Australia Foils Islamist Terrorist Plot - Paul Maley and Dan Box (The Australian)
Islamic State supporters were planning a public execution in Australia, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said. "Quite direct exhortations were coming from an Australian who is apparently quite senior in ISIL to networks of support back in Australia to conduct demonstration killings here in this country."
Police say some of the 15 men arrested in Sydney had communicated with the Islamic State organization while developing their plan to seize a random member of the public and behead them live on camera.
Omarjan Azari, 22, was charged with conspiring with Mohammed Baryalei, the most senior Australian in the Islamic State terrorist group, "to do acts in preparation for, or planning, a terrorist act."
The plan involved the "random selection of persons to rather gruesomely execute," Prosecutor Michael Allnutt told the court.
Australia Commits Combat Aircraft and Special Forces to Anti-IS Coalition- Julian Kerr (IHS Jane's Defence Weekly-UK)
Australia is pre-positioning combat aircraft and special forces in the Middle East ready to participate in the U.S.-led effort in Iraq to degrade the Islamic State (IS), following a formal request for assistance from the U.S. and the government of new Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Adabi.
The Australian forces are expected to be in place at Al Minhad air base in the UAE before the end of the month.
Spain's UFG to Drop Egypt Lawsuit If Israel Gas Import Deal Cleared - Oleg Vukmanovic (Reuters)
Spain's Union Fenosa Gas (UFG) may drop a lawsuit against Egypt if it approves a deal for the company to import Israeli gas into its idle liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plant in Egypt, a source close to the talks said.
UFG suspended exports from its Egyptian plant at Damietta in 2012 when gas shortages led the government to divert supplies to its growing domestic needs.
As a result, UFG launched a multi-billion dollar lawsuit against Egypt for breach of contract last year.
Egypt's access to Israel's 10 trillion cubic feet Tamar gas field via a sub-sea pipeline offers the best hope of restarting LNG exports from UFG's Egyptian plant.
- UN's Flight Marks New Era on Israel-Syria Front - Aron Heller
As Syria has plunged into civil war and UN peacekeepers have become targets of al-Qaeda-linked rebels, the UN observer force has begun to fall apart. The 1,200-strong force is now mostly huddled inside Camp Ziouani, a base on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights. Its patrols along the border have all but ceased.
"Their mandate is just not relevant anymore," said Stephane Cohen, a former Israeli military liaison officer with UNDOF. "They are there to oversee an agreement between two countries - Israel and Syria - and in practice there is no Syria anymore."
Dolan Abu Saleh, the mayor of Majdal Shams, the largest of four Druse towns on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights, noted: "The truth is that people are happy to be living under Israeli rule and the Golan today is Israeli." (AP)
- Iran Fills Key Role in Battling Islamic State in Iraq - Nabih Bulos and Patrick J. McDonnell
Mala Bakhtiar, military supervisor of the Kurdish peshmerga forces in Khanaqin in northeastern Iraq, spoke openly of comprehensive Iranian involvement in logistics, intelligence-sharing and provision of military equipment to Kurdish troops. "They gave us rockets, cannons, maps," he said. He also confirmed the presence of Iranian Revolutionary Guard advisors who, he said, "were very helpful" in the battle to dislodge Sunni extremists from the nearby town of Jalawla and vicinity.
It was Iranian-backed Shiite militias that helped the Iraqi military thwart the extremists' rampage toward Baghdad in June and July. The main Iraqi Shiite militia coordinating with the Iraqi forces in the south is the Badr Brigade, which has a "long history of being trained by Iran," noted Hamid Reza Taraghi, a Tehran-based analyst. (Los Angeles Times)
- Syria Reveals More Chemical Weapons Facilities - Anthony Deutsch
Syria has revealed a previously undeclared research and development facility and a laboratory to produce the poison ricin to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), diplomatic sources said. The new disclosures came as part of an ongoing review of "discrepancies" in Syria's initial OPCW declaration. (Reuters)
- Traffickers "Laughed" as They Capsized Boat to Drown Refugees
Survivors of Europe's most deadly migrant shipwreck in years have described the horrifying moment traffickers capsized their boat and left 500 Syrian, Palestinian, Egyptian and Sudanese migrants to drown off Malta on Wednesday. "After they hit our boat they waited to make sure that it had sunk completely before leaving. They were laughing," one survivor told the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on Tuesday.
"These are not accidents but murders," said Michele Cercone, spokesman for EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom. In the incident off Malta, just 10 people survived. Two Palestinians told IOM their boat had been intentionally sunk by the people smugglers after the migrants refused to change to a smaller, less seaworthy vessel. "A violent argument ensued. The 10 smugglers, said to be Palestinian and Egyptian, began yelling," the IOM said, citing testimony from survivors in Crete. Those who had managed to jump to safety into the smaller boat were "forced into the water" by their assailants. (AFP)
- Steinitz: In Nuclear Talks, Iran Only Offering "Cosmetic Gestures on Secondary Issues" - Elhanan Miller
Iran is refusing to compromise on core elements of its military nuclear program, Israel's Minister of Intelligence Yuval Steinitz said Wednesday, after returning from strategic meetings with U.S. officials in Washington. While Iran has made some "cosmetic gestures on secondary issues," it has shown no flexibility on two of the core international demands: the dismantling of centrifuges used for the enrichment of uranium, and the closure of the heavy water plant in Arak, part of Iran's plutonium nuclear track.
"Israel is deeply concerned. We feel that negotiations are going in the wrong direction," Steinitz said. "The two alternatives now seem to be a bad deal or no deal. Unfortunately, there seems to be no good deal on the table....The Iranians are getting almost everything but giving almost nothing." (Times of Israel)
- Israel Recognizes Aramean Minority - Jonathan Lis
Israel's Interior Ministry on Tuesday recognized the Arameans as a national minority. The decision will allow about 200 Christian families to register as Arameans rather than as Arabs. A review of their status concluded that they had a distinct historical heritage, religion, culture, origin and common language. Some members of the community have served in the IDF. (Ha'aretz)
See also Righting an Historic Wrong - Dror Eydar
The Muslim invasion in the seventh century forced Arab culture on many peoples who lived in the area long before anyone had ever heard of Islam. Until the Muslim occupation, Aramaic was spoken for more than 1,000 years by the peoples of the region, including the Jews. Even parts of the Bible were written in Aramaic, as well as the Talmud, the great Jewish legal and cultural codex.
Unlike the rest of the Middle East, Israel is the only place in the region where there is no Christian emigration and the local Christian community is flourishing. (Israel Hayom)