Earth Matters: Indian Point’s Final Days – Nyack News and Viewsby Barbara PuffIndian Point has been the crown jewel of the nuclear industrialist complex and closing it is a big step to a sustainable energy future. — Susan Shapiro, environmental lawyer.When scientists began exploring nuclear power in the 1950s, pollsters didn’t ask the public their opinion as support was almost unanimous. By the ’60s, there had been a few protests and opposition increased to 25%. So when Indian Point opened on September 16, 1962, it was greeted with enthusiasm, fanfare, and, in hindsight, naivete.Within a few years, increased pollution, loss of wildlife, and accidents at the plant elicited concern. In response, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater and Riverkeeper were formed in 1966. After incidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986, public opinion began to turn against the use of nuclear power.In 1984, her first year as a legislator, Harriet Cornell formed the Citizens Commission to Close Indian Plant. A glance at her press releases over the years shows her convictions regarding closing the plant. In a recent speech she noted: “Were it not for the superhuman efforts of concerned individuals and dedicated scientific and environmental organizations focusing attention on the dangers posed by Indian Point, who knows what might have happened during the last 40+ years.”Simultaneously Riverkeeper began documenting incidents, including:1 An antiquated water-cooling system killed over a billion fish and fish larvae annually.2 Pools holding spent nuclear fuel leaked toxic, radioactive water into the ground, soil, and Hudson River.3 Recurring emergency shut-downs.4 27% of the baffle bolts in Unit 2 and 31% in Unit 3, holding the reactor core together, were damaged.5 The plant was vulnerable to terrorist attack.6 Evacuation plans were implausible.7 No solution for spent nuclear fuel, posing the risk of radioactive release and contamination of land.8 The plant was near two seismic zones, suggesting an earthquake over 6.2 could devastate the area.9 Asbestos exposure.These and other issues led the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to rate Indian Point in 2000 as the most trouble-plagued plant in the country. Lamont-Doherty Observatory agreed, calling it the most dangerous plant in the nation.As individuals realized the seriousness of the situation, urgency for a solution grew and Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition was formed in 2001. Comprised of public interest, health advocates, environmental and citizen groups, their goals were to educate the public, pass legislation, and form a grassroots campaign with hundreds of local, state, and federal officials.Clearwater also began monitoring the plant around that time. Manna Jo Greene, Environmental Action Director, recalls, “We were concerned when one of the planes that struck the WTC flew over the plant, including several buildings that hold huge fuel pools, filled with spent fuel rods and radioactive waste.” Had anything happened, the nuclear power industry had provided protection for themselves while neglecting surrounding communities. Powerful lobbyists, backed by considerable financing, induced Congress to pass the Price-Anderson Act in 1957. This legislation protected nuclear power plant companies from full liability in the event of an accident, natural disaster or terrorist attack.With such warnings, it’s hard to believe as late as 2010, The New York Times stated, “No one should be hoping for a too hasty shutdown.” Over time, the cost of litigation by New York State proved more fatal to the continuance of plant operations than protests, though they were a crucial factor and led to initial filings. Attorney General Schneiderman was very active in filing contentions, legal reasons the plant shouldn’t be relicensed, and won several important court cases on high-level radioactive storage.In 2016, The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation denied Entergy a discharge permit for hot water into the Hudson River, part of their once-through cooling system. This permit was necessary for continued operation of the plant and a requirement for relicensing. The New York State Department of State, Bureau of Coastal Management, denied Entergy a water quality certificate the same year, which it also needed to relicense. After more than four decades of danger to the environment and residents, Governor Cuomo announced in January 2017 the plant would finally be closing. Unit 2 would cease production on April 30, 2020 and Unit 3 would end productivity on April 30, 2021.Later that year, in March 2017, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board allowed Entergy to renew the plant’s licenses until 2021, dismissing final points of contention between the company, New York State, and Riverkeeper. Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino attempted to sue the state and reopen the plant in April 2017 but failed.Ellen Jaffee, NYS Assemblywoman, stated, “After 46 years of operation, I am glad to finally see the closure of Indian Point. Since joining the Assembly, I have long fought for its closure. I would not have been able to pursue these efforts if not for the environmental advocates, like the Riverkeeper, who fought long and hard beside myself to close the plant. The plant’s closure must be conducted in a safe manner, where all radioactive materials will be properly disposed of, without inflicting further harm on our environment. The closure of Indian Point shows that we can reduce our impact on the environment.”Harriet Cornell said, “We have waited years for this to happen and frankly, it can’t happen soon enough. The facts have long shown there is no future for this dangerous plant.”“The closure of Indian Point marks the shutdown of dirty polluting energy,” noted Susan Shapiro.Holtec, the company chosen to oversee decommissioning of the plant, has a horrific track record. New York State Attorney General Tish James released a statement in January expressing multiple grave concerns about them. According to Riverkeeper, they have a scandalous corporate past, little experience in decommissioning, dubious skills in spent fuel management, workplace safety infractions, and health violations. Another fear is the cost will exceed a decommissioning fund set aside by Entergy, Holtec will declare bankruptcy, and the public will absorb the difference.“Entergy made huge profits from Indian Point,” said Manna Jo Greene. “They’ve hired Holtec, a company with a poor record of decommissioning, to complete the work. Entergy plans to declare bankruptcy, thereby having taxpayers foot the bill. We are not out of danger. It is a different danger.”Richard Webster, Legal Program Director at Riverkeeper, adds, “Decommissioning must be done promptly, safely and reliably. Selling to Holtec is the worst possible option, because it has a dubious history of bribes, lies, and risk taking, very limited experience in decommissioning, is proposing to raid the decommissioning fund for its own benefit, and is proposing leaving contaminated groundwater to run into the Hudson River.”State Senator David Carlucci warned, “The NRC Inspector General Report shows there is much to be done by the NRC to gain the confidence of myself and the public, as the commission is charged with overseeing the decommissioning of Indian Point and ensuring the health and safety of Hudson Valley Communities. We demand answers from NRC Chairman Kristine Svinicki. The Chairman needs to come to the Hudson Valley immediately and outline the steps being taken to address our safety and explain how the commission will properly inspect and guard the pipeline near Indian Point moving forward.”One of the gravest dangers in decommissioning is the storage of spent fuel rods. A fuel rod is a long, zirconium tube containing pellets of uranium, a fissionable material which provides fuel for nuclear reactors. Fuel rods are assembled into bundles called fuel assemblies, which are loaded individually into a reactor core. Fuel rods last about six years. When they’re spent and removed they are placed in wet storage, or pools of water, which is circulated to reduce temperature and provide shielding from radiation. They remain in these pools for 10 years, as they are too hot to be placed in dry storage, or canisters. Even in dry storage, though, they remain extremely radioactive, with high levels of plutonium, which is toxic, and continue to generate heat for decades and remain radioactive for 10,000 years.“Elected officials and government groups became involved once they understood the fatal environmental dangers nuclear energy creates for millenium,” said Susan Shapiro. “It is the only energy that produces waste so dangerous that governments must own and dispose of it.”Robert Kennedy, Jr., of Waterkeeper, explained “If those spent fuel rods caught on fire, if the water dropped, the zirconium coatings of the spent fuel rods would combust. You would release 37 times the amount of radiation that was released at Chernobyl. Around Chernobyl there are 100 miles that are permanently uninhabitable. I would include the workplaces, homes of 20 million Americans, including the Financial District. There’s no evacuation plan. And it’s sitting on two of the biggest earthquake faults in the northeast.”On April 24, 2020, Beyond Indian Point Campaign was launched to advocate for a safe transition during decommissioning. Sponsored by AGREE, Frack Action, Riverkeeper, NIRS and Food and Water Watch, they’re demanding Cuomo hire another company, opposing a license transfer before the State Public Service Commission and NRC and pushing state legislation to establish a board to supervise the decommissioning fund. When decommissioning is finished Beyond Indian Point hopes to further assist the community in the transition to renewable energy. These include wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and hydrothermal power. Sign an online petition on their website to support their work, future generations and earth at BeyondIndianPoint.com, Facebook, or Twitter.“Bravo to everyone involved in making this historic day come to pass,” said Susan Shapiro.Raised in the Midwest, Barbara Puff is a writer who lives in Nyack, NY.
