Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah threatened to attack Israelis Sunday in retaliation for the death of the terrorist Samir Kuntar, for which Israel has not confirmed responsibility. “The Israelis should be justifiably worried,” the Hezbollah chief said. “They should be worried along the border, inside [Israel] and outside.” He continued, “The response is coming no matter what…We cannot forgive the shedding of our mujahideen blood by the Zionists…anywhere in the world.” Nasrallah’s vow came six days after an initial threat that he issued on the occasion of Kuntar’s ceremonial funeral in Beirut, in which he said, “Samir is one of us and a commander of our resistance and it is our right to retaliate for his assassination in the place, time and a way we see appropriate. We will exercise this right, God willing.” In response to these comments, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said on Monday, “Even across our borders, in the face of the threats heard in the north, we stand ready for every challenge...Our enemies know that if they try to disturb the security of Israel — they will be faced with harsh results."
Kuntar, who was establishing a terrorist front in the Syrian Golan Heights, was killed in an airstrike on a Damascus suburb on December 19. Kuntar was released from an Israeli jail in 2008 in exchange for the bodies of Israeli soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, having been imprisoned in 1979 for the brutal murder of three members of an Israeli family and an Israeli policeman. In the commission of his crime, he killed the father and bashed the 4-year-old daughter Einat’s head with the butt of a rifle against rocks. The mother, hiding in a crawlspace, smothered her 2-year-old daughter Yael to death in an attempt to keep her quiet so as to avoid giving away their hiding place.
Israeli military officials told The New York Times in May that Hezbollah had moved most of its military infrastructure into the civilian neighborhoods of Shiite villages in southern Lebanon, hiding its valuable materiel behind human shields. There are thousands of potential Hezbollah targets that Israel could strike in southern Lebanon, and approximately 400 in a village of 4,000 residents alone. A senior Israeli military official was quoted as saying, “We will hit Hezbollah hard, while making every effort to limit civilian casualties as much as we can. [But] we do not intend to stand by helplessly in the face of rocket attacks.”
Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran, has killed more Americans than any terrorist organization other than al-Qaeda, and was the leading terrorist murderer of Americans before 9/11.
A senior Palestinian official said that some members of Fatah, the party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, want to escalate the ongoing wave of terror against Israelis by orchestrating suicide bombings, The Jerusalem Post reported on Monday.
The official, who remained anonymous, warned in an interview with Israel Radio that the Tanzim terrorist group, which was formed by Yasser Arafat in 1995 and carried out multiple lethal attacks against Israeli civilians during the second intifada, will “sooner or later” have to take part in the current spate of assaults.
“We have no choice. And when it happens – all of the rules of the game will change,” he said. “Hamas will feel more free to act as well. What’s happening now is just the tip of the iceberg.”
The official explained that a return to suicide attacks might come if various Palestinian terrorist factions join the wave of violence, which has hitherto been characterized by lone-wolf attacks, and begin vying for popular support. A study in Mosaic last month found that over the past decade, an average of 59% of Palestinians believed that suicide bombings against civilians were often or sometimes justified. A poll released earlier this month revealed that two-thirds of Palestinians support knife attacks against Israelis.
According to the official, the majority of Fatah’s leadership is content to “wait and see which way the wind is blowing” in regards to the current spate of violence. The PA, which Fatah runs, is bound under the terms of the Oslo Accords to act against anti-Israel incitement and terror.
According to Israel’s Magen David Adom emergency medical service, 24 people have been killed and 259 wounded in over 150 terrorist attacks since September. A number of Israeli security experts and Palestinian activists have largely attributed the attacks to ongoing incitement by Palestinian leaders, including Abbas and other PA officials. (via TheTower.org)
The first seeks to interpret the Paris shootings as a response to Western foreign policy—or more specifically, to Western imperialism. This can either refer to the supposed imperialism of recent years or go as far back as the Crusades.The second dwells on the jihadists’ fundamental opposition to liberalism itself. Thus, the West is not on the receiving end of violence for what it does, rather it experiences these sporadic outbursts of brutality based on what it is.
Both arguments are deployed in opposition to one other, yet both contain an element of truth.
First of all, Paris may very well have been “blowback” for France’s role in bombing ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Hitler’s production of the V-3 cannon was “blowback” for the Allied assault on Nazi Germany. Blowback is invariably what happens when a country wages war—what it is not is a moral judgement on the decision to go to war itself (though the argument is often disingenuously deployed as if it were).
At the same time, it is also true that Le Bataclan concert hall in Paris was a place where, in the jihadist vernacular, “hundreds of apostates had gathered in a profligate prostitution party.” This sounds a lot like the misogynist statements put out in the past by jihadists, such as those who unsuccessfully placed a bomb outside London’s popular Ministry of Sound nightclub in 2004, the casus belli in that instance being “those slags dancing around.” It should be clear from reading them that it is the existence of liberal democracy, rather than any particular policy pursued by the liberal democracies, which these budding totalitarians find so repugnant.
Despite these two propositions being in seeming opposition to each other, how Europe’s democracies inoculate themselves against jihadist violence will depend to a certain extent on how successfully Western governments grapple with the central tenets of both arguments. What sort of foreign policy ought the West to pursue in order to minimize the threat from jihadist violence? And how will the West build a confident liberalism at a time of widespread suspicion and distrust?
To continue reading this article in The Tower Magazine, please click here.
