China Eyes Saudi Support for Chinese Islamists - David Goldman (Asia Times-Hong Kong)
China has been Saudi Arabia's largest oil customer as well as a provider of sophisticated weapons. But China has lost patience with the monarchy's support for Wahhabi Islamists in China.
According to a senior Chinese analyst, the Saudis are the main source of funding for Islamist madrassas in Western China, where the "East Turkistan Independence Movement" has launched several large-scale terror attacks.
The Saudi government either can't or won't stop some members of the royal family from channeling funds to Chinese jihadis. "Our biggest worry in the Middle East isn't oil - it's Saudi Arabia," the analyst said.
Thousands of Chinese Uyghurs have made their way into Southeast Asia with financial assistance from Saudi supporters and logistical support - including passports - from local Turkish consulates.
Chinese Uyghurs were implicated in the bombing of Bangkok's Erawan Temple last August, and have linked up with ISIS supporters in Indonesia.
Turkey reported last month that most jihadists crossing its border into Syria to join ISIS are Chinese Muslims.
Tehran Executes Hundreds of Kurds - Dalshad Abdullah
During the past nine months, Iran has executed more than 750 people, the majority of whom are Kurdish.
According to Iranian opposition sources, the Iranian regime has executed annually hundreds of Kurds (who are Sunnis), Sunnis, Azeris, Turkmen, and followers of other religions including Jews, Christians, Baha'i, and Aliarsanyen (followers of an ancient Kurdish religion).
Video: As the Mideast Descends into Chaos, Israel Must Have Defensible Borders (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
The Middle East is imploding in waves of violence whose impact has reached Israel.
To the north, radical Islamists in Syria linked to both the Islamic State and al-Qaeda are approaching Israel's border on the Golan Heights and threatening Jordan as well.
At the same time, Iran is sending thousands of rockets with increasingly accurate guidance systems to Hizbullah in Lebanon to again attack Israeli cities.
To the east, Israel faces an array of potential threats from hostile forces that include Iranian Revolutionary Guards, pro-Iranian Shi'ite militias, and radical Islamist terror armies.
To the south, the Islamic State is in Sinai, threatening both Israel and Egypt. At the same time, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza are working feverishly, with Iranian assistance, to rebuild their rocket capabilities to enable renewed attacks on Israel.
Israel must have defensible borders to protect itself against a broad range of current and future threats from radical Islamist forces.
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- Domestic Issues Fuel Saudi-Iranian Spat - Yaroslav Trofimov
Saudi Arabia's escalating crisis with Iran, sparked by the execution of a leading Shiite Saudi cleric, is as much about domestic politics in both nations as it is about their regional tussle for domination of the Middle East. The most dangerous potential challenge to the Saudi regime has always come from conservative elements of its Sunni majority - the same people who are most hostile to Shiite Iran. "Many Saudis have perceived the Saudi stance until recently as too timid. The perception by many is that Iran is a bully, and that only a firm response can get it to back off," said Prince Faisal bin Farhan, a Saudi analyst.
"The domestic dimension of this crisis is underappreciated: The execution of Nemer al-Nemer was in a large part meant to legitimize the Saudi government's crackdown on Sunni extremists," said Emile Hokayem, senior fellow for Middle East security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Bahrain. Most of the 47 men put to death by Saudi Arabia on Saturday were Sunni militants affiliated with al-Qaeda.
(Wall Street Journal)
- Islamic State Video Shows Murder of Five "British Spies" - Martin Evans
A video released on social media shows an Islamic extremist with a British accent murdering five Arab men accused of spying for the UK. The victims were all shot in the head at point blank range. In a further chilling twist, a young boy speaking with a British accent also appeared on screen, threatening to kill non-Muslims.
See also "Jihadi Junior" in Islamic State Video Identified by Grandfather - Justin Wm. Moyer (Washington Post)
- UN Rights Monitor for Palestinian Territories Resigns - Isabel Kershner
The UN special rapporteur for human rights in the Palestinian territories, Makarim Wibisono, submitted his resignation to the Human Rights Council on Monday, citing Israel's refusal to grant him access to the West Bank and Gaza. Emmanuel Nahshon, spokesman for the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that Israel admired Mr. Wibisono's personal integrity, but that "a lack of balance characterizes not only the mandate of the rapporteur but the conduct of the Human Rights Council as a whole. As long as that is the case, Israel will act accordingly." (New York Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Palestinian Stabs Israeli Soldier in Gush Etzion Tuesday - Gili Cohen
On Tuesday morning, a Palestinian got out of a vehicle at the Gush Etzion junction in the West Bank
and stabbed an Israeli soldier in the face and hand. The Palestinian assailant was shot and killed at the scene.
See also Palestinian Tries to Stab Israeli Policemen Monday - Nir Hasson
A Palestinian, 16, from east Jerusalem, tried to stab Israeli police officers on Monday. The police shot and wounded the attacker in the legs. An Israeli girl was wounded by ricocheting bullet fragments.
- Bomb Explodes near Israeli Forces on Lebanon Border, Hizbullah Claims Responsibility - Gili Cohen and Jack Khoury
An explosive device detonated near two Israel Defense Forces armored bulldozers on Monday in the Har Dov area along the border with Lebanon. There were no casualties. Hizbullah claimed credit for the explosion. The Israeli army responded with artillery fire.
