Gaddafi Predictions of Fight Over Libyan Oil Coming True

Two months before his death, Libya’s dictator Muammar Gaddafi gave a speech in which he claimed “There is a conspiracy to control Libyan oil and to control Libyan land, to colonize Libya once again. This is impossible, impossible. We will fight until the last man and last woman to defend Libya from east to west, north to south.” Now, nine years later, it appears poised to come true as world and regional powers fight over control of Libyan oil. Included in the mix is Russia, Turkey, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates as forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar—backed by Egypt and Russia—battle the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli. Reported by The Guardian. Read more…

 

U.S. Efforts To Extend U.N. Arms Embargo Likely To Fail Despite Full Support of Gulf States; Australian Citizen Convicted of Spying Transferred; Iran Sinks Own Carrier Mock-Up In Strait of Hormuz

The United States continues to push for the U.N. Security Council to vote to extend an expiring embargo on arms sales to Iran. The U.S. has also threatened to impose a unilateral embargo regardless of what the U.N. does. Brain Hook, a special envoy for Iran, told reporters, “We have an objective to extend the arms embargo. That can be done the easy way or it can be done the hard way, but it’s going to be extended.”  The U.S. has been lobbying for an extension of the embargo, which is set to expire under the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the west, and from which the U.S. withdrew. Reported by Fox News. Read more… All lobbying, however, appears doomed to failure. China has confirmed it will not vote to extend the embargo, effectively ending the U.S. effort. China Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Wang Webin, stated Thursday that “We don’t agree with the U.S. in pushing for the extension of the arms embargo against Iran in the Security Council. All the provisions of Resolution 2231, including the relevant arrangements with regard to arms embargo, should be implemented in earnest.” The day before China’s announcement U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, had told reporters, “The Security Council’s mission is to maintain ‘international peace and security.’ The Council would make an absolute mockery of that mission if it allowed the number-one state sponsor of terrorism to buy and sell weapons freely.” Reported by Fox News. Read more… Nonetheless, the U.S. got an unexpected boost from the Arab bloc. All six Gulf Arab nations—through the Gulf Cooperation Council—announced they back the U.S.-plan to extend the embargo. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a British-Australian academic serving a ten-year prison sentence for spying has been moved from Tehran’s Evin Prison to Qarchak women’s prison. Qarchak is notoriously isolated in the desert. It is one of Iran’s harshest prisons. In a telephone call Moore-Gilbert revealed that she felt hopeless and isolated. Moore-Gilbert, a Middle East scholar, was arrested and convicted of spying on Iran, though she denies the allegations. Reported by The Guardian. Read more… Australia’s ambassador to Iran visited Moore-Gilbert and found that she “is well.” Moore-Gilbert is a lecturer in Islamic studies at Melbourne University. “Dr. Moore-Gilbert is well and has access to food, medical facilities, and books,” a statement from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. “We will continue to seek regular consular access to Dr. Moore-Gilbert.” The statement also said Australia believed the best way to bring Moore-Gilbert home “is through the diplomatic path.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Meanwhile, Iran continues saber rattling. This time, the Islamic Republic fired a barrage of missiles at a replica of a U.S. carrier it had built in the Strait of Hormuz. Twenty percent of the world’s oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz. The recent Iranian exercise serves as a reminder that despite the coronavirus pandemic occupying both countries’ attention, tensions between the U.S. and Iran remain. Reported by The Guardian. Read more… Reported by Fox News. Read more… It may also be that Iran’s military may have overdone it—the mock-up appears to have sunk in the Strait—blocking part of the waterway. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Israel’s Annexation Plans Go On Hold

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to begin annexing parts of the West Bank on July 1 have not come to pass … yet. Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz told US Special Envoy for International Negotiations Avi Berkowitz and Scott Leith of the National Security Council that he did not see “July 1 was a holy date,” saying fighting coronavirus and bringing down unemployment are higher priorities. Berkowitz and Leith were in Israel at the end of June to meet with Israeli leaders regarding the annexation plans. Reported by The Jerusalem Post. Read more… Netanyahu also met with Berkowitz and Leith, saying later that they “spoke about the question sovereignty, which we are working on these days and we will continue to work on in the coming days,” sending a clear signal that annexation would not begin July 1. Reported by The Jerusalem Post. Read more… Also reported by The Washington Post. Read more… A June 10 article by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency gives some insight into what annexation could look like when it begins. Reported by the JTA.Read more…

New York Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and several other top Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about Israel’s planned annexation. The letter warned there would be severe consequences for Israel if the nation continued its plan to annex parts of the West Bank. “Should the Israeli government continue down this path, we will work to ensure non-recognition of annexed territories as well as pursue legislation that conditions the $3.8 billion in U.S. military funding to Israel to ensure that U.S. taxpayers are not supporting annexation in any way,” the letter said, continuing, “We will include human rights conditions and the withholding of funds for the offshore procurement of Israeli weapons equal to or exceeding the amount the Israeli government spends annually to fund settlements, as well as the policies and practices that sustain and enable them.” The letter was also signed by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Representative Rashida Tlaib from Michigan. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

