Half of Iran Tanker Fleet Storing Oil at Sea - Luke Pachymuthu (Reuters)
Iran has been forced to deploy more than half its fleet of supertankers to store oil at anchorage in the Gulf as buyers of its crude cut back because of sanctions, two Iran-based shipping sources said.
Sources said 14 of the National Iranian Tanker Company's fleet of 25 very large crude carriers, each loaded with about 2 million barrels of oil, are now at anchor acting as floating storage.
A further five of Iran's nine Suezmax tankers, with capacity of one million barrels, are also parked offshore with oil aboard. In addition, storage tanks at Kharg Island, with a capacity of 23 million barrels, are full.
China had been expected to take increased volumes of Iranian crude but that has not happened yet.
China halved its Iranian crude imports in March compared to a year earlier and South Korea cut purchases by 40%.
Japan has also made steep cuts.
Report: Iranian Revolutionary Guards Urge Rethink of Uranium Enrichment - Ilan Ben Zion (Times of Israel)
Iran may announce its willingness to halt uranium enrichment at 20% when it meets with world powers in Baghdad on May 23, the Dubai-based Al Arabiya website reported on Tuesday, quoting a source in Tehran.
Senior members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRG) have entreated Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to halt uranium enrichment at the 20% level, the report said.
They are said to be concerned that international sanctions are placing an increasing strain on the IRG's finances and, consequently, its capacity to implement large-scale economic projects.
By contrast, some senior government hardliners still back continued uranium enrichment beyond the 20% level.
Israel Formalizes Three West Bank Settlements - Joshua Mitnick (Wall Street Journal)
Israel granted formal status to three West Bank communities Sunday. An Israeli official said that the decision was merely "technical" and that the communities - Rehalim, Bruchin, and Sansana - were established as full-fledged settlements in the 1990s by previous Israeli cabinets.
"Anyone who says these are three new settlements doesn't know what they're talking about," said Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Netanyahu.
"People who are calling these communities outposts are also not being factual because these communities were authorized by previous Israeli governments."
Lebanon's Most Wanted Islamist Terrorist "Killed Planting Bombs for Syrian Rebels" - Ruth Sherlock and Richard Spencer
Abdel-Ghani Jawhar, head of Fatah-al-Islam, a militant group that had fought the Lebanese army, has been killed while planting bombs for the rebel movement in Syria, raising fresh concerns about the growing influence of radicals in the opposition to the Assad regime.
One Sunni businessman said he had fled Homs with his family after radical Islamists
beat him for not attending Friday prayers at the local mosque, or protests afterwards. He said, "I was brought up a moderate Muslim. Now many of the mosques are Salafi. Some of the speeches I heard called for Syria to be an Islamic emirate."
Photo Gallery: Israelis Observe Remembrance Day (Jerusalem Post)
Israel Independence Day Quiz (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Test your knowledge - 10 questions about Israel's Independence Day.
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- Netanyahu: "Israel Doesn't Want to Rule Anyone" - Erin Burnett
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview Tuesday:
"Since the advent of the nuclear age after Hiroshima all nuclear powers have been very careful with the use or, more accurately, the nonuse of nuclear weapons. When it comes to militant Islamic regimes, I wouldn't be too sure. Because unlike, say, the Soviets, they can put their ideology before their survival, so I don't think you can bet on their rationality. Iran has given its terror proxies Hamas in Gaza and Hizbullah in Lebanon the most advanced lethal weapons."
"They've been helping them to murder diplomats worldwide and to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan. Think of what they could do with nuclear weapons. And I don't think you want to bet the peace in the Middle East and the security of the world on Iran's rational behavior. I think it is a much safer bet to do what I and President Obama and others have said, prevent Iran from acquiring atomic bombs."
"I think it would be a big mistake to rescind the sanctions or lighten the sanctions. I think there has to be a cascade of sanctions and so far, that's the acid test, the sanctions haven't worked. How do we know that? Because nothing has been stopped....Iran has one goal, to stall, delay, run out the clock. That's basically what they are doing."
