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Iran Said to Have Cut Hizbullah Aid by 40 Percent - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
Iran has cut the annual funding it provides Hizbullah by over 40%, stirring an unprecedented crisis within the Lebanese Shi'ite organization, according to recent Israeli intelligence assessments.
Iran has in recent years provided Hizbullah with close to $1 billion in direct military aid, but due to international sanctions it has been forced to cut back on funding.
The cuts have stirred tension between Hizbullah and its Iranian patrons.
Gazans Losing Enthusiasm for Hamas - Patrick Martin (Globe and Mail-Canada)
Whereas Hamas received more than 60% of the vote in Gaza in the January 2006 Palestinian elections, most political analysts say they would be surprised if Hamas were to receive more than 30% of any vote today.
People here say the biggest reason is the fact that life for most Gazans has not improved much, if at all. "A big disappointment" is how one man summed up his and many others' view of Hamas.
A large number of the people who have turned away from Hamas cite as a second reason the fact that Hamas didn't put up much of a fight in the 22-day war with Israel in December 2008 and January 2009.
There also has built up a small backlash against Hamas' sometimes heavy-handed imposition of morality laws.
Israel's "Find the Terrorist, Not the Bomb" Approach - David Rose (Daily Mail-UK)
The security checks at Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport are intense, but they are surprisingly discreet. There are no groups of armed police patrolling through the concourses.
The new intrusive body scanners recently introduced in America are not in use.
Instead, Ben-Gurion's critical line of defense consists of polite, highly trained agents, most of them women, who will speak to every passenger while they wait to check in.
"We operate on the principle that it's much more effective to detect the would-be terrorist than try to find his bomb," says a senior Israeli official.
"The 9/11 hijackers killed 3,000 people without real weapons or explosives. To be safe, you have to be able to stop the person who has hostile intentions. That's how our system works."
Egypt's Bedouin Smugglers Ply Arms Trade to Gaza - Marwa Awad (Reuters)
"The latest deal just arrived from Sudan, come and see," said Aref, a Bedouin smuggler in Egypt's Sinai desert.
"These are 80 Kalashnikovs....We will bury this shipment in the desert until we find a buyer."
Arms smuggling by Bedouin tribal networks, mainly by land along Egypt's southern border with Sudan, across the Sinai peninsula and into Hamas-run Gaza, is on the uptick, according to an Egyptian official.
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- U.S. House Opposes Unilateral Declaration of Palestinian State
The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a resolution condemning unilateral measures to declare or recognize a Palestinian state, and backing a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The resolution, introduced by Rep. Howard Berman, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, reaffirms "strong opposition to any attempt to establish or seek recognition of a Palestinian state outside of an agreement negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians." It urges Palestinian leaders to "cease all efforts at circumventing the negotiation process" and calls on foreign governments "not to extend such recognition." (AFP)
- WikiLeaks: Mubarak Says "Iranian Influence Spreading Like a Cancer" across Arab World - Ben Birnbaum
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak compared Iran's growing influence in the Middle East to a "cancer," according to a cable released by WikiLeaks.
"President Mubarak has made it clear that he sees Iran as Egypt's - and the region's - primary strategic threat," says the secret cable, sent April 28, 2009, from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.
"While he will readily admit that the Iranian nuclear program is a strategic and existential threat to Egypt and the region, he sees that threat as relatively 'long term.' What has seized his immediate attention are Iran's non-nuclear destabilizing actions such as support for Hamas, media attacks, weapons and illicit funds smuggling, all of which add up in his mind to 'Iranian influence spreading like a cancer from the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council countries] to Morocco.'" (Washington Times)
- Palestinian Authority Cracks Down on Mosques to Promote Moderate Islam - Janine Zacharia
Each week, Mahmoud Habash, the PA Minister of Religious Affairs, sends an email to mosques across the West Bank with what amounts to a script for the Friday sermon that every imam is required to deliver. The practice, part of a broader crackdown on Muslim preachers considered too radical, shows the extreme steps the PA is taking to weaken Hamas, its Islamist rival.
The crackdown also reveals an authoritarian streak in a Palestinian leadership routinely hailed by American officials for its governance. (Washington Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Mitchell Proposes "Parallel" U.S. Talks with Israel, Palestinians - Barak Ravid
According to the French news agency AFP, Middle East envoy George Mitchell suggested that the U.S. hold separate but "parallel" talks with both sides for a period of six weeks. A Palestinian source said Mitchell had proposed that the U.S. conduct bilateral talks with each side, rather than any direct peace negotiations. "The aim is for the U.S. administration to form an idea of what the two parties want with a view to drawing up a strategy to relaunch direct negotiations at the time it deems appropriate," the Palestinian official said.
- PA Wants Arab League to "Tie Its Hands" on Negotiations - Herb Keinon
The Palestinian Authority was looking to Arab League foreign ministers who met on Wednesday in Cairo to "tie its hands" and not authorize even proximity talks until Israel freezes settlement construction, Israeli government officials said. The Arab ministers issued a statement saying, "The negotiation track between the Palestinians and Israelis is futile. There is no return to talks." The Arab ministers also agreed to go to the UN Security Council for a resolution against settlement construction and urged the U.S. not to block the move.
