Russia: Supply of S-300 to Iran Will Not Happen Soon (Reuters)
Supplying Iran with Russian S-300 missile defense systems is not a matter of the nearest future, Russia's TASS news agency quoted
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov as saying on Thursday.
"It is more important that a political and legal decision, which opens up such a possibility, is taken."
Iran General Killed in Southern Syria - Marlin Dick (Daily Star-Lebanon)
The Iranian news agency ABNA said Iranian General Hadi Kajbaf was killed Sunday in Deraa. It identified him as an adviser with Syrian forces, and acknowledged that his body was being held by the rebels.
After Syrian regime forces and paramilitary allies sought on Monday to attack rebel positions in the Lajat region, rebel groups repulsed the attack, destroying half a dozen tanks and capturing a number of prisoners, mainly Afghan nationals.
One source said the Afghan fighters are used mainly as cannon fodder, as they are ordered to lead attacks with little in the way of backup.
An anti-regime civilian activist group based in Deraa accused regime forces of summarily executing 26 men, mostly civilians, in the wake of the defeat.
France Foils Church Attack after Suspect Shoots Self in Leg - Fran Blandy (AFP)
France said Wednesday it had foiled a jihadist plot to attack a church after an Algerian who accidentally shot himself was found with a stash of weapons and documents mentioning Islamist militant groups.
Sid Ahmed Ghlam, 24, called an ambulance saying he had been shot during an armed robbery at his Paris home. However, police uncovered an arsenal of weapons in his car and home, and detailed plans to attack one of two churches, as well as DNA evidence linking him to the murder of a woman found shot dead in her car over the weekend.
Ghlam was known to intelligence services over comments on social networks expressing his desire to fight in Syria alongside jihadists, said Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.
See also France Hunts Accomplices in Foiled Church Attack (AFP)
Classic Blood Libel Against Jews Goes Mainstream in Iran - Mehdi Khalaji (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
On April 18, the prominent Iranian website Alef published an article, "Who Are Human History's Most Bloodthirsty People?" which accuses Jews of killing non-Jews to use their blood for ritual purposes.
Alef is owned and supervised by Ahmad Tavakkoli, a member of Iran's parliament who formerly served as a minister and president of the parliamentary research center.
The article describes several occasions in which Jews use and drink human blood with religious justification. It also mentions several examples of Jews stealing children, killing them, and using them for Passover rituals.
Iraqi Kurds Report on Fighting Islamic State - Matthew Fisher (National Post-Canada)
Kemal Kerkuki, former speaker of the Kurdistan Parliament, commands the fighting on the autonomous Iraqi region's southern front against Islamic State.
Kurdish forces captured a strategic mountain ridge from Islamic State fighters last month in a lightning assault by infantry backed by heavy armor, moving the front line 17 km. to the west.
In the area that the Islamists had controlled, Kurdish forces found "tons of captured C-4 explosives and fuel, and big anti-tank mines they had buried underground and in farmers' sheds," Kerkuki said.
Also discovered as IS retreated were remote-control sniper rifles that used scopes whose imagery appeared on computer screens a safe distance from the guns so the shooters would not themselves get shot.
Several tunnels were uncovered, including an elaborate, 170-meter-long one with concrete walls that ran directly under Kurdish lines.
IS was using drones to spy on Kurdish positions, Kerkuki said.
Expert Views Attempt to Establish Islamic Caliphate - Ariel Ben Solomon (Jerusalem Post)
"The ideology of Islamic State and the caliphate are a watershed event," said
Shmuel Bar, a senior research fellow at the Samuel Neaman Institute for National Policy Research at the Technion.
"No previous Islamic regime - no matter how radical, dared declare itself a caliphate."
"The very paradigm of the caliphate implies that there is only one form of Islam and the caliphate must purge the 'Abode of Islam' from all others - Shi'ites, Alawites - and subjugate all other religious communities - Christians and Jews - or eliminate them."
"This chaos is now irreversible....Therefore, Israel and the West must be prepared to live through the age of chaos in the Middle East for at least a decade."
