Weekend long read

1) Writing at the Jerusalem Post, Jonathan Spyer reviews the current situation in Syria.

‘The international news focus has long moved on from the Syrian conflict. Behind the oft-stated clichés of the conflict “winding down” and of regime survival or victory, however, a complex and often deadly reality remains. […]

Assad regime apologists have sought for a long period to present a view of the war in which the status quo antebellum was in the process of being restored. This image does not entirely correspond to reality. Assad, with Iran and Russia, controls around 60% of the territory of Syria. The area east of the Euphrates controlled by the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces constitutes roughly 30% of Syria. The Turkish-guaranteed Sunni Islamist area in the northwest covers the remaining 10%.’

2) At the ITIC, Raz Zimmt takes a look at an Iranian charity.

‘“The Foundation of the Oppressed” is the largest charitable foundation in Iran and the second largest economic entity in the country. Since the late 1980s, the Foundation of the Oppressed has become a large economic holding company controlling firms and groups in the sectors of services, industry, mining, energy, construction and agriculture. The Foundation operates under the direct supervision of the Supreme Leader Khamenei and maintains a tight working relationship with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The Foundation plays a central role in Iran’s efforts to expand its economic role in Iraq and Syria, as a lever to entrench its influence in the region. At this stage, the Foundation of the Oppressed and firms operating under it are not under American sanctions, and it is unclear whether the recently announced sanctions against the office of the Supreme Leader will include this foundation too.’

3) Also at the ITIC, a report on the new Albukamal Border Crossing.

‘The new border crossing between Syria and Iraq at Albukamal is considered strategically important by Iran. That is because the crossing is vital for the land bridge Iran seeks to construct between its territory and the Mediterranean Sea. The route allows Iran to send forces, supplies and weapons through Iraq to Syria and from there to Lebanon. It can be assumed that Iran is of the opinion that the land bridge will enable it to reduce its dependence on risky aerial and naval routes. The new crossing, when it opens, will enable larger numbers of vehicles to enter Syria and make it easier to preserve secrecy (since it is farther from residential buildings). Therefore it is likely that the new crossing is being constructed with Iranian aid, and possibly with Iranian involvement. In addition, Iran participates in securing the area between Albukamal in Syria and al-Qa’im in Iraq by using Shi’ite militias deployed permanently in the region.’

4) The Press Gazette reports the NUJ’s reaction to the BBC’s recent agreement to reporting restrictions imposed by Iran.

‘The morale of BBC Persian journalists has been “deeply affected” by a management decision to abide by reporting restrictions in exchange for access to Iran, the National Union of Journalists has claimed. […]

The union said the “professional integrity” of BBC Persian journalists “has been undermined” by the move. Iranian authorities continue to target journalists at the London-based news service in a bid to silence them.’

 

 

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No dots to join in BBC News Gulf crisis backgrounder

The BBC News website currently has a backgrounder titled “Iran and the crisis in the Gulf explained” on its Middle East page.

For a self-defined explanatory article, some of its wording is remarkably vague. For example, under the sub-heading “What is the crisis about?” BBC audiences are told that:

“Behind the latest tensions is the fact that Iran and the US have increasingly accused each other of aggressive behaviour.

The US says recent activity by Iranian and Iranian-backed forces is destabilising the region and threatening US interests, while Iran says the US is trying to use military force and economic pressure to bring down its government.”

What is that “recent activity”? Who are “Iranian-backed forces”? How does “destabilising the region” manifest itself? The BBC isn’t telling.

Similarly, under the sub-heading “Why does the crisis matter?” readers find a rather trite statement which is not given any further exploration or explanation:

“…if the crisis erupts into a war, the consequences will be devastating.”

One of the places where “the consequences” of any such armed conflict will be felt is – as Iranian officials have said quite plainly – Israel and that is because Iran has protégés in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip on call for precisely such a scenario.

While Hizballah and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad are Iran’s main investments on Israel’s borders, it has also been rebuilding relations with Hamas, after ties took a blow in 2011 when the terror group refused to side with Iran’s Syrian partner, Bashar al Assad.

