U.S., Europe Align on Iran Options
US IN ‘LOCKSTEP’ WITH ALLIES, LOOKING AT ‘ALL OPTIONS’ ON IRAN OVER NUCLEAR DEAL: The US is in full agreement with its allies on bringing Iran back into compliance with the nuclear deal, including willingness to look at “all of the options necessary” if diplomacy doesn’t work, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday, October 31.
Blinken was commenting on US President Joe Biden’s talks on Iran with his German, French and British counterparts during the G20 summit in Rome. “We are absolutely together in lockstep on how we are approaching the challenge of getting Iran back into compliance with the nuclear agreement,” Blinken told CNN in an interview. “And that’s new because we’ve actually been at odds in recent years,” he said, recalling that the Trump administration pulled out of the pact in 2018 while the other countries remained committed. “But we do not yet know if Iran is willing to come back, and to engage in a meaningful way and get back into compliance,” Blinken said. “If it isn’t, if it won’t, then we are looking together at all of the options necessary to deal with this problem.” The four countries, along with Russia and China, signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran in 2015 under President Obama’s leadership. The UN’s atomic watchdog has said Iran is increasingly in violation of the nuclear deal. Iran, which has stalled indirect negotiations with the United States in Vienna regarding a mutual return to the nuclear deal, said last week that it would soon announce a resumption of negotiations to take place by the end of November. Blinken said that the US, Britain, France and Germany were working with Russia and China toward Iran again adopting the full terms of the agreement, as they all agree “that would be the best path forward.” “We continue to believe that diplomacy is the best way to deal with… the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program,” particularly regarding steps it has taken since the US pullout, which make the program “increasingly dangerous,” Blinken said. On Saturday, October 30, the US and its three European allies in the deal urged Iran to stop the advances it is making in its nuclear program in order “to avoid a dangerous escalation, which is not in any country’s interest.” Biden also issued a statement in which he said if the US reenters the deal it will not again pull out unless Iran clearly violates its terms. (TOI / VFI News)
IRGC SAYS IT THWARTED US ATTEMPT TO CONFISCATE OIL IN THE GULF OF OMAN: The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps said on Wednesday, November 3, that its speedboats intercepted a US military vessel in the Gulf of Oman that was attempting to confiscate Iranian oil exports, Iranian media reported.
US officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the Iranian report was not true and there had been no US attempt to seize a tanker. The US ship was said to be confiscating Iranian oil from one tanker and diverting it to another bound for an unknown destination. The IRGC claimed it landed on the deck of the second tanker and diverted it into Iran’s territorial waters. The US forces attempted to pursue the tanker with helicopters and warships but failed to catch it, according to the report, which claimed that the US forces then tried and failed a second time to block the tanker from entering Iranian waters. The American officials said that in reality, Iranian forces had seized a Vietnamese-flagged oil tanker last month and US naval forces were just monitoring the situation. “With the timely and authoritative action of the Guards’ naval forces, the US terrorist Navy’s operation to steal Iranian oil in the Sea of Oman failed,” the IRGC said in a statement published by Iranian state media. “The tanker carrying Iran’s oil docked at the port of Bandar Abbas on October 25.”
In recent days, Iranian media reported that Iran’s Navy has reportedly thwarted an attempted “pirate attack” on an oil tanker sailing for the Gulf of Aden, south of Yemen and past the Red Sea. Four boats, each carrying six armed pirates, were en route to hijacking the tanker, which was heading for the Bab al-Mandab Strait, but they were warded off by an Iranian Navy squad aboard the vessel, according to Iran’s semi-official Tasnim News Agency. The report claimed the pirates tried to hijack the vessel but were scared off by the warning shots, which is in line with many attempted pirate attacks. Separately, American officials told Reuters that multiple drones, believed to be Iranian, came close to the US Navy amphibious assault ship Essex in the Strait of Hormuz in the past 24 hours. (JPost / VFI News)
IRAN SAYS NATIONAL FUEL NETWORK UP AND RUNNING AFTER MAJOR CYBER ATTACK: Iran’s fuel distribution system resumed full operation on Tuesday, November 2, a week after it was paralyzed by a cyber attack, authorities said.
