Change Region:ICEJ


Palestinians React to ‘Deal of the Century’

Ahead of meetings in Manama, Bahrain this week during which economic aspects of the Trump Administration’s so-called “deal of the Century” are set to be formally unveiled, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told foreign reporters in Ramallah on Sunday that his faction was prepared to re-open negotiations with Israel, but only if there is a recognition that Israel’s capital city of Jerusalem is in fact “occupied” Palestinian territory and the “vision” of a two-state solution is re-affirmed. The statements came amidst a chorus of derision for the American plan, details of which have already been released by the White House, from the wider Arab world, even as some moderate governments allied with Washington expressed cautious optimism for its prospects.

Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Jubeir responded to a question about the plans from France 24 News by saying “I think anything that improves the situation of the Palestinian people is something that should be welcomed. Now having said that the political process is extremely important. The Palestinians are the ones who have the ultimate decision in this, because it’s their issue and so whatever the Palestinians accept I believe everybody else will accept."

“Those who think that waving billions of dollars can lure Lebanon, which is under the weight of a suffocating economic crisis, into succumbing or bartering over its principles are mistaken,” Lebanese parliament speaker, Nabih Berri, said. The Iranian-backed Lebanese Shi’ite terror militia Hezbollah, which many analysts believe has become the de facto ruler of Lebanon, has gone further by declaring that the “deal of the century” is a “historic crime” which must be prevented from coming to fruition.

US-allied Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are sending delegations to the Manama Conference along with Egypt, Jordan and Morocco. The PA and most other regional countries are boycotting it and no Israeli officials have been invited to attend.

Turkey on Edge Following Istanbul Rerun Election
Turkey’s political scene was in an uproar Sunday following the rerun election for mayor of Istanbul which saw the AKP party of Turkish strongman President Recep Tayyip Erdogan once again defeated by opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu. The margin of his victory was substantially larger than in the first poll in March, leading many analysts to say that if the AKP was trying to regain an important political post, the effort has backfired and any further attempts to deny Imamoglu his office might lead to widespread unrest in the strategically important country.
Sports Fans in Israel Have Much to Cheer About
Israeli sports fans had much to cheer about over the weekend as Rhythmic gymnast Liroy Ashram hauled in four medals, two gold and two silver, at the 2019 European Games in Minsk and a large delegation of players from the National Football League (NFL) in the US visited the Jewish State. The visiting NFL players included a delegation of 15 past and present athletes associated with the New England Patriots, who greeted local football enthusiasts at the Kraft Family Sports Complex in Jerusalem on Friday and Houston Texans star quarterback Deshaun Watson, who is touring Israel as part of a documentary film project and has enthusiastically shared his experiences with his large number of fans on social media.

The Patriots delegation were in Israel partially to help team owner Robert Kraft celebrate his reception of the 2018 Genesis Prize, sometimes called the “Jewish Nobel Prize”

Here is a video from the Genesis Prize ceremony 

Hopes for Unity Government Dashed
Forlorn hopes that Israel might avoid the election scheduled for 17 September were decisively crushed on Sunday evening when Blue and White leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid issued a public statement that they have decided to reject overtures from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to join forces and overturn the bill that dispersed the Knesset and form a national unity government. Gantz added that the idea had been worth examining but that in the end it appeared that it would be of more benefit to Netanyahu than Blue and White. Likud officials replied that reports of their attempt to reach an agreement that would make another election unnecessary were vastly exaggerated by Blue and White.

Today’s video gives a short tour of the northern Israeli city of Haifa

IDF Preparing for Possible Attacks by Iranian Proxies

Amidst a spike in tensions between the US and Iran over the weekend, the IDF is reportedly beefing up its own preparations to respond to potential threats from Iranian-backed proxy groups in the Gaza Strip, Syria and Lebanon. Meanwhile, senior Trump Administration officials were fanning out across the region on Monday, including a visit to Israel by US National Security Adviser John Bolton who arrived in Jerusalem Sunday evening to prepare for a tri-lateral meeting Monday afternoon with his Israeli and Russian counterparts, Meir Ben-Shabbat, and Nikolai Patrushev.

