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Is Lithuania’s 550-km border fence going to be money well spent? 

COMMENTSBy Linas Jegelevicius  •  Updated: 18/08/2021

Migrants stand behind a fence inside the newly built refugee camp in the Rudninkai military training ground, some 38km (23,6 miles) south from Vilnius   –   Copyright  Credit: AP

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A little more than a month into Lithuania’s ambitious project to build a 550-kilometre fence along its border with Belarus, questions are being asked over whether it should be constructed at all.

MPs approved the barrier earlier this month after a surge in the number of migrants arriving at Lithuania’s frontier. Around 4,100 have illegally crossed into Lithuania from Belarus so far this year, according to the interior ministry. It compares with just 74 last year.

Vilnius has accused Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko of orchestrating the influx as revenge for Lithuania’s role in pushing for EU sanctions against Minsk over the diverting of a Ryanair plane and the subsequent arrest of a dissident journalist.

But, a month on from construction starting, the project has already had some hiccups. The EU has refused to put in any funding towards the fence and progress has been slow.

So far, just five kilometres of the barbed wire has been installed. At this speed, it would take Lithuania 136 months, or around 11 years, to have it finished.about:blank

To many Lithuanians the whole idea of the fence is questionable.

“Unless we erect a Great-Wall-of-China-like fence, 10 metres high and all in concrete and with 3 metres of a fortified compound in the soil, the fence the Lithuanian government has embraced will not be impenetrable,” said the owner of a construction company in western Lithuania, who spoke to Euronews on the condition of anonymity.

”No fence is such: you can dig a hole under a fence, you can fly over it, use a lifting fork to get on the other side and so on.

“The whole thing (about the fence) is sheer politics. But yes – a barrier is better than nothing at all. The costs however seem to be huge.”

Lithuanian border guards have recently observed migrants crossing the barbed wire barrier by simply cutting it, Agne Bilotaite, the country’s Interior minister said — without providing any details — that it would be improved with ”various engineering solutions”.

There have also been problems getting supplies: Lithuania ran out of barbed concertina wire right at the start of the construction.

It was Estonia — another Baltic country — that lent a hand, offering 100 kilometres of the material so work on the most vulnerable sections of the border with Belarus could continue. Last week, Ukraine supplied 30 kilometres of razor wire.

There were rumours Lithuania was compelled to have other short construction hiatuses due to a lack of resources, but authorities were reticent to speak about the downsides.

“The good news is that the building of the fence is being continued,” Bozena Zaborovska-Zdanovic, advisor to the Lithuanian interior minister, told Euronews.

”Besides, the border is also being strengthened in the most sensitive stretches. Our goal remains the same – to have the physical barrier installed as soon as possible. At this point, it is crucial to secure an uninterrupted supply of materials.

“As a political agreement (on constructing the fence) has been signed, the project will be continued even with a change of the Lithuanian government.”

But Dainius Kepenis, an MP from the opposition Farmers and Greens Union (LFGU) party, is doubtful over that last claim.

“I’d not be so sure about that,” he told Euronews. ”I hear some very weird things being said by the Lithuanian government.

”First, the ruling Conservatives chastises Hungary fiercely for starting building its own wall and now, look, what a switcheroo – they are consulting us how to build our own wall.”

“As much as I am for democracy in Belarus, Lithuania is now paying a heavy price for being too a pushy exporter of democracy… I’ve calculated that the hawkish foreign policy the conservative-liberal government is implementing will cost Lithuania nearly €1 billion. It includes the roughly €150 million fence project, building of temporary housing for the migrants and the potential losses from the imminent halting of Chinese freights and Belarusian fertilizers.”

China has recently called off its ambassador to Lithuania in protest of the latter’s announcement on opening a Taiwanese representation in Vilnius later this year. So far, Lithuania is the only EU member state that left China’s 17+1 cooperation format.

Remigijus Zemaitaitis, also a Lithuanian parliamentarian, also doubts the necessity of the fence on the border.

“The costs are huge and its efficiency is very questionable. Particularly now, when the deterrence of migrants using so-called pushbacks is seemingly working. And if it is really working, then why rush with erecting the barbed wire on the border?

”Let’s not fool ourselves that the fence inflicting deadly wounds to forest animals will be a guarantor of Lithuania’s security. The fence is clearly devoted to Lukashenko. And what will happen with it when the tyrant is gone?”

But Laurynas Kasciunas, a Conservative MP and head of the influential parliamentary committee on national security and defence, is convinced the fence is a must to protect Lithuania from migrants – now and in future.

“The two-layer fence with various engineering solutions is what we need to protect our border against an unpredictable regime like that of the tyrannical ruler over the border. We intend to finance the whole fence project from the state coffers, but we will ask Brussels to help us with that too,” Kasciunas told euronews.com

According to Kasciunas, the completion of the fence will cost around €150 million.

“The challenges I see now are the pace (of the building) and transparency, especially when we are in crunch time.”

Lithuania has issued an international tender to purchase 3,000 kilometres of concertina wire and all other necessary parts and installation works, the Asset Management and Economy Department (AMED) under the interior ministry, has announced this week.

