Turkey's Secret Proxy War in Libya? - Jonathan Schanzer (National Interest)
Libya's internationally recognized Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni accused Turkey last month of sending weapons to his Islamist rivals.
Two weeks ago, the acting interior minister claimed that Turkish and Qatari aircraft are flying in and out of the Mitiga air base, which is controlled by the opposing Dawn coalition.
Turkey has made no secret about backing the country's Islamists after Gaddafi's fall in 2011, and it openly liaises with the Islamist government in Tripoli.
In December 2013, Egypt intercepted four containers of weapons from Turkey destined for Libyan militias. In August 2014, pro-government forces shelled a ship at the Libyan port of Derna carrying a cache of weapons from Turkey.
The writer is vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Hizbullah Ordered by Iran to Send Fighters to Iraq (Ya Libnan-Lebanon)
The London-based al-Arabi al-Jadeed reported Sunday that Iran ordered Hizbullah to send fighters to Iraq to help liberate the city of Mosul from the Islamic State.
"Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah agreed to send about 800 men from elite units to participate in the anticipated battle," sources were quoted as saying.
Once in Iraq, Iran will equip the men with heavy weapons.
Hamas Twitter Campaign to Challenge "Terror" Label Backfires - Lora Moftah (International Business Times)
Hamas launched a Twitter campaign Thursday - #AskHamas - to improve its image and refute its designation as a terror organization.
Critics wasted no time in using the hashtag to tweet disparaging questions, such as:
How do you feel about your leader hiding out in a fancy hotel in Doha while there was a war in Gaza?
Do you import the Israeli flags you burn, or do you manufacture them yourselves?
Do you feel comfortable launching your social media campaign on a site founded by a Jew?
What UN school in Gaza should I send my daughter to, if I don't want her to trip over your stored weapons?
French Experts Reaffirm: Arafat Was Not Poisoned (AFP)
French experts have ruled out that the 2004 death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was the result of poisoning, a prosecutor told AFP.
French experts "maintain that the polonium 210 and lead 210 found in Arafat's grave and in the samples are of an environmental nature," Nanterre prosecutor Catherine Denis said.
Israeli Keepod for Those Who Can't Afford a Computer - Ben Sales (JTA)
Based in Tel Aviv, the Keepod company aims to provide the world's poorest countries with widespread computer and Internet access.
By putting a modern computer operating system on a USB drive, users are able to connect to the Internet using older - and much less expensive - computers.
Keepods cost $7, and by allowing users to store their personal information on the drive, people can use their individual Keepods to share a single computer.
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- UN Monitor Says Iran Is Worsening on Rights - Nick Cumming-Bruce
Iran's use of the death penalty is rising and its repression of political critics is worsening despite promises by President Hassan Rouhani, UN human rights monitor Ahmed Shaheed said on Monday.
Iran has one of the highest execution rates in the world and continues "to harass, arrest, prosecute and imprison members of civil society who express criticism of the government or who publicly deviate from officially sanctioned narratives," Shaheed said in Geneva. Iran executed 753 people in 2014, including at least 13 juveniles, and 252 people in the first 10 weeks of 2015, compared with 580 in 2012.
(New York Times)
- Iraqi Offensive for Tikrit Stalls - Loveday Morris
Iraqi forces' operation to retake the city of Tikrit has stalled as troops suffer heavy casualties at the hands of Islamic State militants. Iraq's interior minister, Mohammed al-Ghabban, confirmed Monday that the offensive has "temporarily stopped." Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said U.S. forces have not conducted airstrikes to support the Tikrit battle, an operation dominated by Shiite militia forces and overseen by Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani. (Washington Post)
- Iraqi Kurds Say Islamic State Used Chlorine Gas Against Them - Isabel Coles
Iraqi Kurdish authorities said on Saturday that Islamic State had used chlorine gas against their peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq on Jan. 23.
They said soil and clothing samples taken after an Islamic State car bombing attempt "contained levels of chlorine that suggested the substance was used in weaponized form." About a dozen peshmerga fighters experienced symptoms of nausea, vomiting, dizziness or weakness after the incident, a source said.
- U.S.: No Place for Assad in Syria Talks - Matt Spetalnick
The U.S. insisted on Monday it would never negotiate directly with Syrian President Assad, edging away from comments made Sunday by Secretary of State John Kerry that there could be a place for Assad in efforts to reach a diplomatic solution to the Syrian conflict. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, "We continue to believe...that there's no future for Assad in Syria." (Reuters)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- After Four Years of Civil War, Iran Is Entrenched in Syria - Zvi Bar'el
The adviser to the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Hamadani, said last week that "Iranian commanders liberated over 85% of the territory that was controlled by the rebels" in Syria. Asharq al-Awsat published an article saying: "The old city of Damascus has become the quarter of Hizbullah control." Hizbullah soldiers have set up roadblocks and put up iron gates at the entrances to streets where Alawites live.
The report says they have turned the center of Damascus into a twin of the Dahiyah neighborhood of south Beirut, the stronghold of Hizbullah.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards are taking an active role in managing the fighting. Huge posters of Iranian Ayatollahs Khamenei and Khomeini hang in the streets and villages under Hizbullah control. Planning of Syrian military operations is done in full coordination with Iranian commanders.