Although Hamas delegations have traveled to Tehran fairly regularly in recent years – including for Rouhani’s second inauguration – the latest of those visits included something of a novelty. For the first time in seven years, Hamas representatives (including Saleh al Arouri, Husam Badran, Osama Hamdan and Mousa Abu Marzouk) met with Iran’s ‘supreme leader’ Ali Khamenei.

“Iran’s state TV says a delegation from the Palestinian militant group Hamas that is visiting Iran has met with the country’s supreme leader.

The TV report on Monday says Ayatollah Ali Khamenei held talks with Hamas’ deputy chief, Saleh al-Arouri, who is heading the delegation. The Hamas delegation also met with Kamal Kharrazi, an adviser to Khamenei.

“Hamas is Iran’s first line of defense,” said Al-Arouri following the meeting.”

The Jerusalem Post added:

“Referring to recent escalations between the US and Iran, the Hamas official added that Hamas expressed “solidarity with the Islamic Republic of Iran and emphasize that any hostile action against Iran is actually hostile to Palestine and the current of resistance. We consider ourselves to be at the forefront of supporting Iran.”

Al-Arouri addressed how the capabilities of the Hamas terrorist group have advanced through the years, adding that “today, all of the occupied territories and the main Zionist centers are in the crosshairs of Palestinian resistance missiles.””

The significance of that Hamas visit to Tehran was clearly recognised by many major media organisations such as AP, the Washington Post and the New York Times. The BBC however apparently did not consider it newsworthy and so readers of the BBC’s backgrounder on the Gulf crisis are deprived of information which could go some way towards ameliorating its often opaque and unhelpful language.

Related Articles:

The BBC and media freedom – theory and practice

 

  

Superficial BBC reporting on Argentina’s designation of Hizballah

A written report titled “Argentina designates Hezbollah as terrorist organisation” appeared on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page on July 18th.

“Argentina has designated Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement as a terrorist organisation and frozen its assets.

It accuses the Shia Islamist group of being behind two attacks on its soil.

The announcement was made on the 25th anniversary of one – the bombing of the Amia Jewish cultural centre in Buenos Aires, in which 85 people died.”

Later on in the report readers were told that:

“The attack on the Amia centre – which Argentina said was planned and financed by Iran, and carried out by Hezbollah – was the South American country’s deadliest terrorist attack.”

As has been standard practice for years in BBC reporting on the AMIA attack, the report then went on to note denials from Hizballah and Iran but failed to inform audiences of the wealth of evidence available which indicates that such denials are to be viewed with a considerable amount of scepticism.

“Both Iran and Hezbollah have denied any involvement. No-one has ever been brought to trial in connection with the bombing.”

Like the BBC profile of Hizballah (which has not been updated for over three years) to which readers were provided with a link, the report also gave readers an incomplete view of the designation of Hizballah.

“Hezbollah is also designated by the US, UK, Israel and several Gulf Arab states, but Argentina is the first country in Latin America to do so.”

BBC audiences found the following cryptic statement:

“Argentine officials say Hezbollah is engaged in illegal activities between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay to finance its operations elsewhere.”

Readers were not informed that a year ago the Argentinian government froze the financial assets of fourteen Lebanese residents of the Tri-Border Area who were part of an organisation linked to Hizballah or that the governments of Brazil and Paraguay have also taken steps – as the BBC knows – against Hizballah’s terror-financing activities in that region.

The report did however close by telling BBC audiences that “[t]he US, along with Israel, had pushed for Argentina to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organisation”.

Related Articles:

The Amia Attack: Terrorism, Cover-Up and The Implications For Iran  (CAMERA)

 

 

Weekend long read

1) At Mosaic magazine Professor Eugene Kontorovich explains “The Many Incoherences and Hypocrisies of International Law on Jerusalem”.

