July 18/2019
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 14/27-31:”Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I am coming to you.” If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us be on our way.

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on July 17-18/2019
Aoun Meets Apostolic Nuncio
Parliament Holds Second Budget Session
Lawmakers Mobilize to Address Waste Crisis in the North
Bou Saab, Abu Faour Clash in Parliament over Qabrshmoun Incident
Iranian Official: Lebanon Must Steer Clear of All Crises in the Region
4 Inmates Arrested after Zouk Mosbeh Prison Break
Widow of Suicide Bomber Held Trying to Sneak into Lebanon
Palestinian Protests Continue for the Second Day in Ain el-Hilweh
Rio’s far-right governor likens drug dealers to Hezbollah

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 17-18/2019
Turkish Diplomat Killed in Iraq's Arbil, Ankara Vows Response
U.S. Slams 'Wanton' Turkish Diplomat Murder in Iraq's Arbil
Trump hails arrest in Pakistan of alleged Mumbai attacks mastermind
Sudan Protesters, Army Rulers Ink Power Sharing Deal
Dilemmas for West as Iran's Arrests of Dual Nationals Mount
French-Iranian Academic Held in Iran is 'Respected' Scholar
British-Iranian held by Tehran taken to mental ward: Family
Turkey court acquits RSF representative of ‘terror propaganda’
Three dead, four missing in Canada float plane crash
US kicking NATO ally Turkey out of fighter program
Afghan Colonel Killed in 'Insider Attack' near U.S. Forces
Bats Hang where Israeli Soldiers Once Stood in Jordan Valley
Libya Extradites Manchester Bomber's Brother
Jihadist Video Calls for Attacks in Tunisia
Easter Attackers Should be Executed Says Sri Lanka President
Norway jails controversial Iraqi preacher
Russian court extends arrest of a group of Ukrainian sailor

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 17-18/2019
Germany: Nest of Middle Eastern Spies/Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institut/July 17/2019
Argentina: Latin America's New Leader in Counterterrorism/Joseph M. Humire/Gatestone Institut/July 17/2019
Will Iran 'break out' for a nuclear weapon, and what can Trump do/Dennis Ross/The Hill/July 17/2019

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on July 17-18/2019
Aoun Meets Apostolic Nuncio
Naharnet/July 17/2019
President Michel Aoun on Wednesday received at the Baabda Palace the visiting Apostolic Nuncio, Monsignor Joseph Spiteri, and the Chargé d'Affaires of the Pontifical Embassy, Monsignor Ivan Santos, the National News Agency reported. NNA said discussions focused on the general situation in Lebanon in light of the latest developments. "The Holy See is keen on Lebanon's stability and unity," Spiteri said, praising Lebanon's model of coexistence “that has become a model to follow.”Spiteri also relayed the Vatican's support for Aoun's initiative to establish in Lebanon the Human Academy for Encounter and Dialogue. The meeting touched on the economic situation and the general budget discussions currently taking place in Lebanon’s Parliament, along with the preparations related to the Paris Cedre Conference recommendations. Aoun thanked Santos for "the efforts he exerted during his stay in Lebanon to promote the Lebanese-Vatican relations."

Parliament Holds Second Budget Session

Naharnet/July 17/2019
The Parliament convened for the second day in a row on Wednesday to discuss the 2019 state budget that aims to avert a financial crisis in the heavily indebted country by raising taxes and cutting public spending.
The discussions were being held amid limited protests against proposed austerity measures. Legislators are scheduled to hold successive morning and evening sessions until Thursday. Tuesday’s talks focused on the legal and constitutional obligation to endorse the closure of 2018 accounts that had not been completed. MP Paula Yaacoubian, of the opposition, was the first to deliver her speech and criticized the government. She said: “I urge the government members who want to vote against the budget, to resign from the executive authority because as opponents of the budget within the government they are misleading the Lebanese.”The MP said that “she cannot vote in favor with the suggested Budget. I hope that we would draft a better one next year.”In his speech, MP Farid el-Bustani praised the “work” of the Finance and Budget Parliamentary Committee, but criticized the budget plan saying: “It is not a budget of reform. If we want a real budget, we have to think of a real economic advancement.”"I give my vote to the budget not out of satisfaction, but as a necessary call for serious discussion of the plan to achieve advancement and growth," Bustani concluded. MP Inaya Ezzedine said the budget "did not carry an economic plan" for the good management of resources and potentials of the Lebanese people, “we hope the next budget would include an operational plan to combat corruption,” she said. MP Ziad Hawat of the Strong Republic bloc said: “The budget we are discussing today is incapable of saving Lebanon from its economic and financial crisis. We are in front of a government that failed to abide by the simple financial and legal obligations. How can you explain the fact that the budget is being discussed in the seventh month of the year?”The proposed budget aims to reduce the projected deficit to 7.6% of the gross domestic product, from 11.5% last year. The country's public debt is 150% of the GDP, among the largest in the world, and there have been serious concerns about an economic crash. The budget was approved by the government in late May and is expected to pass in parliament later this week. However, critics say the proposed measures fail to introduce serious structural reforms needed to rescue the flagging economy. Civil servants have been protesting for weeks, fearing the measures to be adopted would lead to wage cuts for state employees. MP George Oqeis of the Lebanese Forces said his part is “not obliged” to vote in favor of a budget that “does not include final accounts, comes outside the legal timeframe, includes unrelated articles, lacks the principle of comprehensiveness and does not reflect a clear policy that answers all questions.”MP Osama Saad meanwhile said the proposed budget does not rise to the level of challenges facing Lebanon. “The government is searching in the pockets of the poor,” he lamented. “Why don’t you take your austerity budget and leave with it, seeing as it is biased against the productive and innovative individuals and it belongs to the coalition of money, politics and power,” Saad added, accusing authorities to seeking to “buy time.”

Lawmakers Mobilize to Address Waste Crisis in the North

Naharnet/July 17/2019
A meeting was held at the Environment Ministry to address the problematic waste crisis that emerged in some northern districts following the closure of a local dump in Dinnieh earlier this year, LBCI TV station said on Wednesday. MPs from the northern regions of Zgharta, Dinnieh and the Governor of the North, and the local unions of municipalities of Zgharta, Koura, Bsharri and Minieh-Dinnieh attended the meeting. Environment Minister Fadi Jreissati has recently submitted a plan to Prime Minister Saad Hariri suggesting that sanitary landfills be established to replace informal dumps.

Bou Saab, Abu Faour Clash in Parliament over Qabrshmoun Incident

Naharnet/July 17/2019
A verbal clash erupted Wednesday in parliament between Defense Minister Elias Bou Saab and Industry Minister Wael Abu Faour. “The Lebanese Army is tasked with controlling the border and it is performing its role,” Bou Saab said. Abu Faour interrupted him by reminding of Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil’s botched tour of the Aley region. “If there were not army units that escort ministers on their provocative tours,” the army “would perform its mission in an easier way,” Abu Faour said. Bou Saab hit back saying, “If there were not bandits and gunmen, it would perform the mission, and this moaning and groaning will not lead to a result.”Progressive Socialist Party supporters had blocked roads during Bassil’s visit to prevent him from touring the region. The protests escalated into a deadly incident in the town of Qabrshmoun where two bodyguards of State Minister for Refugee Affairs Saleh al-Gharib were killed in an armed clash.

Iranian Official: Lebanon Must Steer Clear of All Crises in the Region
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 17/2019
An Iranian official announced Wednesday after talks with Speaker Nabih Berri that Lebanon “must steer clear of all crises in the region.” “We held a round of good and constructive talks with Lebanese Parliament Speaker Mr. Nabih Berri and we came here today to reiterate anew that Iran strongly backs the sons of the Lebanese people and the army, resistance and government,” Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the international affairs aide of Iran’s parliament speaker, said after meeting Berri in Beirut. “We are looking forward to developing the ties between the two countries on the highest levels, and the Iranian republic stresses the need for Lebanon to steer clear of all crises in the region and we are confident that security in Lebanon is security for the region and the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the Iranian official added. “We loudly say that Iran and its allies will not allow the Zionist entity (Israel) and America to manipulate the region’s security,” Abdollahian went on to say. Iran's Lebanese ally Hizbullah has sent thousands of fighters into neighboring Syria to bolster President Bashar al-Assad's regime in the face of an Islamist-led uprising. Hizbullah has also acknowledged sending military advisers to Iraq and is accused of meddling in the affairs of a number of Arab countries such as Yemen, Bahrain and Kuwait.

4 Inmates Arrested after Zouk Mosbeh Prison Break

Naharnet/July 17/2019
The Intelligence Branch of the Internal Security Forces has arrested four out of nine inmates who had escaped from the jail of the Zouk Mosbeh police station at dawn yesterday, the National News Agency reported on Wednesday. Media reports said the Lebanese and Syrian inmates managed to escape after breaking open the jail’s door with a saw that was smuggled by a delivery worker in a dinner meal.