UN nuclear watchdog tells member states Islamic Republic has started using a third cluster of advanced IR-2m centrifuges at underground Natanz plant
By Agencies and TOI staff
8 Mar 2021, 10:08 pm
The International Atomic Energy Agency reportedly told its member states Monday that Iran has started enriching uranium with a third cascade, or cluster, of advanced IR-2m centrifuges at its underground plant at Natanz, in a further breach of the 2015 nuclear deal.
“On 7 March 2021, the Agency verified… that: Iran had begun feeding natural UF6 into the third cascade of 174 IR-2m centrifuges,” the Reuters news agency quoted the UN atomic watchdog as saying in a new report.
UF6 is uranium hexafluoride, a compound that can be fed into centrifuges to produce nuclear fuel.
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“The fourth cascade of 174 IR-2m centrifuges was installed but had yet to be fed with natural UF6; installation of a fifth cascade of IR-2m centrifuges was ongoing; and installation of a sixth cascade of IR-2m centrifuges had yet to begin,” the IAEA report said, according to Reuters.
Since the US left the nuclear deal in 2018 under Donald Trump, Iran has walked away from the pact’s limitations on its stockpile of uranium and has begun enriching up 20 percent, a technical step away from weapons-grade levels.
It is also spinning advanced centrifuges barred by the deal, which saw Iran limit its program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
Director General of International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, Rafael Mariano Grossi, right, speaks with spokesman of Iran’s atomic agency Behrouz Kamalvandi upon his arrival at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport, Iran, on February 20, 2021. (Atomic Energy Organization of Iran via AP)
Iran’s conservative-dominated parliament last month ordered the government to start limiting some inspections by the IAEA, after which the head of the agency, Rafael Grossi, hammered out a temporary technical deal with Tehran.
They confirmed that Iran will continue to allow access to UN inspectors to its nuclear sites — but will for three months bar inspections of other, non-nuclear sites.
According to a report last month, IAEA inspectors last summer found uranium particles at two Iranian nuclear sites that Iran tried to block access to.
Iranian authorities had stonewalled the inspectors from reaching the sites for seven months before the inspection, and Iranian officials have failed to explain the presence of the uranium, Reuters reported, citing diplomats familiar with the UN agency’s work.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks to Defense Department personnel during a visit by U.S. President Joe Biden at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, February 10, 2021.
Carlos Barria | Reuters
WASHINGTON – Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin warned those responsible for carrying out last week’s rocket attack against an Iraqi base that hosts American troops will be held to account.
“The message to those that would carry out such an attack is that expect us to do what is necessary to defend ourselves,” Austin said in an interview with ABC that aired on Sunday.
“We’ll strike if that’s what we think we need to do at a time and place of our own choosing. We demand the right to protect our troops,” he said, adding that the U.S. is still assessing intelligence with its Iraqi partners.
Defense officials have previously said the attack had typical hallmarks of a strike by Iran-backed groups. Iran has denied involvement.
When asked if Iran would view a potential U.S. response as an escalation of tensions, the new Pentagon chief and retired Army four-star reiterated that Washington would do whatever is necessary to protect Americans and U.S. interests in the region.
“What they [Iranians] should draw from this, again, is that we’re going to defend our troops and our response will be thoughtful. It will be appropriate,” Austin said. “We would hope that they would choose to do the right things,” he added.
On Sunday, the U.S. military’s Central Command, which oversees the wars in the Middle East, flew its fourth bomber deployment to the region.
The show of force mission included two B-52H Stratofortress bombers alongside aircraft from Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar at different points to “deter aggression and reassure partners and allies of the U.S. military’s commitment to security in the region.”
Last month, Iran rejected an invitation from global powers who signed the 2015 nuclear deal to discuss the regime’s potential return to the negotiating table, a significant setback in the Biden administration’s efforts to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.
The White House said that the Biden administration was disappointed with Iran’s decision to skip the informal meeting but would “reengage in meaningful diplomacy to achieve a mutual return to compliance with JCPOA commitments.”
