Friday, January 29, 2016

From Ian:

Caroline Glick: Hope is not a strategy
The lesson from these miserable experiences is clear enough. Since Israel is going to be attacked no matter what it does, we might as well do things that advance our interests.
Since we will be vilified for building “settlements” even when the government freezes construction, we might as well build settlements.
Since the price for expanding existing buildings is the same as the price for building new neighborhoods and communities, there is no reason to pay full price for a fraction of the benefit. Indeed, since the Obama administration and the EU plan to attack us no matter what we do, we might as well go ahead and apply Israeli law to the Jordan Valley and Gush Etzion.
Likewise, since the same forces will viciously condemn us for advancing legislation that will do nothing to curb their funding for Israeli agents or curtail the hostile actions of those agents, we might as well get viciously attacked for doing something to curb their funding and curtail their actions. Given the ferocity of the criticism Israel is enduring over the Shaked bill, it makes sense to redraft the bill and turn it into something useful.
We get it. The Obama administration and the EU aren’t attacking Israel because we did something wrong. They’re attacking us because they want to hurt us. That is their goal. Recognizing this sorry truth, the public elected the Likud and its coalition partners to defend our interests and our rights. Hope is not a strategy. Building new communities and neighborhoods, expanding the writ of Israeli law and curtailing the activities of subversive foreign agents is a strategy. And a good one.
In huge Israeli intel breach, US, UK have spied on air force for 18 years
US and British intelligence services have spied on the Israeli air force for at least 18 years, after cracking the IDF’s special encryption system for communication between fighter jets, drones and army bases, Israel’s military censor approved for publication Friday, after reports of the spying operation appeared in two overseas publications.
The two countries have reportedly used this access to monitor IDF operations in Gaza, watch for a potential Israeli strike on Iran, and keep tabs on the drone technology that Israel exports. Israel said later Friday it was disappointed but not surprised by the revelations.
Based on documents and photos leaked by US intelligence whistle-blower Edward Snowden, which had previously been classified, the news reports said the US and Britain have for years been able to track the transmissions of Israeli aircraft, and effectively view images and videos broadcast to IDF commands during drone operations in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and near the Jewish state’s northern border.
The tracking has been done from a Royal Air Force installation in the Troodos Mountains, near Mount Olympus, the highest point on the Island of Cyprus, according to The Intercept, which, along with German newspaper Der Spiegel, first published the documents.
Israel ‘disappointed, not surprised’ by massive US, UK spying exposé
Israel said it was disappointed, but claimed not to be surprised, by the revelation that the US and British intelligence services have spied on its air force operations for at least 18 years. The intel breach was described by one Israeli security source Friday as “an earthquake… the worst leak in the history of Israeli intelligence.”
The US and UK cracked the IDF’s special encryption system for communication between fighter jets, drones and army bases, Israel’s military censor approved for publication Friday, after the long-term spying operation was reported in two overseas publications. The two countries have reportedly used this access to monitor IDF operations in Gaza, watch for a potential Israeli strike on Iran, and keep tabs on the drone technology that Israel exports.
Israel’s Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz claimed Friday that he was not surprised by the exposé, because Israel is aware that “the Americans spy on the whole world, and also on us, also on their friends.”
“But still,” added Steinitz, a close confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “it is disappointing, inter alia because, going back decades already, we have not spied nor collected intelligence nor hacked encryptions in the United States.”



5 Palestinians jailed for 15 years for stoning that led to toddler’s death
Five Palestinian youths were sentenced to 15 years in prison on Thursday for hurling stones at a car in an attack that led to the severe injury and later the death of 4-year-old Adele Bitton.
In March 2013, Adva Bitton was driving with her toddler daughter in the West Bank when her car was struck by rocks, causing her to veer from her lane and crash into a truck. Four-year-old Adele suffered serious brain damage. In February 2015, the Israeli toddler died of a lung infection related to a neurological condition developed as a result of the attack, hospital officials said.
The five Palestinians who pelted her car with stones reached a plea bargain with the Samaria Military Court, under which they will serve 15 years in prison and compensate the Bitton family with tens of thousands of shekels apiece, according to Hebrew media reports.
In February 2014, Adva Bitton told journalists, following a hearing, she was sorry the terrorists would not receive a death sentence.
