Iranian Official Denies that Nuclear Reactor Was Sealed - Thomas Erdbrink (New York Times)
Ali Asghar Zarean, Iran's deputy nuclear chief, on Tuesday denied a report that technicians had removed the core of the Arak heavy-water reactor and poured concrete into the cavity.
He said Iran planned to sign an agreement next week with China to modify the reactor, which is capable of producing the plutonium needed to build an atomic weapon.
United Methodist Church Divests from Israeli Banks - Rachel Zoll (AP-U.S. News)
The pension fund for the United Methodist Church has blocked five of Israel's leading banks from its investment portfolio.
It sold off Israeli bank stock worth a few million dollars and sold holdings worth about $5,000 in the Israeli real estate and construction company Shikun & Binui.
The pension board identified Israel and the Palestinian territories among more than a dozen "high risk" countries or regions with "a prolonged and systematic pattern of human rights abuses."
Other countries on the list include Saudi Arabia, the Central African Republic and North Korea.
ISIS Blamed in Istanbul Attack that Killed 10 Tourists - Ceylan Yeginsu and Tim Arango (New York Times)
An Islamic State operative from Syria wearing a vest of explosives killed nine German and one Peruvian tourist on Tuesday not far from the Blue Mosque. At least 15 other people were wounded, including nine Germans.
French Jewish Politician Found Stabbed to Death in His Home (JTA)
Alain Ghozland, 73, a municipal counselor in Creteil, a Paris suburb, was found dead in his apartment Tuesday, his body riddled with stab wounds.
See also Shadow of Anti-Semitism Is Stalking Europe Again - Itamar Eichner and Rachel Cadars (Ynet News)
Jews across Europe are taking off their yarmulkes and hiding their Star of David necklaces as "there is a sense of growing fear and worry among Europe's Jews," said Gideon Bachar, head of the Department for Combating Anti-Semitism in the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"To our regret, Jewish life is taking place more and more behind walls, armed guards, police and security cameras."
Israel Slams Swedish FM for Call to Probe "Extrajudicial Killings" of Palestinians - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom called on Tuesday for an investigation to determine if Israel was guilty of extrajudicial killings of Palestinians during recent violence.
Israel's Foreign Ministry called the statements "irresponsible and delusional," adding that Wallstrom is "giving support to terror and thus encouraging violence."
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog said, "It's interesting that Sweden didn't respond similarly when Paris police killed the terrorists as needed."
"And it would be interesting to know if she would respond similarly when the terrorists commit appalling attacks in her country."
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- Iran Holds 10 U.S. Sailors But Pledges to Release Them Soon, Pentagon Says - Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Missy Ryan
The Iranian military took control of two U.S. Navy vessels and their crew Tuesday after the boats apparently strayed into Iran's territorial waters, U.S. officials said. The small riverine command boats had been en route from Kuwait to Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. The Iranian military took the boats and their crews to its naval base at Farsi Island in the northern Persian Gulf. (Washington Post)
See also Iran's Revolutionary Guards "Arrested" American Soldiers - Josh Rogin and Eli Lake
Even if Iran quickly releases the 10 U.S. military personnel it took custody of, the incident shows that despite a nuclear agreement with the West, Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps is willing to board U.S. vessels, take American soldiers into custody, and, according to CNN citing U.S. officials, confiscate the crew's communications and GPS equipment. The Iranian state press reported the sailors had been "arrested" for "snooping." It took several hours before the captured sailors were allowed to make contact with their superiors.
Former U.S. ambassador to Iraq Jim Jeffrey, now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said the Iranians know the Obama administration is committed to preserving the Iran deal above all else and they are using that knowledge to get away with mischief. The incident also shows that the faction of Iran's government - led by President Hassan Rouhani - that negotiated the nuclear deal has little influence over Iran's national security state. (Bloomberg)
See also Iran Releases Captured U.S. Navy Crew Members - Fred Barbash
"Ten U.S. Navy sailors safely returned to U.S. custody today, after departing Iran," U.S. Naval Forces Central Command said in a statement Wednesday.
- Iran Asks U.S. to Apologize for "Violating" Its Territorial Waters
Iran's Revolutionary Guards said on Wednesday that Tehran has asked the U.S. for an apology for "violating" Iran's territorial waters, after 10 American sailors were arrested on Tuesday. Separately, a spokesman for the Revolutionary Guards said the U.S. sailors were being interrogated, according to the Tasnim news agency.
See also Iran Says Seizure of U.S. Boats a Lesson to "Troublemakers" in Congress
Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, head of Iran's armed forces, said Wednesday: "This incident in the Persian Gulf, which probably will not be the American forces' last mistake in the region, should be a lesson to troublemakers in the U.S. Congress," the Tasnim news agency reported.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel Welcomes Fifth German-Made Submarine - Herb Keinon and Yaakov Lappin
Israel's newest submarine, the INS Rahav, Israel's fifth Dolphin-class sub, arrived in Haifa on Tuesday.
