Free Syrian Army Commander: Iran, Hizbullah Aiding Assad in Syria - Amr Ahmed (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
Free Syrian Army (FSA) commander Brig.-Gen. Hussam Awak said in an interview in Cairo that an Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) armored brigade is fighting alongside Assad regime forces in Syria.
"On more than one occasion, we have captured IRGC officers and Iranian experts," adding that "there is a full armored IRGC brigade operating on Syrian soil and present in the Ahmed Jibril (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command) camps in the Deir al-Ashayar region along the Lebanese-Syrian border."
"They have been present there since 2007, following Hizbullah's war with Israel."
Awak also revealed that Hizbullah Brigades 101, 102, and 103 are fighting alongside Assad regime forces.
He claimed that Brigade 103 specializes in assassination and bombings, while "Hizbullah Brigade 101 specializes in street battles and sniper attacks."
"As for the Iraqi Shiite brigades that are trying to reach Syria (to aid the Assad regime), we are warning them for the hundredth time not to interfere in Syrian affairs."
See also Syria: Inside Assad's Torture Chamber -
Israel Announces Forthcoming Arrow 3 Missile Interceptor Test - Dan Williams (Reuters)
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) said in a statement Thursday that it would conduct its first test of the Arrow 3, a system developed in cooperation with the U.S. to shoot down ballistic missiles in space, "in the near future."
German Businesses Unwelcome in Postwar Libya - Uwe Buse and Takis Wurger (Der Spiegel-Germany)
Before the Libyan revolution, Germany was the country's second-largest trading partner. But then Germany abstained in a 2011 UN vote to militarily intervene in its civil war.
Now that the war is over, German businesses and think tanks are finding that most Libyans want little to do with them.
Ombudsman Upholds Complaint Against Radio-Canada - Janice Arnold (Canadian Jewish News)
Radio-Canada ombudsman Pierre Tourangeau has upheld complaints that its Middle East coverage has been biased against Israel.
He was responding to five specific instances of alleged bias lodged against the French-language public broadcaster by HonestReporting Canada concerning radio reports by Middle East correspondent Ginette Lamarche that aired from Dec. 19 to 23.
"Tourangeau found a lack of 'diversity of opinion' as required for news coverage of controversial subjects, use of unverified facts and failure to challenge claims which led to 'at least an appearance of bias'," said HonestReporting's Quebec regional director, Michelle Whiteman.
Last year, Tourangeau upheld a series of complaints by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) about Lamarche's reporting.
What's New in Israeli Technology? - Michael Ordman (Jerusalem Post)
A new Israeli postage stamp - the Technion 2012 Cornerstone Centennial Stamp – features NanoSpun, which won 300,000 euros in the Nano/Polymer Challenge in Italy in 2011 for its development of innovative hollow nano-fibers.
Airbase Systems has developed the CanarIT, a low-cost, effective air-quality sensor that logs the level of pollution, analyzes it, and delivers warnings, alerts, and information to help people protect their health.
Nemesysco has pioneered Layered Voice Analysis (LVA) technology to detect stress and emotion. It is already used in the security, medical, recruitment and insurance industries.
Israel to Sell $300 Million in Water Tech to China (Reuters)
Israel on Wednesday signed a deal to sell China water technology valued at $300 million for use in the agriculture sector, the Israel Finance Ministry said.
Nigeria, Israel Partner on Emergency Medical Services - Victoria Ojeme (Vanguard-Nigeria)
A delegation of doctors from the University Teaching Hospitals of Abuja, Jos, and Maiduguri is in Tel Aviv for a 2-week training course with a focus on emergency medical preparedness and response, mass casualty incident management, and trauma care and disaster management.
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- Russia, China Join UN Security Council Rebuke of Syria - Louis Charbonneau
Russia and China joined other UN Security Council members on Thursday in a statement that they "deplore the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation" in Syria. The statement urged Damascus to grant "full and unimpeded access of humanitarian personnel to all populations in need of assistance." Russia and China have twice vetoed Security Council resolutions condemning Damascus and calling for an end to the violence.
See also Syrian Forces Overrun Opposition in Rebel Stronghold of Homs - Liz Sly (Washington Post)
- Iran's Ahmadinejad, Reviled Abroad, Fades at Home - Alistair Lyon
Friday's parliamentary poll may make Iran's Ahmadinejad a lame duck for the rest of his presidency, a penalty for defying the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. "Iran has become a one-party system: the party of Khamenei," said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran analyst at the Carnegie Endowment. Friday's election is expected to erode Ahmadinejad's support in parliament. "Khamenei likes to divide and rule," Sadjadpour said. "For that reason he may see it in his interests to weaken Ahmadinejad's faction but keep it on life support."