“Under the uti possidetis principle, then, Israel’s borders at the moment of independence are quite clear: the borders of Mandatory Palestine. Those borders include all of Jerusalem, and Judea and Samaria as well. The UN, in its thousands of resolutions to the contrary, flagrantly ignores that principle.

This conclusion is not affected by the UN General Assembly’s partition proposal, adopted as Resolution 181 in November 1947, that provided for the formation in Palestine of two states, Jewish and Arab, with the city of Jerusalem designated a separate internationally-administered entity (the corpus separatum). That is not only because the UN proposal was a non-binding recommendation, but because, having been rejected by the Arabs, it was never implemented and did not in fact result in a partition of the Mandate. Uti possidetis goes by the prior administrative borders as they were, not as they might at various times have been imagined to be.”

2) MEMRI documents the broader background to a speech from a senior Hamas figure which was recently ignored by the BBC: “Hamas Official Fathi Hamad’s Speech Was No Exception”.

“After a July 12, 2019 speech by Hamas political bureau member Fathi Hammad urging Palestinians to kill Jews all over the world sparked outrage, Hamas issued a clarification stating that his statements did not reflect the movement’s official positions and that Hamas’s struggle is against the occupation, not against Jews around the world or the Jewish faith.

However, MEMRI publications from the past two years show that statements by Hamas members and officials, and content published by Hamas’s official media, have been rife with antisemitism. […]

It should be mentioned that all of these statements were made after Hamas published its May 1, 2017 policy document aimed at presenting the movement as pragmatic, democratic, and tolerant. This document was also aimed at distancing the movement from the antisemitic statements that appear in its charter (although it does not supersede the charter), by stating that Hamas does not fight the Jews as such, but only the Zionist occupation.”

3) The ITIC takes a look at a topic serially under reported by the BBC – “Summer Camps in the Gaza Strip”.

“In the past UNRWA organized and funded some of the summer activities for the children in the Gaza Strip. However, in recent years UNRWA suspended its activities because of financial problems. The vacuum was filled by Hamas and the PIJ, which increased their summer camp activities accordingly. In the past Hamas summer camps were organized by the ministries of education and the interior. However, in recent years, with the formal addition of military training to the high school curriculum (“al-Futuwwa”), organizing the summer camps was turned over to the military wings of Hamas and the PIJ (to continue al-Futuwwa training). Apparently the transition had a direct influence on the summer camps’ programs and more emphasis is currently placed on indoctrination and paramilitary training. […]

Hamas’ summer camps are expected to open on July 20, 2019. The camps, called Pioneers of Liberation, are supervised by Hamas’ military wing, and their theme is “Going to Jerusalem”.”

4) Jonathan Spyer analyses the Iraqi prime minister’s announcement of the integration of Shia militias into the Iraqi security forces. 

“The Shia militias are the main instrument of Iranian policy on Iraqi soil.  Not all groups involved in the 150,000 strong PMU are Iran-linked, but the largest and most consequential groupings are.  These include the Badr organization, led by Hadi al-Ameri,  Ktaeb Hizballah, headed by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Asaib ahl-al Haq, and Hizballah al-Nujaba.

All the above mentioned groupings are franchises of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). All were established by and are controlled by Iran, answering directly to the IRGC’s Qods Force and its leader, General Qassem Soleimani. […]

The militias are powerful players – politically, militarily and economically.  Prime Minister Adel Abd al Mehdi, meanwhile, is a weak figure with no real power base of its own.  Iraq is not a country ruled by law.  The prime minister as a result simply possesses no coercive mechanism for imposing his will on the Shia militias.  He can order their dissolution if he so wishes.  The result will be the further enmeshing and fusing of the militias with the official bodies of the state – without the ceding by the latter of their own vital chain of command.  This chain of command leads to Qassem Soleimani, and thence to the office of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.”

 

Revisiting a story the BBC last mentioned in 2013

Back in February 2018 we noted that BBC audiences had seen no meaningful coverage of a long-running dispute between Lebanon and Israel concerning their maritime border. That observation still stands.

