Day: February 5, 2017

US Set To Expand South China Sea Conflict


By Joseph Thomas

Triumphalism followed the election of US President Donald Trump, particularly among those opposed to US foreign policy under US President Barack Obama. In particular, hope was rekindled that America would withdraw from the many, provocative conflicts it was cultivating, ranging from the Middle East to East Asia.

However, triumphalism and hope are now dashed, as the new US administration moves clearly and in earnest to not only continue on with these confrontations, but expand them.

For students of history, particularly those following events in Asia Pacific, the prospect of the US moving its confrontation with China forward for control over the region is hardly a surprise.

A Quick History Lesson of US Imperialism in Asia

The United States had occupied the Philippines, declaring it a US territory from 1898-1946. It had also been involved in the military occupation and several armed clashes in China with Chinese forces, including during the Second Opium War and the Boxer Rebellion. Such conflicts saw Chinese fighters attempt to remove by force foreign influence, including supposedly Christian missionaries used to impose US and European sociopolitical control over China.

During this period of overt American colonisation throughout Asia Pacific, the annexation of Taiwan was also considered, as an American analogue of Britain’s annexation of Hong Kong.

In Thomas Cox’ 1973 book, Harbingers of Change: American Merchants and the Formosa [Taiwan] Annexation Scheme, published by the University of California Press, Cox wrote:

Since it appeared unlikely that Taiwan would long remain a part of the Chinese empire and there was ample justification for action by the United States, [US Commissioner in China, Peter] Parker argued that the United States should move quickly. “I believe Formosa and the world will be better for the former coming under a civilized power,” he wrote.

It should be noted that Parker’s advocacy of the US annexation of Taiwan was backed not by political ideology, though it was certainly presented as such publicly, but by US business interests at the time, particularly those of the Nye Brothers, merchants involved heavily in US-Chinese trade, including the movement of opium across the region.

Regional dynamics would change just before, during, and immediately after World War 2, with a resurgence of localised power and independence movements ousting Western colonial powers. This included the ousting of British and French holdings across the region such as in Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia and across Indochina which included Laos, Cambodia and of course Vietnam.

The ousting by force of French administrators from Vietnam brought the United States back into the region more directly and on an unprecedented scale.

And while the United States would claim its reasons for intervening in Southeast Asia were predicated on preventing a “domino effect” of spreading communism, leaked documents known as the “Pentagon Papers” made it abundantly clear that America was simply continuing its hegemonic pursuits vis-a-vis China in an effort to encircle, contain and eventually subdue a rising Beijing.

The US State Department’s own Office of the Historian, in a section titled, “189. Draft Memorandum From Secretary of Defense McNamara to President Johnson,” dated 1965, states explicitly:

The February decision to bomb North Vietnam and the July approval of Phase I deployments make sense only if they are in support of a long-run United States policy to contain Communist China.

The papers openly advocate US global hegemony, stating:

…the role we have inherited and have chosen for ourselves for the future is to extend our influence and power to thwart ideologies that are hostile to these aims and to move the world, as best we can, in the direction we prefer. Our ends cannot be achieved and our leadership role cannot be played if some powerful and virulent nation—whether Germany, Japan, Russia or China—is allowed to organize their part of the world according to a philosophy contrary to ours.

And again, just like during deliberations over the possible annexation of Taiwan during the 19th century, US ambitions in Asia Pacific may be rhetorically presented as pursuit of a particular ideology, but are in reality underpinned by economic interests which seek to move into and subsequently dominate markets globally, displacing anything and everything preexisting, through coercive diplomacy, or through indirect or direct military force.

21st Century American Hegemony

Fast-forward to the 21st century. During the administration of former US President Barack Obama, the US “pivoted” toward Asia in an attempt to reassert itself in a region quickly escaping out from under what remained of over a century of US-European hegemony.

The pivot failed, with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) being categorically resisted and rejected across Asia, and feigned US rapprochement with several of China’s neighbours turned into confrontations across Southeast Asia as Washington attempted to replace governments friendly with Beijing with those that would toe an anti-Beijing line.

