Iran Currency Falls to New Lows - Benoit Faucon and Katie Martin (Wall Street Journal)
The Iranian currency fell to new lows on Monday, down to 33,500 rials to the dollar on the informal currency bazaars and exchanges, down 13% on the day, after already falling sharply last week.
The official rate is 12,260 rials per dollar. Since the end of last year, the rial has lost 75% of its value against the dollar.
"The collapse in the currency pushes up inflation. Middle-class savings are getting wiped out," said Charles Robertson, global chief economist at Renaissance Capital in London.
German Investigators Uncover Illegal Exports of Nuclear Technology for Iran - Cathrin Gilbert, Holger Stark and Andreas Ulrich (Der Spiegel-Germany)
Recent arrests suggest that Germany remains a hub for sales of prohibited supplies to Iran that are being used in Iran's nuclear program.
Every few months, delegations from the Israeli foreign intelligence agency Mossad and the Israeli Foreign Ministry visit officials in Berlin, where they present documents to prove that German companies are supporting Tehran.
Report: Turkish Pilots Executed by Assad Regime (Al Arabiya)
On June 22, a Turkish F-4 Phantom military jet was shot down by a Syrian missile in international airspace.
Newly-leaked Syrian intelligence documents obtained by Al Arabiya reveal that the two Turkish Air Force pilots survived the crash but were later executed by the regime of Syrian President Assad.
The documents were obtained with the assistance of members of the Syrian opposition.
See also Russia Told Assad to Shoot Down Turkish Plane - Yifa Yaakov (Times of Israel)
Report: Russia Evacuating Personnel from Syria - Ilan Ben Zion (Times of Israel)
Russia was completing the withdrawal of its citizens and military personnel from its naval base in Tartus, Syria, the Saudi daily Al Watan reported on Sunday.
Free Syrian Army Major Maher al-Naimi said that Russian and Cypriot ships docked at the port in order to evacuate the remaining Russian technicians as well as 52 of the 72 armored vehicles from the military installation.
Moscow has operated the ship repair and refueling station at Tartus since 1971. It is the sole remaining Russian military base outside of the former Soviet Union.
Report: Assad Betrayed Gaddafi - Adrian Blomfield (Telegraph-UK)
Sources in Libya have claimed that French spies operating in Sirte, Muammar Gaddafi's last refuge, were able to set a trap for the Libyan dictator after obtaining his satellite telephone number from the Syrian government.
Assad offered Paris the telephone number in exchange for an easing of French pressure on Damascus, according to Rami El Obeidi, the former head of foreign intelligence for the movement that overthrew Gaddafi.
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- U.S. Warns European Governments Against Supporting Palestinians at UN - Harriet Sherwood
The U.S. has warned European governments against supporting a Palestinian bid for enhanced status at the UN, saying such a move "would be extremely counterproductive," and threatening "significant negative consequences" for the PA, including financial sanctions. The U.S. message, communicated at the UN General Assembly last week, said Palestinian statehood "can only be achieved via direct negotiations with the Israelis" and urged European governments "to support [American] efforts" to block the bid. The Palestinians will wait until after the U.S. presidential election in November before proceeding with their bid for upgraded status.
A U.S. memorandum said a Palestinian resolution on non-member state status "would have significant negative consequences, for the peace process itself, for the UN system, as well as our ability to maintain our significant financial support for the Palestinian Authority." (Guardian-UK)
- Lawmaker Blocks $450 Million in Aid to Egypt - Donna Cassata
Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), chairwoman of the U.S. House Appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations, on Friday blocked the Obama administration's plan to transfer $450 million in cash to Egypt, saying the move warrants further review. The Egyptian government angered Washington when it cracked down on numerous democracy advocates and groups, including three U.S.-funded nongovernmental organizations, earlier this year. More recently, demonstrators breached the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.
- Fighting Spreads Through Syria's Largest City - Anne Barnard
In Syria's largest city, Aleppo, on Monday, rebels attacked the towering municipality building with rockets, sending civil servants fleeing.
In a city that was once considered a bastion of support for President Assad, two months of pitched battles have taken a heavy toll. Municipal services have collapsed in many areas, and Christian, Kurdish and wealthy Sunni Muslim neighborhoods that had felt secure when fighting began have been the site of clashes.
The road from Damascus to Aleppo was crowded on Saturday with government troops headed for the city.
(New York Times)
- U.S. Intelligence Now Says Benghazi Was "Deliberate Terrorist Attack" - Mark Hosenball
The office of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper issued a statement on Friday declaring it now believed the Sep. 11 attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, was a "deliberate and organized terrorist attack" and not a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Islam video. (Reuters)
See also Fighters Linked to Freed Egyptian Militant Took Part in Sep. 11 Attack in Libya - Siobhan Gorman and Matt Bradley
Fighters linked to freed Egyptian militant Muhammad Jamal Abu Ahmad took part in the Sep. 11 attack on U.S. diplomatic outposts in Libya that killed four Americans. U.S. intelligence reports suggest that some of the attackers trained at camps he established in the Libyan Desert, a former U.S. official said.
Western officials say Ahmad has petitioned the chief of al-Qaeda, to whom he has long ties, for permission to launch an al-Qaeda affiliate and has secured financing from al-Qaeda's Yemeni wing.