Video: Prime Minister Netanyahu's Greeting for Independence Day 2015 (YouTube)
See also Photos: Aerial Photos of Israel - Israel Bardugo (Ynet News)
25 aerial photos of Israel's natural beauty.
See also Israel Prize Recipients on Independence Day (Times of Israel)
Israel, UK in New Scientific Cooperation Agreement - David Shamah (Times of Israel)
A new joint scientific research agreement signed this weekend between the British Royal Society and the Israel Academy of Science and Humanities will fund research in a number of scientific areas, as well as provide funding for 12-15 post-doctorate exchange fellows to study in each country.
Impact of BDS More Psychological than Real - David Shamah (Times of Israel)
The boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) movement, which seeks to cut economic ties with Israel, has not stopped Israeli manufacturers and exporters.
According to Economy Ministry figures, while in 2013, 760 Israeli manufacturers marked their products marketed abroad as "made in Israel," by 2014 that number had grown to 1,024.
Ohad Cohen, who heads the Foreign Trade Administration in the ministry, explains: "BDS campaigns are really only effective against identifiable consumer products."
"Most of our production is in intermediate goods - chemicals, machine parts, technology, etc. Israel's main customers are the businesses that use these components, and for most companies, business is business, and they keep politics out of the picture."
Kristin Lindow, senior vice president at Moody's Investors Service and Moody's lead analyst for Israel, said, "The impact of BDS is more psychological than real so far and has had no discernible impact on Israeli trade or the broader economy."
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- China Warns North Korean Nuclear Threat Is Rising; Iran Deal Could Mirror North Korean Case - Jeremy Page and Jay Solomon
China's top nuclear experts have increased their estimates of North Korea's nuclear weapons production well beyond most previous U.S. figures. North Korea may already have 20 warheads, as well as the capability of producing enough weapons-grade uranium to double its arsenal by next year. The Chinese estimates reflect growing concern in Beijing over North Korea's weapons program.
An increase in North Korea's nuclear arsenal feeds international concern about proliferation from a country that, U.S. officials said, previously exported nuclear technology to Syria and missile components to Iran, Yemen and Egypt.
Some Washington lawmakers said the pending White House deal with Iran could mirror the 1994 nuclear agreement the Clinton administration made with North Korea. The deal was intended to halt Pyongyang's nuclear weapons capabilities, but instead, they allege, provided diplomatic cover to expand them. North Korea tested its first nuclear device in 2006. "We saw how North Korea was able to game this whole process," said U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "I wouldn't be surprised if Iran had its hands on the same playbook." (Wall Street Journal)
See also Iran Nuke Deal Won't Repeat Mistakes of North Korea, U.S. Vows
The U.S. said Thursday that any deal reached with Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions would be "fundamentally different" from a pact sealed with North Korea that later unraveled. "The restrictions, inspections and verifications measures imposed on Iran by a comprehensive plan of action will go far beyond those placed on North Korea in the 1990s and the 2000s," said acting State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.
(AFP-Times of Israel)
- White House Working to Publicly Mend Fences with Israel - Julie Hirschfeld Davis
The White House is working to publicly mend fences with Prime Minister Netanyahu and demonstrate its support for Israel, including by sending Vice President Biden to speak at an Israeli Independence Day celebration in Washington on Thursday. "This administration is nothing if not pragmatic," said Daniel C. Kurtzer, a former American ambassador to Israel and Egypt who is now a professor at Princeton.
"There was a moment in the midst of this where you wonder if anger was replacing policy, but they came to their senses and said, 'O.K., anger is not a policy, now we've made our point, it's time to move on.'"
Biden's appearance on Thursday is at an event hosted by Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. and close confidant of Netanyahu, whom the White House blamed for orchestrating Netanyahu's address to Congress denouncing the president's emerging deal with Iran.
The change in tone reflects a sense among some senior members of the administration that the public feuding with Netanyahu had become excessive and unseemly, threatening to undermine efforts to build support for a potential Iran deal.