Here is the video of a joint press appearance Sunday evening by Bolton and Netanyahu

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was on his way to high-level meetings on Monday with the leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, telling reporters as he boarded his aircraft in Washingtion that "We’ll be talking with them about how to make sure that we are all strategically aligned and how we can build out a global coalition, a coalition not only throughout the Gulf states but in Asia and in Europe prepared to push back against the world's largest state sponsor of terror."

"We're prepared to negotiate (with Iran) with no preconditions," he added. "They know precisely how to find us. I am confident that at the very moment they're ready to truly engage with us we'll be able to begin these conversations. I'm looking forward to that day."

The trip follows a weekend which saw US President Donald Trump rescind an order to carry out strikes on Iran in retaliation for its downing of a surveillance drone over the Straits of Hormuz at the last minute, later explaining that he’d decided the casualties that would inevitably result from a shooting war between the US and Iran weren’t justified in response to the destruction of an unmanned aircraft.

Iranian officials also mocked Washington for what they said was a failed attempt to launch a cyberattack in response to the shootdown of the drone.

“They try hard, but have not carried out a successful attack," Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, Iran's minister for information and communications technology, said on Twitter. Elsewhere, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told reporters that the clerical regime doesn’t fear American threats of new sanctions “as all sanctions ... have been imposed and there are no more sanctions left."

"If a conflict breaks out in the region, no country would be able to manage its scope and timing," Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Major General Gholamali Rashid added. "The American government must act responsibly to protect the lives of American troops by avoiding misconduct in the region."

Iran Shoots Down US Navy Drone

Already high tensions in the Persian Gulf spiked Thursday morning following a report that Iranian air-defense units had shot down a US Navy MQ-4C Triton surveillance drone in international airspace over the Strait of Hormuz. Officials from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) claimed the drone had been shot down after violating Iranian airspace. Also on Thursday morning, Iranian-backed Houthi factions in Yemen claimed to have hit a power station in Al-Shuqaiq city in Saudi Arabia’s Jizan Province with a cruise missile.

The developments came as US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook was set to arrive in the Middle East for consultations with allies including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain. A State Department statement said the meetings will include discussions of “Iran's regional aggression, including its recent attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman." It added that Hook "will also share additional U.S. intelligence on the range of active threats Iran currently poses to the region."

On Wednesday, IDF Military Advocate-General Maj.-Gen. Sharon Afek told a conference in Jerusalem that Israel faces a wide range of possible threats from Iran on many levels in many domains. Other Israeli and Western officials have warned in recent days that Iran may order Hezbollah or other terror proxies to attack Israel in order to deflect attention away from its own standoff with Washington.

Finally, a report was released Wednesday by the German State of Brandenburg’s intelligence agency declaring that Iran, China and Russia are the countries which are responsible for most of the illegal surveillance activities in Germany.

Here are some videos giving some further insights into the current situation regarding Iran


Jerusalem Preparing for Meeting of National Security Advisers

A meeting of the national security advisers of Israel, the US and Russia scheduled to take place in Jerusalem on Monday received a strong endorsement from Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who told reporters on Wednesday that “This is a very important contact. The sides will have a vital exchange of views on the situation in the region, namely the Middle East settlement, the settlement process in Syria and other issues, which they consider necessary to discuss.” The planned meeting between Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, US National Security Adviser John Bolton and his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben-Shabbat has been hyped by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as yet another sign of the growing diplomatic clout of Israel, a view which has been seconded by several of the Jewish State’s leading defense and security analysts. Some have also pointed out that it sends a strong signal to Moscow’s other regional allies, particularly Iran.

Israeli Innovators Honored at Paris Conference
In another devastating blow to the movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Israel, the French parliament hosted a conference Wednesday bringing together French and Israeli experts on innovation in fields of high-tech, startups, civil society and NGOs. Israeli experts touted the success their programs have had in placing Israeli-Arab graduates in the Jewish State’s blossoming hi-tech industry, among other success stories. Also on Wednesday, Israeli defense firm Elbit systems announced it had secured a $73 million contract with the German Air Force to install missile-defense systems on cargo aircraft.

