Obama's State of the Union Address - Aaron David Miller (Foreign Policy)
In his 2012 State of the Union speech, President Obama
made it clear that he would prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and take no option off the table.
In 2013, Obama repeated half of what he said in 2012 about preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, but instead of saying all options were on the table, he spoke of the importance of diplomacy.
I suspect he'll go to extreme lengths to avoid war, and won't greenlight an Israeli attack either until the arc of diplomacy has run its course.
And then Obama would likely act only if the mullahs push the envelope by accelerating their uranium enrichment program and other military aspects of the nuclear enterprise.
Obama spoke of standing with Israel to pursue peace, but didn't mention Palestinians or the peace process.
The Middle East is violent and volatile and may yet suck him in, but if he can avoid it, he'll try.
This State of the Union address stressed fixing America's broken house, not chasing around the world trying to fix everyone else's.
The writer is a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Iran Fakes Image of New Fighter Jet - Harry Alsop (Telegraph-UK)
A picture showing Iran's latest fighter jet patrolling the skies has been dismissed as a fake.
Iranian bloggers said the picture posted on the Iranian site Khouz News, which purports to show a Qaher-313 jet soaring over a snowy mountain, had been altered using PhotoShop.
The angle of the shot, as well as the reflections of light and shadows on the plane's wings, appear uncannily similar to a publicity shot of the jet taken on the ground at its unveiling earlier this month.
Experts have said the plane seen at the unveiling seemed to be a large model replica rather than a working prototype.
Spain Arrests Islamist Terrorist - Al Goodman (CNN)
Mohamed Echaabi, a Moroccan suspected of being an Islamic terrorist, was arrested on Thursday by Spanish police in Valencia, the Interior Ministry said Friday.
He was planning targeted killings and other attacks in Spain and elsewhere in Europe, and had attempted to acquire firearms and explosives, the ministry said.
Echaabi had traveled "to Gaza in 2011 with the goal of carrying out an action of suicidal character against Israeli interests."
Israel Plans to Send Probe to Moon in 2015 - Ilan Gattegno (Israel Hayom)
The Space IL organization has as its goal to send an Israeli space probe to the moon in 2015.
The miniature smart spacecraft, to cost a tenth of a typical spacecraft, will be the smallest spacecraft ever to land on the moon.
Space IL is a non-profit group set up to take part in the international Google Lunar X Prize competition.
A $30 million prize will be given to the first privately funded team that lands a robot on the moon, has the robot travel 500 meters on the lunar surface, and sends back video, images and other data to Earth.
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
- Obama: U.S. Will Lead Effort Against Nuclear Proliferation
In his State of the Union Address Tuesday, President Obama said: "America will continue to lead the effort to prevent the spread of the world's most dangerous weapons....The leaders of Iran must recognize that now is the time for a diplomatic solution, because a coalition stands united in demanding that they meet their obligations, and we will do what is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon."
"In the Middle East, we will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights, and support stable transitions to democracy....We will keep the pressure on a Syrian regime that has murdered its own people, and support opposition leaders that respect the rights of every Syrian. And we will stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace. These are the messages I will deliver when I travel to the Middle East next month." (White House)
- Bulgaria Gives Europol Names of Suspects in Bombing Against Israelis
Bulgaria has given Europol the names of two of the people suspected in a bus bombing that killed five Israeli tourists and a local bus driver
last year, Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said Tuesday.
See also Bulgaria Demands Extradition of Terrorists from Lebanon
Bulgaria has demanded the extradition from Lebanon of the two terrorists - known as Ricco and Bryan - connected with the tour bus blast killing five Israelis at Bourgas airport. (Standart-Bulgaria)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel Condemns North Korean Nuclear Test
The Israel Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Tuesday:
"Israel strongly condemns North Korea's nuclear test, and joins the international community in expressing the grave danger that this act poses to regional stability and international peace and security....These actions by the DPRK, in violation of its international obligations, must be met with a swift response by the international community. A clear message must be sent to the DPRK, and to other countries, that such activities are unacceptable and cannot be tolerated." (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
- North Korean Nuke Test May Also Be Iranian - Yaakov Lappin
North Korea's nuclear test on Tuesday may have also been carried out on behalf of Iran, and in the presence of Iranian atomic scientists, Dr. Alon Levkowitz, coordinator of Bar-Ilan University's Asian Studies Program and a member of the BESA Center for Strategic Studies, said Tuesday. "The most disturbing question is whether the Iranians are using North Korea as a backdoor plan for their own nuclear program. The Iranians didn't carry out a nuclear test in Iran, but they may have done so in North Korea," Levkowitz said. During North Korea's previous two nuclear detonations, Iranian nuclear scientists were present, he said.
- Obama's Trip to Jerusalem and the "Peace Process" - Elliott Abrams
President Obama will make his first presidential visit to Israel in March. The White House spokesman said the president's trip is "not focused on specific Middle East peace process proposals," but given the itinerary - Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Amman - the so-called peace process will be near the top of the agenda at every meeting. The trip is a good thing: Israel is a close ally, and American presidents should visit there.
