Islamist Somali Gunmen Kill 68 in Kenya Shopping Mall - Duncan Miriri and James Macharia (Reuters)
Kenya said its security forces were in control of most of the Nairobi shopping mall where at least 68 people were killed by Somali al Shabab Islamists.
Al Shabab said its fighters were demanding Kenya pull out troops from Somalia.
Al Shabab's last big attack outside Somalia was a twin assault in Uganda, targeting people watching the World Cup final on television in 2010, killing 77 people.
See also The Terrorists Everyone Swore Were Beat Just Slaughtered 68 People - Shane Harris (Foreign Policy)
As recently as last year, U.S. officials claimed that
al Shabab was on the run in the face of an American-backed offensive in Africa.
More recently, the Obama administration has expanded a secret war against al Shabab in Somalia, ramping up assistance to Somali intelligence agencies.
The U.S. also runs training camps for Ugandan peacekeepers who fight al Shabab forces, and at a base in Djibouti houses Predator drones, fighter jets, and nearly 2,000 U.S. troops and military civilians.
See also Report: Israel Helping Kenya in Shopping Mall Siege (Reuters)
Israeli advisers are helping Kenya formulate a strategy to end a siege at a Nairobi shopping mall, an Israeli security source said on Sunday.
"There are Israeli advisers helping with the negotiating strategy, but no Israelis involved in any imminent storming operation," said the source.
The source said a "handful" of Israelis, "purely in an advisory role," were at the Westgate shopping center, which has several Israeli-owned outlets.
Will Hamas Let the PA Supervise the Gaza-Egypt Border Crossing? - Zvi Mazel (Jerusalem Post)
Hamas is now ready to consider what it rejected for so long: setting up a joint administration with the Palestinian Authority at the Rafah crossing into Egypt.
Hamas kicked out the PA in 2007 when it took over Gaza and has repeatedly turned down calls to let the PA return to the crossing as stipulated in agreements concluded with Israel and the EU.
Hamas now hopes that such a move would placate the Egyptian Army and induce it to open the crossing more often. It would bring sorely needed relief to the population of Gaza, now openly grumbling against Hamas.
But there is no question of letting the European inspectors come back, since Hamas considers the agreements null and void.
The writer, a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a former Israeli ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden.
Palestinian Groups Campaign Against the Peace Process - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
Several Palestinian groups and figures launched a campaign on Sunday to demand that the PA leadership "give in to popular demands to stop the negotiations with the government of Netanyahu."
Tens of Thousands Attend Priestly Blessing in Jerusalem - Lazar Berman (Times of Israel)
The semiannual mass priestly blessing service - Birkat Kohanim - took place Sunday in Jerusalem at the Western Wall.
Tens of thousands of Jewish worshippers crowded the plaza to receive the blessing from the Kohanim, descendants of Aaron who make up the priestly caste. Both chief rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef participated as well.
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- Netanyahu Said to View Nuclear Deal with Iran as a Trap - Mark Landler
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel plans to warn the UN next week that a nuclear deal with the Iranian government could be a trap similar to one set by North Korea eight years ago, according to an Israeli official involved in drafting the speech.
"Just like North Korea before it, Iran professes to seemingly peaceful intentions; it talks the talk of nonproliferation while seeking to ease sanctions and buy more time for its nuclear program." Netanyahu plans to review diplomacy in 2005, when the North Korean government, in what was then seen as a landmark deal, agreed to abandon its nuclear weapons program in return for economic, security and energy benefits.
A year later, North Korea tested its first nuclear device.
American officials agree that North Korea offers a troubling precedent of nuclear negotiations in which a rogue nation repeatedly extracted concessions from the U.S., only to renege later and test nuclear devices. (New York Times)
See also Israel: Rouhani "Will Smile All the Way to the Bomb"
Yuval Steinitz, Israel's minister for intelligence and strategic affairs, confirmed that Israel is alarmed by what he derided as Rouhani's "smiley campaign."
"On the one hand, Iran is trying to appease the world with Rouhani's moderate rhetoric. And on the other hand, Iran continues its approach toward nuclear weapons, and if nothing serious will be done, Rouhani will continue to smile, will continue to appease, and he will smile all the way to the bomb." (AP-Washington Post)
See also As It Makes Overtures to Iran, U.S. Strives to Reassure Israel - Mark Landler and Jodi Rudoren
As the Obama administration embarks on a diplomatic overture to Iran, White House officials are engaged in a behind-the-scenes effort to reassure Israel that they will not fall for Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, by prematurely easing pressure on his government to curb its nuclear program. "We certainly recognize and appreciate Israel's significant concerns about Iran, given the threats that have been made against Israel and the outrageous comments that have come out of Iran for many years about Israel," Benjamin J. Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, said Friday. (New York Times)
- UN Nuclear Assembly Rejects Arab Push on Israel - Fredrik Dahl
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Friday rejected an Iranian-backed Arab bid to single out Israel for criticism over its assumed atomic arsenal, in a diplomatic victory for Western powers that opposed the initiative.
51 countries voted against the text, which called on Israel to join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), while 43 states voted for the measure. The rest abstained or were absent.
The U.S. said earlier that targeting Israel would only hurt broader steps aimed at banning weapons of mass destruction in the region.
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- IDF Soldier Killed by Palestinian Sniper in Hebron - Yaakov Lappin and Tovah Lazaroff
A Palestinian sniper shot dead Sgt. Gavriel Kobi, 20, near the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron on Sunday. (Jerusalem Post)
- Palestinian Lures Israeli Soldier to the West Bank to Murder Him
IDF Sgt. Tomer Hazan was murdered by Nidal Amar, a Palestinian acquaintance who worked at an Israeli restaurant where Hazan also worked part-time.
