Tunisians Head Abroad to Perform Jihad - Bouazza ben Bouazza and Paul Schemm (AP)
Tunisia, the cradle of the Arab Spring, is increasingly looking like the birthplace of jihadists. Evidence suggests it remains one of the top exporters of jihadists per capita.
Long before Tunisia ousted its dictator, the relatively prosperous country had the dubious distinction of exporting Islamic militants. Now, experts say the flow of fighters is getting worse.
Furthermore, the much more relaxed security approach of the country's new leaders is allowing extremist groups and their networks to flourish like never before, experts say.
Tunisians have turned up on the battlefields of Iraq, Syria, Libya and now Mali. The militants who seized a gas plant in Algeria and took dozens of foreign workers hostage were more than one-third Tunisian.
Danish Journalist Survives Assassination Attempt - Douglas Murray (Spectator-UK)
The assassin came to his home dressed as a postman.
When the historian and journalist Lars Hedegaard opened his front door, the man - whom Lars describes as "looking like a typical Muslim immigrant" in his mid-twenties - fired straight at his head.
Though Hedegaard was a yard away, the bullet narrowly missed. The 70-year-old scholar then punched his assailant in the head. The man dropped the gun, picked it up and fired again. The gun jammed and the man ran off. More than a week later, he has yet to be found.
A well-known figure in Denmark, Hedegaard set up the Free Press Society, which campaigns for the rights of journalists and cartoonists to express themselves without fear of murder, after the mainstream media's capitulation in the wake of the Mohammed cartoons affair.
Q: What of those who say, "Well, he ought to have known. This is what happens if you upset or provoke people"?
Hedegaard: "You could say the same thing about the Danish resistance movement during the German occupation. It was said to them: do not go out and sabotage. Collaborate and shut up, otherwise you'll get to a concentration camp and you'll be executed."
Video: Understanding Iranian Negotiating Behavior - Harold Rhode (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Dr. Harold Rhode, the author of "The Sources of Iranian Negotiating Behavior," served in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense and as advisor on Islamic affairs on the Pentagon's policy planning staff.
He believes the Iranians will say whatever is necessary to get to their goals.
"The Iranian government would like to have nuclear weapons so they will say all kinds of nice things to pacify Western governments, to make those governments believe that there is progress. The Iranians are buying time to build that nuclear weapon."
"The basis of Western dealings with Iran has been willful, delusional behavior. The West has not been willing to do what is necessary to stop the Iranian government from developing a nuclear bomb."
See also The Sources of Iranian Negotiating Behavior - Harold Rhode (ICA-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Israeli Footballer Barred from Training Session in Dubai - Sandy Rashty (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
Israeli footballer [soccer player] Itay Schechter, 25, who plays for Swansea City in the UK, was prevented from attending a six-day group training session in Dubai as a result of ongoing political tensions between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.
The UAE does not recognize Israel and Israeli passport holders can be arrested and deported on entering the UAE without a special visa.
Photo - New Road Sign: "Danger-Firebombs" (IMRA)
In reaction to increasing firebomb and rock throwing attacks on Israeli drivers in the West Bank, a new road
sign was placed on the road between Maale Shomron and Alfei Menashe,
Makor Rishon reported Tuesday.
Video: Overseas Youth Volunteer in Israel's Ambulance Corps (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Magen David Adom, the Israeli emergency medical service, runs an Overseas Volunteer Program which trains volunteers age 18 to 27 as first responders.
"It's a wonderful program...and I'd love coming back because I have a lot of friends in the station, and it feels that every day when I go on a shift I make a difference in someone's life," said one trainee.
Video - This is Israel: Resilience (Hasbara Fellowships)
Critically wounded by Hizbullah terrorists, Asael Lubotzki dramatically transforms from victim to healer.
