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Ya'alon: Iran Was Working on U.S.-Range Missile - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
Iran was working on developing a missile with 10,000-km. range that would put America in reach of a potential Iranian attack, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Thursday.
According to Ya'alon, the missile was based on a solid-fuel propellant and would have been able to significantly increase Iran's offensive capabilities.
Last month, a mysterious explosion rocked an Iranian missile base near Tehran where Iran was working on developing this long-range missile.
Four British Islamists Admit Planning to Bomb London Stock Exchange - Matt Prodger (BBC News)
Four British nationals inspired by al-Qaeda have admitted planning to detonate a bomb at the London Stock Exchange.
The men had been inspired by the preachings of the recently-killed radical extremist Anwar Al-Awlaki.
Their target list also included London Mayor Boris Johnson, two rabbis, and the U.S. embassy.
Half of Syria No Longer Under Assad's Control, Opposition Says - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
Syrian opposition leader Colonel Riyad al-As'ad, commander of the Syrian Free Army, said on Wednesday that around half of the country is no longer under the control of President Bashar Assad's forces.
Despite an increase in the number of defectors, the highest ranks of the military are still loyal to the regime.
Iran Launches Spanish TV Channel - Nasser Karimi (AP-San Francisco Chronicle)
Iran has launched Hispan TV - the first Spanish-language satellite TV channel airing from the Middle East.
The channel, which has been on the air on a trial basis since October, "will be a means for better ties between people and governments of Iran and Spanish-speaking nations," Iranian President Ahmadinejad said Tuesday.
Facebook Photo of IDF Soldier Was Faked (Ha'aretz)
A photograph on Facebook that became an Internet sensation - allegedly showing an IDF soldier pointing a weapon at a young Palestinian girl - was faked.
The soldier in the photo is carrying an AK-47 rifle, which is not used by the IDF.
OECD: Israel Among World's Most Highly Educated Countries (Jerusalem Post)
Israel is among the world's most highly educated country, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
With 45% of Israelis completing university degrees, Israel ranks ahead of Japan (44%), the U.S. (41%), and the UK (37%), but behind Canada (50%).
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- Iran More than Doubles Its Defense Budget
Iran's defense spending would more than double under plans set out by President Ahmadinejad on Wednesday. In the public budget for 2012-13, the defense budget is slated for an increase of 127%.
(Journal of Turkish Weekly)
See also Iran Unable to Stabilize Its Plunging Currency - Thomas Erdbrink
Iran is faced with a plummeting currency in the wake of toughened international sanctions.
The black market rate for the dollar now stands at about 18,800 rials, compared with 12,500 rials to the dollar in December. Products such as imported steel, iPhones and wheat have doubled in price, with traders changing price tags by the hour to keep up with the rial's plunging value.
The Iranian government, which receives oil revenue mostly in dollars and euros, is profiting from the rial's decline, analysts said.
"Their income is in dollars, so a strong dollar helps them to buy more rials to pay their bills," said one prominent economist.
- Muslim Brotherhood Criticized for Being "Soft" on Israel - Nicholas Noe and Walid Raad
Preserving the 33-year-old Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty is of paramount interest to the U.S., whereas the Muslim Brotherhood is cool on the subject of the Jewish state next door. As for the treaty itself, the group has remained vague.
Increasingly, the Brotherhood is coming in for criticism for selling out.
In an editorial, Al-Quds al-Arabi wrote that the group's vagueness on Israel "was intentional to reassure the U.S. and other foreign powers." The paper said the Brotherhood "must end this stage of ambiguity and head toward clarity vis-a-vis Egyptian-Israeli relations." Its current position is "very far from the principles of the movement." The Brothers "should not reassure the Americans and the Israelis but rather increase their concerns."
- Turkey and Hamas Grow Close - Christopher Torchia
Ties between Turkey and Hamas, the Islamic militant group that says Israel should not exist, are blossoming. Last month, Hamas premier Ismail Haniyeh visited the Turkish prime minister at his Istanbul home.
Yigal Palmor, spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, noted that Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan made "very friendly statements" toward Hamas and absolved the group of responsibility for attacks on Israeli civilians.
"If Turkey's approach would have the effect of moderating Hamas, then we could understand the strategy," Palmor said. "But in fact, the opposite is true. Hamas in all its public statements continues to toe its ultra-extremist line, and the Turkish government is the one that distanced itself from Israel. So it looks like Hamas is influencing the Turkish government, and not vice versa."
