The Muslim Brotherhood's Mendacious Charm Campaign in Washington - Eric Trager (New Republic)
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace hosted a Muslim Brotherhood delegation in Washington last week to better understand how the Islamist group will govern Egypt.
The Brotherhood came with an agenda: selling itself as a "moderate" organization by completely misrepresenting itself.
Thus, the Brotherhood presented a version of its politics very different from the one that would be familiar to Egyptians.
For instance, when asked about the organization's plan to sink Egypt's peace treaty with Israel by putting it to a referendum - which multiple Brotherhood officials have called for quite publicly - Brotherhood MP Abdel al-Dardery simply denied it.
The Brotherhood also denied the limited representation that it had afforded Christians and secularists on the Constituent Assembly, which will write Egypt's next constitution.
The writer is a Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
The Squeeze on Iran - David Ignatius (Washington Post)
As Iran prepares for talks about its nuclear program, it faces an economic squeeze that is growing tighter by the month. Iranian oil exports fell by about 300,000 barrels per day in March as countries cut back imports.
Economic sanctions are often regarded as an ineffective weapon because they rarely have a "crippling" effect. But with the Iranian sanctions, the bite may actually be worse than the bark.
That's because in a globalized economy, decisions taken at the financial hubs in America, Europe and Japan can move instantaneously along the world's financial nervous system to the most distant nodes.
Are Pakistan's Nukes "Islamic"? - Hirsh Goodman (Jerusalem Post)
Hafiz Saeed, the leader of the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba and accused of planning the 2008 attacks on Mumbai, on Wednesday taunted the U.S. at a news conference in Rawalpindi, near Pakistan's military headquarters, a day after Washington offered $10 million for information leading to his capture.
The Saeed press conference could not have been held unless the Pakistani security services wanted it to.
The American killing last year of Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil where he had been hiding for several years was as open a signal as one could wish for that military trust has broken down between the Pakistanis and the Americans.
What I hear are alarm bells; a wake-up call. It is time for the world to start being worried about Pakistan as well.
According to the 2010 Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the Pakistanis have between 70 and 90 nuclear weapons; others have claimed 250, a figure reported in the Washington Post in 2011.
They have 10,000-20,000 highly advanced centrifuges producing bomb-grade material in Kahuta and missiles with a range of 2,500 km.
Imagine a world with multiple fundamentalist Islamic nuclear powers, with Pakistan and Iran at its head.
The writer is a senior research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.
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News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
- White House: "The Window Is Closing on Iran"
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday:
"We are committed to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Iran needs to take steps to demonstrate that they, in a verifiable way, do not want to and will not pursue the acquiring of a nuclear weapon.... Regardless of what the Iranians have said about what their intentions are, no one on the international stage has faith in those assurances."
"The President has made clear that the window is closing on Iran.... President Obama has made clear that it is his policy to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. He has also made clear that we currently still have time and space to allow for a diplomatic solution." (White House)
- Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Candidate Says He Is Running to Counter Military Rule - Leila Fadel
The Muslim Brotherhood's presidential candidate said Sunday that he entered the race to cement the Islamist group's political ascendancy amid fears that the country's ruling military chiefs could hijack the transition to democratic rule.
Khairat al-Shater, a multimillionaire who has been the Brotherhood's chief financier and strategist, said the move followed the military council's refusal to allow the Brotherhood's political party, which dominates Egypt's new parliament, to appoint a new interim cabinet. The Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party has almost half of the seats in parliament, but is without any executive authority.
Shater distanced himself from a resolution passed in parliament that demanded the revision of the peace treaty with Israel and the ouster of the Israeli ambassador from Egypt. He said all treaties would be respected but are open for revision.
Will Egypt's El-Nur Party Endorse Muslim Brotherhood's Presidential Candidate? - Haitham Tabei
Sources within the Salafist Al-Nur Party - the second largest party after the Muslim Brotherhood - revealed that the party's support for the Muslim Brotherhood's presidential candidate Khairat al-Shater has caused a dispute within the party with supporters of presidential candidate Salah Abu-Ismail. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
- Assad's Forces Using Women and Children as Human Shields - Rolla Scolari
Refugees fleeing Syria's Idlib province have given detailed eyewitness accounts of numerous incidents of Syrian security forces using women and children as human shields in recent weeks. They described seeing Syrian soldiers forcing children to march in front of their tanks as government forces advanced into rebel strongholds. "The use of human shields is a war crime and those responsible should be held accountable," said Human Rights Watch researcher Ole Solvang.
