Rouhani Approves Execution of Arab-Iranian Poet - Amir Taheri (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
Last July, an Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal sentenced 14 human rights activists to death on charges of "waging war on God" and "spreading corruption on earth."
Last month, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited Ahvaz, capital of the province of Khuzestan, where he gave the green light for the executions.
The first two executions were carried out last week when Hashem Shaabani and Hadi Rashedi were hanged.
Both men were well known for advocating greater cultural freedom for Iran's ethnic Arab-speaking minority, believed to number almost two million.
Shaabani, 32, was especially known for the poetry he published both in Persian and Arabic.
The Geneva Deal and Iran's Nuclear Ambitions - Ben Cohen interviews Olli Heinonen (Fathom-BICOM)
Dr. Olli Heinonen, a former senior IAEA official, is one of the few individuals in the West with a long track record of dealing with Iran's leaders.
He recalled that when President Rouhani had served as a nuclear negotiator 10 years earlier, he boasted of how he had used talks with Western powers to "buy time to advance Iran's program."
Yet Heinonen's concerns about the slipperiness of the Iranian leadership are offset by the realization that Western powers know much more about Iran's nuclear program than is generally appreciated.
Dr. Olli Heinonen served as Deputy Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Hamas Returns Forces to Prevent Rocket Fire at Israel (Maan News-PA)
The Hamas government in Gaza has redeployed security forces along its borders to prevent rocket fire at Israel, Interior Ministry official Islam Shahwan said Tuesday.
Islamic Jihad Threatens to Torpedo Peace Talks (Times of Israel)
The Islamic Jihad terror group threatened this week to scuttle any peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
"We [will] destroy any accord that legitimizes the Zionist occupation of Palestine," a senior official for the group, Ahmad al-Medlal, told the French daily Le Figaro on Sunday.
15,000 Attend Israel Event in Paris - Joseph Byron
(European Jewish Press)
15,000 people in Paris attended a major event on Sunday featuring life in Israel, sponsored by Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF).
In 2013, immigration from France to Israel increased by 63% in the wake of rising anti-Semitism.
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- Israel: Peace Deal Requires Recognition of Jewish State - Oren Dorell
The Palestinians' refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state goes against core elements of any peace deal that would be acceptable to Israel, Israel's ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer told USA Today.
"If they're not willing to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, then there will not be an agreement."
Dermer said if the Jewish nature of Israel is declared legitimate by a Palestinian state, then Israel will know that the decades-long attempt to destroy it is at an end. "The refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state means they [Palestinians] want a Palestinian state not to end the conflict, but to continue the conflict."
Israel also insists on maintaining a security presence in the Jordan Valley and will never rely on foreign forces to guarantee security, given that such arrangements have worked out poorly for Israel in the past, Dermer said. "We do not ask other countries to fight our battles....[Abbas] is willing to have foreign forces [in the Jordan Valley], so the issue is not sovereignty; he just doesn't want Israeli forces, which have proven to be the only effective force here." (USA Today)
- Kerry Tells Iran that Existing Sanctions Will Stay in Place as Nuclear Negotiations Continue - Anne Gearan
Secretary of State John Kerry told Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif Sunday that the U.S. will continue to enforce existing sanctions on Iran while bargaining over a deal to rein in Iran's nuclear program. Kerry and Zarif have portrayed the interim deal reached in November very differently. Kerry stresses that the deal forces Iran to stop the uranium enrichment work most likely to lead to a bomb and degrade its existing stocks of the most potent uranium. Zarif stresses the economic benefit to Iran and recognition of Iran's right to a uranium enrichment program.
Zarif said in an interview Saturday that Iran was not prepared to give up research on centrifuges used to purify uranium as part of a final nuclear deal.
- Syria's Assault on Doctors - Annie Sparrow
The Assad regime has come to view doctors as dangerous, their ability to heal rebel fighters and civilians in rebel-held areas a weapon against the government. Over the past two and a half years, doctors, nurses, dentists, and pharmacists who provide treatment to civilians in contested areas have been arrested and detained; paramedics have been tortured and used as human shields, ambulances have been targeted by snipers and missiles; medical facilities have been destroyed; the pharmaceutical industry devastated.
In 2011, there were more than 30,000 doctors in Syria. Now, more than 16,000 doctors have fled, and many of those left are in hiding. More than 90 have been assassinated for doing their jobs.
At least 36 paramedics, in uniform on authorized missions, have been killed by Syrian military snipers or shot dead at checkpoints.
(New York Review of Books)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- U.S. Expects Delay on Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks, Kerry Framework - Herb Keinon
Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians will likely require more time than the April 29 deadline, U.S. officials acknowledged on Monday. The Americans now view the date they originally set to be "artificial" and suggest that even the framework might need more time, given some important gaps that still remain.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday dismissed as "absurd" the notion that Israel would sign an agreement recognizing a nation-state for the Palestinian people without mutual recognition by the Palestinians of Israel as the nation-state of the Jews.
