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Greenblatt: Deal of the Century will be Realistic, Fair, and Implementable


The Trump administration refused to comment Sunday evening on reports that it had proposed a confederation of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the Palestinian Authority as part of a final status agreement with Israel. Earlier on Sunday, PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas told members of the left-wing Israeli group "Peace Now" that the Trump administration – including special envoy Jason Greenblatt and White House adviser Jared Kushner – had floated the idea of a confederation linking the Palestinian Authority and the Kingdom of Jordan. "They asked me if I believe in a federation with Jordan," Abbas said at the gathering, sources within Peace Now revealed. "I said, `Yes, I support a triple confederation with Jordan and with Israel'. I asked if the Israelis would agree to the offer." Special White House envoy Jason Greenblatt refused to confirm or deny the claim, telling Arutz Sheva that the Trump administration had "probed all relevant parties" with suggestions regarding a variety of "ideas and possibilities. Over the past 19 months, we have probed all relevant parties about many ideas and possibilities. The plan, when released, will reflect ideas that we think are realistic, fair and implementable that will enhance the lives of the Israeli and Palestinian people. We will not discuss any specific ideas or private conversations that may or may not have been had with leaders in the region." The Trump administration has vowed to release a new framework for renewed Middle East peace talks; what President Trump has dubbed the "Deal of the Century." Unconfirmed reports by the PA-based Al Quds newspaper claimed last month that the deal would be unveiled in September. The Jordanian government dismissed the proposal to form a confederation with the PA, saying that such an arrangement "isn't on the table." Jordanian spokeswoman Jumana Ghunaimat said that the kingdom was not considering a confederation, and believes that only a two-state solution can solve the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Iran Denies Transferring Missiles to Iraq

By Reuters and DEBKAfile
Iran on Saturday rejected a Reuters report from a day earlier which said it had moved ballistic missiles to Iraq. The news site quoted three Iranian officials, two Iraqi intelligence sources, and two Western intelligence sources, all of whom confirmed the transfer of short-range missiles to Iraq over the course of several months. Some of the officials added that Iran is helping its allies produce their own missiles as well. "Such false and ridiculous news have no purpose other than affecting Iran's foreign relations, especially with its neighbors," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Saturday, according to the Iranian news agency IRNA. "This news is solely aimed at creating fears in the countries of the region," Qassemi added. Iran's ballistic missile program has long been a cause for concern for the West. The 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and world power does not cover Iran's missile program. The Islamic Republic has come under fire for its test-firing ballistic missiles in recent years. The United States has several times imposed sanctions on Iran over the tests, saying its missile tests violate UN resolutions. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has stressed that Iran will continue to produce missiles for its defense and does not consider that a violation of international agreements. The Reuters report came several weeks after Iran test-fired a Fatah-110 short-range ballistic missile. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responded to the Reuters report on Twitter and said he was "deeply concerned" by it. "If true, this would be a gross violation of Iraqi sovereignty and of UNSCR 2231," he added. Pompeo was referring to UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which underpinned the 2015 nuclear deal. Iran denies its ballistic missile tests violate this resolution. Earlier, the reliable military source, DEBKAfile, reported that Russia, Iran, Syria and Hamas had launched six steps to counter the US-Israeli plan to hit Iranian military targets in Syria, which National Security Adviser John Bolton finalized in Jerusalem two weeks ago. That plan is to strike Iran's Al Qods Brigades and allied Shiite militia forces in Syrian and western Iraq, as DEBKAfile's military and intelligence sources were first to reveal. The US and Israel agreed to provide each other with reciprocal air and military cover for their operations in Syria. This accord was first implemented on Aug. 23, when unidentified warplanes bombed a pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite Khataib Hizbullah convoy on the Syrian-Iraqi highway. The Russian-backed Iranian-Syrian-Hamas alliance subsequently put together six counter-measures: Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami arrived in Damascus with a large military delegation to sign expanded military cooperation pacts with Syrian ruler Bashar Assad. Israeli and American officials who initially made light of this event were forced to take a second look. Iran was empowered by these accords to deepen its military grip on Syria, backed by the promise of Russian military and air cover modeled on the US-Israeli mutual commitment. Tehran and Damascus agreed to retaliate for every US or Israel attack on Iran's Al-Qods or Shiite militia forces in Syria in the same coin, i.e. by targeting US military forces posted east of the Euphrates River along the Syrian-Iraqi border or IDF forces inside the Golan enclave. Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani was put in charge of these operations. DEBKAfile's exclusive sources also reveal that the new military pacts signed by Iran and Syria provide explicitly for three large Iranian bases to go up in Syria as hubs for the various Iranian command posts dispersed across the country; one outside Aleppo; a second between Damascus and the Israeli Golan border and a third at a still undetermined location. In the wake of these pacts, the United States, Russia, Iran and Israel are all engaged in military buildups in the Middle East and around Syria of intervention forces for a potential escalation. The Americans have prepared major naval and air strength in the region capable of rapid responses, mainly with Tomahawk cruise missiles. The Russians massed a sea armada of 24 warships opposite the Syrian coast. Syrian air defense networks are on the highest war alert since early this week. The IDF's presence in northern Israel has been beefed up, and the troops placed on high alert. On Friday, Iran said it had supplied allied Iraqi Shiite militias with ground-to-ground missiles with ranges of between 200km and 700km. From Western Iraq, meaning Anbar, where Soleimani has concentrated a large force, these missiles can reach Tel Aviv; and from southern Iraq, the Saudi capital of Riyadh. The senior US allies in the region are therefore under fresh Iranian missile threat from Iraq. DEBKAfile's military sources note that these missiles have long been in the hands of the Iraqi Shiite militias under Tehran's thumb, but Iran's leaders decided it could do no harm to release the information to its enemies at this time. Hamas joined the emerging fray on Thursday when its leader noted that the Palestinian organization also had rockets capable of reaching Tel Aviv. He was pointing up the collaboration between Gaza's Palestinian rulers and Tehran.

