Thursday, February 11, 2016

Palestinian Arabs: Pioneers of Global Terrorism

From Times of Israel, 10 Feb 2016, by Ely Karmon: attacking Israelis and Jews all over the world and sometimes American and Western interests, the Palestinians, not the jihadists, have been the pioneers of the global terrorism that now threatens the international community and many of the UN members.

The Palestinians succeeded in executing their nefarious plans with the active support of the Syrian, Iraqi and Libyan regimes and the fear of their victims in the West or elsewhere of reacting forcefully.
A short non-comprehensive list:
  • The first hijacking of a civilian airplane, El Al in 1968;
  • the hijacking and the bombing of 4 airplanes in 1970 in Jordan and Cairo (Pan Am, TWA, Swissair and BOAC) and the attempts of suicide air attacks by the PFLP, preparing the scenario of 9/11;
  • the first attack on the Munich Olympics in 1972 (think of the billions of dollars invested since that tragic event in the security of the Olympic Games everywhere on the globe!);
  • the first use of anti-aerial missiles against civil aviation (Rome 1971), barometer bombs in airplanes already in 1970 (Swiss Air flight 330 – all 47 passengers killed, and Austrian Airlines, without loss of life) and liquid bombs (Chianti nitroglycerine bombs);
  • the first attacks against synagogues, Jewish schools and Israeli embassies (from Brussels to Bangkok); and
  • attacks against Western and American interests (1977, the PFLP hijacked Lufthansa flight LH181, etc.).
Most of the perpetrators of these attacks, including youngsters 14-15 years old (like the Palestinians of today) sent from Lebanon or Jordan, were quickly released by most of the countries involved, even when their own citizens were the victims. No Arab sponsor that gave refuge to all these terrorists has ever been bothered.
The Palestinian organizations have set the example for terrorists from the Lebanese Hezbollah, German radical leftists or and Tamil Tigers. Before al-Qaeda set up its training camps in Afghanistan, Palestinians were training, in Lebanon, a long list of terrorist organizations, including the Japanese Red Army, the Armenian ASALA, the Argentinian Montoneros, and the Basque ETA.
Some Palestinian terrorist groups preferred to be mercenaries in the service of Iraqi, Syrian or Libyan intelligence agencies targeting Western interests or other Arab countries. These include Fatah Revolutionary Council/Abu Nidal (ANO), Arab Nationalist Youth for the Liberation of Palestine (ANYLP), The Arab Liberation Front (ALF), Al Saiqa.
Imad Mughniyeh, Hezbollah’s international operations head and Chief of Staff of its military forces, was America’s most wanted international terrorist, key planner of the bombing of a US marine barracks and French paratroopers in Beirut in 1983, which killed more than 330 people. Mughniyeh began his career in the Palestinian Fatah movement at an early age, remained its member until 1984 and finished it when his car was bombed in Damascus in 2008.
One of the pillars of Al-Qaeda, its ideologue and strategist of jihad was Palestinian Islamic scholar Abdullah Azzam. He created the Mujahideen Services Bureau in Afghanistan, the foundation of international recruits for Al-Qaeda, many of whom held high positions in Al-Qaeda’s command structure. His teachings about jihad had a huge impact on generations of fighters including on Osama bin Laden himself and his ideas inspire foreign fighters to this day.
Azzam argued for taking the jihad back to Palestine, and was instrumental in the formation of Hamas by supporting it politically, financially and logistically and providing military training in Pakistan. The first generation of the military wing of Hamas’ Izz al-Din Qassam Brigades was trained by him. Hamas leaders even sent him a draft copy of its charter in 1987 for “review”.
Hamas is the Islamist organization which derailed the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians by staging, together with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the campaigns of suicide terrorism immediately after the signing of the Oslo agreement, all along the 1990s and then during the second bloody intifada, which alienated the Israeli public opinion from the peace process and strengthen those circles in Israeli society who supported the building of settlements.
The 2005 Israeli unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, leaving behind a rich educational and agricultural infrastructure, did not bring peace and development for the local population but rather immediate campaigns of rocket attacks against Israeli territory, the militarization of Gaza under the Hamas elected government and finally the military coup against the legitimate Palestinian Authority and its actual split into two enemy entities.
Ban Ki-moon ...asks Israeli authorities “to unequivocally support the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian institutions” and make “significant shifts in policies toward the West Bank and Gaza.”
True, he also tells the Palestinians that change will require of them “consistently and firmly denouncing terrorism and taking preventive action to end attacks on Israelis, including an immediate stop to Gaza tunnel construction.” But there is no real denunciation by him of the intense incitement by the PA authorities at the highest level and the Hamas government in support of the violence in the West Bank.
Interestingly, Hamas — its nefarious terrorism and violence and its dedication to Israel’s destruction — is not mentioned by name even once in the Secretary-General’s statements.
It is time the UN and the international community recognize the Palestinians’ key role in their present predicament...