Iran threatened to refer the US to the commission that oversees compliance with the nuclear deal, as the Obama administration seeks to assure Iran it will assist them in bypassing new regulations passed by Congress. On Wednesday Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif claimed that the new measures requiring visas for individuals with Iranian citizenship or those who have recently traveled to Iran “would definitely be a breach” of the JCPOA. Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly wrote to Zarif to assure him that the administration could help Iran evade the new regulations by issuing waiver exemptions to ensure that the new rules will not “interfere with legitimate business interests in Iran.” President Barack Obama signed the new bill last Friday but subsequently took issue with it after the Iranian regime told them that the bill would violate the nuclear agreement. According to the deal, the US may not impose any new nuclear-related sanctions on Iran, however, the administration has repeatedly stated that the deal does not prohibit the US from imposing sanctions related to Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism and human right violations. The Joint Commission, a body in which the West is supposed to have a majority, risks being undermined by spurious allegations from Iran.
Lawmakers in Congress have rebuked the administration for its willingness to bypass congressional rules to placate Iran. In a letter addressed to both Kerry and the Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ed Royce (R-CA), and others expressed concern and emphasized that they “strengthened the VWP [Visa Waiver Program] in order to protect the national security of the United States.” Rep. Robert Dold (R-IL) and other members of Congress wrote a letter to Kerry stating that it is “beyond belief” that Iranian anxieties about the law’s impact on local businesses “would supersede a newly-enacted U.S. law designed to protect the American people from terrorism.” Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) argued that “waiving restrictions on the visa waiver program would put U.S. citizens at risk” and insisted that “the largest state sponsor of terrorism shouldn’t get to dictate U.S. visa policy.” Congress decided to require visas for individuals who visited Iran in the past 5 years due to Iran’s status as a leading state sponsor of terror. Iraq, Syria, and Sudan are also subject to visa requirements due to their status as terrorist hot spots.
Ofer Ben Ari, a 46-year-old Jerusalemite with two daughters, was wounded by police gunfire in the process of subduing two Palestinian terrorists who had begun stabbing passersby. Shaare Zedek Medical Center announced his death moments before news broke that a second victim, 45-year-old Reuven Birmacher, also died of his injuries. Birmacher was a resident of Kiryat Ye’arim and a father of seven. A third victim is in serious condition.
Palestinian media identified the attackers as Issa Asaf and Anan Abu Habseh, two 21-year-olds from the Qalandia refugee camp in the West Bank. The pair, who had previously been arrested for disturbing the peace, had reportedly left their cellphones and IDs at home before leaving for Jerusalem. They were shot and killed by policewomen after carrying out the attack.
The Times of Israel reported more:
Witnesses said one of the victims struggled with his stabber on the ground and was stabbed multiple times.
“Two people were struggling and at first I thought it was a game,” Yael, an eyewitness, told Israel Radio. “I saw [the attacker] trying to stab [his victim] with all his might.
“I saw the victim try to get away from him, but he couldn’t,” she added.
More than 20 Israelis have been killed in Palestinian stabbing attacks since the current wave of violence began in September. Jerusalem has been one of the focal points of the violence, with multiple attacks taking place inside or near the Old City.
A recent public opinion poll revealed that two-thirds of Palestinians support knife attacks against Israelis, while 54% oppose a two-state solution. Various Israeli security experts and Palestinian activists have attributed the ongoing wave of terror to incitement from Palestinian leaders, including government officials.
Last month, the United States House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution condemning incitement by the Palestinian Authority. At the time, the measure’s co-sponsor Ted Deutch (D – Fla.) said, “It is well past time for President Abbas to stand up and condemn all acts of violence, rather than encouraging violence by glorifying terrorists and teaching children to view Israelis as animals.” (via TheTower.org)
Twenty members of the U.S. House sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday expressing their opposition to the administration's intention to waive the new restrictions on the Visa Waiver Program. Following Iranian protests that the new measure violated the nuclear deal reached in July, Secretary of State John Kerry sent a letter to Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Saturday indicating that the administration would work to bypass the law. In his letter, Kerry explained that the administration would implement the law in such a way “as not to interfere with legitimate business interests of Iran.” Kerry told Zarif that the administration had a “number of potential tools,” one of which is the wavier authority.
The letter to Kerry, written by Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.), was also signed by Chair of the House Ethics Committee, Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), and Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). The members of Congress told Kerry that it was “beyond belief” that the concerns of Iranian officials “would supersede a newly-enacted U.S. law designed to protect the American people from terrorism.” The letter continued, “There is no legitimate justification to create a special exemption for Iran from an anti-terrorism and security law that was specifically designed to include Iran. Iran does not get to veto U.S. security measures.”
Following Kerry’s letter to Zarif, Eli Lake and Josh Rogin wrote in Bloomberg View, “Now the administration is trying to sidestep a recently passed provision to tighten rules on visas for those who have visited Iran.” Executive Director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies Mark Dubowitz told Bloomberg View, "If the United States Congress cannot implement a more secure visa procedure for those who travel to state sponsors of terrorism like Iran, then the Iran deal ties the hands of lawmakers to a greater extent than even deal critics feared.”
The David’s Sling mid-range missile interceptor, jointly developed by American and Israeli defense contractors, has completed its final test and is prepared to be deployed next year, The Times of Israel reported on Monday.
In the final test of the series, an interceptor missile was successfully launched, performed all flight phases, and engaged the target, said a representative from Rafael Industries, which helped develop the missile system. […]
The various parts of the David’s Sling system, including the Multi-Mission Radar to detect targets and the Battle Management Center, which calculates defense plans, worked as they should, the official said.
David’s Sling, also known as Magic Wand, will be handed over to the Israeli Air Force and undergo additional exercises before full deployment. As a medium-range missile interceptor, it is slated to replace the Patriot missiles currently used by Israel. It will join the Iron Dome defense system, which is used to defend against short-range missiles and rockets. The Arrow-2, which is operational, and Arrow-3, which is under development, are designed to protect Israel from long-range missiles.