HRW also issued a report documenting more than a dozen incidents of summary executions, in which Syrian forces killed at least 101 civilians and wounded or captured rebels. (Christian Science Monitor)
See also No Sign of Syrian Troop Pullback as UN Deadline Passes (AP-Fox News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel: "Assad Is Past the Point of No Return" - Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel
The consensus in the Israeli intelligence community is that Syria's Assad sooner or later will be ousted. "Assad is past the point of no return," says a senior cabinet minister. "He won't be able to restore his position as Syria's undisputed leader.... Resistance is growing, even in Damascus." (Ha'aretz)
- PA Has Little Choice But to Engage Netanyahu - Herb Keinon
The Palestinians may be somewhat more amenable to restart direct negotiations with Israel, if only because since they broke off the low-level talks in Jordan in January, they have pretty much been pushed off the world's radar screen. Indeed, next week's meeting between PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Netanyahu may be a sign that the PA is rethinking its tactics as the world is focused elsewhere.
Limiting Palestinian options even further is the fact that the much-hyped Doha reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas in February has led nowhere.
- Squandered Leverage over Iran - Michael Singh
The U.S. holds a strong bargaining position going into Friday's scheduled nuclear talks with Iran. An Israeli military attack seems imminent. U.S.- and EU-led sanctions on Iran's Central Bank and oil exports are wreaking havoc on the Iranian economy. Yet it is the U.S. that is signaling that it is prepared to make concessions - setting the stage for Washington's unprecedented leverage to be squandered.
The U.S. should insist that Iran suspend all of its uranium enrichment activities, take steps to address International Atomic Energy Agency concerns about its nuclear work, including coming clean about its weaponization research, and submit to intrusive monitoring and verification. These points are required by UN Security Council Resolution 1929 and preceding resolutions.
The Obama administration should also insist that Iran transport its enriched uranium stockpiles out of the country, dismantle the Fordo facility and stop work on advanced centrifuges.
Only if Iran takes these steps can the U.S. be sure that it will not use negotiations to buy time or perfect its nuclear weapons capabilities. Doing any less would waste precious leverage that has taken years to build.
The writer, managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, worked on Middle East issues at the National Security Council from 2005 to 2008.
- Another "Last Chance" for Iran - David Menashri
President Obama is again offering a carrot in the hope that Iran will prefer a diplomatic settlement over the biting sanctions scheduled for the summer. Obama will present himself as the man who offered the Iranians a ladder to climb down from the tree that they are on.
The proposal also sends an important signal to Iran's youth that the U.S. is prepared to give diplomacy another chance and that it is offering Iran's leaders an exit with honor.
This is also an important message to the American people, who have no enthusiasm for another military adventure in the Middle East, that their president is really trying every other option.
It should not be forgotten that, in the past, when pushed into the corner, Iran agreed to proposals before subsequently retreating from them, or making statements later found to be completely baseless. Only if the pressure on it increases, and offers are made which Iran can compromise on while keeping its honor, is there any chance for diplomacy. The writer is President of the Academic Center of Law and Business in Ramat Gan and a researcher at the Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University.
- The UN's Failed Plan for Syrian Peace - Editorial
Twenty days have passed since the UN Security Council endorsed the Syria peace plan of former secretary-general Kofi Annan. Annan and his backers have merely provided cover for Assad to go on slaughtering his own people. It was clear from the outset that Assad would never implement the UN terms, including a cease-fire, because to do so would cause the collapse of his regime.
See also If Assad Survives - Editorial
The last time Kofi Annan embarked on a diplomatic mission to Damascus, after the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbullah, the then-UN secretary general extracted a promise from Bashar Assad not to allow weapons to cross the border with Lebanon. It was a promise Assad instantly flouted, allowing Hizbullah to double its prewar arsenal. This time Syrian troops used Annan's "truce" window to escalate their assault on opposition hotbeds and lay mines along the border with Turkey.
(Wall Street Journal)
See also Why Did Anyone Believe Bashar al-Assad's Promises of a Ceasefire to Begin With? - Radwan Ziadeh (New Republic)
U.S., Israel Need to Stay in Sync on Iran Talks - Gerald F. Seib (Wall Street Journal)
- Iranian negotiators are meeting officials from the U.S. and other world powers late this week for talks on Tehran's nuclear program - unless, of course, the Iranians decide they want the talks in a different city, or on a different day, or perhaps not at all.
- One of the most important players in this game, Israel, won't be in the room. But if the talks are to succeed, it will be important for Israel, sitting outside the room, and the U.S., sitting inside the room, to agree on basic strategy.
- Both U.S. and Israeli officials think a constructive meeting last month between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu produced more of a meeting of minds than emerged from some previous conversations between the two.
- Netanyahu declared Sunday that Israel wants an end to all enrichment - not just the higher-grade uranium - and the removal of all the uranium Iran already has enriched, as well as closure of the Fordo enrichment facility.
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