"Now let's see if those same elements in the international community, which until now have placed pressure only on Israel, will make clear to the Palestinians what exactly the ramifications will be for them if there will not be an agreement," Netanyahu said. "Without the Palestinians understanding that they will pay a price for a lack of continuation of the talks, they will prefer not to continue the talks." (Jerusalem Post)
- Egyptian Army Steps Up Campaign Against Militants in Sinai
30 militants were killed and another 15 injured in a series of military airstrikes on Monday in northern Sinai in the biggest operation yet in the Egyptian army's ongoing offensive. Another 16 were arrested during the operation.
- Attacks from Gaza Skyrocket in January - Spencer Ho
In January, Gaza-based terror groups fired three times as many rockets at Israel as during an average month in 2013. These included 20 mortar and rocket attacks, two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) set off on the Gaza-Israel border and two incidents where the IDF stopped militants attempting to launch rockets. Most of the attacks were carried out by fringe groups in Gaza, the Israeli daily Maariv reported.
(Times of Israel)
- Abbas' NATO Gambit Is a Nonstarter - Max Boot
It would be quite an irony if the Obama administration, while refusing to become heavily engaged in Syria or Libya, were to dispatch U.S. troops to guard a new Palestinian state in the West Bank, as proposed by PA President Mahmoud Abbas in an interview with the New York Times.
Imagine such a force patrolling the West Bank and east Jerusalem. They might as well have a "kick me" sign on their backs - their very presence will make them an irresistible magnet for jihadists who want to score points against the Great Satan.
More likely the presence of foreign troops would hinder and deter effective action by Israeli forces to defend their own homeland. Israel has had experience before with international peacekeepers and it well remembers how little such forces did to protect Israel when deployed to protect against attack from Egypt (before the 1967 Six-Day War) or from Hizbullah when deployed in Lebanon.
- Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the "Clash within a Civilization" - Anthony H. Cordesman
The tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia reflect a broad regional power struggle, now made more complex by growing doubts among Saudis and other Arabs about U.S. policies in the region.
These doubts have led to a wide range of Arab conspiracy theories that the U.S. is preparing to abandon its alliances in the Arab world and turn to Iran.
In this struggle, almost all of the attacks and casualties are caused by Muslims attacking Muslims, and much of the violence is caused by Sunnis attacking Sunnis. The West is only on the periphery of this struggle, not its focus. It is a "clash within a civilization," and not a clash between them.
The U.S. and Europe need to stop seeing regional political upheavals as some brief prelude to the triumph of Western values and democracy, and focus on their real world human impact as well as the threat they pose. (Center for Strategic and International Studies)
In Iran We Trust?
If Tehran Breaks Its Promises, We're Unlikely to Know - Gabriel Schoenfeld (Weekly Standard)
See also Dancing in the Nuclear Dark:
How Will We Know When Iran Sprints toward a Bomb? - Bret Stephens (Wall Street Journal)
- President Obama has proudly declared that diplomacy opened a path to "a future in which we can verify that Iran's nuclear program is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon." How much confidence can we have that the ayatollahs will not press ahead with their nuclear program in clandestine facilities, as they have done in the past? And how much confidence can we have that our intelligence agencies will catch them?
- A three-year study by the Defense Science Board concluded that U.S. intelligence agencies "are not yet organized or fully equipped" to detect when foreign powers are constructing nuclear weapons or adding to existing arsenals. What is more, their ability to find "small nuclear enterprises designed to produce, store, and deploy only a small number of weapons" is "either inadequate, or more often, [does] not exist."
- With regard to identifying Syria's nuclear reactor at al-Kibar, the multibillion-dollar, ultra-high-tech tools of U.S. intelligence were foiled by one of the most low-cost and ancient techniques of warfare: camouflage. Only in 2007, just as it was ready to be loaded with uranium fuel, did U.S. intelligence conclude that Syria had built a reactor, thanks to incontrovertible evidence provided by Israel.
- Under our eyes but without our seeing, the Syrians had come breathtakingly close to possessing an operational generator of the nuclear bomb ingredient plutonium. "How can we have any confidence at all in the estimates of the scope of the North Korean, Iranian, or other possible programs?" asked former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
The writer is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.
- Last month the Pentagon's Defense Science Board published an "Assessment of Nuclear Monitoring and Verification Technologies," which reported that our ability to detect a nuclear breakout is not good.
- According to the report, "The pathways to proliferation are expanding. Networks of cooperation among countries that would otherwise have little reason to do so, such as the A.Q. Khan network or the Syria-North Korea and Iran-North Korea collaborations, cannot be considered isolated events."
- In his 2012 debate with Paul Ryan, Joe Biden insisted that the Iranians "are a good way away" from a bomb and that "we'll know if they start the process of building a weapon."
The report junks that claim.
- Now the administration is pressing for an agreement with Iran based on the conceit that the intelligence community will give policy makers ample warning before the mullahs sprint for a nuclear weapon. That is not true. We are dancing in the nuclear dark.
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