Israel’s Rafael Industries is the system’s prime contractor, while the U.S. defense giant Raytheon is a sub-contractor. Rafael also developed the David Sling’s interceptor missile, called Stunner, with Raytheon’s support. The system’s Multi-Mission Radar is manufactured by Elta, which is a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries, while the Battle Management Center was developed by Elisra, a subsidiary of the Israeli electronics giant Elbit.
Defense News reported:
Hundreds of Israeli and American industry developers, program officials and uniformed operators from Israel’s Air Defense Force participated in Monday’s tests, which put the system through several operational scenarios against multiple targets representing “representative and relevant threats,” said Shlomo Hess, Rafael program manager.
“Today, all these unique technologies that comprise the David’s Sling Weapon System became operational,” said Hess.
“It’s very rare to achieve all the goals in such a complex test series … against long-range targets with heavy warheads capable of sustaining very big collateral damage. We are all in a very high level of excitement,” he said.
The David’s Sling system is designed to be effective against Hezbollah’s “increasingly accurate” arsenal, which includes Syrian 302 mm rockets and Iranian Fatah-110 rockets. It was also designed to intercept Scud-B ballistic missiles, which can carry one-ton warheads.
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon credited his country’s “rare-quality capabilities,” as well as U.S.-Israeli cooperation on both the governmental and industrial level, including generous funding from Washington, for the successful development of the project. (via TheTower.org)
NeuroQuest Development Center is working with the University of California-San Diego to collect and process blood samples for clinical validation trials of NeuroQuest’s blood test for early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Designed to be an inexpensive, convenient alternative to costly positron emission tomography (PET) brain scans, the NeuroQuest blood test can potentially identify a pre-clinical stage of AD years before the onset of noticeable symptoms. The blood test is based on the principles of protective autoimmunity and nearly 20 years of award-winning research led by Prof. Michal Schwartz of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, and president of the International Society of Neuroimmunology. Worldwide, nearly 44 million people have Alzheimer’s or a related dementia. Yet there is no objective, accurate, cost-effective and practical tool for early diagnosis. Human trials in Israel showed NeuroQuest’s blood test to be 87 percent accurate with an 85% specificity rate in detecting Alzheimer’s and ALS, two common neurodegenerative diseases. With blood tests, anything over 70% is considered medically significant. In addition, recent pilot testing of NeuroQuest’s biomarker technology in Australia surpassed current standards of specificity and sensitivity set by the US Alzheimer’s Association. “Based on our pilot test results, we are cautiously optimistic about our upcoming US clinical trials,” said Dan Touitou, CEO of NeuroQuest. The national clinical trial for older individuals who may be at risk for AD is funded by the National Institute on Aging, Eli Lilly and Company, and several philanthropic organizations. Validation studies for NeuroQuest’s diagnostic blood test will continue in Australia and the United States through 2017. (via Israel21c)
A Hezbollah commander who was attempting to transform the Syrian Golan into another terror front against Israel was killed in a strike in Syria on Sunday. Israel is thought to be responsible for the strike. The commander, Samir Kuntar, is notorious for carrying out a terrorist attack in Nahariya, Israel in 1979 in which he kidnapped and murdered two members of an Israeli family including a 4-year old girl, whose head he smashed with his rifle. Two others were also killed in the attack. Kuntar was sentenced to three life terms in jail, but after 29 years, he was released in return for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers as part of a swap between Israel and Hezbollah. Kuntar received a hero's welcome upon his return to Lebanon in 2008. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad awarded him the country's highest medal and he was also honored by former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Kuntar then joined Hezbollah and became a senior official in the organization. Additionally, Druze community leaders have stated that Samir Kuntar was behind the lynching last June of a wounded member of the Free Syrian Army in an ambulance en route to an Israeli hospital.
Kuntar was reportedly targeted for his role in mobilizing Syrian Druze on the Golan Heights to commit terror attacks against Israel. In a conference call organized by TIP, former Israeli national security adviser Yaakov Amidror stated that Kuntar was "a pivot in the efforts of Hezbollah to prepare the Golan Heights for another front against Israel." Last September, the US Department of State designated Kuntar a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, writing that Kuntar “played an operational role, with the assistance of Iran and Syria, in building up Hizballah’s terrorist infrastructure in the Golan Heights.” During the last few months, Kuntar was working for the Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. At the time he was killed he was reportedly with a group of commanders from different terrorist groups that were there planning attacks on Israel.
The mother of the four-year old girl Kuntar brutally killed in 1979 told Israel's Army Radio on Sunday that Kantar's death was a "historic justice." Following the strike in Syria, three rockets launched from Lebanon landed in Israel with no injuries reported. Israel responded with artillery fire into southern Lebanon.
Secretary of State John Kerry wrote a letter to his Iranian counterpart on Saturday to assure him that in order to avoid Iranian claims that the U.S is violating the nuclear deal, the White House will largely ignore recent legislation tightening visa requirements, sparking concerns that the Obama Administration is undermining Congressional authority to satisfy Iranian demands.
After the San Bernardino terror attacks earlier this month, Congress passed legislation, which was signed by President Barack Obama, that would restrict the automatic granting of visas to individuals who travel to Iran, a country that the State Department designates as a leading state sponsor of terror. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif complained over the weekend that the visa restrictions were a new sanction on Iran, which he believed would violate the nuclear deal. (The deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA, prevents the United States from placing new sanctions on Iran in response to nuclear work, but the U.S. can still sanction Iran for its sponsorship of terrorism, as Kerry has repeatedly stated). In his letter, Kerry reassured Zarif that he is “confident that the recent changes in visa requirements passed in Congress, which the Administration has the authority to waive, will not in any way prevent us from meeting our JCPOA commitments.”
