Iran Enhancing Naval Base in Port Sudan - Daniel Wagner and Giorgio Cafiero
In 2008, Iran and Sudan signed a military cooperation agreement and in May 2013 the pace and scope of the construction of Iranian naval and logistical bases in Port Sudan were enhanced remarkably.
Sudan has become an extension of Iran's proxy war against Israel, allowing Iran to use Sudanese territory as a staging ground for arms shipments to Gaza and Lebanon via the Red Sea and Egyptian Sinai, in addition to Khartoum's support for Hamas and other militant Palestinian groups.
See also Arms Shipments Seen from Sudan to Syria Rebels - C. J. Chivers and Eric Schmitt (New York Times)
Syrian rebels have found an arms supplier in Sudan, a country that maintains close ties with Iran.
Western officials and Syrian rebels say Sudan's government sold Sudanese- and Chinese-made arms including anti-aircraft missiles to Qatar, which arranged delivery through Turkey to the rebels.
Israel Demines Southern Borders with Jordan, Egypt - Barbara Opall-Rome (Defense News)
The Israeli National Mine Action Authority (INMAA) is clearing hundreds of acres along its southern borders with Jordan and Egypt of anti-personnel mines "no longer considered essential to Israel's national security," the Israeli Defense Ministry announced Aug. 12.
Some 30,000 mines are being cleared along border areas surrounding Eilat for improved public safety and commercial development.
Future plans call for demining areas in the Golan Heights for conversion into nature reserves, farmland and residential development.
German Cultural Center Cancels Anti-Israel Event with Iran's Embassy - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
After widespread protests, Dr. Ulrich Bleyer, the director of the Berlin-based Urania cultural and educational center, on Monday pulled the plug on a pro-Palestinian symposium with Iran's embassy because the event legitimizes terrorism and seeks to dismantle Israel's right to exist.
Al-Qaeda-Trained Terrorists in New Zealand, Prime Minister Says - J. Dana Stuster (Foreign Policy)
New Zealand's prime minister John Key said on Aug. 1:
"In New Zealand there are people who've been trained for al-Qaeda camps who operate out of New Zealand, who are in contact with people overseas, who have gone off to Yemen and other countries to train....Some are still offshore and some are in New Zealand."
He added that he had signed off on surveillance of al-Qaeda-trained individuals in New Zealand.
U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy: Israel's Right to Exist Is Not Too Much to Ask - Tovah Lazaroff (Jerusalem Post)
During a congressional visit to Israel, U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Ma.) said in an interview:
"This is a nation that is asking for nothing more than the ability to be recognized and for people to acknowledge their right to exist. That is not too much to ask."
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- Egypt Moves to Clear Out Pro-Morsi Sit-Ins in Cairo - David Kirkpatrick and Alan Cowell
Egyptian authorities moved on Wednesday to clear two camps in Cairo occupied by supporters of the ousted president, Mohamed Morsi, with armored vehicles, bulldozers and helicopters supporting security forces who assailed protesters with tear gas. (New York Times)
- Palestinians Celebrate First Prisoner Releases Ahead of Peace Talks - Robert Tait
A Palestinian given a life sentence for the murder of an Israeli soldier who was killed by a giant boulder pushed from a roof was among 26 prisoners freed on Tuesday in a goodwill gesture aimed at restarting peace talks. Samir al-Na'neesh, 47, was jailed in 1989 after being convicted of planning the attack. He is one of 104 inmates to be set free over the next nine months in four separate phases as negotiations supposedly progress. He was greeted like a conquering hero by his extended family and friends at a homecoming gathering in Ramallah, where he and other newly liberated prisoners met PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
Many Israelis view men such as al-Na'neesh as cold-blooded murderers whose release is a price too high for a negotiating round few believe has much chance of bringing peace.
See also In Ramallah, Prisoners Return to a Hero's Welcome - Elhanan Miller
Busloads of family members arrived at the presidential compound in Ramallah carrying Palestinian flags and posters, to welcome Palestinian prisoners just released from Israeli jails. PA President Mahmoud Abbas came out of the compound, holding up the arms of two released prisoners and telling the crowd: "These men are only the beginning....We will not rest until all the others are among us."
To the beat of drums and the sound of bagpipes, the released prisoners joined their families, who carried them on their shoulders. Fireworks went off over the mausoleum of former PA president Yasser Arafat, and the men were led to decorated, honking cars that stood ready to take them home.
The PA grants released prisoners a stipend which can reach $2,000 a month.
(Times of Israel)
- Kerry: Netanyahu Was Completely Upfront with Me about Additional Construction
Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday:
"Prime Minister Netanyahu was completely upfront with me and with President Abbas that he would be announcing some additional building that would take place in places that will not affect the peace map, that will not have any impact on the capacity to have a peace agreement. That means that it is building within the so-called blocs in areas that many people make a presumption - obviously not some Palestinians or others - will be part of Israel in the future." (State Department)
- Syrian War Shapes Trip by Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff - Thom Shanker
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, opened a weeklong visit to the Middle East on Monday for discussions on potential additions of American support to Israel and Jordan, which are both facing border-security challenges from the conflict in neighboring Syria. The Pentagon already has deployed air-defense missile batteries in Jordan, along with crewed F-16s to train alongside the Jordanian Air Force in patrolling Jordan's border and airspace. A few hundred American military planners, including communications experts and logisticians, also are in Jordan.
Dempsey noted that the U.S. has benefited from local intelligence efforts tracking Syrian chemical weapons. "Probably the single point of greatest collaboration with Israel, Jordan and the United States is in identifying the potential chemical threat, its location, trying to determine the intentions of the Syrian regime."
