Rising Antisemitism Outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

By Yoni Weissכ”א שבט תשפ”ב

Streaks of light are seen as the Iron Dome antimissile system intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, May 12, 2021. (REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo)YERUSHALAYIM – 

The coronavirus pandemic led to a rise in antisemitism around the world in 2021, according to a report by the Diaspora Ministry that will be presented to the government on Sunday, ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27.

This report points to a link between rising antisemitism and the pandemic, seeing a rise in conspiratorial rhetoric, painting Jews as profiting from vaccines and exploiting the crisis to strengthen their grip on governments and the world economy.

The report further shows that the pandemic brought about a trend of trivialization of the Holocaust, both by public figures and social media users, with repeated comparisons between health restrictions and the antisemitic discrimination and violence in Nazi Germany.

Many anti-vax protesters around the world have brandished the yellow badge to signify persecution by the authorities.

The report also shows that the past year has seen an upsurge in antisemitic incidents around the world, in part due to the escalation in the Gaza Strip last May, which saw an outburst of anti-Jewish hatred on social media.

In total, in 2021, the Diaspora Ministry’s monitoring system identified 3.5 million antisemitic posts in various languages.

In its report, the ministry says there is a correlation between violent speech on social media and violent actions in the public sphere against Jews, who are seen as collectively responsible for Israel’s actions.

The Australian Nuclear horn continues to grow Daniel 7

(Left to right) British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, and Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton [Source: Marise Payne Facebook]

British, Australian ministers strengthen military collaboration against China

In the wake of the AUKUS pact between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States reached last September, the British and Australian foreign and defence ministers held talks in Sydney yesterday to further strengthen military ties directed primarily against China, and also Russia.

The AUKUS agreement, which includes equipping Australia with nuclear-powered submarines, is part of the US-led military build-up throughout the Indo-Pacific as Washington intensifies its aggressive confrontation with China diplomatically, economically and strategically.

At a joint press conference, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss declared that the two countries were “modernising our partnership for a new age” to confront “the reality … that threats are rising across the world.” As well as lashing out at Russia for “threatening Ukraine” and Iran over its nuclear program, Truss accused China of “using its economic muscle against Australia and other allies like Lithuania.”

Truss told reporters that Australia and Britain were “completely united in our response. We’re standing shoulder to shoulder in defence of freedom and democracy, and we’re determined to face down these growing threats.”

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne trotted out the same propaganda line to justify the military build-up by the two countries in league with the US. Australia and Britain were natural partners, she said, to counter the influence of “malign authoritarianism” and maintain the international order.

For all the unsubstantiated allegations of Russian and Chinese “threats” and “aggression,” Australian and British imperialism have been two of the closest partners in crime of the US over the past three decades. London and Canberra have backed the illegal US-led invasions and interventions in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia to the hilt politically and militarily. These have resulted in the destruction of whole societies—in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan.

Now Britain and Australia are preparing to join the US in confronting two nuclear-armed powers, China and Russia, raising the prospect of a catastrophic war. None of this is about defending democracy, which is under sustained attack in all three countries. Rather, the AUKUS pact is seeking to maintain the US global hegemony on which Australia and Britain have both relied since the end of World War II, but which is being undermined by the economic rise of China in particular.

The escalation of the British military presence in the Indo-Pacific—a region half way around the world from the United Kingdom—is especially significant. Following World War II and its declining global influence, Britain withdrew from “East of the Suez” from 1966, pulling its military out of major bases in Aden (now part of Yemen) and Singapore. It has not consistently sent warships to the Indo-Pacific since the closure of its small base in Hong Kong in 1997 when the colony was returned to China.

Last March the British government adopted a so-called Indo-Pacific Tilt, as part of its 2021 Integrated Review, and in September signed up to the AUKUS agreement. The British navy dispatched the Queen Elizabeth II aircraft carrier and its strike group of warships to the Indo-Pacific where it engaged in various exercises, including provocative joint drills in the South China Sea with Dutch and Singaporean naval vessels in October.

Speaking to the press yesterday, Australian Defence Minister Peter Dutton explained that no agreement had been reached as yet on basing British warships in Australia. However, “it could be something that we discuss at an appropriate time” in the future. “I think what you will see is a greater regularity in visits, training, in people being embedded… and certainly greater cooperation in exercises.”

Britain has already dispatched two of its newest warships—the offshore patrol vessels, HMS Spey and HMS Tamar—to the Asian region on a long-term basis as part of re-establishing “a persistent Indo-Pacific presence.” While not permanently based in Australia, the two British naval vessels will rely heavily on Australian naval infrastructure for port visits, resupply and maintenance.

The two countries also agreed to strengthen military coordination and planning by embedding a liaison officer from Britain’s Permanent Joint Headquarters within Australia’s Headquarters Joint Operations Command.

Australia and Britain are part of the top-level Five Eyes intelligence sharing network, led by the US, which also includes New Zealand and Canada. The ministerial meeting yesterday strengthened collaboration on cyber security, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies and undersea capabilities.

Truss used a speech to the Sydney-based think tank, the Lowy Institute, to issue strident warnings about the threat of a Russian invasion of the Ukraine and its dire consequences. In reality, the US and its allies have manufactured the present crisis over Ukraine through the military encroachment of NATO forces into Eastern Europe after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

At yesterday’s press conference, Payne joined the international anti-Russia chorus, declaring “we will work closely with Ukraine in the coming days and weeks in terms of challenges that they are dealing with.” She indicated that Australia would look favourably on any formal request from the Ukraine for assistance on cyber-security.

