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NATO Forces Seize Iranian-Made Rockets in Afghanistan - Kimberly Dozier (AP-San Francisco Chronicle)
British and Afghan forces in Afghanistan seized 48 Iranian-made rockets en route to the Taliban on Feb. 5, NATO officials said Wednesday.
The shipment is seen as a serious escalation in Iran's support of the Taliban insurgency, according to NATO officials.
The intercepted 122-millimeter rockets have a range of 22 km. and explode in a burst up to 25 meters wide - double that of the previous 107-millimeter rockets provided by Iran to the Taliban.
Hoard of Cash Lets Gaddafi Extend Fight Against Rebels - James Risen and Eric Lichtblau (New York Times)
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has "tens of billions" in cash secretly hidden away in Tripoli, allowing him to pay his troops, African mercenaries, and political supporters and prolong his fight against rebel forces despite an international freeze on many Libyan government assets, according to American and other intelligence officials.
Obama Taps Top Foreign Policy Aide as Ambassador to Israel - Peter Nicholas (Los Angeles Times)
President Obama is nominating a top foreign policy aide, Daniel B. Shapiro, 41, as ambassador to Israel - tapping a Hebrew-speaking Middle East specialist who has been in charge of outreach to the American Jewish community.
Quebec Strikes a Blow Against Anti-Israel Boycott - Barbara Kay (National Post-Canada)
Every Saturday since October, activists from the group Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU) amass at Boutique Le Marcheur, a shoe store in Montreal, to protest the owners' inclusion of Israel-made shoes - the brand is Beautifeel - among their stock.
After Amir Khadir, co-leader of the hyper-nationalist party Quebec Solidaire joined the crowd on Dec. 11 to lend his authority to the harassment, a motion was brought forward in the Quebec National Assembly on Feb. 9, condemning the boycott of Le Marcheur. Khadir was the sole vote against it.
Members of the National Assembly's other three parties - Francois Bonnardel of the Action Democratique du Quebec, Parti Quebecois, and the Liberals - visited the store to lend their support.
Luciano Del Negro, executive director of the Quebec-Israel Committee, said: "There is now a consensus among the political class in Quebec that BDS is not acceptable."
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- U.S.: Iran Moving to "Threshold" of Making Atom Bomb
State Department special adviser Robert Einhorn told a conference Wednesday that Iran is moving toward the threshold of being able to build a nuclear weapon. But Einhorn said Iran is not close to a "breakout" of being able to construct one in a short time. Einhorn said the international sanctions against Iran adopted last year are already taking a big toll against the country, but so far Iran has not shown a willingness to negotiate seriously.
- Israel Welcomes Mideast Democratization - Ben Birnbaum
Israel's ambassador to the U.S. offered a welcoming hand to democracy movements in the Middle East on Tuesday. "I want to say here unequivocally - unequivocally, categorically - that Israel welcomes the democratization process in the Middle East, that if democracies arise in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere, we will be the first to embrace them," Ambassador Michael Oren told the Jerusalem Conference for International Policy on Capitol Hill.
"We would also be irresponsible if we overlooked the role of radical movements in some of these countries," he said."And we've seen how democratic processes in other countries - in Iran, in Lebanon, in Gaza - have been hijacked by radical minorities." (Washington Times)
- U.S.: Syria "Can't Be Allowed" to Block Nuclear Probe - Fredrik Dahl
The U.S. warned Syria on Wednesday it "can't be allowed" to stonewall a UN watchdog investigation into the Dair Alzour site where covert atomic activity may have taken place before it was destroyed by Israel in 2007. U.S. intelligence reports said there was a nascent North Korean-designed nuclear reactor at the site, intended to produce bomb fuel. "The United States position on this is that we are not going to let this matter simply fade away or go away," said U.S. Ambassador to the IAEA Glyn Davies. He suggested Syria may still be pursuing secret atomic work, accusing it of "deliberate efforts to conceal the full extent and scope of what we strongly believe were, and may still be, clandestine nuclear activities."
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Egyptian Gas Deliveries to Israel Delayed for Political Reasons - Roee Nahmias
Egyptian company EMG, which supplies natural gas to Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Israel, has been constantly delaying the renewal of the gas supply, which was halted following an explosion in the gas pipeline in early February. A Western diplomatic source in Amman said the gas supply was being held up because of "political reasons due to strong Egyptian objection to gas deliveries to Israel, especially among the Arabs (Bedouins) in Sinai."
