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  • A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter looks down the road to Makhmur . (photo credit: AHMED JADALLAH / REUTERS)

    On September 19, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with Iraq’s new speaker of the Council of Representatives, Mohammed al-Halbusi. According to a statement by the State Department, Pompeo “emphasized his support for Iraq’s territorial integrity and sovereignty” and said that the US supports Iraq’s “efforts to form a moderate, nationalist Iraqi government.” Increasingly, the US and Iran are involved in attempts to convince the Kurdish region of Iraq to support different candidates for the country’s next president and prime minister.

    In Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq, the formation of the next Iraqi government is being watched closely, along with Washington’s comments. A year ago on September 25, the Kurdistan region held a referendum on independence. Turnout was high at 72%, and more than 90% of the voters choose independence. Yet the US spurned and condemned the Kurdish referendum, instead working closely with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

    In October, Baghdad sent its US-trained army and Iranian-allied Shi’ite militias into Kirkuk to push out the Kurdish leadership in the contested city. Many Kurds were dismayed, angry and felt betrayed. They had fought the Islamic State alongside the central government. Their Peshmerga had helped save Kirkuk in 2014 when ISIS routed the Iraqi army. But in 2017 when the Kurdish leadership wanted a referendum on the region’s future, they saw all their political capital, earned from years fighting alongside the Americans against extremist and terrorist groups, evaporate.

  • US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during a news conference at UN headquarters in Manhattan, New York, 2018. (photo credit: JEENAH MOON/REUTERS)

    Iranian proxies in Iraq are reportedly developing the capacity to produce missiles, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said on Thursday as she warned against the growing Iranian foothold in Iraq.

    “In recent months, Iran’s aggression has escalated. Iranian proxies in Iraq operate openly, with funding, training, and weapons supplied by Tehran. The Iranian regime has reportedly begun over the last few months to transfer ballistic missiles to these proxies in Iraq. It is reportedly developing the capability for its proxy militias to produce their own missiles inside of Iraq,” Haley told the UN Security Council on Thursday.

    She spoke at the UNSC’s monthly meeting on the Middle East, as Israel and the United States are increasingly concerned about the Iranian activity in Iraq and the subsequent dangers to both Israel and the United States. Last month, Reuters reported that Iran has given ballistic missiles to Shi’ite proxies in Iraq with the capacity to hit Israel. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has warned that the IDF, which has focused on preventing an Iranian foothold in Syria, could expand it activities against Iran to other areas of the Middle East.

  • A photo provided by the pro-regime Syrian Central Military Media, shows anti-aircraft fire rise into the sky as Israeli missiles hit air defense positions and other military bases around Damascus, Syria, on May 10, 2018, after the Israeli military says Iranian forces launched a rocket barrage against Israeli bases on the Golan Heights, in the most

    The Israeli report into the downing a Russian plane off the coast of Syria during an Israeli airstrike on Monday runs some 40 pages in English and Russian and shows that Syrian anti-aircraft batteries fired dozens of barrages indiscriminately for 40 minutes after the initial Israeli attack.

    In a highly unusual move, the IDF acknowledged the airstrike and released some of the findings of its initial investigation, which concluded that Syrian air defense units fired without aiming and “did not bother to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air.”

    The IDF’s initial findings were presented in recent days by top Israeli officials, including the head of its air force, Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, to their Russian counterparts in Moscow, and both Israel and Russia said Syria, not Israel, was responsible for the downing of the plane, although Moscow has been publicly critical of Israel over the incident.

  • Then-State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert speaks during a briefing at the State Department in Washington on August 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

    WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Thursday said that Palestinian plans to pay the family of a terrorist who killed an American-Israeli last week showed why the US was correct in cutting funding for East Jerusalem hospitals.

    State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said there was no reason for the US to fund the hospitals when it merely allowed the PA to free up money to support terrorists and their families.

    “The United States government does not believe that it is responsible for paying for the hospital bills,” Nauert told reporters. “The Palestinian Authority is solely responsible for paying for the treatment of Palestinians in those hospitals. Historically, they have neglected to pay the bills at their hospital. Our funding in the past has generously shored them up.”

  • Israeli Air Force chief Amikam Norkin, center-right, meets with Russian officials in Moscow on September 20, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

    An Israeli military delegation held a number of high-level meetings with Russian officials in Moscow on Thursday in an effort to defuse tensions over the downing of a Russian plane off the coast of Syria during an Israeli airstrike earlier in the week.

    The Israeli officials, led by air force chief Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, showed their Russian counterparts the Israel Defense Forces’ initial investigation of the incident, which the army said showed Syria, not Israel, to be responsible for the downing of the Il-20 reconnaissance aircraft and its 15 crew members.

