Iran Warns It Only Needs 5 Days To Have ‘The Bomb’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s atomic chief warned Tuesday the Islamic Republic needs only five days to ramp up its uranium enrichment to 20 percent, a level at which the material could be used for a nuclear weapon.

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The comments by Ali Akbar Salehi to Iranian state television come as US President Donald Trump repeatedly has threatened to renegotiate or walk away from the 2015 nuclear deal.

Salehi’s warning, along with recent comments by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, show Iran is willing to push back against Trump while still acknowledging they want to keep the deal, which lifted crippling economic sanctions on the country.

“If there is a plan for a reaction and a challenge, we will definitely surprise them,” said Salehi, who also serves as one of Rouhani’s vice presidents. “If we make the determination, we are able to resume 20 percent-enrichment in at most five days.”

He added: “Definitely, we are not interested in such a thing happening. We have not achieved the deal easily to let it go easily. We are committed to the deal and we are loyal to it.”

Iran gave up the majority of its stockpile of 20-percent enriched uranium as part of the nuclear deal it struck with world powers, including Trump’s predecessor, president Barack Obama. The accord, which lifted sanctions on Iran, currently caps the Islamic Republic uranium enrichment at 5 percent.

File photo of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visiting the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz in 2008. (photo credit: AP/Iranian President's office, File)

Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visiting the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz in 2008. (photo credit: AP/Iranian President’s office, File)

While Iran long has maintained its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, uranium enriched to 20 percent and above can be used in nuclear bombs. Iran processed its stockpile of near 20 percent uranium into a lower enrichment, turned some into fuel plates to power a research reactor and shipped the rest to Russia as part of the deal.

The Obama administration and most independent experts said at the time of the deal that Iran would need at least a year after abandoning the deal to have enough nuclear material to build a bomb. Before the deal was struck, they said the timeframe for Iran to “break out” toward a bomb was a couple of months.

While the economic benefits of the deal have yet to reach the average Iranian, airlines in the country have signed deals for billions of dollars of aircraft from Airbus and Boeing. Car manufacturers and others have swept into the Iranian market as well as the country has boosted its oil sales. Abandoning the deal would put those economic gains in jeopardy.

Rouhani, a moderate cleric within Iran’s theocratically overseen government, warned last week that it could ramp up its nuclear program and quickly achieve a more advanced level if the US continues “threats and sanctions” against his country.

Rouhani’s comments were sparked by Trump signing a sanctions bill imposing mandatory penalties on people involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program and anyone who does business with them. The US legislation also applies terrorism sanctions to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and enforces an existing arms embargo.

Saudi Arabia and Israel Agree on Al Jazeera

Peace and Freedom

There are still honourable Israelis who demand a state for the Palestinians; there are well-educated Saudis who object to the crazed Wahabism upon which their kingdom is founded; there are millions of Americans, from sea to shining sea, who do not believe that Iran is their enemy nor Saudi Arabia their friend. But the problem today in both East and West is that our governments are not our friends

By Robert Fisk

The Independent 

may-saudi.jpgTheresa May has already suppressed a report so it wouldn’t upset the Saudis. And we wonder why we go to war with the Middle East AFP

When Qatar’s Al Jazeera satellite channel has both the Saudis and the Israelis demanding its closure, it must be doing something right. To bring Saudi head-choppers and Israeli occupiers into alliance is, after all, something of an achievement.

But don’t get too romantic about this. When the wealthiest Saudis fall…

View original post 1,094 more words

Trump’s Alice-in-Wonderland approach to the Iran deal

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE LOS ANGLES TIMES)

(TRUMP THE FOOL SHOWING HIS IGNORANCE ONCE AGAIN)(TRS)

Trump’s Alice-in-Wonderland approach to the Iran deal

Doyle McManus

Here’s an international crisis you can, unusually, put on your calendar ahead of time: In October, President Trump wants to declare Iran in violation of the 2015 agreement to limit its nuclear program — a decision that would allow the United States to reimpose tough economic sanctions on anyone trading with Tehran.

It’s a bad idea. The nuclear deal isn’t perfect — it doesn’t end Iran’s nuclear research, only limits it for a period of years — but it’s much better than nothing. Before the agreement, Tehran was believed to be less than a year from making nuclear weapons that would have threatened Israel and Saudi Arabia. Thanks to the accord, that doomsday problem has at least been postponed.