'It's a miracle, terrorist missed his heart by a millimeter' Hospital reports
In the attack at around 11 p.m. on Wednesday, the 17-year-old Arab terrorist from Bayt Nabala arrived at the gas station adjacent to Givat Ze'ev and stabbed Rivkin, a resident of Givat Ze'ev who was going to eat at a restaurant right by the station with his wife Brachi. The terrorist tried to flee but fell, scraped his knee and was caught by civilians, before being brought to the hospital for medical treatment.
"We got out of the car, we walked just a meter I think," recalled Brachi Rivkin to Channel 2.
"We parked right next to the burger (restaurant), and suddenly in a second my husband says to me 'I'm stabbed.' I turned around and didn't see anyone, it was just a matter of seconds."
She said that "everyone jumped out to run after the terrorist. Then I was left with him, I don't really know, I felt that he was losing blood and wasn't with me."
Doctors at Shaare Tzedek Hospital fought to save his life from the very serious wounds inflicted in the attack.
"He had a really great miracle. Because the doctor said that another millimeter and it would have hit his heart, and I don't want to say what would have happened," said Rivkin's wife.


Songs in praise of stabbing are huge hits on Palestinian street, and may be motivators too
January 5, East Jerusalem’s Shuafat refugee camp. Mohammed Ali al-Miqdad, who was shot dead as he stabbed and injured three members of the Israeli security forces at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate in October, is being laid to rest, his corpse having finally been returned to his family by the Israeli authorities. As the mourners, waving machetes and Hamas banners, carry his body, wrapped in a Hamas flag, through the winding streets of the camp, they sing one of the most popular songs among Palestinians these days.
“Lovers of Stabbing,” by Gaza based band “Al-Gorbaa, was written after the October attack, and contains a shout-out to Miqdad among a long list of “martyrs” — Palestinians killed in the act of killing or attempting to kill Israelis.
“O Mohammed Ali al-Miqdad, commando of the knives,” run the lyrics, which hail his attack in rhyming Arabic. “The sounds of the YASAM [Israeli security personnel], going around Jerusalem like crazy people,” the song continues.
The mother of the “martyr,” Umm Mohammed, standing on top of a car in the funeral procession, sings along, thoroughly familiar with the words.
Spend any length of time walking in the main streets of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and you’ll hear “Lovers of Stabbing” — by far the most popular of a series of such hits — as well as similar songs calling for the killing of Israelis, blaring from cars, stores, and restaurants. Publicly, and without any embarrassment, individuals and businesses are playing songs whose lyrics blatantly call for the murder of Israelis via stabbing, vehicular attacks and other brutal means.
Indoctrinating Swedish children
Textbooks which have Israel erased from the map and glorify terrorism - up until recently I thought that this was limited to schools in undemocratic Middle Eastern countries that consider Israel an enemy state. Now, however, these textbooks have appeared in Swedish class rooms and they are part of an international Palestinian campaign.
My organization, Perspective on Israel (PPI), has obtained exclusive educational materials that constitute a part of this campaign: textbooks in Arabic and that have been distributed among school children in the city of Malmö, Sweden.
The Swedish pro-Palestinian NGO Palestinian Centre for Justice (PRC) recently began to educate children in one or more schools in Malmö. In November and December of last year the PRC initially posted on their Facebook site photos of their teaching sessions but later removed these after I wrote about their tuition on the website of the Israeli Embassy in Sweden, and after a journalist started to ask questions about this too.
What kind of organization is PRC? In 2006 the PRC arranged the 4th Palestinians in Europe Conference in Malmö. Among the speakers in this conference was the terrorist leader of Hamas in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, whom the PRC calls ”Prime Minister”. This year, the NGO will host this annual conference in Malmö again. The PRC has connections to the Swedish government. In June of last year, the PRC had a meeting with Margot Wallström, the heavily criticized foreign minister of Sweden. According to the PRC website, the vice chairman of the NGO discussed foreign policy with Ms Wallström in the course of this meeting.


HRW accuses Israel of violence against Palestinians in annual world report
Human Rights Watch on Thursday filed its annual 2016 report with its main focus on an international trend of "politics of fear...crushing civil society," a discussion of transgender rights and addressing violations of children's rights by forced early marriage and detention - through November 27.
