Iranian General: "U.S. Remains Our Worst Enemy" - Yasser Okbi (Maariv Hashavua-Jerusalem Post)
Brig.-Gen. Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, on Wednesday said that while the U.S. "speaks loftily about security and global development, it remains our worst, most vicious enemy."
Islamic State Infiltrates Iraqi Kurdistan - Denise Natali (Al-Monitor)
Iraqi Kurdish security forces recently captured another ring of terrorists who were planning a deadly attack on Erbil involving local Kurdish residents who professed their loyalty to the Islamic State.
According to the Kurdistan Regional Government's Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs, at least 500 Iraqi Kurdish youths have thus far joined IS to fight in Mosul and Syria, recruited through Kurdish mosques and local extremist Salafist clerics.
Jihadi Salafist leaders are emitting radicalized messages on 10 different radio stations inside the Kurdistan Region.
The KRG has responded to IS infiltration by asserting greater control over all Salafist clerics and mosques, as well as tightening internal checkpoints.
The writer is a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS) at the U.S. National Defense University.
Israel, the Palestinians and Jordan Cooperate to Rehabilitate the Jordan River - Laurie Balbo (Green Prophet)
A consortium of leading environmental groups released a Regional NGO Master Plan for Sustainable Development in the Jordan Valley on Tuesday at a conference held on the Jordan side of the Dead Sea.
The strategy is akin to a modern Marshall Plan, aiming to convert a toxic river into an international model for river rehabilitation and regional stability.
The conference, under the patronage of Jordan Minister of Water Dr. Hazim al Nasser, marked the end of an EU-funded program and brought together officials and experts from Jordan, the PA and Israel.
"Jordan well understands that only regional integration will bring the needed prosperity and stability to the region," said Munqeth Mehyar, EcoPeace Middle East Jordanian co-director.
The plan's framework identifies 127 specific projects with a total investment value of $4.58 billion until the year 2050.
Israel's New Knesset Includes More Women than Ever - Oren Liebermann (CNN)
Of the 120 Knesset members, 29 are women.
The Knesset is 24.2% female, ahead of the U.S., where 19.4% of Congress is female, but behind the UK's 29.4%.
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- Former U.S. Defense Intelligence Chief Savages Iran Nuclear Negotiations as "Wishful Thinking" - David Martosko
Lt.-Gen. Michael Flynn, who led the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency until last August, told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Wednesday that trusting Iran's mullahs to abandon their nuclear ambitions is "wishful thinking." "Iran has every intention to build a nuclear weapon," he argued. "It is clear that the nuclear deal is not a permanent fix but merely a placeholder."
Flynn insisted: "The notion of 'snap back' sanctions is fiction. The Iranian regime is already more economically stable than it was in November of 2013." He added that international inspectors are slated to only have "'managed access' to nuclear facilities, and only with significant prior notification." (Daily Mail-UK)
See also Text: Testimony on Iran of Lt.-Gen. Michael Flynn (Scribd)
See also Experts: Nuclear Talks Ignore Iran's Missiles at World's Peril - Mark Snowiss
The failure to address Iran's ballistic missile program in any agreement could be a dangerous omission, a panel of experts told U.S. lawmakers Wednesday. Tehran has the largest ballistic missile arsenal in the Middle East.
(Voice of America)
- U.S. Working to Block Iran from Using Recently Acquired Airbus Jets - Laurence Norman
U.S. officials said Wednesday the Obama administration is actively working to block Tehran from using nine recently acquired Airbus Group SE jets in a battle over sanctions weeks before the two sides are supposed to complete a final nuclear deal. A senior administration official said Wednesday the U.S. would continue to "vigorously" enforce the sanctions it has in place on Iran. "We have identified the planes in question and listed their tail numbers," the official said. "I have been quite explicit with the Iranians...that we will try to disrupt this action because Mahan Air has been a designated [sanctioned] entity for some time." (Wall Street Journal)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Netanyahu Thanks U.S. Military Chief for America's Friendship - Stuart Winer
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday told visiting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey:
"You've been a wonderful friend and a grand champion of America and of America-Israel relations. We appreciate it. I want to take this opportunity to also express our respect and deep admiration for America's fighting men and women....We know we have no better friends than the American people, the American governments, the American fighting men and women. You fight for America, but you also fight for freedom." (Prime Minister's Office)
- International Criminal Court to Send Delegation to Examine Complaints against Israel - Amira Hass and Barak Ravid
A delegation from the prosecutor's office of the International Criminal Court at The Hague is due to arrive in Israel on June 27 as part of a preliminary examination into whether war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed in the Palestinian territories, according to senior Palestinian sources.
The Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court said, "The office, as per normal practice, is considering a visit to the region during the course of its preliminary examination."
If the prosecution does decide to launch an investigation, it is possible they will not just investigate allegations of Israeli war crimes, but also actions committed by the Palestinians.
A senior Israeli official who is dealing with the matter said such a visit is a routine part of conducting such preliminary examinations. Israel's position is that "Palestine is not a state and therefore the court has no authority to consider the Palestinian complaint." (Ha'aretz)
- Israel Concerned as U.S. Provides Arms to Gulf States to Deter Iran
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon voiced concern on Tuesday that the U.S. supply of advanced arms to Arab Gulf states to deter Iran could eventually challenge Israel's regional military supremacy. "Even if there are not now any hostile designs [among the Arab Gulf states] against us, as we know, in the Middle East intentions are liable to change," Ya'alon said. "There is enormous importance to preserving what is called the State of Israel's 'qualitative edge' in the face of this regional arms race." (Israel Hayom)
- Endgame in the Iran Negotiations: The Choice Is Tehran's - Robert Einhorn
What is publicly known about the Lausanne framework for an Iranian nuclear deal comes mainly from a U.S.-issued fact sheet. Although the Iranians have complained that the fact sheet is one-sided, the Americans assert that Iran agreed to everything in the fact sheet - and Iranian negotiators do not dispute that claim. Yet a series of public statements by Supreme Leader Khamenei and other senior Iranians seem to contradict and backtrack from solutions already worked out in the negotiations.
Iranian negotiators are therefore faced with the challenge of reconciling what they have already agreed to with the statements of their Supreme Leader.
The writer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, was a senior member of the U.S. delegation to the Iran nuclear negotiations from 2009 to 2013.
- The Truth about the Israel Boycott - Tim Marshall
The economic victories of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement over the past decade cannot even be counted on the fingers of one hand. UK-Israel trade is at a record high, Turkey-Israel trade is booming, as is that between Israel and China and India. No foreign investment has left Israel; no corporation has severed ties. The centers of learning around the world have not cut links, nor divested themselves of shares in Israeli companies. So, what's the big deal?
BDS is not about economics, or the economic wellbeing of Palestinians. It is about the destruction of Israel. The intention is to chip away at the legitimacy of Israel. BDS is a failure insofar as the Israeli economy has doubled in size in the period BDS has been in operation, but it is a success when you see the effect of the campaign on thousands of university students, many of whom will go on to become opinion formers. The writer is former diplomatic editor at Sky News.
- Is Israel's Military Law Unit Too Strict? - Willy Stern
At the IDF's visual operations room you can watch footage of Hamas fighters in Gaza using random kids as human shields while bullets are flying; firing weapons from the second floor of al-Wafa Hospital (used as a command-and-control center as well as a surveillance post); and jumping into a clearly labeled Red Crescent ambulance to escape fire from IDF ground troops. Or see Palestinian families scurrying up to a rooftop right after the IDF had warned civilians to evacuate.
When Pnina Sharvit Baruch, a former chief of the IDF's international law department, attends legal conferences around the world, she says she faces "recurring claims" from other militaries' legal advisers that the IDF "is going too far in its self-imposed restrictions intended to protect civilians, and that this may cause trouble down the line for other democratic nations fighting organized armed groups." (Weekly Standard)
Israel Showed Care in a Just Gaza War - Jim Molan (The Australian)
- As a general in Iraq I was experienced in the practical application of the laws of armed conflict. Now having spent a week in Israel researching Israel's moral approach to warfighting, the results exceeded my expectation.
- I can say that Israel's prosecution of Operation Protective Edge [the 2014 Gaza war] not only met a reasonable international standard of observance of the laws of armed conflict, it exceeded them significantly, often at cost to Israeli soldiers and citizens. It did this to preserve the life and property of those trying to kill Israeli citizens. Where there were individual failures, Israel is taking transparent legal action.
- Given our examination of the cause of Operation Protective Edge, it would be indefensible to argue that Israel wanted it, initiated it or sustained it, or that Israel acted in anything other than defense of its citizens. On this basis alone, Israel's war was just.
- While acknowledging the tragedy of death in war and given the immense capability of the IDF, it stands to Israel's everlasting credit that far more did not die. But from the very top of the command chain down to the infantry and pilots, the personal moral position that individuals took was mirrored in the targeting processes, decisions on the ground and in the real care taken.
- The Israelis scrupulously "cared" for the Palestinians. By contrast, Hamas was an enemy whose central strategy was to directly target the Israeli population and who repeatedly used their own population as human shields, both of which in any fair system would constitute major war crimes.
The writer is a retired major-general in the Australian Army.
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