IRGC Navy Commander: Iranian Missiles Locked on U.S. Aircraft Carrier (Fars-Iran)
Iran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Navy Commander Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi warned that his forces' missile forces were awaiting orders to hit an American aircraft carrier deployed in the region after the IRGC seized two U.S. Navy boats on Tuesday.
"The USS Truman aircraft carrier showed unprofessional moves for 40 minutes after the detention of the trespassers, while we were highly prepared with our coast-to-sea missiles, missile-launching speedboats and our numerous capabilities" and were ready to strike them.
Fadavi reminded that the IRGC is in charge of the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf.
Russian Airstrikes in Syria Are Helping U.S. Allies - Nancy A. Youssef and Shane Harris (Daily Beast)
U.S.-backed forces of the Syrian Democratic Front
made some of their biggest gains in Syria in recent months when they retook villages near Aleppo with the help of Russian airstrikes, four defense officials told the Daily Beast.
"It is not something Russians are trying to do. It is happenstance," one U.S. official said.
U.S. officials fear such success could create a new alliance between its proxy forces in Syria and the Russian military.
Former U.S. Envoy Recommended Using NGOs to Foment Palestinian Protest in Israel - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
Former U.S. ambassador to Israel Thomas Pickering wrote an email to then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Dec. 18, 2011, advocating the U.S. back - and possibly work through NGOs to foment - non-violent Palestinian protests intended to pressure Israel.
Pickering stressed that the U.S. must be the silent hand behind this, and not be seen in any way as involved.
There is no indication any part of this proposal was acted upon or put into practice.
Turkey's New Base in Qatar - Olivier Decottignies and Soner Cagaptay (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
In December, Ankara announced that it will establish a new military base in Qatar, putting Turkey in a small group of nations willing and able to project power in the Persian Gulf.
While the U.S. remains by far the largest provider of security in the Gulf, the French established a multipurpose air, sea, and ground base in the UAE in 2009, while British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond took part in a groundbreaking ceremony for a similar project in Bahrain last November.
Russia has deployed forces to Syria, while China controls commercial operations at the Pakistani port of Gwadar, not far from the mouth of the Persian Gulf.
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- Videos Raise Questions about Iran's Treatment of U.S. Sailors - Felicia Schwartz and
Iran released a set of videos of U.S. sailors who were released Wednesday after being captured and detained overnight, raising questions about whether Iran mistreated the Americans or violated international law by using them for propaganda purposes.
One video broadcast on Iranian television showed several Americans kneeling with their hands clasped behind their heads. Another showed a U.S. sailor admitting wrongdoing and apologizing.
James Ross, legal and policy director of Human Rights Watch, said it has long been recognized that it is unlawful for governments to use photographs or videos of military detainees for propaganda purposes, including publicly releasing a "confession." "The Iranian government actions would appear to be contrary to the intention of the Geneva Conventions," Ross said.
Even if the boats veered into Iranian waters by mistake, under international maritime law such "innocent passage" should have brought an instruction to leave those waters, not a seizure and detention, according to Navy manuals citing the international standards.
(Wall Street Journal)
See also Video: Watch U.S. Navy Sailors Being Captured by Iran (CNN)
- House Approves Greater Oversight of Iran Nuclear Deal - Richard Lardner
The U.S. House of Representatives voted 191-106 Wednesday to approve the Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act that would give Congress greater oversight of the nuclear agreement with Iran. The bill would bar the removal of certain individuals and foreign financial institutions on a restricted list kept by the Treasury Department until the president certifies to Congress that they weren't involved in Iran's ballistic missile program or in terrorist activities. The White House said the bill could cause "the collapse" of the agreement with Iran and that the president will veto the legislation. (AP-Seattle Times)
- U.S. Supreme Court Hears Case Involving Judgments Against Iran - Adam Liptak
A lawyer for Iran's central bank faced skepticism at the Supreme Court on Wednesday as he tried to persuade the justices that his client should not have to pay nearly $2 billion to victims of terrorist attacks.
The case was brought by the families of Americans killed in terrorist attacks sponsored by Iran, including relatives of those who died in the 1983 Marine Corps barracks bombing in Lebanon.
American courts have already determined that "the government of Iran sponsored terrorism that killed and maimed American citizens," said Theodore B. Olson, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. (New York Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel Officially Rebukes Swedish Ambassador for Foreign Minister's Statement - Itamar Eichner
Israel Foreign Ministry Deputy Director-General for European Affairs Aviv Shir-On told
Sweden's Ambassador to Israel Carl Magnus Nesser on Wednesday that Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom's call for Israel to be investigated for executing Palestinians represented a twisted presentation of reality. Shir-On said that Wallstrom's words indicate that she does not understand that Israeli citizens are exposed to the constant danger of murderous terror attacks. He said that due to the minister's comments, Israel will no longer allow Sweden to promote any projects in the Palestinian territories. (Ynet News)
See also Swedish Delegation in Israel to Learn How to Deal with Terrorism - Itamar Eichner
A delegation of former senior experts in Sweden's defense establishment sent by the Royal Swedish Academy of War Sciences arrived in Israel this week to learn about dealing with terrorism.
