Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Real Illegal Settlements - Bassam Tawil




by Bassam Tawil

-- we are witnessing the hypocrisy of many in the Western mainstream media, who see with their own eyes the Palestinian settlements rising on every side of Jerusalem, but choose to report only about Jewish building.

  • While construction in Jewish settlements of the West Bank and neighborhoods of Jerusalem has long been carried out within the frame of the law and in accordance with proper licenses issued by the relevant authorities, the Palestinian construction is illegal in every respect.
  • The Palestinian goal is to create irreversible facts on the ground. The sheer enormity of the project raises the question: Who has been funding these massive cities-within-cities? And why? There is good reason to believe that the PLO and some Arabs and Muslims, and especially the European Union, are behind the Palestinian initiative.
  • The Jewish outpost of Amona, home to 42 families, is currently the subject of fiery controversy both in Israel and in the international arena. Apparently, settlements are only a "major obstacle to peace" when they are constructed by Jews.
  • The EU and some Islamic governments and organizations are paying for the construction of illegal Palestinian settlements, while demanding that Israel halt building new homes for Jewish families in Jerusalem neighborhoods or existing settlements in the West Bank.
  • The hypocrisy and raw malice of the EU and the rest of the international community toward the issue of Israeli settlements is blindingly transparent. Yet we are also witnessing the hypocrisy of many in the Western mainstream media, who see with their own eyes the Palestinian settlements rising on every side of Jerusalem, but choose to report only about Jewish building.
As the international community continues to slam Israel for construction in Jewish settlement communities, Palestinians are quietly engaging in massive construction of entire neighborhoods in many parts of the West Bank and Jerusalem. In addition to overlooking the Palestinian building project, the West has clearly been neglecting a crucial difference between the two efforts: while the construction in the Jewish settlements of the West Bank and neighborhoods of Jerusalem has long been carried out within the frame of the law and in accordance with proper licenses issued by the relevant authorities, the Palestinian construction is illegal in every respect.

In this behind-the-scenes endeavor, which does not meet even the most minimum standards required by engineers, architects and housing planners, the Palestinian goal is to create irreversible facts on the ground.

A quick tour of the areas surrounding Jerusalem from the north, east and south easily exposes the colossal construction that is taking place there. In most cases, these high-rise buildings are slapped together without licenses or any adequate planning or safety concerns.


An example of massive illegal Palestinian construction near Shufat and Anata, on the northeastern outskirts of Jerusalem.

The Jewish outpost of Amona in the central West Bank, home to 42 families, is currently the subject of fiery controversy both in Israel and in the international arena. In 2006, the High Court of Israel ruled that the outpost is illegal under Israeli law because it lies on private Palestinian land. In 2014, the High Court ordered the government to evacuate and demolish the entire outpost within two years.

In Israel, as Amona demonstrates, no one is above the law. Israel boasts an independent judiciary system that is second to none.

Yet as the debate in Israel intensifies over the fate of Amona, the Palestinians are making a mockery of laws and building regulations by embarking on massive construction of illegal neighborhoods and buildings. Apparently, settlements are only a "major obstacle to peace" when they are constructed by Jews.

In recent years and continuing to the present, the Palestinians, with the aid of Western donors for whom only Jewish construction is anathema, are working night and day to create irreversible facts in the form of not just single-family houses, but masses of giant high-rise buildings. The sheer enormity of the project raises the question: Who has been funding these massive cities-within-cities? And why? There is good reason to believe that the PLO and some Arabs and Muslims, and especially the European Union are behind the Palestinian initiative.

Ironically, this has been taking place even when it means that the Palestinians have been stealing land from our own people.

The Palestinian building is taking place mostly in what is called Area C of the West Bank, which, under the terms of the Oslo Accords, is supposed to be under exclusive Israeli control. The building has also been mushrooming in many neighborhoods -- even in entire villages -- surrounding Jerusalem from the north, east and south, leaving the city with only one option: to expand towards the west, thereby building a giant collar of cement effectively to surround and choke off Jerusalem from the Jews.

Recently, entire Arab neighborhoods with crowded high-rises have shot up around Jerusalem. Only a handful of steps separate some of the buildings, and most lack proper sewage systems. Apartment prices range from $25,000 to $50,000 USD. These are ridiculous prices compared with the real costs of apartments in both Arab and Jewish (legal) neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Today, it is almost impossible to purchase a three-room apartment in the city for less than $250,000 USD.

The new neighborhoods are located in Kufr Akab, Samiramis, Kalandya, Beit Hanina, Shufat, Ras Khamis and Anata in the north of Jerusalem.

In the southern and eastern parts of the city, new neighborhoods have emerged with noticeable suddenness in Ras Al-Amoud, A-Tur, Al-Zaim, Jabal Mukaber, Um Tuba and Jabal Mukaber. These areas fall within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem. However, failing to halt the illegal construction and leaving the city besieged from north, east and south, Jerusalem Municipality officials admit that Israel will have lost the war against illegal Palestinian construction unless immediate action is taken.

Alarmed by the ongoing illegal construction, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat recently took the unprecedented measure of petitioning the High Court to allow the city to demolish 14 illegally built structures in east Jerusalem.

Most importantly, there is no housing crisis for the Arab population; it is not an Arab housing crisis that is prompting this spree of illegal Palestinian construction. Rather, the goal is political: to show the world that Jerusalem is an Arab, and not a Jewish, city. By and large, the apartments remain empty: there is simply no real demand.

Who is behind the unprecedented wave of illegal construction? According to Arab residents of Jerusalem, many of the "contractors" are actually land-thieves and thugs who lay their hands on private Palestinian-owned land or on lands whose owners are living abroad. But they also point out that the EU, the PLO and some Arab and Islamic governments are funding the project.

"They spot an empty plot of land and quickly move in to seize control over it," said a resident whose land was "confiscated" by the illegal contractors.
"They tell you if you don't like it, go to court, knowing that by the time the legal procedures are over they would have succeeded in building another tall building and even selling some of the apartments.
"Many Arab land owners feel helpless. They tell us that it is their national duty to build as much as they can on any empty land, otherwise the Jews would be building there."
Palestinians estimate that in the past few years they have managed to build more than 15,000 illegal housing units in areas surrounding Jerusalem as part of a plan to encircle the city. The construction continues to this moment, unabated. Partial funding comes from the Palestinian Authority (PA) and some Arab and Islamic countries These countries include Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and other oil-rich countries in the Gulf. However, the Palestinians continue to complain that the Arab and Islamic funding is below expectations.

