France: Iran on Track for Nukes by Mid-2013 (AP)
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told Europe-1 radio Sunday that experts "have established in an absolutely indisputable way" that Iran has compiled a full array of centrifuges that "apparently will allow the ability to go toward possession of the nuclear weapon by the first half of next year, the end of the first half."
U.S., Iran Deny Plans for Bilateral Nuclear Talks - Yeganeh Torbati (Reuters)
Iran followed the U.S. on Sunday in denying that the two countries had scheduled direct bilateral negotiations on Iran's nuclear program.
U.S. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said Saturday: "It's not true that the United States and Iran have agreed to one-on-one talks or any meeting after the American elections."
The New York Times reported on Saturday that secret exchanges between U.S. and Iranian officials had yielded agreement "in principle" to hold one-on-one talks.
See also U.S. Officials Say Iran Has Agreed to Nuclear Talks - Helene Cooper and Mark Landler (New York Times)
Hizbullah Firing Hundreds of Rockets into Syria Daily - Yousef Diab (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
Mohamed al-Homsi, a member of the Homs Local Coordination Committee, has accused Hizbullah of "intervening in the fighting alongside the Syrian regime with all of its power," adding, "Hizbullah is firing its rockets - the same rockets that it claims are to fight Israel - into Syrian territory to kill Syrian people."
"Between 100 and 150 rockets and mortar shells are being fired by Hizbullah into the Syrian town of al-Qaseer and the surrounding villages on a daily basis, from the group's military positions."
The British Daily Telegraph issued a report confirming that Hizbullah is launching rocket attacks into Syria.
Poll: Egyptians Turning toward Iran, Want Nuclear Weapons - Josh Rogin
A poll of Egyptians conducted last month shows that they have increasingly positive views of Iran and believe that both Iran and Egypt should obtain nuclear weapons.
65% expressed support for renewing Egypt-Iran relations and 61% expressed support of the Iranian nuclear project, though 68% held unfavorable views of Shiite Muslims. 87% want Egypt to have its own nuclear bomb.
74% disapprove of Egypt having diplomatic relations with Israel and 77% agreed that "The peace treaty with Israel is no longer useful and should be dissolved."
Israel Air Force Strikes Gaza Terrorists Preparing to Fire Mortars - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
The Israel Air Force struck a Palestinian terrorist cell in northern Gaza about to carry out a mortar attack on Israel, the IDF said Monday morning.
Earlier, terrorists fired mortar shells at an IDF force carrying out a routine patrol along the border with Gaza. Soldiers returned fire.
In addition, four rockets fired from Gaza landed in Israel.
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- Jordan Disrupts Major Al-Qaeda Terrorist Plot - Joby Warrick and Taylor Luck
Authorities in Jordan have disrupted a major terrorist plot by al-Qaeda-linked operatives to launch near-simultaneous attacks on multiple civilian and government targets, reportedly including the U.S. Embassy in Amman.
The Jordanian government issued a statement describing the plot and saying that 11 people with connections to al-Qaeda's affiliate in Iraq have been arrested.
The foiled attack, described as the most serious plot uncovered in Jordan since at least 2005, was viewed with particular alarm by intelligence agencies because of its sophisticated design and the planned use of munitions intended for the Syrian conflict - a new sign that Syria's troubles could be spilling over into neighboring countries, officials said.
See also Jordan Foils Major Terrorist Plot
Jordan's General Intelligence Department has foiled a major terrorist plot. The terrorist group performed surveillance of potential targets and laid plans for execution using explosives, booby-trapped cars as well as submachine guns and mortars. The group experimented with explosives after procuring basic material and consulting with senior explosives' experts from Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
- Palestinian Elections: Despite Hamas Boycott, Fatah Fares Poorly - Christa Case Bryant and Rebecca Collard
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party made a disappointing showing in Saturday's local elections in the West Bank, with its chosen candidates failing to secure local majorities in key cities despite a boycott by its chief rival, Hamas. In Nablus the official Fatah list got only five of 15 available seats, losing the rest to Fatah independents.
