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SOURCES: TRUMP TO FOCUS COUNTER-EXTREMISM PROGRAM SOLELY ON ISLAM

WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO – The Trump administration wants to revamp and rename a US government program designed to counter all violent ideologies so that it focuses solely on Islamist extremism, five people briefed on the matter told Reuters.

The program, “Countering Violent Extremism,” or CVE, would be changed to “Countering Islamic Extremism” or “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism,” the sources said, and would no longer target groups such as white supremacists who have also carried out bombings and shootings in the United States.

Such a change would reflect Trump’s election campaign rhetoric and criticism of former President Barack Obama for being weak in the fight against Islamic State and for refusing to use the phrase “radical Islam” in describing it. Islamic State has claimed responsibility for attacks on civilians in several countries.

The CVE program aims to deter groups or potential lone attackers through community partnerships and educational programs or counter-messaging campaigns in cooperation with companies such as Google and Facebook.

Some proponents of the program fear that rebranding it could make it more difficult for the government to work with Muslims already hesitant to trust the new administration, particularly after Trump issued an executive order last Friday temporarily blocking travel to the United States from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

Still, the CVE program, which focuses on US residents and is separate from a military effort to fight extremism online, has been criticized even by some supporters as ineffective.

A source who has worked closely with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on the program said Trump transition team members first met with a CVE task force in December and floated the idea of changing the name and focus.

In a meeting last Thursday attended by senior staff for DHS Secretary John Kelly, government employees were asked to defend why they chose certain community organizations as recipients of CVE program grants, said the source, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the discussions.

Although CVE funding has been appropriated by Congress and the grant recipients were notified in the final days of the Obama administration, the money still may not go out the door, the source said, adding that Kelly is reviewing the matter.

The department declined comment. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Some Republicans in Congress have long assailed the program as politically correct and ineffective, asserting that singling out and using the term “radical Islam” as the trigger for many violent attacks would help focus deterrence efforts.

Others counter that branding the problem as “radical Islam” would only serve to alienate more than three million Americans who practice Islam peacefully.

Many community groups, meanwhile, had already been cautious about the program, partly over concerns that it could double as a surveillance tool for law enforcement.

Hoda Hawa, director of policy for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said she was told last week by people within DHS that there was a push to refocus the CVE effort from tackling all violent ideology to only Islamist extremism.

“That is concerning for us because they are targeting a faith group and casting it under a net of suspicion,” she said.

Another source familiar with the matter was told last week by a DHS official that a name change would take place. Three other sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said such plans had been discussed but were unable to attest whether they had been finalized.

The Obama administration sought to foster relationships with community groups to engage them in the counterterrorism effort. In 2016, Congress appropriated $10 million in grants for CVE efforts and DHS awarded the first round of grants on Jan. 13, a week before Trump was inaugurated.

Among those approved were local governments, city police departments, universities and non-profit organizations. In addition to organizations dedicated to combating Islamic State’s recruitment in the United States, grants also went to Life After Hate, which rehabilitates former neo-Nazis and other domestic extremists.

Just in the past two years, authorities blamed radical and violent ideologies as the motives for a white supremacist’s shooting rampage inside a historic African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina and Islamist militants for shootings and bombings in California, Florida and New York.

One grant recipient, Leaders Advancing & Helping Communities, a Michigan-based group led by Lebanese-Americans, has declined a $500,000 DHS grant it had sought, according to an email the group sent that was seen by Reuters. A representative for the group confirmed the grant had been rejected but declined further comment.

“Given the current political climate and cause for concern, LAHC has chosen to decline the award,” said the email, which was sent last Thursday, a day before Trump issued his immigration order, which was condemned at home and abroad as discriminating against Muslims while the White House said it was to “to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nationals.”

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MUSLIM JEWISH ADVISORY COUNCIL MEETS WITH TRUMP ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS

WASHINGTON – A new coalition of Muslim and Jewish leaders met on Wednesday in Washington to lobby government officials together “on issues of common concern” – a trip planned long before an executive order from US President Donald Trump targeting refugees and immigrants riled both communities.