In Area C, a stretch of land accounting for 60% of the West Bank, the European Union, which bitterly condemns construction in Jewish settlements as illegal, openly funds illegal construction carried out by Palestinians. The EU argues that its support for Palestinian construction falls under the category of "humanitarian relief" and is permissible under international law.

The EU's real goal is to help the Palestinians create these irreversible facts on the ground ahead of any possible future peace deal between the Palestinians and Israel. It is aimed at facilitating the mission of the Palestinians to seize as much land as possible, even if that means funding illegal construction or providing mobile homes to Palestinian communities in this area.

In short, it is the EU and some Arabs and Muslims who are paying for the construction of illegal Palestinian settlements, while demanding that Israel halt building new homes for Jewish families in Jerusalem neighborhoods or existing settlements in the West Bank.

The hypocrisy and raw malice of the EU and the rest of the international community toward the issue of Israeli settlements is blindingly transparent. Yet we are also witnessing the hypocrisy of many in the Western mainstream media -- those dozens of correspondents who see with their own eyes the Palestinian settlements rising on every side of Jerusalem, but choose to report only about Jewish building.

Forty-two Jewish families in Amona have the world riveted, but what does the world think about the Palestinian land-grab? It is time to call out this treachery, this illegality and this double-standard, and demand that the Palestinians also cease the construction of illegal settlements, which are designed with one aim in mind: to pre-determine the outcome of any future peace deal.
Bassam Tawil is based in the Middle East.
Source: https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/9490/illegal-settlements

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Keith Ellison: Perfect for the DNC - Robert Spencer




by Robert Spencer


His Muslim Brotherhood ties and venomous anti-Israel stance make him the living embodiment of today’s Democratic Party.




Throughout the Obama administration, the American Left has grown increasingly hostile to Israel and unwilling to acknowledge the reality of the jihad threat; now these tendencies could become the central focus of the Democratic Party, if Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) becomes Chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). That became even clearer than it already was last week with new revelations of just how anti-Israel and tied to the Muslim Brotherhood Ellison really is.

The Investigative Project has released audio of Ellison speaking at a fundraiser for his 2010 Congressional reelection campaign, saying that a vote for him was a vote against Israel’s supposed control of U.S. foreign policy. “The message I want to send to you by donating to this campaign,” he declared, “is positioning me and positioning Muslims in general to help steer the ship of state in America….The United States foreign policy in the Middle East is governed by what is good or bad through a country of seven million people. A region of 350 million all turns on a country of seven million. Does that make sense? Is that logic? Right?”

Ellison also boasted that “there is a growing awareness in the US Congress and in the executive branch that everything anyone does, including Israel, is not fine. And there are real questions being asked.” He revealed that in meetings with his Jewish constituents, he challenged them to stand with Barack Obama against Israel: “Do you stand with the President on stopping settlements in east Jerusalem, because that is the policy of my president and I want to know if you’re with the President. Are you with the President?”

Ellison proposed that U.S. aid to Israel be tied to the Israeli building projects in East Jerusalem: “Why are we sending $2.8 billion a year over there when they won’t even honor our request to stop building in East Jerusalem? Where is the future Palestinian state going to be if it’s colonized before it even gets up off the ground?”

He offered an alternative [to] aiding Israel: “We should be building the bilateral business relationships between the United States and the Muslim world….Morocco, we gotta build it up. Saudi Arabia, we gotta build it up. The Gulf countries, we gotta build them. Pakistan, we gotta build them.” (Saudi Arabia?) This would be done so that ultimately  Muslims in the U.S. would be able to make demands upon the government: “We need to have so much goods and services going back and forth between this country and the Muslim world that if we say we need this right here, then everyone is saying, OK. Understand my point? You’ve got to be strategic….These business relationships can be leveraged to say that we need a new deal politically.”

Hosting the event at his Virginia home was Esam Omeish, a former leader of the Muslim American Society (MAS). (Ellison has ties to MAS also: in 2008, he accepted $13,350 from MAS to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca. The Muslim American Society is a Muslim Brotherhood organization: “In recent years, the U.S. Brotherhood operated under the name Muslim American Society, according to documents and interviews. One of the nation’s major Islamic groups, it was incorporated in Illinois in 1993 after a contentious debate among Brotherhood members.” That’s from the Chicago Tribune in 2004, in an article that is now carried on the Muslim Brotherhood’s English-language website, Ikhwanweb.)

In 2007, Omeish was forced to resign from a Virginia immigration panel after a video surfaced showing him praising Palestinians who chose “the jihad way” against Israel. Also attending was the cofounder and executive director of the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Nihad Awad, who declared “I am in support of the Hamas movement,” during a March 1994 symposium at Barry University.

In his speech, Ellison praised CAIR and Omeish: “The civil rights organizations that we had, had to do a lot of tough fighting but they are still standing. CAIR has not fallen, but they are fighting, they are struggling every day.” And of Omeish he said: “I just want to again thank Dr. Omeish, and let brother Esam know that he is my beloved brother and I love you and you are the best and your family is so beautiful and again, you know, you put it out there. You ran. And I hope you run again.”

None of this should come as any surprise, given the abundant evidence of Ellison’s links to anti-Semitic groups. Ellison has spoken at a convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Yet ISNA has actually admitted its ties to Hamas, which styles itself the Palestinian arm of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Justice Department actually classified ISNA among entities “who are and/or were members of the US Muslim Brotherhood.”

Also, CAIR raised large amounts of for Ellison’s first campaign, and he has spoken at numerous CAIR events. Yet CAIR is an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas terror funding case — so named by the Justice Department. CAIR officials have repeatedly refused to denounce Hamas and Hizballah as terrorist groups.

Hamas has declared: “Killing Jews is worship that draws us close to Allah.” Ellison has spoken before several groups that have ties to Hamas, and has accepted money from a Muslim Brotherhood group; Hamas styles itself the Muslim Brotherhood for Palestine. Does Keith Ellison also, then, think that “killing Jews is worship that draws us close to Allah”? No establishment media “journalist” would ever dream of asking him that question, but it’s a fair one: Hamas repeatedly demonstrates genuine and murderous anti-Semitism, and Ellison has repeatedly shown himself willing and even eager to associate himself with Hamas-linked groups.

