White House Rebuffed Clinton-Petraeus Plan to Arm Syrian Rebels - Michael R. Gordon and Mark Landler (New York Times)
Last summer, as the fighting in Syria raged and questions about U.S. inaction grew, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton conferred privately with David Petraeus, the director of the CIA, about joining forces on a plan to arm the Syrian resistance.
The idea was to vet the rebel groups and train fighters, who would be supplied with weapons. The plan offered the potential of creating Syrian allies with whom the U.S. could work after Assad's eventual removal.
Clinton and Petraeus presented the proposal to the White House, according to administration officials. But with the White House worried about the risks, and with President Obama in the midst of a re-election bid, they were rebuffed.
Report: Israeli Airstrike in Syria Hit Iranian Guards - Ariel Ben Solomon and Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
The Iraqi daily Azzaman quoted a Western diplomatic source as saying Thursday that the alleged Israeli attack on Syria reported on Wednesday caused heavy casualties among Iranian Guards stationed at the Syrian facility.
The source, interviewed in London, said the base was heavily fortified and contained experts from Russia and at least 3,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who have been guarding the site for years.
Egypt Arrests Suspect in "Israel-Backed Sabotage Plan" (AFP-Al-Ahram-Egypt)
Egyptian authorities on Thursday detained a member of the Black Bloc group suspected of planning to carry out an Israeli-directed sabotage plan, the official MENA news agency said.
The suspect "was arrested inside a building overlooking Tahrir Square carrying Israeli plans to target petrol companies and vital installations, maps of these places and instructions on setting fire to some places," MENA reported.
Israel firmly rejected the notion of its involvement in any such plot. Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said he had no idea whether or not the Black Bloc member intended to carry out a plan of sabotage, but the claim of Israeli involvement was "utter nonsense."
Iran Rial Hits All-Time Low (AFP)
Iran's currency plummeted to an all-time low on Saturday, registering a more than 21% drop in two weeks against the U.S. dollar.
The rial was traded at 39-40,000 per dollar, down from 33,000 two weeks ago.
Jewish Organization Offers Aid to Relatives of Non-Jewish Burgas Bus Victim (Sofia News Agency-Bulgaria)
The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) will include the family of Bulgarian bus driver Mustafa Kyosev among recipients of aid from the Fund for the Victims of Terror in the aftermath of July's Burgas bus bombing.
Moshe Sharet, a JAFI emissary in Bulgaria, said the $1,500 grant was given to the family to "ease their financial struggles and show the solidarity of the Jewish people with their loss."
A ceremony was held last Tuesday in the Sofia Synagogue in the presence of the relatives of the five Israeli tourists who were killed in the terror attack.
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- Report: Israel Flattened Syrian Biological Weapons Research Center - Aaron J. Klein and Karl Vick
Israeli planes struck several targets inside Syria last Tuesday, including a biological weapons research center that was reportedly flattened, Western intelligence officials said.
Syria complained of the destruction of the Scientific Studies and Research Center in Jamarya northwest of Damascus, while news organizations reported that Israeli jets hit a convoy carrying advanced anti-aircraft defense systems toward Lebanon. A Western intelligence official indicated that at least one to two additional targets were hit. Officials also said that Israel had a "green light" from Washington to launch yet more such strikes.
See also Israel "Considering Further Air Strikes on Syria" - Phoebe Greenwood and Richard Spencer
Ephraim Kam, deputy director Israel's Institute for National Security Studies and a retired intelligence colonel, said that the risks posed by Iran-allied militants like Hizbullah and Hamas getting their hands on parts of Syria's arsenal of chemical and advanced weaponry were considered far greater than the threat of retaliation.
