02/18 Links Pt1: Have the Palestinians Renounced the Peace Process?; PA blames UK for conflict
Amb. Alan Baker: Have the Palestinians Renounced the Peace Process?
Thus, this official announcement by the Palestinian foreign minister ending, to all intents and purposes, any continuation of a negotiated peace process between the Palestinians and Israel, should logically be treated by leaders of the US, the EU, the UN and by other major international elements as a resounding and shocking volte-face by the Palestinians. It should be considered to be a clear violation of all Palestinian commitments so far, and possibly as a fundamental breach of the Oslo accords, by frustrating any possible return to negotiations.
It cuts through and undermines all the various UN, EU and other resolutions urging the parties to return to negotiations. It represents a clear slap in the face to all those senior politicians, foreign ministers, parliaments and others who repeatedly blame Israel for impeding the negotiation process.
This statement basically endorses what has, in practice, become the accepted policy of the Palestinian leadership, of encouraging anything other than direct negotiation, in the hope that the French, the US, the EU and the UN might bully Israel into accepting Palestinian dictates and impose a solution without taking into consideration Israel’s own legal, political, security and historical rights and needs.
One might presume that all those senior politicians and foreign ministers who consider themselves involved in the Middle East peace process – and especially US Secretary of State John Kerry, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini – will express their immediate indignation and objection to this statement by the Palestinian foreign minister.
One might hope that they will demand some solid, public reassurance by the Palestinian leadership that the Palestinians have not given up the option to solve the dispute through negotiation.
Is this too much to hope for?
The Palestinian People Committee’s report to the General Assembly for its 2015 activities tells you all you need to know about how anti-Israel bias works its way through the U.N. system. Inter alia, we learn that one “Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,” delivered a lecture as part of the “International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.” We are told about the economic costs of the “occupation,” but the rife corruption in the Palestinian Authority that has eaten billions of dollars in aid money isn’t mentioned. At another point, we are informed that calculating the “occupation’s cost” is “complex and multidimensional, requiring expertise in economics, law, history, and politics.” Preferably acquired at the Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, I’ll wager.
These and similar ignominies are documented on a regular basis by U.N. Watch, which also reports diligently on those human rights crises ignored by the U.N. But what hasn’t yet happened is an international discussion about the future of the Palestinian People Committee and its associated bodies.
Hence my suggestion. Since the U.N. doesn’t like abolishing existing committees, why not replace the Palestinian People Committee with another body dedicated to all stateless nations and minorities? That would include the Palestinians, but also the Kurds, the Sahrawis, and the Tibetans. It would underline international awareness of vulnerable minorities like the Yazidis in the Middle East. And it could avoid political controversies by focusing on education and human rights.
True, this new committee would carry its own set of problems, whatever final form it takes: nothing is ever easy at the U.N. But democratic member states need to understand that as long as the bodies dedicated to anti-Israel propaganda remain active within the U.N. structure, very little is going to change. Are we going to have this same conversation for the next 50 years?
France today is one of the main enemies of Israel — maybe its main enemy — in the Western world. France’s disregard of the threats faced by Israel is more than simple willful blindness. It is complicity.
At a time when Mahmoud Abbas constantly encourages terror and hatred against Israel, and when murders of Israeli Jews by Palestinian Arabs occur on a daily basis, France’s anti-Israel relentlessness can only be seen as the latest extension of France’s centuries-old anti-Semitism.
France’s “Arab policy” has gone hand-in-hand with a massive wave of Muslim immigration. France has quickly become the main Muslim country in Europe. More than six million Muslims live in France, and make up approximately 10% of the population. The Muslim vote is now an important factor in French politicians’ decisions; the risk of Muslim riots is taken into account.
Two Israelis were seriously wounded, with one left fighting for his life, in a suspected terror stabbing in an industrial zone north of Jerusalem Thursday afternoon.
The stabbing occurred in a supermarket belonging to the Rami Levy chain in the Sha’ar Binyamin industrial zone, located southeast of Ramallah in the West Bank.
One of the victims, a 21-year-old, was hospitalized in Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, where doctors were administering emergency treatment in an effort to save his life. The second victim, 35, was hospitalized at the Hadassah Hospital at Mount Scopus.
Two Palestinian stabbers were shot by an armed civilian, police said. The two, reported to be in serious condition and described by an eyewitness as “very young,” were also taken to hospitals in Jerusalem for treatment.
