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Was the Iranian Blast Target's Steel Needed for Nuke Program? - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)
Sunday's blast at a steel factory in the Iranian city of Yazd reportedly killed a number of foreign nationals.
These may be North Koreans training Iranians on maraging steel - used for uranium enrichment centrifuges and exhaust systems for missile engines.
Smugglers Do a Roaring Trade Selling Guns to Syrian Rebels - Ghaith Abdul-Ahad (Guardian-UK)
In southern Syria the weapons come from Lebanon. In the north, they are flowing in from Turkey and Iraq.
Since the Syrian uprising began new business opportunities have opened up for smugglers. "Now we only do weapons," said one smuggler. "Three shipments per day."
"The last time the army attacked Benish there were 30 Kalashnikovs in the town," said Abu Salim. "Now we have more than 600."
In this part of Syria, the young men tell how they have sold their wives' jewelry, their cars and even their furniture to buy weapons and ammunition.
Saudis Behead Woman for Practicing Witchcraft - Michael Winter (USA Today)
Amina bint Abdul Halim bin Salem Nasser,
a Saudi woman in her 60s, was beheaded Monday in the northwest province of Jawf for being a witch,
the Interior Ministry said in a statement. The country's high court upheld the death penalty.
So far this year, the kingdom has executed 73 people for capital crimes.
Israel Fielding New Communications Gear (UPI)
The Israeli military is deploying a new encrypted communications device developed with Elbit Systems called Elad Yarok, that can be used with open frequencies used by the military and can transfer data - including video and photographs - over encrypted frequencies in real time.
"This is, in fact, the first time that anyone has been able to connect traditional radio transceivers to more advanced communication devices capable of delivering media," said Lt. Col. Yigal Padel. "We are the first to successfully develop such military capabilities."
Israeli Wins Gold at World Windsurfing Championship (Jerusalem Post)
For the second time, the Israeli Lee Korzits, 27, won a gold medal in the ISAF World Windsurfing Championships Sunday in Perth, Australia.
Korzits was the youngest ever winner of a windsurfing gold at the World Championships at the age of 19 in 2003.
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- House-Senate Panel Agrees on New Sanctions on Iran
Leaders of a U.S. House and Senate negotiating panel on Monday said they had agreed to compromise legislation imposing new sanctions that target Iran's central bank, despite Obama administration misgivings over the measure. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said the bill was probably "96 percent" the same as legislation that passed the Senate last week. It would penalize foreign financial institutions that do business with Iran's central bank, the main conduit for its oil revenues.
- Inside Syrian Regime, Hard-Liners Gain Upper Hand - Nicholas Blanford
A senior diplomatic source in Beirut says that in Syria the "hard-liners are completely in charge now."
"Clearly, the policy in Damascus now is you cannot show any weakness, no concessions. You use brutal force and it will get you more respect," the diplomat says.
According to a senior Palestinian official with a Syria-backed faction, a "rivalry" has emerged between Assad and his younger - and reputedly more hard-line - brother, Maher. The younger Assad heads the Syrian Army's Republican Guard and Fourth Division, the latter of which has played a lead role in the crackdown against opposition activists.
Concerns are growing that the Syrian regime is planning to wage a major offensive against Homs to bring Syria's third-largest city back under full government control. Several quarters in Homs are in the hands of the opposition and defended by units of the Free Syrian Army. (Christian Science Monitor)
See also Syrian Opposition Calls General Strike to Pressure Assad Government - Elizabeth A. Kennedy
Syrians closed their businesses and kept children home from school Monday in an open-ended general strike, designed to erode Assad's main base of support - the merchant classes. There were signs that the strike was being widely observed, particularly in centers of anti-government rallies.
- Holland to Reconsider UNRWA Funding - Cnaan Liphshiz
Holland will "thoroughly review" its policy on the UN Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal told the parliament in The Hague.
The Dutch ruling party called UNRWA's definitions "worrisome." Holland is UNRWA's 6th largest donor, with an annual contribution of $30 million.
"UNRWA uses its own unique definition of refugees, different from the UN's. The refugee issue is a big obstacle to peace. We therefore ask that the government acknowledge this discrepancy, which leads to third-generation Palestinian refugees," VVD party speaker Hans Ten Broeke said.
Last year Canada stopped its core funding of $10 million annually for UNRWA. In 2011 UNRWA enjoyed a budget of $1.23 billion, half provided by the U.S. and the European Commission - its two largest donors, followed by Sweden, Britain and Norway. (European Jewish Press)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Hamas Calls Mughrabi Bridge Closure a "Declaration of War" - Melanie Lidman and Khaled Abu Toameh
Hamas warned Monday that the Israeli closure of the Mughrabi Bridge to the Temple Mount is tantamount to a "declaration of war" on Muslim holy sites.
