Islamic State Has Grown to Size of Belgium - Guy Taylor (Washington Times)
The House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee Chairman, Michael T. McCaul (R-Texas), said Wednesday the Islamic State "now controls territory the size of Belgium, governs millions of people, draws on billions of dollars in revenue and commands tens of thousands of foot soldiers."
"Through Hollywood-like propaganda videos and social media... Islamist terror groups are inciting their followers and potential recruits to wage war at home. Both ISIS, and Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula have called for Westerners, including Americans, to wage individual jihad in their home countries, and it's working."
Hizbullah Is Turning into an Unreliable State - Hanin Ghaddar (NOW-Lebanon)
Nour Cards are given to people within Hizbullah's community and cover medical care, education and other services. Recently, the card's coverage has been reduced due to funding cutbacks by Iran.
In addition, the families of the young men dying in Syria are getting little compensation compared to the compensation paid to the families of "martyrs" during the 2006 war.
Hizbullah is becoming unreliable in Lebanon, with no victory in Syria, and with the threat of ISIS moving closer to Lebanon's borders.
See also Is Hizbullah Going Broke? - Jeff Neumann (Newsweek)
Israeli Aid Group Provides Help for Refugees in Northern Iraq - Shlomo Cesana (Israel Hayom)
Kurdish, Yazidi and Christian refugees in northern Iraq, escaping Islamic State rule, have been receiving help from the Israeli aid organization IsraAid.
Navy Installs Advanced Underwater AquaShield Detection System - Lilach Shoval (Israel Hayom)
The Israeli Navy is currently installing the AquaShield Diver Detection Sonar system along Israel's northern sea border, and has already installed it along the sea border with Gaza.
The system makes it possible for the IDF to identify individual divers underwater from a significant distance from the coast.
AquaShield can also provide protection for vital infrastructure such as gas rigs.
Israeli Seawater Desalination Plant Sets World Record for Water Production (WaterWorld)
IDE Technologies' seawater desalination plant in Ashkelon, Israel, the largest and most advanced in the world, has produced 1 billion m3 of high-quality tap water since 2005 and has a capacity of up to 330,000 m3 per day.
The plant has also achieved one of the world's lowest prices for desalinated water.
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- Fall of Yemen Is Major Setback - Greg Miller and Hugh Naylor
After Houthi rebels toppled the Yemeni government, the closure of the U.S. Embassy in Yemen has forced the CIA to significantly scale back its counterterrorism presence in the country, according to current and former U.S. officials, who said the evacuation represents a major setback in operations against al-Qaeda's most dangerous affiliate.
The spy agency has pulled dozens of operatives, analysts and other staffers from Yemen as part of a broader extraction of roughly 200 Americans who had been based at the embassy in Sanaa. Among those removed were senior officers who worked closely with Yemen's intelligence and security services to target al-Qaeda operatives and disrupt terrorism plots often aimed at the U.S.
See also Yemen's Houthis Confiscate U.S. Embassy Vehicles and Weapons of Departing U.S. Marines - Ed Adamczyk (UPI)
See also Al-Qaeda Militants Seize Army Base in South Yemen (Reuters)
- Secret Iranian Unit Fueling Mideast Bloodshed with Illicit Arms Shipments - Jennifer Griffin
Unit 190, a secret arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force, has for years been smuggling arms to conflict zones across the Middle East and North Africa. According to Western intelligence sources, Behnam Shahariyari is a key player in Unit 190, running a network of straw companies which skirt sanctions by packing RPGs, night-vision equipment and long-range rockets together with powdered milk, cement and spare vehicle parts. "Very often arms and explosives were placed in trucks underneath legal cargo in order to hide them," said Michael Eisenstadt, director of Military and Security Studies for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
- IMF: Sisi's Economic Initiatives in Egypt Are Starting to Work - Asa Fitch
Recent economic measures enacted in Egypt under President al-Sisi are beginning to produce results after four years of economic stagnation, the International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday. The overhauls, including cuts to fuel subsidies and attempts to fix persistent government budget deficits, have boosted prospects for economic growth to 3.8% in the 2014-15 fiscal year.
(Wall Street Journal)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israeli Navy Stops Gaza-Bound Boat with Rocket Manufacturing Material - Yoav Zitun
Israeli Navy forces captured a boat on Jan. 19 carrying a ton of liquid fiberglass used in the manufacture of rockets and mortars, intended for Hamas in Gaza. The operation was cleared for publication on Wednesday. "Thwarting smuggling attempts like this happens almost every week," said Lt. Col. Liav Zilberman.
See also Video: Israel Intercepts Rocket-Making Materials Headed for Gaza (Jerusalem Post)
- The Palestinian ICC Gambit and the EU Call for a Return to Negotiations - Alan Baker
How can the Palestinians push for bringing Israeli leaders before the International Criminal Court (ICC), while at the same time intimating to the world their desire to resume negotiations with those same leaders? The person heading their ICC preparation committee is chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. This begs the question: which Israelis does Erekat intend to negotiate with, if his aim is to have them all arrested for war crimes?
