Trump threatens to accelerate ‘maximum pressure’ on Iran
BBC News, the Guardian, Telegraph, Times, Independent and Reuters report that the UK Ministry of Defence has claimed that Iranian boats have attempted to impede a British oil tanker near the Gulf. HMS Montrose moved between three Iranian boats and the tanker before issuing verbal warnings to the Iranian vessels whose actions were “contrary to international law”. Iran had threatened to retaliate for the seizure of one of its own tankers, but denied any attempted seizure. The Iranian boats are believed to belong to the IRGC and approached the British Heritage tanker and attempted to bring it to a halt as it was moving into the Strait of Hormuz.
BBC News, the Guardian, Telegraph, Independent and Financial Times report that eight whistle-blowers told BBC’s Panorama how they felt fatally undermined by senior Labour bosses in their attempts to tackle antisemitism, alleging consistent interference in complaints and claiming that one key aide mocked their efforts. The Labour party has complained to the BBC about the Panorama programme aired on Wednesday night. Former officials allege key aides including Labour’s director of communications, Seumas Milne, and current general secretary, Jennie Formby, interfered with investigations. Four of the whistleblowers have broken non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to come forward. The Jewish Chronicle reports that Labour’s former head of disputes has accused Jeremy Corbyn of having done more than “any modern day political figure since the Second World War to bring about the rise of antisemitism.”
BBC News reports that the US has accused Iran of a “crude and transparent attempt to extort payments from the international community” by violating the JCPOA. The US ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said there was no credible reason for Iran to breach two key commitments on uranium enrichment. The E3 have set up a mechanism for facilitating legitimate trade without direct financial transactions to circumvent the US sanctions, though Iran has said it does not meet its needs. The Financial Times and Reuters report that President Donald Trump has threatened to impose new sanctions on Iran that would accelerate his “maximum pressure” campaign. “Sanctions will soon be increased, substantially!” Trump tweeted. He claimed that Iran had “long been secretly enriching” uranium.
The Guardian and Independent report that Iran has told the E3 it will not reverse its decision to increase uranium enrichment beyond the limits set by the JCPOA until it achieves its “full rights” to an economic relationship with the EU under the deal. Reuters reports that Iran is enriching uranium to 4.5% purity, above the 3.67% limit set by the JCPOA, the IAEA has claimed. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also warned the UK it would face unspecified consequences following the UK’s seizure of an oil tanker bound for Syria last week.
The Independent reports that Israeli Education Minister Rafi Peretz has likened intermarriage among diaspora Jews to the Holocaust. The head of the United Right, an alliance of right-wing religious nationalist parties, was speaking after a briefing by Dennis Ross about trends within Jewish communities around the world and global antisemitism. Peretz said the rate of intermarriage among the American Jewish community was “like a second Holocaust” after ministers discussed the growing instances of marriages between Jews and non-Jews in the US.
The Independent reports that the UK will send additional troops to Syria at the request of the Trump administration. Although the number of special forces troops operating in Syria has never been made public, both the UK and France are preparing a 10-15 per cent troop increase, a US official told Foreign Policy. However, the official said “overall we have been disappointed” in efforts to persuade US allies to commit more resources to the fight against ISIS. Reuters reports that the UN is close to agreement on setting up a constitutional committee, a long-awaited step in the Syrian peace process. “I believe we have made very solid progress and we are very close to have agreement on establishing the constitutional committee,” UN Syria envoy Gerd Pedersen said after meeting Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem.
Reuters reports that new Kurdish Prime Minister Masrour Barzani has claimed that under his leadership, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s focus would be to establish a “strong and constructive” relationship with Baghdad, signalling that self-rule objectives will be put on hold.
Reuters reports that Turkey has called on the US to avoid steps harmful to bilateral relations after the US State Department reiterated Ankara would face “real and negative consequences” for acquiring Russian S-400 defence systems. Turkey’s foreign ministry spokesman said the comments were not in line with the spirit and content of talks between presidents of the two countries at the G20 summit last month.
The Independent reports that the Trump administration has ended support for a controversial anti-Iran campaign that “smeared US citizens”. Earlier this year, it was revealed the US state department was funding the Iranian Disinformation Project, an online campaign that claimed it worked to counter “the nefarious influence of one of the world’s few remaining totalitarian regimes”. The state department suspended funding through its global engagement centre (GEC) after it emerged some of the campaign’s tweets had targeted and smeared human rights workers, activists and journalists, many of whom were US citizens.
In the Guardian, Stéphanie Buret examines the new Qatari city of Lusail which was constructed to diversify the Qatari economy and distance it from oil dependence.