(Christian Science Monitor)
See also Split Results in West Bank Vote - Mohammed Daraghmeh
Palestinian election officials said Sunday that voters choosing new local councils in the West Bank rebuffed candidates from Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement in five of the 11 main towns in Saturday's elections. In four of the towns where Fatah lost, including Ramallah, the seat of Abbas' government, voters preferred independent lists dominated by Fatah breakaways. (AP)
- U.S. Offers $12 Million for Iran-Based al-Qaeda Operatives - Jamie Crawford
The U.S. State Department has authorized a reward of up to $7 million for information leading to the location of Muhsin al-Fadhli, the leader of al-Qaeda's network in Iran. $5 million was offered for Adel Radi Saqr al-Wahabi al-Harbi, who serves as al-Fadhli's deputy in Iran.
The move further exposes al-Qaeda's "critically important Iran-based funding and facilitation network," said David S. Cohen, Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
In return for refusing to conduct operations or recruit operatives from inside Iran, al-Qaeda is given the freedom to operate by the Iranian government and uninhibited ability to travel for extremists and their families, the Treasury Department says.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel Objects to EU Condemnation of Jerusalem Construction - Tovah Lazaroff
After EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Friday condemned a plan to build 797 homes in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Saturday the EU's condemnation harms the peace process and ignores the fact that the unified city is Israel's capital.
"These automatic condemnations indicate a fundamental misunderstanding of the reality of the region," Lieberman said.
"These condemnations do not contribute anything to the advancement of talks between Israelis and Palestinians. They only encourage the Palestinians to continue to refuse to participate in negotiations and to continue their anti-Israel activity in the international arena."
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said on Saturday, "Gilo is an inseparable part of Jerusalem and we are not going to apologize for that. We will continue to build tens of thousands of apartments across the entire city for all sectors. The only way to lower the price of apartments is to continue building without stopping, as we are now doing in order to allow young people to live in Jerusalem and build themselves a future." (Jerusalem Post)
See also Netanyahu: We Will Place No Restrictions on Construction in Our Capital
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday: "I would like to make it clear that we are building in Jerusalem. We are not placing any restrictions on construction in Jerusalem. It is our capital. Just as there is construction in every capital, in London, Paris, Washington and Moscow, Israel is building in Jerusalem. We have a link no less ancient and no less strong to our capital, and this is an understatement." (Prime Minister's Office)
- Ya'alon: Egypt Wanted to Renegotiate Peace Treaty - Shlomo Cesana
Vice Prime Minister and Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe (Bogie) Ya'alon revealed on Friday that Egypt had recently asked Israel to renegotiate the military appendix of the 1979 peace treaty between the two countries, but Israel had refused. Ya'alon also said Egypt had understood that it had to accept the Israeli stance or risk losing U.S. aid.
"Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood....Even though he wants very much to renegotiate the treaty, he is forced to say he is committed to it, because if he does not say this, aid money from the U.S. would no longer flow to Egypt. This is the political reality and it proves that a treaty that is not backed up with incentives is not worth the paper it is written on," Ya'alon said.
- Israel Navy Seizes Gaza-Bound Finnish Ship - Yoav Zitun
The Israel Navy seized the Gaza-bound ship Estelle, which was seeking to breach Israel's naval blockade on Gaza, the army's Spokesperson's Unit reported on Saturday. The soldiers did not use force while seizing the ship, which was brought to Ashdod port. An initial search found no humanitarian aid supplies aboard the ship, the IDF said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said:
"Even the people aboard the ship know that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and that their entire goal is to provoke and slander Israel. If these activists really cared about human rights, they would have sailed to Syria." (Ynet News)
- Senior Lebanese Security Chief, an American Ally, Assassinated in Beirut - Lee Smith
On Friday a car bomb in Beirut killed senior Lebanese security chief Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hassan, along with seven others, while wounding over a hundred in Ashrafiyeh, a busy neighborhood in Christian-majority East Beirut. The bombing and murder of Hassan marks a return to the period of 2005-2008, when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies embarked on a campaign of bombings in residential areas and assassinations of Lebanese figures opposed to the regime in Damascus.