"If tomorrow the IDF sees the movement of this weaponry, it will and should strike again," he said. "Last week's attack was a kind of warning - 'we are ready and prepared to do this.'" (Telegraph-UK)
- Syrian Rebels Slam Assad for Not Responding to Israeli Raid - Zeina Karam
On Friday, Syria's opposition coalition criticized the Assad government for not defending the country against the Israeli air raid, saying the Syrian army is too busy shelling civilian areas in Syria. The opposition group promised the Syrian people it would use political and diplomatic means to halt such attacks and said it would establish a "deterrent force" to guard against any such future attacks.
Many among the opposition leaders are Syrian and Arab nationalists fiercely opposed to Israel. The umbrella group is dominated by members of the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, which is known for its enmity to Israel. Kamal Labwani, a prominent Syrian dissident and member of the Syrian National Coalition, said that "unlike Assad, we know who the real enemy is....The first thing we would do is ask UN peacekeepers on the Golan to leave, and we will free occupied Syrian territory." (AP)
See also Turkey Slams Syria's Inaction over Israeli Airstrike
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu severely criticized Damascus' inaction in response to the Israeli raid in Syria last week. "Why didn't the Syrian Army...respond to Israel's operation?" adding that Turkey would not stay unresponsive to an Israeli attack against any Muslim country. (Hurriyet-Turkey)
- Panetta: Iranian Threat Spreads - Julian E. Barnes and Adam Entous
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta accused Iran's paramilitary force of an intensified campaign to destabilize the Middle East by smuggling antiaircraft weapons to its militant allies.
Iran's export of MANPADS - antiaircraft missiles that can be carried by a single person - represent what he called a dangerous escalation.
"There is no question when you start passing MANPADS
around, that becomes a threat - not just to military aircraft but to civilian aircraft."
On Jan. 23, Yemen, aided by the U.S., intercepted a boat carrying such weapons. U.S. investigators said the missiles were supplied by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. U.S. officials believe Iranians are shipping similar weapons to Hamas militants in Gaza and have in the past shipped weapons to Syria and Hizbullah.
(Wall Street Journal Europe)
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- Netanyahu: Stopping Iran Is Israel's Top Priority - Yori Yalon
Israel's most urgent task is to "stop Iran's nuclearization," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the cabinet on Sunday, after officially being tapped by the president to head a new coalition government.
Netanyahu said, "Our over-arching goal is to stop the nuclearization of Iran. This mission is becoming more complex because Iran is obtaining more advanced centrifuges that shorten the enrichment time. We must not accept this with resignation."
Netanyahu also listed secondary priorities that included "advancing a responsible peace process."
Meeting with President Peres on Saturday evening, Prime Minister Netanyahu said the next government would be committed to achieving peace with the Palestinians and called on PA President Mahmoud Abbas to return to the negotiating table with Israel.
"Every day that passes without talks and without us searching together for a solution of peace is unfortunate." (Israel Hayom)
- Gen. Eiland: Israel Attacked Syria "With Good Reason" - Yifa Yaakov and Greg Tepper
Former Israeli national security adviser Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Giora Eiland confirmed that it was Israel that carried out the strikes on several sites in Syria overnight Tuesday - "and with good reason." On Saturday, Eiland praised the Israeli government's decision, saying it was "the right decision, despite all the risks."
Israel has not officially acknowledged that it carried out the raids. Since Eiland is no longer in government service, his statement does not constitute a formal Israeli acknowledgment.
He added that there were three things Israel could not agree to Hizbullah attaining - long-range missiles with large warheads, advanced anti-aircraft missiles "which would restrict the movements of the Israeli Air Force," and chemical weapons. Eiland said for years there has been a red line, an almost "quiet agreement" between Syria and Israel, by which no such advanced weapons would be transferred from Syria to Hizbullah in Lebanon.
(Times of Israel)
- Kerry Calls Netanyahu, Abbas to Discuss Diplomatic Process - Herb Keinon and Yoni Dayan
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry phoned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday to discuss the diplomatic process.
Kerry is expected to visit the region on his first trip abroad in the middle of the month.
