Hizbullah Deaths in Syria Mount - Amir Taheri (New York Post)
Hizbullah has joined the despot Bashar al-Assad's murder squads against the Syrian people. In recent days, some families of Hizbullah "martyrs" have broken the conspiracy of silence.
Ali Hussein Nassif fell on March 2 at the head of a Hizbullah squadron in Syria's Harmal region.
Seven of Nassif's squad were killed; four wounded were transferred to a Hizbullah hospital in Lebanon.
Talking through Skype, a relative of Nassif said: "We had believed that Hizbullah was only to confront Israel. No one told us that the party would train pro-Assad forces and fight alongside them."
Relatives of another "martyr," Hussein Muhammad Nazar, confirm that he was killed Feb. 1 during a Hizbullah operation in Syria.
At least 21 other Hizbullah members have "achieved martyrdom" since September.
Hizbullah is being dragged into the Syrian civil war on orders from Tehran, where Iranian Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei has pledged "not to allow" Assad to fall.
Covert Iranian Nuclear Dealings via Turkey Revealed (Zaman-Turkey)
An investigation conducted by the federal prosecutor's office of Germany has revealed that Iranian front companies based in Istanbul transported 941 items with nuclear applications through Turkey, the Bugun daily reported on Tuesday.
Materials with nuclear applications obtained in Germany and India were transported to the Mitech company in Iran through Turkey by an Iranian national, Hossein Tanideh. Mitech is under U.S. and EU sanctions. Tanideh was arrested in Istanbul on Jan. 19, 2013.
A good number of Iranian-financed firms have set up shop in Turkey recently. In January alone there were 28 Iranian-funded foreign companies established in Turkey.
Enabling Citizens' Arrests Deals Blow to Egyptian Tourism - Dalia Farouk (Ahram-Egypt)
Egypt's Coalition to Support Tourism (CST) has condemned the prosecutor-general's decision on Sunday to allow citizens' arrests.
The head of the CST, Ehab Moussa, said: "If a tourist rebuffed an Egyptian merchant, refusing to buy something, the merchant might accuse the tourist of spying and arrest him."
Israel's Bold New Queen - Daniel Estrin (Tablet)
Ethiopian-born Yityish "Titi" Aynaw, 21, was just crowned Miss Israel.
Almost 30 years since the first clandestine Israeli airlift of Ethiopian Jews, Israel has anointed one of them Israel's most beautiful woman.
The past few years have been trailblazing ones for Ethiopian-born Israeli women. In 2011, Hagit Yaso was the first Ethiopian-born winner of the Israeli version of "American Idol." In 2012, Belaynesh Zevadia was appointed Israel's first Ethiopian-born ambassador - to Ethiopia. In January, Pnina Tamano-Shata (of the Yesh Atid party) became the first Ethiopian-born woman to be elected to the Knesset.
In 1952, Yemen-born Ora Vered became the first Miss Israel of Middle-Eastern Jewish descent. In 1993, in the midst of post-Soviet immigration, Kiev-born Jana Khodriker won, and in 1999 judges crowned Rana Raslan the first Arab Miss Israel.
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Erosion of Syrian Power Accelerating - Peter Finn
The erosion of the Syrian regime's authority is accelerating and the "increasingly beleaguered" government, which has been unable to defeat insurgents with conventional weapons, might be prepared to use chemical weapons, James R. Clapper, the director of national intelligence, told the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday. Clapper also noted that elements of Syria's biological weapons program "may have advanced beyond the research and development stage" and that Syria possesses conventional and chemical weapons systems that "could be modified for biological agent delivery."
Regarding Iran, Clapper said: "We assess Iran is developing nuclear capabilities to enhance its security, prestige and regional influence and give it the ability to develop nuclear weapons, should a decision be made to do so....Iran has made progress during the past year that better positions it to produce weapons-grade uranium (WGU) using its declared facilities and uranium stockpiles, should it choose to do so. Despite this progress, we assess Iran could not divert safeguarded material and produce a weapon-worth of WGU before this activity is discovered." (Washington Post)
See also Syria Military Shows Signs of Strain - Anne Barnard
Though Syrian government forces remain better armed and organized than the rebels, two years of fighting have pushed the military to continue to scale back its ambitions. In recent days, the government has signaled a growing anxiety over its ability to refresh the depleted and exhausted ranks of soldiers. Around the country, numerous funerals for Syrian soldiers take place each day, not only sapping the military's manpower but also cutting into its support and resolve, analysts say. In recent days the government has placed new emphasis on mobilizing civilians to take up arms.
