The Ayatollah's Windfall - Emanuele Ottolenghi and Saeed Ghasseminejad (National Post-Canada)
Look at the psychological impact the Geneva deal had on Iran's economy. Within hours, Iran's currency, the rial, appreciated by 5% and shares of petrochemical companies soared on Tehran's Stock Exchange.
By relaxing sanctions against the petrochemical and automotive industries, the U.S. is giving the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Supreme Leader a cash bonanza. Together, they control one-third of Iran's petrochemical sector.
Iran has used the automotive sector to procure needed dual-use items and materials for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs over the years. Khodro and Saipa, the two main players in the car industry, are government-controlled.
The agreement offers Iran much needed relief to its procurement efforts, a cash windfall to its channels of proliferation, and financial profit along the way.
French Scientists Rule Out Polonium Poisoning in Arafat's Death (AFP-Telegraph-UK)
French experts have ruled out a theory that Yasser Arafat was killed by polonium poisoning, a source close to the investigation into his death told AFP.
"The report rules out the poisoning theory and goes in the sense of a natural death," the source said.
Israel-Egypt Border Fence Completed (Jerusalem Post)
Construction of the border fence between Israel and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula has been completed, Israel Channel 2 TV reported Wednesday.
230 km. of the fence were built in two years, while the remaining 15 km. took a year and a half due to difficult terrain.
Jordan to Import Coal via Israel Due to Closure of Syrian Route - Avi Bar-Eli (Ha'aretz)
An agreement for Israel to sell imported coal to Jordan is expected to get underway in about a month.
Maj. Gen. (res.) Israel Ziv, who manages the private firm Global CST, explained, "Because of the Syrian situation, the Israeli route became relevant [for the Jordanians]."
Jordan needs about 400,000 tons of coal annually to power its concrete plants, but had no alternative route to import coal.
Video: Capt. Ziv Shilon's Recovery (YouTube)
IDF Captain Ziv Shilon was badly injured in a Hamas attack near the Gaza security fence on Oct. 23, 2012.
He lost his left hand and his right hand was mangled, but he never lost his love of being part of the nation of Israel.
French Court Fines Boycott-Israel Activists for Discrimination (JTA)
The Court of Appeals of Colmar near Strasbourg last Wednesday imposed a $1,300 fine on each of 12 members of an anti-Israel group who called on supermarket shoppers to boycott Israeli products in 2009-2010.
The French court called their acts "provocation to discrimination."
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
- Hizbullah Leader Assassinated near Beirut - Ban Hubbard
A Hizbullah military leader, Hussein al-Laqis, was assassinated in front of his home south of Beirut, Hizbullah said on Wednesday. (New York Times)
See also Hizbullah Arms Chief Assassinated - Jack Khoury and Amos Harel
Hussein al-Laqis served as Hizbullah's technology and arms chief. He also maintained extensive contact with Iranian and Syrian intelligence. He has been known to Western intelligence since the 1980s. Israel Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said,
"Israel had nothing to do with this incident." (Ha'aretz)
- Jihadist Groups Gain in Turmoil across Middle East - Robert F. Worth and Eric Schmitt
American intelligence and counterterrorism officials are increasingly concerned that militants aligned with al-Qaeda could establish a base in Syria capable of threatening Israel and Europe. Foreign jihadis in Syria appear to be building to a critical mass and have overwhelmed the Western strategy of support for the moderate opposition.
The new signs of an energized but fragmented jihadist threat, stretching from Mali and Libya in the west to Yemen in the east, have complicated the narrative of a weakened al-Qaeda. Across the region, a rising tide of Islamist militancy - fueled partly by sectarian violence and partly by the collapse of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood - has contributed to a recent wave of attacks, including deadly bombings in Lebanon and the Sinai Peninsula as well as the daily carnage in Syria and Iraq.
"To the extent that I am concerned about al-Qaeda the brand, it's that it is clearly expanding its affiliates, both in number and in some cases in capability," Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an interview.
"The worm has turned in the Middle East in the minds of American foreign policy makers," said William McCants, an expert on jihadist movements and a former senior adviser at the State Department. "It seems we are back to counterterrorism as a guiding focus for American policy." (New York Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- IDF Providing Humanitarian Aid to Syrian Civilians - Gili Cohen
The Israel Defense Forces has been providing humanitarian aid to Syrians living near the border, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Tuesday. Israel has sent water and food, including baby food, across the border, and has been helping the Syrians prepare for winter.
"Given the fact that these villages are besieged and have no access to anyplace else, we are helping for humanitarian reasons," he said.
Food is being transferred via the UN Disengagement Observer Force. In addition, IDF soldiers place aid packages just over the border and the Syrian villagers collect them. Moreover, an IDF field hospital and Israeli hospitals have been providing care to hundreds of wounded Syrians.
- Security Officials Report Rise in Terror Attacks in Jerusalem - Lazar Berman and Joshua Davidovich
Jerusalem police arrested two more minors from east Jerusalem on Wednesday suspected of being involved in a rock-throwing attack last Thursday that injured an Israeli infant. Five minors from the neighborhood of Sur Baher were arrested Monday. According to police spokesman Yigal Elmaliach, they admitted to carrying out the premeditated attack because of their "hatred of Jews."
Shirin Ben Zion, the mother of two-year-old Avigail who sustained a head wound, emphasized that the rock thrown at the car was about the size of her daughter's head. According to the Israel Security Agency, November saw a 65% rise in terror attacks in Jerusalem compared to the previous month. There were
53 attacks in November, of which 47 involved firebombs, compared with 32 attacks in October.
