- In a show of bipartisan support, Senate Banking Committee approves the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015
In a bipartisan feat, the Senate Banking Committee approved the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015 bill in its mark-up session on Thursday. The bill garnered eighteen votes, twelve Republican and six Democratic. In Tuesday’s Banking Committee hearing on Iran sanctions, key Democrats had indicated their support for the bill. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced to the Committee he would vote in favor of the bill so that it would be “ready to go.” Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) indicated he would do the same.
The Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2015, written by Senators Menendez and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), would impose economic pressure against Iran only if a final agreement on its nuclear program is not reached by the deadline set for June. The Obama administration has been clear about its opposition to any legislation that contains penalties against Iran and has urged Democrats not to support such bills. In a demonstration of support for the bill, on Tuesday ten Democratic senators, led by Menendez, sent a letter to President Obama stating they would vote for the Nuclear Free Iran Act of 2015, if Iran did not consent to a political framework that “addresses all parameters of a comprehensive agreement” by March 24. Senator Schumer reiterated the bipartisan support on the issue expressing his “thanks to Senators Menendez and Kirk for introducing a strong sanctions bill that has bipartisan support . . .”
Also during the mark-up, Senator Vitter (R-La.) offered an amendment reiterating “Israel’s basic right to defend itself.” Vitter explained, “The reason that it’s unfortunately necessary is because in the international community and particularly forums like the U.N., that is not a given.” Ranking minority leader Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) responded, “I agree. Israel has a right to defend itself against all who threaten its borders.”
Jihadists simultaneously attacked over a dozen army and police targets in northern Sinai on Thursday night, killing at least 25 people, including civilians, according to reports. Several checkpoints, a police club, a hotel, and a military base were targeted in the cities of el-Arish, Sheikh Zuwayid, and Rafah. The attackers reportedly fired mortars and set off at least one car bomb. Egyptian officials indicated that the death toll was expected to rise.
Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula has long been a haven for jihadists and militants including Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, which pledged loyalty to the Islamic State last November. Analysts at the Brookings Institution have called the region “a fertile environment for Islamist militants to thrive, effectively rendering the Sinai Peninsula a new front in a region rife with conflict.”
The Egyptian military has been fighting a growing insurgency in northern Sinai since the fall of Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, announcing a full-scale assault in September 2013. Militants launched major attacks against security checkpoints last October. Ansar Beit al-Maqdis reportedly planted nearly two dozen bombs in northern Sinai throughout November 2014, killing four men.
In recent months, the Egyptian government has begun a policy of systematically demolishing houses in Rafah, which straddles the border with the Gaza Strip, to crack down on the flow of weapons and terrorists across the border. The intention is to create a buffer zone, which has widened from 500 yards to more than a half mile, and Rafah’s governor hinted that the entire city might be torn down.
In an interview with France24, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said that Egypt will not allow Sinai to “become a base for attacks against Israel.” Under Sisi’s leadership, security coordination and collaboration between Israel and Egypt has greatly increased as the two countries share the common interest of defeating Islamist terror. Israel has allowed Egypt to keep a far larger force in Sinai than what is allowed under the Camp David Accords in order to facilitate Egypt’s efforts to fight terrorism in the often lawless territory.
Norway’s largest charitable organization, the Olav Thon Foundation has announced that its first international research award in the medical and natural sciences will go to Tel Aviv University’s (TAU) Prof. Yosef Shiloh and Prof. Judith Campisi of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, California. The two scientists will split the prize money of approximately $660,000.
The foundation, which invests heavily in medical research, recognized Shiloh, the Myers Professor of Cancer Genetics and Research Professor of the Israel Cancer Research Fund at TAU’s Sackler School of Medicine, for his pioneering research on the mechanisms that maintain the survival of human cells and the stability of human genetic material
“A prize means scientific recognition,” said Prof. Shiloh. “Scientists do not work in order to get prizes or any other monetary benefits, but the award of a prize means that our work is recognized by our colleagues, and this is probably the true reward of a scientist.”
“The laureates have provided us with new insights into the molecular basis of aging, aging-related diseases, and cellular degenerative processes,” writes the Olav Thon Foundation.
Shiloh was a recipient of the prestigious Israel Prize (considered “Israel’s Nobel”) in Life Sciences in 2011, the 2011 American Association of Cancer Research G.H.A. Clowes Award, and the 2005 EMET Prize in Life Sciences. (via Israel21c)