Friday, January 30, 2015

From Ian:

Caroline Glick: Iran - Unafraid and undeterred
From the Golan Heights to Gaza, from Yemen and Iraq to Latin America to Nantanz and Arak, Iran is boldly advancing its nuclear and imperialist agenda. As Charles Krauthammer noted last Friday, the nations of the Middle East allied with the US are sounding the alarm.
Earlier this week, during Obama’s visit with the new Saudi King Salman, he got an earful from the monarch regarding the need to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. But it seemed to have no impact on his nuclear diplomacy with Teheran. The administration believes that Iran and Saudi Arabia will be able to kiss and make up and bury a thousand- year rivalry between Sunni and Shi’ite Islam because they both oppose the Islamic State. This too is utter fantasy.
Israel’s January 18 strike on Iranian and Hezbollah commanders in Syria showed Israel’s strategy wisdom and independent capacity.
Israel can and will take measures to defend its critical security interests. It has the intelligence gathering capacity to identify and strike at targets in real time.
But it also showed the constraints Israel is forced to operate under in its increasingly complex and dangerous strategic environment.
Due to the US administration’s commitment to turning a blind eye to Iran’s advances and the destabilizing role it plays everywhere it gains power, Israel can do little more than carry out precision attacks against high value targets. The flipside of the administration’s refusal to see the dangers, and so enable Iran’s territorial expansion and its nuclear progress, is its determination to ensure that Israel does nothing to prevent those dangers from growing – whether along its borders or at Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Khaled Abu Toameh: Why Is Hamas Smiling?
In 2007, Abbas lost the Gaza Strip to Hamas. Now, he seems to be losing the Gaza Strip to his rivals in Fatah.
The violent events of the past few weeks are yet another sign of Fatah's failure to get its act together, especially in the aftermath of its defeat to Hamas in the January 2006 parliamentary elections.
Over the past few years, Abbas has repeatedly declared that there will never be a Palestinian state without the Gaza Strip.
However, the internecine strife among the Fatah leadership, as well as the continued power struggle between Abbas and Hamas, mean that the chances of creating a Palestinian state while he is still in power are non-existent. If in the past Abbas was unable to visit the Gaza Strip because of Hamas, now he knows that many of his former Fatah supporters have also turned against him.
Under the current circumstances, there is not much that Abbas could do other than remain in the West Bank, where he feels safer, largely thanks to the presence of the Israel Defense Forces there.
It is time for the international community to wake up and realize that the whole idea of establishing an independent Palestinian state is nothing but a joke. The last thing the Palestinians and the international community want is another Syria or Libya or Yemen in the Middle East.
Instead of working to help each other and rebuild the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians are busy fighting and threatening each other. This is not a fight over reforms, democracy or building a better future for Palestinians. Nor is it a fight between good guys and bad guys. Rather, this is a fight between bad guys and bad guys -- and it is all over money, ego and power.
JPost Editorial: Strength in restraint
This week’s cross-border attack by Hezbollah was its expected response to an alleged Israeli attack earlier this month in the Syrian Golan that killed one of its senior operatives and an Iranian general. The nearly symmetrical assault on IDF troops by the Iranian proxy terrorist organization was a clearly calibrated retaliation designed to uphold Hezbollah’s “honor” but without escalating into a wider confrontation that might once again demonstrate Iran’s commitment to global terrorism.
But while Hezbollah is committed on the ground in Syria, fighting to uphold the regime of Bashar Assad – and reportedly not willing to risk drawing Israel into a confrontation that might endanger the stability of the shaky Lebanese government – it also strives to maintain the credibility of its threat to Israel’s civilian population; namely its stockpile of some 100,000 missiles aimed southward.
It is significant to note that Wednesday’s attack was not perpetrated as a cover operation for the abduction of soldiers, as has happened before; nor was it another assault on a bus of schoolchildren or the rocketing of a border town. Any of these hostile acts might have sparked yet another Lebanon incursion or even war.

Bibi, Iran’s nukes, and military force in a changed Middle East
Jeffrey Goldberg thinks Netanyahu has Israel positioned very poorly indeed.