The report did not have a major focus on Israel as some past reports have, but it did criticize Israel harshly in the individual countries section and mentioned Israel among a list of other countries who it said detain children (Palestinians) too often for national security or other reasons.
HRW said, "There was a sharp rise in killings and injuries related to Israeli-Palestinian hostilities beginning in October. Overall, Palestinians killed at least 17 Israeli civilians and 3 Israeli soldiers, and injured 87 Israeli civilians and 80 security officers in the West Bank and Israel...Israeli security forces killed at least 120 and injured at least 11,953 Palestinian civilians in West Bank, Gaza, and Israel..including bystanders, protesters, and suspected assailants."
It accused Israel of taking "inadequate action against Israeli settlers who injured 84 Palestinians and damaged their property in 130 incidents."
Khaled Abu Toameh: Analysis: Is Abbas losing control?
If Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas loses control of his Fatah faction, who gets to comfort him? Could it be his erstwhile rivals in Hamas?
Abbas has been facing increasing criticism in the past weeks from senior Fatah officials in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It seems that they have tired of his autocratic-style rule. Some of them, including Jibril Rajoub and Tawfik Tirawi, have even come out in public against the PA president, demanding that he share power enough at least to appoint a deputy president.
Fatah seems to be in even worse shape in the Gaza Strip. Fatah leaders and activists there have accused Abbas of "marginalizing" the faction, and are making unmistakable break-away noises.
At a meeting of Fatah cadres in the Gaza Strip last week, Abbas and the Palestinian Authority leadership were castigated for turning their backs on the faction there.
Fatah's top representative in the Strip, Zakariya Al-Agha, said that the faction's leaders, including Abbas, do not want to see Fatah (in the Gaza Strip) reorganize itself and "pick up the pieces."
PMW: Abbas' advisor: "Those who seek knives today, will seek rifles tomorrow"
Sultan Abu Al-Einein, Abbas' advisor, Fatah Central Committee member:
"Blessings to all of our Martyrs, to the residents of Jerusalem who had the honor of igniting the first spark of this activity, to all those who followed in their footsteps in the rest of the homeland, and to the residents of the Hebron district, who have sown fear in all of this cancerous Israeli body. We bow before every drop of blood that has dripped from our children and women, and bow the head before every Martyr and Martyr's mother, who carried her child in her belly and brought him up until he became a young man, and when they notified her of his death as a Martyr, she let out cries of joy to the Heavens. Mothers like these will not be defeated, and this is our people about whom President Martyr Yasser Arafat said that it is 'a people of giants.'"
[Falestinona, website of Fatah's Information and Culture Commission in Lebanon, Jan. 16, 2016]
Abbas' advisor urged all Palestinian leaders to support the "uprising," explaining the need for it to develop so that Israelis will suffer:
"[It should develop] in a way that will make the Israeli enemy's presence on our land costlier and more painful, as Palestinian mothers cannot remain the only ones who cry. Almighty Allah said: 'And do not weaken in pursuit of the enemy. If you should be suffering - so are they suffering as you are suffering, but you expect from Allah that which they expect not.' (Sura 4:104, Sahih International), and therefore the occupation, all parts of it that are on our Palestinian land, must suffer."
Hezbollah Is Recruiting West Bank Palestinians to Kill Israelis
Despite being bogged down in the Syrian civil war, Hezbollah continues to focus on expanding its terrorist infrastructure to multiple fronts in an effort to target Israel. Hezbollah’s entrenchment in the Golan Heights — at Iran’s behest — has been well documented. Now, the Lebanese terrorist organization is trying to set up operations and recruit Palestinians in the West Bank to launch attacks against Israelis.
Last week, Israeli security authorities foiled a Palestinian terrorist cell planning a suicide bombing and shooting attack under Hezbollah’s command. Five Palestinian men, none of whom belonged to the terrorist organization, were arrested.
According to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, the operatives confessed that Hezbollah’s Unit 133 directed the operation, and that Jawad Nasrallah, son of Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah recruited the cell’s leader, Muhammad Zaghloul.
PreOccupiedTerritory: Meretz To Settlers: Stop Attracting Pity By Getting Firebombed (satire)
Leaders of Israel’s political Left warned Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria today to cease getting rocks and Molotov cocktails thrown at them by Palestinians as a way of generating sympathy domestically or internationally.
