Report: Hizbullah Has 200 Iranian-Made UAVs - Roi Kais (Ynet News)
On Monday, security officials told the Lebanese paper Al-Jumhuriyah that Hizbullah "is performing tracking and surveillance on the border [with Syria] through the use of UAVs at night."
Hizbullah has close to 200 Iranian-made UAVs. Part of the fleet is destined for kamikaze actions on strategic national targets or airbases in Israel during the next crisis.
The kamikaze planes are capable of low-altitude flight to evade detection by radar.
The IDF has shot down Hizbullah UAVs on two previous occasions.
U.S. Offering to Destroy Syrian Chemicals at Sea (AP-Washington Post)
The Obama administration is offering to destroy some of Syria's chemical weapons in international waters aboard a U.S. ship, U.S. officials said Wednesday.
No country has committed to disposing of the chemical weapons on its own soil, which is why the U.S. offer is seen as a likely option.
Israel and U.S. to Hold Military Exercises in May - Karl Vick and Aaron J. Klein (TIME)
Over the next six months, Israel will likely continue to dissent over the Iran deal, while making conspicuous efforts to rehabilitate the military threat that did so much to bring Tehran's project onto the agenda.
"In May there's going to be a joint training exercise with the Americans," a high-ranking Israeli officer tells TIME.
Israel and the U.S. routinely hold joint exercises, and a spokesman for the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) said the exercise in the spring was planned independent of events unfolding in the region.
Palestinian Electricity Debt Passes NIS 1B - Amiram Barkat (Globes)
Palestinians' debt to the Israel Electric Corporation exceeded NIS 1 billion by the third quarter of 2013.
Palestinian consumers frequently do not pay their electricity bills, and Israel used to deduct the debt from the Palestinian Authority's VAT revenues.
This practice was halted at the order of the U.S., and the Palestinians' debt has since ballooned undisturbed.
This means that the Palestinians' electricity debt is becoming a time bomb.
PA Song Vows Unending Violence - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik (Palestinian Media Watch)
At an event marking the anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat, the Popular Arts and Military Music group performed the song "My Weapon Has Emerged," wearing military uniforms.
The lyrics of the song encourage and glorify violence and martyrdom for Allah. The PA often chooses this song to be performed at official events.
Unprecedented Number of Fighters from Europe in Syria - Thomas Hegghammer (Washington Post)
Since 2011, at least 1,200 European Muslims have gone to Syria to fight with the rebels.
This is the largest European Muslim foreign fighter contingent to any conflict in modern history.
Some of these foreign fighters may return to perpetrate attacks in the West.
While France, Germany and the UK have the largest foreign fighter contingents in Syria, Denmark, Norway, Belgium and Austria have contributed a much higher proportion of their population.
The writer is a political scientist with the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment.
West Must Convince Iran to Give Up Its Radical Agenda - Maya Shwayder (Jerusalem Post)
Abraham D. Sofaer, a veteran U.S. negotiator now at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University, told the Jerusalem Post:
"The U.S. will fail to deal effectively with the Iranian nuclear threat if it attempts only to negotiate with the aim of allowing Iran to have a 'peaceful' nuclear program."
"Iran is a fundamentally radical regime that has successfully attacked the U.S. directly and through surrogates for over 30 years, and it will remain a grave threat to international security unless it is convinced to give up its radical agenda."
Israel Made Geneva Deal Possible - Anshel Pfeffer (Ha'aretz)
The Geneva deal is far from perfect, but it is very hard to see how any agreement would ever have been reached if for the last decade and a half Israel had not been engaged simultaneously in an intensive diplomatic campaign, one of the largest joint intelligence operations in history, and, for at least the last four years since Benjamin Netanyahu returned to the Prime Minister's Office, a public relations offensive - all aimed at building pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear program.
Zambia's Plans to Revive Ties with Israel Hailed - Willie Nyendwa (Times of Zambia)
I was thrilled that Foreign Affairs Minister Wylbur Simuusa said that Zambia needs to revive and strengthen relations with Israel.
America's founding fathers remind modern Americans of Israel's great contributions to America.
In a letter to Thomas Jefferson, John Adams said, "I will insist that the Hebrews have done more to civilize man than any other nation."
From "Special Cases" to "Special Forces" - Lilach Shoval (Israel Hayom)
The Eitan program for soldiers from problematic socio-economic backgrounds sent 29 soldiers to squad leaders' courses and 8 to officers' courses this year, double last year's numbers.