In an attempt to conceal what is a decades-long agenda, and the continuation of Obama’s “pivot,” US President Donald Trump’s counsellor Steven Bannon, as revealed by a Guardian article titled, “Steve Bannon: ‘We’re going to war in the South China Sea … no doubt’,” would claim that China, along with “Islam,” presented a menace to the “Judeo-Christian” West.

This ideological rhetoric is aimed at distracting the public, convincing them that US policy toward China is now determined by Trump’s ideological, xenophobic tendencies, rather than merely the latest logical iteration of Obama’s “pivot,” and the Vietnam-era’s full-scale military containment strategy.

Also noteworthy in Bannon’s incomplete thought is his omission of so-called Christian missionaries in China and the role they played in the attempted invasion, occupation and subjugation of China during the 19th century by US-European interests.

The Guardian would report:

Bannon’s sentiments and his position in Trump’s inner circle add to fears of a military confrontation with China, after secretary of state Rex Tillerson said that the US would deny China access to the seven artificial islands. Experts warned any blockade would lead to war.

Bannon is clearly wary of China’s growing clout in Asia and beyond, framing the relationship as entirely adversarial, predicting a global culture clash in the coming years.

“You have an expansionist Islam and you have an expansionist China. Right? They are motivated. They’re arrogant. They’re on the march. And they think the Judeo-Christian west is on the retreat,” Bannon said during a February 2016 radio show.

And while the Guardian attempts to pose as sounding the alarm over the Trump administration’s seemingly xenophobic and confrontational stance, its own omission of America’s longstanding attempts to encircle, contain and subjugate China regardless of who occupies the White House or what rhetoric accompanies each iteration of US policy toward China, serves as complicity.

For policymakers across Asia, understanding history and the special interests that have and still do drive American foreign policy is key to seeing through inflammatory rhetoric, and essential in analysing and preparing solutions for continued attempts by Washington to reassert itself in a region an ocean away from its own shores, in a modern-day continuation of Western colonialism the nations of Asia Pacific have fought hard to escape and rise above over the past generation.

Joseph Thomas is chief editor of Thailand-based geopolitical journal, The New Atlas and contributor to the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”, where this article first appeared.


Vsevolod Ivanov’s Fantastic Visions of the Ancient Slavic World


Renegade Editor’s Note: We have featured this amazing painter in a gallery before, but this video contains new paintings and great music.

Vsevolod Ivanov is a painter who imagines an ancient Rus that is far different than the history we have been told. His idyllic and fantastic Slavic world contains gods, flying ships, dragons, mythic beasts, massive log castles, and other elements found in tales of our pre-history. He said that he believes the history of ancient Russia today is very fabricated, so he collects old tales and legends to create his own version of Russian history.

Illinois (White Freemasons) warns EU on applying UN resolution that seems to alllow settlements boycotts

WASHINGTON (JTA) — In the wake of the U.N. anti-settlements resolution, the governor of Illinois warned the European Union that companies complying with boycotts of Israel or of its West Bank settlements face divestment by the governments of Illinois and other states.

Gov. Bruce Rauner, in his Jan. 31 letter to Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, outlines Illinois law banning state pension plans from investing in companies that boycott Israel.

“Under our law, the term ‘boycott Israel’ means ‘engaging in actions that are politically motivated and are intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or otherwise limit commercial relations with the state of Israel or companies based in Israel or in territories controlled by the State of Israel,’” Rauner wrote in the letter, which his office released to JTA on Feb. 3.

“Therefore, any attempt by the European Union to direct or encourage companies (including financial institutions) within its jurisdiction, to participate in such activity, including the adoption of sanctions pursuant to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, may put EU firms at risk of violating Illinois law,” said the letter.

The U.N. Security Council resolution which passed in December, calls upon member states “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967,” which some have interpreted as a green light to boycott settlement goods.