The group, formed in November as the Muslim Jewish Advisory Council, convened its 36 members for a day of meetings with members of Congress and senior administration officials. Their top priority was spotlighting an increase in hate crimes nationwide against Muslims and Jews.

But their conversation with members of the Trump administration took a different direction than they had originally anticipated: members found themselves seeking reassurances that new leadership at the Justice Department was committed to longstanding practices combating religious and ethnic discrimination.

“It went very well,” Farooq Kathwari, president and CEO of Ethan Allen and co-chairman of the council, told The Jerusalem Post. “They said that their objective is to make sure people are treated fairly, and that they wouldn’t do anything based on religion. So it was promising.”

In an open letter to Congress, the council declared opposition to “any ban on refugee or other immigration to the United States based on religion,” specifically referring to the president’s January 27 executive order. The White House insists that the order does not amount to a Muslim ban, although its most fervent supporters and critics alike believe the measure is motivated by the president’s expressed desire to keep foreign- born Muslims out of the homeland.

The project has attracted esteemed figures from the Jewish community, including David Harris of the American Jewish Committee, former ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, Temple Emanu-El Rabbi Joshua Davidson and the Rabbinical Assembly’s Julie Schonfeld, Rep. Steve Israel and former senators Joe Lieberman and Norm Coleman.

“We’ve been discussing this for many, many months – challenges faced by both the Jewish and the Muslim communities in terms of hate crimes that are only increasing,” Kathwari said. “So we have to keep that in mind.

And we also felt that it was time to get the message across that we actually can work together.

“It just so happens that now, of course, the environment is such that this kind of discussion is all the more important,” Kathwari added.

In the evening, a reception was held in the Senate with the support of Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland. Several sitting congressmen, former senators and diplomats were in attendance.

“During World War II, it was the St. Louis that had Jewish families trying to escape Nazi Germany that arrived at our borders, not allowed to enter,” Cardin said at the “particularly timely” event.

“It’s particularly disturbing that today we are saying that there’s a different test for a Muslim coming to America.

That sends chilling signals for what this nation stands for.

“So we need to work together to reserve the values of America,” Cardin added.

“The Jewish community, the Muslim community – we have a lot in common. And we are both here in America to build a better nation, and a stronger nation.”

UKRAINIAN JEWISH LEADER SAYS COMMUNITY IN DANGER OF EXTINCTION (VERY VERY VERY VERY GOOD!!!!!)

The future of Ukraine’s Jewish community “doesn’t look very bright” and is in danger of disappearing altogether, according to one of its leaders, who ended a four-day visit to Israel on Thursday.

Eduard Dolinsky, executive director of the Kiev-based Ukrainian Jewish Committee, painted a bleak picture of a a struggling and scattered community to The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday afternoon.

He was visiting Israel together with the committee’s president, Ukrainian MP Olexander Feldman, on a trip hosted by the Israeli-Jewish Congress, which seeks to reinforce the bonds between Israel and Jewish communities in Europe One of the main purposes of the trip was to try to heal a diplomatic rift caused between the two countries after Ukraine voted in favor of the anti-settlements United Nation Security Council resolution in December, angering Israel. But the pair also sought to gain support from Israel in strengthening Ukraine’s Jewish community.

“The Ukrainian Jewish community is in crisis,” Dolinsky states matter-of-factly, referring to the ongoing war in Donbass and the country’s dire economic situation as major factors.

While many Donbass Jews fled to Israel, Kiev or other areas of the country, some still remain in the conflict-stricken region.

The dispersed Jewish community lacks a solid foundation and, according to Dolinsky, is suffering an identity crisis.

“Either we should decide that the last one turns off the light, or we need to continue our struggle,” he tells the Post.

For the latter option, which he clearly prefers, he believes Israel can help.

Estimates of the Jewish population in Ukraine vary wildly, but Dolinsky puts it at around 250,000.

