Iran Funding Yemeni Separatist Conference in Beirut - Mohammed Jumeh (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
A Yemeni official informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Yemeni authorities have banned a number of MPs and officials from traveling to Beirut to attend the Yemeni opposition summit there which is being financed by Iran under the supervision of Hizbullah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp [IRGC].
The official also noted that "Iran has named its new ambassador to Sanaa; however the Yemeni government refused to accept his credentials because he was previously a senior officer in the IRGC."
Yemen's Akhbar al-Youm newspaper also revealed that Yemen had arrested two Iranian nationals in the country with alleged ties to the IRGC.
Syrian Businessmen Defecting from Assad's Regime - Hussein Shobokshi
Assad is today witnessing an increasing number of businessmen defecting from the regime; a phenomenon that did not receive the same media coverage given to the defections from the Assad regime's army.
Businessmen, merchants and manufacturers now are backing the revolution and are offering financial and spiritual aid, while others have fled the country and are attempting to pressure the regime, either via media appearances or by publicly siding with the governments championing the Syrian revolution.
The economic defections will serve as a new source of pressure against the regime, representing a genuine dilemma for the Syrian regime whose options are disappearing and whose support base is shrinking.
Iran, the Next Cyberthreat - Ilan Berman (Washington Times)
In recent months, Iran has launched an ambitious $1 billion governmental program to boost its national cybercapabilities. That effort reportedly includes the acquisition of new technologies, major investments in cyberdefense and the creation of a new cadre of cyber experts.
The Iranian regime also has activated a "cyberarmy" of activists that has carried out a series of attacks on sites and entities out of favor with the Iranian regime.
In his testimony to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in January, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper noted that Iran's cybercapabilities "have dramatically increased in recent years in depth and complexity." More and more, they also appear to be directed against the U.S..
Poll: Israelis Want Peace Negotiations But Don't Believe They Will Succeed (Peace Index)
While 71% of the Israeli public favors holding peace negotiations between Israel and the
Palestinian Authority, 67% do not believe that negotiations will lead to peace in
the coming years,
according to the April 2012 Peace Index survey of the Evens Program for Conflict Resolution
at Tel Aviv University and the Israel Democracy Institute.
58% said they did not believe there is a real chance to resolve
the conflict in accordance with the "two states for two peoples" formula in
the next ten years.
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- Drawing of Structure Said to Shed Light on Iran's Secret Nuclear Work - George Jahn
A drawing based on information from inside an Iranian military site shows an explosives containment chamber of the type needed for nuclear arms-related tests that UN inspectors suspect Tehran has conducted there. An official of a country tracking Iran's nuclear program said it proves the structure exists.
The official said the image is based on information from a person who had seen the chamber at the Parchin military site.
Olli Heinonen, until last year the UN nuclear agency's deputy director general in charge of the Iran file, said the drawing was "very similar" to a photo he recently saw that he believes to be the pressure chamber the IAEA suspects is at Parchin. On Monday in Vienna, the IAEA will meet with Iranian officials and renew its attempt to gain access to the chamber.
See also Israeli Defense Minister: Intelligence Agencies Familiar with Drawing of Iran's Nuke Work
Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Army Radio on Monday that "this diagram is part of the information known to all leading intelligence agencies in the free world for some time." He says the image reaffirms the need to halt Iran's nuclear capabilities.
- Netanyahu Responds to Palestinian Letter - Ali Sawafta
Israel and the Palestinian Authority issued a rare joint statement on Saturday, saying they were committed to peace after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dispatched his envoy Isaac Molcho
to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The envoy carried a letter from Netanyahu replying to one he received last month from Abbas, in which the Palestinian leader stated his grievances over the collapse of peace talks in 2010.
Before Abbas met Molcho, he received a call from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Clinton also spoke to Netanyahu mid-week.
See also Netanyahu to Abbas: Israeli Unity Cabinet Is a New Opportunity for Mideast Peace - Barak Ravid
The national unity government has created a new opportunity to move the peace process ahead, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote to PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday night. Netanyahu added that he wants to restart negotiations as soon as possible. A source who saw the letter said it included a pledge by Netanyahu to establish a demilitarized Palestinian state in keeping with the principle of a two-state solution.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- U.S. Congress Moves to Control Egypt, PA Money - Hilary Leila Krieger
The House Foreign Operations Appropriations subcommittee approved a foreign aid budget tightening control over money to Egypt and the Palestinians Wednesday. The budget for 2013 includes full funding of the $3.1 billion in U.S. military assistance to Israel as part of the 10-year Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries.
The legislation cut funding for UNESCO, after the UN body voted to recognize Palestine as a member state. The bill, also maintains $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt, but following the Egyptian revolution, Congress imposed more conditions on the military aid and $250m. in economic assistance.
Should Egypt break its treaty with Israel, the assistance would automatically be cut. The Palestinians would see their funding withheld if they made any agreement with Hamas and did not actively work to end incitement.
- Israel Navy Commandos Conduct Largest Exercise in Decade - Yohanan Levin
Last week, Israel Navy commando forces carried out their largest drill in the past decade, together with the Israel Air Force.
