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UAE Strategic Oil Pipeline Bypassing Hormuz Delayed - Michael Peel and Camilla Hall (Financial Times-UK)
A strategic pipeline project that would allow the United Arab Emirates oil exports to bypass the Strait of Hormuz will not be ready until May or June, UAE Oil Minister Mohamed al-Hamli said on Monday.
UAE officials said the 370 km. pipeline is complete and work only continues on the storage area and offshore export terminal in Fujairah, in the Gulf of Oman.
Saudi Oil Output Nearing Capacity Limit - Amena Bakr and Reem Shamseddine (Reuters)
Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia is nearing its comfortable operational production limits and may struggle to do much to make up for shortages that arise from new sanctions imposed on Iran by the West, Gulf-based sources said.
The kingdom is now pumping just under record rates of 10 million barrels per day. "Saudi Arabia could comfortably manage an extra 500,000 barrels a day or so and, if pushed, could go up to 11 million," said an oil official in the region.
A Saudi source said, "Saudi Arabia can easily make 1 million to 1.5 million (barrels per day) available."
Turkey Holds Iranian Trucks Taking Arms to Syria (Reuters-Daily Star-Lebanon)
Turkish customs officials intercepted four trucks on Tuesday suspected of carrying military equipment from Iran to Syria after police received information about their cargo.
Turkey imposed an arms embargo on President Assad's government in protest at his violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.
Assad Opponents Buying Weapons from Pro-Regime Militia - Caroline Akoum (Asharq Al-Awsat)
A senior anti-regime Free Syrian Army (FSA) commander revealed that the FSA purchases "a large proportion of our arms from the pro-regime Shabiha militia."
He also claimed that the FSA obtains arms and weaponry from Alawite Syrian army officers who are sympathetic to the revolution.
Israeli Archaeologists Find 1,500-Year-Old Kosher Bread Stamp (Ha'aretz)
A 1,500-year-old ceramic stamp with the image of the seven-branched Temple Menorah has been discovered at Israel Antiquities Authority excavations at Horbat Uza, east of Acre.
It is thought the stamp was used to mark baked goods, and is known as a "bread stamp."
"The Temple Menorah, being a Jewish symbol par excellence, indicates the stamps belonged to Jews, unlike Christian bread stamps with the cross pattern which were much more common in the Byzantine period," said Gilad Jaffe and Dr. Danny Syon, the directors of the excavation.
See also Stamp with Temple Menorah Uncovered in Excavations (Israel Antiquities Authority)
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- Nuclear Scientist Killed in Tehran Blast
An Iranian university professor and nuclear scientist was killed in a terrorist bomb blast in Tehran on Wednesday.
A magnetic bomb was planted by a motorcyclist under the car of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a professor at Tehran's technical university.
Ahmadi Roshan, 32, supervised a department at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility.
- Threat to Hormuz Shipping Seen Receding as EU Plans Sanctions - Indira A.R. Lakshmanan and Terry Atlas
Iran is unlikely to shut down oil shipping through the Strait of Hormuz in response to Western sanctions, Dennis Ross, President Barack Obama's former adviser on Iran, said Tuesday.
"Do I really think that they're going to go ahead and try to shut down the Straits of Hormuz?" he asked. "I do not. They will be the ones who suffer the most from that."
"I think that they understand the risks that they run and, if you look at their historical behavior, for all their tough talk, they don't go out of their way unnecessarily to provoke" a U.S military response that could threaten the regime.
The probability of Iran closing the Strait of Hormuz is low, and Saudi Arabia will probably increase crude output to replace supplies from Iran, Jeffrey Currie, head of commodities research at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., said in London Tuesday.
(Bloomberg-San Francisco Chronicle)
- India, Israel Pledge Cooperation on Counterterrorism, Trade
India and Israel are pledging greater cooperation in counterterrorism and trade.
Indian Foreign Minister S. M. Krishna said Tuesday during a visit to Israel that the two countries will have to work out a strategy on how to address the "scourge of international terrorism which has become the curse for the entire humanity."
Prime Minister Netanyahu said India and Israel are "two ancient peoples seizing the future in technology, in innovation, [and] in enterprise."
See also Israel Backs India's Bid for Permanent UNSC Membership (Indian Express)
- Greece, Israel Pledge to Boost Defense Ties
Greece and Israel pledged Tuesday to boost defense cooperation during a visit to Greece by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Traditionally pro-Arab Greece, which did not officially recognize Israel until 1991, has stepped up efforts to attract investment and expertise to shore up its economy.
The two countries are trying to "make up for lost time," Greek Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos said. Athens is keenly interested in Israel's economic rapprochement with traditional Greek ally Cyprus to develop undersea gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean.
See also Cyprus, Israel Further Defense Cooperation - George Psyllides (Cyprus Mail)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel: PA Reviving Rejected Ideas in New Talks - Herb Keinon
So far the Palestinians are only bringing "recycled positions" to the negotiating table in Amman, Israeli sources said Tuesday.
"Up until now - and we hope this changes - what the Palestinians have put on the table has not been as serious as it could have been." "We are making efforts for the talks to succeed," one source said, adding that Israel would like to expand the talks.
- Sharansky: Obama's New Chief of Staff "Staunch Israel Supporter" - Aviel Magnezi
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky said that the new White House chief of staff, Jack Lew, has a "warm place in his heart that is reserved for Israel and Judaism."