All this has finally caused some on the Left to draw back from Ellison. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which had previously warmly endorsed Ellison for DNC Chair, withdrew his support. Howard Dean refused to back him. Consequently, the Washington Post mused Sunday that “Ellison is in for a far rockier road than he probably imagined when he entered the race just a few weeks ago. And even if he does ascend to the DNC chairmanship, a decent-size chunk of Democratic voters and donors will probably be none too happy about it.”

Maybe, but given the tenor of the Obama administration for eight years, they’re likely to get over it quickly.

Robert Spencer

Source: http://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/265042/keith-ellison-perfect-dnc-robert-spencer

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The Nationalist Revival - Bruce Thornton




by Bruce Thornton

A look at the pushback against the denigration of national identities


Reprinted from Hoover.org.

The British vote in June to leave the European Union brought the long-simmering revival of nationalism to a boil. Passions aroused by the 2008 economic crisis, anger over the indiscriminate admission of nearly a million mostly male Middle Eastern refugees in 2015, and the carnage of the terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels, and Nice have intensified the resentment of many Europeans. They have been further stoked by the high-handed policies of what many see as an over-privileged, over-bureaucratized, undemocratic E.U. elite. National identities that were supposed to have been marginalized in favor of a transnational government of technocrats have returned in surging populist and nationalist parties such as the UK Independence Party, France’s National Front, the Alternative for Germany, True Finns, Jobbik in Hungary, Lega Nord in Italy, Sweden Democrats, and many others.

In the United States, the surprising insurgency candidacies of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and businessman Donald Trump reflected a similar return of anti-globalist sentiment and nationalist populism on both the left and the right. Both candidates railed against trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is currently awaiting ratification. Both also criticized European NATO members for not meeting their financial obligations and relying on the United States to foot most of the bill for NATO operations. Donald Trump has freely used slogans such as Make America Great Again and America First, while Sanders railed against the elite “one percent” who unfairly benefit from a globalized economy.

This resurgence of nationalist populism in Europe and the United States is a challenge to the internationalist order that is now more than a century old. It was expressed in Immanuel Kant’s 1795 essay “Perpetual Peace,” which envisioned a “federation of free states” in a “pacific alliance” that would “terminate all wars” and create “perpetual peace.” Such optimism was nourished for Kant by the “uniformity of the progress of the human mind,” a growing convergence of peoples towards the Western model of rule by rational laws rather than by tradition or religion. More practically, new 19th-century technologies like the railroad, telegraph, and steamship brought the world’s peoples closer together and bound them by trade, creating a “harmony of interests,” in Adam Smith’s phrase, that made cooperation and similarity more efficient and beneficial than conflict and dissonance.

Given this global “uniformity,” enlightened reason would increasingly replace conflicting traditions, religions, and cultures with more rational international institutions that recognize democracy, human rights, tolerance, and other Western ideals. These multinational organizations, covenants, and treaties would turn force into a costlier and less effective means of adjudicating conflicting national interests than international diplomacy. The Preamble to the First Hague Convention, which aimed to limit certain kinds of armaments, in 1899 stated its aims as “the maintenance of the general peace” and the “friendly settlement of international disputes,” based on the “solidarity which unites the members of the society of civilized nations” and their desire to extend the “empire of law” in order to further the “appreciation of international justice.”

Despite the repudiation of international “solidarity” by the slaughter of World War I, more covenants, treaties, and institutions continued to be created to fulfill the dream of transnational governance. The League of Nations (1920) and the International Court of Arbitration (1923); multinational treaties like Locarno (1925) and the Kellogg-Briand Pact (1928), which asserted that the “settlement or solution of all disputes and conflicts” would “never be sought except by pacific means,” and was signed and then violated by all three of the Axis Powers; and numerous ineffective arms reduction treaties all testify to the powerful hold of idealistic internationalism on foreign policy and inter-state relations.

And they demonstrate the futility of such “parchment barriers,” to use James Madison’s phrase, in preventing the massive death and destruction of World War II. Yet despite that lesson, such institutions have given rise to a host of political and economic transnational organizations such as the United Nations, the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and the World Bank, just to name the most prominent.

The two World Wars, however, and the continuous global violence from invasions, civil wars, revolutions, ethnic cleansing, and genocide since then, point to the fundamental flaw of internationalism. All these transnational institutions depend on sovereign states for their creation, implementation, management, and enforcement. The notion of national sovereignty is over three centuries old, codified in the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) and further refined in the Congress of Vienna (1815), which sought to keep the peace through a balance of sovereign national powers. Given this framework, international treaties can exist only by the consent of sovereign nations, and thus can be abrogated by any nation depending on calculations of its national interests, which necessarily conflict at times with those of other nations. To predicate the basis of a treaty on anything other than national self-interest­––such as a presumed “progress of the human mind” or shared “international norms and customs” –– is a chimera. As the late jurist Robert Bork has written, history shows that violence and aggression are the dominant “customs” of nations and peoples.

This clash between transnational ideals and the frequent zero-sum interests of individual states has been constant for over a century. Institutions that supposedly serve global interests end up being dominated by the more powerful states that use them for their own interests, as the history of the U.N. Security Council, hostage to the veto power of the five permanent members, demonstrates. For example, Russia recently used its Security Council veto to block a resolution calling on Russia to stop bombing Aleppo and violating “international norms and customs” about not killing civilians. International conventions and covenants can be regularly violated or routinely ignored, and such violations rarely lead to condign punishment. Treaty rules are continually broken, such as when E.U. ministers bailed out Greece during the financial crisis, a violation of the Lisbon Treaty’s Article 125 prohibiting financial bailouts of member states; or like when member states consistently ignore the 1998 Stability and Growth Pact’s rule that government debt cannot exceed 60 percent of GDP. The E.U.’s average in 2015 was 90 percent.

This behavior should not be surprising, for as George Washington said, “It is a maxim founded on the universal experience of mankind, that no nation can be trusted farther than it is bounded by its interests.” Once a treaty or covenant ceases to serve a nation’s interests, it will be violated or simply abandoned, as when North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 2003 when membership no longer served its purposes.

For many who believe in internationalism and its ability to keep the peace, the way to make it more efficient is to reduce the power and weaken the sovereignty of nations by ceding both to transnational institutions. Particularly after World War II, this goal was accompanied in part by blaming the excesses of fascism and Nazism on nationalism. To prevent similar bloodshed, the argument still goes, national sovereignty must be checked and limited by larger multilateral organizations. Nationalism has become a pejorative term, patriotism a dangerous sentiment prone to xenophobia and intolerance. We saw this assumption in the criticism of Trump’s campaign slogan America First, a phrase evoking the 1940 isolationist movement of the same name that lobbied against U.S. participation in European conflicts, and sometimes indulged in anti-Semitic rhetoric.