In that post we recorded that the United States had been trying to mediate between the two parties for some time, as explained in a comprehensive article by Oded Eran of the INSS.

“In February 2012, State Department Special Envoy for Middle East Peace Frederic Hof…undertook the task of mediation. Israel reiterated to him its willingness to resolve the dispute by reaching a compromise in direct talks with representatives of the Lebanese government. In April 2012, at separate meetings in London (in view of the Lebanese refusal to participate in a joint meeting), Hof submitted a proposed compromise involving division of the disputed area. On May 2, 2013, then-Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Liberman approved the American proposal, even though it granted Lebanon a larger share of the area. To this day no official response from Lebanon has been received, although according to reports of US diplomats in contact with the Lebanese government, they discussed inter alia depositing the proposal with the UN. From this it appears that the proposal was acceptable to the Lebanese government.”

In June of this year Mr Eran and his colleague reported that the negotiations were to be renewed.

“In the coming weeks, negotiations are supposed to begin between Israel and Lebanon on demarcation of the maritime border between them. Agreement on forthcoming talks was reached following intensive efforts by United States Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield, and it was decided that negotiations will be held at the UN facility in Naqoura, on the Israel-Lebanon border. Due to Lebanese opposition to American mediation, the United States will participate in the talks only as a facilitator. The conflict between Israel and Lebanon concerns an 860 sq km triangular area in the Mediterranean Sea, and stems from a dispute regarding the demarcation method (Israel marks the border as being at a 90-degree angle to the land border, while Lebanon marks it as a continuation of the land borderline). The issue grew more relevant and became an open conflict following the natural gas discoveries in the Mediterranean Sea.”

They noted that:

“The Lebanese government’s current agreement to renew the negotiations, and this time in a direct manner, seems to have been made possible by the formation of the Lebanese government earlier this year, but it is clear that the main backdrop is the urgent economic need, due to Lebanon’s severe economic hardship. […]

Moreover, it seems that there has been a change in Hezbollah’s position on the issue, as Lebanon’s willingness to negotiate would not have been possible without this organization’s approval. […]

This change in Hezbollah’s position increases the chances of reaching an agreement…”

However, the Jerusalem Post now reports that Hizballah’s stance has changed yet again.

“Internal Lebanese struggles are apparently holding up negotiations between Israel and Lebanon over demarcating their maritime border, with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri pushing for the talks to begin, but facing resistance from Hezbollah. […]

Lebanese website Naharnet reported earlier this week that France and the US expressed regret that efforts to kick-start the talks have been frozen.

The report quoted sources involved in the negotiations as saying “the Lebanese side, specifically Hezbollah, has decided to stop the negotiations due to an Iranian-Syrian intervention linked to the new tension between America, Israel and Iran.” […]

According to Israeli officials, Hariri and Druze and Christian parties are interested in settling the border dispute because the exploration of natural gas off the coast would add millions to the Lebanese treasury, which is in dire need of replenishing. Hezbollah and its patron Iran have other interests, however, and are placing obstacles in the way.”

The dispute has been going on for many years but the last time BBC audiences heard of its existence was over six years ago in a written report from Yolande Knell about gas finds in the eastern Mediterranean.

“Israel and Lebanon remain technically at war and there is a dispute over their un-demarcated maritime border. […]

Political uncertainty in Lebanon means it is also unable to make key decisions, notably on the delineation of offshore blocks, which must be approved by a new cabinet.

There is currently only a caretaker government after the prime minister stepped down last month.”

Since that article appeared in May 2013, audiences have seen no further coverage of the attempts to get negotiations on track and remain completely unaware of the fact that a designated terror organisation acting on Iranian instruction is preventing the resolution of a long-standing dispute and stalling potential improvement to the Lebanese economy.

Related Articles:

A border dispute BBC audiences know nothing about

BBC’s Knell inaccurate on naval blockade of Gaza Strip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC News continues to parrot Iran’s nuclear messaging

A report was published on the BBC News website’s Middle East page on July 16th under the headline “Netanyahu: ‘Europe might ignore Iran threat until nuclear missiles hit’”.

