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The Growing Islamic State threat to Israel: A Clear and Present Danger

Attention has been  brought to bear by recent activities on Israel’s northern and southern frontier by ISIS in Syria and the Salafist affiliate in the Sinai, Ansar Beit al-Makdas (ABAM).  That is independent of the alleged ABAM involvement in the downing of the Russian Metrojet Airbus 321 on October 31, 2015 with a bomb secreted aboard the aircraft that killed 224 passengers and crew in the Sinai.

While ISIS allegedly fears only the Israeli Defense Force, at issue is Israel prepared to deal with these threats on both its Northern and Southern Frontiers.

Moreover, what the U.S. can do given its virtual abandonment of an alliance with Egypt, Israel and neighboring Jordan that collectively face the emboldened  self-declared Islamic State (IS). An Islamic state that has demonstrated its long arm reach planning and fomenting barbarous  terrorism in the Middle East, Europe and even here in the U.S. In the final days of 2015.

Note this Fox/Nation/Townhall  report by a former German Parliament member, now intrepid journalist,  Jürgen Todenhöfer, who with his son spent 10 days in the occupied  Syrian and Iraqi  precincts of the self-declared Caliphate, the Islamic State (ISIS), “Israel Defense Force only Army ISIS Fears”:

German reporter Jurgen Todenhofer went behind enemy lines to spend ten days with the Islamic State. He went with his son, Frederic, but not after spending nearly half a year ensuring that his safety would be guaranteed before venturing into this perilous region of the world. He plans on never going back (good idea), but noted that the only army these Islamic fanatics truly fear is the Israel Defense Forces.

They are confident that they can defeat soldiers from the West, namely British and American troops, but noted that the Israelis might be too tough for them. An aspect of their strategy is to lure Western troops into their territory in order to capture them. Oh, and they plan on killing every Shiite Muslim they can find, and view Muslims living in Western countries who vote as “top-priority enemies…as they give people rather than God the right to make laws.”

The claim from German reporter Jürgen Todenhöfer, a former member of the German Parliament, came after he spent 10 extraordinary days behind enemy lines in Iraq and Syria, accompanied by his son Frederic. He returned saying the group behind the Paris attacks was “preparing the largest religious cleansing in history” and with a “pessimistic” view on what can be done to combat it.

But the author of My 10 Days in the Islamic State told Jewish News: “The only country ISIS fears is Israel. They told me they know the Israeli army is too strong for them.”

Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot

From left: Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, Galilee Division Commander Brig. Gen. Amir Baram, and GOC Northern Command Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi on the northern border, Wednesday  Source: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.

Today’s Israel Hayom edition had a follow up story about IDF preparing for possible ISUS attacks on the Golan Frontier, “IDF braces for Islamic State attack on northern border:”

Army on high alert for possible terrorist attacks by Shuhada al-Yarmouk Brigades, affiliated with Islamic State, or other jihadist groups such as Nusra Front, affiliated with al-Qaida.

[…]

Based on the modus operandi of the Nusra Front and Islamic State, the Israel Defense Forces examined several possible ways these groups could act against Israel. One scenario for an attack, according to the assessments, is smuggling explosives-laden vehicles into Israel. Additionally, officials were not negating the possibility of a terrorist ground force infiltrating Israel, firing anti-tank missiles at Israeli targets, planting explosive devices and launching rockets.

The Shuhada al-Yarmouk Brigades controls the border area shared by Jordan, Israel and Syria, extending over around 10 kilometers (6.2 miles). According to estimates, the organization comprises some 600 fighters who impose their will on some 40,000 locals. The organization itself is surrounded by numerous other rebel groups with which it is fighting, including the Nusra Front, and is “besieged” in a type of enclave in the southern Syrian Golan Heights.

ABAM  ISIS affiliates beheading “Israeli spies” in Sinai

ABAM  ISIS affiliates beheading “Israeli spies” in Sinai.

