News Roundup for April 21, 2017

April 21, 2017

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Top News and Analysis

Trump Raps Iran as Violating ‘Spirit’ of Nuclear Deal, The New York Times

Iran is failing to fulfill the “spirit” of its nuclear deal with world powers, President Donald Trump has declared, setting an ominous tone for his forthcoming decision about whether to pull the U.S. out of the landmark agreement. As he often had during the president campaign, Trump ripped into the deal struck by Iran, the U.S. and other world powers in 2015 and said “it shouldn’t have been signed.” Yet he pointedly stopped sort of telegraphing whether or not the U.S. would stay in.

The Coming Crisis With Iran, The New York Times

Trita Parsi writes, “For the nuclear deal to endure, tension between Washington and Tehran on other issues must be contained or the nuclear deal must be sufficiently insulated to survive external turbulence. It is difficult to see, for instance, how the deal can remain in place while the United States and Iran engage in direct or indirect confrontations throughout the region….If the United States reneges on its obligations under the deal, Iran is likely to follow suit and start expanding its nuclear activities — regardless of who wins the presidential elections…..For many of the hawks in Washington, this is a lesser problem than the constraints the nuclear deal has imposed on the United States’ ability to confront Iran elsewhere. That is not an accident: The deal aimed to make an escalation of tensions between the United States and Iran more difficult and costly for both countries.”

The Case for Caution With Iran, Foreign Affairs

Ellie Geranmayeh writes, “U.S. officials should be realistic about what they can achieve in the midst of the Middle East’s current turmoil. U.S. policy will be most effective if it pragmatically accounts for Iran’s strengths and its perception of its neighborhood’s threats. When figuring out how to approach Iran’s ballistic missile program, for example, Washington should account for the advanced capabilities of Iran’s neighbors, especially Israel, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. And when considering how to deal with Iran’s growing ties to regional militia groups, the United States should seek to fill the power vacuums that have allowed those groups to thrive, rather than favor militarized tactics that could exacerbate state breakdown and expand the space for militants. The United States’ first real breakthrough with Iran—the nuclear deal—was a product of multilateral diplomacy and mutual compromise. To seek to isolate Iran through a primarily military strategy would be futile. Worse, it would risk escalation—and the primary victims of the violence that could follow would be the civilians of those regions of the Middle East already torn apart by war.”


Netanyahu Meets Mattis, Lauds ‘Change in U.S. Leadership, Policy’ in Mideast, Haaretz

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Prime Minister Netanyahu met in Jerusalem on Friday. Prior to the meeting Netanyahu said that he sees a “great change” in the direction of U.S. policy in the Middle East, lauding Mattis and President Donald Trump’s recent statements on Iran as well as U.S. action against Syria’s use of chemical weapons. “It’s appreciated around the world and in our region,” Netanyahu said, according to a press release.

Sebastian Gorka Welcome At Pro-Israel Events Despite Ties To Nazi Allies, Forward

Despite his controversial ties to allies of the Nazis, White House counterterrorism adviser Sebastian Gorka has scored invitations to speak at upcoming pro-Israeli events. Gorka will address on May 7 the Jerusalem Post conference in New York, alongside top Israeli cabinet ministers including defense minister Avigdor Lieberman, justice minister Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett, Israel’s minister of education….In mid-July, Gorka is scheduled to speak at the Washington Summit of Christians United for Israel, America’s largest pro-Israel Christian group.”

Sick Palestinian prisoner transferred to hospital as mass hunger strike enters 4th day, Ma’an

The Israel Prison Service (IPS) transferred ill hunger-striking prisoner Said Musallam to the Barzilai Hospital after his health condition deteriorated, a Palestinian lawyer said on Thursday, as a mass prisoner hunger strike entered its fourth day. Karim Ajweh told the Media Committee of the “Freedom and Dignity” hunger strike that he had been informed of a number of hunger-striking prisoners who had been transferred to and from the Ashkelon prison, including Musallam, who suffers from pre-existing heart issues.

