Al-Qaeda Threatens to Attack Rome, Naples and Madrid - Maayan Groisman (Jerusalem Post)
Al-Qaeda in North Africa was responsible for an attack on a luxury hotel in Timbuktu, Mali, last November that killed 21 people.
On Jan. 6, the organization released a video threatening to attack the West: "We will strike them in Naples, in Rome, in Madrid. The blasts will be everywhere."
Both the hotel attack and the recent video appear to be aimed at competing with Islamic State over which group is more capable of taking vengeance on France on the Muslims' behalf.
ISIS Urges UK Jihadis to Cut Beards, Pretend to Be Christians - Leda Reynolds (Daily Express-UK)
An ISIS terror manual called Safety and Security Guidelines for Lone Wolf Mujahideen, which has burning Western-style buildings on the front cover, gushes about the importance of surprise when launching an attack to cause maximum impact.
The main thrust of the manual is the necessity to blend in with the Western way of life and to avoid "looking like a Muslim" so as to stay below the radar of the security services.
Readers are urged to wear a Christian cross, splash on aftershave, cut off beards and shun mosques to avoid detection.
Israel Faces Civil Suit in U.S. Court over 2010 Gaza Flotilla Raid - Spencer S. Hsu (Washington Post)
Three Americans and a Belgian national filed suit Monday in U.S. federal court in Washington, seeking compensation for injuries suffered in the 2010 confrontation between Israeli commandos and activists attempting to breach Israel's naval blockade of Gaza.
The plaintiffs were aboard the U.S.-flagged Challenger 1 and not the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara.
Israel maintains a maritime blockade of Gaza as a security measure to counter militant attacks and smuggling, including activities by Hamas.
Israel Emerging as Leader in Blocking Car Hackers - Ari Rabinovitch (Reuters)
Israel is emerging as a leader in the race to block car hackers as new cars are increasingly equipped with some level of connectivity.
Fiat Chrysler recalled 1.4 million vehicles to install new software last year after cybersecurity researchers showed they could turn off a Jeep Cherokee's engine as it drove.
Israel's Check Point cyber security firm said it showed auto executives that it can hijack their car's external communication channel using a handheld transceiver and frequency jammer, both of which can be bought on eBay for a few hundred dollars.
Some 420 million connected cars will be on the road in 2018.
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- Obama Vows to Veto Bill to Restrict Iran Sanctions Relief
The White House says a bill that seeks to bar the U.S. from lifting certain sanctions against Iran would violate commitments necessary to implement the international agreement to limit the Iranian nuclear program. The legislation in the House of Representatives would prohibit removing sanctions against individuals and companies until the president certifies they were not involved in transactions with Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps or anyone whose property has been blocked in relation to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget said President Obama would veto the bill if Congress approves the measure.
- Iran Says It Removed Core of Arak Heavy Water Reactor
Iran has taken out the heart of its heavy water reactor in Arak in compliance with the nuclear deal, an informed source told FNA on Monday. "The operation was accomplished today and the core has been filled with cement," he said.
(Fars News Agency-Iran)
- Palestinian Children Sport Dummy Explosive Belts, RPG Launchers in "Fatah Day" Parade
Fatah's branch in Bethlehem marked Fatah Day on January 7 with a parade featuring masked men brandishing firearms and axes, as well as children armed with mock RPG rockets and suicide belts, in an event attended by senior PA and Fatah officials. Fatah Day parades attended by armed men were also held in Kalkilya, Tulkarm and Jericho. (MEMRI)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Cyprus Corrects Its "Wrong Perception of Israel" - Herb Keinon
Averof Neophytou, head of Cyprus' ruling party, told the Jerusalem Post on Monday that his country now has a "clearer picture" of the Jewish state after having had the "wrong perception of Israel" for years. "It is a country of eight million fighting a struggle for survival and having to face hundreds of millions of Muslims and Arabs, part of whom don't even recognize the right of the existence of a Jewish state." He said Cypriots now identify with Israel, since Cyprus, too, is a small country of 800,000 people struggling for its survival. Turkey, its massive neighbor to the north, has a population of about 75 million.
"For decades Israel was blamed for creating the instability in the region, but can anyone credibly blame Israel for the instability in Syria, the threat of Islamic State, the Arab Spring that turned into an Arab winter, or the chaos in Libya and Iraq?" he asked. (Jerusalem Post)
- IDF Creates New Unit to Combat Unconventional Weapons - Lilach Shoval
The Israel Defense Forces is establishing a new company within the Engineering Corps' Yahalom commando unit to combat the threat of chemical weapons on land. The Sayfan unit's mission will be to detect, identify and treat unconventional materials in a combat zone. The unit will have an advanced set of capabilities and will use technology that the IDF has never had until now. The specialized training course includes chemistry and biology studies.
