Report: Turkey Arming and Training Syrian Rebels - Michael Weiss (Telegraph-UK)
Rebel sources in Hatay told me that not only is Turkey supplying light arms to select battalion commanders, it is also training Syrians in Istanbul.
Men from the unit I had been embedded with two weeks ago were vetted and called up by Turkish intelligence in the last few days and large consignments of AK-47s are being delivered by the Turkish military to the Syrian-Turkish border.
Materiel is being stockpiled in Damascus, in Idlib near the Turkish border and in Zabadani on the Lebanese border.
Opposition activists said this week that the flow of weapons has significantly increased after a decision by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf states to provide millions of dollars in funding each month.
The writer is the communications director of The Henry Jackson Society.
Amnesty International Continues to Target Israel (NGO Monitor)
Amnesty International's 2012 World Report continues to level unsupported allegations of violations of international law against Israel.
Despite the murder of more than 8,000 Syrians by Bashar al-Assad, Israel is mentioned 137 times in the report compared to 74 mentions for the Syrian regime.
In the 2012 report, Amnesty accuses Israel of "collective punishment" of the Palestinian population, in the form of a blockade against Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas.
Amnesty ignores that Israel's blockade was implemented to stop the smuggling of weapons and rockets used to target Israeli citizens.
In September 2011, the UN Secretary General's Palmer Committee found that the naval blockade of Gaza is legal under international law, explicitly rejecting Amnesty's claims.
In addition, Amnesty fails to label the thousands of indiscriminate Palestinian rocket attacks targeting Israeli population centers - every one of which is a war crime - as "crimes" under international law.
Aboriginal Leader Looks to Israel as Role Model - Myron Love (Canadian Jewish News)
Two years ago, Ron Evans, the former grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the current chief of Norway House Cree Nation in northern Manitoba, visited Israel for the first time.
"The Jewish People are an ancient people who have overcome tremendous adversity and have become very successful. They have been able to maintain their culture and heritage while, at the same time, embracing the modern world. Our youth have much to learn from that."
Evans helped organized a Young Leadership Mission to Israel in May from Norway House, a community of about 5,500 people 456 km. north of Winnipeg, comprising 30 young people.
"The goals were to teach these young people - through seeing the example of Israel - to take responsibility for developing programs and initiatives in their community," said Shelley Faintuch, the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg's community relations director.
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- Iran Balks at Curbing Nuclear Program But Agrees to Keep Talking - Steven Erlanger
Iran appeared to balk Wednesday at a detailed proposal presented by six world powers to address urgent concerns about its nuclear program, including a freeze on its enrichment of uranium that could be converted to bomb-grade fuel, but both sides agreed to keep talking. The most important part of the six-power proposal called for Iran to stop enrichment of uranium to 20% purity, which is a short technical step away from highly enriched uranium that can be weaponized. The six powers rejected Iranian calls for an immediate easing of economic sanctions, a position that clearly appeared to disappoint the Iranian side.
(New York Times)
See also World Powers Challenge Iran to Hand over Enriched Uranium - Damien McElroy (Telegraph-UK)
See also Hope Fades for Quick Progress in Iran Nuclear Talks - Paul Richter (Los Angeles Times)
- Diplomats: Iran Installing More Centrifuges to Boost Nuclear Work - Fredrik Dahl
A UN watchdog report is expected to show that Iran has installed more uranium enrichment centrifuges at an underground site, potentially boosting output capacity of nuclear work major powers want it to stop, Western diplomatic sources say.
Sources said Iran may have placed in position nearly 350 machines since February - in addition to the almost 700 centrifuges already operating at the Fordow facility - but they were not yet being used to refine uranium.
Fordow is estimated to be buried beneath 80 meters of rock and soil.
The last IAEA report in February said Iran had trebled output of 20%-enriched uranium since late 2011 after starting up production at Fordow. (Reuters)
- Oil Sanctions Take Economic Toll, Syria Says - Patrick J. Lyons
Sanctions against Syria's oil industry have drained $4 billion from the country's economy so far and are causing widespread fuel shortages, the country's oil minister, Sufian Alao, said Wednesday. Alao said that, despite the arrival of fuel oil shipments from Venezuela, supplies of diesel and cooking gas were running short.
(New York Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Turkey Issues Arrest Warrants for Four IDF Officers - Zvi Bar'el, Tomer Zarchin and Barak Ravid
Turkey has issued arrest warrants for four former senior Israel Defense Forces officers over the deaths of nine Turkish nationals during the raid on the Turkish-sponsored Mavi Marmara which was heading to Gaza on May 31, 2010. When Israeli commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara, they were brutally attacked with iron bars, staves, chains, slingshots and knives, a UN inquiry concluded. The attackers were members of IHH, a Turkey-based radical Islamist group that organized the flotilla.
