Pentagon: Islamic State a Top U.S. Challenge, Iran Faces No Barriers to Producing a Nuclear Weapon - David Lerman and Anthony Capaccio (Bloomberg)
Islamic State extremists are expanding their international footprint in the Mideast and North Africa, Lt.-Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, told a House Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday.
He said the Sunni extremist group is extending its reach beyond Iraq and Syria using "ungoverned and under-governed areas" to establish affiliates in Algeria, Egypt and Libya.
On Iran, Stewart said the regime "faces no insurmountable technical barriers to producing a nuclear weapon."
Turkey's Erdogan: Opposition Cooperating with Israel's Mossad (Hurriyet-Turkey)
Turkish President Erdogan said Jan. 31 that supporters of the U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen have joined forces with the Israeli intelligence service.
He described the Gulenists as operating a parallel structure and said, "Shame on them if they still cannot see that this structure is cooperating with the Mossad."
Ukraine Run by "Miserable" Jews, Says Pro-Russian Rebel Chief (AFP)
Alexander Zakharchenko, leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, claimed that Kiev's pro-Western leaders were "miserable representatives of the great Jewish people."
Giuliani Backs Netanyahu's Talk to Congress (Jerusalem Post)
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in Jerusalem on Monday reiterated his support for Prime Minister Netanyahu's right to speak before the U.S. Congress about Iran next month.
"If there is going to be any agreement with Iran, then it must be based upon the fact that Iran not be allowed the possibility of obtaining a nuclear arsenal," Giuliani said.
"Prime Minister Netanyahu...honestly has no choice. If someone threatens to kill you, you simply don't give them the gun to do it."
"Hannibal Protocol" Was Not Ordered During 2014 Gaza War - Amir Rappaport (Makor Rishon-NRG-Hebrew, 30Jan2015)
During the attempts to rescue abducted IDF soldier Lt. Hadar Goldin in Rafah on Aug. 1, 2014, there was no massive indiscriminate fire (the "Hannibal Protocol") ordered to prevent the abduction, an IDF investigation has found.
Goldin was killed in the initial attack and his body was taken into the dense tunnel network. Heavy fire was launched at road junctions and known tunnel openings with the aim of making it difficult to transfer Goldin from the front.
Known Hamas targets in the area were also attacked, but there was no massive indiscriminate firing toward Rafah homes.
While Palestinians claimed 150 were killed, the IDF investigation found that 41 died, including Hamas members who took part in the battle.
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- Leader of War Crimes Inquiry into 2014 Gaza Conflict Resigns - Somini Sengupta
Canadian law professor William Schabas, the chairman of a UN panel investigating possible war crimes in last summer's Gaza conflict, resigned Monday. Israel had filed a formal complaint in January with the president of the Human Rights Council demanding the ouster of Professor Schabas, citing consulting work he had done for the Palestine Liberation Organization in 2012.
(New York Times)
- Canadian Terrorists "Motivated by Islamic Extremism" Planned to Attack Passenger Train - Diana Mehta
Raed Jaser and Chiheb Esseghaier, accused of planning a terrorist attack on a passenger train traveling between Canada and the U.S., were motivated by Islamic extremism and spent months plotting to murder as many people as they could, their trial heard on Monday.
Esseghaier, a Tunisian national doing doctoral research in Quebec, traveled to Iran in 2012 and met with people who were, in his words, "carrying out jihad for the sake of Allah," said Crown lawyer Croft Michaelson. Jaser, a permanent resident of Palestinian descent, got involved with Esseghaier and wanted to "conduct multiple missions."
"Esseghaier explained that their plan was to make a five-to-six-meter hole in a railway bridge, which would cause a 'big accident.'" Jaser also told an undercover officer of a plan to use a sniper to target leaders in Canada.
(Globe and Mail-Canada)
- Government Allies Are Said to Have Slaughtered Dozens of Sunnis in Iraq - Kareem Fahim
At least 72 people from a majority Sunni village of Barwanah in eastern Iraq were methodically singled out for slaughter last week by Shiite militiamen who were supporting Iraqi security forces, according to witnesses and local Sunni leaders. Some of the men were shot on their doorsteps, others were lined up, led to a field and killed there. The militiamen called out specific names of people they were seeking.
In recent months, the new, Western-backed government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has sought to regain the trust of Iraqi Sunnis, but the government's conduct of the war has only deepened distrust in some Sunni areas.
(New York Times)
See also Iraq PM Orders Probe into Military Massacre - Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- EU Diplomats: U.S. and Iran Moving Closer to Nuclear Deal
European diplomats have told Israeli officials in recent days that the U.S. and Iran are moving closer to an agreement that would increase the number of centrifuges that Iran would be permitted to keep. In exchange, the Iranians would bring their influence to bear to ensure quiet in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, Israel Army Radio reported Tuesday.
European diplomats said the U.S. in recent weeks has made significant concessions, permitting Tehran to operate 6,500 centrifuges while lifting sanctions.
In fact, the Europeans are opposed to the proposed linkage between the nuclear issue and other geopolitical matters.
- Egyptian Court Declares Hamas' Al-Qassam Brigades a "Terrorist Group"
The Cairo Court of Urgent Matters has declared Hamas' military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, a terrorist organization due to its involvement in and financing of terrorist attacks inside Egypt. The court added that the group's aim is now to target Egypt's security.
