Mystery Iranian Deaths amid Shadow War (UPI)
At least 10 high-ranking officers in Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps are reported to have died recently, apparently in violent circumstances.
But only two of the deaths have been made public, raising suspicions the officers may have been assassinated by Iran's enemies.
Intelligence Online, a Paris Web site that specializes in global intelligence and security issues, identified the two officers whose deaths were acknowledged by the Tehran regime as Gen. Gholam Reza Qassemi, former commander of the 92nd Armored Division, and Gen. Mohammad Ali Mousavi, leader of a commando regiment in the southwestern city of Ahwaz, a key oil center.
Intelligence Online said that Gen. Ahmed Mansouri, one of the representatives of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei within the IRGC leadership, also died recently, supposedly from a heart attack.
It also said two senior colonels, Najaf Ali Khirallahi and Nassif Pour, were killed in car accidents.
Intelligence Online said other senior IRGC officials, identified as Wafa Ghafarian, 52; Abbas Mehri, 53; Ahmed Siafzadeh, 55; Mansour Tourqan, 50; and Ahmed Soudaker, 51, also passed away recently, with no official explanation.
Turkey Steeply Cuts Iran Crude Imports (Reuters-Al-Arabiya)
Turkey has steeply cut oil imports from Iran in May and June, a source at the country's sole refiner told Reuters, to avoid U.S. sanctions.
A sharp drop in crude prices in May below $100 a barrel is a further blow for Tehran.
EU imports of Iranian crude fell to around 350,000 bpd in April from over 700,000 bpd last year, trade data compiled by Reuters showed.
New Israeli Ambassador to Norway: Druze Professor - Itamar Eichner (Ynet News)
Druze professor Naim Araidi, 62, will be appointed Israel's ambassador to Norway and Christian-Arab George Deek is to be his deputy, Yediot Ahronot reported Wednesday.
Araidi serves as dean at the Arab Academic College for Education and in 2008 he won the Prime Minister's Award for Hebrew Literature.
"It would be a great privilege for me to represent Israel and show its beautiful side, as well as the coexistence that despite all the hardships can only be maintained in a true democracy," Araidi said.
Denmark Convicts Four over Cartoon Killing Plot (Reuters)
A Danish court on Monday found three Swedish citizens and a Tunisian guilty of plotting to kill a large number of people at the Jyllands-Posten newspaper in revenge for its publication in 2005 of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.
"The accused...are guilty of terrorism,"
Judge Katrine Eriksen told the court. "(They) agreed and prepared acts to kill people."
Convicted were Mounir Ben Mohamed Dhahri, a Tunisian citizen; Munir Awad, a Swedish citizen born in Lebanon; Omar Abdalla Aboelazm, a Swedish citizen born in Sweden to a Swedish mother and Egyptian father; and Sahbi Ben Mohamed Zalouti, a Swedish citizen of Tunisian origin.
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- Drone Strike Killed No. 2 in Al-Qaeda, U.S. Official Says - Declan Walsh and Eric Schmitt
Al-Qaeda's deputy leader, Abu Yahya al-Libi, was killed in a drone strike in northern Pakistan, an American official confirmed on Tuesday.
The official described Libi as one of al-Qaeda's "most experienced and versatile leaders," and said he had "played a critical role in the group's planning against the West, providing oversight of the external operations efforts....There is no one who even comes close in terms of replacing the expertise AQ has just lost."
Pakistanis living in the area of the strike reported that Libi had been either killed or seriously wounded, and that 15 other people had been killed.
(New York Times)
- Syria Expels 17 Western Diplomats - Donna Abu-Nasr
Syria kicked out envoys from Turkey and 10 Western countries, including the U.S. and the UK, in retaliation for the expulsion of its diplomats in the aftermath of the Houla massacre.
Diplomats from Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland were also expelled.
- Syria Crisis Causes Spike in Draft-Dodging as Young Men Refuse to Fight for Regime
A growing number of young Syrians are dodging the draft out of fear that military service will force them to kill their countrymen - or get killed themselves. Some hide out in opposition areas in Syria. Others flee the country. "Even if you support the government, you know the army is killing people, so given the choice to go or not, you won't go," said Rami Jarrah, who has four draft-dodgers in his office at the Activists News Association in Cairo.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Obama: Abbas May Not Want Peace - Yitzhak Benhorin
U.S. President Barack Obama told Orthodox Jewish leaders at the White House on Tuesday that President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinians may not want a peace agreement and that he fears that the window of opportunity for a deal is closing. He expressed hope that the parties will go forward with the peace process but admitted it was possible that the Palestinians were not interested in an agreement.
- Israeli Tourists Assaulted in Jordan Market - Elhanan Miller
Six Israeli tourists were assaulted Monday at a market in Rabba in southern Jordan, 100 km. south of Amman, when one of the vendors identified the tourists as Israeli due to the men's skullcaps, which "provoked the sensibilities of the vendors," Al-Arab Al-Yawm reported.
The vendor proceeded to assault the men with shoes, a symbol of disdain in Arab culture. The Israeli tourists fled the area in their cars as buyers joined the attack.
A shopper told Al-Arab Al-Yawm:
"Those who talk about peace between Israelis and Jordanians are delusional. The signed agreements are nothing but ink on paper. They are meaningless." (Times of Israel)
- 2,000-Year-Old Treasure Found in Kiryat Gat
An impressive hoard of jewels, silver and gold coins from the Roman period was recently discovered at a rescue dig carried out by the Antiquities Authority in the Kiryat Gat area.
