It is just one of those weeks when nothing seems the way it was or should be. There is a fine line between love and hate and sometimes it is not clear which is love and which is hate. Surely this brings forth the toast “confusion to the enemy”? Definitely, the full moon of the 15th of Av was influencing. Perhaps attempting to replicate the Korean peninsula initiative US President Donald Trump said he was ready to meet his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, “any time they want to” with “no preconditions” and “I do believe that they will probably end up wanting to meet.”  The statement caught Israel by surprise but it was the full moon of the 15th of Av so it was understood.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was not exactly of the same opinion as Trump and continues to reckons there should be some conditions. Judging by previous differences of opinion between Trump and his staff, it means that Pompeo’s days are numbered in this job. Pompeo was clear from the day that he took office setting 12 conditions for talks with Iran in May, which were dismissed by Tehran. He insisted that the Iranians demonstrate a commitment to make fundamental changes in how they treat their own people, reduce their malign behavior, and can agree that it's worthwhile to enter into a nuclear agreement that actually prevents proliferation. Trump’s statement runs counter to having these conditions met before negotiations. So, Pompeo has “no plans for any engagement with Iran” at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum that will also be attended by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

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Trump maybe getting old or he may be on the way to be trained as a diplomat. He clearly said he doesn’t wish to meet “from strength or weakness, it’s an appropriate thing to do.” But like any ambiguous statement it leaves the door open for the other side, in this case Iran, to set out clearly the conditions for any meeting. So, it was of no surprise that Iranian officials leaped at the opportunity to remonstrate Trump.


Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said engaging in negotiations with the “current America” is next to impossible. He elaborated that although a military confrontation between Iran and the United States is out of the question, the Islamic Republic is ready for such scenario. This was echoing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani that Trump “should learn well that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace and war with Iran is the mother of all war.” Such terminology was last voiced by Saddam Hussein, former President of Iraq and he is no longer there; a lesson that should be learned about making such statements

Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, the head of the influential parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy set his own condition for meeting with Trump; a US return to the nuclear deal, which would bring an end to the economic uncertainty, would be needed before Tehran could think of negotiating. Not to be left out Hamid Aboutalebi‏, adviser to President Rouhani, interjected his conditions “Respecting the Iranian nation's rights, reducing hostilities and returning to the nuclear deal are steps that can be taken to pave the bumpy road of talks between Iran and America.” Reformist lawmaker Mostafa Kavakebian questioned negotiating with Trump, calling him “untrustworthy” and “If this negotiation (is) carried out in any form, then it will be considered as surrender and the Iranian nation will not surrender.”

But the full moon of the 15th of Av was not be sidelined. Ali Akbar Nategh Nouri, a senior cleric and member of the influential Expediency Council and a former aide to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Trump’s suggestion should not be categorically rejected “It should be discussed in the Supreme National Security Council” and “we have to contemplate.”

Russia was also influenced by the full moon of the 15th of Av that made it all Topsy-Turvey apropos Iran. Anatoly Viktorov, the Russian  ambassador to Israel was clear that Iran has a crucial role in counter-terrorism efforts in Syria and that this is legal under international law being “fully legitimate according to the UN principles and the UN charter.” In a rare statement about his own country the Russian envoy expressed frustration at Russian weakness that although Moscow can talk to its “Iranian friends” about a full withdrawal from Syria as Israel demands, it “cannot force them” to do so. However, Russian Presidential Special Envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentyev Russia claimed that it had managed to withdraw Iranian forces 85 km from Israel’s border. The Interfax news agency reported citing the Russian Defence Ministry that Russia will deploy military police on the Golan Heights and set up eight monitoring posts to avoid any possible provocations there.

Not to be outdone by the rookie diplomat Donald Trump, Anatoly Viktorov also sat on the fence, stating that he was not sure if Russia was “okay” with Israel’s airstrikes on Syria. He murmured “We are not okay with any forced action. We cannot agree with all actions that are taken by the Israeli government.” Yet in the same voice he took sides with Israel noting the agreement with Israel to allay concerns regarding the situation in southern Syria, saying, “No non-Syrian troops should be in the southern de-escalation area.” Does he really know where all the “From Russia with love” troops are stationed?

The last word must go to Prime Minister Bibi to ensure that there is no confusion and that the enemy knows that it is the enemy. Bibi warned Iran that Israel, together with an “international coalition,” would not allow the Islamic Republic to close a key regional waterway, the Bab Al-Mandab Straits at the entrance to the Red Sea. It is a bottleneck for maritime traffic to Israel’s southern port of Eilat. Last week Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels attacked two Saudi oil tankers in the straits, an attack that led to the temporary suspension of Saudi oil shipment through the area and a spike in global oil prices. The great ships of Israel’s fleet both surface and submarine have slipped their moorings on the dawn tide and slid into the oceans.


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