Venezuela Gave Passports to People with Ties to Terrorism - Scott Zamost (CNN)
Misael Lopez, the former legal adviser to the Venezuelan Embassy in Iraq, says he reported a scheme to sell Venezuelan passports and visas for thousands of dollars out of the embassy.
A confidential intelligence document obtained by CNN links Venezuela's new Vice President Tareck El Aissami to 173 Venezuelan passports and IDs that were issued to individuals from the Middle East, including people connected to Hizbullah.
Inside the U.S. Predator War Against ISIS - Stephen Losey (Air Force Times)
For more than two years, the U.S. Air Force has conducted strikes in Iraq and Syria. Hellfire-armed, remotely piloted, Predator drones are in the air virtually around the clock in this region.
Typically there are multiple Predators in the air at any given time, providing intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, close-air support and airstrikes during their 24-hour missions.
Most of their airstrikes are through dynamic targeting, Predator pilot Capt. Jonathan said. The Predators don't go out intending to fire a missile at a specific target, but they are able to track and then hit the enemy when a threat emerges.
Lebanese Man Arrested in U.S. in Gun Smuggling Scheme (AP)
Federal authorities arrested a Lebanese man, Fadi Yassine, 42, this week in New York in connection with a scheme to smuggle guns purchased in Iowa to his country.
Four Cedar Rapids residents with ties to Lebanon were sentenced to prison for their role in the conspiracy last year.
Anti-Semitism Has Not Subsided - Yair Rosenberg (Washington Post)
According to the FBI, Jews in the U.S. are subject to the most hate crimes of any religious group, despite constituting only 2% of the American population.
Jews in France were the target of 51% of racist attacks in 2014, even as they made up less than 1% of the population.
A 2013 EU survey found that 40% of European Jews fear to publicly identify as Jewish, including 60% of Swedish Jews.
Israel Made $800 Million from Natural Gas Sales in 2016 (Times of Israel)
Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said last week that Israel earned $800 million from selling natural gas in 2016.
Steinitz said Israel was advancing the construction of a gas pipeline to Turkey and at the same time constructing a pipeline to Italy, Greece and Cyprus.
"Our goal is to supply 10% of the European energy market," he said.
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- Palestinians Fear Being Sidelined by White House - Karin Laub and Mohammed Daraghmeh
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who spent hundreds of hours on the phone and in meetings with U.S. presidents and secretaries of state in the past 12 years, has tried unsuccessfully to reach out to President Donald Trump. Abbas and his aides are alarmed by the possibility of being sidelined.
See also PA Officials Worry that New U.S. Administration Could Force Them to Negotiating Table with Threat of Pulled Funding - Bethan McKernan
The West Bank's Palestinian Authority (PA) has set up a committee to come up with financial strategies now that U.S. President Donald Trump has entered office. Many are worried that either the threat or lure of financial aid will be used to make Palestinians negotiate.
The U.S. has steadily cut the amount of money given directly to the PA Treasury since 2008, channelling more and more into NGOs and development projects instead. The majority of the PA's financial support comes from the EU.
- U.S. Says It Killed Al-Qaeda Leader in Syria - Ryan Browne
The U.S. military said Wednesday it killed Abu Hani al-Masri, an Egyptian national and longtime al-Qaeda leader, in a drone strike on Saturday near Idlib, Syria. Masri oversaw the creation and operation of many al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s, and was one of the founders of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which formally merged with al-Qaeda in 2001. The Pentagon said 10 al-Qaeda operatives were killed in the airstrike. (CNN)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Islamic State in Sinai Claims Rocket Attack on Eilat
The Islamic State affiliate in Egypt launched four rockets on Wednesday night at the Israeli resort city of Eilat. Three of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, and the fourth fell in an open area.
(Times of Israel)
- Israel Uncovers West Bank-Gaza Terror Cash Pipeline - Jacob Magid
The Israel Security Agency said Wednesday that it had uncovered a Hamas and Islamic Jihad operation to transfer cash from Gaza to operatives in the West Bank using debit cards loaded with funds. The operatives then withdrew the money from ATMs for use to fund terror attacks.
One debit card courier was Salim Tutah, 26, a Gaza resident who had received a permit to enter Israel to work as a tractor driver on projects for the American government in the West Bank. The ISA said this was another example of Hamas "cynically exploiting" the fact that Israel allows thousands of Gaza residents to enter Israel for humanitarian needs.
