Islamic State Claims Attacks that Killed 27 in Egypt - Yusri Mohamed, Ali Abdelaty and Mostafa Hashem (Reuters)
Islamic State's Egypt wing claimed responsibility for four attacks in northern Sinai and Suez city that killed at least 27 on Thursday.
A bombing targeting a military headquarters, base and hotel in Al-Arish killed 25 and wounded at least 58.
Later, an army major was killed and six others wounded at a checkpoint in Rafah, followed by a roadside bomb in Suez city that killed a police officer, and an assault on a checkpoint south of Al-Arish that wounded four soldiers.
The Rising Insurgency for Sanctions Against Iran - Raymond Tanter (Foreign Policy-Bloomberg)
The draft Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015, dubbed the Kirk-Menendez bill, is a diplomatic insurance policy imposing conditional sanctions against the risk that Tehran fails to negotiate in good faith by June 30, 2015.
An 18 to 4 vote in the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday reflected bipartisanship for a tougher diplomacy toward Iran.
Several Democrats voted for the bill, including Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Mark Warner (D-VA).
The Islamic State's Model - Aaron Y. Zelin (Washington Post)
The Islamic State announced several months ago that it was "annexing" territory in Algeria, Libya, Sinai, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
It is likely that the Islamic State plans to pursue a similar approach in Afghanistan and Pakistan following its announcement of accepting pledges of allegiance from former members of the Afghan and Pakistan Taliban to also try and "annex" territory there.
The writer is a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Muslim Association of Canada Gave $300K to Hamas-Linked Group - Howard Koplowitz (International Business Times)
The Toronto-based Muslim Association of Canada gave $296,514 from 2001 to 2010 to IRFAN-Canada, a listed terrorist group in Canada that in turn gave millions of dollars to Hamas-linked entities,
the Canadian QMI Agency reported Wednesday.
The Muslim Association of Canada had been under police surveillance on suspicion of financing terrorism as recently as 2014, according to QMI.
YouTube Overloaded with Terrorist Content (AP-Chicago Tribune)
Internet giant Google said Wednesday that its video-sharing website YouTube is so inundated that staff cannot filter all terror-related content, complicating the struggle to halt the publication of terrorist propaganda and hostage videos.
Israeli Energy Start-Ups Exhibit in Paris - Hedy Cohen (Globes)
Among the Israeli energy startups that recently took part in a conference in Paris were Enstorage, which has developed technology that makes it possible to store electricity produced from renewable resources such as wind or sun.
Emefcy has developed a system that facilitates treatment of sewage using a biochemical process that also generates electricity.
PowerTags technology enables a building to "know" where people are at any time, and to operate accordingly, for example, by automatically turning on the light or the air-conditioner in a room only when people are there, thereby saving precious energy.
ThetaRay provides warnings and solutions for protection of critical infrastructure against cyber attacks and operating failures.
Silentium generates an "anti-noise" signal that eliminates troublesome noise. It allows the creation of a "bubble" of quiet around the user. The system can be put into a headrest in a car or an airplane seat.
"Lone Soldiers" from Kansas City Serve in Israel's Army - Eric Adler (Kansas City Star)
Though Jewish, Jake Fichman from Kansas City concedes that he hadn't for most of his life been deeply immersed in his faith or the politics of the Middle East. "I'm not this army guy. It's not how I was raised. For heaven's sake, I'm vegan," Fichman said.
Yet months after he returned from his first trip to Israel for a vacation in 2013, he volunteered for the Israeli army.
Fichman is now a corporal and combat medic, one of a group known as the "lone soldiers" inside the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), who number some 5,000 - young men and women whose parents do not live in Israel.
Some 450 enlist each year from the U.S. and about 1,100 are currently on active duty.
Katja Edelman from Kansas City served from 2009 to 2012, becoming a first sergeant in a combat unit that deployed bomb-sniffing dogs.