Many Iranians blame Ahmadinejad's policies for soaring prices. His government has also been tainted by a fraud alleged to have diverted $2.6 billion of state funds. Dozens have been arrested over the scandal, which was disclosed with Khamenei's approval. Sadjadpour said Ahmadinejad's record of insubordination and relentless self-aggrandizement had alarmed even his former allies in the conservative establishment.
"Ahmadinejad has shown a unique ability to lose friends and alienate people," he said.
- U.S. Democracy Activists Leave Egypt after U.S. Pays Bail
Seven Americans on trial over charges that their pro-democracy groups fomented unrest flew out of Egypt on Thursday after the U.S. posted nearly $5 million in bail for them and nine others who managed to leave before a travel ban was imposed, easing a deep diplomatic crisis between the U.S. and Egypt.
(AP-San Francisco Chronicle)
See also Prosecution of American NGO Staff in Egypt Shows Need for Policy Reassessment - Eric Trager (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- U.S.: World Can Replace Oil Lost to Iran Sanctions - Roberta Rampton
Global oil producers appear to have enough spare capacity to make up for Iranian exports curtailed by tough new sanctions, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said on Thursday.
"There is sufficient spare capacity," Chu said, noting that the administration will do whatever it can to help stabilize oil prices, including looking at tapping strategic reserves.
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) said, "With sufficient spare capacity among global oil producers, there is no excuse for countries and companies around the world not to curtail their purchases of Iranian crude, and thus deny the Iranian regime the financial lifeblood it needs for its illicit nuclear activities." (Reuters)
See also Under Pressure from Sanctions, Iran Seeks More Oil and Gas Business with Neighbor Pakistan (AP-Washington Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Netanyahu to Seek Broad Agreement with Obama - Hilary Leila Krieger and Herb Keinon
Israel does not want to limit its options in dealing with Iran and will seek broad understandings with the U.S. about possible courses of action rather than specific assurances in upcoming White House talks, Israeli and American sources said on Thursday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who left on Thursday for a North American trip that will include an Oval Office visit on Monday, has made it clear to interlocutors that Israel maintaining maximum freedom of action will be a key message in his talks with President Obama.
He is also understood to be looking for concrete signs that when the Obama administration says all options are on the table to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, there are actions from the U.S .to give that statement credibility.
See also For Obama and Netanyahu, Wariness on Iran Will Dominate Talks - Ethan Bronner (New York Times)
- Sbarro Terrorist Gets TV Show - Elior Levy
Ahlam Tamimi, the Hamas terrorist who drove a suicide bomber to the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem where 15 people were consequently killed, was freed in October as part of the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap and was deported to Jordan. She has now launched a television career, presenting a weekly show on the Hamas-affiliated Al-Quds satellite channel. In one episode, Tamimi interviewed Hamas official Salah Arouri, who said,
"The only way to free our prisoners from jail is through resistance, abductions and prisoner swaps," calling on the Palestinians to kidnap Israeli soldiers. (Ynet News)
- Time for Assad to Go - Dennis B. Ross
For reasons of morality and the interest of not seeing violence in Syria build and expand outward, it is essential to try to accelerate the departure of Bashar Assad.
First, it is necessary to keep the pressure on the Russians to change their posture. Propping up Assad might preserve the Russian position in Syria for the time being, but no successor leadership in Syria is going to want ties to the Russians unless they change course and are able to take credit for producing the end of the Assad regime. Assad and those who support him see the Russians as their insurance policy. Change that perception, and the balance of power is likely to shift inside Syria.
It is also necessary to reach out to the Alawite community that makes up 12% of the Syrian population but represents the backbone of the security establishment.
It is essential to find ways of communicating with key Alawites and making clear that Assad is not the key to their salvation but the greatest threat to their survival.
Sanctions and isolation alone won't make Assad leave. He must see that the balance of power is shifting against him.
The writer was a special assistant to President Obama and senior director of the Central Region on the National Security Council staff from 2009 to 2011.
- The Syrian Uprising's Impact on Minorities - Michael Young
Syria's Alawite leadership is perpetrating a butchery partly because it expects its community to be marginalized if Bashar Assad falls.
Minority solidarity is a dangerous impulse. It has led many of Syria's Kurds and Druze to watch from the sidelines as their countrymen have been slaughtered - when they have not actively participated in the repression. In Lebanon, it has pushed leading figures in the Christian community to defend the Assad regime.
Minorities will gain in significance because in many countries the breakdown of authoritarian rule also represents a breakdown of the ideological and intimidatory underpinnings that once kept minorities in line.