However, Israel’s  Northern Frontier is not the only threat from ISIS.  Dr. Ronen Bergman, intelligence columnist for Israeli daily Yediot Ahranoth  had an extensive investigative article on the ISIS  affiliate, threat on the Southern Sinai frontier with Egypt, Ansar Beit al-Makdas (ABAM), “The Battle Over Sinai: ISIS’s Next Strong Force:

As the world’s eyes are focused on the Islamic State in Syria and its activity in Europe, the organization’s branch in Sinai – Ansar Bait al-Maqdis – is gaining strength, and the Russian plane bombing may be just the beginning of its integration into ISIS’s international war. Bergman outlines the profile of one of the most threatening and intriguing challenges faced by the Israeli and international security community, only a few kilometers south of Eilat.

[…]

The Russian plane crash in Sinai on October 31st, which left 224 people dead, is still preoccupying intelligence organizations around the world. Updated intelligence received by Western intelligence agencies reveals that the few days before the attack saw a significant increase in the volume of written and spoken communication between senior members of the Ansar Bait al-Maqdis (ABAM – “Supporters of the Holy House”) terror organization, which has been calling itself Sinai Province in the past year after swearing allegiance to the Islamic State, who are active in the Sheikh Zuweid area in the northern part of the peninsula.

In addition, there has been a sharp increase in volume of communication between these activists and elements affiliated with ISIS’s Security and Intelligence Council in Iraq and Syria. This body is responsible for ISIS’s most important secret activities, including special operations and aiding organizations outside Syria and Iraq, where the organization’s power base is, including al-Maqdis.

Key Players in ABAM  Hamas origins and ISIS support:

The names of several key activists in this organization is repeatedly raised in the investigations into the matter: The widely mentioned name is Abdullah Mohammed Sayyid Kishta, a main force in improving ABAM’s abilities in the past two years, who served in the past as an operations officer in Hamas’ military wing. Kishta then left for Sinai, through one of the tunnels under the Philadelphi Route (which separates between Egypt and the Gaza Strip), and became head of instructions at ABAM in regards to the operation of antitank missiles and advanced explosive devices.

He is considered one of the senior antitank warfare experts in the region. Since he began his work in the organization, there appears to be an extremely significant increase in al-Maqdis’ use of antitank missiles and in their improvement. Up to two years ago, they mainly used RPGs, moving on to more advanced missiles like the Kornet.

Kishta is helping the organization improve its terror abilities in developing and assembling advanced bombs, including armor-piercing antitank explosives and explosive devices against roads and armored bunkers of the Egyptian army.

Intelligence groups in the West received information in March and April this year about ties between senior ISIS members in Iraq and members of al-Maqdis’ bomb units, including Kishta. A decoding of these messages revealed that ISIS’s R&D experts in Iraq are convinced that they have managed to develop a certain formula for putting together explosives with relatively low effectiveness, but which cannot be detected through regular means.

Israeli Intelligence on the origins of ABAM :

Israeli intelligence first heard the name Ansar Bair al-Maqdis in Gaza.

“In the early 2000s,” Haim Tomer recalls, “we heard there were radical Salafi cells in Gaza which go by that name. At the time, it was a local organization which attracted former activists from all kinds of other organizations who were discharged from them or found Hamas’ policy to be too moderate after different agreements signed with Israel.

ABAM was first comprised of a mixture of fragments of organizations and people and did not appear to be a big success. Israel’s security control and Hamas’ dominance made it impossible for the organization to really thrive and it didn’t leave a significant mark. But in 2002, its name emerged again in organizations of Bedouin in northern Sinai, and then in all of Sinai.

“We were confused for a moment,” says a senior source in the AMAN (Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate) research division. “We didn’t know if these were the same people we knew from Gaza or that they were just using the same name.”