Amar lured him to a village near Kalkilya in the West Bank, killed him, and threw his body in a well, Israeli authorities said Saturday. Amar said he intended to trade Hazan's body for his brother, a member of the Fatah Tanzim terror group, who has been in an Israeli jail since 2003.
(Times of Israel)
- IDF Patrol Comes Under Fire on Syria Border
An Israeli army patrol was fired upon along the Syrian border Sunday night in the northern Golan Heights. The IDF troops returned fire.
(Times of Israel)
See also Mortar Fired from Gaza Lands in Israel - Asher Zeiger (Times of Israel)
- IDF Blocks EU-Palestinian Effort to Counter Israeli Court Ruling - Yoel Goldman
The IDF foiled an attempt Friday by Palestinians and EU diplomats to rebuild West Bank structures that were demolished last week in accordance with an Israel High Court of Justice ruling. The High Court had ruled that the ramshackle buildings in what Palestinians call Khirbet Al-Makhul were constructed illegally.
According to the IDF Spokesperson, Palestinians on Friday began hurling stones and beating Israeli security forces at the scene. The IDF confiscated a truck contained building supplies after removing French diplomat Marion Fesneau-Castaing from the vehicle. (Times of Israel)
See also Israel: "Diplomats Should Not Act as Provocateurs"
Israel's Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Sunday, saying, "Israel rejects the one-sided announcement which was published by the [EU] spokespersons [on Saturday].... This announcement ignores the European diplomats' blunt violation of the law, their disregard of a ruling of the Israeli court and their unnecessary provocation under the alleged pretext of humanitarian aid.... Diplomats are sent by their governments to be a bridge and not act as provocateurs." (Israel Hayom)
See also Israel Considers Banishing French Diplomat - Barak Ravid
Israel is considering whether to declare the cultural attache for the French Consulate in Jerusalem, Marion Fesneau-Castaing, persona non-grata. In a video of the incident she is seen raising her hand and either punching or pushing a Border Police officer at the scene. (Ha'aretz)
- Rouhani's Sincerity Is Extremely Unclear - Michael Rubin
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's sincerity is extremely unclear. As reported by AEI on Sept. 17, Rouhani suggested creating a commission "to pursue spiritual and material compensation" from the U.S. and UK for their role in the 1953 coup against Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq.
Putting aside whether the coup was wise or not given the Cold War context, the simple fact is that the Iranian clergy was complicit in the coup and, indeed, had made an alliance of convenience with the U.S., British, and Iranian military.
That Rouhani wants the U.S. to pay Iran for the 1953 coup which his teachers and predecessors supported shows just how manipulative and insincere he is in his populist games in Tehran and Washington. The writer is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
- A Kinder, Gentler Iran? - Ray Takeyh
Rouhani's attempt to refashion Iran's image and temper its rhetoric should be welcomed. After eight years of Ahmadinejad provocations, a degree of self-restraint is admirable. However, judge Tehran by its conduct and not its words.
It is not enough for Rouhani to condemn the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Is he prepared to withdraw the Revolutionary Guard contingents that have done much to buttress Assad's brutality?
It is not sufficient for Rouhani to speak of transparency; he must curb Iran's troublesome nuclear activities and comply with the UN Security Council resolutions.
And it is not enough for Rouhani to speak of a tolerant society unless he is prepared to free his many former comrades and colleagues who are languishing in prisons under false charges.
Rouhani's reliability has to be measured by his actions, not by his speeches.
The writer is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
(Los Angeles Times)
- Syria Problem Is Not Going Away - Anthony H. Cordesman
Syria - like Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Tunisia and Yemen - has been destabilized by a mixture of population pressures, weak economic development, authoritarianism, corruption, failed governance, and deep ethnic and sectarian divisions. It will take years for Syria to achieve stability and move along some path toward growth and development.
Getting rid of Assad's chemical weapons will be a major challenge. He is likely to resist, and delay. Russia is likely to put Assad's survival before pushing Syria toward full compliance and to oppose any use of force.
In short, Syria is just this month's crisis in a region where the Arab Spring has become at least a decade of violence, religious conflict, threat to development and progress, and where the U.S. can neither solve a single problem quickly nor take a single risk of disengaging from an effort to help. The writer holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Both Opportunity and Peril over Iran - David Ignatius (Washington Post)
- Here's the way the White House is assessing the diplomatic maneuvers that will begin with President Rouhani's address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday:
- Though he was initially opposed by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, Rouhani now appears to have his backing, given Khamenei's call this week for "heroic flexibility" in negotiations.
- Rouhani has signaled that he's interested in a nuclear deal. He responded favorably to a private letter from Obama that urged bilateral U.S.-Iranian negotiations. U.S. officials caution that any nuclear deal must be ratified by the P5+1 group, which includes Russia and China, because it would require international monitoring.
- Regarding Syria, U.S. officials are waiting for evidence that Iran will back a real transition away from Assad, and that it will limit the future military role of Hizbullah in both Syria and Lebanon.
- U.S. officials wonder whether Rouhani can make policy independent of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, which has been Tehran's covert-action arm in Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain and elsewhere. A deal with Rouhani that isn't fully backed by Quds Force leader Qassem Suleimani would be a dangerous delusion.
See also Iranian Revolutionary Guard Warns of Dealing with U.S.
Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) published a statement on Saturday saying: "Historical experiences make it necessary for the diplomatic apparatus of our country to carefully and skeptically monitor the behavior of White House officials so that the righteous demands of our nation are recognized and respected by those who favor interaction." It said IRGC would support initiatives that were in line with national interests and strategies set forth by Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
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