Obama Kept Iran's Short Breakout Time a Secret - Eli Lake (Bloomberg)
The Obama administration has estimated for years that Iran was at most three months away from enriching enough nuclear fuel for an atomic bomb, but only declassified this estimate on April 1, 2015.
On Monday, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz acknowledged that the U.S. has assessed for several years that Iran has been two to three months away from producing enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon.
Report: ISIS Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi "Seriously Wounded in Air Strike" - Martin Chulov and Kareem Shaheen (Guardian-UK)
The leader of Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was seriously wounded in an air strike in western Iraq on March 18, sources have told the Guardian.
He has since made a slow recovery but has not resumed day-to-day control.
Israeli Population Stands at 8,345,000 - Hayah Goldlist-Eichler (Jerusalem Post)
Israel's population has grown to 8,345,000, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported Tuesday.
The Jewish population stands at 6,251,000, representing 75% percent of the population. The Arab population is 1,730,000 or 21%.
Over the past year 176,000 babies were born and 32,000 people moved to Israel.
For Israel Independence Day 2015, 67 New Reasons I Love Israel - Barbara Sofer (Jerusalem Post)
Israel inventions: supermarket carts with smartphone chargers.
El Al ground crew and flight attendants dress up for Purim. Despite complaints about cost of living and security threats, we have nearly twice as many babies as the average in other developed countries.
See also Israel Celebrates 67 Years of Independence (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Video: Israel's Miraculous Story As Never Seen Before! (Israel Video Network)
The "Zionism in Animation" project tells the story of Zionism.
Jews from Abroad Flocking to Join Israeli Army - Alona Ferber (Ha'aretz)
At the end of 2014 there were 3,484 soldiers in the IDF who came from 70 countries around the world, a quarter from the U.S.
See also Women Immigrants Join IDF - Mirit Kushnir-Stromatza (Ynet News)
Nina, 23, was born in San Francisco. After volunteering for the IDF, she says, "It's just so different from where I came from. In the U.S., young people are only responsible for themselves. If they fail, it's their problem. Here, they are given guns and make sure the country is safe."
Israel's Debt Level Declines - Niv Elis (Jerusalem Post)
Israel's public debt-to-GDP ratio in 2014 dropped 0.5 percentage point to 67.1%, according to Finance Ministry data released Monday.
In 2008, public debt stood at 81.9% of GDP.
In the U.S., public debt stands at 105.6% of GDP. In the euro zone, the average is 107.7%. The average of all OECD countries in 2014 was 94%.
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- Iran Rekindles Relations with Hamas - Con Coughlin
Iran's ayatollahs are rebuilding relations with Hamas, the Sunni Islamist group that controls Gaza. According to a senior Western intelligence official, Iran's Revolutionary Guards during the past few months have transferred tens of millions of dollars to Hamas' Izz al-Din al-Qassam brigades. Intelligence reports show that the funds were transferred on the direct orders of Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, who also dedicated an annual budget to finance Hamas' military operations.
The funds are being used primarily to help Hamas rebuild the network of tunnels that were destroyed during the Israeli Defense Force's response to rocket attacks launched by Hamas militants from Gaza last summer.
The Palestinian brigades are also replenishing their depleted stocks of medium-range missiles.
The Revolutionary Guards are eager to revive their relationship with Hamas because it gives them access to Israel's southern border, in addition to the northern border with Lebanon, where Iran funds Hizbullah militants. Tehran is also willing to set aside its sectarian differences with Sunni Hamas because it shares the same long-term objectives as the Shiite ayatollahs: the complete destruction of the State of Israel.
Given that Hamas is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and its allies, Iran's fresh outreach to the group should raise another caution flag as world powers negotiate with Tehran over the Iranian nuclear program.
The writer is defense editor of the Telegraph (UK).
(Wall Street Journal)
- Military Experts Impressed by Islamic State Capabilities - Mitchell Prothero
Video footage shot from a drone operated by Islamic State, flying over an oil refinery at Baiji in central Iraq while under IS attack, shows that the group retains a surprisingly high level of military skill despite months of daily airstrikes.
IS "remains better trained, more motivated, better led and supported by a logistical infrastructure that the Iraqi government is literally incapable of delivering to their own troops," said one former British special forces soldier.
Military experts said the video provided a disconcerting comparison with Iraqi government troops. "Even the better-trained Iraqis still empty at least a clip or two without establishing a specific target the minute they enter contact with the enemy," the former British soldier said. "Besides sowing confusion without actually hitting anything, all they've done is waste precious ammo that they cannot count on their leadership in the rear to replenish."
Referring to U.S. air support, he said, "Without those air assets up there, it's possible we would have seen everything west and north of Baghdad under Daash [IS] control and Baghdad itself under direct siege." IS appears to have adapted to American airstrikes. Most of the images of artillery, rocket launchers and heavy anti-aircraft guns mounted on the beds of trucks include a level of camouflage designed to mask the weapons' positions' from the air. (McClatchy)
See also Secret Files Reveal the Structure of Islamic State - Christoph Reuter (Der Spiegel-Germany)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Jerusalem Arab Admits to Ramming Jews with His Car - Roi Yanovsky
Khaled Kutina, 37, confessed to deliberately ramming his car into two Israelis waiting for the bus in Jerusalem last week, killing Shalom Cherki, 25, and seriously wounding Shira Klein, it was cleared for publication on Tuesday. In his interrogation, Kutina admitted he was driving along looking for Jews to harm, then drove at high speed onto the sidewalk and hit the two.
