U.S.-Led Raid Rescues Eight Hostages in Yemen - Eric Schmitt (New York Times)
In a predawn raid on Tuesday, two dozen U.S. commandos and Yemeni troops rescued eight hostages being held in a cave in eastern Yemen by al-Qaeda's affiliate there.
An ensuing shootout left seven of the Qaeda militants dead.
The freed captives were six Yemeni citizens, a Saudi and an Ethiopian, who were unharmed.
Palestinian Preacher at Al-Aqsa Mosque: May Allah Annihilate America and Its Coalition (MEMRI)
Palestinian preacher Ali Abu Ahmad delivered an impromptu sermon recorded at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Nov. 21:
"Who will come to the aid of the caliphate, if not us, oh servants of Allah?...We want a caliphate in the path of the Prophet, which will...liberate Jerusalem from the Jews, the most vile of creatures."
"Oh Allah, annihilate America and its coalition. Oh Allah, enable us to cut off their heads. Oh Allah, help our brothers, the mujahideen in the land of Iraq and Syria."
PA TV Misrepresents Murderers in Jerusalem Synagogue as Victims of Israeli Attacks - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik (Palestinian Media Watch)
On Nov. 18, official PA TV reported on the terrorists who murdered 5 Israelis at a Jerusalem synagogue:
"The latest reaction to Netanyahu's policy and means was the death of 2 Palestinians as martyrs from occupation police fire in West Jerusalem."
Saudi Arabia's War of Attrition - Lawrence Solomon (Financial Post-Canada)
Falling oil prices - down 30% since the summer to $75 a barrel - stem largely from a Saudi Arabian decision to use its oil weapon for its self-preservation.
The Saudis realize they are on their own now, facing unprecedented threats from Iran, which may soon acquire nuclear weapons.
The Saudis' last hope for stopping Iran is to drive down the price of oil to levels so low that Iran's economy may implode.
Low oil prices hold other advantages for the Saudis. They cut into the revenue of ISIS, which lives off contraband oil sales. They harm enemy Syria, an oil exporter. And they punish Russia, an ally to both Syria and Iran.
The writer is executive director of Toronto-based Energy Probe.
Poll: 77% of Israeli Arabs Prefer to Live Under Israeli Rule Rather than Palestinian - Ariel Ben Solomon (Jerusalem Post)
77% of Israeli Arabs prefer to live under Israeli rule rather than Palestinian, according to a recent poll by the Statnet research institute headed by Israeli Arab statistician Yousef Makladeh.
Of those Arabs who prefer to live under Israeli rule, 70% were Druse, 57% Christian, and 49% Muslim. Of those that preferred to live under the PA, 2% were Druse, 5% Christian, and 18% Muslim.
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- Iran Reaps Less Ready Cash from Eased Sanctions than Predicted - Indira A.R. Lakshmanan
Sanctions relief to Iran is generating billions of dollars less in immediate benefits for Iran than officials anticipated - and billions more than expected in oil revenue accumulating in restricted accounts. According to figures declassified by the Obama administration, Iran's direct benefit in cash and non-oil exports in the first six months of this year was $2 billion less than the administration predicted - $4.6 billion instead of as much as $7 billion.
Iran also earned $4.7 billion more from higher combined sales of crude oil than it had in the previous six months, but can't repatriate that money, which under U.S. sanctions is held in restricted bank accounts. Under Monday's extension of negotiations, Iran will continue to get access to $700 million a month from oil-export revenue held in accounts frozen by U.S. sanctions.
See also South Korea Makes $500 Million Oil Payment to Iran - Shinhyung Lee (Reuters)
- Key Provincial Capital in Iraq May Fall to Islamic State - Susannah George
Islamic State fighters on Tuesday penetrated to the core of Ramadi, the provincial capital of Iraq's largest province, prompting local security officials to warn that the city was on the verge of falling to the extremists. Such a gain would be the Islamic State's most significant victory in months.
Ramadi is one of the last pockets of government control in Anbar, the province that abuts Baghdad. Local security forces and tribesmen initially succeeded in resisting the Islamic State's newest advance, but commanders on the ground say a lack of continuous air support and reinforcements has made it impossible to hold that territory.
- Dutch Foreign Minister: Recognizing Palestinian State Won't Promote Peace - Cnaan Liphshiz
Newly appointed Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said he opposed recognizing Palestinian statehood because it would not contribute to renewed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
"The overwhelming majority, including the Dutch government, believes that it does not contribute to the priority issue of restarting negotiations if we all of a sudden go ahead [and recognize a Palestinian state] because Sweden also did it," Koenders said. (JTA)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel Moves to Outlaw Extremist Muslim Guards on Temple Mount - Amos Harel
Israel's defense establishment is seeking to outlaw the "Mourabitoun" - a group of Palestinian guards stationed on the Temple Mount to block entry by Jews. The guards, staffed by Muslim men and women, have often been involved in clashes with the Israel Police or Jewish visitors to the Temple Mount during the past year. They are funded by various Islamist parties, including some extremist groups in Israel.
A senior security official said the Mourabitoun guards receive a monthly salary of $776-1,036, with some of the funds coming from the Gulf States. Earlier this month, Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino told the Knesset that "the smartest thing to do is to show how we're stopping the funding. We recently seized roughly a million shekels. We felt a drastic change on the Temple Mount in a matter of days, the numbers [of guards] went down."