(Times of Israel)
- Unprecedented Find from Hasmonean Period Unearthed in Jerusalem - Daniel K. Eisenbud
The Israel Antiquities Authority on Tuesday announced an unprecedented find - a 4-meter-high building from the second century BCE Hasmonean period, covering 64 square meters, with 40 silver and bronze coins still lying on its floor. The structure, enclosed by walls made of limestone blocks more than a meter thick, was found earlier this year near the City of David National Park. The Hasmonean dynasty, descendants of the Maccabee family, ruled Judea and surrounding areas during 141-37 BCE.
Dr. Doron Ben-Ami, one of the excavation's directors, said that while there were vivid descriptions of the Hasmonean city in the writings of Josephus Flavius, none of the Hasmonean city's buildings had been uncovered until now.
- Israel's New Focus on the Iran Nuclear Deal - Michael Herzog
Iranian enrichment has been accepted as part of the endgame; the clock in the uranium and plutonium tracks continues to tick, albeit at a slower pace. While putting the brakes on Iran's nuclear program is better than allowing it to accelerate, Tehran is far too close to a critical breakout capacity for this to be an acceptable situation in the long term. Israel's sight is therefore fixed on the endgame.
For Israel, the endgame must deny Iran the capacity to swiftly break out a bomb before it can be stopped. Yet senior Israeli officials ask: if the pressure of sanctions could not get Iran to tackle the endgame now, why would relaxed sanctions produce the desired result in six months?
Israel wants its U.S. and European allies to define and stick to clear goals, to enforce remaining sanctions, and to clarify to Iran the consequences of non-compliance with the interim deal or averting a reasonable comprehensive deal.
Israel could encourage additional sanctions in the U.S. Congress conditional on Iran's behavior, while also making clear that its own military option is on the table.
Faced with possible additional sanctions and a credible military option, Iran is more likely to concede.
Brig.-Gen. (res.) Michael Herzog served as head of the Strategic Planning Division of the IDF and worked with four ministers of defense as senior military aide and advisor, and chief of staff.
- Palestinians Want a Geneva Accord Against Israel - Khaled Abu Toameh
The Geneva agreement between Iran and the six big powers appears to have had a negative impact on the current Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
Palestinian commentator Adel Abdel Rahman, who is affiliated with the Palestinian Authority, urged the PA leadership to take advantage of the Geneva accord to call for an international conference to discuss ways of imposing a solution on Israel.
The Palestinians are now convinced that the U.S. role in the region is continually receding. That is why they do not believe that the U.S.-sponsored peace talks with Israel will produce any results.
The Geneva accord and Washington's policies in Egypt and other Muslim countries have taught the Palestinians that it would be better to wait until the U.S. completely loses its influence, so that other players such as Russia, China and the EU will step in to impose a solution on Israel.
- Using the Bedouin to Attack Israel - Jonathan S. Tobin
An Israeli government plan seeks to help the Bedouin, the poorest segment of the country's population, who have lived as nomads for generations. A government commission has called for relocating some 30,000 of them just 3-5 km. down the road from their current place of residence to new towns where they can receive government services that are impossible to deliver to people roaming the countryside or living in small, scattered shantytowns. The notion that the Bedouin are having their land stolen or being turned into homeless refugees is bunk.
To assert that all of the desert must be considered an open range across which the Bedouin must be allowed to roam without taking into consideration the rights or the needs of other Israeli citizens or the wellbeing of the Bedouin themselves is a position rooted neither in law nor good public policy. Israel's critics are using the Bedouin as yet another club with which to beat Israel.
See also Israel's Policy on the Negev Bedouin - Richard Pater
Prime Minister's Netanyahu's spokesman, Mark Regev, said in an interview on Nov. 27:
The goal of the government is to end unacceptable gaps that exist in Israeli society between the mainstream and the Negev Bedouin, who up until now have received lower social services, lower educational services, lower health support. We don't want to see anyone in Israel as a second-class citizen. So the goal of the plan is to invest billions of shekels in the Negev Bedouin communities.
Six Reasons to Worry About the Iranian Nuclear Deal - Jeffrey Goldberg (Bloomberg)
- The nuclear agreement with Iran isn't done. Nothing was actually signed. The deal is not, as of this moment, operational.
This means the Iranians are going about their business as if they've promised nothing.
- Momentum for sanctions is waning. Many nations, many companies and the Iranians themselves are seeing this agreement as the beginning of the end of the sanctions regime.
- The document agreed upon in Geneva promises Iran an eventual exit from nuclear monitoring. The final deal, the document states, will "have a specified long-term duration to be agreed upon." From what I'm told, the U.S. hopes this agreement would last 15 years; the Iranians hope to escape this burden in five. After the agreement loses its legal force, Iran could run as many centrifuges as it chooses.
- The text of the interim agreement states that the permanent deal will "involve a mutually defined enrichment program with mutually agreed parameters." Essentially, the U.S. has already conceded that Iran is going to end up with the right to enrich.
- There is no promise by Iran in this interim deal to abstain from pursuing work on ballistic missiles or on weaponization. Iran is free to do whatever it pleases on missiles and warhead development.
- The Iranians are so close to reaching the nuclear threshold anyway - defined as the ability to make a dash to a bomb within one or two months - that freezing in place much of the nuclear program seems increasingly futile.
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