U.S. Bombs ISIS Camps in Libya, 80 Killed - Barbara Starr (CNN)
U.S. B-2 bombers struck and destroyed two ISIS camps in Libya
overnight, with initial estimates that over 80 militants were killed,
U.S. officials said Thursday.
The strikes were on external actors who were actively "plotting attacks in Europe," Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said.
The Defense Department showed a video of surveillance footage of
the ISIS fighters as they loaded shells and rocket-propelled grenades
into pick-up trucks.
"The fighters training in these camps posed a security risk to
Libya, to its neighbors, to our allies in Africa and Europe, and to the
United States," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said.
The strike was carried out by two Air Force B-2 bombers flying
from Missouri, a 30-plus hour roundtrip mission, with over 100 bombs
and missiles dropped on the targets. In addition, unmanned aircraft also
took part in the strikes.
Russia, Turkey Join in Airstrikes on ISIS in Northern Syria (AP-Military Times)
Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian military's General Staff said
nine Russian and eight Turkish jets have conducted joint airstrikes
against the Islamic State in support of the Turkish offensive on al-Bab
in the province of Aleppo.
The two nations had backed opposing sides in the Syrian conflict.
Jewish and Israeli Groups Deliver Emergency Aid to Refugees in Greece - Renee Ghert-Zand (Times of Israel)
Representatives of Amaliah, a New York-based organization which
provides aid to Syrians, and iAID, a new humanitarian initiative by
former IsraAID founding director Shachar Zahavi, arrived on the island
of Lesbos, Greece, on Thursday to distribute 1.5 tons of relief supplies
collected in Israel to Syrian refugees suffering in unexpected snow and
Iran's Ahwazi Arab People Deserve Self-Determination (MEMRI)
On Dec. 3, 2016, an international conference on Ahwaz in Tunisia by
the Euro Arab Center for Studies called on the UN and human rights
organizations to oversee human rights there and in other Iranian
regions populated by non-Persian minorities.
'Abd Al-Mohsen Hilal, writing in the Saudi daily 'Okaz, called the Ahwaz issue older than the Palestinian issue.
Ahwaz is home to 12 million Arabs, and most of Iran's oil and natural gas comes from the region.
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- Iran's Revolutionary Guards Reaps Economic Rewards in Syria - Bozorgmehr Sharafedin and Ellen Francis
Iran's government and entities close to the Revolutionary Guards have
signed major economic contracts with Syria, reaping lucrative rewards
for helping President Assad regain control of parts of his country from
During a visit by Syrian Prime Minister Emad Khamis to Tehran on
Tuesday, a license for Iran to become a mobile phone service operator
in Syria and phosphate mining contracts were approved. An opposition
group condemned the deals as the "looting" of the Syrian people by
"Iranian extremist militias." (Reuters)
- Islamic State Steps Up Oil and Gas Sales to Assad Regime - Benoit Faucon and Ahmed Al Omran
Islamic State has ramped up sales of oil and gas to the Syrian Assad
regime, U.S. and European officials said. The regime's purchases are
helping sustain Islamic State, despite its insistence that it is
dedicated to eradicating IS. Oil and gas sales to Assad's regime are now
Islamic State's largest source of funds, the officials said. Islamic
State's "revenue and energy generation is being supported by the Syrian
regime," said Amos Hochstein, a U.S. State Department official. (Wall Street Journal)
- Iran Repopulates Syria with Shia Muslims to Help Tighten Regime's Control - Martin Chulov
People are starting to return to the valleys between Damascus and
Lebanon, where whole communities had abandoned their lives to war.
But the people settling in are not the same as those who fled during the
past six years. Unlike the predominantly Sunni Muslim families who
once lived there, the new arrivals are Shia Muslims, not just from
elsewhere in Syria, but also from Lebanon and Iraq.
The population swaps are central to a plan to make demographic
changes to parts of Syria, realigning the country into zones of
influence that backers of Bashar al-Assad, led by Iran, can directly
Iran's project will fundamentally alter the social landscape of Syria,
as well as reinforce Hizbullah in Lebanon, and consolidate its
influence from Tehran to Israel's northern border. "Iran and the
[Syrian] regime don't want any Sunnis between Damascus and Homs and the
Lebanese border," said one senior Lebanese leader. "This represents a
historic shift in populations." (Guardian-UK)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Time to Reset Israel-U.S. Ties - Herb Keinon
The angst in Israel about what President Obama would do in his final
weeks in office is now yesterday's concern. The diplomatic process the
French tried to ignite in Paris will go nowhere without U.S. support,
and that support will not be forthcoming under Trump.
