The Iranian-backed Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah confirmed on Friday that Mustafa Amine Badreddine, its top military commander who oversaw operations in Syria, was killed in an attack in Syria. Early Lebanese media reports claimed the terrorist was killed in an Israeli strike. A Hezbollah member of the Lebanese parliament, Nawar al-Saheli, told Hezbollah’s TV station, Al-Manar, “We do not want to get ahead of the investigation, but there is no doubt that Israel was behind his death.” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif offered his condolences, avowing that Badreddine’s “martyrdom” will bolster “the resolve of resistance forces in the fight against the Zionist regime of Israel and terrorism.”
Matthew Levitt, a Hezbollah expert at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, stated, “This is a really significant loss” for the terror group. He described Badreddine as “dual hatted,” being both head of Hezbollah’s fight in Syria aiding Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and head of its external global terror operations. Badreddine planned and participated in deadly terror attacks around the world and had been repeatedly sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury for his role in supporting the Assad regime. He prepared the bombs for the attacks on the U.S. and French barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 241 American and 58 French soldiers and participated in the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait later that year. According to Nadav Pollak, a fellow at The Washington Institute, and Levitt, Badreddine also helped establish some of Hezbollah’s “most notorious units”: one unit coordinated terror attacks against Israel from the West Bank and Gaza and the second launched attacks in Iraq against U.S. and British soldiers.
Moreover, Pollak and Levitt concluded: “If Hezbollah blames Israel in the end, it is safe to assume that it will retaliate.” Hezbollah has been steadily escalating its operations along the border with Israel. The terror group has spent the past two years trying to establish a foothold in the Syrian Golan Heights from which to launch attacks against Israel. It has also steadily expanded its terror infrastructure in southern Lebanon. An Israeli official told the AP that about 200 Shiite villages have been transformed into “military strongholds.” Israel’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Major General Yair Golan, told reporters in April that the next war with Hezbollah will be a “full-scale” war that causes “devastating” damage to Lebanon. Israeli officials have also warned that in a future conflict, there will most likely be high civilian casualties because of Hezbollah’s military integration inside civilian areas. In a New York Times article last May, Israeli military officials detailed how Hezbollah has “moved most of its military infrastructure” in and around Shiite villages, which “amounts to using the civilians as a human shield.” A senior military official stated that Lebanese civilians are “living in a military compound.” He told the Times: “We will hit Hezbollah hard, while making every effort to limit civilian casualties as much as we can…We do not intend to stand by helplessly in the face of rocket attacks.”
While the White House is encouraging foreign banks to do business with Iran, the Islamic Republic has continued to engage in the same illicit behavior that initially prompted its sanctioning, President Barack Obama’s former undersecretary of the treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed (Google link) Friday.
Stuart Levey, now the chief legal officer of HSBC Holdings, observed that private institutions have an obligation to mitigate financial crime risks and will therefore find it challenging to follow the Obama administration’s advice. He also noted the irony of Secretary of State John Kerry telling European banks that they shouldn’t fear doing business with Iran, when almost ten years earlier many of the same institutions were gathered by the Bush administration to discuss the risks of engaging with Iran.
Over the past decade, both the Bush and Obama administrations, as well as European Union nations and the United Nations, “imposed extensive sanctions targeting Iran’s illicit and deceptive conduct,” Levey continued. The U.S. Treasury Department also kept banks up to date about Iranian behavior, while the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a watchdog focused on ensuring the integrity of the international financial system, warned banks of the financial risks involved in transacting with Iran. The end result, Levey wrote, was that “Iran became a financial pariah.”
No one has claimed that Iran has ceased to engage in much of the same conduct for which it was sanctioned, including actively supporting terrorism and building and testing ballistic missiles. But now Washington is pushing non-U.S. banks to do what it is still illegal for American banks to do.
This is a very odd position for the U.S. government to be taking.
Earlier this year, the FATF reiterated that Iran remained a money laundering concern and urged banks to treat it accordingly. The Treasury also determined that “the international financial system [is] increasingly vulnerable to the risk that otherwise responsible financial institutions will unwittingly participate in Iran’s illicit activities.”
However, Kerry has been pushing banks to accept the risks and liabilities of doing business with Iran “without a U.S. repudiation of its prior statements about the associated financial-crime risks,” Levey observed. Given the warning from Treasury, this would pose a significant risk to these financial institutions because regulators could still take actions against them.
And while the U.S., EU, and UN all lifted sanctions from hundreds of Iranian banks, there was no guarantee that the banks have ceased the illicit activities that invited the sanctions in the first place.
Levey concluded by saying that HSBC was doing all it could “to implement consistent and high standards across its global operations, designed to combat financial crime and prevent abuse by illicit actors.” That would mean that HSBC will take into account “financial-crime risks and the underlying conduct,” and that therefore “HSBC has no intention of doing any new business involving Iran.”
Valyollah Seif, the governor of Iran’s central bank, threatened last month that the nuclear deal would “break up” if the U.S. didn’t give Iran greater access to its financial system. Seif himself had acknowledged last year that it was Iran’s practices that prevented it from integrating into the international financial system.
Kerry’s effort to encourage European banks to boost their business ties with Iran comes amid concerns that the Obama administration will back down from its commitment prevent Iran from accessing the dollar for transactions. Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, warned last month against allowing Iran that access recalling that “sanctions were being put in place because the Iranian financial sector represented a threat to the integrity of the global financial system.” He added that Iran remains “a severe illicit financial threat.” (via TheTower.org)
Oxytocin – “the love hormone” – may enhance compassion of people suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to a new study conducted at the University of Haifa and Rambam Health Care Campus. “The fact that the present study found, that Oxytocin may improve compassion among patients with post-traumatic stress disorder toward women, provides new evidence that oxytocin may be able to improve the social behavior of these patients,” said Professor Simone Shamay-Tsoory from the Department of Psychology at the University of Haifa, who led the study. The researchers define compassion as an outcome of emotional of empathy – the ability to recognize the feelings of others, and cognitive empathy – the ability to understand what another person feels and think. The researchers –Shamay-Tsoory together with Professor Ehud Klein, Director of Psychiatry at the Rambam Medical Center, and Dr. Sharon Palgi, the Head of the psychologists’ team in the Psychiatric Day-Care Department at Rambam Medical Center, who conducted the study as part of her Ph.D. work at the University of Haifa –examined whether patients with post-traumatic stress disorder suffer from deficits in compassion. They also looked at whether intranasal oxytocin, a hormone that’s known to modulate social behaviours, may enhance compassion in these patients. The study included 32 patients with post-traumatic stress disorder and 30 healthy subjects with no history of psychiatric disorders. Researchers said that the findings suggest that patients with PTSD suffer from significant and comprehensive deficits in compassion. “The difficulty in the ability to feel compassion may be due to problems in the ability to identify, understand, and empathize with the other’s state of distress, i.e., difficulties in emotional and cognitive empathy. These difficulties in empathy and compassion may relate to social problems that characterize patients with post-traumatic stress disorder,” write the researchers. The study also found that a single intranasal dose of Oxytocin enhances compassion, both in patients with PTSD and in healthy participants – but only toward women, while it does not affect compassion toward men. This finding led the researchers to assume that in the future Oxytocin may be used as a psychobiological treatment option in couple therapy as it may increase positive communication behaviours among partners, particularly among couples where the husband suffers from PTSD. (via Israel21c)