Friday, April 2, 2021

US: It's our longstanding position that the West Bank is occupied - Tovah Lazaroff

 

​ by Tovah Lazaroff

"This has been the longstanding position of previous administrations of both parties over the course of many decades," Price said.

 

View of the Jewish settlement of Efrat and the surrounding fields, in Gush Etzion, West Bank, on December 1, 2020.  (photo credit: GERSHON ELINSON/FLASH90)
View of the Jewish settlement of Efrat and the surrounding fields, in Gush Etzion, West Bank, on December 1, 2020.
(photo credit: GERSHON ELINSON/FLASH90)

The Biden administration on Wednesday clarified that it considers the West Bank to be occupied territory, but ducked a question as to whether it held that settlements were illegal.
"It is a historical fact that Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights after the 1967 War," US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington on Wednesday.
 
The issue was raised after the Biden administration published on Tuesday the 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. It is the first of the annual reports released since US President Joe Biden took office in January 2021. 
 
The report affirmed steps taken by the previous Trump administration, which had both recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
It also kept in place a description change made to the report by former US president Donald Trump, in which he replaced the phrase "Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories" with "Israel, West Bank and Gaza."
 
But within the report, the Biden administration reintroduced the word "occupied" to describe Israel's seizure of territory during the 1967 Six Day War. 
 
When quizzed by a reporter as to whether the US considered that Israel occupied the West Bank, Price affirmed that it did.
 
"In fact, the 2020 Human Rights Report does use the term 'occupation' in the context of the current status of the West Bank," Price said. "This has been the longstanding position of previous administrations of both parties over the course of many decades."
 
Israel has long argued that the West Bank does not meet the standard of occupied territory, because it captured the area from Jordan, whose sovereignty there from 1948-1967 was not recognized legally and which itself was considered to be occupying it.
 
Prior to the 1948 War of Independence, the territory was held by Great Britain; prior World War I, it was part of the Ottoman Empire.
 
The Trump administration believed that Israel had historic and religious rights to portions of that territory and did not refer to it as occupied. Its top officials agreed with the Israeli Right, that the proper term was Judea and Samaria and not the West Bank, terminology linked to the time when the territory was under Jordanian rule.
 
Trump also changed US policy toward Israeli West Bank settlements. It rejected a 1978 memo by then US State Department legal advisor Herbert J. Hansell declaring that the settlements were illegal, declaring instead that they were not inconsistent with Israeli law.
The United Nations holds that Israel's settlements are illegal and that the West Bank is occupied Palestinian territory.
 
The Biden administration has yet to clarify its stance on the settlements, even though it is presumed to support a two-state solution at the pre-1967 lines.
 
At Wednesday's press conference, a reporter asked Price: "Does the US consider, for example, Israeli settlements in the occupied territories to be illegal as a result of this stance?"
 
Price responded that the US position had not changed, but he clarified that stance in his own way.
 
"We – as you have heard me say before – we continue to encourage all sides to avoid actions – both sides, I should say – to avoid actions that would put the two-state solution further out of reach. 
 
"Again, our ultimate goal here is to facilitate – to help bring about – a two-state solution because it is the best path to preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic state while bestowing on the Palestinians their legitimate aspirations of sovereignty and dignity in a state of their own," he said.
 
These lines are often his and other Biden official's standard response to many questions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
 

Tovah Lazaroff

 
Source: https://www.jpost.com/arab-israeli-conflict/us-its-our-long-standing-position-that-the-west-bank-is-occupied-663778

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H.R. 1: It’s Worse Than You Think - Anony Mee

 

​ by Anony Mee

There is lots of scary stuff that’s been packed into this bill.

“…and for other purposes” seems to be included in the titles of so many bills these days that it’s always enlightening to dig a little deeper, past a bill’s obvious provisions. In the case of H.R. 1 -- the 2021 Omnibus Federal Electoral Fraud Enhancement Act -- the revelations are pretty scary. They’re intended to drive from politics people Democrats don’t like and to consolidate in Congressional hands information that violates the Separation of Powers doctrine or the Bill of Rights.

Others have spoken forcefully about the bill’s proposed unjust and ruinous changes to the Federal Election Commission, campaign finance reforms, and general election processes. Today, let’s see what the last 100 or so pages of this nearly 900-page bill bring us. This is where all the “other purposes” are hiding and they’re as bad as the rest of the bill.

Section 10001, calls for Presidential and Vice Presidential tax transparency. What it really does is suppress candidate turnout by requiring that the last ten years of income tax returns be submitted to the Federal Election Commission within 15 days of becoming a party’s nominee.

Those records, with certain limited redactions, then become public just like any report filed with the FEC. Opposition research is complete and available to China, Russia, new or former relatives, all of Congress, the media, the whole world, in fact. For the candidates who are not elected, those records stay public forever. This will discourage private citizens like Trump – as opposed to lifelong political hacks – from running for high office.

This requirement seems to be a clear violation of the 4th Amendment which protects an individual’s papers against unreasonable seizure. This is a taking if there ever was one. Surprise! The IRS already has possession. If these documents are required by Congress for any purpose, a simple warrant based upon probable cause is all that’s necessary to obtain them.

Section 9101 also results in candidate suppression as it prohibits Members from serving on the boards of any for-profit organizations. This may have a chilling effect on any potential Congressional candidates who are also successful business owners, family farmers, managers of family trusts…or the adult children of former 45th Presidents of these United States.

Section 9401 requires supervisors (not employers, mind you) of people who are also employed by Congress to submit quarterly reports on those persons and their income to the House and Senate Ethics Committees.

Under the guise of ethics, Congress critters will be spying on their own staff. Most private companies have rules that prohibit the release of such information to others. And I see there is no requirement for translation from the Chinese for the handler of Senator Feinstein’s driver.