See also Sisi: Protecting Egypt More Important than Struggle Against Israel - Zvi Bar'el
For the first time, an Arab leader, Egypt's President Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi, is challenging the common view that "resistance" organizations that are fighting Israel necessarily serve Arab interests. The "sanctity" of the struggle against Israel is no longer seen as justification for the existence of an organization that turns its arms against Egypt.
- Egypt and the New Terror Onslaught - Zvi Mazel
Spectacular attacks were mounted against police and army targets in Sinai by the Islamic terrorist organization Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis on Thursday that left dozens of dead and wounded.
In the 18 months since the ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic terrorist organizations in Sinai have vastly developed their operations. At the same time, hundreds of terrorists have been killed or jailed.
The president still has the situation well in hand, and his efforts to develop the economy are bearing fruit; his popularity is still very high. Yet the Egyptian army was never properly trained to fight guerrillas. Furthermore, though the Egyptian army is fighting on Egyptian territory, it has to deal in Sinai with a largely hostile Bedouin population that shows no disposition to cooperate with a central government which has ignored them for decades.
Unfortunately Cairo's long-term ally, America, has yet to restore fully its military cooperation, and Egypt is not receiving the help it so desperately needs to maintain its stability. The Obama administration still supports the Brotherhood. Just last week a delegation of members of the Brotherhood who fled Egypt was received at the State Department. When will America finally understand that a prolonged and bloody conflict in Sinai will affect all countries in the region? The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden.
- New Chair Can't Salvage UN Gaza Travesty - Jonathan S. Tobin
The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) spends most of its time ignoring all of the most egregious violations of human rights and atrocities around the world and, instead, concentrates almost all of its energies on demonizing Israel and its efforts to defend its citizens against terrorist attacks.
William Schabas, the Canadian law professor who headed the UNHRC commission to investigate last summer's Gaza war and who had already denounced Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu as a war criminal, has now resigned.
But anyone who has followed the UNHRC knows that no matter how much effort Israel puts into its defense, the result won't change. Schabas was merely the figurehead at the top of a UN structure that dictates an indictment of Israel. It should be recalled that the UNHRC's investigation of the 2008 war in Gaza - the Goldstone Commission - was a travesty that was focused almost entirely on delegitimizing Israeli self-defense while largely downplaying the actual war crimes committed by the Hamas rulers of Gaza.
Rather than wring its hands about the likelihood of an unfair attack on Israel about the Gaza war, the U.S. ought to be leading efforts to isolate the UNHRC so as to prevent it from doing even more damage. (Commentary)
- How Iran Is Making It Impossible for the U.S. to Beat ISIS - Michael Weiss and Michael Pregent
Iran's influence in Iraq since ISIS sacked Mosul last June has resulted in a wave of sectarian bloodletting and dispossession against the country's Sunni minority population, usually at the hands of Iranian-backed Shia militia groups, but sometimes with the active collusion of Iraq's internal security forces. The Hizbullah-ization of Iraq's military and security forces has been overseen by Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps-Quds Force, headed by Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani.
"Iran has used Iraq as a petri dish to grow new Shia jihadist groups and spread their ideology," says Phillip Smyth, an expert on Shia militias.There are more than 50 "highly ideological, anti-American, and rabidly sectarian" Shia militias operating in Iraq today, and recruiting more to their ranks, all with the acquiescence of the central government. Iraq's Vice President for Reconciliation, Ayad Allawi, a secular Shia, told the Guardian that pro-government forces have been ethnically cleansing Sunnis from Baghdad. Thus, Sunni tribesmen are given a choice between cutting a pragmatic deal with ISIS or embracing Shia death squads.
Ignoring Gaza's Suffering, Hamas Girds for War - Editorial (Washington Post)
- The Washington Post's William Booth witnessed a chilling event in Gaza on Thursday: thousands of youths lined up "in crisp military fashion" for a "graduation ceremony" after a week of training by the armed wing of the Hamas movement.
- Even as thousands of Gazan families struggle to survive amid the rubble of last summer's war with Israel, Hamas is once again investing its resources in preparing for another unwinnable battle. This Islamic terrorist movement has started three wars with Israel in six years while depriving the 1.8 million people on its devastated territory any hope of peaceful development.
- After last year's war, the U.S. and Egypt pressed a formula under which the PA would take over responsibility for security on Gaza's border, allowing for an expansion of trade and humanitarian relief.
- The deal never took hold. Hamas refused to give up its checkpoints on the border, while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas chose to focus his energies on another empty diplomatic offensive at the UN rather than the more difficult work of restoring order in Gaza.
- UN officials, like much of the rest of the world, are quick to blame Israel for Gaza's horrific situation, even though Egypt's border "blockade" is tighter. Israel, however, can hardly be expected to facilitate Hamas' relentless preparations for more war, to which concrete and other reconstruction materials have been diverted in the past.
- An Israeli official told Booth that Gazan workshops were "assembling new rockets as fast as they can" and that the Strip's militias would be fully rearmed and trained within months.
See also Here's What a Hamas Training Camp for Teens Looks Like - William Booth (Washington Post)
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