Russia Helps Syria Upgrade Radar to Give Iran Early Warning - Arie Egozi (Israel Defense)
Russian experts recently upgraded Syria's long-range radar systems in an effort to provide Iran with an early warning in the event of an attack on its nuclear facilities.
The Russians installed new equipment
at a radar facility south of Damascus, and modified software for other systems.
Similar work was done on the radar system positioned at Mount Sannine in Lebanon.
The upgraded radar covers a wide area in the eastern Mediterranean and can detect aerial activity for hundreds of kilometers.
Special sites in Syria are fully or partially manned by Russian operators, primarily near Tartus.
Report: Israel Warns of Iranian Attacks on Diplomats in Turkey (Hurriyet-Turkey)
Israel's Mossad intelligence service has warned Ankara that the diplomatic missions of Israel in Turkey could face "bomb attacks" by agents of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards-Quds Force, according to a report Wednesday on NTV news channel.
NTV said four individuals have "entered Turkey from Iran" with weapons and materials to be used in the attacks.
Syria's Deputy Oil Minister Announces Defection (Reuters-Guardian-UK)
Syria's deputy oil minister, Abdo Hussameldin, has announced his defection on YouTube.
"I Abdo Hussameldin, deputy oil and mineral wealth minister in Syria, announce my defection from the regime, resignation from my position and withdrawal from the Ba'ath party. I join the revolution of this dignified people," he said.
Israel Sends Humanitarian Aid to Brazzaville (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
After the explosion in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo, in which over 200 people lost their lives and hundreds were wounded,
Israel on Tuesday sent emergency medical equipment to the Brazzaville Red Cross
to assist in treating burn injuries.
Netanyahu's Gift to Obama: Tale of a Persian Plot (Reuters)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu handed President Barack Obama a gift on Monday - an ancient Hebrew tome about a Persian plot to annihilate Jews.
It's called the Scroll of Esther, a tale of palace intrigue featuring a Jewish beauty who charms a Persian king into foiling an evil adviser's genocidal plans for her people some 2,500 years ago.
"Then too, they wanted to wipe us out," Netanyahu told Obama, according to an Israeli official.
Jewish faithful gathered in synagogues on Wednesday to read the parchment text, popularly known as the Megillah, on the eve of the Jewish costume holiday of Purim, a celebration of salvation and of turning the tables on one's foes.
See also Video: Purim in Tel Aviv, 1932 (YouTube)
See also Purim in the Holy Land (Israel Daily Picture)
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- Iran May Be Trying to Hide Evidence of Nuclear Tests - George Jahn
Satellite images of the Parchin military facility in Iran appear to show trucks and earth-moving vehicles at the site, indicating an attempted cleanup of radioactive traces possibly left by tests of a nuclear-weapon trigger, diplomats told AP on Wednesday. They said the crews may be trying to erase evidence of tests of a small experimental neutron device used to set off a nuclear explosion.
The diplomats said they suspect attempts at sanitization because some of the vehicles at the scene appeared to be haulage trucks and other equipment suited to carting off potentially contaminated soil from the site.
The IAEA has already identified Parchin as the location of suspected nuclear weapons-related testing. After previous refusals, Tehran said on Monday it would permit IAEA teams to visit Parchin, but that an agreement outlining the conditions of such an inspection must first be agreed on.
- Israel Cautiously Welcomes Big-Power Talks with Iran - Dan Williams
Israel on Wednesday cautiously welcomed the planned resumption of big-power nuclear talks with Iran. "I'm very happy that they are opening discussions," said Netanyahu's national security adviser, Yaakov Amidror.
"There will be no one happier than us, and the prime minister said this in his own voice, if it emerges that in these talks Iran will give up on its military nuclear capability," he told Israel Radio.
- What Does "Having Israel's Back" Mean?
President Obama said Tuesday at a press conference:
Q: You did very publicly say, "we've got Israel's back." What does that mean?
Obama: "What it means is that, historically, we have always cooperated with Israel with respect to the defense of Israel, just like we do with a whole range of other allies - just like we do with Great Britain, just like we do with Japan....It was not a military doctrine that we were laying out for any particular military action." (White House)
See also Why Israel Still Can't Trust that Obama Has Its Back - Yossi Klein Halevi (New Republic)
- Mideast Din Drowns Out Palestinians - Ethan Bronner
In the 14 months since revolution has spread across the Middle East and tension has soared over Iran's nuclear program, the Palestinian leadership has found itself orphaned. Politically divided, its peace talks with Israel collapsed and its foreign support waning, the Palestinian Authority is sidelined. PA prime minister Salam Fayyad said in an interview: "This is a direct consequence of the Arab Spring where people are preoccupied with their own domestic affairs. The United States is in an election year and has economic problems, Europe has its worries. We're in a corner."
Mr. Netanyahu's government and its supporters also say that the regional tumult makes it harder for them to yield territory.
"Israelis have always been concerned that if they make difficult and strategic concession in the peace process, what will happen if the regimes with which they signed an agreement are overthrown?" noted Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and a longtime adviser to Mr. Netanyahu.
"Israel has to be extremely cautious and ratchet up its security concerns. Will the Palestinian Authority be the Palestinian Authority one year from now? When European diplomats come to Israel and ask it for new territorial concessions, it is like asking us to put up a tent in the middle of a hurricane."