Nevertheless and again, this is a highly unwarranted intrusion into the private lives of individuals who have already completed the SF-86 proctological Questionnaire for National Security and undergone an FBI interview, as have their friends and family members. Again, that information is already in the federal government’s possession of the federal government. One must just have a valid reason to retrieve it from the FBI.

Section 9102 is worded strangely. It seems members of Congress will be prohibited from introducing or impacting legislation that serves “only” the Member’s financial interest or that of a Member’s family or small group. The word “only” appears three times in two lines of one sentence. However, it does not appear to prohibit the same activities for Members who are part of a larger group such as shareholders in a company.

Section 9001, which requires much painful flipping back and forth between H.R.1’s proposed text and the existing text of the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 amends the obligation that Members of Congress have to reimburse taxpayers for settlements based upon allegations that the member engaged in unlawful intimidation, reprisal, or discrimination. And guess what? This amendment is backdated to effective from the date the initial (1995) version of this section was enacted. Maybe some members who had to pay out of pocket for their sins want their money back. And maybe the author of this section thinks We the People should pay for their criminal indiscretions.

Section 8052 requires that, if a presidential transition team wants security clearance for any member of that team, the team must submit to Congress the names, employment history, financial history, roles and issues to be worked on, and recusals for each of those members. And if that information is not submitted, the individual is denied access to all non-public information from governmental agencies. This is a clear breach of the constitutional separation of powers, and a violation of the Privacy Act.

If Congress needs this information, which, again, is already in the hands of the FBI, a simple warrant supported by probable cause is all that is required. Someone sure has their knickers in a twist. And it’s too bad for them, but We the People like the separation of powers.

Buried in Section 8034 is the insertion of Congress into the enforcement of ethics for executive branch employees. This occurs when the Office of the Inspector General (which reports directly to Congress) is added to the Attorney General’s role in developing a reporting system for violations. This section also takes away from each agency its authority to deal internally with ethics issues and violations and puts that authority in the hands of one individual. Again, this sure looks like a separation of powers violation.

Section 7001, which falls under a section titled “Supreme Court Ethics,” requires that the Judicial Conference (led by the Chief Justice and comprised of representatives of federal courts) develop a code of conduct. Funny thing is, the Supreme Court did that in 1973, and it has been updated periodically since. Appears that this bill is the first step in codifying that code of conduct, very much Congressional overreach. Wonder if the House has its nose out of joint because it has no say in judicial confirmations.

Section 6201, regarding disposal of campaign contributions, should be titled the Bloomberg Skates Around Campaign Contribution Limitations Act. It appears to codify making multi-million-dollar donations from personal funds to campaign committees, as long as one pretends to run for office for some unspecified period of time using one’s own funds in the process.

Finally, let us note that there are nine separate sections regarding severability. Basically, that means that each section of this bill stands alone and must be attacked individually for its unconstitutionality. It’s going to take a lot more work to dismantle this bill, if enacted, when seemingly the whole thing is fraught with violations of the basic rights of We the People.

And just for fun, here's a bonus poster (concept by Anony Mee; execution by Andrea Widburg):

Anony Mee is a retired public servant.

IMAGE: Democrats shill the For The People Act (with added commentary by ARW) by ForThePeople_cam2_032719 (54 of 54). CC BY 2.0.

 

Anony Mee

 
Source: https://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2021/04/hr_1_its_worse_than_you_think.html

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Biden poised to undo pro-Israel measure targeting ICC - ILH Staff

 

​ by ILH Staff

According to a Foreign Policy report, there are "plans as early as this week to revoke a Trump-era executive order levying sanctions on the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and a top deputy."

 

ICC chief prosecutor insists tribunal has authority to investigate Israeli conduct
International Criminal Court's (ICC) head prosecutor Fatou Bensouda makes a speech during the 18th session of the ICCs Assembly of States Parties | Photo: Getty Images Abdullah Asiran/Anadolu Agency

The Biden administration may undo some of the pro-Israel measures taken by the previous president against the International Criminal Court, according to the Foreign Policy.
 
The international relations magazine reported that the executive order targeting the outing ICC chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, imposed by President Donald Trump over potential legal prosecution against Israeli and US soldiers.
 
According to the report, there are "plans as early as this week to revoke a Trump-era executive order levying sanctions on the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and a top deputy." Furthermore, the magazine said that "the expected move comes after months of pressure on the Biden administration from human rights groups and European governments after former President Donald Trump left office. In February, more than 80 groups signed an open letter urging the Biden administration to repeal the Trump-era sanctions, calling them a 'betrayal of the US legacy in establishing institutions of international justice.'"
 
Bensouda has recently announced that she would launch an investigation into alleged Israeli and Palestinian war crimes since the Gaza war of 2014, which was triggered when terrorists kidnapped and killed three Israeli teens.
 
This, despite the Palestinian Authority not being recognized as a state and Israel not being a signatory to the Rome Statute that set the legal framework for the court.
 

ILH Staff

 
Source: https://www.israelhayom.com/2021/04/01/biden-poised-to-undo-pro-israel-measure-by-lifting-icc-sanctions/

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Tech tyrants slam a few extra nails into Donald Trump's coffin - Andrea Widburg

 

​ by Andrea Widburg

Having used their immense power to get Trump out of the White House, Facebook and Instagram still aren't done with him.

I have never forgotten — I doubt I ever will forget — Scott Adams saying in a 2019 podcast that the tech tyrants would ensure that Trump would not win again and, indeed, that no one who was not of their choosing would ever win the White House again.  They'd slipped up in 2016 and learned their lesson.  He was prophetic, and boy! did they learn their lesson.  Facebook and its subsidiary, Instagram, having already banned Trump himself from their platforms, are now banning any content with Trump's voice in it from the platforms.

As was the case with all the other tech tyrants, Facebook and Instagram banned Trump after January 6.  They've kept that ban in place even though it has become absolutely apparent that Trump did nothing wrong on that day.