Herb Keinon, diplomatic reporter for the Jerusalem Post, said, "These are kids who, again, come from all over the world. They've given up their comfortable lives to come here to fight in the army. That says something to the Israeli society. It sends an important message that you are not alone."
Many lone soldiers "are in the top units. They're in the combat units."
Two lone soldiers from the U.S., Sean Carmeli, 21, and Max Steinberg, 24, were killed in the 2014 Gaza war.
Israeli C4I Network Extends IDF's Reach - Barbara Opall-Rome (Defense News)
Israel has developed a state-of-the-art communications network that augments the IDF's ability to command complex operations at its borders and far beyond. In late December the state-of-the-art network was declared fully operational.
"No matter where the commanders are or where the forces are, there's a single network-based radio communications for everyone," said Col. Yossi Mashiah, who managed the program.
Documentary Tells Story of U.S. WWII Pilots Fighting for Israel - Kyle Smith (New York Post)
In the amazing documentary "Above and Beyond," Director Roberta Grossman features interviews with surviving pilots from Israel's 1948 War of Independence who struck some of the most essential blows for Israel's existence.
One key sortie of just four planes stopped a massive Egyptian column in its tracks.
The film (produced by Steven Spielberg's sister Nancy) is nutty, dramatic, surprising and above all inspiring.
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- 75 Senators Pledge Not to Support Palestinian Aid until U.S. Reviews ICC Bid
75 U.S. senators pledged not to support assistance to the Palestinian Authority until the Obama administration reviews the admittance of Palestine to the International Criminal Court.
"Current law prohibits economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority if the Palestinians initiate an ICC investigation of Israeli nationals or 'actively support such an investigation'," said the letter sent Thursday to Secretary of State John Kerry.
"Although we believe it is in the interest of the United States for urgent humanitarian assistance to continue to be provided to the Palestinian people, we will not support assistance to the Palestinian Authority while you undertake a review of this matter." (JTA)
- Hunt for Hizbullah Tunnels Goes On - Isabel Kershner
On Thursday, IDF military engineers drilled deep into the ground by the perimeter fence of Zarit in northern Israel, checking for tunnels that the jittery residents suspect Hizbullah was digging under their homes.
For the residents of this community, located 100 yards from the border fence, fears about the next round of fighting are palpable. The idea of armed Hizbullah fighters popping out of tunnels is no fantasy: Israel uncovered more than a dozen tunnels built by Hamas and running into its territory from Gaza during the war there last summer.
Yossi Adoni, 47, the chairman of the Zarit residents' committee, said he had seen an unusual amount of movement of construction equipment on the other side of the border in recent years. Adoni said residents started complaining about the nighttime noises in 2008 and that he had received dozens of reports from people claiming to have heard an incessant knocking. Hassan Nasrallah, the Hizbullah leader, repeated a threat in a recent television interview to invade the Galilee. (New York Times)
- Deal with Iran at Root of Argentine Prosecutor's Death Mystery - Brian Winter and Nicolas Misculin
President Cristina Fernandez has portrayed Argentina's spy agency, the Intelligence Secretariat (SI), as sinister and possibly responsible for the mysterious death of Alberto Nisman, the chief prosecutor investigating the 1994 bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association. But sources close to both the agency and Fernandez's government tell Reuters that
Fernandez has been in open conflict with her own spy agency for two years, following a deal in which she enlisted Iran's help to investigate the bombing that killed 85 people.
Some of the spy agency's leaders felt betrayed by the deal. They had spent many years helping prosecutors build the case against Iran, and saw Fernandez's agreement as an attempt to whitewash their investigation. "It was like she switched sides...and was suddenly friends with Iran," the source said. "That's what this is all about." Many Jewish groups and others believed the deal with Iran signaled the end of Argentina's willingness to pursue the AMIA case. The American Jewish Committee compared it to "asking Nazi Germany to help establish the facts of Kristallnacht." A government official told Reuters the SI's leaders were lashing out at Fernandez because they were loyal to U.S. and Israeli intelligence.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Ya'alon: Only Tanks Could Withstand Hizbullah's Kornet Missiles - Lilach Shoval
In response to questions on why the soldiers who were killed in Wednesday's Hizbullah rocket attack on the Lebanese border were riding in unarmored vehicles, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon told Army Radio on Thursday, "In the case of this type of [Kornet anti-tank] missile, an armored vehicle also would not have protected [the soldiers], unless it was a Merkava tank." Another defense official said it was doubtful an armored vehicle without an active protection system, such as the IDF's Trophy system, would be able to withstand those missiles.
