Iran Advances Nuclear Breakout Capacity - Maseh Zarif (American Enterprise Institute)
Iran's determination to acquire a nuclear weapons capability and to develop a rapid breakout capacity is evident in its actions since the last International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report.
Iran had installed two interconnected cascades of 174 IR-1 centrifuges each at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP) and was feeding those cascades with low-enriched uranium hexafluoride in October 2011.
An IAEA spokesperson announced last month that Iran had begun producing uranium enriched up to 20% in those cascades and reports this month indicated that it had installed and begun operating two additional cascades.
This expansion would result in 696 IR-1 centrifuges being dedicated to 20% enriched uranium production at FFEP.
Iran's increased production of 20% enriched uranium, the prospect of it operating advanced centrifuges, and the partial transfer of higher-level enrichment into a more buried facility taken together amount to an increasingly threatening breakout capacity.
Iran Says Stuxnet Virus Infected 16,000 Computers (AP-Fox News)
A senior Iranian intelligence official identified only as Ahangaran said an estimated 16,000 computers were infected by the Stuxnet virus in 2010, the semiofficial Fars news agency reported Saturday.
Turkey Denies Claims Intelligence Officers Captured in Syria (Zaman-Turkey)
Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesman Selcuk Unal denied on Sunday a report in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz that claimed dozens of Turkish intelligence officers have been captured in neighboring Syria.
Inside the Torture Chamber of Assad's Inquisition Squads - Charlotte McDonald-Gibson (Independent-UK)
Jolan, a 28-year-old Syrian activist, is one of thousands of political prisoners. From a secret location in Damascus, Jolan gave detailed testimony to The Independent on Sunday of his torture during 21 weeks in detention.
Human Rights Watch confirmed that many of the torture techniques he described are commonplace.
See also Alawites in Syria Flee Their Homes amid Fears of Ethnic Cleansing - Charlotte McDonald-Gibson (Independent-UK)
Members of Syria's minority Alawite community are fleeing their homes and going into hiding, terrified that avenging rebels will hunt them down as more areas of the country come under the control of fighters trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad.
Members of the Sunni Muslim branch of Islam make up more than 70% of Syria's 22 million people. But they have for decades been sidelined from positions of power by members of the Assad family's Alawite sect, a branch of Shia Islam that makes up 12% of Syria's population.
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- Iran: Preemptive Strike Against Enemies Possible
The deputy head of Iran's armed forces, Mohammad Hejazi, told state media on Tuesday that Iran might launch a preemptive strike against its "enemies" if the nation's leaders felt an attack on Iran was imminent. "Our strategy now is that if we feel our enemies want to endanger Iran's national interests, and want to decide to do that, we will act without waiting for their actions."
- Dossier Details Egypt's Case Against Democracy Groups - Rod Nordland and David D. Kirkpatrick
The Egyptian prosecution's dossier on the case against at least 16 Americans and others from five democracy and human rights groups shows leaps of logic. For example, documents seized from the International Republican Institute include Wikipedia maps of Egypt showing the country's four regions. The prosecution suggested that the maps showed a plan to dismember the country.
The prosecution's dossier claims that the groups "worked in coordination with the CIA" and served "U.S. and Israeli interests."
The primary force behind the prosecution is Fayza Abul Naga, who as minister of planning and international cooperation is in charge of dealing with foreign aid. Abul Naga has described one of the groups operating in Egypt, Freedom House, as "founded by the Jewish lobbyists." (New York Times)
- India Ships to Lose Insurance Due to Iran Sanctions - Nidhi Verma and Randy Fabi
The state-run Shipping Corp. of India, the largest tanker owner in India, will lose its EU insurance coverage for its oil tankers operating in Iran from July 1, when European insurers will be prohibited from indemnifying ships carrying Iranian oil.
See also Stiffer Sanctions Pressure Tehran - Benoit Faucon and Neena Rai
The prospect of stiffer sanctions has caused the value of Iran's currency against the dollar to plunge, and made dollars for purchasing imports scarce. "Your [imported] goods may not be sanctioned. But paying for them is in effect sanctioned...because of the difficulty of sending money out of Iran," said Mostafa Pakzad, chairman of the Tehran-based Pakzad Consulting Corp. Such efforts to block Iran's ability to make international payments have convinced some global shippers, traders, bankers and insurers to immediately end their dealings with Iran.
Most palm oil deliveries from Malaysia have been stopped. India has delayed deliveries of tea and premium basmati rice after buyers in Iran were unable to transfer payments. Ukraine, which covers 70% of Iranian corn needs, is refusing any additional supply. (Wall Street Journal)
See also Iranians Desperate as Dark Economic Clouds Gather - Ramin Mostafavi
The official inflation rate in Iran stands at 21% but critics say real inflation is around 50%. Over the last year tens of thousands of jobs have been lost and opposition websites have reported on strikes by workers who have not received wages for months.
