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ElBaradei: U.S. in Secret Talks with Egypt on Peace Treaty with Israel (Ha'aretz)
The U.S. is engaged in secret talks with Egypt's ruling military council geared at ensuring that the country's democratically elected regime will maintain its peace treaty with Israel, top Egyptian opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei said on Tuesday.
Elbaradei told the Iranian Fars news agency that the future of Israel's peace treaty with Egypt was at the center of recent, secret talks between U.S. officials and members of the Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.
"I believe that the Americans wanted to ensure that the deals signed between Egypt and Israel will remain intact if Islamists ascend to power,"
Saudi Arabia Posts $81.6 Billion Budget Surplus as Revenues Double (AFP)
Saudi Arabia on Monday posted a budget surplus of $81.6 billion for 2011, as revenues turned out to be double the forecast, the finance ministry said.
Revenues surged to $296 billion due to higher than expected oil prices.
Photo: Hamas Women March with Kalashnikov Rifles in Gaza (Times of Malta)
Palestinian women who are members of Hamas security forces march in formation during a graduation ceremony for new recruits in Gaza City, Tuesday.
Arab Man Who Stoned Jewish Vehicle in Jerusalem Gets 4 Years - Aviad Glickman (Ynet News)
The Jerusalem District Court sentenced Mohammad Taha, 23, to four years in prison for hurling bricks and stones at a father and his daughter who accidentally entered the Silwan neighborhood in Jerusalem last May.
Judge Rafi Carmel ruled that Taha and his accomplices ambushed the vehicle before mounting a "ruthless, unscrupulous and merciless attack."
The judge said the defendant targeted the father and daughter "only because they were Jews who had mistakenly entered his neighborhood."
How Did Israeli Pencils Reach Saudi Retail Chain? - Ofer Petersburg (Ynet News)
Saudi authorities are investigating how Israeli pencils reached one of the kingdom's biggest retail chains.
The Abu Rialin stores are selling Israeli pencil maker Kravitz's pencils with the Kravitz logo in Hebrew.
An additional mystery is that in Israel a package of 12 pencils sells for $1.30, while in Saudi Arabia they cost only 53 cents.
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- Iran Threatens to Block Gulf Oil If Sanctions Applied
Iran has threatened to block the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz if Western governments attempt to impose sanctions on its petroleum exports in their dispute over its nuclear ambitions.
The official Iranian news agency IRNA quoted Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi as saying that if Iranian oil is banned, "then not a drop of oil will pass through the Strait of Hormuz."
In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner dismissed the threat as "bluster." (VOA News)
- Mass Anti-Assad Protest in Homs as Monitors Visit - Mariam Karouny and Erika Solomon
Some 70,000 Syrians in Homs rallied on Tuesday against President Bashar al-Assad, emboldened by Arab peace monitors' first tour of the city after the army withdrew some tanks following days of unrest.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said security forces killed 15 people across the country on Tuesday, six of them in Homs. Hundreds have been killed in Homs in the revolt. (Reuters)
See also Syria Hiding Detainees from Observers
"Syrian authorities have transferred perhaps hundreds of detainees to off-limits military sites to hide them from Arab League monitors now in the country," Human Rights Watch said Tuesday. "The Arab League should insist on full access to all Syrian sites used for detention." (AFP-Daily Star-Lebanon)
- A Deadly U.S. Drone Network Grows for Killing Terrorists - Greg Miller
In the past three years, the U.S. has built an extensive apparatus for using drones to carry out targeted killings of suspected terrorists and stealth surveillance of other adversaries. The apparatus involves dozens of secret facilities, including two operational hubs on the East Coast, virtual Air Force cockpits in the Southwest and clandestine bases in at least six countries on two continents. No president has ever relied so extensively on the secret killing of individuals to advance the nation's security goals.
In 2009, the nation's clandestine drone war was confined to Pakistan, where 44 strikes over five years had left about 400 people dead. The number of strikes has since soared to nearly 240, and the number of those killed has more than quadrupled. U.S. officials have said that the number of "high-value" al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan has dwindled to two.
A recent study counted 775 Predators, Reapers and other medium- and long-range drones in the U.S. inventory, with hundreds more in the pipeline. Over the past year, the CIA has erected a secret drone base on the Arabian Peninsula. The U.S. military began flying Predators and Reapers from bases in Seychelles and Ethiopia, in addition to a long-standing drone base in Djibouti.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel Thwarts Attack on Israel-Egypt Border - Gili Cohen
The Israel Air Force Tuesday struck two global Jihad terrorists in Gaza who were planning to attack from Israel's border with Egypt. Earlier Tuesday an airstrike killed an Islamic Jihad operative.
