Tehran Builds on Outreach to Taliban - Maria Abi-Habib (Wall Street Journal)
Iran has allowed the Taliban to open an office in eastern Iran and discussed providing them with surface-to-air missiles, ramping up the potential for cooperation with the insurgents, according to senior Afghan and Western officials.
Iran, a Shiite theocracy which borders Afghanistan, wasn't friendly with the Sunni Taliban government ousted by the U.S. in 2001 and hasn't permitted an official Taliban presence in the country until now. But these days both sides "see America as the bigger enemy," a Western official in Kabul said.
"Iran is willing to put aside ideology and put aside deeply held religious values...for their ultimate goal: accelerating the departure of U.S. forces from Afghanistan," the official said.
The increase in Iranian support for the Taliban comes after Tehran failed to scuttle the U.S.-Afghan agreement in May, which establishes a long-term U.S. military presence there post-2014.
Afghanistan's intelligence service in July said Iran was sending infiltrators into the country, coinciding with what Western and Afghan officials say is increased Iranian surveillance of coalition military bases and U.S. government infrastructure in Afghanistan.
Egypt Denies Morsi Sent Letter to Peres - Elior Levy (Ynet News)
Egypt has denied reports that President Mohamed Morsi sent Israeli President Shimon Peres a letter in which he expressed his hope for regional peace.
"There is no truth to these (reports). President Morsi did not send any letter to the Israeli president," Presidential spokesman Yasser Ali said Tuesday.
Syria Rebels Suspicious over Defector's Motives - Zeina Karam (AP-Seattle Times)
Former Syrian general Manaf Tlass, Syria's most prominent defector, has been touring regional powers to garner support for the uprising.
But many in the opposition are deeply suspicious of the longtime friend of President Bashar Assad, believing he is just trying to vault to power.
To the international community, particularly Sunni powerhouses Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Tlass may appear the perfect figure to lead a transitional government.
As a secular Sunni Muslim with a military background and insider's knowledge of the regime, Tlass would seem to hold credentials to keep the country's military and security forces intact.
According to one U.S. official, "The opposition views him suspiciously. He has no credibility. For us, he is really a non-player. We are not trying to maneuver anything with him."
EU-Funded NGOs vs. EU-Israel Cooperation (NGO Monitor)
On July 24, 2012, the EU and Israel completed negotiations to increase trade and diplomatic cooperation in the framework of the EU-Israel Association Agreement.
A number of Europe-based, Palestinian, and Israeli political advocacy NGOs condemned this cooperation, and lobbied the EU to freeze and abrogate the agreement.
Many of these anti-peace NGOs are funded by the EU and its member states, meaning that the EU is paying for political campaigns that undermine its own objectives.
The NGOs include ICAHD,
Coalition of 11 Palestinian NGOs,
Adalah, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, PCATI,
Amnesty International and
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- Iran, Syria Top Panetta's Agenda in Jerusalem Visit
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrived in Israel on Tuesday after meeting with Egypt's new president and its military chief. Panetta said his talks in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak will be "more about what is the threat we are confronting" in Iran's nuclear program and about sharing intelligence information.
Netanyahu told Israeli Channel 2 TV on Tuesday,
"I see an ayatollah regime that declares what it has championed: to destroy us....It's working to destroy us, it's preparing nuclear weapons to destroy us....If it is up to me, I won't let that happen." With "matters that have to do with our destiny, with our very existence, we do not put our faith in the hands of others, even our best of friends." (AP-Washington Post)
- White House and Congress Are in Step over Iran Sanctions - Mark Landler and Steven Lee Myers
The White House and Congress raced to impose more punishing sanctions against Iran on Tuesday. The new sets of measures, which target Iran's oil and petrochemical sectors as well as its shipping trade, intensify existing sanctions. They address Iran's increasingly adroit maneuvering to circumvent sanctions by selling its oil through foreign banks or for alternative means of payment, like gold.
Negotiations over Iran's nuclear program are at a standstill, leaving administration officials conceding that the pressure campaign has not persuaded Iran's leaders to change course.
(New York Times)
- Report: Syrian Rebels Acquire Surface-to-Air Missiles
NBC News reported Tuesday that the rebel Free Syrian Army had obtained nearly two dozen surface-to-air missiles, delivered via Turkey. In recent days, air operations against the rebels by Syrian government forces appear to have been stepped up, particularly around Aleppo. (Reuters)
- Egypt: President Frees Islamists
President Mohamed Morsi has freed 17 Islamists jailed for militancy during Hosni Mubarak's era. At least three had been condemned to death. Those released include members of Gamaa al-Islamiya, jailed during the group's armed insurrection against the state in the 1990s, and Islamic Jihad, the movement behind the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat. (Reuters-New York Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel, PA Reach Agreement to Strengthen Economic Ties - Asher Zeiger
Several months of secret meetings between Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad resulted in an agreement reached on Tuesday. "The new arrangements are part of our overall stated policy to support Palestinian society and to strengthen their economy," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He added that the agreement will "hopefully further our relations with the Palestinians in other areas as well."
Fayyad said the agreement "will help to strengthen the economic base of the Palestinian Authority [and]...also improve economic relations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel."
(Times of Israel)
See also Palestinians, Israel Agree on Revenue Revamp (Reuters)
- Israel Air Force to Get Two New Iron Dome Missile Defense Batteries - Yaakov Katz
The Israel Air Force will take delivery of two Iron Dome batteries with extended ranges by the beginning of 2013.
The new batteries will join the four that have already seen action over the past year.
They come equipped with new software and a new radar system to enable each battery to protect a larger area.
