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Protesters in Libya Demand Gaddafi Ouster and Reforms - Maggie Michael (AP-Washington Post)
Unrest in Libya spread on Wednesday, with riot police clashing with protesters in Benghazi, and marchers setting fire to security headquarters and police stations in two other cities, witnesses said.
Activists using Facebook and Twitter have called for nationwide demonstrations Thursday to demand the ouster of longtime dictator Moammar Gaddafi who came to power in 1969 through a military coup.
Diplomats: Syria Still Stonewalling UN Nuclear Probe (AFP)
Syria has snubbed a request by UN atomic watchdog chief Yukiya Amano for prompt access to a suspect nuclear site and a number of other locations, diplomats in Vienna said on Tuesday.
Iran's Man in Ecuador - Jose R. Cardenas
Iran and Ecuador have concluded a $30 million deal to conduct joint mining projects in Ecuador that appears to lay the groundwork for future extractive activities.
Ecuador is known to possess deposits of uranium. In August 2009, Russia and Ecuador signed a nuclear agreement that included joint geological research and development of uranium fields, as well as building nuclear power plants and research reactors.
In March 2009, the International Atomic Energy Agency also unveiled plans to help Ecuador explore for uranium.
In a December 2008 deal, the Export Development Bank of Iran (EBDI) offered to deposit $120 million in the Ecuadorean Central Bank to fund bilateral trade. EDBI, however, was sanctioned in October 2008 by the U.S. Treasury Department for helping to finance Iran's weapons of mass destruction programs.
WikiLeaks: U.S. Suspects Hizbullah Presence in Chile (AFP)
An unclassified embassy cable dated Feb. 27, 2006, and released Tuesday by WikiLeaks, reported U.S. suspicions that
"fundamentalists who are known to be associated with Hizbullah are increasing their presence and activity in Chile."
It said a "radical fundamentalist presence" was centered in the northern city of Iquique, and to a lesser degree in Santiago.
"There is substantial information that indicates that significant financial fund-raising for Hizbullah is taking place in northern Chile within the Muslim community."
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- U.S. Agrees to Rebuke Israel in Security Council - Colum Lynch
The U.S. informed Arab governments Tuesday that it will support a UN Security Council statement reaffirming that the Council "does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity," a move aimed at avoiding the prospect of having to veto a stronger Palestinian resolution calling the settlements illegal. But the Palestinians rejected the American offer Wednesday and said they are planning to press for a vote on the resolution on Friday.
- Iranian Warships Bound for Syria Are Set to Transit Suez Canal - Ethan Bronner
Israel warned on Wednesday that two Iranian warships were poised to pass through the Suez Canal en route to Syria. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, "Israel is closely monitoring the movement of the Iranian ships and has updated friendly states on the issue." (New York Times)
See also Iranian Warships Having an Outsize Impact - J. E. Dyer
The Iranian ships themselves are hardly impressive: one frigate with old anti-ship missiles and one barely armed replenishment ship. But the big shift here is in political perceptions of power. Revolutionary, terror-sponsoring Iran - under U.S., EU, and UN sanctions - feels free to conduct this deployment, and Syria feels free to cooperate in it. Saudi Arabia considered it prudent to host the Iranian warships last week - in spite of the Saudis' own conviction that Iran has been aiding rebel groups that threaten Saudi territory. (Commentary)
See also Report: Egypt Blocked Iran Ships from Entering Suez Canal - Avi Issacharoff
Al-Arabiya reported that Egyptian authorities had blocked plans by two Iranian naval ships to cross the Suez Canal, an official said on Thursday.
- U.S. Spies: Iran Split on Nuclear Program - Adam Entous
A new classified U.S. intelligence assessment concludes that Iran's leaders are locked in an increasingly heated debate over whether to move further toward developing nuclear weapons, saying the bite of international sanctions may be sowing discord. The new national intelligence estimate (NIE) says Tehran likely has resumed work on nuclear-weapons research in addition to expanding its program to enrich uranium - updating a contested 2007 estimate that concluded the arms program had all but halted in 2003.
The NIE's findings suggest that some Iranian leaders are worried that economic turmoil fueled in part by international sanctions could spur opposition to the regime. "There's a strong sense that a number of Iranian regime officials know that the sanctions are having a serious effect," a U.S. official said.
