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Iran Sought to Broker Syria Deal between Assad, Muslim Brotherhood - Ben Birnbaum (Washington Times)
Mohammed Farouk Tayfour, the top political leader in Syria's Muslim Brotherhood, told the Washington Times on Tuesday that Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sent three emissaries to Istanbul in late October to try to broker a deal that would have the Brotherhood support President Bashar Assad in exchange for four high-ranking positions in the Syrian government.
"We refused to meet with them," said Tayfour, one of nine members of the Syrian National Council's executive committee, which is leading opposition to the Assad regime. "We told them that Iran has been taking sides against the Syrian people."
Egypt Vote Puts Military Role in Play - Matt Bradley (Wall Street Journal)
Among the thousands of candidates in the final round of Egypt's parliamentary elections Tuesday is Tawfiq Okasha, the nationalist talk-show host of "Egypt Today," broadcast on his Al Faraeen, or "The Pharaohs," satellite channel.
Okasha's millions of viewers hear him accuse antimilitary activists and liberal politicians of working in the thrall of Zionists and Freemasons.
Okasha absolves the interim ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces, or SCAF, of any guilt for the violence and economic stagnation that have persisted since the revolution. He draws his popular appeal from his unyielding defense of Egyptian nationhood, with the military as its protector.
"There's something about the Egyptian army that Americans need to know," he said. "Most scientific studies and theories proved that the Egyptian soldier is the most capable, most enduring and the fastest soldier in the world."
See also Egypt's Islamists Could Soon Challenge Generals - Leila Fadel (Washington Post)
The dominant showing by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party in Egypt's first post-revolution elections puts the country on a collision course, analysts say, with emboldened Islamists and the entrenched military set to vie for power.
Establishment Factions to Face Off in Iranian Elections - Thomas Erdbrink (Washington Post)
Iran has begun gearing up for elections that will represent a showdown between two establishment factions that just three years ago formed a united front against the opposition Green Movement.
In parliamentary elections March 2, supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will face off against an alliance of hard-line clerics, Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders and bazaar merchants who have turned against him.
The two sides have lately been engaged in bitter, public disputes, calling each other "tumors," "sorcerers" and "thieves."
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- Europe Agrees in Principle to Ban Iranian Oil - Steven Erlanger
European countries have agreed in principle to impose an embargo on Iranian oil, French and European diplomats said on Wednesday. A final decision by the EU will not come before the end of January and would be carried out in stages to avoid major disruptions in global oil supplies. But the move by some of Iran's most important oil customers appears to underscore the resolve of Western allies to impose on Iran the toughest round of sanctions to date, increasing pressure on Tehran to stop enriching uranium.
(New York Times)
See also Turkey to Seek U.S. Waiver on Iran Oil Sanctions
Turkey will seek a waiver from the U.S. to exempt its biggest refiner Tupras from new U.S. sanctions on institutions that deal with Iran's central bank, a Turkish energy ministry official said Wednesday. The new law allows President Obama to issue waivers when it is in the U.S. national interest. Turkey gets about 30% of its oil from neighboring Iran and has deepened economic and financial ties with Iran in recent years.
- U.S. to Pressure China on Iran - Erik Wasson
U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner will travel to China next week to hold high-level economic talks, the Treasury Department announced Wednesday.
High on the agenda will be getting Chinese support for new sanctions against Iran, which is forging ahead with its plans to develop a nuclear weapon.
China's foreign ministry on Wednesday criticized the new U.S. sanctions against Iran's central bank.
- Massachusetts Pension Board Completes Iran Divestment
The Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Management board announced Tuesday that it divested all holdings in companies tied to Iran's energy industry.
"Targeted sanctions on Iran offer the best prospect for deterring the Iranian aggression that threatens the security of the United States and its allies, including Israel," said Massachusetts state treasurer Steven Grossman. A number of other pension funds are reportedly severing ties with Iran. (JTA)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- State Urged to Take Tougher Stance on Future Abductions - Shlomo Cesana and Gideon Allon
A special committee appointed to establish guidelines for how the government should respond to terrorist abductions of Israelis, headed by former Supreme Court President Meir Shamgar, submitted its final recommendations Thursday, calling for a tougher stance against terrorist groups in the event of future abductions.
"We didn't only discuss the question of how to conduct negotiations over prisoner swaps, but also the question of whether to hold negotiations at all," Shamgar was quoted by Army Radio as saying.
A majority of top ministers maintain that if a terrorist group abducts another Israeli, this will lead to war. This view is also supported by the prime minister himself, who said during closed discussions that "a change in the rules of the game is inevitable." (Israel Hayom)
- Bedouin Demands for Protection Money Behind Sinai Pipeline Attacks - Amiram Barkat
An investigation by Globes found that demands by Bedouin tribes in the Sinai for protection money from the Egyptian government is the primary motive for the attacks on gas pipelines there. The Egyptian government is refusing to capitulate to the Bedouins' demands for now. There were at least ten attacks on the pipelines during 2011. Experts believe that Egypt will not seriously consider resuming gas deliveries to Israel until a new government is in place.
