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Laying Waste to Syria's Third-Largest City (Economist-UK)
At least 33 residents of Homs have been killed by security forces and government thugs in recent days. Several were shot at funerals. Residents have also reported indiscriminate shooting from unmarked, speeding cars.
Gangs are a useful tool for the regime. They allow Syrian officials to deny responsibility for some of the worst killings. Perhaps most important, the gangs raise the specter of sectarian war.
Yet fears of a sectarian meltdown are overblown. Anti-regime protests do not spring from religious differences. Indeed, it has been striking how ecumenical the uprising in Syria has so far been.
Sunnis have called on Christians, Alawites and other minorities to join them on the streets.
Syria to Allow Political Parties (VOA News)
The Syrian government has approved a new law allowing the formation of political parties, reversing a ban on opposition groups since the Ba'ath Party took power in 1963.
See also Syria Wins the Hypocrisy Award - Elliott Abrams (Council on Foreign Relations)
Even by its own unrivaled standard of hypocrisy, the Assad regime's "reform" permitting the formation of new political parties is prize-winning.
This "reform" is yet another effort by the Assad regime to portray itself as open to genuine change, even as its forces kill unarmed demonstrators in Syria's streets.
No Syrian will be fooled by this move, and few foreigners will be either.
See also Draft Reform Law in Syria Fails to Mollify Protesters - Nada Bakri (New York Times)
Peruvian General Warns of Growing Iranian Presence in South America - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
The world needs to act to counter the growing presence of Iranian-supported terrorist organizations throughout South America, former chief of staff of the Peruvian Armed Forces, Gen. Francisco Contreras, told the Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
"It appears that Iranian organizations provide support to other terrorist organizations, and that there is cooperation between them."
"There is something strange in the relationship [Venezuelan President] Chavez has forged with Iran, as is the presence of the Iranian defense minister in Bolivia on a recent visit," he said.
Hamas Executes Two Gazans as Spies for Israel - Nidal al-Mughrabi and Dan Williams (Reuters)
Gaza's Hamas government Tuesday executed a Palestinian father and son convicted of spying for Israel.
Human rights groups have criticized Hamas executions, which require the approval of President Abbas, who has withheld such approval.
Three Gazans were put to death by Hamas authorities this year and five in 2010.
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- Ahmadinejad Wants to Develop Nuclear Arms Openly, Khamenei Disagrees
Iranian President Ahmadinejad wants to shed the nation's secrecy and forge ahead openly with developing nuclear weapons but is opposed by the clerical leadership, which is worried about international reaction to such a move, says an intelligence assessment from a nation with traditionally reliable intelligence that was shared with the Associated Press. Ahmadinejad is pushing "to shake free of the restraints Iran has imposed upon itself, and openly push forward to create a nuclear bomb," says the assessment. But Khamenei, whose word is final on nuclear and other issues, "wants to progress using secret channels, due to concern about a severe response from the West."
The intelligence assessment further notes,
"Khamenei has decided to transfer engagement with the most sensitive parts of the nuclear program, including activity that can be used for nuclear weapons, from...the group of scientists at the Defense Ministry, who are identified with Ahmadinejad, to a special body in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp. This, due to the increasing lack of trust the Leader [Khamenei] has in people in sensitive positions, who are identified with the President [Ahmadinejad]." (AP-Washington Post)
- Weapons Retrieved in Iraq Point to Iran - Tim Arango
Arrayed on a table at a U.S. base in Iraq are the killing tools from attacks on American soldiers over the last several months - munitions smuggled in from Iran, according to the soldiers whose job it is to conduct the forensic analysis of evidence collected from the battlefield.
One item is a firing system for a 240-millimeter rocket used in a recent attack that killed American soldiers. Forensic analysis led to a member of Kata'ib Hizbullah, which is linked to the Iranian government.
The work here, conducted by a combined joint task force, provides the evidence to buttress the recent claims of top Americans officials, including Leon Panetta, the secretary of defense, that Iran is behind the recent deadly attacks on American troops. In June, 14 American soldiers were killed by enemy attacks, the most in three years. Three Iranian-backed Shiite groups are responsible for 12 of these deaths, say American officials.
(New York Times)
- U.S. Calls Syria Military "Barbaric"
The State Department on Monday highlighted the death of 12-year-old boy Talhat Dalat, who was shot by Syrian police at close range during an anti-regime rally.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: "The behavior of Syria's security forces, including other such barbaric shootings, widescale arrests of young men and boys, brutal torture, and other abuses of basic human rights, is reprehensible." "President Assad must understand that he is not indispensable, and we believe he is the cause of Syria's instability, not the key to its stability."
- Egypt's Generals, Protesters Moving to Open Clash - Hamza Hendawi and Sarah El Deeb
Egypt's ruling military and protesters seeking faster change are moving into collision, as the generals cozy up to the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood. Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Assar, a member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, praised the Brotherhood on Monday in a speech in Washington at the U.S. Institute of Peace, saying they were playing a constructive role.
"Day by day, the Brotherhood are changing and are getting on a more moderate track," he said.