Actually, to smart people, such as American Thinker readers, Trump's innocence was instantly apparent; to leftist ideologues, the only apparent thing is that no number of facts will ever change their faith-based beliefs about all sorts of things, including the Russia Hoax, Hunter Biden's innocence, climate change, or the bizarre belief that Hannah Gadsby is a comedian.

But back to the ban.  For Facebook and Instagram, merely preventing Trump from having an account is not enough.  He must be erased entirely, just as the ancient Egyptians carefully scrubbed hieroglyphics referencing disfavored monarchs or the Romans systematically destroyed statuary that once paid homage to leaders who subsequently fell out of favor.  (In 1689, a German dissertation gave us the wonderful phrase "damnatio memoriae," or "condemnation of memory," to describe the primitive mind's belief that disfavored people should be deleted from history.)

Showing just how primitive the college-educated censors at Facebook and Instagram are, they deleted a video interview that Lara Trump, wife to Trump's son, Eric, had conducted with the former president. Facebook removed a video of an interview with former President conducted by his daughter-in-law Lara Trump, saying any content "in the voice of Donald Trump" would be scrubbed from the social media platform.

Facebook permanently banned the former president from their platform in January after the Capitol riot.

On Tuesday, Lara Trump, a Fox News contributor, posted an image on Instagram of her sitting across from her father-in-law, urging followers to "Join us tonight!"

A group of Trump officials were sent an email from a Facebook employee, warning that any content posted on Facebook and Instagram "in the voice of President Trump is not currently allowed on our platforms (including new posts with President Trump speaking)" and warned that it "will be removed if posted, resulting in additional limitations on accounts that posted it."

Here's the notice, along with Lara's comment: "….and just like that, we are one step closer to Orwell's 1984. Wow."  But note too how this screen grab caught two comments from leftists cheering on the censors:

It's time for conservatives to abandon these platforms and to turn them into little leftist ghettos.  These platforms make money based on their membership.  You're not paying anything, but advertisers are paying the platforms for the chance to get advertisements in front of you.  If you pull out, that creates a smaller audience for the advertisers and inevitably decreases the tech tyrants' revenue stream.

The real beauty of these leftist ghettos — and we do need a few conservative media types to stay on board to watch for this — is that they'll do what leftists always do: having banished their original enemies, they will turn on each other, with each person in a frenzy to prove him-, her-, or itself more ideologically pure than the next person.

Think: the Terror in France, when Madame la Guillotine, deprived of aristocrats, turned on the revolutionaries; or the decades of purges in Stalin's Russia; or the Cultural Revolution in China.  The thing about the social media purges, if conservatives pull out, is that they'll simply be decimating each other — and, of course, no actual lives will be lost.

Trump may end up having the last laugh.  He is now an official Florida resident, and Governor Ron DeSantis is pushing for legislation allowing Florida citizens to sue the tech tyrants for, among other things, deplatforming politicians.  If that legislation passes and Trump runs again, that's going to be helpful. 

Image: Facebook/Instagram damnatio memoriae of Donald Trump.  Instagram screen grab.

 

Andrea Widburg

 
Source: https://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2021/04/tech_tyrants_slam_a_few_extra_nails_into_donald_trumps_coffin.html

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Iran Still Hiding Key Parts of its Nuclear Programme, US Trying Bribery Again - Con Coughlin

 

​ by Con Coughlin

Iran's leadership will most likely use these newfound billions to strengthen domestic repression, to intensify regional adventurism

  • The latest evidence that Iran is continuing to conceal vital elements of its nuclear programme from the outside world suggest that, even if there is a resumption of negotiations on Tehran's nuclear programme, the regime has little genuine interest in complying with the terms of any future deal.

  • In another provocative move, Iran's conservative-dominated parliament has ordered the government to start limiting some inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN-sponsored body responsible for monitoring Iran's nuclear activities.

  • The move by the Iranian parliament comes after the IAEA published a report revealing that last summer inspectors found uranium particles at two Iranian nuclear sites that Iran tried to block access to.

  • The Biden Administration has also apparently been trying to sidestep legally-required congressional approval to funnel more money to Iran and other dictatorships through a new International Monetary Fund programme, "special drawing rights" (SDRs). Through them, Iran would receive an additional $4.5 billion, usable in other currencies. According to the Wall Street Journal, which referred to the program as "Special Dollars for Dictators", Iran's leadership will most likely use these newfound billions to strengthen domestic repression, to intensify regional adventurism -- Iran's proxy Houthi rebels in Yemen have already targeted a "large Saudi oil field" -- and to escalate their nuclear programme still further.

Fresh evidence is emerging that Iran's regime is up to its old tricks by attempting to conceal key elements of the programme from UN inspectors. Pictured: The Isfahan uranium enrichment facility in Isfahan, Iran. (Photo by Getty Images)

With the Biden administration seemingly keen to recommence negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear programme, fresh evidence is emerging that Iran's regime is up to its old tricks by attempting to conceal key elements of the programme from UN inspectors.

Iran has a long and undistinguished history of seeking to conceal the existence of key elements of its nuclear programme dating back to 2002, when a group of Iranian dissidents first revealed the existence of the Natanz nuclear enrichment site.

Enrichment is a crucial process in producing weapons-grade nuclear material, and the fact that Iran managed to build the massive underground facility about 100 miles to the south of Tehran in secret was the first major evidence that the regime was developing nuclear weapons.

Since then there have been many similar instances of Iran seeking to conceal the existence of key facilities from the outside world, such as the Fordow facility which was constructed during the late 2000s under a mountain to protect it from attack.

Now evidence has emerged that, with the Biden administration indicating that it wants to resume negotiations with Tehran on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear deal negotiated by former US President Barack Obama, Iran has resumed its attempts to conceal vital components from UN inspection teams.

According to recent Western intelligence reports, the equipment Iran is trying to conceal includes machinery, pumps and spare parts for centrifuges, the sophisticated machines used for enriching uranium to weapons grade.

