Denmark Terrorist Swore Fidelity to ISIS Leader - Ralph Ellis, Holly Yan and Susanne Gargiulo (CNN)
Omar El-Hussein, who opened fire at a free speech forum and a synagogue in Copenhagen on Saturday, killing two people, swore fidelity to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on his Facebook page just before the shooting spree.
Egypt Wants a UN-Backed Coalition Against Islamic State in Libya (AP-Washington Post)
Egypt's president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi told France's Europe 1 Radio he wants a UN-backed coalition to rid Libya of Islamic State militants.
Islamic State Sprouting Limbs Beyond Its Base - Eric Schmitt and David D. Kirkpatrick (New York Times)
The Islamic State is expanding beyond its base in Syria and Iraq to establish militant affiliates in Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt and Libya, American intelligence officials assert.
They estimate that the group's fighters number 20,000 to 31,500 in Syria and Iraq.
There are less formal pledges of support from "probably at least a couple hundred extremists" in Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Yemen, according to an American counterterrorism official.
No New Trial for Arab Activist for Lying about Killing Role (AP)
In Detroit, federal Judge Gershwin Drain last week denied a request for a new trial for Chicago Arab activist Rasmieh Odeh, who was convicted of lying about her role in two terrorist bombing deaths in Israel when she immigrated to the U.S.
Drain said evidence showed the Palestinian native illegally obtained U.S. citizenship by failing to disclose her conviction for the fatal 1969 bombings in Jerusalem and that her argument for a new trial lacked legal merit.
Gazans Protest Killing of Muslims in U.S. (AFP)
Dozens of Gazans forced a temporary shutdown of several aid organizations Monday in protest at the killings of three American Muslims of Palestinian origin in North Carolina last week.
The Palestinian Authority has condemned the murders as a "dangerous sign of racism and religious extremism."
Yemen's Last Jews Eye Exodus after Islamist Militia Takeover - Mohammed Ghobari (Reuters)
A few worried families are all that remain of Yemen's ancient Jewish community, and they too may soon flee after the Houthi Shi'ite Muslim militia seized power this month, whose motto is "Death to America, death to Israel, curse the Jews, victory to Islam."
Six Yemeni Jews arrived in Israel on Friday. 45 Jews live in a government-guarded compound in Sanaa, while 26 others live in a city north of the capital.
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- Iraq's Pro-Iranian Shiite Militias Lead the War Against the Islamic State - Liz Sly
Shiite militias backed by Iran are increasingly taking the lead in Iraq's fight against the Islamic State, threatening to undermine U.S. strategies intended to bolster the central government, rebuild the Iraqi army and promote reconciliation with the country's embittered Sunni minority.
With an estimated 100,000 to 120,000 armed men, the militias are rapidly eclipsing the depleted and demoralized Iraqi army, whose fighting strength has dwindled to about 48,000 troops.
The militias are entrenching Iran's already substantial hold over Iraq in ways that may prove difficult to reverse. Backed and in some instances armed and funded by Iran, the militias openly proclaim allegiance to Tehran.
Giant billboards advertising the militias' prowess and featuring portraits of Iran's late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have appeared in central Baghdad.
There is a real risk the U.S. will defeat the Islamic State but lose Iraq to Iran in the process, said Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "The Shiite militias don't want the Americans there and they never did."
The militias' chain of command runs in many instances directly to Iran. The man appointed to coordinate their activities is Iraq's deputy national security adviser, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury for his role as a top Iraqi commander in Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps. (Washington Post)
See also Iran Unit with U.S. Blood on Its Hands Fights ISIS (CNN)
- Hizbullah Acknowledges Presence in Iraq - Liz Sly and Suzan Haidamous
The leader of Lebanon's Hizbullah, Hasan Nasrallah, acknowledged for the first time Monday that the Shiite militia has sent fighters to Iraq. He called on the region's traditional American allies to abandon their reliance on the U.S. and instead align with Hizbullah - and by implication with its sponsor Iran - to confront the threat posed by the Islamic State. "He who relies on the Americans relies on an illusion," he said. Nasrallah also charged that the Islamic State is working on Israel's behalf.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Netanyahu: "Iran Is Trying to Encircle Us" - Gili Cohen
Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, the new chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, assumed his post on Monday.
At the ceremony, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted: "The Middle East is disintegrating. States are collapsing. An empire is charging into this vacuum - Iran....It is trying to encircle us with three murderous arms - one in Lebanon, one in Gaza and a new one on the Golan. It vows openly to destroy the State of Israel in one way or another. Joining it are the forces of extremist Islam who are breaking through every crack in the Middle East and bringing their murderous acts to the entire world." (Ha'aretz)
See also IDF Sees Rising Threats from the North - Ron Ben-Yishai
Until about a month ago, IDF Military Intelligence and General Staff officers were of the opinion that the Palestinian arena (the West Bank, Gaza, and the delegitimization campaign around the globe) would be the IDF's primary concern and field of operation during 2015. The prevailing assessment now, however, is that the northern arena is about to become the main source of potential for a large-scale conflagration.