The plan is to spend up to €16.15 million on 3,000 kilometres of razor wire, which will be put up in several layers, and up to €12.5 million on installation works. Up to €23.23 million have been earmarked for buying other necessary parts, such as posts, tie wire and fixing devices, the AMED said.

Every weekday, Uncovering Europe brings you a European story that goes beyond the headlines. Download the Euronews app to get a daily alert for this and other breaking news notifications. It’s available on Apple and Android devices.

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Hungary has built its border fence but it wants the EU to pay

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It has been labelled the European version of Donald Trump’s wall, and just as the US President wants someone else to pay, Prime Minister Viktor Orban thinks the EU should help fund Hungary’s border fence.01:30

The Hungarian government has renewed its calls for reimbursement for the controversial barrier, which has so far cost $1.5bn, claiming the 1% they have been offered by the bloc is ”disrespectful.” Orban has vowed to ”make it his mission” to get the EU to pay and speaking to CGTN, Secretary of State for Families and International Affairs Katalin Novak said: 

”It would be nice for the EU to pay us back as we are protecting the Schengen border and European values.”

Hungary began constructing the fence during the height of the migrant crisis in 2015. Two parallel 4m high electrified barriers now stretch 174km all along the southern border with Serbia. Cameras, heat sensors, razor-wire and guards keep watch for any attempted crossings. In Assothalom, a town on the border, far-right mayor Laszlo Toroczkai hails the fence as a success saying it has ”saved” his town. 

Laszlo Toroczkai,leader of the Our Home Movement political party and mayor of Ásotthalom

As many as 10,000 migrants a day passed through in 2015. Toroczkai, like the government, believes mass migration poses a threat to European and Hungarian culture, so much so, he’s even paid more for extra patrols. 

”People’s faith in law and order has now been restored. But the maintenance costs a lot. This is not only Hungary’s responsibility as this is the border of the Schengen zone so it is in the interests of the whole of the EU. That is why I think they must contribute”.

Authorities say the fence has effectively shut off the route into Europe through Hungary. In 2015 over 400,000 migrants made the crossing, with more than 170,000 applying for asylum. So far in 2019, just 266 asylum seekers have been recorded. The government maintains there is a still a migrant crisis in Hungary. In September the state of emergency over mass migration, first declared in 2015, was once again extended until March next year. Announcing the extension the State Secretary  for International Communications Zoltan Kovacs said the situation in Serbia was ”now critical.” 

Border fence which is said to have shut off the route into Europe through Hungary

Local rights group the Helsinki Committee claims the government is violating human rights laws by extending the state of emergency. 

Zoltan Somogyvari from the Committee said:  ”This is a fake reality, we cannot talk about an emergency when you look at the numbers. Today there are over 2,000 migrants sitting in wait in Serbia and only about 200 asylum seekers on the territory of Hungary, most of them detained in the transit zones, where the conditions are like a prison.” 

The EU says it is not correct to say the Commission does not pay for border protection in Hungary, or in any other member state with an external EU border, but the construction of fences isn’t eligible for EU funding.  They claim Hungary has benefitted from a total of $138m in financial support for the protection of its borders under its national programme. 03:07

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Israel’s Post-American Strategic Challenge

  • 10/22/2021

It’s only fair to share…

A report this week about the discussions Israel and the U.S. are now holding regarding the Iranian nuclear program was nothing short of an earthquake. Tuesday, Israel Hayom ran a red headline on its front page: “Frustration in Jerusalem: U.S. Passive Against Iran.” The story, by military correspondent Yoav Limor told us two deeply alarming things about the state of American-Israeli coordination on Iran’s nuclear program. First, the Americans are not working with Israel to block Iran from becoming a nuclear power. They are working against Israel.

The Americans and Israelis agree that Iran is on the verge of becoming a nuclear breakout state, which can assemble nuclear weapons at will. But whereas they agree on the status of Iran’s quest for military nuclear capability, they disagree about what the response to the current state of Iran’s nuclear program should be. Israel’s position is that the U.S. should take diplomatic and economic action, and at a minimum threaten military action if Iran refuses to reinstate the limitations on its nuclear activities set out in the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, from 2015. The 2015 nuclear deal permitted Iran to enrich limited quantities of uranium to 3.67 percent enrichment. Iran is currently enriching massive quantities of uranium to 60 percent enrichment – just a step away from weapons grade.

President Joe Biden and his advisors are unwilling to consider placing additional economic sanctions on Iran. Indeed, the administration is turning a blind eye to Iran’s export of massive quantities of oil and gas to China and other states, in breach of the sanctions.

Military action, the Americans told their Israeli interlocutors, isn’t off the table.

The Americans say they may be willing to consider taking diplomatic action of some form or another. But in exchange, they demand Israeli concessions to the Palestinians.

In short, Limor’s article reported that the U.S. has made clear to Israel that it will take no effective action to block Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

The second stunning bit of information in Limor’s article is that the Lapid-Bennett government has no idea what to do in the face of America’s position. Instead of accepting reality and moving to face Iran without the U.S., Israel’s government is opting to cling ever tighter to Washington.

Limor wrote, “The Israeli effort is to reach maximum coordination with the U.S. stems, among other things from the fact that Israel has been left with very few options for action.”