"We want to make sure that if we have a peace arrangement [with the Palestinians] and we walk away from certain areas, that they won't be used...by Iran and its Palestinian proxies to fire rockets on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. But we don't want to run their lives. I don't want to govern the Palestinians. I don't want them as subjects of Israel or as citizens of Israel. I want them to have their own independent state, but a demilitarized state." (CNN)
- Syria Running Out of Cash as Sanctions Take Toll - Joby Warrick and Alice Fordham
Syria's remaining cash reserves are quickly dwindling as the country's anti-government uprising marks its 13th month, according to intelligence officials and financial analysts who describe a steady hollowing-out of the country's economy in the face of sanctions. The financial hemorrhaging has forced Syrian officials to stop providing education, health care and other essential services in some parts of the county, and has prompted the government to seek more help from Iran to prop up the country's sagging currency. Yet Assad's reserves and sizable black-market income are probably sufficient to keep the regime's elite in power for several months and perhaps longer.
Hard currency in the government's bank accounts estimated at $20 billion a year ago has plunged to between $5 billion and $10 billion and now loses about $1 billion a month. "They are flying through cash in order to finance the crackdown, and they have no prospects for getting more," said a senior Obama administration official. "Iranian money is helping Assad survive," said a Middle Eastern intelligence official. "But Iran is having its own problems, and they are more limited now in the support they can offer."
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- IDF Chief of Staff: "We Will Not Accept a Threat Against Our Civilians"
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz declared Tuesday during the official state Remembrance Day ceremony at the Western Wall:
"As the commander of the IDF, in the name of my fellow commanders at the various posts and brigades, IAF squadrons and navy vessels, and in the name of all IDF soldiers, I stand before you tonight, looking into your eyes, embracing you and promising to fulfill the last eternal will of the fallen - to defend you, to defend us all, and to defend our home in Israel."
"The IDF is a defensive shield composed of thousands of male and female soldiers and commanders in both regular and reserve service....Shoulder to shoulder, they carry out every mission. As we are gathered here today, they are out in the field - united over the mission and defending us."
"After the fog of the revolutions began to settle, it seems the Middle East is different than what we became familiar with in recent decades. Instead of previously accepted strategies, we are facing a new series of significant challenges. In this new dubious reality, we witness continuous attempts by our enemies both far and near to harm everything we've built. The State of Israel, since its inception, has not and will not accept a threat against its civilians." (Israel Defense Forces)
- Prime Minister Netanyahu's Message for Israel's 64th Independence Day
In a special YouTube video posted on the eve of Israel Independence Day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took the opportunity to acknowledge Israel's "millions of friends," both Jewish and non-Jewish, and thank them for "their unwavering support" of the Jewish state. (YouTube)
See also Israel's Population on Independence Day: 7,881,000 - Moti Bassok
On the eve of Israel's 64th Independence Day, the population stood at 7.881 million.
Israel's Jewish population is 5.931 million, or 75.3%. The Arab population is 1.623 million, or 20.6%. Since last year,161,000 infants were born and 39,000 people died; 19,000 immigrants arrived, while 8,000 left. (Ha'aretz)
See also Israel Celebrates 64 Years of Independence (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
- Soldier Receives Citation for Courage - Yoav Zitun
The IDF awarded Sgt. Gal Weingarten, a combat soldier in the Kfir Brigade, a special citation on Sunday.
On March 8, Weingarten was attacked by two terrorists and stabbed in the neck in the Palestinian village of Yatta near Hebron. Although he was injured, Weingarten killed one of his attackers and wounded the other. Weingarten underwent surgery and received 40 stitches. He returned to his brigade after only a few days of rest.
- Journalistic Malpractice:
CBS under Fire for "60 Minutes" Segment Attacking Israel - Adam Kredo
Christian leaders, Middle East experts, and observers on Capitol Hill are crying foul on a CBS News report that they say erroneously blamed Israel for the persecution and migration of Palestinian Christians.