Azerbaijan, Israel’s strategic partner in the Muslim world

From EU Reporter, 6 Feb 2016, by Giacomo Fracassi:

israel now

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who attended last month’s annual World Economic Forum in Davos, held there a series of meetings with world leaders. Among them, one is particularly cherished by Israel, it is Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, because of the strategic alliance that exists between Jerusalem and Baku.

‘Azerbaijani-Israeli relations develop and nothing can hinder this’, said recently a senior official from Israel’s foreign ministry about the cooperation between the two countries who share many similarities: old nations but young countries, democratic values, hostile and unstable environment, importance of human life and family, many ethnic groups living side by side, need to fight a distorted image and hostile propaganda campaign. Like Israel, Azerbaijan criticizes ‘those who don’t want to see the reality on the ground’.

“The Azerbaijani-Israeli strategic partnership relation encompasses many different areas, like energy, security, defense, agriculture, trade but it is also mostly characterized by the human factor, with a vibrant Jewish community in Azerbaijan,” Hikmat Hajiyev, spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan told EJP in Baku, the country’s capital, located on the western shore of the Caspian Sea, a city which mixes modernity and tradition.

The Jewish community of Azerbaijan, with around 30,000 people, is viewed today as an example in the world how in a secular country with a majority Muslim Shia population, which borders Iran in its southern part, all faith communities, including Judaism, live in perfect harmony and mutual respect.
There are 7 synagogues in the country, including two in Baku and three in Quba, an old city in the north east of the country, also dubbed the ‘Jerusalem of the Caucasus’, where an entire Jewish population, known as Mountains Jews, lives. The sole example in the world of a Jewish city outside Israel.

Moreover, a new Jewish Museum is being build with government financial support in Quba.
70,000 Azerbaijani Jews made aliyah – the Hebrew word for immigration- to Israel in the years just after the country gained independence in 1991 from the former Soviet Union when economic hardship preceded the oil booming.

Israel, which opened an embassy in Baku as early as in 1992, buys oil from Azerbaijan, through the Baku-Tbilisi-Cyehan pipeline, while Azerbaijan is interested in Israel’s technologies, science, medical know how and is importing defense-related equipment. Annual trade between the two countries amounts $5 billion and there is a twice weekly flight between Baku and Tel Aviv.
There is an Azerbaijani-Israeli parliamentary friendship group and the ADA University in Baku, which hosted former President Shimon Peres, is partnering with the University of Haifa for an exchange of students every semester.

On the political side, it is worthy to mention that both countries face the same kind of ‘double standard’ attitude from the international community, and particularly from the European Union.
Israel, the sole democracy in the Middle East, is targeted by the Western media and also the EU political echelon for its ‘settlement policy’.EU-Israel political relations are showing strains since the EU decided last November to label Israeli settlement products entering the European market. A measure denounced as ‘discriminatory’ by Jerusalem.

“With our friends in Israel we had a very open discussion. This is not an issue for us. Our view is not different from the mainstream view of Israel’s society and Israel’s government. We have no problem with importing such products in Azerbaijan,” replies Hikmat Hajyev, when asked about his country’s position on the labelling question, as he argues that people in the settlements are working to get salaries. “If you stop importing their products, they will lose their jobs” he says.

According to him, the two-state solution “is the only guarantee for sustainable peace in this part of the world and for the security and safety of the Israeli people.”

Azerbaijan, too, is regularly denouncing ‘double standards’ by the European Union and the media, when it comes to the image of the country and also regarding the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, an Azerbaijani territory occupied by Armenia since 1992 along with 7 other adjacent regions, taking up 20% of the Azerbaijani territory. Since then one million of refugees have been forced to flee their homes in the disputed areas.

The two countries signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994 and since the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group – Russia, France and the US- are holding peace negotiations.

“We are witnessing regular unfair criticism and attacks in the European Parliament against Azerbaijan,” deplores Bahar Muradova, Vice President of the Milli Mejlis, the country’s 125-member parliament, and chairperson of the Human Rights committee.

Herself a refugee from one of the 7 occupied districts, she deplores the difference of attitude of the EU when it comes to this conflict and the one adopted by Brussels towards Russia following the annexation of Crimea.

