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April 1, 2015 / 12 Nisan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘politics’

US Army Vet Pleads ‘Not Guilty’ on Trying to Join ISIS

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

Turkish authorities caught a U.S. Armed Forces veteran this past January as he was allegedly attempting to join Daesh, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria terror group, or ISIS.

U.S. federal authorities say U.S. Air Force veteran and New Jersey native Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, 47, flew to Turkey from Egypt in January, but was denied entry to the country. Instead, they say Turkey sent Pugh back to Egypt, who then deported the veteran to the U.S.

(Given the skill and speed with which Turkish authorities caught this suspect, one wonders how three Islamic schoolgirls from the UK managed to sneak through the country into Syria to become Daesh “brides.”)

Pugh was arrested January 10 in Turkey and on January 16 in Asbury Park, New Jersey, and has been held in custody since that time, the Wall Street Journal reported. The alleged wannabe terrorist was formally charged by the federal grand jury with attempting to provide material support to ISIS and obstruction of justice. On Wednesday he pleaded “not guilty” in a New York federal court room, CNN reported.

If found guilty, Pugh could be sentenced to a maximum of 35 years in prison.

According to a post on the blog of the New York-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Pugh’s Face­book pro­file included mul­ti­ple anti-Semitic and anti-Israel posts as well as posts sup­port­ing Hamas.

One of the posts written by Pugh in July 2014 stated in part, “All the evil done by the Jews came from within them­selves. On the day of Judg­ment full respon­si­bil­ity of the starv­ing, tor­ture, jail­ing and killing of inno­cent Mus­lims will rest upon there (sic) shoul­ders. Allah must really hate them to give the rope to hang them­selves.” He also posted an image with text stat­ing, “Most Jews do not like to admit it, but our G-d is Lucifer.”

In August 2014, he shared an image that ref­er­enced blood libel accu­sa­tions, depict­ing Israel’s Prime Min­is­ter Binyamin Netanyahu slit­ting the throats of sleep­ing children. Pugh also posted sev­eral car­toons equat­ing Jews, Israelis or Zion­ists to Nazis, as well as numerous images claim­ing to depict Israeli war crimes.

Under questioning while being held in Egypt prior to deportation to the U.S. Pugh claimed he had traveled to Turkey to seek employment, denying he had intended to go to Syria, according to the criminal complaint filed in Brooklyn federal court.

However, a search of the suspect’s laptop by federal agents turned up a map of Turkish-Syrian border crossing points, and some 180 jihadist propaganda videos – including a number showing ISIS prisoners being executed. Also found on his laptop was a letter addressed to “My Misha,” whicch stated, “I will use the talents and skills given to me by Allah to establish and defend the Islamic States.”

That Pugh refers to ‘Islamic States’ in the plural form is, in fact, quite chilling: Daesh has indeed spread its influence and its forces from Iraq and Syria into a number of other countries, including Yemen, Nigeria and Libya. Pockets of terrorist cells have also been found in the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza, Lebanon, France, Belgium, and Denmark.

Pugh was charged with “obstruction of justice” in response to the suspect’s intentional damage and removal of memory chips from four thumb drives in order to stymie law enforcement officials in their attempts to access data, authorities said. According to the criminal complaint, Pugh was also asked why he had a photo of a machine gun on his cell phone. He replied that he had “no particular reason other than simply liking the photograph.”

But Pugh’s history did not begin with his flight to the Turkish-Syrian border; actually he has been on the “watch list” for more than 10 years. Quoting the criminal complaint, the Wall Street Journal reported that Pugh converted to Islam and then started ramping up his radical sympathies after moving to San Antonio in 1998.

The FBI received a first tip from a co-worker while Pugh was working as a mechanic for American Airlines in 2001, when he was saying he sympathized with Al Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and supported the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Africa. By 2002, the FBI heard that Pugh had expressed interest in traveling to Chechnya to fight the jihad (Islamic holy war.)

Pugh had already worked as an Air Force mechanic from 1986 to 1990, and was assigned to various bases around the world, according to the U.S. Air Force. He lived abroad for some 18 months, including in Egypt and Jordan, prior to his arrest, according to the criminal complaint. But following his discharge, Pugh had trouble holding down a steady job.