In the Israeli media, Haaretz and Israel Hayom report that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at a 40th anniversary event for the Samaria Regional Council and said: “Here’s a commitment for you … settlements in Israel won’t be uprooted. Neither Jewish nor Arab settlements. We don’t uproot people. We’re done with that folly. Israel under my leadership neither has nor will it repeat past mistakes. I’ll ask you just to imagine the alternative to us being here. If Samaria weren’t in our hands, every place would be immediately at risk. That is why there are several principles that guide me on the issue of Judea and Samaria. One, this is our country and homeland. Two, we will continue to develop it and to build it. Three, in any peace plan, not a single settlement and not a single settler will be uprooted. Four, the IDF [Israel Defence Forces] and the security forces will continue to control the entire territory up to the Jordan [river]. Nor do I distinguish between the settlement blocs and the isolated settlements. Every settlement point of that kind is Israeli from my perspective. Five, I am acting to secure international consent to those principles. Look what we got done on the Golan Heights, what we got done in Jerusalem.”
Israel Hayom adds that Samaria Regional Council Chairman Yossi Dagan called on the Prime Minister to annex the West Bank. “Now is the time for sovereignty. Not just over the settlements, which account for just 3 per cent of the territory, but over all the territory … we trust you, Mr Prime Minister, and we therefore will act to have you elected, for you to be, as always, the protector of the Jewish people’s core assets: Joseph’s Tomb, Joshua Bin-Nun’s altar, the ancient kingdom of Israel [and] ancient Samaria.”
Yediot Ahronot reports on the meeting between Labour Party leader Amir Peretz and Israel Democratic Party leader Ehud Barak yesterday to consider either merging the two parties or a different form of cooperation in the elections. After the meeting Barak showed his Israel Democratic Party members a poll that he had commissioned, which found that he would win more seats (14) than Peretz (11) if he were to head a joint list comprised of both parties. Sources in the Labour Party have said that Peretz is eager to secure additional mergers with Tzipi Livni and Gesher leader Orly Levy-Abekasis.
Yediot Ahronot reports that MK Gabi Ashkenazi, who is fourth on Blue and White’s list, has said that he firmly supported the alternating premiership agreement between Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid. Ashkenazi said Blue and White would be able to form a coalition government with the Haredi parties. “It’s become evident that Bibi doesn’t have a bloc. We’ll be able to sit with the Haredim. I’m not forming governments here. We can sit and talk with anyone. The Haredim aren’t in anyone’s pocket, and neither is [Yisrael Beteinu leader] Lieberman.” Commenting on the party that was recently formed by his long-standing rival, Ehud Barak, Ashkenazi said: “We welcome everyone who enters politics, certainly Ehud Barak. Israeli politics is better served by joining forces. Divisions and wasting strength is bad. We can’t let the appearance of additional parties increase divisions.”
Haaretz reports that Jared Kushner met with Christian evangelical leaders as part of a week-long effort by senior officials to shore up support for Trump among evangelical pro-Israel activists. He reassured them that Israel’s security would remain a priority in Trump’s peace plan.
Yediot Ahronot notes efforts by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to reach understanding and restore calm within the Ethiopian Israeli community. The protest leaders met with Mandelblit, along with the Deputy Police Commissioner Moti Cohen and State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan last night. After the meeting, sources in the legal system estimated that most of the investigations would not lead to prosecutions except in cases of severe violence. It is believed that criminal records will eventually be deleted for those convicted of minor offences.
Israel Hayom reports that Hamas claims it prevented several Israeli attempts to assassinate members of the Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades, the group’s military wing, over the last few months. According to Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar: “Gaza-based security sources also noted that unlike previous attempts on the lives of senior Hamas terrorists, Israel attempted to employ a ‘silent method’ to take out the targets, meant to minimise its footprint on the operations.” Al-Akhbar quoted another Hamas official as saying that the group arrested an individual it believes was collaborating with Israel.
Maariv reports that Shas’s leader Aryeh Deri proposed yesterday to UTJ’s leaders that they work together to counter Ramat Gan Mayor Carmel Shama-Hacohen’s plans to operate public transportat on the Sabbath in the city. Deri cited in his letter several attempts to breach the status quo in Tel Aviv, Haifa, Ramat Gan and Petah Tikva. Shama-Hacohen responded furiously to the Haredi attack on him and the Ramat Gan municipality, saying: “I won’t agree to have my city and its residents live under threats from ministers and MKs. Gafni and Litzman, write this down — for every act of revenge you take against the city of Ramat Gan and its residents because of the Sabbath entertainment bus lines, we will increase the frequency and add bus lines. For every attempt to extort us with threat s— we will evict your educational facilities that reside lovingly in our city on our land.”