"A lot of people were exuberant that the Arab uprisings in countries like Libya would lead to democracy...as well as stability," said Seth Jones, a counterterrorism specialist at the Rand Corp. But, he said, the resulting weak central governments are leaving room for terrorist leaders to operate.
(Wall Street Journal)
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- As Sinai Border Heats Up, Egypt Buries Its Head in the Sand - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
Israeli security officials are convinced that steps reportedly taken by the Egyptians to quell extremists' terror activity in Sinai have had negligible effect. Even after the widely publicized operation by Egyptian security forces in Sinai during August and September, dozens of armed Bedouin were able to launch an attack on an Egyptian security compound in El-Arish.
Morsi tried to engage with extremists in Sinai, but the negotiations led nowhere. Attacks on Egypt's army have escalated during the past two weeks.
The problem is clear and ominous: increasingly expansive activity undertaken by radical organizations that view Israel as an accessible target, in a period when a new Egyptian government has not shown much determination to bring such militant terror actions to an end.
See also Gazans Protest Egypt's Demolition of Smuggling Tunnels - Khaled Abu Toameh
In recent weeks, Egyptian security forces have destroyed dozens of tunnels used to smuggle goods and people across the border to Gaza.
Palestinians in Gaza have for the first time staged demonstrations against the demolitions, with some of the protests organized by Hamas. (Jerusalem Post)
- Jordan Appoints New Ambassador to Israel
A Jordanian government source said Thursday that the Foreign Ministry will appoint Walid Khalid Obeidat as Jordan's new ambassador to Israel.
Amman is expected to send Obeidat next month.
There has been no Jordanian ambassador in Israel since July 2010.
See also Jordanian Tribe Condemns Appointment of its Member as Ambassador to Israel - Roi Kais
The Jordanian Obeidat tribe on Monday condemned the appointment of tribe member Walid Khalid Obeidat as Jordan's new ambassador to Israel, saying the appointment is "violating all prohibitions, crossing all red lines and offending the nation and the tribe." A statement published by al-Dustour noted: "The tribe will...not sign a peace agreement with its enemies....This tribe was one of the first to understand the dangers of the Zionist settlement scheme in the 1920s." Jordanian officials linked the decision to appoint a new ambassador to Egypt's decision to do the same.
- The Palestinians' Dubious UN Move - Dore Gold
The Palestinians intend to request that the UN General Assembly upgrade their status from a "non-state observer" to a "non-member observer state." Unlike full UN membership, this can be achieved through a simple majority of the General Assembly. Legally, this involves a technical change of status that even the UN's own experts can barely explain.
The Palestinians are hoping that their upgrade could be used to grant the PA the standing with the International Criminal Court (ICC) that it has sought. However, Palestinian initiatives at the ICC would be a double-edged sword. Since the PA is seeking that its standing as a state include the territory of the Gaza Strip, it would assume legal responsibility for rocket attacks on Israeli civilians by Hamas, which are war crimes. (Israel Hayom)
- The Palestinian Authority's Policy of Duplicity - Khaled Abu Toameh
Last week Palestinian Authority leaders called for a "day of solidarity" with Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. At the same time, many of these Palestinian prisoners had been arrested due to information provided by the Palestinian Authority to Israel.
In addition, PA security forces recently detained more than 100 Palestinians suspected of being affiliated with Hamas and other groups. (Gatestone Institute)
- Compared with Egypt or Syria, West Bank an Oasis of Peace and Plenty - Spengler
The PA can't pay salaries because international donors, including the Gulf states, haven't sent promised aid. Roughly one in four Palestinian men between the ages of 20 and 40 is paid to carry a gun. A putative nation whose economy is based on the imminent prospect of violence does not have first claim on scarce international resources.
Meanwhile, the living standard of Arabs in the so-called Occupied West Bank is double that of pre-crisis Egypt; compared with Egypt or Syria, it is an oasis of peace and plenty. After years of intoning that the Palestine issue was the crux of the world's security problems, the world has left the keys in the wreck and walked away. (Asia Times-Hong Kong)
Defining Red Lines on Iran and Clearing the Air with Washington - Herb Keinon and Hilary Leila Krieger (Jerusalem Post)
See also Obama, Netanyahu Got What They Hoped For at UN Meeting - Louis Charbonneau (Reuters)
Prime Minister Netanyahu's aides said Saturday night that the key objectives of his trip to New York - clearly defining red lines on Iran and clearing the air with Washington - were achieved.
- One official said a phone conversation Friday with President Obama and a meeting Thursday with Secretary of State Clinton "strengthened and enhanced our dialogue with the U.S. administration over these issues."
- In addition, Netanyahu's UN speech and his red line on a rudimentary sketch of a bomb received "almost unprecedented coverage internationally" and succeeded in putting the Iranian nuclear program "at the very center of the international political agenda."
- The White House stressed on Friday, following the Obama-Netanyahu phone conversation, that the U.S. and Israel were "in full agreement" on preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
- U.S. President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu appeared to get what they hoped for at the annual UN General Assembly meeting after closing ranks to send a message to Iran that it may face war over its nuclear program.
- Obama came away with an assurance that Israel would not attack Iran's nuclear sites before the November 6 U.S. presidential election, and Netanyahu heard a commitment from Obama to do whatever it takes to prevent Iran from producing an atomic bomb.
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