EU Anti-Terror Chief: Hundreds of Europeans Fighting in Syria (BBC News)
Gilles de Kerchove, the EU's anti-terror chief, has told the BBC that about 500 Europeans are now fighting with rebel forces in Syria against the Assad regime.
"Not all of them are radical when they leave, but most likely many of them will be radicalized there, will be trained," he said.
The UK, Ireland and France have the highest numbers of fighters in Syria.
See also How Countries Are Keeping Their Citizens from Fighting in Syria - Marya Hannun (Foreign Policy)
Mayor of Tehran Says Holocaust Denial Was Damaging - Arash Karami (Al-Monitor)
Potential Iranian presidential candidate and mayor of Tehran Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf told the Tasnim News Agency he believes he would perform better than Ahmadinejad.
"Controversial but useless remarks and slogans and presentations struck a blow against us and weakened our rightful position," he said.
"Suddenly without consideration for the results and implications, the issue of the Holocaust was raised. How did this benefit the revolution?... Denying the Holocaust is not part of our foreign policy."
See also Could Iran's Presidential Politicking Open Door to Nuclear Deal? - Carol J. Williams (Los Angeles Times)
At least 20 candidates have declared themselves for the June 14 contest to replace Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is barred from seeking a third term.
On Hamas TV, Children Sing for "Martyrdom" (MEMRI)
On a children's show broadcast on March 29, 2013, by Hamas' Al-Aqsa TV, a group of children sang in unison:
"Jihad bestows pride and glory upon you when you become a martyrdom-seeker.
Oh explosive device of glory - with her blood she created freedom."
A child presenter then stated: "We should sacrifice our lives for the sake of the homeland, so we can please God and liberate Palestine and Jerusalem."
View the video (MEMRI)
CBC Ombudsman Rebukes Reporter over Israel Story - Tristin Hopper (National Post-Canada)
In reporting on a deadly skirmish between Israeli soldiers and pipe-wielding activists aboard the M/V Mavi Marmara in 2010, correspondent Ginette Lamarche, a Middle East reporter for Radio-Canada, the French-language version of CBC, "misused the word 'attack' to refer to the legal seizure of the vessel by Israeli forces," the network said Monday.
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- Egypt Running Out of Money for Subsidies - Abigail Hauslohner
Mini-tankers of illegal diesel fuel have become ubiquitous in Egypt. Egypt's rapidly expanding black market for fuel, foodstuffs, and other commodities may be the most tangible illustration of just how badly its economy is failing. The prices of basic goods, like fuel and flour, have been fixed for decades, with Egypt pouring roughly a quarter of its GDP into a bloated and deeply inefficient national subsidy system each year. After two years of political turmoil, the government is quickly running out of money to foot the bill, and the supply of subsidized goods is drying up.
Cairo drivers say they spend up to four hours waiting in line at state-subsidized gas stations that are almost sure to go dry by the afternoon.
"Sometimes they will only sell half of what they have, and then they'll take the other half and sell it on the black market," said taxi driver Rafaat Mahmoud. Since waiting in line also means losing money, Mahmoud does what many other Egyptians do: He pays 22% more to buy diesel on the black market.
Economists say the government of President Morsi has only enough cash to fund the subsidies for a few months. But it lacks the political support needed to carry out the massive spending cuts that economists say are necessary to keep Egypt afloat and secure a $4.8 billion IMF loan.
- Battered by War, Syrian Army Creates Its Own Replacement
In Syria, for scores of men called each month to join the army for deadly combat, there is a more attractive alternative: stay home, join a loyalist paramilitary group, and get a share of the loot in raids on President Assad's enemies. Army officers belonging mainly to the minority Alawite sect sit uncomfortably in charge of a conscript army of men who are mostly from Syria's majority Sunni Muslims.
Officers wary of their own recruits say they can create a more reliable force out of irregular loyalist militias spread across the country.
Pro-Assad militias used to be called shabiha. These once shadowy groups are being reorganized, trained and transformed into a volunteer reserve army - the National Defence Forces (NDF). NDF fighters say the military even pays their salary. Most NDF fighters are Alawites, but many Christians and Druze have joined as well.
For many fighters, the main attraction is fighting for their own home towns and the chance to accumulate extra wealth at a time when the country's economy is collapsing. Unlike soldiers, they say they are allowed and even encouraged to loot houses when attacking rebel-held areas.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- U.S. Weighs Middle East Peace Summit - Chemi Shalev
The U.S. is considering hosting a Middle East peace summit in Washington in June with the leaders of the U.S., Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan, well-placed U.S. sources said. Turkey, Egypt and other Arab countries may also be invited to participate. The U.S. has yet to decide whether it will convene the summit in any case, or only if Secretary of State John Kerry achieves a breakthrough that will allow a resumption of peace talks. The U.S. views the resumption of the peace process as a way of strengthening the PA and the personal stature of President Abbas.