President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani speaks during the National Combat Board Meeting with Coronavirus (Covid-19) in Tehran, Iran on Nov. 21, 2020.
Iranian Presidency Handout | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
The Biden administration has previously said that it wants to revive the nuclear deal but won’t suspend sanctions until Tehran comes back into compliance. Tehran has refused to negotiate while U.S. sanctions remain in place.
The 2015 JCPOA, brokered by the Obama administration, lifted sanctions on Iran that had crippled its economy and cut its oil exports roughly in half. In exchange for billions of dollars in sanctions relief, Iran agreed to dismantle some of its nuclear program and open its facilities to more extensive international inspections.
The U.S. and its European allies believe Iran has ambitions to develop a nuclear bomb. Tehran has denied that allegation.
In 2018, then-President Donald Trump kept a campaign promise and withdrew the United States from the JCPOA calling it the “worst deal ever.” Following Washington’s exit from the landmark nuclear deal, other signatories of the pact have tried to keep the agreement alive.
Washington’s tense relationship with Tehran took several turns for the worse under the Trump administration.
President Donald Trump speaks during a briefing on Hurricane Michael in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, October 10, 2018.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images
Last year, the U.S. carried out an airstrike that killed Qasem Soleimani, Iran’s top military commander. Iran retaliated by launching at least a dozen missiles from its territory on Jan. 7 at two military bases in Iraq that house U.S. troops and coalition forces.
A day later from the White House, Trump said that Iran appeared “to be standing down” and warned Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
On the heels of the deadly U.S. strike, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said the Trump administration had committed an “act of terror.”
People gather to protest the US air strike in Iraq that killed Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani, who headed Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds force in Sanaa, Yemen on January 6, 2020.
Mohammed Hamoud | Andalou Agency | Getty Images
Soleimani’s death led the regime to further scale back compliance with the international nuclear pact. In January 2020, Iran said it would no longer limit its uranium enrichment capacity or nuclear research.
In October, the United States unilaterally re-imposed U.N. sanctions on Tehran through a snapback process, which other U.N. Security Council members have previously said Washington does not have the authority to execute because it withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018.
A month later, a top Iranian nuclear scientist was assassinated near Tehran, which led Iran’s government to allege that Israel was behind the attack with U.S. backing.
A view shows the scene of the attack that killed Prominent Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, outside Tehran, Iran, November 27, 2020.
WANA via Reuters
During the summer of 2019, a string of attacks in the Persian Gulf set the U.S. and Iran on a path toward greater confrontation.
In June 2019, U.S. officials said an Iranian surface-to-air missile shot down an American military surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz. Iran said the aircraft was over its territory. That strike came a week after the U.S. blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in the Persian Gulf region and after four tankers were attacked in May.
The U.S. that June slapped new sanctions on Iranian military leaders blamed for shooting down the drone. The measures also aimed to block financial resources for Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.
Tensions soared again in September of 2019 when the U.S. blamed Iran for strikes in Saudi Arabia on the world’s largest crude processing plant and oil field. The strikes forced the kingdom to shut down half of its production operations.
The event triggered the largest spike in crude prices in decades and renewed concerns of a budding conflict in the Middle East.
The Pentagon described the strikes on the Saudi Arabian oil facilities as “sophisticated” and represented a “dramatic escalation” in tensions within the region.
All the while, Iran maintains that it was not behind the attacks.
Dr. Reza Parchizadeh
March 7, 2021
The Shiite Crescent, public domain image by CIA World Fact Book via Wikipedia
BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,952, March 7, 2021
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Iran’s hegemonic ambitions depend on an unbroken Shiite arc from Bahrain to Lebanon. It is for this reason that the Islamist regime considers the maintenance of its influence in Syria to be a top priority. If Iran is to be prevented from projecting its totalitarian imperialism throughout the region and beyond, it will have to lose its foothold in Syria.
