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>JN March 10, 2015, Vol. 23, No. 49

Iranian Presidential Adviser: 'All of the Middle East is Iranian'

By DEBKAfile

Top presidential adviser Ali Younesi said Monday that Iran is once again an empire whose influence extends to Iraq and beyond. He spoke after Saudi Arabia expressed alarm that "Iran is taking over Iraq." Younesi, a former intelligence minister, said, "The geography of Iran and Iraq cannot be divided. All of the Middle East is Iranian," Younesi declared, warning that no one had the right to oppose Iran's influence in the region. The people now living in neighboring countries are also Iranian "because their countries were separated from the empire east and west."

DEBKAfile's military and intelligence sources reveal exclusively that Gen. Qassem Soleiman, commander of the Revolutionary Guards elite Al Qods Brigades, paid a groundbreaking visit last Thursday to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan as guest of Gen. Faisal Al-Shoulbaki, director of General Intelligence and a close adviser to King Abdullah II.

The visit, encouraged by Obama administration policy, showed one of America's oldest Sunni Arab allies, recognizing the direction of the trending regional reality to jump the lines over to Tehran. Iran's grab for Middle East influence is now reaching from four capitals, Baghdad, Damascus, Sanaa, Beirut to a fifth, Amman.

Our sources report that Royal Jordanian Air Force fighter jets escorted the Iranian general's armored motorcade as it drove from Baghdad to Amman through the main highway connecting the two Arab capitals. It is not known whether the king gave Soleimani an audience, but the possibility is not ruled out.

His talks with Jordan's intelligence and military heads ranged widely over the battles in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-ISIS. This suggests that Jordan has shown willingness to take the first step towards coordinating its policies and military operations with Tehran – not just with Washington as hitherto.

Some 12,000 American soldiers are posted to Jordan, most of them members of elite US combat units. Their primary task is to safeguard the throne against threats from Syria and Al Qaeda and its affiliates.

Interestingly, Soleimani's landmark trip to Amman was carefully timed to take place just a day before Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint US Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Baghdad, so that by the time he landed, the Iranian general, who commands his country's expanding military input in the war on ISIS, had returned to the Iraqi capital from his visit to Amman.

Our sources also report that the Jordanian king lately shows a different face in private conversations to his public aspect as steadfast friend of the Obama administration. In private, Abdullah is highly critical of current US policies in the region. In meetings with US lawmakers on visits to Amman, Abdullah has voiced bitter disappointment in President Barack Obama's tepid response to the burning alive by ISIS of the Jordanian pilot Lt. Moath al-Kasasbeh.

He was on a visit to the White House when the horrific video was released on February 3.The Jordanian king has been heard to remark that Obama's military partnership with Iran, which has the effect of providing the Assad regime with an extra shield, cannot survive long, because the Sunni Arab world finds it intolerable and won't accept it.

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Report: Saudi Arabia Eyeing Its Own Nuclear Program

By Israel Hayom

Saudi Arabia has stepped up efforts to pursue its own nuclear program, Fox News reported Sunday. Riyadh's interest is said to be a result of its anxiety over the nuclear deal being negotiated between Iran and world powers, which the Saudis do not believe will halt Iran's race toward a nuclear weapon.

According to the report, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, ahead of a visit by. Secretary of State John Kerry. The visit sparked speculations that Pakistan may become Saudi Arabia's chief supplier of nuclear technology -- a deal that may prove highly lucrative for Islamabad, but may also further destabilize the Middle East.

"The visit by the PM ... almost certainly has to be seen in the context of Saudi Arabia looking to Pakistan for nuclear cooperation to counter Iran's emerging status," Simon Henderson of the Washington Institute told Fox News.

Riyadh has funded parts of Islamabad's nuclear efforts in the past "in return for a widely assumed understanding that, if needed, Islamabad will transfer technology or even warheads [to Saudi Arabia]. The visit by the PM ... almost certainly has to be seen in the context of Saudi Arabia looking to Pakistan for nuclear cooperation to counter Iran's emerging status," he said.

The report further quoted Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer as trying to illustrate the gravity of the threat posed by a weak agreement with Iran by saying, "When the Israelis and Arabs are on the same page, people should pay attention. That doesn't happen too often."

The main concern is that, should Iran become a nuclear threshold state, it would trigger an arms race in the Middle East, which would include Egypt as well.


Herzog, Labor Trying to Cancel Major Jewish Identity Program

By IsraelNationalNews.com

Rabbi Avichai Ronski, former IDF Chief Rabbi and Jewish Home Knesset candidate, criticized the decision of Labor-Hatnua Monday to include the dissolution of the Jewish Identity Department, established by the Ministry of Religious Services and the government, in its party platform.

According to Ronski, the plans to scrap the bureau show - if anything - how much progress has been made in connecting the Israeli public to their Jewish heritage and how important it is to keep on going.

The section of the Labor-Hatnua party platform dealing with the relation between synagogue and state provides the goal of "abolishing the Jewish Identity Department which was established by the Ministry for Religious Services during the outgoing government and to concentrate instead on government support in the field of Jewish culture in the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Culture with full implementation of the principles of pluralism and equality."

The department provides educational activities on Judaism to about 130,000 Israelis in grades 11 and 12 from non-religious schools, students in pre-army mechina programs and individual students in the IDF and out up to age 30, Ronski noted.

