Snowden leak: Israeli commandos killed Syrian general at dinner party

In a scene that could have been written for the silver screen, Israeli naval commandos in 2008 reportedly infiltrated the waters near Tartus, Syria, and eliminated a Syrian general during a dinner party held at his seaside villa.

According to a US National Security Agency document leaked by the organization’s ex-contractor, Edward Snowden, the Israel Navy’s elite amphibious special force, Shayetet 13 (Flotilla 13), is responsible for the operation that cut short Brig.-Gen. Muhammad Suleiman’s festive evening with shots to the head and neck.

If true, the leak could put to rest seven years’ worth of speculation as to how Suleiman died. Guesses so far have implicated various competing figures within the Syrian government in the murder.

While both the NSA and the Prime Minister’s Office have kept mum about the incident, sources consulted by The Intercept, a website created by American journalist Glenn Greenwald to report on Snowden’s leaks, claimed that the US has long had ears inside Israeli espionage circles.

“We’ve had access to Israeli military communications for some time,” a former US intelligence official said.

The original leak confirmed this claim, asserting that the NSA’s internal encyclopedic information system, Intellipedia, not only traced the assassination back to “Israeli naval commandos,” but knew enough about their past activities to confidently call the mission the “first known instance of Israel targeting a legitimate government official.”

The late brigadier-general – a close aide to Syrian President Bashar Assad – had multiple reasons for winding up in Israel’s crosshairs.

Suleiman was reportedly responsible for the development and security of Syria’s Ali Kibar nuclear facility, a site left defunct by an air strike attributed in the foreign press to Israel. The more likely reason for the lethal visit to Suleiman’s home, however, was the general’s apparent role in the armament and training of Hezbollah by Iran.

According to another leaked document – this time originating from the US State Department – Suleiman was flush with cash, the provenance of which remains unclear.

In the investigation after his death, the Syrian government discovered some $80 million stashed in the general’s home. “[Assad] was said to be devastated by the discovery.” The Syrian president, wary of Suleiman’s treachery, then “redirected the investigation from solving his murder to finding out how the general had acquired so much money,” the State Department paper asserted.

It remains unclear if Suleiman had siphoned off the money for personal use, or if it was related to Tehran’s funding of the Lebanese Shi’ite militia. Statements by the group’s chief, Hassan Nasrallah, revealed the importance of the general to Hezbollah’s cause. The assassination was “linked” to Suleiman’s role in the 2006 Second Lebanon War between Hezbollah and Israel, Nasrallah told journalists last year, before the leak emerged.

The Intercept’s sources acknowledged the link between Suleiman and Israel’s 2006 summer incursion into Lebanon.

“For them it’s not only payback, but mitigates future operations,” a retired US intelligence officer who worked with Israeli officials, said. The source’s former relationship with the Israelis possibly took place at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland, where Israel has liaison personnel who work with the intelligence agency.

“They will take a target of opportunity if it presents itself,” he said.

Source: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Snowden-leak-Israeli-commandos-killed-Syrian-general-at-dinner-party-409089

More F-35 fighter jets and increased funding for the development of defense systems may be part of increased US defense package.

Two days after the nuclear deal was reached between world powers and Iran, the defense establishment is expecting that the US military aid package to Israel will increase in the coming years.

Defense officials believe that certain aspects of the aid package may be strengthened, such as the inclusion of an additional squadron of F-35 fighter jets, extra funding for the development of defense systems and restocking munitions that the IDF is in great need of a year after Operation Protective Edge.

US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, who is considered a close friend of his Israeli counterpart Moshe Ya’alon, is scheduled to arrive in Israel next week. Carter is expected to lay out a package of defense “benefits” on Ya’alon’s table in order to ease the heightened tension between Washington and Jerusalem over the nuclear deal.

Carter will recite the usual speech in front of the cameras about Washington’s commitment to Israel’s security and then the two will meet face-to-face to discuss the consequences of the Iran nuclear deal.

The US currently sends some three billion dollars of security aid to Israel every year, but each year this budget is surpassed when other expenditures not included in the package are added in, such as special projects like the development of various defense and munitions systems.