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- Meridor: Israel May Rule Out Future Accords If Egypt Changes Treaty - Herb Keinon
If Cairo unilaterally decides to alter the peace treaty with Jerusalem, Israel will ask why it should sign agreements if these accords are not kept, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor said Monday. Objectively, there is no reason for either Israel or Egypt to change the peace agreement that has served both sides for more than 30 years, he said.
Meridor also bemoaned the Palestinian Authority's decision to sign a unity agreement with Hamas. He called on PA President Abbas to demonstrate the "courage" to accept a demilitarized Palestinian state.
- Hamas Rejects Egyptian Offer to Transfer Fuel
Hamas authorities on Saturday rejected an Egyptian proposal to bring in fuel via an Israeli crossing point to reactivate Gaza's only power plant, which shut down four days ago when diesel supplies were disrupted. Fuel shortages and a dispute with smugglers forced the plant's shutdown and caused rolling blackouts. Fuel shortages in Egypt had prompted smugglers to demand prices higher than Gazans were ready to pay, according to Ma'an News.
- Islamic Jihad Spokesman Khader Adnan: Simple Political Activist or Dangerous Terrorist - Jonathan D. Halevi
Senior Islamic Jihad leader Khader Adnan, who is being held in administrative detention by Israel, is currently on a hunger strike.
Islamic Jihad has repeatedly emphasized in its public announcements that Adnan is part of the group's leadership and in 2005 was named its official spokesman. The movement calls for armed jihad as the only response to the "Zionist conquest of Palestine." During the first four years of the Second Intifada, Islamic Jihad undertook hundreds of terror attacks and was responsible for the deaths of 118 Israelis and the wounding of an additional 759. In 2011, Islamic Jihad launched 226 rockets, including 59 longer-range Grads, at Israeli targets.
According to Arabic sources, Adnan was arrested by the PA in 1999, 2010, and as recently January 2011. While the reasons for his arrest by Israel on Dec. 18, 2011, have not been made public, near the time of his arrest the Israel Security Agency announced it had uncovered an Islamic Jihad headquarters in the Jenin area of the West Bank and had arrested ten suspects involved in preparing terrorist attacks.
Adnan is known to be part of the Islamic Jihad leadership from the Jenin area and it is likely that he was involved with this group. Members of the group were in contact with the group's headquarters in Syria and received large amounts of funds to support their activities. They were planning attacks against IDF soldiers, shooting attacks against Israeli civilians, and kidnappings.
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs-Hebrew)
See also The Case of the Islamic Jihad Hunger Striker
This is not Khader Adnan's first hunger strike. In October 2010, Adnan initiated a hunger strike following his arrest by the Palestinian Authority security services.
Reflecting bias and double standards, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, which are campaigning against the current detention, did not release statements regarding Adnan's 2010 arrest by the PA and his subsequent hunger strike.
Most NGO statements omit the fact that administrative detention is a common procedure used by democratic states around the world in security-related cases, including the U.S. and the UK. The administrative detention laws require that the detainee be brought before a judge within a short period of time and any detention must be based upon credible evidence. All detainees have the right to challenge their detention to the Israeli Supreme Court sitting as the High Court of Justice.
Islamic Jihad is recognized as a terrorist organization by the EU, U.S., UK, Israel, Australia, Canada, and Japan. The "right of association" does not grant immunity from punishment for activities in terrorist organizations.
See also Israel Top Court to Hear Palestinian Detainee Appeal - Daniella Cheslow (AP)
- Venezuela's Hugo Chavez Faces an Uprising at the Ballot Box - Jackson Diehl
On Feb. 12, Henrique Capriles Radonski, a 39-year-old Venezuelan state governor, won a primary election to become the opposition's candidate against Hugo Chavez in October's presidential election. The next day, Capriles, a devout Catholic, was greeted by a commentary on the government-run Web site of Venezuelan National Radio titled "The Enemy Is Zionism." Capriles, it explained, is the descendant of Jews. (In fact, his grandmother was a Holocaust survivor who emigrated from Poland to Venezuela.)
"In order to understand the interests embodied" by Capriles, the commentary declared, "it's important to know what is Zionism, the Israeli ideology that he sneakily represents." (Washington Post)
Containing Israel on Iran - Editorial (Wall Street Journal Europe)
Is the Obama Administration more concerned that Iran may get a nuclear weapon, or that Israel may use military force to prevent Iran from doing so?
- Appearing on CNN, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey sent precisely the wrong message if the main U.S. strategic goal is convincing Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions. He said the U.S. is urging Israel not to attack Iran.
- In a single sound bite, Gen. Dempsey managed to tell the Iranians they can breathe easier because Israel's main ally is opposed to an attack on Iran, such an attack isn't likely to work in any case, and the U.S. fears Iran's retaliation.
- If the U.S. really wanted its diplomacy to work in lieu of force, it would say and do whatever it can to increase Iran's fear of an attack. Dempsey's comments will have the effect of making war more likely, not less.
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