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After Hama...No Reform in Syria - Tariq Alhomayed (Asharq Al-Awsat)
After hundreds of thousands of Syrians came out to demonstrate in Hama, President Bashar al-Assad relieved the governor of Hama from his duties.
The security forces and the army did not interfere with the demonstrators in Hama on Friday; this action is believed to have led to the dismissal of the city's governor.
In other words, the governor was not fired because there were large numbers of dead and wounded, rather his offense was allowing peaceful demonstrations to take place.
Rather than implement promises of reform, the Syrian regime sacked a governor that protected unarmed demonstrators from the wrath of the security forces.
Swiss Company Cancels Deal to Sell Cement to Gaza Flotilla Organizers - Amira Hass (Ha'aretz)
The Swiss company Interbulk, that had sold 3,000 tons of cement to Swedish activists planning to sail to Gaza as part of the flotilla, said Wednesday that it had decided to cancel the deal.
Syria's Digital Revolution (Deutsche Welle-Germany)
As the uprising in Syria has swelled in number, so too has the activity on social media networks. The Facebook page, "The Syrian Revolution 2011," has amassed more than 200,000 followers.
YouTube video uploads from Syria have exploded, showing rallies, demonstrations and violence.
Tapping into Turkish cell phone providers has allowed Syrians to send messages without being tracked by authorities.
The online images have also served to waken Syrians from a four-decade-long slumber: Faced with raw, unedited proof of President Assad's brutal tactics, many have been forced to take a stance.
Iran's Execution Binge - Mark D. Wallace (Los Angeles Times)
Since January, Iran has been on an execution binge. In February, the UN reported that the rate of executions in Iran had increased threefold in 2011 over the previous year. It is estimated that more than 140 people have been executed in Iran so far this year.
Amnesty International reported that Iran is the only country this year known to have executed juvenile offenders, a violation of international law.
13 people had been hanged in public by the end of April, evidence of Iran's effort to intimidate and terrorize its own population. In a number of instances, those executed have been left hanging high in the air on construction cranes for all to see.
Israel's Defense Expenditures as Share of GDP Drop Sharply - Avital Lahav (Ynet News)
In 2009, Israel devoted 7.8% of its gross domestic product (GDP) to defense expenditures, a study by the Central Bureau of Statistics shows.
After the Yom Kippur War, from 1976 to 1995, defense expenditures dropped gradually, but in 1996 an upward trend began. Since the economy experienced rapid growth in those years, the defense expenditure as a percentage of the GDP continued to drop.
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- UN to Discuss Palestine Membership in July
The UN Security Council plans to discuss in July the possibility of Palestine becoming a UN member state. An open debate on the Middle East has been scheduled for July 26. "I think (that) will be an occasion to explore the various options that might exist on the Palestinian side," said German Ambassador Peter Wittig, UN Security Council president.
- Weapons Prove Iranian Role in Iraq, U.S. Says - Ed O'Keefe and Joby Warrick
James F. Jeffrey, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, said Tuesday that fresh forensic testing on weapons used in the latest deadly attacks in the country bolsters assertions by U.S. officials that Iran is supporting Iraqi insurgents with new weapons and training. "We're seeing more lethal weapons, more accurate weapons, more longer-range weapons," Jeffrey added. "We're seeing more sophisticated mobile and other deployment options, and we're seeing better-trained people." In some cases, insurgents made no effort to remove from the weapons identification numbers suggesting that they came from Iran, "which in itself is troubling," Jeffrey said.
- Egypt Secular Party Leader: 9/11 "Made in USA"; Holocaust a "Lie" - Ben Birnbaum
Ahmed Ezz El-Arab, a vice chairman of Egypt's top secular party - the Wafd Party, told the Washington Times in an interview that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were "made in the USA," Osama bin Laden was "an American agent,"
and that the Holocaust is "a lie." Last month, Wafd announced it would run jointly in September's parliamentary elections with the Muslim Brotherhood.
But Mr. Ezz El-Arab said there is "no chance at all" that Egypt might cancel its 1979 peace treaty with Israel. "Egypt will not go to war unless it's attacked," he said.
See also Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Expels Five Influential Young Members - Jeffrey Fleishman
The Muslim Brotherhood has expelled five of its youth members in a purge, signaling that the Brotherhood's conservative elders can no longer command loyalty from all of its estimated 600,000 members. "The decision to expel young Brotherhood members shows the absolute control conservatives have over the group, especially members of the politburo, who are known for their religious radicalism," said Nabil Abdel Fattah, an analyst from the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. "Those traditionalists and conservatives consider young members and their thoughts a threat." (Los Angeles Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel, Turkey Rush to End Flotilla Crisis before UN Report - Herb Keinon
Israeli and Turkish representatives are trying to reach a formula to end the Mavi Marmara affair before a UN report on the incident, expected to be issued on Thursday, that could potentially exacerbate tensions between the two countries.
The Turks are demanding an Israeli apology and compensation to the victims, but Israel has said that while it was willing to pay compensation, it would not apologize.
