Report: Iran to Send 4,000 Troops to Aid Assad's Forces in Syria - Robert Fisk (Independent-UK)
The Independent on Sunday has learned that a military decision has been taken in Iran to send a first contingent of 4,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad's forces.
Iran is now fully committed to preserving Assad's regime, according to pro-Iranian sources.
Israel and U.S. Coordinating How to Target Assad's Arsenal - Karl Vick (TIME)
At an operational level, cooperation between the U.S. and Israel has been exceptionally close - and growing closer as Washington publicly ramps up its military involvement in the Syrian conflict.
As opponents of Syrian President Assad organize themselves to assist the rebels opposing him, Israel feels obliged to lay low. "If this is to hold water, this cannot involve Israel," an Israeli official said.
Behind the scenes, however, Israeli and U.S. military officials are coordinating how to target and destroy Assad's arsenal of unconventional weapons under assorted scenarios, Israeli military and intelligence officials say.
Record Surge in Israel-UK Trade - Sandy Rashty (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
Trade between Britain and Israel rose by 22% between the first quarter of 2012 and 2013, despite a vociferous boycott campaign, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics in Israel.
See also BDS Put in its Place - Editorial (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
For all the noise they make, the BDS mob are proving spectacularly unsuccessful.
The increase in trade is a far more eloquent denunciation of the campaign to get the British people to boycott Jews than any words from us.
One of the key areas of BDS focus, Israeli food produce, is actually one of the prime factors behind a 56% rise in imports.
Paris Museum Exhibit Glorifies Suicide Bombers - Yossi Lempkowicz (European Jewish Press)
Polish European Parliament member Michal Kaminski has expressed outrage over an exhibition in the Paris state-funded Jeu de Paume museum which glorifies Palestinian suicide bombers and calls them martyrs.
In a written question to European Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou, in charge of Culture and Education, he said: "I am deeply disturbed by this exhibition, which I believe incites violence and could provoke more acts of violence against Israel."
"A state-funded institution has de facto given a voice to the notion that murdering Israeli citizens is justifiable."
Israel: Can't Compromise India's Security, No Arms to Pakistan (Indo Asian News Service)
Following a report last week which cited official reports from Britain indicating that Israel had sold defense equipment to Pakistan, Israel's Defense Ministry said in a statement:
"The State of Israel categorically denies having sold military equipment of any kind to Pakistan. Israel would not do anything that could undermine India's security."
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- Netanyahu: Israel Not "Deluding" Itself over Iran Election - Calev Ben-David
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the world to keep pressuring Iran to curtail its nuclear program, even after Hassan Rowhani's election as president of the Islamic Republic.
"Regarding the elections in Iran, we do not delude ourselves," Netanyahu told the Cabinet in Jerusalem on Sunday. "The international community must not be caught up in wishful thinking and be tempted to relax the pressure on Iran to halt its nuclear program."
The Israeli leader said that Iran's nuclear program is controlled by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, not Rowhani, and remains a threat to world peace.
- Defector Syrian General Will Be Conduit for U.S. Military Aid to Rebels - Liz Sly
Now that the U.S. has said it will provide direct military assistance to the rebels, Gen. Salim Idriss, 56, who heads the Supreme Military Council of the fragmented Free Syrian Army, has been anointed as the sole conduit of the weapons. Idriss met in Ankara with U.S. officials over what form the military assistance announced last week would take.
Recent advances by forces loyal to President Assad have been facilitated by his allies Iran and Russia, which are providing vast quantities of arms and ammunition, while fighters from Hizbullah are bolstering the ranks of Assad's conventional army, Idriss said Sunday. He said U.S. officials told him that a no-fly zone would be "very difficult" and that they were not prepared to contemplate imposing one.
There are questions about how much real authority Idriss wields over the chaotic rebel force, which consists of hundreds of loosely organized fighting units that answer to no one other than their local commanders. Idriss was selected to lead the Supreme Military Council "in part due to his ability to serve as a 'diplomat' for the council," wrote Elizabeth O'Bagy of the Institute for the Study of War. "He was not chosen because of his command of significant ground forces or operational effectiveness." (Washington Post)
- Egypt Seen to Give Nod toward Jihadis on Syria - Hamza Hendawi
Under Mubarak, Egypt took a tough line on Egyptians coming home after waging "jihad" in places like Afghanistan, Chechnya or the Balkans, fearing they would bring back extremist ideology, combat experience and a thirst for regime change. In most cases, they were imprisoned and tortured.
But after Mubarak's overthrow and his replacement by an elected Islamist president, jihad has gained a degree of legitimacy in Egypt, and the country has become a source of fighters heading to the war in Syria.
On Saturday, President Morsi attended a Cairo rally by hard-line clerics who have called for jihad. Waving a flag of Egypt and the Syrian opposition, he announced Egypt was cutting ties with Damascus and denounced Hizbullah for fighting alongside Assad's forces. A senior presidential aide last week said that while Egypt was not encouraging citizens to travel to Syria to help rebels, they were free to do so and the state would take no action against them.
See also Egypt's President Appoints 7 New Provincial Governors from the Muslim Brotherhood
Egypt's president on Sunday appointed 7 new provincial governors from the Muslim Brotherhood, adding to the organization's already considerable power.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Hizbullah Will Keep Fighting in Syria, Nasrallah Says - Jana El-Hassan and Thomas El-Basha
Hizbullah will continue fighting alongside forces loyal to President Bashar Assad against Syrian rebels, Hizbullah leader Hasan Nasrallah said in a televised speech Friday, adding that his party's decision to intervene in Syria had been a calculated one.
