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In Syria, Accounts of Widening Torture (Wall Street Journal)
While the Syrian regime has long been characterized as among the region's most repressive, rights groups say this spring's crackdown has spurred new levels of brutality.
Detainees are held in schools, soccer stadiums, security-force facilities and military hospitals, and subjected to various forms of physical and psychological abuse.
Rights workers say the widening use of torture is meant to spread terror not only among protesters, but also those who may consider joining them.
But the practice instead appears to have enraged some Syrians into mobilizing against the government.
A doctor at a military hospital in Damascus said his hospital has an "alternative ER" where people are tortured.
Report: Hizbullah Forces Helping Syria in Crackdown on Protesters (Ha'aretz)
Hizbullah forces are entering Syria and helping forces there suppress anti-government protests, Israel Radio quoted a Lebanese parliament member as saying on Sunday.
Egypt's Islamic Fringe Takes the Plunge into Politics - David E. Miller (Media Line-Jerusalem Post)
While the Muslim Brotherhood and its political offshoot, the Freedom and Justice Party, has attracted the most attention and fear among Egyptian liberals, the Islamic end of the political spectrum is growing crowded with fringe movements announcing bids to run in the parliamentary elections come September.
"The situation is extremely dangerous," said Nagib Gibra'il, a Christian lawyer and head of the Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organizations. "According to polls, Islamist parties will receive more than 50% of the votes in the elections and form the next government. This will jeopardize the revolution and the country itself."
Palestinian Jihadists Inside Hamas - Patrick Martin (Globe and Mail-Canada)
In April, Vittorio Arrigoni, an Italian activist, was abducted and murdered in Gaza by a small group of men who demanded the release from Hamas prison of a leading Salafi-Jihadist.
It turned out that two of the three perpetrators were members of Hamas' own security forces - one a policeman, the other a member of Hamas' own Ezzedeen al-Qassam Brigades.
This is "the real danger," says Ayman Batniji, an imam at Gaza's Shohada al-Aqsa Mosque and spokesman for the Hamas police - "those inside Hamas' military wing that are loyal to the [Salafi-Jihadist] views."
Such people are believed to have been responsible for a series of attacks on UN summer camps last year, and for setting fire to a Gaza water park.
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- Inspectors Pierce Iran's Cloak of Nuclear Secrecy - William J. Broad
The International Atomic Energy Agency last week presented a report to its board that laid out new information on what it calls "possible military dimensions" of Iran's nuclear program.
The report raised questions about whether Iran has sought to investigate seven different kinds of technology ranging from atomic triggers and detonators to uranium fuel. Together, the technologies could make a type of atom bomb known as an implosion device, which is what senior staff members of the IAEA have warned that Iran is able to build.
(New York Times)
See also IAEA Report on Iran
Based on the Agency's continued study of information which the Agency has acquired from many
Member States and through its own efforts, the Agency remains concerned about the possible existence in
Iran of past or current undisclosed nuclear-related activities involving military-related organizations,
including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile. The following points refer to examples of activities for which clarifications remain necessary:
Neutron generator and associated diagnostics: experiments involving the explosive compression of
uranium deuteride to produce a short burst of neutrons.
Missile re-entry vehicle redesign activities for a new payload assessed as being nuclear in nature:
conducting design work and modelling studies involving the removal of the conventional high
explosive payload from the warhead of the Shahab-3 missile and replacing it with a spherical nuclear
Iran's Uranium Deuteride Experiments - Jeffrey Lewis
Paragraph 35 of the Iran report reveals that Iran conducted "experiments involving the explosive compression of uranium deuteride to produce a short burst of neutrons" - research that has no known application other than for nuclear weapons.
Although this information was reported in December 2009, this is the most explicit IAEA confirmation of the allegation to date. (Arms Control Wonk)
- Armed Residents Fight Off Syrian Government Troops - Zeina Karam
Residents used automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenades to repel advancing government troops in Talbiseh and Rastan in central Syria on Monday, putting up a fierce fight for the first time in their 2-month-old revolt against President Bashar Assad's autocratic regime.
- Over 100 Libyan Soldiers Defect from Gaddafi - Deepa Babington
Eight high-ranking Libyan army officers - five generals, two colonels and a major - appeared at a news conference in Rome organized by the Italian government on Monday, saying they were part of a group of as many as 120 military officials and soldiers who had defected from Gaddafi's side in recent days.
"No wise, rational person with the minimum of dignity can do what we saw with our eyes and what he asked us to do," said Gen. Oun Ali Oun. Gen. Salah Giuma Yahmed said Gaddafi's army was weakening day by day, with the force reduced to 20% of its original capacity.
- Iran Delays German Chancellor's Plane
German Chancellor Angela Merkel touched down more than two hours late in New Delhi for the start of her visit to India, after Iran refused to allow her plane access to its airspace. The plane was forced to turn around and circle over Turkey before permission was finally granted - just before the plane ran out of fuel.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Turkish Flotilla Passengers Joined Nakba Protest in Jordan - Yaakov Katz
On Monday, the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center revealed in a new report that a group of Turkish Islamic IHH members who were aboard the Mavi Marmara last year, participated in a violent anti-Israel demonstration in Jordan earlier this month on "Nakba Day." The bus carrying 28 Turkish activists was initially detained in Syria since some had Israeli stamps in their passports, a result of their deportation from Israel following last year's flotilla.
