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June 12, 2013

In-Depth Issue:

EU Slams Richard Falk’s Israel Report as Biased at UNHRC - Tovah Lazaroff (Jerusalem Post)
  The European Union took a strong stand against United Nations Human Rights Council special rapporteur Richard Falk, denouncing as inaccurate and biased a report against Israel that he delivered to the body in Geneva on Monday. "The EU continues to regret the unbalanced mandate of the Special Rapporteur and is also concerned that parts of the report include political considerations." See also UN Watch Confronts Richard Falk. Video.

Maryland Businessman Convicted of Helping Iran on Satellite Project - Ann E. Marimow (Washington Post)
  Federal prosecutors said Nader Modanlo used his aerospace expertise and connections with Russia to help his native Iran launch a satellite of its own for the first time.
  After more than a week of deliberations, a jury ruled that Modanlo illegally facilitated a satellite deal between Iran and Russia and received a $10 million brokering fee. The jury also found Modanlo guilty of money laundering and obstruction for lying during a series of bankruptcy proceedings.
  Prosecutors said they expect Modanlo, 52, to face significant jail time because of the amount of money involved.

South Korea Shippers Join Overseas Rivals in Shunning Iran Business - Meeyoung Cho (Reuters)
  South Korean container shippers are joining a wave of their international peers in giving up on Iranian business ahead of new U.S. sanctions in July, adding to pressure on Tehran's vital seaborne trade. South Korea's government said the country's top two shippers, Hanjin Shipping Co Ltd and Hyundai Merchant Marine Co Ltd, had ended direct shipments to Iran in May.

U.S. Hits Hizbullah Agents in West Africa with Sanctions (AFP)
  The United States announced sanctions against four Lebanese supporters of Hizbullah on Tuesday, alleging they were working to extend the group's influence in West Africa.
  The U.S. Treasury Department named the four as responsible for Hizbullah's activities in Sierra Leone, Senegal, Ivory Coast and Gambia.
  The operatives "have organized fund-raising efforts, recruited members, and in some cases styled themselves as ambassadors of Hizbullah's Foreign Relations Department," the Treasury said in a statement.
  See also U.S. Treasury Press Statement

Report: Secret EU Funding for BDS Leader (Ynet News)
  In a new report presented to members of the European Parliament, NGO Monitor details the damaging impact of "highly secretive EU funding for radical political advocacy NGOs." According to NGO Monitor, EU funds are going to organizations involved in anti-Israel boycotts and violent demonstrations, which "undermine the EU's efforts to secure peace in the Middle East."
  According to NGO Monitor, the report, titled "Lack of Due Diligence and Transparency in European Union Funding for Radical NGOs," shows how EU-funded NGOs lead the campaigns to demonize Israel through the boycott, divestment and sanctions(BDS).
  View the report.

