BRUSSELS – European Union leaders on Thursday reaffirmed their full commitment to the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, hoping that the US Congress would not let it collapse despite relentless criticism by President Donald Trump.

But the bloc, reluctant to isolate itself completely from Washington, is also stepping up criticism of Iran’s ballistic missile program and its role in what the West sees as fomenting instability in the Middle East.

Trump last week adopted a harsh new approach to Iran by refusing to certify its compliance with the nuclear deal, struck with the United States and five other powers including Britain, France and Germany after more than a decade of diplomacy.

“We fully stay committed to the complete implementation by all sides of the Iranian nuclear deal. We see this as a key security interest for the European Union and the region,” said the bloc’s top diplomat, Federica Mogherini.

The EU leaders’ joint statement, agreed after talks in Brussels on Thursday, “reaffirms full commitment to the Iran nuclear deal”.

The bloc has been stepping up efforts to save the deal, saying it was crucial to regional and global security, and it has appealed to the US Congress not to let it fall.

Trump has given Congress 60 days to decide whether to reimpose economic sanctions on Iran, lifted under the pact in exchange for the scaling down of a program the West fears was aimed at building a nuclear bomb, something Tehran denies.

The EU leaders also highlighted the need to protect their companies and investors dealing with Iran from any adverse effects should Washington reinstate the sanctions, officials said.

Should Trump walk away from the deal, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that Iran would “shred” it.

The bloc sees the agreement as a chief international success of recent years, and fears tearing it apart would hurt its credibility as well as harming diplomatic efforts to defuse tensions around a nuclear stand-off with North Korea.

In outlining his tougher stance, Trump said Tehran must also be held accountable for advancing its ballistic missile program and its regional political role.

“We will defend the nuclear deal and stand by the nuclear deal and implement the nuclear deal. But we also don’t want to be standing on a completely opposing side to the US,” an EU official said.

“If they withdraw, we would be left in a rather interesting company with China and Russia. So there may be an issue of separating the nuclear deal from the ballistic program and Iran’s regional role, sending signals on the latter two.” Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) said on Thursday the ballistic missile program would accelerate despite US and EU pressure to suspend it, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.

The EU, which has expressed “concerns related to ballistic missiles and increasing tensions” in the Middle East, has said these issues should be discussed without direct links to the nuclear deal.

“They were never very fond of the nuclear deal in the first place but now the situation has changed a lot. Both many Democrats as well as some Republicans feel like they need to play a more active role on foreign policy to restrain the president,” the official said.




WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump is prepared to withdraw from a nuclear agreement reached with Iran and other international powers in 2015, his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said on Thursday.

Speaking at a forum hosted by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a think tank that contributed research and scholarship to the Trump administration’s new strategy on Iran unveiled last week, McMaster said the president’s first choice is to get Congress and European allies on board with a “pressure” strategy that will force Iran back to the negotiating table.

Trump’s national security team hopes to negotiate an addendum to the nuclear deal that will address its greatest concerns with the current agreement: its expiration dates, its omission of any restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile work and its opaque language on granting international nuclear inspectors swift access to Iran’s military bases.

If Congress fails to pass legislation that helps bolster Trump’s diplomatic leverage, and if European powers refuse to come along with his strategy, the president will “absolutely” terminate the deal, McMaster said. Trump last week threatened to terminate the accord wholesale if his more measured approach fails to deliver.

“This is a gift that gives over time” to Iran, McMaster said of the nuclear accord. “There’s the fundamental flaw of the sunset clause,” he added, characterizing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as “cover” for Iran to reach a nuclear “threshold capability.”

McMaster noted that Trump’s October 13 speech on Iran was intended to be a comprehensive policy outline. In his remarks with the foundation’s Mark Dubowitz, McMaster specifically went after Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as a “terrorist enabling” body that engages in drug smuggling worldwide.

“They’re a great narcotics trafficking organization” that “enrich themselves while they poison the world – and use that money to create murder,” McMaster said.