“We simply don’t see the future, where we are going as a Jewish community,” he explains. “I believe the problems of development, education, youth and identity need to be addressed.” The community lacks organization and structure.

“We have no professional resources for addressing these problems and we we could do with the help of Israel.

“Either Israel sees as just a resource for aliya or it will help us,” he says pointedly. “We need an open discussion to promote a plan for the Jewish community… a discussion between the Diaspora, Israel and Ukraine about problems of the particular community.”

The Israeli-Jewish Congress seeks to aid the organization with this endeavor, by giving it a voice with Israeli officials.

The Israeli-based organization helped facilitate a number of the meetings between their Ukrainian guests and various Israeli officials and decision makers, which included representatives from the Knesset, the Foreign Ministry, the Diaspora Affairs Ministry and Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky.

Educational initiatives and bilateral engagement on the professional and community levels, as well as on the diplomatic, are the answers Dolinsky and Feldman seek.

As a gesture toward trying to repair the fractured Israel- Ukraine relations, Feldman has proposed a bill to move the Ukrainian Embassy to Jerusalem.

While the chances of that law passing may be slim, Dolinksy stresses its significance in transmitting the message that Ukraine desires better relations with Israel. The importance of a strong Ukraine-Israel alliance is a point repeatedly emphasized by Dolinsky and Feldman, both back home and during their meetings in Israel.

On Wednesday, Feldman welcomed an apparent thawing of the ice, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko spoke on the phone and agreed to further strengthen the Israel-Ukraine friendship.

A scheduled visit by Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman had been canceled by Israel following the Security Council vote, but after Wednesday’s conversation it was put back on the table.

Feldman remarked that he is “very happy that this communication happened and relations between the two countries will develop in the same trustful and friendly manner as it was before.”

While political relations may be on the mend, Ukraine’s Jewish community remains hungry for a stronger sense of being backed by Israel. “There is a feeling of a lack of support from Israel, though we are very pro-Israel,” Dolinsky lamented.

Noting that almost all Ukrainian Jews have friends and family in Israel, he said their connection to the country is all the more strong.

Antisemitism and Holocaust denial are among the struggles the community is grappling with. Dolinsky flags a failure by his country in monitoring antisemitism, partly stemming from a lack of any definition of antisemitism and hate crimes.

He points to numerous instances of vandalism of Holocaust mass graves and Jewish cemeteries, as well as continued glorification of nationalist Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

On New Year’s Day, for instance, a march to mark the birthday of Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera saw participants yelling antisemitic slogans, including ‘Juden raus’ (Jews out!) in German. “It was guarded by hundreds of police… but after the march police told journalists they hadn’t seen any antisemitic incidents,” Dolinsky recalls.

According to Dolinsky, the glorification of Holocaust-denying Ukrainian nationalist groups is “getting worse by the day.”

“It’s an absolutely unacceptable situation to which Israel does not react,” he said. One idea is a ban on antisemites from entering Israel, he said.

“We want Israel to send a strong message of support to Jewish communities that there is a state that cares about them, because we are trying to fight against antisemites and Holocaust deniers, but we are very limited.”

IRAN MOCKS TRUMP IN RESPONSE TO WHITE HOUSE THREAT

WASHINGTON – Iran responded on Thursday to a warning from the Trump administration over its continued ballistic missile testing by mocking the new US president as a ranting extremist that no one takes seriously.

A senior adviser to Iran’s supreme leader said the Islamic Republic would proceed “vigorously” with its missile program, despite the threat from US National Security Adviser Michael Flynn that Iran was officially being put “on notice” over its recent activities. Senior Trump officials later in the day said the administration is considering a “whole range of options” on how to proceed should Iran continue with its missile testing.

 

Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency quoted a dismissive Ali Akbar Velayati characterizing Donald Trump as an “extremist” who has alienated the majority of Americans.

