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Lawmakers readying to take action against arms sales to Iran

Posted by Albert Gersh - March 17, 2016


Members of Congress, from both parties, are working on a series of responses to Iran’s attempts to procure conventional arms from Russia and its recent ballistic missile launches, according to Al-Monitor. United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 includes a 5-year ban on the sale of conventional weapons to Iran, unless the Security Council “decides in advance on a case-by-case basis to approve” it, and an 8-year ban on ballistic missile development. In recent months, Iran has repeatedly tested ballistic missiles and has announced plans to purchase Sukhoi-30 fighter jets from Russia.

Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is working with Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Md.) on a sanctions package to counter Iran’s aggression. Al-Monitor explained that Corker has a three-pronged approach: toughly counter conventional arms sales to Iran, punish Iran for its ballistic missile launches, and renew the Iran Sanctions Act, set to expire this year. Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) is also supportive of the effort. An aide told Al-Monitor that he was also considering a separate legislative proposal “to encompass missiles and terrorism, plus much more.”

The House Foreign Affairs Committee is also working on legislation to counter Iranian attempts to procure conventional arms. Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) stated, “My gut is that we need to punish Iran for its ballistic missile nonsense and also punish whatever entities try to sell them weapons, which I think is a direct violation of the JCPOA.”

Additionally, Republican senators announced on Thursday that they plan to introduce legislation with economic penalties against Iran for its human rights abuses and support for terrorism. The measure would specifically target Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Mahan Air, an airline that has funneled weapons and Iranian troops to Syria, for “spreading terrorism and militancy throughout the Middle East,” according to The Hill. Under the Iran nuclear deal reached in July, sanctions against Iran for its human rights abuses and support for terrorism are permitted.


Syrian refugee Aboud Dandachi wrote an essay Monday in Tablet in which he expressed gratitude to his “true friends,” including Jewish and Israeli people and organization who have assisted him and other refugees.

Dandachi, a former high-tech worker who created a website called Thank You Am Israel, wrote appreciatively that it “is astonishing, absolutely astonishing, that there have been so many instances of Jewish and Israeli organizations and individuals who have gone out of their way to assist and help Syrians in need.”

A native of Homs, which he described as being “the most livable city in all of the Levant,” Dandachi just wanted to ignore the protests and establish himself professionally when they first started in 2011. That changed on April 17, when protests at a funeral broke out. Tens of thousands staged a sit-in, in what Dandachi describes as “Syria’s Tahrir Square moment.” The security apparatus of Iran-backed dictator Bashar al-Assad attacked the crowd, killing dozens.

That event turned Dandachi into an activist. He started to speak to the BBC to tell the world what was going on. Homs being a hotbed of dissent, and the regime began bombing the city. In February 2012, Dandachi was forced to flee his home and ended up in the port city of Tartous, one of the Assad regime’s strongholds, because it was “the one place where I thought the war wouldn’t reach.”

Dandachi stayed in Tartous for about a year and a half until after Assad killed 1,400 people in a chemical attack in a Damascus suburb. It was then that he decided to flee his native country via Lebanon to Turkey, where he currently resides.

As the civil war continued, Dandachi became more and more isolated, not only from friends who wanted to put their pasts in Syria behind them, but also from much of the world, which failed to stand up to Assad and would not accept refugees.

Despite the challenges, Dandachi wrote, “Now, Syrians as a people are starting to learn who their true friends are.”

No one could have faulted the Jewish people if they had taken a strictly hands off attitude to the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria. And yet from the earliest days of the conflict, Israeli medical teams have been offering lifesaving medical assistance to wounded Syrians. Israelis have gone into Jordan to provide aid to Syrian refugees. Tireless IsraAID volunteers are on the ground in the Balkans, ready to receive and assist the massive numbers of refugees fleeing the wars in the Middle East. And despite some understandable ambivalence on the part of many in the Jewish diaspora, many Canadian Jewish congregations have gone through an enormous amount of effort to sponsor Syrian refugees for resettlement.

He also credited “numerous American and British Jewish organizations” for advocating politically on behalf of the refugees. This support came after Dandachi saw those he thought he could rely on deny him and his fellow Syrians relief, or, in some cases, back the regime against civilians.

One true friend is worth a thousand relatives. As a Syrian, these past years have taken an enormous personal toll on me. I no longer recognize the person I was back in those optimistic days in early 2011. I no longer expect support or assistance from our “relatives,” those Arab countries who were the first to close their doors to Syrians. I and millions like me were driven from our homes by fellow Syrians and Arabs fighting under the banners of Hezbollah and Iran.

Dandachi contrasted the the “world-class” medical treatment Syrian refugees have received in Israel with “countries in the Gulf [that] make excuse after excuse as to why they can’t take in even a few thousand Syrians.”

Wars and their consequences tend to bring out the worst in individuals and societies, but the Syrian conflict has also been an occasion where extraordinary people have demonstrated acts of astonishing kindness and compassion to refugees who have nothing to give back in return save their gratitude.

In the end, Dandachi acknowledged that Syrian refugees can never repay the kindness they have received, “but at least we can say ‘thank you.’” (via TheTower.org)


Israeli actress Gal Gadot has revealed how she got the coveted role of Diana Prince. Making her Ellen Degeneres Show debut, Gadot said her flight from Israel to the US had just landed on the tarmac when she saw 30 missed calls. So, still in her airplane seat, she called her agent and was told she got the part but wasn’t allowed to tell anyone. “So, I went ahhhhhhhhhhhh, and everyone looked at me,” she told Ellen. Gadot also spoke about the audition she did for Batman v Superman director Zack Snyder and how she wasn’t told what part she was trying out for. After passing the first screen test, Snyder called Gadot to tell her that she was actually auditioning for the role of Wonder Woman. But he wasn’t sure this Israeli knew who Wonder Woman was. “Zack calls me, saying, ‘Well, I’m not sure if you have it in Israel but did you ever hear of Wonder Woman?’ Then I went dead for five seconds, came back to life, and tried to pull off my coolest voice, saying ‘Wonder Woman? Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard of her,” Gadot said. The talk show host presented Gadot with an action figure made in her image. Gadot was surprised, then noted that her four-year-old daughter actually “broke the head” of another action figure they have at home of Wonder Woman. (via Israel21c)

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