MKs Zehava Gal-On and Tamar Zandberg criticized Jewish residents of the areas captured from Jordanian occupation in 1967 for having their cars targeted by rock- and firebomb-throwing Palestinians after paying respects to the family of a woman killed by knife-wielding Palestinian terrorists. Saying that being attacked was a cynical way of creating sympathy, the lawmakers called on Israeli living in those areas to stop getting stabbed, shot, run over, stoned, or bombed by Palestinians because they are not fooling anyone with such ham-fisted attempts at playing victim.
“We find it suspicious, to say the least, that being the target of such attacks generally results in sympathy for such a person, and that these radical settlers and their allies just happen to be made targets day in and day out, and happen to be our political foes,” said Zandberg. “There are ways of being killed, maimed, or just plain frightened that do not involve becoming a victim in the eyes of the populace, and choosing to die or sustain life-altering injuries in a manner that does generate sympathy is a demonstration of the lowest form of cynicism.”
Coca Cola to open Gaza factory ‘within weeks’
Coca Cola is to open a factory in the Gaza Strip within weeks, which will eventually provide more than 1,000 jobs in what is one of the world’s worst-hit unemployment hot spots.
Palestinian investors have plowed some $20 million to underpin the drinks giant’s first foray into the Strip, the NRG website reported Thursday.
They include the billionaire Munib Masri, known as the richest Palestinian, and Palestinian-American businessman Zahi Khouri, head of the Palestinian National Beverage Company (PNBC), Coca Cola’s Palestinian subsidiary, which already operates factories in Ramallah, Tulkarem and Jericho in the West Bank.
“Coca Cola is one of the first of the biggest global companies to invest in Palestine, and this investment opened the doors to others,” Khouri told foreign media. “The same will happen in the Gaza Strip.”
Haniyeh: Hamas ‘heroes’ tirelessly digging Gaza tunnels
Hamas “heroes” are tirelessly digging Gaza Strip tunnels designed for use in attacks on Israel, a senior official said Friday, as the terror group buried seven excavators killed this week when the tunnel they were working on collapsed due to heavy rains and floods.
Thousands turned out for the funerals in the Hamas-ruled Gaza, Army Radio reported, where Ismail Haniyeh vowed that the group is growing stronger and will use any measures to preparation for the next confrontation with Israel.
“Some believe that the calm, when the noise of the cannons fall silent, is intended for rest. But the [Izz ad-Din] al-Qassam Brigades continue with their campaign through preparation and training,” said Haniyeh, referring to the Hamas military wing. The resistance, he said, is permanently in a state of continuous preparation.
“East of Gaza City, heroes are digging through rock and building tunnels, and to the west they are experimenting with rockets every day. The resistance continues on its path of liberation of the land,” Haniyeh said during the funerals at the Great Omari Mosque in Gaza City.
Report: EgyptAir mechanic with ISIS ties planted bomb in Sinai plane crash
An EgyptAir mechanic whose cousin joined Islamic state in Syria is suspected of planting a bomb on a Russian passenger plane that was blown out of Egypt's skies in late October, according to sources familiar with the matter.
So far Egypt has publicly said it has found no evidence that the MetroJet flight, which crashed in the Sinai Peninsula after takeoff from Sharm el-Sheikh airport, killing all 224 people on board, was brought down by terrorism.
A senior security official at the airline denied that any of its employees had been arrested or were under suspicion, and an Interior Ministry official also said there had been no arrests.
But the sources, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the ongoing investigation, said the mechanic had been detained, along with two airport policemen and a baggage handler suspected of helping him put the bomb on board.
ISIS media claims fighters killed in Israeli airstrike in Sinai
Several ISIS fighters were killed in Israeli airstrikes on the organization's positions in the Egyptian town of Sheikh Zuweid in North Sinai on Monday night, ISIS-linked Amaq News Agency reported on Tuesday.
According to the reports, two Israeli Apache helicopters, accompanied by two drones, infiltrated Egyptian airspace at around 11 p.m. on Monday and bombed ISIS positions in the southern part of the Egyptian town.
The ISIS-linked news agency’s reports contradict Egyptian media's reports, according to which the Egyptian military launched the airstrike against ISIS positions.