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot stressed Wednesday that the army’s rules of engagement were sufficient to deal with terrorist threats, adding that he would not want to see a situation in which a soldier emptied a full magazine “at a girl holding scissors.”
Speaking at a high school in the coastal city of Bat Yam, Eisenkot said that a soldier must shoot to kill perpetrators of terrorist attacks only if there is an immediate threat to human life.
“When there’s a 13-year-old girl holding scissors or a knife and there is some distance between her and the soldiers, I don’t want to see a soldier open fire and empty his magazine at a girl like that, even if she is committing a very serious act,” Eisenkot said. “Rather he should use the force necessary to fulfill the objective.”
“The army can not speak in slogans such as ‘kill or be killed,’” he said in response to a student’s question on the IDF’s “lenient” rules of engagement.
Prosecutors on Wednesday filed an indictment against a 16-year-old Palestinian girl from East Jerusalem, for attempted murder and possession of a knife, for allegedly trying to stab Border Police officers in the capital last week.
According to the indictment, on February 9, the girl took a kitchen knife and made her way to the Damascus Gate at the entrance to the Old City intending to stab members of the security forces there.
The officers became suspicious of her presence and asked to search her bag, and the teenager pulled out a knife “and tried to stab the policemen,” police said.
The police were able to repel the attack and place the teen under arrest.
Prosecutors asked for her to be remanded until the end of legal proceedings against her.
Yariv Oppenheimer, general director of the leftwing Peace Now organization, on Wednesday night was among the speakers honoring the memory of Dafna Meir who was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist in her home in the community of Otniel a month ago. The event brought together Israel’s political left and right to honor a woman whom they all said was exceptional.
Meeting at the Gerard Behar Center in Jerusalem, Dafna Meir’s friends and family spoke of a woman who worked as a nurse, raised six children, advised on fertility matters, argued with rabbis, liked obscene jokes, and managed to bring hope to everyone she met. “With my heart bleeding, I chose to make this evening an evening of hope, not of despair,” said her husband Nathan.
The anti-settlements Oppenheimer was an unexpected speaker at an evening in memory of a woman who, in her own words, “each day chose to be religious, Jewish, living in a settlement.” Oppenheimer was invited to the event by Dafna’s husband. He had come to comfort the Meir family during the Shiva period and established a warm relationship with them.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday praised the UK government for new guidelines that prohibit publicly funded bodies from boycotting Israeli-made products.
“I want to commend the British government for refusing to discriminate against Israel and Israelis and I commend you for standing up for the one and only true democracy in the Middle East,” Netanyahu said at a joint press conference in Jerusalem with British Cabinet Office Minister Matthew Hancock.
Netanyahu drew parallels between efforts to boycott Israel and a long history of anti-Semitism and a current anti-Israel bias in the international community.
“In modern times, modern anti-Semitism not only attacks individual Jews, but attacks them collectively, and the slanders that were hurled over centuries against the Jewish people are now hurled against the Jewish state,” he said.
Hancock told Netanyahu that London supported the measure “because we believe in an open and free trade and we believe that discrimination is not appropriate and should be stood up to.”
A group of British lawmakers on a visit to the region clashed with senior Palestinian Authority officials Wednesday during a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, after a PA representative blamed the MPs, as Britons, for causing the entire Israel-Palestinian conflict.
A lunch meeting between a delegation from the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) and veteran PA negotiator Nabil Shaath turned hostile, The Times of Israel learned, with Shaath and other Palestinian officials hurling accusations against the group for their implicit support of the 1923-48 British Mandate in Palestine. That was “years and years before I was even born,” said one of the MPs wryly later.
“There were certainly fireworks at that meeting,” said James Gurd, executive director of the CFI group, an advocacy organization that brings parliamentarians from the UK Conservative party on trips to Israel and lobbies for Israel in Westminster.
Calls are growing for the British government to review its funding of the Palestinian Authority, in light of the PA’s continued incitement to violence and glorification of terrorism.
According to the Jewish Chronicle, Labour MP Joan Ryan has written directly to UK Prime Minister David Cameron, to demand his government stop giving what she described as “a blank cheque” to the Palestinian Authority.
It comes as Britain is scheduled to up its multi-million pound donations to the PA by 15% in 2016. The Department for International Development (DfID) is to transfer £72 million to Arab areas of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, including £25.5 million directly into the PA’s coffers.
But Ryan, who chairs the Labour Friends of Israel caucus, said that by continuing to fund PA institutions while they engage in anti-Semitic incitement and glorification of terrorism, meant the British government was itself indirectly funding Palestinian terrorism.
