U.S. Ambassador, Three Embassy Staff Killed in Libya - Tamim Elyan and Omar al-Mosmari (Reuters)
"The American ambassador and three staff members were killed when gunmen fired rockets at them," a Libyan official in Benghazi said on Wednesday.
Ambassador Christopher Stevens had been on his way to a safer venue after protesters attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi and opened fire, killing a staff member, in protest of an amateur U.S. film that they deemed blasphemous to the Prophet Mohammad.
See also Diplomat Killed in Attack on Consulate in Libya (AP-Fox News)
A large mob firing automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades burned down the U.S. consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, killing an American diplomat, the State Department said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement:
"The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind."
Protesters Scale U.S. Embassy Walls in Cairo over Prophet "Insult" - Kristen Chick (Christian Science Monitor)
Protesters scaled the wall of the heavily-fortified U.S. embassy in Cairo Tuesday, angry over a film that Egyptian media reported was produced in the U.S.
Some climbed over the wall and tore down the American flag, raising instead a black flag with an Islamic inscription that is often associated with Islamic extremists.
See also U.S. Embassy in Cairo Condemns Mohammed Video - Byron Tau (Politico)
See also Obama Administration Disavows Cairo Apology - Byron Tau (Politico)
See also Protests Continued Outside U.S. Embassy in Cairo on Wednesday - Michael Birnbaum (Washington Post)
Hague: EU States Working on New Iran Sanctions - Edmund Blair (Reuters)
EU states are putting together a new set of sanctions on Iran, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Tuesday.
"We are working on those sanctions...quite urgently," he said in Cairo.
Syrian Resort to Heavy Weapons a Sign of Strain as Troops Defect - Glen Carey (Bloomberg)
Assad's forces have been employing heavier weapons because "they don't have enough combat maneuver units to deal with the rebellion," according to Jeffrey White, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Syria's government has become more reliant on heavy weaponry including attack aircraft, helicopter gunships, artillery and tanks as lightly armed rebels win and hold ground in the biggest cities.
The Syrian army's full-time strength is about 220,000. Yet the fighting has reduced its effectiveness as a military force and its manpower may now be only about 100,000, White estimates, while the remaining units "aren't necessarily fighting very well."
"Statistically the regime has considerable power, but the part that can be used is very small," said Mustafa Alani, an analyst at the Geneva-based Gulf Research Center.
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- Israeli Leader Sharpens Call on U.S. to Set Limits on Iran - Isabel Kershner and Rick Gladstone
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks Tuesday that not drawing "red lines" for Iran are a signal to the Iranians that they could build atomic bombs with impunity, laid bare the underlying tensions between the U.S. and Israel over how to deal with Iran.
The Israeli government's worries about Iran were further elevated last month when the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran had sharply increased its capacity to enrich uranium at a subterranean site in Qom. Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, said, "It is very important to draw a line about the quantities of enriched uranium and the levels of enrichment."
Israeli experts say that for Israel, all the previous red lines have been crossed already and that setting more lines might be meaningless, because international intelligence agencies may not know immediately if Iran has overstepped them. (New York Times)
- White House: Obama, Netanyahu Agree on Blocking Iran Nuclear Program
The White House on Tuesday denied reports of a rift with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying that he and President Barack Obama have reaffirmed the two countries' commitment to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Obama and Netanyahu spoke for an hour Tuesday night. The White House said in a statement that the two men agreed to continue "close consultations going forward" regarding Iran's nuclear ambitions.
The White House denied published reports that Obama had rejected Netanyahu's request to meet with Obama in Washington next week. No such request was made or rejected, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said. U.S. and Israeli officials confirmed Tuesday that Obama would not meet with Netanyahu when the Israeli leader goes to New York for the UN General Assembly later this month. Both sides cited scheduling issues and rejected suggestions that Netanyahu had been snubbed.
- Panetta: U.S. Has a Year to Act If Iran Builds Bomb - Dan De Luce
The U.S. would have about a year to take action if Iran decided to build a nuclear weapon, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday, despite urgent warnings from Israel that time is running out to prevent Tehran from getting the bomb. "We think we will have the opportunity once we know that they've made that decision, to take the action necessary to stop (the program)," he told "CBS This Morning."
"We have pretty good intelligence on them. We know generally what they're up to. And so we keep a close track on them," said the former CIA director. "We have the forces in place to be able to not only defend ourselves, but to do what we have to do to try to stop them from developing nuclear weapons."
David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security and a leading expert on the issue, said it would take Iran 8 to 10 months to obtain a nuclear weapon once it decided to make the move. (AFP)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel to Transfer NIS 250M to PA - Barak Ravid
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided on Tuesday to transfer, in advance, NIS 250 million in tax money that Israel collects for the Palestinians, to enable the PA to pay salaries of government staff who have not received full salaries since June. He said Israel is taking several steps to help the Palestinians overcome the economic crisis and that it was "in our joint interest" that they do so. Recent days have seen the largest internal protests against the Palestinian government in its 18-year history.
