Israel Says Assad Still Has Chemical Weapons - Josef Federman (AP-Washington Post)
Israeli military intelligence estimates that Syrian President Assad has "between one and three tons" of chemical weapons, a senior Israeli defense official said Wednesday.
See also Israel Confirms Syrian Army Used Sarin Gas - Gili Cohen (Ha'aretz)
Israeli intelligence shows that the chemical attack on Syrian civilians
in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4 involved sarin gas and was carried out by senior officers in the Syrian army, a senior IDF officer said Wednesday.
He added that it was difficult to believe that President Bashar Assad did not know about the chemical attack.
Despite the Assad regime's strengthening in western Syria, "I have a lot of difficulty envisioning the Syrian state returning. I see no way [for Assad] to take control of Syria, even with all the Russian planes or 8,000 Hizbullah men," he said.
Iran Expropriating Lands of Ahwazi Arabs - Rahim Hamid (Middle East Monitor)
The Iranian regime has been forcibly expropriating the lands, farms and homes of the Ahwazi Arab people of the southwestern Iranian province of Khuzestan, and "giving" them to Persian settlers who are offered generous financial incentives by the regime to move to the area.
In the past few weeks, Iranian authorities have confiscated 20,000 more hectares of agricultural land from Ahwazi farmers in areas near the regional capital of Ahwaz.
Ahwazi farmers say they have worked the land for generations, while Iran has threatened to imprison anyone who protests.
U.S. Grand Strategy Against ISIS and Al-Qaeda - Jennifer Cafarella, Kimberly Kagan, and Frederick W. Kagan (Institute for the Study of War)
The U.S. is fighting the wrong war in the Middle East. ISIS and al-Qaeda are waging population-centric insurgencies while we conduct counterterrorism operations by proxy.
Defeating these groups requires the U.S. to pursue population-centric counterinsurgency by, with, and through acceptable and viable partners in Syria's and Iraq's Sunni Arab communities.
Current U.S. strategy empowers al-Qaeda, which has an army in Syria and is preparing to replace ISIS.
Iran and Iraqis aligned with Tehran are preparing to use the 2018 elections to replace Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi with a pro-Iranian candidate, who will likely order U.S. and coalition forces out of Iraq or curtail their actions below levels required to destroy ISIS and other jihadists.
Nanosatellite Built by Israeli High-Schoolers Blasts into Space - Stuart Winer (Times of Israel)
A tiny satellite built by Israeli high school students flew Tuesday from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral on its way to study the atmosphere as part of an international research project.
The Duchifat-2 is one of 28 nanosatellites from 23 countries participating in the EU's QB50 thermosphere research program.
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- U.S. Weighs Additional Support for Saudi Fight Against Iran-Backed Houthi Rebels in Yemen - Gordon Lubold
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is considering a range of additional military support for Saudi Arabia's fight against Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen. After meeting with the Saudi king and other top officials in Riyadh, Mattis said Wednesday that it's important for the U.S. to help "reinforce Saudi Arabia's resistance to Iran's mischief." The U.S. believes Iran is backing the rebels.
"Everywhere you look, if there's trouble in the region, you find Iran," Mattis said.
"What we're seeing is the nations in the region and others elsewhere trying to checkmate Iran and the amount of disruption, the amount of instability they can cause." (Wall Street Journal)
- Haley Wants Iran, Not Israel, at Core of UN's Middle East Agenda - Kambiz Foroohar
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who holds the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council for April, wants to use a monthly meeting on "the situation in the Middle East" to tackle Tehran's role in Yemen and Syria and its support for Hizbullah.
The U.S. seeks "to portray Iran as a criminal enterprise, not just as another bad country but as a rogue state that is engaged in horrible crimes across the region," said Suzanne Maloney, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "We are moving from a position of accommodation to one of confrontation across multiple fronts." (Bloomberg)
- Schoolchildren Adjust to Life after Islamic State - Katrin Kuntz
Islamic State (IS) conquered Mosul and took over its schools in June 2014. As schools in eastern Mosul reopen, we learn what the students experienced under IS. Basha, 13, says: "Sometimes someone asked us who is better, the Iraqi army or IS? And we screamed loudly, 'IS'." Amir, 9, says: "The men made the animals disappear from our biology books. There were no more lions, only IS." Hassan, 12, says: "They threw a child from a high-rise." Qaisar, 13, says: "They taught us how to decapitate a person. We practiced on a doll. The doll was a bit larger than me." Just a few months ago, IS followers decapitated four people in front of the school.
The IS supervisor came to the school and ordered the teachers to burn the old books, those filled with poetry and songs. The geography books removed the border between Syria and Iraq. They depicted Kurds and Shiites as groups that opposed Islam and were considered non-believers who were to be killed. The apples and pears used to teach addition and subtraction were replaced with tanks and grenades. The plus symbol was replaced with the letter "z" because it too closely resembled a Christian cross. Art and music were abolished by IS because they weren't useful for jihad.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Report: Trump to Demand PA Stop Paying Salaries to Terrorists' Families - Barak Ravid
The White House announced Wednesday that President Trump will be meeting PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Washington on May 3. The east Jerusalem Al-Quds daily reported Wednesday that Trump's advisers have prepared a document to be presented to Abbas that includes a demand to renew negotiations with Israel without preconditions.