Iran’s complaint about the visa restrictions came amid closer scrutiny of its nuclear and military activities by Congress and the Obama Administration. The United Nations found last week that an Iranian ballistic missile test in October violated a Security Council resolution.
“If we fail in any way to relentlessly enforce what we’ve got in terms of both U.S. unilateral and multilateral abilities to constrain Iran’s actions, they will take that as a clear signal that we’ve taken our eye off the ball,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) told the Wall Street Journal on Thursday. Over the weekend, Congressional sources told the Washington Free Beacon that they were concerned that the White House was undercutting anti-terror measures to placate Iran and keep the nuclear deal on track.
“According to the Obama administration’s latest interpretation, the nuclear deal allows Iran to test ballistic missiles in violation of international law, but does not allow Congress to prevent terrorists from coming into the United States,” Omri Ceren, the managing director of press and strategy at The Israel Project, told the Washington Free Beacon. The Israel Project published The Tower.
For the full text of the letter to Zarif, click here.
Iran’s concerns that American legislation could hurt economic progress comes in the wake of increased anti-American activity and rhetoric by Islamic Republic leaders. Three days after the nuclear deal was signed in July, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted an image of President Barack Obama with a gun to his head, threatening the “aggressive and criminal U.S.” In September, Khamenei declared that Iran would defeat the U.S. in the event of a war.
Last week, Iran banned the importation of more than 200 American products, following a directive issued by Khamenei in November. The regime recently arrested Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi and Lebanese-born U.S. resident Nizar Zakka. Last month, Iran also executed Hamid Samiee, a dual Iranian-American citizen it had been holding since 2008.
In October, Iran announced the conviction of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian on charges of espionage, and later sentenced him to prison for an unspecified length of time. A senior Iranian official accused Rezaian of conspiring with the U.S. government to topple the regime in Tehran.
Khamenei’s office also published a video last month accusing the U.S. of orchestrating the deadly November 13 terror attacks in Paris. A little over a week later, Khamenei warned that the U.S. was using “money and sexual attractions” to infiltrate the Islamic Republic. (via TheTower.org)
Following the Islamic State’s claim of responsibility for the November 2015 attacks in Paris, Western intelligence agencies have doubled their efforts to locate European jihadi cells, all the while increasing the scale and scope of airstrikes against the group in Iraq and Syria. Although the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher atrocities in January should have served as notable warning signs of the Islamic State’s global reach, few could have predicted the scale and scope of what is now the deadliest terror attack in Europe since the 2004 Madrid train bombings.
There was one clear warning sign that Europe was facing the spread of Islamic State terror and it came from the alleged mastermind of the attack, Abdelhamid Abaaoud. Several months prior, Abaaoud had bragged in an interview with the Islamic State’s Dabiq magazine about how easy it had been to evade Belgian authorities, “They [Belgian police] arrested Muslims in Greece, Spain, France, and Belgium in order to apprehend me. I was even stopped by an officer who contemplated me so as to compare me to the picture [released to the public], but he let me go as he did not see the resemblance,” he said.
Abaaoud went on to describe how he and many others were able to move freely from Syria to Europe, providing important insight into the Islamic State’s emerging global network of terror. This begs the question – how did the Islamic State successfully transform itself from a small group of Arab mujahideen fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan into what is arguably now the most feared organization in the world?
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the rise of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the predecessor to the Islamic State, has been well documented; comparably little attention has been given to the group’s global reach. While the Islamic State was born out of Osama Bin Laden’s global jihad against the West, many overlook the importance of another player in the equation – Iran.
This may seem surprising given that Iran, the stalwart of the Shi’a Crescent, is currently embroiled in a regional war against the Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq. However, Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security, described as one of the “largest and most dynamic intelligence agencies in the Middle East” by the Pentagon’s Irregular Warfare Support Program, has, over the past 20 years, provided financial, material, technological, and other support services to AQI. The man responsible for fostering this unexpected relationship was Imad Mughniyeh. While his name may not carry the same perceived significance as Osama Bin Laden, Mughniyeh commanded a vast international terror network that included Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, Hamas, and a myriad of others, spanning over five continents.
To continue reading, click here for The Tower Magazine.
Twenty-one Senate Democrats sent a letter to President Barack Obama on Thursday, urging him to take action in response to two recent Iranian ballistic missile tests. “Such action is essential to make clear to Iran’s leaders that there will be consequences for future violations of UN Security Council Resolutions and that the United States reserves the right under the [nuclear agreement] to take unilateral action in response to this and other significant actions by Iran in the areas of ballistic missile development, terrorism and human rights," the letter read. It continued that, if the U.S. did not respond to this Iranian provocation, it could lead the leaders of that country to “also question the willingness of the international community to respond to violations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said earlier this week, "While these ballistic missile tests are outside of the parameters of the [deal] our response has to be strategic and we have to make sure Iran knows that it can't continue to simply blatantly disregard the international community and the U.N. Security Council.”
Thirty-six Senate Republicans, led by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) sent a letter to President Obama on Wednesday, urging the administration to respond to the ballistic missile launch: “We are concerned that your administration is failing to respond to Iran’s dangerous and destabilizing actions out of an eagerness to see the Iran deal go forward." The letter emphasizes that Iran is developing its ballistic missile capabilities to deliver a nuclear warhead and, therefore, “it is a mistake to treat Iran’s ballistic missile program as separate from Iran’s nuclear program. We urge your administration to not lift sanctions on Iran that would provide billions of dollars in economic relief.”
The United Nations Panel of Experts determined Tuesday that Iran’s October ballistic missile test was in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1929, which prohibits Iran from “any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology.” Iran has stated unequivocally that it would continue with such tests and ballistic missile development. Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan said Wednesday, “Since day one of the endorsement of the JCPOA…our different tests have not [been] postponed even for a single day, hour or moment; rather we have not even felt any doubt about declaring them.”
Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel criticized the administration of President Barack Obama for its failure to develop a clear strategy on Syria in the face of escalating violence and a severe humanitarian catastrophe, in an interview with Foreign Policy published on Friday.
Hagel revealed that in August 2013, after Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad violated Obama’s “red line” by using chemical weapons on civilians in a suburb of Damascus, American forces were ready to launch attacks on Syria. The president, however, opted to pursue a diplomatic path and ordered Hagel to call off the planned operation. “There’s no question in my mind that it hurt the credibility of the president’s word when this occurred,” Hagel said.
Hagel was once again struck by the administration’s lack of strategy in September 2014, when Sen. John McCain (R – Ariz.) asked him whether the United States was willing to protect the anti-Assad forces it was backing if they were attacked. According to Hagel, the White House had been considering that question for weeks, but had yet to reach a decision. Hagel chose to tell McCain that the U.S. was prepared to assist the rebels, explaining that had he not given this assurance, “every ally would have walked away from us in the Middle East.” The White House’s failure to issue a clear statement to this “damn crucial question” was a “glaring” omission, he added.
Hagel claimed that when he raised these concerns a month later in a memo to the White House, his suggestions were not well-received. “I was saying, ‘We’re not getting to where we need to be,'” he explained. “I’m getting this from all of my colleagues around the world. All of my counterparts are coming up to me at NATO meetings and everywhere, saying, ‘What are you doing? Where is this going?’”
In addition to faulting the administration for lacking a coherent policy on Syria, Hagel criticized the White House for often interfering with the workings of the Department of Defense, a similar to complaint to those made by former defense secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta.
Although he doesn’t currently advocate pursuing a more aggressive military campaign against ISIS, last year at a press briefing Hagel described the terror group as a threat “beyond anything we’ve seen.” At the same event, he also called Assad “a central part of the problem” in the Middle East.
Last month, Secretary of State John Kerry expressed a similar sentiment when he observed that Assad, who is backed by Iran, “cut his own deal” with ISIS and characterized the relationship between the dictator and terror group as “symbiotic.” (via TheTower.org)
- Ecopeace organization allows individuals to hike through Israeli, Palestinian Authority and Jordanian territory
On Tuesday in Moscow, Secretary of State John Kerry appeared to accept the Russian and Iranian position that Bashar al-Assad remain in power. In a shift from previous US demands that Assad step aside, Kerry stated that the “United States and our partners are not seeking so-called regime change” and dismissed the Syrian opposition groups’ recent declaration that Assad leave as soon as a transitional period begins as “a nonstarting position, obviously." In 2011, President Barack Obama stated, “[T]he time has come for President Assad to step aside.” But administration officials have recently softened their stance, asserting that he wouldn’t have to go on “day one” of a transition. Last month, President Obama said that after a political process is decided upon, “we can look at Assad choosing not to run [in a presidential election].” In contrast, according to the Associated Press, Russia has “remained consistent in its view that no foreign government could demand Assad's departure” while the Iranian regime has insisted that he must be allowed to run in any future presidential election and that Tehran would never stop supporting him.
The administration is setting the fate of Assad aside in the hopes of uniting with Russia to fight ISIL, yet Kerry has argued that “neither peace nor the defeat of Daesh [the Arabic acronym for ISIS] is possible with Assad in power.” Kerry has often emphasized that “Assad is one of the principal reasons – the principal reason – that ISIS exists” because he “is a magnet for jihadists and foreign fighters from around the world.” In an op-ed, Andrew Tabler, a fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, warned that “unless we quickly decide on a mechanism and timetable for Assad’s departure and maintain what is salvageable of the Syrian state, the Islamic State and groups like it will remain.”
Assad’s regime, with the support of Iran and Hezbollah fighters, has indiscriminately murdered tens of thousands and displaced millions through the use of barrel bombs, air raids, massacres, intentional starvation, and chemical weapons attacks. Also on Wednesday, in an attempt to combat Hezbollah’s support for terrorism, the House unanimously approved imposing sanctions on banks that do business with the terrorist group. Additionally, Representative Pete Roskam (R-IL) introduced a new bill that targets Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), imposing sanctions against entities in which the IRGC owns at least 20% interest.
Israel and Turkey have reached an agreement to restore diplomatic relations, ending five years of strained relations, Ha’aretz reported Thursday.
The understanding was reached in Zurich, Switerzland by Joseph Ciechanover, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s personal envoy to Turkey; Israeli National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen; and Turkish Foreign Ministry Under-Secretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu.
The crisis in relations between the two countries was exacerbated by the IDF’s 2010 raid on the Mavi Marmara. The ship, which was under the control of the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation—a group designated as a terror organization by the Netherlands and Germany—was part of a flotilla attempting to break Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. After the IDF boarded the Mavi Marmara, they were attacked by members of the crew. Ten crew members were killed in the ensuing fight, and several Israeli soldiers were injured. The other ships in the flotilla were diverted without incident. Israel has agreed to pay $20 million in compensation for those killed or injured in the raid, and Turkey will pass a law annulling any further legal claims against any IDF personnel stemming from the incident.
As a result of the deal, Turkey and Israel will restore full diplomatic relations and return ambassadors to Tel Aviv and Ankara, respectively. Turkey will also expel Salah al-Arouri, a senior Hamas official based in Turkey who directed the terror group’s operations in the West Bank. In recent years, many top Hamas officials have taken refuge in Turkey where they have been able to operate in the open, but Turkey has agreed to crack down on Hamas’ operations in its territory.
After the agreement is finalized, Israel will begin selling natural gas to Turkey and will lay a pipeline through which Israel will be able to export natural gas to Europe.