In addition, the IAF plans to take delivery in the coming weeks of an upgraded and improved interceptor rocket that will also contribute to the extension of the Iron Dome's range.
- Palestinians in Gaza Fire Antitank Missile at IDF Tank
Palestinians in Gaza fired an antitank missile on Wednesday at an IDF tank in the central sector of the Israel-Gaza border.
The IDF returned fire. There were no injuries.
- Before Deadly Bulgaria Bombing, Tracks of a Resurgent Iran-Hizbullah Threat - Sebastian Rotella
After a decade in which al-Qaeda dominated the world stage, the global terror threat from Iran has escalated sharply, generating a swarm of recent plots from Delhi to Mombasa to Washington and signaling an aggressive new strategy, counterterror officials say.
On July 18, a suspected suicide bomber killed six people and wounded 30 aboard an Israeli tourist bus in a coastal town in Bulgaria. Israel quickly accused Hizbullah and Iran. If the allegations are true, Iran and Hizbullah have crossed a dangerous line with their first strike in Europe in more than 15 years.
There has been a string of plots attributed to the Shiite alliance, 10 cases in the past year alone. The offensive led by the Quds Force, Iran's elite foreign operations unit, has displayed impressive reach and devastating potential. "The Hizbullah-Quds Force threat is the big thing worldwide right now," a U.S. counterterror official said. "There has been a wave of activity."
Bulgarian authorities say the bomber and the accomplice, who apparently remains at large, arrived by plane about a month earlier. The bomber is believed to have flown in via Germany and the accomplice via Belgium, according to U.S. and European officials. "I am convinced the origin of this attack is Shiite," an Italian counterterror official said.
- For Syrian Dictator Assad, Only Exit May Be Body Bag - Joby Warrick and Anne Gearan
A growing consensus in Washington and in Middle East capitals now holds that Assad will be forced from power only by death or capture. "There will not be any negotiations," said Jeffrey White, a former senior Middle East analyst for the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency. "He will go down fighting, and he will probably do it in Damascus." A U.S. official with access to intelligence from inside Syria said Assad's moves so far suggest that he intends to dig in even deeper.
"He's backed himself into an increasingly narrow corner," the official said.
Military analysts and some U.S. officials said the ferocity of the government's assault on rebel strongholds in Damascus and Aleppo makes it clear that Assad believes a fight to the finish is his only option. The military is using tanks, artillery, helicopters and even fighter jets, reducing neighborhoods to ruins and inflicting untold civilian casualties. (Washington Post)
- Whose Fault Is Palestinian Poverty? - John Podhoretz
One reason Palestinian economic growth has been so disastrously slow is the terror war that Yasser Arafat launched against Israel in 2000 - the Second Intifada.
It shattered Israeli hopes for peaceful concert with a new neighboring country, and led to an economic estrangement that proved horribly costly to Palestinians. Israelis stopped employing Palestinian workers and stopped buying Palestinian goods. Transit and trade between the two became difficult and painful.
And whose fault was it? Israel, which agreed in principle to a deal at Camp David in 2000 granting Palestinians a state with sovereign dominion over nearly 94% of the West Bank? No, it was exclusively the doing of Arafat, who served as a reverse George Washington - rejecting nationhood for violence.
Saeb Erekat blames "occupation" for Palestinian poverty. But the PA has dominion over almost all of the West Bank and Hamas has control over all of Gaza, so the word "occupation" is all but meaningless.
(New York Post)
State Department Report Notes Rising Tide of Global Anti-Semitism (U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom)
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom's 2012 Annual Report found:
Where the small remnant of a once sizeable Jewish community now consists of fewer than
100 people, "in 2011, material vilifying Jews with both historical and new anti-Semitic stereotypes continued to appear regularly in the state-controlled and semi-official media. This material includes anti-Semitic cartoons...comparisons of Israeli leaders to Hitler and the Nazis, and Holocaust denial literature. Egyptian
authorities have not taken adequate steps to combat anti-Semitism in the media, despite official
claims that they have advised journalists to avoid anti-Semitism."
- "Human rights groups cite persistent,
virulent anti-Semitism in the education system, which increasingly is under the influence of
Islamist extremists, a development the Egyptian government has not adequately addressed.
"Official policies promoting anti-Semitism have risen sharply in Iran, and
members of the Jewish community have been targeted on the basis of real or perceived ties to
Israel. President Ahmadinejad and other top political and clerical leaders have made public
remarks during the reporting period actively denying the Holocaust and calling for the
elimination of the State of Israel."
- "Numerous programs broadcast
on state-run television advanced anti-Semitic messages, a prominent newspaper held a Holocaust
denial editorial cartoon contest, and the Iranian government sponsored a Holocaust denial
conference. Official government discrimination against Jews continues to be pervasive, fostering a
threatening atmosphere for the approximately 25,000-30,000-member Jewish community."
"State media and pro-government media continue to make anti-Semitic
statements....As the October 2012 presidential election approaches...Henrique Capriles Radonski, the
opposition candidate, was raised as a Roman Catholic but is the grandson of Polish Jews who
fled Nazi persecution, and his great-grandparents were killed in the Treblinka concentration
- "Within a week of Capriles' selection in February 2012, state-run Radio Nacional de
Venezuela posted on its website a column calling him a supporter of 'international Zionism' and
including a number of traditional anti-Semitic themes and conspiracies; and a mob formed in front of a
Caracas synagogue until it was broken up by the police."
See also State Department Report Describes "Rising Tide" of Anti-Semitism - Ron Kampeas (JTA)
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