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U.S. Dismisses Iran's Nuclear Offer as "Empty Promises" - Ashraf Shazly (AFP)
Iran's offer to halt production of low-enriched uranium is not credible because the Islamic republic has a record of making "empty promises," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Friday.
Iranian President Ahmadinejad told the New York Times last week that his country had offered to stop its production of low-enriched uranium, which can be a stepping stone to produce atomic weapons, provided the West gives it the nuclear material.
U.S. Ambassador to Syria Describes Attack on Convoy - J. David Goodman (New York Times)
In a post on his Facebook page, the American ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, said that in an attack on his convoy on Thursday,
supporters of President Assad threw "concrete blocks at the windows and hit the cars with iron bars."
While many news sites reported that the ambassador's car had been set upon by protesters with eggs and tomatoes, he said,
"Look at the photos of the U.S. Embassy vehicles - eggs and tomatoes do not do such damage."
A video posted online showed a cracked windshield and at least one protester attacking the back of the car with a metal rod.
U.S. to Give Super Cobra Helicopters to Turkey (Hurriyet-Turkey)
U.S. Ambassador in Ankara Francis Ricciardone said on Friday that the U.S will give three Super Cobra helicopters to Turkey to replace the helicopters it lost during its campaign against the PKK.
See also Why Is Obama Rewarding Turkey with Attack Helicopters? - Michael Rubin (Commentary)
During the last few months, Turkey has acted far more as an adversary than as an ally. Maintenance of military relations through NATO does not mean the U.S. should supply Turkey with weaponry it might share with Iran or use against American allies.
Turkey's change is ideological; it is not a country the U.S. can co-opt. No more cutting edge weaponry for Turkey.
Turkey Denies Israeli Jets Harassed Turkish Ship (Today's Zaman-Turkey)
The Turkish General Staff has denied news reports that a Turkish seismic research ship exploring gas near Cyprus was harassed by two low-flying Israeli warplanes and a helicopter on Thursday night.
Turkey Offered Syria Support If Islamists Given Posts - Sammy Ketz (AFP)
"In June, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered, if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ensured between a quarter and a third of ministers in his government were members of the Muslim Brotherhood, to make a commitment to use all his influence to end the rebellion," a Western diplomat said.
Assad's rejection of Turkey's proposal led to a dramatic worsening in ties between the two countries.
See also Ankara Denies Asking Damascus to Grant Muslim Brotherhood Government Posts - Layal Abou Rahhal (Asharq Alawsat-UK)
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- Israel Accepts Quartet Call for Peace Talks - Jeffrey Heller
Israel accepted on Sunday a call by international mediators to resume peace talks with the Palestinians, who quickly reaffirmed their refusal to negotiate. "Israel welcomes the Quartet call for direct negotiations between the parties without preconditions," the statement by Prime Minister Netanyahu's office said.
"Israel calls on the Palestinian Authority to do the same and to enter into direct negotiations without delay." (Reuters)
See also U.S. Welcomes Israel's Acceptance of Quartet Proposal - Yitzhak Benhorin (Ynet News)
- U.S. Congress Freezes $200 Million in Aid to Palestinians
Key U.S. lawmakers are blocking about $200 million in Palestinian economic aid in response to their UN statehood bid, congressional aides said Saturday.
Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have frozen the funding "until the Palestinian statehood issue is sorted out," one aide said. The economic package is separate from security aid, which lawmakers say would be counterproductive to block since withholding those funds would weaken the ability of Palestinian security forces to quell anti-Israel violence.
See also Abbas as a Spoiled Leader - Dan Margalit
Congress' move to freeze $200 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority is a fitting punishment for Mahmoud Abbas, who, in his appeal to the UN, did not just totally ignore clear American statements, but also reneged on obligations incorporated in the Oslo Accords.
See also Arab League Says Will Fund Palestinians after U.S. Cuts Aid (DPA-Ha'aretz)
- ICC Prosecutor: Palestinians Could Pursue War Crimes Charges Without Full Statehood - Olivia Ward
Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), told the Toronto Star that if Palestine becomes even a non-member UN observer state, it could be eligible to pursue claims against Israel.
"If the General Assembly says they are an observer state, in accordance with the all-state formula, this should allow them...to be part of the International Criminal Court."
Israel's former UN ambassador Dore Gold told the BBC that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made the bid for statehood "to open a whole new door of going to the International Criminal Court." Israel opposes any move to hold it accountable in the court, saying it is a Palestinian attempt to delegitimize and isolate the Jewish state.
- Syrian Army Battles Defectors in Rebel Town
Syrian troops fought hundreds of fellow soldiers who have turned against President Bashar al-Assad as tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets on Friday in Rastan, just north of Homs. At least 11 protesters were killed and scores were wounded, human rights groups said. Around 2,000 army defectors are fighting in the Rastan area, according to a human rights activist.
See also Key Syrian City Takes on the Tone of a Civil War - Anthony Shadid
The semblance of a civil war has erupted in Homs, Syria's third-largest city, where armed protesters now call themselves revolutionaries, gun battles erupt as often as every few hours, and security forces and opponents carry out assassinations. An armed opposition is battling security forces in the most restive neighborhoods.
A series of assassinations this past week have left nearly a dozen professors, doctors and informers dead. Homs is
near the Lebanese border - residents say weapons flow across the border from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and even Qatar.
(New York Times)
See also Syrian Poll Finds Little Support for Assad - Elise Labott
A poll conducted by Pepperdine University in secret due to a Syrian government ban on opinion-gathering found that 82% of Syrians want Assad's regime to leave power. 86% judge Assad's performance negatively, and 88% do not think the current government is capable of solving the country's problems. 71% had positive views of the protesters, and only 6% had negative views.