"It makes good sense and it's encouraging that they're pivoting back to language that underscores the shared interests we have with Israel," said Josh Block, president of the Israel Project. "On the other hand, the problem with the administration's approach to the Middle East and to Israel is not just one of rhetoric; it's a problem of substance."
(New York Times)
See also Video: U.S. Vice President Biden at Israel Independence Day Celebration (C-SPAN)
- Senate Committee Votes Against European Boycotts of Israeli Settlements - Jessica Schulberg
The Senate Finance Committee unanimously voted on Wednesday in favor of an amendment to an emerging free trade agreement between the U.S. and Europe to discourage European participation in the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
The amendment targets an EU decision that required any Israeli entity seeking economic cooperation or funding from the EU to file a declaration asserting it is not linked to the West Bank, east Jerusalem or the Golan Heights.
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), author of the amendment, said, "The United States should take a stance to make sure other countries that want trade agreements with the United States do not participate in BDS against Israel." (Huffington Post)
- Former SS Guard: "I Couldn't Imagine" Jews Surviving Auschwitz
Former SS Sgt. Oskar Groening, 93, a former Auschwitz guard being tried on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder, told a German court on Thursday that it was clear to him Jews were not expected to leave the camp in Nazi-occupied Poland alive. "I couldn't imagine that" happening, he said.
On Wednesday, Groening described in detail how cattle cars full of Jews were brought to the Auschwitz death camp, the people stripped of their belongings and then most led directly into gas chambers.
Between May and July 1944, so many trains were arriving that often two would have to wait with closed doors as the first was "processed," Groening testified. "The capacity of the gas chambers and the capacity of the crematoria were quite limited," he said. "For the sake of order we waited until train 1 was entirely processed and finished." (AP-CBS News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- IDF Strikes Target in Gaza after Palestinians Fire Rocket toward Israel
IDF tanks struck a target in northern Gaza on Thursday after a rocket was fired into Israel. The target was a militant position in Beit Hanoun from which the rocket was fired. While Hamas is not believed to have fired the rocket, a security services source said, "Hamas is the body controlling the area, and must see to quiet - otherwise, it will suffer the consequences. We will not accept a state of errant fire." The Israel Defense Forces issued a statement saying that it "will not tolerate any attempt to harm the safety of the residents of Israel."
- Israel Air Force Chief: How the Gaza War Could Have Been Shortened
Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel, commander of the Israel Air Force, told Israel's Channel 10 news Thursday that during last summer's Israel-Hamas war, had Israel struck key tower blocks in Gaza used as Hamas control centers earlier in the conflict, rather than on the 47th day, the war would have ended sooner.
With regard to the Iranian nuclear threat, he said the use of military force "is the last resort....I have to prepare a capability so that if a decision is taken, we have the genuine capacity to get the job done." The TV report said that Israel has invested "immense resources" in preparing for a possible strike on Iran. "The Israeli Air Force has been building the capacity to attack Iran for more than a decade."
With regard to the Russian-made S-300 air defense system, which Moscow has indicated it may supply to Iran, Eshel said its deployment would present "a significant challenge," but that the air force had been "developing our capabilities - our technology and methodology" for some time to meet the challenge. (Times of Israel)
- Hamas Wins West Bank University Student Election - Daniel Bernstein
In a surprise upset, Hamas' student faction gained 26 out of 51 seats in the Birzeit University student council elections held Wednesday, while Fatah's bloc obtained 19 seats. In last year's vote, the Fatah bloc won 23 seats while Hamas received 20.
(Times of Israel)
- China's Nuclear Warning and Iran - Editorial
In February, Chinese officials warned a group of Americans that North Korea has many more nuclear warheads than previously believed: up to 20 already, perhaps 40 by next year. The North Koreans had no such capability when they signed the 1994 Agreed Framework with the Clinton administration, which required them to stop their nuclear-weapons efforts. The deal the Obama administration is now negotiating with Tehran looks to be incorporating the same mistakes. The Iran deal also has many more moving parts, making it considerably more difficult to enforce.
