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Iran’s continuous string of lies about tanker attacks reveals their intentions

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To understand why the events surrounding the two tankers attacked in the Gulf of Oman yesterday happened, we must understand the mentality of the Iranian regime. Their way of thinking is very different from most western perspectives. It’s not just religious and cultural differences. They have a deep-seated desire to be seen by the world as they see themselves.

I am neither a psychologist nor a Middle East scholar, but my coverage of and research into Iranian military and geopolitical activities over the last two decades is why nothing about the attacks and subsequent reactions by Iran took me by surprise. This was all part of standard operating procedure for a regime that has attempted to build two narratives since before the 9/11 attacks: “We are strong” and “the Middle East is our region.”

And the most important part of “their” region is the Strait of Hormuz.

Strait of Hormuz

This narrow stretch of sea, a mere 21 nautical miles wide at one point, connecting the Persian Gulf with the Gulf of Oman has nearly 1/5th of oil exports travel through it. Whoever controls the Strait of Hormuz has the power to dramatically change oil imports and exports for much of the world.

Yesterday’s and last month’s attacks on oil tankers in the region were orchestrated to build the narrative that terrorists are afoot and someone needs to protect the ships that travel in the region. Every aspect of Iran’s reaction points to them being the ones who orchestrated them.

  • Their boats were ready to be first on the scene, and not just because of standard proximity. They were close enough to be the first responders but far enough away to not be seen as the perpetrators.
  • Their forced rescue, in which they illegal apprehended many sailors in international waters who were already safely aboard rescue boats, jibed with what appears to be a prepared statement about rescuing all who were aboard the vessels.
  • The “smoking gun” removal of an unexploded limpet mine and their subsequent clumsy attack on the video demonstrated a poor reaction to events not going as planned.
  • As events unfolded, they continuously reported that one of the ships had “completely sunk” even though they were right there seeing that neither ship was sinking.
  • Their choice of a Japanese ship while Prime Minister Shinzō Abe was in Tehran to discuss deescalation was intentional.

The questions that some in the international media are asking are being met with further lies by the Iranian regime. Here are some of the questions from the Jerusalem Post:

What was Iran’s plan behind tankers attack?

A key piece of evidence for what Iran may have thought would happen when this attack was planned come from the fake video of the attack, and the claims of sinking and rescue. Iran’s Al-Alam TV first reported the incident. Why would IRIB show a video of the attack that was clearly false? Why report that 44 people were rescued if they weren’t? Why did Iran’s boats interdict the Hyundai and forcibly rescue the sailors from the Altair in international waters? What was the point? And why remove a mine if Iran didn’t put it there in the first place?

It seems that those who planned the attack believed that at least one ship would sink and that they could valiantly rescue the sailors. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Mousavi said after the incident that “we are responsible for ensuring the security of the Strait of Hormuz, and we have rescued the crew of those attacked tankers in the shortest possible time.” Did Iran already have a prepared statement claiming to have rescued all the crew, resulting in this false information?

As one would expect, these aren’t the questions being asked by most American mainstream media news outlets. Instead, they seem to be focused on President Trump’s reactions while blaming him for any aggression Iran is displaying following the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal and sanctions placed on the nation. It would seem like Iran’s state-run media and many progressive activists in American mainstream media are reading from the same script.

Iran’s goals are very clear. They want to be the protectors of the Strait of Hormuz. Their initial press release before the smoking gun video was made public reveals their goals for using terrorism in the region.

“We are responsible for ensuring the security of the strait and we have rescued the crew of those attacked tankers in the shortest possible time,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said.

Once the video was released, Iran’s press and their proxies in other friendly news outlets started doing triage. Some started throwing out the “false flag” conspiracy theory, as if speculating the video was produced by others to frame Iran. Then, the narrative started spreading that the ship was rescuing sailors, but that’s clearly not what happened in the video. With nothing else sticking, the state-run media simply shared the video itself, reiterated the regime’s talking point, but finished the Tweet by asking what people thought.

As mentioned above, we have to understand the Iranian regime’s mentality to understand how any of this could make sense to them. They want respect, but more importantly they need to get their economy turned around. To do this, they need the international community to balk at President Trump’s sanctions and threats.