Widow of Suicide Bomber Held Trying to Sneak into Lebanon

Naharnet/July 17/2019
The army on Wednesday announced the arrest of the widow of Mohammed al-Satem, an Islamic State militant who carried out a deadly 2014 suicide bombing in Haret Hreik. “In the Akkar region of Wadi Khaled, the Intelligence Directorate arrested Ghinwa al-Ahmed, who is accused of belonging to the terrorist IS group and is the widow of slain terrorist Mohammed Ahmed al-Satem, a top official of the aforementioned group who went under the nom de guerre Abu Moaz,” an army statement said. Al-Ahmed was arrested as she was trying to enter Lebanon illegally, the statement added.A probe has since been launched under the supervision of the relevant judicial authorities.

Palestinian Protests Continue for the Second Day in Ain el-Hilweh
Naharnet/July 17/2019
Palestinian refugees continue their protest for a second day in a row in the Sidon refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh by closing the entrances into the camp and imposing a ban on entry of food protesting against Lebanon's labour ministry cracking down on businesses employing foreign workers without a permit. The National News Agency said the move continued overnight in Sidon as cars roamed the streets of the city in a show of solidarity with Palestinians, as a number of youth blocked some roads with burning tires. The Lebanese army immediately deployed and worked to reopen the road and disperse the protesters. On Tuesday a couple of hundred Palestinian refugees protested in the streets of Beirut, as well as in the south and east of the country, and denounced the move as "unfair". Last month, the ministry gave companies a one-month deadline to acquire the necessary work permits. After the grace period expired last week, it started inspections, closing down non-compliant establishments and issuing others with warnings. Critics have said the measure essentially targets Syrians who have fled the war next door, but Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon also fear they will be hit. In Beirut, security forces prevented the protesters from reaching parliament, where this year's much delayed state budget was under discussion. Palestinians in Lebanon are exempt from paying for work permits, the UN refugee agency says. But Palestinian business owners must still register and pay a quarter of the standard fee. Labour Minister Camille Abousleiman denied the inspections had overwhelmingly affected Palestinians. "Of the 550 violations registered since last Wednesday, only two concerned large companies owned by Palestinians," he said. "The Palestinian reaction is incomprehensible," the minister said. The Palestinian ambassador in Beirut, Ashraf Dabbour, on Monday called on the Lebanese government to exempt Palestinians from these measures. Palestinian movement Hamas called for "the immediate end to all closures". Azzam al-Ahmad, from the Palestine Liberation Organisation, discussed the measures with Lebanese officials, saying they went against Lebanese-Palestinian efforts "to organise the residency, work and rights of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon".Around 174,000 Palestinian refugees live in 12 camps across the country, a one-off government census said in 2017. In 2010, Lebanon's parliament revoked a ban that had barred them from tens of professions for years, restricting them to jobs in fields such as construction and farming. But Palestinians are still not permitted to work in professions reserved for Lebanese citizens such as medicine, law, the army, and police. Palestinians began taking refuge in Lebanon with the creation of Israel in 1948, setting up camps that have since transformed into bustling, urban districts. Their presence has been controversial, with many blaming them for the start of Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war. Lebanon says it hosts around 1.5 million Syrians, after they fled the eight-year conflict at home, who have been accused of sparking a series of economic woes in the country.

Rio’s far-right governor likens drug dealers to Hezbollah
AFP, Rio de Janeiro/Wednesday, 17 July 2019
Rio de Janeiro’s far-right governor Wilson Witzel on Tuesday compared drug dealers to the Shiite movement Hezbollah and warned police would respond like Israel by showing no leniency to “terrorists.”Defending his hardline security strategy that has fueled a surge in police killings this year, Witzel said criminals in Rio’s poorer neighborhoods known as favelas “raped children, killed innocent people and used the areas to sell drugs.”“What do they do differently to Hezbollah? Nothing,” the tough-talking Witzel told foreign journalists at a rare briefing. “Are we going to be tolerant with Hezbollah when they use missiles and bombs against the population of Israel? No.“What is done in Israel will be done in Rio de Janeiro. We are not going to be lenient with anyone who has a gun.”“You don’t want to die? Don’t go on the street with a gun. “Police are facing (criminals) without fear of killing.”Witzel, a former federal judge, was elected in large part due to his support for the tough anti-crime policy of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who also came to power in January. He has presided over a sharp increase in the number of police killings, with 731 people dying during “police interventions” in the first five months of this year -- a 19.1 percent increase from the same period in 2018, the most recent official figures show. Witzel has previously sparked outcry among activists for advocating the use of a “missile” to blow up criminals in favelas, and applauding the deployment of police snipers to take out suspects from long distances.
He created further controversy in May after posting a video on Twitter of himself in a police helicopter as officers fired toward a favela below. But Witzel accused the media on Tuesday of biased reporting of the incident in particular, and police operations against gangs more generally. “If we were looking at the Second World War it would be like ignoring the Nazis and only looking at Britain bombing Dresden and Berlin,” Witzel said. “The media is showing the police side, but not the side of terrorism.”Reducing crime would help boost the number of visitors to the tourist hot-spot and revitalize the state’s economy, he added. “We want tourists to feel good in Rio de Janeiro.”Describing himself as “honest, decent,” Witzel also said he was interested in becoming president one day. “It’s only a question of time,” he said smiling.

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 17-18/2019
Turkish Diplomat Killed in Iraq's Arbil, Ankara Vows Response
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 17/2019
The Turkish vice consul to Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region was among at least two people shot dead Wednesday in the regional capital Arbil, police sources said. A police source told AFP that the Turkish vice consul was killed "in an armed attack targeting the consul and the consulate's employees in a restaurant in Arbil," adding that the attacker fled the scene. The source gave an initial toll of three dead, but the Kurdish internal security forces, known as the Asayish, revised the toll to two. They said an employee of the Turkish consulate as well as one Iraqi citizen were killed.
Witnesses in the city said checkpoints had been quickly set up inside and around the neighborhood of Ainkawa, which hosts numerous restaurants and the Turkish consulate. Turkey's foreign ministry confirmed that an "employee" at its Arbil consulate was killed in a shooting outside the consulate. "The necessary response will be given to those who committed this treacherous attack," said Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin. Turkey is waging a ground offensive and bombing campaign in Iraq's mountainous northern region to root out pockets of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The PKK, seen as a "terrorist" group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 and operates rear bases in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region. Several rocket attacks have targeted diplomatic missions in Iraq in recent months, including rockets near the US and UK embassies in Baghdad's "Green Zone." The U.S. in May ordered all non-essential personnel of its Baghdad embassy and Arbil consulate to leave the country. And in June, protesters gathered outside the Bahraini embassy in Baghdad. Authorities in Iraq, which is witnessing a period of relative calm since declaring victory against the Islamic State group in 2017, have pledged to protect embassies.

U.S. Slams 'Wanton' Turkish Diplomat Murder in Iraq's Arbil
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 17/2019
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo strongly condemned the murder on Wednesday of a Turkish diplomat in Arbil in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, in an attack that claimed at least one other victim. A local police source told AFP that the diplomat was Turkey's vice consul to the region. "There can be no justification for such acts of wanton violence," Pompeo said in a statement. "The U.S. reaffirms its commitment to support the government and people of Turkey and Iraq," he added, extending his condolences to the families of the victims.

Trump hails arrest in Pakistan of alleged Mumbai attacks mastermind

AFP/Thursday/18 July 2019
US President Donald Trump on Wednesday hailed the arrest in Pakistan of the firebrand cleric believed to be the mastermind of the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks, who had been declared a global terrorist by Washington. Hafiz Saeed – who had a $10 million US bounty on his head – was taken into custody earlier in the day following a raid by counter-terrorism forces in the eastern Pakistani city of Gujranwala. “After a ten-year search, the so-called ‘mastermind’ of the Mumbai Terror attacks has been arrested in Pakistan. Great pressure has been exerted over the last two years to find him!” Trump tweeted.
The arrest came days before Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan is due to meet Trump at the White House. Relations between the historic allies have plummeted in part due to the Trump administration’s demands that Pakistan do more to contain extremists. The top US diplomat for South Asia called for Pakistan to ensure the prosecution of Saeed, who has spent years in and out of varying forms of detention. “A full and expeditious prosecution for his involvement in numerous acts of terror, such as the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, including six Americans, is necessary,” said Alice Wells, the acting assistant secretary of state for South Asia.“The victims of terrorist attacks deserve justice,” she wrote on Twitter.

