The U.S. Arming of Iraq Is a Mistake - Dore Gold (Israel Hayom)
There are multiple signs indicating that Iraq is increasingly becoming a satellite state of Iran.
There is a considerable Iranian military presence within Iraq, which commands significant political influence. In January 2012, the commander of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards, General Qassem Sulemani, was widely quoted by the Arab press as boasting that Iran today is in control of Southern Lebanon as well as Iraq.
Dr. Amal al-Hazani, a professor at King Saud University in Riyadh, wrote in al-Sharq al-Awsat on Jan. 28 that "even Sunni politicians in Iraq confessed meekly that the Quds Force is the absolute master of Iraqi affairs."
Israel is increasingly concerned with intelligence reports that the Revolutionary Guards are solidifying their presence in Iraq.
The context of the Israeli concern is the Obama administration's decision to go ahead with the sale of 36 advanced F-16 Block 52 fighters, which have the same capabilities as the F-16 fighter jets sold to Israel.
Iraq is expected to need a total of six fighter squadrons to defend its airspace, which could lead to a force of up to 96 aircraft.
With the Iranian penetration of Iraq continuing, no one should be surprised of reports in the future that Iranian pilots are inspecting the Iraqi F-16s in order to develop their own countermeasures to Western aircraft and weapons systems.
If the administration is equipping Iraq to be a counterweight to Iran, then somebody in Washington is making a big mistake.
The writer, a former Israeli UN ambassador, is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Palestinian Nabbed at Checkpoint on Way to Passover Terror Attack - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
A Palestinian was apprehended Wednesday at the Bekaot checkpoint in the Jordan Valley after a search of his belongings with a metal detector triggered an alarm. He was found to be carrying seven improvised explosive devices, three knives and rifle bullets.
This is the third time a would-be terrorist was caught at the Bekaot checkpoint over the past few months.
Israel Goes After Gaza with GPS (Strategy Page)
Last year, Israel decided to replace most of its 155mm artillery with GPS-guided rockets. Firing GPS rockets at terrorist targets in Gaza will be a lot cheaper, and, with more shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles showing up in Gaza, a lot safer for Israeli aircraft.
The U.S. has shared its experience with GPS-guided rockets in built-up areas in Iraq and Afghanistan. This made it clear that GPS-guided rockets were the way to go.
With its GPS-guided rockets, Israel expects to take out more targets with far fewer rockets and artillery shells.
American Universities Infected by Foreign Spies Detected by FBI - Daniel Golden (Bloomberg)
Growing signs of spying on U.S. universities are alarming national security officials. As schools become more global in their locations and student populations, their culture of openness and international collaboration makes them increasingly vulnerable to theft of research conducted for the government and industry.
"We have intelligence and cases indicating that U.S. universities are indeed a target of foreign intelligence services," Frank Figliuzzi, FBI assistant director for counterintelligence, said in a February interview.
40 Million Kurds: The World's Largest Stateless People - Alon Ben-Meir (Jerusalem Post)
The Kurdish nation includes more than 40 million people, the majority of whom live on a contiguous land-mass that includes Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria.
The Kurds are the world's largest minority group that remains stateless.
Kurdish territory was divided after World War I among the four countries, with the sole exception of the short-lived Kingdom of Kurdistan from September 1922 to July 1924 when the Kurds enjoyed political independence.
Innovative Packaging Keeps Food Fresh for Weeks - David Shamah (Times of Israel)
The Israeli company Oplon has signed an agreement with a large multinational food manufacturer for the development of packaging materials based
on innovative technology that can prevent microbacterial infestation of foods and beverages.
Oplon specializes in materials that ward off the growth of bacteria on surfaces. The coatings use a special set of molecules that create an electrical charge, zapping bacteria.
According to Oplon, the packaging can keep food germ-free for days - and even weeks - without refrigeration or preservatives.
Water stored in Oplon containers will be disinfected, even if it is drawn from contaminated sources.
Oplon is also developing materials for medical use. Patches, catheters and tubes made out of Oplon material may significantly reduce infections in hospitals.
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- Middle East Mediators Seek to Revive Israel-Palestine Peace Talks - Arshad Mohammed
Middle East peace mediators on Wednesday stood behind their September 23, 2011, call for the parties to reach a peace deal by the end of 2012, an objective that seems increasingly remote.
See also Quartet Calls for Direct Israeli-Palestinian Talks without Preconditions - Herb Keinon
The Middle East Quartet issued a statement Wednesday in Washington calling for an initial meeting between Israel and the Palestinians within 30 days, leading to the trading of comprehensive proposals on security and territory within three months, direct negotiations and an overall agreement by the end of 2012.
The Israeli Prime Minister's Office issued a communique welcoming the Quartet statement "calling for a continuation of direct talks without preconditions."