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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • In Shift, More U.S. Officials See Assad Gaining Momentum - Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes
    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is gaining momentum in the country's civil war with aid from Hizbullah and is unlikely to fall in the foreseeable future, a growing number of U.S. intelligence and defense officials believe, in what officials say is a sharp divergence from the Obama administration's long-held view.
      The shifting views have fueled a behind-the-scenes debate within intelligence agencies as President Barack Obama and his advisers renew consideration of options to aid anti-Assad forces, including one that would provide moderate fighters with American arms.
      Some intelligence analysts now think Mr. Assad could hold onto power or even prevail in the conflict. That view is at odds with those of others within the intelligence community who think recent military gains by Syrian government forces and Hizbullah fighters aren't likely to alter the overall trajectory of a conflict. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Israel Hasn't Stopped Pressing Russia on Air Defense System to Syria - Sheera Frenkel
    Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that while his country had every right to sell arms to the Syrian government, Moscow had not yet delivered the advanced S-300 air defense system to Damascus. But that has not cooled a war of words over the S-300s that some say could threaten an outright war between Israel and Russia over the sophisticated missile defense system.
      Most sources on the S-300 system say it's designed to shoot down aircraft and missiles within about 90 miles. But Israeli defense officials insist the actual range is greater – 125 miles. Given Israel's small airspace, the longer range would place most aircraft within range.
      Israeli officials say they are also concerned that Iran or the militant group Hizbullah in Lebanon will get their hands on the weapon. (McClatchy)
  • Citing Terror Support and Human Rights Abuses, Boulder City Council Nixes Palestinian Sister-City Bid - Oren Kessler
    The Boulder, Colorado city council voted overwhelmingly Monday to reject a sister city application from Nablus, citing Palestinian Authority abuses in the West Bank city and its long history as a terrorist center.
      Opponents of the proposal noted the Palestinian Authority's dismal human rights record and lack of press freedom. Critics also blasted the frequency in Nablus of honor killings and the persecution of gays occurring within the city.
      Colorado media reported that some supporters of the sister-city bid said that they had hoped to bring "yoga and rock climbing opportunities" to the West Bank city. The motion was rejected 7-2. (The Tower)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • Putin: Iran Threats against Israel "Unacceptable"
    Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Iran had a right to a peaceful nuclear program but slammed as "unacceptable" its threats against its regional nemesis Israel.
      "Iran is in a very difficult region," Putin told a televised question-and-answer session in Moscow. "And when we hear threats from Iran against its neighbors, particularly Israel, when we hear from Iran that Israel must be destroyed - I think this is completely unacceptable." (AFP/Channel News Asia - Singapore)
  • Palestinian Authority Official Warns of Worsening Financial Crisis
    The Palestinian Authority deputy prime minister for economic affairs said Tuesday that the financial crisis is getting worse. "There is a major financial crisis and the PA is $4.2 billion in internal and external debt," Muhammad Mustafa said during a news conference.
      The PA official also warned of a growing job crisis, with over 250,000 Palestinians currently unemployed, young people particularly affected. The PA owes $600 million to banks and $1 billion to international financial institutions, Mustafa said. (Ma'an News Agency)
  • Austria Pulls Out Golan Heights Troops - Maor Buchnick
    Austria began withdrawing peacekeepers from the Golan Heights, winding down a four-decade mission due to spillover fighting from the Syrian civil war. Austrian troops moved from the Quneitra crossing point to a United Nations base inside the Israeli-held part of the heights on Tuesday.
      United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) troops left behind, most of them from Chile and India, were doubtful the tense situation will improve. "I'm alive, but the reality is there's an escalation, and we're stuck in the middle," a UNDOF soldier said. (Ynet News)
  • Netanyahu: Israel Thwarted Terror Attacks and Kidnappings in the Last Year
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a meeting with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos that over the past year, Israel has thwarted five terror attacks and more than 30 kidnap attempts. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Egypt's Summer of Jew-Hatred - Sohrab Ahmari
    One element of Egyptian culture has remained constant since a popular revolt swept away Hosni Mubarak's pharaonic dictatorship: its virulent anti-Semitism.
      "Khaybar," a serial drama set to air during Ramadan (starting on July 8), is Egyptian TV's latest piece of hate melodrama. It depicts the Prophet Muhammad's conquest, in A.D. 629, of a Jewish community on the Arabian Peninsula. Ahmed Maher, a popular actor playing one of the Jewish villains said "Khaybar" sets out to depict Jews as "the ugliest slice of humans." "The show will be on when most Egyptian families are staying at home for Ramadan doing nothing but watching TV," Mina Rezkalla, a U.S.-based Egyptian activist noted. "The goal is completely outward anti-Semitism." (Wall Street Journal)
  • Istanbul Square Crackdown Shakes Erdogan’s Regional Credibility - Semih Idiz
    The Gezi Park protests and the brutal police crackdown on the demonstrations in support of them has not only tarnished Turkey's credibility as an exemplary democracy once lauded as the "Turkish model," but has also diverted Ankara's attention away from critical developments in the Middle East, much to the delight of its regional rivals, most notably Iran.
      It is also clear to Iranian policy makers, who have made the continuation of the Assad regime a strategic imperative, that the turmoil in Turkey has also diminished Ankara's influence in rallying support for the Syrian opposition. (Al-Monitor)
  • Syria’s War of Tunnels - Ali Hasham
    The "War of Tunnels" is probably the most suitable name for the war fought in Syria's strategic region of Qusair, on the border with Lebanon. In each city, town and village, dozens of hideouts and underground routes have been found by the Syrian army and Hizbullah fighters. "These tunnels were used to connect alleys with each other, exit routes and hideouts, snipers" shooting posts and weapons storage," Major Abdo, a Syrian army officer explained.
      After the dramatic fall of Qusair and the rebels' retreat, there were expectations that a fierce battle would be fought for two towns nearby. But the Syrian army entered them with no remarkable resistance. Everyone was asking: Where did the fighters go?
      Several openings became visible in the ground. They were all at least four or five meters deep and connected to a huge network of water pipes built years ago by the government. "These pipes connect the countryside of Qusair to the city of Homs, and areas in southeastern Homs province not very far from Damascus countryside," said Abdo. Where will the next major conflict be? Will it be Aleppo, or the countryside of Damascus? (Al-Monitor)
  • Observations:

    Syria: The New Problem from Hell - Aaron David Miller (Foreign Policy)

  • By any standard, Syria is a disaster. President Barack Obama has avoided intervention because his options aren't just bad, they're terrible. Syria is already a disaster, but a ham-handed intervention could make matters worse, certainly for America.
  • None of the incremental steps proposed so far have answered the following questions: Can these actions degrade Syria's military power so that President Bashar al-Assad's regime collapses? Or, alternatively, can they produce a stalemate that would force the regime, the Russians, and Iran to accept a negotiated transition?
  • But by the end of the summer, more than 100,000 Syrians are likely to have died in a calamitous civil war that shows no signs of abating. As a result, the pressure to intervene will mount on the Obama administration.
  • Obama knows that Syria is the key story line in the so-called Arab Spring and that his own legacy will suffer unless he moves to counteract the negative appraisals currently gathering force.
  • The odds that Geneva negotiations will succeed are long indeed. Will the Russians really pressure Assad to leave? Will the Syrian dictator agree, particularly at a time when his regime is scoring military gains? Can anyone really speak authoritatively for the rebels inside and outside Syria?
  • Too much blood has flowed in Syria to imagine a quick, negotiated settlement. The longer the conflict continues, the greater the odds that some new kinetic element - an Israeli-Syrian confrontation, massive use of chemical weapons, or some atrocity that surpasses previous horrors - will occur.

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