In addition, materials such as carbon fibre, which can be used in the production of advanced centrifuges, are also being stored at secret sites in Iran administered by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which has overall responsibility for Iran's nuclear programme.

Intelligence officials believe the material, which is supposed to be declared to UN inspectors under the terms of JCPOA, is being stored in 75 shipping containers, which are regularly transported around the country to sites administered by the Atomic Energy Agency of Iran (AEOI). Satellite intelligence images show that at least some of the containers have been stored at the AEOI's uranium conversion facility at Isfahan.

The latest evidence that Iran is continuing to conceal vital elements of its nuclear programme from the outside world suggest that, even if there is a resumption of negotiations on Tehran's nuclear programme, the regime has little genuine interest in complying with the terms of any future deal.

It also lends weight to concerns that Iran has already resumed work on its nuclear weapons programme, which US intelligence officials say was in existence until at least 2003, and that the regime has continued to retain key elements of the programme in storage despite signing the JCPOA in 2015.

In 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an address to the UN General Assembly, accused Iran of storing key elements of its nuclear programme at secret locations in Tehran.

One of the biggest criticisms of the 2015 deal is that it did not require Iran to provide an explanation for traces of weapons grade uranium that were discovered at numerous sites during routine inspections by UN officials, as well as providing details of other aspects of the nuclear weapons programme, such as the development of ballistic missiles and detonators for nuclear warheads.

These were some of the reasons that prompted the Trump administration to withdraw from the nuclear deal in 2018 and reimpose punitive sanctions against Tehran.

Iran has responded by intensifying its non-compliance with the JCPOA, to the extent that the ayatollahs recently announced that they were increasing their uranium stockpiles while increasing the enrichment process to 20 percent, which far exceeds the 3.67 percent limit stipulated by the accord, and is a small technical step away from producing weapons-grade material.

In another provocative move, Iran's conservative-dominated parliament has ordered the government to start limiting some inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN-sponsored body responsible for monitoring Iran's nuclear activities.

The move by the Iranian parliament comes after the IAEA published a report revealing that last summer, inspectors found uranium particles at two Iranian nuclear sites that Iran tried to block access to.

The Biden administration has repeatedly said it will return to the nuclear deal if Iran first returns to compliance with the JCPOA. Iran demands the US lift sanctions first, putting the two sides at a stalemate.

The stand-off between Washington and Tehran is likely to continue for as long as Iran demonstrates that it has no genuine interest in ending its quest for nuclear weapons.

The Biden Administration nevertheless looks about to try the bribery route yet again -- presumably with the same result as before. Recently, South Korea agreed to release $7 billion in "frozen assets" to Iran "following consultations with the United States."

The Biden Administration has also apparently been trying to sidestep legally-required congressional approval to funnel more money to Iran and other dictatorships through a new International Monetary Fund programme, "special drawing rights" (SDRs). Through them, Iran would receive an additional $4.5 billion, usable in other currencies. According to the Wall Street Journal, which referred to the program as "Special Dollars for Dictators", Iran's leadership will most likely use these newfound billions to strengthen domestic repression, to intensify regional adventurism -- Iran's proxy Houthi rebels in Yemen have already targeted a "large Saudi oil field" -- and to escalate their nuclear programme still further.

 

Con Coughlin is the Telegraph's Defence and Foreign Affairs Editor and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.

 
Source: https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/17214/iran-hiding-nuclear-program

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China Challenges the US on Iran - Judith Bergman

 

​ by Judith Bergman

"Strategically, the BRI is how China is seeking to collapse Western-American dominance in the region peacefully... the BRI is a sophisticated Chinese plan to transfer hegemony from the West and the U.S. to China without war or conflict". — Dr. Mordechai Chaziz

  • According to a leaked draft of the comprehensive strategic partnership agreement, circulated last year, Iran will receive $400 billion dollars in Chinese investments over the next 25 years in key Iranian economic sectors, including energy, telecommunications, defense, infrastructure, banking, petrochemicals, railways and ports. According to the leaked draft, there will be also an expansion of military assistance, training and intelligence-sharing. Nearly 100 projects are cited in the draft. In return, Iran will commit to providing regular and heavily discounted oil, gas and possibly other natural resources to China.

  • "Strategically, the BRI is how China is seeking to collapse Western-American dominance in the region peacefully... the BRI is a sophisticated Chinese plan to transfer hegemony from the West and the U.S. to China without war or conflict". — Dr. Mordechai Chaziz, author of China's Middle East Diplomacy: The Belt and Road Strategic Partnership, thediplomat.com, March 10, 2021.

  • The timing seems hardly a coincidence, but rather an outcome of the Biden administration's appeasing overtures to Iran with its formal offer of restarting nuclear talks. The signing of the agreement itself can be seen as a Chinese-Iranian act of defiance against the US, undercutting sanctions against Iran by supplying the regime with an economic lifeline, while showing China off as an active global power that is able and willing to stand up to the US.

  • For China, Iran is a welcome counterbalance to US influence in the region, as the only large regional power that is not aligned with the US, in addition to having enormous oil and natural gas resources and providing a large market of more than 80 million citizens for Chinese goods.

  • "China is pivoting towards more autocratic regimes that represent greater stability for its supply lines than democracies that are, or may become, hostile to Beijing." — Verisk Maplecroft risk consultancy firm, March 17, 2021.

Pictured: Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (right) and China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the signing of the China-Iran comprehensive strategic 25-year partnership agreement on economic and security cooperation, in Tehran, Iran on March 27, 2021. (Photo by AFP via Getty Images)

On March 27, China and Iran signed a comprehensive strategic 25-year partnership agreement on economic and security cooperation. The agreement was signed in Tehran, where China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi was visiting as part of his tour of the Middle East.

Details of the agreement were not immediately published. The Iranian Foreign Ministry communicated that it was a "roadmap for cooperation" and that no "contracts" were included in it. "Prospects for cooperation, whether economic, political, cultural or strategic, have not been quantified, therefore it does not include numbers on investment or financial and monetary resources," a statement of the Iranian Foreign Ministry reported.

