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Dozens of Syrian Army Deserters Killed by Machinegun Fire (AFP-New York Post)
Between 60 and 70 Syrian army deserters were gunned down as they tried to flee their military posts in northwestern Idlib province Monday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Iran Admits Western Sanctions Are Inflicting Damage - Rick Gladstone (New York Times)
Iran's deputy oil minister acknowledged on Monday a decline in domestic petroleum production because of dwindling foreign investment.
Talks between the Iranians and Poland's biggest natural gas developer have collapsed, while a Russian oil company has denied signing a $1 billion deal to help revive a dormant Iranian oil field.
UAE Says Oil Pipeline Bypassing Hormuz Straits Almost Finished (AP-CBS News)
The oil minister of the United Arab Emirates says a new crude oil pipeline that will bypass the strategically sensitive Strait of Hormuz near Iran is almost finished.
The Abu Dhabi Crude Oil Pipeline project aims to ship crude from the UAE's main oil producing region to the port of Fujairah on the Gulf of Oman.
The Terrorists in Europe's Backyard - Avi Jorisch (Wall Street Journal Europe)
Europe's security is being threatened by a terrorist organization that many people have never heard of.
Last week, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), based in north Africa and active since 2002, posted pictures of five Europeans kidnapped in November and currently being held in Mali.
Formerly known as the Salafi Group for Preaching and Combat, AQIM is an al-Qaeda affiliate whose principal aim is to overthrow the Algerian government and establish an Islamic state governed by Shariah law in north Africa, Spain and Portugal.
AQIM regularly funds its operations through criminal activity in Europe and the kidnapping of Western tourists and aid workers in north Africa, and is now in possession of weapons galore from the fallen Gaddafi regime.
It is also actively involved in courting north African immigrant communities in the West.
The writer, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, is senior fellow for counterterrorism at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington.
Standard of Living in Israel 1/3 Lower than U.S. - Adrian Filut (Globes)
The standard of living in Israel "is not the same as in the U.S., but about two-thirds as high," Governor of the Bank of Israel Prof. Stanley Fischer said Sunday.
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- U.S. Defense Secretary: Iranians Can Assemble Bomb in a Year or Less - Scott Pelley
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said Monday that despite the efforts to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program, the Iranians have reached a point where they can assemble a bomb in a year or potentially less.
CBS: So are you saying that Iran can have a nuclear weapon in 2012?
Panetta: It would probably be about a year before they can do it. Perhaps a little less. But one proviso, Scott, is if they have a hidden facility somewhere in Iran that may be enriching fuel.
CBS: So that they can develop a weapon even more quickly...
Panetta: On a faster track...
CBS: Than we believe...
Panetta: That's correct.
"The United States does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. That's a red line for us and that's a red line, obviously, for the Israelis. If we have to do it we will deal with it," Panetta added. "If they proceed and we get intelligence that they are proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon then we will take whatever steps necessary to stop it."
- U.S., Allies Step Up Iran Embargo Talks - Jay Solomon
The Obama administration, its European allies and key Arab states are intensifying discussions on how to maintain stability in the global energy markets in a possible precursor to a formal embargo on Iran's oil exports and its central bank.
The officials said they are seeking assurances from major oil producers, such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE, to increase exports to the EU and Asian nations if tighter sanctions on Tehran's energy exports and central bank are enforced in the coming months.
Representatives from 11 countries involved in the financial war against Tehran will meet on Tuesday in Rome as part of a group that has been informally dubbed the "coalition of like-minded countries." (Wall Street Journal)
- Egypt Tahrir Clashes Continue - Marwa Awad and Alexander Dziadosz
Egyptian police and soldiers fired weapons and used batons and teargas for a fifth day on Tuesday in the latest effort to clear Cairo's central Tahrir Square of opponents of army rule. Security forces charged hundreds of protesters attempting to hold their ground. Medical sources say 13 people have been killed and hundreds wounded in the violence that began on Friday.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Egypt: Salafi Party Calls to Respect Peace Accord with Israel
Dr. Yusri Hamad, spokesman for the Egyptian Salafi Nur party, has expressed willingness to sit down with Israel under certain conditions. Party leader Dr. Emad Abdul Ghafoor added, "We must respect the treaties signed by Egypt." (Albawaba-Jordan)
See also Egyptian Al Nour Party Denies Contact with Israel (Jerusalem Post)
- Four Rockets Found in Southern Lebanon
Four Grad rockets were found in Hasbaya in southeast Lebanon on Monday, less than a month after rockets were fired at Israel in two separate incidents. The four Russian-made medium-range rockets were not set for launching, according to the army. Sources said a Lebanese farmer discovered the rockets as he plowed his olive grove, only 800 meters from the Israel-Lebanon border.