That hasn’t stopped Trump from calling the pact “the worst deal ever” and ordering aides to supply him with evidence that will allow him to declare it invalid. The most likely moment for his decision will come in October, the next time he is required to notify Congress whether Iran is in compliance.

“If it was up to me, I would have had them noncompliant 180 days ago,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal last month. Next time, he added, “I do not expect that they will be compliant.”

The president didn’t offer any substantive reason to declare Iran out of compliance with the deal — because there isn’t one. His own aides told him last month that, while Iran has tested the edges of the agreement, none of its actions was a “material breach,” the legal standard that would allow sanctions to snap back.

When Trump was warned that he couldn’t simply walk away from the deal, “he had a bit of a meltdown,” an official told the New York Times. He chewed out the secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, who apparently brought him the bad news. And he ordered his staff to begin work on a new study — one that will supply him with the excuses he needs.

That’s an Alice-in-Wonderland approach to foreign policy: Verdict first, evidence later. And it’s not likely to work.

No matter what the president thinks, the facts will get in the way. U.S. officials say Iran has been carefully upholding its main obligations under the nuclear agreement: reducing its uranium stocks and limiting its enrichment program.

And none of the other six countries that negotiated the deal agree with Trump that the accord should be abrogated.

“The deal … is working, and we believe it represents the best option for the international community,” British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson wrote last month (and his government is friendlier to Trump than most).

As a result, if Trump declares in October that Iran is in breach, most of the world — including Britain, Germany and France — will blame him for the consequences, not Tehran.

That will create a major obstacle for the next step in Trump’s course, which is to reimpose U.S. economic sanctions on foreign businesses that deal with Iran. (The nuclear deal didn’t affect the embargo between the U.S. and Iran, which remains in effect.)

If the United States is viewed as responsible for breaking the deal, other countries may refuse to go along with Trump’s unilateral sanctions, making them largely toothless.

“Nobody else wants the deal to fail,” said Elizabeth Rosenberg of the Center for New American Security, who worked on sanctions in the Obama administration. “If the U.S. is the only one that walks away, who is going to enforce new sanctions? You could easily see European leaders deciding to defend their own companies instead.”

Last month, the French energy giant Total signed a contract for a $5-billion natural gas project in Iran. If Trump tries to impose sanctions on deals like that, the result won’t be merely a confrontation with Iran; it will be a clash with the EU.

There is an alternative Trump could try. It’s called diplomacy.

He could press for stricter enforcement of the nuclear agreement, beginning with the restrictions Iran has placed on international inspectors’ access to military bases.

He could seek stronger international sanctions on Iran for its ballistic missile tests, which aren’t covered by the nuclear deal.

And he could begin negotiations toward a new agreement to maintain the curbs on Iran’s nuclear program after 2026, when the current limits begin to expire.

But the president hasn’t pursued those options, even though they’ve been offered to him by his own aides. Instead, he appears hellbent on fulfilling a bad campaign promise he should now have the wisdom to abandon. (That’s a prayer more than a hope.)

Tearing up the deal won’t bring down Iran’s regime — most of Tehran’s ruling clerics welcome the enmity of the United States — but it will set up a collision between the Trump administration and most of the world, including China, Russia and U.S. allies in Europe.

The most likely losers would be the Western alliance, already battered by Trump’s disdain, and whatever remains of the United States’ tattered claim to international leadership.

And the most likely winner, oddly enough, would be Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the beneficiary of yet another wedge between United States and its NATO allies — this one driven by Trump alone, without Moscow’s help.

[email protected]

Twitter: @DoyleMcManus

China Is Playing The U.S. And The World For Fools Over North Korea And Putin And Iran Are Assisting

 

 

The President of China, Mr. Xi Jinping and his Communist Party leadership are playing the U.S. Government and the rest of the world for ignorant fools concerning North Korea’s little fat boy with the stupid haircut. This week there was a meeting in Manila, the capital of the Philippines of the Asian countries and a huge part of the conversations were about how the governments of China and their Ally North Korea are a huge danger to all of Asia and to the rest of the world. Also this week the U.N. Security Council voted 15-0 to increase sanctions on North Korea because of their missile program. China and Russia voted for the sanctions against North Korea yet I find it very difficult to believe anything that the leadership in China or Russia have to say. It is said that North Korea exports about three billion dollars of products each year, mostly raw materials. These new sanctions is said to chop off about one billion of that three billion cash influx to the North Korean Regime. This income goes to the State, meaning it goes to Kim Jong Un who in turn spends most of that cash on his military and his missile program. The new sanctions did not include the oil that China and Russia sell to North Korea. The U.N. says that almost all of the oil sold to North Korea by China and Russia are on an  ‘IOU’ basis.