Asked yesterday about the talks in Sydney, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian branded the AUKUS agreement as “a typical military bloc” and the decision to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines as a breach of the international Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. He pointed to the hypocrisy of the US, Britain and Australia hyping the “China threat” while collaborating in a military build-up in the region.

The provision of nuclear-powered submarines to Australia underscores the aggressive character of the AUKUS agreement. The attack submarines have nothing to do with the defence of Australian waters but are designed to operate at great distances for lengthy periods of time. Their purpose is to operate in concert with British and American nuclear submarines off the Chinese coast, either as part of a naval blockade or a full-scale war.

Last September, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared that Australia had no intention of creating a domestic nuclear industry or arming the nuclear-powered submarines with nuclear missiles. As geo-political tensions continue to rise, such pledges are meaningless.

Australia’s deep integration into US war planning has placed the Australian population on the front-line of a US-led conflict with China that has the potential to rapidly escalate into a nuclear war.

The last chance before the explosion outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

The last chance before the explosion’

The year 2021 was a bloody one even by the usually gory standards of the long-running Israel-Palestine conflict. Data from the United Nations shows that violence in the West Bank reached a five-year peak,” with at least 79 Palestinians and three Israelis killed in a series of attacks, bombings, and confrontations. In the other Palestinian territory of Gaza, over 230 Palestinians were killed during the devastating 11-day war between Israel and Hamas in May 2021, while 12 people died in Israel – not to mention injuries and losses of property. Last year was the deadliest since 2014 and an ominous sign of what is to come.

With no formal peace process underway since talks last broke off over seven years ago, and frustration and anger building up amid zero hope on the horizon for a lasting diplomatic solution, the situation can be labeled as a tenuous tinderbox that can ignite at any moment in another bout of fighting and clashes. UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland has warned that, “if left unaddressed, the festering conflict drivers will drag us into yet another destructive and bloody round of violence.” 

In a clear recognition that matters could slip out of hand and repeat more deadly cycles of tit-for-tat attacks, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met in late December 2021 in the town of Rosh HaAyin. It was notably “the first time the Palestinian leader held talks with a senior Israeli official in Israel since 2010,” a step necessitated by what Gantz described as “deepening security coordination and preventing terror and violence – for the well-being of both Israelis and Palestinians.” Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh labeled this dialogue as “the last chance before the explosion and finding ourselves at a dead end.”

Political contradictions

But even as the Gantz-Abbas meeting triggered a wave of international optimism that it may be the first step for reviving a dialogue process and bringing the two sides back to the table to work out a formula on the world’s most intractable conflicts, a political firestorm broke out in Israel. Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin, representing the conservative New Hope party, thundered in disapproval that “I wouldn’t have invited to my home someone who pays salaries to murderers of Israelis and also wants to put senior IDF [Israel Defense Forces] officers in prison in The Hague [at the International Criminal Court].” Livid cabinet ministers were quoted as grumbling that Gantz’s initiative “doesn’t contribute to the stability of the government.”

Whose Israel and whose Palestine? Extremists are running amok as leaderships fail

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who heads an unwieldy and ideologically fragmented eight-party coalition government, and whose right-wing Yamina party is closely associated with hawkish Jewish settlers opposed to yielding even one inch of the biblical Judea and Samaria (corresponding to today’s West Bank), was left in a precarious position and had to admit that Gantz hosted Abbas after his approval. To cover his back, though, Bennett clarified that the purpose of the talks was limited to improving security coordination and economic interactions, not to restart the peace process.

Under pressure from within his own party, and desperate to ensure that his contradiction-filled coalition government does not collapse, Bennett had previously dissociated himself from any revival of peace negotiations with the Palestinians:

“My perception is different than that of the defense minister, although we work in harmony. I oppose a Palestinian state and I think it would be a grave mistake to import the failed Gaza model of Hamas which shoots rockets at us, and turn the entire West Bank to that. I see no logic in meeting Abbas when he’s suing our soldiers in the Hague and accuses our commanders of war crimes. In my opinion, the Palestinian Authority is a failed entity.”

At the other corner of the spectrum in the coalition government is Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, the leader of the centrist Yesh Atid, who thinks that Israel has no option but to revive the peace process with the Palestinians. Citing an “intelligence-based assessment” that campaigns for international ostracization and designation of Israel as an ‘apartheid state’ could fructify in 2022, Lapid has publicly advocated a moderate stance:

“Without diplomatic dialogue with the Palestinians, this [the threat of Israel being designated an apartheid state] will only grow more severe. We need to be cautious of a situation in which the world says the Palestinians are promoting diplomatic talks and Israel is refusing. The claim that Israel is an apartheid state is a disgusting lie. These are a group of anti-Semites, but I don’t take them lightly.”

Still, such is the shaky political environment in Israel that Lapid, who is supposed to take over by rotation from Bennett and become the next prime minister in 2023, has been forced to assure his detractors that he would keep aside his own beliefs and stay away from dialogue with the Palestinians to preserve the coalition:

“Even after a coalition rotation, I will remain with the same people and the same disagreements … I plan to stand behind the agreement I made with my partners. There is no reason for me to delude the Palestinians and open a diplomatic process that doesn’t have a coalition behind it … That would damage our credibility, which is important.”

Social polarization

When the foremost liberal politician in Israel has to hold his horses despite being cognizant of the blowback effect of the unstable status quo with the Palestinians, it shows how difficult the road ahead is for any diplomatic path forward. The obstacles come not only from the mood of the political class in Israel, where the mainstream discourse is largely ‘securitized’ and based on fear of granting any concessions to the Palestinians, but also from increasing social polarization. 

