Iran Rejects Inspector Access
IRAN REJECTS DEMAND FOR UN INSPECTORS’ ACCESS TO NUCLEAR SITE: Iran on Tuesday, September 28, rejected a US call to grant UN inspectors access to a nuclear site, saying Washington was not qualified to demand inspections without condemning a sabotage attack on the facility, Iranian state media reported.
“Countries that did not condemn terrorist acts against Iran’s nuclear site are not qualified to comment on inspections there,” Mohammad Eslami, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said during a visit to Moscow, according to Iranian state news agency IRNA. The United States said on Monday, September 27, that Iran must stop denying the UN nuclear watchdog access to a workshop making centrifuge parts as agreed two weeks ago or face diplomatic retaliation at the agency’s Board of Governors meeting. The workshop at the TESA Karaj complex makes components for centrifuges, machines that enrich uranium, and was hit by apparent sabotage in June in which one of four International Atomic Energy Agency cameras there was destroyed. Iran removed them and the destroyed camera’s footage is missing. (JPost / VFI News)
ISRAEL IS TAKING INITIATIVE AGAINST IRAN NOW: Israel is not just talking, it is taking action against Iran in the present, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a briefing to journalists on his delegation to New York, following his address to the United Nations General Assembly on Monday, September 27.
Iran’s pace of advancement towards a nuclear weapon is “unacceptable,” and Israel’s approach is “not just apocalyptic warnings, but initiative. We mean what we say,” Bennett said. “We are acting in the present and will continue. I believe that consistent and determined action can make a difference,” he stated. “Iran’s nuclear weapon program is at a critical point. All red lines have been crossed. Inspections – ignored. All wishful thinking – proven false. Iran is violating the [International Atomic Energy Agency’s] safeguard agreements – and it’s getting away with it.” Bennett pointed out that he had said in his UN speech that Iran is more vulnerable than it seems because they are “a rotten regime, alienated [from its people and] cannot function: not in coronavirus, not in providing water and electricity to large parts of the country. They’re corrupt.” Those vulnerabilities give Israel leverage to try to stop the regime’s malign actions, he added. Bennett said in his speech that Iran’s military drone unit threatens the entire world, mentioning the attack on the Mercer Street vessel – in which Iranian suicide drones killed a British and a Romanian citizen – as well as its proxy armies throughout the Middle East, which it plans to arm with thousands of deadly unmanned aerial vehicles. He later said that he referred specifically to Iran’s UAVs, because “it costs little, causes great damage and allows them to deny involvement. They give it to their proxies, which creates an asymmetric situation. It doesn’t cost a lot to use UAVs, but it costs a lot to defend against them.” In the UN, Bennett said that “Iran’s great goal is crystal clear to anybody who cares to open their eyes: Iran seeks to dominate the region and seeks to do so under a nuclear umbrella.” He pointed to places in which “Iran has spread its carnage and destruction” – Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Gaza – and said they are all in crisis. “Like the Midas touch, Iran’s regime has the ‘Mullah-touch.’ Every place Iran touches, fails,” the prime minister quipped. Bennett also referred to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s history of heading a “death commission” that ordered the murder of 5,000 political activists – and then celebrating the deaths by pocketing the victims’ money and eating cream puffs. “He celebrated the murder of his own people, by devouring cream cakes,” Bennett emphasized. “And now Raisi is Iran’s new president. This is who we’re dealing with.” (JPost / VFI News)
LARGE EXPLOSIVES CACHE FOUND IN WEST BANK TOWN: Israeli security forces early Monday, September 27, carried out further operations in the West Bank to disrupt alleged plans for major terror attacks, using new intel gained following the arrest of some 20 suspected members of a Hamas cell.
It was the second straight night Israeli troops operated in the town of Bidu, near Jerusalem. Three Hamas gunmen were killed in a shootout with soldiers the night before. In the latest raids, forces found a significant cache of explosive devices intended to be used in a terror attack in the capital in the coming days, according to television reports Monday. The “kilograms of explosives” were hidden in a well whose exact whereabouts were determined after the Shin Bet internal security service interrogated the cell’s mastermind and other members, the reports said. A spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces declined The Times of Israel’s request for further information, citing the ongoing investigation. The military said at least seven suspected members of the Hamas cell were arrested during arrest raids overnight Saturday, September 25, and at least five other suspected terrorists were killed after they opened fire at IDF troops. Five guns were also confiscated in the raids, along with large amounts of ammunition. Several other members of the group had been arrested on the preceding nights. It is estimated that the West Bank operations to dismantle the terror network will continue in the coming days, as the IDF believes some members are still on the loose. Officials said the cell had planned an immediate major terror attack. (TOI / VFI News)
IRAN SAYS TEHRAN WON’T ACCEPT LONGER AND STRONGER NUCLEAR DEAL: Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has said that Tehran will not accept a United States-desired “longer and stronger deal” with world powers on its nuclear program.