The announcement of the understanding comes nearly three years after President Barack Obama facilitated a phone call between Netanyahu and Turkish Prime Minister (now President) Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in an effort to reconcile the two countries. Since then, diplomatic progress had been slow. Over the summer and fall, Israeli officials started signaling a growing rapprochement with Turkey.
In September, Israeli Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold praised Sinirlioğlu, stating that “I think the general direction we are moving is positive.” The tone of Gold’s remarks was echoed earlier this week by Erdoğan, who said that reconciliation with Israel would benefit the whole region.
Gold’s comments in September also touched on the shared challenges faced by Israel and Turkey, where cooperation between the two could be helpful for stabilizing an increasingly dangerous region:
ISIL now has a presence in Sinai peninsula. Very close to our border. One of the current features of presence of ISIL in northern Sinai is the cooperative relationship between ISIL and Hamas. Iran has to figure largely in the national security considerations of both of our countries. Iran is largely responsible for a good deal of the chaos in the Middle East today. Iran modus operandi includes use of religious methods for spreading its power and influence. There are perceptions on Iran becoming more moderate from being a radical threat. To the contrary, we believe that Iranian agreement with P5+1 could give Iranians a sense of empowerment. As Israel and Turkey, at different times, we have been targets for Iran. Discussion is needed for protecting our national interests. (via TheTower.org)
Poll shows vast majority of Palestinian public supports terror attacks against Israelis as Abbas calls ongoing Palestinian terrorism “justified”
- Poll shows vast majority of Palestinian public supports terror attacks against Israelis as Abbas calls ongoing Palestinian terrorism “justified”
A new poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research showed that two-thirds of Palestinians support the stabbing attacks, and that a growing majority supports an armed intifada and rejects the two state solution. Furthermore, if presidential elections were held today in the West Bank, Hamas would win against President Mahmoud Abbas. On Tuesday, a Palestinian woman with a screwdriver who was planning to carry out an attack was caught in Jerusalem, while a Palestinian construction worker beat an Israeli Jew and his Palestinian co-worker with a hammer. A monthly report released by Israel’s internal security service shows that during the month of November, there have been 326 attacks against Israelis, with 10 fatalities. In total, 22 Israelis have been killed and 252 have been wounded in three months of almost daily stabbings, shootings, and vehicular attacks.
False allegations and incitement to violence have been spread on social media by both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. On Sunday, President Barack Obama said, “Palestinian leaders have to condemn the ongoing attacks [against Israelis] and stop incitement.” However, on Tuesday Abbas called the terror attacks against Israelis a “justified popular uprising.” Abbas has failed to condemn the terror attacks against Israelis and has continued to make inflammatory remarks, while reiterating false accusations that Israel is performing “field executions against defenseless Palestinian civilians, including children.” In October, he accused Israel of actions aimed “at altering or eliminating the Palestinian Christian and Muslim presence in and the identity of the Holy City.” Abbas has also appeared to glorify the violence, declaring, “We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem…With the help of Allah, every shaheed (martyr) will be in heaven, and every wounded will get his reward.” On Tuesday Hamas boasted that the perpetrator of Monday’s vehicular attack on a crowded bus station was a member of the organization. The head of the terror group, Khaled Mashaal, called on Palestinians to embrace jihad and praised Palestinian stabbers as “the most exalted and the noblest of people.”
Recent reports that Iran is supporting ISIS through its funding of Hamas are a reminder that the Islamic Republic has long backed the powerful jihadist group and its predecessors in a variety of ways.
In 2012, the United States Treasury Department exposed the extensive financial ties between Iran and al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the terrorist organization that evolved into ISIS. The generous support Iran afforded ISIS in its formative years was part of a broader alliance that the Islamic Republic established with al-Qaeda over a decade ago.
As AQI metastasized across Iraq and eventually became ISIS, Iran sought to position itself at the vanguard of the global effort against the terrorist group, claiming that it was dedicated to beating back its advances. However, Iran and its clients, particularly Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, have notably failed to dislodge ISIS from any significant territory. Former U.S. military intelligence officer Michael Pregent observed in May that Iran and its allied militias in Iraq did not extend themselves to fight the terror group, and concluded that “Iran needs the threat of ISIS and Sunni jihadist groups to stay in Syria and Iraq in order to become further entrenched in Damascus and Baghdad.” A month later, U.S. officials similarly charged Syria with bombing non-Islamist rebels “in support of ISIL’s advance on Aleppo,” which helped the terror group push back Syrian opposition factions that were fighting Assad’s regime.
Monday’s Ynet report on Iran’s ongoing financial support of Hamas, which the Gaza-based terrorist group partially uses to fund ISIS’s affiliate in the Sinai Peninsula, shed more light on Iran’s strategy of using its proxies to bolster ISIS. Last week, a senior U.S. treasury official revealed that Assad is the biggest purchaser of oil from ISIS. Reports surfaced that Iranian agents were also directly selling weapons to ISIS in exchange for oil last year.
In November, Secretary of State John Kerry noted that Assad “never bombed” ISIS as it captured Raqqa in eastern Syria, and also highlighted Assad’s oil purchases from ISIS. Last week, David Blair, chief foreign correspondent for The Telegraph, wrote that Assad strategically released a number of Islamists from jail during the early stages of the Syrian conflict, a portion of whom later rose to become commanders of ISIS.
In Iran Is More Deeply Tied To ISIS Than You Think, which was published in the December 2015 issue of The Tower Magazine, Benjamin Decker untangled the complex history behind the alliance between the Islamic Republic and ISIS.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the rise of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the predecessor to the Islamic State, has been well documented; comparably little attention has been given to the group’s global reach. While the Islamic State was born out of Osama Bin Laden’s global jihad against the West, many overlook the importance of another player in the equation – Iran.