If they could create fear that tankers in the region were being targeted by someone else, they could stake claim, as they initially attempted to do, as being the defenders of ships passing through the Strait of Hormuz. In exchange for their benevolence, they wouldn’t ask for much. Just let them export their oil and everyone traveling n the region would be safely protected under their watchful hand. That was their play. It’s like a protection racket; give us a cut and we won’t smash up your store.

Iran clearly manufactured an event they hoped would allow them to come out looking like heroes so they could press for sanctions relief and control the Strait of Hormuz. But they were incompetent. Now they look like fools.

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The Israel elections, explained for Americans

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The Israel elections explained for Americans

Many Americans are unfamiliar with how the Israeli elections work and what it takes to “win” them. Today’s election is no exception with many Americans simply waiting for the end results (which technically could be weeks away) or not having a concern about them at all. As noted before, these elections will have as big of an impact on our foreign policy as any foreign elections can have.

So, how do they work? Who won? What happens next? Let’s take a look at some answers…

Israelis vote for parties, not candidates

The first big deviation from America’s system of government is that Members of the Knesset (MKs) are selected by the parties, not the people. The people vote for the parties, and those parties are given seats in the Knesset based on their percentage of the vote. The threshold is currently 3.25% to get some of the 120 Knesset seats. Those below the threshold do not get a seat, which is important for the last election in April and Tuesday’s election. More on that later.

The two major parties – the conservative Likud Party and the center-left Blue and White Party – only make up about one-fourth to one-third of the voting population. The next tier of parties are the centrist Yisrael Beitenu Party and the Israeli-Arab coalition of parties, the United Arab List, which is considered to be generally to the left in policies despite holding conservative Muslim values socially. The other parties fight to get whatever seats are left over.

Party leaders are chosen to fill the MK seats as well as cabinet positions, with the party most likely to form a coalition government chosen by the President.

Forming a coalition government

61 MKs are necessary to support a Prime Minister and form a government. Since no single party has every had more than 50% of the vote, a coalition of like-minded parties join together to recommend one leader as Prime Minister.

In April, Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu was unable to form a coalition because Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beitenu Party refused to stay in the conservative coalition because they wanted to pull protections for orthodox Jews from having to serve in the military. Other members of the coalition wouldn’t budge. Instead of risking the baton being passed to Benny Gantz and the center-left Blue and White Party, Netanyahu called for new elections, which is what happened Tuesday.

Exit polls indicate they’re in the same boat with neither Likud nor Blue and White able to form a government without Yisrael Beitenu, which seems to have expanded their seat count. Netanyahu had hopes the smaller conservative parties could have broken the threshold and given him a few extra votes for a conservative government. Gantz hoped the Blue and White would have a decisive victory and claim more seats than Likud, potentially giving them the floor even if his coalition was smaller. It looks as if neither happened.

Liberman is calling for a centrist unity government, but there are challenges that may prevent this. Likud would have to abandon the members of their conservative Zionist coalition by removing the protections against military service requirements for ultra-orthodox Jews. Blue and White has indicated they would not form a unity government as long as Netanyahu was leading Likud.

Unless things are very different from the exit polls, some very tenacious negotiations are ahead behind the scenes.

One way to avoid stalemate

With Likud and Blue and White both needing Yisrael Beitenu’s seats to form a government, it would seem likely that both sides will be making offers. But there’s another option. If Likud’s coalition is close enough, they can go to individual MKs and seek defections in exchange for positions. This may seem like a hard option for conservatives as it would mean inserting progress-minded people into positions of power, but their coalition is insufficient to form a government otherwise.

It’s inconceivable that a single issue about protections for the ultra-orthodox would make the militant Lieberman essentially crown Gantz as Prime Minister, but that may be the case. This is why it’s important for Netanyahu, if he’s chosen to form the government, to act quickly. There will be pressure on members of his own party to dump him and form a unity government with Gantz and Lieberman, and while they have claimed to be loyal to their leader, the risk of losing power overall may sway them.