But to blame nationalism for the horrors of fascism and Nazism is to blame a healthy cell for becoming cancerous. Moreover, it ignores the critical role of the nation-state as the foundation of modern consensual government and political freedom. The nation-state allows large groups of people to create a solidarity that binds them together and gives them a common destiny. Without this shared identity and values, this affection for their own way of life and for those who share it with them, people are left rootless and fragmented into niche identities, connected now only by consumerism, popular culture, and sporting events. And such a Balkanized society is vulnerable to its more cohesive rivals and enemies. As historian Michael Burleigh has written, “Can a society survive that is not the object of commitments to its core values or a focus for the fundamental identities for all its members?” No one will risk his life or die for the United Nations, the European Union, or the World Bank.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said recently, “If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere.” Cosmopolitanism is viable only for a tiny elite of businessmen, politicians, entertainers, academics, and professional media. The vast majority of people live in local communities rooted in a specific landscape, language, beliefs, histories, and customs, in a nation that needs secure borders and strict qualifications for immigration and citizenship in order to protect its identity and security. The nation, properly understood, makes its citizens who they are and gives their civil and political lives meaning. To demonize the citizens who cherish those identities as bigots or xenophobes is to deny their very selves. “It is inhuman,” the French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut writes, “to define man by blood and soil, but no less inhuman to leave him stumbling through life with the terrestrial foundations of his existence taken out from under him.”

The current resurgence of populist nationalism in the United States and Europe reflects the pushback against these long-held dogmas of transnationalism, and resistance to the denigration of national identities. In the United States, Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in the presidential contest confirms that for now at least, populist nationalism has deep and wide support. In Europe, national elections during the next year will reveal just how widespread and vigorous this resistance is beyond America. Facing global threats from rivals and enemies passionate about their own national or religious identities, the interests and security of the West will be better protected if its citizens are allowed to express without recriminations their national pride and autonomy.


Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, a Research Fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution, and a Professor of Classics and Humanities at the California State University. He is the author of nine books and numerous essays on classical culture and its influence on Western Civilization. His most recent book, Democracy's Dangers and Discontents (Hoover Institution Press), is now available for purchase.

Source: http://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/265033/nationalist-revival-bruce-thornton

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Renowned Scholar Valery Solovei: 'It Is Not Unlikely That [Putin] Will Have To Be Absent From The Public Spotlight For A Few Months' - MEMRI




by MEMRI

"The Storm of 2017: Putin May Be Replaced By A Successor In A Few Months."

On November 11, Russia's daily newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets removed from its website (Mk.ru) an interview with one of the most influential and highly quoted intellectuals, Professor Valery Solovei, where Solovei predicted that Russian President Vladimir Putin "may be absent from the public spotlight for a few months or appear there very infrequently," before the next presidential elections in 2018. Solovei is the chair of department of public relations at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University) run by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia. Moskovsky Komsomolets described him as a political analyst, who has "the reputation of a person who knows a little more than ordinary mortals about what happens beyond the Kremlin wall." The Russian daily mentioned that Solovei announced already on August 1 on his Facebook page that "A specially entrusted person – Anton Vaino – will be the head of the president's administration... Vyacheslav Volodin will become the chairman of the State Duma. According to the principle 'You shall rule those you have chosen yourself'." Moskovsky Komsomolets added: "We remind you that the country was astonished to learn that Sergey Ivanov had been dismissed from the post of the chief of staff of the presidential administration, and Anton Vaino had been appointed to it on August 12. And the fact that Volodin, at that time first deputy chief of staff of the presidential administration, was "recommended" by the president for the post of the Duma chairman was revealed only on September 23. In short, any discussion of Russia's most immediate political future cannot dispense with a person like this [i.e. Valery Solovei]."

Below are excerpts of the interview with Solovei, titled "The Storm of 2017: Putin May Be Replaced By A Successor In A Few Months."[1]


Valery Solovei (Source: Youtube.com)

Solovei: '[Putin] May Not Participate In These [Presidential] Elections'

Q: "As far as I can understand, it is futile to ask you about your sources of information on the plans of those in power. I know that you usually answer that you keep an 'astral channel of communications with space' open. So let's talk straight away about what 'the stars can tell us'. First of all: do they confirm the version about early presidential elections?"

V. Solovei: "Only very recently this was one of the most discussed topics in the corridors of power. But the meetings of the deputy head of the presidential administration Sergey Kiriyenko with political analysts gave us to understand that the elections will take place as usual. Nevertheless, I would make a cautious assumption that one cannot completely rule out the possibility of early elections. In this case, they may take place next spring. In any case, the situation will become completely clear in December of this year."

Q: "But is it even worth it? However thorough the preparations for early elections may be, the political system will be seriously overloaded in any case. What unpleasant and dangerous things for the authorities can happen between spring 2017 and spring 2018 to make this big rush worth it?"

V. Solovei:  "Yes, you are right: the risks may considerably outweigh any positive results. But there are two considerations. The first is related to the fact that the socio-economic situation will get worse. And that means that public sentiment will get worse as well. All analysts speak about this today – including those who serve the powers that be. They say that in this respect the outlook for 2018 appears very unpromising. And, therefore, it is inexpedient to wait till 2018. The other reason: by force of certain circumstances although the credibility of this information is unclear – it is not unlikely that the current president may have to be absent from the public spotlight for a few months or to appear there very infrequently. As you understand, this hypothetical situation is very fretful in the context of Russian politics."

Q: "Could you explain this point? Does the president have health problems?" 

V. Solovei: "Allow me not to explain, I have said enough. I will emphasize once more: this information is not absolutely certain. Still, we must not dismiss it."

Q: "So, it makes sense to hold the elections beforehand'..."

V. Solovei: "Yes, before this situation arises. And the most startlingly unexpected idea that was discussed in connection with this is that the current president may not participate in these elections."

Q: "Because of 'certain circumstances'?"

V. Solovei:  "Partially by force of these circumstances, partially because of geostrategic considerations. I mean, first and foremost, relations vis-à-vis the West: while Putin is president, they can hardly be fundamentally improved."

Гроза 2017 года: возможно, Путина через несколько месяцев заменит преемник
(Source: Mk.ru)


Q: "Even after Trump's victory?"

