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USA's Newest Ally? Joins with Iran's in a Joint Military Venture Against al Qaeda in Iraq

By DEBKAfile & AFP

With the Geneva Nuclear Accord still far from implementation a month after it was signed in Geneva, the United States and Iran are moving into stage two of their rapprochement: They are now fighting together to crush Al Qaeda terror in Iraq, DEBKAfile's exclusive military sources report. (See http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=53yHqyxA4Qg#t=128)

Iraq is two weeks into a major offensive for cutting al Qaeda down - the first major military challenge the jihadists have faced in the past six years. Three armies are fighting alongside Iraq: the United States, Iran's Al Qods Brigades officers and Syria.

Their mission is to foil Al Qaeda's drive to spread its first independent state in the Middle East across the Iraqi-Syrian frontier. Its Iraqi and Syrian branches - ISIS and the Nusra Front - have declared a holy war to this end under their commanders Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi and Abu Mohammed al-Golani. The Anbar province of Western Iraq is the scene of he fiercest combat close to Iraq's borders with Syria and Jordan.

To counter Al Qaeda's superiority in speed and surprise, the US has sent the Iraqi army Hellfire surface-to-air missiles. They are already in use against al Qaeda camps on the Syrian border. Next, Washington is sending out small, long-endurance unmanned aerial ScanEagles. These drones are best suited to combat in Anbar's deep wadis and the halophyte thickets lining the Euphrates River. In this topsy-turvy scenario, Washington and Tehran share another surprising motive: to save the Assad regime in Damascus from Al Qaeda's long arms.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted approvingly on December 26: "Attitudes are changing in Western countries; they are becoming more realistic in their approach towards the Syrian crisis. The threat of terrorism in Syria, of jihadists coming to power, of creating a caliphate with extremist laws, these are the main problems."

Since the Syrian chemical issue was addressed in September, Russian-Iranian-American collaboration is going strong. The joint US-Iranian war on al Qaeda is strengthening Tehran's grip on Iraq as well Syria. It gives Russian President Vladimir Putin hope for keeping al Qaeda away from the Winter Olympics at Sochi – an ever-present menace as a female suicide bomber, a Dagestan national, demonstrated Sunday by blowing up the railway station at the southern Russian city of Volgograd, killing up to a score of people.

The other incentive for US President Barack Obama is the hope of transposing his collaboration with Tehran and Moscow to improve US chances of a reasonable accommodation in the Afghanistan arena.

In a related story, Iranian Parliament, the Majlis would direct Iran's nuclear agency to enrich uranium to 60%, if the US Congress adopts new sanctions legislation. More than two-thirds of Iran's parliament has signed on to a bill that would accelerate Iran's nuclear program if the US Congress adopts new sanctions legislation, official news agencies said.

The bill would direct Iran's nuclear agency to enrich uranium to 60%, close to the 90% needed for the material to be used as nuclear bomb fuel, writes the Los Angeles Times. It is currently enriched to a maximum of 20%. The legislation also calls for the start-up of Iran's partially built Arak heavy-water nuclear reactor.

Iranian lawmakers have described the bill as retaliation for legislation introduced in the Senate this month that would impose tough new sanctions on Iran in six months if it fails to cooperate with upcoming international negotiations aimed at setting limits for its nuclear program. The Iranian bill was previously described as retaliation for the Obama administration's recent blacklisting of a group of Iranian organizations and individuals.

Also Sunday, senior Iranian nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi stated that Iran would stop cooperating with the preliminary nuclear deal if any sanctions legislation is adopted by Congress. "Implementation of the Geneva deal will be stopped, no doubt," Araqchi said, according to the Iranian Student News Agency.

An advisor to Iran's "Supreme Leader," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Sunday that the US has no option but to honor its obligations under the recent Geneva nuclear deal. In a Sunday meeting with an Egyptian media delegation in Tehran, Ali Akbar Velayati said some US officials have admitted "they cannot turn a blind eye to Iran's nuclear capabilities and they are unable to stop Tehran's activities." Velayati said Iran would not accept any deal which would entail giving up the use of nuclear energy.