ANALYSIS: Iran Continues its Entrenchment in both Syria and Iraq

By Yochanan Visser (Reuters)

Iran is once again lying about its belligerent activities in Syria and Iraq, where the regime of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is carving out a new corridor from the Iranian border in Iraq's Nineveh Province all the way up to the Israeli border on the Golan Heights. In addition, it is now further building up its forces. On Thursday last week, Reuters reported that Iran is building up a ballistic missile force in Iraq. The Iranian-backed umbrella organization of predominantly Shiite militias Hashd al-Shaabi in Iraq was given short and medium-range ballistic missiles over the past few months. The missiles have the capability to reach Tel Aviv in Israel, but could also be used in Iran's covert war against Saudi Arabia, under constant attack by the Iranian-backed Shiite Ansar Allah (Houthi) militia in Yemen. Reuters furthermore reported, citing an unnamed senior Iranian official, which Hashd al-Shaabi is now in possession of "Zelzal, Fateh-110 and Zolfaqar missiles" which have "ranges of between 200 and 700 kilometers." If the missiles were to be deployed in southern or western Iraq, both Tel Aviv and the Saudi capital Riyadh would be within striking distance, according to The National. The Iranians are also training Hashd al-Shaabi militias in manufacturing their own missiles on Iraqi soil. Factories to develop missiles in Iraq are located in Al Zafaraniya, east of Baghdad, Jurf Al Sakhar, north of Karbala, and in Iraqi Kurdistan. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, the division which was established to expand the Islamic Revolution beyond the borders of Iran, is reportedly overseeing the program according to other Iranian sources.

