Iran continues to be the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism, the U.S. Secretary of Defense said on Friday. Speaking in London, James Mattis recalled a 2012 statement in which he said that the three gravest threats to American national security were “Iran, Iran, Iran” and told reporters, “At the time when I spoke about Iran I was a commander of US central command and [saying] that (Iran) was the primary exporter of terrorism, frankly, it was the primary state sponsor of terrorism and it continues that kind of behavior today.”
Earlier this week, U.S. CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph Votel echoed this view, saying, “Iran poses the most significant threat to the Central Region and to our national interests and the interests of our partners and allies.” Votel told Congress a year ago that Iran has become “more aggressive in the days since the [Iran nuclear] agreement.”
Votel’s recommendation of maintaining a tough military posture towards Iran parallels a recent analysis by Tzvi Kahn of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Kahn praised recently introduced legislation in both houses of Congress that would target Iran for its non-nuclear threats, including its ballistic missile program, its support for terror, and its attempts to import and transfer prohibited weaponry. Targeting these activities would constitute “a belated attempt to restore U.S. deterrence and call Tehran’s bluff,” he wrote.
Votel’s observations confirm predictions made two years ago by experts as diverse as Foreign Policy editor David Rothkopf; former State Department official Aaron David Miller; Washington Institute of Near East Policy fellows Mehdi Khalaji, Soner Cagaptay, and James Jeffrey; and former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, all of whom warned in 2015 that the nuclear deal would stoke Iran’s regional ambitions rather than moderate its behavior.
Israel’s High Court on Wednesday stayed the order to empty an ammonia storage tank in Haifa, which has been the target of threats by the Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah, Bloomberg News reported.
The Haifa District Court initially mandated the tank be closed by Saturday following a municipal report raising fears that it could rupture, releasing a toxic cloud that could kill 16,000 people in the port city. An enemy such as Hezbollah could also strike the ship making monthly deliveries of the chemical to the storage facility, leading to the death of 100,000 people.
However, final closure has been stayed as the court hears an appeal from Haifa Chemicals Ltd., co-owner with the government of the facility and Israel’s biggest consumer of ammonia. A panel of experts has been convened to find an alternative way to store the essential but potentially deadly chemical in Israel.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has threatened to kill tens of thousands of Israelis by targeting the ammonia tank with the organization’s vast arsenal of rockets. A video released earlier this month by the terror group reinforced its threat against the tank and other critical infrastructure in Israel.
According to Yossi Kuperwasser, a project director at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and former research head of Israeli military intelligence, Hezbollah’s goal in threatening the storage tank “is to turn it into a tool to sow fear and gain deterrence vis-a-vis Israel.”
Billiards isn't just for the boys--
Iran has barred some members of its women’s pool team from participating in billiard sports competitions for one year for violating Islamic codes of conduct, its Disciplinary Committee of Bowling, Billiard and Boxing Federation announced Thursday. “Women sent to China Open (billiard) competitions will be banned from all domestic and foreign competitions for one year for violating the Islamic code,” the statement read. It did not specify how the code exactly was violated.
Last month, Dorsa Derakhshani, an 18-year-old chess grandmaster, was kicked off Iran’s national team after she failed to wear the Islamic hair covering known as the hijab at the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival 2017. Her 15-year-old brother, Borna, was also booted from the national team after playing against an Israeli opponent at the same competition.
Iran not only enforces the hijab on its own nationals but also requires that non-Iranian women wear the hijab when competing in the country. Nazí Paikidze-Barnes, the reigning American female chess champion, withdrew from the 2017 Women’s World Chess Championship after it was announced that it will be held in Iran and that participants would be forced to cover their hair.
All women in Iran are required to wear headscarves, a law that is enforced with an iron grip. About 40,000 cars were confiscated in the first half of 2015 because drivers or passengers were not wearing their headscarves properly. Many women were pulled over and beaten on the ground, and then arrested afterwards.
Cooperation is a wonderful thing--
Working together is the name of the game in a project now underway in Israeli, Palestinian Authority and Jordanian communities. The joint project, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), aims to train local residents as first responders in case of an earthquake.
“The project is funded by the Peace Partnership of the European Union and has granted us the opportunity to once again promote lifesaving activities together with our friends from the Jordanian Red Crescent, Magen David Adom and the Palestinian Authority’s Green Land Society,” said Professor Limor Aharonson-Daniel, Vice Rector for International Academic Affairs at BGU.
“The collaboration, which began with training the first Jordanian paramedics a decade ago, has continued with the establishment of local emergency-response teams over the past three years. In the future, we aim to establish a Master’s program in emergency response and crisis management,” said Aharonson-Daniel, who leads the project. “Above all, the project has sparked personal relationships and friendships that prove that regional collaboration is indeed possible.” (via Israel21c)