The report said the White House will demand that Abbas stop making payments to the families of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons and to the families of terrorists.
In exchange, the Trump administration will not act to transfer the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. (Ha'aretz)
- Palestinian Wounds Israeli in West Bank Car-Ramming Attack - Yotam Berger
An Israeli man, 60, was wounded on Wednesday in a car-ramming attack at the Gush Etzion junction in the West Bank. The driver of the vehicle, Suhaib Mashahra, 21, was shot and killed by soldiers.
- Gaza Woman Seeking Cancer Treatment in Israel Caught Smuggling Explosives for Hamas - Judah Ari Gross
Two Palestinian women from Gaza tried to smuggle explosives into Israel using tubes labeled for medication, taking advantage of an entry permit issued for one of them to seek cancer treatment in Israel, the Israel Security Agency said Wednesday. The explosives were "sent by Hamas and it is believed that they were meant to be used to carry out attacks in Israel in the near future," the ISA said.
The explosives were hidden inside tubes labeled "medical materials" and were to be used to manufacture improvised explosive devices.
"Unfortunately, this is more proof that terror groups in Gaza are continuing to take advantage of humanitarian channels to export terror into Israel," said Defense Ministry Crossings Authority Director Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Kamil Abu Rokon. (Times of Israel)
- Two Palestinians Armed with M-16s Arrested in West Bank
Two Palestinian residents of Nablus were arrested near the village of Silwad Tuesday after they were discovered armed with M-16 rifles.
- Will the Palestinian Prisoner Hunger Strike Succeed? - Yoni Ben-Menachem
Support on the Palestinian street for the security prisoners' hunger strike has been restrained. Many see it as part of the battle over who will inherit the Palestinian Authority after Abbas, and that Marwan Barghouti is trying to make a political comeback on the backs of the prisoners, to prove to Abbas his strength within Fatah. While officially supporting the prisoners, Abbas is working behind the scenes to thwart the strike and Barghouti. Abbas never mentions Barghouti's name.
According to sources within Fatah, those who are participating in the strike are aligned with Abbas' critics, and that Abbas is acting to maintain public calm. Abbas wants to arrive at his meeting with Trump on May 3 with the strike behind him and the situation in the West Bank relaxed. The writer is a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television.
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs-Hebrew)
- What North Korea Should Teach Us about Iran - Alan M. Dershowitz
The hard lesson from our failure to stop North Korea before it became a nuclear power is that we must stop Iran from ever developing or acquiring a nuclear arsenal. A nuclear Iran would be far more dangerous to American interests than a nuclear North Korea. Iran already has missiles capable of reaching numerous American allies. They are in the process of upgrading them and making them capable of delivering a nuclear payload to our shores.
The nuclear deal as currently interpreted by Iran will not prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. In all probability, it would merely postpone that catastrophe for about a decade while legitimating its occurrence. This is not an outcome we can live with, as evidenced by the crisis we are now confronting with North Korea.
The writer is professor of law, emeritus, at Harvard Law School. (Gatestone Institute)
- With Syria in Pieces, It's Time to Recognize the Golan Heights as Part of Israel - Seth J. Frantzman
There is no Syria to negotiate with, Deputy Minister for Diplomacy Michael Oren said on Tuesday.
"Without Israel there [in the Golan], the region would be jeopardized. ISIS would be on the Kinneret [Sea of Galilee]," he said, adding that other states in the region are glad Israel is on the Golan. Israel annexed the Golan in 1981, but the decision was never recognized internationally.
Speaking at a seminar on the impact of the 1967 war, hosted by The Israel Project and the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research, Oren recalled the situation Israel faced at the time.
Shells rained down on Jerusalem from Jordan and Arab snipers fired from the Old City walls at Israeli civilians. The U.S. did not see Israel as a strategic ally, diplomatic relations with the Soviet bloc were bitter, and Israel lacked relations with China and India.
Allied Forces Knew about Holocaust Two Years Before Discovery of Concentration Camps, Secret Documents Reveal - Andrew Buncombe (Independent-UK)
- The Allied Powers were aware of the scale of the Jewish Holocaust two-and-a-half years earlier than is generally assumed, and had even prepared war crimes indictments against Adolf Hitler and his top Nazi commanders.
- Newly accessed material from the UN - not seen for 70 years - shows that as early as December 1942, the U.S., UK and Soviet governments were aware that at least two million Jews had been murdered and a further five million were at risk of being killed. Despite this, the Allied Powers did very little to try and rescue or provide sanctuary to those in mortal danger.
- Professor Dan Plesch of SOAS University of London, author of the newly published Human Rights After Hitler, said the major powers began drawing up war crimes charges based on witness testimony smuggled from the camps and from the resistance movements in various countries occupied by the Nazis. "The major powers commented [on the mass murder of Jews] two-and-a-half years before it is generally assumed...in December 1942."
- In that same month, UK Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden told the British parliament: "The German authorities, not content with denying to persons of Jewish race in all the territories over which their barbarous rule extends, the most elementary human rights, are now carrying into effect Hitler's oft-repeated intention to exterminate the Jewish people."
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