Joint Greek-Israeli-U.S. Military Drill to Defend Gas Platforms at Sea - A. Papapostolou
Greece, Israel, and the U.S. are conducting joint air and naval exercises from March 26 until April 5, in part to simulate defending sea-borne gas drilling installations around the eastern Mediterranean.
The U.S. had conducted similar exercises with Turkey and Israel from 1998-2009, but these were canceled after Turkish president Erdogan suspended military cooperation with Israel in 2010.
Last week Israel, Greece and Cyprus announced a deal to cooperate on exploiting natural gas deposits in the Mediterranean.
See also Greek Participation in U.S.-Israel Military Drill Meant as a Message to Turkey (Israel Hayom)
Top Iranian Official Tours Lebanon-Israel Border (Daily Star-Lebanon)
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hussein Amir Abdollahian said during a tour of border areas in south Lebanon on Friday that
"Iran will uphold its pledge to support the resistance in Lebanon and Palestine until all territories have been liberated."
He was received by a Hizbullah delegation at the Fatima Gate in the village of Kfar Kila, a former border crossing between Lebanon and Israel which was closed in May 2000 following the Israeli pullout.
Secret Iran "Terror" Squad in Turkey Unmasked - Sam Kiley
Intelligence agencies are searching for members of a secret Iranian network of assassins under orders to attack Jewish, Israeli and Western targets in Turkey.
"[The] Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] makes a decision to conduct an attack, the Unit [Unit 400 of the Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force] activates a cell to perform it and recruits foreign agents as required....Training is sometimes given in Iran, as was the case prior to an attempted attack on the Israeli consul in Istanbul in 2011, and additional countries in the Middle East and Europe are used in order to blur Iran's connection to the attack," an intelligence document says.
See also Inside the Quds Force - Ronen Solomon (Israel Hayom)
The "Jerusalem Force" is Iran's global "long arm." It includes intelligence, finance, political, sabotage and special operations branches, and fields some 3,000 agents, many of whom traverse the globe under the guise of construction workers.
The Myth of Soaring Muslim Fertility Rates - Anna Lietti (Le Temps-Switzerland)
In the last 30 years, the number of children per woman in the Muslim world has dropped by more than 50%. In Iran, the drop is 75%; in North Africa it is 70%.
Today, many countries have dropped well below the population replacement rate: in Lebanon, there are 1.6 children per woman.
Under the secular Shah, Iranian women had an average of seven children each. Today, they have 1.8.
In 2005, for the first time the fertility among Palestinian women in eastern Jerusalem (3.94) dropped below the fertility rate for Jewish women (3.95).
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- U.S. to Meet with Iran over its Nuclear Program - Karen DeYoung
The U.S. and its international partners will meet with Iranian negotiators April 13-14 for a new round of talks over Iran's nuclear program, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Saturday.
"It will soon be clear whether Iran's leaders are prepared to have a serious, credible discussion...to start building the trust we need to move forward....So far, they have given little reason for confidence. What is certain is that Iran's window to do so will not remain open forever."
On Friday, President Obama certified that global oil supplies are sufficient to move ahead with the tougher economic sanctions against Iran scheduled to take effect this summer.
- U.S. Joins Effort to Equip and Pay Rebels in Syria - Steven Lee Myers
The U.S. and dozens of other countries moved closer on Sunday to direct intervention in the fighting in Syria, with Arab nations pledging $100 million to pay fighters of the Free Syrian Army and the Obama administration agreeing to send communications equipment to help rebels organize and evade Syria's military. The moves reflected a growing consensus among the officials who met in Istanbul under the rubric "Friends of Syria," that mediation efforts by UN peace envoy Kofi Annan were failing and that more forceful action was needed.
At the conference, Secretary of State Clinton said that Assad had defied Annan's efforts to broker an end to the fighting and begin a political transition. "The world must judge Assad by what he does, not by what he says...and we cannot sit back and wait any longer."
(New York Times)
See also Syria Won't Pull Out of Rebel Centers - Anne Barnard (New York Times)
- Erdogan, in Iran, Says NATO Radar Could Be Dismantled If Needed
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan gave assurances during a visit to Tehran on Thursday that a U.S. radar deployed in Turkey as part of a NATO missile defense system could be dismantled if Turkish conditions are not respected. Turkey insisted that no country be named as a source of threat and that data collected by the radar not be shared with Israel.
- Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Chooses Presidential Candidate - Jeffrey Fleishman
The Muslim Brotherhood Saturday chose its deputy leader, Khairat Shater, who was jailed for years under former President Hosni Mubarak, as its presidential candidate in the May election.
The Brotherhood, which controls the parliament, had promised not to run a contender to allay public fear that Islamists would dominate the government.
(Los Angeles Times)
See also The Muslim Brotherhood's Presidential Gambit - Marc Lynch
The writer is associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University. (Foreign Policy)
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- Perry-Tales in Foreign Policy - Ehud Yaari
On March 28, Mark Perry made the unreasonable claim in Foreign Policy that Israel intends to use airbases in Azerbaijan in the event that it'll move to attack Iran's nuclear installations. The story simply does not make any sense.