Iran and North Korea have extensive diplomatic and military ties, with Pyongyang helping supply the Iranians with ballistic-missile technology and hosting Iranian scientists at its nuclear tests. Nobody should rule out the possibility that a portion of Pyongyang's growing stockpile may someday come into Iranian hands. Which is a stark reminder that the consequences of misbegotten arms-control with one dictatorship are rarely limited to that dictatorship.
(Wall Street Journal)
- Arms-Control Expert: "A Huge Retreat in U.S. Nonproliferation Policy and a Big Victory for Iran"
Former assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation Stephen Rademaker told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday: "This deal will represent acceptance by the international community of Iran as a nuclear weapons threshold state....We are accepting that, after ten years or so, Iran will have the ability to produce nuclear weapons in very short order, within a matter of weeks, or perhaps even days."
"Consequently, those who feel intimidated will be sorely tempted to develop nuclear options of their own, potentially giving rise to the very cascade of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East that experts have long predicted would occur if Iran's nuclear ambitions were not restrained."
"The United States is abandoning the policy pursued for
more than twenty years by the Clinton, Bush, and, until now, Obama administrations, to make sure Iran neither had nuclear weapons nor was on the threshold of producing them. We are committing to drop our nuclear-related sanctions, accept the legitimacy of the nuclear program that is affording Iran this capability, and even to support future international
transfers of equipment and technology to that program. By any measure, this is a huge retreat in U.S. nonproliferation policy, and a big victory for Iran in its decades-long quest to gain acceptance of its nuclear program."
"Is there a reasonable expectation that the current Iranian regime is likely to be gone in 10 years, or at least have moderated its behavior? All indications are to the contrary. Today Iran is already riding high
within the region, notwithstanding two decades of Western sanctions and extremely low oil prices....The economics of this deal suggest to me that we are about to diminish the prospects for transformation in Iran rather than
enhance them." (U.S. House of Representatives)
- Anointing Iran - Charles Krauthammer
In December, President Obama said that he wished to see Iran ultimately become a "very successful regional power." His wish - a nightmare for the Western-oriented Arab states - is becoming a reality. The strategic reality
of the new Middle East is clear to everyone: Iran rising, assisted, astonishingly, by the U.S.
The only problem is that Iran today is radical, clerical, and deeply anti-Western. The regime's ultimate - and openly declared - strategic purpose is to drive the American infidel from the region and either subordinate or annihilate America's Middle Eastern allies. Can an American president really believe that appeasing Iran will moderate its behavior and ideology, adherence to which is now yielding undreamed of success?
Iran went into the nuclear negotiations heavily sanctioned, isolated internationally, hemorrhaging financially - and this was even before the collapse of oil prices. After 17 months of serial American concessions, the Iranian economy is growing again, its forces and proxies are on the march through the Arab Middle East, and it is on the verge of having its nuclear defiance rewarded and legitimized.
- Obama's Goal Is Detente with Iran - Michael Doran
While President Obama has persuaded much of the world that the primary goal of his Iran diplomacy is to negotiate a nuclear arms-control agreement, in fact, the primary goal is detente with Iran.
Obama has put an end to containment of Iran as a guiding principle of American Middle East policy. To be sure, he continues to pay lip service to the idea of countering Iran's influence, but his actions do not match his rhetoric. In Syria and Iraq, especially, Obama has long been respectful of Iranian interests while treating Tehran as a silent partner against Islamic State (IS).
Detente with Iran requires Obama to demote all of those allies who perceive a rising Iran as their primary security threat. The writer, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, is a former deputy assistant secretary of defense and a former senior director of the National Security Council.
- Deal or No Deal? - Thomas L. Friedman
You can negotiate a simple arms control agreement, one with relatively few moving parts, with an adversary you don't trust. We did that with the Kremlin in the Cold War. You can also negotiate a complicated arms control deal with a country that shares your values, like Japan and South Korea.