It’s time for Netanyahu to take decisive action and pull together 61 MKs before his grasp of his party and his nation slips away. It could be disastrous for Israel with an aggressive Iran, emboldened, Hezbollah, and unruly Gaza if Gantz is put in charge.

We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.

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Netanyahu’s last-minute endorsement: Ilhan Omar wants him out as PM

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Netanyahus last-minute endorsement Ilhan Omar wants him out as PM

It will be incumbent on the people of Israel to decide Tuesday who will lead their government. Outsiders are discouraged from trying to influence foreign elections, but there’s nothing wrong with people expressing their preference, especially as it pertains to such as strong ally like Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is against the ropes, but he should get at least a symbolic boost from his latest outspoken detractor: Representative Ilhan Omar. The anti-Semitic Congresswoman has made her perspectives on Israel very clear, siding very heavily with “Palestine” and even declaring in her attempted visit there last month that she was traveling to Palestine, not Israel, in her itinerary.

She has insinuated at times she believes Israel should not exist as a Jewish state. She also often sides with Islamic terrorists, running cover for them while saying 9/11 was a matter of “some people did something.”

Now, she’s clear about her opposition to Netanyahu:

Omar: Netanyahu’s ‘existence’ contradictory to peace

“I certainly hope that the people of Israel make a different decision and my hope is that they recognize that [Netanyahu’s] existence, his policies, his rhetoric really is contradictory to the peace that we are all hoping that region receives and receives soon,” the Minnesota Democrat told Face the Nation on Sunday.

The problem with her statement is that Netanyahu’s policies have been the only thing keeping Israel at relative peace the last decade. Her remarks were meant as a rebuke against the Prime Minister, but it’s not going to be received well by those who understand her politics. Of course she wants Netanyahu out. She wants Israel to be as weak and defenseless as possible.

Considering Iran is rearing its ugly head, demonstrating a willingness to attack its enemies, it’s difficult to see Israel remaining strong and safe without Benjamin Netanyahu at the helm. Now is not the time for cultural experimentation. Stick with Bibi.

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Foreign Affairs

Israel’s election has immense implications for the United States

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Israels election has immense implications for the United States

Is Israel a Jewish state powered by its conservative, religious base or is it a secular state that pushes aside tradition? Is it the unabashed ally of the United States or are they hoping to move forward without input from Washington DC? Those two answers are really what will be decided in Tuesday’s election, and things will change between the United States and its best ally in the Middle East if there’s a major shakeup in the Israel government.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting for his political life as his Likud Party seeks to not only get the most seats in the Knesset but also help their allies on the right win enough seats to allow the conservatives to form a coalition government. Both obstacles must be overcome in order for his pro-Israel and pro-America agenda to stay intact.

If Benny Gantz and his Blue and White Party are victorious (they tied with Likud in April), then Gantz will likely be tasked with forming a government that is center-left. He’ll need some help from the center-right to form his government, but it will almost certainly be made with an understanding that the policies protecting the ultra-orthodox Jews, which represent around 10% of the population, will be removed. It would also change the direction of any Middle East peace plan the White House may present.

Even if Likud wins but does no have enough seats won by conservative parties, Netanyahu will still have to look to Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beitenu Party to form a coalition. Lieberman refused to side with Netanyahu in April without the ultra-orthodox Jewish protections removed, which forced Israel to have this second round of 2019 elections. Yisrael Beitenu is expected to win even more seats this time, and unless there’s a surge for conservative parties, the new government will be center-right at best as Netanyahu will be forced to form a unity coalition with Lieberman and Gantz.

America needs Netanyahu to stay in power, but we also need his government to be built on a conservative platform. Neither Gantz nor Lieberman are anti-American, but they will not work as diligently on behalf of Israeli and American interests against Iran, Hezbollah, or Hamas. This will compel the United States to take a more active role in the region; currently, a strong Israel allows the United States to be much less aggressive when it comes to preventing catastrophes like a nuclear Iran or the expansion of threats to our interests in the Middle East.

Israelis will decide Tuesday if they like the direction the nation is going or if they want to explore other options. Unfortunately, those “other options” will likely include less engagement with their greatest ally, the United States.

We are currently forming the American Conservative Movement. If you are interested in learning more, we will be sending out information in a few weeks.

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