James Fallows’ conclusion, agreeing with Goldberg on the worldview, is encapsulated in a quote from a war-game director and retired Air Force officer in 2004:
“After all this effort, I am left with two simple sentences for policymakers,” our main war-game designer, retired Air Force colonel Sam Gardiner, said at the end of our 2004 exercise. “You have no military solution for the issues of Iran. And you have to make diplomacy work.” That was true then, and truer now.
I don’t doubt at all the sincere belief Fallows has in this conclusion. But if you unpack the work that led to it 2004, you find that it was based on a fatally flawed premise.
Moreover, the situation of 2004 no longer obtains. That means that the calculations of two major players must now be different. One is Israel; the other is the United States. The calculations I refer to include not merely the consequences of each party’s actions, and whether the parties’ capabilities are sufficient for the necessary task. They also include what the threat has become, and the fact that it is graver now than in 2004.
Don’t make assumptions about what I mean by that. It may not be what you think.
PM: Easier to mend US ties than bad Iran nuclear deal
The remarks came shortly after The New York Times reported that Netanyahu had reached out by phone to leading Democrats in an effort to quell the tensions around his scheduled address on Iran, in which he is likely to campaign against the White House’s stance in the nuclear negotiations.
“We can resolve procedural issues with regard to my appearance in the US, but if Iran arms itself with nuclear weapons, it will be a lot harder to fix,” Netanyahu said.
In a visit to wounded Israeli soldiers hurt in a Hezbollah strike on Wednesday, the prime minister cautioned against a deal between Western powers and Iran on its nuclear deal, and said that Israel was under an “ongoing attack” by the Islamic Republic.
Iran is “opening new fronts against us, using terrorism in the Middle East and in the entire world,” he continued.
Obama Politicized Iran Sanctions; Not Israel’s Ambassador
Up until Obama entered the White House, opposition to Iran and support for sanctions was a matter of bipartisan consensus. Though his rhetoric about stopping Iran has always been good, the president has opposed virtually every sanctions bill that has been proposed, including some that he now brags about having brought Iran to the table. An overwhelming majority of both Houses of Congress comprising members of both parties have supported increased sanctions on Iran for the past two years. The only consistent opponent has been the president. It is he who has sought to make sanctions a partisan issue by leaning on Democrats to oppose the measure out of loyalty to him. He has also stooped to exploit the resentment many Democrats feel toward Speaker Boehner as a reason to back his stand on Iran. Though Dermer may have erred by not consulting with the White House about Boehner’s invitation, the decision to turn this into a major kerfuffle is purely a product of administration politics, not an understandable desire on the part of the Israelis to aid those backing sanctions.
Let’s also note the hypocrisy of many of his critics. The same people crying foul about Dermer and Netanyahu didn’t protest when British Prime Minister David Cameron lobbied members of the Senate on behalf of Obama’s stand on Iran. Some of those veteran American diplomats who are piling on are also guilty of having very short memories. One of the key witnesses against Dermer in the Times article is former State Department official Daniel Kurtzer who said it was unheard of for a diplomat to go behind the back of a country’s government and work with its domestic opponents. But Kurtzer and the rest of the peace processers who worked for a number of administrations over the last 25 years have been guilty of doing just that whenever a Likud prime minister was in power. Both Presidents Clinton and Obama have worked tirelessly to undermine and defeat Netanyahu throughout his three terms in office in ways that Dermer and his boss would never dream of trying to do to Obama.
Say what you will about the mess that Dermer and Netanyahu find themselves in and for which they bear some responsibility. But the prime minister’s scheduled speech has become a diplomatic cause célèbre due to the partisan political games being played by the White House, not the Israelis. It is Obama that is undermining the U.S.-Israel alliance by seeking to appease Iran, not the efforts of Dermer to rally Americans behind a stand that is in the best interests of both countries.
Iran vote delayed to avoid influencing Israel's election, senator says
The Republican author of new sanctions legislation on Iran is criticizing his Democratic colleagues for delaying a full floor vote on his bill.
