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>JN Aug. 25, 2015, Vol. 23, No. 166

Israel Imports 77% of its Oil from Iraqi Kurdistan; That Oil is Another Netanyahu-Obama Head Bashing

By DEBKAfile, Financial Times, Reuters & Ynetnews.com

Israel has reportedly purchased as much as 77% of its oil supplies, 240,000 barrels a day, from Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish population, providing them with an essential source of funding in their campaign against the Islamic State, a new report in the Financial Times revealed on Monday.

The sales are a sign of Iraqi Kurdistan's growing assertiveness and the further fraying of ties between Erbil and Baghdad, which has long harbored fears that the Kurds' ultimate objective is full-scale independence from Iraq.

The Financial Times cites shipping data, trading sources and satellite tanker tracking, saying Israeli refineries and oil companies imported more than 19 million barrels of Kurdish oil between May and August. "This would be worth almost $1 billion based on international prices over the period," the FT report stated.

Kurdish oil is exported through the Turkish port of Ceyhan, of which about one third of shipments were headed to Israel. Many industry experts suggested that upon arrival in Israel, the oil is both stored in containers and re-sold abroad. These industry officials also suggested the Kurds may be selling the oil to Israel at a discounted price, but Kurdish authorities have denied this claim outright.

The oil revenues have provided essential funding to the Kurdish authorities in Erbil, with some reports suggesting that the deals may be a way for Israel to discreetly supply funding to the Kurdistan authorities. While the Kurdish government has denied the sales, the ties between the Kurdish people and Israel are no secret, with the two sharing mutual interests as western backed non-Arab states. "We do not care where the oil goes once we have delivered it to the traders," a senior Kurdish government adviser in Erbil said.

The sales to Israel highlight a larger rift between the Kurdish capital of Erbil and Baghdad, which like many other Middle Eastern capitals, refuses to recognize Israel and has no official ties with the country. The US, in contrast, has urged Erbil to work with Baghdad on oil sales, discouraging independent Kurdish oil sales.

A report in Reuters last month quoted an official as saying that Israel was set to receive its first oil shipment from the Kurds as part of a larger strategy to strengthen ties with the Kurdish region. Trafigura, which was identified as a major trader of Kurdish oil last year, did not comment.

Exactly a year ago, DEBKAfile discovered and reported that Kurdish oil was being delivered to Israel. Several media discovered an American warship that was described at the time as stalking the United Kalvyrta tanker which carried a million barrels of Kurdish oil. The warship planned to prevent the oil being unloaded at any port, since Washington viewed the cargo as the legal property of the Iraqi government – not the KRG which had put it up for sale. Had the oil reached its purchasers, it would have been nearly impossible to cut off Kurdistan's export trade to clients outside Iraq.

This American step was part and parcel of the US negotiating tactics for a nuclear accord, then at one of their critical moments. The Obama administration was anxious to show Tehran how closely the US would play ball with Iran and Shiite-dominated Iraq on the vital issue of oil, once the nuclear accord was in the bag. But the episode did not pan out as expected.

This is what happened: "The partially full Kamari tanker carrying Kurdish crude oil disappeared from satellite tracking north of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. Two days later, the empty vessel reappeared near Israel." No one in the trade doubted for a moment that the vanishing oil had been unloaded at an Israeli port. In reporting this at the time, a DEBKAfile map traced the freight's route from the Turkish port of Ceyhan, the terminus of the oil pipeline from the Kurdish-controlled oilfields of Kirkuk, to the Israeli port of Ashkelon.

That was the missing background of the Financial Times story, which led up to its conclusion that Kurdish oil accounts for 77% of Israel's consumption. Since all matters relating to energy are made in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's office, it stands to reason that the decision to buy oil from the KRG came from the top. Netanyahu's readiness to go head to head with the Obama administration on this issue has two motives:

First, Kurdish oil was cheap. Irbil denies undercutting the market, but DEBKAfile's sources report that it was willing to do so in the case of Israel. Second, the Netanyahu government and the Obama administration don't see to eye to eye not just on nuclear Iran, but on Middle East policy in general - and the autonomous Kurdish republic of Iraq, in particular. The prime minister intended for Barzani to use this oil revenue to buy the arms he needs to fight ISIS to the finish.

