Iran’s Nuke Nears
IRAN TWO MONTHS FROM NUCLEAR BOMB: Tehran is two months away from nuclear weapons capacity, warned Defense Minister Benny Gantz as he called for the international community to create a new prevention plan that did not involve reviving the 2015 Iran deal.
“Iran is only two months away from acquiring the materials necessary for a nuclear weapon,” Gantz told a gathering of 60 ambassadors in Tel Aviv. He spoke just one day before Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is scheduled to present such an alternative plan to US President Joe Biden at the White House. Biden has been in favor of reviving the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action designed to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which the US exited in 2018. Indirect talks brokered by the European Union have faltered and have allowed for Tehran to ramp up its uranium enrichment needed to produce nuclear weapons. “We do not know if the Iranian regime will be willing to sign an agreement and come back to the negotiation table – and the international community must build a viable ‘Plan B’ in order to stop Iran in its tracks toward a nuclear weapon,” Gantz said. The preferred option, he said, is a diplomatic one. “At the end of the day, the goal is to reach a ‘longer, stronger and broader agreement than the previous one,” Gantz said. An “Iranian nuclear program could incite an arms race in the region and the entire world.” Nevertheless, he hinted at military action if needed. “The State of Israel has the means to act and will not hesitate to do so – I do not rule out the possibility that Israel will have to take action in the future in order to prevent a nuclear Iran,” Gantz said. (JPost / VFI News)
GENERALS TO BENNETT: TELL BIDEN THE OSLO ERA IS OVER: A group of senior Israeli security officers and reservists called on Prime Minister Naftali Bennett Wednesday, August 25, to press the Biden administration to rethink its positions vis-à-vis the Iran nuclear deal and negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
In an open letter to Bennett released by Israel’s Defense and Security Forum: HaBithonistim, a group representing some 2,400 senior officers, commanders, retired soldiers, and reservists, the officers called on Bennett to rethink Israel’s reliance on American hegemony in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. The letter was released a day before Prime Minister Bennett is set to meet with President Joe Biden, his first meeting with the president since Bennett took office earlier this year. “In the last few weeks there has been a significant shift in the Middle East geopolitical landscape with deep ranging implications and long-term consequences for Israel,” the officers wrote. “The US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the swift dominance of the Taliban have highlighted the failures of current approaches to diplomacy and military strategy. Absent a new way of thinking, these radical, terrorist factions will only grow and bolster the extremists within the Palestinian and Israeli Arabs as well as the Iranian people.” The officers called on Bennett to reject any overtures from the Biden administration to restart final status agreements with the Palestinian Authority on the basis of the Oslo process formula and to work to convince the White House that the approach taken by previous administrations is no longer workable. “Israel and the U.S. must stop the dated monolithic approach to the Middle East, and more particularly to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Withdrawal and retreat. Those are the stale options that career politicians have been espousing since 1967. They allow for factions like the Taliban to seize control and brutalize their people. Every place we retreat from becomes a hotbed of terror. It happened in Gaza with Hamas and it happened in Afghanistan with the Taliban.” “When Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin entered into the Oslo accords, the world was a very different place.” “We cannot just pick up where Oslo left off. In the 1990s the Arab world was in a state of crisis, especially with the defeat of Iraq, the US was an unparalleled superpower, and the USSR collapsed. And despite the US dominance and interest in the Middle East during those years, all attempts at an effective brokered deal failed.” The letter was signed by Major General (res.) Gershon HaCohen, Major General (res.) Jerry Gershon, Brigadier General (res.) Amir Avivi, Colonial (res.) Itzik Ronen, and Lieutenant Colonel (res.) Yaron Buskila.
ISRAEL IS ACCELERATING OPERATIONAL PLANS TO TAKE ACTION AGAINST IRAN: Israel’s military is accelerating its operational plans against Iran due to the progress of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi has warned.
“The progress of the Iranian nuclear program has led the IDF to accelerate its operational plans and the recently approved defense budget is earmarked for that,” he said. With no diplomatic options likely to push Tehran to stop its nuclear program, Israel’s military believes that the Islamic Republic needs to be aware that should it continue with its program, it will face harsher sanctions and a true military option to stop it.The NIS 58 billion defense budget set for the IDF in the coming year is expected to allow the Israeli military to focus on the threats posed by Iran across the region, with some NIS 3.5b. designated specifically for this. Israel considers Iran’s nuclear program as its No. 1 concern, and though Iran has consistently denied seeking to build a nuclear bomb, tensions have risen as the West seeks to resume talks on reviving the deal to curb Tehran’s nuclear program. (TOI / VFI News)
RUSSIA HOSTS JORDAN’S KING, HINTS AT UAE DEAL: King Abdullah II of Jordan met Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday. They discussed the situation in Syria and Afghanistan, according to Russian media reports. “Of course, we hope for an exchange of views on the most pressing matters…They are the normalization of the situation in Syria and the current escalation in Afghanistan,” Putin said.
