ISIS Captures Syrian Air Defense System - Bill Gertz (Washington Free Beacon)
Islamic State terrorists recently captured several Syrian SA-6 mobile anti-aircraft missiles, raising concerns the weapons could be used against U.S. and allied aircraft, Pentagon officials said.
A photo of a captured SA-6 was posted on an ISIS social media account on Jan. 20.
Samples Confirm Islamic State Used Mustard Gas in Iraq - Anthony Deutsch (Reuters)
Islamic State militants attacked Kurdish forces in Iraq with mustard gas last year, a source at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirmed.
The OPCW already concluded in October that mustard gas was used last year in Syria.
Iran Makes It a Crime to Celebrate Valentine's Day (AP-New York Post)
Iran is cracking down on Valentine's Day celebrations and says shops engaging in them will be guilty of a crime.
Iranian news outlets reported the police directive Friday warning retailers against promoting "decadent Western culture through Valentine's Day rituals."
UNESCO Adds World's Oldest Bible to Registry of World Treasures (i24news)
The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) last week officially added the Aleppo Codex, believed to be the world's oldest copy of the Hebrew Bible, to its International Memory of the World Register.
The Codex, which now resides at the Shrine of the Book Museum in Jerusalem, was written in Tiberias around 930 CE, and then moved to Jerusalem, from where it was stolen when the Crusaders sacked the city in 1099.
It was later ransomed by the Jews of Cairo. In the 14th century it found its way to Aleppo, Syria, and it arrived in Israel in 1958.
Tourism to Israel Remains Strong - David Shamah (Times of Israel)
According to Anat Aronson of Israel's Tourism Ministry, "tourism in 2015 was more or less what it was in 2014 - about 3% lower - and most of that was due to a falloff in tourism from Russia and Eastern Europe, due to severe economic problems in those regions."
"Tourism from the United States in 2015 was actually up over the year previously."
Altogether, 3.1 million tourists arrived in Israel in 2015.
Record Number of Brazilian Jews Moving to Israel (JTA)
In 2015, 463 Brazilian Jews immigrated to Israel, a record number, amid the country's worst economic crisis in a century.
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- Iran Remains Off Limits to U.S. Banks
Iran remains essentially off limits to U.S. banks, despite the lifting of some U.S. sanctions following the Iranian nuclear deal. Most "primary" sanctions tied to accusations that Tehran supports terrorism remain in effect, blocking U.S. businesses from joining a rush to cash in on Iran's potential revival.
"Broadly, the U.S. primary embargo on Iran is still in place," John Smith, acting director of the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), told a congressional panel on Thursday. Foreign banks operating in the U.S. also remain hemmed in by the sanctions still in place, because they are forbidden from clearing U.S. dollar-denominated transactions involving Iran through U.S. banks. In addition, some 200 Iran-related individuals and entities remain on a list of "blocked" persons.
- Report: ISIS Relying on Child Soldiers, Drugged Fighters - Hollie McKay
As the battle for its Iraqi stronghold of Mosul looms, ISIS has replaced much of its depleted senior ranks with child soldiers and drugged foreign fighters, according to Kurdish and Iraqi intelligence sources. Kamal Kirkuki, spokesman for the Kurdistan Democratic Party, said that at the beginning, the ISIS leadership "was all former Iraq military and Baath party leaders. They had experience, top bomb tech specialists and most were very skilled," but that many have since died in battle. ISIS in Iraq is now bringing in fighters as young as 13, who have little or no combat experience, according to Kurdish military leaders.
A Kurdish official said ISIS fighters are also taking Captagon, a meth-like variant that can last up to 48 hours and causes users to be full of energy and impervious to pain. (Fox News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- France Presents Middle East Peace Initiative to Israel - Barak Ravid
France officially presented Israel on Tuesday with its initiative to convene an international peace summit in Paris this summer in an attempt to restart the peace process.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nachson said that Israel supports direct negotiations and opposes any attempt to predetermine the outcome of negotiations. "This principle, which has accompanied the peace process from the beginning, won the international community's support over the years and was the basis for peace negotiations with Jordan and Egypt." (Ha'aretz)
- PA: Palestinians to "Never" Again Negotiate Directly with Israel
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said Monday in Japan: "We will never go back and sit again in a direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiation."
Malki stressed that a multilateral framework to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is needed.
(Times of Israel)
See also PA, Israeli Officials Meet to Discuss Security Concerns - Avi Issacharoff
Palestinian and Israeli officials met last week to exchange information and reaffirm security cooperation. Both sides see security coordination as key to keeping the West Bank from falling to more extreme elements and terror groups.