No one seems to have raised the real questions before rushing to publish or quote the Perry-tale:
How would the Israeli Air Force reach those airbases in Azerbaijan? Take a look at the map, Mr. Perry. Are the Israelis going to get a permit from Mr. Erdogan to fly over Turkey on their way to hit Iran? Or, alternatively, does Perry want us to believe that the Israelis will choose to bypass Turkey via the longer route over Greece and Bulgaria, thus becoming fully exposed to Russian radar in the Black Sea? There is no other way for the Israelis to get to Azerbaijan.
Another important issue emerges: How can Azerbaijan possibly afford to cooperate in an attack on Iran when it depends on Iran entirely for maintaining control over the Nakhichevan region of the country? Besides, Iranian missiles can quite easily knock out those airbases as well as the huge Azeri BP oil terminal near Baku, which is the lifeline of the country's economy.
(Times of Israel)
See also Israeli Analysts Deride Notion of Strike on Iran via Azerbaijan - Raphael Ahren
"It doesn't make any sense," said Ephraim Kam, deputy director of the Institute for National Security Studies and a former officer in the research division of the IDF's Military Intelligence branch. "If the Azeris were really to help Israel carry out an attack on Iran, they would pick a huge fight with Iran, and if Iran decided to strike Azerbaijan, nobody would come to their help. In my eyes this scenario seems absolutely impossible."
Shlomo Brom, a former chief of the IDF's strategic planning division, added: "It is known that Mark Perry is not a huge fan of Israel. What probably happened is that he took a kernel of truth - that Israel and Azerbaijan have good bilateral cooperation...and turned it into something that it is not." (Times of Israel)
See also White House Denies Leaking Info on Israeli Access to Azeri Airbases - Yitzhak Benhorin
A top White House official Saturday said the White House had "no interest" in leaks of this kind, adding that the administration would "gladly prosecute" the people behind it - if they knew who they were.
- Attacks Increase Against IDF Soldiers on Gaza Border - Gili Cohen
The IDF reports an increase in incidents involving patrols near the Gaza border in the last three weeks as troops located several improvised explosive devices along the route running parallel to the fence.
Lt. Col. Yariv Ben-Ezra said "there are many more tactical incidents, starting with anti-tank fire to mortars fired at us." (Ha'aretz)
See also IDF Kills Armed Gunman at Gaza Border - Yoni Dayan (Jerusalem Post)
- Syria's Cover for Murder - Editorial
In the ten days since the UN Security Council endorsed a six-point plan for Syria created by former secretary general Kofi Annan, 624 more Syrians have been reported killed, including 58 women and 45 children. The Annan plan calls for Syrian troops, tanks and artillery to withdraw from cities and towns. But according to multiple independent reports, those troops attacked and shelled the cities of Homs, Hama, Saraqeb, Daraa and Nawa this week.
We, among many others, pointed out at the time that the Annan plan would merely provide cover for Assad to go on killing his own people. Assad will never implement the plan. The Obama administration's de facto choice to tolerate the survival of a regime that is Iran's chief ally in the Middle East will neither prevent mass murder nor advance the pursuit of U.S. strategic interests.
- What If You Threw a Two Million Man Global March on Jerusalem, and Almost No One Showed Up? - William A. Jacobson
The Global March on Jerusalem has been promoted for months as a means by which up to two million people would crash Israel's borders.
All that showed up were a few thousand people at the Gaza border and a few hundred rock throwers in the West Bank.
There were modest sized protests in neighboring countries, but no March on Jerusalem. The writer is associate clinical professor at Cornell Law School.
See also Violence and Rejectionism at the Heart of Palestinian "Land Day" Show - Jonathan S. Tobin
The violent nature of the "Land Day" demonstrations and the demands raised by those participating give the lie to the notion that any of this has anything to do with the cause of Middle East peace. Should anyone actually be listening to what they are screaming, the Palestinians and their foreign cheerleaders are making it clear their goal is Israel's destruction.
Many of Israel's critics pretend that the dispute is about borders and settlements. But the Land Day extravaganza is about an attempt to reverse the verdict of 1948, not to place an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. If their foreign friends wish to help the Palestinians, they could do so by ceasing to support these pointless exercises in violence and to begin coming to terms with the permanence of the Jewish state.
See also Photos: Israeli Security Forces on "Land Day" - Judy Lash Balint (Times of Israel)
The U.S. Can Meet Israel Halfway on Iran - Dennis Ross and David Makovsky (Washington Post)
There is no daylight between the U.S. and Israel on the objective and the preferred means for dealing with Iranian nuclear ambitions. Both President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu agree that the objective is prevention, not containment, and that a nuclear Iran could set off an arms race in an already-dangerous region.
- Any differences stem from a basic reality: The U.S., given its significantly greater military capability, can afford to wait longer than Israel to give diplomacy time to succeed. From Israel's perspective, forgoing the use of force against an existential threat goes against that country's ethos of self-reliance.
- With negotiations with Iran set to begin April 13, there is a need to assuage the Israeli fear that negotiations will drag on beyond a point at which Israel would lose its military option. The U.S. should make publicly clear that while it is serious about giving diplomacy a chance, it will not engage in a phony process.
The better U.S. and Israeli clocks are synchronized, and the more Tehran understands this reality, the more likely the Iranians are to see that if they want to avoid force being used against them, they must take advantage of the diplomatic out that the U.S. is offering.
Dennis Ross was a special assistant to President Obama on the Middle East. David Makovsky is a distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
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