If the Americans agree to increase the aid, or alternatively to provide a large grant, they will likely require assurances from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to carry out a military operation without first informing Washington.

Israel will want to add an extra F-35 squadron and will also wish to continue to improve the Iron Dome rocket defense system, perhaps adding more Iron Dome batteries. However, to begin, it will place all of its hopes on the development of the David’s Sling anti-missile system, which is designed to shoot down short-to medium-range missiles. It is expected to be operational in the coming year. Israel is also expected to seek improvements in the field of cyber-defense.

Terror a bigger concern than nuclear weapons

Israel is cautious to speak about it officially, but it has already started to put together a new assessment of the security situation in light of the nuclear deal. IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan has been tasked with assembling the assessment.

Additionally, for the first time in six years, the Israel Air Force is expected to hold a number of drills together with the US and European countries aimed at dealing with long-range missile attacks and flights to distant countries.

Israel is not hiding the fact that the military option remains open, but knows that after the signing of the deal, it will be far more difficult to carry out. Both the defense minister and the prime minister will emphasize to the Americans that the Iranian threat is not only on Israel, but on the stability of the entire Middle East. They are expected to be backed up in making this claim by the Saudis, Egyptians and perhaps even Turkey, who is no less worried than Israel, something that may warm relations between Jerusalem and Ankara.

The division of Israel’s intelligence resources will also change, with the slice of the pie belonging to the Iranian arena growing considerably. However, the most concerning fact for Israel in the short term is not Iran’s nuclear ability, but rather that the world is accepting into the family of nations the Islamic Republic, which spreads terror to Lebanon, Syria, Gaza and Egypt – terror which directly threatens Israel.

As of today for the defense establishment, the Iran on Israel’s borders is more dangerous than the Iran that is preparing a nuclear infrastructure for itself.

Source: http://www.jpost.com/Middle-East/Iran/Israel-reassessing-security-situation-and-expecting-more-US-military-aid-after-Iran-deal-409191

BBC bias, ‘heinous’ US support for Israel attacked in Gaza War anniversary protest

Palestine activists will highlight the BBC’s pro-Israel bias in an annual protest against the occupation of Jerusalem, which coincides with the first anniversary of the Gaza War.

Activists marched from the BBC’s Broadcasting House at Portland Place to the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square as part of Al Quds Day demonstrations, held annually on the last Friday of Ramadan.

The Islamic Human Rights Council (IHRC), which organized the protests, said the US Embassy was selected as a rallying point because of Washington’s “heinous support of Israel.

Al Quds Day rallies take place across the globe, but are especially prominent in the Arab world where they can receive state support.

Palestine activists will highlight the BBC’s pro-Israel bias in an annual protest against the occupation of Jerusalem, which coincides with the first anniversary of the Gaza War.

Activists marched from the BBC’s Broadcasting House at Portland Place to the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square as part of Al Quds Day demonstrations, held annually on the last Friday of Ramadan.

The Islamic Human Rights Council (IHRC), which organized the protests, said the US Embassy was selected as a rallying point because of Washington’s “heinous support of Israel.

Al Quds Day rallies take place across the globe, but are especially prominent in the Arab world where they can receive state support.

Credit: Eisa Ali

Speaking to RT, IHRC Communications chief Nadia Rasheed said the BBC was chosen as a starting point of the march because of its “pro-Israeli” bias.

We’re starting near the BBC in protest of what we deem to be the bias in their reporting of the situation in Palestine and their pretense of impartiality when in reality their coverage is pro-Israeli,” Rasheed said.

The US continues to underwrite the Zionist regime financially, militarily and politically and block all attempts at finding a just solution to the Palestinian issue.”

The scale of US support is unlike any given by any country to another nation. Since 1948, the US has used its UN Security Council veto at least 40 times to block condemnation of Israel. Every day Israel receives $8.5 million in military aid from its patron and in total each US citizen subsidizes every single Israeli citizen to the tune of $500 per day.”

Friday’s rally also marked the one year anniversary of the 2014 Gaza conflict which saw the deaths of 2,250 Palestinians and 72 Israelis.