‘New generation is capable of leading a new Intifada’

An opinion poll in December 2021 suggested that a slim majority of Israelis are in favor of a direct meeting between Prime Minister Bennett and President Abbas, and that 49% of Israelis even want their government to have “direct, open talks” with Hamas – an entity designated a terrorist organization by the governments of Israel, the United States, and the European Union.

But such barometers of what Israeli people want are deceptive and not indicative of policy-making, because the country’s electoral math is divided up according to vote banks. Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was ousted from power in June 2021 after failing to cobble together yet another right-wing coalition in the Israeli Knesset, remains a formidable force. There is a clear pattern of Bennett and other rightists in the current coalition wanting to outdo Netanyahu and demonstrate an even tougher approach to crushing terrorism by Palestinian jihadists and expanding illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Any concession by Lapid or Gantz that crosses the red lines set by this overarching rightist milieu could plunge Israel into more uncertainty and chaos, following four inconclusive general elections since April 2019.

Former US President Donald Trump’s remarksthat “I don’t think Bibi [Netanyahu’s nickname] ever wanted to make peace” with the Palestinians, and that “he just tapped us along. Just tap, tap, tap,” reveal the crux of the matter. Barring a few left-liberals, the Israeli body politic is invested only in managing the Palestinian problem in terms of stopping terrorist attacks or throwing a few economic sops at President Abbas’ moribund and unpopular Palestinian Authority, not in resolving the conflict per se.

Israeli military changes open-fire rules

The much-talked-about ‘two-state solution’ of an independent Palestinian state coexisting beside the state of Israel, which was put forward as the final goalpost after the 1993 Oslo Accords, has lost traction amid a steady increase in what Israeli security officials themselves admit is a surge in Jewish extremism and ultra-nationalism. 

In an August 2021 opinion poll, only 39.7% of Israelis favored the two-state solution. Most tellingly, within the group clinging to the fading dream of a two-state solution, just 33.8% were Jewish Israelis, while 68.8% were Israeli Arabs (citizens of Israel, most of whom consider themselves Palestinians and identify with their stateless kin living in the West Bank and Gaza).

The internal schism between Jews and Arabs within Israel has widened significantly, mirroring the internecine feud between Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah faction in the Palestinian territories. These two trends further hamper any progress in relaunching diplomatic efforts. While there never were monolithic unanimous categories of ‘Israel’ and ‘Palestine’, the parallel processes of disaggregation of national identities and widespread public cynicism about the intentions and performance of the ruling classes on both sides have created a huge credibility vacuum.

International negotiations can only succeed when there are two willing and coherent parties, each with domestic legitimacy and social consensus behind them. Neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority has such a solid footing in their respective home bases.

‘Separate peace’ without Palestine

Another factor deterring any move by Israel for peace with the Palestinians is what can be called the ‘outside in’ approach Jerusalem has adopted to the Middle East as a whole. The Abraham Accords, facilitated by Israel’s principal international backer the US, wherein four Arab countries – the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan – formally recognized Israel and established diplomatic relations with it, have given Israel a sense of vindication without having to redress Palestinian grievances.

As Prime Minister Bennett put it in December, during his historic first ever visit to the UAE after the normalization of relations, there is“great optimism that this example, of ties between the two countries, will be a cornerstone for a wide-ranging network of ties throughout the region.” The Middle East has indeed traveled a long way from the 1967 consensus among Arab nations of the ‘Three Nos’ – “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.” Israel is no longer persona non grata among many Sunni Arab countries, which have adjusted their national interests to do pragmatic quid pro quo deals with the militarily superior and economically vibrant Zionist state instead of resisting it.

Understandably, Palestinians have lambastedthe Trump administration-brokered Abraham Accords as unpardonable betrayals and treacherous stabs in the back of Palestinians by their fellow Arabs. But unlike in 1979 – when Egypt recognized Israel in return for the Sinai Peninsula without gaining any concessions on behalf of Palestinians, resulting in a torrent of Islamist anger that scalped the life of President Anwar Sadat – the chorus of outrage against the Abraham Accords has been muted in the proverbially radical ‘Arab street’. Apparently, many in the Muslim world are fatigued and tired of carrying the burdensome cross of the Israel-Palestine dispute on their shoulders and want to move on.

The international marginalization of the Palestinian cause, which once used to fire up the entire Middle East and mobilize leftist firebrands worldwide, has given Israeli elites confidence that they can have their cake and eat it too. As seen from Jerusalem, if the broader Arab-Israeli conflict is melting away, why care about the narrower Palestinian-Israeli conflict?

The Iran diversion 

An interlinked development which has pushed resolution of the Palestinian question to the backburner is the ‘Iran threat’, which has reorganized coalitions and alignments in the region. Because Iran remains the leading power in the ‘axis of resistance’ against Israel and the US – a grouping which includes Syria, the Lebanese Hezbollah, Iraqi and Yemeni militants – Jerusalem views Tehran as its main national security challenge and enemy number one.

The laser-like focus that Israel, the US, Saudi Arabia, and other Sunni Arab states have kept on Iran’s nuclear programme and the ‘malign activities’ of Iran’s proxies are to an extent based on actual threat assessments and security incidents. But the Iran-phobia discourse also serves a political purpose of shoving the Palestinian problem under the carpet as a far less important matter or even a bygone concern of an earlier era that deserves no fresh diplomatic push.

Mowing the grass forever?