- Hamas Bans Fatah Anniversary Celebrations in Gaza - Khaled Abu Toameh
The Hamas government Tuesday banned Fatah's 47th anniversary celebrations in Gaza despite the recent rapprochement between the two rival parties, Fatah spokesman Fayez Abu Eitah said.
In the past few days, Hamas security forces summoned 19 Fatah activists for interrogation, a Fatah official charged.
Nine other activists were detained last weekend and are being subjected to various forms of torture, he said.
- Hamas Leader Haniyeh:
Goal Is Destruction of Israel in Stages - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
At a ceremony marking the 24th anniversary of the founding of Hamas, Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh said that Hamas may work for the "interim objective of liberation of Gaza, the West Bank, or Jerusalem," but Hamas' long-term "strategic" goal is eliminating all of Israel.
"The armed resistance and the armed struggle are the path and the strategic choice for liberating the Palestinian land, from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river, and for the expulsion of the invaders and usurpers [Israel]....We won't relinquish one inch of the land of Palestine." Haniyeh also promised that Hamas will "lead intifada after intifada until we liberate Palestine - all of Palestine." (Palestinian Media Watch)
- Egypt's Sinking Economy Belongs to the Islamists Now - Theodore May
Can the Muslim Brotherhood, which is poised to lead Egypt's emerging civilian government, fix an economy that is in far worse condition than when the uprising began last January, with high unemployment and plummeting tourism and foreign investment?
Tourism, which accounted for 12.5% of GDP in 2010, has fallen by about a third since the uprising began, and foreign direct investment has fallen 92%.
The Muslim Brotherhood is unlikely to meaningfully reform food and gas subsidies, which offer an important lifeline to the poor. These subsidies, however, account for a third of government spending.
- Is Turkey Sliding into Authoritarianism? - Alexander Christie-Miller
A constitutional law professor, a prize-winning investigative journalist, and a noted free-speech activist are among the mounting number of Turkish lawyers, politicians, journalists, and academics put behind bars in recent months on dubious terror charges that are stoking fears that Turkey's courts and police are being used to crush political dissent.
One case that has fueled fears of authoritarianism is that of two investigative reporters,
Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener, who are accused of conspiring to overthrow Turkey's government. Sener, who was named a World Press Freedom Hero by the International Press Institute last year, and Sik had begun investigating the activities of a powerful Islamic network with links to the government. During Sik's arrest a book he was writing was seized, in which he claimed Turkey's police had been infiltrated by Islamists.
(Christian Science Monitor)
- The World's Worst Human Rights Observer - David Kenner
Sudanese Gen. Mohammad Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, the head of the Arab League observer mission to Syria, may be the unlikeliest leader of a humanitarian mission the world has ever seen. He is a staunch loyalist of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide and crimes against humanity for his government's policies in Darfur. Dabi presided over the creation of the feared Arab militias known as the "janjaweed,"
responsible for the worst atrocities during the Darfur genocide.
U.S., Israel Discuss "Red Lines" for Iran - Eli Lake (Daily Beast)
The White House has reassured the Israelis that the administration had its own "red lines" that would trigger military action against Iran, and that there is no need for Jerusalem to act unilaterally. Israel has not agreed to ask the U.S. for permission or give significant advance warning of any pending strike.
- The sensitive work of trying to get both allies on the same page intensified this month with new conversations between the U.S. and Israel over what the triggers - called "red lines" in diplomatic parlance - would be to justify a pre-emptive attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.
- Matthew Kroenig, who served as special adviser on Iran to the Office of the Secretary of Defense between July 2010 and July 2011, offered some of the possible "red lines" for a military strike in a recent Foreign Affairs article. He argued that the U.S should attack Iran's facilities if Iran expels international nuclear weapons inspectors, begins enriching its stockpiles of uranium to weapons-grade levels of 90 percent, or installs advanced centrifuges at its main uranium-enrichment facility in Qom.
- Earlier this month, Israeli diplomats, military officers and intelligence officials were in Washington for an annual meeting called the strategic dialogue. At the meeting, the Israeli side offered a new presentation on Iran's nuclear program, suggesting that Iran's efforts to build secret reactors for producing nuclear fuel were further along than the U.S. has publicly said. Some of the intelligence was based on soil samples collected near the suspected sites.
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