This may seem surprising given that Iran, the stalwart of the Shi’a Crescent, is currently embroiled in a regional war against the Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq. However, Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security, described as one of the “largest and most dynamic intelligence agencies in the Middle East” by the Pentagon’s Irregular Warfare Support Program, has, over the past 20 years, provided financial, material, technological, and other support services to AQI. The man responsible for fostering this unexpected relationship was Imad Mughniyeh. While his name may not carry the same perceived significance as Osama Bin Laden, Mughniyeh commanded a vast international terror network that included Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, Hamas, and a myriad of others, spanning over five continents. (via TheTower.org)
Of all the hurdles to broad implementation of solar power across the world, one of the highest is cost. The most mainstream type of solar cell is photovoltaic (PV), made from expensive silicon wafers and silver paste. Inventing a way to reduce the cost was a challenge taken on with relish by an Israeli quartet of semiconductor and optical technologies veterans. Their six-year-old company, Utilight, has developed a revolutionary technology for economical 3D laser printing of PV cells. Solar cells made with Utilight’s patented PTP (Pattern Transfer Printing) method not only are priced realistically for mass manufacturing, but also are more efficient than conventionally made cells, says cofounder and CEO Giora Dishon, who holds a doctorate in material science. This win-win product is now being tested by leading solar-cell manufacturers in China and Taiwan through a strategic partnership with Utilight. “We are in the final stages of developing a production-ready system we can take to customers in the industry to improve solar-cell efficiency and reduce their cost,” Dishon tells ISRAEL21c. “You see solar cells on rooftops and power parks everywhere, and our technology can be used to manufacture all of them.” (via Israel21c)
Although still unresolved due to Iranian intransigence, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has voted to close the investigation into Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons. The IAEA’s report stated that Iran had a nuclear weapons program until 2003 and that some of the nuclear weapons-related activities continued until 2009. Several UN Security Council resolutions demand that Iran grant the IAEA access to all sites, equipment, persons, and documents the agency requests. However, Iran refused to cooperate on three of the 12 unresolved questions on its past nuclear weapons work, also known as the possible military dimensions (PMDs) of its program. Tehran refused to admit that it had performed any nuclear weapons work and according to the nonproliferation think tank Institute for Science and International Security, Iran’s answers and explanations for many of the IAEA’s concerns were “obfuscating and stonewalling” as it refused to allow the IAEA to interview key scientists and other people of interest, while access to significant sites “was either denied or tightly controlled.”
Due to Iran’s noncompliance and the fact that the IAEA stated that they could not conclude that Iran has actually halted all of its nuclear weapons-related activities, the Institute for Science and International Security states that the IAEA’s investigation should continue and that sanctions relief should be conditioned on Iranian cooperation with the probe. Olli Heinonen, a former weapons inspector and former deputy director general of the IAEA, similarly asserted that “without Iran’s cooperation and transparency, the file simply cannot be closed.”
The administration reportedly believes that Iranian disclosure “is unlikely and unnecessary.” However, lack of knowledge regarding Iran’s past nuclear weapons work will hinder the IAEA’s ability to verify Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal, accurately calculate Iran’s breakout time, and ensure that activities related to the development of nuclear weapons have ceased. Shutting down the probe also undermines the nonproliferation regime and may encourage Iran to continue violating its commitments. Following reports that the administration would vote to close the probe, the nonproliferation think tank tweeted, “PMD, missile tests, illicit procurements. Growing risk is that the Admin is well on the way to tolerating routine Iranian noncompliance.”
“On the basis of its analysis and findings the Panel concludes that Emad launch is a violation by Iran of paragraph 9 of Security Council resolution 1929,” the council’s Panel of Experts on Iran said in its report.
The confidential report, which was dated December 11, has been forwarded to members of the Security Council’s sanctions committee.
Paragraph 9 of Resolutions 1929 states “that Iran shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology, and that States shall take all necessary measures to prevent the transfer of technology or technical assistance to Iran related to such activities.”
When Iran scheduled ballistic missile tests a month after the nuclear deal was announced, Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency claimed that such tests would reinforce Iran’s interpretation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, the resolution that formalizes parts of the nuclear deal. That resolution also calls for Iran to refrain from testing ballistic missiles, but Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that his country was unwilling to “abide by any resolution” that would limit its capacity to develop or acquire the weapons it deemed necessary.
Following the October launch, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said that Iran had violated security council resolutions. A group of eleven Democratic senators sent a letter to President Barack Obama asking him to “consider unilateral and multilateral responses” to confront Iran’s “clear non-compliance with UNSCR 1929 and to deter future violations.”
After a second ballistic test was reported earlier this month, a number of Democrats from both houses of Congress began pressing the administration to take more forceful actions against Iran. In addition, Republican Senators Kelly Ayotte (R – N.H.) and Mark Kirk (R – Ill.) sent a letter to the president expressing their concern over the lack of a strong response to Iran’s violations.