(New York Times)
- Irish Justice Minister Queries Distinction between Hizbullah Military and Political Wings - Mary Fitzgerald
Ireland's Minister for Justice Alan Shatter told Lebanon's Daily Star that he did not consider distinguishing between Hizbullah's political and military wings a "valid" distinction. "I think Hizbullah is a single organization....It doesn't reflect...the structure of the IRA where the IRA, or Provisional IRA, was a military wing and Sinn Fein was a political wing." (Irish Times)
- Israel Preps for Obama's First Visit with Operation "Unbreakable Alliance" - Cheryl K. Chumley
Israel is preparing to go into near-lockdown mode with a security mission dubbed "Unbreakable Alliance" for President Obama's upcoming visit.
Air Force One lands on March 20, and for 48 hours Israel will be on a high state of alert. The presidential party will then board 12 Blackhawk helicopters to fly to Jerusalem. "This is a huge security operation, in which thousands of police officers, Israel Security Agency agents and U.S. Secret Service agents will be participating," a senior police officer said. "Success, as far as we're concerned, means zero mistakes." (Washington Times)
See also Obama to Be Limited to Strict Kosher Diet on Israel Visit - Robert Tait
President Obama will arrive at Jerusalem's landmark King David Hotel on March 20 - after it has changed its menu in preparation for the start of the annual Jewish Passover festival five days later.
On Passover, which marks the exodus of the Israelite slaves from Egypt, Jews avoid foods containing wheat, barley, rye, or oats.
Pasta dishes will be very much off the menu, while dishes rich in vegetables will predominate - even on room service. Bread is replaced with unleavened bread, known as matzah. (Telegraph-UK)
See also Obama's Itinerary: The Deeper Significance of Each Stop - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Hamas Calls for Daily Confrontations Ahead of Obama's Visit - Elhanan Miller
In an op-ed titled "Receive Obama the way Sharon was received," published Monday on Hamas' news website Al-Resalah, columnist Mustafa Sawwaf wrote: "Palestinians everywhere should begin their activities with direct confrontation with the Zionists in preparation for Obama's visit, even if this entails martyrs and injured until the ominous day of the visit. That should be the day of battle, the great day of mobilization worthy of the American president."
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank demanded on Tuesday that President Obama coordinate his Jerusalem tour with the PA, since the city, it claimed, is "occupied territory." (Times of Israel)
- More Locusts Swarm into Israel - Sharon Udasin
Additional bands of locusts entered Israel on Tuesday, marking a week since the first wave of bugs flew across the Sinai border. Aerial and ground spraying has largely worked in eradicating the swarms, the Agriculture Ministry stressed. Locusts are not harmful to humans, and they only pose a threat to agriculture in large swarms. The chemicals used to combat the locusts are "soft pesticides." They have no effects on other animals and leave no residue.
- 930,000 Palestinians Allowed into Israel Last Year - Or Heller
More than 930,000 Palestinians went through passageways into Israel in 2012,
according to the Israeli Civil Administration. The figures include tens of thousands of family visits, traveling in Israel, receiving medical care in Israeli hospitals, and commerce and employment for Palestinian workers and merchants in Israel. The Civilian Administration has upgraded the infrastructure of the passageways by expanding the passageways, increasing inspection sections, adding manpower, and improving service.
- The Major Hurdle to Peace: How the UN Defines a Palestinian Refugee - Haviv Rettig Gur
At a small gathering last week in New York City's Harvard Club, speakers criticized the international community's tacit acceptance of the UN Relief and Works Agency's definition of a Palestinian refugee. UNRWA refugees are the only refugees who automatically inherit that status in perpetuity, even when they obtain permanent residency or even citizenship in other countries. "Without talking about this problem, there won't be peace," said Israel's ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor.
