April 29, 2021

In-Depth Issues:

Russia Protecting Iranian Ships Smuggling Arms to Syria - Arie Egozi (BreakingDefense)
    Iran appears to have moved its overland weapons shipments to Syria - where Israel has regularly tracked and destroyed them - to ships that may be receiving protection from the Russian navy in the Mediterranean.
    At the same time, Israeli defense sources say Israel has intensified its aerial attacks on targets in Syria once the weapons are delivered by sea.
    Uzi Rabi, an expert on Iran, said, "The rules of the game at sea are different. What was achievable when Israel operated against the ground and air shipments of weapons from Iran to Syria is not valid when the action is at sea, under a Russian umbrella."
    The Russian news agency Sputnik reported on April 17 that a joint Russian-Iranian-Syrian force would be established in the Mediterranean to ensure the safe arrival in Syria of oil and other goods.

IDF Downs Hizbullah Drones on Lebanon Border with Electric Pulses (Ynet News)
    Israeli forces downed a drone belonging to Hizbullah that crossed into northern Israel from Lebanon on Tuesday, the IDF said.
    Earlier in the day, troops located another Hizbullah drone that had been downed several weeks ago.
    The IDF said both drones were downed by electric pulses as soon as they crossed into Israeli territory and not by direct gunfire.

Explosive-Laden "Drone" Boat Targets Saudi Port of Yanbu - Jon Gambrell (AP)
    A remotely-piloted boat packed with explosives targeted the Saudi port of Yanbu in the Red Sea on Tuesday.
    Saudi Arabia claimed to have intercepted and destroyed the attack boat. However, private security firms suggested commercial traffic near the port may have been hit in the assault.
    The Houthis have in the past used bomb-laden drones and explosive-packed boats in attacks targeting the kingdom.

AP Corrects Story on Israeli Vaccination of Palestinians (CAMERA)
    AP has corrected a story which misleadingly reported that Israel has not taken responsibility for vaccinating any Palestinians.
    In fact, Israel has taken full responsibility for vaccinating all Palestinians aged 16 and up residing in Jerusalem, and has also vaccinated more than 100,000 Palestinian workers employed in Israel or Israeli communities.

Video: The Growing Iranian Threat to Regional and Western Security (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the Emirates Policy Center held a joint Zoom Conference on April 26, 2021, on the growing Iranian threat.
    Speakers include Amb. Dore Gold, Dr. Ebtesam al-Ketbi, Dr. Olli Heinonen, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, Richard Goldberg, Djavad Khadem, Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, and Admiral (res.) Yedidya Ya'ari.

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IsraAID Sending Team to Caribbean in Wake of Volcano Eruption (JNS)
    IsraAID is sending a team of emergency responders to St. Vincent in the Caribbean, where a volcano has been spewing ash since April 9, displacing 20,000 people.
    The IsraAID response team - some of whom will be relocated from current aid missions in Dominica and the Bahamas - will provide clean water, distribute hygiene supplies, and offer "psychological first aid."

Former Israeli Army Soldiers Helped Save San Diego Shooting Victim - Jennifer Kastner (KGTV-San Diego)
    Former IDF medics are credited with saving the life of a man who was injured during last week's shooting in San Diego.
    Shai Gino and Dvir Benesh, in their 20s, now live in San Diego where they work as home remodelers.
    They saw the shooting and ran to help a man who'd been struck. "We put pressure on his chest," said Benesh.
    Gino said the man later "texted me that he's okay and he's super grateful and we saved his life."

Druze in the Golan Heights Are Warming Up to Israel - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    Relations between the Golan Druze and Israel are becoming closer.
    The Syrian civil war, with the massacres perpetrated by the regime against its citizens, has weakened the bond between the Druze and the Assad regime, and reduced their desire to be reunited with the country that ruled there until 1967.
    Photographs of President Bashar Assad have been taken down from the walls of restaurants, while Israeli flags now fly over some of the educational institutions and over sports centers built by the Israeli national lottery.
    Female IDF soldiers teach classes in the schools. A quarter of the Golan Druze have acquired Israeli ID cards. Only a few people showed up for this year's event to mark Syrian Independence Day.