Trump followed up on Flynn’s Wednesday statement with a tweet the following morning: “Iran has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile,” he wrote. “Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the US made with them!”
Donald J. Trump ✔ @realDonaldTrump
Iran has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile.Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the U.S. made with them!
5:34 AM – 2 Feb 2017
17,859 17,859 Retweets 82,462 82,462 likes

Capitol Hill aides say the administration is entertaining new sanctions on Iran over its “nonnuclear activities” – a move that would technically be allowed by the international nuclear agreement brokered with Iran in 2015, which ended all nuclear-related sanctions.

Such a proposal was floated this week by Republican House members, who introduced a bill titled the Iran Nonnuclear Sanctions Act of 2017. The bill – proposed by co-chairs of the House Republican Israel Caucus – would sanction Iran for its support for terrorism, human rights abuses and its ballistic missile activities.

If passed, the legislation would target all individuals, companies and organizations that touch Iran’s ballistic missile program; Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which coordinates Iran’s proxy organizations fighting battles across the region; Mahan Air, a subsidiary of Iran’s official civilian airline that is often used to transfer military aid and personnel to the Syrian regime; and Iran’s “direct and indirect” access to the US financial system.

Donald J. Trump ✔ @realDonaldTrump
Iran was on its last legs and ready to collapse until the U.S. came along and gave it a life-line in the form of the Iran Deal: $150 billion
5:39 AM – 2 Feb 2017
20,219 20,219 Retweets 77,472 77,472 likes

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NETANYAHU TO DISCUSS REGIONAL THREATS WITH MAY, THEN TRUMP

With President Donald Trump signaling a more muscular US policy toward Iran, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that he will discuss the need for different approaches to regional threats when he meets next week with British Prime Minister Theresa May, and with Trump the week after.

Netanyahu is scheduled to travel to London on Sunday and will meet with May the next day, the first meeting between the two since May became prime minister in July.

Government officials indicated that this meeting, which will take place a little more than a week before Netanyahu goes to Washington to meet with Trump, is part of an effort to revive a triangular Israeli, British, US axis that existed to a certain degree in the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan was president of the United States and Margaret Thatcher was prime minister of Britain.

Netanyahu mentioned these upcoming visits at a memorial ceremony in Ariel for Likud MK Ron Nachman, saying that while he is always careful not to overuse the word “historic,” his meeting with Trump has “a great deal of importance” for Israel and the Jewish people.

The prime minister made mention of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s comments on Wednesday that the US was putting Iran “on notice” and that its provocations, like Sunday’s test of a ballistic missile, would not be ignored. Flynn’s comments were followed by a tweet from Trump, saying, “Iran has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile. Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the US made with them.”

Netanyahu, who posted a video warning of Iranian threats in an attempt to put Iran squarely back on the agenda the night after Trump took office, said that Flynn’s comments about the need to stand up to Iran’s aggression were similar to what he heard from Trump in their telephone conversation two weeks ago, and during their meeting in New York in September.

Regarding May, Netanyahu said that he will discuss with her “the changing reality in our region, and the need to adopt new, common approaches to face the big challenges in our region, first and foremost the threat from Iran.”

TOP DEMOCRAT TO ‘POST’: TRUMP DREW REDLINE ON IRAN

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration has drawn a clear redline against Iran continuing its international ballistic missile program, Ben Cardin, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.

“The president of the United States said it’s not going to happen – to me, that’s a redline,” Cardin said. “I’m not sure its a good idea – I wouldn’t have said it.”

 

Cardin commented in response to a statement by Michael Flynn, US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, which put Iran “on notice” over its missile testing and its targeting of Saudi and Emirati assets through its Yemeni proxy organization, the Houthi rebels.

Flynn did not specify what actions the Trump administration plans on taking in response, which worries Cardin, who has long expressed concern with Iran’s regional designs.

The senator was attending an event for the Muslim Jewish Advisory Council on Capitol Hill, where he made remarks slamming the president’s recent executive order banning refugees and nationals of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the country.

The American Jewish community has roundly criticized the order, and warned against the Trump administration going one step further – implementing religious tests at America’s borders. The Israeli government has not yet commented on the move.