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- Iran Could Use UN Talks as Cover to Build Bomb, Ban Ki-moon Says - Anne Gearan
The UN must be decisive and swift in judging whether diplomacy can resolve world concerns about Iran's nuclear program, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday, or invite the risk that Iran, like North Korea, will use talks as a cover to build a bomb.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Ban said he wants to accelerate diplomatic talks with Iran and give them new urgency. "We should not give much more time to the Iranians, and we should not waste time," Ban said. "We have seen what happened with the DPRK (North Korea)." The U.S. says Iran could assemble a weapon as soon as next year if it chose to do so. (Washington Post)
See also Iran Upgrades Devices at Nuclear Plant as Talks Resume - Alan Cowell (New York Times)
- North Korea Upgrading Rocket Launch Site, Possibly with Iran's Help
North Korea is upgrading one of its two major missile launch sites, apparently to handle much bigger rockets, and some design features suggest it is getting help from Iran, a U.S. research institute said Thursday. An analysis written for "38 North," the website of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, indicates that North Korea has made significant progress since October in constructing a new launchpad and other facilities at Tonghae.
The assessment, based on commercial satellite photos, says design features, including a flame trench covering that protects large rockets from the hot exhaust gases they emit on takeoff, is similar to one at a launch complex in Semnan, Iran, and hasn't been used by North Korea before.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Jordan May Import Natural Gas from Israel - Itai Trilnick
Israel has been conducting talks with Jordan on providing natural gas to power a potash plant on the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea.
The gas would be delivered through the Israeli gas pipeline that serves Israel Chemicals' Dead Sea Works plant in Sodom. Extending the pipeline to reach Jordan would not require a large investment.
- Jerusalem Mayor: No Divided City Has Ever Worked - Philip Podolsky
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat told a delegation from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
Thursday: "We need to look at the realities and recognize that no split city has ever worked.... Ideologically and practically, Jerusalem cannot and will not be divided."
Responding to increasing international pressure to freeze construction in east Jerusalem, Barkat said such moves would harm the interests of all Jerusalemites - including those living in the eastern portions of the city.
"When we build, we are building for everyone, including infrastructural projects and schools in east Jerusalem," the mayor said.
(Times of Israel)
- Why Iran Already Has the Bomb - Lee Smith
If North Korea has the bomb, then for all practical purposes Iran does, too. Consider the history of extensive North Korean-Iranian cooperation on a host of military and defense issues, including ballistic missiles and nuclear development.
"The North Koreans have been cooperating with Iran for about a decade on nuclear and missile issues, and the Iranians have several full-time weapons engineers on site in North Korea," said Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center in Washington, D.C.
Cooperation includes North Korean sales of technology and arms, like the BM-25, a missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and reaching Western Europe. Iran's Shahab 3 missile is based on North Korea's Nodong-1 and is able to reach Israel.
As one senior U.S. official told the New York Times, "the North Koreans are testing for two countries." If Tehran has paid for access to North Korea's program, it will also pay for a bomb. At this point, it could be only a matter of haggling over the price.
The widespread belief is that the North Koreans tested an enriched uranium device this time, while the first two tests used plutonium. Some experts suspect that if the bomb detonated Tuesday was using enriched uranium, this is yet another piece of evidence that Iran is likely "using North Korea as a backdoor plan for their own nuclear program." The writer is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Tablet)
- Syrian Weapons in Hizbullah Hands - Yiftah Shapir
Why would Syria move weapons to Hizbullah precisely when its army is in the midst of heavy fighting on Syrian territory?
A likely possibility is that the Syrian army is transferring to Hizbullah systems that it does not immediately need for its fighting against the rebels, but which it is interested in keeping on Lebanese territory, where it is safer from rebel attacks. This could explain the transfer of Scud missiles, which are complicated to operate and require a large force; it is difficult to imagine that Hizbullah has the wherewithal to operate these systems. It could also explain the transfer of air defense systems: since the rebels do not have an air force.
Advanced air defense systems in Lebanon would undoubtedly constitute a serious problem for Israel. The Israel Air Force (IAF) operates relatively freely over Lebanon today, gathering intelligence about both Lebanon and Syria. Until now, Hizbullah has apparently had very limited ability to interfere with this activity. The appearance of air defense systems such as the SA-17 is undoubtedly a red line for Israel, since their presence will make it difficult for the IAF to carry out most of its missions.