Rauner in the letter noted that Illinois had identified some companies that participate in Israel boycotts according to how it is defined in Illinois law. At least two of those companies appear to have been listed purely for boycotting settlement goods.

He also notes that since Illinois was the first to pass a law banning its pensions systems from dealing with companies that boycott Israel, in July 2015, a number of other of states have done so as well.

“I urge the council to think carefully before pursuing any further action regarding UNSC 2334 as such action may force states like Illinois to divest from EU-based firms,” Rauner said.

The European Council is the body that defines the European Union’s political direction.

So far, at least ten states have passed anti-boycott laws, and most of them extend the bans to boycotting settlement goods.

Within the pro-Israel community, centrist and right-wing groups back a broad application of activism targeting the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, while liberal pro-Israel groups like J Street and Americans for Peace Now, oppose BDS targeting Israel within the green line, but differentiate it from boycotting settlement goods.

Civil liberties groups also oppose the laws, saying that banning boycotts inhibits free speech. The American Civil Liberties Union has written to at least eight state legislatures opposing anti-BDS laws.

Trump reversing course on settlements and Iran

WASHINGTON (JTA) – Israeli settlements are no big problem. Wait — maybe they are, after all.

The Iran deal is trash. No, the deal is here to stay, despite being “weak.”

On Thursday, the White House pronounced on Israel’s announced settlement expansion that it “may not help” peace, and it put Iran “on notice” for testing ballistic missiles and announced new sanctions while the president fought with the regime on Twitter.

Was the settlements announcement a back-to-Obama moment, auguring renewed U.S.-Israel tensions? Was it a return to Bush — W, that is — setting the stage for a compromise and anticipating resolution of an issue that has dogged U.S.-Israel relations for decades?

Is the Iran nuclear deal, reviled by the Netanyahu government, on its last legs? Or is it getting a new lease on life?

Let’s have a look at what President Donald Trump said and what was actually done.


What’s new:

The Trump administration for the first time since his election pronounced on settlements.

“While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal,” the White House said in a statement.

Back to Obama?

No, not even close.

The Obama administration repeatedly and pronouncedly said settlements were an impediment to peace, and into its final days, it allowed a U.N. Security Council resolution to pass that condemned the settlements.

“It is not this resolution that is isolating Israel, it is the pernicious policy of settlement construction that is making peace impossible,” former Secretary of State John Kerry said in December in one of his final speeches in the job.

Back to Bush?

Closer, but not quite.

Focusing on “the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders” sounds a lot like the policy President George W. Bush is said to have endorsed after he sent then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a letter in 2004, saying the United States recognized that some settlements constituted “realities on the ground.”

Israeli and U.S. officials at the time said Bush quietly agreed that this formulation would allow for “natural growth” in existing settlements. (What’s at dispute is whether Bush adhered to this formula throughout the rest of his presidency. Some officials have said he believed that Sharon took too many liberties with what constituted “natural growth” and that by the time Bush left office in 2009, the agreement to abide “natural growth” was not active.)

The departure from the policies of George W. Bush – considered, with Bill Clinton, the friendliest president to Israel – and their predecessors is in the use of “impediment.” Bush used the word in 2008, at least to describe settlements built beyond existing settlement boundaries.

Sean Spicer, Trump’s spokesman, appeared to say Friday during a briefing that what’s built — established settlement, recent outpost, the whole shebang — can stay in place. The key word is “current.”

“We don’t believe that the existence of current settlements is an impediment to peace, but we don’t believe the construction or expansion of settlements beyond current borders is helpful,” he said.

Another major departure from the policies of both Clinton and George W. Bush is the absence of any mention of a two-state solution. Trump has said he wants to broker a deal, and has tapped his Jewish son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as his point man. But as of Friday, Spicer would not be pinned down on two states.

“At the end of the day the goal is peace, and that’s going to be a subject that they discuss, and that’s all I’m going to say,” he said in response to a reporter’s question, referring to the White House meeting scheduled for Feb. 15 between Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

This might not be the final word. There was a jarring sentence at the end of Thursday’s White House statement.