Col. Yehuda Hacohen, the commander of the IDF’s Sagi Brigade, operating on the Egyptian border, told Army Radio in September that it is only a matter of time before Islamic State’s affiliate in Sinai attempts to carry out a terrorist attack against Israel.
Europol Report Warns ISIS Planning ‘Special Forces-Style’ Attacks
A report from Europe’s law enforcement agency released Monday warned that ISIS is planning more large-scale, “special forces-style” attacks.
According to CNN, the Europol report, compiled in the wake of the Nov. 13 Paris terror attacks, warned that ISIS may attack France and other countries in the European Union in the “near future.”
“The Paris attacks, and subsequent investigation, appear to indicate a shift towards a broader strategy of [ISIS] going global, of them specifically attacking France, but also the possibly of attacks against other Member States of the EU in the near future,” the report read.
The agency said that intelligence has indicated that ISIS, which claimed responsibility for the coordinated attacks in Paris, has established a command structure to plan “special forces-style” attacks abroad. This could mean more assaults like the those carried out in Paris, which killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more.
“Central command in Syria is believed to map out a general strategy, but leaves tactical freedom to local leaders to adapt their actions to circumstances on the spot,” the report read, surmising that ISIS has set up smaller training camps in EU member states and in the Balkans.
Elliott Abrams: Two Anniversaries, But No Democracies
Today, January 25, 2016 is the fifth anniversary of the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and the tenth anniversary of the Palestinian legislative elections that were won by Hamas.
In both cases high hopes were crushed by events. Egypt today is more repressive than it was under Mubarak, and Palestine is divided between Gaza, ruled by Hamas without a scintilla of democratic practice, and the West Bank, ruled by Fatah just as it was when Yasser Arafat lived.
In the Egyptian case, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) emerged from the thirty-year Mubarak dictatorship as the best-organized party and won the first election. The MB then proceeded to rule as if it planned to stay forever and prevent democracy, so the people turned against it and supported a military coup. Today, President Sisi is crushing not only the MB but any chance for democracy–jailing secular, liberal, moderate, and democratic forces. Presumably he believes there is a method to this repression: after all, it was not the MB but the more liberal forces who brought down Mubarak. The MB joined that effort quite late. So he is trying to beat down all forms of political activity. Perhaps if he could bring on an economic miracle he could succeed for a while, but there will be no miracle. The world economy is not cooperating, nor will subventions from Gulf oil exporters continue at past rates, given the low price of oil and their own deficits. Moreover, the very people who might help achieve that miracle, in the Egyptian business community, are also mistrusted by the Army, which is interested in protecting its own economic interests rather than in economic growth. So the prognosis is grim.
But it is worth noting what the Egyptian picture has in common with Palestine: the lack of strong democratic political parties. The MB won in good part because it had weak competition, and it had weak competition because Mubarak for three decades made sure centrist or moderate (including moderate Islamist) parties could not be organized. Similarly, Hamas won in 2006 in good part because of the absence of alternatives.
JPost Editorial: Rouhani's visit
Europeans tripping over themselves to sign lucrative deals with Iran is painful to watch. Doing it on International Holocaust Remembrance Day can shake one’s faith in humanity.
In Rome a contingent led by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani signed deals with their Italian counterparts valued at about $18 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The Italians exhibited an embarrassing keenness to please that went beyond self-effacement and approached self-annulment. In preparation for a meeting with Rouhani and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Rome’s Capitoline Museum, famous artworks depicting nudes were hastily covered up so as not to offend the fundamentalist sensibilities of the Islamic Republic’s head of state.
This spineless deference to the tastes of a religious fanatic and the literal blotting out of one’s own cultural tradition was sickening to see. For extra measure the Italians refrained from serving wine at the meal, once again kowtowing to the Muslim zealots.
What were the Italians thinking? Most likely those who did the covering up and whisking away of the wine are party to the vogue belief in progressive circles that there is such a thing as “the right not to be offended” and that one must uphold this “right” even if by doing so one tramples in the process real rights such as freedom of artistic expression.
Hollande-Rouhani lunch scrapped after Elysée Palace 'refused to remove wine from menu'
France, unlike Italy, has reportedly refused to take wine off the table for Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, meaning he will lunch alone during his historic trip to Paris – the first for an Iranian leader in 17 years.