Fear of what might happen in Syria if the majority Sunnis regain power has colored the behavior of the country's minorities. Their fixation has been deformed by the expectation that if the Sunnis return, they will do so as resentful Islamists.
Iran must be confused. A Syria in pieces would compel Tehran to guarantee that Alawites and Shiites cooperate. But if one of those pieces is a self-ruling Kurdish entity in Syria's northeast, alongside Iraqi Kurdistan, then the Iranians, like the Turks, could face a major headache with their own Kurds.
Lebanese minority leaders Walid Jumblatt (Druze) and Samir Geagea (Christian) visited Iraqi Kurdistan in recent months. Both men are astute enough to sense that the Kurds will be big players during the coming decade, and are unlikely to fall under the thumb of Islamists.
- We Only Get One Strike - Moshe Sharon
Iran has the motivation to destroy Israel, and if it is allowed to gain nuclear weapons it will not need an excuse to do so. That motivation is a double one: messianic Shi'ite and expansionist-imperial. Since the late ninth century, the Shi'ites have been expecting the emergence of the hidden imam-mahdi, armed with divine power and followed by thousands of martyrdom-seeking warriors. He is expected to conquer the world and establish Shi'ism as its supreme religion and system of rule. His appearance would involve terrible war and unusual bloodshed.
Ahmadinejad, as mayor of Tehran, built a spectacular boulevard through which the mahdi would enter into the capital. There is no question that Ahmadinejad believes he has been chosen to be the herald of the mahdi. Shi'ite Islam differs from Sunni Islam regarding the identity of the mahdi.
However both Shi'ites and Sunnis share one particular detail about "the coming of the hour" and the dawning of messianic times: The Jews must all suffer a violent death, to the last one.
The writer is a professor emeritus of Islamic studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
- Iran Is Under Mounting Pressure - Ephraim Kam
Iran is again proposing a return to the negotiating table to discuss the nuclear
question. In the past, negotiations on the issue were a way for Iran to buy time to advance
its nuclear program. This time the situation is different because the West has a new form
of pressure: the expected oil sanctions with a set timetable of July 2012.
for Iran now has a downside. Without concrete steps on its part that would allow
discussions to start, in a few months Iran will find itself subject to a wave of sanctions
more painful than prior measures. Moreover, in the background there is the threat of an
Israeli attack on Iran, and the signals coming from Israel suggest that time is running out.
While the governments of the West have reservations about such a move, they are using
the Israeli threat to ramp up the pressure on Iran. The West is thus prepared for a
resumption of the negotiations, but only on condition that Iran presents a serious attitude
and does not revert to its old patterns.
At this point Iran's position is that under no circumstances will it give up advancing its nuclear program. However, the closer the new
sanctions date approaches, one cannot rule
out the possibility that it will be forced to show flexibility and make a proposal that will
allow the resumption of negotiations on the nuclear issue.
(Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
- The 2011 Arab Uprisings and Israel's
National Security - Efraim Inbar
The changing regional balance of power in favor of
Turkey and Iran, who both encourage radical elements in the region,
does not favor Israel. As well, the seeming decline of American clout
in the Middle East has negatively affected the peace process with
Israel and reduced its deterrence power. Israel is facing greater
regional isolation, more terror, threats to its sea lanes and energy
resources in the eastern Mediterranean, and the prospects of a nuclear
While the power differential between Israel and its
neighbors is larger than ever, it must spend more money on defense and has to cultivate new relationships in the region. Most Israelis understand the reality of
living in the Middle East, but they must recognize that this rough
neighborhood may become even more brutish in the near future.
(Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
See also Report: Israel's Security Situation Worst Since End of Cold War - Oren Kessler (Jerusalem Post)
- Harvard's Anti-Israel Conference - Andrea Levin
Harvard University claims that its
hosting of the "One State Conference," whose topic is the dissolution of the Jewish state, is a student-inspired and organized event - and not Harvard's responsibility. Do Harvard's pooh-bahs truly expect the public to believe the university would allow "student organizers" to run a campus gay-bashing conference, or a KKK convocation? Clearly, Harvard is making an exception for hate-speech directed against the Jewish state, whose annihilation is being promoted.
The conference is not just a student affair. It grows out of fertile anti-Israel Harvard ground and it includes prominent faculty as speakers. The Kennedy School of Government, with its sharply skewed Middle East Initiative program and the university's stridently anti-Israel Center for Middle Eastern Studies and biased Outreach Center have in recent years promoted biased attacks against the Jewish state.
The writer is Executive Director and President of CAMERA, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.