V. Solovei: "Nobody knows what to expect from Trump now. From the look of it, the Russian leaders really have certain positive expectations from his victory. But so far, there has not been any reason to think that after Trump comes to power, Russian-Western relations will thaw dramatically. If we assume that Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] considers improvement of relations with the West an important national need, then it's easy to predict who will be his successor. And there is already a counter-intrigue against this potential successor. Because his candidature is not liked by many. Firstly, by those who are called 'security forces lobby' today."

Q: "So who is this peacemaker?" 

V. Solovei: "It's not hard to guess, since there aren't many options. It's déjà-vu – Dmitri Medvedev. The only high-profile liberal in the list of potential successors. Which of the security officials could it be is still unclear. At first, the current governor of the Tula Oblast, Aleksei Dyumin, was mentioned as a possible choice. But it looks like the president is disappointed in his security forces succession pool. Disappointed in their ability to engage in, so to speak, peace politics. They may have been brilliant guards and good soldiers. But they obviously can't cope with economic and administrative tasks. Nevertheless, security forces men count on having their own candidate there. But there is nobody so far, except for Sergey Ivanov [former head of the presidential administration]."

Image result for Alexei Dyumin
Tula Oblast Governor Aleksei Dyumin (jpgazeta.ru)


Q: "So, Sergey Ivanov's removal from the post of the head of the presidential administration is not a downgrade?"

V. Solovei: "The statements Ivanov made lately indicate that he retains the aspirations and the power to speak on behalf of the head of state. Note how negatively Ivanov reacted to the possibility of uniting the state security related structures. He called the idea of creating a Ministry for State Security [MSS] 'foolishness'. In order to speak like that, one must be self-assured and know the president's attitude on the issue."

Image result for sergey ivanov
Sergey Ivanov (Vestnikkavkaza.net)


Q: "Does it mean that there will be no MSS?" 

V. Solovei: "Not in the most immediate future, at any rate. The reason is, first and foremost, the National Guard: its creation can hardly be called a successful experiment. As a result, the Ministry of the Interior became weaker, and the Guard is, in many respects, only a token structure. It turned out that it's impossible to create a structure like that quickly, that it upsets the balance, that elite communications are disrupted. For the same reason, it is doubtful that the idea of returning the Investigative Committee to the Public Prosecution Office, which has been much talked about lately, will be implemented."

Q: "The resignation of [Aleksandr] Bastrykin [as the head of Russia's Investigatory Committee on September 20, 2016] has been talked about even more, but it hasn't happened yet. Were the rumors exaggerated?"

V. Solovei: "Not quite. It's just that two important issues have to be resolved beforehand. First: should the Investigative Committee be maintained as an independent organ or should it be united with the Public Prosecution Office? The administrative logic says it would be best to merge them, but the National Guard experience says it's better not to change anything. And the second reason, which arises from the first: if the Investigative Committee remains as is, who will replace Bastrykin? It is known that [Georgy] Poltavchenko, the current governor of St. Petersburg, aspires to this position."

Solovei: 'Real Power Will Be In The Hands Of The Head Of The State Council, A Post That Putin, Naturally, Will Assume'

Q: "Speaking about the recent informational 'strike' on [Russia's Prime Minister Dmitri] Medvedev, one couldn't help noticing that the prime minister was attacked by, among others, or even primarily, by [the prominent opposition figure and anti-corruption campaigner] Aleksei Navalny. Does this mean that Navalny and the opposition forces united around him play on the side of one of the Kremlin parties?"[2]
 
V. Solovei: "I am certain that Aleksei Navalny pursues his own political goals. He considers himself to be a politician with a future, and he has every reason to do so. Navalny is interested in discrediting the elites, no matter on whose suggestion. In some cases, his interests may coincide with those of some of the Kremlin groups. By the way, the initiative of a plot against Medvedev came from the presidential administration, as far as I know, and was supported by the silovki."

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Dmitri Medvedev (Source: Rt.com)


Q: "And how high is Vyacheslav Volodin's stock now? Some experts consider him to be an ideal successor." 

V. Solovei: "Volodin is trying to uphold this reputation. He gives promises to his confidants: everything will be more than just fine, it will be great. But malicious gossip has it that Putin mistrusts him. They say that it was Volodin's ambition that worried the president. Many complained to Putin about him, including people Putin trusts. Trusts a lot. Either Volodin himself never concealed his far-reaching designs, or his rivals informed on him. The latter is more probable. And one can guess who has fanned the flames.

"They said that Volodin allegedly built the following scheme: he would lead United Russia to victory during the Duma elections and become the head of the presidential administration; then he would ensure the successful re-election of Vladimir Putin and would become the prime minister and successor. I repeat – it is unclear whether Volodin said so himself or this was attributed to him. But in any case, the president started treating him with some wariness."

Q: "And Volodin was 'exiled' to the Duma." 

V. Solovei: "Yes. Despite the high-sounding title of his new position, it can hardly be called a promotion. The power and influence wielded by the head of the presidential administration are incomparably greater than those of the State Duma chairman. Of course, Volodin is a strong and talented political manager, and he can increase his political weight under certain circumstances. But so far, we have not seen anything momentous.

"Besides, Volodin failed to keep his influence in the administration: [Tatyana] Voronova, the former head of department for domestic policy, had to leave and go to the Duma. Volodin's supporters are gloating now that Kiriyenko did not manage to put his own man in her place. But schadenfreude is hardly a sign of strength."

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Vyacheslav Volodin (Sputniknews.com)


Q: "What about [Sergey] Kiriyenko [former CEO of Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation, who was recently appointed as First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office], do you think he has come to stay?" 

V. Solovei: "It's hard to say. They say he did not want to go into the administration at all. He was pressed to do it, mostly because the slot of Rosatom chief had to be vacated. By the way, Kiriyenko was not the first candidate for the position vacated by Volodin. There was another one with a chance of getting the post. I will not name him, he is a very influential person in the mass media. Extremely influential. But he managed to worm his way out of it, he found convincing reasons for the president. And Kiriyenko did not."

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Sergey Kiriyenko (Source: Kremlin.ru)


Q: "Some people think that Kiriyenko as a talented manager was brought in to solve the tasks related to the oncoming presidential election." 