In recent weeks Secretary of State John Kerry kept repeating his
arguments about the settlements killing the peace process. He dedicated
not a word to the impact that Palestinian terrorism, incitement and
political division and dysfunction have had on that same process.
At his final press conference on Wednesday, Obama indicated that the
U.S. abstention at the UN was a shot across Israel's bow. It is
doubtful the new president or his national security team will be taking
public shots across Israel's bow. Not because there won't be differences
between the countries, there will be. Israel and the U.S. are
different countries, with different interests. Although these interests
thankfully overlap most of the time, sometimes they don't.
But will those differences be put out there for all the world to
see and for Israel's enemies to gain comfort from, or will they be dealt
with more discreetly. Obama magnified the differences. In Trump's inner
circle there will be people who will advocate for the policies
championed by the current government of Israel to a degree that was
sorely lacking in the Obama administration, at least since Dennis Ross
left the White House as a key Middle East adviser in 2011. (Jerusalem Post)
See also below Observations - The Trump Administration: A Turning Point in Middle East Policy? - Dore Gold (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Israel Opens NATO Office in Brussels - Itamar Eichner
IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan was in Brussels for the
official opening of the Israeli office at NATO headquarters. In light
of the Israel-Turkey reconciliation agreement, and at the behest of the
Americans, the Turks rescinded their opposition to Israeli
participation in NATO.
Several Arab military heads were also at the NATO meeting in Brussels, and also met with Golan on the sidelines. (Ynet News)
- The Facts about the Bedouin in Hiran - Ben-Dror Yemini
The members of the al-Qiyan Bedouin tribe were transferred to the Yatir
Forest area in the 1950s. Most tribe members later moved to the village
of Hura. A small minority left the Yatir area and spread to the Hiran
At the center of the violence on Wednesday was a
minority who felt they had massive backing from radical activists
backed by NGOs and Islamic Movement activists, helped with a lot of
A Supreme Court ruling determined that "most of the tribe members
moved to Hura - a Bedouin community, which is regulated and connected to
infrastructures - and the remaining ones are required to evacuate their
homes, and are being offered to move to Hura." (Ynet News)
- Antiquities Robbers Caught Red-Handed in Galilee - Itay Blumental
Officers of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) caught a ring of
antiquities robbers red-handed while they were illegally digging at the
biblical city of Mishkana in the Lower Galilee. IAA investigator Nir
Mishkana "was a Jewish village during the Roman period, and is written
about in the Jerusalem Talmud...located half way between Tzipori and
Tiberius." The 11 antiquities robbers are all from the Israeli-Arab
towns of Turan, Kafr Manda, and Bir al-Maksur.
- Abbas: Wake Up, The Middle East Is Being Reshaped - Francesco Sisci
Shipping goods from China, India, or even Thailand by train to Europe
through the Middle East is faster, cheaper, and more efficient than
doing it by boat.
This, however, needs political certainty. Israel, the industrial and
technological powerhouse of the region, and the soundest democracy, is
the politically most stable place and needs to be integrated to bring
welfare to all.
A major obstacle to this integration is the failure of Palestinians
to recognize Israel's existence. Palestinians know Israel exists, but
they do not want to admit it in order not to give up the possibility
that Israel might be beaten and erased from the map. This might have
been a possibility decades ago, but the shrinking political leverage
coming from oil extraction, and the growing political and industrial
force of Israel, makes the old Palestinian position insignificant.
Everybody, including Palestinians, is lining up to deal with Israel.
What was a bargaining chip for the Palestinians 50 years ago has
now become a huge drag on their movement and a blinder thwarting their
political vision. The Palestinians should work for a time when they can
bank on decades of close contact with Israel to help Israeli integration
in the region. This integration is already happening with or without
Palestinians can choose to join in this effort or be completely bypassed.
The sooner they do it, the more political bargaining power they will get. The later they do so, the less they will get. The writer is an Italian sinologist, author and columnist who lives and works in Beijing.
(Asia Times-Hong Kong)
- The Palestinians Have Partitioned Themselves - Prof. Hillel Frisch
The Palestinian Authority (PA), established in 1994, came to rule over
all of Gaza in 2005 after the complete Israeli withdrawal and
destruction of Israeli settlements. The PA also had exclusive control
over the major cities in the West Bank and their environs, comprising
95% of the Arab population.
However, in 2007, after several rounds of fighting, the Palestinians
partitioned themselves when Hamas established its own exclusive
government in Gaza.
