Palestinians Plan New March on Israel's Borders - Anshel Pfeffer (Ha'aretz)
Pro-Palestinian groups around the world are planning the Global March to Jerusalem (GM2J) on March 30 to coincide with the annual "Land Day" protest marked by Israeli Arabs. Thousands of Palestinians, along with supporters from around the world, are to march toward Israel's borders.
Last May, and again in September, there were plans to mobilize the masses, but the result was only minor disturbances.
Neither the PA in the West Bank nor Hamas in Gaza are eager for such demonstrations to get out of hand.
In addition, it didn't seem that the Palestinian population at large had much of an appetite for another Intifada.
"There is noise on the web, that doesn't mean it is going to materialize," says one Israeli diplomat.
See also "Global March to Jerusalem" Forms Board in Iran (Fars-Iran)
Assad's Evil Endgame - Amir Taheri (New York Post)
Despite the destruction of whole neighborhoods in Homs and Idlib, Syrians are coming out in the thousands to demand regime change.
Even Aleppo, Syria's second-largest city, which had remained relatively calm, has joined the revolution with anti-Assad marches last Thursday and Friday.
By all accounts, Assad's referendum Saturday was a failure.
The state-controlled TV couldn't offer footage showing people voting anywhere outside Damascus.
Hamas Prime Minister Backs Syrian Protests Against Assad (AP-Guardian-UK)
Gaza's Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh has expressed support for Syrian protesters seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.
Speaking after Friday prayers at Egypt's Al-Azhar Mosque, Haniyeh said Hamas commended "the brave Syrian people that are moving toward democracy and reform."
Assad had long hosted and supported leaders of Hamas in Damascus.
Islamists Dominate in Egypt's Upper House Vote - Aya Batrawy (AP)
The Muslim Brotherhood won 58% of the elected seats in the Egyptian parliament's upper house.
The election commission said Sunday that the ultraconservative Al-Nour party came in second with a quarter of the seats, while liberal parties took 12% of the seats.
Israel Confirms $1.6B Azeri Defense Deal - John Backtane (Jerusalem Post)
Israeli officials confirmed on Sunday that Israel Aerospace Industries will supply Azerbaijan with unmanned aerial vehicles and missile defense systems
at a cost of $1.6 billion.
Israeli UAVs Used Around the World - Bhavan Jaipragas
Global demand for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is heating up as armed forces invest in new systems to boost their ability to carry out reconnaissance and strikes without putting soldiers' lives in danger.
"UAVs are necessary in this age when you want to win wars and at the same time you want to have less casualties," said Tommy Silberring, a former Israeli air force colonel
who heads the drone division at Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
IAI, which pioneered the development of UAV technology for the Israeli military in the 1970s, says its Heron UAVs are used by 18 customers around the world.
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- IAEA: Iran Making Nuclear Fuel at Protected Site - David E. Sanger and William J. Broad
International nuclear inspectors reported on Friday that Iran was moving more rapidly to produce nuclear fuel than many outsiders expected at the Fordow underground facility near Qum. IAEA inspectors found in their most recent visits that over the past three months, Iran had tripled its production capacity for a more purified type of fuel that is far closer to what is needed to make the core of a nuclear weapon. The new report indicated that 696 centrifuges have been installed at Fordow. An additional 2,088 have been partially installed.
Iran said it has produced fuel enriched to 20% purity to replenish a small nuclear reactor in Tehran that is used to make medical isotopes. "They have now produced nearly enough 20% to fuel the Tehran Research Reactor for the next 20 years," one European diplomat said Friday.
(New York Times)
See also UN Sees Spike in Iran's Uranium Production - Joby Warrick
The International Atomic Energy Agency report released Friday showed a nearly 50% jump since the fall in Iran's stockpile of a kind of highly enriched uranium that is closer to weapons-grade than the type normally used in nuclear power plants. More than a third of the increased output came from Fordow. Iran already has enough enriched uranium to build four nuclear weapons. (Washington Post)
See also IAEA: Iran Uranium "Discrepancy" Still Unresolved - Fredrik Dahl
Iran has yet to give an explanation over a small quantity of uranium missing from a research site. The U.S. has expressed concern the material may have been diverted to suspected weapons-related research.
- U.S. Boosts Defenses in Persian Gulf - Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes
The Pentagon is beefing up U.S. sea- and land-based defenses in the Persian Gulf to counter any attempt by Iran to close the Strait of Hormuz.
The U.S. military has notified Congress of plans to preposition new mine-detection and clearing equipment and expand surveillance capabilities in and around the strait. The military also wants to quickly modify weapons systems on ships so they could be used against Iranian fast-attack boats, as well as shore-launched cruise missiles. (Wall Street Journal)
- Trial of U.S. Nonprofit Workers in Egypt Is Abruptly Put Off - David D. Kirkpatrick and Mayy El Sheikh
The politically charged trial in Cairo of employees of four American-backed nonprofit groups was adjourned Sunday until April 26, less than two hours after it began.
U.S. diplomats had made a high-level push to settle the case before the trial opened. American officials said later on Sunday that they still held out hope for a swift resolution of the case.
"State media has pushed this whole case as Egyptian sovereignty against 'U.S. interference,'" said Nancy Okail, 34, an Egyptian citizen and a defendant in the case as the Egypt director at Freedom House, a federally financed American NGO. "And it was obvious a huge part of what was going on today was a political show for public consumption." (New York Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Netanyahu Blasts Abbas' Speech as Irresponsible Incitement - Attila Somfalvi
The Prime Minister's Office on Sunday blasted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for his declaration that Jerusalem has always been and will remain an Arab city at the International Conference for the Defense of Jerusalem in Doha, Qatar. The Prime Minister's Office released a statement saying:
"It's time for the Palestinian leadership to stop denying the past and distorting reality. For thousands of years, Jerusalem has been the eternal capital of the Jewish people. The city allows the freedom of worship for everyone, and Israel will continue to devotedly protect the holy sites of all religions."