Sudan Protesters, Army Rulers Ink Power Sharing Deal
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 17/2019
Sudan's protesters and ruling generals Wednesday inked a power sharing deal that aims to install a civilian administration, a key demand of demonstrators since president Omar al-Bashir was deposed three months ago. The move loosens a deadlock that has gripped the country, following months of nationwide mass protests that began against Bashir but then continued after a military council deposed him in a palace coup on April 11. The deputy chief of the military council General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo -- who initialled the deal on behalf of the generals on Wednesday -- told AFP the agreement was a "historic moment" for Sudan. It has "opened a new and promising era of partnership between the armed forces, RSF (Rapid Support Forces) and leaders of the glorious Sudanese revolution," Dagalo said after he had put pen to paper. Alongside his position as deputy of the military council, Dagalo heads the RSF, a feared paramilitary organisation. Ibrahim al-Amin, a key protest leader, confirmed "today, we completed the political declaration." Intense talks took place through the night over details of the agreement at a luxury hotel on the bank of the Nile river in the capital, an AFP correspondent reported. The landmark power sharing deal, which was agreed in principle on July 5, has been brokered by African Union and Ethiopian mediators after weeks of stop-start negotiations between the protest umbrella group and ruling generals. "The Transitional Military Council and the Alliance for Freedom and Change have reached a very important agreement that constitutes a crucial step towards a comprehensive reconciliation," said African Union mediator Mohamed El Hacen Lebatt. The accord stipulates that a new transitional civilian-military ruling body be established, in a bid to end the country's months-long political crisis.
This governing body will be comprised of six civilians and five military representatives. The civilian representation will include five from the Alliance for Freedom and Change. A general will head the ruling body during the first 21 months of a transition, followed by a civilian for the remaining 18 months, according to the framework agreement. The governing council is to oversee the formation of a transitional civilian administration that will operate for just over three years, after which elections would be held.Amin said Wednesday that wider power sharing details would be fleshed out in a "constitutional document" and that talks would "resume... on Friday". Tensions climaxed on June 3 when armed men in military fatigues stormed a longstanding protest camp in Khartoum, shooting and beating crowds of demonstrators in a pre-dawn raid. Dozens were killed and hundreds wounded, triggering international outrage -- and allegations that the RSF was behind the killings -- although the generals insisted they did not order the violent dispersal of protesters. Talks to fine tune the details of the deal since July 5 had been postponed several times at the request of protest leaders.

Dilemmas for West as Iran's Arrests of Dual Nationals Mount
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 17/2019
Notorious for its conditions, Tehran's Evin prison is proving to be a headache for Western governments as a rising number of dual nationals are detained in what many see as a ruthless diplomatic strategy. Fariba Adelkhah, a well-known academic with French and Iranian nationality, has been held in the prison in north Tehran since early June on charges that have not been disclosed. Her arrest came just before an aide to French President Emmanuel Macron was visiting Tehran to salvage a multinational nuclear accord with Iran, which has been on life support since President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from it last year. Some analysts see the arrests as part of the murky politics in Iran, with hardliners in the judiciary and the security apparatus scuttling the more conciliatory approach of moderates. But others believe the government is setting a clear political goal with the arrests. "It was ransom," Alireza Nader, founder of the New Iran foundation, said of Adelkhah's arrest. When Iran "wants to increase leverage to open negotiations, especially with Western countries -- the US, the European countries like France -- it resorts to hostage-taking and uses them to negotiate, whatever objective they are trying to achieve," he said. "It's been happening for the last 40 years," he said. Several foreign citizens of Iranian heritage are currently behind bars in Iran, which does not recognize dual nationality. At Evin, Adelkhah joined Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian dual national who has been locked up since April 2016 and handed a five-year prison term for sedition. An employee of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the global media group, the 40-year-old mother insists on her innocence. Zaghari-Ratcliffe ended a 15-day hunger strike at the end of June and, adding to worries about her condition, her husband said she was transferred to the mental ward of a public hospital.
Deals for prisoners
The British press linked her arrest to Iranian efforts to seek $500 million owed by Britain over a tank sale that was canceled after the 1979 Islamic revolution toppled the pro-Western shah, although both London and Tehran denied a connection. Iran has always denied that it uses dual nationals as means of pressure, although it has also publicly urged Western governments to take up the cases. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in an April appearance at a New York think tank, called for a prisoner swap for Iranians detained or threatened with extradition to the United States. Jason Rezaian, who was the Tehran correspondent of The Washington Post, spent 544 days in Evin prison from 2014 to 2016 on accusations of espionage. The Iranian-American reporter told AFP in February that he felt like a "pawn" in a geopolitical chess game as negotiations were underway on a nuclear accord. "Each new farcical arrest is a reminder that taking hostages, 52 of them in fact, was the signature move of this regime when it first started 40 years ago," he wrote in his book "Prisoner," referring to the seizure of the U.S. embassy after the revolution that led to the rupture of diplomatic relations. He was freed on January 16, 2016 along with three other Americans as an international accord took force on Ian's nuclear program. Then president Barack Obama granted clemency to seven Iranians and paid $1.7 billion to Iran for undelivered military equipment ordered by the shah. The payment outraged Obama's Republican critics, who described it as a ransom and warned that it could encourage the imprisonment of more Americans. The Obama administration argued that it was resolving a legal debt that would have become much more onerous for the United States without a resolution.

French-Iranian Academic Held in Iran is 'Respected' Scholar
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 17/2019
A French-Iranian academic who has become the latest dual national to be arrested in Iran is a respected scholar, colleagues say, rejecting any suggestion she might have been spying as "grotesque." Fariba Adelkhah, whose detention was confirmed on Tuesday by Iranian authorities, is a well-known expert on Iran and Shiite Islam at France's prestigious Sciences Po university. "She's apparently been arrested for spying, which is obviously a totally grotesque accusation," said Jean-Pierre Digard, research director at France's National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), who oversaw Adelkhah's doctoral thesis. "We're all under surveillance to a certain extent, that's for sure. It's a complicated country and the context at the moment is completed too," the fellow Iran expert told AFP. He said the 60-year-old anthropologist -- who was a visiting fellow at St Anthony's College, Oxford University between 2003 and 2004 -- was a "respected" academic. Tensions between Tehran and the West have increased since last year when the United States withdrew unilaterally from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which imposed controls on Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for investment and trade. The arrest comes at a critical moment, with French President Emmanuel Macron looking to lead European efforts to save the deal which is in danger of collapsing, which analysts say could lead to conflict. Adelkhah joins a string of foreigners to be detained in Iran, most of them dual nationals from Western countries.
'Not a political opponent' -
Born in Tehran, she moved to France to study in 1977. The anthropologist travels frequently between the two countries and has spent around half of the past 18 months in Iran, where her family lives, a friend and fellow academic Jean-Francois Bayart told AFP. The paused her research in Iran under the rule of hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in "around 2009-2010", to focus on Afghanistan, but "never stopped visiting Iran," he said. Colleagues say she always avoided taking political positions that could endanger her work and has never condemned the conservative leaders of the Islamic republic who seized power in a revolution in 1979. "She's an independent, outspoken researcher" but "has always refused to condemn the regime," said Bayart, anthropology and sociology professor at the Graduate Institute of Geneva. "Subsequently, she is misunderstood by Iranians living abroad and has taken knock-backs from both sides," he said. "In any case, she is not a political opponent, that's for sure," said Karim Lahidji, head of Iran's Human Defense League (LDDHI). "That's the very reason she was allowed to enjoy long stays in Iran to carry out research, which isn't possible for everyone." French President Emmanuel Macron expressed concern for the academic's welfare on Monday after his government said she had been denied contact with consular staff. Iran does not recognize dual nationality so has denied French consular staff access to Adelkhah. As a dual French-Iranian national, she "can easily travel between the two countries", French-Iranian writer Armin Arefi told France Culture radio station Tuesday. "But if we get arrested, we're Iranian."

British-Iranian held by Tehran taken to mental ward: Family
AFP, London/Wednesday, 17 July 2019
A British-Iranian mother jailed in Tehran since 2016 on sedition charges has been transferred to the mental ward of a hospital in Tehran, her family announced Wednesday. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was transferred from Evin prison to Imam Khomeini hospital on Monday, where her father confirmed she is being held by the Revolutionary Guard, according to a statement from the Free Nazanin campaign. “It is unknown how long Nazanin is expected to be in the psychiatric ward. It is not clear what kind of medical treatment will be provided,” it said. A psychiatrist recently recommended that she be “instantly hospitalized due to her sharp deterioration since her previous meeting, and the risk of her taking matters into her own hands”, added the statement. “I was healthy and happy when I came to Iran to see my parents,” she was quoted as saying by her family. “Three and a bit years later and I am admitted to a mental health clinic. Look at me now -- I ended up in an asylum. It should be an embarrassment.”The 40-year-old recently ended a 15-day hunger strike held to mark her daughter Gabriella’s fifth birthday. She was arrested in April 2016 as she was leaving Iran after taking then 22-month-old Gabriella to visit her family. She was sentenced to five years for allegedly trying to topple the Iranian government. A project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the media group’s philanthropic arm, she denies all charges. Iran confirmed on Tuesday that it had arrested a well-known French-Iranian academic without giving any details of her case. The detention of Fariba Adelkhah, 60, risks increasing tension between Paris and Tehran at a critical moment in efforts to save a landmark 2015 nuclear deal. Other Iranian dual nationals jailed in Iran include Iranian-American Siamak Namazi and his father Baquer, who are serving 10-year sentences for espionage in a case that has outraged Washington. Chinese-American Xiyue Wang, a Princeton University researcher, is serving a 10-year sentence for espionage, and US national Michael White, 46, was this year also sentenced to 10 years.

