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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Iran’s Zarif again Rejects Kerry’s Attempt to allow Inspections of Military Facilities

Despite spending six-hours together in a Zurich hotel with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif and their respective delegations “prepping” for the next round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 on its nuclear program, US Secretary of State John Kerry was not able to make any progress on the sticking points of international inspection of military nuclear sites and interviewing nuclear scientists. Critics of the deal-in-the-making argue that nothing in the proposed agreement will prevent the Iranians from developing nuclear weapons at military sites while ostensibly observing the terms of the agreement that is resulting in the lifting of sanctions – and if Iran has its way, sanctions will be lifted immediately upon signing the agreement. There also was apparently no movement on the issue of the Western demand for a so-called “snap-back” provision that would immediately re-instate sanctions when violations occur. The Western nations have agreed on a snap-back mechanism, but it has not been accepted by Tehran.

Iraqi Army Re-takes Part of Ramadi

Seeking to redress the humiliating loss of Ramadi it suffered at the hands of the Islamic State (ISIS) two weeks ago, the Iraqi army on Saturday re-took an area west of the strategic city on Saturday. A statement by the military describing the gains noted the contribution of Hashed Al-Shaabi, Shiite forces, in the battles against Sunni ISIS, which continues to control most of Anbar, a western province of which Ramadi is the capital. Other small gains were made against ISIS earlier in the week.

Houthis Reportedly Holding Americans Hostage in Sana’a, Yemen

At least four Americans are being held in Sana’a, Yemen, by the Iranian-backed Houthis, the rebel tribe that has effectively taken control of the country. According to the Washington Post on Friday, there have been unsuccessful rescue attempts. None of those being held is believed to be an employee of the US government, and one is a dual US-Yemeni citizen. Other details of the hostages are being withheld by the Washington Post at the request of their families. In addition to the hostages, dozens of Americans who were unable to leave Yemen when it fell to the Houthis are still there.

Soccer Federation Vote to Expel Israel Averted; Both Sides Claim Victory

After the vote on Israel’s expulsion from the international soccer federation (FIFA) demanded by the Palestinian Football Association was averted on Friday, Israel claimed victory and PFA head Jibril Rajoub suffered criticism for amending the motion thus stopping the vote. But these immediate reactions ignore the larger picture and the doors opened to the Palestinians by the FIFA exercise. Rajoub’s action in averting the vote was lauded by FIFA President Sepp Blatter as an “exceptional gesture that deserves to be commended.” Beyond commendation, FIFA has agreed to create an investigating committee to morph the political aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into the world of international sports – a tactic used effectively in South Africa’s fight against apartheid. Not coincidentally, Blatter appointed former South African cabinet minister and African National Congress (ANC) leader Tokyo Sexwale to lead the FIFA committee that will consider the Palestinian demand that teams flying the Israeli flag over communities located on post-1967 land be expelled from the federation. So while Israel escaped without a vote on Friday, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s elation seems short-sighted at best in light of the fact that Rajoub’s patient and disciplined maneuvering has arguably more effectively linked the Jewish state to charges of apartheid before a much greater audience than has any other attempt by the anti-Israel “BDS” (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement to do so.

Netanyahu under Fire for Parliamentary Maneuver

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is coming under new criticism for creating the mechanism for the prime minister to effectively decide unilaterally which proposed pieces of legislation see the light of day before the ministerial committee that is supposed to decide which bills the coalition supports. In effect, as a result of power the PM is receiving through coalition agreements with the governing parties, the PM will effectively be able to determine which bills make it to the parliament for a vote. The member of Netanyahu’s Likud party who represents him on the Ministerial Committee told the daily Haaretz that the veto power would be used sparingly. Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said, “I don’t want to make serial use of [the power].” According to the newspaper, the prime minister’s use of the veto will be difficult to track because the Ministerial Committee does not keep minutes of its meetings.