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Ayatollahs of Iran Watch Libya's Gaddafi Practice the Art of Violent Repression - Con Coughlin (Telegraph-UK)
According to Human Rights Watch, at Libya's Abu Salim prison in 1996, 1,200 prisoners were herded by security forces into the main prison courtyard following a riot over poor conditions that had resulted in the deaths of two guards.
A team of Gaddafi's special units then opened fire with grenades and machine guns on the compound. Any prisoner that survived the onslaught, which lasted for three hours, were finished off with pistols.
The current unrest was provoked by the arrest of a prominent human rights lawyer who was campaigning on behalf of the families of the Libyan prisoners who were killed.
Report: Hizbullah Aiding Iran in Stifling Anti-Government Protests (Ha'aretz)
Leaders of Iran's opposition said that some 1,500 Hizbullah men came from Lebanon to Iran in the past several days in order to help the Iranian regime scatter the anti-government protests, Israel Radio quoted Asharq Al-Awsat as reporting on Monday.
Hizbullah forces, dressed in civilian clothing, have reportedly been stationed throughout Tehran's streets.
Could the Kingdom of Bahrain Become an Iranian Pearl Harbor? - Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
The headquarters of the U.S. Fifth Fleet is in Bahrain. Iran does not need to employ its air force against the U.S. naval facility, but only to topple the pro-American regime of the al-Khalifa family and replace it with a new Bahraini regime backed by the Shi'a majority which seeks the immediate withdrawal of the fleet.
Even more worrisome for the U.S. is the fact that the Shi'a protest could easily expand to the neighboring eastern Saudi shore of Al-Ahsaa where most of the population is also Shi'a.
Iran has already identified a situation of American weakness in protecting its allies in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. Iran therefore is increasing its support to subversive elements throughout the Persian Gulf and especially in Bahrain.
If Iran perceives a situation where the U.S. would treat the King of Bahrain as it treated Mubarak earlier, this would definitely encourage Iran to increase its offensive subversion in Bahrain and possibly in eastern Saudi Arabia.
See also Saudi Arabia Says It's Ready to Help Bahrain's Rulers - Janine Zacharia and Michael Birnbaum (Washington Post)
Saudi Arabia said Sunday that it stands ready "with all its capabilities" to shore up Bahrain's ruling royal family if a standoff with the Shiite-led opposition is not resolved soon.
Saudi Arabia has long sought to prevent the tiny Persian Gulf state from falling into Iran's orbit.
See also Saudi Arabia's Fears for Bahrain - Simon Henderson (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
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- U.S. Blocks Security Council Censure of Israeli Settlements - Neil MacFarquhar
The Obama administration vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on Friday condemning Israeli settlement building as illegal.
Among the 15 members of the Council, only the U.S. voted no. American UN Ambassador Susan E. Rice said the veto should not be misconstrued as American support for further settlement construction, which the U.S. opposes. The issue should be resolved through peace negotiations, she said, and not mandated by a binding resolution.
Ambassador Meron Reuben of Israel said settlements had to be negotiated directly between the Israelis and the Palestinians. He also questioned whether the Council should be discussing the issue now given that the political changes sweeping the Middle East seem more important.
(New York Times)
See also Obama Tried to Convince Abbas to Withdraw UN Resolution Up Until Last Minute - Ali El-Saleh
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki told Asharq Al-Awsat that in return for withdrawing the draft resolution, Obama offered Abbas the issuance of a non-binding UN resolution chiding Israel, support for a Russian proposal for a visit to the Palestinian territories for the 15 UN Security Council members to determine the course of events and settlement activity there, and a promise that the forthcoming international Quartet statement would include a reference to the 1967 borders.
- Libyan Protests Widen - David D. Kirkpatrick and Mona El-Naggar
A five-day-old uprising in Libya took control of its second-largest city of Benghazi and spread to the capital of Tripoli on Sunday.
Witnesses and rights activists say the uprising has left more than 200 people dead and hundreds wounded from gunfire by security forces. The U.S. condemned the Gaddafi government's lethal use of force.
In Benghazi, three witnesses said that special military forces called in as reinforcements had instead helped the protesters take over the local army barracks.
Under Gaddafi's rule, tribal bonds remain primary even within the ranks of the military. The powerful al-Warfalla and al-Zuwayya tribes came out against Gaddafi on Sunday.
Fifty prominent Libyan Muslim religious leaders issued an appeal to Muslims in the security forces to stop participating in the violence against protesters. (New York Times)
See also Gaddafi Recruits "African Mercenaries" to Quell Protests
Libya recruited hundreds of mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa to help quell a popular uprising that is threatening to unseat veteran leader Muammar Gaddafi, witnesses from Benghazi told Al Arabiya on Sunday. Protesters in Benghazi caught some "African mercenaries" who spoke French and who admitted that they were ordered by Muammar Gaddafi's son, Khamis Gaddafi, to fire live ammunition at demonstrators. Witnesses saw four airplanes carrying "African mercenaries" land in Benina International Airport near Benghazi.
See also In the Land of the Brother Leader - Michael J. Totten (Pajamas Media)
- Egypt to Let Iranian Warships through Suez Canal
Egypt agreed Friday to allow two Iranian warships to cross through the Suez Canal, state media reported.