IHRC said the effects of the invasion continues to scar the “landscape and inhabitants” of Gaza, with many suffering from psychological trauma while also being forced to live in temporary shelters.

The first Al Quds Day rally was held by Iran in 1979 – immediately following the country’s Islamic revolution – to protest Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem, oppose Zionism and express support for Palestinians.

Al Quds is the Arabic name for Jerusalem, a city which both Palestine and Israel claim as their capital.

Israel occupied West Jerusalem following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and annexed East Jerusalem after the 1967 Six-Day War against Jordan.

Iran’s annual Al Quds Day rally also took place on Friday and saw tens of thousands of protestors chant “Down with America” and “Death to Israel,” according to the Associated Press.

IHRC’s Al Quds Day protest began at 15:30 BST at Duchess Street, London outside BBC Broadcasting House.

Source: http://rt.com/uk/272905-bbc-israel-gaza-protest/

Questions Over 7/7 Bomber’s Trip To Israel

Khan was in Israel weeks before two UK men bombed a Tel Aviv bar, but potential links between them were not properly investigated. Why?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdC8yeeOkm0&feature=youtu.be

The inquests into the 2005 London bombings, presented at the time as the conclusive and final judgement on the attacks, did not examine a potentially crucial part of the lead bomber’s back-story, a Sky News investigation has found.

The timing of an unexplained visit to Israel in early 2003 by lead 7/7 bomber Mohammed Sidique Khan was not addressed in any of the parliamentary or judicial investigations into the London attacks, despite the fact it occurred just weeks before two British men – with apparent connections to Khan – carried out a deadly suicide mission in Tel Aviv.

The chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee has told Sky News he will write to the Home Secretary seeking an explanation, and has raised the question of whether “further steps” could still be necessary.

The attack on Mike’s Place bar on the beach in Tel Aviv in April 2003 was carried out by Britain’s first ever suicide bombers.

Asif Hanif, from Hounslow, killed three people and injured more than 50 when he detonated his device.

Another bomb carried by Omar Sharif from Derby failed to detonate. He fled the scene and his body was found washed up on the beach weeks later. A coroner’s inquest ruled he had drowned.

Ashif Muhahmmad Hanif And Omar Khan Sharif

Britain’s first suicide bombers: Asif Hanif (L) and Omar Sharif (R)

A martyrdom video was later released by Palestinian militant group Hamas showing the two men speaking in English and Arabic.

But weeks before the attack Khan had also visited Israel for a single day in February 2003 – crossing from Jordan ostensibly for a sightseeing trip to Jerusalem.

Video: 7/7: Ten Years On

The visit, corroborated by his absence record from his teaching assistant job at a Leeds school, and confirmed to Sky News by senior Israeli security officials, came at the end of a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

The Government’s official account of 7/7, published in 2006, did mention Khan’s visit to Israel but claimed there was “no evidence of anything suspicious”.

However, the plausibility of this assessment is drawn into question by the fact that in its otherwise comprehensive contextual timeline of the “evolving international terrorist threat”, the report misses any mention of the Mike’s Place bombing, which occurred weeks after Khan’s visit .

After 7/7, numerous indications emerged that Khan might have been an associate of Sharif and Hanif.

All three were involved in the activities of the now-banned Al Muhajiroun group, led by radical preachers Omar Bakri Mohammad and Abu Hamza.

Sources have told Sky News Sharif travelled widely, and is believed to have visited the same mosque in Beeston as Khan at one period.

Most significantly, a 2006 BBC documentary featured an interview with Manchester businessman Kursheed Fiaz, who claimed the trio had approached him in 2001 seeking funding for a project to send young British Muslims for “education in the new ways of Islam” in Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Despite the fact Khan’s visit occurred shortly before the Tel Aviv attacks, and despite the post-7/7 indications that he may have had contact with the Mike’s Place bombers, the question of whether police properly investigated the Tel Aviv attackers’ backgrounds has not been asked – either in the post-7/7 parliamentary investigations or a wide-ranging inquest, both of which looked at the background and travel history of Khan.

