Iran Pulls Missile from Launchpad after Apparent Prep for Launch, U.S. Officials Say - Lucas Tomlinson and Jennifer Griffin (Fox News)
Iran removed a powerful missile from a launchpad east of Tehran within the past few days, Fox News has learned, as U.S. and Iranian officials continued trading public barbs about the Islamic Republic's missile tests.
Iran's ballistic program has "expanded dramatically" in the past 10 years, a senior U.S. defense official said.
Satellite imagery from Feb. 3, obtained from ImageSat International and verified by U.S. officials, showed Iran preparing a Safir missile for launch. That missile is the type Iran has previously used to put a satellite into space.
On Tuesday, Fox News learned that Iran's missile had been removed from the launchpad.
ISIS Captures Three Army Bases in Syria (ARA News-Kurdistan)
After four days of clashes with Syrian army forces, the Islamic State on Friday seized control of three military bases in the Qalamoun region northeast of Damascus.
See also ISIS Captures Turkish-Held Town in Northern Syria (Fars-Iran)
After several clashes with the Turkish army, ISIS captured the town of al-Baza'ah in Aleppo province.
forces withdrew after ISIS stormed their positions with bomb-laden suicide vehicles and bombers.
Israel Invests More in R and D Per Capita than Any Other Country (The Tower)
New figures released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on Tuesday showed that Israel devotes more of its GDP to research and development than any other country.
Israel's share of R&D spending climbed to 4.25% of GDP in 2015, ahead of South Korea's 4.23%.
Israel's Elbit Wins $110 Million Helicopter Upgrade Contract (Reuters)
Israeli defense electronics firm Elbit Systems Ltd. said on Wednesday it won a five-year, $110 million
contract from an Asia-Pacific country for the upgrade and
maintenance of dozens of Mi-17 helicopters.
See also Japan Taps Elbit Subsidiary for Cybersecurity Training (UPI)
Israel's Cyberbit Ltd. is helping launch a cybersecurity training and simulator facility in Japan under a contract from Ni Cybersecurity Inc., a Japanese firm.
The facility in Tokyo will accelerate the certification of new cybersecurity experts and help government and financial organizations improve the skills of their existing staff.
The facility will be powered by the Cyberbit Range, a highly advanced cybersecurity training and simulation platform that enables trainees to practice in real-life settings.
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- White House Weighs Designating Iran's Revolutionary Guard a Terrorist Group
The U.S. is considering designating Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization. The U.S. has already blacklisted dozens of entities and people for affiliation with the IRGC. In 2007, the U.S. Treasury designated the IRGC's Quds Force, in charge of its operations abroad, "for its support of terrorism," and has said it is Iran's "primary arm for executing its policy of supporting terrorist and insurgent groups."
The objective of the move would be to dissuade foreign investment in Iran's economy, because of the IRGC's involvement in major sectors including transportation and oil. "The new administration regards Iran as the clearest danger to U.S. interests, and they've been looking for ways to turn up the heat," said a senior U.S. official. (Reuters)
See also White House Weighs Terrorist Designation for Muslim Brotherhood - Peter Baker (New York Times)
- Syria Detains Opponents, as It Reasserts Control - Raja Abdulrahim
As President Assad's regime regains territory from weakened rebels six years into the Syrian war, opposition activists and residents say it is using mass detentions and other tactics to snuff out dissent in places that were out of its control for years. Nearly 2,000 people were caught in a regime dragnet in the final month as Aleppo fell to the government, according to the opposition group Syrian Network for Human Rights.
Former residents of Aleppo and activist groups say that since the regime consolidated control over the entire city, it has arrested people who took part in protests, nurses and doctors who treated the victims of Russian and regime airstrikes, and humanitarian workers.
(Wall Street Journal)
See also In Syria, Rebels Turn on Each Other - David Patrikarakos
On Jan. 26, the Syrian Islamist rebel group Ahrar al-Sham incorporated six other rebel groups into its ranks in northwestern Syria in order to battle Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (JFS), a former al-Qaeda franchise once known as the Al-Nusra Front. Days earlier, JFS attacked Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups west of Aleppo.
Jihadist groups now stand ascendant among the coalition battling Assad. The FSA and associated groups fought against IS in 2014, when they were much stronger - a campaign that cost them dearly. Those groups simply cannot afford to fight against JFS as well. (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Netanyahu: Knesset Vote on Settlements Law Provides "a Very Balanced Solution" - Itamar Eichner
The Prime Minister's Office said Tuesday that the new law approved by Israel's Knesset is intended to address a reality in which Israelis unintentionally built houses in the West Bank
on land that does not belong to the state. Most of the construction under discussion was carried out several decades ago, and any land owners will receive financial compensation exceeding the lands' actual worth or alternative plots nearby.
