U.S. Special Forces Are Sent to Tackle Global Threats - Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt (New York Times)
American Special Operations troops are taking on a larger combat role in Afghanistan, where the war was supposed to be over.
They are headed to Syria to help fight the Islamic State in its stronghold.
And President Obama recently ordered nearly 300 of them to Cameroon to assist African troops in their battle against a militant group that has pledged loyalty to the Islamic State.
The spread of the Islamic State over the past year has led the White House to turn to elite troops to try to snuff out crises in numerous locations.
Israeli Naval Commandos Train to Recapture Gas Rig - Ya'acov Zalel
(Natural Gas Europe)
Israeli naval commandos trained last summer to respond to the simulated capture of a gas rig in the Mediterranean, raiding the rig from the sea.
In the exercise, in which terrorists captured hostages in the rig's control room, the commandos sailed to the rig, climbed up and retook it while having to deal with limits on the use of firepower because of the rig's vulnerability.
See also Video: IDF Commandos Recapture Gas Rig (Israel Defense Forces-Hebrew)
Hizbullah Said Mired in Financial Crisis (Times of Israel)
According to Lebanese media reports, Hizbullah is facing financial difficulties and failed to pay November and December salaries to its officials.
Video: Nazi Propaganda Returns in Palestinian Incitement (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Palestinian incitement uses the very same anti-Semitic motifs used by Nazi propaganda in the dark 1930s.
Eyewitness Accounts from Recent Defectors from Islamic State - Anne Speckhard and Ahmet S. Yayla (Perspectives on Terrorism)
13 Syrian IS defectors spoke on life inside the Islamic State (IS). Syrians who join IS are rewarded with salaried jobs which for young men translates into the ability to marry and for young women the money allows them to save their families from literal starvation.
Foreign fighters receive additional rewards: wives, sexual slaves, and sometimes homes and cars. Daily life is punctuated by brutal practices - including floggings, torture and beheadings.
Defections were the result of exposure to extreme brutality, disgust over the slave trade, and observations of a total mismatch between the words and deeds of IS.
Charges of corruption and complaints about battlefield decisions that produced unnecessary deaths in their own ranks were also causes of disillusionment.
Dr. Anne Speckhard is Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism and Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, Georgetown University Medical School. Dr. Ahmet S. Yayla is Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology at Harran University in Turkey.
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- Iran Hands Over Stockpile of Enriched Uranium to Russia - David E. Sanger and Andrew E. Kramer
A Russian ship left Iran on Monday carrying almost all of Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium, fulfilling a major step in the nuclear deal struck last summer, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced. Kerry said that with the removal of the fuel, Iran's "breakout time" to produce a weapon had moved from two to three months to six to nine months.
(New York Times)
- Boycott and Sanction Power to Be Stripped from UK Councils
The UK Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is drawing up new guidelines to prevent local authorities from mounting their own "boycott and sanction" campaigns. The directions, which will be issued early in the new year, are expected to make clear that councils' procurement and investment policies must be consistent with UK government foreign policy. "Councils should not be using pensions and procurement policies to pursue their own boycotts and sanctions against foreign nations," a DCLG spokesman said.
- USAID Inaugurates New Water Pipeline in West Bank
On Dec. 17, at a ceremony in Halhoul in the West Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Palestinian Water Authority announced the opening of the new Deir Sha'ar pipeline which will serve as the backbone of the southern West Bank's water infrastructure. "This is a very important accomplishment that will impact thousands of Palestinian families who will now have access to clean water in their homes," said USAID West Bank and Gaza Mission Director Dave Harden.
This project replaced the existing pipeline with a much larger 30-inch transmission line, and installed 13 km. of network pipes. The old Deir Sha'ar pipeline lost nearly half of its water due to leaks. The new pipeline transmits more water without any losses. In addition, the new pipeline is equipped with remote sensors that enable the Palestinian Authority to detect any illegal taps or tampering.
Since 2000, USAID has invested more than $300 million for hundreds of water and wastewater projects in the West Bank and Gaza. These included 900 km. of water pipelines; building or renovating 28 reservoirs; drilling or renovating 29 wells; connecting 130,000 Palestinians to running water for the first time; and providing improved access to clean water to more than one million people. (USAID)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israeli Foreign Ministry Stresses Common Israeli-Arab Interests - Nathan Wise
In an interview with the Saudi-owned Elaph online newspaper, Israel Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold said, "History teaches that when Israel signs a peace treaty with the Arabs, Israel honors the treaty forever." Gold said Israel views Arab states with great importance and that it has an interest to reach agreements with them. He stressed the use of technology and resources to create a better Middle East. He also spoke of the common interests between Israel and the Arab states, including meeting the threats of a nuclear armed Iran and the Islamic State.
Gold accused Iran of trying to gain a foothold in Lebanon, Syria and in Gaza to threaten Israel from the south, north and east, and argued that Iran, in the Persian Gulf, was trying to gain similar footholds in Yemen, Bahrain and Kuwait, as well as in Iraq through the use of Shi'ite militias.