"Wherever we need to be, we will be. What we started taking responsibility for, we will continue to be responsible for," he said. "We took a decision, although late, to intervene on the ground." (Daily Star-Lebanon)
- Jerusalem Increasingly Upset by EU - Herb Keinon
Israel is expected to tell visiting EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Thursday that the EU's "obsessive" focus on settlements is "undermining" efforts to restart peace negotiations by giving the Palestinians the impression that no matter what they do, European diplomatic fire will always be aimed at Israel, one Israeli official said.
Ashton will be told that this policy is "undermining" U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's initiative to restart the negotiations, and that the EU needs to back his efforts by making clear to the Palestinians that they do not have a blank check.
- Gaza Suffers Drop in Foreign Aid over Syrian War
The conflict in Syria is increasingly hurting Hamas-ruled Gaza financially, according to several officials. Iran has reduced monthly cash transfers because Hamas refuses to side with the Syrian regime. In addition, Islamic charities abroad that used to donate heavily to Gaza have been redirecting some of their aid to Syria.
In Kuwait, billboards that used to appeal for help for Gaza now have switched to Syria.
In a further costly twist, more than 1,500 people, most with family ties to Gaza, have arrived from Syria since last year, with hundreds more en route. Aid officials say they have trouble finding jobs and homes for newcomers in crowded, impoverished Gaza.
See also Sweden Considering Reducing Aid to Palestinians
The Swedish government may cut back on financial assistance to the Palestinians following their failure to move forward with peace negotiations with Israel, Swedish news site The Local reported. Sweden donates $107 million annually to Gaza and the West Bank, a move that Development aid minister Gunilla Carlsson says has been made to fortify the Palestinian's position in any peace talks. However, if there are no negotiations, then the Swedish demonstration of support would become meaningless, she said. "I don't want to haggle with Swedish aid money, but I can only take the perspective of the Swedish taxpayers....One wants results." (Jerusalem Post)
- Behind Iran's "Moderate" New Leader - Sohrab Ahmari
So this is what democracy looks like in a theocratic dictatorship. Iran's presidential campaign season kicked off last month when an unelected body of 12 Islamic jurists disqualified more than 600 candidates. Women were automatically out; so were Iranian Christians, Jews and even Sunni Muslims. The rest were purged for possessing insufficient revolutionary zeal.
Regime loyalist Hassan Rowhani, 64, a former nuclear negotiator and security apparatchik, served for 16 years as secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council. During his tenure, Rowhani led the crackdown on a 1999 student uprising and helped the regime evade Western scrutiny of its nuclear-weapons program.
During the campaign, he boasted of how during his tenure as negotiator Iran didn't suspend enrichment - on the contrary, "we completed the program." (Wall Street Journal)
See also The Regime Wanted Rowhani to Win - Avi Issacharoff
Putting aside how quickly the winner of the Iranian presidential election Hassan Rowhani was branded a "reformist" by Western media outlets, losing candidate Ali Akbar Velayati described him most accurately as a servant of the regime. The incoming president of Iran was never a reformist, and it is doubtful that his achievement was even a victory for the moderate camp in Iran. Rowhani, as opposed to the image that has been fashioned, was until recently known as part of the conservative camp in Iran. He is not one of those challenging the Islamist regime, and certainly not challenging Khamenei's rule.
"He never called himself a reformist," explains Dr. Soli Shahvar, who heads the Ezri Center for Iran and Gulf Studies at Haifa University. "I interpret his election in one way only: The regime wanted him to win....Victory for a candidate who is perceived as more moderate yet still has the confidence of Khamenei, serves the regime." (The Tower)
- Egypt's Perilous Drift - Thomas L. Friedman
Egypt is running out of hard currency and can't buy enough gasoline and diesel for power stations. Long lines are forming at gas stations, worsening Cairo's titanic traffic jams, and electricity cuts are commonplace.
Morsi's government has been a huge disappointment for many Egyptians. Many non-Islamists voted for Morsi - it was the only way he got elected - because they felt they could not vote for the candidate favored by supporters of former dictator Hosni Mubarak, and because they believed his promise to be "inclusive." When you talk to them today you can feel a palpable hatred for the Muslim Brotherhood and a powerful sense of theft: a widespread feeling that the Brotherhood tricked them and now they have failed to either fix the country or share power, but are busy trying to impose religious norms.
What happened two years ago was more musical chairs than revolution. First the army ousted Mubarak, and then the Muslim Brotherhood ousted the army, and now the opposition is trying to oust the Brotherhood. Each, though, is operating on the old majoritarian politics - winners take all, losers get nothing.
(New York Times)
Palestinians Need Tough Talk from Europe - David Makovsky (New York Times)
- The quartet of Middle East peacemakers is no longer a diplomatic force, although its special envoy, former Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, has been involved in favorable economic and governance actions supporting the Palestinians.
- The European Union, traditional patron of the Palestinians, needs to tell them what they need to hear, that EU patience with the Palestinians has its limits. It's hard for Europeans to argue that the Palestinians have exhausted negotiations, given that Abbas has agreed to only three weeks of talks in the last four years, and that an offer in September 2008 by Israel's then-prime minister, Ehud Olmert, never received a reply. The only way to achieve Palestinian statehood is through direct, unconditional talks with Israel.
- Israel is not wrong to insist on strict security arrangements. Rockets smuggled into Gaza have been repeatedly and indiscriminately fired on Israeli cities. UN Security Council Resolution 1701 calling for an arms embargo on Hizbullah after the 2006 Lebanon war was never implemented.
- Moreover, international peacekeepers cannot be the sole basis of security - as shown by Austria's recent decision to pull out of the UN Disengagement Observer Force interposed between Syrian and Israeli forces.
The writer is a senior fellow and director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
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