White House Furious with Netanyahu over Jordan Valley Vote

By DEBKAfile & The Times of Israel

An Israeli ministerial panel Sunday voted for a bill to extend Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley. DEBKAfile reports that the White House and State Department claim angrily that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu could had he wished easily blocked the decision. They are furthermore put out by his issue of tenders for 1,400 new apartments in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, the day after a ministerial decision to release 26 Palestinian terrorist murderers.

Four ministers voted in favor of the draft law, which was proposed Likud MK Miri Regev. Three opposed it. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is in charge of "peace negotiations" with the Palestinian Authority attacked the ministers who voted for the bill, and called it "an irresponsible proposal that will harm Israel and isolate it. Some of those who supported the bill would have opposed it, if they had known it would pass," she added. "They are taking advantage of the fact that I will file an appeal and do the work for them."

The Jordan Valley, situated in eastern Samaria (Shomron), has been the topic of contention in recent months. Secretary of State John Kerry is reportedly attempting to force a deal on Israel and the Palestinian Authority which would see an Israeli "withdrawal" from all of Judea and Samaria, but allow for a temporary arrangement whereby IDF and/or foreign forces would maintain a presence in the Jordan Valley.

The Israeli government argues the Valley is strategically important, and Netanyahu has insisted in the past that, in the event of a withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, Israel would still keep troops in the area. Calls by some nationalist MKs to annex the area are an attempt to forestall any withdrawal from the area whatsoever.

Some analysts have criticized the idea that an Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria would be "safe" as long as forces remained in the Jordan Valley, saying that the mountainous regions to the west and south are in fact even more strategically crucial for Israel's security.

The measure would place the region under Israeli law, whereas the area currently has the legal status of a captured territory administered by the IDF. The bill is similar to the 1981 Golan Heights Bill, which applied Israeli civil law and effectively annexed the Syrian border region to Israel. The Jordan Valley has become a key sticking point in peace negotiations with the Palestinians. Jerusalem insists on maintaining a militarized buffer in the region, while Ramallah is staunchly opposed to any Israeli troops on its land.


Anti-Semitic Graffiti Found in Be'er Sheva

By The Times of Israel

Vandals scrawled anti-Jewish graffiti and swastikas in the southern city of Be'er Sheva Sunday. Police were searching for the perpetrators late Sunday, and no suspects had been apprehended. The graffiti, which read "Death to the Jews," was found on a wall along a sidewalk in the city's Heh neighborhood. There were also swastikas painted on the wall.

In April, Nazi slogans and swastikas were spray-painted in Bat Yam, on the wall of a synagogue and at a nearby school. The previous month, a similar incident took place in Jaffa, where anti-Semitic slogans and symbols were spray-painted on a number of houses and stores.


Neo-Nazi Symbol Spreads in Europe

By YnetNews.com

The right hand and its fingers are stretched downwards along the body, while the left hand performs a "salute" movement on the opposite arm. Sound like an aerobic exercise for beginners? According to anti-Semitism researchers, it is actually a clear anti-Semitic symbol, a modern Nazi salute, spreading among Jew haters across Europe.

In recent months, the researchers warn, anti-Semites have been taking advantage of the lack of public awareness of the new "salute" and taking pictures of themselves performing the salute in particularly symbolic and sensitive places around the world like the Treblinka extermination camp, the Western Wall plaza and next to IDF soldiers, as well as alongside Jews who are unaware of the "trick." They then post the photos on the Internet.

The new salute, based on a reverse Nazi symbol, was created by a French comedian called Dieudonné, who is known for his anti-Semitic acts and statements and has even been convicted by courts in France several times in the past. The physical gesture, which he dubbed "quenelle," has spread in the country, but the government has yet to define it as illegal.

Different sources have been arguing whether it is seen as anti-Semitic gesture in all cases. There are those who say that some of those photographed doing the "quenelle" gesture are doing it for "anti-establishment" motives which are not necessarily anti-Semitic. Among anti-Semites, however, as the WZO indicates, it is a common anti-Semitic gesture, and media outlets have even been apologizing for mistakenly exposing it.

