Bodies of kidnapped Israeli teenagers found

 

Israeli officials announced Monday evening that the bodies of three Israeli teenagers – kidnapped earlier this month by terrorists affiliated with Hamas – had been found north of the West Bank town of Hebron. Searches for the boys had been ongoing for weeks, and the developments opened up a flood of new details regarding the initial abduction. Buzzfeed reported that Israeli officials had known almost immediately that the kidnapping had involved a likely murder. Washington Institute Senior Fellow Matt Levitt contextualized the news against the backdrop of Palestinian boasts – which had become something of a mainstay on social media – that the Israeli victims would be traded for Palestinian prisoners, noting that a request to free prisoners had never been made. The developments were also quickly read against the backdrop of ongoing controversy regarding the Obama administration’s decision – made a few weeks prior to the kidnapping – to extend support to a Palestinian unity government jointly agreed upon by Hamas and its traditional rivals in the Fatah faction. Top Fatah officials had previously said that any Hamas involvement in the kidnapping would “mark the crossing of a red line,” and would force them to abrogate the unity agreement. The developments come a day after Hamas fighters launched more than a dozen rockets at Israeli communities, the first time the group has officially taken credit for such launches since November 2012.

 

Foreign Policy's blog The Cable on Friday published details of a strategy document, co-authored by officials the outlet characterized as carrying "immense political clout" in the debate over Iran, outlining a structure for congressional sanctions that would take hold in the aftermath of comprehensive nuclear deal between Tehran and the P5+1 global powers, both to enforce any atomic agreement and in contexts beyond Iran's atomic program. The full document - written by Mark Dubowitz and Richard Goldberg, respectively the executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and the former deputy chief of staff to Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) - was subsequently uploaded to FDD's server. The report echoes a consensus, which has been emphasized by groups on both sides of the Iran sanctions debate, to the effect that Congress must play a central role in lifting financial restrictions on the Islamic republic. It calls for the construction of "a smart sanctions architecture of effective enforcement and relief" in the context of any verifiable agreement that genuinely puts Iran's atomic program beyond use for weaponization, and outlines six criteria for a "flexible and limited sanctions relief framework." Lawmakers would among other things demand that Iran live up to "a series of parameters that already has strong bipartisan Congressional support," that sanctions relief be carefully sequenced, that permissible channels for transactions be created and monitored, and that any temporary suspension of financial pressure be coupled with measures allowing a quick "snapback" in the event of violations. Dubowitz and Goldberg also emphasize that "terrorism and human rights sanctions should be strengthened and expanded if the behavior underlying these sanctions continues," and that - more precisely - conduct-based sanctions should be maintained until the Treasury Department and the President have certified that Iran has altered the proscribed conduct. The Cable  quoted Suzanne Maloney, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, predicting that "this plan will elicit a lot of support on the Hill," and noting that the authors "have an enormous amount of sway on the Hill on the issue of sanctions, both because of their expertise and their energetic efforts to advance their case."

 

Reports surfaced over the weekend that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) had announced it had reformed the caliphate – an Islamic state stretching across the region – headed by ISIS chief Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. The news will be read alongside increasing concerns over the degree to which Iran has strengthened both Sunni and Shiite extremists in Iraq in recent years, deepening sectarian tensions in the country. President Barack Obama last week blasted the Islamic republic for supporting Iraqi Shiites at the expense of an inclusive government, and the Washington Free Beacon reported that Tehran had provided shelter and protection to Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the predecessor of ISIS during the 2000s. Last week, Mohsen Milani, executive director of the Center for Strategic & Diplomatic Studies and a political professor at the University of South Florida, worried that Iran’s history of stoking sectarianism in Iraq had been a boon to ISIS, noting that the group’s “rapid advances were only possible because the population of Sunni-majority areas of Iraq felt entirely alienated” from Baghdad and “believed that ISIS offered them a better opportunity to govern their own affairs.” Meanwhile, the Pentagon on Monday announced it was sending an additional 300 troops to Iraq to provide additional security for among other things the U.S. embassy and the Baghdad airport.

 

Ethio-soul singer Ester Rada is the latest Israeli to be chosen to feature at the highly prestigious WOMEX World Music Expo, set to take place in October. Rada was among the first 10 acts to be selected in the first round of jury-selected official showcase artists for this year’s world music industry networking event. “A number of artists create traditional music with a twist or add a traditional flavor to contemporary styles . . . Ester Rada (Israel) filters her modern R’n’B and soul through her Ethiopian roots,” reads the press release announcing Rada’s selection. Organizers say they received over 850 showcase proposals to take part in the event. The WOMEX Showcase Festival will spotlight more than 60 acts from around the globe in total. In addition to Rada, the first 10 acts include Bostich + Fussible from Nortec Collective (Mexico), Džambo Aguševi Orchestra (FYR Macedonia), Ilkka Heinonen Trio (Finland), Noreum Machi (South Korea), Otava Yo (Russia), Paolo Angeli (Italy/Spain), Raúl Rodríguez – Razón de Son (Spain), Tribu Baharú (Colombia), and Troker (Mexico). (via Israel21c)


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