“Israel has a lot of issues that it deals with – it’s for them to make decisions on what they want to comment on internationally,” Cardin said. “But I think that a religious test is wrong on any basis, but as Jews, it makes us even more vulnerable – because we’re minorities, too.

“I think there’s a recognition that we all want to keep our country safe,” he said. “What this executive order is doing is making our country less safe. I’m convinced of that. It’ll help with terrorist recruitment, it’ll encourage self-radicalization and it’ll jeopardize Americans’ safety traveling abroad. So I think that we have to speak out.”

The man behind the curtain, Bannon is quiet power in Oval Office

WASHINGTON (AP) — People are beginning to pay more attention to the man behind the curtain.

It is a mark of Steve Bannon’s extraordinary sway in the Trump White House that a man who has spoken so little in public over the past two weeks is getting so much credit — and blame — for what’s going on.

The conservative media executive’s fingerprints are on virtually every significant move taken by President Donald Trump, from Trump’s sweeping order to suspend the country’s refugee program and block visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries to the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

Trump raised eyebrows and hackles when he gave Bannon a seat on the powerful National Security Council Principals Committee. Bannon, a shaggy-haired agitator-turned-insider eager to make a lasting mark on Washington, was a strong advocate for Gorsuch, according to a person who spoke with him recently. That person spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss a private conversation.

Bannon’s early moves to consolidate power haven’t come without pushback.

In this Jan. 27, 2017, photo, from left, White House senior advisers Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon and National Security Adviser Michael Flynn are seen in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington during a meeting between President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May. The Trump administration is playing down the significance of a National Security Council restructuring. But the president is treading new ground in making Bannon a regular at NSC meetings. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

In a phone call Monday, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Acting Secretary of State Tom Shannon asked the White House to take a back seat in cleaning up confusion caused by the chaotic rollout of the immigration order, according to two US officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about internal government discussions.

White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters disputed the portrayal of the call with Homeland Security, saying it was the White House that reached out and asked other agencies to take the lead.

Still, the extent of Bannon’s influence was underscored by Trump’s striking decision over the weekend to add his name to the roster of top national security hands who meet on the Principals Committee, not typically the province of political strategist.

“Steve’s the main ideological mover of the administration. He’s the chief ideological officer and he has a strong point of view,” said Christopher Ruddy, the CEO of Newsmax and a friend of the president. “I think the bond is their world view.”

The 64-year-old Bannon shares Trump’s business and media experience, as well as his dramatic flair. He’s a fellow disruptor who helped Trump capitalize on the populist anger and frustration that propelled them both to the White House.

 In this Jan. 31, 2017 file photo, White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon arrives for a meeting with President Donald Trump on cyber security in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. Bannon, outside agitator-turned-inside adviser, emerges as the most influential voice in Donald Trump's White House, driving policies on immigration, national security and taxes. His voice was key in Trump's Supreme Court pick. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Rarely seen or heard during Trump’s campaign, Bannon is now a fixture.

If Trump is moving quickly to overthrow the established order, Bannon is the one fomenting rebellion.

If White House chief of staff Reince Priebus is there to maintain order and focus, Bannon is there to wage war.

“He wants to be the intellectual, strategist bomb-thrower,” says former House Speaker and informal Trump adviser Newt Gingrich, who sees Bannon as the perfect ally to the president in disrupting the status quo. “He does not want to be the guy who makes the trains run on time.”

Bannon has cultivated a near-diabolical image in his rare, headline-making interviews.

He recently told The New York Times he sees the media as “the opposition party,” and advised the press to “keep its mouth shut” after it underestimated Trump.

“Darkness is good,” he told The Hollywood Reporter shortly after Trump’s win. “Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power.”

As Trump’s chief strategist and senior counselor, Bannon had a hand in crafting the president’s inaugural address and in selecting his Cabinet. He’s bringing in aides from the conservative Breitbart media empire where he ruled before Trump tapped him to direct his campaign.

