US in talks to stop Turkey attacking Kurds in Syria
The Guardian, Independent, FT and BBC report that the UK will join the US in its mission to protect oil tankers in the Gulf, as London shifts away from plans for a European-led mission that had been proposed by the former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt. The announcement by Boris Johnson’s government will involve the UK’s two Royal Navy ships in the Gulf collaborating with two US warships. France and Germany had indicated they would refuse to join any US-led mission, amid concerns about being too closely aligned to a Trump administration that has pulled out of the nuclear deal and contemplated airstrikes on the country. Despite that, the UK was still hoping that by joining the US other countries would be persuaded to participate. Whitehall sources said “there had to come a point” where countries act to secure shipping in the Gulf. But on Monday those hopes were rebuffed again by Germany’s Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, who repeated that his country would not join in a US-led operation: “At the moment the Britons would rather join an American mission. We won’t do that.”
Jonathan Beale analyses the story for the BBC writing: “British attempts to create a European-led coalition to provide maritime security in the Gulf – and to deter Iran – have clearly not born fruit, at least yet. Hence the UK decision to ‘join an international maritime security mission’, which will be led by the US. So far, the UK is the only other member.” He adds that: “The apparent change of heart has been made easier by the recent changes in Downing Street.” The UK government still hopes the taskforce “can transition to a European-led mission”.
The BBC reports that the blast outside a hospital in Cairo is being treated as a ‘terrorist incident,’ the Egyptian president said. A car drove at high speed in the wrong direction, crashing into three others outside a cancer hospital in central Cairo, causing an explosion. Another 47 people were injured, at least three of them critically, a health ministry spokesman added.
The Independent and the Times report that US officials are trying to prevent a Turkish military operation against Kurdish allies in Syria. US military officials arrived in Ankara for meetings aimed at preventing Turkey from carrying out an offensive against Washington’s Kurdish allies in northern Syria. The high-level meetings have been characterised by US officials as a last ditch effort to dissuade Turkey from launching a unilateral attack, which the Trump administration has warned will harm the fight against ISIS. Turkey is pushing to establish a “safe zone” inside Syria that would be empty of fighters belonging to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which it considers a terror group. On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeated a threat to cross into Syria without the approval of the US if Turkey’s conditions for a safe zone are not implemented.
The FT reports that a short lived ceasefire between the Syrian regime and opposition forces was broken on Monday as the Syrian army resumed air strikes on the final pocket of resistance in north-west Syria, which is crammed with civilians but dominated by jihadist militants. The renewed bombing is a blow to peace-talks brokered last week in Kazakhstan by Russia, Iran and Turkey, the international forces embroiled in the eight-year civil conflict. The agreement to stop the heavy bombardment came on Thursday, after more than 90 days of intense Russian and Syrian air strikes on the opposition-held Idlib region, which the UN says has killed at least 450 people and displaced more than 400,000.
The Jewish Chronicle reports that pop icons Lionel Richie and Jennifer Lopez have both ignored a social justice organisation’s request they cancel shows in Israel. In an open letter to Richie, women’s grassroots social justice movement CodePink claimed his performance in Tel Aviv – scheduled for 12 September – would “act as an endorsement of Israel’s brutal systems of military occupation and apartheid. Cancelling your Tel Aviv concert, on the other hand, would send a strong message that Palestinians, like all people, deserve equal rights and freedom.” In response, he blocked the movement on Twitter last Wednesday. CodePink attempted to do the same with Ms Lopez, who performed in Tel Aviv last Thursday, before travelling to Jerusalem. Instead of boycotting Israel, she decided to share some of her activities across the country to her 100 million followers on Instagram.
The Jewish News reports research by campaigner David Collier which finds that Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has “radicalised” some Labour Party members into holding more extreme views on Israel. According to the 200-page report, some party members who previously exhibited little to no interest online in Israel became “obsessed” after Corbyn’s election. “Loyalty to the Labour Party and by extension Jeremy Corbyn saw many Labour supporters dip their toes into anti-Israel ideology,” the report reads.
Reuters reports that Iran told European powers on Monday it would further reduce compliance with its 2015 nuclear deal in about a month’s time if they were still failing to protect it from crippling US sanctions, reimposed after Washington exited the deal. Reuters reports comments by Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani. Rouhani said on Tuesday in a speech broadcast live on state television that “Peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, war with Iran is the mother of all wars.”
Reuters reports that Houthi forces in Yemen launched drone attacks on Saudi Arabia’s King Khalid air base as well as the Abha and Najran civilian airports, the Houthis’ military spokesman said on Monday.
