White House leverage on this and another area of disagreement in the talks – a robust inspection and verification process, senators say.
The U.S. insists that international inspectors be able to go wherever they have suspicions, but Iran says military bases are off limits. So-called "anytime, anywhere" inspection is the "linchpin" of any deal, said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) agrees. "From the left, center, and right in the Senate...it's the inspections regime as the guarantor of Iranian compliance that is probably the piece that is most important." The U.S. can argue, "Hey, I've got this tough Congress I need to convince," says Kaine.
(Christian Science Monitor)
Israeli Security Policy in Syria - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- The attempted Hizbullah attack thwarted in the northern Golan Heights on April 26, 2015, and the air strikes apparently carried out by the Israeli Air Force on April 21 and 24 against military targets in Syria, as reported in Arab media, join a series of similar incidents over the past three years. The attacks purportedly targeted advanced weapons being stored before their transfer to Hizbullah in Lebanon.
- Apart from isolated cases, Israel has avoided directly responding to reports on the strikes and merely made declarations about its general policy. Syria and Hizbullah, for their part, have generally refrained from addressing the reports publicly and have not mounted a military operation as a direct response to the strikes.
- The attacks and reported air strikes indicate an ongoing battle between Israel and the Iranian-led radical axis to set the rules of the game in Syrian territory and the severity of the threat that the radical axis can pose to Israel from the north.
- Hizbullah is seen as the military arm of Iran, its main purpose being to fight Israel and Iran's other adversaries in the region. It is trying to acquire more precise missiles, with longer ranges and heavier warheads, along with anti-ship and anti-aircraft systems, and more.
- Hizbullah's involvement in Syria creates legitimacy for anti-Lebanese activity by Sunni radicals. Its deep involvement in the Syrian civil war is nowhere near its conclusion and will continue to exact a heavy price.
Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser is Director of the Project on the Regional Implications of the Syrian Civil War at the Jerusalem Center. He was formerly Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the Research and Analysis and Production Division of IDF Military Intelligence.
See also Hizbullah in the Crosshairs
Israel is anxious to stop Hizbullah from acquiring more accurate missiles which can target specific strategic installations and might be armed with chemicals. "They are closing the qualitative gap," warned the outgoing head of the IDF Home Front Command, Maj.-Gen. Eyal Eizenberg. Israel's northern border with Syria on the Golan Heights, which used to be the quietest, has become unstable. Israeli generals give warning of Hizbullah "opening a second front against Israel on the Golan." (Economist-UK)
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