At some point from 2009 to 2010, he worked as an Army contractor for a five month period in Iraq.

Earlier this year, he was fired again, this time from a gig as an airplane mechanic for a firm “based in the Middle East.”

Last Friday, three Brooklyn men also pleaded “not guilty” in Brooklyn federal court to charges of conspiring to aid the ISIS terrorist organization.

Over the past 18 months “dozens” of Americans have faced criminal charges relating to ISIS. FBI director James Comey said at a news briefing last month that his agency has active cases open “in every single state” in connection with the ISIS terror organization.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “Preventing Americans from joining ISIS has become a priority for federal law-enforcement officials, but they have been unable to find a singular profile of the type of American who is inspired by the militant group’s propaganda.”

Due to the lack of a hat, a tip of the keyboard will have to do for kudos to WSJ journalists Dion Nissenbaum and Nicole Hong for being able to compose and type that last with a (presumed) straight face.

19 Dead, 20 Wounded in Terror Attack at Tunisia’s Bardo Museum

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

Seven foreign tourists and a security official were among the 19 people who died Wednesday when at least five terrorists attacked the famed Bardo museum in Tunis.

In early years at the Bardo, Jewish antiquities were highlighted in the “Judaica Hall” which adjoined a museographic arrangement deployed in the great Iwan hall of the Tunisian palace, arranged by Louis Poinssot in 1932. Poinssot also reorganized the Christian department with newly-laid mosaics on its ground, and created an Islamic department in the pillared hall on the same ground floor.

As tourists gazed on the myriad wonders of the museum, however, gunmen dressed in military fatigues stormed the Bardo, killing and holding dozens of people hostage for a three hour period. Two of the terrorists were later killed by Tunisian armed forces, who freed the hostages. Three others escaped and were still at large Wednesday night local time, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal. At least 20 people were wounded in the melee.

The attack was hailed on Twitter accounts aligned with Daesh, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, as “ghazwat Tunis” – the “raid of Tunis.” Pro-Daesh accounts tweeted kudos to the attackers.

But no terror group had officially claimed responsibility for the attack by midnight. Thousands of Tunisian citizens have traveled abroad to fight for Daesh, however, though the group has not gained a foothold in Tunisia, an Arab nation that remains home to one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world, on the island of Djerba.

The death earlier this week of Tunisian-born Daesh field commander Ahmed Al-Rouissi, 48, may have been the trigger for Wednesday’s attack. Al-Rouissi, also known as Abu Zakariya al-Tunisi, was high on Tunisia’s “Most Wanted List” for his role in assassinating politicians there. Al-Rouissi led a cohort of Daesh fighters in Libya and was killed in clashes with Libyan soldiers near Sirte, the stronghold of the late dictator, Muammar Qaddafi.

Daesh and Libya Dawn – a second radical Islamist group – are struggling for terrorist supremacy, while both are fighting with government forces in a situation similar to that in Syria.

Tunisian Interior Ministry officials said the Tunis terror operation began at around midday local time, Wataniya TV reported. Three Polish nationals were among the wounded, according to the Polish foreign ministry.

Two Italian nationals also may have been wounded, according to one report; according to the Italian foreign ministry, 100 of that nation’s citizens were confirmed safe and rescued from a tour in the museum.

“This is a black day for Tunisia,” said Karim Ben Sa’a, a tourism official. “We are very sad for these tourists. They visit our country and it is so, so sad to see them die. Our hearts are black.”

The museum, located in the heart of the Tunisian capital, is also a strategic target in that it shares the Bardot palace complex with the nation’s parliament. Police checkpoints were set up outside the offices of the nearby UK British Council.

While the parliament was immediately evacuated during the crisis, MP Sayida Ounissi tweeted, “We are not afraid.”

The attack follows a series of anti-terror activities by the Tunisian government. Last month more than 30 suspected terrorists were arrested, including a number who had returned from fighting in Syria, and some who allegedly were planning “spectacular” attacks, officials said at the time. Counter-terror forces also reportedly foiled attacks against “vital installations” in the country, including the interior ministry and civilian sites in Tunis.

It also came a day after Tunisia announced the results of a major sting operation in which a large number of weapons were seized from radical Islamist terror organizations.