Senator Mark Kirk (R-Illinois), co-author of the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015 alongside Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), praised the Senate Banking Committee for adopting the bill by a vote of 18 to 4 on Thursday with "overwhelming bipartisan support."
But in a phone call after the vote with The Jerusalem Post, Kirk also questioned why his Democratic colleagues seek to delay moving forward with a bill which, he says, adds pressure on Iran at a key moment in negotiations over its nuclear program, without violating any terms of the talks.
The delay is "a failed attempt to try and not influence the Israeli election," Kirk asserted. Ten Democratic senators told the president they would withhold full support for the bill until March 24, granting the president's team two months to negotiate; Israelis go to the polls on March 17.
"My preference is to take the time necessary with my Democratic partners, and to insist that a permanent delay is not viable," he said, adding: "Democratic plans to delay this indefinitely are woefully out of date."
Top Senate Democrat: Netanyahu speech causing backlash on new Iran sanctions
According to the New York Times, the senior Democrat in the Senate had a "candid" talk with Netanyahu, in which he said he thought US Speaker of the House John Boehner was wrong to invite the premier to Washington without the Obama administration's approval.
While Reid refrained from advising Netanyahu "not to come" to Washington – "I wouldn’t do that" – he did explain the planned speech was having an effect on Congress, namely, with Democratic lawmakers pulling support for new sanctions to curb the Islamic Republic’s nuclear weapons program.
"It’s hurting you," the Democratic leader said he told Netanyahu. "I said," he told the Times, "'You [Netanyahu] have to understand this. I’m not telling you what to do or what not to do, but you have to understand the background here from my perspective.'"
Reid went on to say he felt Boehner had stepped out of the bounds of protocol by extending the speaking invitation, echoing a view held by the administration. Relaying this to Netanyahu, he said Boehner's move "was not the right thing to do."
Nancy Pelosi: Bibi Coming To Congress Might Upset Iran
The House of Representatives’ senior ranking Democrat, Nancy Pelosi, said on Wednesday she was concerned that if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the U.S. Congress in March, it may result in negative ramifications for the ongoing nuclear talks with Iran.
The fact that Israel is America’s only ideological ally in the Middle East and that Iran is sworn to the United States’ destruction did not make an appearance in the remarks of the House Minority Leader. “Such a presentation could send the wrong message in terms of giving diplomacy a chance,” Pelosi told reporters outside of a conference of fellow Democratic Party representatives.
Netanyahu will already be in the United States for AIPAC’s annual Washington, D.C. Pro-Israel conference in March. The Israeli PM is set to speak to the entire Congress on March 3.
Pelosi added that it was “not appropriate” that Netanyahu will come to speak only “two weeks before an election.” She did not comment on the fact that high-ranking former Obama administration campaign operatives are currently on the ground in Israel attempting to sabotage Netanyahu’s chances at reelection.
Sen. Cruz Asks if Obama Behind V-15 ‘Political Campaign against Netanyahu’
Sen. Cruz asked:
"This administration’s relentless harassment of Israel is utterly incomprehensible. The Islamic Republic of Iran is pursuing the deadliest weapons on the planet, and there can be no doubt that their first target will be Israel, followed by the United States. This administration should be focusing its animosity on the very real enemies we face, not on our staunch allies."
Zeldin added, “It is completely unacceptable to use U.S. tax dollars to influence the elections in Israel. State Department grants should never be given to entities working to overthrow strong allies like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. We have great allies around the world, but Israel is our strongest, and a beacon of freedom in a region filled with radical Islamic extremists and state sponsored terrorism. Today, I join with Sen. Ted Cruz in calling for a U.S. Department of State investigation into this important matter.”
Sen. Cruz and Rep. Zeldin request asked Kerry to answer eight questions:
State Dept. Says Taxpayers’ Money not Used in V-15 Campaign
The U.S. State Dept. said Thursday the American government used to fund the left-wing OneVoice group that is campaigning against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu but that no grants were given after last November.
Spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters, “The U.S. Government grant to OneVoice Israel was for $233,500. The duration of this grant, as I mentioned yesterday but just to reconfirm, was from September 23rd, 2013 through November 30th, 2014.