- Iranian Spy Sentenced to Seven Years by Israeli Court - Yonah Jeremy Bob and Daniel J. Roth
The Central District Court in Lod sentenced Iranian-born Belgian national Ali Mansouri to seven years in prison on Tuesday after convicting him of spying for Iran. Mansouri was apprehended at Ben-Gurion Airport in September 2013 while carrying photographs of a top-secret installation, the U.S. Embassy, and Ben-Gurion Airport. The Israel Security Agency (ISA) said Mansouri was part of the special-operations Quds Force within Iran's Revolutionary Guards, sent to Israel to locate potential terrorism targets.
He acquired his Belgian citizenship by marrying a Belgian woman in 2005; the next year, he divorced her and changed his name to cover up his Muslim identity. During questioning, he "described entering Israel under a Belgian identity using the alias Alex Mans, as well as his recruitment and activation process by Iranian intelligence elements," the ISA said.
- Stand Tough, Obama: How to Save the Iran Deal - Dennis Ross
Our ability to monitor Iran's nuclear program is what will allow us to determine if the Iranians are living up to the deal. For me, the deal is acceptable - provided that the transparency is real, we have assured response mechanisms to any noncompliance that cannot be blocked, and we establish in advance what the consequences or price will be for every category of violation.
I also believe that for the period during which the Iranians can build an industrial-size nuclear program, starting after 15 years, the Obama administration should establish now the principle that would bind its successors - namely, if the Iranians move to create a nuclear weapon, we will be prepared to use force to prevent it from doing so.
I do not dismiss the statements that the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, recently made that indicated he would not accept extensive transparency. Nor should others try to discount such statements as being just for domestic consumption. I recall that when I was negotiating with the Israelis and Palestinians, and Yasser Arafat made public statements denying basic Israeli needs and ruling out any compromise, many of my colleagues at the time said not to worry - "it was just for domestic consumption." But what Arafat was saying publicly was a good predictor of his behavior.
If there is a lesson here, it is that we should stick to the terms of the framework understanding that the Iranians committed to and make clear that we will hold them to these commitments or there will be no deal.
The answer will be provided at the table when we see what the Iranians try to argue about the meaning of the framework and whether they now try to adjust it. Khamenei and his negotiators need to see that we are not so anxious for a deal that we will adjust the meaning of the commitments in the framework.
Amb. Dennis Ross is a long-time U.S. Mideast negotiator.
- How Iran Outfoxes the U.S. - Aaron David Miller
We're playing checkers on the Middle East game board and Tehran's playing three-dimensional chess. Iran is about to try U.S. citizen and Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian and we have made a judgment that even while we protest, we will keep the nuclear issue separated not just from this case but from Iran's serial abuse of human rights, including the behavior of its Shia militias in Iraq. If we don't have a behind-the-scenes plan to have Iran release him, we're legitimizing a bad regime and compromising U.S. values and interests.
It clearly makes sense to try to use diplomacy as a way to constrain Iran's nuclear program, but we should have no illusions. We won't end Tehran's nuclear weapons pretensions, and we will be enabling its rise in the region because of this nuclear diplomacy, not constraining it.
As the Russians have made clear in their recent S-300 deal, the nuclear negotiations are only making Iran a more acceptable business partner. Sanctions relief will make the mullahs more secure and give them the resources to buck up, not tamp down, their regional aspirations.
The writer is a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
- Iran Sees How the West Fails to Enforce an Arms-Control Deal - Editorial
The UN Security Council last week watched video of medics failing to resuscitate the child victims of a chlorine attack in March in northern Syria. The crime comes less than two years after a U.S.-Russia agreement to disarm Bashar Assad's chemical arsenal.
The larger lesson of this episode is the failure of international arms control. Too many countries have too many reasons to deny or look away from violations that don't directly affect them. The Russians want to protect an ally, and the Obama Administration doesn't want to admit that its chemical-arms diplomacy has failed. Get ready for more of the same after the same governments celebrate a nuclear deal with Iran. (Wall Street Journal)
Double Standard at the UN - Israeli UN Amb. Ron Prosor (Israel Mission to the UN)
Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor addressed the UN Security Council on Tuesday:
- Regarding the fighting in Yemen, in a rare display of unity, the Arab leaders have joined forces. It should come as no surprise that they have lashed out with little regard for the consequences. The Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen have hit humanitarian aid convoys, hospitals, schools, and civilian neighborhoods, and left entire families dead.
- And yet there have been zero Human Rights Council condemnations and zero calls for a Commission of Inquiry. When Israel is at the heart of a crisis, the Arabs don't miss a beat. But when fingers can't be pointed at Israel, some Arab nations are downright heartless.
- Tomorrow, Israel will commemorate Remembrance Day and honor the 23,320 individuals who lost their lives to war and terror. We will remember the brave soldiers who died so that we can have our freedom, and the thousands of men, women and children who were robbed of their lives, simply because they were Israeli.
- War has never been the choice of the State of Israel. Our choice is, as it always was, the path of peace. But when war and terror are forced upon us, we will not surrender and we will not back down. For nearly 2,000 years, we were stateless and powerless in the face of hatred and indifference. Those days are no more.
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