Western sources told Reuters that the deployment of Iranian missiles in Iraq was meant to send a warning to both Israel and the United States, who are now cooperating against Iran's creeping entrenchment in Syria and Iraq. "It seems Iran has been turning Iraq into its forward missile base," one of the anonymous sources said. His observation was confirmed by an Iraqi official who said "It was clear to Iraqi intelligence that such a missile arsenal sent by Iran was not meant to fight Daesh (ISIS) militants, but as a pressure card Iran can use once involved in a regional conflict. We can't restrain militias from firing Iranian rockets because, simply, the firing button is not in our hands. It's the Iranians who control the push button," the Iraqi official added. Iranian media later reported that both the Islamist regime in Tehran and the Iraqi government had dismissed the Reuters report as "fake news." Ahmad Mahjub, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, wrote in a statement that the Iraqi government was "surprised" by Reuters' "claim" and "emphasized that all Iraqi organizations and institutions are bound and committed to the implementation of article seven of the constitution of the country," according to the state-controlled IRNA news agency. Mahjub added that according to article seven of Iraq's constitution, "the use of Iraqi soil as a base or platform to attack and endanger the security of any other country is prohibited. " The Iranian spokesman, furthermore, claimed that Reuters is constantly spreading "fake news" about Iran. On Sunday, Reuters shot back and clarified that it had obtained the information from Iranian, Iraqi, and Western sources and distributed the report from its newsroom in Dubai. The news about the deployment of Iranian missiles in Iraq came after President Trump's National Security adviser John Bolton, who was in Israel two weeks ago, reportedly made a deal with the Israeli government. Under the deal, Israel and the United States agreed to cooperate militarily to stop Iran from building up its forces in Syria and Iraq and to counter the Iranian missile threat to Israel. The United States and Israel will provide each other with cover for their operations against the Quds Force and its Shiite allies in both countries. Shortly after Bolton's visit, unknown warplanes bombed a Kata'ib Hizbullah convoy on the highway which connects Baghdad and the Syrian capital Damascus. The assault on Kata'ib Hizbullah followed an Israel strike on a villa close to the town of al-Bukamal on the Syrian-Iraqi border which housed members of the Quds Force and Kata'ib Hizbullah on June 18th killing 52 people. The strikes didn't prevent Iran from deepening its involvement in the Syrian and Iraqi fray. Last week Amir Hatami, the Iranian Minister of Defense arrived in Damascus where he signed a pact with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to continue and even expand the Iranian military involvement in Syria. Under the deal, Syria and Iran agreed to respond to every American or Israeli attack on the Quds Force and its proxies in Syria by launching missiles or drones which would attack IDF positions on the Golan Heights and US bases east of the Euphrates River in Syria. In this case, too, Qassem Soleimani is the Iranian commander responsible for executing the military pact.

The deal also allows Iran to build three missile bases in western and northern Syria which will be protected by the Russian S-400 missile defense shield. On August 30th ImageSat International reported Iran was building a missile facility near Baniyas in northern Syria and said Tehran was "a major contributor to the Syrian missile project." The US military is now deploying more forces on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on Sunday that the Americans had sent a 150 vehicle-long convoy with military logistic equipment to northeastern Syria and had built some new bases in the region controlled by its ally, the Syrian Democratic Forces, over the past year. At the same time, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is trying to prevent Iraq from becoming a new Iranian proxy-state after the parliamentary elections in May by holding consultations with some Kurdish and Iraqi leaders.

Russia's Chief Rabbi Paid Secret Visit to Tehran

The chief rabbi of Russia made a secret visit to Tehran almost half a year ago as part of a larger mission dispatched by Russia's President Vladimir Putin. Rabbi Berel Lazar, who enjoys a close relationship with the Russian leader, was part of the delegation headed by Vyacheslav Viktorovich Volodin, who has served as chairman of the State Duma since Oct. 5, 2016. Lazar made the visit, which lasted a mere 24 hours, as part of a trip by the large Russian delegation which held a series of discussions in the Iranian parliament. The decision to include Lazar in the Russian mission was personally taken by Putin, a move that was met with opposition from Iran. Despite the objections, Russia is said to have made the delegation's visit dependent on Lazar's participation as Tehran and Moscow seek to improve trade relations. During the visit which took place on April 9, immediately after the Jewish holiday of Passover, Rabbi Lazar departed with one of his assistants, bringing with them kosher food for the plane journey. Lazar took the opportunity during his brief sojourn to pay a visit to Jewish community institutions in Tehran. He visited the central synagogue in the capital, along with a Jewish school, which employs some Shi'ite Muslim women teachers who wear the Hijab. Hanging on the walls of the Jewish schools were also biblical quotes in Hebrew, juxtaposed alongside portraits of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, an avowed enemy of Israel. He met with Jewish community leaders in Tehran, heard of some of the difficulties faced by some of the members and watched Jewish children making their way to community centers to eat breakfast before beginning their day at school.

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