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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Iranian General Mocks US Defense Secretary; Challenges American Will to Fight ISIS

The head of the elite Iranian Quds Unit of the Revolutionary Guard played on comments US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter made about the Iraqi army’s failure on the battlefield of Ramadi, mocking the US military’s will to fight ISIS. Gen. Qassem Suleimani said the Americans had “no will” to defeat ISIS at Ramadi. Carter had said the same of the Iraqi army after learning that many had fled the field of battle leaving weapons and equipment behind. Suleimani told a newspaper that the US “didn’t do a damned thing” to halt ISIS. He was quoted as saying that, “Today, there is nobody in confrontation with ISIS except the Islamic Republic of Iran, as well as nations who are next to Iran or supported by Iran.”

Netanyahu Offers to Negotiate Boundaries of Settlement Blocs; Palestinians say “No”

Palestinian chief negotiator Sa’ib Erakat wasted no time in rejecting a first-ever proposal by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to negotiate the boundaries of the so-called “settlement blocs” – the groups of Jewish Israeli communities located on land Israel seized in the 1967 war that the Palestinians claim for their state that will remain under Israeli sovereignty in any peace deal and will be compensated for via land swaps. Netanyahu made the offer to the new European Union foreign policy chief Frederica Mogherini last week as part of an effort to address the growing aggressiveness in the positions of the European states toward Israel’s policy of building on post-1967 land – an action with which the EU agrees with the Palestinians that the policy is an obstacle to the Israelis and Palestinians reaching an agreement. If the settlement blocs are identified, according to Netanyahu’s reasoning, the issue of Israeli building, if restricted to those areas, will cease to be a political lightning rod. But in rejecting the idea, Erakat said it was just a strategy to legitimize the settlements and went on to reiterate the Palestinian pre-conditions for returning to the bargaining table: recognition of pre-1967 borders; an absolute halt to construction on post-1967 land; the release of those Palestinians held by Israel and slated to be released when talks fell apart in April 2014; all of which must be subject to a specific time schedule.

Israel’s Anti-trust Commissioner’s Resignation to Ease Pressure on Gas Monopolies

After seemingly throwing a wrench in the deal that gave virtual monopolies over Israel’s massive natural gas fields to Israel-based Delek and Texas-based Noble Energy, Anti-trust Commissioner David Gilo has now thrown in the towel and will leave his post in August. Gilo had ruled that the agreement the energy producers made with the government of Israel had not been approved by the courts and was therefore subject to his ruling. Delek and Noble and others argued that future agreements with the government would be subject to doubt and have a chilling-effect on foreign investment if Gilo’s ruling, designed to encourage competition, would be allowed to stand. The companies had invested more than $6.5 billion in the project based upon understandings with the government. In announcing his resignation, Gilo expressed certainty that the plan being drafted by the prime minister’s office and ministries of energy and finance will not encourage competition. Development of the Leviathan field, the world’s largest off-shore discovery in a decade, had been frozen since Gilo announced his findings last December and told Noble and Delek that they would have to sell-off assets. The two energy companies own 85% of the Leviathan field.

Austria Tries 15-Year Old Terror Suspect who Planned to Bomb Vienna Train Station

The trial of a 15-year old Austrian boy who is alleged to have planned to bomb the Vienna train station got underway on Tuesday. The youngster from the town of Sankt-Poelten, who was arrested last fall when he was only 14, is alleged to have had contact with Al-Qa’ida and ISIS representatives. He is believed to have received his bomb-making instructions from an Al-Qa’ida website. The Turkish-born defendant has been identified only as Mertkan G because of his age. Unconfirmed media reports suggest ISIS had promised to pay him about $27,000 to carry out the attack. As is the case with most European countries, a number of its citizens are enlisting to fight with the Islamist groups in Iraq and Syria and then are returning home where they become security risks. Austria has identified at least 70 such men, some of whom are awaiting trial.