At the time of this decision, crude had soared past $100 on the world market, and Islamic State forces were advancing on the Kurdish capital of Irbil. Washington may have countenanced Mosul's fall to jihadist forces, but Israel was determined to prevent the fall of friendly Irbil.

This week, as Netanyahu marked the first 100 days of his fourth term as prime minister, his critics described him as weak and lacking in accomplishments. The Kurdish enterprise was one of several cases in which he quietly took a strong initiative.


After Barak Scandal, Official Warns Leaks Lose Lives

By IsraelNationalNews.com & YnetNews.com

The conduct and remarks of former Defense Minister Ehud Barak are unsurprising, former Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel stated in a special Arutz Sheva interview on Monday night - noting that the leaked recordings about sensitive security issues are part of the frankness prevalent in Israeli culture.

"I smile to myself and ask: why is the public surprised?" he said. "We've been living for many years in a country where politicians use intelligence information for their own agendas. Barak is not alone," he added. "He joins a list of politicians who did just that."

Yehezkel presented a difficult example: a series of leaked information during urgent meetings between the government and the security system between 2006 and 2008 over kidnapped IDF soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. During one of the meetings, the heads of Military Intelligence, the head of the Mossad, and the head of the Israel Security Agency (ISA or Shin Bet) made clear that any leaks would endanger their sources - and probably endanger lives.

"Obviously, if you harm a source of intelligence, it means that you harm the chance to save lives," he reflected. "As an elected official and a government minister, you understand this better than others. The Prime Minister [then, Ehud Olmert - ed.] tried to increase the seriousness of the matter and had us [Cabinet members and others present - ed.] sign confidentiality forms," he recounted. "But before they had completed the text, all of it, word for word, was sprawled on the internet. This was terrible."

Yehezkel explained that damage control could be tricky due to legal red tape. For example, while intelligence members can be forced to undergo polygraph tests to determine if they were the source of the leak, elected officials may not under Israeli law.

"The interpretation of the law is that your understanding as an elected official on how to maintain your position overcomes the need to ensure confidentiality," he lamented. "Therefore, it is impossible to legally check an elected official via polygraph or other interrogation methods."

Practically, he said, "enforcement [of confidentiality] must come from social norms" - which, as he stated previously, openly encourage sharing information. You don't see this in other democratic countries," Yehezkel stated. "There is something in the commitment of politicians and public officials which leaves security discussions behind closed doors." Calling the situation "chaos," Yehezkel urged for change - in order to save lives.

Meanwhile, he also lamented that while Barak's book was previewed by censors, censors do not provide much protection over even sensitive information. "The censor is doing a professional job," he noted. "The censor said he allowed [Barak] to publish information that, one way or another, was already in the media. I'm not surprised that this is the problem, and it's not only Barak," he added. "Barak, in effect, is skirting around enforced laws. To our great sorrow, this is how politicians operate."

The tape released Monday revealed Barak's criticism of Netanyahu's handling of the Gilad Shalit case. In the recording, which was aired by Israel's Channel 2 News, Barak was heard saying that the prime minister consistently opposed the deal that could bring Shalit home from captivity.

According to Barak, once Shalit had been released in 2012, the most important thing to the prime minister was getting the first photo with the formerly imprisoned soldier. Barak said that planning of the event at which Shalit arrived after his release was supposed to be the military's responsibility, but the Prime Minister's Office was directing every move. "His office sent teams to organize it and everything was directed towards one thing: For the picture to be the first picture when the kid (Shalit) comes down and for him to be with only Bibi in the frame."

Barak continued criticizing Netanyahu in the recording. "Bibi strongly feels that it's really the picture, the word, that's more important than the actual deed." Barak, who was one of the politicians closest to Netanyahu, said in the recording that the prime minister opposed to prisoner exchange deal to secure Shalit's release, but was convinced after being pressured, including by Barak.