 

Now I would like to speak with you about why I say that China is playing the U.S. and the rest of the world for fools. It is no secret that the leaders of China and Russia have no love loss for the Western Nations and especially for the U.S.. Only and idiot (Donald Trump) would believe that these folks are our friends as Mr. Trump has said of Mr. Jinping and he seems to have a love affair with Mr. Putin. For those who pay attention you should notice that the mobile launching vehicles are the property of China. One should also notice that the rockets now being fired by North Korea look exactly like China’s rockets. The free worlds security agencies say they are surprised at the rapid advancement of North Korea’s missile program, it is obvious that they are getting help from another government and it is pretty obvious who that country is. The more the U.S. engages with North Korea the less the world focuses on the atrocities and the aggressiveness of China and Russia. The countries of Asia are worried about the aggressiveness of China as the Summit in Manila laid bare. North Korea was bumped to the number two concern to these Countries. If the world does not reign in the Communist Leadership of China they will soon totally dominate all of Asia, and that does include India and the leaders of India know this. Mr. Putin had better not trust the Chinese governments hunger for land but honestly I do not believe that Mr. Putin is that big of a fool as he knows well the methods that one larger country takes over another country while saying it belonged to them anyway.

 

For those who were paying attention to this sort of thing, North Korea’s #2 Official is currently on a ten-day visit to Tehran Iran. These two Countries have two total different ideologies concerning how they look at the world. Iran’s it based in total religious hatred of everyone whom is not a devout Shiite Islamic, North Korea is all about the hatred inside the brain of their crazy little fat boy with the horrible haircut. China is quickly positioning themselves to be the worlds biggest most powerful military led country in all of Asia and the Pacific theater .  Kim Jong Un has always had the desire to make the whole Korean Peninsula into one Korea with himself as the Ruler. If China, North Korea and to a smaller extent Russia could run the U.S. Military out of that region all of the other smaller countries will fall to China’s domination and many of the Asian Countries realize it. Unfortunately there are some countries leaders in the region who are being bought by China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ project like Cambodia and the Philippines. Sri Lanka is a Nation who excepted the ‘help’ from China to help build up their infrastructure with Chinese loans at high interest rates and now China is demanding repayment before the construction is even finished as the economic benefits have not yet started to flow in. Countries will lose their own right to rule themselves because of this pariah in Beijing. All a person has to do is to pay attention to the realities on the ground, it does not take a genius to figure these things out and the Lord knows the U.S. does not have a genius in the Oval Office.

Why a Referendum Won’t Solve Iraqi Kurdistan’s Problems

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Opinion

Why a Referendum Won’t Solve Iraqi Kurdistan’s Problems

There’s a lingering impression in Washington that Iraqi Kurdistan is what it was five years ago, before the rise of ISIS: a peaceful, prospering, emerging pro-Western democracy whose aspirations for full independence from Iraq are increasingly hard to ignore.

Unfortunately, a great deal has changed since then, thanks to war, the US retreat from the region and the Kurds’ own dysfunctions. As the ISIS slowly crumbles to its south and west, Kurdistan is politically and economically broken. President Masoud Barzani remains in office four years after his term ended, and parliament has not met in almost two years. The government is deeply in debt and can scarcely afford to pay the three-quarters of the workforce who are state employees. The army and security services are divided into rival factions.

Barzani’s reaction to this distress has been to schedule a referendum on Kurdish independence for Sept. 25. The initiative has been rejected not just by the Iraqi federal government, but also by Kurdistan’s powerful neighbors Iran and Turkey, as well as the United States. More significantly, it is being viewed even by staunchly pro-independence Kurds as evidence that the region’s politics have reached a dangerous dead end.

The referendum is “an excuse by Kurdish leaders to remain in power,” says Shaswar Abdulwahid Qadir, the owner of Kurdistan’s independent NRT television network. “The younger generation doesn’t know anything about their fight in the mountains against Saddam Hussein. So the old leaders need another excuse to run the country for another 26 years.”