The agreement has been underway for five years, ever since Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Iran in January 2016, when establishing a "comprehensive strategic partnership" was agreed. At that meeting, according to China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "Xi Jinping stressed that China will enhance all-round practical cooperation with Iran within the 'Belt and Road' framework". At the time, the two countries also signed a Memorandum of Understanding "on jointly advancing construction of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road" as well as "multiple bilateral cooperation documents covering energy, production capacity, finance, investment, communications, culture, justice, science, technology, news, customs, climate change and human resources". China and Iran also agreed then to "strengthen exchanges between think-tanks, colleges and universities and youths, [and] jointly ensure the successful operation of the Confucius Institutes" to "tell China's story well" and shape the narrative about China in Iran.

According to a leaked draft of the comprehensive strategic partnership agreement, circulated last year, Iran will receive $400 billion dollars in Chinese investments over the next 25 years in key Iranian economic sectors, including energy, telecommunications, defense, infrastructure, banking, petrochemicals, railways and ports. According to the leaked draft, there will be also an expansion of military assistance, training and intelligence-sharing. Nearly 100 projects are cited in the draft. In return, Iran will commit to providing regular and heavily discounted oil, gas and possibly other natural resources to China. China, as the world's top importer of both oil and gas, is obsessive about energy security for its growing economy.

The agreement reportedly also formalizes the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Iran. Iran participates in China's so-called Digital Silk Road, the Silk Road of Innovation and the "Green" Silk Road. The Digital Silk Road represents the Chinese Communist Party's (CCP's) ambition, among other things, to shape the course of 5G technology in the world, whereas the Silk Road of Innovation is about technology transfers. The "Green" Silk Road is about transitioning to renewable energy sources. "China is the largest foreign investor in the... Middle East region", according to Dr. Mordechai Chaziz, author of China's Middle East Diplomacy: The Belt and Road Strategic Partnership.

"Strategically, the BRI is how China is seeking to collapse Western-American dominance in the region peacefully. The connection between the BRI and the strategic partnerships it creates in the region... allows it to gradually take over the region without creating tensions with the U.S. or the West. In other words, the BRI is a sophisticated Chinese plan to transfer hegemony from the West and the U.S. to China without war or conflict".

The question is why, after five years, the two countries decided to sign the agreement now. Last year, Iran rejected media reports that talks about the recently signed comprehensive agreement were suspended until the outcome of the US presidential election. However, the timing seems hardly a coincidence, but rather an outcome of the Biden administration's appeasing overtures to Iran with its formal offer of restarting nuclear talks. The signing of the agreement itself can be seen as a Chinese-Iranian act of defiance against the US, undercutting sanctions against Iran by supplying the regime with an economic lifeline, while showing China off as an active global power that is able and willing to stand up to the US. The more so, as the signing came just one week after the Chinese foreign minister's unprecedented lecturing of his US counterpart at their March 19 meeting in Alaska.

The signing of the agreement comes at a time when China is already defying US sanctions on Iran in other ways -- such as by reportedly importing record volumes of crude oil. "Iran moved about 17.8 million tonnes (306,000 barrels per day) of crude into China during the past 14 months, with volumes reaching record levels in January and February" Reuters reported. In March, according to some estimates, China has been taking in some 856,000 barrels per day of Iranian crude oil, a 129% surge compared to February.

"If it sells 1 million barrels a day at current prices, Iran has no incentive to negotiate," said Sara Vakhshouri, an expert on Iran's oil industry. "The informal Chinese purchases" one U.S. official said, "have reduced the need [for Tehran] to negotiate on oil sanctions", the Wall Street Journal noted.

As China is Iran's largest trading partner, the agreement, in addition to providing Iran with modern technology, would help its economy to grow. China, among other countries, helped Iran with its nuclear development several decades ago and has been regularly championing a return to the Iran nuclear deal or the JCPOA. For China, Iran is a welcome counterbalance to US influence in the region, as the only large regional power that is not aligned with the US, in addition to having enormous oil and natural gas resources and providing a large market of more than 80 million citizens for Chinese goods. The two countries, despite their marked ideological differences, share an authoritarian, anti-Western outlook, making each attractive to the other. According to a recent report by risk consultancy firm Verisk Maplecroft:

"China is pivoting towards more autocratic regimes that represent greater stability for its supply lines than democracies that are, or may become, hostile to Beijing".

China has even helped Iran crack down on dissidents by exporting its digital authoritarianism in the form of surveillance equipment.

How much of a lifeline the Chinese will ultimately be able to give the Iranians -- and the extent to which they will be able to chip away at US leverage over Iran in the process -- now depends on how the US responds to the comprehensive agreement. The Biden administration still seems intent on pursuing a strategy of accommodating Iran. According to the Wall Street Journal, "A senior Biden administration official said the U.S. is open to taking a step that would relax sanctions even before meeting Iranian officials".

"We've made clear that withdrawing from the JCPOA was a mistake, that maximum pressure was a failure," the official said. "But this needs to be part of a process in which Iran also takes steps to reverse its nuclear decisions."

 

Judith Bergman, a columnist, lawyer and political analyst, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.

 
Source: https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/17229/china-iran-challenge

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Homage to Alexei Navalny, Courageous Russian - Michael Curtis

 

​ by Michael Curtis

Alexei Navalny, a prominent political activist critical of the present Russian regime, is being held in a labor camp.

In March 2021, archaeologists in the Czech Republic uncovered a part of chilling history: the instillation of a forced labor camp that had been built in Prague during the communist regime, which ended with the Velvet Revolution of 1989.  The camp was close to the spot on a strategic hilltop overlooking the medieval city where a massive, 51-foot-high monument to Stalin had stood from May 1955 until it was blown up in 1962 under pressure from Nikita Khrushchev, who was denouncing the crimes of Stalin.  The camp had held "politically unreliable" individuals, often academics, intellectuals, and paid manual labor prisoners.  This was the first time that Czech archaeologists had uncovered a penal institution in Prague built during the communist regime.  This camp was previously unknown, as all mentions, footprints, and evidence of the encampment had been destroyed.

