Dozens Killed in Bomb Attack on Syrian Military Intelligence Compound (AP-Washington Post)
Two strong explosions ripped through Damascus Thursday, killing more than 40 people and wounding 170, Syria's state-run TV reported.
The explosions ripped the facade off a military intelligence building at a broader military compound.
Israeli President in Canada to Strengthen Ties - Jessica Murphy (Cnews-Canada)
Israeli President Shimon Peres praised Canada as an "exceptional country" and thanked Canada for its "uninterrupted friendship" from Israel's first day of statehood to the present. "Canada is always positive, never indifferent, never neutral," he said.
Gov. Gen. David Johnston - Peres' Canadian equivalent - welcomed the president Monday with an official ceremony, including full military honors and a 21-gun salute, and wrapped up the day with a state dinner.
U.S., Middle East Forces Wage Huge War Game - Barbara Opall-Rome (Defense News)
Some 10,000 troops from the U.S., Jordan and 15 other countries in the region are preparing to launch the first-ever live-fire drill involving air, land, marine and special forces operating as a joint task force.
The three-week exercise - dubbed Eager Lion 2012 - began May 9, with forces deployed throughout Jordan, including near the border with Syria and in the Gulf of Aqaba across from Israel.
This year’s exercise marks the first time forces will train for irregular warfare, special operations and counterinsurgency under a coordinated joint task force.
Russia Returns Iran's Advance Payment after Breaching S-300 Air Defense Contract (Fars-Iran)
Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast announced Tuesday that Moscow has returned Iran's advance payment along with interest after it failed to deliver S-300 air-defense systems to Iran in compliance with a 2007 contract to provide at least five systems.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev issued a decree in September 2010 prohibiting the sale, citing UN sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear activities.
United Church Pastor Breaks Ranks on Israel, Denounces "Radical Agenda" - Charles Lewis (National Post-Canada)
Reverend Andrew Love, a United Church of Canada pastor in Arnprior, 55 km. west of Ottawa, has started a campaign to get rank-and-file members to reject a proposal from the church's hierarchy to launch an economic boycott against Israel.
"The vast majority of people in the pews are not ready to embrace this kind of extremist and radical agenda from a small minority. There is a real disconnect between the leadership and its people," he said.
The proposal will be voted on at the church's general council in August.
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- U.S. House Approves Enhanced Cooperation with Israel - Zach Silberman
By a vote of 411-2, the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012, sponsored by Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).
In addition to expanding military cooperation between the two countries, the legislation states that it will be U.S. policy to provide Israel with essential military capabilities to preserve its qualitative military edge in the region.
With an eye toward a possible confrontation with Iran, the legislation recommends that the U.S. provide Israel with "air refueling tankers, missile defense capabilities, and specialized munitions" that could include bunker-busting bombs. (JTA)
- Iran Funding Smuggling of Libyan Arms into Sinai - Abdul Sattar Hatita and Yusri Mohamed
Egyptian security sources believe that Iran may be funding the smuggling of arms into the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt.
An Egyptian security source said Iran might continue its attempts to incite Egyptian-Israeli tensions by utilizing hard-line groups operating from Sinai. The source also revealed that Egyptian authorities had observed Iranian businessmen and nationals, carrying Western passports, entering the country following the collapse of the Mubarak regime.
See also Egypt Launches Security Operation to Purge Sinai of Militants - Tarek El-Tablawy
Egyptian security forces launched an operation in Sinai in response to recent attacks on Egyptian security patrols, with raids resulting in the arrest of Egyptians and Palestinians linked to Hamas' armed wing, Al Shorouk reported Tuesday.
Separately, Al Masry Al Youm reported that Islamic Jihad official Nabil Naeem said there were about 500 al-Qaeda-affiliated militants in Egypt, most of whom were in Sinai and were among the remnants of militant groups such as Takfir wal Hijra that had waged an insurgency against Hosni Mubarak's government in the 1990s. (Bloomberg)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Netanyahu: Iran Using Talks to Gain Time - Tovah Lazaroff
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told visiting EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Wednesday that Iran was using diplomatic talks with the West to "play for time." "There is no evidence, whatsoever, that the Iranian government has any intention to cease its aggressive pursuit of nuclear weapons," he said.
Israeli officials told Ashton that a diplomatic process would be successful if Iran agreed to three conditions: stopping the production of enriched uranium, removing all enriched uranium from Iran, and dismantling the underground uranium enrichment facility in Qom.
See also Ayalon: Compromise on Nukes "Worse than No Deal"
World powers must not yield in their demand that Iran abandon sensitive nuclear projects, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said on Wednesday, arguing Tehran had been allowed to "dictate" terms despite being vulnerable to sanctions. "The fact we hear some rumors about compromise, about meeting them halfway here and there, I think is very, very dangerous," Ayalon said. Allowing Iran to keep enriching and stockpiling uranium could enable Tehran to opt for a bomb "in very short order," and these projects were already "accelerating." (Reuters-Jerusalem Post)
- Israel Supreme Court Upholds Hamas Man's Administrative Detention - Joanna Paraszczuk
Israel's High Court of Justice on Wednesday rejected a petition by Palestinian detainee Mahmoud Adib Mahmoud Masalani to overturn a military court ruling extending his administrative detention. Justices Edna Arbel, Neal Handel and Zvi Zilbertal said that after a careful review of the evidentiary material, they believed Masalani posed a threat to regional security and to the public. Therefore, the decision to extend his administrative detention was correct.