” No payment was made to OneVoice after November 2014.”
The grant was for a project “to support a two-state solution,” she said.
NGO: Israel to build 450 new units in West Bank
The Israeli government on Friday published tenders to build 450 settler homes in the West Bank, the head of an NGO that monitors settlement activity told AFP, in what a senior PLO official called a “war crime.” The Housing Ministry denied the tenders were new.
“It’s the opening of the settlement floodgates,” said Daniel Seidemann, head of the Terrestrial Jerusalem group, adding that the announcements were the first since October 2014 and unlikely to be the last before the March 17 general election.
He said that the new homes were to be built in four existing settlements across the West Bank — with 114 in Adam, 156 in Elkana, 78 in Alfei Menashe and 102 in Kiryat Arba.
The Housing Ministry told Israel Radio that the tenders in question had been issued in the past, and were renewed automatically since construction did not take place after its initial approval.
A senior Palestinian official said the measure constituted a “war crime.”
Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Urge State Dept. to Halt PA Aid Due to ICC Bid
A bipartisan group of members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee wrote a letter Tuesday to Secretary of State John Kerry urging the State Department to revoke economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in response to the PA’s decision to join the International Criminal Court (ICC). The PA signed the ICC’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute, on December 31st of last year.
The members of Congress who wrote the letter, including Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), stated that “The United States should not support direct economic assistance to the PA until it demonstrates a meaningful reversal of this destructive course and proves it can be a willing partner for peace.” The State Department called the PA’s actions with regards to the ICC “entirely counterproductive” and said they would “undermine trust and create doubts about their commitment to a negotiated peace.” Following the signing of the Rome Statute, the Palestinians asked the ICC to investigate Israel for alleged war crimes perpetrated during Operation Protective Edge last summer. The ICC has decided to open a preliminary probe to determine if war crimes were committed.
Joining the ICC puts the PA in violation of U.S. legislation that states that no State Department economic aid can be transferred to the PA if “the Palestinians initiate an International Criminal Court judicially authorized investigation, or actively support such an investigation, that subjects Israeli nationals to an investigation for alleged crimes against Palestinians.”
Senators pledge not to support Palestinian aid until US reviews ICC bid
Three in four US senators pledged not to support assistance to the Palestinian Authority until the Obama administration reviews the admittance of Palestine to the International Criminal Court.
“Current law prohibits economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority if the Palestinians initiate an ICC investigation of Israeli nationals or ‘actively support such an investigation,’” said the letter sent Thursday by 75 senators to Secretary of State John Kerry.
“Although we believe it is in the interest of the United States for urgent humanitarian assistance to continue to be provided to the Palestinian people, we will not support assistance to the Palestinian Authority while you undertake a review of this matter,” it said.
It is not clear that the Palestinian Authority violated US law with its actions. The ICC prosecutor, not the Palestinians, initiated the preliminary examination of whether crimes were committed during last summer’s Gaza war, and a formal investigation has yet to be launched. Typically it takes years for examinations to become investigations.
However, some legal experts argue that by granting the ICC jurisdiction in its territory, the Palestinian Authority may be legally understood to have “initiated” an investigation.
The exemption in the letter for humanitarian assistance “to the Palestinian people” means much of the $500 million in annual US aid will likely continue, although a cutoff could affect security assistance for the Palestinians.
Outsourcing Israel’s Security to Peacekeepers
Given this abysmal record it is hard to believe that there are still those who would readily outsource Israel’s security to still more international peace keeping forces. Following this summer’s war in Gaza there had been talk of creating an EU force to police the Philadelphi corridor through which the majority of weapons are smuggled into Gaza from the Sinai. Still more alarming had been the proposal made during Kerry’s last round of peace talks that advocated for the IDF in the Jordan Valley being replaced with a foreign fighting force that would supposedly prevent a Palestinian state in the West Bank from becoming yet another terror hub.
