Hizbullah: Syria's Allies Will Prevent Fall of Assad Regime - Wassim Mroueh and Thomas El-Basha (Daily Star-Lebanon)
Hizbullah leader Hasan Nasrallah hinted Tuesday that his group, as well as Iran and Russia, could intervene militarily to prevent the downfall of the Damascus government.
"Syria has real friends in the region and the world that will not let Syria fall into the hands of America, Israel or Takfiri (extreme jihadi) groups.
They will not let this happen," Nasrallah said in a televised speech.
"How will this happen? Details will come later. I say this based on information...rather than wishful thinking."
"Up to this moment there are no Iranian forces in Syria," Nasrallah said.
"What if dangerous developments occur, forcing states or resistance groups to step into the field in Syria?"
Report: Hamas Killed Protesters during Egypt's Revolution, Helped Political Prisoners Break Out of Jail - Elhanan Miller (Times of Israel)
Hamas and Hizbullah activists were involved in killing Egyptian protesters in Tahrir Square, as well as in storming Egyptian jails and releasing political prisoners, during the early days of the Egyptian revolution, former Egyptian Interior Minister Mansour al-Essawy said Tuesday.
He told the Egyptian daily al-Masry al-Youm that Hamas used specially manufactured darts with metal heads to kill Egyptian anti-regime protesters in Cairo.
Former Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman had testified in court that Hamas operatives were spotted in Cairo's Tahrir Square during the early days of the revolution and their telephone conversations were tracked, Essawy said.
His statements were the latest in a series of anti-Hamas publications in Egypt's independent media in recent weeks.
Italian Police Arrest Four Islamist Militants (Reuters)
Italian police on Tuesday arrested four of the six members of an Islamist militant cell which was planning attacks in the U.S., Israel and Italy.
The group was based in Andria in the southern Italian region of Puglia, and in Milan, Brussels and Catania, Sicily. Police are still looking for two Tunisian men who they believe have returned to their home country.
The six men tried to recruit among illegal immigrants in Italy, who then went on to training camps in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Iraq and Yemen.
The cell was characterized by "fierce anti-Semitism and anti-Western sentiment," a police statement said.
Scottish Jewish Event Forced to Move after Threats - Jonny Paul (Jerusalem Post)
Jewish students at St. Andrews University in Fife were forced to find another location for a charity event at the last minute after anti-Israel activists threatened staff at the original venue.
The staff received threatening phone calls and email from activists of the radical fringe group Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC), saying the Jewish National Fund and Friends of the IDF were to receive money raised by the students.
Joel Salmon, president of the St. Andrews Jewish Society, said the event was held at an alternative venue and had raised over five times the expected amount.
"The fact that the protest was organized by people with little or no connection to St. Andrews speaks volumes about our town and university," he added.
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- Israel Unlikely to Embrace Revival of Arab Peace Initiative - Steven Lee Myers and Jodi Rudoren
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday embraced a proposal by Qatar's foreign minister to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians based upon the Arab Peace Initiative, introduced in 2002. However, a senior Israeli official suggested that the initiative's framework was unlikely to be embraced as a starting point for talks.
"Israel is prepared to begin negotiations at any time, in any place and without any early conditions, and expects the Palestinian side to avoid making early conditions," the official said. "The sides will have the opportunity to introduce their positions when the negotiations begin."
Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN and a longtime analyst of the peace process who is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, said the critical question was whether Qatar was reviving the peace initiative as a "take-it-or-leave-it proposition," as it was originally proffered, or as "an invitation to a negotiated settlement whose final terms remain to be decided." (New York Times)
See also The Arab League Initiative as a Path to Talks - Herb Keinon
The Prime Minister's Office said that Israel "welcomed the support given by the Arab League delegation and the U.S. secretary of state to the diplomatic process." The true significance of what happened in Washington on Tuesday was that after weeks of looking for some way to get the Palestinians back to the table, Kerry was able to get the Arab League to provide PA President Abbas with a ladder to climb down from his refusal to negotiate with Netanyahu.
Kerry got the Arab League to essentially tell Abbas that he could, indeed, proceed with talks.
- U.S. Officials Say Obama Ready to Send Arms to Syrian Rebels - Karen DeYoung
President Obama is preparing to send lethal weaponry to the Syrian opposition and has taken steps to assert more aggressive U.S. leadership among those seeking the ouster of President Assad, according to senior administration officials.
Obama is likely to make a final decision on the supply of arms to the opposition within weeks, officials said.
"We're clearly on an upward trajectory," a senior official said. "We've moved over to assistance that has a direct military purpose." (Washington Post)
See also U.S. Sets Hurdles to Intervention in Syria - Peter Nicholas and Adam Entous
President Obama raised the bar for military intervention in the civil war in Syria, saying at a news conference Tuesday that not only the U.S. but the international community must first agree that chemical weapons were used by the Syrian regime, making it clear that he wasn't poised to act unilaterally.
(Wall Street Journal)
See also Pentagon Steps Up Planning for Potential Military Intervention in Syria - Barbara Starr
The Pentagon has in recent days stepped up planning for potential military intervention in the Syrian civil war. A senior administration official said U.S. intervention is not likely to involve troops on the ground in Syria. Two other officials say the most likely options would be using cruise missiles to try to destroy chemical sites or the headquarters of Syrian military elements linked to them. U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey has told Congress the military could not secure the entire chemical stockpile because it does not know where it's all located.
- Australian Prime Minister Gillard Denounces BDS Movement - Christian Kerr
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has denounced the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement ahead of anti-Israeli protest action at the University of NSW on Tuesday.
