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January 26, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

ISIS Kills One Japanese Hostage, Demands Release of Terrorist to Spare Second Hostage - Jethro Mullen and Junko Ogura (CNN)
    ISIS appears to have beheaded one of its Japanese hostages and is demanding the release of a convicted terrorist in Jordan to spare the other.
    A video posted Saturday shows an image of one hostage, Kenji Goto, a freelance journalist, holding a photo of what appears to be the corpse of his fellow captive, Haruna Yukawa.
    The video demands the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman facing the death penalty in Jordan for her role in a series of bombings in 2005 that killed dozens of people at hotels.
    Al-Rishawi was a suicide bomber whose explosives failed to go off in the hotel attack in which she participated.

Israel Warns Hizbullah: "Don't Dare Attack Our Institutions Abroad" (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel has communicated a stern warning to Lebanon and Hizbullah against targeting any Israeli institutions abroad in retaliation for last week's attack on a convoy of senior Iranian and Hizbullah military operatives on the Golan Heights, Al-Hayat reported Monday.
    Western diplomats said that "Israel would hold Hizbullah responsible for any attack against its institutions and nationals, including areas known to be frequented by Israelis in far-off places around the globe."

Argentine Journalist Who Reported Nisman's Death Flees to Israel (Ynet News)
    Damian Pachter, who first reported the story about the mysterious death of Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman, has fled to Israel from Argentina out of "fear for his life."
    The Buenos Aires Herald journalist announced Saturday that he noticed "suspicious surveillance," and thus decided to escape.
    See also Justice that Will Never Be Done - Sal Emergui (Israel Hayom)

Is Iran's Lebanese Client Hizbullah Losing Its Grip? - Lee Smith (Weekly Standard)
    The fact that Jihad Mughniyeh and his cohorts were killed in the Golan Heights is an embarrassment for Hizbullah and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah.
    In an interview with a pro-Hizbullah TV station just two days before the Israeli strike, Nasrallah claimed that Hizbullah was not active in the Golan.
    In Hizbullah's stronghold in Beirut's southern suburbs, everything is worse than when I was last here nearly three years ago. There's less electricity and more blackouts, the water shortages are worse, and so is the sewage.
    The economy is moribund and parents are urging their children to get out of Lebanon and start a career and family elsewhere.
    See also Nasrallah, a Secretary-General in Distress - Ronen Bergman (Ynet News)
    The Israeli strike against Hizbullah's command group in the Golan caught Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah at a really bad time.
    If it were up to him, he would rather not face the dilemma of whether or not to retaliate against Israel.
    See also Hizbullah's Limited Options after Israeli Strike - David Schenker (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    The writer is director of the Program on Arab Politics at The Washington Institute.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israeli Ambassador: Prime Minister Has "Sacred Duty" to Oppose Iran Nuclear Deal that "Endangers Israel's Existence" - Jacob Kornbluh
    Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer sought to reassure Americans that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had no intention to disrespect President Barack Obama or intervene in American politics by accepting House Speaker John Boehner's invitation to address a joint session of Congress in March.
        "There may be some people who believe that the Prime Minister of Israel should have declined an invitation to speak before the most powerful parliament in the world on an issue that concerns the future and survival of Israel. But we have learned from our history that the world becomes a more dangerous place for the Jewish people when the Jewish people are silent."
        "The agreement that is being discussed today is not an agreement that would dismantle Iran's nuclear weapons capability, but rather one that could leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state. That is an agreement that could endanger the very existence of the State of Israel....The Jewish people are a people who have survived all the evil that history has thrown at us. And we will survive the evil that we face today. But we will not do it by bowing our heads and by hoping that the storm will pass."  (JP Updates)
  • IAEA Cannot Conclude that All Nuclear Material in Iran Is in Peaceful Activities - Yukiya Amano
    IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Thursday: "As far as Iran is concerned, the Agency is able to verify the non-diversion of nuclear material declared to us by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement. But we are not in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities."
        "With the cooperation of Iran, the Agency needs to clarify issues with possible military dimensions to the satisfaction of Member States. Also, Iran needs to implement the additional protocol so that the Agency can provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran."  (International Atomic Energy Agency)
  • New Saudi Ruler Sees Iran Threat - Mohamad Bazzi
    No one should doubt that King Salman is as focused on the perceived threat from Iran as King Abdullah was. In a conversation a week ago with six visiting U.S. senators, the new ruler emphasized the threat from a nuclear-armed Iran, said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). (Politico)
        See also Saudis Expand Regional Power as Others Falter - David D. Kirkpatrick
    As a new king assumes the throne in Riyadh, the chaos across the region has lifted the Saudi monarchy to unrivaled power and influence. Yet the ascendance of the Saudis is largely a byproduct of the feebleness or near-collapse of so many of the states around them, including Iraq, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Bahrain and Tunisia. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: "I Am Obligated to Make Every Effort to Prevent Iran from Achieving Nuclear Weapons Aimed at Israel"
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Cabinet Sunday: "In the coming weeks, the major powers are liable to reach a framework agreement with Iran, an agreement that is liable to leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state, which would endanger - first and foremost - the existence of the State of Israel. This is the same Iran that has taken over Lebanon and Syria and is now taking over Yemen and Iraq. This is the same Iran that is preparing an active front against us both on the Golan Heights and in southern Lebanon. This same Iran cannot advance toward nuclear weapons."
        "As Prime Minister of Israel, I am obligated to make every effort in order to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons that would be aimed at the State of Israel. This effort is worldwide and I will go anywhere I am invited in order to enunciate the State of Israel's position and in order to defend its future and its existence."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Secret Israeli-Saudi Ties Likely to Continue after King's Death - Ariel Zilber
    The tacit security and intelligence cooperation that has come to characterize Israel's clandestine relationship with Saudi Arabia is likely to remain intact following Thursday's passing of King Abdullah.
        "The changes that the Middle East has experienced in recent years have created a set of joint interests between the two countries," said Dr. Michal Yaari, an expert on Saudi foreign policy and a lecturer at the Open University. "The biggest enemy for both countries is Iran, and there are also the radical terror groups like ISIS that threaten the regional order in the Middle East. It is this overall framework that has created the conditions for cooperation between Jerusalem and Riyadh."
        "Both countries have an interest to keep the relationship far from the public eye," Yaari said, with open engagement possible "only if Israel signs a comprehensive peace agreement with the entire Arab world."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israeli President Rivlin "Saddened" by Saudi King's Passing
    Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said in a statement on Friday, "I was saddened to hear of the passing of King Abdullah. He was an example of grounded, considered and responsible leadership, with a deep religious tradition....His wise policies contributed greatly to our region, and to the stability of the Middle East."  (JTA)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Israel Cannot Allow a Hizbullah Presence in the Golan - Yaakov Amidror
    The strike on high-ranking Iranian and Hizbullah officials in the Golan Heights last week was a direct hit to the other side's capabilities (a hit that will result in the postponement, if not the cancellation, of the action they were planning). This can be seen as a signal to the Iranians and to Hizbullah that there are red lines, and that the response will be severe if they dare cross them.
        Israel must show, not by talk but by action, what its limits are. The growing presence of Hizbullah in the Golan could present Israel with a dual front in every future war against it in the north. We cannot allow a Hizbullah presence there. Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror is a former Israeli National Security Advisor. (Israel Hayom)
  • White House Avoids Using the Phrase "Radical Islam" - Laure Mandeville
    After the horrific terrorist attacks that hit France on Jan. 7, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls identified "radical Islam" as our enemy. In France, most rallied to this clear acknowledgment of the threat we are dealing with, because it is simply impossible to deny. That is why it has sounded almost surreal when the U.S. administration goes to great lengths to insist that the terrorist attack had nothing to do with Islam.
        The intention is good: President Obama doesn't want to mix Islamist terrorists and the wider community of Muslims around the world. But to put a fig leaf over the threat doesn't make the problem go away. The writer is U.S. bureau chief for the French newspaper Le Figaro. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also John Kerry: Violent Extremism Is Not Islamic
    Violent extremists may cite Islam as a justification, but the West should be careful about calling them Islamic radicals, Secretary of State John Kerry told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Friday. "We will certainly not defeat our foes by vilifying potential partners," he said. "We may very well fuel the very fires that we want to put out."  (AP-CBS News)
  • President Clinton Hosted Israeli Prime Minister Peres Just Before Elections - Rebecca Shimoni Stoil
    The White House said Thursday that President Obama would not meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu during his March visit to address Congress and AIPAC because, "as a matter of long-standing practice and principle, we do not see heads of state or candidates in close proximity to their elections, so as to avoid the appearance of influencing a democratic election in a foreign country." In 1996, Prime Minister Shimon Peres, then challenged by Netanyahu, visited the Clinton White House less than a month ahead of the May 29 elections. (Times of Israel)