The report by "60 Minutes" contributor Bob Simon blamed Israeli security policies for the outflow of Christian Palestinians from historically Christian areas such as Nazareth and Bethlehem.
CBS mischaracterized a polemical Palestinian Christian document, labeling it a harmless call to resistance. The document in question, "Kairos," decries the Israeli "military occupation of our land [as] a sin against God and humanity," and accuses Israel of being an "apartheid" state.
"The piece failed to present any contrary views to Palestinian pastor Mitri Raheb, who denies the document is anti-Semitic, saying it 'doesn't ask for violence' or 'revenge,' only hope, love, and faith," B'nai B'rith International President Allan Jacobs said in a statement. "But 'Kairos' demonizes Israel alone, calling the presence of Israeli Jews in disputed territories a 'sin against God' and denying the very legitimacy of the Jewish state."
The report employs questionable statistics in its examination of Palestinian Christian demographics and fails to mention the 2002 seizure of the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem by Palestinian radicals.
"This isn't news, it's political indoctrination," said Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser on Iran and Iraq who studies religious rhetoric in the Middle East. "One of the questions '60 Minutes' didn't ask is why the flight of Arab Christians occurred after Israel transferred the areas back to the Palestinian Authority." (Washington Free Beacon)
- Christians In and Out of the Holy Land - Ilan Troen
CBS' Bob Simon totally ignored the fact that there is actually a growing community of Christians in the Holy Land - that is, in Israel. His report focused on Bethlehem that is now under Palestinian control. It said little enough about Nazareth and the communal frictions between Christians and Muslims there, where Jews are troubled bystanders. One can hope that CBS would reflect, if only for a few minutes, on how and why it permitted such a distortion. The writer is the Stoll Family Chair of Israel Studies Director, Schusterman Center for Israel Studies, Brandeis University.
Refuting Middle East Myths - Israeli UN Ambassador Ron Prosor (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Ambassador Prosor told the UN Security Council on Apr. 23:
- "Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict won't stop the persecution of minorities across the region, end the subjugation of women, or heal sectarian divides. Obsessing over Israel has not stopped Assad's tanks from flattening entire communities. On the contrary, it has only distracted attention from his crimes. And dedicating the majority of this debate [on "The Situation in the Middle East"] to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, month after month, has not stopped the Iranian regime's centrifuges from spinning."
- "The Iranian nuclear program continues to advance at the speed of an express train. The international community's efforts to stop them are moving at the pace of the local train, pausing at every stop for some nations to get on and off. The danger of inaction is clear. We cannot allow the diplomatic channel to provide another avenue for the Iranian regime to stall for more time, as they inch closer and closer to a nuclear weapon."
- "Numerous international organizations have said clearly that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, including the Deputy Head of the Red Cross Office in the area. Gaza's real GDP grew by more than 25% during the first three quarters of 2011....Yet, as aid flows into the area, missiles fly out....If it is calm in Israel, it will be calm in Gaza. But the people of Gaza will face hardship as long as terrorists use them as human shields to rain rockets down on Israeli cities."
- "From 1948 until 1967, the West Bank was part of Jordan, and Gaza was part of Egypt. The Arab World did not lift a finger to create a Palestinian state. And it sought Israel's annihilation when not a single settlement stood anywhere in the West Bank or Gaza. The fact is that in 2005 we took every settlement out of Gaza and only got rockets on our cities in return."
- "Much of the international community stands idle as the Arab world tries to erase the Jewish people's historical connection to the Land of Israel. Across the Arab world - and even at this table - you hear claims that Israel is "Judaizing Jerusalem." These accusations come about 3,000 years too late....Since King David laid the cornerstone for his palace in the 10th century BCE, Jerusalem has served as the heart of our faith.
- In debate after debate, speakers sit in the Security Council and say that Israel is committing "ethnic cleansing" in Jerusalem, even though the percentage of Arab residents in the city has grown from 26% to 35% since 1967.
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