Another possible danger is the appearance of Bastion anti-ship missiles in Lebanon. The system could endanger ships and coastal installations along the entire coast of Israel if deployed from Lebanon. Its entry into Lebanese territory would certainly constitute a red line for Israel.
The writer is a senior research fellow at INSS.
(Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
- U.S. Options in Syria Worsen - Michael Rubin
There's an unfortunate tendency among foreign policy decision-makers in Washington to believe that all options remain on the table indefinitely.
Two years ago, it made sense to support the Syrian opposition. President Bashar al-Assad was a brute who supported Hizbullah, transformed Syria into an underground railroad for al-Qaeda terrorists infiltrating Iraq, and sought to build a covert nuclear program.
The U.S. is never the only player in the sandbox, however. By standing on the sidelines, the U.S. took a pass as supposed allies like Qatar and Turkey aided not the more liberal or nationalist Syrian opposition, but rather the most extreme elements.
The simple fact is that both Assad and the opposition are now both equally detrimental to U.S. national security interests. Washington has no good options. The idea that some moderate force might emerge in Syria committed to rebuilding their shattered state rather than perpetrating terror against Syria's own population and that of its neighbors is now an unrealistic dream.
- With Obama Trip Looming, New Realism Limits Options - James D. Besser
Ahead of President Obama's first official visit to Israel, a dramatically altered Middle East climate may relieve much of the international pressure that past presidents felt to become involved in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. At home, the subject of U.S. involvement has become so toxic that few politicians of either party see much point in actively supporting it.
Supporters of a more active U.S. role do not get much help from a Palestinian Authority with weak, vacillating leaders and no realistic plan for dealing with the split that has left Gaza in the hands of Hamas. Under the Obama administration, a new realism has crept into U.S. foreign policy that seems to eschew grand but inevitably futile and costly gestures.
The Washington foreign policy establishment is weary after years of fruitless peacemaking, and is increasingly refocused on dramatic changes in other parts of the Middle East and around the world. Support for Israel remains strong across the Washington political spectrum, but interest in helping Israel reach a peace agreement with its neighbors has gone deep underground.
In a dramatically changed world, "linkage" is more historical relic than current reality. Fanciful notions that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be the key to solving all the region's problems, and that Washington is the only force capable of doing it, have all but evaporated.
European leaders continue to express sympathy for the Palestinians and anger about Israeli policies, and have threatened to fill with their own initiatives what they see as the vacuum caused by the U.S. retreat from active involvement. But few analysts see that as much more than posturing by leaders dealing with their own crises. (New York Jewish Week)
- Europe Is Not Lost - Raanan Eliaz
Are Israel's relations with European countries in fact on the decline?
In June 2000, the EU signed its first Association Agreement with Israel. In 2005, Europe adopted the EU-Israel Action Plan to expand relations. In July 2012, the EU approved unprecedented steps to enhance Israel-EU relations in 60 trade and diplomatic policy areas, including increased access to the EU's single market, closer cooperation on transport and energy, and enhanced ties with nine EU agencies. In October 2012, the European Parliament ratified a critical framework agreement on Israeli industrial products, by a vote of 379-230.
The EU is also taking ever-stronger measures against Iran, Israel's number one adversary. In January 2012, the European Council imposed a total import ban on Iranian crude oil, petroleum products, and petrochemical products. In October 2012, the Council imposed a total import ban on Iranian natural gas, an embargo on key naval equipment and shipbuilding technology, prohibition of construction of new oil tankers for Iran, and limited EU financial institutions from dealing with Iranian banks and other financial entities outside Iran.
Europe continues to spurn Hamas, and is moving toward sanctions on Hizbullah. Most European countries showed understanding of Israel's plight, when continued rocket attacks from Gaza forced Israel to initiate Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012.
The writer is director general of ELNET, the European Leadership Network, promoting closer relations between key European countries and Israel.
