U.S. Hunts Islamic State Leaders in Syria - Greg Miller (Washington Post)
The CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) are flying drones over Syria in a secret campaign to hunt "high-value" terrorists as part of a targeted killing program, U.S. officials said.
The clandestine program represents a significant escalation of the CIA's involvement in the war in Syria.
Syria is a new front in a spreading U.S. campaign of secret operations and drone strikes that encompasses Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and parts of North Africa.
ISIS Inches Deeper into Damascus (Al Jazeera)
Islamic State fighters on Monday battled Syrian rebel forces in Asali,
a southern district of Damascus, bringing ISIS within 5 km. of the center of the capital.
"This is the closest ISIS has ever been to the heart of Damascus," said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Kuwait Charges 26 with Links to Iran and Hizbullah (Reuters)
Kuwait has charged 26 people with possessing weapons and having contacts with Iran and Hizbullah group in order to plot attacks against the Gulf state.
The case relates to the seizure of an arms cache in Kuwait last month reported to have been smuggled in from Iran.
Kuwait has been on alert since a suicide bomber killed 27 people in a Shi'ite Muslim mosque in Kuwait City on June 26.
Poll: Palestinian Support for Boycott of Israeli Products Declines (Jerusalem Media and Communications Center)
There has been a decline in the level of Palestinian support for boycott campaigns against Israeli products, according to a public opinion poll released Monday by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center.
The percentage of those who support a boycott of all Israeli products dropped from 59% last March to 49% this August. The percentage who said they personally boycott all Israeli products dropped from 49% last March to 34% this August.
Asked about priorities for the Palestinian Authority, 27% cited the cost of living, 21% mentioned the reconstruction of Gaza, and 20% said enforcing the law.
65% said they were unsympathetic with the Islamic State or Salafist movements, while 4% said they were sympathetic.
Rockets Fired from Gaza at Israel Fall Short, Injure Palestinians (Times of Israel)
Two rockets were fired from Gaza at Israel but fell in Palestinian territory, with one hitting a house, Israeli media reported Tuesday.
A number of injuries were reported from the rocket strike in Gaza, according to Israeli news site Walla.
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- U.S. Remains the "Great Satan," Hard-Liners in Iran Say - Thomas Erdbrink
Some of the toughest anti-American voices in Iran said on Tuesday that the U.S. remains their country's top enemy, guilty of "uncountable" crimes.
The head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, announced plans to expand the reach of Iran's missiles and warned that despite the nuclear deal, America was still the "same Great Satan."
Meanwhile, police officers in Tehran took to the streets, arresting distributors selling clothes featuring American and British symbols, like the Stars and Stripes and the Union Jack.
Tehran's police chief, Gen. Hossein Sajedinia, said that garments imprinted with "satanic symbols" had been seized from stores in Tehran. (New York Times)
See also below Observations - Ayatollah Khamenei: "Iran's Policy Is the Opposite of America's" (MEMRI)
- Russia Puts Boots on the Ground in Syria - Michael Weiss
On Aug. 22, the Bosphorus Naval News website showed the Russian ship Nikolai Filchenkov with military equipment visible on deck - KamAZ trucks and at least four BTR infantry fighting vehicles.
On Aug. 24, the Oryx Blog discovered at least one BTR-82A in the coastal province of Latakia, which has lately been contested, impressively, by a collection of Islamist rebels groups. Assad's National Defense Force disclosed the fighting vehicle in action in a news video from the Latakia front. The report also captured unmistakable Russian spoken in the background in instructions to the crew, compelling evidence that Russians have embedded with the Syrian military.
On Aug. 12, the opposition-linked website Syria Net reported that a Russian "militia" was now situated in Salfana in Latakia.
"The Russian crew is tasked with overseeing the project to organize defensive lines in a professional manner and are equipped with modern equipment to detect and monitor progress of opposition forces if any villages are attacked in rural Latakia." On Aug. 26, the pro-Assad newspaper Al-Watan reported that Russia is now providing satellite imagery to the regime.
- Eni's Egyptian Gas Field Discovery Offers Opportunities for Israel
Brenda Shaffer, an international energy expert and professor at Georgetown University who is currently on sabbatical from Israel's University of Haifa,
does not see the new Egyptian gas field discovery as negative.
"Over the last five years, Egypt has had extensive power outages which have really affected political stability in the county....Egypt has actually been importing very expensive liquid natural gas to try and keep the lights on....This gas discovery is a tremendous opportunity for el-Sisi to stabilize the regime....It's possible...within three years [that the gas] will be serving the domestic market....Because of the urgency...the Egyptian government will do everything possible and provide incentives for this to happen."
"I think the prospects of Israeli [gas] export to Egypt were small and overstated in the first place, so I don't think this really precludes the Israeli development of [the] Leviathan [gas field]....I don't think it has to be a source of conflict because basically, for Egypt, most of this will go to the domestic market and most of Leviathan will go to the Israeli domestic market." (Nikkei Asian Review-Japan)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- President Rivlin: We Came to Israel Out of the Understanding that This Is Our Land - Tovah Lazaroff
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin visited an elementary school in the community of Peduel in Samaria to help celebrate the first day of classes on Tuesday.