From May 1967, when the UN willingly withdrew its peacekeepers from the Sinai so that General Nasser could remilitarize the territory in preparation for a war of annihilation against the young Jewish state, Israelis have always known that they need to be able to defend themselves by themselves. Quite apart from the fact that the UN appears to have a total disregard for the safety of Israelis–as seen with both UNIFIL and UNRWA–it will always be the case that international forces acting on behalf of international organizations, as opposed to national self-interest, will be woefully ineffective. A catalog of recent genocides are a sorry testament to the way UN forces are much better at observing and monitoring atrocities than they are at preventing them.
On the whole, most countries are simply not inclined to put their own troops at risk for the sake of other people’s peace and security. Israel knows this and should resist any pressure to outsource its security to coldly disinterested international forces in the future.
‘IDF was warned of border strike ahead of Wednesday attack’
According to an unsourced report by Channel 10, one of the possible scenarios the Israel Defense Forces was warned about was a cross-border missile attack from Lebanon. In spite of the warnings, the report said, an army convoy carrying Givati Brigade commanders visiting the area along the border was not canceled.
Two soldiers were killed in the attack — company commander Captain Yochai Kalengel, 25, from Har Gilo; and Sgt. Dor Nini, 20, from Shtulim — and seven were injured.
Fearing an attack, the IDF relocated a military checkpoint outside the village of Ghajar by a few hundred meters, to what was meant to be a more secure spot, the TV report said. But the new location was also visible from Lebanon, leaving military vehicles that gathered at the checkpoint vulnerable to Wednesday’s attack.
PLO Ambassador expresses joy over Hezbollah bombing
Following Hezbollah’s bombing in Northern Israel two days ago, which killed two Israeli soldiers, PLO Ambassador to India and regular columnist for the official PA daily Al-Hayyat Al-Jadida Adli Sadeq described the Palestinian “joy” over Hezbollah’s “operation.” He explained that Palestinians were hoping Hezbollah would kidnap Israeli soldiers that could be used as bargaining chip to demand the release of “all” Palestinian prisoners:
“The Palestinians followed the developments of yesterday's event together, full of hope that the resistance fighters (i.e. Hezbollah) would capture Israeli soldiers and hold them in order to exchange them [for Palestinian prisoners], thereby breaking Israel’s inflexibility regarding the prisoners’ issue and forcing it to free them all.” [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Jan. 29, 2015]
Attack on IDF Vehicle Might Have Been Field Test for New Iranian Missile
Iranian troops are testing a missile designed in 2012 that could potentially hamper Israeli efforts to fight Hezbollah in the future, Armin Rosen of Business Insider reported Wednesday.
"The Dehlaviyeh’s actual capabilities haven’t been proven on the battlefield yet. Iran has a history of over-hyping its weapons advances, most notoriously with the stealth fighter mock-up that Iran attempted to debut as a finished plane in February of 2013.
But Iranian troops test-fired the Dehlaviyeh during maneuvers inside Iran in recent weeks. Regime media released photos of the missile being fired during exercises in southern Iran which took during the first half of December."

Rosen notes that while it is uncertain that the Dehlaviyeh functions as well as Iran has boasted, if it turns out that it was the weapon fired at the IDF yesterday, “it means that Hezbollah can supplement its most effective battlefield tactic with an even more advanced anti-tank system.” That would mean that Hezbollah could “end up dictating Israel’s options in how it will respond” to future attacks.
UN Security Council Refuses to Condemn Hezbollah
An emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday night condemned the death earlier that day of a Spanish peacekeeper in the Golan Heights, but failed to address the Iran-backed terrorist group Hezbollah’s rocket attack on an IDF convoy, killing two Israeli soldiers and wounding seven more.
Yesterday’s cross-border attack came in the wake of escalating threats towards Israel from Iranian military officers. Hezbollah’s attack drew condemnations from Lebanese politicians as well as the wider Arab world. In a conference call hosted Wednesday by The Israel Project (which publishes The Tower), Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said that the attack could be seen as part of an “Iranian effort to expand into the Golan Heights.”