(Times of Israel)
- Innovation in the Middle East - James G. Zumwalt
On Jan. 22, Iranian President Ahmadinejad railed against the West, saying: "Don't buy our oil? To hell with you. It's better if you don't buy...10 times more money will head into people's pockets through the inventions of our scientists." Yet Iran hasn't been an ideal environment for fostering the development of inventions with non-military applications.
During 1977-2011, 4,508,076 international patents were granted. Less than 3,800 went to Muslim countries. The Iranian patent contribution was 71. These numbers should come as no surprise: the more restrictive a state government is, the less creative are its people.
During this same period, Israel's patents exceeded 22,700 - almost six for every one granted a Muslim country and almost 3,200 for every Iranian patent. This is particularly impressive when one considers the much smaller global population base of Jews compared to that of Muslims (0.2% versus 25%).
A 2005 article by James Lacey posted on military.com noted, "In economic terms...the combined weight of the Arab states is less than that of Spain. Strip oil out of Mideast exports and the entire region exports less than Finland." The writer is a retired U.S. Marine Corps officer and author. (UPI)
- Conference of Presidents: American-Israeli Unity Strong as Ever - Anav Silverman
110 American Jewish leaders gathered this week in Jerusalem for the 39th annual mission of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
"This conference is designed to allow us to hear Israel's political, military and social leaders so we can devise specific ways to pro-actively work together to strengthen Israel," said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents. "There are 52 major Jewish organizations represented here. Our umbrella organization...was established in 1955....We come from all religious and political spectrums from across the U.S."
Columbia University Professor Richard Stone, Chairman of the Conference of Presidents, said Tuesday: "I reject the idea that there is a strained relationship between Israel and the United States." Hoenlein believes that Obama's visit to Israel "can be an opportunity to build between the two sides. I don't think he will propose or impose a plan (on Israel)." (Tazpit-Ynet News)
Israel's Challenging Diplomatic Predicament - Dore Gold (Israel Hayom)
- In light of developments over the last few years, there has been a growing realization in Israel that the chances of reaching a complete final status agreement with the Palestinians are presently extremely small. This is not just an ideological position coming out of certain quarters in Israel, but it is also the professional view of practitioners who have been involved in the political process itself.
- Yet there is a push underway to move forward with new negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians with the hope of concluding an agreement between them. British Foreign Secretary William Hague was just in Washington meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry where he called on the Obama administration "to inject the necessary momentum on this issue." There was a diplomatic rumor in January that the Europeans wanted Kerry to put down on the table the parameters of a final settlement before Israel and the Palestinians, including a withdrawal to the 1967 lines.
- Thus Israel finds itself in a paradoxical situation: just as international pressures are increasing for it to make new concessions in order to restart and advance the political process, there is growing realization in Israel that the kind of final status agreement that the international community is hoping will be concluded is not about to happen. The Palestinian side knows this as well.
- Some try to make the argument that the conventional military threat to Israel is undergoing a transformation, allowing Israel to make the very sort of new concessions that the Europeans are demanding.
With neighboring armies, like that of Syria, involved in domestic upheavals, their conventional forces have been badly degraded. Would that mean that Israel can withdraw from territories that in the past were regarded as vital but whose importance may have changed?
- This would be an irresponsible conclusion. First of all, the Arab states are likely to build up their conventional armies again in the future once their internal political situation becomes more stable; already Egypt has no problem seeking 200 additional Abrams tanks from the U.S., which will bolster the strength of its armored forces. After all, decisiveness in wars is still a function of the movement of ground armies and their maneuver units, and not through the employment of airpower alone. America's two wars against Iraq proved that point conclusively in 1991 and 2003.
- The result of all this talk coming out of Europe about getting the U.S. to impose a solution will be completely self-defeating as it hardens the Palestinian readiness to come to the negotiating table - since Israel will be delivered on a silver platter anyway - and makes any real diplomatic progress more difficult than ever.
The writer, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN, is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
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