While the MP stressed that she did not oppose funding the PA per sa, she insisted that such aid should be conditioned on “the immediate cessation of violence.”
GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump on Wednesday refused to pick sides in the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
“You know, I don’t want to get into it,” he told hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski during a MSNBC town hall in Charleston, S.C.
“If I win, I don’t want to be in a position where I’m saying to you [my choice] and the other side now says, ‘We don’t want Trump involved,'” Trump said of potentially winning the presidency and then brokering a lasting peace deal.
“Let me be sort of a neutral guy,” the billionaire added. “I have friends of mine that are tremendous businesspeople, that are really great negotiators, [and] they say it’s not doable.
“You understand a lot of people have gone down in flames trying to make that deal. So I don’t want to say whose fault it is – I don’t think that helps.”
Trump said he would seek harmony in the Middle East as commander in chief no matter the difficulty.
“That’s probably the toughest deal in the world right now to make,” he said. “It’s possible it’s not makeable because don’t forget, it has to last.
“A lot of people say an agreement can’t be made, which is OK, sometimes agreements can’t be made [and they are] not good. I will give it one hell of a shot. I would say if you can do that deal, you can do any deal.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook declared on Wednesday that his company wouldn’t comply with a government search warrant to unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino killers, a significant escalation in a long-running debate between technology companies and the government over access to people’s electronically-stored private information.
But in a similar case in New York last year, Apple acknowledged that it could extract such data if it wanted to. And according to prosecutors in that case, Apple has unlocked phones for authorities at least 70 times since 2008. (Apple doesn’t dispute this figure.)
In other words, Apple’s stance in the San Bernardino case may not be quite the principled defense that Cook claims it is. In fact, it may have as much to do with public relations as it does with warding off what Cook called “an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers.”
“When a terror organization threatens the citizens of a member state, silence is not an option,” Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon wrote to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday, demanding that he denounce Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah’s threat earlier in the week to turn Haifa’s ammonia plant into his own nuclear bomb.
“Hezbollah’s dangerous military strengthening and the murderous statements of its leaders require a condemnation,” the ambassador wrote.
In his letter, Danon also pointed out the involvement of Hezbollah in the Syrian civil war and the organization’s military buildup in southern Lebanon. These two elements, he explained, are “a flagrant violation” of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which called for a disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, including Hezbollah, after the second Lebanon war in 2006.
It also states that no armed forces other than the United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the Lebanese army will be posted south of the Litani River.
“Hezbollah has made southern Lebanon a military fortress in order to fire indiscriminately at Israeli population and in doing so, it is committing a double war crime,” Danon told Ban Ki-Moon.
“I call on you to condemn the dangerous and violent statements by Hezbollah and to demand that the Lebanese government fulfill its commitments under Resolution 1701,” he added.
JPost Editorial: Nasrallah’s fears
Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah’s chutzpah knows no bounds. Russia, Hezbollah’s ally in Syria, is committing war crimes against Sunnis.
From barrel bombs and indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas – including hospitals – to the intentional starving of residents in Aleppo, Russia is killing Sunni civilians. Nasrallah could have and should have remained silent about the worsening Shi’ite-Sunni split. Instead, he slammed Israel, a tried and try tactic to divert attention away from the uncomfortable reality that Hezbollah and the Assad regime, together with Russia, have created the hugest humanitarian tragedy in recent history for Sunnis.
Nasrallah lashed out at Sunni states for purportedly cooperating with the Jewish state. “Do you accept a friend occupying Sunni land in Palestine? Can you become friends with an entity that has committed the most horrible massacres against the Sunni community?” he said.
Wait a minute. Who is friends with an entity that is committing the most horrible massacres against the Sunni community? It’s you, Nasrallah.
As Nasrallah was issuing his indictment of Israel, Nasrallah’s ally Russia was indiscriminately bombing large civilian population centers, particularly around Aleppo.
A private intelligence report from Hillary Clinton’s confidant, Sid Blumenthal, claimed that Hezbollah, the Iran-backed terrorist organization, had set up shop in Cuba, according to an email released by the State Department over the weekend.
The group was actively “casing” facilities related to U.S. interests, the intelligence report also says.
The dispatch read:
During the week of September 5, 2011 extremely sensitive sources reported in confidence that the Israeli Intelligence and Security Service (Mossad) has informed the leadership of the Israeli Government that Hezbollah is establishing an operational base in Cuba, designed to support terrorist attacks throughout Latin America.
