Hizbullah Losses Mount in Syria - Avi Issacharoff (Times of Israel)
Hizbullah has seen between 1,300 and 1,500 of its fighters killed in the Syrian civil war and some 5,000 have been injured.
Last weekend, Arab media published reports that Hizbullah had lost 14 fighters in battles with IS near the Lebanese-Syrian border.
Recently, Hizbullah has been publishing details of its members killed in Syria and is not trying to hide its losses. Fighters are now given official funerals and their coffins are covered with Hizbullah flags.
Argentine Prosecutor Asks Court to Reopen Nisman Complaint Against Ex-President in Jewish Center Bombing Cover-Up (JTA)
Argentine federal prosecutor Raul Plee filed a request Monday with the Federal Criminal Cassation Court to reopen the complaint filed by the late special prosecutor Alberto Nisman charging that former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner covered up Iran's role in the 1994 AMIA Jewish center bombing.
On Monday, the new government voided the Argentine pact with Iran to jointly investigate the AMIA attack.
Nisman was found dead on Jan. 18, hours before he was to present his allegations to Congress against Kirchner.
How Saddam's Men Help Islamic State Rule - Isabel Coles and Ned Parker (Reuters)
Overseeing the Islamic State's intelligence network in Iraq and Syria are former Iraqi army and intelligence officers, many of whom helped keep Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party in power for years.
Saddam-era officers have been a powerful factor in the rise of Islamic State, in particular in the group's victories in Iraq last year. Islamic State has absorbed thousands of Baath Party followers.
The Baathists are instrumental in the survival of IS' self-proclaimed caliphate. Of Islamic State's 23 portfolios - equivalent to ministries - former Saddam regime officers run three of the most crucial: security, military and finance.
Iraq's Finance Minister Hoshyar Zebari said the ex-Baathists provide IS with highly effective guidance on explosives, strategy and planning.
Most former Baathist officers have little in common with Islamic State, many are driven by self-preservation and a shared hatred of the Shi'ite-led government in Baghdad.
Depravity Is a Choice - Cynthia Ozick (Weekly Standard)
The terrorist's mind: Let us strive to understand it - what shall we find there? Deformations of humanity, corruptions neither inborn nor bred, but chosen.
On TV we saw evil joy in action: the corpse of the Palestinian "martyr" as he is "escorted to his wedding," accompanied by ululations and his honored mother's camera-ready avowal of pride and jubilation, yearning to offer the next-in-line killer son.
At bottom, an open-hearted willingness to understand "everyone" is an appalling distraction from the intrinsic depravity of the act of premeditated murder.
The writer is an American-Jewish short story writer, novelist, and essayist.
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- UN Watchdog Decides to Close Nuclear Weapons Probe of Iran - Francois Murphy and Shadia Nasralla
In a symbolic victory for Iran, the International Atomic Energy Agency's Board of Governors decided on Tuesday to close its investigation into whether Iran had a nuclear weapons program. An IAEA report this month found that Iran was trying to develop an atom bomb, but found no sign of weapons-related activities beyond 2009.
However, some have argued that a full examination of Iran's past violations of its nuclear non-proliferation obligations has been sacrificed for the sake of the political agreement reached in Vienna in July.
"Iran's cooperation was certainly not sufficient to close the overall PMD [possible military dimensions] file," said the Washington-based Institute for Science and Technology.
See also Israel Calls on IAEA to Continue Iran Investigation - Rebecca Shimoni Stoil
In response to the International Atomic Energy Agency's Tuesday decision to close the file on possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program, the Israel Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem said "serious doubts and outstanding issues" remained. "The IAEA report clearly indicates once again that Iran has conducted a coordinated effort to develop a nuclear explosive device, including activities taking place after 2003. For over a decade, Iran has been non-cooperative and deceptive."
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said, "The IAEA decision does not correspond to the report by IAEA chief Yukiya Amano, who said Tehran continued partial development of a bomb until 2009. It seems, therefore, that the decision made today was political and not practical, and for this reason it sends a wrong message to the Iranians, that the international community is willing to look the other way." (Times of Israel)
- Experts Panel: Iran's Missile Test Violated UN Ban - Louis Charbonneau
The medium-range Emad rocket that Iran tested on Oct. 10 was a ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead, which makes it a violation of a UN Security Council resolution, the council's Panel of Experts on Iran said in a confidential report dated Dec. 11.
"On the basis of its analysis and findings the Panel concludes that Emad launch is a violation by Iran of paragraph 9 of Security Council resolution 1929." (Reuters)
- With All Eyes on ISIS, Lawmakers Worry the U.S. Could Lose Focus on Iran - Karoun Demirjian
Washington is all but singularly focused on how to combat and protect the country from the Islamic State. But some lawmakers say that President Obama and his administration should be paying more attention to Iran, which reportedly conducted new ballistic missile tests in November. "I understand that most of Congress and the administration are very distracted by the global refugee crisis, by the terrorist attacks in Paris, by our conflicts with ISIS," said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.). "The reality is with this [Iran] deal, I'm on the administration's side, but they need to be doing more....We have to have a menu of responses that we and our allies have agreed on and that we will take. Or the Iranians will pocket it and keep moving."