How the BBC framed the story of Hizballah’s latest attack
Framing, of course, is also facilitated by omission and in these two articles the BBC makes no effort to inform audiences of the fact that Hizballah is an internationally proscribed terror organization. Instead, the articles use terms such as “Hezbollah militants”, “fighters” and “Lebanese militant group”. Both articles include a side-bar link to the BBC’s profile of Hizballah which, as readers may recall, was given a sympathetic make-over in December 2013.
Another crucial factor affecting the framing of this story is the omission of any information concerning the various UN resolutions calling for the disarming of Hizballah, with the most recent of those being Resolution 1701. BBC audiences cannot form a proper understanding of this story if they are not informed of the fact that the party which carried out the attack, according to a unanimous UNSC decision, should not be armed and should not be operating south of the Litani River. Unfortunately, this is far from the first time that the BBC has failed to inform – and even misled – its funding public on that issue.
After Jerusalem Trains, Concrete Blocks On Tel Aviv Buses (satire)
Mayor Ron Huldai hailed the initiative as a breakthrough in providing security. The program, called Bus-Loaded Objects to Counter Killing and Harm, to Emulate Armored Devices (BLOCKHEAD), will, in a symbolic gesture, first place the barriers on buses of the number 40 line, which was the target of a stabbing attack last week. “Tel Aviv may be a forward-thinking city but we admire the way Jerusalem has handled the evolving threat of terrorist acts, and happily adopt the methods that have proved successful in addressing them,” said Huldai.
Indeed, after a spate of terrorist attacks at rail stations by Palestinians driving cars into Israeli pedestrians, the capital city placed dozens of large concrete blocks to impede vehicular access to the light rail stations, and those attempts ceased. Huldai and police commanders in Tel Aviv agreed to implement a similar preventive initiative locally. The BLOCKHEAD program was made possible by an allocation of new revenue from extortionate parking fines and enforcement policies. The feasibility of the program has also increased as fuel prices continue to drop, reducing the impact of increased fuel consumption that heavy concrete blocks on buses would otherwise exert.
“Once BLOCKHEAD is fully implemented, passengers on our buses will never have to worry about being trampled by a terrorist’s vehicle,” declared Huldai. “And as an added safety bonus, the weight of the concrete blocks will prevent buses from going more than thirty kilometers per hour, thereby reducing the risk of injuries and fatalities as a result of accidents,” though the mayor conceded that the latter benefit was largely academic, as traffic in the greater Tel Aviv area generally precludes any vehicle travelling in excess of 20.
IDF nabs 2 armed Palestinians on Gaza border
Israeli troops arrested two armed men who allegedly attempted to cross the border from the Gaza Strip to carry out a terrorist attack.
The suspects arrested Thursday night were on their way to carry out an attack on civilians or soldier in a town near the border, security officials told Army Radio, adding they may also have planned to take hostages.
They carried three hand grenades, a knife and a screwdriver.
Abbas Invited to Sweden After 'Palestine' Recognition
Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will visit Stockholm next month after Sweden became the first major state of the European Union to recognize the PA as "Palestine," the Swedish government announced Friday.
"The visit of president Abbas, by invitation from the prime minister, is confirmed for February 10," foreign ministry spokeswoman Ulla Jacobson told AFP. "He will also meet the foreign minister, the king and the archbishop."
She said the agenda would include the Arab-Israeli peace process and "what Sweden can offer after (its) recognition" of "Palestine" in October.
Islamic State's Egypt wing claims credit for terror attacks that killed 27
Islamic State's Egypt wing claimed responsibility for a series of attacks that killed at least 27 on Thursday in some of the worst anti-state violence in months, after commemorations around the anniversary of the 2011 uprising turned deadly this week.
Egypt's government faces an Islamist insurgency based in Sinai and growing discontent with what critics perceive as heavy handed security tactics.
A series of tweets from the Sinai Province's Twitter account claimed responsibility for each of the four attacks that took place in North Sinai and Suez provinces within hours of one another on Thursday night.
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, Egypt's most active militant group, changed its name to Sinai Province last year after swearing allegiance to Islamic State, the hardline Sunni militant group that has seized swathes of Iraq and Syria, drawing US-led airstrikes.
