Iran, Russia Working on $20 Billion Oil-for-Goods Deal - Jonathan Saul and Parisa Hafezi (Reuters)
Iran and Russia have made progress towards an oil-for-goods deal worth up to $20 billion, which would enable Tehran to boost energy exports in defiance of Western sanctions.
Moscow and Tehran are discussing a barter deal that would see Moscow buy up to 500,000 barrels a day of Iranian oil in exchange for Russian equipment and goods.
An Iranian official said missiles would also be part of the deal, together with Russia providing assistance with building two nuclear plants in Iran.
The White House has said such a deal would be inconsistent with the nuclear talks between world powers and Iran.
Iran to Help Hizbullah Tighten Internal Security (Daily Star-Lebanon)
Iranian Lt.-Col. "Mahmoud A." arrived recently in Lebanon to provide counsel as Hizbullah radically reforms its internal security apparatus.
Hizbullah arrested one of its field commanders in Syria, after it was alleged that he was dealing with the Israeli Mossad and played a role in leaking information to agents.
Moreover, an Iranian intelligence official known as "Habari" has relayed information about informant cells to Hizbullah.
Questions about the Peace Process - Rick Richman (Commentary)
Why do people have to be paid - in the form of cash, prisoners, freezes, etc. - to convince them to show up to negotiate a state for themselves?
Why do people who have signed a formal agreement, obligating themselves not to take "any step" outside bilateral negotiations to change the status of the disputed territories, have to be paid to convince them to adhere to their agreement?
Second Sunrise of Indian Jihad - Praveen Swami (The Hindu-India)
The al-Qaeda ideologue Asim Umar asked India's Muslims last summer:
"You who have ruled India for eight hundred years, you who lit the flame of the one true God in the darkness of polytheism: how can you remain in your slumber when the Muslims of the world are awakening?"
"If the youth of the Muslim world have joined the battlefields with the slogan 'Shari'a or Martyrdom,' and put their lives at stake to establish the Caliphate, how can you lag behind them? Why is there no storm in your ocean."
Last week's arrests of the key recruiter and the operations chief of the Indian Mujahideen has led to speculation that India's most feared terror group - responsible for savage serial bombings in major cities, including the 2006 attacks on Mumbai's suburban train system - may be disintegrating.
But investigators have found disturbing new evidence that Umar and other propagandists are succeeding in calling a new army into being.
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- U.S. Pushes Mideast Talks Despite Setbacks - Joshua Mitnick, Nicholas Casey and Jay Solomon
The Obama administration vowed Wednesday to continue its pursuit of Middle East diplomacy, despite eroding hopes that peace talks can survive beyond a looming deadline and a growing war of words between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
Leading Israeli ministers asserted that PA leader Mahmoud Abbas had breached a commitment not to advance statehood in international organizations - a tactic Israel views as ratcheting up diplomatic pressure and bypassing direct negotiations - during the nine-month negotiation period.
"The ball is in the Palestinian court,'' Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said. "If they don't want to negotiate - we shouldn't pursue them with gestures."
An Israeli officer said his troops weren't on any special alert. One Palestinian politician said Palestinians have become so accustomed to failed diplomacy that Abbas' UN gambit failed to excite his constituents. (Wall Street Journal)
- U.S. Lawmakers Warn Palestinian Aid May Be Cut - Julian Pecquet
U.S. lawmakers are threatening to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority if President Mahmoud Abbas goes through with his stated intention to sign on to 15 UN treaties. Rep. Kay Granger (R-Tex.), chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, said that aid to the PA should be revisited, saying of the UN move, "I can't see that that was good faith." Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), Granger's Democratic counterpart, said she was "extremely disappointed" with Abbas' decision.
American UN envoy Samantha Power expressed the U.S.' "firm opposition to any and all unilateral actions in the international arena, including on Palestinian statehood, that circumvent or prejudge the outcome that can only come about through a negotiated settlement." (Al-Monitor)
- Senators Want U.S. to Reject Iran's Emissary to UN - Mario Trujillo
A number of senators are urging the Obama administration to deny a visa to Hamid Abutalebi, who was picked by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as Iran's new ambassador to the UN. Abutalebi has links to the group involved in the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) introduced legislation that would prevent a UN ambassador from entering the U.S. if that ambassador was a known terrorist.
"It is unconscionable that, in the name of international diplomatic protocol, the United States would be forced to host a foreign national who showed a brutal disregard for the status of our diplomats when they were stationed in his country," Cruz said Tuesday.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) also said the U.S. should seriously consider denying him a visa. (The Hill)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Critical Israeli-Palestinian Meeting Ends in Stormy Failure - Barak Ravid
A stormy meeting between American envoy Martin Indyk and the Israeli and Palestinian chief negotiators ended in failure early Thursday, sources told the Palestinian news agency Ma'an.