“The Trump administration has not taken an official position on settlement activity,” it said, rounding out a statement that of itself was an official position on settlement activity. Translation: Wait until Netanyahu and Trump pow-wow and we may know more.


What’s new:

On Sunday, Iran tested ballistic missiles. On Wednesday, National Security Adviser Mike Flynn said Iran was “on notice.” The next two days, Trump followed up with tough-talking tweets. The Iranians dished back, also on Twitter.

Back to Obama?

More or less, without the rhetoric.

The last time Iran tested a ballistic missile, in January 2016, Obama slapped sanctions on 11 entities and individuals. On Friday, Trump more than doubled that to 25.

The effect is the same: An acknowledgment that the missile tests do not directly violate the Iran nuclear deal, but a reminder nonetheless that because they do violate U.N. Security Council resolutions, they will trigger penalties.

Spicer acknowledged Friday that the sanctions were an Obama redux, noting that their architect in the last administration, Adam Szubin, who ran the sanctions regime for Obama, is acting Treasury secretary.

The sanctions were “in the pipeline,” Spicer said, and Szubin had lined them up well before Trump was inaugurated in anticipation that Iran would launch a provocation of some kind.

“He served in the last administration,” Spicer said of Szubin, “and these kind of sanctions don’t happen quickly.”

That said, there was a ratcheting up of rhetoric. Szubin, as an Obama official a year ago, was specific in describing the penalties.

“We have consistently made clear that the United States will vigorously press sanctions against Iranian activities outside of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — including those related to Iran’s support for terrorism, regional destabilization, human rights abuses and ballistic missile program,” he said at the time.

Flynn, by contrast, was more vague – and, as a result, at least seemed more threatening.

“As of today, we are officially putting Iran on notice,” he said Wednesday.

Announcing the sanctions Friday, Flynn again sounded a warning but did not make clear any precise actions.

“The Trump Administration will no longer tolerate Iran’s provocations that threaten our interests,” he said. “The days of turning a blind eye to Iran’s hostile and belligerent actions toward the United States and the world community are over.”

Trump sounded a similarly belligerent if unspecific tone on Twitter on Thursday and Friday, and like Flynn took swipes at the Obama administration for being too soft on the Iranians.

“Iran is playing with fire,” Trump said in his tweet Friday. “They don’t appreciate how ‘kind’ President Obama was to them. Not me!”

Iran is playing with fire – they don’t appreciate how “kind” President Obama was to them. Not me!

Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister who was his country’s lead negotiator in the 2015 deal exchanging sanctions relief for a nuclear rollback, replied quickly.

“We will never use our weapons against anyone, except in self-defense,” he said in the same forum. “Let us see if any of those who complain can make the same statement.”

We will never use our weapons against anyone, except in self-defense. Let us see if any of those who complain can make the same statement.

Spicer was asked at his briefing whether the tough talk meant Trump was ready to scrap the Iran nuclear deal.

“The deal that was struck was a bad deal, that we gave Iran too much and we got too little for it,” he said. Spicer did not say, however, whether Trump was ready to take that leap.

That’s consistent with the posture of Trump’s secretary of defense, James Mattis, who has agreed the deal is weak but advised that scrapping it would be unwise.


Trump administration officials were caught off guard this week when they learned Israel was rolling out yet more plans for settlement construction in the West Bank, just as they were setting a date for Benjamin Netanyahu’s first official meeting with Donald Trump in Washington.

Israel had not run its massive housing announcements by the White House – and the administration quickly came to believe they were boxing the new president in. Trump and his team were first starting to formulate his vision for peace in the region and America’s role in brokering it as they laid the groundwork for Netanyahu’s visit.


White House officials privately acknowledged that their silence on the issue of Israeli settlement activity was interpreted in Israel as carte blanche to proceed with new construction, full speed. But it did not expect the Israeli government would act quite so boldly or quite so fast. It was the second announcement over the course of a week, of 3,000 new housing units in addition to a prior 2,500, which convinced them of the need to issue a warning.