V. Solovei: "I am not quite sure of that. There was nothing to correct in the domestic policy area. You may think of Volodin what you wish, but everybody acknowledges the fact that he was very effective in his area. He has built a well-oiled machine, and it has produced results. I don't quite understand how Kiriyenko can improve it. And I am not sure he understands it himself. Volodin's and [presidential aide Vladislav] Surkov's 'sympathizers' comment on Kiriyenko's first steps in the new job with great sarcasm. There are even rumors that he may have to turn to Volodin for help. By the way, according to rumors, Kiriyenko's first task is to tackle the problem of [Valery] Shantsev, the governor of the Nizhny Novgorod Oblast."

Q: "What is the problem? Is he too hard to remove?"

V. Solovei: "Not at all! The problem is finding a replacement. At the moment, the personnel problem is very acute. You can talk to any high-ranking official, and he will not complain about a shortage of money, but about a shortage of people capable of doing their job competently. It was no accident that Putin started to appoint his security guards as governors but in desperation."

Q: "Lately, there have been active rumors about a large-scale constitutional reform allegedly being prepared by the authorities. The reform suggests either complete abolition of the presidential post or a radical reduction in its powers. And, as far as I understand, you do not rule out this scenario." 

V. Solovei: "That's right, I do not rule out this scenario – under the conditions that I have listed: by force of certain force-majeure circumstances, Vladimir Vladimirovich will have to withdraw into the shadows for a while.

According to the new model under discussion, the president will have mostly ritual and representative functions. Possibly, he will try to patch up relations with the West. But real power will be in the hands of the head of the State Council, a post that Putin, naturally, will assume. At the moment, the State Council is a consultative and extra-constitutional organ, that's why a constitutional reform is needed."

Q: "A variation of [Chinese leader] Deng Xiaoping?"

V. Solovei: "Something like that. Deng Xiaoping or the Supreme leader of Iran [Ali Khamenei].[3] Under the current power system, a constitutional reform is a task more technical than conceptual. If the Kremlin wishes, it could be done at a very swift rate. The problem is of a different kind – to explain what's going on to the elite and to the public. For changes of this kind can potentially [make] mass consciousness schizophrenic. People will no longer understand who is the country's leader, which czar, so to speak, is the real one [a reference to a popular Soviet cult movie, 'Ivan Vasilievich Changes Profession', where an impostor impersonates a czar]. All the intra-elite communications that have been built over dozens of years will be broken'... That is, the risks are colossal. And this is probably the main obstacle on the way to early elections and changing the form of government."

'We Are Far From Stalin's Repressions Yet, But The Actions Of The Authorities Are Becoming Harsher, More Severe'

Q: "Summing up the parliamentary election, you wrote an enigmatic phrase on your Facebook page: "The electoral way to power is blocked for the opposition. Which does not rule out other ways. In about a year, brand new developments will begin, and a window of opportunities will be open". What does it mean? Should we expect a revolution?"

V. Solovei: "Revolution is one possible form of political changes that exist in the modern world. But what did I mean in this specific case?

"There are at least two serious factors that can start in 2017. The first is related to the presidential election. If the election takes place early, and especially if a new government system is proposed, this will inevitably provoke a disruption of the elites. The second factor is related to mass sentiments. I think they will change faster than it is expected today. Currently, the changes are not very noticeable; they do not manifest themselves in any social or political behavior. But they accumulate under the surface. To put it briefly, it is no longer about the public rejecting the authorities, it is about opposition to authority.

"There is a kind of axiom in political prognostics: we can predict entry into a crisis, but not the way it will develop or its results. Nobody in the world has such predictive methods. But the crisis' inception can be predicted with a high degree of reliability.

"I have a feeling that next year we will enter this kind of political crisis. Most likely, it will not be instantaneous but will take some time to develop. This new development will open a window of opportunities for all those who have the will, strength and desire to exploit the new situation."

Q: "But if we believe the sociologists, the system's safety margin is quite considerable. Don't you believe sociologists?"

V. Solovei: "I do, some of them, at least. But I know what they are talking about besides opinion polls. I talked to sociologists I trust. Some of them work in VCIOM (Russian Public Opinion Research Center), some – in the Levada Center. And they say about the same things that I've just said to you: changes are being accumulated now that will bring about a qualitative breakthrough in the public consciousness. This is first.

"Secondly: poll results should not be trusted quite so much, because people are afraid to speak the truth.

"And thirdly: the axiom that everyone who's interested in political sociology knows – mass developments are unpredictable. Today everybody speaks about their loyalty when answering questions, and tomorrow the same people are seen protesting in the streets and squares. This has happened many times throughout history, including our recent past."

Q: "In this connection, I can't help mentioning your new book. Its title may scare some people and inspire others: The Fundamentals of Revolutionary Struggle in Modern Times. When discussing the so-called 'color' revolutions, you include the Russian events of five years ago in the list. You call the actions of the opposition an attempt at revolution that the authorities successfully nipped in the bud. How probable is it that Putin's team will cope with new similar challenges?"

V. Solovei: "That depends on two things. Not on the quality of Putin's team – it is known to us and will hardly change. But, firstly, on a combination of circumstances, or, to reduce it to lowest terms, on good or bad luck. And, secondly, on the quality of opposition.

"If it has the good sense to understand that it is its one and only chance, that there will be no other, then it will behave differently than in late 2011 – early 2012. The 'white ribbons' failed to use a unique opportunity then; they did not put the right pressure in the right place at the right time, when the authorities were already prepared to agree to significant concessions. Including restaging the parliamentary elections [a tacit admission that the elections were tainted by fraud].

"If the opposition again stops short of challenging the powers that be, I'm afraid they may later have to clean the White Sea Canal.[4] Not figuratively, but literally."

Q: "Aren't you being an alarmist?"

V. Solovei: "Not at all. We are far from Stalin's repressions yet, but the actions of the authorities are becoming harsher, more severe. The repressive machine is becoming more and more total. However, the authorities risk a lot, too, by increasing the pressure. Remember Vladimir Vladimirovich's famous story about what happened to him when he was a child. Nobody should be driven into a corner: neither rats nor, especially, people. [the reference is to a story on how Putin, as a boy, cornered a rat, which, seeing it had nowhere to go, turned around and attacked him.]"

Q: "What will be the main driving forces of the new burst of oppositional activity? Angry city folk again, like five years ago, or other sections of society?"

V. Solovei: "I think it will be similar to what happened in the USSR in late 1980s-early 1990s, when angry city folk, the Soviet middle class, i.e. the managers and technicians, protested together with the industrial working class.