Those bitter words reflect Qadir’s perspective as one of a rising generation of Kurds — and Iraqis — struggling over how to create stable political institutions and a working economy amid the mess of sectarian conflicts, extremist movements and corrupt establishments littered across the post-ISIS landscape.

An independent television network is, at least, a place to start. While most Iraqi media are controlled by the government or political parties, Qadir is one of Kurdistan’s few self-made magnates: Born in the city of Sulaymaniyah, he started peddling electronic games as a teenager and became one of Kurdistan’s largest real estate developers before founding NRT in 2011, at the age of 32.

Launched under the slogan “courage, balance, truth,” the network saw its first office attacked and burned within a week of opening; Qadir blames militants from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of the region’s two historical political forces. Two years later he survived an assassination attempt. Kurdish authorities have closed NRT’s offices and arrested its journalists on multiple occasions. Yet it has persisted and flourished: It now has two Kurdish channels, an Arabic channel covering all of Iraq, and an English-language website.

A referendum, Qadir says, might prompt Turkey to shut down that pipeline, through which Kurdistan exports the relative trickle of petroleum that is its only reliable revenue. It also might cause the Turks and Iran to back opposing factions of the army, which is divided between the PUK and Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party, triggering a resumption of the civil war they fought in the 1990s.

“What kind of Kurdistan would we have?” Qadir asked. “Would we have South Korea or South Sudan?”


The Washington Post

Iran condemns its soccer players for match with Israeli team

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

 

Iran condemns its soccer players for match with Israeli team

 August 4 at 10:17 AM
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s soccer federation condemned two Iranians who play for a Greek team on Friday for participating in a match against an Israeli team, Iranian media reported.The federation “strongly condemns” the participation of Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Hajsafi in a match for Greece’s Panionios against Israel’s Maccabi Tel Aviv a day earlier in Greece, it said in a statement reported by the semi-official Fars news agency.

On its Farsi-language Twitter account, Israel’s foreign ministry praised the players for ignoring what is considered a taboo in Iran by playing against the Israelis. Maccabi won the UEFA Europa League match 1-0.

Israel and Iran are bitter adversaries and traditionally, Iranian athletes refrain from playing Israelis. Iran’s government usually rewards such behavior.

The federation said it is reviewing the case and will make a final decision after speaking with both players who in the past have also played for the national soccer team. Fars reported that the two may now be banned from playing on that team again.

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At a previous match against Maccabi in Tel Aviv, both refused to play.

The last competition between Iranian and Israeli sportsmen on the international level dates back to a wrestling match in 1983 in Kiev, Ukraine. From time to time, Iranian players who play for foreign teams have played Israeli teams.

In February, a teenage Iranian chess player angered authorities when he played, as an individual, against an Israeli competitor in the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival.

Iran does not recognize Israel, and supports anti-Israeli militant groups like Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas.

 

North Korea’s ‘No. 2’ official on 10-day visit to Iran that may signal wider military ties

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNBC NEWS)

 

North Korea’s ‘No. 2’ official on 10-day visit to Iran that may signal wider military ties

  • Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported Kim Yong Nam, head of North Korea’s parliament, arrived Thursday for the weekend inauguration of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
  • But given he is expected to stay 10 days, the trip is being seen as a front for Pyongyang to perhaps increase military cooperation with Tehran and to boost the hard currency for Kim Jong Un’s regime.
  • “There could be very problematic cooperation going on,” an Israeli-based national security expert said.

33 Mins Ago 

Iran's President Hassan Rowhani meets with North Korea's ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong-Nam in 2013.

Atta Kenare | AFP | Getty Images
Iran’s President Hassan Rowhani meets with North Korea’s ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong-Nam in 2013.

Amid new U.S. sanctions, North Korea‘s “No. 2” official began a 10-day visit to Iran on Thursday that could result in the two sides expanding their ties.

Iran’s official IRNA news agency reported Kim Yong Nam, chairman of the Supreme Assembly of North Korea, arrived Thursday for the weekend inauguration ceremony for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

But given the head of North Korea’s parliament is expected to stay for 10 days in Iran, the trip is being seen as a front for other purposes, including expanding military cooperation. At the same time, Pyongyang is looking for ways to counter sanctions and to boost the hard currency for Kim Jong Un’s regime.