Joshua Faudem, a filmmaker who witnessed and survived the Mike’s Place bombing, has claimed in a recent graphic novel about the attack that he was never interviewed by British investigators, despite Israeli intelligence agents insisting they would need to speak to him.

“The end of the meeting was [the Israeli investigators] saying to me – this is their problem, this is a British problem, yes it happened here, but this is definitely a British investigation… they had my details, they said they’d passed them on – and I never heard from them, ever,” he told Sky News.

Nobody has even been convicted of any offence in relation to the Tel Aviv bombing.

Delivering her closing remarks in the 2011 inquest into 7/7, Lady Justice Hallett said she believed she “had left no stone unturned” in her investigation into whether intelligence or police could have done more to identify Khan before the attacks.

She concluded that despite the fact Khan had appeared on the surveillance of various anti-terrorism operations since as early as 2001, authorities could not reasonably have been expected to have taken steps to identify him as a threat in a way that might have prevented the London attacks.

Now the solicitor who represented the majority of the families of victims of 7/7 has said he believes Khan’s visit to Israel would have been relevant to the inquest and should have formed part of the proceedings.

“If I had been aware of this information, I would certainly have asked the coroner to look at it,” said Clifford Tibber, adding that he was concerned the new revelations could cause fresh anxiety and upset for the victims’ families.

Sky News understands Khan’s Israel trip was not dealt with in closed proceedings or redacted evidence during the course of the inquest.

Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee Keith Vaz MP has indicated he will write to Home Secretary Theresa May to suggest this subject could be raised when she appears before his committee in the coming weeks.

“It is relevant because relatives of the victims of 7/7 believe it is relevant; and since it was not in the original timeline it does need to be considered,” he said.

Israeli analyst Barak Ben-Zur, who once served in a senior position in Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency, told Sky News the Mike’s Place bombing was “very peculiar” and added that there are legitimate questions about the investigation into what took place.

“Hamas at that period of time had no need for any foreigners to join their campaign of suicide attacks… In that year of 2003 there were at least 25 suicide attacks – so bringing two people such a long way to Tel Aviv in order to carry out a suicide attack, was very peculiar,” said Mr Ben-Zur.

A post-7/7 investigation by Israeli authorities into whether Khan was involved in the planning of the Mike’s Place attack is understood to have found no evidence to corroborate that he visited Tel Aviv.

However, asked whether he believed Khan’s visit to Israel might have been significant in relation to the Tel Aviv attacks, Mr Ben-Zur posited the theory that he may have used his day trip to scout the security of the Allenby Crossing – the West Bank border used by many to access Israel from Jordan.

This speculative theory is based on the fact the explosives used in the Mike’s Place attacks were very different to those used in the many Palestinian suicide attacks that were being carried out at that time – making it likely the Mike’s Place bombers smuggled their explosives, which were camouflaged by being moulded into books, from Syria, where they had been before entering Israel.

“Ninety-five percent, even more than that – of the explosive charges used in suicide and other terror attacks at that time were based on improvised explosives, assembled and produced in the backyards of Palestinian residents, and here we are finding something professional, prepared very well; how it was detonated, how it was camouflaged, such a thing was carried out surely by someone that understood explosives very well and was already experienced in preparing such explosive charges,” said Mr Ben-Zur.

He too believes Khan’s visit to Israel should have been looked at in the post-7/7 investigations.

“This case was not mentioned – there are a variety of other cases the reports deal with deeply and seriously, but this special case was omitted. I don’t know the reason for that… if it was not done, it should be asked why it’s so,” he added.

Raffaello Pantucci, director of International Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute, agreed the timing of the Israel trip needed to be looked at further.

“There are certainly questions to be answered, not least about how UK authorities saw the domestic terrorist threat in 2003.

“This is crucial because understanding how we assessed the threat then impacts directly on how we use our resources and carry out our assessments today and in the future,” said Mr Pantucci.

The solicitor who served the coroner during the 2010-2011 inquest into the London bombings has told Sky News: “Lady Justice Hallett considered evidence on a range of topics having received submissions on what these should comprise.

