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Clinton: Palestinian UN Bid "Not Going Anywhere" - Arshad Mohammed and Andrew Quinn (Reuters)
The Palestinians' push for UN membership "is not going anywhere for the foreseeable future, and even if it were, you are not going to get a state through the UN. It's not going to happen," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday.
"So you have done what you needed to do to signal your seriousness of purpose. Now get back into negotiations where you can actually start talking about borders," she added.
The Middle East Quartet issued a statement Sept. 23 calling for the two sides to hold a preliminary meeting within a month that would lead to full-fledged peace negotiations.
Security Forces Abduct Thousands in Syria - Ashish Kumar Sen (Washington Times)
In the Syrian city of Daraa, some 8,000 to 10,000 people disappeared in a recent crackdown by security forces, residents said.
In Homs, the abductions started about two weeks ago. Young men and women, many of them teenagers, were picked up. Most have not been heard from again.
In Homs, at least 60 civilians have been killed since Friday, when troops armed with heavy artillery and riding in tanks attacked residential neighborhoods, according to residents.
Assad's Alawites: The Guardians of the Throne - Nir Rosen (Al Jazeera)
The Alawite faith bears little resemblance to mainstream doctrines of Islam and involves belief in reincarnation, the divinity of Ali ibn Abi Talib - the fourth Caliph and a cousin of Prophet Muhamad - and a holy trinity comprising Ali, Muhamad and one of the prophet's companions, Salman al Farisi.
A common theme to Alawite identity is a fear of Sunni hegemony, based on a history of persecution that only ended with the demise of the Ottoman empire.
The French mandate replaced the Ottoman empire and the Alawites begged the French to grant them a separate state.
Beginning in the 1960s, the Syrian regime encouraged mainly Alawite peasants to migrate from the mountain regions to the plains, giving them ownership of lands that had belonged to a mainly Sunni elite.
Minorities, especially Alawites, saw the ruling Baath party and its pan-Arab ideology as a way to transcend narrow sectarian identities, while state employment and the military offered opportunities for social advancement and an escape from poverty. In 1955, the majority of the military's non-commissioned officers were Alawites.
Women's Suffrage in Saudi Arabia: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back - Joshua Teitelbaum (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
Women are still noticeably absent from the public sphere in Saudi Arabia.
A guardianship system prevents the movement of females without the permission of a male relative, and women are forbidden to drive.
There can be no doubt that since King Abdullah began to assert his influence around 1995 while still crown prince, women have made progress, although at an agonizingly slow pace.
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- Israel Agrees to Exchange 1,000 Palestinian Prisoners for One Israeli Soldier - Ethan Bronner
Israel and Hamas announced an agreement on Tuesday to exchange more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for an Israeli soldier held captive in Gaza for five years - Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit. In Damascus, Khaled Meshal, the political leader of Hamas, called the deal "a national accomplishment" for the Palestinians, who he said hoped to "cleanse the land, and liberate Jerusalem." Thousands poured into the streets in Gaza and the West Bank in celebration.
Yehudit Shahor, whose teenage son Uri was killed by Palestinians in 1995, told Israeli television that "despite the fear I feel as an Israeli citizen and a terror victim, I am very happy for the Shalit family and feel moved as a mother that this boy will come home."
She said she had no doubt that any killers among the released Palestinians would kill again, but added: "Even if this is a tough deal, a living boy must be returned home at all costs."
(New York Times)
See also Israel Approves Agreement for Release of Gilad Shalit
The Israeli Cabinet approved the agreement for the release of Gilad Shalit by a vote of 26 to 3. Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Cabinet: "I believe that we have reached the best deal we could have at this time, when storms are sweeping the Middle East. I do not know if in the near future we would have been able to reach a better deal or any deal at all." "I am happy that I succeeded in fulfilling the Jewish decree of redeeming captives....The Nation of Israel is a unique people. We are all mutually responsible for each other."
(Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
- U.S. Disrupts Iranian-Backed Plot to Kill Saudi Ambassador - Brian Bennett
Members of an elite Iranian security force planned to detonate a bomb at a busy Washington, D.C., restaurant, killing Adel Al-Jubeir, the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S. and possibly over one hundred bystanders, according to court documents filed in the Southern District of New York on Tuesday.
The plot was infiltrated by a Drug Enforcement Agency informant posing as a member of a Mexican drug cartel. The plotters planned to pay a member of the Zetas cartel $1.5 million to carry out the attack.
An Iranian-American, Manssor Arbabsiar, 56, has been arrested in the case and confessed to the charges. An Iran-based member of the secret Quds Force unit of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Gholam Shakuri, was also charged but is not in custody.
(Los Angeles Times)
See also Israeli Diplomats in Buenos Aires May Also Have Been Targeted - Kevin G. Hall
McClatchy learned from multiple sources on Tuesday that the two indicted men also had discussed potential terror attacks against Saudi and perhaps Israeli diplomats in Buenos Aires. Iran stands accused of orchestrating the July 1994 car bombing on the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that left 85 dead.
See also Wikileaks: Targeted Saudi Ambassador Told U.S. to Decapitate Iranian "Snake" - Scott Peterson (Christian Science Monitor)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- The Shalit Deal: 1,027 Palestinian Prisoners to Be Freed in Two Stages - Yaakov Katz
In the first stage, 450 Palestinian prisoners will be released, 280 of whom are serving life sentences. Of those, Israel agreed to release 96 prisoners to the West Bank and 14 to east Jerusalem. Another 203 from the West Bank will be deported to Gaza and 40 will be sent abroad. 131 prisoners from Gaza will be released back to Gaza. Six Israeli Arabs will be released. Shalit will then be sent to Israel, and another 550 prisoners will be released.