- American Jewish Aid Workers Expelled from UN Refugee Camp in Greece - Yossi Aloni
A group of American Jewish women were unceremoniously expelled from a refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos last week after they had traveled from the U.S. to volunteer with IsraAID.
When fellow volunteers working with other aid groups began to hurl anti-Semitic and anti-Israel slurs at the Jewish women, a security guard arrived and joined in the verbal assault, demanding that the
women leave the camp.
"The guard...yelled at me and said there was no place here for people like me," said one of the women. "I asked, 'You mean Israeli? But I'm an American Jew.' The guard replied by insisting that we [Jews] are all the same - murderers. He then threatened to arrest us if we didn't leave the camp."
Coming to the aid of the women was an Israeli Arab member of IsraAID who notified the camp administration of the incident, leading to the guard's dismissal.
- The Retaking of Ramadi in Iraq - Editorial
The retaking of central Ramadi on Monday by Iraqi security forces was accomplished largely by the Iraqi military's Sunni forces with the help of local Sunni tribes, who were aided by U.S. training and weapons.
The U.S. has picked up the pace of its assistance in recent weeks, inserting more special forces and supplying more arms. Tactical bombing by the U.S. has limited Islamic State movement, and shoulder-fired antitank weapons have been able to stop ISIS truck bombs from a distance. Shiite militias were kept out of the Ramadi military campaign.
The Islamic State's success depends on projecting an aura of inevitable victory. Retaking Ramadi is the first step toward shattering that Islamist illusion.
(Wall Street Journal)
- Al-Qaeda-Linked Groups Seeking to Take Back Spotlight from Islamic State - Hugh Naylor
In recent months, al-Qaeda's affiliates have stepped up attacks on Westerners and expanded control over territory. The moves reflect the global threat still posed by al-Qaeda and signal an intensifying rivalry with the Islamic State.
Al-Qaeda's North African affiliate, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, asserted responsibility for the Nov. 20 attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali, in which militants took 170 hostages, 20 of whom were killed, days after the Islamic State claimed an attack in Paris that killed 130 people. In Yemen, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has captured much of Hadramout, Yemen's largest province, and has seized key towns in the southern province of Abyan. AQAP asserted responsibility for the assault in Paris that killed 17 people last January.
"The al-Qaeda model is enduring, and I think a lot of people underestimate it," said Aaron Zelin, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "Because of the rise of the [Islamic State], al-Qaeda, in turn, could become seen as more palatable to local populations and even governments in comparison." (Washington Post)
- The Test of Stability in the Arab World - Prof. Eyal Zisser
The overwhelming majority of those on the Palestinian street are not being sucked in by the lone attackers, even though they automatically support their actions. The Palestinians in the territories have not suddenly fallen in love with Israel's presence there, but as they look around them at what is happening in the Arab world, they recognize the value of the calm offered by the Israeli presence. Despite the wave of stabbings, Palestinian day-to-day life in the West Bank is continuing as normal and their current status is excellent in comparison to most other Arab societies in the region. The writer is former director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University.
Jordanian Security and Prosperity: An Essential Aspect of Israeli Policy - Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror and Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman (BESA Center-Bar-Ilan University)
- Israel has a strategic interest in, and long-standing
commitment to, the safety, security, stability and prosperity of the
Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. In current times, the relationship is
buttressed by a broad-ranging series of cooperative ventures in the
strategic, security, diplomatic, economic and energy fields.
- The stability and prosperity of Jordan has been a central element of Israeli
national security policy for three generations.
In 1958, David Ben-Gurion facilitated steps taken by the West to help the
Kingdom resist the pressures of Nasserist radicals. In 1970, Golda Meir - in
close coordination with the U.S. - was willing to risk war in order to compel
Soviet-backed Syrian forces to reverse their invasion of Jordan. (This move
- Similarly, Yitzhak Shamir reached understandings with King Hussein during
the Desert Storm crisis of 1990-1991, despite Jordan's ambivalent position
towards Iraq at the time. The peace treaty with Jordan of 1994, under Yitzhak Rabin's
leadership, brought into broad daylight what already had been an enduring
- A persistent and profound recognition of
mutual interests (and mutual enemies) has led both countries - regardless of
who has been in power in Israel at any given time - to seek strategic
understandings and remove causes of tension.
- Israeli assistance to Jordan - above all, helping Jordan
cope in recent years with the immense influx of Syrian refugees - remains
crucial. Significant segments of Israeli society are aware of, and engaged in
meeting, this challenge. Several Israeli NGOs as well as youth movements are
playing a role - never overt, but still symbolically significant - in
providing elementary support for the more-than-one-million Syrian refugees in Jordan.
Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror is former National Security Advisor to the Prime
Minister. Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman is former deputy for foreign policy and international affairs at the National Security Council.
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