Assad Suffering Reversals in Fighting and Diplomacy - Anne Barnard and Ellen Barry (New York Times)
A Russian political analyst with contacts at the Syrian Foreign Ministry said that "people sent by the Russian leadership" who had contact with Assad two weeks ago described a man who has lost all hope of victory or escape.
"His mood is that he will be killed anyway," said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of a Russian foreign affairs journal.
"If he will try to go, to leave, to exit, he will be killed by his own people," Lukyanov said, speculating that security forces dominated by Assad's minority Alawite sect would not let him depart and leave them to face revenge.
UN Chief Accuses Syria of Violating Cease-Fire Agreement with Israel (AP-Washington Post)
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon accused the Syrian government Monday of serious violations of the 1974 agreement that separated Israeli and Syrian forces in the Golan Heights and called on both countries to halt firing across the cease-fire line.
"I am concerned that the presence of armed members of the opposition and the ongoing military activities of the Syrian security forces have the potential to ignite a larger conflict," Ban said. "There should be no military activity of any kind in the area of separation."
Austrian Soldiers Wounded in Syria Taken to Israel (Reuters-Jerusalem Post)
Two Austrian peacekeeping soldiers wounded in crossfire in Syria were transferred to Israel for treatment on Friday.
David Ratner, a spokesman for Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, said, "We are a designated hospital to care for injured United Nations soldiers in the region but this is the first time that we have had to deal with anybody hurt in the internal Syrian conflict."
Tunnels between Gaza and Egypt Are Back in Business Since Cease-Fire - Scott Wilson (Washington Post)
For Israeli leaders, who are seeking assurances since the recent cease-fire that Hamas be prevented from restocking its potent weapons arsenal, the thriving return of tunnel commerce poses a daunting strategic challenge.
Since leaving Gaza seven years ago, Israel's military has lost its on-the-ground ability to stop tunnel smuggling.
"Our expectation of Egypt, and the rest of the international community, is to stop Hamas from rearming," said Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Inside the Most Extreme Wing of Syria's Struggle - Ruth Sherlock (Telegraph-UK)
The key to Jabhat al-Nusra's extreme violence is its recruitment of radical fighters from abroad to join Syrians who follow its secretive official leader, known as Abu Muhammad al-Julani.
In the partly "liberated" northern areas of Syria, jihadist and secular rebel groups watch each other's military bases warily.
A leading rebel fighter warned, "The next war after Bashar al-Assad falls will be between us and the Islamists."
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- Obama Warns Assad Against Chemical Weapons
The U.S. warned Syria Monday not to use chemical weapons against rebel forces amid intelligence reports indicating that the Assad regime could be preparing to do so. "I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad and those under his command - the world is watching," President Barack Obama said, "and you will be held accountable." (CNN)
See also The Real WMD Nightmare Is Syria - Charles P. Blair
Syria's chemical arsenal includes several hundred tons of blistering agents along with large stockpiles of deadly nerve agents, including VX, the most toxic of all chemical weapons. At least four large chemical weapon production facilities exist. Syrian chemical agents are weaponized and deliverable.
(Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists)
- U.S. Raises Monitoring of Iranian Reactor - Jay Solomon and Julian E. Barnes
The U.S. has significantly stepped up spying operations on Iran's Bushehr nuclear reactor over the past two months, American officials said, driven by heightened concerns about the security of weapons-grade plutonium after Tehran unexpectedly discharged fuel rods from the facility in October, just two months after it became fully operational.
Under an agreement with Russia, all spent fuel is to be returned to Russia and stored.
So the International Atomic Energy Agency was surprised on Oct. 15 when Iran said it was discharging all of the nuclear fuel from Bushehr and storing it in a cooling pond at the site.
Independent nuclear experts estimate that this discharged fuel was made up of between 22 and 220 pounds of weapons-grade plutonium, enough to produce as many as 24 nuclear bombs, if reprocessed further. (Wall Street Journal)
- UN Calls on Israel to Open Nuclear Program for Inspection
The UN General Assembly approved a resolution Monday by a vote of 174-6 with 6 abstentions, calling on Israel to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty "without further delay" and open its nuclear facilities to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Israel has long said there first must be a Mideast peace agreement. Resolutions adopted by the General Assembly are not legally binding.
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- Israel Will Not Cancel Construction Plans - Barak Ravid
Israel does not intend to cancel plans to accelerate construction in the E-1 area between Ma'ale Adumim and Jerusalem, senior officials in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said Monday. The officials added that in light of the fact that the Palestinian move at the UN is a violation of agreements with Israel, "it is no wonder that Israel did not sit idly by." "If they will continue taking unilateral steps, Israel will act accordingly." (Ha'aretz)
See also Israel Refuses to Rescind Settlement Decision - Herb Keinon
One government official slammed what he said was Europe's disproportionate response. The official asked where the EU's outrage was when PA President Mahmoud Abbas praised Hamas' launching of rockets on Israeli civilian targets, or when he accused Israel of tunneling under the Temple Mount to destroy the Aksa Mosque or when he denied any Jewish connection to Jerusalem.