At a moment when Alexei Navalny, a prominent political activist critical of the present Russian regime, is being held in a labor camp, the Prague finding is a reminder of the Gulag system in the Soviet Union, the network of forced labor camps set up by Vladimir Lenin in 1918, and intensified by Joseph Stalin until his death in 1953, and which were officially ended by Khrushchev in January 1960.  The hundreds of labor camps incarcerated more than 18 million, of whom at least 1.5 million died.  They averaged between 2,000 and 10,000 inmates: the Vorkuta Gulag at its peak held 73,000 prisoners.  In his magisterial trilogy, The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn provided a compelling picture of the vast array of forced labor camps and prisons, the horrors of the Gulag throughout the country, and an indictment of the Soviet Union.

It is now three decades since the end of the Soviet Union.  Since Vladimir Putin consolidated power in 1999, Russia cannot be categorized as a Stalinist-type totalitarian state, but an authoritarian one that does not resemble a normal democratic system.  Though it has a sort of pseudo-democratic legitimacy, it is a county that subverts democratic rules and continues the forced labor system.  Putin, the holder of a judo black belt, a symbol of guile and aggression, and master of tokui waza, a match-winning throwing technique, is a dictator, planning to stay in power ruling a Potemkin democracy, changing the constitutional rules to remain in power, becoming head of the executive and curbing the power of the Legislature and the courts.  Though Russia is officially, according to the 1993 Constitution, democratic, a federation of territories with their own rights and responsibilities, Putin in effect has eroded their autonomy and imposed on them the power of the Kremlin.

Putin on the international stage has demonstrated his policy to reassert Russian power with military intervention in Ukraine, annexing Crimea in March 2014, and acting to support the Assad regime in Syria.  Internally, Putin is an authoritarian ruler in whose hands power is concentrated, supported by loyalist security forces, a subservient Judiciary, controlled media, a Legislature dominated by his party, and manipulation of elections.

The human rights situation deteriorates with bans, repressive laws, restrictions online, persecutions, and elimination of political and other critics.  The list of individuals threatened or murdered is long and well known.  Some of the more familiar are Alexander Litvinenko in 2006, Boris Berezovsky, Anna Politkovskaya, Sergei Skripal, Pyotr Verzilov, Yaroslav Belousov, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Sergei Mokhov, and Vladimir Kara-murza — along with the best known recent serious opponent, Alexei Navalny.

Navalny, now 44, who had been a World Fellow at Yale in 2010, emerged as a charismatic opposition figure, critical, in non-ideological fashion, of Putin's autocratic rule, concentrating on the corruption of the regime and on issues like income, health, education, rule of law.  He organized the largest protest in modern Russian history in 2017.  He referred to Putin's party, United Russia, as a party of thieves and crooks; accused Dmitry Medvedev, then prime minister and former president, with his yachts and palaces, of corruption; and mentioned Putin's vast luxury Black Sea palace, "gifted" to him by associates.  He founded the Anti-Corruption Foundation.  In 2013, Navalny was tried in criminal court for embezzlement and received a suspended sentence, but he ran for mayor of Moscow, coming in second and getting 27% of the vote.  In 2016, he wanted to be a candidate for the 2018 presidential election, but he was barred because of his criminal trial.

Nevertheless, he built up a following of 120,000 volunteers, but all independent candidates were disqualified from local council elections.  Though the Kremlin put down protests with brutality, Navalny organized the largest protest in modern Russian history in 2017.

During a flight from Tomsk, Siberia to Moscow on August 20, 2020, Navalny became violently ill and was taken to a hospital in Omsk after an emergency landing.  After two days there, he was flown to the Charite hospital in Berlin.  German specialists found he had been poisoned by a new form of the nerve agent Novichok.  His survival is a mixture of luck and quick, efficient medical treatment.  Speculation is that he may have been poisoned by a cup of tea he drank at Tomsk airport.  Another suggestion according to a state security agent is that Novichok had been smeared on his underpants.  Navalny has humorously referred to Russian history as having Alexander the Liberator (1861); Yaroslav the Wise (1019); and Putin, the poisoner of underpants.

Navalny returned from Berlin to Moscow on January 17, 2021 and was detained for violating his parole conditions because he did not report to the police while recovering from his poisoning.  On February 2, 2021, his suspended sentence was increased to a prison sentence: two and a half years in a labor camp.  He was sent to a penal colony, 60 miles east of Moscow, Penal Colony No. 2 in the village of Pokrow.  It is said to be particularly onerous, a prison where inmates are woken up hourly at night by guards shining a torch in their faces.  Prisoners work long shifts and are subjected to psychological torture.  Navalny's health continues to deteriorate with the possibility of solitary confinement, a condition close to torture, for major crimes such as getting out of bed ten minutes before official wake up call and wearing a T-shirt when meeting lawyers.  Yet, though he has been removed from being a direct political threat to Putin, Navalny can still influence millions of supporters on social media.

The poisoning and imprisonment of Navalny are only the latest exercise of Putin's power over opponents, but they throw light on the existence and continuation of camps, a heritage of the Gulag.  Russia is a land of penal colonies: there are estimated to be 684 work colonies, out of a total of 692 prisons, that hold 393,000 prisoners where inmates carry out menial labor in long shifts.  These penal colonies consist of barracks that house several dozen inmates sleeping in rows of bunks, and they are surrounded by high walls with razor wire. 

Surprisingly, Amnesty International stopped calling Navalny a "prisoner of conscience" because of remarks he made years ago about "migrants who are cockroaches."  But nothing he said in the past justifies his detention.  He may not be a saint, but he should be honored as an example of courage.

