- Four rockets launched at Israel from Lebanon, highlighting Hezbollah-driven regional instability
- U.S. think tank: photos show Iran in "final stages" of destroying evidence at suspected nuke warhead development site
- Turkey lashes out at U.S. after White House condemns Turkish PM's anti-Jewish conspiracy theory
- Daily Beast: Muslim Brotherhood's anti-Christian campaign shows "true colors." Grassroots Christian group condemns "modern pogrom"
What we’re watching today:
- The Israeli military (IDF) has confirmed that four rockets were fired this morning from Lebanon into Israel. One rocket was intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system, while the other three fell into open areas. Early coverage revolved around responsibility for the attack, which was launched from territories controlled by Hezbollah and patrolled by personnel from the Iran-backed terror group and their Lebanese allies from the Amal Movement. The IDF preliminarily linked the attack to a "global jihad" group, which in the context of Lebanon would likely mean the Abdullah Azzam Brigades (AAB), a U.S.-designated terrorist group that has launched attacks against both Israel and the Shiite terror group Hezbollah. AAB reportedly issued an early claim of responsibility for today's attacks that, if confirmed, would indicate that Sunni jihad groups are capable of operating in areas controlled by Hezbollah. The dynamic would indicate a general deterioration in Lebanon's security. Some US-based analysts have alternatively suggested that it's unlikely a Sunni extremist group would have been able to gain sufficient access to Hezbollah-controlled territories to launch today's attack, and that Hezbollah launched the rockets. Hezbollah is known to possess tens of thousands of rockets and missiles pointed at Israel, and has in recent days threatened to saturation bomb Israeli population centers. According to Foundation for Defense of Democracies fellow Tony Badran, the Iran-backed group has been seeking to generate pretexts for cracking down on Sunnis in Lebanon. If Hezbollah was involved in today's launch, it would indicate that the group is ramping up for a widespread internal Lebanese conflict, which would risk sustained instability in Lebanon and throughout the region.
- Iran "appears to be in the final stages of modifying" a site where it is suspected the regime conducted tests relevant to the development of nuclear warheads, according to new photos and analysis published by the U.S.-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS). Iranian scientists are suspected of using the Parchin facility to test explosive triggers. Tehran has rejected efforts by Western diplomats to secure access to Parchin, and has instead engaged in a systematic campaign to asphalt the area and remove soil samples. The effect, according to IAEA chief Yukiya Amano, is that "it may no longer be possible to find anything even if we have access to the site." The Associated Press also quotes Olli Heinonen, the previous head of the IAEA's Iran probe, noting that any inspections now could be inconclusive because of the deliberate modifications. Their evaluations align uneasily with the claims of some proponents of engaging Iran, who suggest that Tehran could make a major concession by opening up Parchin.
- Diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and Turkey escalated today, with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu lashing out at Washington after U.S. officials criticized a recent speech by Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan as "offensive, unsubstantiated, and wrong." Erdogan had declared, based on a 2011 video of a French-Jewish philosopher that he found online, that Israel had plotted to overthrow former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. The White House blasted the conspiracy theory, prompting Davutoglu to declare that Ankara "could not accept [the] condemnation." Meanwhile analysts and journalists continued to unpack the significance of Erdogan's "histrionics" to Turkish foreign policy. Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg bluntly described Erdogan as "a semi-unhinged bigot" and suggested that the prime minister's anti-Semitism was "making him stupid." The Wall Street Journal contextualized his statements as the result of Erdogan being "deeply upset by the ousting of its Islamic ally from power in Egypt," noting that he "has struck an increasingly anti-U.S., anti-Western, anti-Semitic and, since Tuesday, also an anti-Arab tone" and is "increasingly out of touch with reality." The result, the outlet suggests, is that "Turkey is becoming increasingly isolated in the Middle East."
- The Daily Beast describes the "Muslim Brotherhood's war on Coptic Christians," which columnist Kirsten Powers writes "show[s] the world its true colors." In recent days over 40 churches have been looted and burned, on top of another 23 that have been damaged in attacks. Christian officials have been attacked, and Islamists paraded nuns through the streets as captives after burning their school. Powers notes that the widespread anti-Christian campaign - the worst organized violence against Copts in over 700 years - is in tension with the Brotherhood's gestures toward having renounced violence, and that the attacks are being incited by official Brotherhood outlets and platforms. The U.S. grassroots movement Christians United for Israel circulated a statement today condemning the violence, describing it as "a modern pogrom," and calling for the "immediate passage of H.R. 301," legislation which would seek to spotlight and halt such abuses.
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