Israeli Universities Ranked Among World’s Best
The latest annual QS World University Rankings for 2019-2020 were released this week with Israel’s Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University and Haifa's Technion–Israel Institute of Technology once again being ranked among the top 300 institutions of higher learning globally. Additionally, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev was ranked at 419, Bar-Ilan University was ranked in the 551-560 range and the University of Haifa was ranked in the 651-700 range. Elsewhere, the prestigious scientific journal Nature ranked the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot as the third top university worldwide for high-quality research in the natural sciences.

"We have known for a long time that size is irrelevant when it comes to excellence in science," said Weizmann Institute president Daniel Zajfman. "For the Weizmann Institute of Science, striving to be the best involves attracting the best scientists and letting them follow their curiosity. Interdisciplinarity and collaboration across fields and across countries are simply part of our DNA, and we are proud of that fact. The Nature Index normalized ranking truly showcases the quality of top research, showing you don’t have to be big to be on the cutting edge of global science."

Israeli Athlete Wins Gold Medal in European Championships
Israeli sports fans had something to cheer about this week as fencer Yuval Freilich, ranked 40th in the world, defeated 13th ranked Italian athlete Andrea Santarelli to bring home a gold medal in the European Fencing Championships in Dusseldorf, Germany. “It’s the most incredible feeling,” he said in an interview posted to Facebook by the European Fencing Confederation. “Really a fantastic day. Everything connected, the fencing, the energy, the feeling. It just all came together and this is what came out. Amazing, really unbelievable feeling.”

Today's video shows a panel discussion on the current situation in Syria

Friday Feature - Persecution of Christians in the PA

Dr. Edy Cohen was born in Lebanon and is currently a researcher at Bar Ilan University, specializing in Middle East affairs and Arabic media. He recently published a paper on the persecution suffered by Christians in the Palestinian Authority administered cities of the West Bank as well as in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. This week, he was kind enough to answer some questions from ICEJ News about the plight of Palestinian Christians.

Q: Roughly how many Christians live in the Palestinian Authority administered areas in the West Bank and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip” How many belong to traditional churches and how many are converts from Islam or other religions?

“There are approximately 50,000 Palestinian Christians in the West Bank and 4,000 in Gaza. But they are fleeing as fast as they can. They are going to Israel if they can, or Europe, mostly France. There also many secret believers who are afraid to speak up, including many converts. The Constitution of the PA is based on Sharia, so when you are a Christian living in this area you are a second class citizen by law. There is severe persecution in the PA, but it’s ignored by the media. There have been incidents of vandalism in Bethlehem, church properties are attacked and the media doesn’t report on it.

Q: Why doesn't the media report on such incidents?

The media is not reporting it because the European media and even the Israeli media are invested in a narrative of the Palestinians as victims and the Israelis as the oppressors, so they don’t want to publish anything which would call that narrative into question. The Palestinian media will not publish anything that will harm the PA because they will be crushed if they do so. The Israeli media also has a vested interest in not harming the image of the PA because it would damage their access to the PA and that would make it more difficult for them to report in the Territories. So if the local media doesn’t report on these incidents neither does the international media.

On the other hand, you’ll almost never see anything reported on the Christian Arab population in Israel, which is growing and thriving, because news reporting is usually about problems and bad things that are happening. Because there’s so little friction between the Israeli Arab Christian population and the State, there’s nothing “newsworthy” to report on. The same is true of most other minority populations in Israel which get along with the Jewish majority.

Needless to say, this would also harm the narrative of Arabs and other minorities being the victims of the oppression of Israel’s Jewish majority, so that’s another reason for the international media to ignore it.

Q: Has the persecution of Palestinian Christians gotten worse recently and if so what explains it?

Things are getting worse for Palestinian Christians, partially due to the rise of the Islamic State (IS) terror militia. The violence IS waged against Christian populations in Iraq, Syria, Sinai, Nigeria and elsewhere had a radicalizing influence on some Moslems in the PA territories. The PA officially ignored this radicalization and didn’t confront it, while anecdotal incidents hinted that it had seeped into the PA security services, which are funded and trained by the US and UK.

