For Syrians, No Easy Exit from Conflict - Anne Barnard (New York Times)
Syrians and regional analysts say sheer force alone is unlikely to eradicate what has become a diffuse and unpredictable insurgency, one able to strike out even after the government has used crushing force against centers of resistance like Homs, Idlib and Dara'a.
Broad areas of the country are hostile territory for government troops, and attackers have managed to hit centers of power, even in Damascus.
Many Syrians say Assad cannot afford to stop shooting. If he dials back his repression, Syrians of many political stripes say with certainty, citizens will demand his ouster.
The quickest way out - if insiders were to stage a coup - also seems highly unlikely, analysts said. The security officials who might be able to overthrow him now see their fates intertwined with his.
The public has suffered too much to be satisfied with a coup alone; they would seek the entire security system's downfall and, possibly, revenge.
See also Human Rights Watch Details Torture and Executions by Syrian Rebels - Richard Spencer (Telegraph-UK)
Iran's Economy Feeling the Heat of Sanctions - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
The decision by the Gulf states, and especially the United Arab Emirates, to stop trading in Iranian rials deals a harsh blow to the Iranian economy.
Thousands of Iranian companies opened branches in Dubai in recent years, and tens of thousands of Iranian businessmen use the country to import and export non-oil merchandise. Now, they will have to come up with another way to run their businesses.
Gaza's Tunnel Tycoons - Doron Peskin (Ynet News)
In the past five years a new class of 600 young "tunnel millionaires" made their fortunes on the smuggling of goods into Gaza from Egypt via the Rafah tunnels.
Many of the new tycoons invested their money in grandiose real estate projects such as luxurious shopping malls and hotels, rather than invest in the local market and create new jobs.
Many are associated with the Hamas leadership.
Instructions to Israelis: Correct Behavior During Rocket and Mortar Attacks (Home Front Command-Israel Defense Forces)
The main threat against the Israeli home front is from rocket and mortar attacks.
If you are indoors: In the absence of a protected space, enter the room farthest from the direction of the threat, with the smallest number of outside walls, windows and openings;
close the door and the windows;
sit on the floor (below the windowsill level) and lean against an interior wall.
Upper story residents should exit to the staircase and descend one floor down.
If you are outdoors:
In an exposed area - lie on the ground face-down and cover your head with your hands.
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French Police Exchange Fire with Islamist Suspect in Toulouse Shooting - Edward Cody (Washington Post)
Elite French police units exchanged gunfire with an Islamic militant barricaded in a Toulouse apartment Wednesday who is suspected of being the gunman who methodically killed three French soldiers, three Jewish school children and a rabbi over the last eight days, Interior Minister Claude Gueant announced. Gueant said the man had told police negotiators that he acted to "avenge Palestinian children" and protest France's role in the Afghanistan war.
Gueant described the suspect, identified in news reports as Mohammed Merah, as a French citizen, 24, who has spent time with Islamic groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan. News reports said he was of Algerian origin and had invoked the al-Qaeda terrorist network. Two policemen were wounded in an initial exchange of gunfire.
See also Killer Chased Little Girl, Grabbed Her Hair, and Executed Her - Boaz Bismuth (Israel Hayom)
- U.S. Exempts Japan and 10 Other Countries from Sanctions over Iran Oil - Steven Lee Myers
The Obama administration on Tuesday exempted Japan and 10 European nations from the prospect of biting sanctions. The sanctions, ordered by Congress to intensify diplomatic and economic pressure over Iran's nuclear activities, have put the administration in the difficult position of threatening to punish some of the U.S.' closest allies while it seeks to squeeze Iran's main source of hard currency. The latest set of sanctions - adopted despite objections from the administration - would stop American companies from doing business with any country that continues to buy Iranian oil through that country's Central Bank. (New York Times)
See also U.S. Rewards Cutting of Iran Oil Imports - Guy Taylor
Belgium, Britain, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain have all "significantly reduced their volume of crude-oil purchases from Iran," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in announcing the exemptions.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Toulouse Shooting Victims Buried in Jerusalem - Jeremy Sharon
Thousands of mourners attended the funeral in Jerusalem on Wednesday of the victims in the shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, earlier this week.
A French military plane carrying the bodies of Rabbi Yonatan Sandler, his two children Aryeh, six, and Gavriel, three, and eight-year-old Miriam Monsonego arrived in Israel early Wednesday morning accompanied by French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe.
Juppe declared that attacks on Jews in France are attacks on all of its citizens. "France will do everything to ensure nothing like this unbelievable tragedy ever happens again....France will not tolerate terror."
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin labeled those who carry out such acts as "wild animals, who do not distinguish between Jews in Israel or in France." "At the graves of our young children, Aryeh, Gavriel and Miriam, we will repeat: the State of Israel has the obligation to ensure that Jews can live anywhere in the world. That Jews around the world are able to study, protected and safe."