To maintain coordination with the administration which does not share Israel’s goals, the Lapid-Bennett government has changed Israel’s goals. It now supports the Biden administration’s efforts to return the U.S. to the JCPOA. In 2018, then President Donald Trump abandoned the deal because Iran negotiated the deal in bad faith and was systematically breaching the JCPOA’s limitations on its nuclear operations.

During his premiership, Benjamin Netanyahu opposed all aspects of the JCPOA because Netanyahu recognized that it facilitates and provides UN legitimacy for Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The Lapid-Bennett government justifies its radical break with the past by arguing that an Iranian return to the JCPOA’s limitations on its nuclear activities will slow its advance to the bomb, and buy Israel time which it “can use to wage a diplomatic campaign and to speed up its military preparations to keep Iran from a nuclear bomb in the future.”

In other words, to buy time in its effort to block Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, Israel is legitimizing the JCPOA which legitimizes and guarantees the success of Iran’s efforts to develop a nuclear arsenal. The government argues that after legitimizing Iran’s nuclear program (by supporting the JCPOA), it will have the time to wage a diplomatic campaign to delegitimize Iran’s nuclear program, and to develop a military capacity to attack Iran’s nuclear installations which the JCPOA legitimizes.

Israel’s operational and strategic incoherence stem from the government’s inability to reconcile itself to the fact of U.S. betrayal. By abandoning the U.S.’s longstanding opposition to Iran’s nuclear program, the Biden administration hasn’t simply dashed Israel’s hope of coordinating its efforts with Washington. It has obliterated the guiding wisdom at the foundation of Israel’s 50 year security partnership with America. That wisdom has it that America’s security partnership with Israel is the most important guarantee of Israel’s national security.

The notion that the U.S. – rather than Israel’s power and willingness bring its power to bear – is Israel’s most important strategic asset was born in the aftermath of the 1968-1970 War of Attrition. It became the foundation for Israeli strategic planning in the wake of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. During that period, in exchange for U.S. weapons, Israel agreed to abide by U.S. demands that Israel stand down and not defeat its enemies. In response to U.S. pressure, Israel did not destroy the Egyptian Third Army when IDF forces encircled it at the end of the Yom Kippur War.

The U.S. saved the PLO and Yassir Arafat in Beirut in 1982.

It saved Arafat and the PLO again in Ramallah in 2002.

Washington saved Hezbollah in 2006.

It saved Hamas in multiple battles since 2008.

The U.S. torpedoed Israel’s anti-Iran collaboration with Georgia in 2007-8. It subverted Israel’s strategic cooperation with Azerbaijan against Iran in subsequent years.

In each episode, Israel’s security establishment accepted Washington’s stand down orders because the generals valued U.S. arms more than decisive victory.

In the case of Iran and its nuclear program, this approach is the reason Israel lacks the military capacity to significantly downgrade Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Despite overwhelming evidence that Iran’s nuclear program is directed against Israel first and foremost and that the U.S. has never intended to take military action to block Iran’s path to the bomb, Israel’s generals have long insisted that Iran’s nuclear program is an “international problem,” not Israel’s problem. Israel, they have consistently argued, must allow the U.S. to lead international efforts to block Iran’s race to the bomb.

This position was most vividly and fatefully followed in 2010 when the then Mossad Director Meir Dagan, and then IDF Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi refused an order by then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then Defense Minister Ehud Barak to prepare the army and the Mossad to attack Iran’s nuclear installations. Not only did the top commanders refuse the order, in an interview shortly before his death, Dagan revealed that he informed his American counterpart, CIA Director Leon Panetta about the order he and Ashkenazy rejected.  

Throughout Barack Obama’s years in the White House, Israel’s security establishment refused to face the obvious implications of his nuclear diplomacy. Instead, Dagan and his successor Tamir Pardo, Ashkenazy and his successor Benny Gantz all insisted that Israel had to toe Obama’s line. The generals opposed Netanyahu’s diplomatic efforts against the JCPOA.

Today, the security establishment blames Netanyahu for Iran’s sprint to the nuclear finish line. The generals say Netanyahu was wrong to convince Trump to leave the nuclear deal. To be sure, Iran is now enriching more uranium to higher levels of enrichment than it did when it agreed to the JCPOA in 2015. But according to those involved in the proceedings, in 2015 Iran lacked the ability to enrich uranium to 60 percent enrichment.

During the course of the JCPOA, Iran developed advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium to bomb grade or near bomb grade levels. The idea that the ayatollahs wouldn’t be doing what they are doing now if the U.S. hadn’t left the deal strains credulity. And with the U.S. out of the deal, the chances of blocking Iran’s path to the bomb were far greater than they had been beforehand.

The truth is that Netanyahu wouldn’t have been as dependent on Trump, and Israel’s prospects for blocking Iran’s nuclear advances would not be in disarray today, were it not for the security establishment’s refusal to develop strategic options for blocking the Iranian regime’s path to a nuclear arsenal independent of Washington. Israel would not be where it is today if Dagan and Ashkenazy had followed Netanyahu and Barak’s order in 2010.  

