- Iran could grant citizenship to families of its foreign fighters killed in Syria according to new law
The Iranian parliament passed a new law on Monday allowing the government to grant citizenship to the families of its foreign fighters who have died fighting in Syria. An Iranian news site, according to Agence France-Presse, said that the law authorizes “the government to grant Iranian citizenship to the wife, children and parents of foreign martyrs who died on a mission…during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) and afterwards.” The new law could also extend to its “volunteers” fighting for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
Iran is a long-time ally of the Assad regime and has sought to bolster the regime from the outset of the Syrian civil war five years ago. Iran has repeatedly stated that the toppling of Assad is a “red line.” Ambassador James Woolsey, former CIA director, explained that Syria has “long been Iran’s main portal to the Arab and Sunni worlds, and, most importantly, Tehran’s forward base on the Mediterranean.” Furthermore, Iran uses Syria as a “land bridge” to funnel weapons and materiel to its Lebanese terrorist proxy, Hezbollah. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its expeditionary Quds Force have trained and advised Syrian military and intelligence personnel. Iran also trains pro-Assad Shiite militias. Regarding the militias, The Wall Street Journal reported, “Experts believe they number between 150,000 and 190,000—possibly more than what remains of Syria’s conventional army.” Additionally, Iran uses foreign fighters, mostly from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, to fight against the Western-backed Syrian opposition. Philip Smyth, a researcher at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, stated in February that “the core of the Iran-led forces in Syria include several thousand Iranian fighters, up to 8,000 from Hezbollah, an estimated 6,000 Iraqis and about 3,500 Afghans.”
Moreover, Iran has enabled the Assad regime to continue its ruthless assault against Syrian civilians. The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned the head of the Quds Force, Qassem Suleimani, and the operations training commander for the Quds Force, Mohsen Chizari, in May 2011 “for their role in ‘the violent repression against the Syrian people.'” In March, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning the Assad regime for war crimes. The resolution stated that “the vast majority of the civilians who have died in the Syrian conflict have been killed by the Government of Syria led by President Bashar al-Assad and its allies, specifically the Russian Federation, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Iran’s terrorist proxies including Hezbollah.” The legislation catalogued crimes perpetrated by the Assad regime. The resolution stated that the regime has "engaged in widespread torture and rape, employed starvation as a weapon of war, and massacred civilians, including through the use of chemical weapons, cluster munitions, and barrel bombs.”
Despite pledging to donor nations that it would cease paying salaries to jailed terrorists, the Palestinian Authority has continued to so, the watchdog organization Palestinian Media Watch charged in a report last week.
After repeated complaints by the United States and European countries that its donations to the Palestinian Authority were being used to pay terrorists, PA President Mahmoud Abbas closed the Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs and promised that future payments would come from a newly formed commission to be run by the PLO (though overseen by the same director as the PA ministry). But Palestinian Media Watch’s investigation alleged that the PA made a series of payments to the PLO for the likely purpose of facilitation terrorist payments.
The PA Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs had a budget of 442 million Israeli shekels ($118 million) in 2014. After it was dissolved, the PA’s annual allotment to the PLO, previously 294 million shekels ($78 million), rose by 481 million shekels ($128 million)—enough to fund all the prisoner payments previously covered by the PA, plus a further ten percent.
The PA has continued to receive around $1 billion in aid every year.
Current and former Palestinian prisoners told The Daily Mail in March that their payments came directly from the Palestinian Authority. Ahmad Musa, who admitted to shooting two Israelis dead, told The Daily Mail that he receives a monthly stipend of over $850. Musa was jailed for life for his crimes, but was freed after five years in an Israeli effort to restart peace talks with the PA.
Israel Radio similarly reported last October that the PA is paying millions of dollars every months to terrorists serving time in Israeli prisons—including members of Hamas, the rival Palestinian terrorist organization. Hamas bombmakers Abdullah Barghouti and Ibrahim Hamid, who have respectively received 67 and 54 life sentences for their involvement in some of the most devastating bombings of the Second Intifada, including at the Hebrew University cafeteria in 2002 and the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem in 2001, have each cumulatively received over 200,000 shekels ($53,000). (via TheTower.org)
Kuang-Chi, a Shenzhen-based technology conglomerate, has announced its Kuang-Chi GCI Fund & Incubator combining investment in early to mid-stage Israeli and global companies with incubation by the Chinese tech giant. The newly established international innovation fund – based in Israel — has an initial mandate of $50 million which is planned to grow to $300 million within the next three years. “Israel has unparalleled capabilities to offer the world. You share with Kuang-Chi a special mindset and vision. We intend to invest in the best local companies in the fields of biometrics, communications, robotics, and AR, and to take them to the next level commercially and technologically,” said Dr. Ruopeng Liu, the group’s chairman. The Kuang-Chi GCI Fund & Incubator will bring together innovators from all over the world. Kuang-Chi — a global innovation group with operations from China to North America, Europe, Africa and Oceania – says it will make its full corporate resources, from sales and marketing to technology collaboration and joint development, available to the companies in which it invests. “Kuang-Chi is one of the most important technology companies in the world today, combining the best of the Shenzhen tech ecosystem with China’s scale and development vision,” said Dorian Barak, managing partner of Indigo Global, Kuang-Chi’s longtime partner in Israel. “Kuang-Chi isn’t merely a financial investor for their enormous technological resources, distribution networks, and design and product development capabilities to benefit the companies selected for the China-based accelerator. We at Indigo are very excited to manage the platform in Israel with a view to expanding the model globally.” A senior Kuang-Chi delegation led by Dr. Liu, including representatives of Chinese media outlets and company executives, will visit Israel in early May to formally announce the fund and to meet with high-level government officials and industry leaders. The talks will end with a launch event at the offices of Israeli law firm ERM Law. “It is a great pleasure to welcome such an important Chinese technology company and we look forward to continued collaboration with Kuang-Chi in Israel,” said ERM senior partner Amnon Epstein. (via Israel21c)
“Unbelievable. It’s just unbelievable.” The word “unbelievable” keeps coming up. This time I hear it from Brett Dinkins, an earnest young Missouri native. Brett is the field director for Eric Greitens, a Jewish veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who is running for governor of Missouri. We are sitting in Brett’s car talking about his boss.