But what is hard to implement is a complex arms control deal with an adversary you don't trust - like Iran or North Korea. Each moving part requires some good will from the other side, and, because there are so many moving parts, the opportunities for cheating are manifold. It requires constant vigilance. Much rides on implementing a fail-proof verification regime.
There is a hard core in Tehran for whom nuclear weapons are a deliberate thumb in the eye of the world meant to block the very integration that would open Iran to influences from America and the West - an opening they fear would dilute whatever revolutionary fervor is left in its youths, many of whom are fed up with Iran's isolation. (New York Times)
- The Danger of the Iran Deal - Jeff Jacoby
Virtually everything we know about Iran's nuclear program was uncovered only after years of stonewalling, concealment, and denial. The construction of a vast uranium enrichment installation near Natanz and a heavy-water reactor in Arak didn't come to light until an Iranian exile group exposed their existence. With such a track record, it's logical that Iran's commitments are so widely regarded as worthless. No piece of paper signed in Switzerland will take the ayatollahs' eyes off the nuclear prize they have so long pursued. And of what value is any agreement if one of the signatories can't be trusted not to cheat?
But the mullahs don't lie about what matters to them most: death to America, the extermination of Israel, unrelenting global jihad. They say they are deadly serious. Believe them.
- France's Position on the Emerging Nuclear Agreement with Iran - Amb. Freddy Eytan
France has suffered numerous Iranian-sponsored terror attacks both on its own soil and in Lebanon, and continues to harbor resentment toward Iran.
France is convinced that if Iran attains nuclear weapons, Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia will try in every way to follow suit.
In France's view, the final agreement that is supposed to be signed at the end of June must have "sharp teeth." Sanctions must be lifted gradually and only after Iran fulfills all the articles of the agreement. IAEA inspectors must be able to visit sites at any time, without restrictions of time or place and without advance warning. All workshops for constructing new centrifuges must be inoperative for more than 20 years. The writer, a former Foreign Ministry senior advisor who served in Israel's embassies in Paris and Brussels, was Israel's first Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.
(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Defensible Borders Remain Vital for Israel - and Its Neighbors - Dore Gold
West Bank security is also a function of what happens in the surrounding states: Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. Will these states continue to be afflicted with jihadi movements seeking to join their counterparts on the West Bank? Will revived military forces in these areas remain focused elsewhere, or will they coalesce to challenge Israel?
Jordan itself is a factor in Israeli considerations. Any negotiation over the sensitive Jordan Valley requires close consultation with the Jordanian leadership. Moreover, the Sinai precedent must be uppermost in the minds of Jordanian planners. When it became clear that the outer perimeter of the Gaza Strip was completely open through the Philadelphi Route, hosts of jihadi movements relocated to Egyptian Sinai, creating a direct security threat to Egypt itself. Some of the most lethal al-Qaeda affiliates in Sinai relied on Gaza connections.
Ironically, Israeli vulnerability thus undermined the internal security of its largest Arab neighbor. That is a process that Israel cannot allow again in the Jordanian case. For that reason, Israel's continuing control of the Jordan Valley is not only important for its security, but for regional security more broadly. (inFocus Quarterly-Jewish Policy Center)
- Kurdish-Iraqi Writer: The Palestinians Should Extend a Friendly Hand to Israel
Kurdish-Iraqi writer Mehdi Majid 'Abdallah wrote on Elaph.com on Dec. 4, 2014: "I do not know if Hamas, when it fires its rockets randomly into Israeli cities, thinks of the fact that they will hit women and children who have done nothing wrong other than choose to live in the land that was stolen from them thousands of years ago and has now been restored to them....Whether we like it or not, the land on which the Palestinians live belongs to the Jews, and there is historic and religious evidence of this, both Islamic and non-Islamic."
"Hamas leader Isma'il Haniya is...always urging the Palestinians not to maintain any ties with [Israel], in any domain....But when his sister, his daughter and some other members of his family fell ill, one after the other, we immediately saw him send them to the best hospitals in Tel Aviv, where they received treatment before being sent back to Gaza unharmed. Why? If Israel was a murderer of Palestinian women and children, as the Arab media falsely maintains, it would have regarded Haniya's relatives as choice prey."