Last year, the security brass erupted after Trump announced the U.S. would sell F-35 combat jets to the UAE. Defense Minister Benny Gantz and his colleagues argued the sale would erode Israel’s qualitative military edge over its neighbors. Netanyahu for his part countered that the UAE doesn’t threaten Israel and that the strategic advantage Israel gains from peace with the Arab states of the Persian Gulf far outweighs the dangers emanating from the F-35 sale to the UAE.

In the wake of this dispute, Washington-based Middle East expert and former senior Bush and Trump administrations official Dr. David Wurmser published a cost-benefit analysis of U.S. military support for Israel. Titled, “Reflections on the U.S. Guarantee of a Qualitative Military Edge to Israel,” Wurmser’s article provoked a classified discussion in the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee last year.

Wursmer argued that the price Israel has paid for U.S. weapons transfers has been exorbitant. Israel, he wrote, “bartered its strategic freedom of maneuver and initiative in exchange for a qualitative military edge in weaponry.”

Israel’s dependence on U.S. weapons created a vicious cycle. With each passing year, “Israel depended ever more on cutting edge American arms, relied ever more on U.S. aid to pay for it, which demanded ever more of Israel to subordinate its strategic initiative, maneuver and planning to American regional policies.

“This progression, in turn,” Wurmser explained, would leave Israel’s will questioned, deterrence weakened and compromised – all of which invited a greater threat which demanded yet more weaponry.”

Invariably, Wurmser noted, “those policies entailed further Israeli restraint and acquiescence to America’s attempts to downplay its closeness to Israel in order to court key Arab nations, and ultimately to pursue peace processes which exacted concessions from Israel in an attempt to reconcile the two sides of this ‘balancing’ act.  The strategic dependence of Israel on the US always guaranteed that Israel’s security establishment would support such restraint and conciliation.”

If the F-35 sale to the UAE caused Israel’s security establishment to worry about the future of Israel’s qualitative edge, the Biden administration’s betrayal of Israel in relation to Iran utterly devastates the basic conceptual framework at the heart of the security establishment’s strategic thinking. Israel’s military relationship with the U.S. is now demonstrably not preferable to strategic independence and freedom.  

It is hard to know what will happen with the JCPOA. Maybe Iran will agree to abide by it in exchange for sanctions relief. Maybe it won’t. Maybe it will slow down its uranium enrichment. Maybe it won’t. But the notion that a deal that paves Iran’s path to a nuclear arsenal is the proper means to stem Iran’s nuclear advance is absurd.

It is also far from clear what the impact of “U.S. diplomatic pressure,” (if it is ever employed), will have on Iran. Between its catastrophic defeat in Afghanistan and its weak defense of Taiwan in the face of Chinese threats, America’s threats carry far less weight than they once did.

What is absolutely apparent however, is that Israel’s security establishment needs to wake up from its American delusion. America does not have Israel’s back. Only Israel has Israel’s back.  

Originally published in Israel Hayom.It’s only fair to share…

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Teetering Chinese property giant Evergrande makes $83M payment to avoid default — for now

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Real estate firm comes up with $83.5 million it owed to Citibank on Friday

Thomson Reuters · Posted: Oct 22, 2021 9:30 AM ET | Last Updated: 1 hour ago

Evergrande is the biggest property developer in China, and in recent weeks there have been fears that the company may not have enough cash to cover its debts. (Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)

China Evergrande Group appeared to have averted default with a last-minute bond coupon payment, a source said on Friday, buying it another week to deal with a debt crisis looming over the world’s second-biggest economy.

China’s second-largest property developer sent $83.5 million to a Citibank trustee account on Thursday, the person with knowledge of the matter told Reuters, enabling it to pay interest on a U.S. dollar bond due by Oct. 23.

That spelt relief to investors  and regulators worried about fallout around global markets  and added to Chinese officials’ reassurances that creditors will be protected.

Still, the world’s most indebted property firm – with more than $300 billion in liabilities – will need to make payments on a string of other bonds, with the next major deadline to avoid on Oct. 29 and little known about its capacity to pay.

Evergrande did not respond to a request for comment. Citibank declined to comment. The source was not authorized to speak with media and so declined to be identified.

Evergrande’s woes have been snowballing for months and its dwindling resources set against its vast liabilities have wiped out 80 per cent of its value.

Too big to fail?

Founded in Guangzhou in 1996, the developer epitomized a freewheeling era of borrowing and building. But that business model has been scuttled by hundreds of new rules designed to curb developers’ debt frenzy and promote affordable housing.

The news about the remittance on Friday implies Evergrande will pay the next offshore coupon, said analyst Travis Lundy at Quiddity Advisors in Hong Kong.

”There’s no point in paying this one if you fully plan on not paying the next one six days later, but given the company’s self-reported cash flow difficulties, it is not clear how long they can keep that up.”

It was not clear how cash-strapped Evergrande was able to raise funds to pay the bondholders or whether any had already received the money. Evergrande now needs to find $47.5 million US by Oct. 29 and has nearly $338 million in offshore coupon payments coming up in November and December.

If it fails to make next week’s payment, or any other final deadlines in the coming weeks, defaults would be triggered on all $19 billion of its bonds in international capital markets.

That would make it the second-biggest emerging market corporate default after Venezuela’s state-owned oil firm Petroleos de Venezuela.

News of the fund transfer came a day after financial information provider REDD said Evergrande had secured more time to pay a defaulted bond it guaranteed, issued by Jumbo Fortune Enterprises.