The program was the initiative of former IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Rafael Eitan.
November 29, 1947 - UN Adopts Palestine Partition Resolution (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly voted in favor of the establishment in Mandatory Palestine of an Arab state and a Jewish state.
The adoption of the partition resolution was received by the Jewish community with great joy, though it was clear that the Arab states and the Palestinian Arabs would embark on a relentless war against the plan to establish a Jewish state.
Test your knowledge of the events of November 29, 1947.
Click here to take the quiz.
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- European Firms Size Up Iran's Post-Deal Potential - Alexandra Hudson
The phone hasn't stopped ringing at the German-Iranian Chamber of Commerce since six world powers reached a deal with Tehran to curb its nuclear program, opening the prospect that Iran can begin to shake off its economic isolation.
With massive oil and gas reserves, an urgent need to overhaul its creaking infrastructure, and a young population of 76 million, Iran is of particular interest to export champion Germany, once Iran's largest trade partner. "We are speaking to companies interested in doing business with Iran all day," said Michael Tockuss, director of the chamber of commerce.
Tockuss said there was "not only appetite from Germany. American firms are also very interested." (Reuters)
See also After Geneva Agreement, Major Foreign Companies Eye Trade with Iran - Zvi Bar'el
Foreign conglomerates are lining up to do big business with Iran, now that the country has won limited sanctions relief in the Geneva nuclear accord signed Sunday.
- Fear in Syrian Capital as Mortar Shells Rain Down
As President Assad's forces press ahead with an offensive in the Syrian capital, rebels are increasingly hitting back by sending volleys of mortar shells crashing into central Damascus. They fall randomly, often during rush hour, smashing into schools, businesses, churches and homes, leaving a trail of death and terror.
Dozens of shells have struck the historic city center and surrounding areas in the past two weeks, launched from rebel-held neighborhoods on the outskirts.
Much of the recent shelling has centered on Christian-majority areas in the Old City. Christians are convinced that Islamic extremists among the rebel fighters are deliberately targeting their neighborhoods.
On Thursday, a mortar shell landed inside the Russian Embassy in Damascus, killing one Syrian and wounding nine, including guards, the Russian Foreign Ministry said. The death toll and damage is relatively minor compared to opposition-held urban centers which have been battered - in some cases entire blocks have been leveled - by Syrian army warplanes, heavy artillery and street fighting.
- After Assad, Syrian Democrats Learn to Fear Al-Qaeda - Mariam Karouny
Across northern Syria, where Assad's government has ceded territory to an array of militias, the rising power is militant Islam and men who see democracy as the work of the devil and hope for a state ruled by religion. Reuters spoke to 19 Syrians who describe themselves as activists for democracy. All gave similar accounts of violence and intimidation by militant Islamists in northern areas.
They say Islamist militants have begun a campaign to silence them and free speech in general. Last month, two media activists were shot dead in Aleppo. Some have been seized and are being held. Others have simply disappeared. In particular, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an al-Qaeda-linked group dominated by foreigners, does not tolerate critics.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- U.S. Now Indicates Iran Interim Deal Wasn't Quite Finalized - Rebecca Shimoni Stoil
Iran is currently enjoying a "window" of time before the six-month deal signed in Geneva on Sunday goes into effect, during which it is not bound to take any credible steps toward disabling its ability to produce a nuclear weapon, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki acknowledged Tuesday. "The next step here is a continuation of technical discussions at a working level so that we can essentially tee up the implementation of the agreement," Psaki said Tuesday. "Obviously, once those technical discussions are worked through, I guess the clock would start." (Times of Israel)
See also How U.S. Diplomacy Is Empowering Iran - Avi Issacharoff
Not only has the six-month interim agreement not yet come into effect, but also Iran is free to proceed with its military program at full speed until the deal's final "technical" details have been worked out. Experts have also said the agreement leaves the Iranians the ability to manufacture crucial components for their nuclear program outside the Arak facility and install them if the site is reopened.
According to Prof. Asher Susser of the Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University: "An important historical shift is now reaching its climax. The Middle East's center has shifted from the Arab countries to the Persian Gulf. And when the U.S. permits Iranian hegemony, it projects onto the situation in Syria, Iraq and other places."
According to Susser, if these processes continue, the Arab countries will have no choice but to tighten bonds with Iran. "They won't like it but they may not have any other alternative." (Times of Israel)
- Four Arabs Arrested for Wounding Israeli Infant with Rocks in Jerusalem - Noam Dvir
Police and Border Guard officers arrested four Arabs, aged 15 to 20, in connection to the rock-throwing incident Thursday that wounded 2-year-old Avigail Ben Zion. Avigail was hit in the head by a rock thrown through the windshield of the family car as her mother was driving in Jerusalem. Police said the incident was most likely nationalistically motivated.
