Shelling in Homs as UN Monitors Begin Syria Work (AP-Washington Post)
An advance team of UN observers on Monday was working out with Syrian officials the ground rules for monitoring the country's 5-day-old cease-fire, which appeared to be rapidly unraveling as regime forces pounded the opposition stronghold of Homs with artillery shells and mortars, activists said.
IDF Suspends Officer for Striking Anti-Israel Activist - Lilach Shoval, Yori Yalon and Daniel Siryoti (Israel Hayom)
The Israel Defense Forces on Monday suspended Lt. Col. Shalom Eisner after a video depicting him assaulting an anti-Israel activist flooded the world media.
Eisner said he "acted instinctively" after his fingers were broken earlier in the day by the stick-wielding Danish activist belonging to the International Solidarity Movement.
IDF Spokesman Yoav Mordechai noted that the video released by the ISM was edited and did not reflect the whole story.
"We only saw a part of the footage, there were 20 foreign activists shown on the tape, not the 250 Palestinians behind them who tried to block the road. We saw only the blow on the tape, not the two hours of provocations before," Mordechai said.
German Ship Carrying Weapons Stopped Near Syria (Der Spiegel-Germany)
A German-owned freighter, the Atlantic Cruiser, stopped on Friday 80 km. off the Syrian port of Tartus after defectors from inside the Syrian government warned the shipping company that it had picked up heavy military equipment and munitions meant for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad's regime from an Iranian freighter in Djibouti.
"We stopped the ship after getting information on the weapons cargo," said shipping agent Torsten Luddeke of Hamburg-based C.E.G. Bulk Chartering.
Kicking the Iran Can Past Election Day - Benny Avni (New York Post)
Menashe Amir, director of Israel Radio's Farsi service, predicts that the mullahs indeed will present some kind of compromise at the first round of negotiations - "just enough to assure that this won't be the last round, and that the dialogue will continue."
But the sole decision-maker on the issue, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has spent billions of dollars on the nuclear project; he plainly thinks that nuclear status is essential for establishing Iran as a regional, if not global, superpower. That's why many Iran-watchers reject the idea that the current pressure is enough to push him into abandoning the project.
Sadly, Washington - and to a lesser degree the Europeans and everyone else - is also playing for time.
That, more than any supposed shifts inside Tehran, is why we can expect "encouraging" progress reports from Istanbul.
Israeli Donor Saves Turkish Patient's Life (Hurriyet-Turkey)
A Turkish leukemia patient, out of treatment options after 22 years, was matched with a bone marrow donor from Israel, resulting in a life-saving surgery.
"I am indebted to the woman who gave me her marrow, and I want to meet her someday. She gave me a second chance at life," the patient, Mehmet Burhan Gul, 55, told Anatolia news agency.
An international database of 15 million donors resulted in one match - a woman in Israel.
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- Iran Nuclear Talks Spark Skepticism - Jay Solomon and Joe Parkinson
Renewed negotiations between Iran and international powers over Tehran's nuclear program this weekend already are facing fire from Israel and American lawmakers, who fear the Islamic Republic is seeking to use the revived diplomatic track to forestall additional economic sanctions while continuing to advance its nuclear work.
"My initial impression is that Iran has been given a 'freebie'," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu said on Sunday. "It has got five weeks to continue enrichment without any limitation, any inhibition."
American and European officials acknowledged Saturday that they didn't press Iran to take any specific actions to curb its nuclear program during the Istanbul meetings. Indeed, Iranian chief negotiator Saeed Jalili offered few indications on Saturday that Iran was ready to comply with the international community's demands. He said Tehran expected U.S., UN and EU sanctions to be lifted as the dialogue continued.
Leading American lawmakers on Sunday countered that Congress would intensify sanctions if Tehran didn't immediately freeze its production of nuclear fuel.
"We should not mistake positive diplomatic dialogue for compliance with UN Security Council resolutions," said a spokesman for Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.).
