Report: Iranian Uranium-Enriching Facility "Is Damaged by Explosion" - Sheera Frenkel (The Times-UK)
An explosion is believed to have damaged Iran's Fordo nuclear facility, which is being used to enrich uranium, Israeli intelligence officials have told The Times. Sources in Tel Aviv said Sunday that they thought the explosion happened last week.
Former Iranian Diplomat: "Iran Would Definitely Use Nuclear Weapons on Israel" (Jerusalem Post)
If Iran makes a nuclear bomb "it would definitely use it against Israel or against any other enemy state," Mohammed Razza Hidari,
a former representative of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, told Israel's Channel 2 television on Friday.
Hidari defected two years ago in Oslo, Norway.
"The [Iranian] regime thinks that if it has several atom bombs, it will grant it an insurance policy.... They believe that the world would treat them the way it treats North Korea."
He also warned that if Iran is allowed to stall for more time, "it will have the knowledge to make a nuclear bomb in less than a year."
See also Iran Has Capacity to Quadruple Enrichment at Fordo - James G. Neuger (Bloomberg)
Iran would be able to quadruple the enrichment of 20% uranium at its Fordo facility by using all the centrifuges installed there, a European diplomat said Friday.
PA Behind Continued West Bank Unrest - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
IDF forces dispersed a violent protest of nearly 200 Palestinians on Saturday in the village of Anin, west of the West Bank city of Jenin.
The rioters gathered near the security fence and hurled stones at the soldiers. The troops used crowd-control measures to break up the riot.
The march was organized by the Prisoner Affairs Office in the Palestinian Authority.
Kfir Brigade Commander Col. Udi Ben Muha said,
"There is a rise in hostile and terror activity ever since Operation Pillar of Defense" (in November).
Israel Diaspora Affairs Ministry: Attacks Against Jews on the Rise - Sam Sokol (Jerusalem Post)
There has been "an alarming rise in the number of attacks against Jewish targets" over the past year, according to a new report on anti-Semitism in 2012 released on Sunday by the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry.
Minister Yuli Edelstein told the cabinet that a "preliminary analysis of trends" in data collected by the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University indicates that Israeli policy "does not constitute the main incentive for anti-Semitic actions against Jews."
London Sunday Times Marks Holocaust Memorial Day with Anti-Israel Cartoon - Tom Gross (Mideast Dispatch Archive)
On Sunday, International Holocaust Memorial Day, marking the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the (London) Sunday Times chose to run a large, grotesque, full-color cartoon libeling the State of Israel. View the cartoon here.
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- Israel Girds for Attacks as Syria Falls Apart - Jodi Rudoren and Anne Barnard
Israel deployed at least one Iron Dome missile defense battery in northern Israel on Sunday amid reports of intense security consultations regarding the possibility of Syrian chemical weapons falling into the hands of Islamist rebels or being transferred to Hizbullah. "If there will be a need, we will take action to prevent chemical weapons from being transferred to Islamic terror organizations," Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom told Army Radio.
"Something is happening for sure," said Ehud Yaari, a senior security analyst with Israel's Channel 2 News. "Even in Israel, which is usually tense...this is exceptional now." (New York Times)
See also Two Iron Dome Batteries Deployed in Northern Israel - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
See also Russia: Assad's Grip on Power "Slipping Away" - Matt Smith
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's odds of holding power "are slipping away," Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told CNN on Sunday.
Russia has "never said that our goal was to preserve the current political regime, or making sure that President Assad stays in power," he added. "That decision has to be made by the Syrian people." Medvedev said he personally lobbied Assad to open up his regime to reform and that his resistance was an "important, if not fatal" mistake.
See also Report: Syrian Rebels Free 300 from Jail
Syrian opposition fighters have freed 300 prisoners from Idlib Central Prison near the border with Turkey and found 30 others shot in the head by their jailers, an opposition activist said on Saturday.
See also More Lebanese Sunnis Crossing into Syria to Aid Rebellion - Babak Dehghanpisheh and Suzan Haidamous (Washington Post)
- Ehud Barak: U.S. Could Strike Iran to Block Nuclear Progress
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak says the U.S. has plans for surgical strikes against Iran as a last-ditch measure if Tehran refuses to stop its development of a nuclear weapons capability. In Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday, Barak said, "I don't see it as a binary kind of situation: either they [the Iranians] turn nuclear or we have a fully fledged war the size of the Iraqi war or even the war in Afghanistan. What we basically say is that if worse comes to worst, there should be a readiness and an ability to launch a surgical operation that will delay them by a significant time frame and probably convince them that it won't work because the world is determined to block them."
"We of course prefer that diplomacy will do. We of course prefer that some morning we wake up and see that the Arab Spring was translated into Farsi and jumped over the Gulf to the streets of Tehran, but you cannot build a plan on it. And we should be able to do it." That is, stage a surgical series of strikes.
Under orders from the White House, Barak noted, "the Pentagon prepared quite sophisticated, fine, extremely fine, scalpels. So it is not an issue of a major war or a failure to block Iran. You could under a certain situation, if worse comes to worst, end up with a surgical operation."