Rain lashes the windshield and Brett keeps looking at his phone to check the GPS. I keep thinking of questions to ask. This is partly because I am writing a story about Greitens, but it is also because pretty much everything Brett tells me — about his background, about Missouri politics, about the 300-person town he grew up in — is new. Paradoxically, the banality of Middle America has made it exotic. I grew up in San Francisco. I am used to crazy and different and foreign. But I feel completely out of place in Missouri.
When I met with Greitens earlier in the day, I asked him about his connection to Missouri. He was born and raised in St. Louis—of course he has the same connection we all do to our home state. But I wanted to know more. What was it about Missouri that made him want to serve it as governor? What does Missouri mean to him?
He told me that he loves Missouri, and it hurts him to see the way the state is suffering. He presented some statistics: Missouri ranks 42nd in wage growth, 47th in economic growth, 50th—last—in getting people off welfare….
I clarified the question: “What is it about Missouri that you love?”
“I love the people of Missouri,” he told me. “And not just because this is my home state but because this is a great state….We have incredible people in Missouri.”
This didn’t particularly help me better understand Missouri. It also didn’t particularly help me better understand Greitens. The man’s life story isincredible, to be sure. He has done humanitarian work in Bosnia and Rwanda with survivors of genocide, in Bolivia with street children, and in Mother Teresa’s hospices in India. He was a Navy SEAL. He was a Rhodes and Truman scholar, and received a Ph.D. from Oxford. He was a White House Fellow. He founded The Mission Continues, a nonprofit organization that empowers veterans by providing them opportunities to do volunteer work in their communities. He is a national boxing champion. And now he is running in the Republican primary for governor of Missouri.
I knew this all before meeting with Greitens. He seemed pretty perfect. But there had to be something wrong with him, some flaw, no matter how minor, right? I thought that in person he might reveal it. But when I did get a chance to speak with him, he was just as impressive as he was on paper. He was calm, confident without being arrogant, and meticulously prepared. His spokesman was present at our interview, but Greitens clearly did not need him. Midway through the interview, the spokesman was checking emails on his phone. Greitens had it covered. He knew that I’m double majoring in Classics and Slavic Languages and Literatures, and he knew that the title of that second major was “Slavic Languages and Literatures,” plural, not the singular “Slavic Languages and Literature” and certainly not “Slavic Studies” or “Slavic… something, right?” He was not close, he was exact.
We bonded over our shared love of Classics. He is a strong believer in the relevance of The Odyssey to modern-life. He views the story as, essentially, a metaphor for how a soldier copes with life after the war is over. He has recommended that veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, who believe that they are now no longer doing anything meaningful or important, should read it. He even recommends a particular translation (the Fagles one).
His most recent book, Resilience, consists of a series of letters he wrote back-and-forth with a veteran who had PTSD. In his letters, Greitens tries to impart some of the greatest wisdom of the ancient world to his friend in order to teach him how to be resilient, to bounce back from the difficulties and pain he has faced. Resilience name-drops everyone from Aeschylus, Homer, and Epictetus to John Bunyan, Machiavelli, and John Stuart Mill. It quotes Zen proverbs and the Talmud. Clearly, Greitens is incredibly well-read. But although he is quite the intellectual, numerous friends described him to me as being incredibly down-to-earth. “He can talk to a plumber in a town of 300 people” as easily as he can discuss classical philosophy, one told me.
Greitens and his wife Sheena have a 19-month-old son named Joshua and another child on the way. Sheena wasn’t doing interviews at the time I wrote this article, but I ran into her at his campaign headquarters and she welcomed me warmly. They make an attractive couple. Sheena is petite, with auburn hair worn long and straight. Greitens is fit (his mornings start out with an intense 75-minute workout) and about half a head taller than his wife, with close-cropped salt-and-pepper hair, striking blue eyes, and straight, white teeth. He smiles often.
At the end of the interview, Greitens wanted to make sure I received copies of his four books. He signed each of them: “For Miriam, who lives with Courage!” “For Miriam, who lives with Strength + Compassion!” “For Miriam, who embraces Resilience!”
I asked him what his greatest personal struggle had been. Greitens has helped fellow veterans through PTSD and has seen his friends killed in combat. But his greatest personal struggle, he says, was the sleep deficit he racked up caring for his newborn son. His son provides him with “tremendous joy,” but there were a lot of sleepless nights.
How much of this is an act? Can Eric Greitens really be as great as he seems?
I pose this question to Brett in the car. “It’s unbelievable,” he says. “People are inclined to think he’s an impostor. But it’s all real. That’s just how he lives his life. It’s not a front or anything.”
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