- Why Some U.S. Allies Disapprove of the Iran Agreement - James F. Jeffrey
Many of Washington's Middle East partners have reacted negatively to the new "first-step" agreement with Iran. Middle Eastern allies are increasingly questioning whether America is serious about running an international security system from which it benefits and by which they literally survive.
They see indecision and seeming antipathy about how to confront certain regional threats in Washington's shifting positions, including
openly leading from behind on Libya, rooting for the ouster of a thirty-year ruler in Egypt, and backing down at the last minute from bombing Syria. Once this type of questioning begins, the trust that is essential to any close relationship is replaced by suspicion.
Of course, Washington cannot run a global security system without making tactical agreements with foes, at times nourished with compromises, particularly at a time when numerous polls show that many Americans oppose new military action in the region. But such agreements and their attendant compromises are only acceptable to our regional partners if Washington simultaneously demonstrates resolve, toughness, and, if necessary, a willingness to fight.
Above all, the next time a crisis looms, the administration should not give the impression that job one is avoiding any military response, however limited, justified, and minimally risky.
The writer served as assistant to the president and deputy national security advisor in the George W. Bush administration, with a special focus on Iran, and as principal deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department.
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- Lessons from North Korea for the Iran Nuclear Deal - Joel Wit
As a State Department official, I spent a decade negotiating and implementing a denuclearization agreement with North Korea, the 1994 Agreed Framework, a landmark deal that collapsed in 2002. The U.S. negotiator on the Iran deal, Wendy Sherman, was also involved in the Clinton administration's dealings with North Korea.
There are important lessons to be learned from our past difficulties with Pyongyang. First, the U.S. should avoid the "problem solved" mentality that inevitably follows landmark agreements. Once the 1994 accord was concluded, senior U.S. government officials paid a lot less attention to North Korea.
Second, without a thawing of bilateral political relations, nuclear deals ultimately fail. The two go hand in hand since countries build nuclear weapons in part to respond to a perceived security threat. Continuing periodic tensions on issues unrelated to the nuclear agreement undermined implementation. The same danger exists with Iran given its history of bad relations with Washington and Israel, as well as a raft of differences on other issues, such as support for terrorist groups.
Third, plan for disputes and cheating. When North Korea withdrew from the agreement and restarted its nuclear program, the administration had no alternative but to seek new nuclear negotiations.
The lessons here for the Iran accords are clear. First, build in mechanisms for dispute resolution, through both existing diplomatic channels and a compliance commission created specifically for that purpose. Second, formulate a plan of political, economic, and even military steps that can be taken if problem-solving fails. The writer is a visiting scholar at the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.
- Israel Takes for Granted that the Iranians Will Cheat on Nukes - Yossi Klein Halevi
There are only two credible obstacles to an Iranian bomb: economic sanctions and the possibility of an Israeli military strike. The deal signed with the Iranian regime threatens both. Israelis note that the interim deal doesn't cover inspections of Iran's nuclear weaponization program, including fuses, timers and metallurgy, which will no doubt continue apace. And Israel takes for granted that the Iranians will persist in doing what they've done all along: lie and cheat, but this time under the cover of a deal. In every previous round of negotiations, after all, the Iranians continued building secret facilities.
Much of the international community assumes that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is bluffing when he insists that Israel is prepared to confront Iran alone if necessary. But the determination of this Israeli government shouldn't be underestimated. A nuclear bomb in the hands of a regime that routinely dehumanizes Israel and threatens it with destruction - just last week, Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khameini called Israel a "rabid dog" - would end Zionism's promise to create a safe refuge for the Jewish people. The writer is a senior fellow of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.
- A Saudi-Israeli Alliance? - James Zumwalt
In Shiite-dominated Iran, the mullahs remain committed to developing nuclear weapons with which to threaten Sunnis and the West.
This has created a once unthinkable alliance in the region of states truly committed to denying Tehran nuclear weapons.
Saudi Arabia fully understands Iran's threat is real.
It understands why Iran pursues a nuclear weapon - to trigger its end-of-world belief of the 12th Imam's return.
It also understands Iran's plan involves wrestling Islam's two most religious sites - Mecca and Medina - from the Saudis as "Guardians" of same - a role Iran believes destiny demands it play.