Located 4.5 km. east of the 1967 line (the Green Line) and 25 km. east of Tel Aviv, Rivlin said the hilltop community has come to symbolize Israel's historical and geographical connection, from the sea to the hilltops, from the past to the future.
"It connects the biblical kingdom of Israel with the modern state," he said. "Those who live here know that we will never again lend our hand to the dissolution of Jewish sovereignty."
"We did not come to Israel because we fled the Holocaust or pogroms, we came and we will continue to settle it out of happiness and joy and the understanding that this is our land," said the president.
"Every stone and tree tells a story. The geography, much like the archeology of Samaria, is like the photographs of a family album. Those who live here live in the middle of a lesson in history, in Bible, in citizenship and love of the land. But the most important lesson learned here is one of unity," Rivlin said. (Jerusalem Post)
- IDF: Hamas Seizes Gazan Building Materials to Build Attack Tunnels - Yaakov Lappin
Hamas is seizing wood and other materials imported into Gaza for civilian construction projects and using it to build tunnels to attack Israel, delaying Gaza's recovery from last year's war, IDF Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai told the Palestinian Ma'an News Agency on Tuesday. "Hamas operatives have forcefully taken over storage facilities housing construction imports, and seized them for the organization's underground infrastructure," Mordechai said. Israel has allowed 1.7 million tons of construction materials into Gaza since the war, he added.
Mordechai also dismissed reports that Israel was holding direct or indirect negotiations with Hamas.
- What Should Obama Do Next on Iran? - Nicholas Burns
I testified in favor of the Iran nuclear agreement before four congressional committees. But the deal's principal weakness is that it could permit Iran to emerge stronger 10 to 15 years from now as restrictions on its nuclear program begin to lapse. That is why President Obama needs to affirm what has been missing in the Iran debate: a comprehensive U.S. strategy to contain Iran's support for terrorism and to prevent it from becoming a nuclear weapons power.
As with the Truman Doctrine, where the U.S. vowed not to let Greece and Turkey go Communist in the late 1940s, Mr. Obama should declare that he and his successors will not permit Iran to go nuclear. It is the right response to an assertive Iran and will recoup some of our diminished credibility in the region. Mr. Obama should not be content to have his veto sustained in Congress. His more important aim is to win the long-term struggle with Iran for power in the Middle East.
To begin this effort, the administration should commit to a policy of coercive diplomacy - major steps to keep Iran on the defensive and push back against its growing power in the Middle East. The writer, a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, is a former undersecretary of state.
(New York Times)
- Iran's Ballistic Missile Pursuit Continues - Tzvi Kahn
On Aug. 21, Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan again affirmed Iran's plans to continue ballistic weapons development. "In the aerospace industry," he said, "we are producing all ballistic missile ranges," noting that Iran is "considering the design, research, and production of [missiles] that are highly destructive, highly accurate, radar evasive, and tactical." Brig.-Gen. Amirali Hajizadeh, commander of the aerospace division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), said: "Some wrongly think Iran has suspended its ballistic missile programs in the last two years and has made a deal on its missile program."
Dehghan said, "We will design and produce any missiles that we want." President Hassan Rouhani added, "We will buy, sell and develop any weapons we need, and we will not ask for permission or abide by any [UN] resolution for that." Iran actively seeks to acquire an ICBM, which would amount to the most dangerous weapon in its arsenal. Using its space program as a cover for this objective, Iran recently launched an experimental satellite into Earth's orbit.
The writer, a Senior Policy Analyst for the Foreign Policy Initiative, previously served as Assistant Director for Policy and Government Affairs at AIPAC. (Foreign Policy Initiative)
See also The Iran Deal and the Missile Threat - Russ Read (Real Clear Defense)
Ayatollah Khamenei: "Iran's Policy Is the Opposite of America's" (MEMRI)
- One month after the announcement of the nuclear deal, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei spoke at a Shiite conference on Aug. 17, 2015, and a report on the speech was posted on Khamenei's website (Leader.ir):
"The Leader pointed to 'America's efforts to exploit the results of the nuclear talks and exert economic, political, and cultural influence in Iran.'"
- "The power-hungry order led by the United States of America is the perfectly clear embodiment of 'the concept of the enemy.' America has no human morality. It carries out evil crimes under the guise of flowery statements and smiles."
- "On the basis of Imam Khomeini's lesson, we do not wish to reconcile with the arrogance [i.e., the West, led by the U.S.], but we aspire to friendship with our Muslim brothers. When we support the oppressed, we ignore the religious element; we provide the same aid to our Shi'ite brothers in Lebanon and to our Sunni brothers in Gaza. We see the Palestinian issue as the chief issue of the Islamic world....We will support anyone who struggles against Israel and strikes at the Zionist regime."
- "The Americans wish to infiltrate Iran with the [JCPOA] agreement, whose fate in Iran and in the U.S. is still unknown. But we have decisively blocked this path, and we will do anything to keep them from infiltrating Iran economically, politically, and culturally. Iran's regional policy is the opposite of America's."
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