US Removes Iran, Hezbollah from National Intelligence Terrorist List

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

Both Iran and its Lebanon-based proxy, Hezbollah, have been removed from the National Intelligence list of terrorism threats – the most authoritative document produced by the National Intelligence Agency.

Fox NewsOn The Record with Greta Susteren reported late Tuesday on information found in the unclassified version of the report, the Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Communities 2015 (PDF), dated February 26, 2015. An annual report, this one was delivered recently to the U.S. Senate by National Intelligence Director Lt.-Gen. (ret.) James Clapper.

The document noted Iran’s “intentions to dampen sectarianism, build responsive partners and de-escalate tensions with Saudi Arabia.” Also noted was the fact that “Iranian leaders – particularly within the security services – are pursuing policies with negative secondary consequences for regional stability and potentially for Iran… Iran’s actions to protect and empower Shia communities are fueling growing fears and sectarian responses…”

The intelligence report added that Tehran’s “overarching strategic goals of enhancing its security, prestige and regional influence” have led it to “pursue capabilities to meet its civilian goals and give it the ability to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons, if it chooses to do so.”

Whether or not Iran would choose to do so it still not clear, according to the U.S. intelligence assessment. However, if the Iranian government decides to go ahead, there exist no “insurmountable technical barriers to producing a nuclear weapon,” American intelligence experts concluded, most likely to be delivered via intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Former U.S. Ambassador John Bolton told Fox News journalist Greta Susteren that he believes the removal of Iran and Hezbollah from the terrorist list was not a simple “format change” as reporters were told at a briefing, but rather a deliberate attempt by the Obama administration to deceive the American public.

“What we’re having now is an Orwellian example of disappearing references to Iran and its proxy Hezbollah from the terrorism report,” Bolton said, during an exchange with Susteren on Fox. “This was a concession, I think, by the administration relating to the nuclear negotiation. You will not find it in the signed deal.

“How many other concessions has the administration made that are not in the deal — that may not even be related to the nuclear program — in this desperate effort to get a deal?”

Meanwhile, Iran is moving to widen its sphere of influence in South America, where its diplomatic ties are already strong with Argentina and even warmer with Venezuela, which has the largest reserves of uranium in the Western hemisphere, outside of Canada.

Photos that flashed across Fox News during a report by Susteren showed a heavily guarded facility that was set up in Bolivia in 2011, allegedly with Iranian backing.

“There are elements of that facility which is supposed to be some type of military academy,” Susteren reported, “but is very heavily fortified. And the suspicion is that it’s being used by Iran as a way to have a footprint in Bolivia” which she described as “not a friend of the United States.”

Despite the disappearance of Iran from the terror map in the 2015 National Intelligence assessment, Fox journalist Cathern Herridge also noted that “the documents, the photos and Congressional testimony show that Iran is really effectively expanding its influence into South America, into our neighbor.”

In effect, Herridge said, Iran is “creating a launching pad into North America.”

Bolton concurred in his own remarks. “Look, Iran has terrorist networks all over this hemisphere,” he pointed out. “Remember, three years ago, the Justice Department indicted senior officials of the Revolutionary Guards Corps for conspiring to kill the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States in Washington by infiltrating through the Mexican border.

“I think this is just another example of Iran’s activities.”

PM Netanyahu’s Prayer of Thanks at Western Wall for Historic Victory

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu took his family and went straight to the Western Wall in his first post-election public appearance Wednesday to say a prayer of thanks for the resounding victory of his Likud party.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara go to the Western Wall following an historic fourth landslide win at the polls.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara go to the Western Wall following an historic fourth landslide win at the polls.

The Likud garnered 30 mandates out of 120 seats in the Knesset; Netanyahu’s closest rival, Isaac Herzog, won 24 mandates with his Zionist Union coalition merger with Tzipi Livni.

Netanyahu is the first Israeli prime minister since David Ben Gurion to be re-elected for a fourth term. He also is well aware of who is really in charge: Netanyahu also made sure to head for the Western Wall just prior to leaving for the United States to deliver his historic address to the U.S. Congress in Washington DC — the only head of state ever to address America’s legislators three times, other than Winston Churchill.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu prepares to place a note in the Western Wall.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu prepares to place a note in the Western Wall.

Netanyahu told media who were present for his post-electoral visit to the Western Wall on Wednesday that he was moved by the responsibility that he felt was placed upon his shoulders.