As anger mounted in Rome on Wednesday over a decision to cover up nude statues with large white panels so as not to offend Mr Rouhani, the French have already made it clear that no such cultural concessions would be made regarding its cherished gastronomy.
In Rome, alcohol was not served at an official dinner held in Mr Rouhani’s honour – a standard Italian diplomatic gesture for visiting Muslim dignitaries.
But in Paris, an originally planned lunch at the Elysée Palace with François Hollande was dropped because the French refused to cede to the Iranian presidency's demand for halal meat to be served and for the wine to be left off the table, citing “republican traditions”.
Alcohol consumption is no laughing matter in Iran, whose culture ministry has just banned the word “wine” from books published in the Islamic Republic on the grounds that it amounts to the “cultural invasion” of the West.
The Pope’s Disgraceful Display
The delicate world leader in question was Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who took a four-day trip to Italy and France to seal some business deals in the wake of the lifting of nuclear sanctions.
But being shielded from naked marble wasn’t the funniest, or even most pathetic, part of Rouhani’s trip to the City of Seven Hills. Far worse was his reception at the Vatican, where Pope Francis fawned all over the puppet head of the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei-led regime, directly and indirectly responsible for the slaughter of Christians across the world.
The father of the Catholic Church nevertheless greeted “His Excellency Hassan Rouhani, president of the Islamic Republic of Iran” as though he were a fellow pacifist, ready, willing and able not only to spread a global message of brotherly love, but to carry it out. According to a statement from the Vatican after the meeting, the two held “cordial discussions” in which “common spiritual values emerged.”
The talks concluded with the “important role that Iran is called upon to fulfill, along with other countries in the region, to promote suitable political solutions to the problems afflicting the Middle East, to counter the spread of terrorism and arms trafficking. In this respect, the parties highlighted the importance of interreligious dialogue and the responsibility of religious communities in promoting reconciliation, tolerance and peace.”
It is not clear whether the pope is delusional or an idiot. Either way, his moral authority — already shaky where asserting the evils of radical Islam is concerned — ought to be completely revoked. To view Rouhani as someone with shared values who will act to combat terrorism and arms trafficking is to make a mockery of goodness.
United States: North Korea may have indeed tested H-bomb
The U.S. still does not accept North Korea's claim that it tested a hydrogen bomb, but air sampling conducted after the test has proved inconclusive, the official said. That prompted another look at the seismic data.
That analysis shows the test was conducted more than two times deeper underground than originally assessed -- at a depth consistent with what might be needed for a hydrogen bomb, according to the CNN report.
However, the size of the seismic event and other intelligence indicates it was not likely a fully functioning device. The official said it's possible the North Koreans believe they conducted a full hydrogen bomb test, but the U.S. believes it was likely only some components, perhaps a detonator, that exploded.
Following the January 6 test, the House of Representatives voted nearly unanimously to pass legislation that would broaden sanctions over North Korea's nuclear program.
The measure passed by 418-2, with overwhelming support from Republicans and Democrats.
Iran’s Atomic Energy Chief Says Deal With World Powers Enabled Acceleration of Nuclear Activities
A senior Iranian official said that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed with world powers enabled the Islamic Republic to accelerate some of its nuclear activities, Iran’s semi-official state news agency Mehr reported on Wednesday.
Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said that, among other things, the JCPOA has allowed Iran to grow its reserve of “nuclear material” from 550 to 770 tons.
“Exploration, extraction, enrichment, research reactors, and R and D are the major components of the nuclear program; JCPOA did not completely stymied the program, and we have only been slower in terms of progress,” Mr. Salehi told a meeting of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations. “In other activities even we have accelerated the pace, including in the volume of nuclear material which was 550 ton before, now we have 770 tons of nuclear material; this is a fact known to IAEA. With heavy water, we secured the project along with R and D, extraction and exploration.”
Salehi also stressed that claims of a complete suspension of Tehran’s nuclear activities were baseless. He noted that the JCPOA had left the main components of the program intact, in addition to providing Iran’s nuclear activities official UN Security Council recognition.
JCPA: The Iranian Penetration of Iraqi Kurdistan
Iran has made deep inroads in the Kurdish region that the United States, Israel and allied countries see as a nascent ally, pro-Western and largely democratic.