"This is typical of Syrian-Iranian opportunism,"
said David Schenker, director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
"It's destabilizing. It raises tension, particularly in this time of transition in Egypt." (CNN)
See also Israel Monitoring Iran Ships, But Sees No Real Threat - Anshel Pfeffer
The Israel Navy is monitoring the two Iranian naval ships that are expected to transit the Suez Canal and enter the Mediterranean Sea, but no special preparations are being made amid intelligence assessments that the ships pose no threat to Israel. The ships are headed for the Syrian port of Latakia. An IDF source said that as long as the ships, as expected, stay outside Israel's territorial waters and make no aggressive moves, there will be no confrontation.
Although the British-built Alvand is the Iranian navy's flagship and is armed with Chinese-made missiles, Israeli military officials were confident that in the event of a confrontation the Israel Navy could sink it without advance preparation. "If the navy were to make a positive identification, it could be sunk almost immediately," one senior official said. "We're not even dealing with it, because [the Iranians] are only creating a provocation. From the military and marine perspective, the moment the ships enter the Mediterranean, they're entering a trap." (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Netanyahu: Israel "Deeply Appreciates" U.S. Veto at UN
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Cabinet Sunday:
"Over the weekend, U.S. President Barack Obama decided to veto a draft UN Security Council decision condemning Israel. Israel deeply appreciates this decision and we remain committed to advancing peace both with our neighbors in the region and with the Palestinians. I believe that the U.S. decision makes it clear that the only way to peace is direct negotiations and not through the actions of international bodies, which are designed to bypass direct negotiations." (Prime Minister's Office)
- PA to Call for Emergency UN General Assembly Session to Condemn Israel - Barak Ravid, Natasha Mozgovaya, Shlomo Shamir and Avi Issacharoff
Following the U.S. veto of a Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement construction, the Palestinian Authority is to call this week for an emergency session of the UN General Assembly to condemn Israel. That resolution is expected to pass easily.
- How to Lose Friends and Not Influence People - Elliott Abrams
The Obama administration cast its first veto in the UN on Feb. 18, killing a Security Council resolution that would have condemned Israeli settlement activity. The Palestinian Authority began to talk about this resolution months ago. The U.S. could then have adopted a clear position: put it forward and it will be vetoed. That very clear stand might have persuaded the Palestinian leaders and their Arab supporters to drop the effort early on, when it could have been abandoned with no loss of face. Instead the administration refused to make its position clear until the final day. The administration's desire to avoid vetoes only served to reduce its bargaining power
(Council on Foreign Relations)
- Assessing the Post-Veto Fallout - Jonathan S. Tobin
Obama followed in the footsteps of his predecessors and refused to allow the UN body to brand Israel a criminal lawbreaker. But the unnecessary explanation given after the vote that branded the Jewish state's position on the issue of settlements as "illegitimate" undermined any notion of U.S. support for Israel.
The talk of "illegitimacy" was applied not only to the homes of the more than a quarter million Israelis who live in the West Bank, but also to the more than 200,000 who live in the parts of Jerusalem that were illegally occupied by Jordan between 1949 and 1967, as Obama treats 40-year-old Jewish neighborhoods in Israel's ancient capital as illegal settlements.
Had the U.S. not vetoed the resolution, it would have been the final signal that this administration really was determined to cut loose the Israelis. But by showing that the veto was cast reluctantly and with ill will, the effect is not much different.
See also Briefing on UN Security Council Vote - U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan E. Rice (State Department)
See also Explaining a U.S. Veto at the Security Council - Robert Satloff (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- Egypt in Danger of Becoming America's Greatest Middle East Enemy - Mortimer B. Zuckerman
The Obama administration and the media talk about Egypt as if it is on the verge of democracy, but former British Prime Minister Tony Blair put his finger on the fallacy: "You don't just have a government and a movement for democracy. You also have others, notably the Muslim Brotherhood, who would take this in a different direction." His concern is that democracy in Egypt may well be an interim phase en route to a new dictatorship predicated on extremist Islam.
The Brotherhood opposes a secular state as well as Western civilization, but supports taqiyya, which means lying is allowed if it helps to ultimately defeat the infidels. As for the Brotherhood mellowing, this notion mostly reflects the organization's recruitment of media-savvy spokesmen, who can espouse the virtues of a pro-democracy platform as a smokescreen for the group's real views and intentions.
Abbas Proves He Prefers Posturing to a Peace Process - Editorial (Washington Post)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas claims to be interested in negotiating a two-state peace settlement with Israel. Yet Abbas has mostly refused to participate in the direct peace talks that Barack Obama made one of his top foreign policy priorities - and now he has shown himself to be bent on embarrassing and antagonizing the U.S. administration.
- Rejecting direct appeals from both Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, Abbas chose to persist with a proposed one-sided UN Security Council condemnation of Israel.
- The only effect of the Palestinian initiative will be to embarrass the Obama administration. It will have no impact on Israeli settlement construction, and it will deal a further blow to the prospects for peace talks.
- In fact, the UN gambit allows Abbas to posture as a champion of the Palestinian cause without having to consider any of the hard choices that would be needed to found a Palestinian state.
- The Obama administration has all along insisted that Abbas is willing and able to make peace with Israel - despite considerable evidence to the contrary. If the UN resolution veto has one good effect, perhaps it will be to prompt a reevaluation of a leader who has repeatedly proved both weak and intransigent.
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