Our new secretary of state, John Kerry, has favored getting an agreement on borders and security first, saying that once borders are established the settlement issue goes away. But defining borders without addressing the area around Jerusalem is impossible. When the Europeans call for a construction freeze in Jerusalem - or to be more precise, call for a construction freeze by Jews while Arabs are free to build wherever they can - they are in effect taking a strong position for the division of Jerusalem along the 1949 lines (which are often called "1967 borders").
What will the president say to the Palestinians? Will he tell them to drop any deal with Hamas - or face an American freeze on financial and political support? Will he tell the PA and PLO leadership that any move against Israel in the International Criminal Court would be disastrous and jeopardize not only their own cooperation with Israel but American aid as well? Will he demand an end to the glorification of terror and terrorists in Palestinian broadcasting, public ceremonies, and school textbooks? It seems unlikely, for all the "peace plans" have in common a squeeze on Israel while they ask little from the PA and PLO.
There is good reason for Israel and the Palestinians to negotiate over incremental, practical steps, and there are steps that can be taken to improve the standard of living in the West Bank, reduce the Israeli footprint there, and build toward Palestinian statehood.
The writer is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
- Is Iran a Bigger Threat than North Korea? - Massimo Calabresi
Administration officials admit that they have adopted a policy of containing a nuclear North Korea, even as they say Pyongyang's program is "unacceptable," but they say there's no way they would cave in to containing Iran if Tehran went nuclear. Containing a nuclear North Korea, as the U.S. contained Russia in the Cold War, is possible. Containing a nuclear Iran is not. Japan and South Korea accept the U.S. nuclear umbrella to protect them. In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey are unlikely to accept U.S. guarantees of protection against a nuclear Iran, so would pursue their own programs.
In addition, the regional politics are different. In the Middle East, Israel has made it clear publicly and privately that it will take military action to stop Iran from going nuclear.
- Palestine's Democratic Deficit - David Keyes
Last week, Palestinian activist Anas Awwad, 26, was sentenced in absentia by a West Bank court to one year in prison for "extending his tongue" against PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Facebook. From the top down, a culture of repression reigns in the Palestinian Authority. Abbas' term ended four years ago, but he has clung to power as an unelected autocrat for nearly half a decade.
A good indicator of how committed a government is to upholding peace with its neighbors is its commitment to protecting the human rights of its own citizens. Nations that disregard the freedoms of their own people are not likely to care much about maintaining peace with their historic enemies. Palestinian human rights, in other words, are key to the peace process.
Rather than continuing to give Abbas a free pass, the West should roundly criticize crackdowns on dissidents and stand firmly with Palestinian democrats. A positive first step would be linking Western economic aid to the PA's respect for free speech.
The writer is executive director of Advancing Human Rights.
(New York Times)
- In Jordan, People Want Evolution, Not Revolution - Udi Dekel and Orit Perlov
On Jan. 23, 2013, elections were held for the Jordanian parliament. The Muslim Brotherhood called for a boycott of the elections.
Discussion on the Jordanian social networks about the elections has focused on the roadmap of King Abdullah II, which seeks a transition to a parliamentary democracy, and the consequences of the "Arab Spring" for Jordan, with the fear of loss of control and stability and a preference for evolution over revolution.
The election results are seen as a tactical victory for the king, a failure for the Muslim Brotherhood, and a victory for conservatives, tribal leaders, and businessmen.
Preparing for the elections, the king made effective use of the potential of social networks, which allowed a direct approach to liberal young people who want change while maintaining stability. The younger generation in Jordan is proposing a softer alternative to the violent and bloody model of the Arab spring.
(Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
Israel at UN: Hizbullah Remains Conspicuously Absent from EU List of Terrorist Groups (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Israeli UN Ambassador Ron Prosor told the UN Security Council on Tuesday:
Eight months have passed since our last debate on "the protection of civilians in armed conflict." Since then, the death toll in Syria has quadrupled - from 14,000 in June to over 60,000 now. The civilians caught in the crosshairs of the Assad regime continue to cry out for protection.
- Assad is not alone. On his advisory board sits Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah, who gives him guidance on how to slaughter civilians more effectively. With the blessings of Iran, its patron saint, Hizbullah has provided arms, training, and logistical support for tens of thousands of Assad's men.
- Iran's arm extends from Syria into Lebanon, where it has helped Hizbullah amass 50,000 missiles - more than many NATO members - and transform the Lebanese state into an outpost for terror. Hizbullah intentionally places its arms in civilian areas, using the entire population of Lebanon as a human shield.
- Hizbullah's reign of terror extends far beyond the Middle East. Its fingerprints have been identified on attacks in all five continents....Despite this, however, Hizbullah remains conspicuously absent from the European Union's list of recognized terrorist organizations. In fact, many states continue to classify Hizbullah as a charity.
- Calling Hizbullah a charity is like calling al-Qaeda an urban-planning organization because of its desire to level tall buildings.
Not since Napoleon invaded Russia has the European continent seen such an astonishing lack of foresight.
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