These comments come during an important military event in Russia and Russian outreach to the UAE, as well as S-400 deliveries to India and Russian-Iran ties which are growing. It is part of Russia’s interest in expanding its role in the Middle East and in Afghanistan. Russia has been talking to Turkey about coordinating relations with the Taliban, and Russia may hold a joint military drill with China and Iran later this year or in 2022, Iran’s Tasnim media said. The Russian ambassador announced that the exercises of the three countries will focus on maritime security and the fight against piracy, Iran’s media reported. After the Iran discussions, Russia wants to expand its relations with Jordan. The meeting with the king is part of that work. “Putin stressed that despite the coronavirus pandemic relations between Russia and Jordan are developing in all areas, including trade and economic ties and political dialogue.He noted that the intergovernmental commission, chaired by Russian Agriculture Minister Dmitry Patrushev, is working actively,” Tass media said in Moscow. “We are also working jointly to combat the pandemic and overcome its impacts,” Putin said. The Russian leader and the king of Jordan examined military hardware during a walk after the meeting. The Russian president explained that these weapons are both supplied to the Russian army and exported. In his words, “direct contacts with colleagues from the armed forces of foreign countries help build up trust.” Russia and China want to expand their navies to present a peer-to-peer challenge to the US. Russia’s navy, while an important historic arm of the Russian military, has had many setbacks and needs modernization. “We will continue ramping up Russia’s navy potential, perfect the basing system and navy infrastructure, fit the most advanced weaponry and equipment on ships, train difficult tasks at drills and in long-distance voyages as well as display the Russian flag in strategically important regions of the world’s oceans,” Putin said. The navy is important because Russia uses it to project power in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. (JPost / VFI News)
ACCORDING TO UN, TALIBAN RELIANT ON ILLEGAL DRUG TRAFFICKING FOR FINANCING AS PRODUCTION BOOMS: As the Taliban secures its grip on Afghanistan, the United Nations is warning that the militant group is reliant on drug trafficking as one of its primary sources of financing, as opium poppy production has increased significantly.
In a June report to the Security Council, U.N. officials said the issue of production of poppy-based drugs and methamphetamine was “unaddressed” by the Afghan peace process. “This remains the Taliban’s largest single source of income,” the report says. “It also has a destabilizing and corrupting effect within Afghanistan and contributes significantly to the narcotics challenges facing the wider international community.” The report also found that there was a decline in narcotics seizures by the Afghan government in 2020, which was attributed in part to the gradual expansion of Taliban-controlled territory — where the militant group was reliant on it as one of its sources of funding. “The primary sources of Taliban financing remain criminal activities, including drug trafficking and opium poppy production, extortion, kidnapping for ransom, mineral exploitation, and revenues from tax collection in areas under Taliban control or influence,” the report says.In the last months, the Taliban’s reach has grown dramatically — with the militant group sweeping through the country in recent days ahead of the U.S. withdrawal on Aug. 31. It has led to chaos in Kabul as Americans and Afghan allies struggle to get on planes to flee the country. The U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that taxes collected from drug farmers alone were estimated to be around $14.5 million, while another $46-98 million comes in from heroin manufacturing and trafficking. (FOX / VFI News)
FINANCE MINISTER SAYS NO MORE RESTRICTIONS, LET THE ECONOMY WORK: Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman spoke to reporters Wednesday, August 25, and suggested that Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz stop pushing for further restrictions that would harm Israel’s economy.
“The coefficient of infection is going down, so we need to stop talking about the new restrictions and let the economy work,” Liberman said, expressing opposition to the business owners’ demand for compensation for the green pass restrictions: “Go to Superland and restaurants – everything is full.” Liberman also addressed the crisis in public hospitals, explaining that “the Finance Ministry cannot transfer funds directly to the hospitals but to the Health Ministry. Then begins a story of tests of who is eligible – we do not just transfer money when it comes to hundreds of millions [of shekels]. Today the CEO and Chief of Staff [of the Finance Ministry] were with the Health Minister in order to summarize the issue and transfer funds immediately in the form of an advance payment. I hope that the way will be found to transfer advances immediately to the public hospitals.” (INN / VFI News)
GOLD BYZANTINE COIN DEPICTING CRUCIFIXION DISCOVERED NEAR TEL AVIV: An archaeological dig in Ramat HaSharon, a suburb of Tel Aviv, uncovered some remarkable finds including a wine press with an ornate mosaic floor and a Byzantine gold coin depicting the crucifixion of Jesus.
“The excavation unearthed evidence of agricultural-industrial activity at the site during the Byzantine period – about 1,500 years ago. Among other finds, we discovered a large winepress paved with a mosaic as well as plastered installations and the foundations of a large structure that may have been used as a warehouse or even a farmstead,” explained Dr. Yoav Arbel, Director of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority. The gold coin was believed to be minted in 638 or 639 AD by the Byzantine emperor Heraclius who is depicted on one side of the coin with his two sons. The flip side of the coin depicts the crucifixion of Jesus. An inscription is scratched into the face of the coin, likely the name of the coin’s owner, onto its surface in Greek and possibly Arabic, according to Robert Kool, a coin expert with the IAA. “The coin encapsulates fascinating data on the decline of Byzantine rule in the country and contemporary historical events, such as the Persian invasion and the emergence of Islam, and provides information on Christian and pagan symbolism and the local population who lived here,” says Kool in the statement. (i365 / VFI News)
The suggestions, opinions and scripture references made by VFI writers and editors are based on the best information received.
Blessings from Jerusalem,
Barry Segal with the Editorial Staff