Almost unnoticed, the two-state solution had given way to a three-state
For Abbas' PA, the current status quo is essential for its security.
The Hamas network of sympathizers, activists, and terrorists in the PA
is so substantial that the PA is able to contain it only with
significant help from the IDF.
The international community argues that Israeli settlements would turn a
future Palestinian state into a discontinuous state geographically,
forgetting that it was the Palestinians themselves who initiated the
process of discontinuity, and they are likely to make it worse as the
fight over Abbas' successor intensifies.
The Zionist movement, and later the State of Israel, have been
waiting a hundred years for the Palestinians to be both sufficiently
flexible to live side by side with the Jewish state and sufficiently
unified to remain intact as a state. The writer, a senior research associate at the BESA Center, is a professor of Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University.
(Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
- The Gaza Expert - Yaakov Katz
During nearly 10 years in Gaza, Col. David Hacham developed close ties
with a range of Palestinian leaders. There are few people in Israel who
know the Palestinians like he does. For most of the last 15 years,
Hacham has served as a senior adviser to consecutive Israeli defense
I asked him, is there any chance that Hamas will one day change
and be willing to accept Israel? Hacham said on a tactical level, Hamas
would be willing to reach short-term cease-fires with Israel, but
nothing more. "On an ideological level, Hamas will never change and will
never be a partner for a peace process," he said. "The chance to
advance something with the Palestinians today is slim to nil. Under the
current reality, there is no room for optimism." (Jerusalem Post)
- Palestinians Want the Jews Gone from All of Israel - Robert Fulford
The editors of the student newspaper at McGill University have announced: "The McGill Daily
maintains an editorial line of not publishing pieces which promote a
Zionist world view, or any other ideology which we consider to be
oppressive." In other words, McGill student journalists can comment on
Israeli affairs only if what they write is negative.
Israel is the closest thing to a Western-style democracy in the
Middle East. It has flaws, like all countries, but its freedoms (speech,
trade, elections, independent judges) make it unique in the region.
The settlements are on land captured by Israel in the Six-Day War of
1967. Yet in 1964, when the Palestine Liberation Organization was
founded, its aim was to eliminate Israel through armed struggle - before
the settlements existed. The truth is that Palestinians want the Jews
gone from the whole place. (National Post-Canada)
- Changing the U.S. Approach to Iran - Emily Landau and Shimon Stein
The impulse to scrap the Iran nuclear deal is understandable, but at
this point renouncing the deal would be a lose-lose proposition. Iran
has already pocketed over $100 billion in sanctions relief, the
decision would cause friction with the other P5+1 states, and Iran would
presumably be free to resume its program with no restrictions.
Demanding renegotiation of the deal is also perilous. Renegotiation
would take years, and what leverage would the international powers have
to work with to pressure Iran, after having lifted the sanctions?
However, much can be achieved simply by changing the U.S. approach
to the deal and to Iran, and by altering the rhetoric. The Trump
administration should press to end the secrecy surrounding many of
Iran's nuclear activities and plans, reminding all that as a known and
proven NPT violator, Iran lost its confidentiality privileges.
Given the absence of any convergence of interests between the U.S.
and Iran, the administration should set the ground rules for
interactions with Iran, and preconditions for any future relations.
Discussion in Europe today of steps to normalize relations with Iran is
premature and misguided; it projects weakness vis-a-vis Iran's
aggression and provocations, and lack of political will to confront Iran
Since the Iran deal was announced, Iran has displayed emboldened
behavior: stepping up its missile program, including testing of
precision-guided missiles that can carry a nuclear payload, and possible
cooperation with North Korea on ICBM capabilities; increasing its
military role in fighting in Syria and committing barbaric crimes
against the Syrian population; repeated provocations against the U.S.
Navy in the Gulf; continued holding of Iranian American prisoners as
bargaining chips to squeeze more money; and continued sharp
Defense Secretary-designate Gen. James Mattis told Congress that
Iran is the biggest destabilizing force in the Middle East, and that the
U.S. must have a strategy for confronting its regional hegemonic
aspirations. He views the malign influence of Iran in the region as on
the rise, rendering Iran a growing threat.
Emily Landau heads the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at
the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). Former Israeli
ambassador to Germany Shimon Stein is a senior research fellow at INSS. (National Interest)
- U.S. Should Isolate Iran Immediately - Jeb Bush and Dennis Ross
A pattern of Iranian aggression has accelerated in the year since the
nuclear deal with Iran was implemented. Yet the Obama administration
has ignored the comprehensive nature of the Iranian threat and
soft-pedaled non-nuclear sanctions seemingly out of fear that Iran would
walk away from the nuclear deal. As a result, Iran's leaders have
become more emboldened and its footprint continues to grow across the
Iranian advisors with Shia militias from as far away as Afghanistan
flooded Syria, giving Tehran a military arc of influence stretching to
the Mediterranean. Eleven Arab states also recently accused Iran of
sponsoring terrorism and meddling in their internal affairs.