"It is time that the Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians, who are deceived and drugged by false and baseless slogans, wake up and extend a friendly hand to Israel....If the Palestinians want to avoid being harmed by Israeli fire, they should prevent Hamas from using their homes, mosques and schools to launch its terrorist rockets at Israel."
- "This Is Our Country, There Is No Other," Says Arab-Israeli Independence Day Torch-Lighter - Jonathan Beck
Lucy Aharish, an Israeli-Arab news anchor, was among the torch-lighters in the official ceremony kicking off Israel's Independence Day celebrations on Wednesday. Aharish, 33, a Muslim Arab, was teary-eyed when she took her turn at the ceremony. After remarks in Hebrew, she also spoke in Arabic, saying she was lighting the torch: "For our honor as human beings, this is our country and there is no other."
During the 2014 Gaza war, Aharish, who works as a news anchor at i24News, conducted an on-air discussion with a Hamas official in Gaza where she accused the terror group of using civilians as human shields and called on residents of Gaza to rebel against the Hamas regime there.
In an interview this week, Aharish said, "When people ask me 'What are you?' I say that I'm an Israeli. I'm not ashamed of my Israeliness. Then I'm a woman, and then I'm an Arab Muslim. That's the order."
(Times of Israel)
- IDF Honors Female Muslim Soldier - Roi Yanovsky
Among the 120 soldiers who received a "Medal of Excellence" at the President's Residence on Israel Independence Day on Thursday was a Muslim woman who grew up in an Arab village and is currently a cadet in an IDF officer's training course. At age 19, she took part in the voluntary National Service program. "During my national service I realized that it was not what I wanted to do, because it is not that true connection to Israel. The connection to Israel comes from putting on the army uniform - that is what really connects you to the country."
Her family does not know she is serving in the IDF. The soldier says she knows her role will not stay a secret for long. "I think that in a matter of time a lot of people will know about it, and I would be really happy if a lot of people follow me and join the IDF." (Ynet News)
Jews Have Good Reason to Be Wary of Tehran's Rhetoric - Shahrzad Elghanayan (Washington Post)
- During recent talks in Switzerland, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told NBC's Ann Curry: "We have a history of tolerance and cooperation and living together in coexistence with our own Jewish people."
- That's not quite right. Iran's Jews did have something of a golden age relatively recently, but Zarif can't take credit for it. That era was a brief period when the conservative Shiite clergy were stripped of their power - after the Constitutional Revolution of 1906 gave Iranians of all religions and ethnicity equal rights, and before Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in 1979.
- Jews have lived in Iran since 586 BCE. In the 16th century, conservative Shiite scholars and clergy under the Safavid dynasty had restrictions placed on all minorities, including Jews, to bar them from economic activity and to prevent them from passing their "ritual impurity" to Muslims.
- It was during that window of relative Jewish affluence that my grandfather, Habib Elghanian, became one of Iran's most famous industrialists after he and his brothers introduced the plastics industry to the country in the late 1940s. In 1959, he was elected the chairman of the country's Jewish association. In 1962, when my family built the country's first private sector high-rise, the 17-story Plasco Building in Tehran, Shiite cleric Mahmoud Taleghani objected to the idea that a Jew had built the tallest building of its time in Iran.
- In a 1964 address, Ayatollah Khomeini spoke about how: "The entire country's economy now lies in Israel's hands; that is to say it has been seized by Israeli agents. Hence, most of the major factories and enterprises are run by them." That speech singled out two people in particular: One was my grandfather, and the other was Baha'i industrialist Habib Sabet.
- When Khomeini returned from exile in February 1979 as the head of the Islamic revolution, my grandfather was among the first civilians he went after. On May 9, 1979, my grandfather was executed after a 20-minute trial on trumped-up charges that included being a "Zionist spy." After a firing squad killed him, the new regime stole what he had spent his lifetime building.
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