“These submissions were received from all interested persons, including the 52 bereaved families, and led her to conclude that her investigation would be wide in scope and that it would include the background of the bombers and alleged intelligence failings in decisions taken in relation to them.”

Sky News has asked the Home Office for a response to why the Mike’s Place bombing – carried out by Britain’s first ever suicide bombers – did not feature in the timeline of the “evolving terrorist threat” featured in its 2006 official account of 7/7.

No response has been offered at the time of writing.

The Metropolitan Police were asked whether the information provided to the BBC in 2006 by Kursheed Fiaz, regarding the links between Khan and the Mike’s Place bombers, was followed-up or formed part of their post-7/7 accounts of Khan’s background.

In a written response a spokesperson said “we are not prepared to discuss the questions you put to us”.

 

Source: news.sky.com

Israel closes probe on killing four Gaza children

Israel says it has dropped a judicial investigation into one of the regime’s deadly airstrikes on the Gaza Strip which claimed the lives of four children.

“The … case has been closed following the completion of a criminal investigation,” read the statement issued by the Israeli military on Thursday, claiming that the decision was made after “an extensive number of documents relating to the attack were reviewed,” including “video footage documenting the attack in real time, as well as media images.”

The military also alleged to have collected testimonies from the Israeli soldiers and officers “who were involved in the planning and execution of the attack” and also from Gaza residents, ruling that the Israeli troops cannot be held accountable for the cold-blooded murder.

“From the factual findings collected by the investigators, it revealed that the incident took place in an area that had long been known as a compound belonging to Hamas’s Naval Police and Naval Force,” the statement went on to say.

This is while a reporter for the British daily The Guardian, who witnessed the killing, said that no effort had been made on the part of the Israeli officials to take his testimony.

On July 16, 2014, the Israeli army carried out airstrikes on Gaza beach where Palestinian children were playing, killing four of them aged between 9 and 11.

Reports also said that the Palestinian authorities aim to present the incident to the International Criminal Court as an evidence of the war crimes committed by the Tel Aviv regime.

A Palestinian man mourns the death of his child killed in an Israeli airstrike on the Gaza Strip, August 21, 2014. (AFP)

Meanwhile, the families of the Palestinian children killed in the Israeli attack on the Gaza beach last year called for an investigation into the case by the International Criminal Court.

The Israeli military also dropped legal proceedings over two other deadly attacks on a residential compound in central Gaza City and also on the southern town of Khan Yunis, which claimed the lives of over 20 Palestinian civilians. Both raids were carried out in July last year.

Last summer, the Tel Aviv regime launched a brutal attack against the besieged coastal sliver, killing 2,140 Palestinians, including 557 children.

The aggression also left 11,100 Palestinians wounded, including 3,374 children and 2,088 women, and displaced over 170,000 others.

Gazans grapple with unemployment, poverty and a declining standard of living on a daily basis as the region has been blockaded since 2007.

Press TV | June, 12, 2015

ICC team to visit Israel to probe war crimes: Report

A delegation from the International Criminal Court (ICC) is set to travel to Israel as part of a preliminary investigation into the Zionist regime’s war crimes against Palestinians, sources say.

Palestinian sources, whose names were not released, said inspectors from The Hague-based court will arrive in Israel on June 27, the website of the Israeli Haaretz newspaper said on Thursday.

An unnamed lawyer representing the Palestinians said the planned visit is a good sign while a legal expert said the move demonstrates that the inquiry is being “taken seriously” by the international legal body.

The ICC prosecutor’s office, however, said in a statement that the visit was part of its routine examination process, adding, “As part of its preliminary examination activities, the Office of the Prosecutor conducts field visits as it has done in the past with other situations under preliminary examinations.”

Meanwhile, in a separate development on Thursday, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki announced that he will travel to The Hague on June 25 to submit the Palestinians’ first report on Israeli war crimes.

He said the reports outline Tel Aviv’s illegal settlements construction and Israeli military aggression against the Gaza Strip last year.

The Israeli regime launched a 50-day deadly war on Gaza last summer that ended in August 2014 with a truce. The aggression left about 2,200 Palestinians, including 577 children, dead and over 11,100 others injured.