- Lebanon Claims It Confiscated Israeli Spy Equipment - Yaakov Katz
The Lebanese military claimed on Wednesday that its soldiers discovered and dismantled two spy cameras planted by Israel in the country's mountains overlooking Beirut. The military was tipped off about the systems by Hizbullah, the army said. (Jerusalem Post)
- The Palestinians Are the Real Obstacle to Peace - Moshe Ya'alon
Unfortunately, what stands between the Palestinians and eventual statehood is their insincerity when it comes to real peace. Israel has repeatedly proposed the independence that the Palestinians ostensibly desire. But instead of concluding a deal with Israel, they have demonstrated a total unwillingness to compromise, often favoring terrorism. Is it any wonder Israelis find it ever more difficult to trust the Palestinians?
We do not yet have two states for two peoples because the Palestinians refuse to accept that there even exists a Jewish nation that lays legitimate claim to its land. They reject the entire premise of a state for the Jewish people - not only beyond the pre-1967 lines but even within the 1948 boundaries.
Israel remains committed to the cause of peace. We have no desire to govern the affairs of another people. But our acceptance of a viable Palestinian state awaits a similar Palestinian acceptance of the rights of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel. Erekat, the Palestinian negotiator, recently wrote that such a step would require a modification of the Palestinian narrative. He's absolutely right. Until this happens, there can be no chance for peace.
Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Moshe Ya'alon, a former IDF Chief of Staff, is Israel's Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Strategic Affairs.
- How Sanctions Can Work with Iran - Michael Rubin
While the international community has been targeting banks, the Iranians have been able to play a shell game, creating new banks faster than we're able to designate banks as subject to sanctions. We need to sanction much more the Iranian central bank.
Iran with a nuclear weapon would embolden Iran and its proxies. It would also set the Middle East down a cascade of proliferation. If Iran gets the bomb, Saudi Arabia will want it; Egypt has already told us they want it.
For Israel, it's seen as an existential threat. The Israelis say, if the Islamic Republic was about to fall, what is to stop the Islamic Revolutionary Guard from launching a nuclear weapon at Israel in pursuit of its ideological goals, knowing that the regime is going to be gone the next day anyway and that the world isn't going to retaliate against a country that has just had regime change? That's where the idea of mutually assured destruction doesn't hold up.
The writer is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School.
- Mitchell's Back - Jonathan S. Tobin
George Mitchell is back in the Middle East to resume his fruitless negotiating between Israel and the Palestinians. Even without the burden of pushing Israel to freeze building before talks even begin, it's not clear that there is any purpose to Mitchell's visit other than a symbolic gesture of America's continued interest in peace. The administration has already tried and failed with its sole idea for promoting peace: pressure on Israel. While Israel's critics and foes are urging Obama to double down on such pressure, it appears that even the president and the secretary of state are finally beginning to understand that there is little point to investing any energy in such a process when they know that even if they gain more concessions from the Israelis, the Palestinians will always say no in the end anyway.
Who Will Win the Battle for the Hearts and Minds
of the Arab Street: Turkey or Iran? - Harold Rhode (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Shiite Iran is appealing to the Arab Sunni street by trying to co-opt the agenda of the Sunni masses - the existence of Israel and the sanctity of Jerusalem - neither of which are traditional Shiite issues. In doing so, Iran seeks to undermine the existing Arab Sunni regimes by going over the heads of their leaders. That is why almost all of the regimes in the region hate the Iranian regime more than they hate Israel.
- Jerusalem does not matter for traditional Shiites. They see the city's sanctification as a Sunni innovation and therefore summarily reject it. In the late 680s CE, 55 years after Muhammad's death, the Sunni Umayyad rulers of Damascus built a dome over the Rock on the Temple Mount as a way to help smother a local revolt in Mecca. The Umayyads were afraid that people who made the pilgrimage to Mecca would join the rebels' cause, so they blocked pilgrims from going to Mecca and turned the Temple Mount into an alternative pilgrimage site.
- Some Shiite Grand Ayatollahs even have argued that Jerusalem was given to the children of Isaac, while Ishmael, Abraham's older son, received Najaf, which is in Iraq. In other words, from a Shiite perspective, Jerusalem is a Sunni heresy.
- It appears that the Saudis and the present Turkish government are both interested in reestablishing the Caliphate - certainly culturally and probably eventually politically - most likely in the capital of the last great Sunni empire in modern times: Istanbul.
- The Turkish government claims that there is no Wahhabi money going into Turkey. Maybe so, but gorgeous, expensive mosques are being built in Turkey's poor, small villages. The locals obviously do not have the money for this.
- While many Turks supported the Gaza flotilla terrorists, many others wonder why Arab Egypt - which also blockades Hamas-controlled Gaza - and the oil-rich Arab countries with limitless financial resources have not taken care of the humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza. Why should Turkey, they reason, be more concerned about the Arabs than the Arabs themselves?
Dr. Harold Rhode joined the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense in 1982 as an advisor on Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. From 1994 until his recent retirement, he served in the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment.
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