See also Turkey Reaches Out to the New Middle East - Semih Idiz
Turkey is realigning its Middle East policy and coordinating its movements much more closely with the West than was the case a few months ago.
Clearly the period of "idealism" in Ankara's foreign policy ended with the events in Libya and Syria. Now is the time of realism and pragmatism.
This is also what is behind the much reported talks between Turkey and Israel aimed at overcoming the bad blood resulting from the Mavi Marmara incident.
Meanwhile, Iran is reemerging as a problematic neighbor for Ankara, firstly because the Mullah regime is badmouthing Turkey for speaking out against Syria's Assad, and secondly because of Iran's threats to hit U.S./NATO bases in the region, backed up by ballistic missile tests.
- Israel: Fly-in "Hooligans" Will Be Deported - Ahiya Raved
In response to an announced pro-Palestinian fly-in to Ben-Gurion International Airport, Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said Tuesday:
"In the coming days we're expecting hundreds of radical activists to arrive from all over Europe with the intent of creating provocations and illegal protests aimed at hurting our legitimacy....Any hooligans who might try to break the law will not be permitted to enter Israel and will be sent back to their countries of origin."
- Two Palestinians Preparing to Launch Rocket at Israel Killed in IDF Airstrike - Yaakov Katz
Mohammed Sa'id and Kamal Abu Moamer, members of a Global Jihad terror cell preparing to launch a rocket into Israel, were killed Tuesday in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza.
Minutes later, Palestinians opened fire at Israeli workers along the Gaza border. A car passing nearby was hit and the driver wounded.
- Does Iran's Latest Military Exercise Signal a New Defense Doctrine? - Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) is in the midst of a large-scale missile exercise called "Great Prophet 6."
In a wide-ranging interview aimed at Arab audiences on the Arabic-language TV channel Al-Alam, Brig.-Gen. Amir Ali Hagizadeh discussed at length the IRGC exercise and its objectives.
The extensive interview with Hagizadeh suggests that Iran is devoting much thought to its deterrence doctrine against those it regards as its main threats in the region, namely, Israel and the U.S.
He said the U.S. had made things easier for Iran by building 40-50 bases at a distance of 200-300 km. from Iran, so Iran does not need to build missiles with a range longer than 2,000 km. (which covers Israel and part of Europe).
The air force commander referred directly to regions where Iran is already implementing its asymmetric operational strategy regarding the use of surface-to-surface missiles (SSMs) of different ranges. He went on to imply that Iran has good intelligence-gathering capabilities for Israel because, using radar, it can detect the departure of Israeli planes at the moment of take-off from the "Palestinian territories" (meaning Israel).
Responding to a question about how many missiles Iran has and their deployment areas, Hagizadeh noted that since this information is classified he will answer indirectly. He then said that during the Second Lebanon War (the "Thirty-Three Day War"), Hizbullah kept firing missiles throughout the conflict and, unlike in usual circumstances where the ability to fire decreases with time, Hizbullah in fact increased its rate of fire and even the range of the missiles, while Israel failed to destroy the organization's weapons caches. It is evident that Hagizadeh views Lebanon as a forward missile base for Iran.
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- More Diplomatic Theater? - Gerald M. Steinberg
Some key European officials realize that the UN effort is yet another means for Abbas and the PLO to avoid direct negotiations with Israel along with the necessary compromises on refugee claims, Jerusalem and recognizing the Jewish right to national sovereignty. There are also signs that some parts of Palestinian society - particularly in the West Bank - are less than enthusiastic about this scenario of symbolic independence and possible confrontation. In recent years their economic situation has improved dramatically. Another period of instability, terrorism and the necessary Israeli responses to protect Israeli civilians would quickly destroy all of these gains.
The Jordanian leadership has never been enthusiastic about a Palestinian state on its borders, with its potential spillover into Jordan's own Palestinian population.
The writer, professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University, is the founder of NGO Monitor.
A U.S. Peace Plan? - Barry Rubin (Jerusalem Post)
- The assumption on which the 1990s Oslo peace process was based is precisely the same as President Obama's premise as outlined in his May 19 State Department speech: The Palestinians are eager to get a state of their own; consequently they are willing to make concessions, they will live up to their commitments, and international security guarantees can be relied upon as a fail-safe.
- Palestinians eager? They aren't eager. Many Palestinian leaders frequently say that it is worth decades of not getting a state and continuing to fight in order to get everything in the end. They also say the current generation has no right to close the door to total victory and Israel's destruction by future generations. They mistakenly believe time is on their side.
- Consequently are they willing to make concessions? Neither Palestinian public opinion nor the political balance of forces allows for the more moderate sector of the leadership (which is very small) to make the needed concessions and compromises.
- They will live up to their commitments? Systematically stopping and punishing terrorism? No. Preparing their people for peace? No. Ending incitement against Israel? No. Refraining from violence? No.
- International guarantees? Worthless. There is a long list of examples, including most recently the failure to stop Hizbullah's return to southern Lebanon and the end to Syrian-Iranian arms smuggling to the group, as pledged by the U.S. and UN after 2006.
The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center at IDC Herzliya.
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