Evergrande’s problems have spread into the entire real estate sector, sparking fears the entire industry could collapse under massive debt loads. (Kyle Lam/Bloomberg)

”They seem to be avoiding short-term default and it’s a bit of a relief that they have managed to find liquidity,” said a Hong Kong-based debt restructuring lawyer representing some bondholders.

”This payment might be a way for them to get some sort of buy-in with stakeholders before the heavy work needed on the restructuring,” said the lawyer, who did not want to be identified.

Evergrande missed coupon payments totalling nearly $280 million on its dollar bonds on Sept. 23, Sept. 29 and Oct. 11, beginning 30-day grace periods for each.

Investor reaction

Evergrande’s dollar bond prices surged on Friday morning after news of the transfer, with its April 2022 and 2023 notes jumping more than 10 per cent, data from Duration Finance showed, though they still traded at deeply distressed levels of less than a quarter of face value.

Those gains evaporated on Friday afternoon in Asia, however, pushing several of the company’s other bonds down more than 6 per cent

Evergrande’s shares rose as much as 7.8 per cent before closing up 4.3 per cent, but still finished a shortened week down 8.8 per cent. Trading in its shares resumed on Thursday after a halt of more than two weeks pending the announcement of a stake sale in its property management unit, which was scrapped this week.

Evergrande’s woes have reverberated across the $5 trillion Chinese property sector, which accounts for a quarter of the economy by some metrics, with a string of default announcements, rating downgrades and slumping corporate bonds.

”Everyone feels the chill as ‘winter’ arrives for the sector,” Chairman Yu Liang told a company forum on Friday.

Any prospect of Evergrande’s demise raises questions over the more than 1,300 real estate projects it has in some 280 cities.

Bank exposure to developers is also extensive. A leaked 2020 document, branded a fake by Evergrande but taken seriously by analysts, showed the company’s liabilities extending to more than 128 banks and over 121 non-banking institutions.

”Given that we have little clarity on how bank financing is going for stalled real estate projects, but we know that project pre-sales are down a lot, the onshore business is unlikely to be supplying cash to Evergrande near-term,” said Quiddity’s Lundy.

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Israeli Air Force Getting Ready to Attack Iran, Prevent Nuclear Strike

Oct 22, 2021

Government reportedly budgeted $1.5 billion for possible air strike.

By Pesach Benson, United With Israel

After a two-year hiatus, the Israeli Air Force is once again practicing for a possible strike on nuclear facilities in Iran, according to Hebrew media reports.

An unsourced Channel 12 report said that IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi ordered that funds for exercises simulating strikes on Iranian facilities be set aside, and directed the air force to train “intensely.”

During the summer, the Israeli government agreed on a $17.5 billion budget for 2022. At a meeting of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz defended the budget increase saying the funds were necessary to prepare for a possible strike.

Channel 12 reported that the government was allocating $1.5 billion for an attack, with much of the funds earmarked for procuring aircraft, drones and specialized weapons needed to hit Iran’s numerous reinforced underground facilities.

Israel’s inability to pass a state budget during two years of caretaker government effectively froze the budgets of government ministries, including Defense based on the 2019 budget.

The report came as Israel and Iran both held major air force exercises.

Israel is currently hosting Operation Blue Flag, the largest multinational aerial exercise ever held in the Jewish state. The U.S., Britain, India, France, Germany, Greece and Italy are participating in the annual two-week drill, primarily based at the Ovda air base north of Eilat.

Iran’s Air Force held an exercise, Guardians of the Velayet Sky 1400. Iran’s state-run Fars News Agency reported that the annual drill tested the capabilities of various indigenous and upgraded systems and weapons.

The IAF is the only air force that has ever struck nuclear facilities. The IAF destroyed Iraq’s Osirak reactor, thwarting dictator Saddam Hussein’s nuclear ambitions. In 2007, the IAF destroyed Syria’s Al Kibar facility, which was being developed with assistance from Iran and North Korea.

In September, the IDF announced that Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar will become the next Air Force commander. He will replace Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin.

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‘Yes’: Biden says US would defend Taiwan against China

Comments prompt swift clarification from White House after seeming to suggest change to decades-long policy of ‘strategic ambiguity’.

Published On 22 Oct 2021|Updated: 2 hours ago

US President Joe Biden has said the United States would come to Taiwan’s defence if the island were attacked by China, in comments that appeared to be a departure from a longstanding US policy of “strategic ambiguity”.

“Yes,” he responded when asked in a CNN town hall about defending Taiwan, whose government has been under mounting military and political pressure from Beijing, which claims the island as its own. “We have a commitment to that.”KEEP READINGTaiwan will not bow down to China, says presidentUS secretly training Taiwan forces since last year: ReportsBiden and Xi discuss Taiwan amid spike in cross-strait tensionsTaiwan ‘on alert’ after record 56 Chinese planes enter ADIZ

The US has for years maintained a policy of “strategic ambiguity” under which it provides key military support to Taiwan, but does not explicitly promise to come to the island’s aid in the event of a Chinese attack.

The White House later told reporters that US policy on Taiwan had “not changed”.