The dig exposed the remnants of a structure from Roman and Byzantine times. According to archeologist Emil Aljam, "The spectacular hoard includes gold jewelry, including a hand-made earring with a floral pattern and a ring with a precious stone imprinted with a winged goddess, two silver sticks which may have been used in the application of makeup, as well as 140 gold and silver coins."
"The coins are from the era of Roman emperors Nero, Nerva and Trajan who ruled the Roman Empire between 54-117CE." (Ynet News)
- Why the World Can't Stop the Killing in Syria - Ullrich Fichtner
There is no end in sight to the murdering in Syria. Russia alone has the power to topple the regime and avert a civil war, but is refusing to do so because it wants to protect its interests in the region. Since there will be no military intervention led by the UN, NATO or the West against the Syrian regime, the West must persuade Vladimir Putin to change his mind.
Former ambassadors to the region are certain that Assad would fall immediately if Russia withdrew its support for him. Assad's victims are being killed with Russian weapons, Russian military equipment and Russian ammunition. And the freighters that bring the material to Syria are still sailing. Russia maintains its only naval base in the Mediterranean at the Syrian port of Tartus. The talk of the importance of an "ice-free" port for Russia may sound like a murmur from distant days, but this interest, strategically pursued for decades in the Soviet era, remains extremely important for modern-day Russia. (Der Spiegel-Germany)
See also The Road to Success in Syria Lies through Compromise with Russia - Michael Ross (National Post-Canada)
- Targeted Killings and Double Standards - Justus Reid Weiner, J.D.
According to Human Rights Watch's test of legality of targeted killings, there are significant differences between Israel's policy, which has been conducted in almost full compliance with this test, and the policies of Western armies, which have resulted in far more civilian fatalities.
On the one hand, there is an IDF policy executed with remarkable transparency, and put under intense local and international public scrutiny (including judicial review). Furthermore, this policy was implemented with precision targeting and virtually no mistakes regarding the location of the terrorist - and with less than one civilian fatality average per targeted killing.
On the other hand, there is a Western policy which in many cases did not comply with HRW's stated test, and was conducted behind a cloak of systemic and deliberate opacity, with virtually no public scrutiny. Due to faulty or compromised intelligence, this policy resulted in many incidents which ought to have raised red flags regarding the core principles of distinction and proportionality - and had a ratio of more than ten civilian fatalities per targeted killing.
The writer, an international human rights lawyer, is a Scholar in
Residence at the Jerusalem Center.
(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- The Brothers Abbas - Jonathan Schanzer
New details are emerging of how close family members of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, a major U.S. partner in the Middle East, have grown wealthy. Have they enriched themselves at the expense of regular Palestinians - and even U.S. taxpayers?
After Abbas targeted Mohammed Rachid, an economic advisor to the late Yasir Arafat, in a high-profile corruption probe, Rachid fired back with claims that Abbas himself has socked away $100 million in ill-gotten gains. The conspicuous wealth of Abbas' own sons, Yasser and Tarek, has become a source of quiet controversy in Palestinian society since at least 2009.
Yasser owns Falcon Tobacco, which reportedly enjoys a monopoly on the sale of U.S.-made cigarettes in the Palestinian territories, while his engineering company received $1.89 million from USAID in 2005 to build a sewage system in the West Bank town of Hebron. Reuters reported in 2009 that Tarek's principal enterprise, Sky Advertising, received $1 million in USAID funds to bolster public opinion of the U.S. in the Palestinian territories.
The writer is vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
- Lady Gaga Versus Global Jihad - Bret Stephens
When it comes to building bridges between the Islamic world and the West, no amount of Western policy concessions is going to mollify Islamists. The real Islamist complaint is against Western culture itself.
Yet that's a lesson that still hasn't been learned. Since 9/11, the West's approach to Islamism has been one long pre-emptive cringe. It's how we have come to handle the Quran with white gloves and shy away from reprinting the Danish cartoons. It's why Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is now being represented in court by a military attorney wearing a hijab. It's why the phrase "Islamic terrorism" has become taboo.
(Wall Street Journal)
German Submarines Are Very Important for Israel's Security - Interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Bild-Germany)
"There is a vast misperception of Israel in Germany and in Western European society in general. We are a vibrant democracy faced with Iran and its violent proxies, defending itself against thousands of rockets and Islamist convulsions all around us. It is the only democracy, the only beacon of freedom, of human rights in this region. How many Germans know there are over a million Arab citizens in Israel who enjoy full civic rights? The only Arabs out of hundreds of millions in the Middle East who are guaranteed absolute rule of law by impartial courts."
- "Israel is maligned day in, day out, and this maligning filters into the public consciousness. That's a general problem. But it is particularly unfortunate with Germany because of the unique relationship and the unique history."
- "We have never asked for other countries to come and physically defend us. In fact one of the great transformations in the reconstitution of the Jewish state is the regaining by the Jewish people of the ability to defend ourselves by ourselves against any threat. It's a main principle of our security policy. So while I appreciate Germany's concern for Israel's security, the most important assistance that can be given to Israel is - to paraphrase Churchill - to give us the tools and we will do the job of defending ourselves."
- Bild: "So how important are those German submarines for defending Israel's security?"
Netanyahu: "Very important!"
- "The Iranian nuclear program has not slowed down by one millimeter. Despite all the pressures that were applied to it. Nothing....The Iranians were only asked to stop 20% enrichment of uranium. That doesn't stop their nuclear program in any way. It actually allows them to continue their nuclear program."
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