The Shiite Crescent is an imagined geopolitical entity composed of Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. These countries are home to the majority of the Shiite population of the Middle East. (Afghanistan and Azerbaijan also have sizable Shiite populations outside the region, while the Houthis in Yemen are distant cousins of the Shiites.) The five countries are arranged on the map in a continuous curve that stretches from Bahrain in the southeast to Lebanon in the southwest. That curve has been called the Shiite Crescent.
While the term was reportedly coined by King Abdullah II of Jordan in the early 2000s to refer to the Iranian regime’s interference in Iraq, similar concepts have been in existence in the intellectual and political parlance of the region since at least the 1960s. At that time, the Iranian Islamists embarked upon a large-scale and wide-ranging ideological armed struggle to create a transnational Islamist geopolitical super-unit—a Shiite empire—out of the Shiite-majority nations of the Middle East with Iran as the empire’s beating heart.
Syria takes up a significant portion of the curve, making it the Shiite Crescent’s most strategic point. If that country is lost to Iran, it would devastate the regime’s plans for the Crescent. Not only would Syria, a Sunni-majority nation ruled by a Shiite/Alawite minority, be snatched from the Shiite Islamists, but the lifeline supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon would be severed. As a consequence, the Iranian regime would lose its “land border” with Israel, which it effectively exploits to pressure and harass the Jewish State. It would also lose access to many strategic sites on the Mediterranean and consequently to the jihadi groups in the Gaza Strip. A break in the Shiite Crescent would affect the hegemony of the Shiite camp in the Middle East and would likely translate into a radical shift in the balance of power.
It is therefore of the utmost importance to the Islamic Republic that it maintain the status quo in the form of frozen conflicts in the region—particularly in Syria—on the pretext of fending off ISIS and al-Qaeda. It was specifically to maintain the territorial integrity of the Shiite Crescent that the Iranian regime, which finally (if begrudgingly) agreed in 2015 to put a temporary lid on its nuclear project, has been fighting tooth and nail to keep Syria inside its zone of influence. The regime is well aware that it can revive its nuclear ambitions whenever the international climate is favorable toward such a move (i.e., when there is a Democrat in the White House), but it will be extremely hard if not downright impossible for it to regain a lost sphere of influence.
The year 2015 was not the first time the Iranian regime paused its nuclear weapons project only to push it forward later. Using North Korea as a model, the regime began to seriously consider going nuclear as a safeguard against the West in the mid-1990s. When President George W. Bush invaded Iraq and toppled the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein, the Islamists in Iran, already named by Bush as part of the so-called “Axis of Evil,” realized they could be the next target of his War on Terror. As a result, they put an immediate halt to their nuclear project. As soon as the American presence in Iraq started to dwindle, however—first under Bush and then under Barack Obama—the centrifuges were activated once again in Iran, this time much faster than before. As recent IAEA reports clearly demonstrate, the 2015 nuclear deal that many in the West are determined to revive has utterly failed to stem the Islamist regime’s nuclear ambitions.
But the twist in this game of cat and mouse is that the Islamist regime’s dramatic showcasing of the apparent ebb and flow of its nuclear project is a red herring. With the West’s attention focused on the nuclear issue, the regime has quietly and steadily expanded the Middle East’s arc of crisis via terrorism, sectarianism, paramilitarism, and conventional warfare. And that is where Syria comes in.
The strategic importance of Syria for the Iranian regime is such that Mehdi Taeb, the Supreme Leader’s Special Envoy to the Revolutionary Guards, called it the “35th province of Iran.” He added that protecting Syria was more important than protecting Khuzestan, the oil-rich province in southwestern Iran that was a major theater of conflict during the Iran-Iraq War (1980–1988).
There is another reason why the preservation of the Shiite Crescent is crucial for the regime: its standing in Iran. Here, the regime’s peculiar Islamist ideology must be taken into account. Tehran’s regional imperialism is in many ways a projection of its domestic totalitarianism. Indeed, they feed upon one another.
The classic forms of imperialism that had their roots in Western democracies did not generally burden their mother nations with the unsavory aspects of imperialism. That is, Western imperialists could commit atrocities overseas while democracy flourished at home.
