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Iran Completes Missile, Radar Exercises

By VOA News

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday there is a diplomatic "need for a common front against Iran's defiant aggression which has raised its head in recent weeks." Israel and Iran are bitter enemies.

A top Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander says Tehran conducted missile and radar exercises Saturday. The drills happened a day after the Trump administration imposed new sanctions on Iran for a ballistic missile test it conducted last week.

Iranian state TV reported that the country's Revolutionary Guard air force conducted air defense exercises Saturday, including missile and radar tests over a 35,000-square-kilometer area in the northern province of Semnan. The TV channel added that Iran's vice president, Eshaq Jahangiri, denounced recent U.S. accusations against Tehran, insisting the Iranian people "do not take them seriously."

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis called Iran the "single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world," while visiting Tokyo on Friday. Mattis stressed, however, the U.S. was not contemplating raising the number of U.S. troops in the Middle East, for the moment, to respond to what he called Iran's "misbehavior."

The U.S. has, nevertheless, deployed the warship USS Cole in the strategic Bab al-Mandeb strait, off the coast of Yemen, in response to a recent attack on a Saudi naval vessel, which left several crew members dead. The USS Cole itself was attacked by al-Qaida militants in 2000.

Saudi military spokesman General Ahmed Assiri claimed recently that Iran has military advisers helping Yemen's Houthi militia fighters in various parts of Yemen. Assiri said he would not give specific details about Iran's activities inside Yemen, but he accused Tehran of being responsible for all the wars and instability in the region.

Saudi analyst Ali Touati did, however, in an interview with al-Arabiya TV, accuse Iran of helping Houthi forces in the Red Sea port of Hodeida, which attacked the Saudi naval vessel. He also accused Iranian advisers of helping the Houthi forces conduct a series of missile attacks that have hit inside Saudi territory. One such missile struck a U.N. compound Monday in the Saudi town of Dhahran al-Janoubi.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif told state TV that his country would never initiate a conflict, though, and was relying on its own resources to defend itself. "We will never, repeat, never use [missiles] … against anybody, unless in self-defense and be sure that nobody has the guts again, to attack us," Zarif said.

Report: Obama Allowed Iran to Develop Missiles That Can Strike Israel

By Israel Hayom

Former President Barack Obama's administration had given Iran its tacit consent for the development of ballistic missiles capable of striking Israel but not Europe, a new report by the Middle East Media Research Institute alleged.

U.N. Resolution 2231, passed shortly after the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal was signed, calls on Iran "not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology" for eight years following the nuclear deal. Resolution 2231 went into effect on July 20, 2015.

Iran conducted a ballistic missile test on January 30. The test has been denounced as a violation of Resolution 2231, but White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the missile test did not violate the nuclear agreement. "It's not a direct violation. ... I think there is no question that it violates the spirit" of the agreement, he said. Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan stressed that Iran "asks permission from no one in the matter of its defense program."

The MEMRI report claimed that "immediately after the interim agreement was reached in Geneva, on Dec. 10, 2013, and in reference to it, IRGC [Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps] commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said that Iran is capable of producing missiles with a range of over 2,000 kilometers" (1,200 miles) but that Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had restricted the IRGC to a 2,000-kilometer range.

"We have the capability to increase the range of our missiles, and our missiles should obviously reach Israel. ... The regime's red lines were not crossed during the nuclear talks with the P5+1 [group] and in the Geneva Agreement," Jafari said.

IRGC officials, MEMRI claimed, hinted that the restrictions placed on Iran's missile developments as part of the nuclear deal, stipulated only that they could not reach Europe.

The report further quoted Jafari as saying that one of the points of Resolution 2231 "was the matter of restrictions, which some military elements feared. ... The [Iranian] negotiating team told the Westerners that we do not agree to these restrictions. They [the Westerners] said that these issues must be included in the resolution. Even when I met with the leader [Khamenei], he said that there were no restrictions on developing defensive capabilities. The only restriction relates to nuclear missiles, which, obviously, we never wanted."

MEMRI argued that "although the permission given to Iran to develop missiles capable of striking Israel is likely not a secret annex of the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action], it still constitutes unwritten consent that is an integral part of the nuclear deal.

"It is convenient for both sides not to publish this understanding in written form -- for Iran because it rejects any public reference to its missile program, which it defines as defensive but is in fact offensive; and for the Obama administration, because there would be repercussions if it were to be revealed that it had given Iran permission to develop missiles capable of striking Israel."

