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UK Military Steps Up Plans for Iran Attack Amid Fresh Nuclear Fears - Nick Hopkins (Guardian-UK)
Britain's armed forces are stepping up their contingency planning for potential military action against Iran amid mounting concern about Tehran's nuclear enrichment program.
The Ministry of Defence believes the U.S. may decide to fast-forward plans for targeted missile strikes at some key Iranian facilities.
British officials say that if Washington presses ahead it will seek, and receive, UK military help for any mission.
One senior Whitehall official said Iran had proved "surprisingly resilient" in the face of sanctions, and Western attempts to cripple its nuclear enrichment program had been less successful than first thought.
In addition, officials now believe Iran has restored all the capability it lost in a sophisticated cyber-attack last year due to the Stuxnet computer worm.
Another Whitehall official said that within the next 12 months Iran may have hidden all the material it needs to continue a covert weapons program inside fortified bunkers.
"Beyond [12 months], we couldn't be sure our missiles could reach them," the source said. "So the window is closing."
Poll Shows 40 Percent of Jerusalem Arabs Prefer Israel to a Palestinian State - David Pollock
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
New research reveals that 42% of the Palestinians who reside in Jerusalem would try to move to Israel if their neighborhood became part of a new Palestinian state. 39% say they would prefer Israeli to Palestinian citizenship.
The common understanding that Arabs are being driven from Jerusalem is false:
Since 1967, the Palestinian population has more than quadrupled from 70,000 to 288,000.
During the same period, the city's Israeli population has roughly doubled from 250,000 to 500,000.
The view that Arabs cannot build in Jerusalem is also false: Only
24% of east Jerusalem Palestinians say they are dissatisfied with "the ease or difficulty of obtaining building permits."
Libya: Al-Qaeda Flag Flown Above Benghazi Courthouse - (Telegraph-UK)
The black flag of al-Qaeda has been spotted flying over the Benghazi courthouse building in Libya, considered to be the seat of the revolution, raising concerns that the country could lurch towards Muslim extremism.
See also Libya Still Struggling to Secure Weapons, Halt Smuggling (AP-Washington Post)
Euphoria Turns to Discontent as Egypt's Revolution Stalls - Neil MacFarquhar (New York Times)
More than eight months after President Hosni Mubarak was toppled, the euphoria of Egypt's political spring has surrendered to a season of discontent.
There is widespread gloom that Egypt's economy is heading toward a cliff. Tourism, a buttress of the economy upon which an estimated 15 million people depend, remains in a tailspin.
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- House Panel OKs Tougher Penalties Against Iran
The House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday unanimously approved two bills that would strengthen current sanctions against Iran while expanding the list of companies and individuals subject to penalties. The bills would restrict foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies from doing business with Iran, and prohibit Americans from conducting commercial or financial transactions with the Revolutionary Guard. One provision would strengthen the prohibition on granting landing rights in the U.S. to vessels that have visited Iran in the last two years.
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the committee chairwoman, expressed hope that the House leadership could move quickly on the legislation, which has 343 co-sponsors.
- U.S. Says Assad Must Go - Andrew Quinn and Arshad Mohammed
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland suggested Wednesday that Washington had doubts about the viability of an Arab League plan aimed at ending Syria's violent crackdown on protesters. "Syria's made a lot of promises to the international community in the past," Nuland said. "There is a risk here that they are trying to string out diplomacy, that they are trying to offer their own people half steps, or quarter measures, rather than taking the real steps."
White House spokesman Jay Carney said, "Our position remains that President Assad has lost his legitimacy to rule and should step down."
- Israeli Prime Minister Defends Jerusalem Construction - Aron Heller
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday defended his decision to expand construction in eastern Jerusalem. Netanyahu pledged to keep building in Jerusalem and said the city has never been a capital to any other people.
"We are building in Jerusalem because it is our right and our duty to this generation and future generations, not as punishment but as the basic right of our people to build in its eternal city," he said. The projects announced by Netanyahu were not new, but he ordered they be accelerated. Netanyahu stressed that all building would take place in areas that are slated to stay part of Israel under any future peace accord.
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- Israel Air Force Holds Distant-Strike Exercise in Italy - Yoav Zitun
Israel Air Force jet fighters recently concluded an exercise in Sardinia, Italy.
Lt.-Col. L., who commands the IAF squadron heading the Sardinia maneuvers, said: "We trained for distant-strikes, long-range missions and every possible scenario." The Israeli and Italian air forces were joined by the Dutch Air Force for aerial maneuvers which included 17 Israeli fighter jets, three "Oryx" refueling tankers and a radar plane. Maneuvers of this nature are held by the IAF every two years.
See also Israel Air Force Conducts Drills for Long-Range Attacks - Anshel Pfeffer
Israel's jet fighters participated in air combat drills against the Eurofighter planes of the Italian air force, Tornado planes of the German air force, and F-16 planes of the Dutch air force. In the past few years, the IAF has increasingly carried out drills at the Italian Decimomannu air base, especially since it stopped flying in Turkey's air space due to recent diplomatic tensions.