- Israel's Technion and Cornell to Build NYC Tech Campus
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has selected
Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology to build a cutting-edge NYC Tech Campus for applied science and engineering that will serve as a magnet for tech talent and entrepreneurship. Cornell and the Technion were selected due to their long and impressive track-records in generating applied science breakthroughs and spinning out new businesses.
- No Water Under Jerusalem's Mughrabi Bridge - Shmuel Rosner
In most well-managed cities, when a bridge is said to be putting the public at risk, it is closed without controversy until it can be made safe again. Not so in Jerusalem. Last Sunday, the Mughrabi bridge that ascends from the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest place of worship, up to the Temple Mount was sealed off for two days following an order by the city engineer who declared it unsound. The bridge was built seven years ago as a temporary substitute for the walkway that was destroyed by a winter storm in 2004.
Muslims could still enter the compound through any of the other gates available to them, and they could still pray at the mosques. Yet it was they who were most outraged by the announcement that the bridge had become impassable. The Waqf, the religious-political body in charge of managing the Muslim sites at the Temple Mount, wants veto power over every decision concerning the area. Over recent months, Egyptian and Jordanian officials have warned Israel not to replace the bridge.
When an Israeli cabinet secretary went to Amman in mid-November to finalize the terms of a UNESCO-mediated deal, the Jordanians backtracked. Why sign a deal and risk the indignation of Jordanian radicals? The reason this seemingly simple problem became so fraught is that it was never really about the bridge. All along the story was about the attempt of some Muslim leaders to deny Jewish ties to the Temple Mount. (International Herald Tribune)
- Ending UNRWA and Advancing Peace - Elliott Abrams
Since the end of the Second World War, millions of refugees have left refugee camps, and refugee status, and moved to countries that accepted them as citizens. The children and grandchildren of these refugees were never refugees themselves. However, instead of coming under the protection of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Palestinians had a special agency of their own, UNRWA, the UN Relief and Works Agency.
Once there were 750,000 Palestinian refugees, but since all their descendants are considered to be refugees as well, now there are five million people considered by UNRWA to be "Palestinian refugees." UNRWA is now the largest UN agency, with a staff of 30,000. UNHCR cares for the rest of the world with about 7,500 personnel.
UNRWA should cease to exist, and Palestinian refugees should be handled by UNHCR with the intention of resettling them. Palestinians who have citizenship in other countries, such as the nearly two million Palestinians in Jordan, should not be considered refugees at all.
(Council on Foreign Relations)
- Arab Spring Sending Shudders through Christians in the Middle East - Khaled Abu Toameh
In his annual Christmas message to the world, Bethlehem mayor Victor Batarseh called for a comprehensive boycott of Israel. "We call for boycotting Israel culturally, educationally, in sports, economics and trade," Batarseh declared.
The Bethlehem mayor's Christmas message completely ignored the fact that the "Arab Spring" has been anything but a blessing to Christians living in Arab countries. According to Rita Daou of Agence France Presse, "The rise of Islamist movements in countries swept by the Arab revolutions has sent shudders throughout the region's Christians who fear for their survival."
The Palestinian Authority has done little to protect Christians against assaults by Muslims - including rape, intimidation, land theft and financial extortion. But these are all "sensitive" issues that many Christian leaders do not want to discuss in public out of fear of being accused of serving Israel. This is why many leaders of the Christian community deliberately ignore what happened in 2002 in Bethlehem, when dozens of Muslim gunmen stormed the Church of Nativity and hid inside for five weeks. Israel remains the only place in the Middle East where Arab Christians feel protected and safe.
(Hudson Institute-New York)
What the Palestinians Teach Their Children - Isabel Kershner (New York Times)
- A new book by Palestinian Media Watch, an Israeli watchdog group, catalogs dozens of examples of messages broadcast by the Palestinian Authority for its domestic audience that would seem at odds with the pursuit of peace and a two-state solution.
- Instead, the authors say, their findings show a pattern of non-recognition of Israel's right to exist, demonization of Israel and promotion of violence.
- For years, many Israeli and Palestinian analysts have said that what Palestinian leaders tell their own people in their own language is the truest reflection of their actual beliefs.
- "There is no doubt in my mind that in the mainstream of the Palestinian national movement, Israel is not considered legitimate," said Shlomo Avineri, an Israeli professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
- "This is the inner truth of the Palestinians," he said. "They really mean it. It is not what they say on CNN, but it is what they teach their children."
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