Falling Oil Prices Put Iran over U.S. Sanctions Barrel - Timothy Gardner and Roberta Rampton
In the past few weeks, a combination of higher output from Saudi Arabia and economic troubles in China and Europe have pushed oil prices down 25%, putting the threat of sanctions back squarely on Iran.
Lawmakers in Congress hope to finalize in July a new package of sanctions aimed at further crippling Iran's oil revenues after international talks in Moscow last week failed to convince Tehran to scale back its nuclear program.
World Oil Supply Up But Spare Capacity Tight (Reuters)
World oil inventories have risen over the past two months, aided by increased output from Iraq and Libya, but spare production capacity remains tight, the U.S. government said on Tuesday.
Spare production capacity grew in the last two months to 2.4 million bpd, up from 2.1 million bpd, but is still quite modest by historical standards.
"This is great news for sanctions supporters and very bad news for the Iranian economy," said a Senate aide.
"With oil prices down and markets getting looser, the President and Congress have maximum flexibility to push the envelope with regard to economic sanctions."
Is Syria Giving Scuds to Hizbullah? - Nicholas Blanford (Daily Star-Lebanon)
Israel's military officials are fretting that the turmoil in Syria could compel the Syrian authorities to place some of its ballistic missile arsenal under Hizbullah's protection.
According to diplomatic sources, increased activity has been detected at Syrian military facilities where Scud missiles are stored, including the movement of rockets, the construction of new underground bunkers and the expansion of existing facilities.
The hills on either side of the highway linking Damascus to Homs contain numerous underground military bases. Some are suspected missile storage and launch sites.
The protected entrances to the underground tunnels are clearly visible on satellite images carried by Google Earth.
FBI Tracking 100 Suspected Extremists in U.S. Military - Dina Temple-Raston (NPR)
The FBI has conducted more than 100 investigations into suspected Islamic extremists within the military, NPR has learned. About a dozen of those cases are considered serious.
They include not just active and reserve military personnel but also individuals who have access to military facilities such as contractors and close family members with dependent ID cards.
"You have to think about how people in the military community aren't just your run-of-the-mill jihadis," says Bruce Hoffman, a professor and counterterrorism expert at Georgetown University.
"These are people who have access to guns and to bases and are supposed to have security clearances. This is not the community you want to be radicalizing."
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- Iran's Vice President Makes Anti-Semitic Speech - Thomas Erdbrink
Iran's vice president Mohammad-Reza Rahimi
delivered a baldly anti-Semitic speech on Tuesday at an international anti-drug conference in Tehran, saying that the Talmud, a central text of Judaism, was responsible for the spread of illegal drugs around the world. European diplomats in attendance expressed shock. Even Iranian participants privately wondered at their government's motive for allowing such a speech.
Antonio De Leo, the UN Office on Drugs and Crimes representative, praised Iran as a "key strategic partner in the fight against drugs."
Rahimi, who spoke after De Leo, told stories of gynecologists' killing black babies on the orders of the Zionists and claimed that the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 was started by Jews, adding that mysteriously no Jews died in that uprising.
He also said the Talmud teaches Jews to think they are a superior race. "They think God has created the world so that all other nations can serve them," he said.
A European diplomat said afterward: "This was definitely one of the worst speeches I have heard in my life. My gut reaction was: why are we supporting any cooperation with these people?" (New York Times)
- Free Syrian Army Attacks Republican Guard Base near Presidential Palace in Damascus - Rod Nordland and Hwaida Saad
A surprise assault by Syrian insurgents on a Republican Guard base in Damascus, just a few miles from the presidential palace, elicited a furious military response on Tuesday, with government forces shelling surrounding neighborhoods, killing at least 33 people.
(New York Times)
See also U.S. Intelligence Sees Protracted Conflict in Syria - Tabassum Zakaria
Despite some military defections, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's inner circle remains cohesive and the conflict is likely to be a drawn-out struggle, senior U.S. intelligence officials said on Tuesday. "The regime inner circle and those at the next level still seem to be holding fairly firm in support of the regime and Assad," one intelligence official said. "The regime still believes it can ultimately prevail or at least appears determined to try to prevail and the opposition at the same time seems to be preparing for a long fight," he said. "It is very difficult for the regime to completely suppress the opposition and I do think the overall trendline for the regime is downward," an intelligence official said.
- BBC Apologizes over Itamar Massacre Coverage - Jessica Elgot
The BBC "got it wrong" by not giving prominence to the massacre of the Fogel family by Palestinians in the West Bank settlement of Itamar, outgoing director-general Mark Thompson admitted on Tuesday. "We made a mistake in this instance," he said.
Conservative MP Louise Mensch, who quizzed Thompson at a committee hearing, said the BBC's decision not to include the story as part of its rolling news coverage generated "the most reaction I have ever had in all my time in politics....There was a feeling the BBC just didn't care and that, if a settler had entered the home of a Palestinian family, slit the throat of their children, that the BBC would have covered that." (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
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- Free Syria Army: Hizbullah Fighters Present on the Battlefield - Misbah al-Ali
Hizbullah fighters are on the ground in Syria, according to Riad al-Asaad, the commander of the rebel Free Syrian Army, who is based in Turkey.