Time to Take It to Iran - Dennis Ross, Eric Edelman and Ray Takeyh (Politico)

  • The nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and Iran appear stalemated. Meanwhile, Iran is on the march in the Middle East with its forces supporting the coup in Yemen, buttressing the Assad war-machine in Syria, mediating between factions in Iraq, and plotting with Hizbullah on the periphery of Israel. Our friends in the region perceive Iran as galloping across the region.
  • During the course of the nuclear negotiations over the past year, Iran has been the beneficiary of a generous catalogue of concessions from the West, which has conceded to Iranian enrichment and agreed that Tehran need not scale back the number of its centrifuges significantly or dismantle any facilities and could have an industrial-size program after passage of a period of time. Khamenei's negotiators are pressing for more concessions while not offering any of their own.
  • Hence it is time to acknowledge that we need a revamped coercive strategy, one that threatens Iran's influence in the Middle East and its standing at home. And the pattern of concessions at the negotiating table must stop if there is to be an acceptable agreement.
  • Iranian officials must come to understand that there will be no further concessions to reach an accord and that time is running out for negotiations. Iran needs to see that we are not so concerned about reaching a deal on the nuclear issue that we are indifferent to its behavior in the region.
  • Along these lines, the U.S. should consider a political warfare campaign against Tehran to complement its economic sanctions policy. The administration officials and its broadcast services should draw attention to the unsavory nature of the theocratic regime and its repressive behavior.
  • American diplomats should not be afraid to walk away from the table and even suspend the talks should they continue to meet an unyielding Iran. They need to clearly signal that we don't need an agreement as much as they do and that we are prepared to create conditions for international support for increased pressure.

    Dennis Ross served as a special assistant to President Obama from 2009 to 2011. Eric Edelman served as undersecretary of defense during the George W. Bush administration. Ray Takeyh is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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