"Abbas knows well that his slanderous statements are groundless - including the baseless and irresponsible remarks about the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
The State of Israel expects that one who supposedly aspires for peace would prepare his people for peace and co-existence instead of spreading lies and incitement. This is not how one makes peace." (Ynet News-Prime Minister's Office)
See also UN Middle East Envoy Participates in "International Conference for the Defense of Jerusalem" - Herb Keinon
Israeli diplomatic officials slammed UN Middle East envoy Robert Serry on Sunday for taking part in the "International Conference for the Defense of Jerusalem" in Doha, which officials described as a two-day Israel-bashing carnival.
"It is extremely disappointing and infuriating that the UN secretary-general's envoy, who never finds the time to properly condemn the shootings on Israeli territory from Gaza, has all the time in the world to take part in what is unashamedly an anti-Israel propaganda fest, intended to subvert and deny the very foundations of Jewish history," one diplomatic official said.
- Erasing Jewish History on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem - Amir Shoan
In July 2007, Israel Antiquities Authority inspector Ira Pasternack
saw the Arab tractor driver bring down his huge blade with great force, shattering the ancient floors on Temple Mount.
According to specific Antiquities Authority instructions, any digging at the site was not allowed to exceed 60 cm. (roughly two feet) and was not to be undertaken using mechanical equipment.
However, reports drafted by Pasternack and other sources, exposed for the first time by Yediot Ahronot on Friday, indicate that workers largely ignored the instructions. Much of the work was done using a tractor and reached deeper than allowed for in the permit. Earth removed from the site was thrown into an improvised garbage dump by members of the Waqf (the administrative Muslim body in charge of Temple Mount). The Waqf is consistently erasing any trace of Jewish history at the site. (Ynet News)
- Don't Bet Against Israel on Iran - Dan Ephron
Israeli officials are pushing back against the perception among analysts that its military lacks the capability to deal a significant blow to Iran's nuclear installations. Their remarks seemed calculated to counter reports like one in the New York Times last week that suggested Israeli planes would face huge challenges in reaching Iran and destroying its nuclear installations, which are buried deep in the ground and scattered throughout the country.
"These reports don't tell the whole story," said one senior official. "If we need to do it, believe me, there are enough ways." A retired senior officer said: "People take us seriously because we have a record in these things. Nobody should doubt us."
One official alluded to advanced technology that Israel possesses that could not be factored into the analysis of experts because it remains secret. Others said some skepticism always preceded Israel's major operations, including its 1981 attack on Iraq's nuclear plant.
One former Israeli official, asked if Israel has the capability to deal a serious blow to Iran's program, said: "If not, why is everybody worried?" (Daily Beast)
- The Return of the Israel Apartheid Week Cult - Jonathan Kay
In Syria, the Assad regime continues to rain artillery on rebel positions in the city of Homs, killing journalists and innocent civilians alike. Iran's mullahs are set to execute a Canadian citizen for the crime of operating a web site they don't like. The new Libyan regime is torturing Gaddafi loyalists. And Egypt's rulers are prosecuting NGO leaders on trumped-up charges. And so next week, Canadian activists will congregate in Toronto to express their hatred of ... Israel. The 8th annual Israel Apartheid Week will take place March 5-9.
It is utterly ridiculous to run a week-long event vilifying Israel when right next door in Syria, the government has just exterminated more Arabs than were killed in both Intifidas, the 2008 Gaza conflict, and the 2006 Lebanon war combined.
See also Israeli Anti-Apartheid Week Contributes to Hatred - Peter Bella
America's Iranian Self-Deception - Frederick W. Kagan and Maseh Zarif (Wall Street Journal)
- There is no case to be made that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapons capability. There is no evidence that Iran's decision-makers are willing to stop the nuclear program in exchange for lifting sanctions or anything else. The International Atomic Energy Agency reported on Friday that it has made no progress in its negotiations with Iran and that Iran continues to accelerate its enrichment operations, which are in violation of UN Security Council resolutions and agreements with the IAEA.
- Yet the prospect of war with Iran is so distasteful that people are desperate to persuade themselves that the problem is not serious.
- IAEA inspectors on the ground at Iran's nuclear facilities reported on Friday that Iran's inventory of centrifuges enriching uranium isotopes has been steadily expanding, along with the stockpiles of enriched uranium. Iran is also developing techniques and technologies needed to turn weapons-grade uranium (which it is not yet producing) into an atomic bomb.
Iran's behavior makes sense only if its leadership is determined to have a nuclear program that can develop and field atomic weapons.
- The statements and actions of Iran's leaders - juxtaposing bellicosity with offers of negotiations - make perfect sense if they are intended to cover the acquisition of a nuclear weapons capability.
- The Iranians are advancing technically as fast as they can to acquire the fuel for a nuclear bomb. They also are pursuing key elements of a weaponization program separately and covertly.
Add it up any way you like: Iran is starting to race to reach a breakout point at which the international community will be unable to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons, short of a massive American military strike. The evidence available supports no other conclusion.
- Neither American nor Israeli nor any Western interest is served by lying to ourselves and pretending the predicament will go away.
Mr. Kagan is director of the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute. Mr. Zarif is research manager at the Critical Threats Project and leads its Iran team.
See also U.S. Does Not Believe Iran Is Trying to Build Nuclear Bomb - Ken Dilanian (Los Angeles Times)
See also U.S. Agencies See No Move by Iran to Build a Bomb - James Risen and Mark Mazzetti (New York Times)
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