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Iran Navy Harasses U.S. Ships in Persian Gulf (AFP)
Iranian Navy speed boats harassed U.S. naval vessels in two recent incidents in the Strait of Hormuz, a senior U.S. defense official said.
In the first incident, three Iranian Navy speed boats rapidly approached within 500 yards of the USS New Orleans, an amphibious transport ship, as it was sailing last week through the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf.
The second incident involved the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Adak off the Kuwaiti coast, similarly approached by an Iranian speedboat.
See also Video: U.S. Ships Harassed by Iran (CNN)
Egypt's Next Parliament to Be Led by Islamist - Leila Fadel and Ingy Hassieb (Washington Post)
Liberals and Islamists in Egypt announced a temporary agreement Monday on a power-sharing plan that would install a Muslim Brotherhood leader as speaker of the country's newly elected parliament.
Under the agreement, representatives of the Salafist Nour party and the liberal al-Wafd party would serve as deputy speakers.
The People's Assembly will convene for the first time next Monday, but its powers are unclear and will be laid out in a still-unwritten constitution.
Egypt's military rulers have made clear that they would like to oversee the constitution-writing process.
Israeli Leviathan Field Gas Estimates Up, Oil Down (Dow Jones)
The Israeli partners in the offshore Leviathan natural gas and oil field Sunday revised the estimated amount of gas reserves in the field upwards to 20 trillion cubic feet from 16 trillion cubic feet.
They also revised downwards the potential oil reserves to 600 million barrels from 3 billion.
See also Leviathan Drilling Set to Begin - Shoham Levy (Calcalist-Ynet News)
Trinidad Imam Gets Life in JFK Airport Bomb Plot (UPI)
A Trinidad imam was sentenced to life in prison for conspiring to blow up fuel tanks and fuel pipelines under New York's JFK International Airport.
Kareem Ibrahim, 65, and three others believed the planned 2007 attack would kill many people and heavily damage JFK Airport while hurting the New York economy, CNN reported.
At trial, Ibrahim, who had been a leader of the Shiite Muslim community in Trinidad and Tobago, admitted he advised plotters to share the JFK bombing plan with revolutionary leaders in Iran and to use operatives prepared to mount suicide attacks at the airport.
U.S. Judge Sentences Three for Plotting Jihadi Attacks (AP-Washington Post)
Three members of a home-grown terror ring who conspired to attack the Quantico U.S. Marine Corps base and foreign targets were sentenced Friday to between 15 and 45 years in federal prison.
Hysen Sherifi, 27, Ziyad Yaghi, 23, and Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan, 24, are among eight men who federal investigators say raised money, stockpiled weapons and trained in preparation for jihadist attacks.
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- Israel Raises Alarm over Sinai-Gaza Security Threat
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday: "The security problem which is developing as a result of changes in the Middle East is getting worse, and is expected to continue for years." "Libyan arms continue to flow into Gaza through Sinai," he said. There were "more than 10,000 missiles" in Gaza, some of which had a range "surpassing 40 km. (24 miles)." "Fatah-Hamas unity would force us to demand that Gaza be demilitarized."
He accused Iran of using the Egyptian Sinai as a staging area for launching attacks on Israel. "Terror elements have entered the region, they're using the area as a platform for terror, Sinai has become a destination for Iran," he said, noting that last summer a missile was shot at an Israeli helicopter.
See also Thousands of Shoulder-Launched Surface-to-Air Missiles Smuggled into Gaza - Mohamed Fadel Fahmy
"We have smuggled thousands of shoulder-launched (surface-to-air) SAM missiles to Gaza," a Bedouin leader from Tarabeen tribe told CNN. (CNN)
- UK Foreign Secretary: "We Will Apply Stronger and Stronger Sanctions" on Iran - Harriet Alexander
British Foreign Secretary William Hague told the Sunday Telegraph that "Iran has embarked on a course which threatens the whole region of the Middle East with nuclear proliferation." "We will apply stronger and stronger sanctions to try to show negotiation is the only way forward," Hague said. "We don't take any options off the table in the long term....We believe in intensifying the peaceful, legitimate pressure on Iran - so that's what people will see much more of over the coming weeks."
He added: "We must not be starry-eyed about sanctions - sanctions policies do not always succeed. But this is the best means we have of increasing the pressure. And Iran is getting itself into a more and more difficult situation, steadily losing friends and support around the world.
Its economy is in a more and more fragile position."
- Arab League Observer in Syria: "I Was Threatened with Death for Doing My Job" - Nabila Ramdani
Former Algerian Army officer Anwar Malek, an Arab League observer in Syria who quit last week, told the Sunday Telegraph in an interview that he had watched men, women and children being slaughtered in the popular uprising against President Assad. "We were meant to be monitoring a peace-keeping effort but instead watched people being killed, beaten up, and arrested by police, soldiers and militiamen."
Malek said, "Any negative comments were ignored, and the authorities tried to blackmail us into keeping what we saw a secret. Our mobile phones were blocked....Spies were watching us the whole time - with cameras, with binoculars, and with secret surveillance equipment. All of our minders and drivers worked for the intelligence services too."
"Some of the monitors were clearly on the side of the Syrian authorities, especially those in charge.
It was ultimately orchestrated to stop Western countries taking action, and especially those who want to use military force." (Telegraph-UK)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- IDF Preparing for Major Gaza Action - Yaakov Katz
The IDF General Staff has ordered the Southern Command to prepare for a possible large Gaza operation in the next few months. Senior officers said such an operation could be significantly larger than Operation Cast Lead, launched in late 2008. "Gaza has changed and the weaponry in Hamas' and Islamic Jihad's hands has significantly grown in quantity and quality," a senior officer explained.
