U.S.: Foreign Fighters Flocking to Join Islamic State - Ken Dilanian (AP)
Foreign fighters are streaming into Syria and Iraq in unprecedented numbers to join the Islamic State or other extremist groups, including at least 3,400 from Western nations among 20,000 from around the world, U.S. intelligence officials say.
Intelligence agencies now believe that 150 Americans have tried to reach the Syrian war zone.
Israeli Poll: 61 Percent Believe Obama Will OK Iran Deal that Israel Opposes (Israel Democracy Institute-Tel Aviv University)
According to the monthly Peace Index poll, 61% of Israeli Jews think that if there is a breakthrough in the U.S.-Iranian negotiations, the chance is very high or moderately high that President Obama will give a green light to a nuclear agreement that the Israeli government believes endangers Israel's security.
Australia Charges Two for Planning IS-Inspired Terror Attack (BBC News)
Omar Al-Kutobi and Mohammad Kiad were arrested on Tuesday in Sydney, Australia, and charged with planning to carry out an imminent attack.
Police say a hunting knife, an Islamic State flag and a video describing an attack were seized.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the arrests were a sign that the IS "death cult" was "reaching out all around the world, including here in Australia."
Tomb of Mohammed's Grandson Honored on Grounds of Israeli Hospital - Rami Amichay (Reuters)
A Shi'ite Muslim shrine is located on the grounds of Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon. The ancient tomb is believed to contain the head of Hussein ibn Ali, grandson of the Prophet Mohammed.
Members of the Dawoodi Bohra Shi'ite sect, which has a million adherents worldwide, come annually on pilgrimage to the ornate marble enclosure marking the tomb.
Hospital deputy director Dr. Ron Lobel noted:
"This is one of the absurdities of the Middle East. Here we have a sacred place for...the Shia Muslims, and on the other hand, 12 km. south of here we have other Muslims that shoot rockets at us."
Trial Begins in Texas for Man Accused of Being Ex-Hizbullah Operative - Guillermo Contreras (San Antonio Express-News)
Lebanese-born Wissam "Sam" Allouche, 45, went on trial Monday in San Antonio on charges that he kept secret his prior affiliation with Hizbullah to remain in the U.S.
He was arrested in May 2013 by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force after being indicted on charges of not disclosing his membership in the Amal militia and Hizbullah in Lebanon in the 1980s.
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- Russia to Build Nuclear Plant in Egypt
Egypt and Russia "have signed a memorandum of understanding to build the first nuclear plant in [the northern city of] El-Dabaa,"
Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi said Tuesday on the second day of President Vladimir Putin's official visit to the country.
Sisi also said that Cairo would strengthen its military cooperation with Moscow. (Al Arabiya)
See also Nuclear Power Plant in Egypt to Generate Electricity
The agreement for Russia to construct a nuclear power plant to generate electricity in Egypt is one of several potential industrial and trade deals discussed during Putin's visit. Cairo has sought to strengthen its ties with Moscow against the backdrop of strained ties with its long-time ally Washington. "We see in Russia a strategic friend and a real asset to balanced foreign relations for Egypt," al-Sisi said.
An Egyptian-Russian industrial zone in the Suez Canal area is being discussed. Putin also noted that 3 million Russian tourists visited Egypt in 2014, a 50% increase compared to past years. (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
- White House Confirms Death of American ISIS Hostage Kayla Jean Mueller
On Tuesday the White House Press Secretary issued a statement saying: It is with profound sadness that we have learned of the death of Kayla Jean Mueller. She worked with humanitarian organizations in India, Israel, and the Palestinian territories. Eventually, her path took her to Turkey, where she helped provide comfort and support to Syrian refugees.
No matter how long it takes, the U.S. will find and bring to justice the terrorists who are responsible for Kayla's captivity and death. ISIL [ISIS] is a hateful and abhorrent terrorist group.
- Jordan Moves Thousands of Troops to Iraq Border - Moufaq Khatib
Jordan has deployed "thousands" of troops at its border with Iraq to prevent the infiltration of ISIS fighters, two Jordanian government officials said Tuesday.
Jordan's deployment appeared to be "an intensification of ongoing efforts to secure the border to stop movement of men and weapons," according to Matthew Henman, an analyst at Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Centre in London. (NBC News)
See also Why Jordan Is Islamic State's Next Target - Noah Feldman
The writer is a professor of constitutional and international law at Harvard University.
- Sweden Tells Abbas Aid to Palestine Comes with Responsibilities
Sweden announced a $180 million Palestinian aid package Tuesday as President Mahmoud Abbas made his first visit to Stockholm since 2009.
Sweden became the first major Western European country to recognize Palestine in October, but Prime Minister Stefan Loefven stressed that the recognition came with responsibilities.
"According to us Palestine is now a state. Our expectations of Palestine and their leadership will therefore increase." "There is no contradiction between keeping good relations with Palestine and keeping good relations with Israel," Loefven added.
The aid deal stretches until 2019 and will go toward projects to fight corruption and promote gender equality and human rights. Loefven said that Sweden would support Palestine in "setting a regional example when it comes to women's rights." (AFP)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- IS-Linked Militant Group Claims It Beheaded Sinai Tribesmen for Collaborating with the Egyptian Army
The Sinai-based militant group Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis (ABM) released a video Tuesday showing the beheading of eight men from North Sinai tribes, allegedly for collaborating with the Egyptian armed forces and Israeli Mossad. The video shows the men being decapitated by militants wearing military uniforms and black scarves around their heads, before displaying some of their bodies along the side of the road in broad daylight. In November 2014, ABM pledged allegiance to Islamic State.
