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Egypt: Al-Qaeda Attempting to Establish Terror Cells in Gaza - Jack Khoury (Ha'aretz)
Al-Qaeda is trying to establish terror cells in Gaza, Egyptian Interior Minister Gen. Habib Adli told the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram on Tuesday.
He also revealed that Egyptian security forces had arrested 19 suspected al-Qaeda militants who were planning suicide bombings at holy places throughout Egypt, including one who was suspected of being involved in the New Year's Eve bombing of a Coptic church in Alexandria.
Iran Rejects Uranium Fuel Swap Deal - Steven Erlanger (New York Times)
At the talks between Iran and six major powers in Istanbul over the weekend, Iran said it was "no longer interested" in a proposed fuel-swap deal, a senior Western diplomat said Monday.
Iran Executes 64 People in 24 Days - Dudi Cohen (Ynet News)
Iran executed six people on Monday, bringing the number of executions since the beginning of 2011 to 64, an average of one person every nine hours.
Among those executed were two activists who were members of an exiled group that joined post-election protests.
Last year, at least 180 people were executed in Iran.
A Biography of the Leader of Iran's Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force - Ali Alfoneh (American Enterprise Institute)
The Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards was established in 1979 to export Iran's Islamic revolution beyond its borders.
Brig.-Gen. Qassem Suleimani was appointed chief of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in the late 1990s during the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Suleimani had extensive battlefield experience in the civil war in Kurdish regions of Iran during the immediate aftermath of the revolution, was a seasoned commander in the war against Iraq from 1980 to 1988, and fought against drug cartels near the Iran/Afghanistan border from 1988.
Point Man on U.S. Sanctions to Depart - Jay Solomon (Wall Street Journal)
The departure of the point man for the Obama administration's financial wars on Iran, North Korea and al-Qaeda, Stuart Levey, from his senior U.S. Treasury Department post will leave President Obama without the principal architect of Washington's economic-sanctions campaign against Tehran.
Senior Obama administration officials said the White House is set to nominate David Cohen, Mr. Levey's deputy at Treasury and longtime confidante, to succeed him as the undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
Mr. Cohen said the Treasury has "rewritten the rules of economic warfare" in recent years. But he added: "We'd like to add some new plays."
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- Hizbullah Chooses Lebanon's Next Prime Minister - Anthony Shadid
Najib Miqati, a candidate for prime minister backed by Hizbullah and its allies, won enough support on Monday to form Lebanon's government, unleashing angry protests, realigning politics and culminating the generation-long ascent of the Shiite Muslim movement to become the country's pre-eminent political and military force. To form a new government that would denounce the UN tribunal's expected indictments in the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, Hizbullah needed at least 65 of the 128 Parliament members. Diplomats and politicians say they now have that number.
(New York Times)
See also Iran and Syria Use Hizbullah to Seize Influence over Lebanon - Adrian Blomfield
Iran Changes the Balance of Power in Lebanon - Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
Iran no longer hesitates to state publicly that its forward defense line now passes through "Lebanon and Palestine." In practice, the Lebanese-Israeli border is in fact Israel's border with Iran. Hizbullah is nourished by the growing strength and power of Iran and draws upon its successes. Both parties recognize that the fall of one also signifies the demise of the other.
The writer is a former Head of the Iran and Persian Gulf States desk in IDF Military Intelligence.
(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Israel Eyes a Hizbullah-Run Lebanon - Isabel Kershner
The previous Beirut government, led by Saad Hariri, "never did anything against Hizbullah," said Prof. Eyal Zisser, an expert on Syria and Lebanon at Tel Aviv University. "So from Israel's perspective, it [a Hizbullah-backed government] is a semantic change."
An Israeli official said, "We are concerned about Iranian domination of Lebanon through its proxy, Hizbullah." The idea of a Hizbullah-backed government raised all sorts of questions, he added, including that of Lebanon's commitment to UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended Israel's 2006 war against Hizbullah and underpins the four-year-old cease-fire.
Gen. (ret.) Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national security adviser and now a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, has long argued that to win the next war, Israel has to fight not only against Hizbullah, but also against the infrastructure of its host, Lebanon.
"If Hizbullah is behind the government, it will be much easier to explain to the international community why we must fight against the State of Lebanon." (New York Times)
- U.S. Calls Israel's Flotilla Report "Credible and Impartial"
U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley commented Monday on Israel's Turkel Commission report on the legality of Israel's naval blockade on Gaza as well as the May 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla:
"We have been supportive of this effort by Israel, and we think that this is an independent report, credible and impartial." (State Department)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Leaked Documents Show PA Demanded What They Had Already Conceded - Barak Ravid and Natasha Mozgovaya
Given the secret acceptance by Palestinian negotiators of Israel's annexation of nearly all of the Jewish neighborhoods built in east Jerusalem, as described in the leaked Palestine Papers,
"the Palestinian demand over the last year and a half to freeze construction in Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem is ridiculous, since it is clear that they had already conceded the aforementioned neighborhoods in negotiations during [Israeli Prime Minister] Olmert's tenure," associates of Prime Minister Netanyahu said Monday.
