Iranian Hackers Use Fake Facebook Accounts to Spy on U.S., Others - Jim Finkle (Reuters)
In a three-year cyber espionage campaign, Iranian hackers created false social networking accounts and a fake news website to spy on military and political leaders in the U.S., Israel and other countries, a cyber intelligence firm said on Thursday.
ISight Partners, which uncovered the operation, said the hackers' targets include a four-star U.S. Navy admiral, U.S. lawmakers and ambassadors, members of the U.S.-Israeli lobby, and personnel from Britain, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Wanted Hizbullah Commander Killed in Syria (AFP)
Fawzi Ayoub, a leading Hizbullah commander in the Aleppo area, was killed fighting in Syria, AFP learned Tuesday.
The FBI's website says Ayoub was indicted in the U.S. in 2009 for "willfully and knowingly" trying to enter Israel with a fake U.S. passport "for the purpose of conducting a bombing."
Ayoub, who had lived in Canada, was arrested in Israel in 2000. He was released three years later in a prisoner swap with Hizbullah.
Mahmud Hayek, another Hizbullah member suspected of trying to assassinate Lebanese MP Boutros Harb in 2012, was killed fighting in Syria in a separate incident.
Brussels does not have a majority Muslim population, as reported here on May 28.
In 2013, Muslims comprised 26% of the population of metropolitan Brussels, making it one of the most Islamic cities in Europe.
Large-Scale Exercise in Jordan Gets Underway - Hendrick Simoes (Stars and Stripes)
Eager Lion, a two-week, 22-nation exercise that includes 6,000 U.S. troops, has kicked off in Jordan. In all, more than 12,000 personnel will take part.
This fourth annual Jordanian-led exercise focuses on a wide range of offensive and defensive operations that include disaster relief, strategic communication and rescue operations.
Eager Lion will run until June 8.
Why the Chinese Bought Tnuva - David Rosenberg (Ha'aretz)
China's Bright Food agreed last week to buy control of Tnuva - Israel's biggest food maker. Tnuva is quintessentially Israeli. It had been owned by kibbutzim and makes cottage cheese.
But the fact is, Tnuva is going to remain Israeli as ever. Not only has Bright Food agreed to keep the company's management Israeli, it has every interest in doing so.
Capturing the Israel food market, which is no bigger than a medium-sized Chinese city, isn't what Bright Food is after.
What Bright Food wants is access to Israeli dairy technology.
Israeli farm conditions - too little water and too much heat - approximate those in China, yet Israeli cows are the world's leading milk producers, giving three or four times more milk than their Chinese peers.
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- Next Round of Full Iran Nuclear Talks on June 16-20 in Vienna - Laurence Norman
International negotiations over Iran's nuclear program will continue in Vienna on June 16-20, the EU said Tuesday, as Tehran and Western powers seek to complete a broad nuclear deal by July 20. That deadline could be extended by a further six months. Nuclear experts will meet in Vienna on June 5-6 for further talks.
Last Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Obama administration may reopen a bilateral negotiating channel with Iran in an effort to seal a nuclear agreement by this summer. Secret talks between Washington and Tehran proved key to unlocking last November's interim nuclear agreement.
(Wall Street Journal)
- Chemical Weapons Inspectors Escape Attack in Syria - Ben Hubbard
An international team sent to investigate allegations that chlorine gas had been used as a weapon in Syria's civil war came under attack on Tuesday, forcing it to abort its mission to reach Kfar Zeita, a village where numerous such attacks have been reported. One of the team's vehicles was hit with an explosive charge. (New York Times)
- Jordan Jails 11 Islamists over U.S. Embassy Plot
A Jordanian military tribunal handed jail terms of between four and 20 years on Wednesday to 11 people it convicted of plotting to attack the U.S. embassy for al-Qaeda in 2012.
The group, arrested in October 2012, planned to "attack shopping malls in Amman to divert the attention of security services before firing mortar rounds at the U.S. embassy." (AFP)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Formation of Palestinian Unity Government Runs into Obstacles - Khaled Abu Toameh and Tovah Lazaroff
Differences between Fatah and Hamas may delay the formation of a Palestinian unity government, Palestinian sources said Wednesday. The sources told the Palestinian Al-Quds newspaper that one obstacle related to Hamas' rejection of the idea of permitting Fatah-dominated security forces to return to Gaza. The second obstacle centers on PA Minister of Religious Affairs Mahmoud Habbash, a former Hamas representative who defected several years ago and has since been an outspoken critic of the Islamist movement. A third obstacle is Hamas' demand that 40,000 of its supporters be placed on the PA's payroll.
- Abbas Vows to Uphold Security Coordination with Israel - Elhanan Miller
PA President Mahmoud Abbas told a group of visiting Israelis that security cooperation with Israel would persist despite a unity pact with Hamas. "Security coordination is sacred and will continue whether we agree or disagree on policy," Ma'an news agency reported.