“Here in this place I am awed by the historical significance of a people renewing itself in its homeland after 4,000 years. I am moved by the weight of responsibility that the people of Israel have placed upon my shoulders and appreciate the decision of Israeli citizens to choose me and my colleagues against all odds.

“I would like to say that I will do everything in my power to care of the welfare and security of all Israeli citizens,” he added.

Netanyahu was accompanied to the Wall by his wife Sarah.

Last night (March 17) during his victory speech at Likud campaign headquarters in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu said, “Reality is not waiting for us. The citizens of Israel expect us to quickly put together a leadership that will work for them regarding security, economy and society as we committed to do – and we will do so.”

The Likud said in a separate statement that it is talking with the Bayit Yehudi party led by Naftali Bennett, as well as with Kulanu, the party led by former Likud member Moshe Kahlon, and the hareidi-religious parties.

The prime minister was clear during the campaign in stating his belief that recent history shows it is no longer in Israel’s best interests to support the establishment of an independent Palestinian Authority state. Netanyahu is therefore intent on building a right-wing government coalition that holds similar views.

Palestinian Sour Grapes at Israeli Re-election of Netanyahu Government

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

Palestinian Authority leaders bitterly issued a statement that smacked of sour grapes Wednesday, denouncing Israeli voters for choosing to re-elect Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu as prime minister on Tuesday.

Senior official Yasser Abed Rabbo, speaking for the PA’s parent organization, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said, “Israel chose the path of racism, occupation and settlement building, and did not choose the path of negotiations and partnership between us.”

Entirely forgotten were the 10 months in which hundreds of thousands of Israelis could not repair even a balcony if they lived in Judea, Samaria or areas of Jerusalem desired by the PA, due to a construction freeze imposed by Netanyahu in deference to a PA precondition for talks.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesperson for PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, told the Ma’an news agency the PA is not concerned with who forms the new government, but rather with whether that government recognizes the PA’s right to an independent sovereign state – with part of Jerusalem serving as its capital.

Rudeineh said the PA would continue to work with any Israeli government that recognizes “legitimate international resolutions” but said if Israel is not committed to a two-state solution, there would be no chance to resume the peace process.

Former chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a statement that the Likud victory reflected “the success of a campaign based on settlements, racism, apartheid and the denial of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people.”

However, a Gulf Arab official who declined to be named told Reuters that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu actually owed his victory at the polls to Israeli concerns over security, particularly with regard to worries about Iran.

“With Iran emerging again, it was highly expected that Netanyahu would win,” the official said. “He’s a man who believes strongly in protecting his people, and this is what Israel wants now.”

Iran, however, believes there is “no difference” between Israel’s political parties. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Marizeh Afkham was quoted by the Mehr news agency Wednesday in Tehran as saying, “For us there is no difference between the Zionist regime’s political parties. They are all aggressors in nature.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry declined to comment on the results of the election when asked by reporters during a break in talks with Iran in Lausanne, Switzerland. State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said Tuesday night, however, the U.S. was “looking forward to working with the next Israeli government.”

Late Tuesday night White House press secretary Josh Earnest also said that President Barack Obama was “confident that strong U.S.-Israeli ties will endure far beyond the Israeli elections regardless of the victor.”

Cleanup

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

A worker cleans the floor, covered with Likud campaign banners depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Likud ballots, at the Likud party headquarters in Tel Aviv on March 18, 2015, after the exit polls in the Israeli general elections were announced, with PM Netanyahu claiming victory.

Likud Begins Coalition Building

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

The Likud has begun the process of building a coalition.

PM Benjamin Netanyahu said that reality isn’t taking a break, and the citizens of Israel expect to quickly have a government.

Netanyahu’s goal is to have a government formed within the next 2 to 3 weeks.

Netanyahu has already spoken with all the party leaders he plans to invite to join in his coalition, including: Naftali Bennett (Bayyit Yehudi), Moshe Kachlon (Kulanu), Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu), Aryeh Deri (Shas) and Yaakov Litzman and Moshe Gafni (UTJ).

Earlier today, Labor chief Yitzchak Herzog called up Netanyahu to congratulate him on his victory.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/likud-begins-coalition-building/2015/03/18/

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