Photos Reveal Advanced Antiaircraft Missiles in Syria - Ronen Solomon and Amir Rapaport (Israel Defense)
Satellite photography taken of the site near Latakia in Syria, which foreign publications claim was the site of an Israeli attack 10 days ago, prove that the targets of the attack were advanced Russian-made S-125 antiaircraft missile launchers.
The launchers were in the process of undergoing upgrades, which made them a substantial threat.
The satellite photos were taken on the actual day of the attack several hours before the missile batteries were destroyed.
Hizbullah Leader Vows to Keep Fighters in Syria to Shore Up Assad (AP-Washington Post)
Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah appeared at a Shiite religious ceremony in southern Beirut on Thursday, vowing to keep his fighters in neighboring Syria as long as needed to shore up President Assad's struggle against Syria's rebels.
In response, thousands of his followers waved their fists in the air and chanted, "At your service, Nasrallah."
Hamas Marks Anniversary of 2012 Israel Conflict with Military Parade (AP-USA Today)
Thousands of Hamas security men staged a military parade in Gaza on Wednesday in a massive show of force marking the anniversary of an eight-day battle against Israel last year.
Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hamad, who commands the security forces, called on Arabs in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel to unite in a holy war to "uproot the Jews" from Israel.
"A third intifada is approaching," he said. "Liberation is coming and victory is coming."
Islamic Jihad held its own rally, where 6,000 masked fighters marched with rifles, anti-aircraft missile launchers and mobile rocket launchers.
Top Hamas military commanders attended the Islamic Jihad parade.
Single-Minded Islamic Jihad Grows in Gaza's Shadows - Crispian Balmer and Nidal al-Mughrabi (Reuters)
Palestinian Islamic Jihad is quietly putting on muscle and has become the go-to group for both Iran and Syria.
"Islamic Jihad is dangerous because to a degree it is uncontrollable," said Yoni Fighel, a retired Israeli army colonel and a senior researcher at the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya.
"It doesn't have to feed all the Palestinians in Gaza, so it can be much more flexible and independent (than Hamas)."
A senior Israeli military official estimated that Islamic Jihad had 2-3,000 fighters. By comparison, Hamas had some 10,000 men to call on, with a further 10,000 in various police units.
Islamic Jihad receives more than $50 million a year in Iranian funding, Israel says.
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- U.S. Administration Faces Skepticism from Lawmakers on Iran - Jonathan Weisman and Michael R. Gordon
Secretary of State John Kerry faced extreme skepticism from lawmakers in both parties on Wednesday who worry the administration is prepared to give the Iranian government too much for too little. Kerry, briefing the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, made his case against moving forward with new sanctions on Iran.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said: "Put your mind-set that you're in Israel. There are not thousands of miles separating you. It's scores of miles. What we do has to be done right." Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said action on a new round of sanctions would actually help negotiations by allowing diplomats to say that absent major Iranian concessions, Mr. Obama's hands will be tied by Congress. (New York Times)
See also U.S. Lawmakers Question Obama's Plea for Iran Sanctions Pause - Patricia Zengerle and Timothy Gardner
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, still wants the new sanctions on Iran, a spokesman said after the briefing.
See also Senate Republicans Reject White House Plea on Iran - John Bresnahan and Burgess Everett
Senate Republicans are strongly rejecting a White House plea for a delay in a new round of economic sanctions against Iran.
After a classified briefing on Wednesday by top administration officials, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) said, "The pitch was very unconvincing. It was fairly anti-Israeli."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, "It's pretty obvious that what the administration is promoting is something the Israelis think is a bad deal for them. It's pretty clear the Sunni Arab allies of ours also think it's a bad deal. Looking at it strictly from an American point of view, I think it's a bad deal as well."
- Ousted President Morsi Accuses Egypt's Military Chief of Treason - Tamer El-Ghobashy
Egypt's ousted president, Mohammed Morsi, accused military chief Abdel-Fattah al Sisi of treason on Wednesday and said Egypt won't be stable until he is returned to office. It was his first message addressing the Egyptian public since he was removed from office in a military coup on July 3 and appeared to be an appeal to his supporters to take to the streets again. "This coup is over....It is falling apart and will fall in the face of the Egyptian people's resilience," Morsi's statement said.
The military-backed interim government has moved to ban the Muslim Brotherhood, seize members' assets and arrest nearly every top official along with hundreds of rank and file members.
(Wall Street Journal)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Palestinian Peace Negotiators Resign, Israel Unfazed - Khaled Abu Toameh and Herb Keinon
The Palestinian negotiating team with Israel has resigned in protest over continued construction in settlements and east Jerusalem neighborhoods, Palestinian sources confirmed Wednesday.