Turkey court acquits RSF representative of ‘terror propaganda’
AFP, Istanbul/Wednesday, 17 July 2019
An Istanbul court on Wednesday acquitted the Turkey representative for Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and two other campaigners on charges of making “terror propaganda” for Kurdish militants, an AFP correspondent said. Spectators in the courtroom erupted into applause after the acquittals of RSF representative Erol Onderoglu, rights activist Sebnem Korur Fincanci and journalist Ahmet Nesin. Only Fincanci attended the hearing while Onderoglu and Nesin were abroad. They were accused of making “terror propaganda” on behalf of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) after guest-editing pro-Kurdish Turkish newspaper Ozgur Gundem. The three risked 14 years in jail. The newspaper was raided and permanently shut down in August 2016, accused of links with the PKK which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984. The three campaigners were detained for a short period in 2016, and can now apply for financial compensation for time spent in jail. The case triggered international alarm over press freedom in Turkey with activists claiming the climate for media had deteriorated under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. RSF said on Twitter it was “deeply relieved” by the acquittals but called for another trial due to begin against Onderoglu later this year to be scrapped. “Three years of absurd proceedings was already a form of unjust punishment. AND a new trial against Erol will start on 7 November. These charges must be dropped!” RSF said. After the acquittal, Fincanci told AFP that she was “very surprised”. “I don’t know how to react! Unfortunately we spent an unnecessary amount of time in jail, it’s a shame,” she said, adding: “It was the only decision possible, but there should not have been a trial in the first place.”RSF chief Christophe Deloire said on Twitter that the verdict was a “great victory for justice and press freedom, both of which are violated on a daily basis... It represents a huge hope for all the journalists who remain arbitrarily detained.”RSF ranks Turkey 157th out of 180 countries for press freedom. The P24 press freedom website says 140 journalists are behind bars in Turkey, most of them detained under a two-year state of emergency imposed after a failed coup in 2016.

Three dead, four missing in Canada float plane crash
Reuters/Wednesday, 17 July 2019
Three people were dead and four missing after a float plane crashed into a lake in a remote part of northeastern Canada, a charter airline service said on Tuesday.Seven people were aboard the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver plane operated by Air Saguenay, a small charter airline based in Quebec. The plane crashed in Labrador, part of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador on the eastern coast of Canada. The seven people aboard were the pilot, two guides and four passengers on a fishing expedition. The plane had been expected to land at 7 pm on Monday at Crossroads Lake, where the Three Rivers fishing lodge is located. When it had not arrived by 8 pm, the airline began emergency procedures, including sending a second plane on a search mission. After an unsuccessful hour, the company notified the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC), the arm of the Canadian military responsible for search and rescue, which sent out a C-130 Hercules plane at around midnight. The plane was located by JRCC crews a mile offshore near the southeast end of Mistastin Lake, a crater lake in northern Labrador, at around 6:30 am Tuesday. The cause of the crash is unknown, according to Jean Tremblay, president of Air Saguenay, as are the whereabouts of the four missing people. “It’s still too early to know what happened exactly,” he said. “We’re still hoping we’ll find some survivors.”The JRCC dispatched two helicopters to “assist in looking for survivors,” Mark Gough, spokesman for the JRCC, said in an email. The helicopters arrived in the remote area around midday on Tuesday, and brought local members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to search. Air Saguenay also sent a second plane to help. Gough said the company’s helicopters would remain at Mistastin Lake for the remaining daylight hours on Tuesday. “At that point the search for the remaining four individuals will be handed over to the RCMP as a missing persons case, as per our normal procedures for these types of unfortunate incidents,” he said. The pilot was among those confirmed dead. Tremblay said he was 61 years old, had been with the company since 2011 and was “well-experienced,” with over 20,000 flight hours. The names and nationalities of the seven people aboard the plane have not yet been released, but authorities were in the process of notifying the next-of-kin, Gough said. The Canadian Transportation Safety Board has been notified and will conduct an investigation.

US kicking NATO ally Turkey out of fighter program
The Associated Press, Washington/Wednesday, 17 July 2019
In a significant break with a longtime NATO ally, the Trump administration on Wednesday said Turkey can no longer be part of the American F-35 fighter jet program. In a written statement, the White House said that Turkey’s decision to buy the Russian S-400 air defense system “renders its continued involvement with the F-35 impossible.”The White House did not say explicitly that Turkey will be kicked out of the F-35 program, but the Pentagon was expected to do so. Turkey makes numerous components for the stealth aircraft, which is sold internationally. If Turkey is removed from the program, as expected, the US will have to find alternative suppliers. “The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence-collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities,” the White House statement said, referring to the S-400 air defense system as a means for Russia to probe US capabilities. President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday that the S-400 purchase means Turkey will not be allowed to purchase any F-35 planes. Yet to be announced is whether the US will impose economic sanctions on Turkey for its decision. The break with Turkey over its purchase of a Russian weapon system is symptomatic of a deeper division between Ankara and its Western allies and partners. Army Secretary Mark Esper, Trump’s nominee to become secretary of defense, told his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday he is troubled by Turkey’s decision to defy the United States on the S-400, suggesting that it reveals a broader strategic problem. “It is very disheartening to see how they have drifted over the past several years,” Esper said. Turkey has complained that it was not given favorable terms to buy the American alternative to the Russian S-400 air defense system. The White House, however, said in its statement Wednesday that Turkey had plenty of chances to buy the US Patriot system. “This administration has made multiple offers to move Turkey to the front of the line to receive the US Patriot air defense system,” it said.

Afghan Colonel Killed in 'Insider Attack' near U.S. Forces
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 17/2019
American troops opened fire after an "enemy insider" shot and killed an Afghan commander in central Afghanistan on Wednesday, officials said, in yet another deadly Taliban-claimed infiltration. According to the Afghan defense ministry, Colonel Mateen Mujtaba, who headed the 3rd army division in Ghazni province, was conducting a security assessment in Qarabagh district when an Afghan soldier started shooting. Mateen was "killed by an army soldier who was in fact an enemy insider," the defense ministry said in a statement. "The attacker was also killed when soldiers returned fire."The Taliban claimed the attack, saying U.S. soldiers had also been killed. Resolute Support, the U.S.-led NATO mission in Afghanistan, said no U.S. or coalition troops had been killed or wounded, but declined to comment further. According to Amanullah Kamrani, a member of the Ghazni provincial council, Mateen was boarding a helicopter after a meeting with U.S. advisers when he was attacked. "The attacker was killed when Americans returned fire," Kamrani told AFP. Insider attacks, sometimes referred to as "green on green," are a constant threat in Afghanistan. In October, powerful police chief General Abdul Raziq was among three people killed in a brazen insider attack on a high-level security meeting in Kandahar. The meeting was also attended by General Scott Miller, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan. He escaped unhurt, but US Brigadier General Jeffrey Smiley was among 13 people wounded in the shooting, which the Taliban said had targeted Miller and Raziq.

Bats Hang where Israeli Soldiers Once Stood in Jordan Valley
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 17/2019
The whoosh of wings disturbs the quiet of an abandoned, pitch-black maze of corridors next to the Jordan River in the occupied Palestinian territories. It is the hallmark of what this former Israeli military outpost on a dusty, yellow marlstone hill in the West Bank has become: a man-made bat cave. The outpost is one of a dozen or so mini-fortresses that were built among the hills above the Israel-Jordan border after the 1967 Six-Day War and abandoned by Israel following a 1994 peace accord between the countries. It wasn't long before they became full-time bat sanctuaries, helped along by Israeli rangers and ecologists in an effort to help the species whose habitats had been reduced. Israel and the Palestinian territories are home to some 33 bat species, all but one insectivores, which are at global extinction risk -- in many cases due to human activity, said Amos Sabah, an ecologist for the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. In the area dotted with outposts, roadworks and other development has damaged natural caves, said Shmulik Yedvab, director of the mammal department at the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI). The thinking was to "create alternative spaces" by repurposing the outposts, Yedvab said. Palestinians see these kinds of projects very differently. They accuse Israel of harming their environment in the Jordan Valley, including through the use of water resources. Anton Khalilieh, executive director of Nature Palestine Society, said while any individual project to protect animals was to be welcomed, this was taking place in the occupied Palestinian territories and could not be divorced from politics. "If the Israelis are doing any conservation activities to protect animals, in my opinion as a conservationist this is fine," he said. "But this is the Jordan Valley, which is a part of the West Bank -- an area that should be under complete Palestinian control. "So it should be the Palestinians doing the conservation activities in this area. How can Palestinians do conservation here? We can't, it is impossible."
- 'Like the heat' -
With walls and ceilings of sheet metal or smooth concrete, the conditions in the outposts were not ideal for bats. The SPNI worked with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the army -- still the landlord of the vacant structures -- to provide footholds for the bats using plastic netting, construction foam, thin ropes and plaster scraped with a fork. The winged mammals now hide from the day's harsh sun in the corridors and cavernous rooms of the former outpost, coming out at night to feast on the area's rich variety of insects. At least a dozen types of insectivore bats can be found in the oppressively hot Jordan Valley from spring to autumn. "They like the heat," said Sabah, during the visit to the first of the three former military positions he showed AFP. Some outposts are now home to populations in the dozens to hundreds during peak bat season, with approximately 30 lesser mouse-tailed bats living in one complex AFP visited halfway between the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee. Hundreds of trident bats roost in another outpost further to the south, while an abandoned civilian structure near the border is now home to an estimated 5,000 greater mouse-tailed bats.
Environmental signals
Most of the outposts that have become bat lairs are in fenced-off property controlled by the Israeli military and barred to civilians, leaving the creatures largely undisturbed. Gaining access to the outposts is rare, as even the mere presence of humans can disrupt the bats and their routine, according to Yedvab. The environmentalists' cooperation with the army includes advising forces on when, and how, to approach the structures, still used from time to time for training. "We try to disturb them as little as possible," he added. While bat populations grow slowly and the six years of close monitoring are "a footnote" in the relatively long life-cycle of the species, the area has "a stable population with a small increase", Yedvab said. As "bio-indicators" bats provide valuable information to scientists on the local ecosystem as a whole, said Sabah. "They are essentially our indication to the condition of the bugs, which are one of the important foundations of the ecological system," he added. "If the bats aren't in the territory, or the population is diminishing, the meaning is that the ecological system is not healthy, something here is wrong."

