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Hizbullah Has Long-Range Surface-to-Air Missiles - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
According to Western intelligence assessments, Hizbullah has taken advantage of the ongoing upheaval in Syria to obtain advanced weapons systems, such as additional long-range rockets as well as sophisticated, Russian-made, long-range surface-to-air missile systems.
The IDF believes Hizbullah has received the SA-8, a truck-mounted Russian tactical surface-to-air missile system with a 30-km. range.
Hizbullah has also received several dozen more M600 long-range missiles, as well as additional 302 mm. Khaibar-1 rockets, which have a 100-km. range.
Hizbullah already has a significant arsenal of M600s, which are manufactured in Syria as a clone of Iran's Fateh- 110.
The M600 has a range of 300 km., can carry a half-ton warhead, and has superior accuracy.
Syrian Tribal Leader Praised Assad at Gunpoint - Mohammed Al-Shafey (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
Sheikh Nawaf al-Bashir, head of the 1.2 million-member Baqara tribe in Syria, revealed that the Syrian authorities forced him to conduct an interview with a Syrian satellite television channel "with a gun to his head" before releasing him.
After he spent "72 days being detained by the Political Security Directorate in Damascus, including 20 days in solitary confinement," al-Bashir said "they allowed me to meet with one of my sons who informed me that my home in Deir Ezzor was surrounded by tanks."
"A Political Security Directorate colonel assured me that my home would be turned to rubble unless I conducted an interview and spoke about the achievements and glory of President Bashar al-Assad."
In a press conference on Tuesday in Istanbul, al-Bashir said, "I apologize to the Syrian people for the words I have said. I now declare that we want nothing but to topple the regime."
Criticizing Russian and Iranian support for the al-Assad regime, he said "they are nothing but mafia; they are tyrants, sinners and murderers."
Who's Who in U.S. Middle East Policy? - Laura Rozen (Yahoo News)
The Obama administration Middle East team has been undergoing some transition.
With the departure of Dennis Ross, the NSC's senior director for the Persian Gulf Puneet Talwar and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon have been leading the Iran portfolio, along with WMD czar Gary Samore and his team on the non-proliferation front.
The Iran portfolio in the State Department has been turned over to Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, who is working closely with Iran sanctions czar Bob Einhorn, energy resources advisor Carlos Pascual, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for energy Amos Hochstein on strategizing with countries around the globe on ways to squeeze Iran's oil export revenues, while avoiding a spike in oil prices.
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
- Israel: Iran Can Build Atomic Bomb Now If It Wants
"If the Iranians get together tonight and decide to secretly develop a bomb, then they have all the resources and components to do so," former Israeli military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin told Maariv in a report published Thursday. His remarks reflect the prevalent view in Israel that Iran is on the cusp of producing a bomb - a view at odds with the American assessment that Iran won't have bombmaking capabilities for years. (AP-Washington Post)
- Panetta: U.S. "Fully Prepared" to Deal with Iran in Strait of Hormuz
The U.S. military is "fully prepared" to deal with any Iranian effort to close the Strait of Hormuz, a vital route for international oil shipments, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Wednesday. The Navy this month added a second aircraft carrier strike group in the Middle East, portraying it as part of a normal rotation and not a deliberate buildup of force.
- Syrian Troops Forced Out of Mountain Town - Samira Said
Syrian activists say opposition forces have wrested control of the town of Zabadani from government troops. "There were massive protests in Zabadani, so the Syrian Army tried to disperse them. But our troops were very organized and aggressive with a counter attack that left them fleeing and they withdrew completely out of the city," said Lt. Col. Mohamed Hamdo of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Syrian government forces still ringed the town and were shelling it from outside.
- Iran Helping Syria Circumvent Oil Embargo - Jay Solomon and Alan Cullison
U.S. officials have uncovered an effort by Iran to help Syria mask its oil exports and evade an American and European embargo.
American officials said the Iranian operation is designed to quietly ship Syrian crude oil to Iran, where it can be sold on the international market, with revenue going back to Damascus. In response, the Treasury Department has begun targeting the insurance and registration of international tankers shipping Syrian oil overseas.
(Wall Street Journal)
- Saudi Nuclear Watch - Bill Gertz
U.S. intelligence agencies are closely watching Saudi Arabia for signs that the kingdom will seek to develop nuclear weapons.
One key warning sign was the cooperation agreement signed Sunday in Riyadh by China and Saudi Arabia to seek joint development of "atomic energy for peaceful purposes, which will help to meet the kingdom's rising demand for energy."
The administration's argument against Iran's reason for developing nuclear energy - that Tehran has enough oil to produce electrical power for a century - also would apply to Saudi Arabia, which holds some of the largest oil reserves in the world.
China has been an arms proliferator in the past, supplying Pakistan with nuclear-weapon design information during the 1980s. China has supplied Saudi Arabia with 36 DF-3 medium-range ballistic missiles that are considered nuclear-capable systems. (Washington Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- U.S.: International Pressure Affecting Iran - Yitzhak Benhorin
A senior Obama Administration official told Israeli reporters in a special press briefing on Wednesday
that the U.S. has a plan for tackling the Iranian nuclear program and that the method of action will be aggressive and quick. He said the U.S. was implementing a policy to reduce Tehran's profits on oil so that it won't be able to fund the nuclear project. According to the official, the U.S. has set a timetable for the full implementation of international sanctions against Iran, which would be immediately set in motion.