He said Trump views Iran’s government as being at the core of the problems plaguing the Middle East, from instability in Iraq to the ceaseless violence in Syria, the arms buildup in Lebanon and the slaughter in Yemen.

McMaster claimed that Iran seeks to establish a “Hezbollah model” of governance in Iraq, where the central government is weak and relies on Tehran for aid and security.

In southern Lebanon, where Hezbollah is based, he said the group has sold itself disingenuously as a representative of oppressed and disenfranchised Shi’ites.

In reality, Hezbollah’s moves in recent years “have been to act as a proxy for the Iranians and the IRGC.” McMaster pointed to the group’s stockpiling of tens of thousands of sophisticated rockets pointed at Israel, funded and built by Iran.

“What do you expect Israel to do on that kind of threat?” he asked. “And how is that good for the Lebanese people?” Asked what US policy would be toward Hezbollah going forward, McMaster replied: “Expose it for what it is.”



Two days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz to congratulate him on his Sunday election victory and applaud Austria for the “long way” it has come in remembering the Holocaust and fighting antisemitism, the country’s Jewish community called on Israel to “respect” its call to Kurz not to include the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) in his coalition.

Kurz is considering forming a governing coalition together with the FPO, a party with which Israel does not formally engage because of its Nazi past and the antisemitic and racist leanings of some its members today. In 1999 Israel recalled its ambassador to Vienna for more than three years because the party, then headed by Joerg Haider, joined the coalition.

In an interview earlier this week with Israel Hayom, Kurz said the fight against antisemitism and “a policy of zero tolerance against any antisemitic tendencies is very important to me.”

This, he said, “is a clear precondition for any coalition that I would lead. There must be no doubt about this at all. None. The FPÖ has in the past shown efforts to fight antisemitism, in its own ranks as well, and I expect them to continue to do so.”

In an email sent on Wednesday to senior officials at the Foreign Ministry, Oskar Deutsch, the president of the Jewish Communities of Austria, wrote that the Jewish community, as well as the European Jewish Congress and the World Jewish congress, have called on Kurz not to include the FPÖ in the next government, because “many representatives of the FPÖ,” including its leader Heinz-Christian Strache, have “used antisemitic codes, made extreme right-wing statements and have promoted hatred and racism,” including during the recent electoral campaign.

Furthermore, the letter read, several of the party’s candidates to serve as a minister have in the past “called for the elimination of legislation against Holocaust denial.”

The letter said that the community “calls on all Jewish organizations, members of the Israeli government, political figures and NGOs to respect our position” on the matter.

It said this is also the position of President Reuven Rivlin, who wrote a letter to Deutsch in December 2016 – which Deutsch attached to the email – saying that he was against Israeli engagement with far-right parties in Europe “tainted with a history of antisemitism, Holocaust denial, restrictions on religious practice or the promotion of racial hatred and intolerance.”

Rivlin, quoting from a speech he delivered on Holocaust Remembrance Day, said that no interest of any kind – including professed support for Israel – “can justify a shameful alliance with groups or individuals who fail to recognize responsibility for the crimes of the Holocaust, who take action to silence such recognition, and who envisage recreating such crimes against any foreigner, refugee or migrant who dares, in his view, ‘to contaminate’ their living space.”

Deutsch attached to his email a document listing some 70 examples of what his committee defined as extreme right-wing statements and actions made by FPÖ politicians.

“The FPÖ agitates in a very vicious way against refugees and minorities,” the document concluded. “Racism is the order of the day … Antisemitism also resurfaces over and over again. The FPÖ is working closely with right-wing extremist forces in Austria and abroad, as well as with the authoritarian Putin regime in Russia. The FPÖ shows time and again a close proximity to the Nazi ideology.”

Bulgaria (White Freemasons) adopts international definition of anti-Semitism

The Bulgarian government has adopted the international working definition of anti-Semitism and has appointed a national coordinator on combatting anti-Semitism.

Bulgaria’s Cabinet on Wednesday voted to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism, which was adopted last year by the Berlin-based IHRA. The Cabinet also appointed Deputy Foreign Minister Georg Georgiev as national coordinator on combating anti-Semitism to serve as a liaison to other countries and international organizations on dealing with the fight against anti-Semitism and hate speech, the Sofia Globe reported.