But an examination conducted in Israel at the time revealed that global jihadist elements – mainly Egyptian, Libyan and Saudi – arrived in Sinai in order to take advantage of al-Qaeda’s international success at the time, after the September 11 attacks and the wave of attacks which washed through the world afterwards, and establish a terror organization there. These activists used a local infrastructure of Bedouins and Salafi Sunni activists who had escaped from Gaza.

The Sinai has seen significant attacks  by ISIS affiliate  – Ansar Bait al-Maqdis on Egyptian security forces, despite Egyptian forces  engaged in destruction and flooding smuggling tunnels along the frontier with Hamas-controlled Gaza. Israel has built a 200 mile security fence and positioned IDF combat battalions.  Along its southern frontier.  Notwithstanding, the Eilat port and resort complex is still vulnerable to possible ISIS attack.  The Multilateral Force and Observers, set up to monitor the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, have been hit with IED attacks, prompting the US Army to send additional troops. This begs the question of why the MFO is not engaged in coordinating ISIS counterterrorism threats in the Sinai with both Israel and Egypt.  Moreover, ISIS presents a possible threat along the Israeli Jordanian border above the neighboring port of Aqaba where sympathetic groups have arisen and are allegedly under surveillance of Jordanian security forces.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

Time for a March in Washington, D.C. to Stop the Iran Nuke Deal

President Obama may be on a vacation with the family, however his West Wing political operatives are busily trying to line up Democrat votes in both the Senate and House enabling him to veto anticipated Republican majority resolutions.

While New York Democrat Senator Charles Schumer has come out against the pact, he demurred from active advocacy of his position. The Hill noted in its Whip List count that Rep. Pete Roskam (R-IL) has signed up 218 of 243 Republican colleagues for a resolution opposing the Iran nuclear pact. The Hill Whip List vote tally, as of  August 14, 2015, on the Democrat side of aisle shows Democrats divided with 48 “Yes”, 16 leaning in that direction, 11 “No,”  2 leaning towards “No” and 58 “undecideds.”  The resolutions are likely to be voted on by both Chambers before September 17th following Congress reconvening just after Labor Day.

The ultimate choice of which way the undecideds will go will depend on what they learn from Town Hall meetings and constituent calls, tweets and emails.  If respected polls are any indication, millions of Americans have voiced concerns that Iran’s track record as a cheater on nuclear weapons developments and state support for terrorism preclude trusting it.  The JCPOA will immediately release tens of billions for Iran to expand hegemony in the Middle East. In  10 years it will add over 1 trillion dollars in additional sanctions relief to Iran and the Mullahs that run it.

Already the international sanctions regime has been shredded by Iranian Quds Force commander Soleimani’s  violation  of travel bans and purchases of Russian advanced air defense systems and Chinese stealth  fighter jets. Italian, French and other Foreign Ministers have led trade delegations to Tehran to ink billions in pre-approval deals. Just this week, the Swiss lifted some of their financial sanctions, doubtless both the Russians and Chinese will follow suit, as their sequestered funds comprise the majority of off shore resources .  Moreover, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif is endeavoring to broker the Syrian Crisis.  With the nuclear deal, the Islamic regime is gaining traction in the Middle East courtesy of Obama’s outreach and the pending nuclear pact.

While many Congressional Democrats and liberal media pundits contend that the nuclear pact is not perfect, they suggest it is better than the alternative.  Orde Kittrie, Senior Fellow and leading expert on non proliferation law and policy at the Washington, DC Foundation for Defense of Democracies  in a Wall Street Journal  opinion piece, yesterday  contends that  the unsigned political agreement can be and should be amended by Congress. He cites as evidence  the 200 plus incidents, include ing nuclear test ban and arms control agreements with Russia during the Cold War era. There is also the recent 2009 nuclear cooperation agreement with the United Arab Emirates, where Congress demanded changes and material improvement to international agreements before granting consent.

Eli Broad, Matthew Weiner and Norman Lear

Eli Broad, Matthew Weiner and Norman Lear Hollywood Jewish Backers of Iran Nuclear Pact Source: Hollywood Reporter.