Soldiers simulated neutralization of an enemy force at sea, ship malfunctions, and evacuation of an injured soldier by helicopter - all within narrow time limits.
Later, the ships were deployed along Israel's Mediterranean coast. All of the sailors went on deck to witness a powerful site that had not been seen in a decade - visual proof of the size of Israel's naval strength. Lt. Amir, a ship commander, remarked: "To see all of the ships together along Israel's coast gives us great pride and assures us that Israel's civilians can sleep well at night." (Israel Defense Forces)
- Will the Palestinians Engage the New Israeli Coalition? - Editorial
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has formed a new coalition comprising a parliamentary supermajority.
Whether there is movement on peace talks with the Palestinians,
however, will depend mainly on Palestinian decisions. PA President Mahmoud Abbas has mostly shunned Mr. Netanyahu, betting that he would eventually be pushed out of office. Now that he has been proved spectacularly wrong, he will have to consider whether to engage the new Israeli coalition. The Obama administration should be pressing Mr. Abbas to put the Israeli leader to the test. (Washington Post)
- Palestinians Short of Ideas, Not Guns - Jonathan S. Tobin
PA leader Mahmoud Abbas is complaining that Israel is making it difficult for his security forces to obtain weapons. However, according to a senior Israeli source, there is no shortage of guns or ammunition in the West Bank. The various PA security forces are all armed to the teeth. The material Abbas wants to import from Russia and Egypt is not police equipment but armaments that would transform the PA's forces into the sort of army the Oslo peace accords specifically forbid.
The PA leader is still under the mistaken impression that he needn't talk to Prime Minister Netanyahu. But as his failed attempt to get the UN to recognize Palestinian independence without the PA first making peace with Israel should have taught him, this strategy is not going to work. The diplomatic "tsunami" that was supposed to overwhelm Israel instead merely demonstrated that the world had little interest in the Palestinians.
There is only so much Abbas' foreign friends can do for him if he isn't willing to talk to the Israelis. Abbas has demonstrated time and again that he isn't willing or capable of signing a peace agreement that would recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn.
- Iran Presses for Official to Be Next Leader of Shiites - Tim Arango
As the top spiritual leader in the Shiite Muslim world, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has championed Iraqi democracy and warned against Iranian-style clerical rule.
Frail at 81, he still greets visitors at his home in Najaf, Iraq, only steps from the glimmering gold dome of the Imam Ali Shrine. But the jockeying to succeed him has begun, and Iran is positioning its own candidate for the post, a hard-line cleric who would give Tehran a direct line of influence over the Iraqi people, heightening fears that Iran's long-term goal is to transplant its Islamic Revolution to Iraq.
Iran's candidate, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, 63, is an Iraqi-born cleric who led the Iranian judiciary for a decade and remains a top official in the government there. With Iranian financing, his representatives have for months been building a patronage network across Iraq. In Najaf, Shahroudi was a student of Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran's Islamic Revolution of 1979, whom he describes as "the biggest blessing on the believers in this age." When Shahroudi taught in Qum, one of his students was Hassan Nasrallah, now the leader of Hizbullah in Lebanon.
(New York Times)
- A Plan for Iranian Talks - David Ignatius
A compelling framework for future Iran nuclear talks has been prepared by analysts from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The authors are George Perkovich, a leading U.S. scholar on proliferation issues, and Ariel Levite, a former deputy director of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission.
The basic idea is to create a "firewall" between Iran's civilian nuclear program, which it could pursue, and a military bomb-making program, which it couldn't. Along with separating permissible from impermissible, the Carnegie authors propose special procedures for dual-use technologies that are near the dividing line.
Rethinking Our Approach to Iran's Search for the Bomb - Anthony H. Cordesman (Center for Strategic and International Studies)
Iran has pursued every major area of nuclear weapons development, has carried out programs that have already given it every component of a weapon except fissile material, and there is strong evidence that it has carried out programs to integrate a nuclear warhead on to its missiles.
- Even if its current enrichment facilities and stocks of highly enriched uranium are fully secured,
Iran can pursue nuclear weapons development through a range of compartmented and easily concealable programs even if it suspends enrichment activity.
- Simply controlling Iran's fuel cycle will not stop Iran from improving every other aspect of its nuclear breakout capabilities anymore than attacking its major current enrichment activities will.
- Neither arms control and inspections that focus on actual enrichment, nor bombing key enrichment facilities, can now stop Iran from moving forward in many important areas. Iran has gotten too far, and its technology base is too large.
- No one should disregard the political, religious, and ideological statements of Iran's leaders; ignore the extent to which it exploits hostility to Israel to win Arab support or tolerance, and the prestige impact of becoming a nuclear power.
- No assessment of Iran's military behavior should ignore the fact that nuclear weapons represent a key part of its overall strategic and military goals and force posture.
The Most Important Report on Nuclear Iran You Are Likely to Read - Anshel Pfeffer
"Rethinking Our Approach to Iran's Search for the Bomb" by Anthony Cordesman does a fantastic job of summing up all the most up-to-date and unclassified information available on Iran's nuclear program.
Anyone who believes that Iran is not yet actively pursuing a nuclear-weapons program and merely developing the capabilities is committing an act of willful delusion.
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