European Nations Invoke Nuke Deal Dispute Resolution Process

Iran warned the United Kingdom, France, and Germany against triggering the dispute resolution mechanism of the 2015 nuclear accords. While stating that goodwill gestures would be welcome, Iran’s foreign ministry also said that Tehran would give a serious and firm response to any action against the nuclear deal. Reported by i24 News. Read more…

Iran’s warnings did not deter the three European nations, however, who said they were launching the dispute resolution process. The process could eventually result in the U.N. re-imposing sanctions of Iran.  Reported by i24 News. Read more…

Christian Persecution On The Rise Says Non-Profit Open Doors

A report by the non-profit Open Doors says 260 million Christians were “severely persecuted” throughout the world in 2019. It was an increase over 2018 figures, even through deaths from persecution dropped. According to the report, “This increase is explained in particular by a deterioration of the situation of religious freedom in China at the national level, affecting more and more regions, and by the deployment of jihadism in Africa.” Reported by i24 News. Read more…

Even as U.S. President Donald Trump was preparing to sign a trade deal with China, a Chinese pastor was describing the fear and intimidation Christians are enduring under China’s communist government. David Curry, the president and CEO of Open Doors USA, told Fox News that, “The drivers of persecution are still very significantly entrenched. Islamic extremism is spreading in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.” Open Doors is a bipartisan grass roots organization that each year publishes a list of the 50 most dangerous nations for Christians. North Korea, Afghanistan, and Somalia topped the list in 2019; China came in at number 23. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Iran Begins Testing Advanced Centrifuges

Iran continues to step away from the 2015 nuclear deal. In the most recent move, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, said Iran’s nuclear experts have begun testing new, advanced centrifuges. Centrifuges are used for uranium enrichment “We have had great achievements and today, Iranian new IR-6 centrifuges are working and models IR-9 are currently being tested,” Rouhani announced through Iran’s state-run news agency IRNA. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Iran has also increased activity at its Arak heavy water reactor. Though the move does not violate the 2015 accords, it does advance Iran’s nuclear program towards weapons-grade levels. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

ICC to Investigate Israel, Palestinians for War Crimes

The International Criminal Court says there is sufficient evidence for it to investigate alleged Israeli and Palestinian war crimes committed in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. In reaching this conclusion, the ICC said that it saw “no substantial reasons to believe that an investigation would not serve the interests of justice.” The decision ends years of preliminary investigations and signals that the ICC is preparing to open a formal investigation. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

More Reported by i24 News. Read more…

The ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, believes that actions by Israeli authorities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem can be considered to fall under the war crime of a transfer of a civilian population into occupied territory. She also says that there is reason to believe the IDF had committed war crimes in Gaza. She also said, however, there was reason to believe Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups had also committed war crimes. Reported by The Jerusalem Post. Read more…

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the probe “pure anti-Semitism” and vowed that Israel would “not bow our heads.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

More Reported by Reuters. Read more…

Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett also castigated the ICC decision, calling it a “breeding ground for anti-Semitism.” Bennett also said that “No soldier and no commander will flinch from protecting his people and his family because of the hypocritical court in The Hague.” Reported by i24 News. Read more…

 

Israeli State Prosecutor Appointment Draws Criticism From Mandelblit

Deputy Prosecutor Orly Ben Ari-Ginsberg has been named as Israel’s interim state prosecutor, sparking a sharp rebuke from Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who had recommended Shlomo Lamberger for the position. The position is closely scrutinized because Ari-Ginsberg will replace outgoing state prosecutor Shai Nitzan who oversaw the three corruption investigations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Ari-Ginsberg was appointed by Israeli Justice Minister Amir Ohana, who himself was appointed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in June 2019. Mandelblit said of Ari-Ginsberg’s appointment, “In my opinion, this appointment deviates extremely from the field of reasonability and therefore there is a judicial hindrance in approving it.” Ohana fired back, stating, “I have no doubt that Orly will work to preserve everything worth preserving, and contribute to strengthening public confidence in this hugely important system.” Reported by i24 News. Read more…

