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Top U.S. Official Meets Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood - Andrew Quinn (Reuters)
Deputy U.S. Secretary of State Bill Burns met Mohamed Morsi, the head of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), on Wednesday.
"From our perspective it was an opportunity to hear from them and to reinforce our expectation that all the major parties will support human rights, tolerance, rights of women and will also uphold Egypt's existing international obligations," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
Beijing and Tehran's Coming Divorce - Ilan Berman (Wall Street Journal Asia)
For years, Beijing's steady backing has helped the Iranian regime frustrate international efforts to isolate and penalize it for its nuclear ambitions.
This month, China's crude imports from Iran have fallen by some 285,000 barrels daily, more than half the total volume China regularly imports from Iran.
Chinese officials, moreover, have signaled that this reduction will continue into February and possibly beyond.
Policy makers in Beijing have sensed for some time that their cozy ties to the Iranian regime have the potential to become a serious geopolitical liability.
The writer is vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington.
Recall Notice for the Turkish Model - Spengler (Asia Times-Hong Kong)
If you had invested in the Turkish model of Islamic government (that is, in the Turkish stock market) at the outbreak of the Arab revolts, you would have lost about half your money.
If you leave your money in Turkey, you probably will lose the rest of it. Turkey is not a model. It is a bubble, and it is bursting, starting with the stock market and national currency.
Encouraged by the central bank, Turkish banks increased their lending at a 40% annual rate in 2009 and 2010, financing a flood of imports. Turkey's trade deficit ballooned to a tenth of its total output - as bad as that of Greece or Portugal.
Egypt Cancels Jewish Festival amid Security Concerns - Leila Fadel and Samuel Sockol (Washington Post)
Egypt on Wednesday canceled a Jewish festival scheduled for Saturday at the tomb of Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzira in the Nile Delta.
"The situation is not suitable to have it this year with all that's going on in Egypt: the elections, the police trying to reassert control and the protests," said Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Amr Roshdi.
Wastewater Reuse Relieves Agricultural Irrigation Drought in Israel (Water World)
Israel is one the world leaders in wastewater recycling. Since 2000, the use of treated wastewater for irrigation by Israel's agricultural sector increased from 17% to more than 50%.
34 farming settlements recently pooled their resources to construct an effluent reuse system next to a wastewater treatment plant. 90% of the produced effluent will be piped for agricultural irrigation and the remaining 10% used for irrigation of Beersheba's municipal parks.
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- U.S. Condemns Bomb Attack on Iran Nuclear Scientist - Scott Shane
The assassination on Wednesday of Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a department supervisor at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant, drew an unusually strong condemnation from the White House and the State Department, which disavowed any American complicity. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "categorically" denied "any United States involvement in any kind of act of violence inside Iran."
Like the drone strikes that the Obama administration has embraced as a core tactic against al-Qaeda, the multifaceted covert campaign against Iran has appeared to offer an alternative to war. The CIA, according to current and former officials, has repeatedly tried to derail Iran's uranium enrichment program by covert means, including introducing sabotaged parts into Iran's supply chain.
Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said he believed that at least some of the murdered scientists might have been killed by the Iranian government. Some of them had shown sympathy for the Iranian opposition, he said.
A former senior Israeli security official noted that Iran carried out many assassinations of enemies, mostly Iranian opposition figures, and had been recently accused of plotting to kill the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. in Washington.
"In Arabic, there's a proverb: If you are shooting, don't complain about being shot," he said.
(New York Times)
- Japan to Reduce Iran Oil Imports - Malcolm Foster
Japan gave a boost Thursday to the U.S. campaign to sanction Iran over its nuclear program, pledging to buy less Iranian oil, Japanese Finance Minister Jun Azumi said after meeting with U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Japan imports about 10% of its oil from Iran.