Trump’s move to add Bannon to the National Security Council has drawn howls from Democrats and even some Republicans. Bernie Sanders called it “dangerous and unprecedented.” Republican Sen. John McCain called it a “radical departure” from recent history. Former Clinton adviser Robert Reich called Bannon “nuts and malicious.”

Former deputy campaign manager David Bossie, who introduced Trump to Bannon in 2011, says the two got to know each other as Trump appeared multiple times on Bannon’s Breitbart radio show over the ensuing years.

“They believe in each other’s agendas, which is why they have grown so close,” says Bossie.

Still the two are an unusual match. While Trump is not an avid reader, Bossie describes Bannon as “a carnivore of books” who’s always reading and talking history — ancient Greece, the Civil War, World War II and more.

Bannon took over Breitbart News after the sudden death of its founder in 2012 left people wondering what would become of the website. By then, the former US Navy officer and Harvard MBA had left behind Goldman Sachs and investment banking, capitalized on an entertainment deal that left him with a share of “Seinfeld” royalties, founded an institute to ferret out government corruption and created a number of his own films, including paeans to Sarah Palin, the tea party movement and Ronald Reagan.

Under Bannon’s guidance, Breitbart grew into one the right’s most powerful voices as it took on establishment Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan. Critics, however, accused Bannon of allowing the website to become a platform for the white nationalist sentiments of the alt-right — a charge Bannon has denied.

His politics appear to skew closer to European, right-wing views than the typical American conservative agenda. He’s described himself as an “economic nationalist” and has long advocated for closing off the nation’s borders. We’re in the midst of an “outright war,” he’s said, “between “jihadist Islamic fascism” and the “Judeo-Christian West.”

Critics see more self-interest than devotion to conservatism in Bannon’s history.

“He’s really good at ingratiating himself to prominent people,” says Ben Shapiro, a former Breitbart editor who’s now a Bannon critic. Shapiro lists Palin, former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and website founder Andrew Breitbart as past subjects of Bannon’s attention. After Breitbart died, adds Shapiro, Bannon began using the website to promote Trump — “and then he was able to use that to enter into the halls of power.”

Another critic, Ben Howe, a filmmaker and conservative blogger who once considered Bannon a mentor and friend, says that while Bannon cultivates the unassuming, rumpled look in public, “he’s nothing like that behind the scenes,” talking nonstop and screaming at those who cross him.

Bannon, he says, “just looks at Trump as a good vehicle to get into power so that he can accomplish his objectives.”

Iran said to test second nuclear-capable missile

Iran reportedly tested a home-made cruise missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead on Sunday, the same day it shot a ballistic missile, drawing furious condemnation from Israel and the United States.

According to a Thursday report by German newspaper Die Welt, the test of the Soumar missile was the first launch of the rocket since its existence was revealed in March 2015.

The report came a day after a top White House official said Iran had been put “on notice” for its launch of a ballistic missile on Sunday, in apparent contravention of a UN Security Council resolution.

The Soumar, with a range of up to 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles), flew 600 kilometers (373 miles) on its maiden voyage, according to the German report.

Iran‘s Soumar cruise missile, unveiled in March 2016. (YouTube screenshot)

The rocket is reportedly a re-engineered Russian KH-55 cruise missile, which is capable of reaching Israel from Iran, and has the advantage that it can be launched from ships, aircraft and submarines.

The missiles are not covered by UN Resolution 2231, which was passed shortly after the nuclear deal with Iran was signed in July 2015 and calls on Tehran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.” Iran argues that its ballistic missile program is also not covered by the resolution because it does not have a nuclear weapons program.

However, the test is likely to be viewed in Israel and the US as another aggressive maneuver by Tehran to expand its missile program.

On Sunday, lran launched a 4,000-kilometer (2,500-mile) range ballistic missile that drew immediate concern from the United Nations Security Council and outrage from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Terming the test a “flagrant breach” of UN Security Council resolutions, Netanyahu on Monday demanded the reimposition of sanctions against Iran and said he would discuss with US President Donald Trump a reevaluation of the “entire failed nuclear accord” that the Obama administration and other P5+1 countries agreed with Iran in 2015.