Palestinian gunned down in Jerusalem after stabbing Orthodox Jewish man (VIDEO)

If Israel keeps kicking the can down the road and indefinitely sustaining the status quo of militarily occupying the West Bank (home to about 2.8 million Palestinians) and laying siege to Gaza (containing over 1.8 million Palestinians), even as frustration and desperation rise in these territories, is it not a recipe for wave after wave of uprisings, outbursts, and violence that could spill over into Israel itself, as was the case during the 2021 Israel-Hamas mini war? President Abbas’ repeated postponement of elections (Palestinian territories have not voted for their top leaders since 2006) and the rage that emanates from powerlessness and joblessness among Palestinians (average age of 20 years) could boomerang sharply on Israel. 

Foreign Minister Lapid, who has expressedworries about whether Israel can remain Jewish and democratic if it permanently denies Palestinians their rights, has acknowledged that Israel’s government cannot afford to neglect the Palestinian issue “forever and ever.”

However, Jewish fertility rates have overtaken those of Palestinians in recent years, relieving old fears of Jews becoming a demographic minority in Israel and the occupied territories. This shift, together with the ever-splintering socio-political identities within Israel which skew policymaking toward hardline positions, has weakened the argument that something must be done urgently to reconcile with Palestinians and try for peace.

Israel’s strategy of periodically ‘mowing the grass’, i.e. using superior military force to repel Palestinian jihadists while avoiding a final political solution, is presumably the only visible path, despite its inbuilt violence and terrible human and economic costs. Barring a grassroots generational shift in Israeli public attitudes and political culture or a wholesale capitulation by the dysfunctional Palestinian factions to accept a one-sided peace deal thrown at them, this perpetual war has only commas and no full stops. Sreeram Chaulia is a professor and dean at the Jindal School of International Affairs in Sonipat, India. His forthcoming book is ‘Crunch Time: Narendra Modi’s National Security Crises’.

Iran attacks Babylon the Great again

Several rockets hit Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, including US embassy, and wound two civilians

US personnel in the area are safe following the attacks, a State Department official told CNN. 

“The U.S. Embassy compound was attacked this evening by terrorist groups attempting to undermine Iraq’s security, sovereignty, and international relations,” the embassy said in a statement.“We have long said that these sorts of reprehensible attacks are an assault not just on diplomatic facilities but on the sovereignty of Iraq itself,” the embassy added in the tweeted statement.

The Iraqi military said “a cowardly terrorist act” targeted “innocent residents of the Green Zone in Baghdad and the headquarters of the diplomatic missions.”

Several missiles were launched from the Dora neighborhood in southern Baghdad, the military said.

Security forces are now investigating the incident.

Baghdad’s Green Zone houses Iraqi government offices and several embassies.

Iraqi President Barham Salih condemned the attack on Thursday, writing on Twitter: “Targeting diplomatic missions and endangering civilians is a criminal terrorist act and a blow to Iraq’s interests and its international reputation.” Thursday’s strikes add to a growing list of attacks on US personnel in the Middle East in recent weeks. Last Wednesday, military bases in Iraq and Syria that house American troops were attacked, though no US forces were killed in the strikes. 

Last week also saw several other attacks in the region, coinciding with the second anniversary of the US assassination of Qasem Soleimani, a key Iranian general.

The attack last week on the US base in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border prompted US-led coalition forces to fire back at Iranian-backed militias who were suspected of being behind the strikes. 

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters last week that “it’s difficult to know with great specificity and certainty … what accounts for the frequency of these attacks,” adding: “It is certainly possible that it could be related to the anniversary of the Soleimani strike. It is certainly possible that it could be related to the change in mission” in Iraq.

Echoing Salih’s sentiments, Iraqi anti-American cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr stressed that Thursday’s attacks would only delay the full withdrawal of US troops from the country.

Al-Sadr called on all militia groups to stop attacking the US embassy and other sites, saying such acts would “Undermind our efforts to expel (US troops in Iraq) through the UN Security Council, international means and under penalty of law.”

The cleric’s political party has emerged as the biggest winner in Iraq’s general election that was held in October 2021.

Iran States Babylon the Great is Weaker than Ever

Raisi is accompanied by senior members of his cabinet, including the foreign minister, economy minister, and oil minister, on his high-profile, two-day visit to Russia.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi accuses the US of seeking to “weaken independent governments from within” while reminding the world that Tehran is serious about reaching a nuclear deal if the sanctions are lifted.

Iran’s Raisi: United States is in its ‘weakest position’ ever

Raisi is accompanied by senior members of his cabinet, including the foreign minister, economy minister, and oil minister, on his high-profile, two-day visit to Russia. (Reuters)

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi has said the “strategy of domination” had failed and the US was “in its weakest position.”

Addressing the lower house of the Russian parliament on Thursday, Raisi used his address to the State Duma in lashing out at the US and hailing the growing proximity between Tehran and Moscow.

He said the “power of independent nations” was experiencing a “historic growth,” while accusing the US and its allies of seeking to “weaken independent governments from within” through “economic sanctions, destabilisation, promotion of insecurity, and false narratives.”

Raisi, elected to office last July, noted that the US “military occupation” in Iraq and Afghanistan was ending due to “resistance of nations,” which he said serves “independence of countries.”

He received a standing ovation and a round of applause from Russian lawmakers after his speech, which many see as an invitation to Russia to form a regional alliance against the US.

Serious about reviving nuclear deal

Defending his country’s nuclear programme, the Iranian president said Washington claims that sanctions are due to Iran’s nuclear activities, but the country’s activities are “legal and under the constant supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency.”