- Assad Vows to Crush Revolt, Denounces Arab League - Jeffrey Fleishman
In an address to the nation, Syrian President Bashar Assad vowed to crush a 10-month-old popular revolt and raged at what he regards as the Arab League's betrayal of Damascus. "What Assad said about other Arab countries today puts an end to any patience or second chances Arab nations will give him," said Nabil Abdel Fattah, an analyst at Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. "It's an open game now and Arab countries wanting to see an end to Assad's regime won't be hiding it anymore."
(Los Angeles Times)
See also Arab Monitors Say Unable to Halt Syrian Killings - Alistair Lyon
Algerian Arab League monitor Anwar Malek said he had resigned because the mission sent to check Syria's compliance with an Arab peace plan was powerless to prevent "scenes of horror" in Homs.
"The mission was a farce and the observers have been fooled," he told Al Jazeera. The regime "fabricated most of what we saw to stop the Arab League from taking action against the regime." (Reuters)
See also French TV Reporter Killed in Syria - Ian Black (Guardian-UK)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Iran, Hizbullah Stepping Up Efforts to Save Assad Regime in Syria - Gili Cohen
Iran and Hizbullah are strengthening their efforts to ensure the survival of the Assad regime in Syria, IDF Military Intelligence Chief Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi said Wednesday.
"They are providing [Assad] with knowledge, weapons and other means and recently with active involvement." (Ha'aretz)
- Europe to Pursue Development Projects for Palestinians in Israeli-Controlled Areas of West Bank - Elior Levy
The EU has decided to pursue a series of projects which may undermine Israel's control of Area C in the West Bank, an official EU document obtained by Ynet on Thursday suggests. The document states that Europe will support infrastructure and other projects in order to "support the Palestinian people and help maintain their presence (in the area)." Palestinians are a minority of the population in Area C.
- Iran's Atomic Scientists Plagued by "Virtual Defection" - Dan Williams
The daylight killings of atomic technicians such as Roshan obviously deplete Iran's pool of nuclear experts.
It also provokes panic in surviving colleagues, said an Israel official, generating a phenomenon that Mossad veterans dub "virtual defection."
"It's not that we've been seeing mass resignations, but rather a sense of spreading paranoia given the degree to which their security has been compromised," said the official, who has extensive Iran expertise.
"It means they have to take more precautions, including, perhaps, being a little less keen to stand out for excellence in their nuclear work. That slows things down."
"I think several players, not only Israel, are active (in Iran)," former Mossad deputy director Ilan Mizrahi said on Wednesday. "It's not only countries, it is movements. You have the Iranian opposition, which is very strong. They have their own capabilities inside Iran." (Reuters)
See also Sending a Message to Iran - Amir Oren
It doesn't matter whether the assassinations of Iran's nuclear scientists are "made in Israel" or the work of unknown assailants who simply share a common enemy with Israel in the form of a fanatic Islamic regime in Tehran. The working assumption is that Israel knows who is active in Iran's nuclear project, knows where and when to find them and how to eliminate them. Every Iranian nuclear scientist will know he's in the crosshairs. This is not a wide assault on the Iranian regime, just on its nuclear arm. (Ha'aretz)
See also Delaying Tactics - Yaakov Katz
It is likely that nuclear scientist Mostafa Roshan's assassins believed his elimination would have a significant impact on Iran's nuclear program. It is possible that Roshan was one of the members of the "weapons group," scientists that will ultimately be tasked with building Iran's first nuclear weapon. (Jerusalem Post)
- The Muslim Brotherhood's Radical Plan for Egypt - Eric Trager
The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) is widely expected to dominate the next Egyptian legislature. The FJP's political victory promises radical changes for Egypt, including a theocratic domestic program and a confrontational foreign policy. The U.S. should have no illusions about the party's aims or ability to moderate. As long as the FJP is in power, Washington should condition future bilateral relations on its behavior regarding key U.S. interests, including the treatment of religious minorities, Egypt's peace treaty with Israel, and counterterrorism.
