U.S. Has Secret Drone Base in Saudi Arabia - Greg Miller and Karen DeYoung (Washington Post)
A U.S. Justice Department "white paper" disclosed Monday spells out the administration's case for killing Americans accused of being al-Qaeda operatives.
The only strike intentionally targeting a U.S. citizen, a 2011 attack that killed al-Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki, was carried out in part by CIA drones flown from a secret base in Saudi Arabia.
The base was established two years ago to intensify the hunt against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, its affiliate in Yemen.
Ahmadinejad's Visit to Cairo Meets with Uneasy Reception (AP-Washington Post)
During Iranian President Ahmadinejad's visit to Cairo on Tuesday, there was unscripted discord from Sunni protesters angry over Iran's support for the Assad regime in Syria, as well as decades of sectarian animosity between Shiite-led Iran and the region's Sunni majority.
At one point, Ahmadinejad was forced to flee an ancient mosque in downtown Cairo after a Syrian protester took off his shoes and threw them at him.
Later, anti-Iranian protesters blocked the main gates to Al-Azhar University, where Egypt's most prominent cleric chided Ahmadinejad for interfering in the affairs of Sunni nations.
The protests illustrate the limits to how far and how quickly Egypt's Islamist President Morsi can go in reaching out to Iran: His Sunni allies at home view Shiite Iran as a bitter rival.
Israel Unlikely to Retaliate after Bulgaria Report (AP-Washington Post)
Israel on Tuesday welcomed a Bulgarian report implicating Hizbullah in the deaths of five Israelis in a bus bombing last summer, signaling that it will use the findings to focus on a diplomatic battle rather than military retaliation against the Lebanese militant group. Israel has long blamed Hizbullah for the attack.
"When Israel acts, it is in order to prevent a security threat, to prevent a concrete attack. It is not in order to punish," said Israeli counter-terrorism expert Boaz Ganor.
Female Students in Gaza Required to Wear Muslim Garb - Elior Levy (Ynet News)
Gaza's Al-Aqsa University, controlled by Hamas, recently announced that beginning in the coming semester, female students will be required to arrive in traditional Muslim garb, from head to toe, burka included.
Jordanian Cartoonist Rejects UN Award over "Zionist Links" - Mohammad Ghazal
Cartoonist Naser Al Jafari, who works for Jordan's Al Ghad daily, won the $3,000 third prize in the 2012 UN/Ranan Lurie International Political Cartoon Award.
However, on Sunday he rejected the prize because it is "funded by a pro-Israel cartoonist."
Lurie has appeared in the Guinness Book of World Records for 20 consecutive years as "the most widely syndicated political cartoonist in the world," according to the prize's official
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- Bulgaria Implicates Hizbullah in July Attack on Israelis - Nicholas Kulish and Matthew Brunwasser
The Bulgarian government said on Tuesday that two of the people behind a deadly bombing attack that targeted an Israeli tour bus six months ago were members of Hizbullah. The announcement could force the EU to reconsider whether to designate the group as a terrorist organization and crack down on its extensive fund-raising operations across Europe. Thousands of Hizbullah members and supporters operate in Europe essentially unrestricted, raising money that is funneled back to the group in Lebanon.
Bulgaria's interior minister, Tsvetan Tsvetanov, said the investigation into the bombing in Burgas in July 2012 found that a man with an Australian passport and a man with a Canadian passport were two of the three conspirators involved in the attack, which claimed the lives of five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver. Bulgarian investigators had "a well-founded assumption that they belonged to the military formation of Hizbullah," Tsvetanov said. "We have followed their entire activities in Australia and Canada so we have information about financing and their membership in Hizbullah."
The European calculation has been that whatever its activities in the Middle East, Hizbullah does not pose a threat on the Continent. "There's the overall fear if we're too noisy about this, Hizbullah might strike again, and it might not be Israeli tourists this time," said Sylke Tempel, editor in chief of the German foreign affairs magazine Internationale Politik.
(New York Times)
- U.S. to EU: Crack Down on Hizbullah
Responding to the Bulgarian announcement on Hizbullah's role in the Burgas attack, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday:
"The United States commends our close friend and NATO ally Bulgaria for its thorough and professional investigation into the July 18, 2012, Burgas terrorist attack.
The finding is clear and unequivocal: Lebanese Hizbullah was responsible for this deadly assault on European soil."
"The United States is acting decisively and comprehensively to curtail Hizbullah's destabilizing actions in Europe, Southeast Asia, South America, and the Middle East, and we are prepared to do all within our power to assist the Government of Bulgaria in bringing those responsible for the Burgas attack to justice."