“The Islamic Republic of Iran is serious about reaching an agreement if the other parties are serious about lifting the sanctions effectively and operationally,” Raisi commented on the ongoing efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

Raisi further extended Iran’s support to Russia’s initiative of holding a meeting of the parliament speakers of Iran, Russia, Turkiye, Pakistan, and China in the “fight against terrorism.”

Israeli forces target farmlands outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Israeli forces target farmlands in Gaza Strip

GAZA, Friday, January 21, 2022 (WAFA) – Israeli forces today targeted farmlands east of the Deir al-Balah and Khan Younes cities in the besieged Gaza Strip, according to WAFA correspondent.

He said that Israeli soldiers stationed along the border opened intense machine gunfire and tear gas bombs towards farmers who attempted to access their land to inspect the damage to their winter crops following the recent stormy weather conditions east of the cities in the central and southern parts of the strip, spreading panic among them and forcing them to flee for their safety.

No injuries were reported though.

Fourteen years following the Israeli “disengagement” from Gaza, Israel has not actually disengaged from Gaza; it still maintains control of its land borders, access to the sea and airspace.

Two million Palestinians live the Gaza Strip, which has been subjected to a punishing and crippling Israeli blockade for 12 years and repeated onslaughts that have heavily damaged much of the enclave’s infrastructure.

Gaza’s 2-million population remains under “remote control” occupation and a strict siege, which has destroyed the local economy, strangled Palestinian livelihoods, plunged them into unprecedented rates of unemployment and poverty, and cut off from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories and the wider world.

Gaza remains occupied territory, having no control over its borders, territorial waters or airspace. Meanwhile, Israel upholds very few of its responsibilities as the occupying power, failing to provide for the basic needs of Palestinian civilians living in the territory.

Every two in three Palestinians in Gaza is a refugee from lands inside what is now Israel. That government forbids them from exercising their right to return as enshrined in international law because they are not Jews.

Another Iranian Lie: Daniel 8

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, left, and Russian State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin talk to each other during their meeting in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022.

Iran isn’t seeking nuclear weapons, president tells Russian Duma

•   21/01/2022 – 16:36

Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi told the Russian parliament on Thursday his country was not seeking to get nuclear weapons.

In a speech at the State Duma, Raisi said Iran was serious about reaching an agreement to limit its nuclear program, but would not agree to anything less than its “rights”.

“We are not after nuclear weapons, and such weapons have no place in our defensive strategy,” he added.

Russia has actively taken part in international talks in Vienna aimed at salvaging Iran’s tattered 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

The United States withdrew from the accord in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump, while President Joe Biden wants to rejoin the deal.

“We can bring these talks to a successful conclusion and address the core concerns of all sides. But time is running out,” Biden said, adding that “if a deal is not reached in the coming weeks, Iran’s ongoing nuclear advances, which resumed after we withdrew from the agreement, will make it impossible for us to return to the JCPOA.”

The 2015 agreement was intended to rein in Iran’s nuclear programme in return for loosened economic sanctions.

Raisi, who is in Moscow for an official visit, met with Russian President Vladimir Putin the previous day.

Meanwhile, Iran, Russia, and China are set to begin a three-day joint naval drill in the Indian Ocean on Friday, in a bid to reinforce “common security”, according to an Iranian naval official.

The spokesman for the exercises, Admiral Mustafa Tajeddini, told state television that they would include “the participation of 11 naval units from the armed forces of Iran, three units from the Revolutionary Guards’ navy, three units from Russia and two units from China.”

He added that they would take place over an area of 17,000 square kilometres in the northern Indian Ocean.

Tajeddini claims they aim to “enhance capabilities and combat readiness, strengthen military ties between the Iranian, Russian and Chinese navies, ensure common security and counter maritime terrorism”.

The three countries held similar drills in the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean in late 2019, when tensions had risen between Iran and its US-allied Arab neighbours in the Gulf.

Rocket launched from outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

 IRON DOME interceptors destroy rockets launched from the Gaza Strip toward Israel in the skies over Ashkelon in May. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

Rocket launched from Lebanon towards Israel – report

Rockets have been launched from both Gaza and Lebanon over the fast few months.

Unknown individuals in Lebanon launched a rocket towards Israel on Wednesday night, according to Lebanese media.

Islamic State militants attack prison in Syria’s al-Hasaka, US-backed SDF says

Army Radio reported that there was no indication that there had in fact been a rocket launch.

 Iron dome anti-missile system fires interception missiles as rockets fired from the Gaza Strip to Israel, in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, May 19, 2021.  (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Iron dome anti-missile system fires interception missiles as rockets fired from the Gaza Strip to Israel, in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, May 19, 2021. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Other Lebanese outlets reported that an explosion was heard in the area from which the rocket was reportedly launched but that the source was unknown.

Over the last few months, Gaza fired multiple rockets towards Israel, claiming that they were mistakes and blaming other elements such as the weather.The last time this happened was at the beginning of January when two rockets were launched by Hamas. It was claimed that they were launched by lightning strikes. The rockets fell into the coast off Israeli’s center, and no one was hurt.

Before that, two rockets were fired over within a week of each other, and Hamas once again claimed that extreme weather was the causeThe last time rockets were launched from Lebanon toward Israel was in August. Hezbollah fired 20 rockets into Israel, 10 of which were intercepted and six fell inside Lebanon.

Lebanon is currently undergoing a severe period of instability amid a massive economic crisis, a severe fuel shortage and tensions in the political sector.