See also IDF Publishes Initial Investigation into Hizbullah Attack on Convoy - Yoav Zitun and Itamar Eichner
The IDF has published a step-by-step account of the fatal Hizbullah attack on an IDF convoy near the Lebanese border on Wednesday that resulted in the deaths of two IDF soldiers. (Ynet News)
- Hizbullah Congratulates Itself on Deadly Strike, Threatens More - Elhanan Miller
Hizbullah on Thursday touted its deadly attack on an IDF convoy near Lebanon's border with Israel as a masterful display of military prowess.
The Shiite terror group received letters of congratulation from across the Arab world, including from Hamas and Fatah, according to the pro-Hizbullah daily As-Safir. "This is the first installment of the open account between us and Israel," Hizbullah head Hassan Nasrallah was quoted as saying. (Times of Israel)
See also Israel Gets Iran on Its Border - Avi Issacharoff
Hizbullah told UNIFIL officials that it wants calm, but it's possible Hizbullah, and even more so the Revolutionary Guards in Iran, will try to carry out a much larger revenge attack. On Thursday, Samy Kalib wrote in the Hizbullah-affiliated Al-Akhbar that Hizbullah proved it had the ability to reach Israeli soldiers despite the high level of alert on the Israeli side. He added that Israel was getting Iran on its border.
(Times of Israel)
- Kurdish Liberation of Kobani - A Major Victory But Hard to Replicate - Jonathan Spyer
The near-complete liberation of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani this week from Islamic State forces is a remarkable testimony to the tenacity and courage of the Kurdish resistance on the ground. It also showcases the awesome efficacy of U.S. air power, when given a clear mission and properly directed. The jihadists wasted over 1,000 of its fighters in trying to take Kobani. Still, the "heartland" of the jihadi entity in Syria and the greater part of its conquests in Iraq are not yet under threat. The writer is a senior research fellow at the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, IDC Herzliya.
- Iranian Expansionism and the Nuclear Talks - Dore Gold
In dealing with Moscow over nuclear weapons, Washington faced dilemmas which were not very different from those it faces today in its negotiations with Tehran.
After U.S. presidents signed new agreements limiting their nuclear arsenals,
in the years that followed, the Soviets and their surrogate forces moved into Angola, Mozambique, the Horn of Africa, and Afghanistan.
Today, the U.S. is anxious to conclude a final agreement with Iran over its nuclear program. Yet while these talks have been underway, Iran has been busily backing its regional surrogates in Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria with weapons shipments, training, and even direct military intervention with the deployment of Iranian boots on the ground. The Iranians have also tried to carve out for themselves areas of influence in Jordan, Bahrain, and Yemen. All this Iranian military activism demonstrates that the Iranian leadership is determined to emerge as the hegemonial power dominating the Middle East.