- Iran's Supreme Leader Assails Two-State Solution for Palestinians and Israel
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei assailed a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians on Saturday, saying the Palestinians should not limit themselves to seeking a country within the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza - which would implicitly recognize Israel - because "all land belongs to Palestinians." Khamenei, who spoke at a pro-Palestinian conference in Tehran, called Israel a "cancerous tumor" that should be removed. "Our claim is freedom of Palestine, not part of Palestine. Any plan that partitions Palestine is totally rejected," he said. "Palestine spans from the river (Jordan) to the (Mediterranean) sea, nothing less."
Syria-based Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal told the gathering that "Palestinians must resort to resistance no matter how costly it is, until Palestine is free and Israel is destroyed."
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel: Gilo Is an "Integral Part of Jerusalem" - Melanie Lidman
Gilo is not a settlement but an "integral part of Jerusalem," Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon stressed during a tour of the capital's third-largest neighborhood for 50 members of the foreign media on Sunday. "It's very unfortunate that from faraway places people are trying to judge Jerusalem by standards that are completely unrealistic." "It's hard for us to understand why every little building, every little neighborhood extension which is within the natural growth of a vibrant city, has to become an international issue and has to be raised by the Palestinians as a precondition to peace talks." Gilo is one of the five ring neighborhoods in the capital that were developed immediately after the Six-Day War. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Israel Rejects Criticism of New Jerusalem Housing - Ian Deitch
The Israeli government on Wednesday rejected international criticism of its decision to build 1,100 new housing units in the Gilo neighborhood of Jerusalem, claiming the plans do not hinder peace efforts with the Palestinians.
"In every peace plan that has been put on the table over the last 18 years, Gilo remains an integral part of Jewish Jerusalem," said Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.
"Gilo is not a settlement, nor is it an outpost, Gilo is a neighborhood in the very heart of Jerusalem, only about a 5-minute drive from the very center of town." (AP)
- Israel Air Force Targets Rocket Squad in Gaza
An Israeli military spokeswoman said an air strike in Gaza on Saturday targeted a Palestinian squad that was preparing to launch rockets into Israel. Three Palestinians were wounded in the strike.
- After the Quartet Statement: Is Abbas the Odd Man Out? - David Makovsky
The Quartet for Middle East peace statement of Sept. 23 called for the resumption of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians "without delay or preconditions." Abbas seems to have miscalculated the direction of the Quartet and the UN Security Council member countries. Although his speech received extensive applause in the General Assembly, his bid to gain UNSC approval is losing momentum. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- The Palestinian Bid for Statehood - Robbie Sabel
As distinct from Palestinian President Abbas' UN speech, the actual application submitted by the Palestinians for UN membership makes no reference whatsoever to the 1967 lines or to the borders of the Palestinian state.
In a letter to the UN Secretary General attached to the submission, Abbas writes that the international community supports the 1967 lines, but makes no statement as to what the Palestinians themselves see as their border.
The two documents they refer to in their application, Resolution 181 (the 1947 Partition plan) and the 1988 Palestinian Declaration of Independence, bear no relation to the 1967 borders. Their inclusion challenges the common wisdom that the Palestinians have officially renounced all claims to pre-June 1967 territory. The writer is a former Legal Advisor of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
(Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
- Will the Armed Forces Retain Power in Egypt? - Jacques Neriah
On September 26, the head of Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, chose to walk the streets of Cairo in a plain black suit, casually greeting and chatting with civilians.
An Egyptian National TV crew just happened to be there and video footage of the event was aired later in the day on state television showing civilians warmly greeting Tantawi.
SCAF has finally embarked on a course meant to reduce the powers of the fundamentalists, regain control of the Sinai Peninsula, reduce to a minimum the impact of Israel on its policies, and maintain its huge economic empire within Egypt's economy. Tantawi might be tempted, like his predecessors, to remain Egypt's leader in order to maintain Egypt as he inherited it from Mubarak.
Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah was formerly Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence.
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
See also Egyptians Protest Military Leadership - Amro Hassan
Thousands of protesters gathered in the heart of Cairo on Friday to voice their exasperation with the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces. Protesters and political groups called for an end to emergency laws, amendments to the new elections law, a date for a presidential election, a clear timeline for drafting a new constitution, and an end to military trials for civilians. Protesters chanted, "Down, down with the military rule" and "This is a warning, Tantawi, today is [your] departure day."
(Los Angeles Times)
See also U.S. Met with Egypt Islamists - Edmund Blair (Reuters)
Land Without Peace: Why Abbas Went to the UN - Charles Krauthammer (Washington Post)
- Last week PA President Mahmoud Abbas
reiterated that he will continue to boycott peace talks unless Israel gives up - in advance - claim to any territory beyond the 1967 lines. Meaning, for example, that the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem is Palestinian territory.
- This is not just absurd. It violates every prior peace agreement. They all stipulate that such demands are to be the subject of negotiations, not their precondition.
- Abbas unwaveringly insists on the so-called "right of return," which would demographically destroy Israel by swamping it with millions of Arabs, thereby turning the world's only Jewish state into the world's 23rd Arab state.
- The Palestinians are quite prepared to sign interim agreements, like Oslo. Framework agreements, like Annapolis. Cease-fires, like the 1949 armistice. Anything but a final deal. Anything but a treaty that ends the conflict once and for all - while leaving a Jewish state still standing.
- For nearly half a century, the U.S. has pursued a Middle East settlement on the basis of the formula of land for peace, which produced the Israel-Egypt peace of 1979 and the Israel-Jordan peace of 1994. Why did Abbas go to the UN last week? To get land without peace. Statehood without negotiations. An independent Palestine in a continued state of war with Israel.
- Land without peace is nothing but an invitation to national suicide.
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