- New "Flotilla" Heading to Gaza - Yitzhak Benhorin
"The Canadian ship Tahrir and Irish ship Saoirse have successfully reached international waters, initiating 'Freedom Wave to Gaza'," activists in New York announced Wednesday. The boats embarked from Turkey.
- NGO: PA Doesn't Meet UNESCO Statehood Guidelines - Khaled Abu Toameh
The Palestinian Authority does not meet UNESCO recommendations, according to a study published on Monday by IMPACT-SE - the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education. IMPACT-SE monitors schoolbooks and curricula to determine compliance with international standards on peace and tolerance, a goal derived directly from UNESCO declarations and resolutions. The study includes the following paragraph from a Grade 8 book: "Today the Muslim countries urgently need jihad and jihad fighters in order to liberate the robbed lands and to get rid of the robbing Jews from the robbed lands in Palestine and in the Levant." (Jerusalem Post)
- Will Israel Really Attack Iran? - Jackson Diehl
Every few months a new flurry of speculation erupts about whether Israel is about to launch a military attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. An upcoming report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, due on Nov. 8, is expected to offer new information about Iran's attempts to develop designs for warheads and delivery systems.
The new burst of speculation does serve a couple of purposes for Israel. It refocuses attention on the Iranian threat, and takes it away from the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN; it raises the pressure on the U.S. and its allies to increase sanctions and other nonmilitary pressure on Tehran.
- Iran's Growing Presence in Latin America a Menace - Matthew Levitt
As U.S. policymakers consider how best to respond to Iran's increasingly dangerous behavior, they should look first to our own back yard south of the border. The U.S. should press allies to restrict the size of Iranian missions to the minimum needed to conduct official business. Over the past few years, Iran has vastly expanded its presence in South and Central America, opening new missions and populating them with far more people than required for normal diplomatic duties.
Such would have an immediate impact on U.S. and regional security.
The writer, former Treasury deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis, directs the Washington Institute for Near East Policy's Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence.
- Overhauling U.S. Policy in the Middle East - Leon Hadar
The changes emerging from the Arab Spring go beyond a clash between pro-Western movements and Islamist groups. The shifting balance of power in the Middle East - triggered in part by eroding American influence in the region - is bringing to the fore realpolitik concerns that likely will overcome ideological considerations.
It is not the Egyptian-Israeli treaty agreement of 1979 or the billions of dollars in U.S. economic and military assistance to Egypt that have induced the Egyptians to refrain from going to war with Israel. The 1979 accord reflected the reality that the evolving power balance led both Israel and Egypt to conclude that a war between them would be too costly and detrimental to their interests. Egypt, economically bankrupt and unable to feed and educate its own people, is certainly not positioned to pursue military confrontation with Israel.
Hamas may be evolving into a client (mini)state of a more Islamist-oriented Egypt. In that context, Egypt's interest would be in providing Hamas with enough support to prevent it from coming under the influence of the more radical players in the region, such as Iran. At the same time, Cairo would need to ensure that Hamas' policies would not draw Egypt into a military conflict with Israel. This wouldn't likely bring about a peace accord, but might allow the ministate in Gaza to become an Egyptian protectorate of sorts that could coexist with Israel for some time to come.
Netanyahu: In the Middle East, Peace Is Made with the Strong, Not with the Weak - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Prime Minister's Office)
Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the opening of the Knesset's Winter Session on Monday:
"One of the challenges we face is dealing with the tens of thousands of rockets and missiles in the hands of our enemies, and aimed at our cities.
The Iron Dome batteries and other defense systems provide only a partial solution....A security philosophy cannot rely on defense alone. It must also include offensive capabilities, which is the very foundation of deterrence. We operate and will continue to operate intensely and determinately against those who threaten the security of the State of Israel and its citizens."
- "In the Middle East, peace is made with the strong, not with the weak. The stronger Israel is, the closer peace will be.
The people in Israel are united in their desire for peace. Yet we seek real peace; peace that is anchored in the right of the Jewish people to a nation-state in its homeland; peace that is based on security.
We are willing to compromise, but not to discard our security."
"Regrettably, the Palestinians continue to refuse to engage in direct negotiations with us. Instead of sitting at the negotiation table, they decided to join the Hamas and take unilateral steps at the United Nations.
We will not idly sit by while these steps harm Israel and severely violate the most basic obligation that the two parties took upon themselves in the peace process - to resolve the conflict between us only through direct negotiations."
- "Unfortunately, while we support the foundation of a Palestinian state as part of a peace agreement, the Palestinians are trying to reach a Palestinian state without a peace agreement....Our friend, the United States, stands firmly at our side and opposes the Palestinian unilateral steps at the United Nations, and we are very grateful for that."
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