The four IDF officers include former Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, former Military Intelligence chief Amos Yadlin, former commander of the navy Eliezer Marom, and former head of air force intelligence Avishai Levi. (Ha'aretz)
- Two IDF Soldiers Wounded by Gunfire from Gaza - Yanir Yagna
Two IDF soldiers were wounded on Wednesday by gunfire from Gaza. In recent months, there has been an increase in hostile activity along the Israel-Gaza border, including the planting of explosive devices, shootings, and RPG fire.
- Israel Uncovers Palestinian Terror Cells in Hebron - Yaakov Katz
The Israel Security Agency has uncovered a number of Palestinian terror cells operating in the Hebron area that were planning a series of attacks, including the kidnapping of a resident of Kiryat Arba.
- Iran Isn't Taking the West's First Offer - Jonathan S. Tobin
Western negotiators presented a proposal that, while still granting legitimacy to the Iranian nuclear program, did not remove existing sanctions or the threat of an oil embargo. The Iranians view their indignant refusal as just the start of the bargaining process by which they will ultimately get what they want: endorsement of their right to a nuclear program and removal of sanctions.
Even if Iran agreed to the current Western proposal, that would by no means alleviate worries about the regime going nuclear. So long as the Iranians are refining uranium - even with the permission to do so only at lower rates of refinement - there is no reason to believe they will give up their quest for a bomb. Indeed, giving their facilities a Western seal of approval will facilitate the continuance of their military project. (Commentary)
- Dennis Ross: Breakthroughs with Iran in Baghdad "Unrealistic" - Josh Rogin
Don't expect any breakthroughs with Tehran at the six-power nuclear talks in Baghdad, the Obama administration's former top official for Iran Dennis Ross said Tuesday.
"The idea that you have a breakthrough after only two rounds, I think, given everything going on, is just not realistic." In order for real progress to be made, he said, the talks have to continue on a regular, predictable schedule.
"There needs to be an indication that the talks really do have a kind of intensive ongoing character and they're meeting on almost what I would describe as nearly a continuous basis."
"The key here is you want to send a signal that we're serious, but we're not desperate for an agreement...we're not pushing prematurely to try to produce an outcome before you've had a chance to have the kind of discussions that are credible enough to determine whether such an outcome is possible....The current approach of the P5+1 in the talks is guided by a confidence-building, step-by-step logic that could work over time but runs the risk of letting Tehran play for time without revealing whether a real deal is even possible."
In Congress, there is bipartisan opposition to any interim agreement with the Iranians that includes the kinds of confidence-building measures Ross is proposing. A Feb. 17 letter signed by Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jim Risch (R-ID), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), John McCain (R-AZ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Pat Toomey (R-PA), Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said:
"We would strongly oppose any proposal that caps or limits sanctions against the Iranian regime in exchange for anything less than full, verifiable, and sustained suspension of all enrichment activities, including both 3% and 20% enrichment....The time for confidence building measures is over." (Foreign Policy)
- Reality Check for Iran Nuclear Talks - Geneive Abdo
With the beginning of nuclear talks with Iran, it is useful to examine Israel's long-term objectives for a bit of a reality check.
During a recent trip to Israel, where I met government officials, one issue became clear: for many in the Israeli government, Iran has already crossed the red line. Unless Iran halts all enrichment and dismantles its nuclear program, the diplomatic process is irrelevant to many Israeli officials.
The Israelis are not willing to wait for Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to make the political decision to move toward developing a nuclear weapon; by then, it is too late. This is a major point of difference between Israel and the U.S. and the EU - one which the nuclear talks will not resolve.
Iran demands the right to a nuclear program, including enrichment. But the Israelis will accept only the long-standing P5+1 position of no enrichment.
The Israelis have little or no trust in Iran and believe that while inspections might address the part of Iran's nuclear program that is visible, they wouldn't do much to monitor nuclear technology the Iranians may have hidden from the international community. The writer is director of the Iran program at the Middle East Institute in Washington.
The Iranian Leadership's
Continuing Declarations of Intent to Destroy Israel - Joshua Teitelbaum and Michael Segall (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Iranian declarations calling for
Israel's destruction are being voiced by a broad spectrum of
the Iranian leadership, including different senior officers in
the Revolutionary Guard.
- These spokesmen are not talking about a long
historical process regarding Israel's elimination, but rather a
development that is to take place in the near term.
- These calls for the destruction of Israel for the most
part are not made in the context of an Iranian retaliatory
strike, and are not contingent upon what actions Israel will
- Thus the problem is not just President Ahmadinejad, who will
be out of office when his term ends in 2013, but rather with the
entire present-day Iranian leadership.
Prof. Joshua Teitelbaum, principal research fellow at the Jerusalem Center, is Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History at Bar-Ilan University. Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael (Mickey) Segall, a senior analyst at the
Jerusalem Center, is a former IDF military intelligence officer.
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