Masalani, 38, a Hamas activist, previously served 17 years in prison for stabbing a Border Police officer in Jerusalem. Released in September 2010, he returned to work for Hamas and was rearrested in April 2011.
- Sanctions Are Only a Stop-Gap - Patrick Clawson
Western sanctions against Iran have succeeded in one crucial way - bringing Iran back to the negotiating table.
Tehran's decision to reenter discussions about the future of its nuclear program represents a dramatic about-face. During the January 2011 round of negotiations, Tehran rejected any talk of its nuclear program.
Even if sanctions could somehow decimate Iran's economy, there is still no guarantee that the regime would end its pursuit of nuclear technology. Given Iran's poor track record of honoring agreements, negotiations remain a gamble because they may never lead to an agreement, let alone one that can be sustained.
Rather than focus on talks that may not produce a deal, then, the U.S. should place far more emphasis on supporting democracy and human rights in Iran. A democratic Iran would likely drop state support for terrorism and end its interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries such as Iraq and Lebanon, improving stability in the Middle East. And although Iran's strongly nationalist democrats are proud of the country's nuclear progress, their priority is to rejoin the community of nations, so they will likely agree to peaceful nuclearization in exchange for an end to their country's isolation.
The writer is director of research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
- The Emperor Has No Clothes: Palestinians and the End of the Peace Process
The current hiatus in the Middle East peace process is badly needed. The diplomatic lull is a chance to reconsider basic pillars of the process - not to discard the two-state solution, for no other option can possibly attract mutual assent; nor to give up on negotiations, for no outcome will be imposed from outside. But to incorporate new issues and constituencies; rethink Palestinian strategy to alter the balance of power; and put in place a more effective international architecture.
The inescapable truth, almost two decades into the peace process, is that all actors are now engaged in a game of make-believe: that a resumption of talks in the current context can lead to success; that an agreement can be reached within a short timeframe; that the Quartet is an effective mediator; that the Palestinian leadership is serious about reconciliation, or the UN, or popular resistance, or disbanding the PA. The first step in breaking what has become an injurious addiction to a futile process is to recognize that it is so - to acknowledge, at long last, that the emperor has no clothes.
(International Crisis Group)
- Annan's Mission Impossible in Syria - Salman Shaikh
As U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pointed out last week, UN observers cannot operate effectively while Assad refuses to abide by a ceasefire.
UN and Arab League special envoy Kofi Annan's plan is flawed because it was formulated on the misguided belief that the Assad regime will ever stop using violence against domestic protesters and negotiate with them in good faith.
People have believed for too long that Assad is willing to initiate political reforms. He has not and will not. Nor will the regime stop its violence. Doing so would hasten its demise.
It is time for a renewed effort to forge a genuine united front, including all groups in Syria's social fabric, dedicated to Assad's downfall and the establishment of a pluralistic, democratic state in the aftermath.
The writer is director of the Brookings Doha Center. He previously served as special assistant to the UN special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.
NATO: Reject Turkey's Veto Against Israel (Friends of Israel Initiative)
- The Atlantic Alliance will celebrate its 63rd anniversary with a Summit of Heads of State and Government in Chicago on May 20-21.
NATO and Israel have intensified their mutual collaboration. They have exchanged officers and designed military exercises in which Israeli units were invited to participate. Many NATO troops deployed to Afghanistan have gone through counterinsurgency training on Israeli soil.
- Yet, the Western allies have allowed the alliance to be hijacked by the growing anti-Israeli stance of NATO's sole non-Western member, Turkey, which has just vetoed the presence of Israel at the Chicago summit on the basis that it still has not received an official apology from Israel for the assault on the Mavi Marmara.
- Turkey's veto of Israel's participation at the Chicago summit is not only reprehensible, it is also a matter of huge embarrassment for the rest of NATO. First, as UN investigations have shown, Israel properly acted in self-defense, so it goes against all logic for NATO to collectively adopt the position of Turkey's Islamist government.
Second, and more importantly, Israel is, in the current strategic context, a high-value asset to NATO and to the security of its members.
- As all of NATO's southern periphery is rocked by instability, Israel is the sole island of stability and the only democracy to hold a strategic dialogue that benefits the security interests of the allies.
- In addition, the only thing standing between us and the Iranian bomb is Israel. With perseverance and patience, the Jewish state has shown the world the dangers of the Iranian regime, which has led us to adopt the necessary measures to deter the ayatollahs from acquiring a nuclear bomb.
- If NATO were to honor its rhetoric of being an organization in defense of democracy, freedom, and the dignity of man, then there would be no doubts: We should go in favor of Israel, an integral part of the Western world. Thus, we should reject Turkey's veto, a nation that, thanks to its current leaders, is increasingly becoming less of an ally and more of a problem.
President Jose Maria Aznar, Ambassador John Bolton, Robert Agostinelli, President Alejandro Toledo, Lord David Trimble, Lord Weidenfeld, Fiamma Nirenstein, Marcelo Pera, William Shawcross, Andrew Roberts and Carlos Bustelo
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