Iranians Celebrate Anniversary of 1979 Revolution by Chanting "Down with the U.S.," "Death to Israel" (AP-Washington Post)
Hundreds of thousands of Iranians gathered in Tehran on Monday to mark the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, chanting "Down with the U.S." and "Death to Israel."
The traditional anti-American rhetoric came despite the election last year of President Hassan Rouhani who is pursuing a policy of outreach to the West.
Turkey-Israel Detente Advances, Fueled by Prospect of Israeli Offshore Gas - Calev Ben-David and Selcan Hacaoglu (Bloomberg)
Turkey and Israel may soon renew diplomatic ties, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said.
Turkey's willingness to renew ties with Israel is being fueled by the domestic troubles of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, and the prospect of a pipeline shipping Israeli offshore gas to Turkey, analysts say.
Iran Must Embrace Religious Pluralism - Camelia Entekhabifard (New York Times)
Zoroastrianism was Iran's primary religion until the mid-seventh century, when Islam was imposed on the country by conquering Arabs. Many Zoroastrians fled to avoid forced conversion and discrimination.
Today, Iran counts some 30,000 Zoroastrians; those who practice openly face persecution and are considered second-class citizens.
Of the approximately 100,000 Jews in Iran at the time of the 1979 revolution, only 20,000 remain. They no longer felt welcome in their homeland.
Baha'is, the country's largest non-Muslim religious minority, are widely referred to as infidels and prohibited from practicing openly; their children cannot attend university.
Gaza Is Running Out of Water - Thomas L. Friedman (New York Times)
Gaza, which has been woefully mismanaged by Hamas, is pumping all its drinking water from its coastal aquifer at triple its renewable rate of recharge. As a result, saltwater is seeping in.
Last year, the UN said that by 2016 there will be no potable water left in Gaza's main aquifer. Gaza has no big desalination plant and would not have the electricity to run it anyway.
Israeli Singer Proves Surprise Hit in Yemen - Yoav Appel (Reuters)
Israeli singer Zion Golan has become an unlikely star in Yemen, an Arab country where his hit songs blare from cafes and taxis.
Known in Yemen as Ziyan Joulan, his songs - whose Arabic lyrics are written by his mother-in-law - are distributed on bootleg CDs and downloaded from the Internet.
"Yemeni music is in my heart and in my soul," said Golan, whose parents were born in Yemen.
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- Netanyahu to Talk of Curbs on Iran with Obama in Washington in March
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would meet U.S. President Obama in Washington in March to further the goal of denying Tehran an atomic bomb capability.
Netanyahu has described the interim agreement reached with Iran in November as a "historic mistake."
Netanyahu said the main aim of his Washington visit would be to further the goal of preventing Iran from being able to "break out" to a nuclear bomb.
"Iran continues to object to any dismantling of its (uranium) enrichment capability - not even a single centrifuge," Netanyahu said. (Reuters)
- Iran Test-Fires Long-Range Missile - Parisa Hafezi
Iran's military has successfully test-fired two new domestically made missiles, Defense Minister Brig.-Gen. Hossein Dehqan said Monday. One was a long-range ballistic missile with radar-evading capabilities.
"The new generation of long-range, ground-to-ground ballistic missile with a fragmentation warhead and the laser-guided, air-to-surface and surface-to-surface missile dubbed Bina have been successfully test-fired," Dehqan told state television.
"The Bina missile is capable of striking important targets such as bridges, tanks and enemy command centers with great precision." President Hassan Rouhani issued a congratulatory message.
Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs and the lead U.S. negotiator with Iran, Wendy Sherman, told a Senate hearing last week that Iran's ballistic missile program would be addressed as part of a comprehensive nuclear deal. Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said Sunday that Tehran had no intention of discussing its ballistic missile program with major powers.
- Iran Develops New Generation of Powerful Centrifuges
Iran's atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi said Monday: "We unveiled a new generation of centrifuges that surprised the Westerners....This new machine is 15 times more powerful than the previous generation." "We successfully argued that this was allowed within the research and development article in the [interim] agreement," Salehi added. (AFP-Peninsula-Qatar)
- Iran Sets "Red Lines" Ahead of Fresh Nuclear Talks - Siavosh Ghazi
Iran laid out "red lines" Monday related to its ballistic missile program, atomic sites and uranium enrichment ahead of fresh nuclear talks with world powers to resume in Vienna on February 18 and 19. Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, also a senior Iranian nuclear negotiator, said "defense-related issues are a red line for Iran and that Tehran "will not allow such issues to be discussed in future talks." (AFP)
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- Palestinian Minister Demands Western Wall Be Returned to PA
Jerusalem, including the Western Wall, rightfully belongs to the Palestinians, PA Minister of Religious Affairs Mahmoud al-Habbash told Israel Channel 10 TV on Monday. "All the holy places, including the Aksa mosque and the Western Wall," must be returned to the Palestinian Authority, Habbash said.