"The UN mandate for UNRWA was 'the reintegration of the refugees into the normal life of the Near East,'" said Steve Rosen, a former top AIPAC official now with the Middle East Forum. But while the number of refugees worldwide dropped from over 100 million sixty years ago to under 30 million today, the figure for Palestinian refugees ballooned from under 700,000 in 1949 to over 5 million today. Of those 5 million UNRWA-registered refugees, fewer than 50,000, or 1%, are original refugees from that 1948 war and would be considered refugees under the rules of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees that govern other refugee populations. As many as 40% of recognized Palestinian refugees are citizens of Jordan.
Prosor noted: "Many UNRWA camps are decorated with keys. Young Palestinians are taught that these keys will one day open doors for them. But in reality these keys lock them in, in perceptions of the past and frustrations that they will never be able to realize."
Last year Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) proposed an amendment specifying that the U.S. will only consider a Palestinian refugee someone who was personally displaced as a result of the 1948 or 1967 Arab-Israeli conflicts.
(Times of Israel)
- Getting Carrier Out of the Gulf Good for U.S. Iran Policy - Michael Eisenstadt
The U.S. Navy has had a carrier in the Gulf, on and off, for more than 20 years now, and it has maintained a nearly continuous presence there since 2010, while a second carrier in the Gulf of Oman supports operations in Afghanistan.
Conventional wisdom says the presence of an American aircraft carrier in the Gulf deters Iranian adventurism or aggression. But the presence of a carrier in the Gulf enabled Iran to hold a U.S. strategic asset at risk. (Senior Iranian military officials have said as much on several occasions.)
Any time a carrier operated in the Gulf, it operated within range of a large number of highly capable Iranian anti-ship systems, including modern anti-ship cruise missiles, wake homing torpedoes and rising mines. In a conflict with Iran, there is a good chance that the carrier would sustain some damage, enabling Iran to claim a propaganda victory as the first country to bloody a U.S. carrier in combat since World War II. Against this background, sailing aircraft carriers up and down Iran's coast accomplished very little, except to put U.S. service members and critical assets at risk.
Without a carrier to target, Iran would have fewer ways to escalate after a preventive strike. The absence of a carrier would also reduce the likelihood that in the aftermath of an Israeli strike, Iran could retaliate in a way that inflicted significant losses on the U.S., thereby sparking a crisis in U.S.-Israel relations. The writer is a senior fellow and director of the Military and Security Studies Program at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Israeli President Peres Addresses the European Parliament (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
The President of the State of Israel, Shimon Peres, addressed the European Parliament on Tuesday:
- Peace for Israel is not just a strategic choice. It is a moral call which stems from the depth of our heritage. Our legacy calls upon us to pursue peace.
Our hand remains stretched out in peace to all the countries in the Middle East.
- The greatest danger to peace in the world is the present Iranian regime. It became a dictatorship cloaked in a religious mantle.
It developed an imperial appetite.
Nobody threatens Iran. Iran threatens others.
It endangers the independence of Arab countries. It menaces the mere existence of Israel.
It smuggles arms into many countries in order to undermine their stability.
A nuclear bomb in the hands of an irresponsible regime is an imminent danger to the world.
- Khamenei declared that religion prohibits the production and use of nuclear arms. Why then does he build missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads?
- A clear voice must be raised against the violation of human rights by the Iranian regime, against a regime that hangs people without bringing them to court, that throws journalists into prison without trial,
that fires live bullets at civilian demonstrators. A moral voice will encourage the Iranian people in their fight for freedom, in their struggle against misery.
- Iran supports terrorism throughout the world. Its main proxy, Hizbullah, carries out terror attacks and threatens the stability of the entire region.
Hizbullah is a terror organization, not a political movement.
They collect missiles. They hide missiles in peaceful towns and villages, turning them into a war target.
- Hizbullah sends soldiers to support the massacre of a bloody dictator in Syria. Recently, 20 terror attempts by Hizbullah were counted all over the world, in India, Thailand, Georgia, South Africa, the USA, Egypt and Greece, among others.
The international community must designate Hizbullah as a terrorist organization.
See also Israel President Tells Europe to Do More to Pressure Iran
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