The source described Israel's move as a "proportionate and measured" response to Abbas' support of Hamas rockets on Israel, the UN move, and his hate-filled speech in the UN. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Sources: U.S. Behind European Protest Measures - Attila Somfalvi
The U.S. was behind the summoning of Israeli ambassadors by several European nations over settlement construction, Israeli sources said Monday. "The European move is essentially an American move," one official said. "The Brits asked the Americans how to act." (Ynet News)
- Israeli Security Agents Kill Ax-Wielding Palestinian Attacker - Stuart Winer and Gabe Fisher
A Palestinian man driving in the northern West Bank on Monday rammed into a vehicle driven by agents of the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet). The man then got out of his car and charged at the agents with an ax, yelling "Allahu Akbar" and slightly injuring two passengers before the agents shot and killed him.
(Times of Israel)
- How Hamas and Islamic Jihad Use Journalism as a Cover for Terrorism
On Nov. 19, four senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives took over an office on the second floor of a civilian media building in Gaza - where major international news networks were located - and used it as a meeting place. They thought that using international journalists as human shields would ensure their safety. The IDF surgically targeted their hiding place and a direct hit was confirmed. Islamic Jihad confirmed that at least one of them was killed.
On the 7th floor of a media building in the Rimal district of Gaza City, Hamas was operating an intelligence and command center. The IDF surgically targeted it. CNN's Anderson Cooper tweeted: "4 rockets just fired from near media center in Gaza City." In another media building used by international journalists, Hamas was using antennas on the roof to communicate with its field operatives. On Nov. 18, the IDF surgically targeted the roof.
(Israel Defense Forces)
- The Iranian Role in the 2012 Gaza Conflict - Michael Segall
Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza constituted a microcosm of the changes reshaping the Middle East. During the fighting, Iran took pains to highlight its own supply of weapons and means of manufacturing them to the Palestinians - in particular the Fajr-5 that was fired at Tel Aviv - contrasting the feebleness of the Arabs with its own potency. Iran also sought to boost its status as the actor that no longer fears Israel and the Western powers.
Egypt, playing a central role in determining the new regional order, will likely find itself in confrontation with Iran. Turkey is already confronting Iran, with Syria as a front line. Iran's ongoing attempts to win the hearts and minds of the Arab street are failing due to its role in militarily supporting the repressive Assad regime. The profound gaps between Arabs and Persians, Sunnis and Shiites, only grow deeper as the threat from Iran mounts.
The Fars News Agency, associated with Iran's Revolutionary Guards, reported that the homes and offices of senior Hamas officials had been identified during the visit to Gaza of the emir of Qatar and subsequently were targeted by Israel. During his visit the emir gave watches and pens as gifts to heads of Hamas; these, allegedly, sent low-frequency signals to Israeli satellites that helped locate Hamas leaders during the Gaza operation, Fars alleged.
IDF Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael (Mickey) Segall is a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center.
(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- The New Middle East's New Problems - Joschka Fischer
The political epicenter of the Middle East has shifted from the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians toward the Persian Gulf and the struggle for regional mastery between Iran on one side and Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and now Egypt on the other.
In the emerging struggle between the region's Shia and Sunni powers, the old Middle East conflict has become a sideshow. Syria is where the battle for regional hegemony will largely be decided.
When the Assad regime does fall, it will be a major defeat for Iran, not only entailing the loss of its main Arab ally, but also jeopardizing the position of its client, Hizbullah, in Lebanon. While the weakening and rollback of Iran serves Israeli strategic interests, Israel will have to reckon with Sunni Islamist power everywhere in its vicinity, leading directly to a strengthening of Hamas.
Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood reject territorial compromise because, for them, a Palestinian state means a Palestine that incorporates all of Israel. The territorial question has morphed into a religious one, and has thus fundamentally redefined the conflict. The writer was German Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor during 1998-2005.
Israel's Building No Obstacle to Peace - Jonathan S. Tobin (Commentary)
- It is argued that by allowing building in the E1 development area that connects Jerusalem's Ma'ale Adumim suburb to the city, Israel will be foreclosing the possibility of a two-state solution since this would effectively cut the West Bank in half and forestall its viability as an independent Palestinian state. Yet highways and tunnels could easily be constructed to allow access between Arab areas to the north and south of Jerusalem.
- If the Palestinians did want a two-state solution, the new project as well as others announced for more houses to be built in 40-year-old Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem wouldn't stop it. Jewish housing in the disputed areas is no more of an obstacle to peace than the far greater Arab housing boom in other parts of Jerusalem.
- Everyone knows that proposed land swaps would have to account for the Jewish suburbs of Jerusalem, including Ma'ale Adumim and the other towns in the vicinity that are already inside the security fence. The notion that Israeli building - in areas that everyone knows they would keep if there was a deal in place - is stopping peace from breaking out is ludicrous.
- The argument about the West Bank is not solely about pitting rights of Palestinians against Israel's security needs. The West Bank is, after all, part of the area designated by the League of Nations for Jewish settlement under the Mandate of Palestine. It is also the heart of the ancient Jewish homeland to which Jews have historical, legal and religious ties that cannot be erased by a century of Arab hatred.
- Throughout the last 20 years, Israel has been in engaged in peace talks or attempts to revive them, during the course of which it has made numerous concessions about territory to the Palestinians. For its pains, Israel has been subjected to even greater vituperation and delegitimization during this period than before.
- So long as it does not speak of its rights, Israel will always be treated as a thief who must return stolen property rather than as a party to a conflict with its own justified claims.
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