Iranian Admiral: "We Can Move to within Three Miles of New York" (Fars-Iran)
"Our naval forces are so powerful that we have a presence in all the waters of the world and, if needed, we can move to within three miles of New York," Islamic Revolution Guards Navy Commander Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi said Tuesday.
The admiral was speaking on the anniversary of a failed April 24, 1980, U.S. military operation to rescue American hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
Obama Signs Waiver Removing Curbs on PA Funding (AFP)
President Barack Obama has signed a waiver to remove curbs on funding to the Palestinian Authority, declaring the aid to be "important to the security interests of the United States."
A $192 million aid package was frozen by Congress after the Palestinians moved to gain statehood at the UN last September.
Lebanon Halts Libyan Arms Ship Believed Destined for Syrian Rebels (Reuters)
Lebanese authorities seized a large consignment of Libyan weapons including rocket-propelled grenades and heavy caliber ammunition from a ship headed for the northern Lebanese port of Tripoli, the army said on Saturday.
The mainly Sunni Muslim city has seen regular protests in support of the uprising against Assad in Syria, and any arms shipped there could have been smuggled across the border to anti-Assad rebels.
Major UK Supermarket Boycotts Israeli Exports from West Bank - Tracy McVeigh and Harriet Sherwood
The UK's fifth biggest food retailer, the Co-operative Group, has decided to end trade with companies that export produce from Israeli settlements.
The decision will immediately affect four suppliers, Agrexco - Israel's largest agricultural export company, Arava Export Growers, Adafresh and Mehadrin.
See also UK Food Retailer's Boycott Could Harm Palestinians - Jonny Paul and Jeremy Sharon (Jerusalem Post)
Agrexco also exports Palestinian produce from Gaza marketed under the company's Coral brand.
The boycott seems likely to affect Palestinian farmers who use Agrexco to export their produce to Europe.
Israel's Arik Zeevi Wins Gold at European Judo Championship - Miki Sagui (Israel Hayom)
Israel won four medals at the European Judo championship last week in Chelyabinsk, Russia. Yarden Gerbi won a silver medal, Alice Schlesinger and Soso Palelashvili each won a bronze medal.
Israeli sports legend Arik Zeevi won a gold medal. Zeevi, 35, had won a bronze medal at the 2004 Greek Olympic games.
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- U.S. Signals Major Shift on Iran Nuclear Program - Paul Richter
In what would be a significant concession, U.S. officials said they might agree to let Iran continue enriching uranium up to 5% purity if it agrees to the unrestricted inspections, strict oversight and numerous safeguards that the UN has long demanded. A shift in the U.S. position that Iran must halt all enrichment activities is likely to prompt strong objections from Israeli leaders, the probable Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney,
and many members of Congress.
U.S. officials say Iran is unlikely to agree to a complete halt in enrichment and that demanding it do so could make it impossible to reach a negotiated deal to stop the country's nuclear program. However, a senior administration official emphasized that such a deal remained only a small possibility because Iran has shown so little willingness to meet international demands.
"There have been many signals lately that the red line has shifted and they're no longer pushing for full suspension," said Michael Singh, who served as President George W. Bush's top Iran advisor and who strongly opposes allowing Iran to enrich any uranium. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu argues that letting any centrifuges spin in Iran will allow scientists there to sharpen their mastery of nuclear science and edge toward bomb-making capability.
(Los Angeles Times)
- U.S. Deploys Stealth Combat Aircraft within Striking Distance of Iran - Walter Pincus
The U.S. has deployed a number of F-22 Raptor stealth jets, its most modern fighter bomber, to Al Dhafra Air Base near Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, Aviation Week reported. Despite a more conciliatory tone, the Obama administration has sought to keep up the pressure on Tehran, warning that the economic pain will worsen unless Iranian leaders agree to broad changes to ensure that Iran's nuclear facilities cannot be used to make nuclear weapons.
- Moderate Presidential Candidate Gets Egypt Poll Boost - Heba Saleh
The electoral chances of Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a moderate Islamist doctor running for president in Egypt, received a boost this weekend after a powerful hardline Islamist organization announced it would back his candidacy.
The Salafi Call, an ultraconservative clerical grouping, decided to favor Aboul Fotouh in the May 23 poll over Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate, whose conservative credentials would have made him the more logical choice.
Aboul Fotouh, a Brotherhood dissident, has attracted backing in liberal and leftist circles because of his promises to protect personal freedoms and his insistence on referencing the spirit of religion rather than the firm application of all its strictures.
The Salafis fear that Brotherhood control of both parliament and the presidency would marginalize them.
See also Meet the Islamist Political Fixer - Muslim Brotherhood Presidential Candidate Mohamed Morsi - Eric Trager (New Republic)
See also Egypt Islamists Fail to Agree on Presidential Candidate
According to polls, ex-Arab League head Amr Moussa is most likely to win the election as he will be supported by those who fear the Islamization of the country.
(Voice of Russia)
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- Benzion Netanyahu, Father of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Dies at 102 - Yair Altman
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's father, Benzion Netanyahu, died Monday at 102. Netanyahu senior was a renowned historian, specializing in the golden age of Jewish history in Spain, and a professor emeritus at Cornell University. He was secretary to Revisionist Zionist leader Ze'ev Jabotinsky, and also served as science editor for the Encyclopaedia Hebraica. Benzion Netanyahu was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1910. His family immigrated to then-Palestine in 1920.