Libya Extradites Manchester Bomber's Brother
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 17/2019
Libya on Wednesday extradited to Britain the brother of a suicide bomber who attacked an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester in May 2017 and killed 22 people, officials said. Salman Abedi's brother Hashem, who was arrested in Libya days after the bombing, was handed over to British officials and then flown to Britain where he was arrested for murder, Greater Manchester Police said in a statement. "He has today been successfully extradited for offenses relating to the Manchester Arena attack," it said. Asked about the arrest, British Prime Minister Theresa May said it was "an important moment in the investigation. "I hope it is a welcome step for the loved ones of all the victims," she said, condemning the "appalling" and "senseless" attack. Manchester police said Abedi was also being arrested for attempted murder and "conspiracy to cause an explosion likely to endanger life." He is expected to appear in a London court on Thursday. A spokesman for the Libyan force which had held him earlier told AFP that Abedi was "in the plane headed for Britain". Ahmed Ben Salem of the Special Deterrence Force (Radaa), an armed group which serves as the capital's police, said he was being extradited in line with a decision of the Libyan judiciary following a request from Britain. According to Radaa, the brother has allegedly acknowledged that he was in Britain as the attack was being prepared and was "fully aware of the details". His father was also detained in Libya but released a few weeks later. Salman Abedi carried out the bloodiest terror attack in Britain in more than a decade when he detonated a suicide bomb after a concert by Grande, leaving many children among the dead. Libya's internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), which is based in Tripoli, said in April that Hashem Abedi's case was being determined by the North African country's courts. Libya has been mired in chaos since the ouster and killing of dictator Moammar Gadhafi in a NATO-backed uprising 2011. The Abedi family, originally from Libya, had fled to Britain during the dictatorship, but the brothers returned to the country along with their father when the uprising began in 2011. There has been a surge in fighting since military strongman General Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive on Tripoli, seat of the GNA, on April 4.

Jihadist Video Calls for Attacks in Tunisia
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 17/2019
The Islamic State group has called for more attacks in Tunisia in a rare propaganda video purportedly filmed by the jihadists in the North African nation. It comes three weeks after a twin suicide attack against police in the capital Tunis claimed by IS killed two people. The video, shared on IS social media channels on Tuesday night, shows armed men in balaclavas who pledge allegiance to the jihadists' leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. "Your soldiers and your sons in the land of Kairouan are doing well," said one of those filmed who gave the pseudonym Abou Omar al-Tounsi. The holy city of Kairouan lies in central Tunisia. Another jihadist using the name Abou Khaled al-Tounsi called for people to "sow terror" in Tunisia. The video, which was circulated on messaging app Telegram and could not immediately be verified, was said to have been filmed inside the country. Following Tunisia's 2011 revolution, the country saw a rise in extremism and deadly attacks hit soldiers, police, civilians and foreign tourists. While the security situation has improved in recent years, the state of emergency implemented in 2015 is still in place.

Easter Attackers Should be Executed Says Sri Lanka President
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 17/2019
Sri Lanka's president has demanded capital punishment for the "terrorists" responsible for the deadly Easter Sunday attacks just days after he blamed international drug dealers for the suicide bombings. President Maithripala Sirisena has been battling his own uneasy coalition government -- which is seeking to abolish capital punishment altogether -- in a push to restart executions. While Sri Lanka still maintains the death penalty, there has been a moratorium on judicial executions for murder and other serious crimes since June 1976. Sirisena has for weeks campaigned for the moratorium to be lifted to execute major drug traffickers, and in remarks released by his office Wednesday he said "terrorists" should also be hanged for "crimes against the state.""If we do not carry out death penalty, the perpetrators of the Easter attacks will be free of any punishment," his office quoted him as telling a rally on Tuesday. A spokesman for the Prime Minister's office, Sudarshana Gunawardana, said there was no change in their policy against executions. "We are for abolition of capital punishment," Gunawardana told AFP. "There is no change in that policy under any circumstances."
He noted that the president had initially blamed the April 21 attacks on Islamic radicals, then international drug cartels, and now was pointing the finger at unnamed terrorists."In his desire to carry out hangings, he seems to be getting confused," Gunawardana added. Local jihadist group National Thowheeth Jama'ath (NTJ) is widely accepted as being responsible for the suicide bombings of churches and hotels that killed at least 258 people in April, and just over 100 men and women have been arrested. At least 45 foreigners were among those killed while nearly 500 people were injured. Sirisena on Monday accused international drug syndicates of orchestrating the attacks -- a position not shared by his own police department. The president has sparked intense debate about restoring capital punishment for drug offenders as he leads a national crackdown on narcotics. Sri Lankan courts routinely hand down death sentences to drug offenders, murderers and rapists but they are automatically commuted to life imprisonment. Sri Lanka's Supreme Court earlier this month suspended Sirisena's moves to hang four convicted drug traffickers. The court banned any executions until it rules on a petition seeking a declaration that hanging breaches the country's constitution. The next hearing in the case is in October.

Norway jails controversial Iraqi preacher
AFP, Oslo/Wednesday, 17 July 2019
Norway on Wednesday provisionally jailed controversial Iraqi Kurdish fundamentalist preacher Mullah Krekar, following a conviction in Italy for “terrorist conspiracy,” his lawyer told AFP. Norwegian intelligence (PST) had arrested Krekar, 63, on Monday in Oslo under an international search warrant as well as an Italian arrest warrant, and an Oslo judge ruled Wednesday he should be placed in provisional detention for four weeks. Italy’s justice ministry meanwhile told Norwegian media that Rome would make an official extradition request. However, the procedure could take years as Krekar’s lawyers say they will appeal a 12-year sentence, which a court in Bolzano, northern Italy, handed down in absentia on Monday. The Italian court also sentenced five co-accused. Krekar, whose real name is Najumuddin Ahmad Faraj, has lived in Norway since 1991. He was found guilty of leading the Rawti Shax, a network with alleged links to ISIS and which is suspected of planning attacks in the West. His Norwegian lawyer Brynjar Meling said Tuesday that his client rejected the charge and added that “all appeal avenues” would be pursued. “He has no connection with ISIS,” Meling told AFP after the Italian court ruling. “His only goal is to come back to Kurdistan in Iraq and be able to (be a) politician there, set up a political party he wants to establish in Iraq as a free man,” Meling said. Considered a threat to national security and featuring on UN and US terror lists, Krekar has been at risk of deportation since 2003. Norwegian law, however, bars his deportation to Iraq because he risks the death penalty there. Italy in 2016 canceled a request for Krekar’s extradition, disappointing Norwegian officials who saw a lost chance to be relieved of the mullah they saw as troublesome. He had spent several years in jail in Norway for threats and inciting violence.

Russian court extends arrest of a group of Ukrainian sailors
Reuters, Moscow/Wednesday, 17 July 2019
A court in Moscow on Wednesday ordered the first six of 24 Ukrainian sailors seized by Russia off the coast of Crimea last year to be held in pre-trial detention for another three months. The court is due to rule on the remaining sailors later on Wednesday. The Russian navy captured the Ukrainian sailors and their three vessels in the Kerch Strait, which links the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, on Nov. 25, 2018, after opening fire on them. Moscow accuses them of illegally entering Russian waters, something Kiev denies.President Vladimir Putin said in June that the fate of the Ukrainian sailors must be linked to the release of Russian citizens held in Ukraine whom Moscow wants to see freed. The Hamburg-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) said in May that Moscow should release the sailors immediately. The Kremlin rebuffed that call.

