Is Iran Trying to Set Up a New Arms Smuggling Route to Gaza from Sudan? - Con Coughlin (Telegraph-UK)
Iran is trying to revive its links with Hamas by establishing a new supply route to ship arms to Gaza to be used against Israel.
Iran has tried on many previous occasions to ship weapons to Hamas, but these have been foiled by the Israelis, whose navy has intercepted a number of ships trying to deliver weapons.
Similarly, an attempt to ship weapons overland from Sudan was also disrupted after Israeli warplanes bombed the storage facilities in Sudan last October.
According to intelligence reports received by Western diplomats, Iranian and Sudanese officials have recently had a series of meetings with Hamas to establish a new arms route.
At the same time, a number of unscheduled Iranian cargo flights have been logged between Tehran and Khartoum, suggesting Iran is trying to smuggled significant quantities of arms.
Egypt Withdraws from Nuclear Non-Proliferation Meeting in Geneva (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
Egypt withdrew from the preparatory committee for the 2015 Review Conference to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in Geneva, Egypt's state-run news agency MENA reported on Monday.
Hisham Badr, assistant to Egypt's foreign minister for international organization affairs, said, "The withdrawal step aims at sending a strong message about the dissatisfaction of Egypt concerning the non-seriousness of the international community in dealing with such critical issues that influence Egyptian and Arab peace and security."
Israel Inaugurates 5th Dolphin-Class Sub - Barbara Opall-Rome (Defense News)
Israel inaugurated its fifth nuclear-capable Dolphin-class submarine on April 29 in Kiel, Germany, home of the shipbuilding division of Thyssen-Krupp Marine Systems (TKMS).
The INS Rahav, the fifth of six Israeli submarines built at the German shipyard with funding assistance from Berlin, is expected to arrive in Israel in 2014.
It follows the May 2012 inauguration of Israel's fourth Dolphin-class submarine, the INS Tanin, which is scheduled for operational deployment in the coming months.
British TV Finds Boom, Not Bombs, in Gaza - Jennifer Lipman (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
Seyi Rhodes of Channel Four, who traveled to Gaza in February to film a documentary about Gaza which aired Friday, has said the local population would not recognize the portrayal of the area in much of the UK media.
"Before I started researching, I thought the region was destitute - people living literally hand-to-mouth on aid."
In fact, he found "a growing wealth gap," with new apartments being sold for up to $3 million to wealthy Palestinians with money from abroad or from jobs with the Hamas government.
Rhodes said the experience confounded his expectations.
"Most of these people live their lives with the same concerns as you and me...getting on the housing ladder, educating your children. People didn't even talk about Israel unless I brought it up."
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- Kerry Backs Moves to Revive Arab Peace Initiative - Jo Biddle
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made a fresh push Monday to relaunch the moribund Middle East peace process, meeting top Arab League officials in a bid to revive the decade-old Arab Peace Initiative.
See also Arab League Seems to Soften Israeli-Palestinian Peace Plan
Arab states appeared to soften their 2002 peace plan on Monday when Qatar's prime minister said Israel and the Palestinians could trade land rather than conform exactly to the 1967 borders.
Israel objects to key points in the Arab plan, including a return to 1967 borders, the inclusion of eastern Jerusalem in a Palestinian state, and the return of Palestinian refugees to what is now Israel.
The Arab Peace Initiative:
A Primer and Future Prospects - Joshua Teitelbaum
While several aspects of the Arab Peace Initiative represent significant and
positive developments in the official, collective Arab view of the future
of Israel in the Middle East, Israel should refrain from accepting
the initiative as a basis for peace negotiations because it contains
seriously objectionable elements.
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Syria: Al-Qaeda's Battle for Control of Assad's Chemical Weapons Plant - Colin Freeman
The fight for the al-Safira military base on the edge of Aleppo, believed to house one of the Syrian regime's main chemical weapons plants, shows just how close such weapons could be to falling into al-Qaeda's hands.
Among the rebel lines in al-Safira flutters the black flag of the al-Nusra Brigade, the jihadist group that recently declared its allegiance to al-Qaeda. Earlier this month they pushed to within just over a mile of al-Safira, before Syrian troops regained the ground last week.
As the Syrian uprising has intensified in the past year, the regime has been secretly moving its stockpiles to weapons dumps all over the country, much of which it barely controls anymore. Nobody knows, therefore, when or where a cache might be captured by the opposition's more militant factions. Outside intelligence estimates reckon that Damascus has between 100 and 200 warheads filled with sarin for its Scud missiles, and thousands of chemical artillery bombs filled with sarin and VX.
- Moroccan Immigrant Gets Five Years in NY Synagogue Plot - Chris Dolmetsch and Tiffany Kary
Mohammed Mamdouh, 22, a Moroccan immigrant to the U.S., was sentenced to five years in prison on Friday for plotting to bomb synagogues in New York City.
Mamdouh and Ahmed Ferhani, a native of Algeria, were arrested in May 2011 after buying two Browning semi-automatic pistols, a revolver, ammunition and an inert grenade, police said. "Their intent was to create chaos and to intimidate and coerce Jews living in New York City, and thereby send a message far beyond New York," Assistant Manhattan District Attorney Gary J. Galperin said. Ferhani, 28, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on March 15.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Palestinian Terrorist Murders Israeli in West Bank - Itamar Fleishman
Evyatar Borovsky, 31, a father of five from Yitzhar in the West Bank, was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist Tuesday at a bus stop at the Tapuach Junction. The terrorist was wounded by Israeli Border Guard officers. Ynet learned that the terrorist is a Fatah operative from a village near Tulkarem. He was imprisoned in Israel for three years and was released less than six months ago.
