U.S. President Joe Biden and Russia's President Vladimir Putin are now meeting for the U.S.-Russia summit at Villa La Grange in Geneva, Switzerland.
The United States will pay a $10 million reward to anyone who provides information about senior Hezbollah figure, Adam Hussein Tabajah
According to Arab sources, Adam Hussein Tabajah has Lebanese and Iraqi citizenship. He maintains close ties with Hezbollah leaders and maintains direct ties with senior Islamic Jihad figures. And owns a significant number of estates in Lebanon for tourism and business with officials from the organization in the Middle East and West Africa.
Tabaja, like Haj Katzir, Ali Yosef Sharara, Muhammad Ibrahim Bazi, Muhammad Kutrani and others, run the Hezbollah organization’s funding operations.
According to the U.S. State Department, about $1 billion a year goes into the organization from those executives who are in charge of funding the organization and money laundering.
The chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, has sharply criticized Syrian regime leader Bashar al-Assad for his crimes against his citizens.
"We are dealing with a mafia state run by an evil authority and its corrupt inner circle," Menendez said. "This is an extraordinary country. We are dealing with a criminal regime, not a democratic government."
He noted that Russia "continues to assist the brutal and criminal Assad regime only to secure its interests and military access to the Mediterranean through which the southern wing of the Europeans can be threatened."
In a speech to the Senate yesterday, the Democratic senator touched on the UN's claim that Russia has committed war crimes in Syria, by launching indiscriminate attacks on civilian centers.
He added: "In just three years, the Syrian Observatory has estimated that Russian military activity in Syria has caused nearly 18,000 casualties, including 8,000 civilians. Let me be clear, these are war crimes and they must be held accountable."
It is worth noting that Menendez's speech comes ahead of the upcoming summit in Geneva, Switzerland, in the middle of the month and will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin with American Joe Biden.
Putin U.S. President Joe Biden said on Sunday that "autocrat" Vladimir Putin was right to say that relations were at their lowest point in years though he suggested that Russia might be weaker than it seemed and that Moscow had overreached in the Middle East.
After attending a NATO summit on Monday, Biden will meet Putin on June 16 in Geneva.
Biden, who called the former KGB spy a killer in March, cast Russia as engaging in unacceptable behavior on a range of fronts.
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U.S. President Joe Biden said the United States remained committed to Israel's security and would work with its new government after Israel's parliament ended Benjamin Netanyahu's 12-year run as prime minister today.
Biden welcomed the new government coalition led by Naftali Bennett and sought to reaffirm U.S.-Israel ties.
The White House said Biden spoke with Bennett on Sunday "to offer his warm congratulations."
Biden "expressed his firm intent to deepen cooperation between the United States and Israel on the many challenges and opportunities facing the region. The leaders agreed that they and their teams would consult closely on all matters related to regional security, including Iran," the White House said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in an interview with NBC News ahead of his meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden next week, said U.S.-Russia relations are at their lowest point in recent years.
"We have a bilateral relationship that has deteriorated to its lowest point in recent years," Putin said, according to an NBC translation of the interview broadcast on Friday.
Putin and Biden will meet in Geneva on Wednesday.
In the interview, Putin praised former President Donald Trump as "an extraordinary individual, talented individual," and said Biden, as a career politician, was "radically different" from Trump.
Asked about Biden calling him a killer in an interview in March, Putin said he had heard dozens of such accusations. "This is not something I worry about in the least," Putin said.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) on Thursday fired back at her colleagues from the Democratic party who urged her to take back her statement equating Israel to Hamas and the Taliban.
On Wednesday, 12 of the 25 Jewish Democrats in the US House of Representatives published a statement said the grouping of the United States and Israel with the Taliban and Hamas in remarks about pursuing war crimes prosecutions gives “cover to terrorist groups” and called on Omar to clarify her earlier statements.
That statement followed Omar’s sharing to Twitter a video of a conversation she had with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in which she asked Blinken what mechanisms are in place in the US for victims of alleged crimes against humanity in Israel, “Palestine”, and Afghanistan to seek justice.
“We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity. We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the US, Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban,” wrote Omar.
On Thursday, responding to her Jewish colleagues who asked for her clarification, she tweeted, “It’s shameful for colleagues who call me when they need my support to now put out a statement asking for ‘clarification’ and not just call.”
“The Islamophobic tropes in this statement are offensive. The constant harassment & silencing from the signers of this letter is unbearable,” added Omar.
“Citing an open case against Israel, US, Hamas & Taliban in the ICC isn’t comparison or from ‘deeply seated prejudice’. You might try to undermine these investigations or deny justice to their victims but history has taught us that the truth can’t be hidden or silenced forever,” she continued.