Q: In your contacts with Palestinian Christians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, what are they telling you they most need? How can Christians around the world pray for and otherwise support them?

They are very shocked that no one ever reports on the persecution of them. They also wonder why the Pope hasn’t spoken up in their defense. They also wonder why the PA hasn’t done anything to help or protect them. They need more security, and more than anything they want to leave.

I speak with a lot of Christians who say they live in fear in the PA administered areas, they are not part of the majority culture. They are constantly pressured to convert to Islam. Moslem boys want to marry Christian girls and convert them to Islam. When the girls say no, it causes tensions and the girls get harassed. These Christians need help, they are alone.

Iran Sends Mixed Signals on Readiness for Conflict

One senior Iranian official told official news agencies in the Islamic Republic on Wednesday that there was no serious risk of a war with the United States in the near future while another warned that if the European countries don’t find a way to allow Iran to skirt US sanctions it will begin enriching uranium to a higher level sometime next month. "Iran's two-month deadline to remaining signatories of the JCPOA (nuclear deal) cannot be extended, and the second phase will be implemented exactly as planned," a spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Organization told the Tasnim news agency Wednesday morning.

In related news, US Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, told reporters this week that the Pentagon expects other military powers, particularly in Asia, where the bulk of oil exports from the Persian Gulf go, to assist in operations to secure sea lanes in the event of an Iranian attempt to disrupt them.

“We have maintained across the sea lanes of the world a position of defending freedom of navigation,” Selva said. “Specifically, in the Strait of Hormuz and the [Arabian] Gulf, we’ve taken on an international responsibility of ensuring freedom of navigation and the movement of oil in and out of the Gulf. That doesn’t mean it’s a US-only problem. If we take this on as a U.S.-only responsibility, nations that benefit from that movement of oil through the Persian Gulf are bearing little or no responsibility for the economic benefit they gain from the movement of that oil.”

“What was true in the 1980s, is not true today,” he added. “We are not wholly dependent on the movement of Saudi, Kuwaiti Qatari andEmirati oil in and out of the Gulf to sustain our economy, so the the idea that we would project that method of defending freedom of navigation into 2019 is probably ill-advised. I think there is a military role in defending freedom of navigation. The question will be to what extent the international community is behind that effort."

Here are some videos giving some further insights into the current situation regarding Iran


Netanyahu Warns Israel’s Enemies Against Aggression

Israeli Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Golan Heights Wednesday morning to observe a massive IDF exercise. Standing alongside IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi he said “I am very impressed by the improvement in the [IDF's] readiness, in the spirit of the fighters and the commanders, and especially in the IDF's destructive power. I hear our neighbors from the north, south and east threatening to destroy us. I say to our enemies: The IDF has a very large power to destroy, do not try us." As he spoke, the Air Force was in the midst of its own war games simulating a multi-front conflict.

“All of the air force is in the air,” a senior Israel Air Force officer – speaking on condition of  anonymity – told reporters on Tuesday, adding: “The entire force is taking part in the drill, from the technical branch to the operational staff and the commanders, and the Air Force commander himself.”

The exercises, which began on Sunday and are scheduled to run all week, also include practicing coordination with ground forces. The focus of many of the drills is a defense of Israel’s northern border, which is threatened by the presence of Iranian-backed forces in Syria and Lebanon, including the Shi’ite terror militia Hezbollah which has over 100,000 rockets aimed at Israel.

“If they start with thousands of rockets per day, we are hoping to be able to make it so there are only a few being launched and to intercept those that are launched,” the officer said.

In related news, the chairman of Israel’s Federation of Local Authorities, Haim Bibas, toured the Golan Heights this week and spoke about a need to re-enforce the infrastructure meant to protect civilian populations along the borders.

IDF Uncovers Equipment Used by Biblical Predessesors
Soldiers at an IDF paratroopers base in southern Israel discovered the base of an observation tower on Wednesday which archeologists believe was used by Israelite troops in the days of King Hezekiah. "The strategic location of the tower served as a lookout and warning point against the Philistine enemy, one of whose cities was Ashkelon. " according to Valdik Lifshitz and Sa'ar Ganor, directors of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority. "In the days of the First Temple, the Kingdom of Judah built a range of towers and fortresses as points of communication, warning and signaling, to transmit messages and field intelligence."