- Terrorist Killed in IDF Strike in Gaza - Yoav Zitun
On Wednesday, two Palestinian terrorists were spotted approaching the Gaza-Israel border fence in an attempt to plant explosive devices. IDF forces opened fire, killing one of the terrorists and detonating one of the devices. (Ynet News)
- Palestine Women's Ministry Staff Go on Hunger Strike - Nasouh Nazzal
Women employees at the Palestinian Women's Affairs Ministry in Ramallah announced a "hunger strike till death" on Tuesday to protest against corruption and harassment.
"The situation is grave as the women have received threats to be shot in their legs," a statement by the striking women said. Dr. Gassan al-Khateeb, spokesman for the Palestinian government, said: "The claims and accusations of those employees about administrative and financial corruption along with physical harassment at the Ministry of Women's Affairs are not true." (Gulf News-Dubai)
- Reality Check: Shorter and Shorter Timeframe if Iran Decides to Make Nuclear Weapons - David Albright, Paul Brannan, Andrea Stricker and Andrew Ortendahl
Some have sought to downplay Iran's nuclear progress by emphasizing that Iran has not yet "made the decision to build a nuclear weapon." But this does not accurately portray the real concern about Iran's nuclear program and progress since Iran has already made a series of important decisions that would give it the ability to quickly make nuclear weapons.
Iran's strategy of "nuclear hedging," or developing the capability to rapidly build nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, is laid out in the evidence of work on nuclear weaponization, particularly efforts to make specific nuclear components, contained in the November 2011 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards report on Iran. If Iran's ability to quickly build nuclear weapons increases during the next few years, this will only shorten the period of time between taking a decision to build a bomb and constructing one.
(Institute for Science and International Security)
- The Mortal Threat from Iran - Mark Helprin
Without doubt, Iran has long wanted nuclear weapons - to deter American intervention in its and neighboring territories; to threaten Europe; to respond to the former Iraqi nuclear effort; to counter the contiguous nuclear presences in Pakistan, Russia and the U.S. in the Gulf; to neutralize Israel's nuclear deterrent; to lead the Islamic world; to correct the security imbalance with Saudi Arabia; and to threaten the U.S. directly. In the absence of measures beyond pinpoint sanctions and unenforceable resolutions, Iran will get nuclear weapons, which in its eyes are an existential necessity.
Accommodationists argue that a rational Iran can be contained. Not the Iran with a revered tradition of deception; that during its war with Iraq pushed 100,000 young children to their deaths clearing minefields; that counts 15% of its population as "Volunteer Martyrs."
The writer is a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute.
(Wall Street Journal)
- End the Farcical Arab League Mission in Syria - Salman Shaikh
Despite Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi's assurances, the League has been negotiating with Syrian authorities - negotiations which have given them license to delay action, and buy further time for a brutal crackdown. Valuable time has been lost, and that delay - facilitated by the Arab League - has led to a more violent situation in the country.
Assad's latest speeches reinforce the view that the current mission has done immense harm. What we heard was a defiant Assad who believes that standing firm is the best course of action. His confidence shows how he is dangerously out of touch with the reality in his country, and unfortunately, so is the Arab League mission.
The writer is director of the Brookings Doha Center.
The Israeli-Palestinian Water Conflict - Haim Gvirtzman (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
The Palestinians insist that they suffer from water
shortages due to the Israeli occupation. However, previously classified data shows that Israel has fulfilled all of its obligations according to the
signed water agreements with the PA. Over the last 15 years, the development of water supply systems for
the Palestinian communities has been carried out on an extensive
scale, much larger than that called for in the Interim Agreement.
In practice, the Palestinians' water supply increased
by about 50%.
- In 1967, only four Palestinian towns
were connected to a running water network. In March 2010, 641 of 708 Palestinian
communities, which include more than 96% of the Palestinian
population, were connected to running water, while in Jordan
most towns and villages are not. In Amman and Damascus, water
distribution takes place only once or twice each week.
- The Palestinians claim that the water consumption of the average
Israeli is four times greater than that of the average Palestinian.
However, in 2006, water consumption was 170 cubic meters per person per year for
Israelis and 129 for Palestinians. According to the PA, roughly 33.6% of their water
leaks from internal pipelines, compared with 11% in Israel.
- The Palestinians have
violated their part of the agreement by refusing to build sewage
treatment plants (despite available international financing). Raw sewage
discharged from Palestinian communities flows
freely in many streams in the West Bank.
The writer is a professor of hydrology at the Institute of Earth Sciences, Hebrew
University of Jerusalem, and a member of the Israel Water Authority Council.
See also Israel Slams French "Apartheid" Water Report - Sharon Udasin
The Israeli Foreign Ministry slammed a French legislator's report on Israel's "apartheid" water policies as "venomous," inaccurate and strewn with anti-Israel propaganda.
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