"This is a serious step that shows the Zionist scheme of aggression against al-Aksa mosque," said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum. Israeli officials closed the temporary wooden bridge on Sunday for safety reasons. The original earthen ramp leading to the Mughrabi Gate collapsed during a snowstorm in 2004.
- Palestinians Protest Peace Meeting - Khaled Abu Toameh
Palestinians opposed to normalization with Israel prevented Israeli and Palestinian peace activists from holding a convention in eastern Jerusalem on Monday. Palestinian activists belonging to various political groups gathered outside the building and chanted slogans accusing the Palestinian participants of "encouraging the culture of peace" between Israelis and Palestinians. The protesters also raided the conference hall and confiscated booklets and signs belonging to the organizers. (Jerusalem Post)
- Video: Israel Air Force Targets Weapons Storage Facility in Gaza
After 20 rockets were fired by Palestinians at Israel over the weekend, the Israel Air Force targeted a weapons manufacturing site in Gaza. The Air Force confirmed direct hits on Hamas terrorist facilities which were embedded deep into the Gazan population. (Israel Defense Forces)
- Arab Spring Is Really About the Revenge of the Sunnis - Edward Luttwak
Through the bullet and the ballot box, Shiite parties have risen to power from Baghdad to Beirut - thereby extending Iran's reach into the heart of the Arab world.
But as a popular - and now military - uprising in Syria becomes more powerful, the Shiite ascendancy is coming to an end. Having greatly damaged the Sunni front by sweeping away Mubarak, the "Arab Spring" is now greatly helping it by weakening the Assad regime in Syria.
For Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies, the purpose of overthrowing Assad is to break the "Shiite crescent": bringing Damascus under Sunni rule, repudiating its alliance with Iran, and cutting off Hizbullah from its logistic base in Syria, thereby allowing Lebanon's Sunnis to regain power along with their Christian allies.
- Assad's Fall May Not Be Imminent - Jonathan Spyer
Observers should be careful before confidently predicting the imminent fall of the house of Assad. Firstly, the Assad regime is not friendless or isolated. Its Iranian strategic partner is still there, as are Russia and China. Their support is preventing any effective response from the UN Security Council.
Secondly, the half-hearted Arab League "protocol" for resolving the issue is intended largely to prevent a more determined international response. The Arabs do not want to see another Western military intervention into the heart of the Arab world. The League's plan is intended to prevent this by pretending to represent an alternative Arab road to reform in Syria. Leaving the Syrian issue in the hands of the Arab League means leaving Assad in power. (Jerusalem Post)
- Syrian WMD a Concern If Assad Falls, Says Ex-Mossad Chief - Shlomo Cesana and Lilach Shoval
The ongoing popular unrest in Syria may result in the spillover of unconventional weapons to rogue elements in the Middle East, former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy told Army Radio on Monday.
Syria "has unconventional warfare capabilities," Halevy stressed. "Who will take over after the regime in Damascus is toppled, and will things be stable in the immediate aftermath of Assad's departure?" he asked. (Israel Today)
Iran Responsible for 1998 U.S. Embassy Bombings - Marc A. Thiessen (Washington Post)
Last week a federal court found the government of Iran liable for the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Wait, you say, wasn't al-Qaeda responsible for the embassy bombings? Al-Qaeda carried out the attack, but the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that the bombings would not have been possible without "direct assistance" from Tehran as well as Sudan.
- "The government of Iran," Judge John D. Bates wrote, "aided, abetted and conspired with Hizbullah, Osama Bin Laden, and al-Qaeda to launch large-scale bombing attacks against the United States by utilizing the sophisticated delivery mechanism of powerful suicide truck bombs."
- Iran's assistance was not peripheral to the plot, Bates found. "Al-Qaeda desired to replicate Hizbullah's 1983 Beirut Marine barracks suicide bombing, and Bin Laden sought Iranian expertise to teach al-Qaeda operatives about how to blow up buildings."
- "Prior to their meetings with Iranian officials and agents Bin Laden and al-Qaeda did not possess the technical expertise required to carry out the embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. The Iranian defendants, through Hizbullah, provided explosives training to Bin Laden and al-Qaeda and rendered direct assistance to al-Qaeda operatives."
- "In a short time, al-Qaeda acquired the capabilities to carry out the 1998 Embassy bombings, which killed hundreds and injured thousands by detonation of very large and sophisticated bombs."
- If Iran helped al-Qaeda attack the United States without a nuclear umbrella to protect it from retaliation, what might the regime do once it possesses nuclear weapons? Imagine how hard it will be to deter the regime from similar attacks once it has the bomb.
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