"I bothered him for months to do two things," said Barak. "To do Gilad Shalit and then to accept the Shamgar Commission (a committee that submitted guidelines on prisoner exchange negotiations). In the end he was convinced that he had to release Shalit and wasn't convinced to do the rest of what I asked, and that's how he found himself when the three teenagers were kidnapped. There was something embarrassingly petty about him."

It was revealed on Sunday that Barak had referred to Netanyahu as a person who is "weak and doesn't want to take difficult steps unless you force him." In another recording, Barak said that Netanyahu was "shrouded in a kind of deep pessimism."


Judge Lets PA Off Easy After Obama Intervention

By IsraelNationalNews.com

A judge in New York on Monday ordered the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization to post $10 million in cash or bond while they appeal a jury's finding that they supported terrorist attacks in Israel, Reuters reported.

At a court hearing in Manhattan, U.S. District Judge George Daniels said the defendants must also deposit $1 million each month pending the appeal of a February jury verdict worth $655 million in favor of 10 American families.

The order came a week after the Obama administration took the unusual step of urging Daniels to "carefully consider" the PA's financial condition, saying too high a bond could compromise its ability to function.

A collapse of the Palestinian Authority "would undermine several decades of U.S. foreign policy and add a new destabilizing factor to the region," U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a court filing earlier this month.

In February, the PLO was found liable to pay $218.5 million to victims of terror, a figure that was set to be tripled to $655.5 million according to the anti-terrorism laws under which the case was brought.

Legal rights group Shurat Hadin (Israel Law Center) helped represent the 11 families who charge the PA and PLO of inciting, supporting, planning and executing the seven terror attacks which killed American citizens between 2000 and 2004. In May, the PA admitted it cannot pay such a hefty fine, however - as it is struggling under billions of debt despite an ongoing stream of aid from Israel and other countries - and called the case "political extortion."

Daniels said in Monday's ruling that in fashioning his order he had given "serious consideration" to the State Department's position, despite objections from the plaintiffs that the amount was far too low. Kent Yalowitz, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the money was a "token amount" and criticized the PA, saying it made payments to terrorists in jail. "Instead of focusing on rebuilding schools, maybe it ought to focus on taking terrorists off its payroll," he said, according to Reuters.

Daniels said the full judgment would remain on hold while the appeal is ongoing, unless the defendants fail to make the monthly deposits. He also denied a request from the plaintiffs to add $165 million in pre-judgment interest.


UNRWA Cartoons Promote Car-Terrorism against Jews

By IsraelNationalNews.com

UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees) is "disseminating crude, anti-Semitic caricatures on the Internet that incite to the murder of Jews," according to a letter of protest on the topic written by UN Watch, a non-governmental organization that monitors human-rights abuses in the United Nations.

Two anti-Semitic cartoons in particular – both added on Facebook by the "Rameh UNRWA School" in Syria - were noted by UN Watch. They both promote and praise the car-terrorist attacks perpetrated several times this year by Palestinian terrorists against Jews and Israelis.

One cartoon shows a young Arab boy happily sending off a toy car by remote-control towards a long-nosed Jew dressed in black running away in fear. A second cartoon shows a road sign with the picture of a car running down pedestrians; the caption reads "Cars intifada Daes" - using the Ara­bic term "Daes" (Run-over), which is a play on the Ara­bic word for the Islamic State (ISIS, Daesh).

The two cartoons are among the first ten items on the UNRWA Facebook page of the Rameh school, based in the Jaramaneh camp outside Damascus. They praise the type of car terrorism that has killed at least eight people, including two Arabs, and left many dozens wounded in and around Jerusalem over the past year. Among the victims were Shalom Cherki, 25; 3-month-old Chaya Zissel Braun; Karen Jemima Mosquera, 22, of Ecuador; and Dalia Lemkos, 26, of Gush Etzion.


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