- Report: Hizbullah Leading the Battle in Syria near Israeli Border - Justin Jalil
Hizbullah has taken the lead role in fighting in areas near the border with the Israeli Golan Heights as part of efforts to stop rebels advancing in the area.
"Hizbullah has taken the initiative to lead [Syrian] army and Iranian forces in the triangle of territory linking Daraa, Quneitra and the southwest of Damascus provinces," Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said Tuesday.
Hizbullah and President Assad's troops launched a new operation on Sunday to reclaim swaths of territory captured recently by rebels and jihadists in southern Syria.
(AFP-Times of Israel)
- Iran Advancing Key Elements of Its Nuclear Program - John Hannah
Iran appears to be working systematically to advance all three of the elements essential to its nuclear weapons program: 1) the ability to enrich uranium to weapons-grade (by developing more powerful centrifuges); 2) a nuclear explosive device (the continued work by the U.S.-sanctioned Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research); and 3) a delivery vehicle (the ballistic missile program). The Iranians have been using the breathing space provided by the interim deal to improve parts of their weapons program that aren't yet quite up to snuff. In terms of sheer technical capability, Iran will be in a better position to breakout to a bomb in the aftermath of the interim deal than before it took effect.
The pretense that this process was about compelling a rabidly anti-American theocracy that has been at war with America for four decades to surrender permanently its nuclear weapons ambitions is now out the window.
In its place, what remains is the quixotic pursuit of some form of grand bargain, a rapprochement that - while leaving the bulk of Iran's nuclear infrastructure in place - will somehow work over time to tame the Islamic Republic.
We see today an Iran on the march throughout the region, plotting terror attacks in the Western Hemisphere, and actively seeking to advance key elements of its nuclear program in the middle of a negotiation whose very purpose is to end that program. At the same time, an increasingly anxious Congress, contemplating a rear-guard action to increase U.S. leverage and stop Iran's weapons program before it's too late, is being smeared at every turn as warmongers and political opportunists. Something is indeed terribly amiss with this picture. The writer is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
- The Hizbullah Connection to Hariri's Assassination in Lebanon - Ronen Bergman
On Feb. 14, 2005, an explosion in front of the St. Georges Hotel in downtown Beirut destroyed a convoy of vehicles carrying Lebanon's former and probably next prime minister, Rafik Hariri, killing him along with eight members of his entourage and 13 bystanders.
Wissam Eid, a police captain who studied computer engineering before enlisting in the Lebanese Internal Security Forces, led the local investigation. He found that in October 2004, just after Hariri resigned, a certain cluster of cellphones began following him and his motorcade wherever they went. On the day of the bombing, nearly all 63 phones in the group immediately went dark. Eid had evidence linking the phone network to senior members of Hizbullah. On Jan. 25, 2008, as Eid and his bodyguard were driving on a freeway in East Lebanon, a car bomb exploded, killing them.
In the long term, Hizbullah's standing inside Lebanon has been compromised by the allegations. The group has depicted itself as caring for the welfare of all Lebanese. But now the UN tribunal is producing overwhelming, albeit circumstantial, evidence that Hizbullah murdered the most important politician Lebanon had ever produced, and indiscriminately slaughtered many others in the process.
(New York Times Magazine)
Netanyahu: Past U.S.-Israel Disagreements on Israeli Security Never Ruptured the Relationship (Prime Minister's Office)
Prime Minister Netanyahu issued this statement on Tuesday:
- On behalf of the people of Israel, I wish to send condolences to President Obama, the American people and the family of Kayla Mueller. We stand with you.
- Israel's survival is not a partisan issue, not in Israel nor in the U.S. This doesn't mean that from time to time Israeli governments have not had serious disagreements with American administrations over the best way to achieve the security of Israel.
- Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, declared Israel's independence in the face of strong opposition from U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall. Likewise, Prime Minister Eshkol's decisions at the start of the Six-Day War, Prime Minister Begin's decision regarding the nuclear reactor in Iraq, and Prime Minister Sharon's decisions to press ahead with Operation Defensive Shield [in the West Bank in 2002]; these were all strongly opposed at the time by American administrations.
- Disagreements over Israel's security have occurred between prime ministers in Israel from the left and from the right and American presidents from both parties. None of these disagreements led to a rupture in the relationship between Israel and the U.S. In fact, over time, our relationship grew stronger.
- But we do have today a profound disagreement with the U.S. administration over the offer that has been made to Iran. This offer would enable Iran to threaten Israel's survival. This is a regime, Iran, that is openly committed to Israel's destruction. It would be able, under this deal, to break out to a nuclear weapon in a short time, and within a few years, to have the industrial capability to produce many nuclear bombs for the goal of our destruction.
- This is not a personal disagreement between President Obama and me. I deeply appreciate all that President Obama has done for Israel in many fields. Equally, I know that the President appreciates my responsibility, my foremost responsibility, to protect and defend the security of Israel.
- I am going to the U.S. not because I seek a confrontation with the President, but because I must fulfil my obligation to speak up on a matter that affects the very survival of my country.
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