The West must respond to Russian inhumanity.  It is understood that Russia is powerful, if not a superpower, with large nuclear warhead stockpile, with supplies of oil and gas, the second largest in the world, highly developed communications equipment, sophisticated weapons, upgrading its equipment and objects like nuclear torpedoes.  At the same time, opposition is present, especially with the rise of social media, though it is dangerous.  This was shown in the case of Sergei Furgal of the Liberal Democratic Party.  He had bested the Putin candidate in election in 2018 to become governor of the Khabarovsk region, but he was arrested two years later and charged with murders supposed to have been committed fifteen years earlier.

The international community should react strongly against the inhumane treatment of Navalny, in addition to applauding his actions.  It is evident that all charges against him are politically motivated.  The E.U. diplomat Joseph Borrell stated that the Navalny case was a low point in relations with Russia.  The Bidden administration should join with Borrell and internal Russian critics to appeal, as a minimum, for the release of Navalny.  Spring should not be a little late this year.

Image: Evgeny Feldman via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0.

 

Michael Curtis

 
Source: https://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2021/03/homage_to_alexei_navalny_courageous_russian.html

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The Democrat war against the white middle class - Drew Allen

 

​ by Drew Allen

The Marxist left in this country is engaged in an all-out assault on white, middle-class America.

On March 16, 2021, a 21-year-old white male named Robert Aaron Long went on a shooting rampage at three separate massage parlors, leaving eight women dead.  The Marxist rabble-rousers — a term synonymous with the Democrat party — quickly retreated into their Marxist libraries and thumbed through Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals to find out how to "stir up dissatisfaction and discontent."

We know that Robert Aaron Long went to rehab twice for sex addiction.  Anyone with a rational brain — which exempts all Democrats — understands that Long was a sick and depraved individual whose motivation was not race-based, but induced by his self-loathing and contempt for those women to whom he turned.  The killer admitted that there was no racial motivation for the killings.  Long killed the women not because they were Asian — two were white — but because they worked at massage parlors, the types of places Long frequented to feed his loathsome addiction.

But the Marxists in the media and in the Democrat party — one and the same — intentionally told a different narrative.  A Washington Post headline declared, "Eight killed, including 6 Asian women."  Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that Asians "are being targeted unfairly."  Georgia state rep. Bee Nguyen told CNN's Erin Burnett, "in this particular case, where the victims were Asian women, we see the intersections of racism, xenophobia and gender-based violence."  Interestingly, neither Mayor Bottoms nor Rep. Nguyen, nor the Washington Post headline, mentioned the two white women murdered.  Why?  Because Saul Alinsky instructs them to "create the issues or problems."

You see, the Democrat party and the Democrat media are Marxists whose goal is to bring about revolution.  Their organization is "born out of the issues and the issues are born out of the organization," according to Alinsky.  They intentionally ignored the two whites because such an acknowledgment would undermine their effort to "agitate, create disenchantment, and discontent."  White lives don't matter, but white votes still do.

The left in this country is engaged in an all-out assault on white, middle-class America.  Don't take my word for it.  Saul Alinsky, the official Marxist Democrat party tactician, wrote in Rules for Radicals that "organization for action will now and in the decade ahead center upon America's white middle class.  That is where the power is.  When more than three-fourths of our people from both the point of view of economics and self-identification are middle class, it is obvious that their action or inaction will determine the direction of change.  Large parts of the middle class, the 'silent majority,' must be activated."

The Marxist Democrats are professional agitators and community organizers.  They are arsonists, setting fire to the world.  Their lies are intentional and strategic.  Alinsky writes, "The organizer's job is to inseminate an invitation for himself, to agitate, introduce ideas, get people pregnant with hope and a desire for change and to identify you as the person most qualified for this purpose."

This is why the media largely ignored a slew of other recent violent crimes.  Contrast the Democrat narrative and reporting on the Atlanta shootings with the most recent murder of a Pakistani Uber driver in Washington, D.C.  CNN reports, "Two teenage girls have been charged in the carjacking death of an Uber Eats driver this week in Washington, DC, police say."  There is no mention of the "black" ethnicity of the teenagers in the article, nor any suggestion of it being an anti-immigrant  hate crime.

Or how about the reporting following the recent murder of ten white people by a Syrian, Muslim immigrant in Boulder, Colorado?  In fact, CNN went out of the way to report that "high school bullies made fun of Alissa's name and for being Muslim."  The subtext is that the killer was a victim.  There is no suggestion that this was an anti-white hate crime, even thought all ten victims were white. 

Americans are pawns in the Democrats' scheme to wrest power from "we the people" and secure it in perpetuity for themselves.  White middle-class Americans remain the greatest impediment to the left's totalitarian ambitions.  Alinksy wrote in 1971, "We are belatedly beginning to understand this, to know that even if all the low-income parts of our population were organized — all the blacks, Mexican-Americans, Puerto Ricans, Appalachian poor white — if through some genius of organization they were all united in a coalition, it would not be powerful enough to get significant, basic, needed change."

The Atlanta spa shootings were attractive to the community organizers on the left.  They salivated over their keyboards because they saw it as a rare opportunity to set multiple fires.  This too is textbook Marxism.  Alinksy instructs, "[A] single issue drastically limits your appeal, where multiple issues would draw in the many potential members essential to the building of a broad, mass-based organization[.] ... [M]any issues means many members."

This is why Rep. Nguyen attached the murders to multiple issues — "racism, xenophobia, and gender based violence."  The Democrats are diabolical.  Revolution is their goal.  They are communists.

For too long, Americans have watched with frustration, anger, and helplessness as the Marxists have moved the ball down the field.  But we have their playbook.  If we hope to avert a dark totalitarian future, we must study their plays and  expose them.

Image: stevepb via Pixabay, Pixabay license.