The ICC opened a preliminary examination into Israel’s war crimes against Palestinians in January.

In April, Palestine formally joined the ICC, a membership that enabled the country to bring war crimes charges against Israeli officials.

‘We will shoot you if you do anything’: Palestinians recall forced Israeli eviction

Palestinians evicted from their homes by Israeli forces spoke to RT about how they were abused and mistreated by the police as they desperately attempted to retain their property.

The family of Emad Abu Khaled was evicted Tuesday as Israeli authorities arrived to demolish two houses in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem. The forced eviction was caught on camera.

“They came to our house at 4 in the morning and told us that they wanted to destroy it, and brought two bulldozers,” Emad Abu Khaled told RT. “They also threatened us with guns and said, ‘We will shoot you if you do anything.’ They don’t care what you do, if you resist and stay inside they can demolish the building with you inside it.”

Although Israeli authorities claim the construction of the houses was illegal, Palestinians say the permits are nearly impossible to obtain. Many families are currently receiving demolition orders and live in constant fear of eviction, which is often followed by violent actions.

“I got home and heard screaming. Then I saw them beating my son. I tried to stop them but they pepper sprayed me,” said Samera Umm Kefah, an elderly resident of Silwan. “They threw him down the steps and 10 men attacked him. He couldn’t do anything.”

Israeli authorities are currently seeking the eviction of seven Palestinian families with 25 houses of Palestinian residents have already been occupied within the past year.

Clashes between police and Silwan residents who were forced to leave their homes have been going on for years. The worst spike of violence broke out in August 2010. Israeli demolition plans then triggered mass protests in which Arab residents clashed with border police, hurling stones and setting cars on fire.

On Friday, Israeli troops cracked down on a Palestinian rally in the West Bank, marking the 48th anniversary of the defeat in the six-day Arab-Israeli war.

RT, June 7, 2015

 

Netanyahu ally urges world to accept Israel’s hold on Golan

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: A far-right ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged world powers on Sunday to recognize Israel’s 1981 annexation of the Golan Heights, saying Syria no longer functions as a country that could reclaim the strategic plateau.

The remarks by security cabinet minister Naftali Bennett appeared aimed at capitalizing on global debate over how to handle Syria’s de facto break-up during a four-year-old insurgency, as well as at undermining support for Palestinian statehood on other land Israel occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.

“I call on the international community: Stand with us, recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights now,” Bennett said in a speech to the Herzliya Conference, an annual Israeli policy forum. “Borders are changing daily. Syria, as a state, no longer exists. So this is the time for initiative.”

Past U.S.-backed Israeli-Syrian peace efforts were predicated on a return of the Golan. With President Bashar Assad having now lost swathes of Syria to jihadi rebels like ISIS, Bennett argued Israeli hawks had been vindicated in opposing any territorial handover.

“It’s clear that had we listened to the world and given up the Golan, ISIS would be swimming in the Galilee,” Bennett said, referring to the northern lake that is a key Israeli water source. “Enough with the hypocrisy, already.”

Israel has publicly straddled the fence on Syria. It sees Assad’s decline as irreversible. But it worries about his reinforcement by Iran and Hezbollah guerrillas from neighboring Lebanon, and the prospect of unbridled chaos if Damascus falls.

The Syrian crisis has vexed Washington, and will be high on the agenda of a visit to Israel this week by the top U.S. military officer, General Martin Dempsey. “Frankly, no one knows what to do about Syria. We’re hearing out our allies on this, so that’s what Dempsey will do in Israel,” one U.S. diplomat said.

Bennett’s party is one of the bigger partners in Netanyahu’s rightist coalition government but the two have clashed over whether Israel should revive peace talks with the Palestinians. Unlike the premier, Bennett is explicitly opposed to a Palestinian state in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and favors annexing parts of the territory heavily settled by Jews.

On Sunday, Bennett said Israel should quadruple Jewish settlement on the Golan within five years. The current number of Jews there, 23,000, is roughly the same as Druze Arabs loyal to Syria.

