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The U.S. Should Pressure Oman to Crack Down on Iranian Arms Smuggling

March 16 2018

Earlier this week, Secretary of Defense James Mattis visited Oman and met with its ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said al-Said. Among other things, they most likely discussed the fact that Iran has been using Qaboos’s country to smuggle arms to Yemen. Nicole Salter writes:

Since the Yemeni conflict broke out in 2015, U.S. warships have intercepted several Iranian weapons shipments intended for the Houthi rebels there. Likewise, the Saudi-led coalition opposing the Houthis has worked to disrupt Iran’s maritime supply routes along Yemen’s western coastline, near Houthi-controlled territory. [But] much of Iran’s arms smuggling into Yemen occurs through overland routes from Oman. . . . Saudi and Yemeni officials suspect that weapons have been stored at the Salalah airport in [the Omani city of] Dhofar and on small islands off the coast, and then are smuggled [across the border] to Yemen.

There is no evidence of Omani authorities assisting Tehran in its weapons smuggling, although Saudi and Yemeni officials believe Muscat has overlooked pro-Houthi activity in Dhofar. . . . Oman has a history of lax enforcement. When Iran was under severe sanctions prior to the 2015 nuclear deal, Omanis living in the coastal town of Khasab were known to ferry goods across the Strait of Hormuz to the Iranian island of Qeshm. . . .

Oman has cultivated a reputation as a neutral mediator of conflicts in the region. Following the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988), it mediated talks to restore ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia. During the Obama administration, Oman served as a back channel for nuclear negotiations with Iran. Since the Yemen conflict began, Oman has negotiated the release of hostages and is now set to host a new round of talks to find a “peaceful and political solution to the conflict. . . .” Neutrality is acceptable, but not at the expense of illegal arms trafficking.

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More about: Iran, James Mattis, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen

Germany’s Bid to Keep Israel off the UN Security Council

March 21 2018

The Jewish state has never held a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council. For the first 50 years of its existence, it was denied membership in any of the UN’s regional groups, which control candidacies for these rotating seats. Then it was finally admitted to the Western European and Others Group, which promptly agreed to wait another twenty years before approving Jerusalem for a Security Council candidacy. Now, Benny Avni notes, Germany is poised to block action:

As a good-faith gesture, the Western European and Others Group promised Israel that it and Belgium would run uncontested for the two open 2019-20 [Security Council] seats. Then, in 2016, Germany announced it would also run—even though it already served as a council member [multiple times, including] as recently as 2011-12. . . . [U]nless Belgium yields, Israel’s hopes for UN respect seem doomed for now—and maybe for the foreseeable future.

Why? Diplomats have been telling me Israel violates too many Security Council resolutions to be a member—as in the one passed during the last weeks of Barack Obama’s presidency, which marked Jewish holy sites as occupied Palestinian territory. But is building a porch in [the West Bank town of] Ma’ale Adumim really such a huge threat to world peace?

How about, then, a report released last week by UN experts on the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions? It found Germany violated a council ban on sparkling wines, exporting $151,840 worth of bubbly and other luxury goods to Kim Jong Un’s cronies. Or how about, as the Jerusalem Post’s Benjamin Weinthal reports, German companies exporting to Iran banned materials that were later used in chemical attacks in Syria?

Never mind. Germany (and Belgium) will surely benefit from the UN’s habit of magnifying Israel’s violations beyond all proportion. Thus, Israel’s petition to join the most prestigious UN club will likely be rejected, thanks to a late entry by a shameless [and] cynical German power play against the Jewish state.

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More about: Germany, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-German relations, United Nations