The excavations which uncovered the tower took place as part of a joint project between the IDF, the Ministry of Defense and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

"The archaeological excavation was a routine break from my point of view. I saw soldiers enjoying manual labor that has added value," Lieutenant Colonel Roi Ofir, commander of recruits at the Paratroopers Brigade, said. "This is the first time I participated in excavations. The connection to the land, and the fact that there were Jewish fighters in the past, gave me a sense of mission. The fact that there was also a connection to the area where we carried out our own military maneuvers; left us with a feeling that we were giving back."

BDS Movement Suffers More Defeats
The movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Israel suffered more defeats this week when it was announced that the Jewish State will soon become a participant in the ODYSSEA Project to study various environmental issues in the Mediterranean basin. The Project is supported by the EU and already includes participation by specialists and researchers from 14 countries. Meanwhile, Israel Aerospace Industries subsidiary ELTA Systems landed a strategic cooperation agreement with Brazil’s Embraer Defense & Security at the Paris Air Show this week to jointly build a military electronic reconnaissance aircraft.

IAEA Signs Agreement with "State of Palestine"
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) took the extraordinary step on Tuesday of recognizing the ”State of Palestine” and admitting it as a member. The ceremony where the agreement was signed by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano and the Palestinian Ambassador in Vienna Salah Abdul Shafi took place in the Agency’s Vienna headquarters. Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon said the agreement was a "violation of international conventions."

"This is another attempt by the Palestinian Authority to join international organizations in order to exploit them for political purposes," the Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.  "Israel does not recognize the attempts of the PA to join such organizations and such institutions as state, and Israel views this as a violation of international agreements."

Today's video gives an in-depth look at tensions along the Gaza-Israel border region

US and Iran in Increasingly Tense Standoff

The Pentagon released photos on Monday apparently showing Iranian operatives removing an explosive device from the hull of the Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman last week, bolstering the US assertion that Iran was behind recent attacks on oil tankers. The release was accompanied by an announcement that 1,000 additional US military personnel are being deployed to the region in an effort to deter further Iranian aggression and push back against such aggression if deterrence fails. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the deployment was designed "for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and ground-based threats in the Middle East" adding that the US would "continue to monitor the situation diligently and make adjustments to force levels as necessary given intelligence reporting and credible threats."

In related news, the US is also accusing Iran of allowing Houthi rebels in Yemen to fire anti-aircraft missiles at surveillance drones over Yemen earlier this month. "A U.S. MQ-9 was shot down over Yemen by what we assess to be a [Huthi] SA-6 surface to air missile on Jun 6," Lieutenant-Colonel Earl Brown, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, said in a statement on June 16. He added that on 13 June, Houthi rebels attempted to shoot down another drone which was monitoring the attack on the Kokuka Courageous.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at an event in Jerusalem just hours later, saying 

“Israel is standing on the same front with the United States, moderate Arab states, and with other countries in its opposition to Iranian aggression.”

Here is a video about Iran recently posted by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Qatari Money Doesn’t Go to Needy Gazans as Planned
Reports out of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip indicate that a large consignment of cash sent into the territory by Qatar, with Israeli consent, did not get distributed to needy families as Qatar intended, but was prevented to from reaching them by an edict from the Palestinian Authority Welfare Ministry in Ramallah. The reports added that the edict was a result of a dispute between the PA and Hamas over a list of eligible welfare recipients.

Israel Blesses the World
Israel’s Economic Ministry and National Cyber Directorate entered into an agreement with the World Bank on Monday to help developing countries build secure cyber networks to facilitate economic growth, employment and prosperity. The Bank’s Digital Development Partnership already includes some of the world’s most powerful countries and Israeli representatives expressed eagerness to cooperate with them to help countries, especially in Africa, give their citizens a better quality of life.

In related news, Israeli medical imaging analytics start-up Zebra Medical Vision received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week to market the HealthICH product, an artificial intelligence-powered product for detecting intracranial hemorrhages. The technology has the potential to save lives and billions of dollars in health care costs annually.