The delegation eventually arrived at the Israeli-Jordanian border opposite Jericho and began marching toward the fence while violently clashing with Jordanian security forces. "The delegation's decision to participate in the demonstrations in Jordan was not spontaneous but is part of a larger campaign by radical Islamic elements from groups like IHH to try and breach Israel's borders, whether by land, air or sea," the report concluded.
- Egypt Won't Supply Gas to Israel at Current Price - Roee Nahmias
A senior source in the Egyptian gas and oil industry says Israel has refused to pay more for the gas it purchases from Egypt and has even threatened to turn to international arbitration, the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram reported last week. The official added that Spain had accepted more expensive rates. He also said the Egyptians were sticking to their refusal to supply gas to Israel until new prices are finalized.
See also U.S. Firm Seeks Restart of Egypt Gas Flow to Israel
U.S. investors in the East Mediterranean Gas Co. (EMG) have taken legal steps against the Egyptian government to ensure gas flow resumes to Israel, an official from a U.S. partner in EMG said Monday. In a letter to the Egyptian government, U.S. firm EGI, a partner in EMG, said it was seeking international arbitration over Egypt's failure to protect their investment, as stipulated in a U.S.-Egyptian agreement.
- Strong Support for Israel on Social Media
By almost a three-to-one margin, bloggers and users of Twitter and Facebook expressed strong support for Israel over the Palestinians in the week following President Obama's May 19 address on the Middle East, according to an analysis of social media conducted by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. In the seven days following Obama's speech, fully 55% of the conversation on blogs on the issue has been in favor of Israel and opposed to a move to the 1967 borders, while 19% has been in favor of the Palestinians.
On Twitter and Facebook, the tone of conversation was similar with 60% pro-Israel compared with 20% pro-Palestinian.
(Pew Research Center)
- Palestinians Tear Up Another Agreement, the World Yawns - Evelyn Gordon
As Egypt reopened its Rafah border crossing with Gaza after four years of almost total closure, a binding international agreement, brokered by the U.S. and signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, has just effectively been torn up.
The 2005 agreement laid down detailed provisions for how Gaza's border crossings would be run following Israel's withdrawal from the territory.
The European monitors stationed at Rafah quickly proved useless at preventing the passage of terrorists and contraband.
But at a time when the world is demanding that Israel make far more dangerous territorial concessions in the West Bank in exchange for yet another piece of paper containing "robust" security provisions, it's worth noting just how flimsy such pieces of paper are. When the world is so patently unwilling to insist that previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements be honored, why does it still think Israel should entrust its security to yet another one? (Commentary)
- Rifts in the Muslim Brotherhood Seen Amid Growing Anarchy in Egypt - Zvi Mazel
The economic, social, and political situation in Egypt is getting worse. Due to the security situation, civilians are buying weapons and hiring militias to protect themselves.
When the demonstrators held a second Friday of Anger across Egypt on May 27 in order to pressure the Military Council to enact reforms, the Muslim Brotherhood announced that it would not take part. But to their great surprise, the young guard of their movement decided to participate, against the will of the supreme leader, in the first sign of a rift within the Muslim Brotherhood.
It seems like the new, revolutionary Egypt will experience many years of confrontations before a new, democratic regime will evolve, based on freedom of speech, human rights, liberation of women, and religious tolerance towards the Copts.
The writer, a Fellow of the Jerusalem Center, served as Israel's Ambassador to Egypt and Sweden.
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
See also At a Protest in Cairo, One Group Is Missing - David D. Kirkpatrick (New York Times)
The Third Man - Elliott Abrams (Weekly Standard)
Missing from the Bibi vs. Barack drama in Washington was the man who really torpedoed the peace process, Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas is 76 and will retire from politics next year, having announced that he will not seek reelection. A man without charisma or great political courage, he lost first the 2006 elections and then control of Gaza to Hamas.
- Abbas was never a serious candidate to make the difficult compromises that a peace deal with Israel would require and then defend himself against charges of treason and betrayal. To the generous peace offer made by Ehud Olmert in 2008, Abbas responded with silence.
- Obama's mistreatment of the visiting Netanyahu can only have deepened the latter's belief that Obama was irretrievably hostile.
Obama gave a major Middle East speech the day before Netanyahu arrived. The message was clear: I have no interest in what you are saying and will make my views plain even before we exchange one word.
- Worse yet was the lack of any advance notice. The Israelis had been told days before that the Obama speech would cover the Arab Spring and say little about them, and were given only a couple of hours' notice that, on the contrary, the president would make a significant policy statement that contradicted Israeli views. They felt - and they were - blindsided.
- In the Clinton and Bush administrations such major policy statements were preceded by weeks of consultations, and when a president breaks that pattern it is a deliberate and powerful message. This is the explanation for the brief tutorial in Israeli security concerns that Netanyahu held Friday in the Oval Office: The gloves were off, but it was Obama who took them off first.
The writer, senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, was a deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration.
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