Australian Horn Must Nuke Up: Daniel 7

Flag of Australia.

Australia Needs To Reconsider Acquisition Of Nuclear Weapons – Analysis

September 13, 2021

There is a risk Australia may be alone in the region

It has been fifty years since Australia made a formal decision not to acquire nuclear weapons. However, since then the regional geo-political environment has starkly changed, and is likely to become more turbulent over the next few decades, as balances are changing. 

US reliance as an alley, and the inferred nuclear protection Australia has been given is uncertain in the future. The competitive strategic positions of China and the US will change drastically over the next decade. US interests under different presidencies are also fluid. Australia is now in the frontline of a strategically changing region, where Australia’s self-perception as a middle power has vanished with some regional military forces much more potent than Australia. 

Australia’s bilateral relationship with its largest trading partner China has greatly deteriorated over recent times, with few signs of improving. Australia is alone in its trade dispute with China, ironically with the US benefitting from Chinese embargoes on Australian goods. Minister to minister communications has long been suspended, as China is decoupling Australia. 

There are a number of potential trouble spots in the region. These include Chinese intentions over Taiwan, North Korea’s acquisition of long-range nuclear weapon delivery systems, and a potentially unstable nuclear Pakistan with Taliban designs of creating a Pashtun Taliban Caliphate in Pakistan.

The nuclear equilibrium in the region is shifting. China’s rise in military force is prompting countries like India to upgrade its nuclear arsenal to much more powerful thermonuclear weapons.

Probably of greatest importance is Indonesian nuclear weapon development intentions. Former Indonesian army four-star general and minister for maritime affairs and investment has been reported as saying Indonesia is underestimated because it doesn’t have nuclear weapons. Indonesia’s development of facilities capable of manufacturing weapons grade materials are well underway. A nuclear Indonesia with a growing Wahhabi-Salafism in Indonesia may one day leave Australia with a government to the north, vastly different to what exists now. 

Australia needs to discuss strategy options in the new realities it faces in the region. There needs to be re-assessments of a post-Afghanistan US alley, very close neighbours to Australia which are adopting a placating response to China, a super-power that is bullying Australia, and the likelihood of a potential nuclear armed neighbour. 

Since the early 1970s, Australian Governments have been strongly supportive of nuclear non-proliferation under the definitions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), signed by the McMahon Government in 1970 and ratified by the incoming Labor Whitlam Government in 1973. Australia’s anti-nuclear position was even strengthened under Liberal-Coalition Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser, as the “green/anti-nuclear” movement was quickly growing in Australia at the time. With the exception of Prime Minister John Howard, who saw a changing Asia-Pacific nuclear balance, subsequent prime ministers Hawke, Keating, Rudd, and Gillard also strongly followed the non-proliferation line.

Paradoxically, every prime minister supported to various degrees, the development of uranium mining and export as an economic driver. The Fraser and later Rudd Governments argued that uranium exports should be used as a means to strengthen non-proliferation by demanding safeguards from customers.

Uranium exports have been controversial, with strong domestic protests over the years, governments trampling over indigenous wills, and deep party rifts within the Labor movement. Yet on the issue on non-proliferation, Australia had always been at the forefront in international forums.

Prior to the 1970s, Australia took a different view towards nuclear non-proliferation. In 1944, Australia supplied uranium ore to the Manhattan Project. Australian physicist Mark Oliphant played a major role in pushing the atomic bomb program in both Britain and the US before the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941.

However, after World War II, the US Government reneged on its agreement to share nuclear technology with its allies. Then Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies, granted Australia’s assistance to Britain in its quest for autonomous nuclear weapons, giving technical assistance and allowing nuclear tests in the Mont Bello Islands, Emu Field and Maralinga, on Australian soil between 1952 and 1963. Australia also participated in the development of the Blue Streak and bloodhound missiles, which were potential nuclear weapon delivery systems with Britain during this era.

The significance of Australian participation, which didn’t go unnoticed by Australian bureaucrats and politicians at the time, was that under section IX.3 of the proposed NPT, Australia would be able to claim nuclear status as it had participated in the production and detonation of nuclear weapons prior to 1st January 1967. Historical reports indicate that the Australian Government’s main motivation at the time, (including US pressure), was to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the local hemisphere, rather than seeking the abolishment of nuclear weapons.

Bureaucratic support from within the Australian defence and security establishment for a nuclear hedging position was strong at the. Wikileaks publication of diplomatic cables between Australia and the US on Iran’s bid to develop nuclear weapons indicated this. Notable Australian diplomat and former Director-General of the Office of National Assessments, Peter Varghese was reported as saying in his briefings to the United States that Australia didn’t see Iran as a ‘rogue state’ in its development of nuclear weapons as “Tehran’s nuclear program (was) within the paradigm of the laws of difference, noting that Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon may be enough to meet its security objectives”.

Attempts during the 1950s and 1960s were made by a number of defence personnel, high placed public servants, academics, and right-wing elements of the Liberal-Country Party to acquire nuclear weapons. Initially purchasing them from either Britain or the United States was advocated. Later developing an independent nuclear deterrent was favoured.

Most of the active proponents for nuclear weapons were defence related personnel. They developed a number of plans to acquire nuclear weapons from the British, or have the United States deploy them on Australian soil. Sir Philip Baxter, who was head of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission (AAEC) at the time, operated a clandestine research program to isolate the isotope U-235 from uranium, the quality needed in the production of nuclear weapons. 