The move to criminalize the guards' activities on the Temple Mount is one of a series of steps being taken to reduce the tension on the Mount, which is considered to be the primary cause of the escalation of Palestinian violence in Jerusalem during the last month.
- Israel Security Agency: Jewish Construction Worker's Death Was Terror - Raanan Ben-Zur
Netanel Roi Arami, 26, an Israeli construction worker who fell to his death in September, was probably killed, police said Wednesday. Arami was rappelling outside a Petah Tikvah building when both his cables snapped and he fell 11 stories to his death. The incident was originally thought to have been a work accident.
- This Is Not the Time to Make More Concessions to the Ayatollahs -
Jose Maria Aznar
When Iran's clandestine nuclear efforts and their possible military application were discovered more than a decade ago, the international community called - through several UN resolutions - for a total dismantling of Iran's uranium-enrichment capabilities. In the past year and a half, that goal was abandoned by Western negotiators, and Iran was granted the right to enrich. Iran will be, after any further concessions in this area, a virtual nuclear power. It will be able to produce low-enriched uranium and will have the infrastructure to move to military-grade enrichment whenever the Iranian leadership so chooses.
When the first negotiations started 10 years ago, Iran had no operational capability to make a bomb. Now Iran has all the knowledge, components and infrastructure to produce fissile material and test delivery systems, and it has the know-how to master weaponization.
Obviously, everyone would love to have a "normal" Iran, respecting international norms and behaving cooperatively with other nations. But the reality is that Iran remains the Islamic Republic, with all the ambitions of a hegemonic regional power. Its human-rights record, with one execution every seven hours, is deplorable. Its ties to groups like the terrorist organizations Hamas and Hizbullah, to whom Iran supplies weapons, money and advisers, are stronger than ever.
This is not the time to make more concessions, but the time to put more pressure on the ayatollahs.
The writer is the former president of Spain.
(Wall Street Journal)
- Hamas-Fatah Rift Is Preventing the Rehabilitation of Gaza - Yoni Ben Menachem
Hamas is not allowing bureaucrats from the Palestinian Authority to enter Gaza for work on the Palestinian side of the crossings. The ongoing split between Fatah and Hamas will undoubtedly hinder Gaza's recovery after this summer's war.
The recent donor conference in Cairo pledged to provide $5.4 billion for Gaza's rehabilitation on the basis of the Palestinian unity government headed by Rami Hamdallah.
However, the tension between Fatah and Hamas and between Hamas and Egypt has prevented resumption of the Cairo talks between an Israeli delegation and a single, unified Palestinian delegation under Egyptian patronage.
While the PA believes Hamas now lacks the military capacity to resume the war against Israel, Hamas has been intensifying its incitement of the residents of Jerusalem and the West Bank. The aim is to stoke a "Third Intifada" against Israel that would also serve Hamas' goal of undermining the stability of the PA. The writer is a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center and former Director General and Chief Editor of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- A Palestinian ICC Gambit Would Reach Far Beyond Parties to the Conflict - Eugene Kontorovich
If PA leader Mahmoud Abbas accepts the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), that decision would have far-flung diplomatic and legal implications. One major consequence is that any subsequent investigation would certainly focus on alleged Palestinian crimes at least as surely as Israeli ones. Moreover, a potential ICC investigation could scrutinize the conduct of senior Hamas operatives based in Turkey and Qatar.
The decision of the Special Court for Sierra Leone in the case of Charles Taylor, and other decisions by international criminal tribunals, shows that leaders residing outside the territory in which crimes are being committed can be convicted on the basis of their overall support and leadership of the organization carrying out the crimes.
Indeed, all those - regardless of nationality or domicile - who plan, finance or support Palestinian terrorism could be investigated to the extent they plan crimes within what the Court would regard as Palestinian territory. The writer is a professor at Northwestern University School of Law.
Iran Is Still on the Verge of a Bomb - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)
- The temporary interim agreement reached in Geneva a year ago is the maximum compromise the world powers are able to achieve with Iran. The attempt to reach a permanent agreement which would completely remove the risk of Iran becoming militarily nuclearized, in exchange for a removal of the sanctions, failed because Iran is unprepared to give up its status as a nuclear threshold state and is prepared to pay a heavy economic price for that.
- Iran can enrich uranium to a high level (90%) for one nuclear bomb within three to six months, but it will take at least another year and a half to develop an explosive device and nuclear warhead for a missile, leaving Iran in the status of a threshold state which is about 18 months away from a first bomb.
- The Americans failed to convince the Iranians to limit the number of centrifuges, to prevent the installment of centrifuges of newer models and to limit the amount of enriched uranium to a low level. They did not get the Iranians to agree to invasive supervision, which would allow unexpected inspections.
- Israel is satisfied with the extension of talks mainly because it thwarts a "bad agreement." The shortcoming of the current situation is that Iran can secretly develop a nuclear weapon, even during the talks. The Iranians specialize in deceptive activity of this kind.
See also Israel Views Extension of Iran Talks as Lesser of Two Evils - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Michael Herzog
There is a deep-rooted belief within Israel that the West lacks the resolve needed to face Iran. It is hard to find anyone in Israel who really believes that Iran approached the negotiations out of a strategic decision to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
The working assumption of Israelis who deal with the issue is that Iran will take steps to gnaw away at the restrictions imposed by any agreement that is reached and act to advance its nuclear ambitions insofar as possible. The writer served as senior military aide and chief of staff for four Israeli defense ministers. (Al-Monitor)
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