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 17-18/2019
Germany: Nest of Middle Eastern Spies
Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institut/July 17/2019
سورين كارين/كايتستون: ألمانيا هي مركز تجمع الجواسيس الشرق أوسطيين

The report, considered the most important indicator of internal security in Germany, draws a bleak picture and raises questions about the government’s apparent passivity in face of mounting threats…. Meanwhile, the Erdoğan-aligned Islamist movement Millî Görüş (Turkish for “National Vision”), which has around 10,000 members in Germany, is the second-largest Islamist group in the country (the Salafist movement is now the largest Islamist grouping in Germany). Millî Görüş is strongly opposed to Muslim integration into European society.
“The BfV has found that all Islamist organizations active in Germany harbor anti-Semitic ideas and disseminate them in various ways. These ideas represent a considerable challenge for peaceful and tolerant coexistence in Germany.” — Annual report of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, BfV), 2019
“The goal of HAMAS is the establishment of an Islamist state in the entire territory of ‘Palestine’ — also through armed struggle. A strategy paper written in 2017 states: ‘Resistance to occupation by all means is a legitimate right guaranteed by divine laws. At the heart of it lies the armed resistance.’ By ‘Palestine’ HAMAS means the area between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan, which also includes the territory of the State of Israel. Western countries such as Germany are seen by HAMAS as a haven where the organization focuses on collecting donations, recruiting new supporters, and propagating its propaganda.” — Annual report of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, BfV), 2019
The BfV noted a “high number” of attempts by “covert Pakistani procurement structures” illegally to obtain technology for use in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. The BfV also observed a “significant increase” in attempts by Iran to obtain technology for its missile program, which was not part of the Iran nuclear deal. The BfV reported that Syrian intermediaries were also continuing efforts to obtain products for weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons.
Foreign intelligences services, especially those from Turkey, Syria and Iran, have increased their activities in Germany during the past 12 months, according to a report presented on June 27 by Germany’s Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and Thomas Haldenwang, president of Germany’s BfV domestic intelligence agency. Pictured: Seehofer (left) and Haldenwang (right) at a press conference on June 18, 2019, with Federal Crime Office head Holger Muench. (Photo by Michele Tantussi/Getty Images)
Foreign intelligence services, especially those from Turkey, Syria and Iran, have increased their activities in Germany during the past 12 months, according to Germany’s BfV domestic intelligence agency. The foreign intelligence services are not only pursuing dissidents among the large diasporas in Germany, they are also targeting Jewish and Israeli interests in the country.
At the same time, Hezbollah, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood appear to be operating with impunity in Germany, while, according to the BfV, the number of Salafists in the country has tripled in recent years and now exceeds 11,000. Overall, the BfV estimates that Germany is home to more than 26,000 Islamists, an unknown number of whom pose an immediate threat of attack.
The new figures are included the latest annual report of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, BfV), and were presented by Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and BfV President Thomas Haldenwang in Berlin on June 27.
The report, considered the most important indicator of internal security in Germany, draws a bleak picture and raises questions about the government’s apparent passivity in face of mounting threats.
Iranian intelligence activities in Germany are carried out by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), as well as the secret service of the Quds Force, a unit of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) responsible for foreign operations. According to the BfV, Iranian intelligence services in Germany are focused primarily on monitoring regime opponents, but also Israeli interests:
“The Iranian intelligence services are a central instrument of the political leadership to secure their claim to power. As a result, the Iranian opposition will continue to be a target of the MOIS….
“General Yahya Rahim Safavi, military adviser to Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said that the Islamic Republic has the authority to destroy any potential aggressors, not only within Iran but also beyond its borders….
“The State of Israel, its representatives and supporters, are among the declared enemies of Iran. This may include leading representatives of Jewish organizations in the Diaspora. The nuclear agreement between Iran and the West has not changed this attitude. Spying activities against Israeli and Jewish targets in Germany therefore continue to be part of the task area of Iranian intelligence services.”
The BfV report noted only three successful operations in 2018 against Iranian activities in Germany:
In January 2018, German police in seven federal states arrested ten alleged agents of the Quds Force. The agents were accused of spying on Israelis in Germany.
In March 2018, a court in Frankfurt sentenced an Iranian national to seven years in prison for purchasing, on behalf of the Quds Force, printing presses that produce counterfeit currency. The man, with German residency, also set up a series of front companies to purchase and ship to Iran specialized paper and ink. During the trial, it emerged that the presses were used to print more than 50 million Yemeni banknotes.
On July 1, an Iranian MOIS agent was arrested in Germany on an international warrant for plotting to bomb the annual meeting of the MEK, an Iranian opposition group, near Paris on June 30. The agent was extradited to Belgium in October 2018.
The Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT), the BfV notes, is controlled by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) to enforce government policy and ensure internal security.
MIT’s activities in Germany are focused on targeting dissidents and opposition groups as well as trying to influence the Turkish diaspora in the country. Targeted dissidents include the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Gülen Movement of the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, a former Erdoğan ally whom Erdoğan accuses of staging a failed coup in July 2016. According to BfV:
“The MIT’s activities are flanked by attempts to exert influence on Turkish communities in Germany and the political decision-making process in German society as a whole. Government-related organizations with different structural links to Ankara promote Turkish politics in Germany and other European countries and protect those politics from criticism….
“An essential part of this strategy of influence is to inform the public in an innocuous way on alleged and actual cases of racism, Islamophobia and hostility toward Turkey or other undesirable developments in Germany and Europe, in order to confront criticism of political developments in Turkey.”
The two largest Turkish-dominated, state or government-related interest groups in Germany are the “Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) and the “Union of European-Turkish Democrats” (UETD), which was recently renamed “Union of International Democrats” (UID). According to BfV:
“DITIB and UID are umbrella organizations that include a variety of local and regional (branch) associations with membership status. They emphasize their commitment to the public in a moderate way and endeavor to emphasize the autonomous and independent nature of their organizations and downplay the links and dependencies they have to Turkey.”
DITIB and UID are financed by the Turkish government’s Directorate for Religious Affairs, known in Turkish as Diyanet, and, according to BfV, both organizations cooperate closely with Turkish intelligence. The Turkish government pays the salaries of nearly 1,000 conservative imams in Germany who are leading more than 900 DITIB-controlled mosques across the country.
Meanwhile, the Erdoğan-aligned Islamist movement Millî Görüş (Turkish for “National Vision”), which has around 10,000 members in Germany, is the second-largest Islamist group in the country (the Salafist movement is now the largest Islamist grouping in Germany). Millî Görüş is strongly opposed to Muslim integration into European society:
“According to Millî Görüş, Western Civilization is presently dominated by a ‘vain’ order based on violence, injustice and exploitation of the weak. This ‘vain’ system must be replaced by a ‘just order’ that is based exclusively on Islamic principles, rather than on man-made and therefore ‘arbitrary rules.’ All Muslims should participate in the realization of the ‘just order.’ To do this, they must adopt a certain attitude and gain a certain vision (‘Görüş’) on earth, namely a national/religious (‘Millî) vision, a ‘Millî Görüş.'”
Germany, the report relates, is a priority for Syrian intelligence services as it is the main host country for Syrian refugees in Europe. The main focus of Syrian intelligence in Germany is to monitor opponents of the Syrian regime. According to the BfV, “the Syrian intelligence services appear to have used the influx of Syrian refugees to Germany in 2015 to establish new structures and networks of agents.”
Salafists and other Islamists
The BfV estimates that the number of Islamists in Germany increased to at least 26,560 by the end of 2018, up from 25,810 in 2017 and 24,425 in 2016.
The report does not provide estimates for the number of followers of the Islamic State or al-Qaeda living in Germany. As a result, the actual number of Islamists in Germany is undoubtedly higher than 26,560.
According to the report, Salafists comprise the single largest Islamist group in Germany. The number of Salafists in Germany jumped to 11,300 in 2018, up from 10,800 in 2017; 9,700 in 2016; 8,350 in 2015; 7,000 in 2014; 5,500 in 2013; 4,500 in 2012 and 3,800 in 2011.
The BfV report describes Salafism as an Islamist ideology that is at the same time an extremist counterculture:
“Salafism promotes a segregated lifestyle through unique selling points (clothing and language). Salafism wants to create a committed community with an intense sense of togetherness.
This particularly attracts people who feel marginalized by the majority society. Unstable persons [ungefestigte Personen] who are looking for a purpose in life, for orientation and security, are especially influenced by the comprehensive Salafist rules, which determine daily life into its minute details.
The individual, through Salafist propaganda, becomes part of an elite, the champion of ‘true Islam,’ distinguished by his moral superiority over a ‘world of the corrupt.’
“These subcultural elements are essentially the attractions of the Salafist ideology, which is marked by Wahhabism, the ‘state doctrine’ of Saudi Arabia, and represents a particularly severe and radical current within Islamism.
Salafists see themselves as advocates of an original, unadulterated Islam. They claim to base their religious practice and lifestyle solely on the principles of the Koran, the model of the Prophet Muhammad and the first three Muslim generations, the so-called righteous ancestors (known in Arabic as al-Salaf al-Salih).
As a consequence, Salafists are trying to establish a ‘theocracy’ according to their interpretation of the rules of sharia in which the liberal democratic order would no longer be valid.
“According to Salafism, Islam’s universal claim to validity must be accepted, by force if necessary, by all of humanity due to its superiority and Allah’s divine plan of salvation. Thus, the basic affirmation of violence is an inherent part of Salafist ideology.”
The BfV report also offers demographic data about Salafists in Germany: “Although Salafist propaganda activities are increasingly aimed at young people, Salafism in Germany is not purely a youth phenomenon. About 27% of followers are 25 years old or younger; 38% are between 26 and 35 years; and 35% are 36 years or older.
“The Salafist scene is clearly male-dominated. Only about 12% of the Salafist supporters known to the BfV are women. Salafism in Germany is dominated by immigrants and their children. About 90% of the followers have a migration background; the rest are converts. New followers find themselves in a scene marked by a ‘siege mentality’ [Wagenburgmentalität] towards a defamed ‘disbelieving’ environment that includes not only Christians, Jews and non-believers but also non-Salafist Muslims. Therefore, all outside influences are discouraged. Contacts with non-Salafists are legitimate only if they serve to spread their own ideology.”
The report warns that returnees from jihadi warzones in the Middle East will have a radicalizing impact on the German Salafist scene:
“The Salafist scene represents the essential recruitment field for jihad. Almost without exception, all persons with a German connection who have joined the jihad were previously in contact with the Salafist scene….
“In almost all cases, the returnees return to known Salafist circles, into which they are accepted without delay. Since the environment is very often the same as before the departure, it is questionable whether the returnees really have freed themselves from Islamic State ideology. Furthermore, it can be assumed that at least parts of the IS ideology will increasingly find its way into German Salafist circles in the medium to long term as a result of these returnees…. In the medium term, the returnees could take on formal and informal key positions and, as role models, influence others and possibly radicalize them.”
The BfV report makes a direct link between the increase in anti-Semitism in Germany and the rise of Islamist movements in the country:
“Anti-Semitism is not only a topic of agitation by right-wing and left-wing extremists, but also constitutes an essential element in the ideology of the entire Islamist spectrum….
“In Islamist propaganda, religious, territorial and/or national-political motives often combine to form an anti-Semitic worldview. The stereotypical image of Judaism as the enemy [Feindbild Judentum] therefore forms a central pillar in the propaganda of all Islamist groups. Stereotypes and prejudices are used which can be associated with the anti-Semitic hate in Europe from the Middle Ages to the National Socialist racial ideology in the 20th century.
“Of particular importance in Islamist anti-Semitism is the ‘Jewish world conspiracy.’ Similar to right-wing extremism, Jews are seen as the ‘masterminds’ of a worldwide political conspiracy and collectively held responsible for various national and international evils and grievances.
“The BfV has found that all Islamist organizations active in Germany harbor anti-Semitic ideas and disseminate them in various ways. These ideas represent a considerable challenge for peaceful and tolerant coexistence in Germany. The number of physical attacks against Jewish persons is currently still low. However, even these isolated cases make it clear that the ideological radicalization of people and the incitement to hatred and violence by anti-Semitic ideas can lead to violent anti-Semitic attacks, even if the perpetrators are neither members nor supporters of an Islamist organization. This applies not least to those who have been socialized in the Arab world in social milieus in which anti-Semitic attitudes are widespread. An example of this is a young man from Syria who attacked a kippah-wearing Israeli in Berlin in April 2018 on the street with a belt.”
Hezbollah, Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas
In addition to the Salafists and Millî Görüş, BfV estimates that Germany is now home to 1,050 members of Hezbollah, 1,040 members of the Muslim Brotherhood and 320 members of Hamas.
“The Shiite-Islamist ‘Hizb Allah’ [the party of Allah] denies Israel’s right to exist. It is propagating the armed, terrorist-led struggle, referred to as ‘legitimate resistance,’ against Israel as an ‘unlawful occupier’ of Palestinian land. It must be expected that the ‘Hizb Allah’ continues to plan terrorist actions against Israel or Israeli interests outside the Middle East. In Germany, the followers of the ‘Hizb Allah’ maintain organizational and ideological cohesion in local mosque associations, which are financed primarily through donations….
“The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) is considered the oldest and most influential Sunni Islamist movement. It claims to be represented in more than 70 countries in varying degrees. The aim of the MB, which is still shaped today in essential elements by the ideology of its founder Hasan al-Banna, is the establishment of a political and social system based on the Koran and Sunnah. The credo of the MB is unchanged: ‘Allah is our goal. The Prophet is our leader. The Koran is our constitution. Jihad is our way. Death for Allah is our noblest wish.’ This ideology, as well as the Islamist form of government aspired to by the MB, are incompatible with basic democratic principles such as the right to free elections, the right to equal treatment, and freedom of expression and religion….
“The goal of HAMAS is the establishment of an Islamist state in the entire territory of ‘Palestine’ — also through armed struggle. A strategy paper written in 2017 states: ‘Resistance to occupation by all means is a legitimate right guaranteed by divine laws. At the heart of it lies the armed resistance.’ By ‘Palestine’ HAMAS means the area between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan, which also includes the territory of the State of Israel. Western countries such as Germany are seen by HAMAS as a haven where the organization focuses on collecting donations, recruiting new supporters, and propagating its propaganda.”
Weapons Proliferation
The BfV noted a “high number” of attempts by “covert Pakistani procurement structures” illegally to obtain technology for use in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. The BfV also observed a “significant increase” in attempts by Iran to obtain technology for its missile program, which was not part of the Iran nuclear deal. The BfV reported that Syrian intermediaries were also continuing efforts to obtain products for weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons.
*Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.
© 2019 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Argentina: Latin America's New Leader in Counterterrorism
جوزيف هيومر/معهد كايتستون: الأرجنتين هي اليوم قائدة أميركا اللاتينية في مواجهة الإرهاب
Joseph M. Humire/Gatestone Institut/July 17/2019