Henri Barkey, a Turkey analyst at Lehigh University, said, "the very fact that they [Hamas] have Turkish support may convince them that they don't have to change their line." (AP-Boston Globe)
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- Israel Warns Against Syrian WMD Transfer to Hizbullah - Yoav Limor, Yoni Hirsch, and Daniel Siryoti
In light of the events unfolding in Syria, Israeli officials are concerned the regime may try to transfer its advanced weapons - including non-conventional weapons - to the Lebanese-based terrorist organization Hizbullah. These could include long-range missiles, advanced anti-aircraft systems, and chemical weapons.
Syria is believed to possess the world's largest stockpile of chemical weapons, including sarin and the nerve agent VX. They have already been integrated in warheads mounted on advanced Scud missiles.
The weapons may be transferred to Hizbullah - possibly even at Iran's behest - because Lebanon is currently perceived as more stable than Syria, a senior Israeli defense official said on Tuesday. For Israel, the transfer of such weapons - and especially chemical weapons - to Hizbullah would be tantamount to "a declaration of war." Hizbullah "cannot be allowed to entertain itself with unconventional weapons," the official said.
- IDF Chief: Iran Calling for Israel's Destruction and Building the Tools to Do So - Gili Cohen
Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said on Wednesday that Iran could cross the nuclear threshold within a year and "there is no doubt that Iran is seeking military nuclear capability." "Israel is the only country in the world which someone is calling for its destruction and which someone is building the tools to do so. This is something that cannot be ignored."
"It is correct to continue economic pressure and sanctions, from which we are starting to see signs of achievement and progress in terms of what is going on in Iran. It is correct to act and continue to disrupt processes associated with the development of the Iranian nuclear project and to work to enhance oversight over what is happening," Gantz said.
See also IDF Military Intelligence: "Iran Has Enough Nuclear Material for Four Bombs" - Neri Brenner (Ynet News)
See also 200,000 Missiles Pointed at Israel, Military Intelligence Head Says (DPA)
- Palestinians in Gaza Fire Seven Rockets at Israel - Yanir Yagna and Gili Cohen
Palestinians in Gaza fired seven rockets into southern Israel on Wednesday night.
The rockets exploded in open areas and caused no casualties or damage.
- Endgame in Syria - David Ignatius
As the showdown in Syria moves into a decisive phase, U.S. officials report sharply rising Syrian army defections and mounting Arab pressure to remove President Bashar al-Assad.
"I am stunned at how fast this is moving, and how fast Assad is falling," said one senior administration official. According to the latest U.S. intelligence reports, 300 Syrian army soldiers defected Monday in the Damascus suburb of Jisrine; 50 more defected in the town of Rsatan and dozens in other suburbs of Damascus.
As the Syrian army rushes to protect the newly embattled centers of Damascus and Aleppo, it is pulling some troops out of opposition hotbeds in central Syria. Simply put, the Syrian army isn't large enough to maintain control over all of the country. (Washington Post)
- Iceland's Foreign Policy: Alone and Adrift - Abraham H. Foxman
The Icelandic parliament voted on Nov. 29 to recognize Palestine "as an independent and sovereign state" based on the pre-1967 borders.
A report by the center-right minority on the Icelandic parliament's foreign affairs committee assailed the reasoning behind the proposal as unfair both to Israel and to history.
The minority also felt compelled to remind the Icelandic government that the conflict is fundamentally about "the mere existence of the State of Israel"; Hamas is a terrorist organization bent on Israel's destruction; the 1993 Oslo Accords specified no unilateral change in status of the territories; and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority refuse to recognize Israel as the Jewish state.
The writer is National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
(European Jewish Press)
Russia's Bad Bet on Syria - Editorial (New York Times)
See also Russia Has Pride, Contracts at Stake in Syria - Will Englund (Washington Post)
Since the largely peaceful revolt against Bashar Assad's regime began last March, Syrian security forces have killed nearly 6,000 protesters and the toll is rising. Yet the UN Security Council is paralyzed, unable to condemn Assad, much less impose the international economic sanctions that might force him to end the killing or leave power.
- Russia, supported by China and India, is still defending Assad and blocking constructive action. Invoking Libya, they insist that they will not abide foreign military intervention in Syria or let a resolution be exploited to permit the use of force.
- Since Secretary of State Clinton has stipulated publicly that there is no intention to pursue military intervention, it should be relatively easy to write a resolution to rule out military action, assuming Russia is not playing games.
Russia's unwillingness to endorse a UN resolution calling for the ouster of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad arises from domestic, international, commercial and military calculations. But what appears to be driving the stiff resistance to Western and Arab efforts to remove Assad has more to do with perceptions of Russian prestige.
- Russian officials contend that NATO misused the UN resolution they had supported on Libya to pursue a much broader air war than was envisioned, and they are apparently wary of the same thing happening now in Syria.
- "What's going on in the Syrian situation is some kind of revenge," said Alexander Golts, an independent military analyst and deputy editor of the online publication Yezhednevny Zhurnal.
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