While some details of the Iran-Kurdistan relationship remain vague, it is clear that Iran has positioned itself as a reliable military backer of Iraqi Kurdish forces, filling a vacuum the West has left as a result of its tepid support.
Iranian motivation is based on its goals of exporting its revolution and challenging the West.
Iranian penetration of Kurdistan allows Tehran to render it less likely that its major adversaries, including Israel and the United States, will gain a secure foothold in a region that has a 400-mile border with Iran.
The expectations of Kurdistan becoming an ally of Israel, America, and Europe may be in danger if the West continues to prioritize Iraqi and Turkish interests over those of the Kurds.
As Kurds continue to be disappointed by Western military and political support, Iran has found numerous opportunities to expand its political, economic, and military influence in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Israel Analyzes Short- and Long-term Repercussions of Iran Sanctions Relief
Away from the vociferous disputes that continue to rage around the Iranian nuclear deal, Israel’s Military Intelligence Directorate and General Staff have been engaged in detached analysis of the short- and long-term effects, and they have come away with three central conclusions.
Details of their assessments, though shared with defense reporters over recent months, were publicly presented for the first time last week by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot during a conference in Tel Aviv, organized by the Institute for National Security Studies.
The most immediate consequence of the nuclear deal will be felt in the realm of expanding Iranian regional influence, and the looming increase in the trafficking of weapons and funds to terror organizations, made possible by sanctions relief.
Iran now sends Hezbollah between $800 million to $1 billion every year, according to Israel Defense Forces (IDF) assessments. There is every reason to expect Hezbollah’s funding to significantly increase in the next two years, as Iran stands to earn many billions of dollars in oil and gas sales, and receive access to $100 billion in previously frozen assets.
Iran sends Hamas tens of millions of dollars per year, instructs it on how to mass produce rockets, and tries to smuggle weapons into Gaza. Iran’s budget for Hamas will grow, too.
Israeli generals said among 1,600 global targets of Iran cyber-attack
Iran launched a cyber-attack targeting Israeli army generals, human rights activists in the Persian Gulf and scientists, an Israeli cyber-security firm said Thursday.
Gil Shwed, CEO of Check Point Software Technologies, said the attack began two months ago and was directed at some 1,600 people worldwide. They received email messages aimed at sending spyware into their computers, Shwed told Israel Radio.
More than a quarter of the recipients opened the emails and thus unknowingly downloaded spyware, allowing the hackers to steal information from their hard drives.
Over the last two years, Israel has been targeted by a number of cyber-attacks. Officials say hackers affiliated with Hezbollah and the Iranian government were behind some of the infiltration attempts.
On Tuesday, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz revealed that Israel’s Electric Authority was being targeted by a “severe cyber-attack,” although he did not say where it was coming from.
Report: Iranian drone spied on US naval warship
An Iranian drone flew over a US aircraft carrier Friday afternoon, taking pictures of the ship as part of a naval exercise, Iran's semi-offiial Fars News Agency reported.
The report said that the incident occurred on the third day of naval excises being conducted off the Persian Gulf, but did not specify the date of the event nor the name of the US carrier.
An additional report from the state-run IRNA news agency said an Iranian light submarine also aided in the surreptitious operation.
However, earlier in the week Iran's navy warned a US warship to leave the sea of Oman where Iran's military was holding a naval drill, the Tasnim news agency said.
U.S. Intel Officials Dispute White House Claim That Iran Was Not Behind Abductions in Iraq
U.S. intelligence officials are disputing the Obama administration’s claim that Iran was not involved in the kidnapping of three American contractors in Iraq earlier this month, Jay Solomon of The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
The three contractors were abducted in Baghdad on January 16, the same day that Iran released American hostages Jason Rezaian, Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati, and two others. While Iraqi authorities say the men were taken by local Shiite militias, which are heavily supported by Iran, Obama administration officials have asserted that there is no indication that the Islamic Republic was behind the kidnappings, and added that Tehran may be able to use its influence with the Shiite militias to obtain the contractors’ freedom. Secretary of State John Kerry said that he spoke with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on the matter, though Zarif claimed that he had no information on the Americans’ whereabouts.
However, some U.S. intelligence officials “take a more skeptical view of Iran’s willingness to play a role in gaining the Americans’ freedom,” according to the Journal. Shiite militias in Iraq have worked closely with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in recent years, and the Defense Department believes that the IRGC and one of the Iraqi militias– known as the League of the Righteous or Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq– suspected of taking the contractors were also behind the kidnapping and killing of five American soldiers in Karbala in 2007.