Next year, he said, the department was slated to teach some 250,000 people - if it still exists. "There is a huge demand," he said, "and if we had additional funding we would engage more with the public - and this is what Labor is waging war against. Further, this would also interrupt the work of student organizations associated with the Department working nationwide on college campuses and in the Golan and Negev, he added.

Establishing the Department was not easy, he noted, revealing that the Ministry of Education more or less brushed aside the initial initiative for a group with a "maybe." Only when the Ministry for Religious Services stepped in did the project take off.

Ronski added that it has had unprecedented success and that "there is a free market to connect to the Jewish character of the state," as he put it, and that the program has flourished despite a plethora of NGOs promoting pluralism instead of an education program based on traditional Jewish values and principles.

"In a high school where I taught we did a seminar Wednesday in Jerusalem, which includes studying for three hours in Yeshivat HaKotel for boys and in Midreshet HaRova for girls," he recounted. "The administration told me later that the highlight of the seminar were these hours, where the students had dialogue with Torah instructors. They say they left other organizations because they wanted to study Judaism at the roots."

"This is an example of the nation saying clearly what it wants," he noted. "Judaism, at its roots, does not only include those with a connection to God but also the connection to Israel," he continued. "The leftists aren't afraid of the haredi world, which respects aspects of Torah and faith in the synagogue, and at home, but when the Torah is also involved in the Land of Israel and the State - suddenly the commandments [. . .] are too much. Maybe some people fear religious coercion, etc., but this in fact appears to be a party platform which wants to cancel the Department despite overwhelming demand."

Votes from Abroad: Israeli Expats Visit for Elections

By YnetNews.com

With elections just around the corner, Israeli expats have begun making a pilgrimage to their home country to exert their right to vote. Ynet spoke to several of these Israeli citizens living abroad, many of whom plan to return to live in Israel one day.

"This is the first time I'm arriving to vote in elections since I moved to Berlin," said Shaked Shafir, 29, who has lived in Germany for eight years and works in information management. "There are lots of Israelis in Berlin who are returning to vote, because Israelis who chose to live somewhere else, whether for a limited or unlimited time, also have an affinity and a connection to Israel. What happens here is important to them, especially when they see the direction the country is going in, which is not good."

Tal Shamia, 31, has lived in Germany for about a year and works as a biologist. "I love Israel. It's important to me that it goes in the right direction, and I always voted because it was important to me." He said he intends to return to live in Israel. "I don't want to sit here and hear about some event or war, and feel that I didn't do the little that I could."

Nurit Gazit has lived in Sydney, Australia for several months as part of relocation for her husband's job. The couple plans to return to Israel when the relocation ends. "Voting is important to me and I feel that it's every citizen's duty."

Adam Fulman, 25, is a medical student in Italy. "I debated for a while whether to come, but two days ago I decided it was a critical point and I realized it was important for me to come because it's an opportunity for change," he said.

Fulman has made sure to visit Israel twice a year since he went to Italy, and said he hopes to move back to Israel when he finishes his studies in three years. "Of course I want to return to Israel, and I love the country, but we'll see what happens there in three or fours years. I haven't settled down finally in Italy. My heart is in Israel."


New Israeli App Brings Live Video to Twitter

By YnetNews.com

Meet Meerkat, the new Israeli app that has achieved almost overnight success, has taken Twitter by storm, and has earned widespread coverage in the media and on websites around the globe.

Meerkat allows Twitter users to stream video of themselves or their surroundings to their followers with just the touch of a button. How does it work? You download the app to your iPhone and begin filming a video clip. At the same time, your Twitter account will automatically post a Tweet with a special link.

Your followers who click on the link will then be able to view a live stream of what you are filming at that exact moment. Everyone can watch your live broadcast, without having to download the app. When you finish filming, the live stream ends too.

It all kicked off last week: The app went online and immediately attracted widespread interest among users of the ProductHunt website, a platform for new applications and technological services. Within three days, Meerkat had 15,000 users that had streamed 8,000 live videos. Twitter guru and actor Ashton Kutcher was among the first users too.

Meerkat soon won widespread coverage, with reports about the app appearing in leading international publications and on websites such as the Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Business Insider, Huffington Post and others. Some even speculated that Twitter would be interested in purchasing Meerkat in light of the natural connection between the two.

Meerkat was developed by Israeli tech firm Life on Air, co-founded by CEO Ben Rubin, 27, VP Product Uri Haramati, 35, and CTO Itai Danino, 29. The company has 11 employees, some based in Tel Aviv and others in San Francisco. To date, Life on Air has raised some $4.2 million in venture capital, with its investors including Israeli fund Aleph. Meerkat started out as a side-project developed by the company in recent weeks.

"Meerkat is dead-simple to use and tightly integrated with Twitter," explains company employee Ryan Cooley in an email interview from San Francisco. "This lowers all the biggest barriers to entry that you see with other live video apps. Either the experience is too complicated, or they are so focused on utility, and that hinders the social, participatory part of the experience.

"There are plenty of live video technologies that put out amazing products that will stream something happening in beautiful quality from the most remote place on Earth; however our goal is to bring live video, as a medium, to everyone in the most consumable and engaging way."

Cooley admits the company, too, was surprised by the sudden buzz. "We weren't expecting Meerkat to take off quite as much as it has. We built it to be inherently viral through the Twitter integration and making it really easy for anyone to use in the app or by just coming into a video from Twitter. However, the results we're already seeing are really beyond our expectations on Twitter and within Meerkat itself," he says.
















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