October 4, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

German Banks Pull Plug on Trade with Iran - Mathias Bruggmann (Handelsblatt-Germany)
    German banks are increasingly refusing to accept payments from Iranian banks, apparently more scared of the U.S. than of the EU.
    "80 to 85% of all payments to German banks are being rejected," said Helmut Gottlieb, director of the Hamburg branch of Bank Melli Iran.
    The Bundesbank, Germany's central bank, says it can't force banks to accept payments.
    The EU responded with a "blocking statute" that threatened European businesses with legal action if they complied with restored U.S. sanctions, but bankers said they have a right to reject payments despite the statute.
    "All banks can decide not to do business related to Iran, for example, if it entails a strategic business risk or because we can't rule out that the Revolutionary Guards may be involved in the end," said the compliance chief of a major German bank.

UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid: Brother's School Trip to Israel 40 Years Ago Inspired My Support for Country - Justin Cohen (Jewish News-UK)
    UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid told Conservative Friends of Israel on Tuesday that after his brother's school visit to Israel at age 11, "My dad explained the history, how it came about and why it is such a special place. Since then I always wanted to visit."
    He first traveled to Israel on his honeymoon and returned repeatedly.
    "I vowed to myself that whatever opportunity I get in government I will always try to help and support Israel, and that's what I've done ever since."

French Government Suspends Demand for West Bank Product Labeling (JTA)
    French authorities have suspended their insistence on special labeling for West Bank products which was adopted in 2016, Israel's Kan TV reported Tuesday.

IDF Denies Shooting Palestinian Farmer in Gaza - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    The Israel Defense Forces rejected a Palestinian claim that troops on Tuesday shot dead an elderly farmer in Gaza.
    An army spokesperson said the IDF had not opened fire in the area at the time of his death and that the location was over a kilometer from the security fence.