See also Are West Bank Riots the Start of "Palestinian Spring"? - Ilene Prusher
Jamil Rabah, the co-director of Near East Consulting in Ramallah, believes the recent protests will not lead to the ouster of the president. Rabah says it is more like Israel's economic protest during the summer of 2011.
"I keep going around to check how serious this is, and I don't think it is as big as it's been hyped to be," Rabah says.
What the crisis drives home, he says, is that the PA has failed to reduce its dependency on foreign aid and still is not effective in collecting taxes.
"People want services, but who's to pay for them? The PA is afraid to go and collect taxes because they don't want to burden people." (Jerusalem Post)
Palestinian Tax Increases Canceled in Move to Calm West Bank Protests (Reuters-New York Times)
- Report: Cairo Agrees to Host Hamas Headquarters - Elhanan Miller
Less than one year after closing its headquarters in Damascus, Hamas' "outside" leadership has found a new home in the Egyptian capital of Cairo, Al-Hayat reported Tuesday. Al-Hayat also reported that Hamas agreed to hand over a number of suspects to Egypt in the August 5 border attack which killed 16 Egyptian soldiers.
(Times of Israel)
- Jewish New Year: Israel's Population Nears 8 Million - Yaron Drukman
On the eve of the Jewish New Year 5773 (2012), the population of Israel numbers 7,933,200 - with 5,978,600 Jews, 1,636,600 Arabs, and 318,000 others,
data published Tuesday by the Central Bureau of Statistics revealed.
- Netanyahu's Anxiety Is Not Unreasonable - Jeffrey Goldberg
The White House position is that the U.S. will keep Iran from possessing a nuclear bomb. It is fair to ask, as Bibi is asking: Does that mean you will let them have a warhead design, sufficient enriched uranium, and a missile system capable of delivering a nuclear warhead, so long as they don't actually finish building the device and then mating it to a delivery system?
In other words, what if Iran is only technically non-nuclear? What if it would only take Iran a month to put together a nuclear bomb from the moment the decision is made? What will you do then? And how will you know, for sure, that they are doing it? American officials have promised Israel and the Arab states that their intelligence is good enough that they will know when Iran is approaching the nuclear threshold. But obviously the record of the American intelligence community is not without its flaws.
- What "Hizbullah Political Wing"? - Douglas Murray
The EU still refuses to designate Iran-backed Hizbullah a terrorist entity. Instead it continues to hide behind the meaningless claim that there is a separation between Hizbullah's political and military wings. This difference is not recognized in the U.S. or Canada, it is not recognized in Lebanon and it is certainly not recognized by Hizbullah itself.
If the EU cares for the future of the Middle East, let alone its own future, it must recognize that the forces emanating from Iran seek to destabilize that region first - but only first. An EU that refuses to recognize this is an EU that has willfully blinded itself to the enemies not just of Europe but of peace-loving people everywhere. The writer is associate director of the London-based Henry Jackson Society.
(Wall Street Journal)
- Barbarians at the Gate - Mark Tapson
Angry protesters scaled the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, tore down the American flag, and held up shredded bits of it to television camera crews. Welcome to the new democratic Egypt. Mohammed al-Zawahiri - the brother of al-Qaeda bigwig Ayman al-Zawahiri - asked: "How would the Americans feel if films insulting leading Christian figures like the pope or historical figures like Abraham Lincoln were produced?"
The answer is that films insulting Christians and American historical figures are produced almost nonstop in the entertainment biz, and Americans don't form bloodthirsty mobs to storm Hollywood studios.
(Front Page Magazine)
How the United States Benefits from Its Alliance with Israel - Michael Eisenstadt and David Pollock (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- Many of the considerations that provided the
rationale for the U.S.-Israel security relationship
during the Cold War remain valid today. Israel is
a bulwark against radical Islamism as embodied by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic
Jihad, and a quiet but effective ally of Jordan.
military equipment pre-positioned in Israel, valued at nearly $1.2 billion, is available to support
U.S. contingencies in the eastern Mediterranean
and Persian Gulf. Israel continues to
serve as a testing ground for advanced weapons
and war-fighting concepts, many of which are
eventually employed by the U.S.
- Today, Israeli intelligence remains a major source
of information regarding Iran's nuclear program,
Hizbullah's global activities, and the activities of al-Qaeda affiliates - and Israeli intelligence operations have helped delay Iran's nuclear program.
Israel's comparative advantages include a sustained
focus on key hard targets, the cultivation of unique
sources and innovative methods, and a willingness
to incur risk.
- There needs
to be greater recognition that Israel not only benefits
immensely from U.S. support, but also contributes
significantly to U.S. interests. Israel's own strength
and stability, along with its military, technological,
and scientific achievements, enhance the U.S. ability to meet the security, economic, and development
requirements (at home and abroad) that are increasingly essential to preserving American prosperity
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