An early draft of their response was leaked to The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, which warned Israel against “undermining” Trump’s efforts to forge peace with additional “unilateral” actions, including settlement announcements.
Play Video
(David Friedman at Pro-Trump rally in Jerusalem before elections: A Trump administration will never pressure Israel into two-state solution (credit: REUTERS))

“The administration needs to have the chance to fully consult with all parties on the way forward,” the administration said. “The United States remains committed to advancing a comprehensive final-status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians that results in two states living side-by-side in peace and security.”

Within two hours, virtually every major American media outlet sought to confirm the original report, forcing the White House into a scramble as they finalized the language of their response. They settled on familiar phrasing employed by past administrations: The expansion of existing settlements or the construction of new ones “may not be helpful” to the pursuit of peace, the White House said in an official release.

Settlements as they currently exist “are not an impediment” to a peace agreement with the Palestinians, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer added.

But over the course of the day, “may not be helpful” hardened into “are not helpful;” and “are not an obstacle” softened into “shouldn’t be an obstacle.”

“We’re going to have a long discussion with Prime Minister Netanyahu when he’s here,” Spicer told MSNBC.

Israeli officials have long argued that settlements are not an obstacle to peace for two reasons: because the government is willing to pull settlers out of the West Bank should it reach a comprehensive peace deal with the Palestinians, and because Jewish settlers who choose to stay in a future Palestinian state should have the freedom to do so. The real obstacle to peace is more fundamental, they contend: The Palestinians’ refusal to recognize the Jewish homeland within any borders.

The Trump administration sought to accommodate this position in its official response. But its first instinct was to question the reasoning of Israel’s argument – a significant development, given the prevailing impression that Trump had already embraced the settler movement.

The Prime Minister’s Office responded to the White House by acknowledging that Netanyahu will soon endure another “long discussion” on settlements in the Oval Office.

“Prime Minister Netanyahu looks forward to his meeting with President Trump on February 15, in which they will speak about a wide range of issues, including this one,” it said in a statement.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely gave a more extensive answer, when she said Friday that Israel has an obligation to build in the West Bank. “This government was chosen to execute the rights of the people of Israel to build in all parts of the country,” Hotovely said.

“Even the White House knows that the settlements are not an obstacle to peace and never were an obstacle to peace. The obvious conclusion is that the building is not a problem,” Hotovely continued. “During the last 25 [years] the Palestinians have blocked all attempts to resolve [the conflict].”

On the right-wing in Washington, several lawmakers distanced themselves from the White House statement, suggesting Israel’s settlements have little to do with the conflict.

“The obstacle to peace is not the settlements or anything else the Israelis are doing,” Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) told the Post. “The obstacle to peace is Palestinian terrorism and the PA’s refusal to denounce it. Sadly, Israel does not currently have a Palestinian partner willing to make peace.”

One pro-settler group, the YESHA Council, thanked Trump for “asserting that our communities were never an impediment to peace.”

“Nothing is more natural and morally just than Jews building in Judea,” said Oded Revivi, chief foreign envoy of the YESHA Council,” referring to the West Bank by its historic name. “We look forward to working closely with our friends in the new Trump administration to build a brighter future for all.”

MK Eitan Broshi of the Zionist Union linked the White House statement to the evacuation of the Amona outpost, located in an isolated spot in the West Bank, even though it was done under a High Court of Justice order.

“The statement shows that the Amona evacuation was justified and that we have to build according the law and in agreed-upon areas,” he said, adding that this referred to the security areas and the blocs.

He urged Netanyahu to place the new settlement in the blocs, given that Trump’s message was promoted by the decision to create a new settlement for the 40 families. It would mark the first time Israel has done this since 1991. Israel has promised the US in the past that it would not create new settlements.

Former US ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro tweeted that Trump’s statement “is in continuity with US policy for many years.” Indeed, the press secretary’s formal statement noted that US policy had been consistent for half a century – dating back to 1967.