Hizbullah and senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard officials have decided recently to turn the Golan Heights into an active conflict zone with Israel, and they have made extensive headway in their preparations to realize their intentions.
- Ya'alon: PA Could Have Returned to Gaza, But Ran Away - Tovah Lazaroff
The Palestinian Authority could have returned to Gaza after last summer's Gaza war, but they refused and preferred instead to try and sue Israel before the International Criminal Court, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon told a conference at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv on Monday. "We tried to enable the Palestinian Authority to enter the Gaza Strip and they did not want to. They ran away....They are good at blaming us in the UN Security Council and in the ICC, but when they need to take responsibly they are gone."
Israel does not want to manage Palestinian affairs and it is important to help advance the Palestinian economy and to improve day-to-day life, Ya'alon said.
However, the differences between the Israelis and Palestinians "are huge. We have no meeting ground. We must internalize that we will not solve the conflict, but we have to manage it wisely." (Jerusalem Post)
- Why You Shouldn't Trust the AP's Report on Civilian Deaths in Gaza - Richard Behar
On Friday, AP alleged that IDF air strikes on Gazan houses killed mostly civilians during last summer's war against Hamas. The Intelligence and Information Center in Israel is reviewing civilian casualties name by name. In January they reported that of the 1,600 Gazans killed that the Center has identified, 55% were combatants and 45% were non-combatants.
The AP article focused on a particular subset of the fatalities - those killed while inside houses.
Yet it is not clear that Israel was responsible, since some 2,600(+) Palestinian rockets and mortar bombs landed in Palestinian residential areas. So of the 247 houses struck, how many were struck by Palestinian fire?
Finally, the article cites "UN casualty figures," but they are not really UN figures. They are Hamas figures passed on to the UN.
- Keep Calm, the U.S.-Israel Relationship Will Carry On - Moshe Arens
There have been some rough patches in Israel's relations with the U.S. over the years, but ever since Israel's victory in the Six-Day War in 1967, Washington gradually began to see Israel as a strategic asset.
That was the case during the Cold War, that is the case today, and it will continue as far as the eye can see. The intimate working relationship among the militaries in both countries, among members of the intelligence communities, technological cooperation, and commercial relations give daily proof that the relationship between the Americans and Israel is excellent because it is of mutual benefit to both countries.
The claim that bipartisan support for Israel will now be eroded ignores the fact that reservations in the U.S. regarding the agreement taking shape with Iran are bipartisan. The writer served as Israel's Minister of Defense three times and once as Minister of Foreign Affairs.
- Egypt "Doesn't Mind" Israeli Gas - Amira Howeidy
After news of talks between the Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS) and the American Noble Energy Company, which operates Israeli gas fields, Egypt's Ministry of Petroleum appears to publicly support a new policy that would allow the importation of Israeli gas. If the parties agree to export the Israeli gas via the existing offshore pipeline it could start flowing into Egypt's grid as early as this summer. The sub-headline of Al-Masry Al-Youm's lead story on 3 February proclaimed: "Egypt to confront summer blackouts with Israeli gas." However, "Israel won't be able to supply Egypt with the required volumes before the end of 2016 or 2017," said an informed source.
When former President Hosni Mubarak approved a 20-year agreement to export Egyptian gas to Israel in 2005, it caused a political uproar. In the aftermath of the uprising that toppled Mubarak in 2011, Egypt unilaterally terminated this agreement.
The Current Proposal to Iran Would Endanger Israel - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Prime Minister's Office)
Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem on Monday:
- Why am I going to Washington? I'm going to Washington because as Prime Minister of Israel, it's my obligation to do everything in my power to prevent the conclusion of a bad deal that could threaten the survival of the State of Israel.
- The current proposal to Iran would endanger Israel. It would enable Iran to breakout to its first nuclear device within an unacceptably short time. And it would allow Iran to build an industrial capability to enrich uranium that could provide the fuel for many bombs in the coming years. A regime that openly calls for Israel's destruction would thus finally have the means to realize its genocidal aims.
- The real question that should be asked is how could any responsible Israeli prime minister refuse to speak to Congress on a matter so important to Israel's survival? How could anyone refuse an invitation to speak on a matter that could affect our very existence when such an invitation is offered?
- Why go now? The deadline for reaching an agreement with Iran is March 24th. That's the date that drives the speech. Now is the time for Israel to make its case - now before a deal is signed. I believe it's more responsible to speak out now to try to influence the negotiations while they're still ongoing.
- The survival of Israel is not a partisan issue. The fight against militant Islamic terrorism is not a partisan issue. The battle against the Islamic State is not a partisan issue. And the effort to prevent the Islamic Republic from building nuclear weapons, that's not a partisan issue either.
- The pursuit of nuclear weapons by Iran is the most urgent security challenge facing the world. The greatest danger facing humanity is the possibility that any movement or any regime of militant Islam will arm itself with weapons of mass destruction.
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