“This is very disappointing because we attach a lot of importance to our relationship with the EU,” she said.

As a result of an ‘offensive’ resolution of the EU parliament last September on the so-called ‘violation of human rights’ in Azerbaijan, Baku suspended its participation in the Euronest parliamentary assembly, a forum in the framework of EU’s Eastern Partnership grouping members of national parliaments from Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
In her conversation with EJP, Muradova was proud to say that “Azerbaijan is the only country where there is no anti-Semitism”, contrary to what is happening in several countries of Europe.

Moreover, despite the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh, there are 30,000 Armenians living peacefully in Azerbaijan, she explained. “Isn’t this tolerance and respect of human rights ?,” the MP asked.
Turning to the succesful integration of one million refugees from Nagorno Karabakh region, she believes the EU, which is increasingly coping with the migrant crisis, has to learn from Azerbaijan’s experience.

Despite the ‘cooling’ in its relation with the EU, Azerbaijan attaches great importance and hope in the upcoming visit to Baku of EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.
“We expect this visit will lift all misunderstandings and revitalize our relations,” says Dr Azay Guliev, a member of the Azerbaijani parliament who also chairs the Council of State Support to NGOs, as he explained that his country has proposed and initiated a strategic partnership with the EU based on close cooperation.
“We are not asking for money, we are not troublemakers, we are not sendig migrants to Europe. We only want equal partnership,” notes the foreign ministry’s spokesperson ahead of Mogherini’s visit in March.

But both him and Guliyev are stressing that the EU leadership must recognize the inviolability of Azerbaijan’s international borders and territorial integrity in conformity with international law when it comes to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.

“If you support Ukraine or Georgia’s integrity, why not supporting Azerbaijan’s integrity ?”, Guliyev asks. “We hope that this conflict will end peacefully and that the occupied territory will be returned to Azerbaijan”, he says.

Mogherini will also be hearing from her Azerbaijani hosts how much the country cherishes its multiculturalism and tolerance – two notions regularly praised by the EU leaders in their speeches.
Soon after her visit, the country will host the Global Forum of United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, which was established to eliminate the tension between the West and the Islamic world. Holding this forum in Azerbaijan in 2016- which has been named Year of Multiculturalism in the country- is not only symbolic.

“Our multiculturalism should be developed as an example for the rest of the world at a time when anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are the main threats to our common home”, says Azay Guliyev.
“Wasn’t Azerbaijan the first country to give voting rights to women in 1918, even before the US did so ?” he asks to counter his country’s critics

Iran to upgrade ballistic missiles, get Russian S-300 missiles and Sukhoi-30 fighter jets

From JPost, 10 Feb 2016, by Reuters:

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gestures as he talks with journalist from a balcony of the Palais Coburg hotel where the Iran nuclear talks meetings are being held in Vienna, Austria July 10, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
Thomson Reuters

Iranian Defence Minister Hossein Dehghan
Thomson Reuters

...Iran will unveil an upgrade of its Emad ballistic missiles this year, the defense minister [Hossein Dehghan ] was quoted as saying, advancing a program that has drawn criticism from the United Nations and sanctions from the United States.

The Islamic Republic would also start taking delivery of an advanced Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile defense system in the next two months, Hossein Dehghan added - a system that was blocked before a landmark nuclear deal with world powers.

Tehran agreed the deal on curbing its nuclear work in July last year and international sanctions were lifted in January. But tensions with Washington have remained high as Tehran continues to develop its military capabilities.

Iran first tested the Emad missile in October. With improved accuracy over its existing arsenal, Iran says the new missile will be an important part of its conventional deterrent.

But the United States says the Emad is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and the test therefore violated a UN resolution. Washington imposed fresh sanctions last month against Iranian individuals and businesses linked to the missile program.

"We will unveil the next generation of Emad with improved precision in the next (Iranian) year (starting from March 20)," Dehghan was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency late on Tuesday.

"The Emad misisle is not a violation of the nuclear deal or any UN resolution since we will never use a nuclear warhead (on it). It's an allegation," he said, adding that mass production would begin in the near future.

Iran is also due to start taking delivery of the S-300 missiles system from Russia in the next two months, Dehghan said, and the order would be completed by the end of the year.

Russia canceled a contract to deliver the advanced anti-missile rocket system to Iran in 2010 under pressure from the West following UN sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear program.

Tehran and Moscow have also started talks on the supply of the Russian-made Sukhoi-30 fighter jets to Iran, Dehghan said.

"We have even decided on the number of Sukhoi-30 fighter jets that we want to buy," Dehghan said.