Netanyahu’s office declined comment on Bennett’s speech.

The Daily Star.  June 7, 2015

Israel military cautiously upbeat on Iran nuclear deal

JERUSALEM: The Israeli military cautiously welcomed Thursday the expected international deal which would curb Iran’s nuclear program, though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has lobbied for tougher terms to be imposed on Tehran.

In remarks carried by several Israeli media outlets, an unnamed senior military officer said that if agreed by its June 30 deadline, the deal would provide clarity on the direction of Iran’s nuclear program.

Western powers fear that Iran harbors ambitions to build an atomic bomb and years of talks have centered on eradicating the alleged threat. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

The officer said that for now, measures sought by world powers such as stepped-up international inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities and scaling back of its uranium enrichment “allow for the supposition that, in the coming period of years, this is a threat in decline.”

An Israeli military source authenticated the quotes to Reuters, confirming that they reflected thinking at the highest levels of the armed forces.

Israel, which is widely assumed to be the only Middle Eastern country with a nuclear arsenal, sees Iran as its biggest foe. The Netanyahu government has lobbied hard against the nuclear deal, calling for tighter constraints on Tehran’s nuclear activities.

Israeli generals often say the more immediate danger is a possible war with Iran’s guerrilla allies in neighboring Lebanon, Syria or Gaza.

The Daily Star, Jun. 04, 2015

BBC admits Israeli defense minister interview breached impartiality rules

The BBC has acknowledged that its presenter Sarah Montague did not adequately challenge controversial comments made by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon about Palestine on the broadcaster’s flagship Radio 4 “Today” program.

Head of Editorial Complaints Fraser Steel wrote to complainants admitting that, while there were some mitigating reasons, the interview with Ya’alon fell below the standards of impartiality required of the BBC.

Mr Ya’alon was allowed to make several controversial statements on those matters without any meaningful challenge and the program makers have accepted that the interviewer ought to have interrupted him and questioned him on his assertions.

In a statement, a BBC spokesman said: “The BBC has reached a provisional finding that the complaints should be upheld and will be taking comments from the complainants into account before finalizing the outcome.

The interview, which took place on March 19, saw the minister make a number of contestable claims which political groups say went unchallenged.

These include Ya’alon’s claim that Palestinians “enjoy already political independence. They have their own political system, government, parliament, municipalities and so forth. And we are happy with it. We don’t want to govern them whatsoever.

On its website, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) said Montague failed to raise a number of obvious counterpoints, including the point that “Palestinians don’t have political independence. They live under occupation and, in Gaza, under siege.

The PSC also said: “In the West Bank, Israel arrests and detains Palestinian MPs, often without charge or trial. West Bank Palestinians’ taxes are collected by Israel and then handed to the Palestinian Authority.

Israel regularly withholds the tax revenue from the PA when it goes against its wishes.

One of the most prominent complaints came from filmmaker and activist Ken Loach. His letter, sent via the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, read: “You understand, I’m sure, that this interview is a serious breach of the requirement for impartiality. Unlike all other Today interviews, the minister was allowed to speak without challenge. Why?

You and your interviewer have seriously betrayed your obligation to report impartially and to challenge assertions that are unsustainable.

In March, BBC Director-General Lord Hall said reporting on the Israel-Palestine conflict was “tough,” but insisted the corporation aimed to be balanced in its coverage.

Hall added that the broadcaster was committed to its coverage of the Middle East, including Israel and Palestine.

Speaking before a 200-person audience at ORT UK’s business breakfast on Tuesday, the BBC boss said: “It is hard … tough. We do aim to give as impartial coverage as [best] we can across the period.

I do not want you to doubt for one second our commitment to the coverage of Israel and Palestine – but also the wider Middle East,” he said.

An independent review of the BBC’s Israel-Palestine coverage published in 2006 found the corporation offered an “incomplete” and “misleading” picture of the conflict.

Chaired by Sir Quentin Thomas, the report said the BBC failed to “convey adequately the disparity in the Israeli and Palestinian experience, reflecting the fact that one side is in control and the other lives under occupation.

RT, June 3, 2015