That title, along with a further 181 words in the 690 word report related to remarks made by the Israeli prime minister following a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Brussels concerning Iran’s breaches of the agreement reached in 2015 on its nuclear programme.

“Israel’s prime minister has said the European Union might not wake up to the threat of Iran “until Iranian nuclear missiles fall on European soil”.

Mr Netanyahu likened Europe’s approach to Iran’s recent breaches of a 2015 deal limiting its nuclear programme to the appeasement of Nazi Germany.

He spoke after EU foreign ministers said the breaches were not significant.”

Readers found information on Iran’s breaches of the JCPOA and the EU’s related stance. The US approach and the Iranian stance were also reflected, with BBC audiences told that: [emphasis added]

“Iran says they [breaches of the JCPOA] are a response to reinstated US sanctions, but insists it is not trying to build nuclear weapons.”

And:

“Mr Netanyahu, who was a staunch opponent of the nuclear deal, has accused Iran of lying about not pursuing nuclear weapons and of continuing to pursue nuclear weapons knowledge since 2015. Iran has called the allegations “ridiculous”.”

The BBC knows that in December 2015 (after the JCPOA had already been agreed upon) the International Atomic Energy Agency – IAEA – produced a report which stated that:

“…the agency “assesses that a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device were conducted in Iran prior to the end of 2003 as a coordinated effort, and some activities took place” up to 2009.”

The BBC also knows that in April 2018 Israel revealed documents from Iran’s nuclear archive which raised new issues.

Nevertheless, it chose not to inform readers of this report of those relevant parts of the story.

Instead – despite being under obligation to “offer a range and depth of analysis…not widely available from other United Kingdom news providers…so that all audiences can engage fully with major…global issues…as active and informed citizens” – the BBC continues to uncritically parrot Iranian messaging while sidestepping important background.

Related Articles:

More superficial BBC reporting on Iranian nuclear programme PMDs

BBC continues to promote ‘peaceful’ Iranian nuclear programme theme

 

The BBC and media freedom – theory and practice

Visitors to the BBC News website may have noticed that disclaimers appeared in a number of reports by the BBC’s Beirut correspondent Martin Patience published on its Middle East page in the past few days.

Inside Iran: Iranians on Trump and the nuclear deal

Inside the former US Embassy in Iran

Inside Iran: What Iranians think of stand-off with US

The same disclaimer also appeared on other platforms.

However Yashar Ali at the Huffington Post reports that the BBC’s disclaimer – apparently made in accordance with the new editorial guidelines – does not tell all.

“The BBC has agreed to conditions set by the Islamic Republic of Iran to not share reporting materials it gathers in Iran with its Persian-language channel, BBC Persian, an internal email obtained by HuffPost reveals. The agreement represents a capitulation to a government that has been hostile to press freedom. The Iranian government routinely shuts down media organizations critical of the regime and imprisons, tortures and executes journalists.

The agreement was made with the Iranian government in exchange for Iran allowing a BBC correspondent into the country, and, according to emails that HuffPost obtained, it’s not the first time the British broadcaster has agreed to such terms.

The email, sent Saturday to all BBC Persian staff by a BBC Persian digital editor, said that BBC foreign correspondent Martin Patience and his team were in Iran “and due to leave on Sunday.”

The email goes on to say, “It is absolutely imperative that none of their material is run on BBC Persian TV, Radio or Online now or in the future. That includes any official BBC Persian social feed retweeting or forwarding the coverage. Please do not use the material and stories produced in Iran on any platform or in any format.”

It’s unclear who at the BBC agreed to the exclusivity terms.”