The Quartet statement also encouraged Israel and the PA "to cooperate to facilitate the social and economic development of Area C," the part of the West Bank under full Israeli control. Israeli officials said that what was important about the Quartet statement was that it called for development in Area C through Israeli-Palestinian cooperation. The statement also condemned the Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza, without blasting Israel for its retaliatory military actions.
See also Statement of the Middle East Quartet - April 11, 2012 (U.S. State Department)
See also Netanyahu, Following International Plea for Progress, Suggests Direct Talks with Abbas - Raphael Ahren (Times of Israel)
See also Palestinians Spurn Netanyahu's Invitation to Resume Talks (AP-Washington Post)
- Uneasy Quiet Descends on Syria; New Calls for Protests
The opposition Syrian National Council Thursday called for demonstrations to test the resolve of the government to abide by a UN-brokered cease-fire, just hours after an uneasy calm appeared to take hold across the country. Council spokesman Fawaz Zakri said: "If the Syrian regime indeed stops the killings and abides by the cease-fire, then we think, we are sure, that the demonstrations will come back more powerfully and will cover very nearly all of Syria."
White House spokesman Jay Carney cautioned that President Assad's regime has reneged on promises to stop the violence in the past.
- Egyptian Court Clears Way for Salafi Presidential Candidate
An Egyptian court has ruled that the mother of Hazem Abu Ismail, 50, a popular ultraconservative Islamist viewed as one of the strongest contenders for president, is not a U.S. citizen, likely clearing the way for him to run in May elections. Under the country's electoral law, all candidates for the presidency, their parents and their wives must have only Egyptian citizenship.
Abu Ismail advocates a strict interpretation of Islam similar to the one practiced in Saudi Arabia. The court session was adjourned repeatedly during the day as supporters of the Salafi candidate filled the court room and also demonstrated outside the State Council. (Al Arabiya)
See also Egyptian Presidential Candidate Abu Ismail: 9/11 Was "Fabricated" to Defame Islam (MEMRI TV)
- Clinton Overrules Republican Lawmaker's Hold on Palestinian Aid - Sara Sorcher
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is allowing U.S. funds to flow to the West Bank and Gaza despite a hold by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), in a rare display of executive-branch authority.
Administrations generally do not disburse funding over the objections of lawmakers on relevant committees.
"The U.S. has given $3 billion in aid to the Palestinians in the last five years alone, and what do we have to show for it?" Ros-Lehtinen said on Wednesday. "Now the administration is sending even more. Where is the accountability for U.S. taxpayer dollars?" (National Journal)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Cairo Reinforces Troops in Sinai as Smuggling Continues - Anshel Pfeffer
Egyptian army roadblocks are now manned by soldiers using APCs rather than police officers, but many are abandoned at night. Despite the reinforcements, seven battalions beyond the deployment levels specified in the Camp David treaties, the Egyptian army does not dare position isolated soldiers along the main road of northern Sinai out of fear of Bedouin attacks.
The reinforcements did not prevent the attacks on the natural gas pipeline to Israel, which was recently sabotaged again for the 14th time. The battalions sent to Sinai are filled with inexperienced, raw recruits, and their armored vehicles are almost all old Soviet wrecks. Few officers are visible. In my previous visits to northern Sinai, you couldn't cross the road without running into hundreds of police and Mukhabarat secret police operatives who flooded the region. Now there is no sign of them.
In Rafah and El-Arish in Sinai, most of the election posters are of the Salafist preacher Hazem Abu-Ismail. His bearded face jumps out from walls in towns where all the women are covered from head to foot - and the image of other candidates is absent. (Ha'aretz)
- Ayalon: Pollard Still in Jail Due to FBI Error - Gil Hoffman
Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard remains in an American jail in part because of a mistaken theory in the U.S. Justice Department and FBI that he had an accomplice whom Israel has refused to name, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told the Jerusalem Post Wednesday. "There of course was no partner, and the charge is totally outrageous, yet it is difficult to shake. This unrealistic and stupid suspicion could be one explanation as to why he is still in jail after so many years when others who did much more damage spying for real enemies have gotten out."
Ayalon said Passover would have been an ideal time for President Obama to commute Pollard's life sentence to the 26.5 years he has already served.
See also Let Pollard Go! - Editorial
Pollard is in his 27th year of imprisonment for passing American intelligence (about inimical third countries Iraq, Libya, the then-PLO headquarters in Tunis) to a friendly country (Israel). He should have been freed long ago and not only because his health is now failing.
His continued incarceration is plainly unjust. Lighter punishment was meted to assorted U.S. spies for greater offenses, including those involving tangible security risks to America. Pollard's life-term is unprecedented for transferring classified material to an ally.