“There could be very problematic cooperation going on because of the past history and because it makes strategic sense, especially for Iran now,” said Emily Landau, a senior research fellow at the Israeli-based Institute for National Security Studies and head of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program. INSS is an independent think tank affiliated with Tel Aviv University.

The man whom Iran described as the North’s “No. 2” is believed to be traveling with a delegation of other officials from Pyongyang, including economic and military officials.

“For North Korea, it’s not a question of ideology,” Landau said. “It’s not a question of being close politically and maybe in terms of any of their religious orientation. It’s all about who can pay in hard cash. That’s what makes North Korea a very dangerous source of nuclear technology, components and know-how.”

Last month, Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo said in a speech at the Intelligence and National Security Alliance that he had “created two new mission centers aimed at focusing on putting a dagger in the heart of the Korean problem and the problem in Iran.”

“Both the North Koreans and Iranians feel a serious threat from the United States and the West and sort of see each other as very different countries but facing a somewhat similar situation,” said Matthew Bunn, a nuclear proliferation expert and professor of practice at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

In July, nuclear-armed North Korea conducted two tests of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Iran could have an ICBM capability similar to North Korea within a few years, as just last week it successfully launched a satellite-carrying rocket that some see as a precursor to long-range ballistic missile weapon capability.

“There’s been fairly extensive cooperation on missiles,” said Bunn. “And in fact, early generations of Iranian missiles were thought to be basically modestly adapted North Korean missiles.”

For example, Tehran’s Shahab-3 ballistic missile, capable of reaching Saudi Arabia from Iranian land, is based on technology from North Korea’s Nodong-1 rockets. Iran’s Ghadir small submarine, which in May conducted a cruise-missile test, is a vessel remarkably similar to those used by Pyongyang.

There’s still a bit of a mystery on the nuclear side, but some former CIA analysts have previously said Iranian scientists have attended nuclear tests in North Korea. There have been recent reports North Korea may be preparing for its sixth nuclear test.

Tehran’s hands are tied due to the international nuclear agreement, although there’s a possibility it could quietly be teaming up with North Korea on nuclear research and doing it from the Korean Peninsula.

“The fact they are cooperating so closely on the missile realm is cause to believe that there could be even more cooperation going on even directly in the nuclear realm,” said Landau, the Israeli-based national security expert.

Bunn, however, isn’t so sure there’s currently any collaboration on the nuclear side between the two regimes but said “there’s a real danger potential” of it happening.

The Canaanites weren’t annihilated, they just ‘moved’ to Lebanon?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

The Canaanites weren’t annihilated, they just ‘moved’ to Lebanon

A UK-based study of ancient genomes finds Canaanites form over 90% of modern Lebanese ancestry, a trait they share with ancient Israelites

 July 28, 2017, 4:30 am 33

Burial of individual analyzed in the Canaanite study, from about 1600 BC. (Dr. Claude Doumet-Serhal/Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute)

Burial of individual analyzed in the Canaanite study, from about 1600 BC. (Dr. Claude Doumet-Serhal/Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute)

A new study suggests the biblical account of the annihilation of the ancient Canaanite people at the hands of the invading Israelites was a bit premature, claiming their descendants are still living just up the road, across the Lebanese border.

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New genetic research from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute has found that far from being destroyed, the Canaanites morphed into the inhabitants of modern Lebanon.

Scientists in the United Kingdom-based genetic research center sequenced the genomes of five 4,000-year-old Canaanite individuals and compared them to other ancient and present-day populations, including a sample of 99 modern Lebanese.

The results, published July 27 in the American Journal of Human Genetics, show that 93 percent of the ancestry of modern Lebanese ancestry comes from the Canaanites.

Had they been destroyed by the Israelites, who were commanded by God to annihilate them, it would have been a form of patricide. According to the study, the Canaanites were the common ancestor for several ancient peoples who inhabited the Levant during the Bronze Age, such as the Ammonites, Moabites, and Israelites.

“Each achieved their own cultural identities but all shared a common genetic and ethnic root with Canaanites,” according to the authors of the new study.

“For the first time we have genetic evidence for substantial continuity in the region, from the Bronze Age Canaanite population through to the present day. These results agree with the continuity seen by archaeologists,” said Dr. Claude Doumet-Serhal, co-author and director of the Sidon excavation site in Lebanon.

