UN Report Blasts Iran for Persecution of Religious Minorities - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
Wide-scale repression of religious freedom in Iran has continued during Hassan Rouhani's tenure, according to a detailed March report by Ahmed Shaheed, the UN's special rapporteur on human rights in Iran.
"As of 3 January 2014, at least 307 members of religious minorities were in detention, of whom 136 were Baha'is, 90 Sunni Muslims, 50 Christians, 19 Dervish Muslims...[and] two were Zoroastrians," the report said.
"Iranian authorities at the highest levels have designated house churches and evangelical Christians as threats to national security."
The writer is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Britain to Probe Muslim Brotherhood - Daniel Martin (Daily Mail-UK)
British Prime Minister David Cameron has ordered an investigation into the Muslim Brotherhood to check whether it is planning attacks in the Middle East from Britain.
The review will look at the "philosophy and activities" of the organization and whether official policy towards it should be hardened.
There are concerns that London is being used as a hub for its extremist activities.
Iran's Other Nuclear Timebomb - Olivier Guitta (National Post-Canada)
Bushehr, where Iran's oldest and main nuclear plant is located, is a city of over a million people that sits in one of the most active seismic regions in the world, at the intersection of three tectonic plates.
In April 2013, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit Bushehr; luckily the plant was not online at the time. After Russia provided necessary nuclear fuel, the plant went operational in July 2013.
Iran is the only nuclear-operating country that has not signed any of the major international safety conventions.
By a quirk of geography, Bushehr, in southwestern Iran, is much closer to major population centers in the Arab nations of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar than it is to other large Iranian cities.
Moreover, the northwesterly winds would push any radioactive leak right towards those countries. So any accident at Bushehr would have far more repercussions in the Arab world than in Iran itself.
The writer is director of research at the Henry Jackson Society in London.
S&P Renews Israel's A+ Credit Rating - Zeev Klein (Israel Hayom)
International financial services and credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's affirmed Israel's international credit ratings and economic outlook as positive on Friday, giving it an A+/A-1 score.
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- Converging Interests May Lead to Cooperation between Israel and Gulf States - Helene Cooper
American and Israeli officials meeting in Jerusalem on Monday held out the hope of growing security cooperation between Israel and its Arab neighbors in the Persian Gulf. That idea, basically unthinkable a few years ago, could be more plausible now because of widespread worry over Iran's nuclear program.
Emerging from meetings with his Israeli counterparts on Monday, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that discussions included "an outreach to other partners who may not have been willing to be partners in the past." He added, "What I mean is the Gulf states in particular, who heretofore may not have been as open-minded to the potential for cooperation with Israel, in any way."
Other American military officials said that possibilities include intelligence-sharing and joint counterterrorism exercises. "World jihadists are not fighting only against Israel," said Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, adding that it would behoove neighboring states to look for ways to combat common enemies. (New York Times)
- U.S., Israel Discuss Pollard Release - Jay Solomon
The U.S. and Israel are discussing the early release of convicted American spy Jonathan Pollard as an incentive for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make concessions to support the Middle East peace process, according to a U.S. official briefed on the deliberations.
Many members of Mr. Netanyahu's government are opposed to the release of more
Palestinian prisoners detained in Israeli jails for attacking Jewish citizens, particularly in advance of the Palestinians offering any major concessions. Pollard, 59, is eligible for parole in 2015.
(Wall Street Journal)
See also Israeli Minister: Pollard Opposes Being Freed in Exchange for Palestinian Prisoners - Tia Goldenberg (AP)
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- Kerry in Israel in Bid to Save Peace Talks - Herb Keinon
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met in Jerusalem Monday evening and again on Tuesday morning with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an effort to resuscitate the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Israeli officials familiar with the negotiations said the talks were focused on reaching an understanding that would make possible the continuation of talks past their current April 29 deadline. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Palestinians Give Kerry 24-Hour Ultimatum to Resolve Peace Talks Dispute
Palestinians issued a 24-hour ultimatum Monday to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
"If we don't get an answer from John Kerry on the [release of Palestinian] prisoners tonight, we'll begin to ask for membership in all UN agencies tomorrow," Palestinian parliamentarian Mustafa Barghouti told AFP. (AFP-Ynet News)
- Police Arrest Gang for Raiding Second Temple-Era Tomb
Police and antiquities inspectors have arrested a gang accused of looting ancient Jewish burial caskets from a cave in the Jerusalem area, the Israel Antiquities Authority said on Monday. "They were caught while in possession of 11 decorated stone ossuaries - ancient coffins - that the Jewish population used for burial in the Second Temple period, 2,000 years ago," the IAA said.