Bulgaria was admitted as an observer country to the IHRA in December 2012, and is taking steps to become accepted as a full member.

The definition of anti-Semitism, adopted by the alliance in May 2016, is: “Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” The IRHA currently has 31 member states and 11 observer countries, including Bulgaria.

The Shalom Organization of the Jews in Belgium welcomed the decision, saying in a statement: “For the Bulgarian Jewish community, this is a serious call for an uncompromising attitude towards all actions that overwhelm common values such as tolerance, humanism and respect for human rights. We strongly support the Cabinet decision and wish Georg Georgiev success in his new mission.”

Bravo  on adopting working definition of anti-Semitism! Look forward to cooperating w/ Deputy FM Georgiev. 

Photo published for Bulgarian government appoints national co-ordinator for the fight against anti-Semitism

Bulgarian government appoints national co-ordinator for the fight against anti-Semitism

Bulgaria’s Cabinet has adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism and has appointed Deputy Foreign Minister Georg Georgiev as national…

The European Jewish Congress welcomed Belgium’s decision to adopt the international definition of anti-Semitism.

“It is vital that, especially as anti-Semitism is on the rise across the continent, that governments, judiciaries and law enforcement agencies have all the necessary tools to combat hatred of Jews and other minorities,” Dr. Moshe Kantor, EJC president, said in a statement. He also called Georgiev a “long-time friend of the Jewish community.”

David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee Global Jewish Advocacy and AJC Europe director Simone Rodan-Benzaquen met with Georgiev on Tuesday.

Next year, Bulgaria will officially mark celebrating in 2018 the 75th anniversary of the prevention of the deportation of the Bulgarian Jews and the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU.

Scaramucci reportedly loses speaking gig over Holocaust tweet


Anthony Scaramucci, the financier who briefly headed communications for President Donald Trump, has reportedly lost at least one lucrative speaking engagement after a Twitter account in his name posted a survey asking people how many Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

The Page Six celebrity news site, citing an unnamed source, reported late Wednesday that a speaking appearance in November at the New York City investment firm Neuberger Berman has been canceled over fears that his appearance would create a “commotion.”

Scaramucci, who is currently in England on a speaking tour, told Page Six in an email that the event was canceled due to a “schedule change.”

He also wrote: “I am on a speaking tour right now and have more speeches next week. Not sure if it has affected anything or not.”

On Tuesday, the Scaramucci Post account posted a tweet asking “How many Jews were killed in the Holocaust?” and offering multiple choices: “Less than one million, between 1-2 million, between 2-3 million, more than 5 million.” The historical figure, 6 million, was not offered.

The tweet was up for an hour and was near 5,000 responses before being removed by Lance Laifer, who apologized for it. Scaramucci later said Laifer was his partner.

Of the poll, Scaramucci said in his email to Page Six, “We were trying to raise awareness … Still we made a mistake, we apologized, made a donation to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and we are moving on.”

Scaramucci announced Tuesday afternoon on his personal Twitter account that he had pledged $25,000 to the Simon Wiesenthal Center in the wake of the survey.

Hungarian (White Freemason) who helped Jews flee Holocaust honored in Budapest

BUDAPEST, Hungary — A Hungarian who printed thousands of passports allowing Jews to flee the country during World War II has been honored with a memorial plaque.

Emil Wiesmeyer’s printing company initially made 4,000 of the basic passports, part of efforts by Swedish special envoy Raoul Wallenberg to save Jews from Nazi death camps.

He then produced about 20,000 more on his own to help Jews make it out of Hungary.

The plaque honoring Emil Wiesmeyer was unveiled Wednesday in Budapest by Szabolcs Szita, director of the Holocaust Memorial Center, and Swedish Ambassador Niclas Trouve

Some 550,000 Hungarian Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

Wiesmeyer later suffered persecution and was jailed in the 1950s, during Hungary’s communist era.

Wiesmeyer died in 1967. His son Gabor attended the ceremony.