The U.K.’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, appealed to Israel to reconsider its decision to annex parts of the West Bank, saying it would be a “violation of international law.” He also said that the U.K. would not recognize any changes to the pre-1967 borders in the West Bank that were not agreed to by both the Israelis and Palestinians. Reported by The Guardian. Read more… And France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, called Netanyahu on Friday to discuss annexation, urging the Israeli prime minister to step back from annexation because “such a move would contravene international law and jeopardize the possibility of a two-state solution as the basis of a fair and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.” Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Senior Hamas Military Commander Defects To Israel

A senior commander in Hamas’ military wing and head of the terror group’s commando frogman unit is reported to have fled the Gaza Strip aboard an Israeli boat. The man, who has not been named, fled amid suspicion he was collaborating with Israel. He reportedly took with him a laptop computer containing classified information about the commando unit. Reported by The Jerusalem Post. Read more… Reported by The Times of Israel.Read more…

Report Russia Paid Taliban Bounties For Killing U.S. Troops Ignites Furor In Washington

Amid a Democratic and media furor over reports alleging U.S. President Donald Trump was aware of intelligence showing Russia was paying bounties to the Taliban for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton accused Democrats of “curl[ing] up in the fetal position” whenever Trump becomes “hawkish” on Russia. Appearing on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom” on July 2, also noted that the administration had corrected the initial New York Times report, saying there was “no definitive intelligence” presented to Trump and that “strong dissent within the intelligence community” over the report remained. Reported by Fox News. Read more… In a series of tweets shortly after the story broke, President Trump denied anyone had told him about the reports, and further stated that U.S. intelligence officials had just informed him that there was no credible information suggesting Russian intelligence agencies had offered to pay bounties to the Taliban. Reported by NBC News. Read more… Russia also quickly disavowed the bounties when the report first broke. In a series of Twitter posts, the Russian embassy in the U.S. characterized the report as fake news. Reported by the BBC. Read more… And a June 30 report in Time states that while U.S. and allied military and intelligence officials in Afghanistan collected the information regarding the bounties, senior officials were divided on how much credence to give the raw intelligence. Reported by Time. Read more…House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that she was not briefed about the bounties but should have been. She also criticized the president for not reading his daily intelligence briefings. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

On July 10 former Secretary of State Colin Powell suggested that the media overreacted to recent reports about the alleged bounties. “What I know is that our military commanders on the ground did not think that it was as serious a problem as the newspapers were reporting and television was reporting,” Powell told ABC News. Cautioning that U.S. commanders would have to analyze and verify the reports and identify the actors before taking action, he said that media coverage became “almost hysterical in the first few days.” Reported by Fox News. Read more… Sen. Cotton agrees with Colin Powell that the media and Democrats overreacted to the reports. Cotton says he agrees with Powell that U.S. military commanders did not think it was as serious a problem as the media was reporting. “Our senior commander on the ground in the Middle East, he doesn’t think these reports were corroborated and he is not aware of any deaths that are attributable to these reports,” Cotton told “America’s Newsroom” on Fox News. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

The top U.S. general in the Middle East has said he was aware of intelligence regarding the bounties and that while he found it “worrisome” he did not believe it was linked to any actual military deaths. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie of U.S. Central Command said, “I found it very worrisome, I just didn’t find that there was a causative link there.” He also explained, “The intel case wasn’t proved to me — it wasn’t proved enough that I’d take it to a court of law — and you know that’s often true in battlefield intelligence.” Reported by ABC News. Read more… Mark Esper, U.S. Secretary of Defense, spoke July 8 about the reports, denying he had ever been specifically briefed on the charge Russia was paying the Taliban bounties for targeting U.S. troops. Speaking before the House Armed Services Committee, Esper also said that “It is the opinion of a number of intelligence entities, agencies, that could not corroborate the report.” Reported by Military Times. Read more…

Israel Launches Satellite; Blue and White Reneges On Promise To Appoint Arab-Speaker To Cabinet

Israel launched another spy satellite into orbit on July 7. The satellite, known as the Ofek 16, will be operated by the Israeli Defense Forces along with other satellites Israel has in orbit. The satellite is equipped with advanced electronics and was built entirely in Israel. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

It appears that Blue and White, the party of Deputy Prime Minister Benny Gantz, has reneged on a promise to appoint someone from Israel’s Arab-speaking community to a ministry position. Three days before the new government was sworn in, in May, Blue and White announced that it would appoint a minister of minority affairs—one of the ministries allocated to it under the deal with Likud—and that the minister appointed would come from the Arabic-speaking community. Two months later, however, no minister has been appointed and rumor has it the party has dropped the idea. Reported by The Times of Israel.Read more…

Rockets Miss Baghdad International Airport, U.S. Embassy; Iraqi Terror Expert Assassinated