(AFP-Times of Israel)
See also Two-Thousand-Year-Old Ossuaries Containing Jewish Bones from the Second Temple Period Seized in Jerusalem (Israel Antiquities Authority)
- Saudi Arabian Prince Appointed Throne's Successor - Ellen Knickmeyer and Ahmed Al Omran
In a binding decree announced Thursday,
Saudi Arabia's royal family locked in the next two successors of King Abdullah, who is in his early 90s. The decree establishes Crown Prince Salman, 79, as the next king and creates the new position of deputy crown prince, second to the throne, for Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, 69, the youngest surviving son of King Abdulaziz al Saud, the late founder of modern Saudi Arabia. Prince Muqrin is a former Saudi air force pilot educated in Britain.
Much speculation centered on the possibility of the king's most prominent son, National Guard head Prince Miteb, advancing.
The decree may mean a long wait before Miteb and other grandsons of King Abdulaziz - including powerful Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef - rule Saudi Arabia.
(Wall Street Journal)
- Israeli-Palestinian Talks Are Going Nowhere - Nahum Barnea
Eight months ago Secretary of State John Kerry appointed a team of more than 120 experts who worked day and night on removing security, political and economic barriers standing in the way of the long-awaited peace.
The goal was to get the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority to sign an overall agreement within nine months, or at least a framework agreement which would lead to an overall agreement.
Now, instead of a framework agreement, the target is an agreement to continue the negotiations for another six months. After eight months, the amount of suspicion between the two sides only grew stronger during the talks, and there has been zero progress.
Every negotiation between Israel and Arabs which ended with an agreement began behind the back of the Americans: the peace with Egypt and the peace with Jordan, as well as the Oslo agreement. American intervention was needed in the end, but only got in the way in the beginning. (Ynet News)
- Palestinians Condemned for Visiting Nazi Death Camps - Khaled Abu Toameh
Some 30 Palestinian students from Al-Quds University and Bir Zeit University in the West Bank arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau last week to learn about the Holocaust. The visit is being led by Mohammed Dajani, professor of American Studies at Al-Quds University, who also heads the Wasatia movement of moderate Islam.
The university has been criticized for promoting "normalization" with Israel. "I don't understand how the [Palestinian] students accept normalization [with Israel]," wrote a Palestinian journalist from Ramallah on his Facebook page. "This professor is the king of kings of normalization." The Palestinian daily Al-Quds, which reported the visit, deleted some reader responses that accused the professor of treason and collaboration. Hamas has said that teaching the Holocaust was a "crime against Palestinians." (Gatestone Institute)
The Iran-Israel Struggle Heats Up - Lee Smith (Weekly Standard)
- Hizbullah is Iran's long arm in Lebanon. Accordingly, its recent activities on Israel's northern border, taken together with the maneuvers of other Iranian allies on the southern frontier - weapons transfers to Gaza-based militants and their rocket fire on Israel - are evidence of a new Iranian boldness.
- Perhaps as a consequence of the interim nuclear agreement Iran struck last November with the P5+1 powers, Tehran imagines that the White House will rein in Jerusalem. But if that's what Obama is advising, Israel isn't paying attention. Israel's aggressive defense suggests that if Iran keeps pushing, it may soon find itself in open warfare.
- For the last year and a half, Israel has kept Iran's allies on its borders almost totally quiet. The 2006 war that many, including Hizbullah, believed Jerusalem had lost served instead to reestablish the credibility of Israeli deterrence. To the south, Israel's November 2012 Pillar of Defense campaign in Gaza left Hamas reeling.
- Israel has repeatedly targeted weapons convoys moving strategic, or game-changing, arms from Syria to Lebanon, typically striking at their point of origin rather than their destination.
- Iran is a strategic threat to Israel, not merely because of its nuclear weapons program, but also because of its support for the axis of resistance on Israel's borders, a message underscored when Palestinian Islamic Jihad rained dozens of missiles on Israeli towns.
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