“Settlements may not be helpful to achieving peace. That’s our Bill,” said former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, referring to the policy approach of his former boss, Bill Clinton.

Netanyahu’s trip to Washington will be Netanyahu’s most significant visit during a month of intensive diplomacy that will also see the prime minister travel to Britain, Singapore and Australia.

Netanyahu is scheduled to travel to London on Sunday for his first meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May, since she took office in July.

Government officials in Jerusalem have indicated that this meeting 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 in the US, and Margaret Thatcher was the prime minister of Britain.

Nevertheless, Netanyahu is likely to hear criticism of recent settlement moves from May. A spokeswoman for May said last week that the talks would focus on the Israeli-British bilateral relationship, including increasing trade as Britain leaves the EU, as well as other “shared challenges.”

She also told reporters, “I would expect the prime minister to set out the government’s position that we think the continued increase in settlement activity undermines trust. Our focus is on how do we make a two-state solution with an Israel that is safe from terrorism and a Palestinian state that is viable and sovereign work,” she said.

Britain reportedly played an instrumental role in getting the anti-settlement Security Council Resolution 2334 passed in December, but then a few days later May rebuked former US secretary of state John Kerry for his 70-minute speech highly critical of the settlement enterprise.

She said Britain does “not believe that the way to negotiate peace is by focusing on only one issue, in this case the construction of settlements, when clearly the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians is so deeply complex.”

Netanyahu said last week that the need to adopt a new approach to Iran will be one of the issues he hopes to discuss with May.

Netanyahu will fly back from Washington to Israel for Shabbat before leaving for Singapore and Australia early Sunday morning on February 19. This will be the first ever visit by a sitting Israeli prime minister to either Singapore or Australia.


WINDSOR – The great-grandson of Lord Balfour expressed hope that a two-state solution could be achieved this year, as he conveyed pride in his family’s legacy, the centenary of which was celebrated at Limmud FSU in Windsor this weekend.

The Balfour Declaration, dated November 2, 1917, was sent by Lord Roddy Balfour’s great grandfather, former British foreign secretary Arthur James Balfour to Baron Lionel Walter Rothschild, and expressed Britain’s support for the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people in Israel. The text of the letter was incorporated into the Treaty of Sevres with the Ottoman Empire and the Mandate for Palestine.

“I am very honored to hear that ‎an element of your symposium will be a commemoration of the Centenary of the Balfour Declaration,” Balfour said in a special message to the conference, which was read out during a festive gala on Saturday night.

An exhibition about the Balfour Declaration was displayed throughout the event – the first Limmud FSU ever to be held in Europe – which drew some 700 Russian-speaking Jews to the UK from more than 20 European countries for three days of intensive Jewish learning.

“My family is very proud of the importance to Jewish people everywhere of this initiative by the British government of the day,” the letter read. “The relevance to you all here today is that the imperative for it stemmed from the appalling Russian pogroms at the turn of the 20th century. Thus, and this what we are most proud of, the declaration was first and foremost a humanitarian act trying repatriate a talented but much-persecuted people to the land of the original Judaic roots.”

In October, a campaign was launched at an event hosted at the British Parliament’s House of Lords, calling on the UK to apologize for the declaration. A petition for a British apology and compensation for the Palestinians garnered only 1,278 supporters, failing to meet the 10,000 signatures in six months required to merit a response from the parliament.

Balfour described blaming the declaration for political turmoil in the Middle East as “over-simplistic.”

“The borders imposed by Sykes-Picot were never going to be fit for purpose and nobody in 1917 could have foreseen the Holocaust or the extraordinarily high birth rate among the Palestinians in recent decades,” his letter read.

“How much more we could celebrate the centenary if we saw a two-state solution emerge this year, which in effect would bring closure on one of the central tenets of the declaration,” he concluded.