(Times of Israel)
- Israel Eyes Threat of Islamist Takeover of Western Weapons in Arab States - Yaakov Lappin
While Sunni Arab states have bought some of the very best military capabilities the West has to offer,
this development holds the potential for danger to Israel should these states be overrun by radical Islamists. Outgoing Israel Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel acknowledged on Jan. 24 at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv that Israel is planning for this danger as a necessary precaution.
"Even if we have shared regional interests [with these Sunni countries now], we do not know what will happen in the future. Western military sales to these countries have reached $200 billion. This is state-of-the-art weaponry. It is not just about the quantity," Eshel said. It is the Air Force's responsibility to assume that "something will collapse."
Most of the Arab countries' spending spree has gone into their air forces and surface-to-air missiles. The Israel Air Force must ensure it can deal with these capabilities, he added, in the event of future jihadist revolutions.
(Investigative Project on Terrorism)
- America Must Stand Against Islamic Extremists - Gen. David H. Petraeus
The international order that America created is now under unprecedented threat from multiple directions, including by Islamic extremist organizations that want to destroy our way of life. The defeat of Islamic extremist groups does, of course, require a vital military component. But even if we succeed militarily, long-term success requires that the ideology of Islamic extremism is itself discredited. And contending with the ideological caliphate in cyberspace will undoubtedly prove more challenging than taking away the rest of what is now a shrinking physical caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
Our most important ally in this war is the overwhelming majority of Muslims who reject al-Qaeda, ISIS and their fanatical, barbaric worldview. Indeed, it is millions of Muslims who are fighting and dying in the greatest numbers on the front lines of this war. The writer is former director of the CIA and former head of CENTCOM.
- New U.S. Government Isn't Obsessed with Where Israel's Jews Live - Jeff Jacoby
Stories about Israeli settlements invariably generate breathless international headlines, as though there is something uniquely newsworthy about Jews in the Jewish state building homes and schools to accommodate a growing population. It takes a curious derangement to conclude that all would be well in the Middle East if only Israel would stop enlarging Jewish neighborhoods.
To its credit, the new U.S. administration rejects that paradigm, with the White House spokesman saying last week that the president and his foreign-policy team "don't believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace." Palestinian rejectionism has always been the insurmountable impediment to Middle East peace - not Jewish housing. (Boston Globe)
- Why Israel Is a Military Power - Robert Farley
Because of its unique needs and because of international boycotts, Israel began developing its own military technologies, as well as augmenting the best foreign tech. But the technology that binds all of these systems together is the Israeli soldier. Since 1948 (and even before) Israel has committed the best of its human capital to the armed forces.
The creation of fantastic soldiers, sailors, and airmen doesn't happen by accident, and doesn't result simply from the enthusiasm and competence of the recruits. The IDF has developed systems of recruitment, training, and retention that allow it to field some of the most competent, capable soldiers in the world. None of the other technologies work unless they have smart, dedicated, well-trained operators to make them function at their fullest potential. The writer is a senior lecturer at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky.
Iran's Missile Tests Reveal Weaknesses of UN Security Council Resolution - Olli Heinonen (Foundation for Defense of Democracies)
- Nuclear weapons development usually goes hand-in-hand with the development of means of warhead delivery. This was one of the reasons that the 2010 UN Security Council resolution on Iran's nuclear program banned work on ballistic missiles.
- More recently, Resolution 2231 - passed in July 2015 to codify the nuclear deal - calls on Iran not to undertake ballistic missile-related activities until the IAEA concludes that Tehran's nuclear program is peaceful.
- Iran argues that its missile tests are permitted because Resolution 2231 only "call[s] upon" it "not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons."
- Iran's testing of more advanced centrifuges, stockpiling of uranium, and enhancing nuclear manufacturing infrastructure continue apace. Developments in Tehran's missile program, therefore, cannot be dealt with in isolation from its nuclear efforts.
- If testing of ballistic and cruise missiles is not covered by Resolution 2231, the Security Council should issue a new resolution explicitly banning them.
- Failure to address this problem means that Iran will have delivery vehicles on hand when it is able, in a decade, to enrich uranium for a nuclear bomb within a few weeks.
The writer is former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and head of its Department of Safeguards.
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