- Report: Russia Giving Hizbullah Advanced Weapons - Jesse Rosenfeld
Two Hizbullah commanders told the Daily Beast they are receiving long-range tactical missiles, laser guided rockets, and anti-tank weapons from Russia. "We are strategic allies in the Middle East right now - the Russians are our allies and give us weapons," said Hizbullah commander "Bakr."
He said the Russians rely on Hizbullah for intelligence and target selection.
"Assir," a Hizbullah special forces commander, says the Russians are increasingly impressed with Hizbullah and rely on it, rather than the Syrian military, to guard Russian arms depots inside Syria. Assir said Hizbullah has extensive access to what's inside those depots.
Both said Hizbullah is using its support from Iran to expand its involvement in sectarian conflicts across the region from Yemen to Iraq. Bakr says he was personally involved in a Hizbullah training mission in Iraq with a Shia militia in 2014, and with the Houthis in Yemen in 2015. Assir says there have been Hizbullah training programs in Lebanon for Syrian forces, Houthis, and Iraqi Shia forces.
See also Officials Question Report that Russia Is Arming Hizbullah - Ron Ben-Yishai
Officials in the West and the Middle East have expressed doubt over a Daily Beast report on Monday that Russia is directly arming Hizbullah. One official said: "This report is baseless. This is an awkward attempt by Hizbullah to plant disinformation via a respected Western news site in order to muddy the waters between Israel and Russia." (Ynet News)
- Is the U.S. Leaning toward Shiite Iran? - Jackson Diehl
After Saudi Arabia's execution of a Shiite cleric was followed by militants sacking the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, the State Department carefully refrained from blaming the regime of Ayatollah Khamenei for the violence and adopted a neutral position on the bilateral dispute - an extraordinary stance given the decades of U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia and enmity with the Islamic Republic.
It quickly became clear that the White House's overwhelming priority boiled down to avoiding any words or action that would disrupt the ongoing implementation of the Iranian nuclear deal. That was of a piece with its last-minute retreat on Dec. 30 from imposing sanctions on Tehran for missile launches and a promise to waive new congressional restrictions on visas for foreigners who visited Iran.
The embarrassing retreat from imposing missile sanctions was particularly damaging. The administration first accused Tehran of violating a UN Security Council resolution linked to the nuclear deal by testing long-range missiles, then pulled back a relatively mild set of financial penalties on companies and individuals hours after notifying Congress they were coming. The resulting message is that Washington lacks the will to punish Iran for clear violations.
If the bloodletting is to end, minorities - whether Sunni or Shiite, Christian or Kurd - must gain basic rights. It means abandoning the impractical and immoral position that reconstituting Iraq and Syria takes precedence over allowing a Kurdish homeland. And it means removing the vicious regime of Bashar al-Assad, whose crimes against humanity are responsible for much of the chaos.
- All-Bedouin Tech Company Hints at Shift in Israel - Isabel Kershner
Ibrahim Sana, 35, set up Sadel Tech, an all-Bedouin Israeli company near Beersheba employing a dozen people that offers expertise in Internet and mobile technologies, in 2013 with an Israeli technology investor. "Israel is a leader in high-tech, and we want a piece of that," Sana said.
Sana grew up in the Negev Bedouin town of Lakiya, graduated from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, and received a master's degree at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. He worked at Cisco, the American network equipment company, in central Israel.
The Israel Ministry of Economy introduced a three-year program in 2015 with the goal of placing 1,000 Arab graduates in the high-tech work force. According to the ministry, 225 people have been placed at leading software companies since the program was started early last year. (New York Times)
Is Syria Another Iraq? How the U.S. Created a Mideast Vacuum - Dennis Ross (Politico)
- Over the course of five years of war within Syria, President Obama looked at Syria and he saw entanglement in another ongoing Middle East conflict where our involvement would be costly, lead to nothing, and potentially make things worse. In nearly every meeting on Syria when presented possible options to affect the Syrian civil war, the president would ask, "tell me where this ends."
- But he failed to ask the corollary question: Tell me what happens if we don't act? Had he known that not acting would produce a vacuum in which a humanitarian catastrophe, a terrible refugee crisis, a deepening proxy war and the rise of ISIL in Iraq and Syria would occur, his responses might have been different.
- When he looked at Syria, he saw Iraq. In his eyes, Iraq was a colossal mistake. He had run against it. He had been elected to get us out of Middle East wars, not into them. But was Syria really Iraq? Syria was not an American invasion of a country but an internal uprising against an authoritarian leader.
- A vacuum was created by our hesitancy to do more than offer pronouncements. And that vacuum was filled by others: Iran, Hizbullah and Iran's other Shia militia proxies; Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar; Russia; and ISIL.
- We should not overlearn the lessons of the Iraq war and misapply them. Not every conflict in the Middle East is a replay of Iraq - and our choices for responding to them should not be reduced to doing nothing or putting massive numbers of troops on the ground.
Amb. Dennis Ross, a counselor at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, served two years as special assistant to President Obama and National Security Council senior director for the Central Region, and a year as special advisor to Secretary of State Clinton.
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