Iran forcing Afghan refugees to fight in Syria
Iran's Revolutionary Guards has recruited thousands of Afghans, many by coercion, to fight in Syria's war alongside forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Friday.
"Iran has not just offered Afghan refugees and migrants incentives to fight in Syria, but several said they were threatened with deportation back to Afghanistan unless they did," said Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at the New York-based HRW.
"Faced with this bleak choice, some of these Afghan men and boys fled Iran for Europe."
Shi'ite Iran, the leading state sponsor of terror, is a staunch supporter of Assad and provides financial and military support to his regime.
Tehran claims its Fatemiyoun Brigade, comprised of Afghan recruits, are volunteers to defend sacred Shi'ite sites in Syria and Iraq against Sunni extremists like those of the Islamic State (ISIS) group.
The brigade, which is backed by the powerful Revolutionary Guards, is named after the daughter of the Prophet Mohammed whose mausoleum near Damascus is venerated by Shi'ites.
But reports say the Afghans have been offered residency and a monthly salary to fight for Iran.
Report: Russia Actively Supporting A Designated Terrorist Group In Syria
Russian forces were seen actively supporting the designated terrorist group Hezbollah with operations in Syria, according to reports.
Witnesses told Kuwait’s al-Rai news that Russian spetsnaz have been conducting operations in coordination with Hezbollah in the mountain region near the coastal Syrian town of Latakia. Wednesday reports say Russian military personnel have provided close air support, artillery fire and have been seen directing various attacks.
“Special forces from the Russian army equipped with Howitzer artillery, supported by warplanes and backed by elite units from Lebanon’s Hezbollah … have been entering the fiercest of battles in the heights and towns of Latakia,” said a source to al-Rai’s chief international correspondent, Elijah J. Magner.”Through intensive use of howitzer batteries and artillery, the Russian formations are inflicting much greater losses to personnel and infantry than the losses the Russian Air Force is inflicting.”
The source claimed to have direct access to the joint operations room where Russian, Syrian, Iranian, Iraqi and Hezbollah forces are coordinating operations against the Syrian rebels, the Islamic State and Nusra Front.
Syrian Opposition: Kerry Threatened to Cut Aid Unless We Agreed with Iran’s Terms for Talks
Leading Syrian opposition figures have accused Secretary of State John Kerry of threatening to cut aid to forces fighting dictator Bashar al-Assad unless they agreed to attend peace talks on terms dictated by Assad’s backers, Iran and Russia.
Mohamad Alloush, a member of the Syrian opposition’s High Negotiating Committee (HNC), told Reuters Monday that his group had insisted that they would not participate in negotiations until the Assad regime lifted sieges, stopped bombing civilians, and released prisoners. All these conditions were mentioned last month in United Nations Security Council resolutions. But when Kerry met with HNC leaders on Saturday night, Alloush said, he attempted to “pressure us to forgo our humanitarian rights … and to go to negotiate for them.”
“Kerry said it in the context that if they don’t go, it will affect their public image and this may affect the aid they receive from their friends,” Hadi al-Bahra, the former president of the Syrian National Coalition, told Bloomberg News. “It was more speculation than a direct warning, but people understood this as a threat.”
UN mediates return of Israeli ‘spy’ bird from Lebanon
A vulture captured in Lebanon on suspicion of spying for Israel has been returned home with the help of the United Nations, Israeli authorities said Friday.
“In a discreet operation with the Lebanese and with the great help of UN forces and the UN liaison unit, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority was able to return the vulture that was caught a few days ago by villagers of Bint Jbeil, Lebanon,” the authority said in a statement.
The UN acted as a go-between in negotiations between the Lebanese and the Gamla Nature Reserve where the bird lived before it flew across the border, it added.
“The attempts were successful and yesterday evening at a meeting at the border at Rosh Hanikra the vulture was returned in reasonable health by UN officers,” the statement said.
The bird was “said to be weak and with minor injuries” and had been taken for treatment.
The Nature and Parks Authority issued a photograph of the bird being handed over by uniformed members of the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon, or UNIFIL.


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This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 12 years and over 25,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.

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