"This is a very balanced solution for land owners as well as for families facing the risk of evacuation and losing the home they have been living in for decades. The aim of this law is to minimize the need to destroy houses built many years ago. It is important to stress that the law will only apply to a limited number of existing cases and is in no way a license to expropriate land." (Ynet News)
- Netanyahu Calls on Belgian Prime Minister to Cut Funding for Anti-Israel Groups - Lidar Grave-Lazi
In a meeting in Jerusalem on Tuesday,
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel to have his government stop funding organizations that "act against IDF soldiers and against the State of Israel."
A day earlier in London, Netanyahu asked British Prime Minister Theresa May to reconsider her country's funding for such organizations.
- How Assad Is Winning - Charles Glass
No one denies that the Assad regime is winning the war. It owes its ascendancy as much to its opponents' disunity and incompetence as to its own effectiveness. Rebel policy, whichever group was involved, was to seize and hold terrain for as long as possible in violation of every tenet of guerrilla warfare. But opposition fighters failed to shield people from the regime's sieges and assaults as well as the misbehavior of their own "rogue elements."
The rebels also failed to build a solid coalition within the population and create effective alliances among their more than a thousand armed bands.
The government promised to end its assaults if the rebel forces departed. To obtain food, water, electricity, and a respite from bombardment, the local people put pressure on their self-proclaimed defenders to leave. The UN estimated that 700,000 people remained under siege in 15 areas as of Jan. 16.
Armed militants from many rival Sunni groups, including Faylaq al-Sham, Jaish al-Fustat, and Jaysh al-Islam, have yet to give up, but their front line is static and mostly quiet. Some Damascus suburbs remain redoubts for indigenous rebel factions. Syrian rebels and foreign jihadis retain control of Idlib province. Islamic State and Jabha Fateh al-Sham, the al-Qaeda branch, remain resilient and immune to civilian pleas for an end to the ordeal. They are not part of the discussion about ending the war and will not go quietly.
(New York Review of Books)
- Who Are the Legitimate Representatives of the Palestinians? - Lawrence Solomon
Yasser Arafat created the concept of an Arabic "Palestinian people" in the 1960s. But Arafat never forged a united people.
Few Palestinians identify chiefly with a national identity; their loyalty instead is clan-based. Palestinians pledge loyalty to their clan in a formal code of honor backed by local militias.
Clan-based systems of governance do not lend themselves to nation states. Little surprise, then, that after Arafat died, civil war broke out and Gaza broke off from the West Bank to form its own statelet. The chance that the Western powers can make the Gazan clans and West Bank clans unite in peace and harmony is close to nil.
Those who propose a two-state solution are more realistically contemplating a three-state solution - Israel, Gaza and the West Bank - since the Muslim Brotherhood is unlikely to give up its Gaza power base.
The weaker the Palestinian Authority becomes, the stronger the clans become in relation, allowing them to reassert their authority, and thus appoint legitimate representatives to negotiate a settlement with the Israelis. (National Post-Canada)
- China and the Middle East - Tim Collard
The monopoly of force by sovereign states has been breached many times in the last decade, and the epicenter of this phenomenon is in the Middle East, where there are several regions not under the control of any recognized government. China must know that assurances of security from a national government can provide no real security for infrastructural projects or for those working on them.
With one exception: Israel. China has been working, with practical mutual benefits, with Israel for thirty years. Both countries have been entirely pragmatic in this cooperation; neither has called on the other to adopt a particular political position, and both have given clear demonstrations of the ability to protect vital interests on their own soil. (China.org)
Israel Is a Vital Ally for Britain - Iran Must Not Be Allowed to Threaten It - Editorial (Telegraph-UK)
- The talks held on Monday between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and British Prime Minister Theresa May are a timely reminder of how important it is for Britain to maintain a strong relationship with the Jewish state.
- As the region's only truly democratic nation, Israel stands as a beacon of stability.
- Maintaining good relations with Israel is vital to British interests, as well as to helping to defeat Islamic State.
- Israel is also an important ally when it comes to tackling rogue states like Iran, which is committed to undermining Western interests in the region.
- The British Government might have differences with Mr. Netanyahu, but the far greater priority must be to reassure the Israeli people that Britain is committed to resisting states like Iran that are dedicated to their destruction.
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