Some academics like Professor A. L. Burns of the Australian National University also advocated an Australian nuclear option which was aired by the Australian media at the time, especially in relation to the Chinese testing a nuclear bomb and the belief that Indonesia was also developing nuclear weapons. Pressure groups like the Democratic Labor Party and Returned Soldiers League which were both influential during the 1960s also strongly advocated an Australian nuclear weapon option.

The reluctance of the Australian Government to go ahead with the development of its own nuclear weapons all changed after Prime Minister Menzies retirement, when John Gorton unexpectedly became prime minister after the disappearance of Prime Minister Harold Holt in 1967. John Gorton, an ex-RAAF pilot strongly believed that Australia should have its own independent nuclear deterrent with the Chinese in possession of nuclear weapons in the region. Plans went underway to develop a nuclear facility at Jervis Bay on the South Coast of New South Wales that would house both a nuclear reactor, which could produce weapons grade plutonium, and bomb manufacturing facilities.

Gorton tried to develop an Australian nuclear weapon capability before the NPT was signed. However, in March 1971, he was disposed by William McMahon, who cancelled all nuclear weapon development plans. It will always remain a matter of conjecture how much influence the US had in his decision.

Moving back to more contemporary times, two recent reactions to recent events by the former Turnbull Government briefly hinted of a change in thinking about Australia’s strong non-proliferation position.

Firstly, Australia’s tradition of supporting non-proliferation in international forums was broken. Australia failed to support the recent United Nations resolution to outlaw nuclear weapons on the floor of the General Assembly in 2016, to the surprise and astonishment of many interested in this issue. Secondly, former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull failed to give Melbourne based International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) director Beatrice Fihn a congratulatory call after been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. This seems significant in what can be considered Australia’s first Nobel Peace Prize.

In addition, former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s rhetoric about nuclear weapons soon about to spread through the region indicates a change in Canberra’s world view. The Morrison Australian government is currently opposed to signing the new intentional Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Over the last two years, there have been open public debates on the need of an Australian nuclear deterrent, something that hasn’t occurred for decades. Influential Australian National University academic Hugh White, published a book two years ago, which openly canvassed the possibility of Australia acquiring a nuclear deterrent. Given his close consulting with the Australian government on the subject of national strategic defence, this hints that the topic is being discussed at the highest levels of government. Former National Party deputy prime minister John Anderson openly advocated Australia acquiring a nuclear deterrent very recently.  

This is not yet a policy shift, but perhaps recognition that nuclear weapons for Australia may need to be an option. Today, with Australian citizen perception of China, and as more news of an Indonesian nuclear weapons program intentions surface, public support will increase. Australian society has changed since the anti-nuclear days of French testing in the Pacific, and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. 

Australia’s capability to develop nuclear weapons is better than most. The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO) at Lucas Heights, replacing the AAEC in 1987 is an internationally renowned centre of nuclear research. Australia has also developed some advanced indigenous uranium refining technology, the SILEX process using lasers, which is much more economical and cheaper than the traditional centrifuge technology.

Australia has large reserves of uranium and a stockpile of semi-refined uranium at Lucas heights. Australia also has a certain degree of bomb making technology that it gained from participation with Britain in the nuclear tests during the 1950s and its own endeavours back in the 1970s. Australia has the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fighter, Boeing F/A-18a & B Hornet, and the F/A 18F Super Hornet as capable medium range delivery systems.  Australia also has a range of nuclear capable cruise missiles which can be launched from aircraft, ships, and submarines. Submarines are today by far the most stealthy method of delivering nuclear weapons, as they are the most difficult to detect, and delivery time from launch to target is short. 

However, this doesn’t mean developing a nuclear arsenal would be an easy project for any future government. The project would be a major one requiring special budgeting, which would mean curtailing other budget expenditure. This could be very difficult in today’s economic environment.

In the absence of some form of threat to Australia’s security, public debate would probably be one of the most heated and passionate within Australian society. This would be reflected in the finely balanced Australian Parliament. This debate would have the potential to bring down the Government.

In the absence of bi-partisanship between the major parties on the issue, a Labor Government on current policy would firmly squash any potential nuclear program. It may not even need a change of government, a change of leader within the Liberal Party maybe enough to force the cancellation of any nuclear program.

The nuclear weapon debate is an issue politicians can use to gain power, which would prevent Australia developing nuclear weapons. That’s the dynamics of a democratic system. If France or Britain had to develop nuclear weapons from scratch today, it would almost be impossible through their democratic processes.

Even if Australia decided to go ahead with a nuclear program, tacit approval would be needed from the United States. The US has for years been hedging on this. However, with the Biden view of the region, the US may support allies in the Asia-Pacific taking more responsibility for their own defence. The proposal by Australia to develop its own nuclear arsenal may bring big offers of concessions from the US. There are possibilities that the US could deploy nuclear weapons on Australian soil as a deterrent, with joint control or leasing scheme. 

The strongest argument for Australia developing a nuclear deterrent is to gain strategic respect in the region. Australia cannot afford to project itself militarily into the South China Sea in any significant manner on its own. This would need spending 4-5 percent of GDP on defence over a decade. Australia’s transactional diplomacy within the region hasn’t developed close regional military alliances that it should have by now. China is using Australia as a decoupling experiment to see how isolated they can make the country. Australia must quickly see how alone it is now, as no country has jumped to Australia’s assistance. A nuclear deterrent will make it easier for Australia to stand alone. This will now very quickly develop into a serious option.  