Sharansky said Lew would not remain indifferent to Israel. "For him, it's not just another country. His faith and bond with Israel and the Jewish people is an important part of his life." "He is a man who's open to Israel and the Middle East and has extensive knowledge on the subject. He has worked in this field for many years, and it's always good to have someone who cares and is in the know."
"Lew is a great Israel supporter and has always taken upon himself to help us. The question is not whether he'll be loyal to his boss - he will be. The question is whether Israel is only an abstract thing for him...or whether it's more than that," Sharansky added.
- Is Arab Spring Bringing an Era of Arab Truth? - Roee Nahmias
Dozens of Arab, Turkish and Israeli journalists met in Brussels last month for a seminar that highlighted the growing Arab openness in the wake of regional revolutions. The Arab world as I knew it is no longer the same.
Instead of the automatic reactions we've become accustomed to, such as journalists who stay away from Israelis or the constant charge that "Israel's occupation is at fault for everything," suddenly I encountered a new, frank attitude. While some participants still clung to past views and odd conspiracy theories, others had no interest in Israel or the Palestinians. Some Arab journalists admitted, even if quietly, that their rulers exploited the Palestinian issue for many years and blamed it for Arab distress.
"For many years, Gaddafi exacted a special tax from us - 'The Jihad tax for Palestine' - amounting to one or two percent of our salary," said Libyan journalist Reda Fhelboom. "They said this tax was for the benefit of Jihad, but we know it supported terror groups worldwide." (Ynet News)
- Iran's Roar Shows Widening Sway of Military - Brian Murphy
Iran looks like a country preparing for war. It appears to be part of the kind of seesaw brinksmanship that has become an Iranian hallmark: Pushing to the edge with the West and then retreating after weighing the reactions. "Sanctions seem to be taking a major bite," said Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. "Iran's military is stepping up as the outside threats increase."
Iran has rolled out its troops and arsenals in an unprecedented display of military readiness.
Iran naval forces are significantly outgunned by Western flotillas, including the U.S. 5th Fleet based in Bahrain that can draw on aircraft carriers and other warships in the Indian Ocean and taking part in anti-piracy patrols off the Horn of Africa. Britain is also deploying one of its biggest destroyers, HMS Daring, to the Gulf.
"Iran knows it cannot realistically close off the strait [of Hormuz]," said Paul Rogers, who follows international defense affairs at Bradford University in Britain. Iran also knows that blocking oil flow in the Gulf would bring serious self-inflicted wounds.
Iran counts on oil for about 80% of its foreign currency earnings. As Iranian affairs analyst Afshin Molavi quipped: Closing the strait for Iran would be "akin to a man purposely blocking a coronary artery."
"In this climate of feeling under siege, the Revolutionary Guard has found fertile ground to take control of policies and strategies," said Theodore Karasik, a security expert at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis. "How Iran deals with the sanctions and the West is now all dictated, in one way or another, by the military." (AP)
- A Toughened U.S. Stance toward Iran - Emily B. Landau
There have been a number of indications of late that the U.S. is adopting a new and
considerably more determined approach to Iran's nuclear program. These include stepped-up
pressure on Iran through sanctions without waiting for Russia and China to "come on
board," as well as a series of covert actions that are specifically targeting different
elements of Iran's nuclear program. The U.S. is suspected of either leading this effort or
cooperating with others in executing it.
is most likely attributable to the more clear cut assessments of Iran's nuclear progress,
especially as contained in the November 2011 IAEA report. In addition, the plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador on U.S.
soil was not taken lightly by the administration.
clear indication of a changed Iranian approach, a new round of negotiations at this time
would not only be an exercise in futility, but could very well undercut the new level of
determination that the U.S. has begun to exhibit.
(Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
Growing U.S. Fears over Iran's Ties to Latin America - Ray Walser, Douglas Farah, and Michael Shifter (Inter-American Dialogue)
- Ray Walser, senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation: "Iran likely sees the Americas as a potential platform for waging asymmetric warfare or disruptive terror in the event of a direct conflict with Israel or the United States. Iran also colludes with Hizbullah, which aims to capitalize on South America's cocaine trade to fund its activities. Finally, Venezuela and others like Bolivia are positioned to provide Iran with long-term access to strategic materials, particularly uranium, needed for a nuclear weapons program. The threats posed by Iran and Hizbullah are genuine."
- Douglas Farah, senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center: "The growing Iranian diplomatic, intelligence and economic presence, particularly in the ALBA states (Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua), is a significant danger because the alliance is primarily based on deep and public enmity toward the United States and its allies, including a common doctrine of asymmetrical warfare that explicitly embraces the use of weapons of mass destruction as a legitimate tool to defeat the 'Empire,' as the United States is usually called."
- Farah: "Iran has been quietly increasing its intelligence ties around the region, recruiting and training students in Iran, exchanging military attaches, building financial institutions through which to move money and working to extract other vital rare earth minerals for its missile and weapons programs."
- Michael Shifter, president, Inter-American Dialogue: "It is worth stressing that Brazil, the region's economic and political powerhouse, is not part of Ahmadinejad's itinerary this time, as it was in 2009. That is a setback for Iran."
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