There are signs Saudi Arabia recognizes Israel has the commitment to prevent Iran from going nuclear and that an Israeli attack may well represent Riyadh's last best hope to stop Iran as Israel
steps into the void left by Washington.
A retired U.S. Marine, Lt. Col. James Zumwalt served in the Vietnam War, the U.S. invasion of Panama and the first Gulf War.
- The Geneva Agreement: The Devil Is in the Wider Picture - Dore Gold
Iran's quest for nuclear weapons is being made by a country with unquestionable hegemonic ambitions in the Middle East.
Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces are on the ground in Syria, not just training the Syrians but directly involved in the mass murder of innocent civilians.
Their ambition is to make Syria into an Iranian satellite, placing Iran as a power in the Eastern Mediterranean. The head of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's think tank already characterized Syria this year as "the 35th district of Iran." In the last five years, Iranian weapons ships have been cruising in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, fueling insurgencies in Yemen, Gaza, and Lebanon.
The big question then is not how Washington will handle the inevitable violations in this agreement, but how it will handle the next moves of Iranian expansionism. For as Iran approaches a nuclear threshold capacity, it is likely to become emboldened. The writer is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
- U.S. Blindspot Shows on the Iran Nuclear Deal - Jonathan Spyer
The newly announced deal on the Iranian nuclear program appears to be the outcome of a long, unseen, bilateral negotiation between the U.S. and Iran.
The present U.S. administration is simply unconvinced that Iran's regional ambitions represent a dangerous destabilizing force.
This blindspot is strange. The evidence is plain to see: Iran is an active participant in the Syrian civil war. It dominates Lebanon through Hizbullah. It is closely allied with the government in Iraq. It is engaged in subversion in Bahrain, north Yemen, Kuwait and eastern Saudi Arabia. It actively sponsors Palestinian terror groups engaged in violence against Israel - most importantly Islamic Jihad and Hamas, but also elements within Fatah. The nuclear program is intended to render Iran invulnerable to any serious action to resist or turn back its push for regional domination.
Iran has engaged in falsehood and prevarication ever since the discovery of its nuclear program a decade ago. Its intentions are plain and its fingerprints are all over the region. Yet when confronted by ambitious and ideological forces, determined to transform the region in their own image, this administration behaves as though it is dealing with reasonable and amicable partners.
The writer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs Center and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.
- Iran after Geneva - Clifford D. May
To be fair, the document signed in Geneva is not meant to neutralize the threat posed by those who rule Iran. It is meant only to be a "confidence building" measure, a first step toward a "comprehensive solution."
The preamble to the document signed in Geneva states: "Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons." President Obama reads that as a significant concession. But it is a claim that Iran's rulers have repeated many times in the past. We know beyond any reasonable doubt that they have not been telling the truth.
Iran's rulers are the world's leading sponsors of terrorism abroad and abusers of human rights at home.
Are the U.S. and other nations now complicit in the big lie that the nuclear infrastructure they have assembled is intended only to provide electricity for kindergartens and hospitals that prefer not to rely on Iran's abundant petroleum reserves? Call me a "naysayer," but the Geneva plan doesn't build my confidence.
The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
- Israel Not First Priority of Regional Jihadists - Ron Ben-Yishai
The turmoil in the Arab world has given the global jihad renewed momentum. The weapons plundered in Libya and the areas with no governance created in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sinai, Iraq, North Africa and Sahel allow al-Qaeda-affiliated groups to gain power and serve as the driving force of the fighting against the old regimes.
Yet intelligence experts note that the immediate level of danger to Israel is not high, as these groups have set priorities: First bringing down the regimes and taking over Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Sinai, establishing Sharia countries, and only at a later stage an all-out war against Israel.
- What Brought a Palestinian to Murder a Sleeping Israeli? - David Horovitz
Eden Atias, conscripted into the Israeli army just two weeks earlier, was fast asleep in his seat on a bus inside Israel when he was knifed over and over by Hussein Rawarda, a Palestinian consumed with hate who happened to be sitting next to him. This assault demonstrates an atmosphere and a mindset evidently prevalent among at least some Palestinians in the West Bank that leaves no room for optimism in the short-term.
Rawarda deliberately ended the short life of a young man about whom he knew nothing, who had never done him any harm. Killed Eden Atias because he was an Israeli. Killed him because the opportunity to kill him presented itself.