Testimonials from Prominent Hollywood Jewish Backers of Iran Nuclear Deal

The White House has been bombarding media with ‘testimonials’ in favor of the Iran nuclear deal. There was one from three dozen retired generals and admirals, another from 29 of the nation’s leading scientists, and still yet another from 100 former ambassadors.   The argument from the former senior officers in the military was the agreement is “the most effective means currently available to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.” The scientists called the Iran deal “technically sound, stringent and innovative”.

The other voice heard from was the liberal Jewish Hollywood mogul crowd and J Street rabbis’ who bought an ad in the L.A Jewish Journal, and other newspapers of record. Israel National News (INN) noted  among them were leading campaign financial bundlers for Obama’s Presidential elections:

Among the seven lead signatories are billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad; Walt Disney Concert Hall architect Frank Gehry; and legendary TV writer-producer Norman Lear.

[…]

“I just felt that some of the mainstream Jewish organizations weren’t speaking on behalf of a large segment of the community that has a different point of view,” Matthew Velkes told The Hollywood Reporter, adding that LA’s Jewish population is “as diverse a community as one might imagine.”

INN drew attention to the letter signed by these Hollywood Jewish supporters of Obama published in the Hollywood Reporter:

We appreciate that many have reasonable concerns about the risks of a complex nuclear weapons development agreement with an untrustworthy adversary like Iran. We too hold these concerns, but the deal that was reached is not founded on trust; it is grounded in rigorous inspections and monitoring.

They view killing the deal as a “tragic mistake.”

us energy secretray

U.S. Energy Secretary Earnest Moniz

Secretary of Energy Moniz discusses the Iran deal on a National Jewish Federation Webcast

I watched a National Jewish Federation live interview with Secretary of Energy, Dr. Earnest Moniz, extolling the virtues of the Iran nuclear deal from technical aspects. Retired MIT physics professor Moniz knows the subject well.  He was an official in the Clinton Administration during the failed attempt to reign in North Korea from achieving nuclear breakout. The on-line audience was a third of the 10,000 viewers  when Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu expounded his thesis about why the nuclear pact was a bad deal given existential threats to both the US and Israel.

The Hill cited Moniz saying on the webcast that the Iran nuclear deal “would aid in fighting terrorism.”  The Administration’s primary concern he said was to cut off all paths for Iran from achieving a bomb. A path, he acknowledged, currently would take less than two to three months to achieve with the 80 tons of fissile material on hand.  However, he suggested that when the existing stock of fissile material was reduced by 98 percent under the current proposal it would set back by a decade  industrializing nuclear development.  He also told the on-line audience that there were no secret side deals.  Rather he characterized them as confidential arrangements between the IAEA and Iran that would allow for close monitoring of Iran nuclear developments.  He suggested, when asked by viewer, not to worry about the Parchin military test site, as the Energy Department’s labs have developed the technical means of identifying even trace amounts of nuclear residue. The Problem is the Ayatollah has barred the IAEA and any US inspectors from visiting Parchin and ‘known’ military development sites.   Further, Moniz suggested the US was supplying the 24/7 monitoring technology to the IAEA covering the entire Iranian nuclear production pathway from mine through enrichment.

Watch Secretary Moniz’s Jewish National Federation Vimeo video presentation:

ambassidor yoriWhat the polls of Americans show.

Yoram Ettinger, former Israeli Congressional liaison with the rank of Ambassador, in an  Israel Hayom column highlighted the findings of several polls. They reflected Americans’ deep concern about the nuclear deal with Iran.  Here are the highlights of what Ettinger addressed in his Israel Hayom column:

According to RealClearPolitics’ most recent polls, a major wedge has evolved between the US constituents, on the one hand, and US policy-makers, on the other hand, when it comes to foreign policy and national security: a mere 38.5% approval rating of President Obama’s foreign policy.  For instance, a CNN poll documented a majority disapproval of Obama’s handling of Islamic terrorism, and a majority backing the use of military force against ISIS.