Iran has also routinely violated other UN resolutions, including the operation of a airline that was blacklisted by international sanctions, and the foreign travel of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps General Qassem Soleimani to places like Moscow, despite UN restrictions against allowing him to travel internationally. (via TheTower.org)
The Palestinian terror organization Hamas provides “tens of thousands” of dollars per month to the Islamic State in the Sinai for the securing of “weapons shipments” trafficked from Egypt to Gaza, according to Yedioth Ahronoth’s military analyst Alex Fishman. The shipments “primarily consist” of materials that Hamas needs to fuel its domestic rocket manufacturing capability as well as military equipment. Hamas, in return for ISIS’s smuggling services, also provides logistical support. Fishman cited an example of how ISIS militants were wounded and could not be smuggled into Gaza for treatment, so Hamas sent medical personnel into the Sinai. Fishman highlights the impact that Hamas has had on the growth of ISIS’s Sinai branch, writing, “Egyptian security officials note that it is solely thanks to Hamas' monetary and professional support of ISIS in the Sinai that the branch has, in the last few years, turned from a gang of Bedouin with light weapons into a well-trained, well-armed group of 800 militants.” Additionally, Hamas provides training and supplies to ISIS, even equipping them with the Kornet anti-tank missile, which allows the group to target the Egyptian military’s armored vehicles. The group carries out attacks against Egyptian security forces; is responsible for the downing of Russian passenger plane in November, killing all 224 people onboard; and has targeted Israel. On its blog, the IDF lists four attacks on Israel for which the group has claimed responsibility. The report also said that Israeli officials believe that in the event of an escalation, the ISIS branch in the Sinai would assist Hamas against the IDF. Moreover, Fishman notes that Iran provides a “bulk” of Hamas’s financial support. Times of Israel journalist Avi Issacharoff in September highlighted Iran’s continued support for Hamas when he wrote that after the nuclear deal, Iran had “significantly increased” its funding to both Hamas and Hezbollah. In the two months after the deal, Issacharoff wrote, “Iran has sent suitcases of cash – literally.”
Argentina’s new justice minister, Germán Garavano, announced that he will not renew a controversial agreement with Iran to jointly investigate the 1994 AMIA community center bombing, The New York Times reported on Saturday. The deal was originally signed by the government of former Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
Six top Iranian officials, including Ali Akbar Velayati, who was Iran’s foreign minister at the time of the attack and is currently an advisor to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have had Interpol red notices issued against them over their suspected involvement in orchestrating the terror attack.
Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman, who accused Kirchner and her foreign minister, Héctor Timerman, of covering up Iran’s role in the bombing, was found dead under mysterious circumstances the night before he was scheduled to present his case to an Argentine congressional committee in January.
Eamonn MacDonagh, contributing editor to The Tower, wrote in an analysis of the election of President Mauricio Macri last month that the incoming administration would move to distance itself from Iran.
While praising Macri for his willingness to scrap the deal with Iran, MacDonagh cautioned that “it would be unwise to hope that it will lead to progress on the AMIA massacre.” (via TheTower.org)
Many people still aren’t exactly sure what the Internet of Things is all about. But experts with their finger on the pulse of this massive connectivity trend predict that Israeli companies will take a leading role in building the IoT bridge between the digital and physical worlds to transform everyday lives and markets. That’s the conclusion of a three-month study recently released by Innovation Endeavors, the Silicon Valley and Tel Aviv early-stage venture-capital firm solely backed by Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt. The study looked into 330 Israeli IoT companies across five verticals and 23 sub-verticals, from the seed stages all the way to revenue growth. “By now, nearly everyone has been exposed to the Internet of Things (IoT) in one way or another, whether through a Fitbit bracelet, a Nest smart thermostat, or now even the Apple watch,” according to a report summary. “But despite all of the hype, IoT is still something of an enigma, both to laymen and investors alike, and from Silicon Valley all the way to Tel Aviv. Moreover … there is a general lack of belief that Israel can be a leader in IoT. “However, at Innovation Endeavors in recent months, we have seen a growing amount of impressive IoT activity coming out of Israel. This intrigued us and led us to do a three-month deep dive into the space. The goal was to both demystify the existing understanding of IoT and identify the trends, sectors, and technologies that can serve as significant opportunities for Israeli entrepreneurs in this space.” Their “deep dive” involved poring over more than 50 market research and analyst reports, and meeting with top Israeli IoT companies and leading experts from around the world. “We found that if Israeli entrepreneurs can capitalize on their existing IoT-related proficiencies, they can dominate in this space,” says Aaron Dubin, a member of Innovation Endeavors’ investment team. “This is mainly because in Israel IoT already actually has strong, real context. In other words, the sectors that are currently most relevant to IoT – like cyber security, ag-tech, and healthcare – also happen to be the ones in which Israel is already the most advanced around the globe.” (via Israel21c)
What started as a series of peaceful demonstrations for democratic and civil society reform in 2011 has since degenerated into a brutal multi-front conflict involving the Assad regime in Damascus, Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Iranian-backed Hezbollah, a smorgasbord of mostly Islamist rebel groups including al-Qaeda, secular left-wing Kurdish militias, and, of course, ISIS—the most psychopathic army of killers on the planet.
Rather than live up to his earlier and undeserved reputation as a “reformer,” President Bashar al-Assad has proven himself the most violent dictator in the Middle East since Saddam Hussein.
ISIS, meanwhile, rather than living up to U.S. President Barack Obama’s description as al-Qaeda’s “JV team,” has evolved from a ragtag terrorist organization to a full-blown genocidal army massacring its way through Syria, Iraq and beyond.
The American response so far is only a tad more robust than the sound of chirping crickets.
Perhaps no one is as chagrined at all this as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power. She began her career as a war correspondent in Bosnia during the near-apocalyptic civil war there, and she was so shocked and appalled at what she saw—first the mass-murder and ethnic cleansing waged by Serb genocidaires in the heart of Europe, and second the near-total paralysis of the Clinton administration—that she dedicated years of her life to researching and writing her first book, A Problem From Hell: America in the Age of Genocide, which won her the Pulitzer Prize in 2003.
Her conclusion: despite the cries of “never again” after the Holocaust, the international community, including the United States, nearly always stands aside when mass-murderers go to work.
After Power finishes her current stint as a diplomat, she’ll need to update her book with a new chapter on Syria. Only this time she’ll have to blast the very administration she works for.
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