The Islamist regime of Iran, on the other hand, is a totalitarian imperialist power in the vein of the former Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. It projects its oppressive ideology across all spheres of influence, both at home or abroad. In fact, according to historical evidence, the regime is at its most cruel domestically when it is strongest overseas.
As such, if the regime is pushed out of the region, with the loss of its regional influence and ability to mobilize sectarian and proxy forces, it is more likely to collapse at home in the face of domestic resistance by millions of disaffected citizens. Dismantling the Shiite Crescent is a vital first step toward the establishment of peace, stability, and democracy in the Middle East.
Dr. Reza Parchizadeh is a political theorist, historian, and senior analyst. He can be reached on Twitter at @rezaparchizadeh and at https://iup.academia.edu/RezaParchizadeh.
by Hassan MahmoudiMarch 7, 2021
The visit of Pope Francis, the world’s Catholic leader, to Iraq is a political and historical event, an event that matters more than just a visit by a religious leader. The political significance of the Pope’s visit to Iraq and his meeting with Ayatollah Sistani can be viewed as recognizing Sistani as the main figure in Shiite Islam. The Pope’s visit in Najaf is a serious blow to Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, who calls himself, the leader of the world’s Muslims. The meeting also confirms that Najaf is “the heart of Shiism and its capital” and not Qom (central Iran), which is the symbol of the reactionary organization, Islamic fundamentalism, religious dictatorship and its policies in Iran. “Who can be upset?” Said an official in Najaf. “Qom seminary.”
The meeting comes as Ibrahim Raessi, the head of Iran’s judiciary, one of the leaders of the death squad in the 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran, failed to meet with Sistani during his recent visit to Iraq.
The pope has not met with any of the world’s other religious leaders in their private homes!
Rahman Ameri, Iraq’s ambassador to the Vatican, announced that a memorandum of solidarity and unity between followers of different religions would be signed during Pope Francis’ meeting with Ayatollah Sistani.
Prime Minister Mostafa Al-Kazemi also considers the pope’s visit as a sign of consolidation of his government in the current situation. His government is facing the biggest challenge from the Iranian regime’s proxy forces such as kata’ib Hezbollah and Hash Al Shaabi in Iraq’s affairs.
This trip is valued by many leaders in the region of course, but it is very painful for the Iranian regime and Khamenei himself, and affirms Khamenei’s place in a deadly deadlock and isolation, because Khamenei has called himself the leader of the world’s Muslims for many years. While Khamenei is trying to maintain his regime by relying on concentration of power, maintaining the hegemony resulting from the idea of Velayat-e-Faqih , religious fascism, political contraction, and closing all the gaps, this is a political blow to his hegemony. For the past 42 years, the mullahs’ dictatorship has was on an opportunistic idea to maintain power, and employed its 62 organs of repression and destroyed any other person who did not go along with them and thought differently. Khamenei promoted and expanded this idea to the society and a wider uniform organization of so-called religious leaders and has turned this system of thought into a system of government. Humans and groups affiliated with this idea are oppressive, ruthless, and devoid of any mercy. A prominent example of this is the IRGC and its terrorist Quds force that by deploying its proxy forces in the region, such as Hash Al-Shaabi kata’ib Hezbollah, etc., have turned the lives of people of Iraq and the region into a living hell.
Pope Francis implicitly referred to this in a letter to the Iraqi people before his visit. He wrote, “We will certainly not allow the terrible suffering that you endured and that hurt me so much to prevail. We will not give up in the face of evil …” That is why the mullahs’ regime proxy forces in Iraq not only do not welcome the Pope’s visit but also strongly oppose it. Abu Ali Askari from Kata’ib Hezbollah said, “We should not be too optimistic about the Pope’s visit. It is better to reform his country first and then reform others. We have no dialogue with the occupiers and the killers, and we warn of what is going to be woven in Ur. We congratulate the operation against the evil base of Ain Al-Assad and recommend that it continue.”
“It is public knowledge that several members of the military have been arrested after smuggling uranium from Venezuela, and we believe Iran is one of the main destinations,” says would-be Venezuelan leader Juan Guaido.
“It is public knowledge that several members of the military have been arrested after smuggling uranium from Venezuela, and we believe Iran is one of the main destinations,” would-be Venezuelan leader Juan Guaido, told Israel Hayom over the weekend in an exclusive interview.