During the event, Limmud FSU bestowed an “honorary Balfour Declaration award” upon Board of Deputies of British Jews president Jonathan Arkush, for his contributions to British Jewry.


A US appeal court late on Saturday denied a request from the US Department of Justice to immediately restore a immigration order from President Donald Trump barring citizens from seven mainly Muslim countries and temporarily banning refugees.

The court ruling dealt a further setback to Trump, who has denounced the judge in the state of Washington who blocked his Jan. 27 order on Friday. In tweets and comments to reporters, the president has insisted he will get the ban reinstated.


Trump says the temporary immigration restrictions on citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, and on all refugees, are necessary to protect the United States from Islamist militants. Critics say they are unjustified and discriminatory.

The judge’s order and the appeal ruling have created what may be a short-lived opportunity for travelers from the seven affected countries to get into the United States while the legal uncertainty continues.

In a brief order, the appeals court said the government’s request for an immediate administrative stay on the Washington judge’s decision had been denied. It was awaiting further submissions from Washington and Minnesota states on Sunday, and from the government on Monday.

The government’s appeal says the decision by judge James Robart in Washington posed an immediate harm to the public, thwarted enforcement of an executive order and “second-guesses the president’s national security judgment about the quantum of risk posed by the admission of certain classes of (non-citizens) and the best means of minimizing that risk.”

Trump denounced the “so-called” judge in a series of tweets on Saturday and told reporters: “We’ll win. For the safety of the country, we’ll win.”



WASHINGTON – It makes more sense to rigorously enforce the Iran nuclear deal than to dismantle it, said Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, signaling diminishing support for pulling the United States out of the deal.

Ryan, speaking on “Meet the Press” in an interview to be broadcast in full on Sunday, said the removal of sanctions under the nuclear rollback for sanctions relief deal reached in 2015 between Iran and six major world powers, meant it would be too hard to reconstitute the sanctions.


“A lot of that toothpaste is already out of the tube,” he said in a segment of the interview NBC posted on its website on Friday. “I never supported the deal in the first place, I thought it was a huge mistake, but the multilateral sanctions are done. I don’t think you’re going to go back and reconstitute the multilateral sanctions that were in place.”

President Donald Trump said while campaigning that the deal was a bad one and at times suggested that he would pull out of it. Other Republicans throughout the campaign pledged to kill the deal. However, since Trump’s inauguration last month, his defense secretary, James Mattis, has said pulling out of the deal would be unwise.

“I think we would expend our effort where it can pay off the most and that’s why I think what they’re doing now does make a lot of sense,” Ryan said. “I think the key is to rigorously enforce this deal.”

Republicans in Congress have in recent weeks introduced bills that would penalize Iran for non-nuclear activities, including ballistic missile testing. Trump this week imposed new sanctions on Iranian individuals and entities in the wake of Iran testing ballistic missiles, something that his predecessor, President Barack Obama, did a year ago.

Ryan said he would back new non-nuclear sanctions.

“Remember, they’re testing ballistic missiles, they’re still the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world, human rights abuses galore,” he said. “Those are where I think we also need to ratchet sanctions.”

Ryan said the Obama administration was derelict in holding Iran to account.

“I think what this administration is doing which I agree with is saying we have a new administration and we’re going to hold you – Iran – to account,” Ryan said. “This last administration did not do that, this new administration needs to do that and I think that’s what they’re getting at.”

Ryan said Iran’s continued belligerency toward Israel, among other factors, was a clear signal that the regime was not changing for the better.

“Look at what they’re trying to do to destabilize the region with all their proxies,” he said. “Look at what they’re doing to finance terrorism, the human rights abuses, testing ballistic missiles. You see they write on the side of their missiles, in Hebrew, Farsi and English, ‘Death to Israel and death to America’ — this is not a peaceful nation.”

Democrats have yet to back the new GOP-backed legislation that would add sanctions, in part because some of the new sanctions – for instance, isolating Iran’s financial sector – appear to encroach on the nuclear-related sanctions the United States has waived under the deal.