Calls to Kill President Al-Sisi and Egyptian Journalists on Muslim Brotherhood TV Channels

Sons of Egypt’s Mubarak freed from jail, officials say
The two sons of ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak were released from prison Monday, nearly four years after they were first arrested along with their father, authorities said.
Security officials said the two, wealthy businessman Alaa and Mubarak’s one-time heir apparent Gamal, walked free from Torah Prison in a southern Cairo suburb shortly after daybreak and headed to their respective homes in the capital’s upscale Heliopolis suburb.
The two, along with their father, still face a retrial on corruption charges. Separately, the two sons also face trial on insider trading charges. They had been acquitted of other charges.
Mubarak, now 86, stepped down in February 2011 in the face of a popular uprising. He and his two sons were arrested in April that year. Mubarak remains held at a military hospital in a southern suburb of Cairo.
Egypt Revokes Death Sentences for 500 Islamic Extremists
Four years ago, many of us were glued to the TV and social media streams following the dawn of “Arab Spring”.
One of the most dramatic moments of that era was the start of massive pro-democracy demonstrations in Egypt’s Tahrir Square. After ousting the reviled Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptians used their vote to elect a Muslim Brotherhood “community organizer”; and the ensuing meltdown led to his ouster and the nation declaring the group illegal.
In April 2014, I noted the country had sentenced over 600 alleged supporters of the country’s ousted Islamist president to death, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader — the aptly named Mohammed Badie.
Those sentences have now been revoked.
After captive swap deadline passes, Japan, Jordan cooperating on fate of Japanese journalist
The hostage crisis comes as Islamic State, which has already released videos showing the beheadings of five Western hostages, is coming under increased military pressure from US-led air strikes and by Kurdish and Iraqi troops pushing to reverse the Islamist group's territorial gains in Iraq and Syria.
About an hour before the new deadline was due to pass, government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani said Jordan was still holding Rishawi.
"We want proof...that the pilot is alive so that we can proceed with what we said yesterday – exchanging the prisoner with our pilot," Momani told Reuters.
The pilot, Muath al-Kasaesbeh, was captured after his jet crashed in northeastern Syria in December during a bombing mission against Islamic State.
Momani said separately that Jordan was coordinating with Japanese authorities in an effort to secure the release of Goto, a veteran war reporter.
Goto's wife urged both governments to work for her husband's release, saying in a statement to Reuters and other media that she feared this was his last chance.
Obama Cuts Off Syrian Rebels’ Cash
In the past several months, many of the Syrian rebel groups previously favored by the CIA have had their money and supplies cut off or substantially reduced, even as President Obama touted the strategic importance of American support for the rebels in his State of the Union address.
The once-favored fighters are operating under a pall of confusion. In some cases, they were not even informed that money would stop flowing. In others, aid was reduced due to poor battlefield performance, compounding already miserable morale on the ground.
From afar, the U.S.-approved and partially American-armed Syrian “opposition” seems to be a single large, if rather amorphous, organization. But in fact it’s a collection of “brigades” of varying sizes and potentially shifting loyalties that have grown up around local leaders, or, if you will, local warlords. And while Washington talks about the Syrian “opposition” in general terms, the critical question for the fighters in the field and those supporting them is, “opposition to whom?” To Syrian President Assad? To the so-called Islamic State, widely known as ISIS or ISIL? To the al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al Nusra?
Man Who Escaped ISIS: They Want to Plan an Attack ‘More Brutal’ than 9/11
Ahmad Rashidi was captured by the Islamic State when he went to Syria from London to retrieve the two daughters of a family friend; the teenage girls had fled England to marry Islamic State fighters. When Rashidi found one of the girls, her husband accused him of being a spy and he was taken prisoner and tortured. He later won the favor of his capturers by telling them he was a doctor; Rashidi is, in fact, a first-year medical student.
While embedded with the Islamic State for a month, Rashidi gained access to their computers and communications. He told NBC News’s Richard Engel that the group communicates with its contacts “every day” and is not worried about the West’s response to its attacks. In fact, the Islamic State was “happy” about the American military’s response of air strikes because it proved to the group’s leaders that they were considered as important a threat as al-Qaeda.