“The country’s 4,300 service stations are once again connected to the central fuel distribution system,” the spokesperson of the Iranian National Oil Product Distribution Company, Fatemeh Kahi, said in a statement. “From now on, all the service stations will be able to supply subsidized gas using the digital cards,” Kahi added. A cyber attack on October 26 brought all fuel distribution stations in the country to a halt, resulting in traffic jams and long lines at gas stations. The attack prompted sharp responses from top Iranian officials, who blamed outside actors. On Sunday, October 31, leading general Gholamreza Jalali accused the United States and Israel of being behind the attack. “We are still unable to say forensically, but analytically I believe it was carried out by the Zionist regime, the Americans and their agents,” Jalali told state TV in an interview, according to Reuters. He said the investigation was still ongoing, however. Iran has in the past blamed Israel for provoking unrest during protests. In July, Iran claimed to have arrested a Mossad cell that planned to provoke violence during demonstrations over water shortages in the country. Last week’s cyberattack blocked the IT system that allows Iranians to fill their tanks for free or at subsidized prices with a digital card issued by authorities, leading to long lines and frustration as motorists became stranded without fuel. Iran enjoys some of the cheapest gas prices worldwide, but motorists must use the digital cards supplied by the authorities to purchase it at a subsidized rate. Citizens are entitled to a monthly quota of fuel at the subsidized rate before they must buy it at the higher market rate. (TOI / VFI News)
TEACHER FLOGGED BY IRAN’S REGIME IS RE-ARRESTED: The Islamic Republic of Iran last week re-arrested Javad Lal-Mohammadi, a teacher and human activist from Mashhad, who was whipped during a previous incarceration for urging the resignation of the Supreme Leader of Iran’s regime, Ali Khamenei. In a video posted online in August, Lal-Mohammadi said “For eight days I was in prison. Eight days they beat me. Each time they struck me I shouted: ‘No to the Islamic Republic!”’
Lal-Mohammadi said “Mr. Khamenei, go away from this country! The people are tired of you. The people are tired of you all, because you have destroyed this country, and have filled it with filth. Honorable people of Iran, I spent eight days in their [prison] cells. For eight days, they flogged my body, the body of a teacher. My body was full of blisters. But in spite of them, I did not moan even once. They were hoping to hear a single moan from me but in vain. Each time the whip landed on my back, I cried out: No to the Islamic Republic!” While there are no independent labor unions in the Islamic Republic, the teachers’ sector has an organizational structure. There has been significant labor unrest in the education field. In September, teachers protested in front of the Iranian regime’s parliament over low wages and repression imposed on students and teachers, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran. (JPost / VFI News)
ISRAEL TO PLACE AERIAL RECONNAISSANCE BALLOON IN NORTH: As Israel continues to work toward significantly bolstering its air defenses, an advanced aerial surveillance balloon has been raised high in the sky in the North to provide additional early warning capabilities against aerial threats.
Following years of development and manufacturing, the Israel Missile Defense Organization (IMDO) at the Directorate of Defense R&D of the Defense Ministry has “begun initial inflation operations” of the balloon, the ministry said in a statement. The High Availability Aerostat System (HAAS) developed by the American company TCOM, which specializes in aerostat surveillance solutions, is one of the largest in the world and is designed to carry an improved sensor system to provide detection and early warning of advanced threats. “In several flight tests conducted in recent months, we have demonstrated the outstanding capabilities of Israel’s multi-tier missile defense, including against cruise missiles,” said IMDO director Moshe Patel. “The IMDO and MDA [Missile Defense Agency of the US Defense Department], together with the IAF and defense industries, are constantly improving Israel’s threat detection capabilities. This aerostat system will hover at high altitudes and provide exceptional, multidirectional detection capability against advanced threats.” The Elevated Sensor (ES) system consists of the HAAS and an advanced radar, designed to detect incoming threats at long ranges when operating at high altitudes, which “will provide additional detection and early warning capabilities to the existing operational air defense detection array deployed around Israel,” the statement read. Israel’s air defenses include the Iron Dome, designed to shoot down short-range rockets and drones; the Arrow system, which intercepts ballistic missiles outside of the Earth’s atmosphere; and the David’s Sling missile defense system which is designed to intercept tactical ballistic missiles, medium- to long-range rockets and cruise missiles fired at ranges of 40 km. to 300 km. Israel also has Patriot missile batteries stationed in the North and has used them to intercept drones infiltrating into Israeli airspace from Syria. During the Gaza war in May, the Israel Air Force shot down an Iranian-made drone that had flown into Israeli airspace near the northern city of Beit She’an. The IAF is also working toward implementing a full, permanent defensive umbrella in the North, with plans to expand throughout the entire country. Currently, there are several fixed air defense systems that are supplemented by mobile batteries. (JPost / VFI News)
SHEKEL SPIKES TO 25-YEAR HIGH AGAINST DOLLAR, HIGHLIGHTING THREAT TO EXPORTERS: The shekel briefly spiked to a 25-year-high against the dollar on Thursday, October 28, reaching an exchange rate of 3.1005 shekels to the dollar, before receding slightly.