    In addition, the Israeli delegation shared intelligence regarding Iranian efforts to establish a permanent military presence in Syria and to transfer advanced weaponry to terrorist groups in the region, the army said.

    “The meetings were held in a good spirit. There was professional, open, and transparent dialogue on various issues, and an emphasis was put on the importance of the two nations’ interests and the continuation of the deconfliction mechanism,” the IDF said, referring to a hotline between the two countries.

  • US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman in Jerusalem on August 22, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

    US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Thursday lambasted the Palestinian Authority’s declared intention to make monthly payments to the family of the Palestinian terrorist who stabbed Israeli Ari Fuld to death on Sunday.

    Friedman called the payments “unconscionable” and said the PA’s practice of making such payments to terrorists and their families was an obstacle to peace.

    “The Palestinian Prisoner Affairs Commission has confirmed that the family of the terrorist who murdered Ari Fuld is ‘eligible to receive a monthly salary’ as compensation for his incarceration,” Friedman tweeted. “This practice is unconscionable and must stop if there is to be any hope for peace.”

  • Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah speaks via a video link, as his supporters raise their hands, during activities to mark the ninth of Ashura, a 10-day ritual commemorating the death of Imam Hussein, in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, on September 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

    The leader of Hezbollah boasted Thursday that the Lebanese terror group now possesses “highly accurate” missiles, despite Israeli attempts to prevent it from acquiring such weapons.

    Hassan Nasrallah didn’t offer specifics on the weapons in his traditional televised speech commemorating Ashura, a top religious holy day for Shiite Muslims. But he told supporters they need to be confident in Hezbollah’s capabilities and that the regional balance of power has changed.

    He claimed Israeli strikes in Syria to prevent Hezbollah from acquiring precise missiles had proven ineffective.

    “I tell (Israel) no matter what it did to cut the [weapons transport] route, it is over. It has already been achieved,” he said, adding that Hezbollah “now possesses precision missiles and non-precision and weapons capabilities.”

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister's Office on September 17, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday warned Hezbollah against attacking Israel, saying any military action by the Lebanon-based terrorist organization would be met with a “crushing blow.”

    His remarks came hours after the leader of Hezbollah boasted that the Iran-backed group now possesses “highly accurate” missiles, despite Israeli attempts to prevent it from acquiring such weapons.

    Hassan Nasrallah didn’t offer specifics on the weapons in his traditional televised speech commemorating Ashura, a top religious holy day for Shiite Muslims. But he told supporters they need to be confident in Hezbollah’s capabilities and that the regional balance of power has changed.

  • In this photo from October 24, 2015, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah addresses a crowd during the holy day of Ashoura, in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

    Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, said Wednesday that Israel must stop its “intolerable” attacks in Syria. His comments came after an Israeli airstrike on a Syrian base in Latakia, during which a Russian spy plane was accidentally shot down by soldiers loyal to President Bashar Assad.

    Israel has been increasing its strikes inside Syria, protesting Iran and Hezbollah’s growing influence there.

    But Nasrallah denied that the target of the Israeli strikes was weapons shipments bound for his group, and accused Israel of using Iran and Hezbollah as an “excuse” while really aiming to degrade Syria’s military capabilities.

  • An Israeli Air Force F-35 fighter jet flies during an aerial demonstration at a graduation ceremony for Israeli air force pilots . (photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)

    On Thursday, Israel's air force chief will present findings in Moscow related to an incident in which a Russian military plane was downed off Syria's coast, the IDF reported.

    Israel on Tuesday blamed Syria, saying its anti-aircraft batteries "fired indiscriminately" and failed to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air.

    The army said Major-General Amikam Norkin and other senior officers would "present the situation report of the event regarding all aspects, including the pre-mission information and the findings of the IDF inquiry."

  • A before and after photo of an ammunition warehouse which was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike on a Syrian base in Latakia, September 18, 2018 (ImageSat International (ISI/Ynet)

    A munitions warehouse in a Syrian military facility appears to have been completely obliterated in an Israeli airstrike in the Syrian port city of Latakia late on Monday, satellite images released Wednesday show.

    A Russian military reconnaissance plane was shot down by Syria during the Israeli strike, killing all 15 crew members.

    On Wednesday Syria released video footage from the site of the attack, reiterating its claim that Israel targeted an aluminium factory, not a weapons warehouse in Monday’s strike, according to the Ynet news site. The veracity of the footage could not be independently verified.

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Provocative Commentary

“The men who have done the most for God in this world have been early on their knees. He who fritters away the early morning, its opportunity and freshness, in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor headway seeking Him the rest of the day. If God is not first in our thoughts and efforts in the morning, He will be in the last place the remainder of the day.” 
― E.M. Bounds