As I imagine, protests in industrial cities caused by growing socio-economic problems will serve as the trigger. The old response methods will be inadequate in this case. You can easily disperse Moscow hipsters, but this method will be useless against Putin's electoral base.

"It was simple before – there was money. Now there is no money. By the way, Medvedev was the only person in power who said the truth. And suffered for it.

"These protests will not be political in character at first; people will not demand democracy. But it does not matter. What's most important is that they will create a very favorable background for political protests in the capitals. And, what's no less important, they will provoke the dissatisfaction of the elite with the leader.

Because from the elite's point of view Putin's chief task is to "retain" the voters. As soon as the elite sees that the public is getting out of control, its attitude towards Vladimir Putin will change immediately. The tension in relations between different power groups will rise sharply, potential fault lines will emerge clearly. 'The Kremlin towers' will turn into political factions."

Q: "And the number of democrats in power will start growing rapidly."

V. Solovei: "Moreover, they will explain to you that they have always been democrats; they have always supported the opposition; they have always aided it."

Q: "Approximately the same things we observed during the perestroika?"

V. Solovei: "Absolutely. There will be nothing principally new; processes of this kind always repeat the same pattern."

Endnotes:


[1] Mk.ru, November 10, 2016. The removed article was available for a while for readers on webcache.googleusercontent.com. A copy of the original article in Russian was saved by the blog Verybigfish.livejournal.com.
[2] Navalny published the results of its investigation concerning Medvedev’s secret dacha. Opposition media outlet Meduza.io wrote: “The cottage is the estate of Milowka, located one kilometer from the center of Ples in the Ivanovo region. Though it was previously known that Medvedev and his family regularly visit Milowka, photographs of the residence, which is surrounded by a six-meter wall, had never been published before. In his blog, Navalny published aerial images of the residence. The oppositionist maintains that the estate occupies not two hectares as claimed by the media previously, but 80. The territory includes a private marina (land adjacent to the Volga River), a ski slope, three helipads, a few houses, a hotel and other buildings, and park-like facilities, including a giant chessboard and a house for ducks. The historic manor of Milowka itself is enclosed by an additional internal wall. The Foundation estimates that the cost of restoring the estate and of building the rest of the complex at 25-30 billion rubles (approximately $385.73 to $462.87 billion). According to Navalny, the territory was acquired by a foundation called Dar, using money provided by the shareholders of the company Novatek. The charitable contribution is estimated at 33 billion rubles (approximately $509.16 million). These funds were also used to fund the restoration. Dar, says Navalny, is closely associated with the Prime Minister’s wife Svetlana Medvedeva. The head of its board of advisors is also Medvedev’s former classmate Ilya Eliseev. After 2011, the complex was transferred to Russia's Foundation for the Preservation of Historical and Cultural Heritage. The dacha is, therefore, not owned by Medvedev, but the Prime Minister vacations there on a regular basis, as evidenced by the geo-tags of his photographs on Instagram.
Navalny sees the fact that the territory was acquired by a foundation affiliated with Medvedev as a sign of corruption.” Meduza.io, September 16, 2016. See Navalny’s video on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMVJxTcU8Kg
[3] Neither Deng nor Khamenei held the titles of president or prime minister or in Deng's case the post of first secretary of the Chinese Communist Party. Deng sufficed with the title Chairman of the Central Military Commission or vice-chairman of the party central committee.
[4] The White Sea Canal (Belomorkanal) was a Stalinist forced labor project connecting the Whie and Baltic Seas via Lake Onega. An estimated 12,000 gulag inmates died on the project.


MEMRI

Source: http://www.memri.org/reports/russian-daily-mkru-removed-interview-renowned-scholar-valery-solovei-predicting-it-not

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More bad advice from Dennis Ross - Att'y Stephen M. Flatow




by Att'y Stephen M. Flatow

Despite this record of being consistently wrong on Israel and the Palestinians, Ross is at it again.


For nearly thirty years, Dennis Ross has been advising presidents of the United States to pursue more pro-Palestinian policies. This week, he was at it again, offering President-elect Trump some unsolicited "tips" on the Mideast on the op-ed page of the Washington Post. Hopefully the new president will pay less attention to Ross's bad advice than his predecessors did.

Ross first came to wide public attention in 1989, when the New York Times revealed that he was one of the State Department officials responsible for convincing outgoing President Ronald Reagan and incoming President George H.W. Bush to recognize the PLO. Ross insisted that Yasir Arafat had genuinely given up terrorism. That blew up in Bush's face the following year, when PLO-affiliated terrorists tried to attack Tel Aviv beachgoers and the U.S. embassy nearby. Bush broke off the PLO ties that Ross had so carefully cultivated.

During the years following the 1993 Oslo accords, Ross was one of the architects of the Clinton administration's close relationship with Arafat. Once again, Ross claimed Arafat had become moderate. That myth was shattered (again!) when Israel intercepted the Karine A, a Palestinian ship full of weapons that Arafat tried to smuggle into the Palestinian Authority's territories in January 2002. The ship contained 50 tons of weapons and 700,000 rounds of ammunition. 

But Ross soon did it again. From 2009 to 2011, he served as a senior aide to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and as Middle East director on the National Security Council. Those were the years when Hamas was starting to build tunnels to enable its terrorists to reach Israel from Gaza, and the Israelis began restricting the importation to Gaza of building materials that could be used for the tunnels. So the Obama administration sent Ross to the region--to pressure Israel.

Ross later admitted what he did: "I argued with Israeli leaders and security officials, telling them they needed to allow more construction materials, including cement, into Gaza so that housing, schools and basic infrastructure could be built. They countered that Hamas would misuse it, and they were right.”

Assured by the Obama administration's insistence that the cement would not be used for military purposes, Israel allowed it to be imported. The result? Hamas built "a labyrinth of underground tunnels, bunkers, command posts and shelters for its leaders, fighters and rockets," Ross acknowledged. They built them with "an estimated 600,000 tons of cement," some of which was "diverted from construction materials allowed into Gaza."  (Washington Post, Aug. 8, 2014)

Despite this record of being consistently wrong on Israel and the Palestinians, Ross is at it again.  In a December 1, 2016 op-ed in the Washington Post titled "Tips for Trump on the Middle East," Ross offers the next president some suggestions that he says will advance the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace.


Just as in the past, Ross pretends he is calling for concessions by both sides. But the concessions by the Israelis would all be concrete and almost irreversible, while the "concessions" by the Palestinians are all rhetorical and could be reversed at any moment.