Teens arrested in vandalism at Jewish cemetery in Romania

Police in Romania arrested three teenagers accused of destroying 10 headstones at a Jewish cemetery.

The incident occurred over the weekend, police said in a statement Monday about the arrests near the northern city of Reghin, located 200 miles north of Bucharest, the capital.

The suspects allegedly smashed the headstones and drew a swastika on two gates, though police said the swastikas may have been painted on the gates months ago, the Agepres news website reported.

On Monday, the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania said it was “shocked by this new anti-Semitic act of vandalism.”

“We emphasize that such cases require serious investigation and stiff punishment, in accordance with the legal provisions in force, because lax treatment opens the door to more and more serious violations of democracy,” the federation’s president, Aurel Vainer, said in a statement.

“It is not a coincidence that this outrageous incident took place only a week after the national commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust in Romania.”

Earlier this month, authorities in neighboring Ukraine identified several teenagers whom police said desecrated at least 20 Jewish graves in August.

The teens, all males younger than 18, were detained last month in connection with vandalism in Svalyava, a city in Western Ukraine that is located approximately 100 miles southwest of Lviv, the news website reported.

The cemetery they allegedly vandalized has not been in use for decades.

Tunisia jails couple for ‘public indecency’ over car canoodling (LOL…..)

TUNIS, Tunisia — A Frenchman and a Tunisian woman were convicted Wednesday on appeal in Tunis for “public indecency” after an altercation with police who arrested the couple while they were hugging in a car.

The couple, who maintain that they were not kissing, were given a lighter sentence than the original term handed out at their October 4 trial, after widespread outrage on social media and in the press over the incident.

The man was handed four months in prison for “public indecency” and “refusing to obey the police,” with the woman given a two month sentence on the first charge only.

“It’s an independent decision,” a spokesman for the public prosecutors office, Sofiene Sliti told AFP.

“What has been reported nationally and internationally is wrong — they weren’t arrested for a kiss, the couple was naked,” he added.

At the hearing Wednesday, the woman collapsed into tears when the court president read a police description saying a sexual act was in process when the couple were stopped on October 1 in a suburb of Tunis.

The woman said that her friend had simply taken her into his arms when the plainclothes police stopped them and made them get out of the car.

The Frenchman confirmed to the judge that he had tried to film the police to make a complaint about their behavior.

A dozen defense lawyers had been arguing for an acquittal for the couple. The majority of the lawyers were working for free on the case, which has triggered an uproar in Tunisia over morality campaigns and police behavior.

The defense pointed to numerous flaws in the case, including hearings in Arabic which the Frenchman, who is of Algerian origin, did not understand.

“It is normal that he reacts badly when his fundamental rights were being violated,” said lawyer Ghazi Mrabet, whose client is accused of intimidating police.

He pointed to what he said was “bad faith” on the part of the police, who he said were looking for revenge after being implicated over their handling of the case.

“This case highlights key problems with the judicial system and the police. Abuse of powers… lack of respect for citizens and their rights, attacks on individual liberty,” said former deputy Nadia Chaabane, who is a member of a group to support the couple.

“The problem is that we have judges now who accept all these breaches and procedural problems,” she said before the judgement.

France committed to nuclear deal despite Trump decision

PARIS — France has reaffirmed its support for the Iran nuclear deal following the decision by US President Donald Trump to no longer back it in its current form.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves le Drian said Thursday after a meeting in Paris with head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, that the deal “remains valid despite the decision of the president of the United States not to certify its implementation.”

Trump announced last week that he would not re-certify the deal to Congress and would terminate the Obama-era pact if Congress can’t come up with new legislation satisfying him on the agreement.

“We didn’t have enough time yet to observe the attitude of Iran,” Amano said. “Yet I can tell you the Iranians are very careful and we continue our controls and inspections without any problem.”

He also met with French President Emmanuel Macron, who encouraged the IAEA to ensure strict adherence to the deal “in all its aspects.”

They also discussed the “serious and difficult” North Korea issue, according to Amano.

