U.S. Budget Cuts Could Jeopardize Iron Dome, Arrow - Ron Dagoni (Globes)
The pending U.S. budget sequester on March 1 is liable to reduce military aid to Israel by over $700 million in the 2013 fiscal year, including the possible loss of all financial aid for joint U.S.-Israeli missile defense programs, said pro-Israel sources in Washington.
Top Israeli officials are drawing up a strategy for dealing with the problem.
Israel's friends in Congress are aware that under the current political reality, members of Congress cannot exempt Israel from the sequester when it will affect millions of Americans.
Gaza Palestinians Fire Rocket at Ashkelon - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
Palestinian terrorists broke a three-month ceasefire on Tuesday and fired a rocket from Gaza at Ashkelon, causing damage to a road, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades took responsibilty for the attack.
Assad's Army Has Fled Entire Area Bordering Israel - Elhanan Miller (Times of Israel)
The Syrian villages along the border with Israel have been taken over by anti-Assad rebels, and forces loyal to President Bashar Assad have fled, Aiman Abu-Jable, an anti-Assad activist from Majdal Shams on the Golan Heights, told the Times of Israel on Monday.
Footage emerging from the Syrian villages in the last few days seemed to corroborate the report.
The Egyptian Army Is Making a Comeback - Zvi Mazel (Jerusalem Post)
Never has Egypt been so close to civil war and it seems that only the army can prevent the worst from happening.
In the past few weeks both the Muslim Brotherhood and President Morsi have became painfully aware that the army will not protect the regime should it lose its legitimacy.
Last week the rumor that Morsi intended to fire the defense minister prompted an "unnamed military source" to warn that such a move would be "political suicide" for the president.
The writer, a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a former ambassador to Egypt.
UN Ignores Modern-Day Slavery - Tom Gross (National Post-Canada)
The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) begins its annual session in Geneva Friday with Mauritania as its vice-president for the next year, a country that allows 20% of its citizens, about 800,000 people, to live as slaves.
Nowhere is slavery still so systematically practiced as in Mauritania, an Islamic republic where imams often use their interpretations of Sharia law to justify forcing the darker-skinned black African Haratine minority to serve as slaves to the Arabic Moor population.
"Officially, the Mauritanian authorities have abolished slavery on five separate occasions. But in reality, it exists exactly as before," Abidine Merzough, the European coordinator for the anti-slavery NGO Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement in Mauritania, told the fifth annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy last week.
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- Skepticism Abounds as Six World Powers Resume Nuclear Talks with Iran - Steven Erlanger
Talks between Iran and six world powers over its nuclear program resumed in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on Tuesday after a break of eight months, but there is a general atmosphere of gloom about their prospects for success. Since talks in Moscow last June, Iran has continued to increase its stockpile of uranium enriched to 20-percent purity, has begun to install a new generation of centrifuges and has not yet completed an agreement on inspection of suspect military sites with the IAEA.
With presidential elections in Iran scheduled for June, senior Western diplomats expressed skepticism that Tehran's chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, the personal representative of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, would be willing to make compromises that could be portrayed as weakness at home. (New York Times)
See also Israel Calls for Removal of All Enriched Uranium from Iran - Herb Keinon
As Iran and the world's major powers begin talks on Tuesday on curbing its nuclear program, an Israeli official said the goal should be an end to Iran's uranium enrichment and the transfer out of the country of all the uranium already enriched.
See also Iran Enters Nuclear Talks in a Freshly Defiant Mood - Thomas Erdbrink
When Iran's nuclear negotiating team sits down with its Western counterparts on Tuesday, it will offer no new plans or suggestions, people familiar with the views of the Iranian leadership say. More likely, the Iranian negotiators will sit with arms crossed, demanding a Western change of heart. Iran's leaders believe that the effects of Western sanctions have been manageable. And Iran's leaders see that North Korea, which openly admits that it wants nuclear weapons, has performed three nuclear tests without suffering any real penalties. As a result, Iran's leaders feel that they, not the West, hold the upper hand in negotiations.
(New York Times)
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- Palestinian Rioters Attack Israeli Soldiers - Khaled Abu Toameh
At Rachel's Tomb near Bethlehem on Monday, some 150 Palestinians hurled firebombs and rocks at IDF soldiers. Rioters also hurled improvised grenades, which endangered the lives of worshipers at the scene, security sources said. The IDF confirmed that a 16-year-old Palestinian, who was shot in the head by a rubber bullet, was part of a group trying to set the guard tower by Rachel's Tomb on fire. Another Palestinian seen hurling a grenade was shot in the leg.
- Abbas' Gamble - Editorial
The unfortunate death of Arafat Jaradat, a Palestinian arrested last week for throwing rocks at Israeli cars, has triggered violence around the West Bank.
An autopsy performed by the Health Ministry found that Jaradat died on Saturday of heart failure and that signs of violence on his body, including broken ribs, were from resuscitation attempts.