Hamas is believed to have a fighting force number over 20,000 armed men, as well as anti-tank missiles, mortars and rockets, and anti-aircraft missiles. In 2011, 680 rockets and mortar shells were fired into Israel, including 80 longer-range Grad-model Katyusha rockets, compared to just 2 Grads in 2010. (Jerusalem Post)
- Inter-Parliamentary Union Invites Hamas to Human Rights Meeting in Geneva - Lahav Harkov
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin expressed "severe disappointment" in a letter sent to Inter-Parliamentary Union Secretary-General Anders B. Johnsson on Monday after the group invited senior Hamas officials to participate in a meeting on human rights in Geneva. Rivlin explained that Hamas was declared a terrorist organization by the EU and that it has called for Israel's destruction and shoots missiles and rockets at Israeli civilians.
Israel is an active member of the IPU and pays annual dues of NIS 350,000. (Jerusalem Post)
- Palestinians Arrested with Bombs at West Bank Checkpoint - Gili Cohen
IDF forces arrested two Palestinians at the Salem checkpoint near Jenin in the West Bank on Monday after they were caught with 10 pipe bombs, a makeshift handgun, and ammunition.
Four Palestinians were arrested last week at the same checkpoint for carrying bombs to carry out an attack on a military court.
- Syria Collapsing in Slow-Motion - Ian Black
Syria is "collapsing in slow motion," in the words of one expert. Half the weapons acquired by rebels are estimated to have been sold by army personnel. Rumors persist of different branches of the secret police shooting at each other on clandestine operations. Power cuts for several hours a day are now routine. Shops in Damascus depend on generators on the pavement. Petrol is in short supply, in part because of massive use by the security forces, and the prices of heating and cooking oil have risen steeply.
Foreign investment and tourism have collapsed. Hotels are empty. U.S. sanctions block most international financial transactions. The EU has stopped oil purchases. Credit cards can no longer be used. And the value of the Syrian pound has been falling steeply.
It is common knowledge that Iranian security advisers are on hand with their sinister expertise in communications monitoring and riot policing. Damascus feels, and looks, like Tehran in 2009 during protests over the rigging of the presidential election.
See also The Economic Cost of Syria's Crackdown (Al Jazeera-Qatar)
- Ending the Palestinian "Right of Return" - Daniel Pipes
After the 1993 Oslo Accords, 137,000 residents of the Palestinian Authority moved to Israel between 1994 and 2002 under the family-reunification provision, some of them engaged in either sham or polygamous marriages.
Yuval Diskin, head of the Israel Security Agency, noted in 2005 that of 225 Israeli Arabs involved in terror against Israel, 25 had legally entered Israel through the family-unification provision. They killed 19 Israelis and wounded 83.
In response, Israel's parliament in July 2003 passed a law prohibiting Palestinian family members from automatically gaining Israeli residency or citizenship. Last week, Israel's Supreme Court upheld this law. As Judge Asher Dan Grunis wrote in the majority opinion, "Human rights are not a prescription for national suicide."
- Iran at the Epicenter - Dan Margalit
Some invisible force is waging a successful war against Iranian nuclear scientists. The ayatollah regime has issued threats of harsh retaliation against the entire world, with Israel as the bull's-eye. But for now, according to reports, more and more scientists are asking to leave Iran's nuclear program and go back to university research. The sanctions are beginning to work. It is a pity that the U.S. took so long to target Iran's central bank.
Iran's threat to close the Strait of Hormuz should be viewed not as a flexing of muscles but rather as a demonstration of nervousness in the face of more effective sanctions and the devaluation of the local currency, the rial. The threat failed to achieve its goal as the U.S. did not heed the warning and sent another naval strike force toward the Gulf.
Iran's Subsidiary Goal: Disarm Israel - Jonathan S. Tobin (Commentary)
- An op-ed in Sunday's New York Times by Shelby Telhami and Steven Kull urges that those worried about the danger an Iranian nuke would pose to the security of the West should instead focus their efforts on getting Israel to disavow its own nuclear deterrent.
- But this proposal masks its inherent bias. Unlike Iran, or indeed any other country on the planet, Israel faces threats to its existence as a nation. Those who wish to give up its ultimate weapon are asking it to put its trust in the goodwill of its neighbors and the international community, a notion that contradicts the lessons of Jewish history as well as the very reason for Israel's existence.
- Israel's status as an unofficial nuclear power provides the state's enemies with a very convincing argument to avoid a direct challenge to its existence. Forcing Israel to divest itself of such weapons can only encourage those in the Muslim and Arab worlds who continue to dream of its destruction. Israelis rightly say that a nuclear-free Middle East must await the conclusion of a lasting peace agreement that will ensure such fantasies are impossible.
- Those who ask us to disarm Israel rather than preventing Iran from gaining such weapons also ignore the obvious difference between the goals of the two nuclear programs. Israel is a democracy and has no wish to obliterate its neighbors or to end their independent existence.
- Iran is an Islamist tyranny whose goal is the destruction of Israel. Anyone who sees these two states as morally equivalent or believes there is no real difference between them with respect to possession of nuclear weapons has either lost their moral compass or is pushing another, more sinister agenda.
- Diverting diplomacy aimed at persuading the ayatollahs to abandon their nukes into a discussion about Israel's weapons won't heighten the chances for Middle East peace. It will just give Tehran more time for its scientists to work on a weapon.
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