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February 6, 2012

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Khamenei: Iran Will Back "Any Nations, Any Groups" Fighting Israel - Thomas Erdbrink (Washington Post)
    Iranian leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Friday: "From now onward, we will support and help any nations, any groups fighting against the Zionist regime across the world."
    "The Zionist regime is a true cancer tumor on this region that should be cut off," the supreme leader said. "And it definitely will be cut off."
    Khamenei's speech exemplified his view of Iran as the flag-bearer in battles against the "arrogant powers," a term used in Iranian political discourse to describe the U.S. and its allies.
    Khamenei made clear that compromises such as suspending uranium enrichment are not on the table.

Israel Warns U.S. Jews: Iran Could Strike in North America - Richard Esposito (ABC News)
    Israeli facilities in North America - and around the world - are on high alert, according to an internal security document obtained by ABC News that predicted the threat from Iran against Jewish targets will increase.
    "We predict that the threat on our sites around the world will increase...on both our guarded sites and 'soft' sites," stated a letter circulated by the head of security for the Consul General for the Mid-Atlantic States.
    Guarded sites refers to government facilities like embassies and consulates, while "soft sites" means Jewish synagogues and schools, as well as community centers like the one hit by a terrorist bombing in Buenos Aires in 1994 that killed 85 people.
    One federal official said, "The thwarted assassination plot of a Saudi official in Washington, D.C., a couple of months ago was an important data point, in that it showed at least parts of the Iranian establishment were aware of the intended event and were not concerned about inevitable collateral damage to U.S. citizens had they carried out an assassination plot on American soil."
    "We operate according to the information that Iran and Hizbullah are working hard and with great intensity to release a 'quality' attack against Israeli/Jewish sites around the world," the Israeli security letter concludes.

Israel Names Air Force Head amid Iran Tension (AFP)
    Israel on Sunday named former fighter pilot Amir Eshel, 52, as the next head of its air force. Maj.-Gen. Eshel is currently head of the military's planning and policy directorate.
    See also Video: Briefing by Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel - Jan. 17, 2012 (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