“The US defence relationship with Taiwan is guided by the Taiwan Relations Act. We will uphold our commitment under the Act, we will continue to support Taiwan’s self-defence, and we will continue to oppose any unilateral changes to the status quo,” a spokesperson said.

In August, a Biden administration official said US policy on Taiwan had not changed after the president appeared to suggest the US would defend the island if it were attacked.

Earlier this month, President Biden appeared to suggest there was an “agreement” between China and the US over Taiwan.

China has stepped up pressure on Taiwan in recent months and sent dozens of its aircraft into the islands’ air defence identification zone (ADIZ) in a series of sorties that started on October 1, China’s National Day.

Taiwan’s Defence Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng said earlier this month that military tension across the strait was at its worst in more than 40 years, and that China would be capable of mounting a “full-scale” invasion by 2025.

‘Rock solid support’

Biden’s comments were welcomed on Friday by Taiwan, which has pushed to bolster international alliances to protect itself from Beijing. The island maintains it is an independent country and will defend its freedoms and democracy.

“The US government has demonstrated, through actual actions, their rock solid support for Taiwan,” Presidential Office spokesperson Xavier Chang said in a statement.Play Video

Meanwhile, Beijing warned that Biden’s comments risked “damaging Sino-US relations,” telling Washington on Friday to “act and speak cautiously on the Taiwan issue.”

“China has no room for compromise on issues involving its core interests,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a regular press briefing.

He added the US should not underestimate China’s “staunch determination, firm will and strong ability” to defend against what it sees as threats to its sovereignty.

Arms race

China, which has been modernising its armed forces and developing advanced weaponry, has denounced what it calls “collusion” between Washington and Taipei.

Asked by an audience member at the town hall whether the US would be able to keep up with China’s rapid military development, Biden also said, “yes”.

“China, Russia and the rest of the world knows we’re the most powerful military in the history of the world,” he said.Play Video

“What you do have to worry about is whether or not they’re going to engage in activities that would put them in a position where they may make a serious mistake,” Biden said.

“I don’t want a cold war with China. I just want China to understand that we’re not going to step back, that we’re not going to change any of our views.”

On Thursday, the Financial Times reported China has tested two hypersonic missiles – one in July and one in August – in a move that had ‘stunned’ the US.

The United States and Russia are also developing hypersonic weapons, which are more difficult to defend against than existing ballistic missiles.

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Politikfakta

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Att förneka förintelsen kan bli straffbart i Sverige

PETTERSSON6 KOMMENTARER

DEMOKRATI & YTTRANDEFRIHET. Justitieminister Morgan Johansson (S) tycker att det ska vara straffbart att förneka förintelsen. Frågan ska nu granskas av en ny parlamentarisk utredning.– Att förneka förintelsen är antisemitism, punkt och slut, säger Johansson under en pressträff.

Enligt ett rambeslut från EU från 2008 ska det finnas en kriminalisering av bland annat förnekelse av folkmord. EU-kommissionen påpekade i februari att lagstiftningen saknas i Sverige, vilket enligt Johannson kan leda till ett överträdelseärende.

– Jag vill inte att vi hamnar i EU-domstolen för att vi inte har en tillräckligt stark lagstiftning mot antisemitism. Där ska Sverige inte vara, säger justitieministern som även påstår att ”Förintelsen är den värsta brottet mot mänskligheten genom alla tider”.

-Pettersson undrar vad Morgans muslimska vänner tycker om förslaget och om herr Johansson vill kriminalisera förnekelse av folkmord inte tänker ta tag i kommunismen och islamismen?

S lovar att samarbeta med Sveriges Muslimska råd

Islams erövring av Indien – den blodigaste i historien

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‘You Are Passionately Committed To A Particular Vision of Law’: Cruz Grills Biden Judicial Nominee

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‘All Of This Is Ridiculous’: Matt Gaetz Slams Jan. 6 Committee Subpoena Of Steve Bannon

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EXPRESSEN: Världsledarna bjöds in – nästan ingen dök upp

MALMÖPublicerad 13 okt 2021 kl 12.46Lövens tal på förintelsekonferensen: ”Det här är mitt löfte”Stefan Löfven avslutar förintelsekonferensen i Malmö med ett tal där han lovar att alltid kämpa för människovärdet och demokratin.

Statsminister Stefan Löfven (S) bjöd personligen in dåvarande president Donald Trump och andra världsledare till Förintelsekonferensen. 

Men när jättekongressen nu drar i gång är det få tunga namn som valt att dyka upp – i stället skickas främst ambassadörer och ministrar. 

– Det låga intresset för att delta på konferensen måste vara en stor besvikelse för regeringen, säger Anna Dahlberg, politisk redaktör på Expressen. 

– Det har varit ett stort intresse skulle jag vilja säga, säger utrikesminister Ann Linde.

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Viktor NordbladJenny StrindlövDelaKopiera länk

Redan under våren i fjol skickade statsminister Stefan Löfven (S) ut inbjudningar till sammanlagt 49 stats- och regeringschefer världen över. Han ville att samtliga skulle komma till Förintelsekonferensen ”Malmö internationella forum för hågkomst av Förintelsen”.

Den skulle egentligen ägt rum i fjol – men på grund av coronaviruset behövde den skjutas upp. 