Guaido discussed his fears of being arrested by the regime of President Nicolas Maduro, sounded the alarm over Iran’s infiltration of the hit country, and also delivered a message to Jerusalem.
It stands to reason that the conversation with the 37-year-old Guaido occurred under the watchful eye of a local intelligence agency, now a routine part of life for the man who emerged to spearhead the fight against the Maduro regime and the United Socialist Party, yet another failed model of the populistic socialism that has gripped the country since 1999.
Some two years ago, after being chosen as the President of the National Assembly of Venezuela, Guaido rose to international prominence as the great new hope for his country. The people believed he possessed the key to changing the regime, which indeed brutalizes those oppose it with arrests, torture, and even executions.
The masses answered his calls and took to the streets, armed with the expectation and hope that the turning point was just around the corner. Even the international community recognized Guaido as the country’s interim president, including the European Union, United States, and Israel.
Now, the picture is completely different. The excitement has waned with time, international support has become ephemeral – even the EU stopped recognizing him as interim president – with only one thing remaining constant: Maduro and Chavezism.
“The Maduro regime has become a crime syndicate, while importing oil from Iran. At present, a preliminary investigation exists into uranium stockpiles in Venezuela and the countries to which this material could be sent,” Guaido reveals from his residence in the capital, Caracas. “There is a large reservoir of uranium in Venezuela that is smuggled from the country somehow, through illegal channels.”
The South American country has maintained close relations with Iran for years now, amid persisting rumors of cooperation with neighboring countries in the field of nuclear energy.
Describing the early stages of Iran’s foothold in Venezuela, Guaido says, “The Maduro dictatorship allowed Iran to enter. It started when [former President Hugo] Chavez began welcoming companies under sanctions by the US and other countries.”
In January 2019, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recognized Guaido as the country’s official leader, which remains Israel’s official position to this day.
Chavez severed relations between Israel and Venezuela in 2009 in the wake of the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip.
Today, Guaido is grateful and has a message for Jerusalem: “The government of Israel provides important diplomatic support in the war against the dictatorship,” he said.
Opposition members in Venezuela are in constant danger. Their lives are at the mercy of the “dictator,” as Guaido refers to Maduro. The United Nations has accused his regime of crimes against humanity. Guaido, for his part, is making efforts to win back international support.
He recently discussed with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken possible paths to “democracy and holding free elections,” but it still isn’t clear what position the Biden administration will take in terms of the humanitarian problem in Venezuela.
Asked about the looming threat of arrest hanging over his head, Guaido said he was aware of the peril but continues to be sure of his path and principles.
“The dictatorship’s threats exist, and it operates this way because the people don’t support it and it doesn’t have much support in the international community,” he explained.
“Venezuela’s only alternative is free elections and allowing a process for a legitimate government,” Guaido concludes.
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Three Palestinian fishermen were killed Sunday after a blast ripped through their boat off the Gaza shore, officials said, in what appeared to be an explosion caused by a misfired rocket launched by the ruling Hamas militant group.
Nezar Ayyash, a spokesman for the local fisherman’s association, said the men — two brothers and a cousin — were working off the coast of the southern town of Khan Younis when the explosion happened.
The cause of the blast wasn’t immediately clear, but there were growing indications that it was the result of a misfired rocket. Hamas, which has fought three wars with Israel, is believed to possess thousands of rockets.
Minutes before the explosion, local media reported that Hamas was test-firing rockets toward the sea.
Hamas, which is usually quick to cast blame on Israel, instead said it was launching an investigation. And relatives of the fishermen posted a statement on Facebook describing them as “the martyrs of living who were killed when a local mortar shell hit their boat.”
Rami al-Laham, who runs the family Facebook page, said the post was published before the investigation was launched.
“For now, it’s mystery and nobody knows how” they were killed, he said. However, four hours after the investigation was announced, he said no one from Hamas or the government had contacted the family.
Earlier, Palestinian media reports blamed Israeli navy fire, but the Israeli military said it was not involved in this incident.