U.S. Pushes U.N. Security Council To Focus On Iran, Not Israel, Forward

The United States pushed the United Nations Security Council on Thursday to focus on “illegal and dangerous behavior” by Iran and Lebanese group Hezbollah in the Middle East, an accusation that Iran dismissed as “misleading propaganda.” US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the 15-member council that its monthly meetings on the Middle East – traditionally focused on Israel and the Palestinians, Syria and Lebanon – regularly turned into “Israel-bashing sessions.”

Trump envoy hosts business-centered video confab with Israelis, Palestinians, Times of Israel

In a bid to improve the climate between Israelis and Palestinians, US President Donald Trump’s envoy to the peace process on Thursday hosted a video conference with officials and businessmen from both sides to discuss ways to boost the Palestinian economy. “The discussion followed up on recent US consultations with Israeli and Palestinian business representatives, as well as with Israeli and Palestinian Authority officials, and focused on concrete private sector initiatives which would create new opportunities for growth, and meaningfully improve the Palestinian economy and the quality of life for Palestinians, thereby helping to foster an atmosphere more conducive to peace,” according to a readout provided by US Embassy in Tel Aviv.

Ahmadinejad Disqualified, Rohani Approved for Running in Iran’s Presidential Election, Haaretz

Iranian state TV says the clerical body charged with vetting candidates has disqualified former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from running in next month’s presidential election. Iran’s current moderate President Hassan Rohani, who negotiated the nuclear deal with world powers, has passed the vetting process. Ahmadinejad, who remains a deeply polarizing figure even among Iranian hard-liners, had shocked the country by registering last week. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had previously urged him not to run. However, many hard-liners in Iran seek a tough-talking candidate to rally around who can stand up to President Trump.

Iranian FM rips America’s ‘worn-out’ nuclear accusations, Times of Israel

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif on Thursday criticized “worn-out” US accusations that it was seeking a nuclear weapon to threaten the region and the world. “Worn-out US accusations can’t mask its admission of Iran’s compliance” with a 2015 nuclear deal, Zarif wrote on Twitter.

Israel Fighting to Stop FIFA From Suspending Settlement Soccer Teams, Haaretz

Israel is increasingly concerned that when the FIFA Congress holds its annual meeting in another four weeks, the international soccer federation will decide to suspend six Israeli soccer teams based in West Bank settlements. Consequently, ambassadors in dozens of capitals worldwide have been ordered to work with officials of their host countries to foil the move.

An official involved in the issue said that two weeks ago, Israel learned that Palestinian Football Association President Jibril Rajoub had asked to put the issue of the settlement teams on the agenda of both the FIFA Council, which will meet in Manama, Bahrain on May 9, and the FIFA Congress, which will meet in the same city on May 10 and 11.

Opinions and Analysis

Nuclear deal critics silent as Trump says Iran complying, Al-Monitor

Julian Pecquet reports, “US lawmakers who once loudly insisted that Iran was cheating on the nuclear deal stayed quiet April 19 after the Donald Trump administration declared otherwise….The Trump administration’s assessment was greeted with a deafening silence in Congress, which is out of session this week, notably by Iran hawks who had previously said that Iran was already in violation of the deal. The lack of response suggests congressional Republicans, like the Trump administration, are in no rush to tear up a deal and be held responsible for the consequences.”

Netanyahu Says He Was Dragged Into 2014 Gaza War. Is It About to Happen Again?, Haaretz

Amos Harel reports, “Even in the less-pressured, “long-fuse” stance  adopted by Lieberman since entering the Defense Ministry last May, he continues to cling to the position that in the event of another war in Gaza, Israel must act to topple the Hamas government. According to security sources, the disparities between his approach and that of the army, with respect to the Strip, are apparent in every meeting between them. The top brass is trying to persuade Lieberman that the operational plans they have drawn up would allow Hamas to be dealt a severe blow, without creating a situation of anarchy in Gaza.”

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