Republicans - including Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who opposed the nuclear pact - openly worry that if the Obama administration doesn't punish Iran now, it will fail to castigate it in the future for any infractions of the Iran deal.
"It is critically important that the United Nations Security Council continue to enforce the resolutions that govern Iran's acquisition and development of missile technology," Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) wrote in a letter to Obama co-authored with Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.). "Should the UNSC fail to do so, the United States must take action on its own." (Washington Post)
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- Netanyahu: Palestinians to Blame for Diplomatic Stalemate - Barak Ravid
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday it is time for the international community to understand that it is the Palestinian Authority, and not Israel, that is at fault for the diplomatic stalemate. "We are besieged with repeated polls in the Palestinian Authority that about 75% of this population rejects the solution of two states for two peoples and about 80% are in favor of continued stabbings," Netanyahu said.
"Abu Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas] is continuing constantly to stir things up with false propaganda about Al-Aqsa, false propaganda about executions and by rejecting any genuine attempt at coming to negotiations." (Ha'aretz)
- Three Soldiers Wounded at West Bank Car-Ramming on Wednesday - Gili Cohen
Three Israeli soldiers were wounded early Wednesday after a car attack in Kalandia in the West Bank. The Palestinian driver of the car was shot dead by the forces, and the forces were wounded by friendly fire.
An additional attempted car-ramming attack took place overnight in Kalandia. In this case, too, the driver was shot and killed. (Ha'aretz)
See also Arab Construction Worker Attacks Boss on Tuesday - Jeremy Sharon
An Arab laborer from Beit Sira in the West Bank, working at a construction site in Modi'in on Tuesday, attacked the site manager and then attacked another person at a nearby construction site. Israel Police said that they suspect the attack was terrorism.
- Hamas and the Islamic State: Growing Cooperation in Sinai - Ehud Yaari
Hamas has been increasing its clandestine military cooperation with the Islamic State's "Sinai Province," culminating in a prolonged secret visit to Gaza this month by IS Sinai's military chief Shadi al-Menai. Menai has been at the top of Egypt's most-wanted list. Over the past two years, IS Sinai has helped Hamas move weapons from Iran and Libya through the peninsula, taking a generous cut from each shipment.
In Sinai, a thousand heavily armed Bedouins affiliated with IS still pose a serious threat to Egyptian troops and government offices. Egypt's General Intelligence Directorate officials are convinced that Hamas is engaged in a sustained effort to undermine government control over the Sinai, even as it publicly seeks a rapprochement with Cairo. Hamas cooperation with IS Sinai also opens the door to IS gaining more ground among the Palestinians. The writer is an international fellow with The Washington Institute and a Middle East commentator for Israel's Channel Two television.
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- The Hamas "Legacy" - Dr. Limor Samimian-Darash
Hamas released another propaganda video this week in honor of its anniversary: Footage of weapons, combat units, terrorist attacks, rockets being launched and the killing and kidnapping of IDF soldiers. This show of force and hatred is more proof of the reality with which Israel deals.
Hamas is not a terrorist organization that, once in a while, carries out attacks in the West. Rather it is one that shares a border with us and carries out attacks against us over and over again.
Hamas declared that it has carried out more than 80 suicide attacks against Israel and fired more than 15,000 rockets its way. All of this with the explicit intent to murder as many Israeli civilians as possible. Yet there is no international coalition calling to eradicate Hamas.
When countries around the world call for the Palestinians to be freed from the occupation, we must remind them that the only occupation Gazans are under is that of the Hamas terrorists that they voted into power.
The writer is assistant professor at the School of Public Policy and Government at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Israeli Defense Minister: Don't Be Fooled by Iran's "Charm Offensive" - Moshe Ya'alon (Defense News)
- Since the founding of the State of Israel, we have had 67 years of continuous security and diplomatic challenges stemming from a vehement opposition to our very existence by our neighboring Arab states and their supporting organizations.
- As the star of pan-Arabism/Arab nationalism faded, radical Islam (both Shia and Sunni) rose in its place. This new ideology is driving the current wave of terror that aims to harm Israel and its citizens. This wave of terror has turned Israel into the front line of the free world.
- The battle against radical Islamic terror will be the greatest challenge facing the family of nations, under the leadership of the United States, in the coming years. Israel, the sole democracy in the Middle East, is an inseparable part of this family of nations and will push for greater cooperation, in both intelligence and operational capacities, among the free world's countries.
- If the terrorists and their operators will not be stopped at their points of origin, they will reach the capitals of every nation in the free world where they will brutally murder citizens.
- The nuclear agreement signed with Iran will not reduce the threat of this regime on the entire free world. On the contrary. The merciless Iranian regime, that typifies Israel as the "Little Satan" and threatens to obliterate it from the map, holds equal discontent toward the United States, termed the "Great Satan." As Iran gains power in the post-agreement era, Israel is faced with an additional substantial challenge.
- It is essential to say, in the most clear-cut manner, that Iran is completely and utterly on the dark side. Not only that, but they sit at the helm of the forces of evil. We should not be fooled by their deceitful charm offensive. Iran remains a huge threat to the Western world and the security of its citizens.
Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Moshe Ya'alon is Israel's defense minister.
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