The confidential intelligence report from Blumenthal to Clinton continued:
These sources believe that Hezbollah supporters have been instructed to also begin casing facilities associated with the United States and the United Kingdom, including diplomatic missions, major banks, and businesses in the region. These individuals believe that the Hezbollah military commanders in Lebanon and Syria view these U.S. and U.K. entities as contingency targets to be attacked in the event of U.S. and British military intervention in either Syria or Iran, at some point in the future.
Anne Bayefsky: Muslim Prayers Take Over UN General Assembly Area
Muslim prayers on Fridays at the United Nations headquarters in New York have begun taking up a large area next to the General Assembly Hall, shunning a designated ecumenical prayer area.
There was no formal decision by the UN to host Muslim prayers. The space has simply been booked without further explanation.
Muslim prayers at the UN have been operating for some time, though UN staffers are tight-lipped about when they began and who started them.
There is an ecumenical “meditation room” – without religious markings – that is continually open to the public and adherents of any faith. A plaque outside explains that the room was “personally planned and supervised in every detail” by former UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold in 1957. Hammarskjold’s aim was to create “a place where the doors may be open to the infinite lands of thought and prayer. People of many faiths will meet here…[I]t is dedicated to the God whom man worships under many names and in many forms.”
Prior to recent renovations, Muslim prayers had used a remote venue on a floor above the library.
“Palestine” has observer status at the African Union, while Israel does not, an anomaly Israeli officials are expected to raise next week during the visit of Kenyan President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta.
Israel was an observer member of the Organization of African Unity until the OAU was dissolved and replaced by the African Union in 2002. Then, under pressure from Libya’s former strongman Muammar Gaddafi, Israel lost this status, something it now wants to regain.
“Palestine,” by contrast, was granted this status in 2013.
As a result, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has the ability to address the organization, and has done so in the past.
This has led to some vicious anti-Israel resolutions being passed, with Israel not having the ability to get its voice heard.
The African Union represents some 54 African states. Israel has diplomatic relations with 41 African countries, and embassies in 11 of them. Jerusalem is urging leaders of friendly African states to push forward a proposal to again extend observer status in the African Union to Jerusalem.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Wednesday said three Israeli rockets hit Syrian army positions near Damascus, according to Reuters.
A pro-Syrian government military source denied the report, Reuters added.
Hezbollah’s al-Manar television also denied the report.
There was no immediate report of casualties.
The attack purportedly consisted of three missile strikes that detonated a regime military facility, with witnesses seeing secondary explosions — usually indicating that explosives stored at the site exploded due to the attack.
Foreign reports attributing strikes against the Syrian regime to the IDF may only rarely elicit a military response, such as a barrage of rockets, however they certainly result in a direct threat to Israel’s security systems.
A military source confirmed this week that in some instances where Israel has been fingered for a particular military operation, such as the strike which killed notorious terrorist Samir Kuntar last year, an immediate reaction has been seen in cyberspace.
In the case of Kuntar, a day after his death a group of hackers carried out a successful attack on the Israel Air Force (IAF) website.
According to sources in Israel, a group of hackers operating from a long distance overseas and styling itself “Qalamoun boys” was behind the attack on the IAF site. While it may be true that the attack caused no damage to the army in any significant way, and the attackers were repelled quickly, it appears to the IDF that in a general sense hackers are often curious about circulating rumors of Israeli strikes, and look for ways to confirm or deny the reports by breaking into the IDF’s systems.
According to the military source, there is no paucity of attacks against the Israeli military. “Enemies want to know what’s going on here,” he said. “At the end of the day, computers and information systems do hold secrets, but there is a very low probability of success of such an intrusion because the cyber capabilities of the IDF are very high.”
Assailants on Wednesday exploded a car bomb near vehicles carrying military personnel in the Turkish capital, killing at least 28 people and wounding some 61 others, officials said.
The explosion occurred during evening rush hour in the heart of Ankara, in an area close to where army headquarters and parliament are located. Buses carrying military personnel were attacked while waiting at traffic lights at an intersection, the Turkish military said, while condemning the “contemptible and dastardly” attack.
Ankara governor Mehmet Kiliclar said authorities believe that the explosion was caused by a “bomb-laden vehicle.”
News reports said some cars caught fire and dozens of ambulances were sent to the scene. Dark smoke could be seen billowing from a distance. At least four of the injured were military personnel, private NTV television reported.
The son of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is under investigation in Italy as part of a probe into a major political corruption scandal.