Meanwhile, Likud politician and former Netanyahu protégé Gideon Saar took his shot at unseating Netanyahu from his position as leader of the Likud party. Netanyahu’s position has been weakened in the wake of three indictments for corruption. Likud members have rallied around Netanyahu, who says the charges are politically motivated. Nonetheless some 500 Likud activists, including the powerful chairman of the party’s executive body, attended Saar’s campaign launch which had the slogan “Only Saar Can!” Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

In his effort to overturn Netanyahu, Saar has focused his campaign on Netanyahu’s inability to form a government, paralyzing the country politically. “He (Netanyahu) has failed twice, but it is not because of the Likud’s ideas,” Saar said as he launched his campaign, further warning, “If we do not make a change, we are getting close to a leftwing government.” Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

Despite Saar’s challenge, Netanyahu won the primary handily, gaining 72% of Likud votes to Saar’s 28%. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

Netanyahu Staves Off Primary Challenge

Even as Likud prepared for a primary, Israeli politicians are looking to the March 2020 elections. As one of his campaign promises, Netanyahu has promised to annex the Jordan Valley if he wins reelection. “I intend to lead for American recognition of our sovereignty in the Jordan Valley and in all the settlements in the West Bank, as I have lead the recognition of the Golan Heights and Jerusalem, Israel’s capital,” Netanyahu said in an interview. Reported by i24 News. Read more…

Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s chief rival, Benny Gantz of the Blue and White party, urged voters and other political parties to step up to oust Netanyahu. “We are striving for a clear decision by the citizens of Israel – a government led by Blue and White to replace Netanyahu’s rule,” Gantz said during a party meeting. Reported by i24 News. Read more…

Benny Begin, the son of Likud’s founder, former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, urged Netanyahu to resign. In a radio interview, Begin said that a prime Minister serving with three corruption indictments against him was unacceptable. Reported by i24 News. Read more…

Security Counsel Fails to Pass Resolution on Syrian Aid

U.N. Security Council squabbling is endangering cross-border aid to Syria. Belgium, Germany, and Kuwait prepared a resolution that would have allowed aid to cross the border into northeast Syria at four points, two in Turkey and two in Iraq, for another year. Russia and China blocked the resolution, however, because ally Syria wanted the Turkish crossing limited to only six months. A severe humanitarian crisis continues to mount in northeast Syria and the Idlib region. Reported by The Guardian.Read more…

Thousands Displaced as Assad’s Forces Push

Days of airstrikes and heavy shelling around the town of Maarat al-Numan caused as many as 30,000 people to flee to area towards the Turkish border. The town sits astride the M5 highway, which links Damascus to Aleppo. Syria’s leader, Bashar al-Assad is determined to reopen the highway, and those fleeing along it have been subject to attack. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

In the eastern region of Al-Bukamal, missile strikes from an unknown source killed five Iraqi Shiite militants loyal to Iran. The region provides a vital link between Syria and Iraq through which Iran and its proxies have allegedly been smuggling weapons and missiles. Reported by i24 News. Read more…

Anti-Government Protests Continue in Lebanon and Iraq

Anti-government protests in Lebanon continued through the middle of December. Lebanese security forces used teargas, rubber bullets, and water canon to disperse hundreds of protesters. Nationwide protests have accused Lebanese politicians of corruption.  The government has been struggling to find a replacement for prime minister after Saad Hariri resigned at the end of October 2019. Some reports suggest Hariri will be renamed to the post, which is unacceptable to protesters. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

The Lebanese army also clashed with supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, who were reportedly angered by an online video that offended key Shiite figures. Reported by i24 News. Read more…

As it turns out, Hariri was not re-appointed prime minister. Hassan Diab, a former minister and university professor was named to the post. Diab has the backing of Hezbollah and its main Christian ally, but other political groups have backed Nawaf Salam, a former ambassador to the UN and judge. If Diab is approved after a second round of consultations, he will have to form a cabinet. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

Iraqis were also out protesting the government in Baghdad, with the protesters claiming that government officials are enriching themselves, mismanaging the economy, and are beholden to Iran. Protests increased after an attempt was made on the life of a popular TV satirist. Reported by i24 News. Read more…