- Jordan: Syria Violating Agreement on Yarmouk River Water-Sharing - Hana Namrouqa
Jordanian water minister Mousa Jamani on Thursday said political action is needed to resolve persistent Syrian violations of a water-sharing agreement concerning exploitation of the Yarmouk River, which forms a boundary between the two countries for nearly 40 km. "Cultivation on the Syrian side of the river is consuming more than the allocated amount because pumps and pipelines are extended to irrigate farms that are not along the riverbank," Jamani noted.
Jordan and Syria signed an agreement in 1987 to regulate water sharing between them. Jamani noted that since the agreement was signed, the number of Syrian dams increased from 26 to 48, while 3,500 wells were drilled to pump water from the river basin.
"The underground water in the basin is the source of the springs that feed the Yarmouk River. The more wells are drilled, the less water flows," he said.
Until the 1960s, the Yarmouk River's flow used to reach 16 cubic meters per second, but has since dropped to one cubic meter per second.
- Cease-Fire in Syria Exposes Heavy Price of Just Buying Time - Neil MacFarquhar
A UN-backed cease-fire has neither stopped the fighting in Syria nor forced the government to pull its troops from civilian neighborhoods. It has been called a failure by activists still dodging bullets on the streets of Syria and by senior Obama administration officials questioned in Congress last week. Despite months of fighting, Western and Arab sanctions that have sapped the national treasury, and defections that have eroded the military, the Syrian government is not on the verge of falling nor abandoning its use of lethal force.
The rest of the world, fearing the chaos that further militarizing the conflict might bring, remains reluctant to arm the opposition. In public and privately, senior administration officials made clear that they had no expectation that Syria would implement the Annan plan.
(New York Times)
- Hopes for a New Egypt Marred by Pervasive Corruption - Yasmine Saleh
Many Egyptians dread applying for official documents, knowing they may have to spend hours, days or even weeks waiting in grubby offices to complete the paperwork.
A finely-tuned system is at work, one that lines the pockets of state employees. Weary citizens list an entire vocabulary of gestures, glances and phrases to show a palm must be greased.
"I wish you a trouble-free day" and "Help me buy something nice for the kids" are often accompanied by a knowing smile.
A policeman boasted of his technique.
He waits outside state buildings where car licenses and other documents are disbursed and offers to speed up routine paperwork in exchange for 50 Egyptian pounds ($8.27) per client. Government officials go along with his scam and in return he gives them easy access to police services. The kickbacks, he said, often total more than his entire salary of 650 Egyptian pounds ($110) per month.
A court secretary said he can make up to 1,000 pounds in a day from bribes he takes in exchange for providing access to court documents. His monthly salary is 800 pounds.
- Our Man in Baghdad - James Traub
Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq, has a remarkable ability to make enemies. This gift was vividly displayed in March, when the annual meeting of the Arab League was held in Baghdad. Although the event was meant to signal Iraq's re-emergence as a respectable country after decades of tyranny and bloodshed, leaders of 10 of the 22 states, including virtually the entire Gulf, refused to attend out of pique at Maliki's perceived hostility to Sunnis both at home and abroad, turning the summit into a vapid ritual. The only friend Iraq has left in the neighborhood is Shiite Iran, which seems intent on reducing its neighbor to a state of subservience.
Back in January, when Turkey's prime minister Erdogan suggested that Maliki should not be waging war against the Sunni opposition at home, Maliki accused Turkey of "unjustified interferences in Iraqi internal affairs," adding for good measure that Erdogan was seeking to restore Turkey's Ottoman hegemony over the region.
Maliki knows that he owes his job to Iran; consequently, when he has a problem, he runs to Tehran. Iran's rivals in the Gulf thus inevitably, even if unfairly, view him as an Iranian puppet.
Confronting Damascus: U.S. Policy toward Syria - Andrew J. Tabler (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- The best way the U.S. has of ensuring that President Assad steps aside and expediting a more democratic government in Syria is to implement "Plan B" - a coordinated effort to pressure the regime from the ground up.
- The U.S. should work to forge and lead a coalition of countries to more directly support the opposition within Syria. Gulf countries have already indicated a willingness to help arm the opposition. Turkey, which had to deal recently with live fire from Assad's forces in the Oncupinar Syrian refugee camp, is now considering methods to funnel support to the opposition and has reportedly developed a contingency plan to create border safe havens for refugees within Syrian territory.
- In the short term, the U.S. should share limited intelligence with the opposition inside Syria concerning the deployment and movement of regime forces, especially as they approach population centers for an assault.
- Second, the U.S. should assess ways to support popular self-defense alongside civil resistance as two sides of the opposition coin.
- Third, Washington should immediately expand contingency planning about possible direct U.S. military support as part of actions to head off massacres or a humanitarian disaster. This includes supporting the creation, with allies such as Turkey, of safe havens inside Syria.
- Greater U.S. involvement would increase the chances that the new Syria is much more democratic and closer to American interests than Bashar al-Assad's regime.
The writer, a fellow in The Washington Institute's Program on Arab Politics, testified before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee on April 25, 2012.
See also Words of the Prophets - Thomas L. Friedman
If the Annan plan fails, then the West, the UN and the Arab League need to move swiftly to set up a no-fly zone or humanitarian corridor - on the Turkish-Syrian border - that can provide a safe haven for civilians being pummeled by the regime and send a message to the exhausted Syrian Army and residual supporters of Assad that it is time for them to decapitate this regime and save themselves and the Syrian state. The quicker Assad falls, the less sectarian blood that is shed and the more of the Syrian state that survives, the less difficult a difficult rebuilding will be. (New York Times)
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