35-year-old Bilal Erdogan is suspected of money laundering, according to Bologna’s public prosecutor. The investigation was apparently opened after a key political opponent of his father – Turkish businessman Murat Hakan Uzan – accused Erdogan the son of smuggling in substantial amounts of cash into Italy to be recycled.
According to Uzan, Bilal flew into the country with an armed entourage of bodyguards and a “large sum of money.” Incredibly, when his guards were initially barred from entering the country they were reportedly given Turkish diplomatic passports and subsequently granted entry.
Erdogan left Turkey last August for the northern Italian city in the aftermath of a major corruption scandal in which he was among those implicated. He was alleged to have played a central role in a money laundering plot which unraveled in December 2013, in which key figures within the ruling AKP party colluded to bypass American economic sanctions on Iran
European football’s governing body is set to penalise a Lokomotiv Moscow football player after he revealed a t-shirt depicting Vladimir Putin during a match in Turkey.
Dmitri Tarasov caused considerable anger in Turkey after revealing the t-shirt, which shows a picture of the Russian President in a navy cap and reads “most polite president”, after his side lost 2-0 to Turkish side Fenerbahçe.
Relations between the two countries are severely strained after Turkey downed a Russian jet in November after claiming it had violated Turkish airspace while on a bombing raid in Syria. Russia responded by imposing sanctions and the two countries now support opposing sides in the Syrian civil war.
The Guardian says the words on the shirt are a reference to unmarked troops who occupied Crimea during unrest in Ukraine. They were nicknamed the “polite people” before Putin admitted they were Russian soldiers.
Hezbollah uses the control it has recently gained in large parts of Syria to form private enclaves where it enforces its own law and order by torturing Syrian regime opponents as well as opponents to Hezbollah’s presence in Syria in secret prisons it has established.
According to a report on al-Souria.Net, a well-known Syrian opposition website, the Lebanese terror organization has established several prisons in the areas where it enjoys the biggest dominance in Syria: the Homs countryside and Damascus countryside.
Regime opponents told the website that the most famous Hezbollah prison is the “Yellow Hole” which is located in Homs. According to the report, the prisoners in Hezbollah’s jails enter Syria’s missing list and the organization refuses to release them, even if Syrian President Bashar Assad himself exerts pressure.
Hence, Hezbollah’s private prisons might create a rift between Assad and his erstwhile ally Hezbollah which enjoys growing sovereignty in Syria. Another danger to Assad’s rule that might derive from this is a rift between Syria’s Alawite and Shi’ite populations, since Hezbollah tortures in these prisons not only regime opponents, but also Alawite regime supporters who object to its presence in Syrian towns owing to its violations of the rights of the local population.
Michael Totten: No, Iran is Not a Democracy
Vox magazine just published a video on YouTube narrated by Max Fisher that supposedly explains how the next Iranian election could make history.
He starts by saying that Iran is confusing because it has “an unelected Supreme Leader at the top” and a president who is chosen in “far from perfect” elections. “So is Iran a dictatorship, or is it a democracy?” he asks before answering, “as it turns out, it’s both.”
No, it’s not. Max Fisher answered the question correctly before he answered it.
The head of state isn’t elected.
And his description of the elections as “far from perfect” is the kind of condescending euphemism that’s only ever used to describe somebody else’s problems.
Let’s leave aside the blatant vote-stealing in Iran’s 2009 presidential election, when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner in districts that opposed him as overwhelmingly as San Francisco opposes Dick Cheney. Nevermind that disgraceful episode.
Elections in Iran are rigged even when they aren’t rigged.
A recent Gallup poll has found that most of the US public is still opposed to last year’s nuclear deal with Iran.
The study, which was carried out about half a year after the agreement was signed, shows that 57 percent of responders have a negative opinion towards the agreement, compared with merely a third who expressed support.
A strong majority of Republicans are dissatisfied, while only a little more than half of Democrats say they are in favor.
The survey’s editors wrote that the strong opposition of Republican legislators in Congress, as well as that of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, likely influences the “ugly public mood on this issue.”
A nuclear agreement with Iran received its greatest popularity when it was still only a concept, but even then a majority of US responders were opposed.
Russia’s Defense Ministry on Wednesday denied reports it was to set to deliver the S-300 air defense systems to Iran on Thursday.
Some Russian media outlets had announced that the first batteries of the S-300 system would be arriving in the Islamic Republic on February 18, despite Western opposition.
The reports, which were unconfirmed, claimed the Iranian defense minister would be present at a transfer ceremony slated to be held behind closed doors.