- U.S., Israel Military Chiefs Meet in Washington - Mitch Ginsburg
Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz met in Washington on Monday. "We spent much of our time today talking about growing concerns with Iran and Syria," Dempsey wrote in a statement. This is their third meeting over the past six months. (Times of Israel)
- Hamas Man Who Planned Kidnapping Arrested - Yoav Zitun
The Israel Security Agency arrested a Hamas operative last month on suspicion that he had plotted to kidnap an IDF soldier and carry out a suicide attack in the Eilat area. Mahmed Abu Adara and another Hamas operative gathered intelligence on IDF bases situated along the border with Egypt and on a number of civilian sites in Israel. The suspect also planned to fire anti-tank missiles towards Israeli targets along the border and coordinate the infiltration of a suicide bombing cell into Eilat. (Ynet News)
- The Tragedy in Toulouse - Elie Wiesel
Will the hatred of the Jews ever finally vanish? Will Jewish children always be in danger?
This time, a murderer slew four Jews: a teacher and three young children.
When a blood-thirsty Jew-hater wants to kill Jews, he goes first to the Jewish schools. Jewish children are his primary target.
Obviously, the terrible murderous attack evoked tears and rage among both Jews and non-Jews. The President, his ministers, and other political figures in France, as well as all the newspapers, have demanded that the murderer be found and punished.
Jewish blood is spilled and, temporarily, sympathy for Jews grows; the world warms to them.
But the pain does not go away, nor does the anger. When we are persecuted, our response must be: We will remain Jewish - and do everything to become more Jewish.
- Despite Reported Cancellation: Hamas Agent Speaks in UN Human Rights Council Facility - Anne Bayefsky
On March 19, the UN Human Rights Council and its UN staff in Geneva advertised and facilitated an event featuring a representative of the terrorist organization Hamas. Facing an immediate outcry, a massive misinformation campaign is now underway to protect the already discredited UN body. But there is no avoiding the facts: the UN handed a UN entrance pass and a UN microphone, in a UN room, to Hamas' Ismail al-Ashqar.
The Council published a formal UN "Bulletin" containing the following message. Anyone wanting to catch a lecture by a Hamas human rights authority should head to Meeting Room XXVII in the UN's Palais des Nations from 10 to 12 Monday morning.
Director of the UN Information Service in Geneva Corinne Momal-Vanian told AP that the meeting was "on the sides of the Human Rights Council session" and any UN-accredited group "can organize side events and invite speakers of its choice."
But the application to hold the meeting in the first place must have been vetted and approved by UN staff.
- Egypt: "Islamocracy" under Military Rule - Jacques Neriah
Will Egypt's Islamists accept the military as the country's source of power and authority? Since the beginning of the revolution against Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood has avoided any direct confrontation with the military and has repeatedly sought dialog with it. Indeed, since the Brotherhood is focused on domestic policy, it should have no intrinsic problem accepting the fact that the military will decide on matters of national security and foreign policy, at least initially.
It seems that the military has managed to outmaneuver other forces in the country by creating conditions on the ground whereby everybody discreetly feels the military should play a role in safeguarding the political process, despite calls for its complete marginalization from political life. It is no coincidence that the only actual democracy Egyptians have ever experienced in five millennia was between 1946 and 1952.
The writer was formerly Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence.
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
A Faulty Intelligence Report Lives On - Thomas Joscelyn (Weekly Standard)
- The 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear weapons program lives on in the imagination of some government officials. At the end of a lengthy piece by James Risen in the New York Times this past weekend an anonymous official claims: "That assessment holds up really well." No, it does not.
The authors of the 2007 NIE famously argued that the Iranians halted their nuclear weapons program in 2003 and had not restarted it since.
The U.S. intelligence community defined "nuclear weapons program" as "Iran's nuclear weapon design and weaponization work and covert uranium conversion-related and uranium enrichment-related work."
- The 2007 NIE was flat wrong about Iran's covert work. In September 2009, President Obama announced that "Iran has been building a covert uranium enrichment facility near Qom for several years." Obama noted that "the size and configuration of this facility is inconsistent with a peaceful program." Incredibly, the intelligence community was aware of the facility at Qom before it even published the 2007 NIE.
- One former intelligence official cited by Risen says, "Iran is the hardest intelligence target there is. It is harder by far than North Korea."
U.S. intelligence has long been almost entirely blind inside North Korea. According to Risen's source, the spooks' window into Iran is even smaller. They don't really know what is going on; they are making guesses.
- On January 3, 2010, the New York Times reported:
"Mr. Obama's top advisers say they no longer believe the key finding of a much disputed National Intelligence Estimate about Iran...which said that Iranian scientists ended all work on designing a nuclear warhead in late 2003....Obama's advisers say they believe the work on weapons design is continuing on a smaller scale - the same assessment reached by Britain, France, Germany and Israel."
- In November 2011 the IAEA reported: "Since 2002, the Agency has become increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile, about which the Agency has regularly received new information."
In short, the intelligence indicates the Iranians did not stop all work on weaponization.
The writer is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
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