Last month, Omar called Israel's retaliations for Gazan rocket fire on civilians an "act of terrorism," but failed to condemn the rockets themselves, or Hamas' use of Gazan civilians as human shields.
Omar is notorious for her past controversial statements on Israel. She came under fire in 2019 after she suggested on Twitter that Republicans were attacking her at the behest of the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC.
She subsequently issued a half-hearted apology before ultimately deleting the controversial tweets.
Later, Omar called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's "existence" a problem in an interview with CBS.
In 2019, Israel announced it would bar entry to Omar and fellow Muslim congresswoman Rashida Tlaib over their support for BDS.
The United States said on Thursday it had removed sanctions on three former Iranian officials and two companies that previously traded Iranian petrochemicals, a step one U.S. official called routine but that could show U.S. readiness to ease sanctions when justified.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the U.S. official said that the moves by the U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) were unrelated to efforts to revive Iranian and U.S. compliance with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
"Today, OFAC and the Department of State are also lifting sanctions on three former Government of Iran officials, and two companies formerly involved in the purchase, acquisition, sale, transport, or marketing of Iranian petrochemical products," the Treasury said in a statement.
It said the delisting reflected "a verified change in behavior or status" of those sanctioned and "demonstrate the U.S. government's commitment to lifting sanctions in the event of (such) a change."
A Treasury spokesperson said the three individuals had established "that they are no longer in their positions within entities affiliated with the Government of Iran," adding there was no reason to maintain sanctions on them.
The oil market briefly plunged after being spooked by media reports suggesting sanctions were lifted on Iranian oil officials, showing the potential impact of additional Iranian barrels if a deal is struck and sanctions lifted.
U.S. and Iranian officials are expected to begin their sixth round of indirect talks in Vienna this weekend about how both sides might resume compliance with the nuclear deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Under the deal, Iran limited its nuclear program to make it harder to obtain fissile material for atomic weapons in return for relief from U.S., EU and U.N. sanctions.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the deal in 2018, arguing it gave Tehran too much sanctions relief for too few nuclear restrictions, and reimposed sanctions that slashed Iran's oil exports.
Iran retaliated about a year later by violating the limits on its nuclear program.
U.S. President Joe Biden hopes to negotiate a mutual return to compliance, a task that requires defining the nuclear limits Iran will accept, the U.S. sanctions to be removed, and how to sequence these.
Asked about the talks, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters: "We've made progress, but, and you've heard this before; challenges do remain, and big issues do continue to divide the sides."
The Treasury statement did not name the three former Iranian officials or the two companies dropped from its sanctions lists.
However, on its website, OFAC said it removed three men from one of its sanctions lists: Ahmad Ghalebani, a managing director of the National Iranian Oil Company; Farzad Bazargan, a managing director of Hong Kong Intertrade Company, and Mohammad Moinie, a commercial director of Naftiran Intertrade Company Sarl.
OFAC said it removed some sanctions on Sea Charming Shipping Company Limited and on Aoxing Ship Management Shanghai Limited.
"This is just a decision by Treasury in the normal course of business – nothing to do with JCPOA," said the U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity, describing it as the "regular process of delisting when (the) facts so dictate."
The United States on Wednesday said it was deeply concerned Iran has yet to provide the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with information the agency needs regarding its potential undeclared nuclear material, State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
The IAEA and Iran reached a three-month agreement in February cushioning the blow of Tehran's decision to reduce its cooperation with the agency by ending extra monitoring measures introduced by the 2015 deal.
A man was arrested on suspicion of impersonating Trump and his family, to deceive hundreds across the country. Joshua Hall, is currently being charged with fraud and identity theft after federal prosecutors said he lied when he introduced himself, attempting to raise funds for the re-election.
On Monday, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken stressed Washington's role in tackling many global challenges, most importantly- dealing with Russian cyberattacks and bringing Iran back to the negotiating table in regards to its nuclear portfolio.
Blinken said, during a discussion in the Foreign Affairs Committee that discussed the US State Department's budget for 2022, that Iran is still developing its nuclear program, and that there is no cooperation from the Iranian side so far to stop its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
He stressed that the nuclear deal with Iran would only take place under American and European conditions.
Some members of Congress have spoken out against the boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics, which will be hosted by China, due to ongoing human rights violations.
Blinken said the Foreign Ministry sees what is happening to Uighur Muslims, and other ethnic minorities in China, as genocide.