See also Israel Files Complaint at UN after Hizbullah Bombing on Israeli Border - Danielle Ziri (Jerusalem Post)
- Amidror: Saudi-Iran Breakdown May Prolong Syrian Civil War - Herb Keinon
Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, the former head of Israel's National Security Council, said the breakdown in relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia could prolong the Syrian civil war, in which Iran and Saudi Arabia are backing different forces. Referring to attempts to negotiate an end to the Syrian crisis, Amidror said: "It is clear that so much oil has been poured on the flames now that I don't know how long it will take to put them out." (Jerusalem Post)
- Tehran Demands Exemption from New Law on Visa Entries to the U.S. - Editorial
The December budget law includes a measure revising the Visa Waiver Program. Expedited entry into the U.S. is no longer available to foreign travelers who have visited Iraq, Syria or countries that "repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism." Thus the law covers those who have visited Iran, a U.S.-designated state sponsor of terrorism.
In a Dec. 18 interview, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said, "This visa-waver thing is absurd: Has anybody in the West been targeted by any Iranian national?"
Well, yes. Hundreds of U.S. soldiers and Marines were killed in Iraq by roadside bombs supplied by Iran. Iran has supported Hamas and Hizbullah terrorists. There was an Iran-backed attempt in 2011 to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the U.S. in Washington.
In a Dec. 22 letter to Secretary of State Kerry, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and four GOP committee chairmen note that Congress "expressly refused" carve-outs for Iranian businessman during the debate over the new visa rules. "The simplest way to eliminate this restriction," they wrote, "is for Iran to end its support of terrorism." (Wall Street Journal)
- U.S. Sanctions Delay Could Open Door for Iranian Weapons Violations - Matthew Levitt
U.S. backpedaling over sanctions related to Iran's ballistic missile program could send a dangerous signal, effectively inviting Tehran to test the boundaries of what violations it can get away with.
The measures were intended to show Washington's willingness to hold Tehran accountable for illicit conduct after Iran tested a new ballistic missile that a UN panel said was capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1929.
By backing off sanctions over Iran's ballistic missile test - and fairly insignificant sanctions at that - the Obama administration has left the impression that, contrary to its repeated pledges, it may not enforce current sanctions or impose new ones should Tehran violate UN Security Council resolutions or the nuclear deal. The writer, a former deputy assistant Treasury secretary for intelligence and analysis, directs the Stein program on counterterrorism and intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
(Wall Street Journal)
- Iran's Ballistic Missiles Are Actually a Huge Problem - Emily B. Landau and Shimon Stein
Iran continues to harbor military nuclear ambitions, and there is nothing in Iran's behavior, rhetoric or the nuclear deal (JCPOA) itself to indicate that it has backed away from the military nuclear intentions that we know it worked on at least up to 2009, according to the IAEA. According to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper's worldwide threat assessment, "Iran's ballistic missiles are inherently capable of delivering WMD (weapons of mass destruction), and Tehran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East."
UN Security Council resolutions target Iran's work on ballistic missiles that can carry a nuclear payload and deem this work unacceptable. To argue that these resolutions do not matter is tantamount to closing one's eyes to an emerging threat. Emily Landau heads the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the Institute for National Security Studies, where Amb. Shimon Stein is a senior research fellow. (National Interest)
The Tragic Failure of the Arab World - Shimon Shamir (Ha'aretz)
- The 21st century is becoming increasingly characterized by Arab states coming apart at the seams or even completely crumbling, while jihadists are gaining footholds throughout Arab lands.
- To compete with more developed nations, Arabs needed to address four challenges:
- To create sovereign states with functioning national institutions that depend upon cooperative citizens.
- To develop the capacity to produce technology, which would secure them a competitive position in the world economy.
- To handle Islam in a way that would instill values to bring society together - like common identity and solidarity - but also neutralize the violent elements that look to restore the ways of the past.
- To shake off the neocolonialist influence and involvement of superpowers, and act independently in the international arena.
- In the West, the thinking tends to be that the toppling of an authoritarian regime might lead to the establishment of a democracy. However, bitter experience has shown that overthrowing the rulers prompts the whole system to collapse, and then the alternative is chaos. It turned out that while it's possible to topple a dictator, the proper foundations for fostering democracy in the aftermath - both conceptually and institutionally - were lacking.
- The dizzying growth of the global economy is based primarily on knowledge. In most Arab countries, the level of scientific and technological know-how does not meet the levels required to support advanced, innovative means of production. Knowledge in the Arab world is not up to par because their schools and universities place too great an emphasis on memorization and rote learning.
- In 2000, Islamist groups were small, underground factions with limited capabilities; by 2015, they had become large forces with military capabilities and cutting-edge weaponry, and were firmly established throughout Arab lands. The last 15 years have seen a series of mega-terrorist attacks throughout the world. During the last five years alone, there has been a stark increase in the number of casualties from Islamic terrorism.
The writer is a professor emeritus of Middle Eastern history and former Israeli ambassador to Egypt and Jordan.
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