(Times of Israel)
See also IDF: No Change in Security Cooperation with PA - Yaakov Lappin
Israeli security officials have expressed doubt that the unity deal between Fatah and Hamas will result in tangible changes in security coordination on the ground. The coordination is based on the premise that stability in the West Bank serves both Israel and the PA. "So long as there are no changes on the ground, the agreement does not matter from a security perspective," a senior Israeli defense source said. "At the moment, we are not seeing any changes....We are continuing to see cooperation." (The Investigative Project)
- Palestinians Stone Bus in Jerusalem, Injuring 7 - Lazar Berman
On Wednesday, as thousands of Israelis celebrated Jerusalem Day, Palestinians attacked a city bus with rocks in eastern Jerusalem, injuring seven passengers. In addition, nine Palestinians were arrested near Damascus Gate for hurling stones at Israeli police. Israeli police earlier closed off the Al-Aqsa compound on the Temple Mount after Palestinians threw stones at security forces as a group of Jewish visitors was touring the site.
(Times of Israel)
- Egypt: Al-Sisi Wins Election by Landslide
Egypt's former military chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has won a crushing victory over his sole opponent with more than 92% of the votes, according to results announced by his campaign on Thursday.
See also Egypt's Military Ruler Suffers an Embarrassment at the Polls - Editorial
The turnout in Egypt's presidential election was disastrously low. While an official newspaper reported a figure of 37% Wednesday, other sources, including the sole opposition candidate, said it was closer to 15%.
See also In Egypt, a Pyrrhic Landslide Victory
Egypt's former military chief won in a historic landslide - only to shatter his image of invulnerability in the process. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's campaign said
the turnout nationwide was 44%, well below the 52% turnout in the 2012 election that the Islamist Mohammed Morsi won.
- The Netanyahu/Pope Francis Spat over Jesus that Wasn't - Yair Rosenberg
To judge by media reports, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a testy exchange with Pope Francis over whether or not Jesus spoke Hebrew. The Chicago Tribune soon dubbed the incident a "spat," and by the time it made its way to The Age in Australia, Netanyahu was said to have "publicly bickered" with the Pope. The Forward tweeted "#Jesusgate spat over Hebrew ends testy #PopeFrancis visit with Benjamin Netanyahu."
As the video of their discussion shows, Pope Francis is laughing throughout the entire exchange, which to a normal observer would appear to be an amiable conversation, not a "spat." As New York Times Middle East reporter Liam Stack tweeted, "not sure this counts as sparring." Despite attempts by some media outlets to imply otherwise, the incident is not indicative of any hostility Francis harbors towards the Israeli prime minister.
- Muslim Brotherhood Activities Need to Be Probed in Canada, Report Says
The Canadian government should investigate the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has entrenched itself in North America and represents a greater systemic threat than al-Qaeda, according to a new report by Tom Quiggin, a court expert on terrorism and member of the Terrorism and Security Experts of Canada Network.
"The aim of the group in North America is to weaken and destroy the free and open societies within Canada and the U.S.A. from within and replace them with the heavily politicized views of [founder] Hassan Banna, Sayyid Qutb and the Muslim Brotherhood," the report said. This year, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced he had ordered an inquiry into the group's activities in the UK.
"One of the points of this report was to say 'Hey look, this group exists, the amount of money they're moving around runs tens of millions of dollars, they're funding terrorist groups all over the place. At a certain point we have to ask 'Do we want this behavior to continue?'" Quiggin said.
Iran's Strategy to Develop Nuclear Weapons - Harold Rhode and Joseph Raskas (Gatestone Institute)
- The Persians seem to have perfected the art of deception. In Persian, taqiyah means dissimulation, while ketman means paying lip service to someone in a position of authority while disagreeing with what they are saying. Both methods consist of telling someone who might harm you what you think they want to hear.
- Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, is likely wielding this strategy against President Obama and the other European leaders, with whom Iran is "negotiating" over its nuclear program, lulling their opponents into a false sense of complacency.
- This is especially clear from the way Rouhani constantly talks about the chances of success for the negotiations, while at the same time setting demands which the West cannot tolerate. If things go as the Iranians plan, Iran will have the time it needs to acquire nuclear capability.
- In the meantime, the Iranians have extracted substantial, irreversible concessions from the West in exchange for illusory, reversible limits on its nuclear program.
- President Obama has emphatically repeated that Iran will not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon on his watch. Indeed, the president has said, "all options are on the table," including the "military component." But any threat of military force is credible only if the opposing party believes it is.
- While some cultures stab their enemies in the back, the Iranians stab their enemies in the stomach. With a straight face, the Iranians have looked the West in the eye and effectively said: Hey, you don't mind if we enrich while you talk, do you?
Dr. Harold Rhode served in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense and as advisor on Islamic affairs on the Pentagon's policy planning staff. Joseph Raskas is a graduate student at George Washington University.
See also The Sources of Iranian Negotiating Behavior - Harold Rhode (ICA-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
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