- PA Says PLO Negotiations Department Employees Leaked Documents to Al-Jazeera - Khaled Abu Toameh
The PA suspects that employees working for the PLO Negotiations Department headed by Saeb Erekat, the PLO chief negotiator, leaked secret documents to Al-Jazeera "in return for large sums," a PA security source said Monday. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Al-Jazeera Seeking to Bring Down PA Leadership - Khaled Abu Toameh
Al-Jazeera, the Arab world's most influential TV network, has ruled that the leaders of the Palestinian Authority have betrayed their people and must therefore step down.
They have been found guilty of ceding control over most of east Jerusalem to Israel, relinquishing the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees, and coordinating security with Israeli authorities. Some PA officials claimed that Qatar, which owns Al-Jazeera, set out to "politically liquidate" Abbas and help Hamas extend its control to the West Bank.
Al-Jazeera has succeeded in instilling in the minds of many Palestinians and Arabs the belief that the leaders of the PA are a bunch of corrupt traitors who serve Israeli and American interests. The damage to the PA's image and reputation is colossal and irreparable.
- Leaks from Peace Talks Don't Show Palestinians Making Shocking Concessions - Edmund Sanders
Despite the spin by Al-Jazeera and critics of the PA, the documents released don't show Palestinian negotiators giving away the store.
To the contrary, they're depicted as taking a surprisingly hard-line stance against giving up massive West Bank settlements such as Maale Adumim, Givat Zeev, Har Homa and Ariel, which most experts have long presumed would be retained by Israel with little fuss. (Los Angeles Times)
See also What Palestinian Concessions? - David Frum
Where are the big Palestinian concessions contained in the documents? The documents demand Palestinian sovereignty over almost all of historic Jerusalem, including the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism.
They demand Palestinian control of lands equal in territory to the 1967 lands. Any border adjustment to reflect Israeli settlement activity would have to be balanced by an equivalent surrender of Israeli land to the new Palestinian state.
They also demand that Israel be required to resettle 100,000 Palestinians inside Israeli territory.
- Documents Emphasize Huge Gap Between Public and Private Palestinian Stance - Herb Keinon
Rather than saying loudly and proudly that the publication of the documents shows a willingness to give up on maximalist Palestinian demands, the PA reaction was the complete opposite. It was to deny everything, and to say that the PA would not give in an inch.
The documents show again the huge gap between what Arab leaders say in public and what they say in private.
The PA had the chance to say in public what it apparently said in private: that it was not cleaving to the last grain of sand. But it failed the test - something that doesn't bode well for the future. (Jerusalem Post)
- NastyLeaks - Robert M. Danin
The Palestine Papers are a direct attack on the leadership of the PLO, its negotiators, and the very idea of negotiating peace with Israel. Al Jazeera played along, insinuating that the documents show that the Palestinian leadership is willing to capitulate to Israeli desires.
Palestinian leaders have done a lamentable job of preparing their public for the types of concessions necessary for an enduring Israeli-Palestinian settlement. Accordingly, the leakers seem to have intended to sabotage the peace process by revealing the far-reaching compromises that were under discussion.
The release of the Palestine Papers has put the PLO leadership on the defensive. It will now seek to demonstrate its nationalist resolve by staking out very tough conditions to return to the negotiating table. The writer, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, headed the Jerusalem mission of Quartet representative Tony Blair from 2008 to 2010.
The Palestinians and the UN - Aaron David Miller (New York Times)
The Obama administration needs to come out hard and fast - and remain steadfast - against Palestinian efforts to take the Israeli-Palestinian issue to the UN.
- For the U.S. administration to acquiesce in or actively support the internationalization of the Israeli-Palestinian problem is a very bad idea. A conflict-ending agreement between Israelis and Palestinians can only be achieved through negotiations. This has been the position of successive administrations for half a century now.
- To send any signal to Palestinians or the international community that there is some shortcut or imposed solution via UN mandate is a dangerous fantasy that will doom any hope for a solution. The Israelis and Palestinians need to own this process first if it is to work; not the international community.
- Any action at the UN will be seen as part of a campaign to isolate and beat up on Israel; it could even lead to Congress restricting aid to Palestinians on the West Bank.
- Focusing on UN resolutions - acquiescing in the Palestinian campaign to gain recognition for a state that doesn't yet exist - will do nothing to create a real one.
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