He added that Washington is consulting with several European allies to make a joint decision on participation in the Winter Olympics.
Blinken has confirmed that the Foreign Ministry is currently launching an arms deal harmful to Saudi Arabia to try and end the war in Yemen and establish democracy in the region.
The Congress session also referred to the Palestinian Hamas movement, with Blinken emphasizing that it is a "terrorist movement, and no state should deal with it." According to him, Washington stands by Israel's right to defend itself.
Three U.S. senators will visit Taiwan on Sunday and will meet President Tsai Ing-wen to discuss security and other issues, Taiwan's government and the de facto U.S. embassy in Taipei said on Saturday, a trip that will likely irritate China.
The United States, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with the island that is claimed by China, but is its most important international backer and supplier of arms.
Tammy Duckworth and Dan Sullivan of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Christopher Coons of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will visit the island on Sunday as part of a larger trip to to the Indo-Pacific region, the American Institute in Taiwan said.
"The bipartisan congressional delegation will meet with senior Taiwan leaders to discuss U.S.-Taiwan relations, regional security, and other significant issues of mutual interest," it added.
Taiwan's presidential office said Tsai would meet the three at Taipei's downtown Songshan airport on Sunday morning, and expressed thanks for the show of support, especially at a time when the island is dealing with a rise in COVID-19 cases.
Taiwan has also complained about China trying to block the island from accessing vaccines internationally, which Beijing has denied.
In recent months China has increased pressure on democratically-ruled Taiwan as it tries to assert its sovereignty, including regularly flying military aircraft into Taiwan's air defence zone.
China routinely denounces visits of foreign officials to Taiwan, calling them an interference in the country's internal affairs.
Bipartisan House lawmakers are urging support for more federal funds to replenish Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system, Fox News reports.
At least 55 House members, both Democrats and Republicans, wrote to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday urging the Pentagon to quickly work with Congress on fulfilling any request to restock Israel's supply of interceptors for the Iron Dome system.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Wednesday and emphasized U.S. commitment to helping Saudi Arabia defend its territory and people, the Pentagon said.
Austin and Prince Mohammed discussed regional security, particularly efforts to end the war in Yemen, and "ongoing bilateral efforts to improve Saudi Arabia’s defenses," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a statement.
Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, who have controlled most of northern Yemen since 2014, have kept up cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia and are pressing an offensive to seize Yemen's gas-rich Marib region.
A Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 after the Houthis ousted a Saudi-backed government from the capital Sanaa. The Houthis say they are fighting a corrupt system and foreign aggression.
Austin "noted Saudi Arabia’s recent successes in defeating Houthi attacks on the Kingdom" and thanked the crown prince for working with U.S. special envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking to end the Yemen war, Kirby said.
Last month, Lenderking criticized the Houthis for not engaging seriously in stalled efforts to secure a ceasefire. He also urged the coalition to remove restrictions on all Yemeni ports and airports.
More than 100,000 people have been killed in the war, most of them civilians, and millions of Yemenis rely on humanitarian assistance to survive.
Billionaire Bill Gates' advanced nuclear reactor company TerraPower LLC and PacifiCorp (PPWLO.PK) have selected Wyoming to launch the first Natrium reactor project on the site of a retiring coal plant, the state's governor said on Wednesday.
TerraPower, founded by Gates about 15 years ago, and power company PacifiCorp, owned by Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway (BRKa.N), said the exact site of the Natrium reactor demonstration plant is expected to be announced by the end of the year. Small advanced reactors, which run on different fuels than traditional reactors, are regarded by some as a critical carbon-free technology than can supplement intermittent power sources like wind and solar as states strive to cut emissions that cause climate change.
"This is our fastest and clearest course to becoming carbon negative," Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon said. "Nuclear power is clearly a part of my all-of-the-above strategy for energy" in Wyoming, the country's top coal-producing state.
The project features a 345 megawatt sodium-cooled fast reactor with molten salt-based energy storage that could boost the system's power output to 500 MW during peak power demand. TerraPower said last year that the plants would cost about $1 billion.
Late last year the U.S. Department of Energy awarded TerraPower $80 million in initial funding to demonstrate Natrium technology, and the department has committed additional funding in coming years subject to congressional appropriations.
Chris Levesque, TerraPower's president and CEO, said the demonstration plant would take about seven years to build.
"We need this kind of clean energy on the grid in the 2030s," he told reporters.
Nuclear power experts have warned that advanced reactors could have higher risks than conventional ones. Fuel for many advanced reactors would have to be enriched at a much higher rate than conventional fuel, meaning the fuel supply chain could be an attractive target for militants looking to create a crude nuclear weapon, a recent report said.