Yaakov Haguel, head of the WZO's Department for Countering Anti-Semitism, told Ynet that the department's Red Email received initial pictures of the new salute several months ago, but "we didn't understand what it was about." They later realized the meaning of the gesture and were then exposed to cases in which neo-Nazis performed it in Jewish holy sites in Israel and around the world. "It's gaining more and more momentum, spreading on the Internet and social networks and turning into a clear Nazi symbol, and it doesn't appear to be a passing phenomenon," says Haguel. "It's spreading to Israel too these days, and we must acknowledge that and stop it."

Eitan Behar, director of the Center for Diaspora Communications and Countering Anti-Semitism at the WZO, told Ynet that the phenomenon he defined as "extremely troubling was gaining momentum in recent weeks. "Saluting with raised hands is banned in the European Union, and people even get arrested for it, so the neo-Nazi activists perform the same gesture in a different angle," he noted.

A special Facebook page is updated very frequently, particularly with photos from around the world documenting the new salute in places with religious and national significance to Jews. It has accumulated tens of thousands of regular followers, and almost 100% of them are active – through "likes," shares and comments. A special website has also been launched for the same purpose.

The "saluters" take advantage of many people's innocence and ask them to perform the gesture as they take a picture of them – including IDF soldiers and Holocaust survivors. The sites where they choose to do so leave no room for doubt: The Anne Frank House, synagogues and Jewish cemeteries, the Western Wall plaza, against the backdrop of German and Israeli flags, on streets with "Jewish" names. They have also posted processed photos of famous characters, like Superman and Santa Claus, performing the salute.


`Who is the Most Popular Biblical Figure?

By YnetNews.com

Ninety-three percent of households in Israel own a Bible, a recent poll has found. The survey, conducted by the Smith Institute in honor of international exhibition "The Book Books," which is currently on display at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem. Apart from the Bible's presence in Israeli homes, the survey also looked into the People of the Book's connection to the Book of Books, revealing a not-so-strong link.

Nearly one-third of Israelis (28%) can't remember the last time they opened a Bible. The situation appears to be better among religious and ultra-Orthodox Jews, 10% of whom have not opened a Bible in the past year.

The study's 500 participants were asked when man was created. Thirty-three percent of secular Jews did not know the right answer – on the sixth day of Creation – compared to only 9% of religious and haredi Jews. The poll further reveals that Jewish people, both religious and secular, don't want to lose their connection to the Book of Books – 96% are in favor of Bible studies in schools.

Moses was chosen as the most popular biblical figure by 24% of the survey's respondents, followed by King David (9%), Abraham (6%), King Solomon (5%) and Joseph (3%). Rachel made it to the sixth place with 2% of respondents mentioning her as their favorite biblical figure.

"The survey's results present a gap between the great importance we attribute to the Bible as a nation and as private people, and our knowledge of its content and our access to it," said Bible Lands Museum Director Amanda Weiss. Beyond Bible studies in school, over which there is a wide consensus, it's important to create real interest and curiosity towards the Book of Books from an early age and deepen our understanding of our history, as it is not just another item on the shelf," she added.


God Created Me Gay: Religious Teenager's Op-Ed

By Dan

Dear Habayit Hayehudi ministers,

In a different, perhaps "better" reality I could have disclosed my identity to you. I could have presented myself without hiding, describe my life and who I am. But unfortunately, I can't. If I muster the courage and do it, it will have a huge effect on my life. Possibly for the better, but most chances are against that, and I am not the type to take risks.

Hello. I am a religious youth, the son of a completely normal national-religious family, an 11th grader in a completely normal yeshiva high school, and among other things, I am also what many in the sector refer to as "having inverted tendencies" – and what I prefer to call "gay." This word is not a simple one in our reality, in a situation in which many are not afraid to use it as a curse, in a negative connotation, with the intention of hurting and destroying. Even to me it sounds like a swearword.

And yet, that's how I define myself. When people hear about teenagers like me, they say it's because "he wants to be different," "because it's trendy to be different" and "will help the image of the depressed adolescent who is angry at the world." Others think that teenagers like me are actually making it all up, and are not really attracted to boys. And there are those who believe it's a psychological problem which will be solved through therapy.

