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January 12, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

Assad's Secret: Evidence Points to Syrian Push for Nuclear Weapons - Erich Follath (Der Spiegel-Germany)
    Secret information obtained by Der Spiegel indicates that Syria's Assad has apparently built a new nuclear facility at a secret location, despite the Israeli raid that destroyed the almost-completed Kibar nuclear facility on Sept. 5, 2007.
    Western intelligence agencies say that the Syrian atomic weapon program has continued in a secret, underground location. Approximately 8,000 fuel rods are stored there, and a new reactor or an enrichment facility has very likely been built at the site.
    Intelligence agency findings indicate that suspicious material was moved to a well-hidden underground location just west of the city of Qusayr, less than two km. from the border with Lebanon. The site has special access to the power grid.
    The clearest proof that it is a nuclear facility comes from recently intercepted radio traffic. A voice identified as a high-ranking Hizbullah functionary can be heard referring to the "atomic factory" and mentions Qusayr.
    The Hizbullah man frequently provides telephone updates to Ibrahim Othman, the head of the Syrian Atomic Energy Commission. Work performed at the site by members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard is also mentioned.
    See also Syrian Rebels: Iranian Officers Spotted Near Site of Reported Nuclear Facility - Roi Kais (Ynet News)
    A senior Syrian rebel official told the Saudi paper Okaz on Sunday that the Free Syrian Army has noted the presence of Iranian officers and "unprecedented" Hizbullah security in the town of Qusayr on the outskirts of Homs, where an underground nuclear facility is said to be.
    "What's going on there is happening under direct Iranian supervision," said Abu Muhammad al-Bitar.
    See also Experts Cast Doubt on Spiegel Claim of Syrian Nuclear Facility - Nicholas Blanford (Christian Science Monitor)
    "So far we do not see anything that is distinctively nuclear," says David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security.