Nu, ett och ett halvt år senare, har det blivit dags. Ett massivt säkerhetspådrag har satts i gång med poliser från hela Sverige och med förstärkning från Norge och Danmark. Stora delar av Malmö har spärrats av och kollektivtrafiken har vid vissa tidpunkter varit helt avstängd.

FöregåendeNästa

”Någon form av markering” 

Men när gästlistan presenterades stod få världsledare med. 

Stefan Löfven bjöd bland annat in dåvarande president Donald Trump och Rysslands president Vladimir Putin – som inte kommer. Samma besked gäller Frankrikes president Emanuel Macron som har valt att skicka ett förinspelat tal, precis som USA:s utrikesminister Antony Blinken gjort. 

– Man kan fundera på vad det svala intresset beror på. Någon form av markering är det ju. Kanske ser man evenemanget som ett försök från svensk sida att tvätta bilden av Malmö, säger Anna Dahlberg, politisk redaktör på Expressen.

FöregåendeNästa

”Stor besvikelse”

Det största dråpslaget gäller kanske våra grannländer Danmark och Norge som skickat en minister och en ambassadör. Varken statsministrarna Mette Fredriksen eller Erna Solberg verkar ha tid att komma, trots att Erna Solberg i fjol tackade ja. 

– Det låga intresset för att delta på konferensen måste vara en stor besvikelse för regeringen. Den har ju planerats länge, men fått skjutas upp på grund av pandemin, så världsledarna har ju varit underrättade länge om Sveriges inbjudan, säger Anna Dahlberg och fortsätter:

– Mest anmärkningsvärt är att inte ens våra nordiska grannländer skickar sina statsministrar. Det måste svida extra för regeringen.

Enligt Stig-Björn Ljunggren, statsvetare och politisk chefsredaktör på socialdemokratiska tidningen Sydöstran, kommer regeringen förmodligen inte klassificera Förintelsekonferensen som ett misslyckande.

”Viktig markör” 

– Det här har lång planeringshorisont och när det börjades planeras var mycket osäkert och det är redan uppskjutet en gång. Jag tror många har annat på radarn just nu. Man var nog mest intresserad av att följa upp samarbetet kring frågan som funnits sedan Göran Perssons tid vid makten, säger Stig-Björn Ljunggren. 

Han förklarar att hela frågan om att motverka antisemitism dök upp redan när Göran Persson satt som statsminister. 

– Konferensen är en del av detta. Till det här kommer att konferensen ligger i Malmö är en viktig markör för Socialdemokraterna att man tar det här på allvar. Att stoppa motberättelsen att socialdemokratin är en antisemitisk rörelse.

Ann Linde, Sveriges utrikesminister, berättar hur hon upplever intresset för Förintelsekonferensen.

– Det har varit ett stort intresse skulle jag vilja säga. Nu är det ju fortfarande pandemikänningar, det går inte att komma ifrån. Men många av mina kolleger, utrikesministrar och så, är ju här. Så från ländernas håll är det ett stort intresse, det måste jag ändå säga.

Kvällsposten söker Stefan Löfvens statssekreterare för en kommentar. 

DE MEDVERKAR PÅ KONFERENSEN

 ALBANIEN. Premiärminister Edi Rama. 

 BOSNIEN OCH HERCOGOVINA Presidentrådets ordförande Željko Komšić och presidentsrådsmedlem Šefik Džaferović.

 DANMARK. Justitieminister Nick Hækkerup.

 EL SALVADOR. Vicepresident Félix Ulloa

 ESTLAND. Premiärminister Kaja Kallas

 FINLAND. President Sauli Niinistö

 FRANKRIKE. President Emmanuel Macron medverkar genom ett förinspelat videomeddelande. Ambassadör för mänskliga rättigheter och ihågkommelse Delphine Borione medverkar på plats.

 GREKLAND. Vice statsminister Panagiotis Pikrammenos.

 HELIGA STOLEN. Apostolisk nuntie James Green.

 IRLAND. Premiärminister Micheál Martin medverkar på videolänk. 

 ISRAEL. President Isaac Herzog medverkar på videolänk. Diasporaminister Nachman Shai medverkar på plats. 

 KROATIEN. Utrikesminister Gordan Grlić-Radman.

 LETTLAND. President Egil Levits.

 LITAUEN. President Gitanas Nauseda. 

 MONACO. Vice utrikesminister Isabelle Rosabrunetto.

 NEDERLÄNDERNA. Vice premiärminister Kajsa Ollongren. 

 NORDMAKEDONIEN. President Stevo Pendarovski.

 NORGE. Ambassadör Aud Kolberg.

 POLEN. Vice premiärminister Piotr Gliński.

 PORTUGAL. Utrikesminister Augusto Santos Silva.

 RUMÄNIEN. President Klaus Iohannis.

 RYSSLAND. Vice talman för federationsrådet Konstantin Kosachev.

 RWANDA. Enighetsminister Jean-Damascène Bizimana.

 SERBIEN. President Aleksandar Vučić.

 SLOVAKIEN. Premiärminister Eduard Heger.

 SPANIEN. Utrikesminister José Manuel Albares.

 SCHWEIZ. Statssekreterare Simon Geissbühler.