If the Quartet and the international community genuinely intend to encourage the resumption of the negotiating process, they cannot at the same time sit idly by and give even an indirect green light to Abbas and Erekat in their attempts to delegitimize Israel and its leadership. The writer, former legal advisor of Israel's Foreign Ministry and former Israeli ambassador to Canada, is the resident international law expert at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
- Israel's Air and Missile Defense During the 2014 Gaza War - Uzi Rubin
In the escalation that precipitated the 2014 Gaza War and during the war, Israel was subjected to the fiercest and longest-reaching rocket assault in its history. More than 4,500 rockets and mortars were fired from Gaza during the fighting. The rocket fire was neither silenced nor reduced in intensity until an agreed ceasefire ended the fighting.
The nine Iron Dome batteries that protected most of Israel's civilian areas shot down nine out of every ten rockets aimed at their defended areas. Patriot batteries shot down Palestinian armed UAVs. Therefore, the casualties and damage from the Gaza rockets were significantly less than from the Hizbullah rocket fire in the 2006 Lebanon War. Israel's active defenses allowed most Israelis in the threatened localities to continue their daily lives with minimal interruptions.
(Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
- Why Netanyahu Should Give His Speech - David Suissa
Like many other American Jews, I've had serious reservations about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's decision to speak to Congress on March 3, against the wishes of President Barack Obama. If the most powerful man in the world is upset about something, you can't afford to just shrug that off.
And yet, as much as I've had my issues with him over the years, I don't feel like joining in the anti-Bibi frenzy.
What is Obama so afraid of? Is it possible that he's afraid to start a vigorous debate on his Iran strategy that will expose it as potentially harmful to America's or Israel's interest?
Let's put aside all the hysterics about politics and protocol. As sobering as those things may be, they pale in comparison to the strategic issue of how Obama deals with the Iranian nuclear threat. If he's about to sign an agreement that many experts agree is a bad one, don't we deserve a national debate, as an editorial in the Washington Post called for last week? (Los Angeles Jewish Journal)
See also The Emerging Iran Nuclear Deal Raises Major Concerns - Editorial (Washington Post)
- Israel Has Legitimate Reasons to Fear a Nuclear Iran - Arye Mekel
The U.S. is very close to signing an agreement with Iran regarding its nuclear aspirations. Experts agree that this agreement will allow Iran to continue its efforts to gain nuclear weapons. Iran continues to threaten Israel with extinction, and obviously Israel has legitimate reasons to fear a nuclear Iran. Under these circumstances, should the Prime Minister of Israel sit idly or should he do everything possible to alert the world to this grave danger? Ambassador Arye Mekel, a former Israel Foreign Ministry spokesman, is a senior fellow at the BESA Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University.
(Times of Israel)
- Human Rights in Iran: Marginalized and Sanitized - Irwin Cotler
The prevention of an Iranian "nuclear breakout" capability is inextricably intertwined with the regime's ongoing massive repression of human rights. Indeed, negotiations proceed while human rights violations in Iran continue unabated - and have even intensified - under the "moderate" President Rouhani.
First, the prospect of a rights-violating regime seeking to possess nuclear weapons itself warrants concern. Second, the reality of Iran's repressive treatment of its citizens - and blatant breaches of its international law obligations in this regard - should cause us to question the veracity of any commitments made by the regime in the context of the nuclear negotiations. The writer, a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, is Professor of Law Emeritus at McGill University.
Rolling Back the Iranian Threat - Mortimer B. Zuckerman (New York Daily News)
- Iran believes time is on its side to build a nuclear bomb and the means to deliver it. All the red lines imposed have evaporated. We went from saying "no enrichment of uranium" to a "temporary complete enrichment freeze" to a "partial freeze," coupled with shipping some of Iran's stockpile to Russia. Iran has gone from insignificant levels of enrichment prior to 2010 to thousands of kilograms of enriched uranium.
- Just about every Western leader is consistently on record saying, "No deal is better than a bad deal." But the rhetoric does not match the reality. There are secret letters begging Iran for a compromise. No one is talking about dismantling Iran's program anymore.
There is a sickening smell in the air, the harbinger of a bad deal.
- We cannot leave Iran with thousands of centrifuges to enrich uranium when it doesn't even need a single centrifuge to have peaceful nuclear energy.
We must insist Iran cuts to 500 kilograms its reserves of uranium that has been enriched to 3.5%; it must stop enriching more uranium at Fordow and end tests of new-generation centrifuges. We must insist on our having the right to inspect all its nuclear facilities.
- We also have to confront Iran's program for missiles. Iran doesn't need intercontinental ballistic missiles to reach Israel; they need them to reach Europe and the U.S. and the only thing to carry on an intercontinental ballistic missile is a nuclear warhead.
- Israeli Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, former military intelligence chief and executive director of the Institute for National Security Studies, notes that the Iranian program is currently three to six months away from a bomb. Any deal will have to roll Iran back from the brink.
- We should remember that Iran remains the Islamic republic, with all the ambitions of a hegemonic power. Its human rights record is deplorable; its ties are stronger than ever to terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hizbullah, whom Iran supplies with weapons, money and advisers; it supports bloody regimes like the one in Syria and sectarian governments like Iraq.
The writer is chairman and publisher of the New York Daily News.
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