Iran Eclipses U.S. as Iraq's Ally in Fight Against Militants (AP-Washington Post)
    In the eyes of most Iraqis, their country's best ally in the war against the Islamic State is Iran, not the U.S. and the coalition air campaign.
    Shiite, non-Arab Iran has effectively taken charge of Iraq's defense against the Sunni radical group, meeting the Iraqi government's need for immediate help on the ground.
    Two to three Iranian military aircraft a day land at Baghdad airport, bringing in weapons and ammunition.
    Iran's Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force and its commander Gen. Ghasem Soleimani are organizing Iraqi forces and have become the de facto leaders of Iraqi Shiite militias that are the backbone of the fight.
    The result is that Tehran's influence in Iraq, already high since U.S. forces left at the end of 2011, has grown to an unprecedented level.
    On billboards around Baghdad, death notices of Iraqi militiamen killed in battle are emblazoned with images of Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini, and his successor, Ayatollah Khamenei.
    Last month up to 4 million Iranians crossed into Iraq to visit a revered Shiite shrine south of Baghdad for a major holy day.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Four Jewish Hostages Killed in Paris Grocery Store Attack - Yamiche Alcindor and Elena Berton
    Gunman Amedy Coulibaly, 32, killed four people at a Jewish supermarket on Friday before taking hostages inside. Police later stormed the store, rescuing 15 hostages and killing Coulibaly. The victims of the attack were identified as Yoav Hattab, Philippe Braham, Yohan Cohen and Francois-Michel Saada.
        "These French citizens were struck down in a cold-blooded manner and mercilessly because they were Jews," the umbrella group of French Jewish communities, CRIF, said in a statement. In an address to the nation Friday evening, French President Francois Hollande said the deadly attack on the market was unquestionably "an anti-Semitic attack."  (USA Today)
        See also Jews Killed in Paris Attack to Be Buried in Israel (AP-ABC News)
        See also Paris Supermarket Attacker Claims Allegiance to Islamic State in Video - Shiv Malik and Mark Tran
    A video showing supermarket attacker Amedy Coulibaly aligning himself with Islamic State has been circulated. He is described as a "soldier of the caliphate" and appears to swear allegiance to ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Coulibaly says he and the Kouachi brothers - responsible for the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo - had decided to synchronize their attacks. Coulibaly is also responsible for seriously wounding a jogger in a Paris suburb on Wednesday and shooting a policewoman to death on Thursday. (Guardian-UK)
        See also Chronology of Attacks on Jews of France in 2014 - Stephanie Butnick (Tablet)
  • Security Forces Kill French Terrorists after Standoff - Scott Bronstein
    On Friday, French security forces surrounded and killed Cherif Kouachi, 32, and his older brother, Said, 34, the two main terrorists in last Wednesday's massacre at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, the mayor of Dammartin-en-Goele, France, said. (CNN)
        See also Source: Terror Cells Activated in France; Supermarket, Magazine Attackers Linked - Ray Sanchez, Laura Smith-Spark and Hakim Almasmari
    French law enforcement officers have been told that terror sleeper cells in the country have been activated over the last 24 hours, a French police source said.
        A Western intelligence source said that Amedy Coulibaly, who killed four people at a Jewish supermarket in Paris on Friday, lived with Hayat Boumeddiene. Boumeddiene exchanged 500 phone calls with the wife of Paris terrorist Cherif Kouachi in 2014, according to Paris prosecutor Francois Molins. The wife told investigators that her husband and Coulibaly knew each other well. (CNN)
  • After Paris Attacks, Israel Vows to Welcome European Jews Seeking to Immigrate - William Booth and Ruth Eglash
    Israeli leaders said Sunday that they would welcome with open arms French Jews who fear for their safety in the wake of attacks by Islamist extremists in Paris last week. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of his cabinet linked arms with French politicians on Sunday during a march in Paris to commemorate the 17 people killed in three days.
        Netanhayu drove home the point that Israel serves as a "front line" against Islamist militant groups. "They might have different names - ISIS, Boko Haram, Hamas, al-Shabab, al-Qaeda, Hizbullah - but all of them are driven by the same hatred and bloodthirsty fanaticism."  (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • In Gaza, Hamas and the PA Are at Each Other's Throats Again - Avi Issacharoff
    Hamas has launched a comprehensive campaign to arrest Fatah members in Gaza. Over the weekend, several ATMs were smashed in several branches of the Bank of Palestine - intended as a warning to the PA lest it seek to pay the salaries of PA employees without paying the workers of the Hamas government as well.
        At this juncture, when the transfer of construction building materials into Gaza is advancing, as are exports of produce, it's doubtful Hamas has any real interest in another war. Hamas' problem is primarily with the PA, which is not prepared to take dramatic steps so long as Hamas won't give up its leadership of the Strip. (Times of Israel)
  • Implications of a Visit by Senior Islamic Official to Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque - Pinhas Inbari
    On January 5, 2014, Iyad Madani, secretary-general of the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation, visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and declared the launching of "Islamic Tourism Year" for the Holy City. Madani is a citizen of Saudi Arabia. The call for Islamic tourism in Jerusalem constitutes a challenge to Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, which call for boycotting tourism to Israel because it implies "normalization" with the Jewish state. Qatar's Al Jazeera TV denounced the visit and highlighted Hamas' opposition to it. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also OIC Leader Sparks Controversy over Jerusalem Visit - Habib Toumi (Gulf News-Dubai)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Sharansky: Paris Massacre Shows Time Running Out for Europe - Raphael Ahren
    After Islamist terrorists massacred 12 people in the heart of Paris, Jewish Agency head and former Soviet Prisoner of Zion Natan Sharansky said Thursday, "We're not building our aliyah strategy on tragic events. We're building it on the fact that there is this place in the world called Europe, where Jews are feeling increasingly uncomfortable." Sharansky predicted more than 10,000 French Jews will move to Israel in 2015 - breaking 2014's record of 7,000.
        "If France and the other Western nations will not fight quickly and strongly for reestablishing the civilization of liberal nations, Europe is in danger," he said. "The exodus of Jews, as many times in the past, is the first harbinger, a warning of where it goes."
        "It was an ideological decision of this post-modern Europe that all cultures have the same values and therefore we cannot demand from them to change, to betray their culture for the sake of ours." Large parts of France's huge Muslim immigrant community don't feel loyal to the liberal values of society, he asserted. "Multiculturalism...created inside the society of a proud liberal nation a society of people who believe they can really challenge freedom of speech by terror."
        France's error was to give citizenship to millions without demanding that they share French values, and it made this mistake because it believes that values are something relative. (Times of Israel)
  • Europe Has Acquired an Internal Muslim Colony - David Frum
    As the political scientist Robert Leiken has written, "[W]estern Europe now plays host to often disconsolate Muslim offspring, who are its citizens in name but not culturally or socially. In a fit of absentmindedness, during which its academics discoursed on the obsolescence of the nation-state, western Europe acquired not a colonial empire but something of an internal colony, whose numbers are roughly equivalent to the population of Syria." It is from these populations that ISIS has recruited hundreds of jihadists for its war in Syria and Iraq; it is from these populations that radical imams recruit domestic terrorists.
        Sociologists estimate that at least 50% of French prisoners come from the roughly 7% Muslim minority. A plurality of French Muslims (46%) and a crushing majority of British Muslims (81%) considered themselves Muslims first, identifying with their respective European nations only to a secondary extent. Half of British Muslims wished to see Iran gain a nuclear bomb. (Atlantic)

With Talks on Ice, Palestinians' Mahmoud Abbas Declares Diplomatic War on Israel - William Booth (Washington Post)

  • Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is launching diplomatic war against Israel, betting on a risky campaign to fully "internationalize the struggle" by moving toward the UN and away from the U.S. The campaign represents a public rebuff of the Obama administration, which has warned the Palestinians that unilateral moves at the ICC and the UN will ultimately fail to get them a state.
  • The Israelis say that it is the Palestinians who have walked away from peace offers and are the intransigent party. They say that if any party to the conflict should be tried for war crimes, it is the Islamist militant group Hamas, which fires rockets indiscriminately at Israeli cities. Critics warn that the Israelis do not like to be pushed and may instead support strong countermeasures.
  • Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN and now president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, said Abbas and his Fatah party, which have vowed to pursue nonviolent resistance, have lost ground to their arch rivals in Hamas, which controls Gaza. "The Palestinians believe that they can get some kind of domestic boost by confronting the United States," he said.
  • Robert Danin, a former deputy assistant secretary of state and now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said, "This shift to a more confrontational approach in the international arena is a significant departure for the Palestinians. But the question is: Will it get them any closer to a Palestinian state?...I wonder if they have thought this through."

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