Argentine President Mauricio Macri is taking a historic step and preparing to officially designate Hezbollah as a foreign terrorist organization in Argentina, the first designation of its kind in Latin America.
Hezbollah, Lebanon's "Party of God," is first and foremost the primary terrorist proxy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. By calling and legally designating them for what they are -- a foreign terrorist group -- Argentine officials can now begin to anticipate Hezbollah's actions by communicating with more than 57 nations worldwide in the same counterterrorism language.
The purpose of anti-terrorism is to anticipate terrorist actions in order to neutralize them. It is hopeless to wait until an attack takes place and then take action. By designating Hezbollah as a foreign terrorist organization President Macri is leading Latin America in the global fight against Islamist terrorism. In doing so, he is also honoring the memory of the 85 Argentines who died in the 1994 AMIA attack and reminding us all that Iran and Hezbollah are very much a global threat.
Argentina's President Mauricio Macri is taking a historic step and preparing to officially designate Hezbollah as a foreign terrorist organization in Argentina, the first designation of its kind in Latin America.
This week we honor the 85 victims of the largest Islamist terrorist attack in Latin America's history: the bombing the Asociación Mutual Isrealita Argentina (AMIA) on July 18, 1994. Twenty-five years have passed since the morning when a Renault van packed with 300 kilograms of explosives detonated in front of the AMIA building in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It took more than a decade — until 2006 — for the Argentine government to formally charge the Islamic Republic of Iran and its terror-proxy, Hezbollah, for carrying out the attack. Now, 13 years after that, Argentine President Mauricio Macri is taking a historic step and preparing to officially designate Hezbollah as a foreign terrorist organization in Argentina, the first designation of its kind in Latin America.
The significance of this executive action in Argentina cannot be understated. President Macri and his national security team have done what was once seen as politically impossible in Latin America -- to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization -- and make it politically possible.
The designation is just one of a series of actions that the Macri administration has been quietly working on during the past six months to add new tools to combat the convergence of international terrorism with transnational organized crime. This project includes a national registry, known as the Registro Nacional de Personas y Organizaciones Sospechosas de Terrorismo or RENAPOST in its Spanish acronym, of individuals and organizations suspected of having ties to terrorism. Apart from this registry, a joint declaration is expected to be announced: the relaunch of the Tripartite Command of the Tri-Border Area, previously known as the 3+1 Group, between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and the United States (the "+1").
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be in Buenos Aires this week for the historic announcement at the second Western Hemisphere ministerial conference on counterterrorism, which sets the stage for greater counterterrorism cooperation in Latin America. The conference also serves as an opportunity for President Macri to formalize the US-Argentine Dialogue on Illicit Finance, led by Mariano Federici, president of Argentina's Financial Intelligence Unit who, along with Argentine Minister of Security Patricia Bullrich, were instrumental in causing these executive actions to happen.
For too long, Latin America has taken a backseat to the rest of the world in counterterrorism cooperation.
Clearly, the region has not been as affected as others by the global wave of radical Islam; nonetheless, both Sunni and Shi'a extremist groups are on the rise in Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean. Just recently, four men with suspected ties to ISIS, possibly en route to the U.S. southwest border, were arrested by the Nicaraguan government. If you ask any counterterrorism official in Latin America, however, it is Hezbollah that has developed the most sophisticated crime-terror network, active in just about every country south of the Rio Grande.
Hezbollah's External Security Organization (ESO), or Unit 910 as it is known within the counterterrorism community, is the senior varsity team of international terrorism. In recent years, ESO operatives were caught preparing attacks in Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Egypt, Thailand, and, in 2012, successfully bombed a bus in Bulgaria, on July 18th, the same date, of the AMIA attack. Bulgaria may seem far away from Latin America, but the same Hezbollah terror network also plotted attacks in Peru and Bolivia in 2014 and again in 2015. Some of the same ESO operatives in these recent plots are, in fact, connected to the 1994 AMIA attack in Argentina.
The Colombian-born, Lebanese dual national, Salman Raouf Salman, otherwise known as Samuel Salman El Reda El Reda is considered a key high-ranking Hezbollah ESO operative, currently living in the Dahieh suburb of Beirut, Lebanon. Salman was the on-the-ground Hezbollah operative who prepared the operational aspects of the AMIA attack. More recently, Peruvian authorities suspect that Salman was the handler of accused Hezbollah ESO operative Mohamad Ghaleb Hamdar, arrested in Lima, Peru in October 2014 for allegedly plotting a terrorist act. According to Peruvian counterterrorism officials, Hamdar possibly communicated with Salman Raouf Salman through two Hezbollah facilitators, José Mario Saladini alias "Hussein Ali" and Ali Abbas Chahine, who traveled in and out of Peru from 2008 to 2013, via Chile and Bolivia.
Hamdar is currently on trial in the Peruvian Supreme Court, but Hezbollah's terror network in Peru dates back to the era of the AMIA attack.
In September 1992, six months after the bombing of the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires, an alleged Hezbollah operative, Nidal Bazoun, crossed from Bolivia to Puno, Peru, where he married a local nurse and remained in the country until two months after the AMIA attack. In September 1994, Peruvian immigration officials detained Bazoun in Piura (near the Peru-Ecuador border), the same city which Iranian businessman and Halal inspector, Hossein Parsa, traveled to on July 4, 1994, just weeks before the AMIA attack. Parsa directed the Government Trading Corporation (GTC), the same Iranian front company that was established in Argentina by the Iranian "mastermind" of the AMIA attack, Mohsen Rabbani. Parsa returned to Argentina from Peru, on July 17, 1994, the day before the bombing of the AMIA in Buenos Aires.
This short historical anecdote reveals that the long arm of Iran and Hezbollah's terror network was long-active throughout South America, even prior to the AMIA attack.
The late Special Prosecutor of the AMIA case, Alberto Nisman, disclosed this fact in 2013, when he released a 500-page dictum documenting evidence that the same Iran-Hezbollah terror network that carried out the AMIA attack was active in no fewer than eight countries throughout South America -- and extending to the Caribbean, where a foiled terrorist plot was hatched against the JFK airport in New York City that might have rivaled the atrocities of September 11, 2001.
Thankfully, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement foiled the JFK plot, but this intercession emphasizes the importance of President Macri's efforts to designate Hezbollah and other Islamist terrorist groups. Argentina's designation of Hezbollah helps clear up any confusion as to who and what Hezbollah is in a region not familiar with the intricacies of Islamist terrorism. For some in Latin America, Hezbollah is seen as a counterfeiter; for others, they appear more as money-launderers and drug traffickers, and there are still others who consider Hezbollah simply a Lebanese political party and social movement.
Hezbollah may be all of the above, but this does not take away from the fact that Lebanon's "Party of God" is first and foremost the primary terrorist proxy of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
By calling and legally designating them for what they are -- a foreign terrorist group -- Argentine officials can now begin to anticipate Hezbollah's actions by communicating with more than 57 nations worldwide in the same counterterrorism language.
The purpose of anti-terrorism is to anticipate terrorist actions in order to neutralize them. It is hopeless to wait until an attack takes place and then take action. By designating Hezbollah as a foreign terrorist organization, President Macri is leading Latin America in the global fight against Islamist terrorism -- and in doing so, honoring the memory of the 85 Argentines who died in the 1994 AMIA attack.
*Joseph M. Humire is the executive director of the Center for a Secure Free Society (SFS), a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute, and a writing fellow at the Middle East Forum. He is co-editor of Iran's Strategic Penetration of Latin America (Lexington Books, 2014). You can follow him on Twitter @jmhumire
© 2019 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Will Iran 'break out' for a nuclear weapon, and what can Trump do?
دنيس روس/موقع الهل: هل ستتمكن إيران من صنع القنبلة النووية، وماذا بإمكان ترامب أن يفعل؟
Dennis Ross/The Hill/July 17/2019