In an interview, Asaad said that "as for the involvement of Hizbullah fighters, we have confirmed that it is involved in events inside Syria, especially in Talkalakh and Homs. We have seen heavily armed (Hizbullah) convoys and several buses."
Asaad noted that the establishment of a buffer zone between Turkey and Syria to provide cover for Syrian refugees was no longer an option. "First, the situation in Syria is improving in our favor, and developments are happening quickly. This puts the issue of a buffer zone and the request behind us," Asaad said.
According to Asaad, the Syrian Army's elite 4th Division, headed by Maher Assad, "has completely collapsed. They have a shortage of equipment." (Daily Star-Lebanon)
- Israeli Official: Egypt Will Preserve Peace Treaty - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
Newly elected Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi is not likely to disavow the peace treaty between the two countries, a senior Israeli defense official said on Tuesday. He believed that the ties between the Israeli and Egyptian defense establishments will remain intact. Iran and terror will remain the enemies of both countries, while Gaza and Hamas will continue to be a "shared headache." Relations between Israel and Egypt will continue to be based on mutual interests.
Israel confirmed that Egypt had sent a number of calming messages to Israel about the maintenance of security ties.
- Four Rockets Fired at Netivot, Two Intercepted - Ilana Curiel
Four rockets were fired from Gaza at Netivot on Tuesday. Two of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome system and two exploded in open areas. Earlier Tuesday, a rocket exploded near hen houses in a kibbutz, causing light damage.
- Iran Confident as Sanctions Tighten - Patrick Clawson and Mehdi Khalaji
As tighter U.S. and EU restrictions on Iran enter into force on June 28 and July 1, respectively, the Islamic Republic's leaders are sounding remarkably confident about the nuclear impasse. Tehran believes it is in a strong position relative to the West and therefore sees little reason to be forthcoming in negotiations. On the contrary, it still finds resistance to be useful in dealing with the P5+1.
On June 18, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei stated, "Victory is not possible without...taking risk. We stand [for our cause]....Our enemies...should know that obstinacy, arrogance, self-importance, and unreasonable expectations will not get them anywhere against the Iranian nation."
Iranian leaders also see no prospect of military action any time soon, certainly not before the U.S. elections in November.
Patrick Clawson is director of research at The Washington Institute. Mehdi Khalaji is a senior fellow at the Institute.
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- Morsi Is Israel's Nightmare - Ben Caspit
We have reached the moment feared by generations of Israeli intelligence and security chiefs. The ultimate nightmare scenario is playing out in front of our eyes - the same narrative that starred in the secret war games of the IDF - the moment when Egypt fell into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood. All this transpires in the largest Arab country, Israel's major strategic peace partner, the regional anchor.
True, Amos Gilad (head of the security-political office at the Israel Defense Ministry) will still fly secretly to Egypt and sit with the fellows from the Intelligence Agency (Mukhabarat) in Cairo and war won't break out with Egypt in the near future.
Yet life will be a lot harder from now on. "Gaza Operation 2"? It will not be simple. Third Lebanon War? Same as above. Let's not forget that during the Second Lebanon War, Mubarak begged Olmert to crush Hizbullah.
Now, instead of a regional power that hates Hamas, a sister-state to Hamas sits on our southern border. The Muslim Brotherhood views Hamas as colleagues.
- Syrian Downing of Turkish Jet Serves as Warning - Greg Jaffe
The Syrian government's downing of a Turkish fighter jet has served as a stark warning that its military is capable of mounting a sophisticated defense against potential enemies, complicating a Libya-style intervention. Officials said Syria beefed up its air defenses with purchases from Russia after Israeli jets destroyed a nuclear reactor under construction in the Syrian desert nearly five years ago.
Defense officials and military analysts say defeating Syria's air defenses would require a sustained U.S. military effort, which would probably lead to civilian casualties. Defense analysts said the Syrian system is similar to Iran's air defenses in terms of technology, but suggested that the Syrian version is more effective because it is concentrated in a smaller area.
A United Front Against Iran - Emily Landau (Israel Hayom)
- The critical decisions in 2012 to embargo Iranian oil and level "crippling" sanctions against Iran's central bank have caused the regime a great deal of pain. The talks between the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany have yielded a united front.
- The tendency for many Israelis to think the newfound vigor against Iran is due to Israeli pressure and a will to prevent an Israeli airstrike is a bit exaggerated. The international push is part of its own dynamic. The U.S.'s determination grew as Iran continued down its path and refused to take negotiations seriously.
- The stinging International Atomic Energy Agency report in November 2011 brought about almost an immediate wave of sanctions from the U.S. and Europe, without any connection to Israel's threats.
- Despite the obsession with the question whether Israel will attack or not, one should pay attention to the level of communication and coordination between Israel and the U.S. It is a message to Iran: Israel and the U.S. are very close in their stances.
- And when coordination extends to Russia as well, things become definitely less convenient for Iran. Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Israel is sure to raise more alarming questions in Iran.
- The intensification of the sanctions have brought Iran to the negotiating table in a different manner than before. The pressure must be kept on Iran and even increased; the international community cannot blink first.
The writer is a Senior Research Fellow and Director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.
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