Wissam al-Hassan was chief of the internal security force's information branch and had been threatened repeatedly. Just last week, an editorial in a pro-Syrian Lebanese newspaper identified Hassan as an enemy, likely foreshadowing his murder. The information branch is the only one of the four security outfits inside Lebanon that has been effective in fighting terror - i.e., Hizbullah and Syria. (Weekly Standard)
See also Sunni Anger Flares at Funeral of Slain Lebanese Security Chief - Liz Sly
Riots erupted in Beirut after the funeral Sunday for intelligence chief Brig. Gen Wissam al-Hassan. Hundreds of angry mourners surged toward the offices of the prime minister after speakers at the funeral exhorted Sunnis to topple the country's Hizbullah-allied government in revenge for the Friday bomb attack. Sunni and Christian politicians have blamed Syria for the assassination. But increasingly their anger is being directed at Hizbullah, as the most powerful force in the alliance running the government and as Syria's chief Lebanese ally. "Nasrallah is the enemy of God," chanted some of the mourners, referring to Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
See also Hizbullah's Naked Aggression Strips Away Resistance Facade - Hussain Abdul Hussain
Many have argued that Gen. Al-Hassan was killed to settle a score relating to his role in the arrest of Michel Samaha, an Assad apparatchik who was caught planning a domestic bombing campaign during the summer. In fact, Al-Hassan was probably targeted because of his growing security role that had started to threaten Hizbullah's unrivalled control of Lebanon's intelligence apparatus.
Whatever the cost, Hizbullah now calculates that an open conflict with Lebanon's Sunnis justifies turning its arms inward and away from Israel. And if Shiites are at war with Sunnis, that would rationalize the killing of Sunni Gen. Al-Hassan and the Hizbullah members fighting alongside Assad forces inside Syria.
Meanwhile, wiping Israel off the map can wait. Conflict with Sunnis gives Hizbullah and its patrons in Damascus and Tehran a regional role; war with Israel is costly and unrewarding, a lesson that Hafez Al-Assad learnt some 40 years ago.
The writer is Washington bureau chief of the Kuwaiti newspaper Alrai.
The Islamic Awakening: This Is Not a Revolution - Hussein Agha and Robert Malley (New York Review of Books)
- Everywhere, Israel faces the rise of Islam, of militancy, of radicalism. Former allies are gone; erstwhile foes reign supreme. But the Islamists have different and broader objectives. They wish to promote their Islamic project, which means consolidating their rule where they can, refraining from alienating the West, and avoiding perilous and precocious clashes with Israel.
- The quest to establish an independent, sovereign Palestinian state was never at the heart of the Islamist project. Hamas, the Palestinian chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood, harbors grander, less territorially confined but also less immediately achievable designs.
They can live with a range of transient arrangements: an interim agreement; a long-term truce, or hudna; a possible West Bank confederation with Jordan, with Gaza moving toward Egypt. All will advance the further Islamization of Palestinian society.
- Israel fears the Islamic awakening. But the more immediate threat could be to the Palestinian national movement. There is no energy left in the independence project; associated with the old politics and long-worn-out leaderships, it has expended itself.
- Islamists prospered in opposition because they could blame others; they could suffer in power because others will blame them. Dilute their domestic and foreign agenda, and they may well lose their rank-and-file; pursue it and they will alienate non-Islamists and the West. Postpone the struggle against Israel, and their rhetoric will appear disconnected from their policy; wage it, and their policy will appear dangerous to their new allies in the West.
- If they explain that their moderation is tactical, they will expose themselves; stay silent and they will confuse the base. The power of political Islam flowed chiefly from not exercising it. Its recent successes could signal the eve of its decline. How much simpler was life on the other side.
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