The generals have launched an intensified media campaign depicting the protesters as a troublemaking minority and agents paid by foreign governments. They have also encouraged street protests by pro-military groups.
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- Turkey's Erdogan Threatens to Further Downgrade Diplomatic Ties with Israel - Herb Keinon
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan threatened to unleash "Plan B," a further deterioration of ties with Israel, if Jerusalem does not meet his terms to settle the Mavi Marmara issue. In response, a Jerusalem official said Monday, "The problem is that many people here don't think that this is Plan B, but rather Plan A, and that Erdogan's long-term strategic plan has been to reduce to a minimum the ties with Israel." According to this official, there is a great deal of skepticism in Jerusalem that Israel could do anything to satisfy Erdogan.
Last week the Turkish press reported that Erdogan would visit Gaza if an apology was not forthcoming from Israel, a threat dismissed as hollow in Jerusalem by officials who said Erdogan could enter Gaza via Egypt, but that a photo opportunity there with the Hamas leadership would probably undermine the Palestinian Authority more than it would bother Israel.
- Israel, U.S. to Hold Massive Missile Defense Drill - Yaakov Katz
Israel and the U.S. will hold a large-scale missile defense exercise in early 2012 aimed at improving operational coordination between both countries' defense systems.
Called "Juniper Cobra," the exercise will include Israel's Arrow 2 and Iron Dome as well as America's THAAD and Aegis ballistic missile defense system.
The purpose of the exercise is to enable interoperability between Israeli and American missile defense systems in case the U.S. government decided to deploy these American systems in Israel in the event of a conflict with Iran, like it did ahead of the Gulf War in Iraq in 1991.
"Juniper Cobra shows us how to defend not only with Israeli assets but also with American assets," Arieh Herzog, head of the Israel Defense Ministry's Homa Missile Defense Agency, told the 2nd Annual Israel Multinational Missile Defense Conference on Monday.
- Negotiations, Not Unilateral Declarations - Michael Curtis
The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians can be resolved only by negotiations between the parties, not through unilateral declarations by one side. A unilateral declaration of a state would constitute a breach by the Palestinians of their past agreements and legal obligations. It would be an act of bad faith.
The basis for resolution of the conflict became UN Security Council Resolution 242 of November 22, 1967, which called for secure and recognized boundaries to be determined by negotiation, not by force or by unilateral action of any of the parties, nor were they to be imposed.
The writer is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Rutgers University.
- The Flotilla Folk: Blinded by Hatred of Israel - Roz Rothstein and Roberta Seid
Almost 1,500 people from around the world planned to fly to Greece, board ships and sail to Gaza in July.
The Flotilla Folk say they are just ordinary folk committed to human rights. But they think it is okay to ignore terrorism against Israelis, to overlook the 8,000 rockets Hamas has fired from Gaza into Israeli communities over the past five years, turning everyday life into a lethal game of Russian roulette. They think it is okay to ignore the fact that Hamas is an Iranian proxy, and that Hamas' founding document calls for the murder of Jews, the "obliteration" of Israel and its replacement with a fundamentalist theocracy that opposes all the freedoms and social justice values for which the Flotilla Folk claim to stand. Roz Rothstein is the co-founder and CEO of StandWithUs, and Roberta Seid is the director of education and research. (Jerusalem Post)
- Hizbullah on Edge in Face of Syria Revolt - Rana Moussaoui
"Hizbullah's margin of maneuver is currently very limited because the strategic Iran-Syria-Hizbullah axis is threatened by the [Syrian] revolt and this forces the group to act prudently," said Paris-based Middle East expert Agnes Levallois. Hizbullah
has adopted the Syrian regime's official line in blaming the unrest on armed extremist gangs and outside agitators.
This has prompted anger among protesters in Syria who have torn down and burned pictures of Hizbullah leader Hasan Nasrallah, according to images posted on YouTube. Nasrallah has also been criticized for acting like a "Syrian television presenter," prompting his party to adopt a more low-key approach.
The Arabic-language daily An-Nahar, which is close to Lebanon's opposition, wrote in a weekend editorial: "Tomorrow, when the Syrian regime falls, and it will fall, what will Hizbullah, which supported those who assassinated women, children and the elderly, say?" (AFP-Daily Star-Lebanon)
Behind the Israeli-Lebanese Gas Row - Ariel Cohen (Wall Street Journal Europe)
Both Israel and Lebanon have trillions of cubic feet of underwater natural gas and can benefit tremendously from these resources. All they need is the goodwill to negotiate a sea-border demarcation agreement.
- This usually occurs through bilateral negotiations or mutually agreed arbitration - not through UN border-dispute mechanisms, as Lebanon is now demanding. It's only now that Israel has identified substantial natural gas fields that Hizbullah, the Iranian and Syrian regimes' long arm in Lebanon, has decided to make an issue of the maritime borders.
- Hizbullah is now threatening to attack any Israeli gas projects - even those in undisputed waters. Hizbullah is armed with Chinese-designed, Iranian-made C-802 anti-ship missiles that could be devastating against future Israeli off-shore gas platforms and tankers. Hizbullah also has sea-born commando units.
The writer is senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
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