ISIS Ranks Grow as Fast as U.S. Bombs Can Wipe Them Out - Tim Mak and Nancy A. Youssef (Daily Beast)
Four thousand foreign fighters have joined ISIS since the allied airstrikes began, U.S. intelligence officials say. That's nearly as many combatants as coalition forces claimed to have killed.
Moreover, the tally doesn’t count the thousands of local Iraqi and Syrian combatants who’ve joined the conflict.
"The numbers are not moving in our favor," Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) said last week, after a secret briefing with Gen. John Allen, presidential envoy in the campaign against ISIS.
Hamas Leader Calls for Lebanon, Syria Branches to Attack Israel (AFP)
Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said Wednesday in Gaza that the Lebanese and Syrian branches of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' armed wing, should launch attacks on Israel "to help us liberate Palestine."
The Search for Hizbullah's Imad Mughniyeh - Matthew Levitt (The Hill)
On Feb. 12, 2008, American and Israeli spies killed Hizbullah master terrorist Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus, who had evaded them on several previous occasions.
In November 1985, officials in Paris intercepted a voice frequency sample of Mughniyeh, who was traveling under a false identity and was tracked to a luxury hotel just around the corner from the U.S. embassy. The CIA provided French officials with a copy of the passport he was using.
Instead of detaining him, French intelligence officials reportedly met Mughniyeh several times over a six-day period and allowed him to leave the country in return for the release of a French hostage.
In 1995, intelligence indicated that Mughniyeh was traveling under an assumed name on a flight from Khartoum to Tehran that was scheduled to make a stop in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. American officials asked their Saudi counterparts to detain Mughniyeh, which they did not.
The writer is director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Islamic State Executed 98 People in January 2015 (DPA)
At least 50 people in Syria were put to death by the Islamic State jihadist militia in January, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
In Iraq, residents in Islamic State-controlled areas and security officials reported 48 executions.
See also Islamic State Executes Three of Its Chinese Militants (Reuters)
The Islamic State has killed three Chinese militants who joined its ranks in Syria and Iraq and later attempted to flee, the Chinese state-run Global Times said.
UN: Islamic State Torturing, Killing Children in Iraq (AP-Washington Post)
In a report issued Wednesday in Geneva, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child said it has received reports of "several cases of mass executions of boys, as well as reports of beheadings, crucifixions of children and burying children alive."
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- Muslim Outrage Against Islamic State after Killing of Jordanian Pilot - Liz Sly and Hugh Naylor
Declarations of outrage swept the Middle East on Wednesday as the spectacle of an Arab pilot being burned alive in a cage triggered some of the harshest reactions yet.
The pan-Arab daily al-Hayat headlined its coverage: "Barbarity," while Iyad Madani, secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, condemned the killing as an affront to Islam.
"Most of the people executed by [the Islamic State] have been foreigners, but this time it was an Arab Muslim man," said Labib Kamhawi, a political analyst based in Amman.
However, Hisham al-Hashimi, an expert on ISIS who advises the Iraqi government, said, "The Islamic State has gained more from this than it has lost." In the Syrian city of Raqqa, the Islamic State broadcast video of the pilot's death on giant video screens as crowds shouted, "God is Great." (Washington Post)
See also Muslim Clerics Denounce Burning Alive of Pilot as Un-Islamic - Sami Aboudi and Suleiman Al-Khalidi
The Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar, Ahmed al-Tayeb, Egypt's top Muslim authority, said the killers themselves deserved to be "killed, crucified or to have their limbs amputated." In Qatar, the International Association of Muslim Scholars, headed by Youssef al-Qaradawi and linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, called the burning of the pilot a criminal act.
- Cairo Fights Islamist Militants in Sinai
An Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis commander admitted to a Reuters reporter in mid-January that his group was facing greater difficulties. "Our numbers are smaller than before. Lots of people were killed. Lots of people were detained. Security forces are everywhere." Egyptian President Sisi has doubled troops in Sinai since last year and won support from some Bedouins, who have helped the army locate weapon-smuggling routes used by jihadi groups, security officials said. "A year ago we could not get to places where they hide," said a police captain, referring to Ansar. "Now we are spread across north Sinai."
According to one militant, "About 1,000 of us have been killed and about 500 or 600 arrested." "There are far fewer weapons because tunnels [from Gaza] have been destroyed." An Egyptian diplomat said that Israel was providing Egypt with intelligence help to track Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis. "I can't say whether it is useful, but I can say that it is appreciated." (Reuters)
- Security Council Condemns Killing of Spanish Peacekeeper, But Not Killing of 2 IDF Soldiers - Cara Anna
The UN Security Council on Wednesday condemned "in the strongest terms" last week's killing of a Spanish peacekeeper in southern Lebanon after an attack by Hizbullah that killed two Israeli soldiers near the Israel-Lebanon border led to an exchange of fire. Israel's ambassador Ron Prosor pointed out that the council statement didn't mention the Israeli soldiers or condemn Hizbullah. "The Security Council seems to think that some lives have more value than others," he said.