Just last week the UK government co-hosted an international conference in London on media freedom in which the BBC’s Director General and Director of News and Current Affairs took part and the BBC ran a “hub”. The aim of that conference was described by its organisers as follows:

“The conference is part of an international campaign to raise awareness of the importance of international press freedom, and also to increase the consequences faced by those who try to restrict it.” [emphasis added]

One can but wonder how the Foreign & Commonwealth Office – which of course part funds the BBC World Service, which includes BBC Persian – squares last week’s fine declarations on media freedom with the almost simultaneous BBC acquiescence to the demands of the Iranian regime.

Discrimination in sport continues to be ignored by the BBC

Back in November 2017 BBC audiences were told that an Iranian wrestler had been instructed to lose a match because Iran “does not accept” and “does not recognise” Israel. As was noted here at the time, ‘Newshour’ presenter Tim Franks brought up an ‘interesting’ way of avoiding such situations which – notably – did not involve the Iranians giving up their bigoted approach.

“Franks: “And in terms of the Iranian sort of…trying to avoid this sort of thing in the future, have they ever tried to make appeals to the people who run world sport to avoid embarrassing clashes…?”

In February 2018 the BBC revisited that topic, again telling audiences that “Iran does not recognise the state of Israel” and that “[d]ozens of Iranian athletes have boycotted competitions against Israeli competitors since the 1979 Islamic Revolution”.

In none of those reports were BBC audiences told of the religious ideology behind that refusal to “accept” Israel.

The BBC has also shown no interest in informing its audiences of the efforts made by the International Judo Federation to fight discrimination in sport. Those efforts have included communication with Iran ahead of the Judo World Championship next month.

“The IJF said in a letter to Iran that: “The international judo community witnessed several times a disturbing phenomenon, which involves the sudden “injury” or failure of weigh-in of Iranian athletes… [because of] the possible obligation of the given athletes to compete against certain countries.”

In the same letter, the federation set a March 15 deadline for the Iranian government to present to “The International Judo Federation… a governmental letter which guarantees that all athletes from Iran will compete in IJF competitions, regardless of the nationality of the athletes they oppose, and that they will participate in the medal ceremonies, regardless of the nationality of those who share the podium with them.”

The Iranian response to the letter was published by the IJF in March 11, where it claimed that it would, “fully respect the Olympic Charter and its non-discrimination principle.” The Islamic republic also said that they were negotiating with parliament to “identify the proper legal resolutions.”

However, a top Iranian sports official now appears to have reneged on that commitment to non-discrimination.

“President of the Iran National Olympic Committee Syed Reza Salehi Amiri said that Iranian athletes will not compete against Israeli athletes, despite Iran claiming in a letter addressed to the International Judo Federation (IJF) that things might change.

The Judo World Championship will take place at the end of August, where the most anticipated encounter will be between Iranian Saeid Mollaei, who is ranked No. 1 in the 81 kg. weight group, and second ranked Israeli Sagi Muki. […]

“Refraining from participating in competitions with athletes of the Zionist regime is an issue of the Muslim world, and athletes from 20 countries refrain from doing so. I said that we are acting within the framework of the Iranian regime’s policy – and for this reason, we are not competing with athletes of the Zionist regime,” Amiri said.”

Once again there is no sign of that story on either the BBC Sport Judo page or the BBC News website ‘Middle East’ page.

Related Articles:

More tepid BBC coverage of anti-Israel bigotry in sport

BBC muddies a story of anti-Israel bigotry in sport

No BBC coverage of sports anti-discrimination move

Sporting body’s anti-discrimination results get no BBC coverage

No BBC coverage of US designation of Hizballah MPs

The imposition of terror-related sanctions by the US Treasury on sitting members of parliament in another country is a story one would expect major media outlets to cover and indeed the New York Times, the Washington Post and the AP and Reuters news agencies, among many others, have done just that.

The BBC, however, has to date chosen to ignore the July 9th announcement concerning the designation of three members of Hizballah.

“Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated key Hizballah political and security figures leveraging their privileged positions to facilitate Hizballah’s malign agenda and do Iran’s bidding.  Specifically, OFAC designated Hizballah Members of Parliament Amin Sherri and Muhammad Hasan Ra’d, and Hizballah security official Wafiq Safa, for acting for or on behalf of Hizballah.  These individuals were designated under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism.”