The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control
should not provide licenses to Boeing and Airbus until Iran stops using
Iran Air and other carriers to ferry weapons and personnel for the Assad
regime and Hizbullah in Lebanon. The new administration must also
establish unmistakable red lines for continued Iranian harassment of
U.S. Navy ships in the Persian Gulf. Only through a new campaign of
pressure can the U.S. demonstrate to Iran that it runs very great risks
if its policies don't change and if it is ever tempted to pursue nuclear
Jeb Bush was governor of Florida (1999-2007). Dennis Ross,
counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, was a
special assistant to President Obama (2009-2011).
- The Sunni Muslim World vs. Iran - Zvi Mazel
Sunnis make up 85% of the Muslim world, while Shi'ites are less than
15%. Nevertheless, Iran enjoys an advantage because it is the supreme
Shi'ite religious and political authority, whereas in the Sunni world,
every imam can issue his own fatwas - though there is no general
obligation to follow them.
The lack of religious solidarity - let alone a common policy - severely
hampers the ability of Sunni countries to counter the Iranian threat.
Beginning with Khomeini, Tehran has developed a powerful and
aggressive army to push its agenda: exporting its Islamic Revolution to
Sunni states as a first step before attacking "the great Satan" - the
U.S. and its allies. Iran was a major driving force in the
disintegration of Iraq, Syria, Yemen and the shambles that is Lebanon.
The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden.
- South Africa Cannot Claim Ancestral Land Yet Deny Jewish People the Same Right - Luba Mayekiso
I have supported the ANC for decades, but the ANC's view on Israel is
divorced from history and reality. Any people that have ever felt the
yolk of colonialism should understand the plight of the Jewish people in
Israel. The only difference between us Africans and the Jews is that we
were internally displaced, while the Jewish people were dispossessed
and exiled. Is it illegal or undesirable for Jewish exiles to return to
their ancestral homeland? How is it possible for our president, Jacob
Zuma, and others in the liberation movement to return from exile in
1990, yet condemn Israel for settlements? The writer is national
director of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, South
Africa and the founder of Africa for Israel Christian Coalition.
- The Intersectionality of Fools - Dominic Green
BDS, the campaign for "Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions" against the
Jewish state, is the only form of campus activism to attack a single
state internationally - and a single group domestically.
BDS activists seek to control the intellectual environment, to create a
"safe space" for the indoctrination of a biased and often false view of
Israeli-Palestinian conflict while it aims to curtail the freedom of
speech of Jewish and pro-Israel students. (New Criterion)
The Trump Administration: A Turning Point in Middle East Policy? - Dore Gold (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
The inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the
United States is likely to lead to a major transformation of U.S. Middle
Many of the assumptions that accompanied the years of President Barack
Obama will no longer be held by American policymakers.
But equally important, many elements that had in the past been
fundamentals of U.S. policy, and had been forgotten and had not been
part of the repertoire of the White House in the last eight years, could
The first element involves Israel's future border. Ever since
1967 when Israel captured the West Bank in the Six-Day War, the question
of Israel's future borders was governed by UN Security Council
Resolution 242, which talks about an Israeli withdrawal from territories
- not all the territories - to secure and recognized boundaries.
Now some people think that's being very picayune with the
language. But in fact the decision on the language of 242 was decided at
the highest levels of the U.S. government, by President Lyndon Baines
Johnson himself. And that language was preserved by successive U.S.
presidents and secretaries of state.
For example, the Reagan administration in 1988, through its
Secretary of State George Shultz, talked about the fact that Israel
would never negotiate from or return to the 1967 borders. During the
Clinton administration in 1997, Secretary of State Warren Christopher,
in a letter to Israel, spoke about Israel getting "defensible borders,"
and that idea was enshrined in 2004 by President George W. Bush in a
letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that was approved by both houses
over the last eight years, Israel's recognized rights have been eroded,
culminating in the most recent UN resolution on December 23, 2016 - on
which the U.S. abstained - which made constant reference to the 1967
lines as its primary point of reference.
Dr. Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs,
is a former Israeli UN ambassador and director-general of the Israel
Ministry of Foreign Affairs.