To them I would like to say: I don't enjoy living a lie, hiding the truth about myself from the people I love, wondering whether my friends would like me if they knew. I didn't enjoy the time when I couldn't accept myself, when I hated myself and renounced myself. I told myself it would pass, that it's just fantasies, that I'm better than that. I spent half of my adolescence alone, depressed, with suicidal tendencies and other experiences I would rather forget. Your objection symbolizes something bigger

So you've probably already understood why I'm appealing to you, but you may not understand what I want from you, after the bill banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity has already passed in the Knesset – in spite of your objection. But that's exactly the point: You are a party which aspires to represent the religious sector, which I am part of, and therefore your objection actually symbolizes something bigger.

You didn't oppose the law on same-sex marriage, same-sex parenting, or economic equality for same-sex couples, but only the ban on discrimination, no less. In my humble opinion, the Torah isn't fond of discrimination either, and so I am trying to understand exactly what your motive was to vote against it.

Is it because you're a religious party, and religious and LGBT don't go together? I'm sure I'm not telling you something new about not being the only religious gay person in the world, and in our sector there are many, some who really endure the challenge imposed on them by God, and want to continue observing the mitzvot of Judaism; others choose to become secular, flee the religious sector, and as always – there are those who try to combine, to live as a religious-gay couple.

But even those who meet every religious ideal are still treated disgracefully. They can't come out of the closet, even though it eases the coping. Why is that? Why do they deserve this attitude? Why don't they deserve to come out of the closet and be confident that discriminating against them will be forbidden, because there is a law against it? And the rest – how do they differ from Shabbat desecraters under Orthodox religious laws? Will you propose a bill allowing discrimination against Shabbat desecraters in the future?

And there may be another reason for the objection: The common claim that "every show of acceptance of LGBT will negatively affect our children." The fear of what certain rabbis refer to as "fashionable homosexuality." Well, tell me, why would anyone want to be a religious gay person? It's not an enjoyable, trendy and attractive experience. It's difficult daily coping, which many would rather give up on. Why would someone choose a life without the ability to love, without the ability to tell people who he is and not suffer hatred?

And even if this claim were true (and it's not, but let's assume it is for the sake of the fixated ones amongst you): Would you rather destroy the religious gays living in the religious sector today and in the future, and sentence them to a life of suffering – in order to "save" your children from the horrors of defamed homosexuality? It seems to me like abandoning the poor during a drought year, out of concern that only your family will have food.

Your child will be a good person, even if he is gay. It all depends on the attitude of our sector, and on the education you give him. If a gay receives the same support received by a person who finds it difficult to obey the Halacha (as every person has the evil inclination), our sector will look different. The lives of people like me will be easier. Your child won't have to go through the denial, hatred, depression and difficulties involved in being a religious gay adolescent in the closet.

Your vote in favor of continuing the discrimination symbolizes several things: For religious (and secular) gays it symbolizes the perpetuation of the negative attitude of the religious sector as a sector. For seculars it distorts Judaism, which does not support injustices for gay people just because of their tendencies. And for me, it symbolizes lack of hope and ongoing suffering.

The LGBT discourse exists in the religious sector – but it's not sufficiently specified, not sufficiently determined and simple, inadequate. This situation makes people's lives miserable, and may lead a religious youth who understands that he is different to become secular, to hate religion, and in extreme cases – to commit suicide.

Why must I lie, be afraid and hide? Why must I keep my mouth shut when the issue is raised and homophobia blossoms, because there are few religious people my age to come out against it? Why don't I deserve to be me, to talk about my challenges, and to ask other people for help? Why must I consider giving up on my true faith, because I won't be able to go on like this much longer? Because, for some reason, God created me (or caused me) to be attracted to boys and not to girls, and gave me an unusual challenge in the sector.

Why don't we stop this unfounded hatred, stop insulting, swearing and distancing? Why don't we start sticking to the values of Judaism: Support, love and bring closer? It could be through proper education, providing information and making the issue accessible to Judaism. As long as there is an effort, and that eventually there will be.

I don't see a reason for directing hatred towards me when I haven't done anything wrong to anyone. I don't see a reason for the need to hide all this, to hoard and hoard and hoard – and wait till I explode.

Sincerely and with a hope for real change,

A distressed religious youth who has had enough of being distressed for an unjustified reason


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