The sources described the meeting as a "fierce political battle" and said that Indyk was unable to cool the air and stop the two sides from clashing.
In response to Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat's declaration that their team was representing the occupied Palestinian state recognized by the UN, the Israeli side reportedly threatened the Palestinians with unprecedented sanctions.
Erekat also threatened that should the situation escalate, the Palestinians would seek to prosecute Israel for war crimes in the international arena.
An Israeli official briefed on the meeting added that Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is leading the Israeli team, angrily asked the Palestinians why they had appealed to join the international conventions only hours before the Israeli cabinet was to meet to approve the prisoner release. (Ha'aretz)
See also Heated Jerusalem Peace Talks End in Impasse (Ma'an News-PA)
- Despite Setbacks, U.S. Pushes to Salvage Talks - Herb Keinon, Khaled Abu Toameh, and Michael Wilne
The U.S. continued intensive efforts Wednesday to salvage Israeli-Palestinian talks, as U.S. Middle East envoy Martin Indyk hastily convened a meeting with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators. Secretary of State Kerry spoke with both Prime Minister Netanyahu and PA President Abbas on the phone Wednesday in an effort to maintain the talks.
Israel's chief negotiator Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said, "The Palestinian move to turn to the UN harms Palestinian interests....If they want a state, they need to know that this will come only through negotiations." (Jerusalem Post)
- Apocalyptic Prophecies Drive Both Sides in Syria - Mariam Karouny
Syria's war has killed more than 140,000 people and driven millions from their homes. "If you think all these mujahideen came from across the world to fight Assad, you're mistaken," said Sunni Muslim jihadi Abu Omar.
"They are all here as promised by the Prophet. This is the war he promised - it is the Grand Battle," he told Reuters, using a word which can also be translated as slaughter.
On the other side, many Shi'ites from Lebanon, Iraq and Iran are drawn to the war because they believe it paves the way for the return of Imam Mahdi - a descendent of the Prophet who vanished 1,000 years ago and who will re-emerge at a time of war to establish global Islamic rule before the end of the world.
Iranian cleric and parliamentarian Ruhollah Hosseinian last year cited comments by an eighth-century Shi'ite imam: "As Imam Sadeq has stated, when the (forces) with yellow flags fight anti-Shi'ites in Damascus and Iranian forces join them, this is a prelude and a sign of the coming of his holiness." Lebanon's pro-Assad Hizbullah militia fights under a yellow banner. (Reuters)
- The Real "Jewish State" Story - Ben-Dror Yemini
The U.S. is one of very few countries that aren't nation-states. Most countries in the world are. In England, the religion of the state is Anglican, and if the next king marries a Jew their children won't be able to inherit the crown.
In Denmark, the constitution establishes the religion of the state as Evangelical-Lutheran, which is granted support and assistance from the state, and its king can only be of that religion. The Basic Law of the Palestinian Authority establishes "Islam as the religion of the state." And the list goes on and on.
It's correct that Israel doesn't need Palestinian permission to be the nation-state of the Jewish people. The demand for recognition of a Jewish state is aimed at ending the fantasy of the "right of return" and bringing an end to the conflict.
At the end of the year 2000, it was Bill Clinton who presented parameters for a peace plan that included the words: "Palestine as the homeland of the Palestinian people and the State of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people."
The insistence on recognition of a Jewish state is basically an insistence on the solution of two states for two peoples. Anyone who justifies the Palestinian refusal is pushing the chances of a two-state solution further away.
(Times of Israel)
Above All, This Is a Jewish State - Yehuda Ben-Meir (Ha'aretz)
- The demand to recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people has nothing to do with religion - it is a matter that is entirely in the national rather than the religious realm.
- The Jews are a people, a nation that has existed for the past 3,000 years. They have a language of their own, cultural assets of their own - first and foremost the Hebrew Bible – and a land of their own.
- It's not clear why it is acceptable if the Germans and the French and the British - even if they have national minorities in their countries - are proud of their nation-state, but one is not allowed to mention that the State of Israel is a nation-state. That is presumably racism or chauvinism.
- All the philosophizing and hair-splitting cannot conceal or do away with the historical truth that the State of Israel was established by the Jewish people and is in the possession of the Jewish people.
- The demand that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people is justified because it is the real test, the litmus test for ending the conflict.
- I understand that our right to the entire Land of Israel has to be adapted to the reality of a Palestinian nation living in this country. If the Palestinians want peace, they must adapt their narrative of Greater Palestine to the historical truth of the existence of a Jewish people with a profound connection to this country, and a solidly-grounded right to establish its state on at least part of it.
The writer is a former member of the Knesset (1971-1984).
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