- Palestinian Envoy to Peace Talks: We Won't Recognize Israel as a Jewish State - Khaled Abu Toameh
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat reiterated Monday the PA's refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, in response to statements attributed to Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni that the PA was ready to do so.
Erekat told the Voice of Palestine radio that the direct peace talks have stopped, and that the U.S. was now negotiating separately with the PA and the Israeli government.
He also denied that the PA leadership would agree to extend the peace talks beyond April 29. (Jerusalem Post)
- Israel Strikes Targets in Gaza in Response to Rocket Fire - Yoav Zitun
The Israel Air Force struck an underground rocket launcher and a terror cell in Gaza Monday night in response to rocket fire towards Israel earlier on Monday. (Ynet News)
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, the IDF Spokesperson, said: "The IDF targeted sites that were part of the infrastructure used to terrorize Israel and its civilians. The daily reality of Israelis exposed to rocket attacks is unbearable, incomprehensible and immoral. We will continue to act against the threats emanating from Hamas' Gaza Strip; they must be held accountable for allowing the attacks to continue unhindered." (Israel Defense Forces)
- Scarlett Johansson for Secretary of State? - Bret Stephens
How is it that Mr. Abbas' glorification of terrorists living and dead earns no rebuke from Mr. Kerry, nor apparently any doubts about the sincerity of Palestinian intentions? Why is it that only Israel faces the prospect of a boycott? When was the last time the U.S. threatened to impose penalties on Palestinians for diplomatic or moral misbehavior?
If one expects nothing of Palestinians, then they will be forgiven for everything. If one expects everything of Israel, then it will be forgiven for nothing, putting the country to a perpetual moral test it will always somehow fail.
(Wall Street Journal)
- Fatah and the "Armed Struggle" Against Israel - Khaled Abu Toameh
In an interview in the New York Times, PA President Mahmoud Abbas once again expressed his opposition to an armed struggle against Israel.
But while in English Abbas was voicing his opposition to an armed struggle, in Arabic Palestinian officials were issuing statements in support of "armed resistance" against Israel.
The officials who favor "armed resistance" are senior representatives of Abbas' ruling Fatah faction whose names are often mentioned as potential successors to Abbas. They include Jibril Rajoub, Tawfik Tirawi and Mahmoud al-Aloul - all members of the Fatah Central Committee - who have publicly come out in favor of a return to an "armed struggle" against Israel. The statements are aimed at preparing the Palestinian public for another round of violence with Israel if and when the U.S.-sponsored Israeli-Palestinian negotiations fail.
- Blessed Are the Peacemakers - Alan Howe
To make progress with talks to find a solution to the region's problems, Israel has been releasing from its jails some of the Middle East's worst killers.
When Issa Abd Rabbo was released recently, he was welcomed home personally by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, who raised Rabbo's hand in victory and referred to the double killer as a hero. He calls men like Rabbo "the best of the Palestinian people."
Rabbo killed two university students, Revital Seri, 22, and her friend Ron Levi, 23.
The murderer was interviewed on television and described what happened:
"An Israeli car approached, with two in it. I said, here's a chance and I don't want to return empty-handed. They left the car...and sat down under a pine tree.
I went down to them. Of course I was masked and was carrying a rifle."
"I tied them up, of course, and then sentenced them to death by shooting, in the name of the revolution.
I shot them, one bullet each, and went [hiding] in the mountains....I went to my aunt and told her: 'Instead of one, we got two!' She cried out in joy."
The bloodlust of these insane young Arab men and the manner in which their leaders promote the carnage against their neighbors is endlessly depressing.
(Melbourne Herald Sun-Australia)
Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations and the American Set of Principles - Shlomo Brom (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv)
- Secretary of State Kerry's original intention was to mediate between Israel and the Palestinians and draft a framework agreement that would be signed by both.
- Only after it became clear that the gaps between their positions were too wide to reach such an agreement did Kerry adopt the more modest goal of drafting an American set of principles that the two sides could accept in principle even if they expressed reservations about part of the content.
- The U.S. is proposing an alternative system that would prevent the smuggling of weapons and people through the Jordan Valley without an Israeli presence.
- However, there are no signs that Israel has relinquished its demand for IDF forces to have a continued presence in the Jordan Valley for many years. In addition, Israel is demanding the right of hot pursuit in any part of the Palestinian state.
- It is difficult at this stage to see how Kerry will succeed in squaring the circle in the area of security.
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