Israel, he proposes, should officially announced that it would "no longer build outside the settlement blocs." That would mean a complete freeze on all Jewish construction in the vast majority of the Judea-Samaria region. In the affected areas, a young Jewish family that has a new baby would not be permitted to build another room in their house to serve as a nursery. A kindergarten would not permitted to expand its playground. Jewish life would be effectively choked off.

If Israel tried to reverse such an officially-announced freeze, it would face international condemnation and maybe even sanctions. Meaning that the freeze would probably be irreversible.

What "concessions" would the Palestinians have to make in exchange, according to Ross? They would "acknowledge that there are two national movements requiring two states for two peoples" and they would "end [their] efforts to delegitimize Israel in all international forums."

The first part of that formulation is obviously vague, and falls far short of recognizing the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. The second part means that the Palestinian Authority would temporarily stop introducing anti-Israel resolutions (big deal)--something that they could renew the minute they dislike some Israeli policy.

So once again, Israel would get vague rhetorical assurances, while the Palestinians would get tangible territorial and diplomatic gains.

That strategy didn't work in 1989, when the U.S. recognized the PLO. It didn't work in the 1990s, when the U.S. embraced Arafat again. And it didn't work in 2009, when the U.S. pressured Israel on the Gaza construction materials. So why should anyone think that Ross's current advice would be any better than the mistaken and dangerous advice he has offered in the past?


Att'y Stephen M. Flatow, a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, is an attorney in New Jersey. He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.

Source:  http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/19866

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Iran to Trump: Death to America Will Live On - Majid Rafizadeh




by Majid Rafizadeh

From the perspective of Iranian moderates, reformists and hardliners, the US is not a superpower anymore; but a weak actor in the Middle East and on the global stage.

  • Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made it clear that Trump's presidency causes "no difference" to Iran-US relationships. He called the Americans' election "a spectacle for exposing their crimes and debacles."
  • "Thank God, we are prepared to confront any possible incident." — Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
  • Iranian leaders also made it clear that Tehran will continue supporting Hezbollah and other groups that have been designated as terrorist groups by the US Department of State. These groups pursue anti-American and anti-Israeli agendas.
Ideologically speaking, Iran's hardliners, primarily Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and senior officials of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) who enjoy the final say in Iran's domestic and foreign policies, have made it clear that Iran will not change the core pillars of its religious and revolutionary establishment: Anti-Americanism and hatred towards the "Great Satan" and the "Little Satan", Israel.

Supporters of Ayatollah Khamenei and the IRGC enthusiastically shouted "Death to America" in response to a recent speech that Khamenei gave, applauding the 1979 hostage-taking and takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran.

Iran's major state newspapers carried anti-American headlines this week, quoting the Supreme Leader. In his latest public speech to thousands of people, which was televised via Iran's state TV, Khamenei made it clear that Trump's presidency will cause "no difference" to Iran-US relationships. Khamenei pointed out that, "We have no judgment on this election because America is the same America". In his speech, Khamenei attacked President-elect Donald Trump and the American people. The Ayatollah called the US election "a spectacle for exposing their crimes and debacles."


Other hardliners echoed the same message that there would be no change in Iran's revolutionary principles and ideals against the US and its allies. The deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, told Iran's Fars news agency: "When the Republicans were in power, they threatened us and showed their hostility... and when the Democrats were in power, the policies of the United States were the same."

Khamenei also remarked that the US will remain the evil, or the "Great Satan," saying:
"In the past 37 years, neither of the two parties who were in charge did us any good and their evil has always been directed toward us....We neither mourn nor celebrate, because it makes no difference to us... We have no concerns. Thank God, we are prepared to confront any possible incident."
He added that the remarks made by Donald Trump "over the last few weeks on immoral issues -- which are, for the most part, not baseless accusations -- are enough to disgrace America."

Militarily, strategically and geopolitically, Tehran's core pillars of damaging US national interests, and scuttling US foreign policy objectives will remain intact.

Iran's semi-official Fars news agency reported that Iran's armed forces chief of staff, General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, has heavily criticized Donald Trump for stating that the US will confront Iranian boats in the Gulf if they harass US Navy ships. In the last year, Iran has increasingly harassed and provoked US Navy ships, and detained 11 American sailors.

General Bagheri stated out that, "The person [Trump] who has recently achieved power, has talked off the top of his head! Threatening Iran in the Persian Gulf is just a joke."

In 2016, the number of incidents of boats from Iran's navy and Revolutionary Guards provoking and harassing the US Navy ships rose significantly to 31 incidents, highlighting that the IRGC evidently feels sufficiently emboldened to damage US national security publicly and on a regular basis. From the perspective of Iranian moderates, reformists and hardliners, the US is not a superpower anymore; but a weak actor in the Middle East and on the global stage.

In addition, Iran, with underlying anti-American objectives, is aggressively expanding its military presence and naval bases in foreign nations and international waters. Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqheri said, as cited by the Iranian Tasnim news agency, that the expanding presence in international waters and naval bases in foreign countries "could be ten times more efficient than nuclear power." For the first time, the Iranian Navy's 44th flotilla, comprised of a Bushehr logistic warship and an Alvand destroyer, has now sailed into the Atlantic Ocean as well.

Tehran is also considering having naval bases on the coasts of Yemen and Syria to support the Assad government and the Houthis. As Iran's Chief of the General Staff told a gathering of senior naval commanders, "One day, we may need bases on the coasts of Yemen and Syria, and we need the necessary infrastructures for them under international maritime law."

Iran's naval commander, Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, also told the gathering of senior naval commanders that boosting military presence in international waters reflects Iran's power.

According to the Tasnim news agency, Iran's navy has already deployed 49 flotillas to various maritime zones. Sayyari added that the flotillas "showcased Iran's symbol of power."

Iranian leaders also made it clear that Tehran will continue supporting Hezbollah and other groups that are designated as terrorist groups by the US Department of State.

These groups pursue anti-American and anti-Israel agendas.

Khamenei and IRGC are sending a strong message that Iran will neither alter its core religious and revolutionary pillar of anti-Americanism, nor change its foreign policy and military objectives of damaging US interests. Iran's policy towards the "Great Satan" will remain as it has been since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979.
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Majid Rafizadeh, political scientist and Harvard University scholar is president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He can be reached at Dr.rafizadeh@post.harvard.edu.

Source: https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/9467/iran-trump-death

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