AFP noted that:

“It was the first time the U.S. Treasury had placed Hezbollah lawmakers on its blacklist, which forbid U.S. individuals and businesses with a U.S. branch – including leading international banks – from doing business with those sanctioned.

“It is time we believe for other nations around the world to recognize that there is no distinction between Hezbollah’s political and military wing,” a senior administration official who insisted on anonymity told journalists.”

Reuters reported that:

“Lebanon’s dollar-denominated sovereign bonds fell and the cost of insuring exposure to its debt rose on Wednesday after the sanctions move. […]

Lebanon is saddled with one of the heaviest public debt burdens in the world.”

Meanwhile, the most recent entry on the BBC News website’s ‘Lebanon’ page dates from June 24th.

Related Articles:

Hizballah London explosives story not newsworthy for the BBC

Usual mantras in BBC News report on Hizballah designation

Whitewashing Hizballah on BBC Radio 4

BBC News gives anodyne portrayal of new Lebanese government

 

 

Weekend long read

1) Jonathan Spyer takes a look at “Hizballah’s Deep State: the creeping annexation of Lebanese State Institutions and political life”.

“In the political arena, Hizballah dominates a bloc which in turn controls both executive and legislature. Thus, it dominates both the decision making process and the process of implementing decisions. In the military arena, Hizballah posesses an armed force stronger than and of equal size to the official state military. It also clearly has a presence within and influence within the official armed forces. In the field of internal security, an ally of Hizballah commands the most powerful internal security body, and fellow travellers of the organization or appeasers of it command all the others. In economics Hizballah controls an economic empire of its own and can intimidate or implicate any bodies seeking to act against it.

The result is that it is impossible today in key areas of Lebanese life to determine exactly where the official state begins and Hizballah’s shadow state ends. The latter has penetrated and taken up residence in the former.”

2) At the Long War Journal, David Andrew Weinberg has documented how “Gulf governments sponsored anti-Semitic hate preachers during Ramadan 2019”.

“Ramadan is a holy month in the Sunni-ruled Gulf monarchies.  In addition to daylong fasting, one other aspect of the festival in this region is that governments sponsor a range of religious programming in order to burnish their religious credentials, particularly at state-run mosques and on state-owned television stations.

However, many Gulf governments fail to provide adequate oversight when sponsoring Ramadan programming, arranging events that feature religious leaders who have a longstanding record of anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry.  Even if such preachers are more measured in their remarks at these particular government-sponsored events, their state hosts still run the risk of legitimating proponents of bigotry.”

3) Miriam Elman explains why “BDS ‘Anti-Normalization’ Is a Mockery of Progressive Values” at the Algemeiner.

“Anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) promoters have long tried to stake out the moral high ground — depicting themselves as the champions of the oppressed, and positioning their movement as being on the right side of history.

But the reality is that BDS rarely acknowledges, or works to prevent, harm to Palestinians that is meted out by their own governments and societal extremists.

What’s even worse is that BDS leaders often egg on and incite these depredations with an anti-normalization campaign characterized by coercion and strong-arm tactics against peace activists and co-existence groups — along with just about any Palestinian who dares to cross the BDS picket line to cooperate with or even just talk to Israelis.”

4) Mark Dubowitz and Saeed Ghasseminejad of the FDD take a look at new US sanctions on Iran.

“President Trump issued a new executive order last week that mandated sanctions on Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader’s Office, and several categories of related entities and individuals. The president’s order points toward the imposition of sanctions on key components of Khamenei’s massive business empire that have so far escaped sanctions.

Khamenei controls at least $200 billion of assets through three foundations: the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (EIKO), the Mostazafan Foundation, and the Razavi Economic Organization, the business arm of Astan Quds Razavi. These tax-exempt organizations have amassed wealth via corrupt practices such as the confiscation of dissidents’ properties. Their proceeds fund repression inside Iran and terrorism abroad.”