On Wednesday, White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn issued a stern yet ambiguous warning to Iran on Wednesday for testing ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads and after Iran-supported Houthi rebels attacked a Saudi naval vessel. Taking the podium at a White House press briefing, Flynn read a statement that declared the United States was “officially putting Iran on notice.”

Iranian Soumar cruise missiles on display at their unveiling in March 2016. (YouTube screenshot)

Asked to clarify exactly what that meant, White House press secretary Sean Spicer did not give a detailed explanation, but told reporters the US wanted to send a message that Tehran could not engage in these activities without eliciting an American response.

Trump promised during his election campaign both to “dismantle the disastrous deal” and to “force the Iranians back to the bargaining table to make a much better deal.”

However, on Sunday he told Riyadh he would “vigorously enforce” the agreement.

GOP House members (White Freemasons) float bill to sanction Iran for non-nuclear activity

WASHINGTON — As the Trump administration warned that Iran is “formally on notice” for its recent testing of ballistic missiles, Republican House members on Thursday introduced legislation to sanction Tehran for its non-nuclear provocations.

New York Rep. Lee Zeldin (R), Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam (R), New Jersey Rep. Leonard Lance (R) and Colorado Rep. Doug Lamborn (R) presented the Iran Non-Nuclear Sanctions Act of 2017 on Thursday, a measure that would impose sanctions against Tehran for supporting international terrorism, abusing human rights and testing ballistic missiles, which Iran is already barred from doing under UN Security Council Resolution 2231.

The bill comes just over a week after GOP senators re-introduced legislation that seeks to sanction the Islamic Republic for its non-nuclear activities and a day after the White House alerted Iranian leaders that their behavior could elicit a robust American response.

On Thursday morning, President Donald Trump tweeted that Iran “has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile. Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the US made with them!” — echoing similar comments by National Security Advisor Michael Flynn made the day before.

“We wanted to be very clear that we felt their actions were both provocative and in violation,” Press Secretary Sean Spicer said on Wednesday, “and making sure that they understood that we weren’t going to sit by and not act on those actions.”

US President Donald Trump in the White House February 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. (AFP/ Brendan Smialowski)

Trump also said on Thursday that “nothing is off the table” when it comes to responding to Iran, using a phrase Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has often used vis-à-vis Tehran’s quest for nuclear power for years.

Netanyahu on Monday demanded the reimposition of sanctions against Iran, terming the test a “flagrant breach” of UN Security Council resolutions, and said he would discuss with Trump a reevaluation of the “entire failed nuclear accord” during their February 15 meeting in Washington.

Beyond expanding sanctions of Iran’s behavior, the House bill, if passed and enacted, would create a Treasury Department watchlist for entities in which the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has an ownership interest of less than 25%, and provide authorization for companies to divest in entities that invest in the IRGC or IRGC-owned companies.

“The United States and its allies must hold Iran accountable for its behavior and address all of the Iranians’ other very destabilizing activities,” said Zeldin, one of two Jewish Republican members of Congress, in a statement.

Iranian Soumar cruise missiles on display at their unveiling in March 2016. (YouTube screenshot)

House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday said he would support the imposition of additional sanctions on Iran.

“I would be in favor of additional sanctions on Iran,” Ryan said at a weekly press conference. “We need to have a tough-on-Iran policy…We should stop appeasing Iran.”

Also on Thursday, the Reuters news agency reported the Trump administration was planning to sanction multiple Iranian entities following Tehran’s latest missile test. An unnamed official said the penalty would be applied in a way that does not violate the 2015 nuclear accord the US struck with Iran and P5+1 world powers.

On January 29, Iran is said to have tested a 4,000-kilometer (2,500-mile) ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. On Thursday, the German newspaper Die Welt reported that Iran also tested a home-made cruise missile with the same capabilities: the Soumar, with a range of up to 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles), flew 600 kilometers (373 miles) on its maiden voyage, according to the German report.