An early 12th century BCE Canaanite alphabet inscription found at Lachish in 2014. (courtesy of Yossi Garfinkel, Hebrew University)

An early 12th century BCE Canaanite alphabet inscription found at Lachish in 2014. (courtesy of Yossi Garfinkel, Hebrew University)

The Canaanites, like the Israelites a Semitic-speaking people, were at the center of Bronze Age civilization and “inhabited an area bounded by Anatolia to the north, Mesopotamia to the east, and Egypt to the south, with access to Cyprus and the Aegean through the Mediterranean,” according to the study.

Mystery surrounds the fate of the Canaanites, who later came to be known as the Phoenicians, as they appear in scant historical records. Although they introduced several innovations into society, including the first alphabet, other than in the Hebrew Bible — where their annihilation is clearly detailed — there are a few mentions in ancient Egyptian and Greek texts.

As reported in Science, Greek legend has it that the Canaanites originally came from the East.

According to the study, the Canaanite-related ancestry “derived from mixture between local Neolithic populations and eastern migrants genetically related to Chalcolithic Iranians.” The scientists estimate, “using linkage-disequilibrium decay patterns,” that the genetic mixture took place between 6,600–3,550 years ago, “coinciding with recorded massive population movements in Mesopotamia.”

Further, the Eurasian ancestry in the modern Lebanese genetic samples was not present in Bronze Age Canaanites or earlier Levantines. “We estimate that this Eurasian ancestry arrived in the Levant around 3,750–2,170 years ago during a period of successive conquests by distant populations,” write the scientists.

Did a Canaanite genocide occur?

In Deuteronomy 20:16, the ancient Israelites are commanded by God to completely wipe out the several Canaanite peoples after the death of the Hebrew leader Joshua.

“But in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God gives you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, but you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the Lord your God has commanded.”

A series of Egyptian-style anthropoid coffins that served both Egyptians and Canaanites (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

A series of Egyptian-style anthropoid coffins that served both Egyptians and Canaanites (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

However, according to the report, archaeological evidence does not support widespread destruction of Canaanite cities between the Bronze and Iron Ages. For example, coastal cities such as Sidon and Tyre “show continuity of occupation until the present day.”

The analysis of the DNA from five Canaanite skeletons found in Sidon who lived 4,000 years ago, and comparison with modern day Lebanese, paint a picture much different than the annihilation recorded in the Bible.

“It was a pleasant surprise to be able to extract and analyze DNA from 4,000-year-old human remains found in a hot environment, which is not known for preserving DNA well,” said Dr. Marc Haber, from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Haber said the team overcame the climate’s challenge by taking samples from the petrous bone in the skull, which is a very tough bone with a high density of ancient DNA.

“Genetic studies using ancient DNA can expand our understanding of history, and answer questions about the likely origins and descendants of enigmatic populations like the Canaanites, who left few written records themselves,” said Dr. Chris Tyler-Smith, from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

“The overlap between the Bronze Age and present-day Levantines suggests a degree of genetic continuity in the region,” according to the study.

For China’s Global Ambitions, ‘Iran Is at the Center of Everything’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

Photo

An Iranian employee at the Pardis Kaghaz Pazh recycled paper factory in Neyshabur, Iran, one of eight factories established by Zuao Ru Lin, a Chinese entrepreneur from Beijing.CreditArash Khamooshi for The New York Times

NEYSHABUR, Iran — When Zuao Ru Lin, a Beijing entrepreneur, first heard about business opportunities in eastern Iran, he was skeptical. But then he bought a map and began to envision the region without any borders, as one enormous market.

“Many countries are close by, even Europe,” Mr. Lin, 49, said while driving his white BMW over the highway connecting Tehran to the eastern Iranian city of Mashhad recently. “Iran is at the center of everything.”

For millenniums, Iran has prospered as a trading hub linking East and West. Now, that role is set to expand in coming years as China unspools its “One Belt, One Road” project, which promises more than $1 trillion in infrastructure investment — bridges, rails, ports and energy — in over 60 countries across Europe, Asia and Africa. Iran, historically a crossroads, is strategically at the center of those plans.