- Palestinians Skeptical of Kerry's Attempt to Renew Negotiations - Avi Issacharoff
Hours after another meeting between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Istanbul,
a Palestinian official told me Sunday in Ramallah, "If you think they [Abbas and the Palestinian leadership] know what to do after Kerry's attempt to renew the negotiations, you're wrong." A different Palestinian official told me, "The question is not if Kerry fails, but when."
The Palestinian leadership has no clear strategy or plan to turn to "the day after" American attempts to renew the negotiations fail. In addition, reconciliation talks with Hamas have been stagnant for a long time, the economic situation does not show signs of improving, and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad resigned last week - despite the drastic improvement in the quality of life in the West Bank since he was appointed in 2007. (Times of Israel)
- The Misleading Fayyad Blame Game - Jonathan S. Tobin
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who modestly takes credit for coining the term "Fayyadism," has put forward a theory about American and Israeli responsibility for the PA prime minister's political demise. In this telling, without U.S. and Israeli cash to keep the Palestinian economy afloat, Fayyad's administration rapidly collapsed, allowing his enemies to force him out.
However, Palestinian woes were not the fault of Fayyad's austerity policies but the fruit of a system in which no-work and no-show jobs for a vast army of Fatah backers was the backbone of the West Bank's economy. The Fatah party that had no use for a person who was an obstacle to their corrupt practices sabotaged Fayyad.
Fayyad had no political constituency of his own. The lack of any appreciable support for Fayyad demonstrates that the Palestinian political culture remains hostile to his message of development and coexistence. Fayyad did have the support of the U.S. and Israel, but there isn't enough money in the U.S. or Israel to buy Fayyad a loyal base of Palestinian supporters.
Until there is a sea change in Palestinian culture to allow a Fayyad to succeed, no amount of U.S. aid or Israeli diplomatic concessions will create a viable partner with whom the Jewish state can make peace.
- Syria Is Really a Proxy Religious War between Sunnis and Shiites - Mortimer B. Zuckerman
What is going on in Syria is an all-consuming Muslim religious conflict between the Sunnis - led by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the Kurds - and the Shiites, led by Iran, Syria, Iraq and the Lebanese Hizbullah. Syria is the strategic battleground where Shiite Iran is waging a proxy war against the moderate nations in that region. Should the Iranian bid for regional hegemony be broken in Syria, the Middle East would change dramatically and for the better. The stranglehold of Hizbullah on Lebanon might well come to an end.
Iran will go on supporting its only state ally in the Middle East, but if the U.S. managed to intervene intelligently, then we might at least reduce Iranian presence in Syria and thus affect the regional balance of power. Allowing Syria to become an ungoverned land and thus a haven for terror and crime will prove far costlier in the long run.
- Marathon as Political Warfare - Dan Diker
The so-called Palestine Marathon took place in Bethlehem this past Sunday. The race organizers and main sponsors - KVINFO, the Danish Center for Gender, Equality and Ethnicity - noted that they "wanted to show that the Palestinians are perfectly capable of hosting an international marathon...free of any political agenda." Yet the Palestine Marathon categorically prohibited runners from Israel from taking part, banning Israeli Jews, Muslims and Druze athletes. Ha'aretz reported that a number of Israeli runners were turned back and their registration fees returned.
The Palestinian Authority's marathon policy places them in the company of the Iranian and Syrian regimes, whose sport boycott campaigns prohibit their athletes from competing against Israelis. International standards ensuring equality and separating sports from politics must be upheld. The Association of International Marathons and Distance Races must not allow the Palestinian Marathon committee to hold future marathons if they prohibit Israeli athletes from participating or exploit these international sporting events to engage in political assaults. The writer is a Foreign Policy Fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and former secretary-general of the World Jewish Congress.
Israel to the UN: The Prerequisites for Peace - Amb. Ron Prosor (Mission of Israel to the UN)
Israeli UN Ambassador Ron Prosor told the UN Security Council on Wednesday:
- Peace must be built on a foundation of education for tolerance and coexistence. Under the Palestinian Authority, students learn history from textbooks that glorify terrorists. They learn geography from atlases that erase Israel from the map. Gaza kindergarten graduations feature "terrorist dress-up." Five-year-olds stage plays that glorify jihadists and suicide bombers.
- Month after month this Council meets to discuss what is wrong in the Middle East. Where are the concerned voices in this debate for all the hate being taught to Palestinian children? Where are the cries denouncing the incitement that poisons the wells of peace?
- Peace must be built on a clear recognition that Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people.
Since King David laid the cornerstone for his palace in Jerusalem three thousand years ago, Jews have lived continuously in the Land of Israel.
- Israel is committed to two states for two peoples. In 1947, we readily accepted the UN's plan to create two states in the region, an Arab state and a Jewish state. Sixty-five years later, you still never hear Palestinian leaders speak about two states for two peoples.
- These days the cities and communities of southern Israel remain under fire from terrorists in Gaza. This is despite the fact that there has not been a single Israeli settlement in Gaza since 2005. Israeli citizens want real assurances for their security. The situation in Gaza provides us with a valuable lesson concerning any future arrangement in the West Bank.
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