AP Concocts Settlement "Spike" - Tamar Sternthal (CAMERA)
    An AP story on an alleged "Trump-era spike" in "settlement" growth tells a story of "a construction boom," but it seems to be little more than a rehashing of a report by the anti-settlement group Peace Now.
    There is a major discrepancy between these figures of new construction starts and those recorded by official government data and even the anti-Israel UNHRC.
    Other media outlets have reported precisely the opposite of what AP is alleging, pointing to a decline in construction starts of residential units during the Trump years.

UAE Wealth Fund to Buy Share of Israeli Gas Field - Simon Henderson (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    On April 26, Israeli company Delek announced it had signed an MOU with the energy arm of Mubadala, the sovereign wealth fund of the UAE, to sell its 22% ownership stake in the Tamar offshore natural gas field.
    The Delek deal represents the biggest commercial agreement since the two countries normalized their relations last September.

Over 7 Anti-Semitic Incidents Per Day in Canada in 2020 (Jerusalem Post)
    Over 7 anti-Semitic incidents were recorded every day in Canada in 2020, with the number of incidents breaking a record for the fifth year in a row, according to B'nai Brith Canada's League for Human Rights.
    The 2020 Annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, published on Monday, showed an 18.3% increase compared to 2019 with 2,610 incidents.
    In 2019, 15% of all hate crimes in Canada targeted Jews, despite their being just 1% of the population.
    See also Anti-Semitic Incidents Rise to Record Level in Austria - Cnaan Liphshiz (JTA)

912 Israeli Startups in EU Employ 24,000 People - James Spiro (Calcalist)
    There are 912 Israeli companies in the EU that employ 24,223 people, EIT Hub Israel and CQ Global reported.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S., Israeli National Security Advisors Meet in Washington
    U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met in Washington on Tuesday with Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat. The U.S. and Israel agreed on the significant threat posed by Iran's aggressive behavior in the region, and U.S. officials underscored President Biden's unwavering support for Israel's right to defend itself.
        The U.S. and Israel agreed to establish an inter-agency working group to focus on the growing threat of unmanned aerial vehicles and precision guided missiles produced by Iran and provided to its proxies in the region. (White House)
  • U.S. Navy Fires Warning Shots in Second Encounter with Iranian Vessels - Gordon Lubold
    A U.S. Navy patrol boat fired warning shots after three Iranian fast attack boats swarmed two American ships operating in international waters in the Persian Gulf on Monday, Navy officials said. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Iranian Ships Swarm U.S. Coast Guard Vessels in Persian Gulf - Gordon Lubold
    On April 2, three Iranian Revolutionary Guard fast-attack craft and a larger support vessel swarmed two U.S. Coast Guard ships patrolling in international waters in the Persian Gulf, forcing one of the U.S. vessels to make defensive maneuvers to avoid a collision, U.S. Navy officials confirmed. (Wall Street Journal)
  • European Universities Urge EU to Remove Threat of Research Ban on Israel - Eanna Kelly
    German, French and UK universities have joined in urging the European Commission to lift its threat to bar Israel, Switzerland and the UK from EU quantum and space projects. On Friday, five European university associations "urged the Commission to reconsider its stance." Several EU diplomats say resistance to the proposal is now substantial among a growing number of member states.
        "Close and trusted research collaboration is key for achieving real breakthroughs in quantum computing and other strategically important fields. If Europe wants to stay competitive with China and the U.S., this is the way to go," said Jan Wopking, managing director of the German U15, representing the country's leading research-intensive and medical universities. (Science|Business)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Foreign Ministry: Israel Not Interfering in Palestinian Elections - Lahav Harkov
    The Palestinian elections are an internal Palestinian matter and Israel will not intervene, Foreign Ministry political director Alon Bar told European ambassadors on Tuesday. "Israel will not prevent the election in the Palestinian Authority from happening," Bar said. With regard to Jerusalem, the city, including majority-Arab neighborhoods, is part of sovereign Israel and is under Israeli law. In 2006, Israel allowed the PA to hold its legislative election in Jerusalem, with Arabs voting via post offices.
        Bar noted that the Quartet - the U.S., UN, EU and Russia - has set criteria in the past for Palestinian election candidates, saying they must abandon violence, recognize Israel, and recognize previous signed agreements. Hamas' participation in the election violates the Quartet's conditions. Empowering Hamas could be an obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, Bar said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • EU Parliament Condemns UNRWA for "Hate Speech and Violence" Taught in PA Schools
    The European Parliament on Wednesday adopted a resolution condemning the UN's Palestinian refugee agency for "hate speech and violence taught in Palestinian school textbooks and used in schools by UNRWA." The resolution insists that financial aid be conditioned on the removal of educational materials that promote hatred and incitement to violence. (i24News)
        See also EU Seeks to Ensure that Aid Does Not Reach Terrorists - Lahav Harkov
    The European Parliament's annual budgetary report says the EU must "thoroughly verify" that its funds are not "allocated or linked to any cause or form of terrorism and/or religious and political radicalization." Any funds that did go to any person or organization with terrorist ties must be "proactively recovered, and recipients involved are excluded from future union funding." The EU has stipulated that aid can be sent only to organizations without ties to EU-designated terrorist groups, such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Coronavirus Cases in Israel Continue to Decline
    There were 100 new coronavirus cases in Israel on Wednesday, the Health Ministry reported Thursday. There are 1,570 active cases, with 185 people hospitalized. 118 are in serious condition, including 65 on ventilators. (By comparison, on March 31, Israel had 492 new daily cases, with 384 people in serious condition.) (Jerusalem Post-Israel Ministry of Health-Hebrew)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:


  • For Diplomacy to Work, Iran Must Understand that It Cannot Overplay Its Hand - Dennis Ross
    After what seemed like Israeli sabotage at Natanz, Iran's largest uranium enrichment site, the Iranians remained engaged in the talks to restore the nuclear deal, indicating that Iran wants and needs sanctions relief. The Iranians are trying to pressure the Biden administration into providing sanctions relief that goes beyond what would be required of the U.S. to get back into compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA.
        They are pressing for the lifting of all sanctions imposed since 2015, including those related to human rights and terrorism, not just the nuclear-related sanctions. Ayatollah Khamenei has also declared that the U.S. must first verifiably lift all of the sanctions before Iran will reverse its steps that breach the JCPOA.
        The U.S. must point out that Iran's enrichment of uranium to 60% contradicts the Iranian claim that their nuclear program is for peaceful, civilian purposes. That level of enrichment makes sense only if they want the option of being a threshold nuclear weapon state.
        Moreover, the Biden administration needs to show that while it strongly favors diplomacy, if the Iranians make diplomacy impossible, the U.S. will exercise other options to ensure, as President Biden has said, Iran will never have a nuclear weapon. What the Israelis have reportedly done in Natanz buys time so the Biden administration need not feel rushed into reaching an understanding with the Iranians. U.S. diplomacy has little chance of succeeding if the Iranians believe America is so anxious to avoid conflict that increasing the pressure on it on the nuclear issue (and in their regional behavior) will pay off.
        The writer, a former special assistant to President Obama, is the counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Washington Post)
  • Simply Returning to the JCPOA Would Be a Huge Mistake - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser
    In 2016, an American official who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal told me that after 5-7 years, "the U.S. president at that time is going to have to reassess, and if it seems that our expectations that Iran would change its behavior do not come true, the president will have to leave the agreement. This is why we insisted on the snapback mechanism through which we can reimpose all the sanctions unilaterally."
        Five years have elapsed and Iran did not meet the Obama administration's expectations. Iran prefers a return to the JCPOA because it's the only safe path to having the capability to produce a large nuclear arsenal.
        The Biden administration claims that the maximum-pressure policy failed because Iran didn't succumb and instead escalated violations of the deal. The truth is the exact opposite. The pressure was so effective that Iran's main goal has been to rid itself of the sanctions. This pressure gives the U.S. a formidable starting point for negotiating a new and much better deal.
        What is the point of wasting this strong leverage by bringing Iran back into the JCPOA - which is where it wants to go anyhow - and only trying to negotiate a better deal once that leverage is gone?
        The writer, Director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was formerly Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence. (Australian Strategic Policy Institute)
  • Are Attacks on Iran's Nuclear Program Working? - Anchal Vohra
    The April 11 explosion at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility and similar attacks have indeed slowed down the making of a bomb. Some Israeli intelligence officers believe it is the way to contain Iran's nuclear program. They say the revival of the nuclear deal is not a deterrent against Iran's nuclear ambitions but an unwarranted reward that would pave the path for a bomb-ready Iran. A lifting of sanctions, they contend, would allow Iran to fill its empty coffers and fund its various militias in the region.
        Israeli Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, former head of research in military intelligence, defended the clandestine activities. "It's a long-term policy, so there is no point in asking every day if the policy was successful. At this time, the clandestine activities serve also to clarify that there are other ways to deal with the Iranian nuclear project than buying time in exchange for guaranteeing Iran a safe path to a big nuclear arsenal."  (Foreign Policy)