Iran is beginning to breach some of the limitations imposed on its nuclear program by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which it signed in 2015 and from which the United States withdrew in 2018.
Initially, Iran exceeded the stockpile of low-enriched uranium it was permitted to maintain; then it began to enrich above the 3.67 percent permitted under the deal. While enriching to just under 5 percent — well short of weapons-grade 80 to 90 percent enrichment level — the Iranians, nonetheless, are no longer respecting the limits. And, they are threatening to do much more if Europeans nations cannot act in a way to lessen the economic impact of reimposed U.S. sanctions.
There are a number of questions to pose: Why, after continuing to respect the limits of the deal for one year following President Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA and resumption of tough unilateral U.S. sanctions, are the Iranians doing this now? Second, what are the practical implications of Iran’s gradual moves away from respecting the limitations? Third, does the Trump administration have an answer for Iran’s moves? And, fourth, what options make sense in responding to the Iranians?
Why is Iran doing this now? On May 4, the Trump administration ended waivers granted to eight countries to buy Iranian oil and, in doing so, it imposed a dramatically higher cost on Iran’s economy.
Even though sanctions had already forced a significant decline in Iran’s economy, ending the waivers meant that Iran’s oil exports that were running at roughly 1 million barrels a day would decline to as little as 300,000 a day. The loss of revenue severely compounded Iran’s economic problems, which already witnessed a 60 percent loss in the value of the currency and a scarcity of consumer goods accompanied by soaring inflation.
The waiver decision changed the Iranian calculus from trying to outlast Trump to one of meeting Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign with one of its own: Oil tankers were sabotaged; the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen used Iranian-provided drones and rockets to hit Saudi civilian airfields and petroleum facilities; Iranian-backed Shia militias in Iraq hit bases with missiles where U.S. forces are located, and also targeted an oil facility in Basra used by Exxon; an American drone was shot down.
Coupled with these threatening actions in the region, the Iranians also began to walk away from some of their obligations under the JCPOA. Their purpose: to put pressure on the Europeans either to provide an economic offset to the U.S. sanctions or to put pressure on the Trump administration to ease its sanctions policy.
The Iranians know the Europeans fear that if they don’t stop the Iranians from completely leaving the JCPOA, the risk of either the U.S. or Israel striking Iranian nuclear facilities will go up — and the Europeans want to prevent a conflict from erupting.
But it is not just the Europeans that the Iranians are trying to affect. They are directly challenging the Trump administration: Seeing that the president wants out of “endless Middle East wars,” they seem to think that raising the pressure might get him to back off.
What are the practical implications of a gradual Iranian walk-away from the JCPOA? In the first instance, the Iranians will be reducing the time it will take them to “break out” to producing weapons-grade fissile material.
Prior to the JCPOA, given the number of their operating centrifuges and stockpile of low-enriched uranium that exceeded 10,000 kilograms, the Iranians were estimated to be two to three months away from such a break-out capability. By reducing their stockpile to less than 300 kilograms and their operating centrifuges by nearly 50 percent, the Iranian break-out time became roughly one year.
It will take time for the Iranians to move back to where they were — but the steps they are taking will gradually shrink the time it takes to break out. Obviously, that timing will be influenced by the level to which the Iranians enrich; should they start enriching to 20 percent — something they are suggesting they may do, to provide fuel for their medical research reactor in Tehran — that would accelerate the timetable.
However, break-out time and a weapons capability are not the same thing. The former would provide weapons-grade enriched uranium — but not the weapon itself.
The massive document and digital haul that Israel’s Mossad spy agency stealthily ferreted out of Tehran revealed that the Iranians had done a great deal of work on weapons design, including experimentation and simulation. That said, no one knows exactly how long it would take for the Iranians to build a bomb. For a long time, there have been estimates that it would take the Iranians roughly a year to weaponize highly-enriched uranium. But that is a guesstimate, not real knowledge — it could be longer, or considerably shorter.
Does the Trump administration have an answer to Iran’s “maximum pressure” counter-measures? Aside from doubling down on economic pressures, the answer seems to be no. Instead, there seems to be a hope that, sooner or later, the Iranians will have to give in.
Indeed, notwithstanding national security adviser John Bolton’s statement on May 5 — that threats against our forces, our interests and our friends in the region would be met with “relentless force” — all the attacks and acts of deniable sabotage conducted by the Iranians or their proxies have drawn no direct responses. For his part, President Trump has been signaling that he wants to negotiate and has softened what he seeks, even as he says the Iranians are playing with fire; the Iranians at this point appear unimpressed and have not backed off.
What options exist for the Trump administration to respond? It can try to work through the Europeans and Russians to impress on the Iranians that they are running a real risk of provoking a military response if they begin to reduce their break-out time.
But simply passing messages would not be as effective as the Europeans, Russians and Chinese saying they will resume sanctions if the Iranians do not go back into compliance. And the problem, at this point, is that they collectively hold the Trump administration responsible for creating the danger. Only if they believe the administration may well be driven to act militarily against Iran’s military infrastructure are they likely to put real pressure on the Iranians.
It is worth recalling that, in 2012, the European Union acted to boycott Iranian oil when they feared that unless Israel saw that real pressure was being applied to Iran — the kind that Israelis believed could alter Iran’s behavior — Israel was likely to act militarily.
It was the fear of war erupting that drove the Europeans to act then. I suspect that remains true today.
*Dennis Ross is counselor and the William Davidson Distinguished Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He served as special assistant to President Obama, as Special Middle East Coordinator under President Clinton, and as director of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff in the first Bush administration. Follow him on Twitter @AmbDennisRoss.