- Palestinian Who Attacked Soldier Killed in West Bank Thursday
A Palestinian terrorist who attempted to stab a soldier at the Beit Einoun junction near Hebron in the West Bank was shot and killed by Israeli security forces Thursday morning.
- Plunging Oil Prices Raise Israeli GDP - Hedy Cohen
Plunging oil prices have had a positive effect on the both the global and Israeli economies. According to Bank Hapoalim chief economic advisor Prof. Leo Leiderman, lower oil prices reduce inflation, have a positive impact on economic activity, and improve the balance of payments. While Israel spent $12.7 billion on imported energy in 2014, these expenses totaled $7.5 billion in 2015. "The fall in prices, combined with the transition to natural gas, translates to 2% of GDP." (Globes)
- Iran Seizing Sailors and the Rogue Delusion - Michael Rubin
There's a common delusion that when the Islamic Revolutionary Guards kidnaps sailors it's either hardline elements trying to embarrass moderates, or rogue actors. But evidence suggests that at best, the Islamic Republic is playing a game of good cop-bad cop, and that outrages such as taking American sailors hostage are not rogue actions.
In each previous case, the Iranian gunman or chief planner ended up with a promotion. Col. Amangah, the commander of the operation that seized British sailors in 2007, later was decorated as soldier of the year.
It's time to stop deluding ourselves, and to judge Iran by what its actions are rather than what we would wish them to be.
The writer, a former Pentagon official and Resident Scholar at AEI, is the author of Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes. (American Enterprise Institute)
- Iran's Capture and Release of U.S. Sailors - Michael Singh
The U.S. sailors captured by Iran were not immediately released, but were held overnight, questioned, and photographed for media consumption. This incident must be triangulated against other Iranian actions, including its testing of ballistic missiles, a live-fire incident in the proximity of U.S. Navy and commercial shipping vessels, the continued detention of Iranian-Americans, the recent ransacking of the Saudi embassy in Tehran, and Iran's undiminished support for the Assad regime in Syria. All of these point toward continuity, rather than change, in Iran's regional policy.
The writer is managing director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
(Wall Street Journal)
- Impending Lifting of Iran Sanctions Worries Israel - Alex Fishman
Most of the economic sanctions imposed on Iran will be removed on Friday, U.S. State Department officials said. In light of the impending lifting of sanctions, the regime in Tehran announced it plans on rehabilitating the Iranian military.
Talks with Russia began in March 2015 on the sale of Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets (considered the counterpart of the American F-15) and advanced Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles to Tehran. Iran and Russia are also discussing a deal for advanced T-90 tanks and restarting the production line of T-72 tanks, which were built by the Russians in Iran in the past. Next month, Iran will receive the first shipment of the advanced Russian S-300 aerial defense system. Also in line are the French, who are negotiating the sale of Dassault Rafale fighter jets with the Iranians.
Israel views the public missile experiments conducted in recent months by Iran as a move to test international reaction. President Obama's decision not to press Tehran on this issue encourages the Iranians to continue chipping away at the international agreements meant to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.
Iran's Humiliation of U.S. Sets the Tone - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)
- Iran's seizure of American patrol boats in the Persian Gulf has political ramifications that must be considered in Israel. First, Washington's response to the incident testifies to the fact that the Obama administration will not allow anything to get in the way of implementing the nuclear deal with Iran.
- In a few days the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is expected to announce that Iran has met all the basic conditions in the agreement, thus permitting the removal of sanctions. Iran needs sanctions removal like people need oxygen. But the U.S. is behaving as though it is the one who needs the sanctions to be removed, not Iran.
- Two weeks ago the Iranians tested ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons. This was a violation of the ban on holding such tests that is part of the UN Security Council's decision that validated the nuclear agreement. But the president himself ordered a halt to the process of imposing sanctions in response. This is a sign that the U.S. will ignore violations of the Iranian nuclear agreement if they are not too over-the-top.
- Supreme Leader Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards will do anything to show the Americans that Iran is the enemy of all the U.S. represents. They will not miss any opportunity to humiliate the Americans and show them that Iran has not given in to them.
- It was the Revolutionary Guards who got the last word. Their hatred for Americans outweighed any other considerations. They distributed the video of the humiliated American sailors and their captors treating them humanely. For Israel, the way the current ruling Iranian regime provoked the Americans through video images should be deeply concerning.
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