(Wall Street Journal)
See also Disappointment in Jerusalem on U.S. Stance in Iran Nuclear Talks - Eli Bardenstein
Despite secret contacts between Israel and the U.S. on a joint position prior to the nuclear talks in Istanbul, senior political sources in Jerusalem on Sunday
criticized the conduct of the negotiations opposite the Iranians and expressed deep disappointment over the results of the talks.
See also Obama: U.S. Offering No "Freebies" to Iran in Nuclear Talks
President Barack Obama on Sunday insisted that the U.S. has not "given anything away" in new talks with Iran. He said he refused to let the talks turn into a "stalling process."
"The notion that somehow we've given something away or a 'freebie' would indicate Iran has gotten something. In fact, they've got some of the toughest sanctions that they're going to be facing coming up in just a few months if they don't take advantage of these talks."
Obama warned Iran, "The clock's ticking." (AP-Washington Post)
See also Iranian Negotiator Dismisses Suspension of Iran's Nuclear Activities
Tehran's chief negotiator Saeed Jalili dismissed suspension of Iran's nuclear activities as impossible, saying that the plan to withdraw sanctions in return for a suspension of Iran's nuclear activities belongs to the past. On Saturday, Jalili rejected a suspension of Iran's 20% uranium enrichment.
- Airlines Cancel "Flytilla" Tickets at Israel's Request
European airlines cancelled tickets for an unspecified number of passengers planning to attend a pro-Palestinian "fly-in" at Ben-Gurion airport outside Tel Aviv this weekend after Israel raised objections.
French carrier Air France and British low fares airline Jet2.com said Saturday they had joined Germany's Lufthansa in canceling seats on flights to Tel Aviv.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday advised activists to concentrate on solving "real problems" in the region.
"You could have chosen to protest the Syrian regime's daily savagery against its own people, which has claimed thousands of lives.
You could have chosen to protest the Iranian regime's brutal crackdown on dissent and support of terrorism throughout the world.
You could have chosen to protest Hamas rule in Gaza, where terror organizations commit a double war crime by firing rockets at civilians and hiding behind civilians."
Netanyahu said Israel was "the Middle East's sole democracy, where women are equal...human rights organizations can operate freely, religious freedom is protected for all.
We therefore suggest that you first solve the real problems of the region, and then come back and share with us your experience." (AFP)
See also Letter Presented to Pro-Palestinian Protesters (Prime Minister's Office)
See also Palestinian Activists Stopped at Swiss Airports
Members of "Welcome to Palestine" say at least 50 activists were prevented from flying to Tel Aviv from Basel, Geneva and Zurich on Sunday. Their names were on a blacklist maintained by Israel.
See also Israel Thanks European Airlines for Blocking Pro-Palestinian Activists - Yaakov Lappin, Herb Keinon, and Tovah Lazaroff
Israeli Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch on Sunday thanked European countries and airlines for refusing to allow hundreds of activists to board aircraft bound for Israel. Over 60 activists who had reached Israel were barred entry.
At least 30 activists were taken to Givon prison in Ramle pending their return flights, and activists from Portugal, Canada, Switzerland and France have already been flown out of the country, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Egypt: Conflict between Brotherhood, Military Turns into Open Warfare - Zvi Mazel
Suddenly the Muslim Brothers have 47% of the seats in the new parliament, and together with the Salafists can muster nearly three-quarters. Now they are flexing their muscles. They want the current Ganzouri government to resign; they threaten to pass a no-confidence motion. They have the votes for it. Secular and liberal forces are all too aware that this is their very last opportunity to stop the wave of radical Islam threatening to engulf Egypt and turn it into an Islamic dictatorship.
The writer is a former ambassador to Egypt.
See also Egypt Presidential Elections Likely to Be Delayed - Zvi Bar'el
The decision of Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) that the presidential elections scheduled for May will only take place after the drafting of a new constitution is likely to delay the elections by months, if not more.