Murray’s blog can be accessed here

Biden has taken its eyes off the ball on Iran

For Putin, Kazakhstan is a domino too big to fall

America has taken its eyes off the ball on Iran

(CNN) — All but lost in the noise of Russia’s “drumbeat of war” on Ukraine is an even more pressing warning siren — getting Iran back into the agreement that would keep it from building a nuclear weapon. And that is looking increasingly chancy. 

“We are reaching a point where Iran’s nuclear escalation will have eliminated the substance of the JCPOA,” the Arms Control Association said earlier this month of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Iran nuclear agreement signed by Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, the United States, as well as Iran, in 2015.Three years later, President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the pact and reimposed sanctions on Iran. While the JCPOA is still recognized by the remaining signatories, Iran has since embarked on an accelerated program of enriching uranium that could allow it to create a weapon more quickly.Every delay in the negotiations that have just resumed after a brief break in the eighth round in Vienna allows Iran time to make further progress toward the ability — if not the will — to make at least a testable nuclear weapon. And indeed there is a theoretical off-ramp barely two weeks away when the sixth month of negotiations is reached and the talks could come to a real, and toxic, end.Even now, there is considerable belief that Iran may be desperately close to the ability to create a nuclear device.

“Iran today is probably within a month or two of having enough material that could, with further enrichment, be sufficient to actually build a bomb,” Gary Sick, head of Columbia University’s Gulf/2000 project and the Iran expert on the National Security Council under President Jimmy Carter, told me via email interview.

“The skill and experience that they have developed in this round, however, will not be forgotten. So even if Iran returns to the original status of 2015, it will be better poised to get there quicker the next time, if there is a next time,” Sick added.However Sick and others believe that Iran has not yet made the final determination to go that last step toward a testable nuclear device. The Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who will make such a decision, has said an atomic bomb is “haram” or forbidden in Islam. Moreover, Sick points out that Iran is at least a year or two away from producing a device that could be mounted on a missile and fired at a neighboring country or beyond.Meanwhile the White House is playing the blame game — ever more vocally laying Iran’s accelerating progress toward a bomb on Trump’s withdrawal from the process. But in fact, the US is at risk of taking its eye off the ball, focusing intently on talks with Russia over Ukraine, without seeing how they might in some fashion be tied together. 

Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Moscow no longer shares a land border with Iran, but the last thing Russia wants is another nuclear power that close by. Bring China into the equation and this quickly becomes three-dimensional chess. While concerned about a broader conflict in the Middle East that could disrupt some of its energy supplies, China shares few of Russia’s fears of a nuclear-armed Iran.At the same time, as one of the very few customers for Iranian oil under sanctions, China has few incentives to see sanctions lifted. The White House insists, however, that the administration has been able to engage with Russia and China within the JCPOA format and that it is still only Iran that is dragging its heels. Still, both Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his top negotiator Wendy Sherman, the original architect of the JCPOA under President Barack Obama, have been focusing intently on the Russia-Ukraine talks and seeking European agreement to sanctions should Putin invade. Indeed, when Blinken was interviewed on NPR last week, he spent much of his time talking about Russia and Ukraine. At the end, when talk turned to Iran, Blinken devoted most of his energy to blaming Trump. There is no question that the immediate impact of a Russian invasion of Ukraine would be most appalling, but the inexorable moves by Iran toward enrichment of uranium and the evidence that the US appears at least to have prioritized negotiations with Russia over Ukraine cannot be lost on a very savvy Iranian leadership.Senior Biden administration officials have told me that they believe they are able to engage with Russia and China with respect to the JCPOA. The key evidence will be where the negotiations stand when they reopen following the current break.Indeed now, virtually everyone with a stake in Iran’s nuclear capabilities is beginning to reposition itself in the event of a breakdown in the negotiations.At a meeting of Chinese and Iranian foreign ministers last week, the countries announceda 25-year cooperation agreement aimed at strengthening economic and political ties. China has become a major customer for Iranian oil, importing some 590,000 barrels per day last year, the highest level since Trump reimposed sanctions. Lifting sanctions could threaten that exclusivity.At the same time, Russia and Iran are also strengthening links, with President Vladimir Putin to host his counterpart President Ebrahim Raisi later this month amid plans for a 20-year trade and military agreement. Other nations in the region have also begun hedging their bets. Israel and Russia have big stakes in Iran’s nuclear capabilities — perhaps even larger than Western Europe or the United States, which is outside the range of any Iranian missile that’s been tested so far.Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Putin “agreed on continued close cooperation on this area,” according to theIsraeli prime minister’s office. The two countries already have a “deconfliction” agreement that allows Israeli warplanes to attack Iranian bases and weapons convoys in Syria — deconfliction being an essential extension if Israel were to mount an air strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Elsewhere, Saudi Arabia has begun cozying up to Beijing. China is helping the Saudis with everything from a missile development program to a massive desalination network, and is already one of Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partners. It’s a relationship that could prove a fruitful source of nuclear technology should Iran develop its own weapon. Back at the JCPOA negotiating table, Iran’s key conditions remain all but unchanged. Nournews, a news service affiliated with Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, reported last week that “verification and assurances” — code for the continued demand that all sanctions be lifted — are a precondition for Iran consenting to resume the agreement. But there are more questions on which any successful outcome at the Iran talks may well hinge.Will Iran settle for being a state permanently on a nuclear threshold and will that satisfy the security needs of its neighbors and potential targets? For the moment, the US must thread this impossibly slim eye of a needle. It is difficult to see how the JCPOA process could survive an utter breakdown in East-West security talks or more particularly any incursion into Ukraine by Russian forces.But the Biden administration must find a way to stay focused on Iran. At the next round of Vienna talks, there must be some real, concrete evidence of progress.