  • Palestinians

  • Condition Reopening Washington PLO Office on Ending PA's "Pay to Slay" Program - David Pollock and Sander Gerber
    The Biden administration is contemplating reopening the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) mission in Washington and restoring direct aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA). However, instead of diving headfirst into another diplomatic dead-end with the PA/PLO, President Biden should attach real and substantial conditions to any reopening.
        The State Department shut down the PLO mission in Washington in October 1987 in response to the PLO's involvement with various acts of terror. Congress passed the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1987, which declared the PLO to be a terrorist organization and prohibited the opening of PLO facilities on U.S. soil. Yet Congress allowed for the president to issue a waiver on his own accord. Another U.S. law, the Alien Tort Claims Act, could hold the PLO responsible for terrorist damages if it resumes a presence in American jurisdiction.
        It would behoove the Biden administration to place conditions on the PLO for reopening its mission or receiving any new direct aid. A starting point would be to demand the PLO end its "pay to slay" program, in strict accordance with a third U.S. law, the Taylor Force Act. A credible Palestinian opinion poll from last year shows 2/3 of West Bankers agree that the PA should "stop paying extra bonuses and benefits to prisoners or 'martyrs' families."
        At the same time, polls show that 2/3 of West Bankers and Gazans now say that, even if an independent Palestinian state is established, "the conflict should not end and the struggle should continue until all of historic Palestine is liberated." This violates every tenet of U.S. policy.
        David Pollock is a fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Sander Gerber is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
  • On Palestinian Aid and Accountability - Daniel S. Mariaschin
    Upwards of $235 million in aid to the Palestinians has been proposed by the White House, with no quid pro quo in exchange. Since 1993, the conventional wisdom has been that providing financial assistance to the PA would incentivize it to reach a settlement with Israel. Since 1994, the U.S. has provided more than $5 billion to the PA.
        With the restoration of U.S. aid, a tremendous opportunity to condition assistance on serious changes both in the PA and UNRWA has been lost. Why not insist that the PA close down "pay-to-slay," end the campaign against Israel in multilateral forums like the UN and the International Criminal Court, end the backing of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, cease anti-Semitic incitement against Israel and the Jewish people, and stop educating its young people to hate?
        The Palestinians are mired in a cycle of victimization, promoted and manipulated by leaders who have a bigger stake in the status quo than in ending this decades-long conflict. The writer is the CEO of B'nai B'rith International. (Algemeiner)
  • Postponing PA Elections Will Harm Abbas, Reignite Fatah-Hamas Dispute - Khaled Abu Toameh
    According to Palestinian sources, PA President Mahmoud Abbas has notified Egypt, Jordan, Qatar and other Arab countries of his intention to delay the upcoming Palestinian elections. Many Palestinians are convinced that the deep crisis in Fatah is the main reason behind Abbas' fear of holding the elections.
        Fatah is running in the parliamentary election on three separate lists, with the real challenge coming from veteran Fatah leaders such as Nasser al-Kidwa, a nephew of former PLO leader Yasser Arafat; jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti; and exiled Fatah operative Mohammad Dahlan. A move to delay the elections will drive many Palestinians into the open arms of Abbas' rivals in Fatah. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Despite Egyptian Campaign, Gaza Border Tunnels Resume Smuggling Activity - Rasha Abou Jalal
    Despite Egypt's largely successful security campaign launched in 2013 against the border tunnels in Rafah in southern Gaza, sources in Rafah told Al-Monitor of Palestinian attempts to restore some of the destroyed tunnels. Palestinian organizations, along with large families in Rafah, had dug hundreds of tunnels along the 9-mile border with Egypt, making huge profits by smuggling and selling Egyptian goods in Gaza. Egypt established a 1-mile-deep buffer zone, flooded the area with water from the Mediterranean, and built two walls.
        The source explained that Palestinian families are involved in attempts to smuggle goods, especially cigarettes, honey, fuel and spare parts for various types of machinery that are blocked by Egypt and Israel, in addition to goods available in Egypt at a low price and sold in Gaza at exorbitant prices, such as cosmetics. Many of these tunnels became operational just weeks ago. (Al-Monitor)