(Times of Israel)
- Canada Halts Funding to Palestine House - Andy Levy-Ajzenkopf
Citizenship and Immigration Canada has stopped funding a settlement program administered by a Palestinian non-profit in Mississaugua, Ont.,
the Palestine House Educational and Cultural Centre. Palestine House received $950,000 from Ottawa last year and has received funding for the past 18 years to provide services to the Palestinian community in the Toronto area.
A Feb. 14 report on Mississauga.com stated that Jason Kenney, minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism,
sent a letter to Palestine House in January indicating the funding would cease due to concerns of the non-profit's "pattern of support for extremism." In the report, a spokesperson for the minister said Palestine House has in the last few years aligned itself with terrorist causes, including celebrating the release of terrorists and honoring the founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a group that "in the 1960s and '70s was responsible for numerous armed attacks and aircraft hijackings." (Canadian Jewish News)
- Do Good Fences Make Good Neighbors? - Shlomo Klapper
In its demonstration at the University of Pennsylvania, Penn For Palestine intentionally omits why the "wall" - more accurately, a security fence - was erected in the first place and why it is still necessary.
Israel built a security barrier to prevent Palestinian terrorists from infiltrating Israel. For years, Palestinian suicide bombers wreaked carnage in Israel, murdering nearly 1,000 civilians in cold blood. 21 teenagers were slaughtered by a terrorist at the beachside Dolphinarium dance club. Families at restaurants - unlucky enough that a suicide bomber chose the same cafe - never returned from lunch. Public buses were incinerated by Palestinian terrorists.
Like any sensible government (think: post-9/11 U.S.), the Israeli government's primary responsibility was to protect its citizens' security and safety. In order to thwart suicide bombers and other terrorists, Israel erected a security barrier - consisting of a fence and checkpoints - between the Palestinian territories and Israel. Only 5% of the barrier was constructed from concrete.
Has the Israeli security barrier been successful? Absolutely. In 2002, the year before construction started, 457 Israelis were murdered. In 2009, eight Israelis were killed. Suicide bombers are now a thing of the past.
- Israeli Soldiers Speak about Military Service - Alyxandra Goodwin
On Monday, Ran and Rania shared their stories about growing up in Israel and their experiences in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) during a tour sponsored by StandWithUs. Rania is a member of the Druze community, a small religious minority in the Middle East. As a Druze woman it was not mandatory for her to serve but she said she still did.
She shared her frustration with the images of Israeli conflict and its portrayal as an apartheid state.
"I see these images and I think where did I study, where did I grow up?" Rania said. "I used the same malls, the same banks, the same hospitals. I live with all of my neighbors: Arabs, Christians and Jews."
(San Jose State Spartan Daily)
Young Israelis on Mission to Improve Their Country's Image - Alison Healy
Eight young Israelis have come to Ireland to tell their stories in a bid to improve their country's image. The "Faces of Israel" group includes a Muslim policewoman, a journalist who is an Ethiopian Jew, an actor and a former soldier. One of the group is Adam Briscoe, grandnephew of former Fianna Fail parliamentarian Ben Briscoe.
Obama Must Act Promptly to Prevent a Nuclear Iran - Mortimer B. Zuckerman (U.S. News)
- The gravest national security challenge facing the U.S. is clearly how to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability. It is also the most urgent.
Conciliation has failed. Diplomacy has failed. Coercion has failed. Covert action has failed. These efforts have no doubt delayed the regime in Tehran, but they have not deterred it.
- The clock is running on atomic time. Iran is now about to cross the nuclear threshold and enter what is referred to as a zone of immunity. It is also seen close to having the ability to prepare more than one missile-ready device within about three months of a decision to proceed.
- U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says Iran "has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East and it is expanding the scale, reach, and sophistication of its ballistic missile force, many of which are inherently capable of carrying a nuclear payload." So what have these missiles to do with the development of nuclear power for the "peaceful" purposes Iran professes?
- There is a wise axiom, "Do not take the smallest chance of a catastrophic outcome." An Iran led by fanatical, brutal, and millenarian leaders may bring about such an outcome because their radical ideology makes them impervious to any deterrence that we normally think would restrain most countries.
- Iran has shown consistent hostility to the U.S. and its allies. It is by all accounts the world's chief sponsor of terrorism. It can transfer nuclear materials to terrorists with the same care for peace as it exhibits in supplying thousands of missiles to Hizbullah. Imagine the havoc it could create in the U.S. by making small nuclear "dirty" bombs and using suicide attackers to bring them into Manhattan or Los Angeles ports.
- Virtually every expert on the Middle East believes that Iran will use a nuclear weapon if it is able to gain one.
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