“They want to be more . . . better than al-Qaeda,” he told Engel. “This is why they need to do something more brutal than the World Trade Center.”
Man Publicly Executed Four Weeks After His Arrest
Two men were executed in Iran today. One of them was hanged publicly in central Iran four weeks after he was arrested.
Iran Human Rights, January 28, 2015: Two prisoners were hanged in two different Iranian cities today, reported the Iranian state media.
The official Iranian news agency IRNA reported that a man was hanged in public early this morning in the town of Golpayegan (Central Iran). Several thousand people were gathered at the scene of the public executions. The man who was identified as Mansour Mirlouhi (43) was charged with Moharebeh (Waging war against God) and “Corruption on earth” for participation in several episodes of armed robbery and two armed clashes in Khomein and Golpayegan resulting in death of three security forces and two civilians, said the report.
According to the report Mirlouhi was arrested on 1. January 2015 and sentenced to death on January 24 by section one of Isfahan Revolution Court. His death sentence was approved by the Supreme Court two days later on January 26 and he was hanged publicly two days after that, on January 28.
Iran, where NGOs go to die, elected Vice-Chair of UN Committee on NGOs
On January 26, 2014 the UN Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, in charge of granting NGOs UN-accreditation, elected Iran as its vice-chair. UN accreditation or "consultative status" provides NGOs with real benefits, such as attending international conferences and events, making written and oral statements, organizing side events, entering UN premises, and having opportunities to network and lobby.
However, the very UN NGO body that accredits NGOs now includes numerous countries infamous for NGO harassment and intimidation such as China, Cuba, Iran, Mauritania, Russia, Pakistan, Sudan and Venezuela. In the past, the worst abusers like China and Sudan have frequently managed to derail many applications of western NGOs.
Turkish Foreign Ministry mistakenly publishes ‘Armenian Genocide Monument’ picture
The Turkish Foreign Ministry has “mistakenly” published a picture of an “Armenian Genocide Monument” on an official day planner, prepared to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Çanakkale in World War I.
A picture of the monument in Yerevan is included on the April page of the planner.
A Foreign Ministry official told the Hürriyet Daily News that the picture had been “accidentally included with other photographs.”
An investigation has been launched into the mistake and the individual responsible will be punished, the official said, adding that most of the day planners have yet to be distributed.
Wife of Flogged Saudi Blogger Says His Health is Worsening
The wife of a Saudi rights activist, sentenced last year to 1,000 lashes for criticizing the Kingdom’s clerics in his blog, said on Thursday her husband’s health had worsened after the first round of flogging and that he could not survive the full punishment.
Raif Badawi, 31, a blogger and founder of the “Free Saudi Liberals” website, received 50 lashes on Jan 9. The second of 20 rounds in total has twice been postponed on medical grounds.
“Raif’s health condition is bad and it’s getting worse and worse,” said Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, who lives with her three children in Canada after being offered refuge.
“I am very concerned about him. It is impossible for a human being to withstand 50 lashes every week,” she told a news conference in Ottawa, adding that Badawi was suffering from high blood pressure.
No women allowed: Saudi Arabia wants MEN-ONLY Olympics with ultra-conservative plan for segregated games
Ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia wants to see men and women compete in separate Olympics with a controversial proposal to joint-host segregated games.
An official from the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee floated the idea of male athletes competing in his country while a female games would be held in neighbouring Bahrain.
Prince Fahad bin Jalawi Al Saud, an international relations consultant to the president of the Saudi committee, told French sports website Frances Jeux that he could see the country bidding for the Olympics with another Gulf state.
Acknowledging certain 'cultural constraints' made it difficult to imagine having women compete in his home country, Fahad said: 'Our society can be very conservative.
'It has a hard time accepting that women can compete in sports, especially in swimming.
'Wearing sports clothing in public is not really allowed. For these cultural reasons, it is difficult to bid for certain big international events.'


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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 14 years and 30,000 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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