Levesque said that the plants would reduce proliferation risks because they reduce overall nuclear waste.
In addition to bringing carbon-free power online, Wyoming Senator John Barrasso said construction of the demonstration project could lift up the state's once active uranium mining industry.
Barrasso, the top Republican on the Senate Energy Committee, co-sponsored bipartisan legislation signed into law in 2019 that directed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to create a path to licensing advanced nuclear reactors such as the TerraPower demo.
During the recent violent Arab riots in Jerusalem and mixed Jewish-Arab cities, and Hamas’ launching of thousands of rockets against Israel from the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Culture released a song against “normalization” with Israel. Part of the music video shows different people marching in protest and stomping on the US and Israeli flags.
A week later, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the US would “provide $75 million for development assistance, in addition to $5 million in immediate disaster assistance for Gaza, and another $32 million for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA).”
Moreover, Blinken presented the PA with yet another gift. At his meeting with Abbas in Ramallah last week, Blinken announced that the US is going to reopen its consulate general in East Jerusalem. Fatah Central committee member Hussein Al-Sheikh explained that Palestinians understood this as an endorsement of the viewpoint that East Jerusalem is “occupied” by Israel.
Yesterday, Palestinian Media Watch reported that the PA has mocked and violated US conditions for funding, having held "80 meetings" with the International Criminal Court (ICC) initiating and promoting the investigation of Israel for alleged crimes against Palestinians. According to US law, such cooperation between the PA and the ICC makes the PA ineligible for US funding from the Economic Support Fund (ESF).
During the operation in Gaza, an interview was conducted with Professor Trita Farsi, who was presented as an "expert and commentator on Middle Eastern affairs."
He harshly criticized Israel and the backing the Biden administration provides to Israel.
Beneath the guise of an expert hides who is could be considered the No. 1 lobbyist in the U.S. of the ayatollahs' regime.
Farsi is a member of an Iranian family from Ahvaz who fled before the Khomeini revolution to Sweden, and from there came to the United States. He has Iranian and Swedish citizenship and lives in the United States with a Green Card.
His pro-Iranian activities began in Sweden, when he founded an organization in 1997, called "Iranians for International Cooperation" whose stated goal was the removal of sanctions from the ayatollahs' regime.
Upon moving to the United States in 2002, he established the "Iranian-American National Council" designed to promote dialogue between the two countries. According to some reports, this organization received generous funding from Tehran.
Not surprisingly the council opposed moves made by the Trump administration including the attempt to declare the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization.
In 2018, Percy left the council. This happened at a time when Republicans were beginning to question the legality of its activities in the United States.
After the closure of the "National Council", Farsi began to head a new research institute that, of course, advocated the lifting of sanctions on Iran and the heavier pressure on Israel.
United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced yesterday on his Twitter account that “The U.S. is providing more than $360 million of urgent support for the Palestinian people. We will galvanize the international community to make more aid available for humanitarian and development efforts.” [Twitter, May 26, 2021]
The announcement follows the April 7, 2021 decision of United States President Joe Biden to renew US aid to the Palestinians - in the amount of $235 million for the financial year 2021.
Following the announcement of President Biden, a press release issued from the office of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh, summed up the PA response:
“Prime Minister Dr. Mohammad Shtayyeh welcomed today's announcement by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to resume aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), estimated at $150 million annually, and support for development projects in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, estimated at $75 million, which will come into effect during the last quarter of this year. This is in addition to strengthening the process of law enforcement and justice in occupied Palestine, as all such aid ceased during Trump’s presidency.”
[Website of PA PM, April 8, 2021]
The lackluster PA response to the dramatic decision to renew the US aid that had been frozen for 3 years, was, to a great extent, because the PA is prevented by several, concurrently relevant, pieces of US legislation from directly benefitting from the aid.
The prevalent narrative is that US President Donald Trump was responsible for the cessation of US aid to the PA. In reality, US legislation, mostly adopted by the administration of then-President Barack Obama, entrenched limits on the US aid if the PA continued with certain practices - such as the continued implementation of the PA’s ‘Pay-for-Slay’ policy - or adopted new ones - such as initiating and supporting an investigation against Israel launched by the International Criminal Court.
At a conference held by the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute, the Director-General and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Sinokrot Global Group and former PA Minister of Economy, Mazen Sinokrot, emphasized that “Palestine needs the American aid”, but bemoaned US legislation that conditions the aid on the PA abolishing its terror reward payments. This condition, according to Sinokrot, is a condition that causes “harm to the Palestinian people’s honor.”