There were also reports that Russia is set to supply several Sukhoi Su-30SM multi-role fighter jets to Iran as part of an arms deal between the two countries.
“The beginning of deliveries of the first consignment of Favorit (S-300) missile systems cannot take place since the Iranian side has not paid the price enshrined in the contract as of February 16,” a high-ranking representative of the Russian defense ministry told TASS, the state-run Russian news agency, on Wednesday evening.
Russia is set to supply several Sukhoi Su-30SM multi-role fighter jets to Iran as part of an arms deal between the two countries, a high-ranking official in the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation said Wednesday.
The Sukhoi Su-30SM, according to Sputnik, is capable of air-to-air and air-to-ground strikes and can be equipped with a wide variety of precision munitions.
According to the Russian news site Sputnik, a source in the Iranian Defense Ministry said the country’s Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan, who arrived Monday in Moscow, had planned to discuss the deal with Russian officials during his visit.
On Tuesday, Dehghan met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, and other officials.
Gen. Michael Hayden, former head of both the CIA and the NSA, claims the goal of a potential Israeli strike on Iran would be to drag the US into war.
Hayden made the remarks in a documentary film premiering this week at the Berlin International Film Festival. The film also quotes other sources in the US intelligence community who accuse Israel of disrupting a joint covert operation to sabotage computers used in Iran’s nuclear program by acting rashly and in opposition to agreed-upon plans. As a result, hundreds of millions of dollars that were invested in the operation went to waste.
The film, Zero Days, was directed by Alex Gibney, whose film Taxi to the Dark Side won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2008.
The film contains testimony from NSA and CIA operatives who worked together with Israeli colleagues – from the 8200 Military Intelligence Unit and Mossad – to develop several versions of a deadly virus that penetrated computers at the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz in Iran. The testimony is delivered anonymously by an actress whose face remains hidden.
Iran on Wednesday snubbed a proposal agreed to by four influential oil producers to cap their crude output if others do the same, with a senior Oil Ministry official saying Tehran has no intention of freezing oil output levels.
Mahdi Asali, Iran’s OPEC envoy, said his country will in fact keep increasing its crude exports until it reaches levels attained before international sanctions were imposed on Tehran over its nuclear program.
Asali’s comments came as Iran’s oil minister held a four-way, closed-door talks in Tehran with his counterparts from Iraq, Venezuela and Qatar.
On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Venezuela and Qatar conditionally agreed to cap their output at last month’s levels in order to halt a slide that has pushed oil prices to their lowest point in more than a decade. Oil prices recently plummeted below $30 a barrel, the lowest in 13 years.
The four countries made their announcement following an unexpected meeting in the Qatari capital of Doha that pointedly did not include Iran. They agreed to act only if other producers made similar freezes.
French carmaker Peugeot is to provide Iran Khodro with 427 million euros ($475 million) in debt waivers, bonuses and discounts under their first post-sanctions deal, the Iranian manufacturer said Sunday.
Iran Khodro signed a deal with Peugeot during President Hassan Rouhani’s trip to France last month to form a joint venture that is expected to invest up to 400 million euros ($436 million) over five years.
Peugeot is the first Western carmaker to announce a return to Iran since many economic sanctions against the country were lifted last month upon implementation of a nuclear deal with world powers.
“To compensate for suddenly leaving Iran under sanctions,” Iran Khodro CEO Hashem Yekkeh Zare said Sunday, Peugeot has agreed to waive 80 million euros ($89 million) of outstanding debts and provide free car parts worth 25 million euros ($28 million), and a free production line for the Peugeot 207 model worth 11 million euros ($12 million).
Peugeot will also offer 311.6 million euros ($347 million) in discounts, he said, including 140 million euros ($156 million) in royalty fees for cars made under Peugeot’s name.
In a move worthy of a Harry Potter movie, recruits in an anti-witchcraft unit within Saudi Arabia’s powerful religious police have begun a new training course on theoretical and practical aspects of countering sorcery and the black arts, the practice of which is punishable by death.
They recently completed a five-day course on combating magic at the headquarters of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in the Gulf Kingdom’s capital, Riyadh, according to the Emirates 24/7 news site.
The course included instruction on how to identify magicians and destroy black art works.
Three years ago, the Atlantic magazine quoted Sheikh Adel Faqih, a director of the anti-witchcraft division, as providing a “vague and innocuous” reply when asked what kind of information was needed to arrest a sorcery suspect.
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