 

Drew Allen is a Texas-bred, California-based conservative author and speaker, who writes a weekly blog promoting conservative ideals at drewthomasallen.com.  Fluent in Italian, Drew has lived and worked in Italy in the fashion industry and in New York City and Los Angeles as an actor, screenwriter, and independent film producer.

 
Source: https://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2021/04/the_democrat_war_against_the_white_middle_class.html

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Rising Islamism in British Schools Threatens Free Speech - Dr. Paul Stott

 

​ ​ by Dr. Paul Stott

[T]he greater effect on the country's values, especially freedom of speech, can be seen in the rise and enforcement of Islamic blasphemy codes, in a country where blasphemy is not against the law.

Deobandi-led Protestors Outside Batley Grammar School

As schools in the United Kingdom recover from the year-long disruption caused by COVID-19, a small grammar school in the west Yorkshire town of Batley has been catapulted into national and international headlines. On Thursday, March 25, pickets closed Batley Grammar School after Muslim campaigners descended on the school protesting a teacher accused of showing caricatures of Muhammad.

There is some inconsistency in reports as to whether these images were from Charlie Hebdo or whether the image in question was the depiction of Muhammad with a bomb in his turban that formed part of the 2006 Danish cartoons controversy. Either way, posts on social media encouraged protesters to attend the school to demand the teacher's resignation "as an absolute minimum" and declared that attendance was a religious duty to defend the "honour" of the prophet. The school and surrounding roads were closed, and a large group of men, primarily in their 20s — many of them too young to be parents of schoolchildren — milled about. There were noticeably very few women.

Britain has been here before. The attempt to enforce Islamic norms and regulations in public life in the West was born out of the 1989 book burnings and protests against Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses. Europe has suffered periodic crises over Islamic blasphemy codes ever since, even though there is currently no offense of blasphemy in English law.

A noticeable characteristic in the Batley protests has been the presence of followers of the Deobandi school of Islam. In 1988, Deobandis were behind the first British protests against Salman Rushdie. Batley is in the West Yorkshire borough of Kirklees, an area of strong Deobandi representation, particularly in Dewsbury and Batley.

Knowledge of Deobandism in the UK is generally low, even among those busy in the contentious fields of counter-extremism and counter-radicalization. Focus has been far greater on Salafism due to its association with Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda and its appeal to "born-again" Muslims searching for authenticity. A second source of concentration has been on the Muslim Brotherhood because of its comparative political success.

In numerical terms, though, and certainly in the British context, Deobandism matters far more. A 2017 report by the Muslims in Britain directory estimated 41 percent of the UK's mosques were Deobandi — that is 797 out of 1934 institutions. And that figure — for one of the most conservative stripes of Islam — was rising. In Batley, a crash course in the ethics of Deobandism is currently available through local Imam Mohammed Amin Pandor.

Pandor has been central to the protest at the grammar school. He entered the school freely (despite the country's lockdown restrictions), meeting with teachers, and delivered his analysis from the school gates to other protesters and the media. At one point he claimed to have been involved in drafting the statement issued by Batley Grammar that ensured changes. This was followed by the school's statement that it "unequivocally apologises for using a totally inappropriate resource" and had suspended the teacher who showed the image.

At the school gates, Pandor commented, "Look at what we do as a community, and you'll understand our stance." This was almost certainly a reference to the burgeoning Islamic charity sector, in the Batley area, Yorkshire, and farther afield. The charity sector is a prominent source of employment for Islamists in the UK, and charities can achieve a sense of recognition and engagement from the authorities that would not be given to secular associations or campaign groups. We now see, however, some of the downsides of this work.

During the coronavirus pandemic, for instance, one local Islamic charity named Purpose of Life provided IT equipment to Batley Grammar School. A deeper look at the Purpose of Life, however, suggests an organization that is not necessarily as benign or altruistic as it appears. It was forced to delete a letter by its CEO Mohammad Sajad Hussain, circulated online on March 25, which publicly named the teacher, described the images he showed as terrorism, and compared it to the murder of Muslims in Myanmar. That letter also declared that until the teacher was sacked "we cannot work with or promote Batley Grammar School."

The Batley affair is also an indicator of how the balance of political forces in Britain are shifting. In 1989, majority opinion, even on the left, defended Rushdie and his right to publish. Things are very different now. The Labour MP for Batley and Spen, Tracy Brabin, managed to condemn the threats made to the teacher (who by that point had fled his house and was living under police guard) but welcomed the school's apology. It appears that Islamic blasphemy codes, even in a secular school, are now to be respected.

Only the school's students are campaigning to defend their teacher. Other local political figures have instead chosen to be silent. For example, the leader of Kirklees council and a Labour representative in Batley west, Shabir Pandor, has said nothing. It just so happens that he is the brother of Imam Mohammed Amin Pandor.

Trade unions have similarly said little. Earlier this year, the main teachers union, the National Education Union (NEU), donated £3000 to the Purpose of Life charity. While the NEU eventually stated it was supporting the teacher in Batley, it has said nothing on the wider issue of free speech or blasphemy codes.

For now, things may quiet down. Schools are closed for the Easter break, and the protesters have in many ways succeeded. There is, however, a clear desire by radical forces to spread the conflict. In a statement to the media, protesters called for a probe into other teachers at Batley Grammar, as well as a police investigation. They also asked Muslim parents to review teaching materials, including those on relationship and sex education — a clear reference to Islamist-backed protests in Birmingham in 2019, which objected to children learning about same-sex relationships.

Far too much of the debate about Islamism in Britain has concentrated on one aspect of its rise — terrorism. But the greater effect on the country's values, especially freedom of speech, can be seen in the rise and enforcement of Islamic blasphemy codes, in a country where blasphemy is not against the law. When the schools reopen after Easter, where will Islamists seek to obtain their next victory?

 

Dr. Paul Stott is a writer for Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum. He tweets @MrPaulStott.

 
Source: https://www.meforum.org/islamist-watch/62181/rising-islamism-in-british-schools-threatens-free

 

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