Dempsey described expanding American efforts to identify and assist moderate elements of the rebel movement.
"I am very concerned about the radical element of the opposition, and I am concerned about the potential that extremist ideologies will hijack what started out to be a popular movement to overthrow an oppressive regime."
He added, "The issues that are fueling the conflict in Syria will not be resolved in the short term, even if the Assad regime were to fail tomorrow....This is a regional conflict that stretches from Beirut to Damascus to Baghdad," he said. "It is the unleashing of historic ethnic, religious and tribal animosities that will take a great deal of work and a great deal of time to resolve." (New York Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Peace Talks to Resume Against Backdrop of Prisoner Release - Herb Keinon and Michael Wilner
Israel and the Palestinians are scheduled to begin substantive talks in Jerusalem on Wednesday under a complete media blackout, with neither the location nor time of the negotiations made public, nor any mention of what topics are on the agenda. The talks will take place following the release Tuesday night of 26 Palestinian terrorists.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said, "We set ourselves the goal of nine months in which we will try to reach something with the Palestinians. We've been trying for 20 years since Oslo, and for over 120 years of the conflict. The skepticism in the tone of my remarks is apparent, but we've decided to give it a chance."
One government official said that Prime Minister Netanyahu believes that a Palestinian state is in Israel's interest because of demographic reasons, in order to keep Israel a Jewish democracy, and to fend off attempts to delegitimize it.
But, the official said, "he also believes that a Palestinian state that looks like Gaza does today - hostile, in the Iranian orbit, and one that fosters terrorism against Israel - is something that we cannot afford." (Jerusalem Post)
See also Hamas Says It Won't Be Bound by Peace Negotiations - Elhanan Miller
Hamas will not be bound by the outcome of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas official based in Gaza, stated on Tuesday. "Hamas will never accept the negotiation track and its result," al-Zahar said.
(Times of Israel)
- IDF Strikes Rocket Launchers in Gaza - Yoav Zitun
Israeli aircraft attacked rocket launchers in north Gaza early Wednesday in response to Tuesday night's rocket attack on Israel, the IDF Spokesperson's Unit said.
- Palestinian Heroes - Editorial
Salameh Abdallah Musleh, imprisoned for the murder of convenience-store owner Reuven David, is being released
as part of a deal orchestrated by Secretary of State John Kerry to resume peace talks with the Palestinians.
"Abdallah, together with an accomplice, entered David's convenience store on May 20, 1991, bound David's arms and legs and beat him to death," according to the Times of Israel.
Every society has its criminals, psychotics and killers. But it says something about the current Palestinian leadership that it has made the release of killers a condition of peace talks. It also says something about the moral values of too many Palestinians that they should treat the returning prisoners not as pariahs but as heroes.
The Israeli decision to release the prisoners was shortly followed by the approval of additional construction permits for housing in east Jerusalem and West Bank settlements. The move elicited howls of condemnation, as if building houses is more objectionable than murdering people in cold blood.
(Wall Street Journal)
- A Heavy Heart - Editorial
Outrage and horror are the sentiments felt by anyone with a modicum of moral decency upon reading the list of Palestinian terrorists released Tuesday.
Many of these prisoners are responsible for horrendously brutal murders perpetrated against innocent Israelis. Often, the murders took place well inside the Green Line, proof that these terrorists made no distinctions between settlements and pre-1967 Israel.
Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein rejected a petition brought by the families of the victims, but said the decision was made with "a heavy heart." "Why has such a move, which the American broker would probably not agree to at all if the terrorists had killed U.S. citizens, let alone as a condition for starting negotiations, become a legitimate condition because Palestinians are demanding it of Israel? And yet the court must rule in accordance with the law." (Jerusalem Post)
See also Leprous Role Models - Dan Margalit
It pains us to release 104 terrorists, partly because of the means they used to kill Jews indiscriminately and partly because one needs a unique personality structure to be able to murder an old man sitting on a bench, using a heavy tool to deliver blow after blow, again and again. Ponder for a moment to whom the Palestinians will one day look as the national symbols of their past fight. Axe murderers and child stabbers? Those are leprous role models.
To Get an Israeli-Palestinian Agreement, U.S. Needs to Re-engage in the Mideast - Michael Singh (Foreign Policy)
- For a Palestinian state to succeed, it will need intimate commercial and economic links - not just the hand-to-mouth aid received today - with neighbors.
But today the neighborhood is more a source of distraction than support for the Israelis and Palestinians.
- Abbas must worry about the regional resurgence of political Islam, of which his rival, Hamas, is the local manifestation. Allies that were once staunchly supportive, such as Turkey and Qatar, have recently been more supportive of Abbas' Islamist rivals, while other former stalwarts like Egypt and Jordan are consumed with internal issues.
- Another major challenge is the position of the U.S. in the region. The U.S. has long been looked toward as a guarantor of whatever arrangements the peace process produced and of Israel's security as it gives up hard-won territory.
- The U.S. role as guarantor can no longer be easily assumed. The widespread perception in the Middle East is that the U.S. is experiencing "Mideast fatigue" in the wake of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and would prefer to disengage. This inevitably will reduce the value and credibility of U.S. security assurances to both the Israelis and the Palestinians.
- If the U.S. wants a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, it must focus on everything but the so-called "core issues" that will be at the heart of the negotiations and must be worked out by the parties who know them well.
- Washington should run interference for the two parties - thwarting the efforts of spoilers to derail the process, lining up support from regional and international partners whose priorities are elsewhere, bolstering Netanyahu and Abbas to the extent possible, and, in so doing, providing space to the Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate.
The writer is managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
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