New Blast Hits Egypt's Gas Pipeline to Israel, Jordan (AFP)
    Saboteurs on Sunday blew up an Egyptian pipeline that supplies gas to Israel and Jordan, in the 12th such attack in a year, security officials said.
    See also Israel Finds More Natural Gas Offshore (AP)
    American and Israeli gas prospectors say they have discovered a large amount of offshore natural gas in Israeli waters near the Lebanese border.
    Israel's Delek Group and U.S.-based Noble Energy say based on initial drilling results, they estimate the Tanin 1 well contains close to 1.3 trillion cubic feet.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Russia, China Veto UN Action on Syria
    Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council draft resolution condemning Syria on Saturday which had been supported by the U.S., France, and the UK. Thirteen Security Council members voted in favor of the resolution. U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told CNN. "The people of Syria have yet again been abandoned by this Council and by the international community."  (CNN)
        See also At Least 200 Reported Killed in Syrian City of Homs - Alice Fordham
    Syrian government forces launched a mortar and rocket assault on the country's third-largest city Friday night that activists said killed more than 200 people. Activist Omar Shakir estimated that at least 220 people were dead and more than 700 injured. In Washington, President Obama issued a statement Saturday strongly condemning what he called an "unspeakable assault" by the Syrian government against the people of Homs. (Washington Post)
        See also Rockets Blast through Syrian City - Holly Yan
    At least 30 people were killed Monday in Homs, according to a doctor at a field hospital. Opposition groups said more than 300 civilians have died in Homs since Thursday. An opposition activist said last week that pro-Assad forces launched a renewed attack on Homs after a few dozen soldiers defected and fled into the city. (CNN)
        See also Syria Releases the 7/7 Mastermind - Jason Lewis
    The terrorist mastermind behind the July 7, 2005, London bombings is reported to have been freed from a Syrian jail by President Bashar Assad's regime. Abu Musab al-Suri had been held in Syria for six years after being captured by the CIA in 2005 and transported to the country of his birth.
        Al-Suri was al-Qaeda's operations chief in Europe and has been accused of planning the London bombings, in which four British-born terrorists detonated three bombs on the Underground and another on a bus, killing 52 people and injuring more than 700 others. He is also wanted in Spain in connection with the Madrid train bombings in 2004, which left 191 dead. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Obama: U.S. in "Lockstep" with Israel on Iran - Josh Gerstein
    President Barack Obama said Sunday that he's committed to working in “lockstep” with Israel to try to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons "I don't think that Israel has made a decision on what they need to do," Obama told NBC in an interview. "We are going to make sure that we work in lockstep, as we proceed to try to solve this - hopefully, diplomatically."  (Politico)
        See also UN Nuclear Inspectors' Visit to Iran Is a Failure, West Says - Robert F. Worth and David E. Sanger
    American and European officials said Friday that a mission by international nuclear inspectors to Tehran this week had failed to address their key concerns, indicating that Iran's leaders believe they can resist pressure to open up the nation's nuclear program.
        Diplomats briefed on the trip said that Iranian officials had not answered the questions raised in an incriminating report issued by the agency in November. That report cited documents and evidence of experiments with detonators that strongly suggested Iran might have worked on technologies to turn its nuclear fuel into working weapons and warheads. (New York Times)
        See also Banking Hub Adds to Pressure on Iran - Jay Solomon and Adam Entous
    U.S. officials said that if the Belgium-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or Swift, bans sanctioned Iranian entities from using its network, Tehran could find itself virtually incapable of conducting electronic financial transactions. Swift said it is working with U.S. and European governments to address their concerns that its financial services are being used by Iran to avoid sanctions and conduct illicit business.
        On Thursday, the Senate Banking Committee passed a bill that could lead to sanctions against Swift's board of directors and ownership if the organization doesn't cut off Iran's central bank and other Iranian firms that have been sanctioned by the U.S. and EU. "Swift fully understands and appreciates the gravity of the situation," the organization said in a statement released Friday, referring to the new U.S. legislation. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Egypt to Prosecute 44 Workers, Including 19 Americans, After Raids on Rights Groups
    The son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is among 19 Americans being referred to criminal trial for allegedly receiving foreign funds illegally and being involved in banned activity in Egypt, news agencies reported Sunday. In all, Egyptian officials say 44 non-governmental organization workers will be put before the court after investigating judges claimed they had reason to try the democracy and rights workers. The move is likely to further sour relations between Egypt's military rulers and the U.S., the Arab nation's chief Western backer for more than 30 years. Sam LaHood is head of the Egypt office of the Washington-based International Republican Institute.
        All 19 of the U.S. aid workers sought shelter in the U.S. embassy in Cairo more than a week ago after they were denied the opportunity to leave the country. After Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Saturday with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr in Munich, she said: "We are very clear that there are problems that arise from this situation that can impact all the rest of our relationship with Egypt. We do not want that."  (Fox News)
        See also Egypt's Aid from U.S. in Peril amid Crackdown on Pro-Democracy Groups - William Wan and Ernesto Londono (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Sees Renewed Hamas Activity in West Bank - Amos Harel
    Hamas has been making concerted efforts in recent months to renew its activities in the West Bank, Israeli security officials note. Over the past few weeks, the IDF and Israel Security Agency have intercepted large amounts of funds that Hamas activists abroad have tried to smuggle into the West Bank as part of these efforts. (Ha'aretz)
  • Shalit's Poor Health Prompted Hamas to Strike Deal with Israel - Barak Ravid
    One reason Hamas became flexible in a deal to release kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit is because the group feared he would die in captivity, Israel Security Agency head Yoram Cohen said last Thursday. "Hamas was afraid of losing the asset" in light of his deteriorating health, Cohen told a closed forum in Tel Aviv. (Ha'aretz)
  • Joint Drill with U.S. to Be Held after Delay - Yaakov Katz
    Israel and the U.S. will hold the postponed "Austere Challenge" missile-defense exercise before the end of the year, likely in October or November. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Syria: It's Not Just about Freedom - Charles Krauthammer
    The fall of Bashar al-Assad's Syria could be ominous for Iran. The alliance with Syria is the centerpiece of Iran's expanding sphere of influence. Syria is the only Arab state openly allied with non-Arab Iran. This is significant because the Arabs see the Persians as having had centuries-old designs to dominate the Middle East. Indeed, Iranian arms and trainers, transshipped to Hizbullah through Syria, have given the Persians their first outpost on the Mediterranean in 2,300 years.
        Assad's departure would deprive Iran of an intra-Arab staging area and sever its corridor to the Mediterranean. Syria would return to the Sunni fold. Hizbullah, Tehran's agent in Lebanon, could be next, withering on the vine without Syrian support and Iranian materiel. Iran, shorn of key allies and already reeling from economic sanctions over its nuclear program, would be thrown back on its heels. (Washington Post)
  • Rumors Cloud Israel's Iran Clout - Dan Williams
    With the profusion of foreign reports that their armed forces could soon attack Iran, there is genuine bemusement in Israel at some of the assumptions abroad about its capabilities. "This is speculation which is not entirely connected to reality," Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon, a former top Israeli general, said on Sunday. "It's part of the problem, an attempt to turn the discussion into one of 'Iran versus Israel' instead of 'Iran versus the West, the United States, Europe' and so on," he told Army Radio. (Reuters)
  • Turkish Missiles over London, Moscow, Tehran, Tel Aviv? - Burak Bekdil
    Much to the pride of millions of Turks, the state scientific research institute, TUBITAK, recently reported that its scientists this year would finish an all-Turkish missile with a range of 1,500 km., and, in 2014, another with a range of 2,500 km. The head of TUBITAK said the order for the missile program had come from Prime Minister Erdogan. Here are some of the cities which may in the future see Turkish missiles over their skies: London, Moscow, Tehran, Tel Aviv, and many others. The move is just another indication that Turkey does not see its future within the NATO and European security structures. (Hurriyet-Turkey)

When Talk of War Transcends Idle Chatter - Ethan Bronner (New York Times)

  • In the intense and increasingly public debate about whether to attack Iran's nuclear facilities, the standard view has been that successful attacks rely on secrecy and surprise, so the more talk there is about an operation, the less likely it will occur.
  • One year ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told foreign journalists that Iran briefly stopped working on a nuclear weapon only once, in 2003, because that was when the U.S. attacked Iraq, and Iran feared it might be next. "The paradox," Netanyahu said, "is that if there is a credible military option, you won't have to use it." In other words, the more noise you make about war, the less likely you will have to resort to it.
  • But few who have spent time with Israel's decision makers in recent months believe that the talk of a military assault is merely a well-scripted act of public diplomacy. It is that, to be sure, but there is more.
  • Israel believes that its threats to attack Iran have been the catalyst that has pushed much of the world to agree to harsh sanctions on Iran's energy and banking sectors, sanctions that otherwise would not have been agreed to.
  • But Israel's top leaders also worry that the sanctions are too late and that, in the end, a military assault is the only way to accomplish their goal - stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

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