Satellite Pictures Show Construction at Sensitive Iranian Military Site - Holly Watt and Claire Newell (Telegraph-UK)
International inspectors have been excluded from the Parchin military complex since February 2005, where Iran is believed to have tested rockets and explosives.
However, new satellite images show that construction of new facilities has continued inside the complex.
Oxford Students Reject Boycott Israel Motion (JTA)
A motion calling for blanket sanctions against Israel was rejected by the Oxford University Students' Union by a vote of 69-10, with 15 abstentions.
Will Russia Evacuate Its Citizens from Syria? - David Meyers (Daily Caller)
As the Syrian crisis rages on, experts have been closely monitoring the activity of thousands of Russians living in Syria.
But a full-scale evacuation is unlikely, no matter how dire the situation in Syria becomes.
A Russian evacuation would embolden the Syrian rebels and their supporters, and could hasten Assad's downfall.
Therefore, given how much Putin has invested in Syria, a full-scale Russian evacuation probably won't happen.
Israel's Arrow 3: Quicker, Higher, Farther - Tal Inbar (Israel Hayom)
The Arrow 3 anti-missile defense system is designed to intercept incoming threats in space, above the upper atmosphere.
The Arrow 3 is fundamentally different from what is already operational today. The interceptor missile is smaller and more agile. It flies faster and higher, and its price is expected to be cheaper.
The Arrow 3 was developed in partnership with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, with the cooperation of the American defense industry.
The writer is head of the Space Research Center at the Fisher Institute for Air & Space Strategic Studies.
Ethiopian-Israeli Wins Miss Israel Pageant (JTA)
Yityish Aynaw, 21, a former Israeli army officer born in Ethiopia who came to Israel with her family when she was 12, won the Miss Israel pageant on Wednesday.
"It's important that a member of the Ethiopian community wins the competition for the first time....There are many different communities of many different colors in Israel, and it's important to show that to the world."
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- Congress Seeks to Toughen Iranian Sanctions - Rick Gladstone
Congressional lawmakers in Washington introduced legislation on Wednesday that would greatly expand the sanctions on Iran, amounting to a commercial trade embargo if fully carried out. The bipartisan Nuclear Iran Prevention Act, which was expected to pass both the House and the Senate, would build on existing laws that restrict business dealings with Iran, widen the list of blacklisted Iranian companies and individuals and potentially block Iran's access to its foreign bank assets held in euros.
Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the legislation would expand the list of blacklisted companies to all those controlled by the government of Iran, which could number in the hundreds. "You're essentially cutting off these companies from strategic sectors of the Iranian economy," he said.
(New York Times)
- Syria Fires Missiles at Aleppo, Killing 141 - Liz Sly
The ballistic missiles struck two densely populated neighborhoods in Aleppo last Friday, leaving scenes of devastation resembling those of an earthquake, with homes pulverized beyond recognition, people torn to shreds in an instant and what had once been thriving communities reduced to mountains of rubble. At least 141 people were killed.
Sightings - captured on video - of missiles being fired from bases outside Damascus shortly before the blasts points to them being Scuds. Shells damage apartments and airstrikes demolish buildings, but "Scuds wipe out whole streets," said Col. Abdul Jabbar Akaidi, a senior commander in the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo. "You can hide from a shell and you can hide from an airstrike, but you can't hide from a Scud." (Washington Post)
- EU Envoys Call for Action Against Jewish Settlements - Robert Tait and Andrew Rettman
A report by the EU heads of mission in eastern Jerusalem condemns Israeli construction in Jerusalem as deliberately designed to prevent the division of the city in any peace agreement.
The report is non-binding and has the official status of an internal document.
Previous reports have failed to secure the backing of EU ambassadors and foreign ministers necessary to become official policy.
Israeli officials dismissed the latest report as unbalanced and partisan. "The consul-generals in eastern Jerusalem aren't allowed to speak to Israeli government officials," one government figure said. "They only have contact with officials on one side and therefore their reports tend to be very one-sided. The notion that settlements are the whole problem with the peace process is something we reject. The aftermath of our evacuation of settlements from Gaza, when we got the opposite of peace, tells you all you need to know." (Telegraph-UK)
See also EU-Funded NGO Leaked Report on Israel - Herb Keinon
The NGO Breaking the Silence was behind a leak on Wednesday of the annual report put together by heads of EU missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah, which blasted Israeli policies. An Israeli diplomatic official explained that each year the report generates headlines but does not have much of an impact on overall EU policy. The report prejudges negotiations and states categorically that Jerusalem will need to be the capital of two states for a two-state solution to be possible. According to NGO Monitor, Breaking the Silence has been funded heavily by the EU and by some of its individual member states. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Syrian Rebels Say They Killed Hizbullah Deputy Chief
Hizbullah's deputy chief Naim Qassem was killed Tuesday when Syrian rebels bombed a convoy of high-ranking Syrian officers near the Lebanon border, Now Lebanon quoted the Free Syria Army as saying on Wednesday.