Iranian expansionism in the Middle East in 2015 is the best proof that if anyone is counting on a new Iran emerging, and that this change will safeguard any future nuclear agreement, they are making a serious mistake. An Iran which still seeks to become the hegemonial power in the Middle East in order to dominate its neighbors will not abandon its nuclear ambitions. The writer, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN, is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and served as an external advisor to the office of the Prime Minister of Israel. (Israel Hayom)
- A Deal with the Devil? Why Washington Should Not Pin Its Hopes on Rouhani - Michael Singh
American policymakers should not offer additional concessions to Iran on the theory that a nuclear deal will yield ancillary security benefits. If the U.S. wishes to obtain not just a lasting nuclear accord but also a broader shift in Iranian strategic thinking, they will have to persuade the whole regime - not just one faction of it - that the status quo is unsustainable. This will require persuading Iranian leaders that failing to reach an agreement is a price too high to pay. The writer is managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
- Do We Really Mean "Never Again"? - Charles Krauthammer
Amid the pledges of "never again" on Tuesday's 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, anti-Semitism has returned to Europe with a vengeance. It has become routine. The rise of European anti-Semitism is, in reality, just a return to the norm. While the shame of the Holocaust created a temporary anomaly wherein anti-Semitism became socially unacceptable,
the hiatus is over. Jew-hatred is back.
For America, Europe and the moderate Arabs, there are powerful reasons having nothing to do with Israel for trying to prevent an apocalyptic, fanatically anti-Western clerical regime in Tehran from getting the bomb: Iranian hegemony, nuclear proliferation (including to terror groups) and elemental national security. For Israel, however, the threat is of a different order. Direct, immediate and mortal.
The Iranian bomb is a national security issue, but it is also a uniquely Jewish issue because of Israel's situation as the only state on earth overtly threatened with extinction, facing a potential nuclear power overtly threatening that extinction. Want to truly honor the dead? Show solidarity with the living - Israel and its 6 million Jews. It took Nazi Germany seven years to kill 6 million Jews. It would take a nuclear Iran one day. (Washington Post)
- Iran's History of Nuclear Deceit Is Why There Hasn't Been a Deal Yet - Emanuele Ottolenghi
The Iranian nuclear file remains unresolved because of Iran's consistent refusal to transparently and fully account for its illicit nuclear program.
The current international standoff may be traced to 2002, when Iranian dissidents exposed extensive clandestine nuclear activities at the Natanz uranium-enrichment facility and the Arak heavy water reactor.
Tehran's subsequent maneuvers eventually led the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in September 2005, to declare it in non-compliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The following year, the IAEA referred the Iran file to the UN Security Council, whose six subsequent resolutions have underscored the country's unwavering defiance of the international community.
A third clandestine enrichment facility, Fordow, built deep underground, was revealed after Western intelligence services detected it in 2009. Only permanent limitations on the scope and size of Iran's nuclear program - and a lengthy period of verifiable compliance - can restore the international confidence that Iran has so assiduously betrayed.
The writer is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
- Netanyahu Aims to Save Israel - Jay Ambrose
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is coming to Washington in March to talk to Congress about ways to keep Iran from going nuclear and wiping his country off the map. But why is the trip necessary?
It's the fear that a nuclear agreement will be negotiated with terrorist-aiding Iran with insufficient safeguards to prevent its proceeding happily on its weapons-of-mass-destruction path.
There is no reasonable doubt that Iranians have been pursuing nuclear weaponry - we would not otherwise even be talking to them - and that the only way the U.S. and other involved countries could get them to discuss the matter in the first place was sanctions threatening to wreck the Iranian economy.
Meanwhile, according to knowledgeable voices, Iran has gotten closer than ever to bomb-making capability. (McClatchy)
- The Case Against the International Criminal Court Investigating Israel - Alan M. Dershowitz
The Palestinian decision to bring Israeli leaders before the ICC seeks to create a false moral equivalence between a vibrant democracy that is governed by the rule of law; and a loose assortment of groups - Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and others - that do not accept the results of elections, that murder dissenters with no semblance of due process, and that allow its official media organs to incite violence against civilians based on their religion. It also seeks to create a false moral equivalence between an army that seeks to defend its civilians from rocket attacks, suicide bombers and terror tunnels; and a terrorist group that murders civilians in their beds, kidnaps and kills children, and targets civilians from behind human shields.
The principle of "complementarity" precludes an ICC investigation of Israel unless "there are no genuine national investigations of the crimes committed under its jurisdiction." There is no country in the world with a legal system that is more responsive to claims made by victims of war crimes. If it were to be ruled that the Israeli legal system does not provide the required complementarity to deny the ICC institution jurisdiction as "a court of last resort," then no nation would pass that test.