"Our submarine fleet serves as a deterrent to our enemies who seek our destruction," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "They need to know that Israel is capable of hitting with very great force anyone who tries to harm us." Netanyahu said that Israel is aiming for superiority on all fronts and is active in cyberspace, in the air, in space, on the ground, under the ground against the threat of tunnels, in the seas, and underwater.
Netanyahu thanked German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck for their "great contribution to fortifying our naval force through supplying these submarines." The sub cost nearly $500 million, with Berlin providing about a third of the funding. A sixth sub is still being built. (Jerusalem Post-AP)
See also New Sub Doubles Israel Navy's Long-Range Capabilities - Yaakov Lappin
The arrival of Israel's second new-generation air independent propulsion submarine has doubled the navy's long-range operational capabilities, a soon-to-be submarine commander told the Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
See also Israeli Submarine Fleet for Deterrence and Second Nuclear Strike - Yossi Melman (Jerusalem Post)
- Israel Air Force Attacks Palestinian Terrorists Planting Explosives on Gaza Border - Yoav Zitun
The Israel Air Force attacked a Palestinian terror cell in northern Gaza on Wednesday as they were planting explosives on the border fence to set off near an IDF patrol. The Palestinians reported one killed and three wounded.
- Israeli Soldiers Foil Stabbing Attempt near Hebron - Stuart Winer
A Palestinian man rushed at an IDF patrol brandishing a knife near the Beit Anun junction in the Hebron area on Tuesday.
The soldiers opened fire, killing the attacker.
(Times of Israel)
- Top Israeli Diplomat: "Iran Wants to Turn Syria into a Province of Iran" - Armin Rosen
Iran is "a country of 80 million seeking to get nuclear weapons,"
Israeli diplomat Dore Gold told the Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington on Jan. 11.
Gold said that he "firmly believes Iran wants to turn Syria into a province of Iran." Citing Iranian promotion of Shi'ite Islam in the country, Gold said Iran is "involved in creating a social and political change that incorporates Syria into the Iranian state." Gold said that Iranian religious outreach in Syria wasn't just "a question of building Shi'ite mosques. It's a question of a permanent deployment against Israel from the north. That's something we cannot accept."
Philip Smyth, a researcher at the University of Maryland and a leading expert on Shi'ite militia movements, noted, "The revolutionary ideology of the Islamic Republic of Iran has a very long-term goal to incorporate many states/groups into a broader political project."
Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran's Islamic revolution, "was not a supporter of Iranian nationalism and wanted a true and total pan-Islamic government under his religious guidelines/ideology." (Business Insider)
- Palestinian Leadership Encourages Knifings and Car-Rammings Against Israelis - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser
In a speech he gave in Bethlehem last week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the "popular intifada will go on until the end of the occupation and there will be no return to negotiations without recognition of all the rights of the Palestinians," and that "progress toward an agreement must be achieved by international intervention."
Fatah Central Committee member Jibril Rajoub declared that Fatah regards the 17 "martyrs" whose bodies were returned to the Palestinians for burial on Jan. 1 in Hebron as heroes and Fatah encourages young Palestinians to follow their path.
What can we learn from Abbas' and Rajoub's comments? First, whether they were responsible for launching the current wave of terror or not, they are now taking responsibility for it. Not only do they refrain from denouncing it, they encourage it. It should be recognized that this is a national campaign whose fighters, the knife-wielders and the car-rammers, are acting according to the directives of their leadership. The lack of security in Israel brought about by their actions is the tool by which the leadership expects to rack up achievements in the diplomatic arena.
Abbas' strategic goals have not changed, and he continues to refuse to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
Abbas is prepared only for an agreement that does not contradict his strategic aim of bringing down Zionism. He is leading his people to a perpetuation of suffering, because there is no chance that Israel will give in to terror.
The writer, director of the project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was formerly director general of the Strategic Affairs Ministry and head of research for IDF Intelligence.
Obama: "How Do We Keep America Safe and Lead the World Without Becoming Its Policeman?" (White House)
President Obama said Tuesday in his annual State of the Union address:
- "How do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman?...The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period. It's not even close. We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined."
- "As someone who begins every day with an intelligence briefing, I know this is a dangerous time....In today's world, we're threatened less by evil empires and more by failing states. The Middle East is going through a transformation that will play out for a generation, rooted in conflicts that date back millennia."
- "Priority number one is protecting the American people and going after terrorist networks. Both al-Qaeda and now ISIL pose a direct threat to our people, because in today's world, even a handful of terrorists who place no value on human life, including their own, can do a lot of damage. They use the Internet to poison the minds of individuals inside our country; they undermine our allies....Masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks and twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages pose an enormous danger to civilians and must be stopped."
- "But they do not threaten our national existence. That's the story ISIL wants to tell; that's the kind of propaganda they use to recruit. We don't need to build them up to show that we're serious, nor do we need to push away vital allies in this fight by echoing the lie that ISIL is representative of one of the world's largest religions. We just need to call them what they are - killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed."
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