Right now, day after day - in Gaza and the West Bank, and in countries all across the region - millions of young minds like that of Hussein Rawarda are being gradually poisoned. Children are being persuaded by those they trust that all Israelis, most certainly including uniformed young Israelis helpfully asleep on the bus, must be culled.
The insistent approach of the international community is to focus almost exclusively on the imperative to tackle the problematics of the settlement enterprise, while doing next-to-nothing to tackle the carefully cultivated, pervasive negation of Israel's legitimacy among Palestinians. That approach constitutes an absolute guarantee that peace efforts will never succeed.
The main enemy of Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation is the hatred for Israel that is being nurtured daily in the hearts of so many in the West Bank and Gaza - the constant peddling of the narrative that says Israel has no right to exist.
(Times of Israel)
- The Battle over the Temple Mount - Nadav Shragai
The Jewish festival of Hannukah, which began Wednesday evening, commemorates the return of the Maccabees to the Temple Mount some 2,150 years ago to resume divine service in the Jewish Temple.
For more than a generation, the Palestinians have been systematically working to deny the existence of the Jewish Temple. Their stubborn refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish state is related to that denial.
Senior PLO officials Nabil Shaath, Saeb Erekat, and Yasser Abed Rabbo, as well as PA President Mahmoud Abbas, all question the very existence of the Jewish Temple at the Temple Mount.
They attempt to paint Jewish claims as imaginary, while at the same time trying to destroy archeological evidence that threatened to invalidate their lies.
The destruction of the First Jewish Temple by Nebuchadnezzar is a firmly established motif in Islamic literature, according to the writings of Arab historian Al-Muqaddasi from the 10th century, the poet Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi in the 13th century, and Iranian legal scholar Al-Mastufi in the 14th century.
In the mid-20th century, Palestinian historian and East Jerusalem Mayor Aref al-Aref wrote that the Temple Mount is located at Mount Moriah, which King David purchased for building the Temple, eventually built by Solomon in 1007 BCE. First century Roman Jewish scholar Josephus saw the Temple with his own eyes and documented its destruction.
- The Close Relationship between the U.S. National Guard and Israel - Noga Tarnopolsky
Behind the political facade, technical and professional teams from the U.S. and Israel work side by side to an extent otherwise almost unknown between sovereign states.
Consider this: The only foreign posting of the U.S. National Guard Bureau is at the headquarters of Israel's Home Front Command in central Israel where Col. Alicia Tate-Nadeau, 49, has been embedded with Israeli forces for two years.
The relationship is mutual: Israeli Lt. Col. Ariel Blitz, 38, is the HFC's sole representative abroad, stationed at the U.S. National Guard headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.
Both military bodies serve the primary task of assisting civilian populations during times of extraordinary peril. 31 joint events were held in fiscal year 2013, according to Rose Richeson, the National Guard Bureau spokeswoman.
They worked together to prepare Israel's emergency field hospital mission in the Philippines. Col. Tate-Nadeau explained: "My job was the bilateral work between the United States and Israel, to enable Israel to move in their advance party and later their main body, getting initial contacts on the ground, using our people to find out who to talk to and make it all run a little smoother." (GlobalPost)
Final Iran Deal Needs to Balance Out the Concessions - Editorial (Washington Post)
- The fact sheet distributed by the Obama administration about the nuclear agreement with Iran is notable for its omissions. The document, like President Obama's televised statement about the deal, stresses Iran's pledge to cap its enrichment of uranium, delay the completion of a plutonium-producing reactor and accept additional inspections - measures that will guard against an attempt to produce a bomb while negotiations continue.
- What the White House didn't report is that the text of the accord makes several major concessions to Tehran on the terms of a planned second-stage agreement. Though White House officials and Secretary of State John F. Kerry repeatedly said that Iran's assertion of a "right to enrich" uranium would not be recognized in an interim deal, the text says the "comprehensive solution" will "involve a mutually defined enrichment program with mutually agreed parameters."
- In other words, the U.S. and its partners have already agreed that Iranian enrichment activity will continue indefinitely. In contrast, a long-standing U.S. demand that an underground enrichment facility be closed is not mentioned.
- The most troubling part of the document provides for what amounts to a sunset clause in the comprehensive agreement. It says the final deal will "have a specified long-term duration to be agreed upon," and that once that time period is complete, "the Iranian nuclear program will be treated in the same manner as that of any non-nuclear weapon state party" to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
- Iran thus could look forward to a time when there would be no sanctions and no special restrictions on its nuclear capacity; it could install an unlimited number of centrifuges and produce plutonium without violating any international accord.
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