Morsi Dies While Making Courtroom Appearance
Mohamed Morsi, who briefly held power in Egypt after his Moslem-Brotherhood faction won elections in that country following the overthrow of long-time President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, died on Monday after collapsing during a courtroom appearance in Cairo. He was 67. Prosecutors "had just finished the session for the espionage case and they informed the judge that he had fainted and needed to be transported to a hospital where he later died," a judicial source told AFP.

Netanyahu Leads Launch of ‘Ramat Trump’ on the Golan

The Israeli cabinet held a meeting on the Golan Heights Sunday, culminating in the naming of a new town in the strategic area “Ramat Trump” or “Trump Heights.” "This is an historic day for us,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “We are going to do two things: Establish a new community on the Golan Heights, something which has not been done for many years. This is an act of settlement and of Zionism of the first order. The second thing is to honor our friend, a very great friend of the State of Israel, President Donald Trump, who recently recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. He is the first international leader to have done so. He tore the mask off this hypocrisy, which does not recognize what is self-evident.

"Menachem Begin said that he had passed the Golan Heights Law. Sometimes even the self-evident needs to be stated, which President Trump has also done in this case, as well as in moving the embassy to Jerusalem, in leaving the nuclear agreement with Iran, and is doing at the moment in standing steadfast against Iranian aggression in the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf and the region in general. We are proud that we have this opportunity to establish the community and also honor a great friend. I am very grateful to all of you who have come here. We will continue to build and develop the Golan for all its residents, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, and for the state as a whole."

Here is a video about the event posted by the US Embassy in Jerusalem

Turkey Set to Receive S-400 System from Russia
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told local media outlets in Ankara Sunday that he expects the first components of the Russian-built S-400 air defense system to be delivered to the Turkish military “ in the first half of July” despite strong pressure from the US and other NATO allies to cancel the order. Erdogan added that he will discuss the matter with US President Donald Trump at the G20 summit later this month.

Intel Further Expands Operations in Israel
The movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) Israel suffered another defeat on Sunday when US-based tech giant Intel Corp. announced plans to expand its operations in Israel called “Ignite”. “This program is about how we continue to stimulate ecosystems here in Israel and around the globe by giving opportunities and the chance to bring the size and scale of Intel to the ideas and dreams of entrepreneurs,” said Intel CEO Bob Swan, launching the program at Jaffa’s Peres Center for Peace and Innovation. “The role of Intel in Israel has been a significant contributor to the company’s overall performance for the last 45 years. Ignite is just one more way to engage with the entrepreneurial ecosystem here, and in some small way to contribute to its acceleration in a variety of technologies that are good for business and social welfare.”

Iran Moving Closer to JCPOA Breach

A spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) announced on Monday that his country is taking another step closer to breaching the 2015 JCPOA nuclear agreement in retaliation for what Teheran maintains is American belligerence towards it in a variety of areas. Another Iranian official was quoted by local media outlets as saying the clerical regime is considering whether to abandon the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty entirely if the EU doesn’t begin finding ways to increase its economic activity in Iran despite US sanctions.

The chairman of the Iranian Parliament's Nuclear Committee, Mojtaba Zonnour, told the Mehr news agency that he doubted the EU would do it, saying “The volume of our economic transactions with Europe at best is $20 billion in a year, whereas the volume of economic transactions between Europe and the US is something between $900 billion -1,000 billion. Of course, Europe would not sacrifice $1,000 billion for $20 billion.” However, he added that the Europeans would try to find a way to salvage the status quo “because they don’t want to pay the price. They just want to control Iran, and make sure that we won’t gain anything from the agreement.”

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview on June 16 with Fox News that Washington will "take all the actions necessary, diplomatic and otherwise," to guarantee free navigation through the Strait of Hormuz following additional attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf last week which the US and several allied nations blamed on Iran. "These were attacks by the Islamic Republic of Iran on commercial shipping, on the freedom of navigation, with the clear intent to deny transit through the strait," he added.

"We do not want a war in the region...But we won't hesitate to deal with any threat to our people, our sovereignty, our territorial integrity, and our vital interests," Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman told the pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.

Here is a video giving some analysis of the situation


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