We cannot escape the impression that the only reason Pollard is still denied his freedom is because he is Jewish and hence his disproportionate punishment. It is certainly high time the torment of the aging Pollard be discontinued. He has more than paid for what he did. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Call for Peres to Refuse Medal If Pollard Not Freed
Veteran Israel Radio morning news anchor Aryeh Golan called on President Peres Wednesday to consider not accepting the U.S. Medal
of Freedom from President Obama if Obama refuses to release Pollard.
See also Conference of Presidents Leaders Back Peres' Request for Pollard's Release (Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations)
- The Muslim Brotherhood Goes to Washington - Irfan Al-Alawi
Regardless of its honeyed words and the slick, updated, Westernized vocabulary of its traveling exponents, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood cannot, in its middle sectors, its base, and its fundamental outlook, change. It is a thoroughly Islamist party with a profoundly retrograde vision of a state based on religious dictates. Sooner or later, as soon as it thinks it is strong enough to prevail, the mask will fall, and the promises it made in Washington and elsewhere will be shrugged aside. Like the Turkish AKP, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood will be exposed as a party working toward the installation of permanent clerical authority.
The writer is executive director of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation and international director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism in Washington.
- The First Year of the Egyptian Revolution: Assessment and Predictions - Former Israeli Ambassador to Egypt Itzhak Levanon
Few in Egypt believe that the army is sincere about the transfer of power to the civilians. Many believe that the real objective of the army is to maintain its special status.
After years of imposed political exile, the Muslim Brotherhood has entered domestic political life in Egypt by the front door. At an early stage after the revolution, we detected at least a tacit understanding between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood, to the detriment of the revolutionaries.
My assessment is that the Muslim Brotherhood will compromise with others and will seek a consensus. They understand that if there is failure, the failure will be theirs. This is why they would like to share it with others, and this basically means pluralism. This does not mean that they will not work very hard in order to reach their objective, which is to capture the public, not to change the regime. If they can spread their ideology to enough people, the change will come from them.
There are still security contacts at the upper levels between Israel and Egypt, and this is because there is an interest on both sides, but there are no bilateral relations. The public in Egypt is not aware enough that the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt is an Egyptian interest, no less than an Israeli one. It would be wise at this early stage to explain to the Egyptian public that the alternative to peace is a nightmare that we should all avoid.
(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Shielding Egypt's Military from Political Change - Marwa Awad
Numbering at least 468,000 men, Egypt has the largest military force in the Arab world. More than half are conscripts. Senior military officers have dominated Egypt's politics and large chunks of its economy since seizing control in a 1952 coup.
One of the keys to the military's power is its grip on business. Under Egypt's 1979 peace deal with Israel, the military had to shrink its forces. But instead of sacking hundreds of thousands of men, commanders opened factories to employ them. Those plants now produce everything from components for ammunition to pots and pans, fire extinguishers, and cutlery. The military also runs banks, tourism operations, farms, water treatment plants, a petrol station chain, construction firms, and import companies.
Businesses owned solely by the military are exempt from tax, and often built on the backs of poorly paid conscripts, who make $17-28 a month. "A conscript goes into the army less for training, and more for working in one of the military factories or business schemes," said Ahmed Naggar, an economic analyst at the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. Senior military figures argue that Egypt's new constitution must shield the military from the instability of political change.
- A Last Chance for a Deal with Iran on Nuclear Weapons? - Editorial
If Tehran again refuses to make concessions, and continues to press ahead with uranium enrichment at a new underground facility, military action by Israel or the U.S. may become inevitable. Hardly anyone, however, thinks it likely that the U.S. and its partners will be able to strike a deal that ends the Iranian nuclear threat or satisfies UN resolutions on the issue. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei appears firmly opposed to any lasting accord.
The Obama administration has spelled out what it thinks is necessary: an Iranian agreement to cease its higher-level enrichment of uranium to the level of 20%; to export the 100 kg. of fuel already processed to that level; and to close down the new facility buried under a mountain near the city of Qom. A deal along those lines would offend Israel and many in Congress. Like them, we have taken the position that Iran should stop all enrichment, as required by the UN resolutions, in order to obtain sanctions relief. But Iranian compliance with the administration's terms could greatly reduce tensions, and it could prevent the program from moving into what Israel describes as a "zone of immunity," in which it could be invulnerable to a conventional Israeli air attack.
The risk is that it would be counterproductive in the medium term, because it would ease what is now mounting economic pressure on Iran and allow the regime breathing space. It could leave the nuclear program in a stronger position than it was - with more centrifuges and enough low-enriched uranium to make several nuclear bombs with further processing. If the regime refused a more comprehensive deal, or cheated, it might be difficult to restore sanctions that only now finally appear to be biting. (Washington Post)
- The Second-Term Illusion: Or, Why Barack Won't Be Beating Up on Bibi Next Year - Aaron David Miller
According to popular legend, an American president, unshackled by the politics of reelection, is more willing and able to do forceful Arab-Israeli diplomacy (read: pressure on Israel) during a second term.