- Palestinian Boycott of Israel Is Misguided - Bassam Eid
While Mustafa Barghouti can no doubt make good headway advancing the BDS cause in Norway, for example, he would not dare to enter West Bank refugee camps and suggest to the people living there that they launch a boycott against Israel - because then he would have to offer a viable alternative.
I know there are thousands of Palestinians that are prepared to confront Israel tomorrow, but I also know that Palestinians today loathe the PA even more than they hate the State of Israel.
Hamas now spends its time waiting for some terrorist of any sort to decide to run over a Jew with a vehicle so it can point to him as a hero.
But the important thing is to afford the people of Gaza the opportunity to live in the manner of their own choosing and not to allow Hamas to force Iranian policies on their own brethren. The writer is a human rights activist.
- Is a Diplomatic Solution Really Possible? - Yoel Meltzer
The reason there has not been a diplomatic solution between Jews and Arabs west of the Jordan River is that at its core the more than 100-year conflict is not a land dispute. Since for several centuries the entire region was under Islamic control, then it is quite understandable that any non-Islamic sovereign entity will never be accepted. According to Mordechai Nisan, a retired lecturer in Middle East Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, "Islam rejects Jewish sovereignty, Arabism rejects Zionism."
The larger Arab/Islamic world will never accept a sovereign Jewish state in its midst. This is the truth that needs to be internalized if Israel wishes to continue to survive. This does not mean to imply that there are not good-intentioned Arabs or Muslims in the local region. Nevertheless, as a group they have no influence on the frightening trends that are sweeping the Middle East. For Israel, in the face of jihad - and that's really what Israel is up against - capitulations are an act of suicide.
- North African Fighters in the Syrian and Iraqi Conflict - Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah
About 5,000 fighters originating from North African countries have joined the ranks of IS and Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria and Iraq. The biggest contingent is Tunisian (3,000), followed by Moroccan (1,500) and Algerian (500-800). There are also European fighters of North African origin (mostly from France and Belgium) estimated at 1,500-2,000. The North Africans represent roughly 50% of the foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq.
Recently, North Africa's younger jihadist generation has broken away from al-Qaeda, seeking to join IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's caliphate in order to benefit from its success and wealth. The U.S.-led coalition's sporadic airstrikes in Iraq and Syria seem to have afforded the Islamic State with even more legitimacy in the eyes of North Africa's jihadists. By November 2014, 219 Moroccans had died in Syria and 32 in Iraq, including 20 in suicide attacks. About 500 Tunisians had died in combat.
Most of the Moroccans who have joined the Islamic State come from the north of the country, an area hit by severe unemployment. The fact that the Islamic State pays salaries that cannot even be imagined in Morocco - $2,000-3,000 a month (with more if married and for each child) -
is definitely a factor in their enrollment as jihadists. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Only Muslims Can Change the World's View of Islam - Mohammed Wattad
The cartoons that depicted the Prophet Mohammad were drawn by Western journalists for Western audiences in a society grounded in democratic rights and freedoms, tantamount among these the right to free speech. And what is the essence of free speech if not the right to express disputed and even offensive views?
Muslims are well aware of the rights and freedoms afforded to them in democratic societies, and this is precisely the reason many of them leave their Islamic homelands for the West. It is therefore with the utmost hypocrisy, audacity and impertinence that Muslims living in democratic countries react to criticism of their faith with threats, vandalism and violence. Their sensitivities notwithstanding, if Muslims are to live among Westerners, it is they who must conform to the norms of the land, not vice versa.
Examples abound of the Christian, Jewish, Hindu and other faiths being the subject of gross insult. Yet while these expressions have sparked outrage and anger, they are met with words in the marketplace of ideas. Only among Muslims are words of criticism met by the sword.