- Hamas Boosted, Fatah Weakened by Deal - Yaakov Lappin
Hamas will be significantly boosted by the Shalit deal. Hamas has been able to force Jerusalem to negotiate with it as an equal partner, and has achieved the release of a large number of terrorists - some of whom were sentenced to life terms for personally murdering Israeli civilians.
This is bad news for the Fatah government in Ramallah. Fatah's grip on power in the West Bank is likely more shaky than meets the eye.
The Shalit deal will be used by Hamas to claim that it is the most effective representative of the Palestinians.
Images of freed Palestinian prisoners will likely convince many Palestinians that Hamas is right.
Hamas Steals Abbas Thunder with Prisoner Deal - Tom Perry
Hamas has jumped back into the Middle East spotlight with a prisoner swap deal with Israel that will score points over President Abbas and steal some of the thunder he generated by pushing for Palestinian statehood at the UN. "Hamas proves again that it has cards and they can pull them out at the speed of light," said Zakaria al-Qaq, a Palestinian political commentator. "It's about scoring goals. It isn't a matter of elections, it's about credibility."
Talal Okal, a Gaza-based commentator, said: "This has restored the shine to Hamas." "The Hamas movement is sending a message: that negotiations are not worth it, and its method, resistance, is the one that produces results." (Reuters)
- A Victory for Israeli Solidarity - Ari Shavit
There are many good reasons to oppose the deal for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. The deal is a surrender by Israel to terror. It will empower extremists, spur Hamas on and weaken the PA. It will increase the risk of Israeli soldiers being kidnapped in the future.
The deal will strengthen the feeling that sensitivity to human life is Israel's Achilles' heel. The deal that saves the life of Gilad Shalit could cost the lives of many Israelis whose names and faces we do not yet know.
Yet, there is one decisive reason to support the deal: Israeli solidarity.
Israel's main asset in human and security terms is the sense of mutual responsibility that its citizens and soldiers feel toward one another. Rightly or not, Shalit has become a symbol of mutual responsibility and his release will be the realization of Israeli solidarity. Only with time will we know what the proper balance was between what was correct and what was dangerous in the deal to release Shalit.
- Israel Had No Choice But to Save Shalit - Jonathan S. Tobin
The Shalit deal will undoubtedly come back to haunt Israel, letting 1,000 Palestinians, including convicted mass murderers, go free. Objectively viewed, the decision makes no sense because the only winner here is Hamas, whose prestige will soar.
But all that pales in comparison to the overwhelming sentiment among Israelis that Shalit cannot be allowed to rot in captivity if there is a chance he might be ransomed. Israelis will rue the price of that ransom, but also take some perverse satisfaction in the fact they value the life of one Jew as being worth that of 1,000 Arab terrorists and killers. (Commentary)
- Iran's Terror Plot a Sobering Wake-Up Call - Editorial
The Department of Justice has charged that "factions of the Iranian government" plotted to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the U.S. by blowing him up inside a Washington, D.C., restaurant. Had it succeeded, this would have constituted an act of terror by the Islamic Republic of Iran on U.S. soil, and arguably an act of war.
At a July 17 planning meeting in Mexico, an undercover U.S. agent suggested to one of the two central figures in the plot, Manssor Arbabsiar, that the assassination would cause mass casualties. Arbabsiar replied: "They [the Iranians] want that guy done; if the hundred go with him, f**k 'em." The Justice Department also makes clear that this effort in Iran extended beyond these two men, referring several times to their "Iran-based co-conspirators."
One of the charges brought by the U.S. against the two men is "conspiracy to commit an act of international terrorism transcending national boundaries." That aptly describes what seems to occupy much of the Iranian government's waking hours.
(Wall Street Journal)
See also What Iran's Terror Plot Tells Us - David Ignatius
A White House official said the assassination scheme appeared to have been authorized by senior levels of the Quds Force, the elite covert-action arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. The force, headed by spymaster Qassem Soleimani, is said to report directly to Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. "We're not going to tolerate targeting a diplomat in Washington," the official said.
Anatomy of a Deal - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)
Both IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen Benny Gantz and Israel Security Agency (ISA) Chief Yoram Cohen declared recently that they were unable to offer the government a viable plan that would enable Israel to extract Shalit successfully and that a prisoner exchange deal was the only way to ensure his release. Cohen promised the prime minister that the ISA would be able to monitor the "heavyweight" prisoners who would be allowed to return to the West Bank.
- The negotiations lasted for five years and four months. Some would argue that a similar agreement could have been secured a year or two ago, yet this is doubtful. While the agreement constitutes painful Israeli capitulation, Israel apparently managed to secure some of its demands.
- The fate of the talks was in the hands of Egypt's military rulers. Israeli officials were gravely concerned that this regime could lose its ability to serve as mediator within a few months and come under the Muslim Brotherhood's influence. This is the "window of opportunity" officials in Jerusalem spoke of. This window could have been closed, given further upheaval in the Arab world.
- The substantive fear that the arch-terrorists to be released would restore Hamas' West Bank infrastructure will now force the ISA and IDF to significantly boost their anti-terror operations and security deployment in Judea and Samaria while requiring greater manpower and additional resources. Moreover, Israel will have to toughen its security demands in the framework of talks with Abbas.
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