Anti-Israel Group Calls on EU to Cancel Israeli-Palestinian Gathering - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    The anti-Israel Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has called on the EU to cancel a program in December called "Israeli and Palestinian Young Leaders at the European Parliament," since the event promotes normalization between the two peoples.
    The campaign is likely to prompt some of the Palestinians to withdraw from the event.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • International Court of Justice Orders U.S. to Lift Some Sanctions on Iran
    The International Court of Justice in The Hague on Wednesday ordered the U.S. to "remove, by means of its choosing, any impediments arising from" the re-imposition of sanctions to the export to Iran of medicine and medical devices, food and agricultural commodities and spare parts and equipment necessary to ensure the safety of civil aviation. The U.S. is expected to challenge the court's jurisdiction in a future hearing. (AP-NBC News)
  • U.S. Sanctions on Iran Already Have a Humanitarian Exemption - Kim Hjelmgaard and Deirdre Shesgreen
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Wednesday that the U.S. is canceling a decades-old economic treaty with Iran after a ruling by the International Court of Justice to lift any sanctions-related measures that affect Tehran's imports of humanitarian goods.
        Richard Goldberg, a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the "U.S. sanctions already have a humanitarian exemption for food, medicine and agricultural commodities - an exemption the mullahs often use to make money on the black market while denying the Iranian people access to humanitarian goods. As for civil aviation, perhaps the court should be better educated on how Iran misuses its civil air fleet to ship arms to terrorist organizations."  (USA Today)
  • U.S. Says IAEA Should Follow Up on Israeli Report of Secret Iranian Nuclear Warehouse
    During a press briefing on Wednesday, U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton was asked: "The IAEA is saying it doesn't take at face value Netanyahu's claims that Iran is harboring a secret atomic warehouse. Do you agree with the Israeli Prime Minister that there should be an inspection?"
        Bolton replied: "Our intelligence community has been reviewing the material that Israel extracted from Iran, and going over it in quite some detail. And I'll say it's extremely impressive. And we've been very supportive of the Israeli effort and supportive of the IAEA taking new steps to follow up on it."  (White House)
  • U.S. Undercuts Palestinian Suit over Jerusalem Move, Bolton Says Palestine Is "Not a State" - Hunter Walker
    U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton announced Wednesday that the U.S. would withdraw from the "optional protocol" in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations after the PA filed a complaint with the International Court of Justice over the U.S. moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
        Bolton referred to the "so-called state of Palestine" and explained: "Of course it's not a state now. It does not meet the customary international law test of statehood. It doesn't control defined boundaries. It doesn't fulfill the normal functions of government. There are a whole host of reasons why it's not a state. It could become a state, as the president said, but that requires diplomatic negotiations with Israel."
        Bolton said his view was in line with "a position that the United States government has pursued uniformly since 1988....We don't recognize it as the state of Palestine. We have consistently across Democratic and Republican administrations opposed the admission of Palestine to the United Nations as a state because it's not a state."  (Yahoo News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • German Chancellor Merkel in Jerusalem: Iran Must Not Have Nuclear Weapons - Tamar Beeri
    German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Jerusalem on Thursday that Israel and Germany "share the view that everything must be done to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons." The threat to Israel from Iran has become stronger due to its presence in Syria, Merkel said, noting that Iranian troops had been close to the Golan Heights border with Israel.
        Merkel dismissed as "fake news" reports that she had conditioned her arrival in Israel on Wednesday on a delay in the planned resettlement of residents of the illegal West Bank Bedouin encampment of Khan al-Ahmar. "It is an internal Israeli decision. It is up to the Israeli government and we did not intervene," Merkel said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Beirut Residents Receive WhatsApp Warning about Hizbullah Facility
    Thousands of residents in Beirut's southern suburbs received WhatsApp messages overnight Tuesday, believed to have been sent by Israel, warning them that their homes are in close proximity to a Hizbullah weapons facility, Israel's Channel 10 reported on Wednesday. The message stated: "Near your home, a site belonging to Hizbullah has been located for some time. You are advised to take precautionary measures."  (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Israeli Defense Minister: Israel Can't Stop Operations in Syria even though Damascus Now Has S-300s
    "I cannot say that we are happy about the presence of S-300s [in Syria], but at the same time this is a situation where we have no way out," Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Kan TV in an interview on Wednesday. "In any case, we are not looking for adventures. We merely protect our vital interests. Regrettably, we are in a situation where we cannot afford any compromises concerning our security interests."
        "It was Syria's air defense that shot down the Russian Ilyushin-20. The responsibility rests squarely on Syria....I am not going to wage any media battles with the Russian side. It is very regrettable that 15 Russian soldiers and officers lost their lives. At the same time we [Israelis] were acting in a balanced and responsible way."
        "As long as our interests remain unaffected, we never take any action, but it is clear that we cannot afford to let the whole territory of Syria become one large base for Iran. We will be acting in accordance with our interests....When we have confirmed information about an attempt to move some weapons from Iran to Syria or from Syria to Lebanon [for] Hizbullah, we take action."  (TASS-Russia)
  • Desperate Gazans Protest Against Hamas - Shlomi Eldar
    Those following the violent demonstrations along the border fence with Israel might think that all two million Gaza residents had mobilized for the campaign against Israel. However, virtually all media were unaware of other protests in recent weeks that were generated by opponents of Gaza's Hamas rulers. Gaza residents are openly and almost fearlessly expressing themselves against Hamas, protesting against the terrible reality imposed on them by Hamas since it took control of Gaza by force in 2007.
        Dozens of Palestinians demonstrated in recent weeks in the Khan Yunis refugee camp and the adjacent Abasan neighborhood, calling on Hamas to take care of its people or "disappear." Similar protests took place two weeks ago in the Shabura camp in Rafah and in Jabalia. Protesters claimed Gaza's rulers had taken the Strip back to the Middle Ages.
        Demonstrators accused leading Hamas officials of corruption and of favoring the core of their supporters over the general population. One Khan Yunis resident said, "They [Hamas] take care of their own people who are given work and food and gifts....They send people to die while the commanders [Hamas leaders] enjoy power supplies and luxuries."  (Al-Monitor)

  • The International Atomic Energy Agency needs to be able to inspect everywhere in Iran, Dr. Emily Landau, who heads the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), said in an interview on Wednesday.
  • "The point is to be able to inspect any suspicious facility: whether a warehouse, materials and equipment, archives or actual military bases."
  • Part of the problem is that "the JCPOA [Iran deal] unfortunately doesn't give them that authority. That's why the P5+1 need to press for this. But the P5+1 are not pressing them to do that because they agreed to the miserably inadequate" inspection provisions in the first place.
  • Landau added that the JCPOA has meant that all IAEA reports on Iran's nuclear program in recent years have been gutted of anything but superficial information.
  • "In Netanyahu's speech at the UN, he said: 'Here are the coordinates. Here is the warehouse - check it out.'" Then IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano implies "that because the information comes from Netanyahu, he's complicating their effort because he is undermining the agency's impartiality."
  • "Netanyahu made this information public at the UN because he had quietly passed information from [Iran's nuclear] archives to the IAEA and he said nothing had been done. That was April 30. Now it was late September, and in order to push the IAEA to do something, he disclosed this at the UN."