The Lebanese newspaper al-Mustaqbal reported that mines placed on the Beirut-Damascus highway near Jdeidet Yabous had detonated as the convoy returned from a high-level security meeting in Lebanon. (Jerusalem Post)
- IDF Prepares for Ground Operations Against Hizbullah - Yaakov Lappin
Maj.-Gen. Sami Turgeman, head of the IDF's Ground Forces, has overseen preparations for an effective and speedy maneuver against Hizbullah in southern Lebanon in case of renewed hostilities. The same preparations will serve the army if it is ordered to retake Gaza, if Hamas and Islamic Jihad renew rocket attacks on Israel. Since the 2006 Second Lebanon War, the army has doubled its battle training time for ground forces, for both regular and reserve brigades.
With Hizbullah and Hamas both in possession of large numbers of rockets threatening the Israeli home front, any conflict must be won quickly and decisively, and a ground offensive is the best way to achieve this, Turgeman noted.
- Iran Celebrates Limited Victory after Latest P5+1 Talks - Meir Javedanfar
According to an article published Wednesday by the Iranian conservative site Mashregh news: "After eight months of resistance by the people of Iran against excessive Western demands, finally the P5+1 agreed to negotiate within the framework of Iran's recommendation in Moscow. This development is a major step in the negotiation process and a victory for the people of Iran." Such a message is likely to be used by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to say that the P5+1 has acknowledged Iran's strength.
While the regime's isolation is growing daily, Khamenei seems to believe that time is on Iran's side. As far as Iran's most powerful man is concerned, the regime will ultimately withstand the sanctions, and it is the West who will ultimately dismantle them because it can't live without Iran's oil. So it's worth Iran's while to wait for now.
- John Kerry's Syrian Second Chance - Fouad Ajami
There is no substitute for military aid that neutralizes the Assad regime's deadly firepower. We must be done with the alibi that we can't arm and see this rebellion to victory because the jihadists now have the upper hand in the ranks of the rebels. Yes, the Nusra Front, a band of non-Syrian jihadists that the U.S. considers a terrorist organization, brought guns and money into the fight. But the opening for the Nusra Front was born of the abdication of those who had it within their means to tip the scales in favor of the rebellion. The writer is a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution.
(Wall Street Journal)
- Hizbullah's Deadly Connection - Hanin Ghaddar
Hizbullah is involved in the bloodshed in Syria up to its neck.
Unless the Lebanese government and the Shia community take drastic measures to dissociate themselves from Hizbullah, Lebanon will not be spared from an imminent, region-wide sectarian war.
Hizbullah in Syria versus Jihadist groups like Jabhat al-Nusra is a story that will not have a happy ending.
Hizbullah is not a Lebanese party whose mission is to protect Lebanon. It is a militia which uses Lebanon as a geographical base from which to launch attacks against Iran's enemies no matter where or who they are. (NOW-Lebanon)
See also If Syria's Assad Falls, Hizbullah's Next - Frida Ghitis
Inside Lebanon, political leaders are furious at Hizbullah, not just for its involvement in Syria, but for a string of terrorist plots against civilians in more than half a dozen countries.
Now Hizbullah is dragging Lebanon into the awful war destroying Syria, taking sides with the man most people in the Arab world now view as a butcher with no legitimacy.
Tribes with Flags: The Myth of Arab Statehood - Aaron David Miller (Foreign Policy)
In the wake of the Arab Spring, we're witnessing the beginning of the end of the illusion of the functional and coherent Arab state. Egypt, Iraq, and Syria once competed for power and influence in the Arab world. In the wake of the Arab Spring, all three have essentially gone off line, their regional reach much diminished.
- It has been said that, with the exception of Egypt, the Arab states are essentially tribes with flags. Sectarian and ethnic identity, rather than national affiliation, is the driving organizing principle in much of Arab politics. When these societies undergo stress, it's loyalty to the tribe, family, sect, and religious group that provides the primary source of identity and organization.
- Forget about the establishment of democracies, or liberal, secular societies. Right now, what the Arab world needs most are stable polities that can provide basic security and some material improvement in the lives of their people.
- America's room for maneuver in the Middle East is shrinking. The authoritarians have gone - and good riddance. The democrats haven't yet arrived - and won't for a good while. And with the end of that old order, perhaps we can finally cast off the illusion that the U.S. can somehow fix all of this.
The writer is a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center.
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