  • Human Rights Watch Report on Israeli "Apartheid"

  • Jewish Leaders Denounce Anti-Israel Report by Human Rights Watch
    The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said Tuesday: "We strongly reject the disgraceful report released today by Human Rights Watch (HRW) that attempts to demonize, delegitimize, and apply double standards to the State of Israel."
        "These kinds of misguided efforts to vilify Israel inflame existing tensions and incite violence, obstructing the path to peace and the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. HRW should be denounced for giving voice to such vicious hate while purporting to defend human rights."  (Conference of Presidents)
        See also U.S. Rejects Human Rights Watch Accusation of Israeli "Apartheid"
    "It is not the view of this administration that Israel's actions constitute apartheid," a State Department spokesperson said Wednesday. (AFP-France 24)
        See also Board of Deputies of British Jews Condemns Human Rights Watch Report as "Fiction" - Mathilde Frot (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
  • I Left Apartheid South Africa. Applying the Term to Israel Is Dishonest - Hirsh Goodman
    Human Rights Watch's new report is blind to fact and reality. I left South Africa as a teenager in 1965 because of its policy of apartheid. To me, this document is a disgrace to the memory of the millions who suffered under apartheid in South Africa - including many anti-apartheid activists in the Jewish community, some close to me, who lost their freedom.
        The report reads as especially surprising now, as Mansour Abbas, leader of the United Arab List in the Knesset, may determine who will form the next governing coalition in Israel. Both Netanyahu and his opponents are courting Abbas, hardly a sign of the kind of subjugation associated with apartheid.
        Justice Richard Goldstone, who was appointed to the Constitutional Court of South Africa by Nelson Mandela, wrote in the New York Times in October 2011, "In Israel there is no apartheid. Nothing there comes close to the definition of apartheid under the 1998 Rome Statute....The charge that Israel is an apartheid state is a false and malicious one that precludes, rather than promotes, peace and harmony."  The writer is a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. (Forward)
  • Human Rights Watch Demonizes Israel - Gerald M. Steinberg
    Although Human Rights Watch (HRW) claims that its latest report demonizing Israel, A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution, is based on new material, a quick read reveals the same mix of shrill propaganda, false allegations, and legal distortions marketed by the NGO network for decades. The text reiterates the main claims of a 700-page 2017 submission to the International Criminal Court from a group of NGOs linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terror organization.
        By drawing a direct line to South Africa and labeling the Jewish state as inherently racist, the goal is to delegitimize the concept of Jewish sovereign equality, regardless of borders or policies.
        The writer, a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is emeritus professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and heads the Institute for NGO Research in Jerusalem. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The HRW Apartheid Report: Does It Matter? - Herb Keinon
    It's a drill Israel knows all too well. A well-known NGO writes a report blasting Israel. The Foreign Ministry slams it as agenda-driven, anti-Israel drivel. The media runs a few stories. And the issue fades - until next time. How important is a report accusing Israel of apartheid by a veteran anti-Israel activist who was deported from Israel because of his BDS activities, even if that report is put out by one of the world's better known, but wildly imbalanced, human-rights organizations?