Instigating violence on the West Bank will not change the underlying causes of the stalled peace process. While limited rioting could get the U.S. and Europe to renew pressure on Israel,
if Abbas plays his hand wrong and the unrest deteriorates into a third intifada, he could lose control of the situation, lose the presidency and ruin any chances for peace for years to come.
See also Abbas Fans the Flames - Dan Margalit
There is no reason to doubt the findings of the autopsy on Palestinian detainee Arafat Jaradat conducted at Israel's Abu Kabir Forensic Institute. There are no signs that he was tortured during his interrogation. However, this fact did not prevent the PA from announcing that Jaradat was tortured by the Israelis. Even if Abbas wants to resume negotiations with Israel, the steps he has taken recently have pushed that goal farther away.
- Palestinian Authority Orchestrating West Bank Unrest - Ron Ben-Yishai
The current unrest in the territories is being orchestrated, to a large extent, by the Palestinian Authority. Fatah, which is the PA's political base, fears losing its dominance over the West Bank, so it must appear to be just as militant as Hamas in Gaza. The reason the unrest has intensified recently is that the Palestinians want to create an explosive situation ahead of President Obama's upcoming visit to the region. Abbas is interested in creating an atmosphere that will force Netanyahu and Obama to discuss the Palestinian demands.
At the same time, memories of the second intifada are restraining the street. Most of the rioters are young people who were children during the second intifada. Most of those who remember the events of that period are not rushing to the streets. For now, the unrest has yet to develop into a popular uprising. At the same time, the IDF is much better prepared to effectively deal with the rioters.
- North Korea Shows Dangers of Half-Deal with Iran - Gary Milhollin
North Korea's nuclear saga is a cautionary tale for anyone attempting to bargain with Iran. Like Iran, North Korea built plants that generated fissile material that was useful for making bombs, but unnecessary for producing civilian nuclear power. Under a deal with the U.S., North Korea agreed to stop producing nuclear material, on the condition that it could keep its nuclear sites, plus the fuel it had already made.
After the agreement, North Korea was left with enough plutonium in the form of spent reactor fuel to make about six nuclear weapons, after further processing. The deal being floated for Iran would leave it with sufficient enriched uranium to make about six nuclear weapons, after further processing. (Bloomberg)
- How to Jumpstart U.S. Strategy toward Iran - Michael Singh
Washington and its allies should strengthen the sanctions, but aim them at the Iranian regime and its supporters to minimize the effects on the broader population. Washington should bolster the credibility of its military threats through better discipline in its public messaging regarding U.S. and Israeli military options, increased military cooperation with regional allies, a more active approach to Syria, and the articulation of clearer redlines for Iran's nuclear program.
Finally, the U.S. should significantly step up its efforts to aid the Iranian opposition and boost the international profile of Iranian dissidents. The writer is managing director of The Washington Institute.
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- Why Iran Says No - Hussein Banai
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been doubling down on his hard-line message that all but rules out the possibility of direct talks with the U.S. The real source of Khamenei's rejectionist attitude is not the approach of the West toward Iran's nuclear program. After all, he routinely undermined attempts at rapprochement between the Khatami and Clinton administrations at a time when worries about Iran's nuclear program did not exist.
Rather, Khamenei is increasingly paranoid about the implications of a "grand bargain" with the U.S. for his privileged position as the chief interpreter of the ideals of the Islamic Republic.
Simply put, normalization of relations would deprive Khamenei and the radical ideologues around him of a powerful justification for their arbitrary rule.
The writer is an assistant professor of diplomacy and world affairs at Occidental College.
(Los Angeles Times)
Understanding Iran's Negotiating Strategy - Michael Makovsky and Blaise Misztal (Weekly Standard)
Recent Iranian tactics suggest a simultaneous slowing down and speeding up of their nuclear program. By buying time now, Iran is shrewdly seeking to evade international pressure while hastening its advance to nuclear weapons capability.
- Iran has drawn from its stockpile of 20%-enriched uranium to produce fuel plates for use in a reactor, thereby delaying the expected date for crossing the threshold of nuclear weapons capability. Yet Tehran has begun installing next generation centrifuges at its Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant in order to speed up its nuclear work.
- In fact, Iran has not slowed its program all that much, and the installation of advanced centrifuges will hasten Iran's breakout window. Thus, Iran might be delaying the day when it is ready to make the dash to a nuclear weapon, but is ensuring that the dash will be as short as possible.
By the time Iran has sufficient 20%-enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon, it might also have the capability to produce highly-enriched uranium in days.
- In response, the U.S. should make abundantly clear, in both word and deed, that it remains committed to using all means of power to prevent a nuclear Iran.
Michael Makovsky, a Pentagon official during the George W. Bush administration, directs the Bipartisan Policy Center's Foreign Policy Project, including its Iran Initiative. Blaise Misztal is associate director of BPC's Foreign Policy Project.
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