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Report: Top Iran Military Official Aiding Assad's Crackdown on Syria Opposition - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
According to a Syrian opposition official, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, Kassam Salimani, is in Syria to help manage Syrian army maneuvers against opposition forces.
The Quds Force specializes in unconventional warfare on foreign soil. Among other duties, the force is in charge of training and funding Hizbullah.
Most Egyptians Oppose U.S. Economic Aid - Ahmed Younis and Mohamed Younis (Gallup)
71% of Egyptians surveyed by Gallup in December 2011 oppose U.S. economic aid to Egypt, while 74% oppose the U.S. sending direct aid to civil society groups.
Congress has already approved $1.3 billion in military aid and $250 million in economic aid to Egypt for the current fiscal year.
Photo of "Israeli Soldier" Was Taken in Bahrain - Batsheva Sobelman
(Los Angeles Times)
A photograph circulating on the Web said to show an Israeli soldier abusing a Palestinian girl has been identified by blogger Omar Dakhane as having been taken in Bahrain during a street theater performance in 2009.
He offers the full picture from which the soldier was cropped.
Media Giants Post Dubious Anti-Israel Photo - Tamar Sternthal (Ynet News)
On Jan. 26, the International Herald Tribune published a photo by Agence-France Presse photographer Hazem Bader across four columns with the caption: "A Palestinian construction worker screamed in pain Wednesday after he tried to block an Israeli Army driver who drove a trailer over his legs near Hebron."
The Washington Post ran the color image across five columns, and several news websites featured Bader's photo, including the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian and MSNBC.
Yet it seems that the "injured worker," Mahmoud Abu Qbeita, was not actually injured. Moreover, there is no evidence that he was even run over.
IDF spokesman Capt. Barak Raz said soldiers were on site to protect officials who were confiscating Palestinian construction equipment in an area not permitted for building. Abu Qbeita was on the ground blocking the trailer when he started screaming that he had been run over, although no one saw it happen.
Initially, Abu Qbeita complained his left leg was injured. After an army medic's examination found no wound, Abu Qbeita then claimed his right leg was injured. Raz said that the Palestinian Red Crescent likewise found nothing wrong with him.
While several photographers were on site snapping away, not one has released a single image of Abu Qbeita as he was being run over.
The writer directs the Israel office of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).
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- Obama Imposes Freeze on Iran Property in U.S. - Jackie Calmes and Rick Gladstone
The White House moved to enforce tightened sanctions against Iran on Monday, freezing all property of the Central Bank of Iran, other Iranian financial institutions and the Iranian government in the U.S. The new restrictions also raised new warnings to financial institutions in other nations that they could face big penalties in the U.S. if they did business with Iran's central bank.
The actions were announced in an executive order signed by President Obama that started the enforcement process for a tough measure he signed into law at the end of 2011. If fully carried out, that measure could isolate Iran's central bank and effectively choke off the sale of Iranian oil by obstructing the means of payment. Most of the revenue for oil sales by Iran is processed by its central bank.
(New York Times)
See also White House Orders New Iran Sanctions amid Diplomatic Impasse - Laura Rozen
The new sanctions block Iranian government and financial institution assets and properties in the U.S.
However, the new measures are unlikely to have much effect given the U.S. has sanctioned transactions with Iran's government for well over a decade and Iran has so few assets in the U.S. (Yahoo News)
- U.S. Proposes Coalition on Syria after UN Veto - Lee Keath and Matthew Lee
The U.S. proposed an international coalition to support Syria's opposition Sunday after Russia and China blocked a UN attempt to end nearly 11 months of bloodshed. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the double veto at the UN Security Council on Saturday "a travesty."
"Faced with a neutered Security Council, we have to redouble our efforts outside of the United Nations," she said, calling for "friends of democratic Syria" to unite to "support the Syrian people's right to have a better future."
U.S. officials said an alliance would work to further squeeze the Assad regime by stepping up sanctions against it, bringing disparate Syrian opposition groups inside and outside the country together, providing humanitarian relief for embattled Syrian communities and working to prevent an escalation of violence by monitoring arms sales. The main Syrian opposition umbrella group, the Syrian National Council, backed the idea.
- Egyptians Cancel Meetings with U.S. Lawmakers after Aid Warnings - Susan Cornwell
An Egyptian military delegation abruptly cancelled its meetings with U.S. lawmakers to return to Cairo on Monday after warnings from both Congress and the White House that Egypt's crackdown on non-governmental groups could threaten its $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid. Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate foreign aid subcommittee, suggested he would not favor continuing U.S. military aid to Egypt if it continued its crackdown on U.S.-funded pro-democracy groups. (Reuters)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Hamas, Fatah Agree on Unity Government; Abbas to Be Prime Minister - Khaled Abu Toameh
Fatah and Hamas announced Monday they had reached another reconciliation agreement to end their differences. According to the new accord, signed in Doha, PA President Mahmoud Abbas is to serve as interim prime minister of a unity government consisting of independent figures.