The FJP's overriding aim is to establish an Islamic state in which sharia would be the primary source of legislation. Brotherhood Supreme Guide Muhammad Badie recently declared that, after forming the new government, the organization would pursue its final goal of establishing a "rightly guided caliphate for the education of the world." The Brotherhood is already working through the FJP to tilt Egypt away from its Western allies and toward an Islamist foreign policy.
The peace treaty with Israel will likely be the first casualty of an FJP-led government. It intends to put the Camp David Accords to a national referendum, thereby shielding itself from direct responsibility for the treaty's demise. It is tempting to believe that the FJP will moderate once in power, but this is highly unlikely.
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- Territorial Compromise Loses Ground in Arab Spring - Greg Sheridan
There is not the slightest chance of a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute any time soon. Western politicians who address the issue ever more urgently are not only mistaken analytically, but may well be making things worse.
Spending time in Israel, it is impossible to reconcile the evidence of your eyes with the accepted international narrative about Israel. In the international media, Israel is presented as militarist and oppressive. In fact, it is the only pluralist democracy in the Middle East, the only nation where women's rights and gay rights are protected.
With the unfolding of the Arab Spring, elections have greatly strengthened Islamists and Islamist extremists. These newly empowered forces would fatally undermine any serious Palestinian compromise with Israel. Naturally Hamas is fantastically empowered by the way the Arab Spring is unfolding.
Israel won't make a peace deal unless it believes a Palestinian government can govern its territory effectively and prevent attacks on Israel from Palestinian territory. That is inconceivable today and all the trends of the Arab Spring make it ever more unlikely.
Sinai: A New Front - Ehud Yaari (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- The Sinai
Peninsula has emerged as a new hotspot with an
expanding terrorist infrastructure. Measures are needed to prevent the total
collapse of security in the peninsula and the rise of an armed, runaway Bedouin
- The territory's Bedouin residents, who now number over 300,000, constitute 70% of the total population, the
rest being Palestinians (10%), immigrants from
across the Suez Canal in Egypt (10%), and descendants of Bosnian, Turkish, and other settlers from the
Ottoman period, mainly in al-Arish (10%). Because Egyptian authorities have been hesitant in
asserting control over the peninsula, Hamas has come
to perceive the area as a sphere of influence, reaching
out to the local population.
- Recently, a growing number of terrorist networks
have expanded their activities throughout much of Sinai. These networks represent old smuggling gangs partly converted to
terrorism, newly formed Bedouin factions adhering
to Salafi jihadist doctrines, and affiliates of Palestinian organizations in Gaza. Egyptian authorities have also uncovered Hizbullah penetration of Sinai.
Israel's 2005 disengagement from Gaza and
subsequent removal of troops from the Sinai-Gaza border - as Bedouin political activist Ashraf
al-Anani put it - "a fireball started rolling into the
Illegal trade and arms smuggling volumes rose to new records, and ever-larger sectors
of the northern Sinai population became linked to
Gaza and fell under the political and ideological
influence of Hamas and its ilk. Sympathy and support for the Palestinian battle against Israel grew.
- Today, a significant number of Hamas military
operatives are permanently stationed in Sinai,
serving as recruiters, couriers, and propagators of
the Hamas platform. A solid network of the group's
contact men, safe houses, and armories covers much
of the peninsula. Hamas has also established a
clandestine operational office in Cairo, which the
Egyptian authorities choose to ignore.
- The combination of Palestinian terrorist networks, armed Salafi jihadist Bedouin, and extensive
smuggling infrastructure and activities has turned
the peninsula into a safe haven for terrorists with
heavy, advanced arms and wide freedom of action. In
other words, it has become a huge arms depot with
hundreds - perhaps thousands - of operatives bent
on fighting for their causes.
The writer, an international fellow of The Washington Institute, is a Middle East commentator for Israelís Channel Two television.
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