See also Egypt Bars 3 Front-Runners from Presidential Race - Maggie Michael (AP)
- Tehran Needs to Drop the Defiance - Roula Khalaf
With every looming round of nuclear negotiations with Iran, the same refrain is heard in Western capitals: this is Tehran's "last chance." But then the talks fail, and Iran moves one or several steps forward with its nuclear program without quite having to confront the "last chance."
The consequences of failure in the talks starting in Istanbul this weekend will be enormously costly. The U.S. appears convinced that Israel will resort to military action as early as this summer if the nuclear negotiations do not produce progress. The U.S. administration needs Iran's leader Ayatollah Khamenei
to understand that Israel will go ahead with military strikes this year despite U.S. opposition, without ruling out American military options in the future.
The objective of the talks is not a comprehensive solution to the nuclear dilemma but a limited deal that neutralizes the Fordow underground nuclear facility, which is outside the reach of Israeli military planners. This is where Iran has been enriching uranium to 20%, a level that would allow it to easily switch to the higher weapons-grade purity. Suspending the enrichment and sending the existing stockpile out of Iran would be a first step towards putting an end to nuclear activities at Fordow.
- The Talks with Iran - Elliott Abrams
What happened in Istanbul? Judging from the account in the New York Times, not much. The EU's Lady Ashton says the talks were "useful and constructive."
The Times continues: "I don't think they would come if they weren't serious," one Western diplomat said. Serious about what? The fact that there appear to have been no concrete proposals discussed, yet the next meeting is delayed now for five weeks, suggests skepticism about Iranian "seriousness."
Note that the head of the U.S. delegation, Wendy Sherman, requested a private one-on-one meeting with the head of the Iranian delegation. She was the one asking, not Saeed Jalili. This action ensures that the U.S. appears to Iran as a suitor, anxious for these talks to succeed - and apparently more anxious than is Iran. (Council on Foreign Relations)
- Delineating Western Goals
during Nuclear Negotiations
with Iran - Dore Gold
At the end of the Iranian negotiations with the EU-3 in 2005, Iranian negotiators actually disclosed their approach to their talks with the West. The head negotiator, Hassan Rowhani, revealed that Iran had managed to exploit its negotiations with the West to complete its uranium conversion plant at Isfahan, which produced the feedstock for the centrifuges in Natanz: "The day we started the [negotiating] project there was no such thing as the Isfahan project."
His deputy, Hossein Musavian, was even more blunt on Iranian Channel 2 television: "Thanks to negotiations with Europe we gained another year, in which we completed [the uranium conversion facility in] Isfahan." This was a classic case of diplomatic deception - or taqiya - in which the Iranians claimed that they were sincerely interested in reaching an agreement with the West, but in reality, all they were doing was playing for time.
(Friends of Israel Initiative)
How to Tell If the Iran Talks Are Working - Mark Hibbs, Ariel Levite and George Perkovich (New York Times)
Iran still insists that its nuclear program is intended for peaceful use, and that it will not compromise on its right to enrich uranium. It continues to rebuff the International Atomic Energy Agency's demands for greater cooperation, while threatening retaliation for sanctions imposed on it. But its leaders may be creating room for compromise.
- Still, tough and protracted negotiations undoubtedly lie ahead. Iran may never surrender some key elements of the hardware or material related to a bomb-making capacity, and its basic knowledge in this domain cannot be unlearned.
- At another level, any deal with the U.S. might ultimately run counter to preserving the clerical regime, for which opposition to America has long been a core political attitude.
- The U.S., for its part, would be reluctant to let Iran leave the negotiations with a deal that left its nuclear option viable, bolstered the regime internally, and reinforced its regional influence and ambitions to the detriment of America's allies.
Mark Hibbs and Ariel Levite are senior associates of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Nuclear Policy Program, which George Perkovich directs.
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