The euro also fell against Israel’s currency, trading at around 3.6 euros to the shekel, near a 20-year low point. The currencies inched apart again later Thursday amid ongoing fluctuations. The shekel had traded at around 3.6 to the dollar for several years, but more recently has been in the 3.2-3.3 range. The currency’s strength is due to factors including Israel’s strong economy, foreign investments in Israeli companies moving capital into the country, Bank of Israel monetary policies and strong global equities markets, which can cause Israeli financial institutions to sell foreign currency as their exposure rises. The strong shekel is beneficial for Israelis making purchases abroad or exchanging currency but harms exporters, who are paid in foreign currencies but pay expenses in shekels, sparking fears of production line closures and layoffs. The pandemic has also wreaked havoc on global supply chains, driving up shipping costs and other expenses. The shekel’s climb could also hurt some companies’ competitive edge with foreign firms. The Manufacturers Association called an emergency meeting for Wednesday to discuss the situation for exporters. Tech firms that receive revenue in dollars could also be harmed by the exchange rate. The Bank of Israel said last month it plans to reduce its bond purchasing and tighten monetary policy. The bank is scheduled to meet on November 22 to discuss policy. In January, the bank said it planned to buy $30 billion in foreign currency to stem the shekel’s rise in 2021, and later said it was not limited to that amount. (TOI / VFI News)
COVID PROTEINS THAT TRIGGER STROKES AND HEART ATTACKS IDENTIFIED BY ISRAELI TEAM: Israeli scientists have identified the virus proteins that are triggering strokes and heart attacks in COVID-19 patients, in a breakthrough they expect will pave the way for new drugs.
The scientists made the discovery by taking a “peek in the virus’s black box,” Dr. Ben Maoz of Tel Aviv University told The Times of Israel, explaining that his team analyzed all 29 proteins of the virus to figure out which of them are wreaking havoc in the vascular system. “Coronavirus isn’t the purely respiratory disease we first thought, and we have identified the proteins that put patients at increased risk of stroke, heart attack, and other problems associated with the vascular system,” Maoz said. He identified the five proteins in SARS-CoV-2 that lead to vascular problems in the peer-reviewed journal eLife. “This work could well help scientists to develop drugs to counter the effect of the coronavirus on the vascular system, by providing an understanding of exactly which proteins, or pieces of the virus, are causing problems,” said Maoz. “We have not only discovered which proteins have an impact on the vascular system, but also seen how exactly they exert their effect,” said Maoz. “What we found is these specific proteins make your vasculature more leaky. The tubes become more porous and cannot hold liquid as you would hope. This information is also valuable in efforts to develop drugs.” Maoz hopes to lay foundations for a more nuanced treatment of coronavirus. “All the evidence shows that the virus severely damages the blood vessels or the endothelial cells that line the blood vessels. I hope that our research will prove useful in enabling more targeted treatment.” (TOI / VFI News)
EXQUISITE GOLD RING WITH AMETHYST STONE FOUND IN BYZANTINE YAVNE: A unique gold ring featuring a delicate purple amethyst stone was uncovered in the excavation of a Byzantine winery complex in Yavne, the Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced.
The wine factory was used to produce the legendary regional wine, known as Gaza or Ashkelon wine after the ports from where it was exported all over the Mediterranean. The jewel was unearthed near one of the warehouses. “The person who owned the ring was affluent, and the wearing of the jewel indicated their status and wealth,” said Dr. Amir Golani on Tuesday, an IAA expert on ancient jewelry. “Such rings could be worn by both men and women. “Amethysts are mentioned in the Bible as one of the 12 precious stones worn by the high priest of the Temple on his ceremonial breastplate,” he added. “Many virtues have been attached to this gem [amethyst], including the prevention of the side effect of drinking, the hangover.” According to the archaeologists, there could be a connection between this quality attributed to the stone and the location where it was found. A large number of jars were found in the warehouse, some of them positioned upside down to store them or dry them before being brought to be refilled with wine. The artifact was not conclusively dated. It was found in a fill dated between the end of the Byzantine period and the beginning of the early Islamic period, around the 7th century CE. However, since similar rings – gold bands with inlaid amethysts – were common in the Roman world, the jewel could have belonged to someone living in the city as early as the third century CE. After the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans in 70 CE, Raban Yohanan Ben-Zakai moved the Sanhedrin, the supreme court and legislative body in all matters of Halacha, to Yavne. During the Byzantine period it was an important Christian town, also featuring a significant Jewish population. (JPost / 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