(New York Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Hamas Denies It Intends to Stay Out of Any Iran-Israel Conflict
Top Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar on Wednesday rejected reports that Hamas would stay out of an armed conflict between Israel and Iran, the semi-official Iranian news agency Fars reported.
Zahar said: "Retaliation with utmost power is the position of Hamas with regard to a Zionist war on Iran." (Ha'aretz)
- Alawite Defections from Syrian Army May Be on Rise - Oren Kessler
An unverified document leaked from the intelligence group Stratfor quoted a Hizbullah source as saying Alawite officers have begun joining the Free Syrian Army. "Alawite officers are divided since many of them are unhappy about the use of excessive force against Sunni protesters," the source said. "Alawite officers are aware that Assad is trying to find asylum for himself and his family should his regime become unsalvageable. This is upsetting many Alawites who are coming to realize that Assad will abandon them."
A video clip posted to YouTube on Monday showed a dozen armed men, describing themselves as the "Free Alawites," pledging loyalty to the Free Syrian Army. "I'd say that there are anywhere from 50 to 200 defections per day," said Michael Nahum, an Arabic media analyst who studied at Damascus University. "The pace of defections is more than most people realize. Analysts keep calling it a 'trickle,' but it's not." "They're losing hundreds of soldiers every week. On bad weeks, maybe in excess of a thousand," Nahum said.
- Syrian-Made Drones Spy on Rebel Strongholds - Ron Ben-Yishai
Unmanned aircraft reportedly operating over Syrian and Turkish territory are Syrian, Ynet has learned.
Syria's Scientific Research Center manufactures drones that are identical to those produced by Iran.
The Syrian army, as well as Hizbullah, also operates Iranian-made drones, including the Ababil, which can carry explosives.
Rebels told foreign news agencies that they have downed a number of these drones. Some of the drones were recovered in Homs after Assad's forces forced rebels to withdraw. These drones are apparently the ones Syria is now presenting as "proof" that Israel is aiding the rebels.
- Avoiding a Bad Nuclear Deal with Iran - Michael Singh
The P5+1 - which includes the U.S., UK, France, Germany, China, and Russia - has just accepted an Iranian offer of further nuclear talks. Many analysts have urged President Obama to consider one of the various proposals that would allow Iran to continue enriching uranium, though perhaps under somewhat stronger supervision.
In reality, allowing Iran to retain its uranium enrichment program would carry serious risks for the U.S. and our allies. The Institute for Science and International Security warns that "without [a halt to enrichment], Iran's enrichment program would continue to grow in capacity and increase Iran's ability to quickly, and perhaps secretly, make highly enriched uranium (HEU) for nuclear weapons in its centrifuge plants."
But the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons would not be removed; instead, Iran could perfect its nuclear expertise, stopping just one turn of the screw away from producing a nuclear weapon, or even building one clandestinely. The writer is managing director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former senior director for Middle East affairs at the U.S. National Security Council.
- The Breakup of Libya
The declaration of the eastern Libyan province of Barqa (Cyrenaica) as a semi-autonomous federal province confirms the worst concerns expressed by the late Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, claims an editorial in the pan-Arab daily al-Quds al-Arabi. The fear is that this may lead to bloody clashes between supporters and opponents.
Barqa Province - which may later develop into an independent state, similar to what is happening in the Kurdistan province in Iraq - is the richest province in the country. Most of the country's oil reserves are located there. And this means that the other two provinces - Tripoli in the west and Fazzan in the east - may be denied access to this fortune which yields over $60 billion for the country every year.
Closing Tehran's Sanctions Loopholes - Mark Dubowitz and Jonathan Schanzer (Wall Street Journal)
See also The Myth of Crippling Sanctions - Editorial (Washington Times)
Sanctions are a key element of the president's strategy to neutralize the Iranian threat. But the Iranian regime continues to find new ways to circumvent U.S. strictures, moving billions of dollars through the global financial system.
- Mr. Obama must urgently close the loopholes, and only blanket action against all Iranian banks and foreign financial institutions with Iranian business will do the trick.
Dubowitz is executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Schanzer, a former terrorism analyst for the U.S. Department of the Treasury, is FDD's vice president for research.
The White House keeps waiting for "crippling sanctions" to have an impact on Iran's nuclear program. It will be a long wait.
The word "crippling" has been attached to every real or proposed sanctions regime since the 1950s. Even if sanctions bite, they don't necessarily interrupt weapons development.
- Through the 1990s and 2000s, North Korea faced a shifting array of sanctions and incentives geared toward dissuading the development of a nuclear weapon. North Korea was crippled to begin with; it was among the poorest countries in the world. The lesson is that even in a destitute country where the people have been reduced to eating grass, if the leadership devotes sufficient resources to weapons development, it can achieve nuclear capability.
- The idea that sanctions could be crippling enough to dissuade the mullahs from achieving their objective of possessing nuclear weapons defies both logic and experience. It is unlikely that sanctions have driven the mullahs to the bargaining table. Iran's new offer for talks is a delaying tactic. The only thing sanctions are crippling right now is movement toward an effective solution to Tehran's nuclear aspirations.
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