The missiles are not covered by UN Resolution 2231, which was passed shortly after the nuclear deal with Iran was signed in July 2015 and calls on Tehran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”

Iran argues that its ballistic missile program is also not covered by the resolution because it does not have a nuclear weapons program.

US said set to sanction 25 Iranian entities after missile test

The US is reportedly expected to impose sanctions on over two dozen Iranian entities following the Islamic Republic’s ballistic missile test this week, in a move that could come as soon as Friday.

The fresh sanctions would be introduced in a way that would not violate the 2015 nuclear agreement that lifted international punitive measures on Tehran in exchange for curbing its nuclear program.

A source familiar with the issue told Reuters on Thursday that 17 Iranian entities have been “designated” by the US for activities related to ballistic missile development and launches and another eight were marked for terror-related activities.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the measures have been under consideration for some time and that Iran’s January 29 launch of a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead had helped US President Donald Trump make the decision.

Earlier in the day, Trump had warned that “nothing is off the table,” when it came to a US response to Iran’s controversial test of a ballistic missile, followed reportedly by the launch of a home-made cruise missile, also capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.

The US president had also tweeted that “Iran has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile. Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the US made with them!” — echoing remarks made Wednesday by National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

US President Donald Trump in the White House February 2, 2017 in Washington, DC. (AFP/ Brendan Smialowski)

Trump’s comments followed a string of remarks by GOP senators, including the House Speaker, backing additional sanctions on Iran in the wake of the missile test, which prompted an emergency UN Security Council session and a call by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reimpose sanctions.

“I would be in favor of additional sanctions on Iran,” Ryan said at a weekly press conference on Thursday. “We need to have a tough-on-Iran policy…We should stop appeasing Iran.”

“I think the last administration appeased Iran far too much. I think they went too far with Iran and I think as a result Iran is far more activist than it otherwise would be,” said Ryan.

In this Sept. 21, 2016 file photo, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

“Iran, don’t forget … is the biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Iran writes on their missiles in Farsi, Hebrew and English ‘Death to America’, ‘Death to Israel’ and then tests them. So this is not a friendly country that has global peace or national security interests in their minds,” the US House speaker added.

Also Thursday, Senator Bob Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Reuters: “I think there’s a lot that we can do, now, that we were unable to do before to push back against Iran,” adding that the committee was “in the early stages” of working on legislation related to the nuclear deal.

“The administration, thankfully, is going to follow through on appropriately holding Iran accountable for the violations that are taking place,” he said.

Senator Lindsey Graham joined the chorus Thursday, telling CNN that “the world should not only condemn Iran but we should have multi-national sanctions against the regime for their continued violation of the UN Security Council resolutions regarding their missile program.”

On January 29, Iran is said to have tested a 4,000-kilometer (2,500-mile) ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. On Thursday, the German newspaper Die Welt reported that Iran also tested a home-made cruise missile with the same capabilities: the Soumar, with a range of up to 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles), flew 600 kilometers (373 miles) on its maiden voyage, according to the German report.

The rocket is reportedly a re-engineered Russian KH-55 cruise missile, which is capable of reaching Israel from Iran, and has the advantage that it can be launched from ships, aircraft and submarines.

A missile launched from the Alborz mountains in Iran on March 9, 2016, reportedly inscribed in Hebrew, 'Israel must be wiped out.' (Fars News)

The missiles are not covered by UN Resolution 2231, which was passed shortly after the nuclear deal with Iran was signed in July 2015 and calls on Tehran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.” Iran argues that its ballistic missile program is also not covered by the resolution because it does not have a nuclear weapons program.

During his campaign, Trump promised both to “dismantle the disastrous deal” and to “force the Iranians back to the bargaining table to make a much better deal, but in a call to the Saudi king on Sunday promised to “vigorously enforce” the controversial agreement.

Netanyahu on Thursday demanded the reimposition of sanctions against Iran, terming the test a “flagrant breach” of UN Security Council resolutions, and said he would discuss with Trump a reevaluation of the “entire failed nuclear accord” during their February 15 meeting in Washington.

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