Israeli officials did not seem particularly fazed by the resignations, saying the Palestinian pattern of negotiation "brinkmanship" has occurred on numerous occasions.
"This is the way the Palestinians negotiate," an official said, adding that any crisis over settlement construction at this time was an artificial crisis. (Jerusalem Post)
- NGO: Hamas Torturing Political Prisoners
The Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights on Wednesday condemned the "arrest campaign launched by the Internal Security Service (of Hamas) against dozens of persons, including members of (the) Fatah (party) and children." Detainees told PCHR "that they were subject to torture, including being hit on hands and feet by a stick, punched all over their bodies, shackled, and forced to stand for long hours." (AFP-Ynet News)
- Lost Cause in Geneva - Ari Shavit
You want the real truth? The Americans are worn out. Going to Geneva is an effort to postpone the end, so that a nuclear Iran doesn't emerge now, on Barack Obama's watch, but immediately afterward.
But what the Americans haven't taken into account is: Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Israel. These countries now feel cheated, betrayed and threatened.
- How to Fix the Iran Nuclear Deal - Dennis Ross
Today, Iran has accumulated six bombs worth of enriched uranium; has produced close to 19,000 centrifuges, including more than a thousand of the next generation of IR-2 centrifuges which may be five times as efficient as their IR-1 predecessors; and is building a heavy-water plant capable of yielding plutonium.
We should make clear that we have a number of absolute requirements for any nuclear end-state agreement: Iran must dramatically reduce the number of centrifuges, ship out essentially all of its enriched uranium and, at a minimum, convert its heavy-water plant into a light-water reactor.
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- A Logical Answer to the Iran Nuclear Conundrum - Yuval Steinitz
According to the public statements of Iranian leaders, what Tehran really wants is "civilian nuclear energy." What the rest of the world wants is the confidence that Iran will not possess the capacity to produce nuclear weapons. These two demands can be reconciled by the following formula: nuclear electricity, yes; uranium enrichment, no. Iran could be permitted to operate a civilian nuclear reactor for the production of electricity and medical purposes, but it should agree to buy its nuclear fuel rods elsewhere.
Tehran argues that uranium enrichment has become part of its "national identity" and it would wound Iranian pride if it were forced to buy fuel rods abroad. In fact, there are 25 countries that operate purely civilian nuclear programs, and about 80% of them import nuclear fuel rods.
There is no automatic "right to enrich"; rather, permission to enrich is conditional on International Atomic Energy Agency approval which depends on meeting stringent requirements. The UN Security Council has already passed a series of binding resolutions contravening any Iranian right to enrich uranium. The writer is Israeli minister of intelligence.
- Guaranteeing that an Initial Deal with Iran Does Not Become the Final Deal - Amos Yadlin
The U.S. sees the initial agreement with Iran in Geneva as a prelude to serious negotiations on the final agreement. Israel believes that the relaxed sanctions are significant and may even lead to the dissolution of the sanctions regime altogether. Moreover, Israel is deeply concerned that the P5+1 will not reach any final agreement at the end of six months and that the initial agreement will become a permanent agreement. Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin is a former chief of Israeli defense intelligence and director of INSS.
(Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
Examining Nuclear Negotiations - Mark Dubowitz (Foundation for Defense of Democracies)
Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday:
- The U.S. administration seemed ready to give tens of billons of dollars in irreversible sanctions relief, in addition to the unilateral sanctions relief by blocking new Congressional sanctions, in exchange for the promise of reversible nuclear concessions that do not roll back or freeze enough of the critical elements of Iran's military-nuclear infrastructure.
- The administration has also undermined the deterrent effect of the U.S. military option. Senior administration officials have repeatedly warned about the grave dangers of U.S. or Israeli pre-emptive military strikes. With enhanced economic measures and the military option off the table, the administration is now hoping it can constrain the nuclear ambitions of the Islamic Republic by diplomacy alone, leading to a verification and inspection regime based on trust with an Iranian leadership that has a three decades-long track record of utter mendacity.
- To rationalize this decision to conclude an interim nuclear deal that falls well short of even the minimum requirements recommended by nuclear experts, the administration is betting on the hope that Rouhani is a true "pragmatist." "Pragmatism" doesn't make Iranian leaders less committed to an atomic weapon, less anti-American, or more averse to viewing terrorism as statecraft. Like other Iranian leaders, Rouhani wants both the bomb and sanctions relief.
- U.S. officials know Rouhani is lying when he says that the Islamic Republic has never had any intention of building an atomic weapon. Defecting Iranian nuclear engineers told U.S. officials in the late 1980s that the mullahs' program was designed exclusively for such arms. 19,000 centrifuges, a heavy-water plant, a robust ballistic missile program, and alleged testing of nuclear trigger technology - everything Western intelligence services have tracked since then matches those early revelations.
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