Israel’s Channel 13 news reported last night that officials from Israel’s Foreign Ministry have warned that if the Israeli government doesn’t create a strong mechanism to monitor Chinese investments, it could lead to confrontation with the Trump administration. The Foreign Ministry’s warning on July 24 led Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to postpone a cabinet vote to implement a monitoring mechanism fearing it was too weak. Chinese investments in Israel have become a source of tension with the Trump administration over the last 2 years.
Yediot Ahronot, Maariv, Haaretz and Israel Hayom all report the angry reaction to a campaign video from Blue and White’s Yair Lapid. Maariv writes that the video showed a fictional WhatsApp correspondence between Netanyahu and his so-called “natural partners,” in which MK David Bitan writes to the ministers and the MKs in the group and asks them to sign a loyalty oath to Netanyahu. In this fictional correspondence, Bezalel Smotrich writes: “The Prime Minister is feeling pressured, we can raise our prices!” Yaakov Litzman writes that he wants “all the money that Israel has,” whereas Aryeh Deri writes: “Do you want me to sign? Give another trillion for yeshivas.”
The ultra-Orthodox parties described the video as “antisemitic,”. MK Yinon Azulai (Shas) said: “The internet troll Lapid has no qualms about mounting any campaign of incitement against the traditional and Orthodox public in Israel.” Blue and White leader Benny Gantz referred obliquely to the video when he posted on Twitter: “At this time, when we remember the destruction of the Temple because of baseless hatred, we must adopt a style that is different from that of Netanyahu and we must increase our baseless love. The strength of Israeli society lies in the unity of all its parts – secular and Orthodox, Jews and non-Jews, left and right.”
Lapid said: “Anyone who doesn’t immediately see that it’s a joke probably really wanted to be offended.”
Netanyahu also joined the criticism and wrote on Twitter: saying: “The incitement by candidate for prime minister Yair Lapid, phrased in anti-Semitic overtones, once again proves why Yair Lapid must not be allowed to become prime minister. Only a large Likud will prevent a dangerous and irresponsible left wing government headed by Yair Lapid and Gantz.”
Yediot Ahronot adds that Gantz is running Blue and White’s campaign but Lapid is running an independent and parallel campaign for Yesh Atid. Lapid has released several humorous videos that were not coordinated with Blue and White. “Lapid is a born campaigner. It’s hard for him to be part of an election campaign and not say what he has to say,” said a source in Blue and White. “So he posts material and videos that ultimately do a service for Blue and White’s sleepy campaign.”
Amos Harel in Haaretz writes that nearly two months after the crisis between the United States and Iran in the Persian Gulf intensified, it seems that there are real cracks developing in the Arab coalition that had been supporting harsher US sanctions on Tehran. From conversations with Israeli and American intelligence experts, it emerges that the decision by US President Donald Trump to avoid military action against Iran, along with a host of other considerations, is weakening the Gulf states’ commitment to the tough line against the Iranians. The most blatant signs of this change can be seen in the United Arab Emirates. Harel suggests that the key moment was Trump’s decision not to retaliate against Iran for downing an American drone after a Pentagon assessment said around 150 Iranians could have been killed as a result. What was perceived in the United States as a thoughtful and justifiable decision appeared to many in the Gulf to be a demonstration of weakness, requiring Iran’s neighbours to reconsider their positions.
Maariv reports the first public criticism by Likud Party members of the ‘loyalty oath’ candidates were asked to sign. Nir Hirschman, a member of the New Likudniks who is number 49 on the Likud list said “Loyalty pledges, oaths and boycotts—those are all foolish and hysterical actions, but they’re mainly irresponsible since that is precisely what is going to bring us down. We live in a strange reality in which every day a new low is reached in the Likud’s grovelling before the people who currently lead the Likud. However, we and the thousands of our registered party members are here to say out loud: ‘Netanyahu isn’t the Likud, and the Likud isn’t Netanyahu.’
Yediot Ahronot analyses the Israeli economy after major losses on Wall Street and the major indices yesterday. “After we learned in recent weeks that the national deficit has continued to grow, the unemployment rate has now begun to rise, and the shekel’s strength has impeded exports. Now a new blow has arrived as well: the Finance Ministry’s projection for the second quarter of 2019 indicates that economic growth has been reduced and, for all intents and purposes, has halted.” Sever Plocker says: “When the great financial crisis erupted in 2008 the Israeli economy was in relatively good shape…If a new global economic crisis erupts this year, which is hardly an unlikely possibility, it will encounter an Israeli economy in completely different shape. It isn’t broken, heaven forbid, but it definitely is limping, marching in place and weaker.”