BDS action at UNSW has turned ugly, with anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denying material appearing on a Facebook page opposing the opening of a Max Brenner chocolate shop on campus.
Gillard said Monday through a spokeswoman that "this campaign does not serve the cause of peace and diplomacy for agreement on a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine....I welcome the strong ties our universities have with Israeli researchers and academic institutions, and I hope those ties will deepen in the years ahead." (The Australian)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Fatah Proclaims Arab Murderer of Jew at Bus Stop a Hero - Adiv Sterman
Fatah representatives praised as a hero Salam As'ad Zaghal, the Palestinian attacker who stabbed to death Evyatar Borowsky, a 31-year-old father of five, at a West Bank bus stop on Tuesday.
Fatah posted pictures from the scene of the attack on its official Facebook page, accompanying each image with a caption boasting of the stabber's "success." Officials also expressed hope that he would be quickly released from prison.
(Times of Israel)
- Israeli Defense Minister: Gaza Airstrike in Line with November Truce - Gili Cohen
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Tuesday, "When an organization fires in our direction, we respond....We will not allow a trickle of rockets from Gaza and we will certainly not allow for terrorists to leave Gaza and attack Eilat." Ya'alon said that Israel acted according to its declarations in the November Gaza cease-fire agreement. "Since the terror attack originated in Gaza, we acted accordingly, and carried out a targeted interception in response in order to prevent another attack from happening." (Ha'aretz)
See also Israel Won't Ignore Rocket Attacks from Gaza - Yaakov Lappin
Tuesday's air force strike on a weapons manufacturing expert who played a key role in developing the rocket capabilities for global jihadi groups in Gaza contains a number of messages for Palestinian armed factions in Gaza. For global jihadis, it signals Israel's ability to wait patiently for its intelligence services to mark out those behind ongoing rocket attacks, and to act without hesitation once the targets become exposed.
For Hamas, the air strike signals Israel's unwillingness to ignore rocket attacks. Hamas knows that should it allow the global jihadis to escalate the situation further, it may get dragged into a damaging new conflict with Israel, something it wishes to avoid at all costs at this time.
This is why, after the air strike, Hamas security forces reportedly doubled down on their efforts to prevent the global jihadis from launching more attacks. (Jerusalem Post)
- After Failed Negotiations, Iran Weighs a Nuclear "Breakout" - Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
Iran already has the necessary technological capability to produce at least one nuclear bomb. Iran is actually a short way from the red line, and crossing it is a matter of deciding. As Iran assesses that the traditional tools (terror, subversion, export of the revolution) will no longer suffice to promote its goals of regional hegemony and guaranteeing its survival, Iran is drawing closer to a decision on going nuclear. It is waiting for the right moment to "break out."
Iran will continue its foot-dragging tactics, hinting to the West that it has to wait until the election results, and the formation of a new government, before continuing the nuclear talks (even though the government has no real say on the nuclear issue).
The West, for its part, will apparently wait for another "last opportunity," and the futile dance that has gone on for a decade will continue without any Western successes and with Iranian technological accomplishments that bring it ever closer to its goal. The writer is a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center.
(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- U.S. Gains More from Arms Deal - Ron Ben-Yishai
The Middle Eastern arms deal announced last week gives the Saudis and the UAE the ability to attack targets on the ground from a great distance and with great precision. In the past the Americans vowed never to provide such capabilities to oil-rich Arab states which foster radical Islam. But in this deal they are doing precisely that - big time.
The deal does include a clause stating that Saudi Arabia and the UAE are permitted to use the smart bombs they will receive only under American supervision, and that the U.S. will keep the technological components needed to activate these bombs. However, this smart weapons technology and F-16 and F-15 warplanes may fall into the hands of Jihadists or Salafists in the event of a revolution.
The supply of KC-135 refueling tanker planes will extend the "long arm" of Israel's military. However, these refueling planes will be transferred to Israel only a few years from now, when it is entirely possible that Israel will have to deal with the Iranian threat much sooner. Yet, as far as Israel is concerned, the most important aspect of the deal is that it will improve relations with the U.S.
The Ayatollah's Billions - Sara Akrami and Saeed Ghasseminejad (National Post-Canada)
- Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader, controls a substantial portion of the Iranian economy through his various holdings and foundations. The most notable foundations directly controlled by him are the Imam Khomeini Foundation, Mostazafan Foundation, Abdolazim Shrine, and Astan Qods. The heads of these foundations are directly appointed by the Supreme Leader. They do not pay taxes, cannot be audited by parliament or the judiciary, and operate as personal properties of Khamenei, outside the normal structure of the Iranian state.
- An official of the Imam Khomeini Foundation said in September 2008 that the foundation owned $45 billion in real estate and 36 firms on the Tehran stock exchange. It also owns the Iran Telecommunication Company, in partnership with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which is itself worth billions of dollars. The foundation has many profitable sectors including oil, gas, food and mining.
- Astan Qods owns almost the entire northeastern part of Iran. Abdolazim Shrine, located near Tehran, is controlled by Iran's former Minister of Intelligence, Mohammad ReyShahri. It has concentrated its economic activities in the Rey Group, which is run by a group of former high-ranking intelligence officials. The Rey Group is the official dealership of BMW in Iran, which makes Iran's Supreme Leader an automobile dealer as well.
- It has taken Khamenei decades to accumulate this wealth and position himself and his holdings at the heart of Iran's commercial life. Now that the fortune has been amassed, he uses the money to buy loyalty both inside and outside of Iran. Targeting his financial empire will diminish his political power.
- If the West truly wants to add some bite to its sanctions program before Iran builds its first nuclear bomb, directly targeting the Supreme Leader's commercial holdings is a good next step.
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