        It doesn't matter that much anymore in the corridors of power in Western democracies. One Israeli official said the halo of the human-rights organizations has come off over the years and they don't command the same respect or influence among leading governments as they once did.
        Where it does matter is among young people who do not have a good grip on the history of the conflict. It will provide ammunition for anti-Israel activists, primarily on campuses and the streets, but also in parliaments. A two-state solution won't be enough for those who view Israel as an apartheid state. For them, it will be necessary to cancel apartheid, which - in their view - means Israel. (Jerusalem Post)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israeli Aid Team Heads to Covid-Struck Uruguay - Nathan Jeffay
    An Israeli aid delegation landed Tuesday in Uruguay, a country with the world's second-highest rate of new Covid cases. A four-person team from Sheba Medical Center will focus on helping hospitals cope with the sudden skyrocketing of cases. The delegation includes Sheba's logistics coordinator Shai Swissa, who was responsible for identifying spare areas at the hospital, including parking lots, and converting them into coronavirus wards. Swissa, the son of Uruguayan parents who moved to Israel, speaks fluent Spanish.
        Sheba's Israel Center for Disaster Medicine and Humanitarian Response has also sent equipment, including ECG machines and ventilators. "At Sheba we've closed all our coronavirus wards and we can share all our knowledge, allowing them to learn from our experiences, including from our mistakes," said Moriya Suliman, a nurse from the Sheba team. (Times of Israel)
        See also IsraAID Sending Medical Aid to Covid-Stricken India - Nathan Jeffay (Times of Israel)

Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif's Leaked Tape: Revolutionary Guards and Soleimani Sought to Control Iranian Diplomacy - Iran Desk and Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • In a leaked interview, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif lamented the depth of the involvement of Gen. Qassem Soleimani - the Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force commander who was assassinated by the U.S. in January 2020 - in Iran's foreign policy, and the MFA's subordination to the military imperatives of the IRGC.
  • Zarif discloses that the Obama administration's secretary of state, John Kerry, informed him in June 2016, after the nuclear deal, of "at least 200 cases of Israeli attacks on IRGC targets in Syria. I as foreign minister was amazed since I did not know anything about this."
  • The interview unambiguously illustrates Iran's regional order of priorities and the limited role of diplomacy in determining it. The Iranian Foreign Ministry is charged with whitewashing the effects of Iran's subversion, terror, and human rights violations and with moderating the West's response to Iran's malignant activity throughout the world and its nuclear activities.
  • The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Russia opposed the nuclear deal and attempted to sink it. The IRGC keeps pursuing nuclear activity under its own aegis, while the Foreign Ministry serves as a fig leaf to provide Iran with room for maneuver vis-a-vis the West. The Foreign Ministry's role is to create a mirage of political activity that affords time and facilitates the nuclear activity.
  • Zarif's interview, leaked from within Iran, was most probably aimed at destroying his professional career and preventing him from running in the June 18 presidential elections.
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