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Iran Trying to Buy Nuclear Missile Parts from Norway - Walter Gibbs (Reuters)
Iran has been trying without success to obtain Norwegian missile technology for possible use in delivering nuclear weapons, Norway's security chief said last week.
Janne Kristiansen, general director of the Norwegian Police Security Service, said Iran had approached small Norwegian companies that sell "special components that can...be used in weapons of mass destruction, for building missiles."
Kristiansen said her agency discovered Iran's attempts and stepped in before sensitive technology was passed.
British Special Forces Caught in Libya with Fake Passports (BBC News)
A British diplomatic team, including six soldiers believed to be SAS, has been freed two days after being detained in eastern Libya.
Libyan security guards found they were carrying passports from at least four different nationalities.
See also Britain Expels Top Mossad Agent over "Intolerable" Passport Cloning (Times-UK, 23Mar10)
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband denounced Israel's "intolerable" misuse of British passports in the assassination of a senior Hamas operative in Dubai.
Kissinger Asks Obama to Release Jonathan Pollard (AP-Washington Post)
Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wrote to President Barack Obama on March 3 asking him to release convicted spy Jonathan Pollard.
"I believe justice would be served by commuting" Pollard's life sentence, Kissinger wrote.
Israeli Lecturer Attacked by Belfast Pro-Palestine Activists - Marcus Dysch (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
Solon Solomon, a former legal adviser to the Knesset Foreign Affairs Committee, had to be rescued last week by security officers at Queen's University in Belfast when a seminar was disrupted by pro-Palestinian demonstrators.
Protesters surrounded the room where Solomon and other panel members were sheltering, then attacked the car he was traveling in, attempting to smash its windows.
Supporters of the Northern Ireland Friends of Israel group said they had been forced to hide on the building's top floor until the protest ended.
Syrian Dictator's Wife Featured in Vogue - Bari Weiss and David Feith (Wall Street Journal)
Vogue magazine this month published a 3,000-word paean to that "freshest and most magnetic of first ladies," Syria's Asma al-Assad. Apparently Vogue missed the trend: Dictators are out this season.
We're told that Mrs. Assad favors Christian Louboutin designer heels - easily $700 a pair. She also sports Chanel sunglasses and travels in a Falcon 900 jet.
Just another 21st-century woman trying to do it all in style.
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- Palestinians Make Risky Gambit for Statehood - Edmund Sanders
Palestinian leaders are embarking on a risky statehood strategy that will include UN resolutions, boycotts against Israeli products, complaints in international courts, and attempts to win formal recognition from as many countries as possible, Palestinian officials say. Israelis dismiss the campaign as a ploy to bypass the negotiating table. The next step will come later this month when Palestinians hope to extract a public commitment from the Middle East Quartet that any peace deal be based on the pre-1967 armistice lines.
Israel rejects the 1967 lines as a basis for talks.
To overcome a possible U.S. veto at the Security Council, Palestinians say they plan to take their case to the UN General Assembly, where they believe they would have a majority of the votes. They plan to invoke UN Resolution 377, which allows the General Assembly to approve binding, albeit harder to enforce, resolutions in the event of deadlock at the Security Council.
However, a senior Obama administration official called the Palestinian approach "a strategic mistake. It's not going to be a successful strategy. Lining up countries to recognize a Palestinian state is not a substitute for successful negotiation with the Israelis."
U.S. officials have come out against taking the conflict to the UN. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg told lawmakers in February that the U.S. was working to block the Palestinian campaign to win recognition from other countries, calling such moves "counterproductive." (Los Angeles Times)
- Israel Considers Military "Upgrade" to Meet Rising Threats - Richard Boudreaux and Bill Spindle
Israel will need to boost military spending and may seek an additional $20 billion in U.S. security assistance to help it manage potential threats stemming from popular upheavals in the Arab world, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday. "It might be wise to invest another $20 billion to upgrade the security of Israel for the next generation or so....A strong, responsible Israel can become a stabilizer in such a turbulent region," he said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
Barak described a recent warning from a prominent Egyptian who said, "We're going to have a really open election....Civic parties will hire advisers from the U.S. and Europe and find immediately that what can bring them voters is hostility to America and Israel." (Wall Street Journal)
- Britain Upgrades Status of Palestinian Diplomats
Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague announced on Monday the UK will upgrade the status of Palestinian representatives in London from that of a delegation to a full diplomatic mission. The change is largely symbolic and representatives will not have diplomatic immunity. In January, the Irish government announced it would upgrade Palestinian diplomatic status to that of an official embassy. France and Spain have also made similar gestures.
Israel's London Embassy said it believes the upgrade won't encourage Palestinians to return to the negotiating table.
"The real upgrade that's missing is in the Palestinian willingness to talk peace," an embassy spokesman said.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Netanyahu: Jordan Valley Is "Israel's Defense Line" - Herb Keinon
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a visit to the Jordan Valley on Tuesday that in any future agreement the IDF will have to stay on the Jordan River.
"This is Israel's defense line," Netanyahu said, adding that if this was true in the past, it is currently "seven times truer" now, considering the upheaval in the Middle East.