History tells a different and more grounded tale. Most of the toughest diplomacy, particularly with the Israelis, occurred in a president's first term, not the second. Of all the second-term diplomacy undertaken by various American presidents, none really fits the model of the empowered, tough-minded two-termer.
With Israel and now America focused so much on the mullahs' putative nuclear capacity, it's hard to see how any Israeli prime minister would make any concessions on peace with the Palestinians until the Iran situation were much clearer. Add to that the southward-bound direction of the Israeli-Egyptian relationship and you have 1,001 reasons to avoid decisions on the Palestinian issue.
Remember, for a two-term president, legacy cuts both ways: You want to be remembered as the hero, not the goat, and that means leaving a vapor trail of kudos, not stumbles, let alone outright failures. And going all out on Arab-Israeli peace when the conditions just aren't there has failure written all over it.
- Book Urges Germans to Quiz Dying Nazi Generation - David Crossland
Germany's Nazi past has remained a taboo subject in millions of family homes - with children and grandchildren declining to press their elders on what they did in the war.
At least 20 to 25 million Germans knew about the Holocaust while it was happening, and some 10 million fought on the Eastern Front in a war of annihilation that targeted civilians from the start. That, says German historian Moritz Pfeiffer, makes the genocide and the crimes against humanity a part of family history.
Time is running out. The answer to how a cultured, civilized nation stooped so low lies in the minds of the dying Third Reich generation, many of whom are ready and willing to talk at the end of their lives, says Pfeiffer, 29, a historian at a museum on the SS at Wewelsburg Castle who has just completed an unprecedented research project based on his own family. "Towards the end of one's life the distance to the events is so great that people are ready to give testimony....Now the problem is that no one is listening to that generation anymore."
In My Grandfather in the War 1939-1945, Pfeiffer
juxtaposed his findings with context from up-to-date historical research on the period to shed new light on the generation that unquestioningly followed Hitler, failed to own up to its guilt in the immediate aftermath of the war and, more than six decades on, remains unable to express personal remorse for the civilian casualties of Hitler's war of aggression, let alone for the Holocaust.
- Wartime Documents Tell Story of Lost Soviet Communities - Revital Blumenfeld
More than a million new testimonial pages about Jews in the Soviet Union are to be released by Yad Vashem beginning on Holocaust Remembrance Day, in the wake of agreements with the KGB archives and the national archives of Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. "There are many black holes concerning communities and individuals in Central and Eastern Europe, where the majority of Jews lived," says Dr. Haim Gertner, head of the archives division of the Yad Vashem World Center for Holocaust Research, Documentation and Education. The region "includes entire villages that were wiped out by the Nazis in one day, and nobody was left to narrate what happened."
Dr. Arkadi Zeltser, head of Yad Vashem's center for the research of Jews of the Soviet Union during the Holocaust, says on the eve of the war some five million Jews lived in the Soviet Union; by the end of the war, some 2.7 million had been murdered. (Ha'aretz)
Beware of Faulty Intelligence - Ronen Bergman (New York Times)
- In January 2007, Israeli intelligence officials were horrified by information acquired when Mossad agents broke into the hotel room of a senior Syrian official in London and downloaded the contents of his laptop. The pilfered files revealed that Syria, aided by North Korea, was building a nuclear reactor that could produce an atomic bomb.
Until then, according to military intelligence officials, Israeli intelligence thought Syria had no nuclear program.
- The discovery caused a panic in Israel, and grave concern in Washington, which had relied heavily on Israel's assurances that it knew everything about Syria. By the time the reactor was discovered, it was almost ready to become operational.
- The lesson in humility that intelligence agencies should have learned from this affair is evident. I was therefore surprised by the assertions of American and Israeli officials I interviewed who repeatedly stated, "we will know," when we talked about the possibility of Iran's moving to produce nuclear weapons.
- In Jerusalem and Washington, officials assume that as soon as information is received that Iran has moved to build nuclear weapons, Israel will decide to attack its nuclear facilities. The momentous decision will be driven to an extraordinary extent by intelligence reports. But even though intense focus on Iran's nuclear program has presumably increased the volume of intelligence gathered about it, it remains true that intelligence officers tend to rely heavily on a few trusted sources. And it may be only human for a case officer to be excited by discovering something that appears to be a secret.
- Bits of data can be misread, however, and erroneous analysis has a habit of finding its way to those most eager to use it. So in watching Iran's nuclear project, even a slight intelligence gaffe could have an outcome of historic proportions.
The writer is a senior political and military analyst for Yediot Ahronot.
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