Another rocket was fired at Baghdad’s International Airport on July 6 near where American troops and diplomats are housed. The rocket was an unguided Katyusha model. U.S. forces shot down a similar model the night before. It was the seventh rocket attack against the airport in less than a month; Iran-backed militias are suspected of being behind the attack. Reported by Fox News. Read more… On July 5, a rocket was also fired toward the U.S. embassy in Baghdad but landed on a nearby home instead, injuring a child. A rise in attacks has occurred as the U.S. and Iraq prepare for talks regarding the presence of U.S. forces in the region. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Hishan al-Hashimi, an expert on jihadi groups, was shot dead in front of his home on July 6. The gunmen responsible have not been identified or apprehended, nor have authorities identified a motive for the attack. Al-Hashimi was an expert on the Islamic State terror group and was often interviewed by western media during ISIS’s reign of terror in Iraq He was also an expert on Iraqi politics, Iraq’s political elite, and government corruption and frequently spoke out against corruption on his social media sites. Reported by CNN. Read more…

U.S. Seeks Seize Iran Gasoline Shipment To Venezuela; Pompeo Warns Against Expiration of Iran Arms Embargo; Iran Sentences Journalist To Death; U.S. District Court Orders Iran To Pay Bombing Victims Additional $879 Million; Iran Cites Military Mistakes As Cause of Passenger Jet Shootdown

Early in July the Department of Justice (DOJ) obtained warrants to seize Iranian gasoline on four tankers heading for Venezuela. The DOJ also said that the four tankers, the Bella, Bering, Pandi, and Luna, are assets of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which the United States has designated a terrorist organization. A criminal complaint filed by the DOJ stated that profits from the sale of the gasoline are intended to support terrorism and a “full range of nefarious activities” including obtaining weapons of mass destruction. The sale of Iranian oil products in international commerce is a violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

A U.N. arms embargo against Iran is set to expire in October. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the U.N. Security Council that allowing that arms embargo to expire would betray the “UN’s mission and its finest ideals.” The embargo expiration date is part of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the West. Reported by Fox News. Read more… During a news conference the following day Pompeo warned that Iran will become an arms dealer to dictators such as Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduros. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Iran has sentenced journalist Ruhollah Zam to death, claiming his posts to his website and the popular social messaging app Telegram spurred protests and demonstrations against the regime. The 2017 protests represented the biggest challenge to the regime since protests in 2009. Zam, based in Paris, entered Iran and was detained by Iranian security forces. Reported by Fox News. Read more…

Iran finally released its report into the investigation of the downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet in January. According to the report, the shoot-down was the result of a misaligned missile battery, miscommunication between troops and their commanders, and a decision to fire without authorization. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

A U.S. District Court has ordered Iran to pay an additional $879.1 million to the victims of a 1996 bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. airmen. The judge ruled again that Iran was responsible for the attack. Iran denies responsibility and refuses to pay. President Trump praised the decision. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more…

Explosions Seriously Damage Iran Nuke Site As Mysterious Explosions Plague Tehran In Recent Weeks

A July 2 explosion and fire has struck a centrifuge production plant above Iran’s underground Natanz nuclear enrichment facility. Iran’s Atomic Energy Agency downplayed the fire, calling it an “incident.” Iran’s official news agency, IRNA, implied the cause was the work of Iran’s enemies. Reported by Fox News. Read more… Although Iran initially said the damage was minor, it later admitted the explosion had set its enrichment program back by several months. Reported by The New York Times. Read more… Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… Reports say Israel may have been behind the attack, and that damage is far more severe than initially thought. Reported by The Times of Israel. Read more… An explosion at a Tehran medical clinic was caused by a gas leak, say Iranian officials. At least nineteen people were killed. At least two explosions occurred, however, as shown by posts to social media. Officials claim the second explosion could be due to oxygen tanks stored in the building. Reported by Fox News. Read more… Yet another explosion rocked Tehran on Friday, July 10. Although Iranian officials have denied the report the mayor of a nearby town confirmed an explosion occurred, saying it came from a factory that filled gas cylinders. Reported by The Times of Israel.Read more…

U.N. Says U.S. Violated International Law In Soleimani Death

In what is certain to set up a confrontation between U.S. President Donald Trump and the United Nations, the world body on July 8 accused President Trump of violating international law by ordering the drone strike that targeted and killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards elite Quds Force. According to a U.N. report on the killing, “No evidence has been provided that Gen. Soleimani specifically was planning an imminent attack against U.S. interests, particularly in Iraq, for which immediate action was necessary and would have been justified.” The U.S. argument it was acting in self-defense notwithstanding, the U.N. report further stated that “by killing Gen. Soleimani on Iraqi soil without first obtaining Iraq’s consent, the U.S. violated the territorial integrity of Iraq.” The U.N. alleges that the U.S. violated article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter, which “prohibits the threat or use of force and calls on all members to respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of other states.” Reported by Fox News. Read more… Iran has previously issued an arrest warrant for Trump, which the U.S. dismissed as a “propaganda stunt.” Reported by Fox News. Read more…