He said there is no alternative to an IDF presence there to keep terrorists and rockets from coming into Tel Aviv, Haifa and the rest of the country.
- NGO Monitor Reveals Funding Sources for "Israel Apartheid Week" - Jordana Horn
As Israel Apartheid Week kicked off Monday on college campuses in support of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, the group NGO Monitor has announced the "BDS Sewer System," which provides detailed information on the sources of funding behind the delegitimization campaigns against Israel. It depicts the EU, various governments, foundations and religious charities as providing the incentives and funds for groups supporting the BDS campaign.
For example, the Dutch government channeled funding to the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation (ICCO), which funded Electronic Intifada, one of the leading groups promoting BDS. "The Dutch government didn't know this until we showed it to them," said Jason Edelstein of NGO Monitor. "ICCO of course knew how the money was being used, but the Dutch government did not." (Jerusalem Post)
- As Arabs Rise, Tehran Trembles - Karim Sadjadpour
What many young Iranians see as a familiar struggle for justice, economic dignity and freedom from dictatorial rule, Iranian officialdom has struggled to spin as a belated Arab attempt to emulate the Islamic revolution and join Tehran in its battle against America and Israel.
Tehran's ascent in the Arab world over the last decade has been partly attributable to Cairo's decline. The potential re-emergence of a proud, assertive Egypt will undermine Shiite Persian Iran's ambitions to be the vanguard of the largely Sunni Arab Middle East.
The Iranian regime's curiously heavy-handed response to resilient pro-democracy protests - including the recent disappearance of opposition leaders Mir Hussein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi - betrays its anxiety about the 21st-century viability of an economically floundering, gender-apartheid state led by a "supreme leader" who purports to be the prophet's representative on Earth.
The writer is an associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
(New York Times)
See also Is Iran a Role Model for Arab Revolutions? - Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
The Chief of Staff of Iran's Joint Armed Forces, Maj. Gen. Seyyed Hassan Firuzabadi, said that the Islamic wave sweeping the region marks the beginning of a process that will end with the downfall of Israel, and Zionists fleeing to their countries of origin. After the U.S. overthrow of the Iraqi regime in 2003, Iran felt itself to be under siege. Now, Tehran sees itself on the way to completing a regional "siege" of Israel - with Hizbullah in the north and Hamas in the south. Iran also believes that Jordan to the east will join the waves of protest, marking the fall of another nation that signed a peace treaty with Israel.
Iran is taking advantage of the current commotion in the Arab world and Western confusion to intensify its intervention, influence, and meddling in regions that were formerly under U.S. and Western influence, by deploying its Al-Quds force (a special unit for "exporting" the Islamic revolution beyond Iranian borders), while also exploiting the assets of Hizbullah, Syria, and Hamas.
(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- How to Deal with Islamist Movements in Post-Revolutionary Regimes - Matthew Levitt
Significant ideological differences separate al-Qaeda from the Muslim Brotherhood. Yet the Brotherhood's Islamist, illiberal ideology includes tenets that raise significant questions about its qualifications as a partner in the democratic process. The threshold for partnership cannot simply be that a group is not quite as extreme or violent as al-Qaeda. Tolerance, respect for women's rights, establishment of a strong civil society that promotes liberal values, and honoring international agreements and borders are more likely to produce the kind of truly free and democratic societies that promote long-term stability.
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
Reviewing Egypt's Gains from Its Peace Treaty with Israel - David Makovsky (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- The Egyptian revolution has caused much speculation on the future of the country's peace treaty and bilateral ties with Israel. Ayman Nour, a prominent democratic activist, has called for renegotiation of the 1978 Camp David Accords, while several Muslim Brotherhood officials have declared that the treaty should be abrogated outright.
- In evaluating the future of Egyptian-Israeli peace, it is important to review how Egypt has benefited from the treaty over the past three decades:
- The 1973 war, one of several Egyptian conflicts with Israel stretching back to 1948, resulted in the deaths of approximately 8,000 Egyptians and 2,700 Israelis. No such conflicts have erupted since the 1979 treaty.
- Peace has earned Egypt $69 billion in U.S. military and economic aid since 1979.
Cairo has been able to sharply reduce its military budget and reallocate funds to economic development projects. Egypt's military expenditures consumed approximately 2% of its gross national product in 2009, compared to more than 20% in 1976.
- Peace has facilitated a far-reaching relationship between the U.S. and Egyptian militaries, enabling Egypt to replace outdated Soviet hardware.
- One-third of Egyptian exports to the U.S. come from Qualifying Industrial Zones (QIZ) set up after 2004, which require that the exported goods include a certain percentage of Israeli inputs. Today, Egypt's QIZs employ more than 120,000 Egyptians and export $763 million worth of goods to the U.S. per year.
- Egypt would face astronomical costs if it abrogated the peace treaty with Israel.
Its military budget would swell at the expense of economic development, and it would have to forego $1.5 billion in U.S. military and economic aid. Renouncing the treaty would also cripple the Egyptian armed forces' military ties with the U.S.
- Still, Egyptian-Israeli bilateral relations are likely to come under unprecedented pressure, which may involve demands for militarization of the Sinai, populist calls for suspension of gas sales to Israel, and a change in policy toward Gaza.
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