Iran’s top diplomat made the comments on Friday, September 24, to The New York Times, adding that the 2015 deal “has a lot of harsh critics in Iran, but we accepted it.” US President Joe Biden has expressed willingness to return to the previous deal if Iran returns to compliance as well. He has also said that he would seek a stronger deal after the sides recommit to the previous accord. But under the new hardline government in Tehran, Amir-Abdollahian rejected the second notion, while also saying that Iran would demand greater concessions to return to the deal than under its original terms — likely a non-starter for Washington. With the talks yet to resume and Iran raising its price, officials in the Biden administration have sounded increasingly skeptical that a return to the accord former US President Donald Trump discontinued in 2018 is possible. The newspaper noted that according to expert estimations, with its current pace of uranium enrichment, Iran could produce enough weapons-grade plutonium for a nuclear bomb with two months, if it wanted to — but it would need another 18 months at least to make a weapon, which would give the US, Israel or others time to react if it tried to do so. The nuclear talks, brokered by the Europeans, seek the return of the US to the 2015 agreement discontinued by Trump — as well as Iran’s return to full compliance. When asked by reporters to explain why Iran was, for the first time, producing fuel enriched to a level that is close to weapons-grade, Amir-Abdollahian declined to answer. (TOI / VFI News)
ISRAELI EXPORTS RISE 24%: Israeli exports of goods and services rose 24% in the first half of 2021 to $67.6 billion compared to the same period in 2020, the Economy and Industry Ministry said.
Exports grew 11% in the first quarter and an “unprecedented” 38% in the second quarter, the ministry said. Exports for the full year are forecast to reach $135b., a 20% increase from 2020. “We are proud of the achievements of Israeli industry, the Foreign Trade Administration and our system of economic attachés around the world, which managed to create a rapid and unprecedented recovery in exports,” said Ohad Cohen, director of the Foreign Trade Administration. Despite the fact that trade was depressed in the second quarter of 2020, the level of growth is still quite impressive, given that the tourism services export market has not yet returned to normal due to travel restrictions, the ministry said. Export of services grew by 30% in the first half of 2021, while goods exports rose 18%. Exports of services exceeded exports of goods for the first time ever, accounting for 51.4% of Israel’s total exports, compared with 48.6% for exports of goods, due largely to increased hi-tech service exports. Exports of software and computing services and scientific R&D services, which constitute the core of Israeli’s hi-tech industry, grew by 29% and 48%, respectively. Exports of diamonds rose 111%, reversing a trend in recent years, with 40% of diamonds sold to European markets, 33% to American markets, and about 25% to Asian markets. “We are full of pride in Israeli industry, the business sector, the hi-tech sector and the technological entrepreneurs in Israel who prove time and time again that nothing can stop Israel’s determination to break out and win,” said Economy and Industry Minister Orna Barbivay. “We will continue to work to remove barriers to trade, open doors to new markets for Israeli industry and provide professional support and guidance to companies interested in expanding their activities in existing markets or penetrating new markets.” Meanwhile, the Foreign Trade Administration said it reopened its financial assistance programs for overseas marketers, “Smart Money” and “Gateway to International Exports,” which offer millions of shekels to help export companies penetrate global markets. Businesses can apply until October 17, with preference given to companies owned by minority populations, those located in the Gaza envelope area and companies in Eilat. (JPost / VFI News)
JORDAN FULLY REOPENS BORDER CROSSING WITH SYRIA, SEEKS TRADE BOOST: Jordan fully reopened its main border crossing with Syria on Wednesday, September 29, in a move to boost the countries’ struggling economies and reinforce a push by Arab states to reintegrate Syria after shunning it during its civil war.
Syrian trucks waited to enter Jordan at the Jaber border crossing and taxis carrying passengers lined up to pass through customs and immigration control. “The security situation is now stable on the Syrian side and we hope it remains stable,” Colonel Moayad Al Zubi, the head of Jaber crossing, told Reuters. The Jaber crossing had reopened in 2018 after the Syrian government drove rebels from the south, but the COVID-19 pandemic led to measures being imposed to curb transmission of the virus. “The aim of these understandings is to boost trade exchange between the two countries to achieve the interests of every party,” Jordanian trade and industry minister Maha Al Ali told state-owned Al Mamlaka television.Andre Bank, senior research fellow and Syria expert in the German Institute for Global and Area Studies think tank, said the full reopening of the border crossing was a gain for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “It is another important step in the regional normalization of the Assad regime. Within the regional balance of power between the different Arab states, the pendulum seems to be swinging more towards the pro-Assad friendly side,” Bank said. Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt this month reached an agreement for Egyptian natural gas to be sent to Lebanon via Syria using a pipeline built some 20 years ago in an Arab cooperation project. (JPost / VFI News)
ISRAELI SCIENTISTS TO PARTICIPATE IN INTERNATIONAL DRIVE TO FIND COVID-CURING PILLS: The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot will participate in a global drive to develop safe, globally accessible, affordable and easily-manufactured antiviral drugs against COVID-19 and future viral pandemics.