Like pieces of a sprawling geopolitical puzzle, components of China’s infrastructure network are being put in place. In eastern Iran, Chinese workers are busily modernizing one of the country’s major rail routes, standardizing gauge sizes, improving the track bed and rebuilding bridges, with the ultimate goal of connecting Tehran to Turkmenistan and Afghanistan.

Much the same is happening in western Iran, where railroad crews are working to link the capital to Turkey and, eventually, to Europe. Other rail projects will connect Tehran and Mashhad with deep water ports in the country’s south.

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Once dependent on Beijing during the years of international isolation imposed by the West for its nuclear program, Iran is now critical to China’s ability to realize its grandiose ambitions. Other routes to Western markets are longer and lead through Russia, potentially a competitor of China.

“It is not as if their project is canceled if we don’t participate,” said Asghar Fakhrieh-Kashan, the Iranian deputy minister of roads and urban development. “But if they want to save time and money, they will choose the shortest route.”

He added with a smile: “There are also political advantages to Iran, compared to Russia. They are highly interested in working with us.”

Photo

Mr. Lin visiting the Khavaran Alyaf Parsian polyester factory. He established his factories along what will be a key part of the “One Belt, One Road” trade route. Credit  Khamooshi for The New York Times

Others worry that with the large-scale Chinese investment and China’s growing presence in the Iranian economy, Tehran will become more dependent than ever on China, already its biggest trading partner.

China is also an important market for Iranian oil, and because of remaining unilateral American sanctions that intimidate global banks, it is the only source of the large amounts of capital Iran needs to finance critical infrastructure projects. But that, apparently, is a risk the leadership is prepared to take.

“China is dominating Iran,” said Mehdi Taghavi, an economics professor at Allameh Tabataba’i University in Tehran, adding that the “Iranian authorities do not see any drawbacks to being dependent on China. Together, we are moving ahead.”

It is not just roads and rail lines that Iran is getting from China. Iran is also becoming an increasingly popular destination for Chinese entrepreneurs like Mr. Lin. With a few words of Persian, as well as low-interest loans and tax breaks from the Chinese and Iranian governments, he has built a small empire since moving to Iran in 2002. His eight factories make a wide variety of goods that find markets in Iran and in neighboring countries.

“You can say that I was even more visionary than some of our politicians,” Mr. Lin said with a laugh. Since 2013, when the “One Belt, One Road” plan was started, he has had dozens of visitors from China and multiple meetings with the Chinese ambassador in Tehran. “I was a pioneer, and they want to hear my experiences,” he said.

Mr. Lin established his factories along what will be a key part of the trade route — a 575-mile electrified rail line linking Tehran and Mashhad, financed with a $1.6 billion loan from China. When completed and attached to the wider network, the new line will enable Mr. Lin to export his goods as far as northern Europe, Poland and Russia, at much less cost than today.

“I am expecting a 50 percent increase in revenue,” Mr. Lin said. He lit another cigarette. “Of course, Iran’s economy will also grow. China will expand. Its power will grow.”

He played Chinese pop music in his car and tapped his fingers on the wheel. “Life is good in Iran,” he said. “The future is good.”

Photo

Iranian and Chinese employees working at the recycled paper factory. Credit  Khamooshi for The New York Times

Iranians who spotted Mr. Lin driving between his factories waved and smiled. Having mastered a few basic phrases in Persian over the years, he said “hi” and “goodbye” to some of his 2,000 employees. Iranians are hard workers, he said, but he does not like their food. “We grow our own vegetables and eat Chinese food,” he said. “Just like home.”

Even when the boss was out of earshot, workers in his factories said that they were very happy with the Chinese. “They pay every month on time and only hire people instead of fire,” Amir Dalilian, a guard, said. “If more will come, our economy will flourish.”

When finished, the proposed rail link will stretch nearly 2,000 miles, from Urumqi, the capital of China’s western region of Xinjiang, to Tehran. If all goes according to plan, it will connect Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, China’s state-owned paper, China Daily, wrote. Track sizes need to be adjusted and new connections made, as well as upgrades to the newest trains.

In a 2016 test, China and Iran drove a train from the port of Shanghai in eastern China to Tehran in just 12 days, a journey that takes 30 days by sea. In Iran, they used the existing track between Tehran and Mashhad, powered by a slower diesel-powered train. When the new line is opened in 2021, it is expected to accommodate electric trains at speeds up to 125 miles an hour.