- Morsi Declares Emergency in 3 Egypt Cities as Unrest Spreads - David D. Kirkpatrick
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi declared a one-month state of emergency and a curfew in Suez, Ismailia and Port Said on Sunday where the police have lost all control, after four days of clashes in Cairo and other cities between police and protesters denouncing the government on the second anniversary of the popular revolt that ousted Mubarak. Tens of thousands of people marched through the streets of Port Said on Sunday demanding independence from the rest of Egypt. "The people want the state of Port Said," they chanted. Morsi deployed army troops to secure vital facilities in Port Said, but the soldiers watched without intervening as police battled civilian mobs.
In Cairo, fighting escalated near Tahrir Square as speakers demanded the repeal of the Islamist-backed constitution.
Young men huddled in tents making incendiary devices, while others set tires on fire to block a main bridge across the Nile. "There is going to be chaos for some time," said Moattaz Abdel-Fattah, a political scientist and academic who was a member of the assembly that drafted Egypt's new constitution.
(New York Times)
- UAE Charges "Plotters Linked to Muslim Brotherhood"
The United Arab Emirates has ordered 94 people to be tried on charges of trying to seize power.
The attorney general said the suspects had formed a group that publicly called on people to observe the teachings and values of Islam, but in secret sought to overthrow the state.
He said they had links to foreigners, including the Muslim Brotherhood.
Last year authorities detained more than 60 civil society activists, many connected to al-Islah, an Islamist group alleged by the government to have links to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Netanyahu: No Quick-Fix Solutions with Palestinians - Herb Keinon
There are no "quick-fix solutions" with the Palestinians, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday told five visiting U.S. congressmen from the House Appropriations Committee, headed by Jack Kingston (R-Ga.). Netanyahu said he wanted to move ahead with the Palestinian Authority toward an agreement, but that the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 and its aftermath showed that instant solutions were not possible.
Regarding Iran, Netanyahu said that "sanctions alone will not be enough" to get Tehran to halt its nuclear program, and that the sanctions needed to be coupled with a credible military threat. If there were such a credible threat, and the Iranians understood it, then diplomacy could succeed.
He said Iran's program must be halted at the uranium enrichment stage, and not when it entered the "weaponization" phase.
- Israel Marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day
Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Cabinet on Sunday:
"Today, we mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day....Anti-Semitism has not disappeared and - to our regret - neither has the desire to destroy a considerable part of the Jewish People and the State of Israel....What has changed is the ability of the Jews to defend themselves....Nobody will defend the Jews if they are not ready to defend themselves." (Prime Minister's Office)
See also International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2013 (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
See also Gathering the Fragments (Yad Vashem)
See also The Abuse of Holocaust Memory in 2011-2012 - Manfred Gerstenfeld (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- France at War Against Global Jihad - Freddy Eytan
Paris is very worried about the presence of Islamist and Salafist groups within France's Muslim community, which numbers more than six million. Mohamed Merah, who murdered three French soldiers and carried out the massacre at the Jewish school in Toulouse, has become a symbol and a hero among Muslim youth.
President Hollande's decision to send a military force to Mali was taken after a very real danger emerged that radical Islamic groups would take over the country. France still has important economic interests there including raw materials such as oil, gold, and uranium. About a quarter-million French subjects currently live in Africa.
Paris practices a double standard of morality, condemning Israel's retaliatory acts against Hamas or Hizbullah, while seeing fit to act against terrorists thousands of kilometers from its own territory. One should commend France's determined fight against global terror. But the time has come for sober internalization of the fact that the Islamic terrorists in Mali and the terrorists in Gaza, Sinai, or Lebanon belong to the same family and must be fought and eradicated together.
The writer, a former Israel Foreign Ministry senior advisor who served in Israel's embassies in Paris and Brussels, was Israel's first Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- The North African Threat to Europe - Dore Gold
French intelligence experts have traced the rise of jihadist forces in North Africa to Pakistani and Afghan preachers who began arriving in 2002-3 in Mali and Niger along with international jihadists who fled Afghanistan after the U.S. intervention drove them out. Niger is the sixth largest producer of uranium ore in the world.
Western analysts do not understand the blind hatred of the West as a whole among all the jihadist organizations associated with al-Qaeda. Many times in Europe it is hoped that by taking a more critical position against Israel, European diplomats can lower the flames of radical Islamic rage against them. But these policies simply don't work because the jihadists' readiness to attack the West comes from a desire to eradicate Western civilization and not from the pronouncements any European official either for or against Israel.
Israel's Electoral Shift Unlikely to Affect Peace in Near Term - Barbara Opall-Rome (Defense News)
- In post-election interviews, experts cautioned against drawing false conclusions from Israel's Jan. 22 ballot. An election driven largely by Israel's domestic agenda hardly reflects a broad-based repudiation of Israel's current political-military course.
- "Make no mistake, this election was not a referendum on war and peace," said Ron Ben-Yishai, a veteran political and security analyst. He said international observers should not expect "any breakthroughs" toward a Palestinian peace deal or new diplomatic strategies for coping with strategic challenges in the region.
- "Those who campaigned on diplomacy got no traction at the polls," said Efraim Inbar, a professor of political science and director of the Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University.
- "It's nonsense to say that the Israeli public is shifting away from the consensus that we have to block a nuclear Iran, we have to be strong in the face of terrorism, and that the Palestinian issue should stay on the back burner until there is a partner for negotiations."
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