See also Netanyahu: PA-Hamas Agreement Means No Peace with Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday:
"Hamas is a terrorist organization that strives to destroy Israel, and which is supported by Iran....The Palestinian Authority must choose between an alliance with Hamas and peace with Israel. Hamas and peace do not go together."
"Not only does Hamas not recognize Israel and the [previously signed] agreements, it has not abandoned terrorism. It is continuing with terrorism and to arm itself in order to perpetrate even deadlier terrorism. I say to Mahmoud Abbas: You cannot hold the stick by both ends. It is either peace with Hamas or peace with Israel; you cannot have it both ways." (Prime Minister's Office)
See also Will Latest PA-Hamas Agreement Succeed? - Khaled Abu Toameh
First there was the Saudi-sponsored Mecca Agreement between Fatah and Hamas in February 2007 which collapsed after four months. Then came the Sanaa Agreement in March 2008 which lasted only a few hours. This was followed by two reconciliation pacts reached under Egyptian auspices. Today, the Qataris are taking a shot at solving the Hamas-Fatah rivalry, but it's hard to see how the new deal could work. (Jerusalem Post)
- 21 Palestinian Villages Reject Israeli Offer to Connect to Sewer Line - Sharon Udasin
Despite Israeli offers to connect 22 Palestinian villages in southern Samaria in the West Bank to a central sewage pipe, all but one of them refused, Israeli Environmental Protection Ministry officials said Thursday.
Instead, the Palestinian sewage flows into the aquifer below.
"We are doing everything we can to prevent pollution in Judea and Samaria, but nevertheless, the Palestinians refuse to cooperate," said Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan. Erdan expressed hope that donor countries would agree to only continue giving the villages financial support if they agree to connect to the sewage pipeline. (Jerusalem Post)
- Egypt and the U.S.: The End of a Beautiful Friendship? - Zvi Mazel
A year ago, Egypt was America's staunchest ally in the Arab world and the bulwark of its policy against the axis of evil led by Tehran. Egyptian army officers studied and trained in the U.S. and every other year the two armies held joint military exercises. But now, both the peace with Israel and the strategic alliance with America are under attack.
Egypt is no longer to be relied upon. Joint exercises are on hold. At the same time, relations between Israel and Egypt have gone from cold to glacial, though cooperation on the prevention of terror is still going on after a fashion. According to recent reports, the flow of arms from Sudan and now from Libya is turning into a flood. Terrorist organizations are taking over Sinai and Egyptian authorities appear helpless.
See also A Year after the Revolution: Egypt and the U.S. Battle over Democracy - Jacques Neriah (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Are Egypt's Islamists Heading for a Fall? - Daniel Pipes
In Egypt, which imports more than half its caloric intake, wages must keep up with the price of food or people begin to starve. Yet the country appears to be heading for a monumental financial collapse in 2012, and perhaps by the summer. If Islamists strut about as though they rule Egypt, the population will blame them and their Supreme Council of the Armed Forces
(SCAF) allies for its hunger. The anger could quickly turn ferocious. After waiting 84 years to attain legitimacy and power, the Muslim Brotherhood may find it got suckered into taking over the ship's helm just as it heads into an iceberg. (National Review)
- Demography Is Destiny in Syria - Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi and Oskar Svadkovsky
The escalation in Syria took by surprise only the people who never bothered to examine Syria's population pyramid. In the early 1970s, the trade and use of contraceptives in Syria were officially banned. Only in recent years has the regime introduced some measure of family planning, but by now the sheer amount of population momentum accumulated in previous decades has kept the population swelling to new highs.
At the same time, during the last decade climate change has hit the region, with shifts in rain patterns leading to prolonged droughts that have devastated Syrian agriculture. Whole villages have been abandoned, while slums around Syrian cities have been swelling with hundreds of thousands of climate refugees.
America's Red Lines in the Sand on Iran - Richard Cohen (Washington Post)
- The current Iranian regime will never let Israel live in peace. The fact is that the Iranian regime is astonishingly violent. In addition to the attempt on the life of the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Iran had its own former prime minister stabbed to death in a Paris hotel room, allegedly was behind the bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish center (85 dead) and is blamed for the bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in which 19 U.S. airmen were killed. This is a dangerous regime.
- The Obama administration operates as if these incidents are departures from the norm. The Israelis see them as the norm - and more to come. President Obama wants the Iranian regime to turn its nuclear sword into a plowshare. The Israelis would welcome such a development, but they would not trust it. The regime they know will, sooner or later, revert to its nuclear weapons program. It's in its DNA.
- In his State of the Union address, Obama said: "A peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better, and if Iran changes course and meets its obligations, it can rejoin the community of nations."
This statement - the vaunted carrot - is startlingly naive. Where is the evidence to suggest that the men who now run Iran will slap their foreheads, say zowie (in Farsi) and conclude that they were wrong to pursue a nuclear weapons program? More likely, they will conclude that North Korea survives because it defied the U.S. and continued to develop nuclear weapons.
- The ultimate remedy is Iranian regime change. In the meantime, Obama must ensure that Iran perceives no daylight between the U.S. and Israel, and no chance that Washington will become naive about Iran's intentions. This looming crisis is not only about Israel. It's about America, too.
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