SodasStream to Embed Israeli Flag on Packaging Worldwide


SodaStream International announced that it will begin embedding the Israeli flag on the packaging for its products, Ynet reported. The picture of the flag will be accompanied by the caption: "This product is made by Arabs and Jews working side by side in peace and harmony." SodaStream voluntarily decided to take the step of featuring the Israeli flag on the packaging of its products, despite the risk of backlash from the BDS movement.

SodaStream International CEO David Birnbaum said: "Israeli industry is a symbol of entrepreneurship, innovation and technology. As a proud Israeli company, we make sure to keep our Israeli identity at a high profile, even if it means fighting on the home front across the EU and against the economic terrorism of the BDS movement.

"In recent years, we Israelis have found ourselves attacked, forced to apologize, and [our products] seized around the world. We Israelis may not be perfect, but we have much to be proud of, and we decided to show it - both for ourselves and for the world.

"I am proud to be Israeli, and so I put my flag on 50 million products manufactured in Israel and bring a line of exceptional innovation and social responsibility [to the world]. I wish that every company which exports [from Israel] would put the Israeli flag on its products, whether it be tomatoes, computer chips, or irrigation pipes. And I wish that every one of us who goes abroad would feel safe to be a proud ambassador of the State of Israel."

SodaStream, which produces home carbonation machines which allow consumers to carbonate their own beverages as opposed to buying soft drinks, was the subject of a fierce BDS campaign following the hiring of actress Scarlett Johansson as an ambassador for the organization. Johansson submitted her resignation to Oxfam, a British NGO for which she also served as an ambassador, after it demanded that Johansson cut all ties with SodaStream over a factory it operated in the Mishor Adumim industrial zone of Ma'aleh Adumim. Mishor Adumim is at the edge of the Judean Desert, and the factory employed hundreds of Palestinian Arabs, but BDS caused it to move to the Negev where it now employs hundreds of Bedouin.

Auschwitz Museum Offers Confidentiality to Nazi War Criminals


The Jewish community of Poland reacted with outrage after the management of the Auschwitz Museum announced that it was seeking to make contact with Nazi war criminals that are still alive and to get its hands on art, valuables, and documents which had been stolen from Jewish victims during World War II.

The museum gave assurances that the identities of the war criminals would be kept confidential, removing any threat that they could face prosecution for their crimes.

The director of the Auschwitz Museum, Piotr Cywinski, was interviewed by European media, and said that he wishes the citizens of Germany and Austria who have relatives or parents who worked in the Auschwitz death camp as guards or similar positions, or civilians who had roles at Auschwitz and managed to hide, would contact the museum and hand over documents or objects taken from Auschwitz at the end of the war. He promised to maintain complete confidentiality about the sources of the documents and objects.

The announcement was criticized vehemently by the Jewish community of Poland, since the museum was established to remind the world of the criminal acts of murder and genocide of the Nazi regime and its collaborators, and Cywinski was seen as offering a form of protection to war criminals in return for items which may have been stolen by those same criminals.

Cywinski said that the museum was only in possession of documents and objects provided by former prisoners of Auschwitz, but it is estimated that most of the objects remained in the hands of Nazi war criminals who worked at Auschwitz.

Will Israel's Next Big Export Item be Marijuana?

By & AFP

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation moved on Sunday to endorse legislation to legalize the export of marijuana for approved medical use, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked's (Jewish Home) office said. Adoption by the committee, which meets outside the full cabinet every Sunday, means that the draft will now move forward as a government bill with full coalition backing, though no date was set for a first reading of the bill. Shaked's office said that a scheduled debate on decriminalizing marijuana use in favor of fines and treatment was put back until next Sunday.

Although the recreational use of cannabis is currently illegal in Israel, for the past 10 years its therapeutic use has not only been permitted but encouraged. In 2015, doctors prescribed the herb to about 25,000 patients suffering from cancer, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress and degenerative diseases. The purpose is palliative, that is, not to cure them but to alleviate their symptoms.

In January, the Agriculture Ministry said it planned to invest eight million shekels ($2 million, 1.98 million Euros) in medical cannabis research projects. In January last year, US tobacco giant Philip Morris plowed $20 million into Israeli company Syke, which produces precision inhalers for medical cannabis.

Last month, Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) announced his support for decriminalizing recreational use. He said that he had adopted the conclusions of a commission created to study the issue and which recommended the move. Shaked has reportedly indicated she will support it.

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