 TJECKIEN. Utrikesminister Jakub Kulhanek.

 TYSKLAND. Europaminister Michael Roth.

 UNGERN. Familjeminister Katalin Novák.

 UKRAINA. Premiärminister Denys Shmyhal.

 USA. Utrikesminister Anthony Blinken medverkar genom ett förinspelat videomeddelande. Vice utrikesminister Brian P. McKeon medverkar på plats. 


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Expert: Sverige har gjort eftergifter mot Israel

https://www.gp.se/nyheter/sverige/expert-sverige-har-gjort-eftergifter-mot-israel-1.57293379

SverigeUtrikesminister Ann Lindes (S) Mellanösternresa sker mot bakgrund av att Sverige på flera punkter har gått Israel till mötes för att förbättra relationerna, enligt experten Anders Persson.
– Det har skett ett skifte i svensk Israelpolitik, säger han till TT.TT 15:46 – 18 okt, 2021

När Ann Linde (S) på måndagen landar i Israel är det första gången en svensk utrikesminister gör ett officiellt besök i landet på tio år.

Hennes föregångare Margot Wallström blev efter Sveriges erkännande av den palestinska staten hösten 2014 ett rött skynke för det israeliska styret med Benjamin Netanyahu i spetsen.

Konflikten blev med tiden personlig, och när nu såväl Wallström som ”Bibi” är utbytta – och Netanyahuregeringens ivrige påhejare Donald Trump har flyttat ut ur Vita huset – är förutsättningarna för en nystart goda, enligt Israelkännaren Anders Persson, som är lektor i statsvetenskap vid Linnéuniversitetet.

I det tysta

Viktigast är dock att Sverige på flera punkter och delvis i det tysta har lagt om sin politik, säger han.

– Sverige har drivit på i EU för en mildare hållning, till exempel att återuppta associationsrådet (med bilaterala möten på ministernivå), vilket ses som en eftergift. Sverige har också talat om Israel som det judiska folkets hemland, och så bojkottade man Durbankonferensen, säger han och syftar på 20-årsdagen av ett FN-toppmöte i Sydafrika som många västländer kopplat samman med antisemitism.

Även den internationella Förintelsekonferensen i Malmö förra veckan, som Stefan Löfven (S) tog initiativ till, torde ha hjälpt till, enligt Persson. Ytterligare en faktor är att det från israeliskt håll finns ett stort intresse för att knyta närmare band till EU.

Där Netanyahuregeringen framför allt kurtiserade Visegradländerna (Polen, Ungern, Tjeckien och Slovakien) vill den nuvarande utrikesministern Yair Lapid hellre förbättra relationen till Bryssel och EU:s mer frihetliga demokratier.

”Skapat så mycket problem”

Hade svenska regeringen kunnat skåda in i framtiden 2014 hade det nog aldrig blivit något erkännande av den palestinska staten, tror Persson.

– Det har skapat så mycket problem, både internationellt och på hemmaplan. Det var en chansning, och förutsättningarna såg rimliga ut då. Sedan kom Trump, brexit, högerpopulism, och en allmän utveckling som gjort att det här inte blev så lyckat. Men det är lätt att säga i efterhand, säger han.

TT: Hur gynnsamt är klimatet för att lyfta frågan om ett självständigt Palestina i dag?

– Inte alls gynnsamt. Sedan idén om ett självständigt Palestina etablerades på allvar på 90-talet har vi aldrig varit i en period då det rått en sådan pessimism om att en sådan ska kunna realiseras. Såvitt jag kan se är det inte heller någon som driver frågan seriöst.

Bakgrund: Därför erkände Sverige Palestina som en egen stat

Det svenska erkännandet av Palestina som självständig stat år 2014 möttes av ilska i Israel, som bland annat kallade hem sin ambassadör från Stockholm i protest.

Svenska regeringen hade en uttalad förhoppning om att fler europeiska länder skulle följa efter och fatta samma beslut, något som inte skedde. Sveriges dåvarande utrikesminister Margot Wallström (S), och även statsminister Stefan Löfven (S), motiverade erkännandet av Palestina som en egen stat med att det var ett nödvändigt steg mot förverkligandet av en tvåstatslösning, där såväl israeler som palestinier kan leva i fred i varsin stat.

Ambitionen var bland annat att ”underlätta förhandlingarna” om en tvåstatslösning genom att göra parterna ”mindre ojämlika”, skrev Margot Wallström på DN Debatt.

Till skillnad från den dåvarande regeringen anser kritiker, både i Israel och omvärlden, att de palestinska områdena inte kan anses utgöra en självständig stat eftersom de inte uppfyller alla kriterier för en sådan, till exempel för att man inte har kontroll över hela det egna territoriet.

Andra ifrågasätter det svenska erkännandet mot bakgrund av att det inte har hållits val i de palestinska områdena sedan 2006.

Bara tre stater har erkänt Palestina sedan Sverige gjorde det: Saint Lucia, Colombia samt Saint Kitts och Nevis. Sammanlagt har drygt 130 stater erkänt Palestina i olika skeden men det har hittills haft liten praktisk betydelse.TT

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Facebook ‘WhistleBlower’ Ignores The Real Scandal | Larry Elder

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