The Obama administration intensified an array of non-nuclear sanctions, targeting missile testing and backing for Iranian proxies like Hezbollah, in the wake of the deal, in part to assuage concerns in Israel, where the leadership had stridently opposed the deal as enabling Iranian mischief in the region.


Iranian national Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali, a professor at Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), has reportedly been charged with espionage and sentenced to death without trial or contact with legal council, according to Britain’s The Independent.

Dr. Djalali was detained by security forces from the Ministry of Information in April of 2016 during a trip to visit family in Iran.


In an interview with Flemish newspaper De Morgen, Djalali’s sister stated that he had “been forced to sign a confession, for which he will receive the death penalty. The Iranian government is calling it a matter of national security. They blame him for collaboration with scientists from foreign, enemy states.”

Djalali’s work as a scientist at the university included contact with colleagues from countries Iran considers hostile, such as Israel, Head of VUB’s Research Group, Ives Hubloue, pointed out. Hubloue emphasized that the contacts were purely research related.

VUB Rector Caroline Pauwels said that the sentence is “an outrageous violation of universal human rights, against which we should react decisively.”
Hassan Rouhani: Urgent: Justice and Freedom for Ahmadreza Djalali, MD, EMDM, PhD
Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali, who is 45 years old, was a researcher at CRIMEDIM, Novara, Italy. He has his doctorate of Medicine from Tabriz University, Iran. He has a PhD in medical science (disaster…
65 65 Retweets 14 14 likes

The controversial sentence has sparked outrage among human rights groups and led to an online petition urging Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to release Djalali. As of Sunday afternoon, the petition had over 50,000 signatures.

According to VUB, the death sentence is due to be carried out in two weeks.


Palestinian leaders over the weekend expressed a variety of opinions on the White House’s statement on settlement construction.

Muhammed Shtayyeh, a top Palestinian Authority official, tacitly welcomed the White House’s statements on Saturday, saying in a Facebook Post that it is “a small step in the right direction.”


The White House said in a press release on Thursday that new settlement construction could undermine the peace process. “While we don’t believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said.

Shtayyeh, who is also a Fatah Central Committee member, added that the Palestinian leadership would like to see the Trump administration take “a clear position on the two-state solution and settlements.”

Meanwhile, other top PA leaders including PA President Mahmoud Abbas and his senior aide Saeb Erekat have refrained from commenting on the White House’s statement.

Erekat blasted settlement construction in a meeting with diplomats in Jericho on Friday, but made no reference to the White House’s statement.

“Israeli colonial settlement construction is destroying the peace process, undermining the two two-state option, and amounts to a war crime,” Erekat remarked, calling on the international community to implement UN Security Council resolution 2334.

UNSC resolution 2334 says that settlements “have no legal validity.”

Hamas blasted the White House’s statement, saying that it enables Israel to build settlements.

“The White House’s statement, that views settlement construction as not representing the real problem, provides cover for Israeli settlement construction on Palestinian land,” Hazem Qassim, a Hamas spokesman, said in a press release on Saturday night.

Hamas leaders have made relatively few statements about the Trump administration since it took office on January 20.

Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, told The Jerusalem Post that the White House statement was “too weak.”

“I do not think it is is appropriate to say that settlements generally are not an obstacle to peace, and that some expansion could be an obstacle to peace,” Barghouti, who is also the chairman of the Palestinian National Initiative said, adding that he believes the statement represents “some sort of a departure from the classical position of previous American administrations.”

Previous US administrations have consistently held critical positions of settlement construction.

Nonetheless, Barghouti said that he thinks that White House statement in of itself shows the Trump is uneasy with settlement construction.

“I think the fact that the spokesperson had to say something about settlements reflects a certain uneasiness that administration has started to feel about settlement building,” Barghouti said. “It decided that it could no longer be silent.” In the past ten days, Israel made a series of announcements pertaining to the authorization of plans to construct settlement units.

Israel announced the authorization of 2500 units on January 24 and 3000 additional units on January 31.