Mr. Fakhrieh-Kashan, an English speaker who oversees negotiation of most of the larger international state business deals, said the Chinese initiative would do much more than just provide a channel for transporting goods. “Think infrastructure, city planning, cultural exchanges, commercial agreements, investments and tourism,” he said. “You can pick any project, they are all under this umbrella.”

Business ties between Iran and China have been growing since the United States and its European allies at the time started pressuring Iran over its nuclear program around 2007. China remains the largest buyer of Iranian crude, even after Western sanctions were lifted in 2016, allowing Iran to again sell oil in European markets.

Chinese state companies are active all over the country, building highways, digging mines and making steel. Tehran’s shops are flooded with Chinese products and its streets clogged with Chinese cars.

Iran’s leaders hope that the country’s participation in the plan will enable them to piggyback on China’s large economic ambitions.

“The Chinese plan is designed in such a way that it will establish Chinese hegemony across half of the world,” Mr. Fakhrieh-Kashan said. “While Iran will put its own interests first, we are creating corridors at the requests of the Chinese. It will give us huge access to new markets.”

Iran already has a lot of problems, Is Banking Crisis Next

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNBC NEWS)

 

Iran already has a lot of problems, and the next one could be a banking crisis

  • Iran’s stock market is up 3 percent in 2017
  • The country’s top fund that takes foreign investment has soared 12 percent
  • But a banking crisis could derail hope of economic normalcy

1 Hour Ago 

A trader speaks with a stock market official beneath the electronic board at the Tehran Stock Exchange, Sept. 15, 2010.

Caren Firouz | Reuters
A trader speaks with a stock market official beneath the electronic board at the Tehran Stock Exchange, Sept. 15, 2010.

Nothing is easy for Iran’s economy these days, and things could soon get even tougher.

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to pass a bill Tuesday to put new sanctions on Russia, North Korea — and Iran. A Senate version passed overwhelmingly last month.

Iran is being targeted for its activities in Syria, its ballistic missile program and other “destabilizing activities,” according to the Senate’s version of the legislation. Under the terms of the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal, Tehran is not immune to new sanctions as punishment for activities outside of the country’s nuclear program.

Men use their smartphones to follow election news as posters of Iran's President Hassan Rouhani are seen in Tehran, Iran May 17, 2017.

TIMA | Reuters
Men use their smartphones to follow election news as posters of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani are seen in Tehran, Iran May 17, 2017.

Ramin Rabii, CEO of Turquoise Partners, Tehran’s largest investment firm for foreign money, said “there is definitely some worry over new sanctions, especially of their impact on business with Europe and Asia.”

There are bright spots, however, for the Iranian economy: “One of President (Hassan) Rouhani’s greatest achievements,” said Rabii, “has been to lower inflation from 45 percent down to a much more manageable 10 percent.”

The next big economic problem?

But that moderating inflation has caused another problem to surface. Lower inflation combined with soaring interest rates — sometimes as high as 25 percent — have the country’s top banking officials warning of a potential crisis.

During the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, many banks were pressured into making risky loans with the short-term goal of propping up parts of the economy. Now, many of the recipients of those loans, often small to mid-sized businesses with narrow profit margins, are having trouble keeping up with the payments.

“We have seen a big increase in European corporations coming to Iran, although inflow of foreign portfolio investment is still slow. It’s better than it was, but it is still slow.”-Ramin Rabii, CEO of Turquoise Partners

That said, any crisis that occurs is likely to be less severe than the 2008 catastrophe that struck the United States because Iran generally has much less debt in its economy. But the threat remains significant.

The prospect of a banking crisis is so serious that in a speech earlier this year, the head of Iran’s central bank, Valiollah Seif, warned financial executives that non-performing loans were a threat to all the gains the Rouhani government is making on the economic front. While he has proposed possible solutions, nothing has been agreed upon.

Turquoise’s fund has no bank holdings — Rabii said he exited the sector three years ago. He said he believes the central bank may need to intervene in the next 18 months to stave off a major threat.

Year-to-date, Turquoise’s signature fund is up 12 percent, easily outpacing Tehran’s main benchmark, which is up 3 percent. Turquoise has holdings in Iranian industrials, refined petroleum and the chemical sector.

“We have seen a big increase in European corporations coming to Iran, although inflow of foreign portfolio investment is still slow,” he said. “It’s better than it was, but it is still slow.”

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