- IDF Airstrike Kills Top Terrorist in Gaza - Yoav Zitun
Israeli aircraft killed a senior terrorist in Gaza, Hitham Mashal, 24, on Tuesday. Israel Channel 10 TV said Mashal was a rocket manufacturing expert and a member of the Aknaf Bet Al-Maqdes global jihad group which fired rockets on Eilat earlier this month. (Ynet News)
- Israel Confirms: Assad Used Chemical Weapons on Rebels - Jonathan Lis
A senior Israeli official said on Monday that intelligence services have unequivocal evidence that Bashar Assad's military has used chemical weapons against rebels.
The official said that "these are not intelligence estimates...rather proof, and even more than proof. There is substantial material about the use of chemical weapons by Assad's army. It is known to all intelligence agencies."
"One of the central dangers in Israel's view is the transfer of Syrian weapons to Hizbullah and Lebanon, as well as to terrorist organizations trying to reach the border. The possibility of them acquiring chemical or conventional weapons they never had before has implications for the State of Israel." (Ha'aretz)
- U.S. Grapples with Rift among Mideast Allies - Jay Solomon
Divisions among the U.S.'s closest Arab and Muslim allies are imperiling the Obama administration's efforts to forge unified responses to crises in the Middle East, including Syria's civil war and Egypt's economic turmoil. According to American officials, in one camp are Qatar and Turkey, whose leaders are supportive of a political Islam like that of the Muslim Brotherhood that is gaining hold in Egypt, Syria, Tunisia and Libya.
A second camp is led by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan, Sunni monarchies whose royal families are hostile toward the Muslim Brotherhood.
(Wall Street Journal)
- Investigating Chemical Weapons Use in Syria - Michael Eisenstadt
Past claims of chemical weapons use that proved wrong, coupled with the post-September 11 intelligence failures regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, have led the Obama administration to insist on a high standard of proof for Syria. As long as Damascus refuses to let the UN investigate all allegations, and as long as Russia provides the regime with political cover at the Security Council, it may be impossible for Washington to meet that standard or act within the UN framework if sufficient proof comes to light.
However, not responding until definitive proof of CW use is in hand will make the regime more likely to employ such weapons on a wider scale.
The writer directs The Washington Institute's Military and Security Studies Program.
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- Stop Blaming Israel and America for Fayyad's Fall - Abraham Katsman
Who lost Salam Fayyad? The respected Palestinian prime minister was popular in international aid circles, New York Times op-eds, and even among Israelis, but Fayyad had no democratic Palestinian constituency to speak of.
However well Fayyad did, his appointment as prime minister was never ratified by the legislature or the voters.
He did face election in 2006, leading his "Third Way" party, and won 2 seats out of 132; Fatah and Hamas won a combined 129. For Palestinian voters, there was no Third Way. (Daily Beast)
- Is the Jordanian Monarchy in Danger? - Asher Susser
Notwithstanding cracks in the edifice of the East Banker elite in Jordan, the fractious opposition has yet to come up with a viable alternative. Even opponents tend to see the Hashemite regime as the thing that holds the country together.
The situation, therefore, remains manageable. As long as the unswerving loyalty of the security establishment lasts, the capacity of the regime to continue muddling through will depend more on its ability to deal effectively with the economy than on any other single factor, including the pace of political reform. Dr. Asher Susser is a Senior Fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University. (Crown Center for Middle East Studies-Brandeis University)
The Lies of the Iranian Nuclear Program - Rafael Ofek (Israel Defense)
- Iran has specialized in misleading the world and concealing its military nuclear program under the umbrella of "peaceful needs." It is difficult to understand why the nuclear discussions with Iran continue as though nothing has happened, even when it has turned out time and again that Iran is misleading the world.
- Dr. Fereydoon Abbasi, president of the Iranian organization for nuclear energy, admitted in a September 2012 interview to Al Hayat that Iran has presented falsified facts to protect its nuclear program and conceal its technical progress in several fields. According to Abbasi, "Many times, we delivered false information (to IAEA inspectors) in order to protect our nuclear facilities and our accomplishments."
- Iran did not inform the IAEA in advance of the establishment of a facility for enriching uranium in Natanz as well as a heavy water reactor in Khondab, near Arak. Their existence was revealed in August 2002 by an Iranian opposition organization.
- While Tehran found civilian justifications for the construction of the nuclear facilities, it faced difficulties in explaining the information presented to it by the IAEA that clearly points to efforts in developing a nuclear explosive device.
- However, Iran came up with several ways of dealing with the incriminating facts.
One way was by destroying evidence, including the total destruction of part of the Lavizan-Shian suburb in Tehran, including disposing of vast quantities of soil from the area, in order to conceal the existence of a facility that operated there earlier that served the military nuclear program.
- The Iranian claim that the uranium it is enriching to a level of 20% is intended to produce fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor is clearly false. Its purpose is to serve as a "cover story" for the program to continue enriching uranium to a level of 90% - weapons-grade quality for a nuclear weapon.
As of November 2012, Iran had accumulated enough 20%-enriched uranium to fuel the reactor in Tehran for the next 25 years.
Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Rafael Ofek, an expert on nuclear physics and technology, served in the Israeli intelligence community as a senior analyst and researcher.
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