A council diplomat said Russia blocked a French-drafted statement on Tuesday that would have condemned the Hizbullah attack on the Israeli soldiers as a violation of the resolution that ended the 2006 war.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Netanyahu: Iran Seeks to Establish New Terror Front in Golan Heights
During a visit to Israel's northern border on Wednesday, Prime Minister Netanyahu said: "I came here today with our Defense Minister to view the IDF preparations against the new terror front that Iran is seeking to establish here in the Golan Heights. This is in addition to the terror fronts they've already established in south Lebanon and in Gaza."
"It's curious to me that in the face of this terror activity of Iran, both here in the region and throughout the world, leading countries in the world are not demanding that Iran cease this activity, but are racing to forge a deal that would enable Iran to have nuclear weapons, and that is the greatest danger of all. Israel will oppose this deal, which is dangerous to us, dangerous to the region, dangerous to the world."
"I take this opportunity to send my condolences to King Abdullah and the people of Jordan for the grisly murder of the air force pilot of the Jordanian air force. In the Islamic State of ISIS, they burn people alive; in the Islamic State of Tehran, they hang them from cranes in the public squares." (Prime Minister's Office)
- IDF Officer Loses Foot in Landmine Explosion in Golan Heights - Yaakov Lappin
An IDF officer was seriously wounded in a land-mine explosion in the northern Golan Heights on Wednesday while she was carrying out work near the border fence with Syria. An army source said the mine appeared to have moved from its original location due to weather conditions, describing the blast as accidental. As many as 100,000 land mines laid during the 1950s and 1960s are estimated to be in the Golan Heights.
- Egypt's War in the Sinai Peninsula: A Struggle that Goes beyond Egypt - Yoram Schweitzer
The Jan. 29, 2015, attacks in northern Sinai by some 60 armed men killed 32 people. The attacks included rockets and mortar fire and at least three suicide bombings. There were concurrent attacks in Port Said and Alexandria.
The offensive was carried out by Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which in November 2014 pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS).
IS support for the group through funding and provision of weapons and personnel gives Egypt's campaign in Sinai great importance. The success of the Sisi government in providing an effective response to the offensive by Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis will also affect the ability of other countries to contend with Salafist jihadi elements. Such success will also serve to hinder the impression of an unstoppable, threatening force created by IS conquests.
Egypt's campaign in Sinai has tremendous significance for Israel since Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has carried out attacks against Israel in the past and has declared that it will continue to operate directly against Israel. Therefore, any intelligence, operational, or political assistance that Israel can provide to the el-Sisi regime will serve Israel's security interests.
The writer served as a consultant on counter-terror strategies to the Prime Minister's Office and the Ministry of Defense, and as head of the Counter International Terror Section in the IDF.
(Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
- The UN Commission of Inquiry on Gaza Violates Accepted International Norms - Alan Baker
The UN knowingly chose to ignore well-established procedures in appointing William Schabas to chair the Gaza inquiry, and as such, has prejudiced any findings and outcome of the Commission of Inquiry. Numerous documents set out the various rules and norms for fact-finding commissions, each one stressing the importance and centrality of impartiality - both of the mandate, as well as by the head and members of the commission. The writer served as legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as Israel's ambassador to Canada.
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Anti-Semitism in Europe Isn't about Israel - Richard Cohen
The Islamic world is not so concerned about Palestinians that it has accorded Palestinian refugees anything like equal rights in the countries where they have sought refuge, or protested when whole Palestinian communities were uprooted from Kuwait after the PLO supported Saddam Hussein. The Arab world weeps for the Palestinians - but only on cue and not too much. So the supposed anger that drives some Muslims into sharing core beliefs with Adolf Hitler is not all that essential to the Islamic or Arab identity.
Anti-Semitism is the most durable of all conspiracy theories and blaming Israel misses the point. The pogroms of Europe took place with no Israel in sight. The Holocaust consumed 6 million Jews and not because Hitler was pro-Palestinian.
The Palestinian ICC Bid and U.S. Interests - Eugene Kontorovich (U.S. House of Representatives)
See also The Palestinian Authority's International Criminal Court Gambit: A True Partner for Peace? - David Makovsky (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- Like Israel, the U.S. has chosen not to join the ICC, and thus has the same interest as Israel in avoiding being subject to its jurisdiction.
- The notion that ICC jurisdiction over U.S. troops could be conferred by a majority vote of the UN General Assembly should be alarming.
- Similarly, to pursue an investigation of Israel, the Court would have to define down important limitations on its jurisdiction. Such decisions would set precedents that could then be used aggressively against U.S. troops and officials, who are already the subject of an examination by the ICC Prosecutor.
The writer, a professor at Northwestern University School of Law, presented this testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa on Feb. 4.
- The Palestinian move for membership in the ICC creates a whole new arena of confrontation that could play out over years. We want the parties to solve their problems, and not to lock into a villain and victim narrative that would make conflict resolution impossible. This is bad not just for the Palestinians, but also for the ICC itself.
- The purpose of the ICC is to deal with mass atrocities, and not serve as another politicized UN agency.
- If the ICC wants to be taken seriously and not be viewed like the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, which regards Israel as an obsession at a time when 200,000 Syrians have been slaughtered, it should remain true to its origins and avoid politicization by inserting itself into a complex conflict such as the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
The writer, director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at The Washington Institute, presented this testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa on Feb. 4.
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