(Times of Israel)
See also Poll: 2/3 of Palestinians Oppose Security Coordination with Israel - Maayan Groisman
67% of Palestinians oppose security coordination between the IDF and the Palestinian Authority, a survey released Monday by the Watan Center for Studies and Research found. Moreover, 69% want the current intifada to continue.
- U.S. Envoy Condemns UN's Anti-Israel Bias - Joshua Davidovich and Marissa Newman
During a visit to Israel, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, accused the world body of harboring a bias against Israel. "Bias has extended well beyond Israel as a country," she said of the UN and particularly its Human Rights Council. "Israel is just not treated like other countries."
Power admitted that the Israeli-Palestinian situation was not ripe for new negotiations, saying, "right now we hope the parties will take steps to move them closer again to restart negotiations, which is not a position they are in now." (Times of Israel)
- Alliance with the U.S. Helps Israel at the UN - Danny Danon
Our government will soon sign a new Memorandum of Understanding for American aid with the Obama administration. With the current MOU actually expiring only in 2018, the fact that President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu are committed to signing the agreement now signals the close cooperation between our two administrations. When you add this MOU to the military and intelligence collaborations over the past seven years, you understand the level of commitment of the American government to Israel's security and well-being.
At the UN, the support that we receive from U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power and the American delegation plays a key role in our successes. Over the past six months this relationship has assisted us in making important inroads at numerous international bodies where we are contributing to the betterment of the world. Additionally, we are now seeing a record number of Israelis integrated into official UN bodies and organizations. None of these undertakings would be possible without our American friends. The writer is Israel's ambassador to the UN.
- Syria Employing Ethnic Cleansing of Sunnis - Ariel Ben Solomon
Prof. Eyal Zisser, a leading expert on Syria from the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University, told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem on Monday that Syria, Iran and Russia were employing the tactic of "ethnic cleansing" in Syria. He argued that Syria and its allies reached the conclusion that there was a need to rid the country of Sunni civilians, something it has succeeded in doing in some areas.
"It is not unlikely that, with Russian and Iranian support, the Syrian regime could be able to regain control of most of its territory," he said. If Assad is victorious in the civil war, said Zisser, he may conclude that power is the only thing that can guarantee his survival and mount an aggressive rebuilding of the Syrian army with Russian support. "It will be a different Syria, Assad no longer would be the driver, but under Russian and Iranian influence." (Jerusalem Post)
- Why U.S. Middle East Policy Is Failing - Kenneth M. Pollack and Barbara F. Walter
The murderous jihadists of Islamic State, or ISIS, are only one symptom of a much larger problem in the Middle East. By fixating on this one symptom and then trying to convince everyone else in the region to do the same, we are setting ourselves up for failure.
Most Middle Easterners regard ISIS as abhorrent and want to see it obliterated. But ISIS is not the root problem. The real problems of the Middle East stem from the failure of the post-World War II Arab state system, which has produced state collapse, power vacuums and civil wars.
The region's civil wars invariably spawn extremist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda, but they have spread
only to states in civil war or on the brink.
Even if the U.S. were able to "defeat" or "degrade" ISIS, as long as civil wars burn on in the region, the conditions that led to its emergence would still exist, and new radical groups would simply emerge to replace it. End the civil wars, and the terrorist groups will wither.
Mr. Pollack is a senior fellow of the Brookings Institution. Ms. Walter is a professor at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California San Diego.
(Wall Street Journal)
Israel Calls on World Nations to Regulate Anti-Semitism in Social Media - Sam Sokol (Jerusalem Post)
- Akiva Tor, director of the Israel Foreign Ministry's Department for Jewish Communities, speaking to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem on Monday, asked
why platforms such as Google, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are "tolerating" violent incitement.
- "How is it possible that the government of France and the European Union all feel that incitement in Arabic on social media in Europe calling for physical attacks on Jews is permitted and that there is no requirement from industry to do something about it?"
- Israel is working with European partners to push the technology sector to adopt a definition of anti-Semitism so its constituent companies can "take responsibility for what they host."
- While Facebook has said it will take down material that violates its terms of service following a complaint, Tor asked why the social-networking giant could not self-regulate and use the technology at its disposal to identify and take down offending content automatically.
- "If they know how to deliver a specific ad to your Facebook page, they know how to detect speech in Arabic calling to stab someone in the neck."
- Following the Foreign Ministry's Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism last year, it called for the scrubbing of Holocaust denial websites from the Internet and the omission of "hate websites and content" from web searches.
- Last October, 20,000 Israelis sued Facebook, alleging the social media platform is disregarding incitement and calls to murder Jews being posted by Palestinians. The plaintiffs argued that Facebook "has the ability to monitor and block postings by extremists and terrorists urging violence, just as it restricts pornography."
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