The drive will be spearheaded by an initiative called “The COVID Moonshot,” a non-profit, open-science consortium of scientists from around the world that began as a spontaneous virtual collaboration in March 2020, in which scientists from the Weizmann Institute are members. Moonshot’s over 150 scientists crowdsource ideas for molecular compounds, model them and evaluate them in-vitro against the virus. Their goal is to come up with a non-profit oral treatment for COVID-19 and related viral pandemics, especially for low- and middle-income countries. ‘If drug discovery efforts that were launched during the 2003 SARS epidemic had persevered and had been funded to completion, relevant anti-coronavirus drugs would have been more readily available when COVID-19 hit,’ said Moonshot participant Nir London, Senior Scientist at Weizmann. ‘Now is the time to plan for the future. In addition to addressing this current pandemic, which is not showing signs of slowing, we want to develop one or more novel pan-coronavirus antiviral molecules for future outbreaks. We also want to provide an open platform to accelerate the response time when new pandemics arise,’ London said. Moonshot data is already available online to enable others to freely build on its work, and the project has already generated over 50% of known structural information on the main protease, a key protein in SARS-CoV-2. The first clinical trials are expected in 2022. Besides the Weizmann Institute, collaborators of the Moonshot project include academic and industrial groups such as Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchrotron science facility; the Nuffield Department of Medicine at the University of Oxford (UK); PostEra (US/UK), a machine-learning-driven medicinal chemistry company; the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (US); various drug discovery consultants including MedChemica Ltd (UK), Thames Pharma Partners (US) and Compass Business Partners (UK); and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (Switzerland), which is leading and coordinating the newly funded drive toward the clinical stages. The drive was made available by an £8 million donation to the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, an initiative launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, MasterCard and global charitable foundation Wellcome, with support from public and philanthropic donors. (JPost / VFI News)
MOROCCO TO ADOPT ISRAELI METHOD OF BIOLOGICAL EXTERMINATION USING OWLS: Joining in on the success of Israel, Cyprus, Greece, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, Morocco will be installing nesting boxes for owls, which will enable biological extermination in agriculture without the use of poisonous chemicals that are dangerous for people and the environment.
The man who started the initiative, Prof. Yossi Leshem, is a member of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, an ornithologist and a professor of Zoology at Tel Aviv University. Leshem said he met Prof. Imad Chirkawi, an ecologist and bird researcher, at a workshop of Mashav (The Center for International Cooperation) a few years ago. At this meeting, Leshem expressed an interest in leading the initiative in Morocco and the other Maghreb countries like Algiers and Tunisia. “We are seeing the owl is replacing the dove as the harbinger of peace and is proving once again that birds do not have geographical borders,” the professor said. “I am happy to see that the vision is taking shape. I hope that as a result of the meetings in Dubai, the emirates of the UAE who want to use environmentally friendly agriculture and learn from the methods developed in Israel over the last 35 years will also join the initiative. The Israeli national initiative of using owls and falcons as biological exterminators in agriculture began to take shape in 2008 in cooperation with the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, Tel Aviv University, and the ministries of Agriculture, Regional Cooperation and Environmental Protection, among other bodies. So far, some 5,000 nesting boxes have been placed in the Golan Heights, Galilee, Hula Valley, Jezreel Valley, Beit Shean Valley, the Sharon region, Judea and the South. The project has been a success in minimizing the use of poisonous chemicals in Israeli agriculture and is expected to reduce it further in the future. The main food source for owls is rodents, and owls catch between 2,000 and 6,000 rodents every year, depending on the size of the prey. “The bigger and more sequential the areas are, the bigger the owl population will be and the more consistent and healthy, which will make the project’s success greater,” Leshem said. “Furthermore, regional cooperation can be used as a bridging platform between the Jordanians, the Palestinians and the Israelis. Common efforts will help improve the system, thus helping to develop environmentally-friendly agriculture.” (JPost / VFI News)
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Blessings from Jerusalem,
Barry Segal with the Editorial Staff