- Gen. Amidror Named New National Security Adviser - Attila Somfalvi
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Wednesday the appointment of Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror to the position of national security advisor, replacing Uzi Arad. Gen. Amidror served as Director of the Intelligence Corps Research and Assessment Division, Military Secretary to the Defense Minister and Commander of the IDF Military Colleges.
(Prime Minister's Office)
See also Winning Counterinsurgency War: The Israeli Experience - Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror
Conventional armies can indeed defeat terrorist insurgencies. This study details the six basic conditions which, if met, enable an army to fight and win the war against terrorism, among which are control of the ground where the insurgency is being waged, acquiring relevant intelligence for operations against the terrorists themselves, and isolating the insurgency from cross-border reinforcement with manpower or material. If the U.S., Israel, or their Western allies incorrectly conclude that they have no real military option against terrorist insurgencies, then the war on terrorism will be lost even before it is fully waged.
(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Jordanian-Financed Renovations Underway at Temple Mount in Jerusalem - Arieh O'Sullivan
Renovators working with the Jordanian-supported Waqf, or Supreme Muslim Council, have erected scaffolding inside the seventh century Dome of the Rock shrine in order to restore the mosaics on the inside of the dome. The shrine is built on the spot where the ancient Jewish Temples once stood. Similar work was being carried out by the Waqf in the Al-Aqsa mosque.
(Media Line-Jerusalem Post)
- The Arab Democracy Paradox - Mwangi S. Kimenyi
Much of the Arab world has reached a level of development that is inconsistent with its political system. As citizens in Middle Eastern countries became richer, healthier and more educated, they became much less willing to tolerate being ruled by predatory elites. The protests in the streets of the Middle East are an expression of a pro-democracy movement that is often being led by university-educated youth who form part of an emerging middle class that is no longer willing to live under semi-feudal autocrats.
- Peace in a Volatile Region - Editorial
The ramifications of the upheaval sweeping the region for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been a subject of dispute. Prime Minister Netanyahu has taken the understandable view that, with hitherto stable regimes suddenly in varying stages of deterioration, Israel must be particularly resolute in its demand for ironclad security arrangements in any settlement with its neighbors.
Establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel would end Israel's rule over the Palestinians - but it would also bring Ben-Gurion Airport within range of a shoulder-held anti-aircraft rocket launcher located in Palestinian-controlled territory. Israel must know that it would be handing over control to a Palestinian leadership that is both committed to reconciliation and genuinely stable; we cannot afford a repeat of the disaster of Hamas-controlled Gaza.
- Pressures Build Inside Fatah Ahead of Palestinian State Declaration - Dror Bar-Yosef
The ongoing internal rift within Fatah is one of the reasons for the failure to renew talks with Israel. Parties within the movement accuse one another of corruption, collaboration with Israel and the U.S., and betrayal of Palestinian interests. Fatah members recognize Abbas' importance and international standing, without which their situation would be infinitely more difficult. Yet many do not support his leadership.
Structural changes currently underway in Fatah are evidence of efforts by prominent members to play a larger role in strategic decisions, rather than leaving them only to Abbas. The success of this group could bring about major changes in Fatah policy, especially regarding the movement's attitude to Hamas and relations with Israel.
(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Iran Sees Mideast Unrest Working in Its Favor - Joby Warrick (Washington Post)
- Since January, Iran has seen its largest regional rival - the government of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak - toppled by protesters, while the Iranian-backed Hizbullah has strengthened its grip on Lebanon. Saudi Arabia, another regional bulwark against Iranian expansion, is distracted by uprisings on its borders, particularly in Yemen, Oman and Bahrain.
- Meanwhile, U.S. influence in the region has plummeted with the loss of allies and prestige. Intelligence officials and diplomats predict that the region's emerging governments will be less supportive of U.S. efforts to isolate Iran politically. Already, the Obama administration is having to rethink an Iran strategy that relied on Middle Eastern allies to counterbalance Tehran's conventional forces and prevent cheating on economic sanctions.
- "Iran has risen by default," said Robert Baer, a former CIA case officer in the Middle East. "Iran sees the influence of the United States waning in the Middle East, and they know that our allies are on wobbly legs and possibly going down."
- Yet the Iranian government inevitably is vulnerable to the same forces that toppled repressive regimes among its neighbors, said a European diplomat. "The people in the streets are looking toward the West, toward democracy, not toward al-Qaeda or Iran."
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