This proves exactly what the Dutch and French cartoonists sought to depict: the moral, educational and cultural bankruptcy of those who act barbarically in the name of Islam. The cartoons are not concerned with Islam, but with the way some Muslims exercise Islam. They merely reflected existing images created by extremists themselves.
If this image is wrong, then we Muslims bear the burden to show otherwise. Terrorism today stems primarily from Muslims in the name of Islam. For these images to change, Muslims must be at the forefront of countering Islamic radicalization in the Middle East and in our adopted countries.
The writer is a visiting assistant professor of political science at the University of California at Irvine.
- Looking Away from Europe's Muslim Problem - Theodore Dalrymple
Because of their high rates of consanguineous marriage, Muslim children have relatively high rates of serious genetic conditions, about which a kind of "code of silence" has long prevailed. Forced marriage (very different from arranged marriage) is common among the Muslims.
Certainly I was able to recognize a pattern among my young Muslim female patients, down to the withholding of their passports when they returned "home" to Pakistan, aged between 15 and 20, to marry their first cousin in their "home" village. Resignation to their fate merged by degrees into consent; all of them knew of honor killings of young women such as themselves, which exerted the same psychological effect as lynching did on blacks in the American South.
Supposedly to placate Muslim sentiment, the Birmingham Central Library provided women-only tables, in practice for the use of Muslim women. The argument in its favor would almost certainly have been that without such separate facilities Muslim women would not have been allowed by their males to use the library at all. It is unlikely that such an argument would have succeeded for any other religious or social group, and indeed it would have provoked feminist ire, in this case notably absent, presumably because of fear.
In France, 60-70% of French prisoners are Muslim (and this is unlikely to be the result of prejudice alone, even if such prejudice exists). This is not characteristic of other immigrant groups, for example the Vietnamese.
The Ideological Roots of Media Bias Against Israel - Matti Friedman (Fathom-BICOM)
- In early 2009, two AP reporters obtained details of a peace offer made by the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, to the Palestinians several months before, and deemed by the Palestinians to be insufficient. This should have been one of the year's biggest stories. But the bureau chief ordered both reporters to ignore the Olmert offer. A peace proposal from the Israeli prime minister to the Palestinian president was not to be reported at all.
- Jewish hatred of Arabs is a story. Arab hatred of Jews is not. 100 houses in a West Bank settlement are a story. 100 rockets smuggled into Gaza are not.
The Hamas military build-up amid and under the civilian population of Gaza is not a story. Hamas' responsibility for the deaths of civilians as a result is not a story.
- In my time in the press corps I saw, from the inside, how Israel's flaws were dissected and magnified, while the flaws of its enemies were purposely erased. I saw how the threats facing Israel were disregarded or even mocked as figments of the Israeli imagination, even as these threats repeatedly materialized. I saw how a fictional image of Israel and of its enemies was manufactured, polished, and propagated to devastating effect.
- Observers of the Middle East in 2015 understand that an end to the occupation of the West Bank will create a power vacuum that will be filled not by the forces of democracy and modernity but by the extremists. This is what happened in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Egypt, and before that in Gaza and southern Lebanon. Creating a new playground for these forces will bring the black-masked soldiers of radical Islam within yards of Israeli homes with mortars, rockets, and tunneling implements. Many thousands will die.
- This threatens to render much of Israel unlivable, ending the only safe progressive space in the Middle East, the only secure minority refuge in the Middle East, and the only Jewish country on earth. No international guarantees or Western-trained military will be able to keep that from happening, as we have just seen in Iraq. Several years ago I might have dismissed this as an apocalyptic scenario. It isn't. It is the most likely scenario.
- The only group of people subject to a systematic boycott at present in the Western world are Jews, appearing now under the convenient euphemism "Israelis." The only country that has its own "apartheid week" on campuses is the Jewish country. The time has come for everyone to admit that the fashionable disgust for Israel among many in the West is selective, disproportionate, and discriminatory.
The writer was a reporter and editor in the Jerusalem bureau of the Associated Press between 2006 and 2011.
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