Colorful candidates awaken Japan’s sleepy politics as Abe eyes win in snap vote

TOKYO, Japan (AFP) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appears poised to secure a fresh term at the helm of the world’s third-biggest economy this coming Sunday, as he seeks a mandate for his nationalist agenda and hardline stance on North Korea.

Surveys suggest Abe’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is on track for a thumping victory over a weak and fractured opposition despite low popularity ratings for the prime minister and his government.

He stunned Japan last month by calling a snap election — more than a year early — although critics said the premier was trying to divert attention from a series of scandals that had hammered his approval ratings.

The election call transformed Japan’s sleepy political scene and from an opposition leader dubbed “Jack Bauer” to a gaffe-prone finance minister who referenced Adolf Hitler when talking about leaving a political legacy, the election has thrown up some colorful characters.

Here are Abe’s main challengers:

Yukio Edano

A twitter campaign at the time was set up to persuade him to get some rest, with people tweeting “Please Edano, go to bed” and some foreign media nicknaming him “Jack Bauer” — from the hit TV drama series “24” — for working around the clock.Edano, leader of the new center-left Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, won fame as chief cabinet secretary during the country’s 2011 tsunami disaster, briefing reporters every day, often at odd hours and earning respect for his work ethic.

Edano announced the launch of the new center-left party just days before the election campaign officially started, unleashing an attack on Shinzo Abe and vowing to stop what he described as the prime minister’s “abuse of power.”

Taro Aso

Finance minister and deputy prime minister, Aso is known for a long list of gaffes and controversial remarks during a nearly four-decade career in parliament.

Earlier this year, the 77-year-old came under fire for citing Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler in a bizarre reference about the importance of leaving a legacy in politics.

Last month he stirred controversy by saying Japan should seriously consider shooting down potential “armed refugees” if hundreds of thousands fled North Korea to Japan.Aso — whose previous comments include criticizing women who don’t have children and saying old people should “hurry up and die” to save healthcare costs — later retracted the comments but refused to quit.

It was unclear what he meant by “armed refugees.”

Aso served as prime minister from 2008 to 2009 before his Liberal Democratic Party was ousted from office.

He is the grandson of Shigeru Yoshida, one of Japan’s most influential prime ministers who helped rebuild the country from the ashes of World War II.

Shinjiro Koizumi

The telegenic and flamboyant Shinjiro Koizumi has drawn huge crowds to campaign rallies and has been suggested as a possible future leader.

Like his father, Koizumi Jr has a reputation for “one-phrase politics,” using a snappy slogan that resonates with grassroots voters.Dubbed by some media as “Japan’s Macron,” referring to France’s president, the 36-year-old has inherited the rhetorical skills of his father, the popular former leader Junichiro Koizumi.

A sweet bearing his likeness is the second-biggest selling souvenir in the parliament gift shop — behind sweets showing Abe’s face — store manager Shinzo Terada told AFP.

They are “particularly popular among women,” he revealed.

Mayuko Toyota

She has decided to run as an independent in this election, sparking considerable media attention.The 43-year-old Harvard graduate was once seen as an up-and-coming member of the ruling LDP but resigned in June after an audio tape emerged of her violently attacking a male secretary, reportedly threatening to crush his head with a lead pipe.

Every day, the very contrite Toyota goes to a railway station and bows deeply in apology to voters.

She has changed her image from a pink pantsuit — which earned her the nickname “pink monster” — to simple white and told supporters at a campaign rally that her heart was “on the verge of collapse” over the scandal.

Yuriko Koike

Even though she is not running for national office this time, the media-savvy veteran is definitely the story of the campaign, transforming the sleepy political landscape with her “Party of Hope.”

Posters of the popular Tokyo governor are everywhere and candidates for the party are pictured standing alongside the telegenic 65-year-old.

Her campaign video set the tone, with an elegant lady (presumed to be Koike) shoving her way past old men in suits and leading her supporters into the light.

But her momentum faltered after an initial burst of excitement as critics accused her of a dictatorial approach to managing her new party and she effectively split the opposition to Abe.