(Wall Street Journal)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Hizbullah Threatens to Conquer Northern Israel in Future War
Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah on Wednesday called on his fighters to stand ready to occupy the Galilee area in northern Israel in the event of another war. He also threatened to target Israeli officials and military leaders to avenge the death of Hizbullah military commander Imad Mughniyeh in 2008. "I tell the Zionist leaders and generals to be careful wherever they are in the world because Imad Mughniyeh's blood will not go in vain." (Naharnet-Lebanon)
- Netanyahu: Israel Must Be Prepared In Case Peace Unravels
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem on Wednesday:
"Security in this part of the world is the foundation of peace, not merely because we have to protect the peace, but also because we have to protect ourselves in case peace unravels. A peace treaty, in itself, does not guarantee the peace. We had peaceful relations with one country and that country changed overnight. It's called Iran. We had formal, excellent peace relations with another country: meetings of leaders, robust trade, joint military maneuvers, and 400,000 tourists a year: Turkey. But that too changed one day."
"We may hope for the best of all outcomes. But if our people's history has shown us anything and has taught us anything, it is not to dismiss the threats we face. We must recognize those threats in time. And we must be always ready to defend ourselves." (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
- Israeli Economy Booms in Fourth Quarter - Adrian Filut
Israel's GDP rose at an unprecedented pace of 7.8%, on an annualized, seasonally adjusted basis, in the fourth quarter of 2010, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported Wednesday.
- The Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood - Chris Luenen
While the Muslim Brotherhood is mainly known as an Egyptian Islamist opposition party, the Brotherhood has become a truly international force with over 70 branches worldwide and an international coordinating body known as the tanzim al-dawli. It has access to large funds through obligatory contributions from its members, from rich private donors mainly from the oil-rich Gulf states as well as from its vast business ventures.
The Brotherhood has given rise to almost all jihadi groups past and present, including al-Qaeda, Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, al-Jihad, Hamas, and the ultra-radical Takfir wal-Hijra.
- Egypt's Transformed Military - Graeme Bannerman
The Egyptian army is very different from the American army. It is an institution largely self-sustained through enterprises such as farms, factories and hospitals, with the dual purposes of defending the nation against external threats and preserving domestic stability. Members of the military live on cantonments and do not participate in the national political process. They cannot vote in elections.
Thirty years of military cooperation with the U.S. in some ways has transformed the military. Thirty years ago the officer corps was trained and educated in the Soviet bloc. Today, thousands of officers have trained with Americans.
The writer, a scholar at the Middle East Institute, is a former Staff Director of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
(Middle East Institute)
- Palestine an Obsession of Radical West, Not Arabs - Brendan O'Neill
In Cairo's Tahrir Square there were no signs saying "death to Israel, America and global imperialism" or "together to free Palestine." Yet in the pro-Egypt demonstration in London on Saturday there was a sea of "Free Palestine" placards. In recent years the Palestine issue has moved from the realm of Arab radicalism to become almost the exclusive property of Western radicals.
The power and allure of Palestine in Western radical circles is extraordinary. Palestine is the only issue they get excited about. But their pro-Palestine fervor is not driven by future-oriented demands for economic development in a Palestinian homeland in the West Bank or Gaza. Instead it is driven by a view of Palestinians as the ultimate victims who need kindly, wizened Westerners to protect them from Big Bad Israel.
There is a profound narcissism in the pity-for-Palestinian movement. When American activist Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza in 2003, it gave rise to a play called "My Name Is Rachel Corrie." The killing of British peace activist Tom Hurndall in Gaza in 2004 led to a film called "The Shooting of Thomas Hurndall."
This is clearly all about Us - the good and pure Westerners who went to find themselves in Palestine - rather than about Them, the actual Palestinians. (The Australian)
Refocus on Iran: More Sanctions Needed - James Phillips (Heritage Foundation)
Iran's hostile regime has been one of the chief beneficiaries of the political turmoil that has convulsed Egypt and Tunisia, which distracted the U.S. and other countries from the ongoing standoff over Iran's nuclear program.
- The Obama Administration should vigilantly refocus international attention on Iran's nuclear defiance, support for terrorism, and human rights abuses, and ratchet up pressure on Iran's radical regime.
- Tehran demonstrated that it is not serious about a diplomatic resolution of the nuclear issue by rejecting negotiations with the U.S., four other permanent members of the UN Security Council, and Germany at the January 21–22 talks in Istanbul.
- The Obama Administration should redouble efforts to escalate international sanctions on Iran's recalcitrant regime by pushing for more UN sanctions, ratcheting up unilateral sanctions, strictly enforcing U.S. sanctions, and ensuring that Chinese companies do not undercut sanctions.
The writer is Senior Research Fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs in the Center for Foreign Policy Studies.
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