The State Department said Kerry "underscored his personal commitment and that of President Obama to support Israel's security and to pursue a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians." Kerry and Netanyahu also spoke about Iran and Syria. The calls followed Kerry’s phone conversation Saturday with President Shimon Peres. (Jerusalem Post)
- Israelis Unhappy with Study of their Textbooks and Palestinians' - Joel Greenberg
A State Department-funded study to be released Monday on how Israelis and Palestinians depict each other in textbooks says both sides are locked into narratives that portray the other side as the enemy and erase it from maps, yet do not dehumanize each other.
The study was boycotted by Israel's Education Ministry, which refused to cooperate. The ministry called the study biased and said it was based on a false comparison between the Israeli and Palestinian school systems. Two Israeli members of a scientific advisory panel also dissented from the study's conclusions. A State Department spokesman called the findings "independent assessments" that were "not endorsed by the U.S. government."
Passages related to peace were extremely rare in Palestinian books, present in only 2% of those examined. Such passages were present in 25% of the books used in Israeli public schools. Yossi Kuperwasser, director general of the Israeli Strategic Affairs Ministry, said the study was based on a "distorted" premise. "To compare how each side presents the other is absurd, because we teach peace, and they teach hatred of Israel and perpetuating the conflict," he said. "It's a difference of night and day." (Washington Post)
- Argentina-Iran Deal Makes a Mockery of Justice - Andres Oppenheimer
Argentina has crossed a line by making a sweet deal with Iran to jointly investigate a 1994 terrorist attack against the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, which according to Argentine prosecutors and Interpol was masterminded by top Iranian officials.
The deal seems to put Argentina fully within the Venezuelan-led club of Latin American countries that support some of the world's worst human rights offenders.
"The idea of establishing a 'truth commission' on the AMIA tragedy that involves the Iranian regime would be like asking Nazi Germany to help establish the facts of Kristallnacht," says American Jewish Committee head David Harris. The Argentina-Iran "truth commission" is exactly what Iran has been demanding for years - a bi-national commission that over time will grab the headlines and supersede the Argentine courts' investigation.
See also Argentine Jewish Community Rejects Argentina-Iran Deal
The head of AMIA, Guillermo Borger, confirmed its rejection of the deal signed between Argentina and Iran to create an independent "truth commission" on the 1994 AMIA terrorist attack. (Buenos Aires Herald-Argentina)
Israel Right to Say "Enough!" to Biased UNHRC Inquiry - Nachman Shai (Ha'aretz)
- The UN Human Rights Council represents the very depths to which an unrepresentative, undemocratic international body can sink.
Although having been reconstituted and renamed only six years ago because of the total illegitimacy of its predecessor, the Council immediately relapsed into its old ways. It grants immunity to the worst human rights violators on Earth.
- I could not agree more with the decision of the Israeli government to withdraw from this particularly disgraceful UN body. I find it appalling and hypocritical in the extreme that the Council's "fact-finding mission" report would dare call for sanctions against Israel, even as they routinely ignore the grossest human rights violations of many of its member states, half of whom deserve to be investigated well before Israel.
- There are appropriate times and occasions for engagement with international bodies, and there are also times for saying, "Enough!" This is one of those times. Israel will not engage in discussions about a report calling for sanctions against our country.
The writer is a member of Israel's Knesset (Labor).
See also The UNHRC's Omissions and Assumptions on Israeli Settlements - Michael Rubin
For those who want to see just how skewed the UNHRC's report is, this analysis of the report by the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) should be a must read. That Israel has been subject to attacks by Palestinians is not mentioned once in the entire document. (Commentary)
See also Briefing on the Problematic UN Human Rights Committee Report on Israeli Settlements - Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz
This is an itemized critique of the UN Human Rights Council report, highlighting numerous examples of errors and misinformation. The report was commissioned by Human Rights Council Resolution 17/19 of 2012, which had already judged Israel to be guilty. (AIJAC-Australia)
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