- Despite Threats, 74 Percent of Israelis Feel High Level of Personal Security - Itsik Saban
74% of the Israeli public feels a high level of personal safety, according to a new survey published by the Internal Security Ministry. Israel ranked fourth among Western countries in terms of personal security, ahead of Australia, Germany, Britain, and Spain. (Israel Hayom)
- Iran Is Baiting, But America Won't Bite - Ian Bremmer and Cliff Kupchan
Iran has been relentlessly provoking America for the last 10 days. Its military recently threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, and Tehran warned on Tuesday that U.S. aircraft carriers should not return to the Gulf. But Iran is bluffing and war with the U.S. or Israel is very unlikely in the foreseeable future.
Military conflict in the Strait of Hormuz would block Iran's own ability to export oil. An attempt to close the strait would be fruitless because the U.S. Navy could open it within weeks. War could easily spread and lead to an attack on Iran's crown jewel - its nuclear program. Ayatollah Khamenei has his hands full at home with a plummeting currency and infighting among his elite. Tehran's main goal is to scare the U.S. and its allies away from implementing sanctions against Iran's oil exports.
Ian Bremmer is president of Eurasia Group. Cliff Kupchan is a director at the political risk consultancy.
See also Iran Trying to Save Face, Not Wage War - Geneive Abdo
My sources inside Iran say the circle of regime insiders around Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei truly believes a military attack on the country is inevitable, perhaps even before the U.S. presidential election. Therefore, to save face at home and in the region, Iran's saber-rattling has reached a fever pitch through military exercises, threats and hostile rhetoric. The writer is director of the Iran program at The Century Foundation.
See also Iran's Growing State of Desperation - Fareed Zakaria (Washington Post)
- Israeli Subs as a Strategic Deterrent - Ronald S. Lauder
Even without an atomic threat, Israel faces a dangerous new world.
While Iran is saber-rattling in the Straits of Hormuz, it has the means to launch an overwhelming barrage of conventionally armed ballistic missiles across Israel.
Today, it is reported that the Israeli Navy operates three modern, ultraquiet, effectively fresh-air-independent Dolphin-class diesel-powered submarines. Two more subs have been ordered and should be at the dock before the end of this year.
Israel has the means of firing what defense analysts say are nuclear-capable Harpoon cruise missiles from within retrofitted torpedo tubes, its secret warheads giving Iranian war planners a lot to think about when plotting the destruction of what they call "The Zionist entity."
While a Harpoon's range is about 200 miles, published intelligence reports say Israel staged an Indian Ocean test in which it fired a mock warhead nearly 1,000 miles from its submarine - incidentally, the approximate distance between Tel Aviv and Tehran.
The writer is the president of the World Jewish Congress and served as deputy assistant secretary of Defense for European and NATO affairs under President Ronald Reagan.
(New York Post)
- Hamas Says Gaza "Not Occupied," UN Disagrees - Hillel C. Neuer
Hamas co-founder Mahmoud Zahar confirmed Tuesday there is no Israeli occupation of Gaza, according to a report by the Ma'an Palestinian news agency. Four-and-a-half years after seizing power in Gaza, Hamas runs its own police, courts, jails, schools, media and social services, noted Abraham Bell and Dov Shefi, two international legal experts, in a 2010 research paper for the University of San Diego law school. Hamas operates "a functioning and fully independent local civil government, buttressed by armed forces," they concluded.
Similarly, in an article published in the American University International Law Review, Elizabeth Samson concluded that under the Geneva Conventions and international judicial precedents, Gaza can no longer be considered occupied because Israel no longer exercises "effective control," the litmus test for what qualifies as occupation. Yet a Sept. 22 report in the name of the secretary-general speaks of a UN mission's visit to the "occupied Palestinian territory, specifically the Gaza Strip." The writer is executive director of the Geneva-based UN Watch.
An Iranian Nuclear Breakout
Is Not Inevitable - Patrick Clawson (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
There is no magic bullet that will resolve the
nuclear impasse with Iran - no single diplomatic,
military, or sanctions measure that will be decisive.
But the cumulative impact of intensifying measures
on every front may raise the
costs to Iran of continuing on its current path and
show Iran's leaders the futility of their nuclear
- Iran has been pursuing nuclear enrichment
for more than twenty years, and the results of all that
effort are not impressive, paired with massive costs.
At some point, Tehran may seek a way out.
- To be sure, the Islamic Republic seems unlikely
to abandon the objective of eventually attaining a
nuclear weapons capability. But Tehran may agree
to a tactical adjustment that could have a strategic
- Postponing the nuclear program may
look like only a delay, but a delay could be a victory
because the Islamic Republic may not last forever.
The writer is director of research at The Washington Institute.
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