- Don't Use Iran to Fight ISIS - Tovah Lazaroff interviews Yuval Steinitz
It's a mistake for the U.S. to use Iran to fight Islamic State and to help police the Middle East, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz warned on Sunday in an interview. "Iran is already a stable caliphate and to allow it to be a superpower, this is a terrible, historic mistake." He warned that the U.S. "will get an Iranian Shi'ite empire with such vast resources and vast territory that the problem of Islamic State will be only one percent of this new problem. You do not resolve this problem [with Islamic State] by creating a bigger problem." (Jerusalem Post)
- Tony Blair Looking to Expand Mideast Peacemaking Role - Herb Keinon
Quartet envoy and former British prime minister Tony Blair is not stepping away from the Mideast peace process, a source close to Blair said on Monday, following a report in the Financial Times on Sunday that Blair is preparing to step back from that role. Blair initiated discussions about enhancing his role, which has focused on Palestinian economic development, and giving it a regional focus.
In recent weeks there has been talk of expanding the Quartet to include Arab countries as well. (Jerusalem Post)
- The Negotiations with Iran Are About the Future of the Middle East - Jackson Diehl
Sanctions, sabotage and the threat of military action, combined with good intelligence and international inspections, have prevented Iran from building a weapon for the last dozen years. While it's possible that Iran would respond to a collapse in the talks by building bombs, that wouldn't be in keeping with its previous practice. Nor would it be easy to carry off at a time when the economy is being hammered by plummeting oil revenue as well as sanctions.
Obama's negotiations with Iran are not just about whether it will obtain a nuclear weapon; they are about the future of the Middle East. Martin Indyk of the Brookings Institution, a former Obama Mideast envoy, argues that "it is fanciful to imagine that the United States could convince Iran to shift from the region's most threatening revisionist power and become instead a partner in establishing a new order." He favors a U.S. strategy of rebuilding stability with its traditional allies.
- We're Letting Iran and ISIS Carve Up Iraq - Amir Taheri
While the Islamic State was retreating on the Tikrit front north of Baghdad, its forces were making major gains east of the Iraqi capital with the aim of capturing Ramadi, Iraq's fourth-largest Arab Sunni city. IS has also scored new gains by securing pledges of loyalty from other jihadi movements in Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Algeria and Mali. The latest came from Boko Haram in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the general perception is that the real winners in Tikrit were Shiite militias backed and even led by military advisers from the Quds Corps of Iran's Revolutionary Guard. Iran's propaganda machine is awarding credit to the military genius of Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the Quds Corps commander. Some Iranian officials even claim a new Persian empire is taking shape across most of the Middle East.
Iran is not aiming to defeat IS, let alone destroy it. All Tehran wants is to create a safe corridor through Iraqi territory to Syria and thence to Lebanon.
(New York Post)
- Debating Israel's Right to Exist - Tim Stanley
The University of Southampton is hosting a conference to discuss Israel's legal right to exist. It is true that Israel was a state created where no such state had existed before. But so were Iraq, Syria, Uganda and Togo - all products of decolonization. Why, pray, does no one debate the legal foundations of the existence of Nigeria, which comprises various tribes and religions with terrible unease?
It is true that Israel's foundation involved the displacement of people. But the case is not unique. When the states of India and Pakistan were created, their subjects trekked across the subcontinent to resettle in one country or another - causing the deaths of thousands. Likewise, the American Indians were displaced by European colonists.
What is it about Israel that makes people debate its "legality" so much more often than they do that of other states? Why is it held to such an impossible standard? When it comes to Israel, there is a unique enthusiasm to call into question its very right to exist. Strange, isn't it?
See also A Rally of Hate Directed at Israel - Douglas Murray
The number of people in Britain so utterly and weirdly obsessed by Israel is really quite small. Most ordinary, fair-minded people looking at the Middle East can see that Israel is the only liberal and free society like ours in the region.
These anti-Israel obsessives are fringe weirdos in wider society.
One of the only places where they are not is university campuses. It is high time that non-Jews stood with Jews against this rising hatred.
The writer is associate director at the Henry Jackson Society.
A House Undivided: Israel's New Consensus Politics - Emanuele Ottolenghi (National Interest)
- Israelis go to the polls on March 17, and while international pundits are hoping for a political earthquake, it is likely that, like most of Israel's preceding elections, this one will bring incremental rather than apocalyptic change, and Israel's domestic, regional and foreign situation will remain largely the same as it had been before.
- Israeli politics have developed around a new national consensus.
Israelis have reached a near wall-to-wall consensus on the enormity of the Iranian nuclear threat.
- Israelis are keen to reach a compromise with the Palestinians but despair of having one, given ongoing Palestinian incitement and terror, the presence of Iranian proxies at Israel's borders, and regional turmoil left unchecked by a retreating American superpower.
- Increasingly, Israelis are loath to renounce strategic settlement blocs and the Jordan Valley to a Palestinian society increasingly dominated by Islamic extremists. They have little faith in the Palestinian Authority's ability to prevent a West Bank replay of the scenario that followed the withdrawal from Gaza ten years ago - with thousands of rockets indiscriminately launched at Israel's civilian centers.
- That is why, ultimately, whoever wins the elections on Tuesday will have to embrace that consensus.
The writer is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
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