The voters’ deep distrust of the Ayatollahs is documented by the annual Gallup poll of Country Rating.  …  Iran is rated as the second least favored country by Americans with 11% favorability, ahead of North Korea – 9% and behind Afghanistan (14%), Syria (14%) and the Palestinian Authority (17%), compared with Israel’s 70%.

In addition, Gallup shows that 77% and 84% of US constituents regard nuclearized Ayatollahs and international terrorism, respectively, as “critical threats.”  Gallup indicates that “Americans’ views on [the Ayatollahs] have remained unchanged for 26 years.”

According to the August 3, 2015 poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, “American voters oppose the nuclear pact negotiated with Iran 57 to 28 percent, with only lukewarm support from Democrats and overwhelming opposition for Republicans and independent voters.”

nyt times front page

New York Times Front Page April 16, 2002.

The 2002 Washington Rally to Stand with Israel.

I recently exchanged thoughts with the AIPAC Florida regional director about a possible march in Washington, just after Labor Day when Congress reconvenes to address the looming vote on the Iran deal. I recalled vividly my personal impressions of being in the multitude estimated at over 100,000 at the Stand with Israel Rally on April 15, 2002 gathered to hear speakers on the back lawn of the US Capitol.  The rally was the genius of current executive vice chairman of the Conference of President of Major American Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein, that despite daunting logistics and busing arrangements organized the event in less than five days.

That rally occurred in the wake of the Second Intifada that witnessed the horrific suicide bombing on March 27, 2002, the Passover Massacre at the Park Hotel in Netanya, Israel.  30 elderly holocaust survivors were killed and over 140 injured and maimed.  The Washington Rally in 2002 was directed at Palestinian terrorism occurring less than a year after 9/11 in lower Manhattan.  Clearly, there was solidarity among Christians and Jews gathered in support of Israel who listened to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO) and  Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), now departing Senate Minority leader. The small contingent of pro-Palestinian advocates were swamped, but not abused by the attentive crowd.  Pictures and reports of the rally were front page items the following day in newspapers of record like the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and the New York Times. In the wake of the 2002 Washington Rally Christians United for Israel was formed.   I suggested to the Florida AIPAC regional director, we needed to do that again, now.

The March to Save America in Washington, September 9, 2015

Serendipitously, Tom Harb, an Orlando businessman and leader in the Lebanese diaspora, sent me an email introducing the group currently organizing a March to Save America for which it has been given a permit in Washington, scheduled for Wednesday, September 9th. That led to a discussion with a  Los Angeles-based spokesperson for the March.  She indicated that starting this weekend and early next week, the March organizers will issue press releases and break news of the March on a major cable news network.  She referred me to their website at: www.marchtosaveamerica.org with a statement from founding Committee Chairman, Barry Nussbaum. Here are some key excerpts:

Congress is about to vote on a deal with Iran that essentially consents to their belligerent military goals, with some delays specified.  …. There is no historical precedent for Iran’s compliance.  Nor, does the deal require “anytime, anywhere” inspection.  Rigorous verification of Iran’s adherence to the deal is virtually impossible.

[…]

The deal does not require Iran to materially dismantle its nuclear infrastructure while it includes, practically speaking,  the irreversible dismantling of the sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place.  Easy circumvention of the deal’s restrictions can only lead to the war that Iran has promised.  A majority of Americans (2/3 as of August 2015) have learned enough details to oppose it.

[…]

The only way to stop the deal, at this stage, is to put major pressure on Congress to reject it.  While many organizations are working tirelessly through lobbying individual Members of Congress to stop the deal, we feel that the strongest statement America can make is to unite through a march on Washington: The March To Save America, September 9, 2015.

Stay tuned for developments! Watch this brief YouTube video on The March to Save America:

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.