"We strongly urge other governments around the world - and particularly our partners in Europe - to take immediate action to crack down on Hizbullah. We need to send an unequivocal message to this terrorist group that it can no longer engage in despicable actions with impunity." (U.S. State Department)
- Obama to Make First Trip to Israel as President for a "New Beginning" - Scott Wilson
President Obama will travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories in March to make a push for peace negotiations and to assess the broader political developments remaking the Middle East. It will be Obama's first trip as president to Israel, where suspicions run high in the aftermath of his unsuccessful early efforts at Middle East peacemaking. The direct peace talks Obama inaugurated in September 2010 collapsed within weeks.
Israeli media reported that Obama is scheduled to arrive March 20 as part of a trip that will include Jordan.
"This trip is a signal that the president has an interest, not just in the peace issue, but also in the broader concerns that Israel is facing," said Dennis Ross, a senior Middle East adviser to Obama during his first term who is at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "In some ways, it will be the president traveling to Israel to ask for a new beginning."
See also U.S. Ambassador: Obama to Discuss Iran, Syria, and Peace Process
During his upcoming visit to Jerusalem, President Obama will discuss restarting the peace process with the Palestinians, the Iranian nuclear program, and the civil war in Syria, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro told Israel Radio on Wednesday. Shapiro added that Obama is coming without preconditions, but rather in the framework of consultation on all issues facing both Israel and the U.S.
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- Netanyahu: Hizbullah Attacked EU-Member in Bulgaria
In the wake of the Bulgarian government's announcement regarding the terrorist bombing in Burgas, Prime Minister Netanyahu issued the following statement on Tuesday:
"I would like to thank the Bulgarian Government for its thorough and professional investigation of the 2012 terrorist attack in Burgas in which six innocent civilians - five Israelis and one Bulgarian - were murdered.
The Bulgarian findings announced today are clear: Hizbullah was directly responsible for the atrocity. There is only one Hizbullah. It is one organization with one leadership."
"The attack in Burgas was only one of a series of recent terrorist operations against civilians in Thailand, Kenya, Turkey, India, Azerbaijan, Cyprus and Georgia. All this is happening in parallel to the deadly support given by Hizbullah and Iran to the murderous Assad regime in Syria.
The attack in Burgas was an attack on European soil against a member country of the EU. We hope that the Europeans draw the necessary conclusions as to the true character of Hizbullah." (Israel Prime Minister's Office)
- EU Stand on Hizbullah Won't Change Because of Bulgarian Report - Herb Keinon
One would think that catching an organization red-handed in carrying out a terrorist act on foreign soil would be enough to qualify that group as a terrorist entity. But when it comes to Hizbullah, the EU has a logic all its own. Key actors in the EU, foremost among them France and Germany, that have opposed including Hizbullah on the terrorism list for nearly two decades, are likely to continue to do so despite the Bulgarian findings.
The issue of placing Hizbullah on the EU blacklist was never really about evidence. The EU chooses to avert its eyes, not because of a lack of facts, but because of the political considerations of some EU member states. And these considerations will not change because of the Bulgarian report.
- Three Cheers for Bulgaria's Indictment of Hizbullah's Terror - Benjamin Weinthal
Defying substantial German and French pressure to not explicitly name Hizbullah as the terror group behind the Burgas bombing, Bulgarian authorities have blamed Hizbullah for the murders.
In response to the finding, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said: "Now that Hizbullah has been found responsible for an attack on a European Union member nation, the EU must designate it as a terrorist organization. Failure to do so will only give these killers the opportunity to further organize, recruit, raise funds, and carry out additional terrorist attacks across the continent....The EU's indefensible policy on Hizbullah makes defending all of us from Iranian-backed terrorism even more difficult."
John Brennan, the Obama administration's top counterterrorism official and the president's nominee to head the CIA, said Tuesday: "The United States commends the government of Bulgaria for its professional and comprehensive investigation....Bulgaria's implication of Hizbullah underscores the importance of international cooperation in disrupting terrorist threats."
The writer is a fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
- EU Must Respond to Hizbullah's Attack in Bulgaria - Editorial
Leaders of the European Union must decide whether to allow a terrorist attack on EU territory to go unpunished or to sanction a movement that is both an Iranian proxy and the dominant party in the Lebanese government. The Burgas attack was not an isolated incident but part of a campaign of terrorism against Israeli, U.S. and Gulf state targets by Hizbullah and the Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The U.S., which long ago designated Hizbullah as a terrorist organization, has been pressing European leaders to do the same so that the group's funds in European banks and other financial assets can be targeted. Several governments, led by France, worry that sanctions could subject European peacekeepers in southern Lebanon to reprisals. Inaction would mean accepting that Europe can be a free-fire zone for Iran and its proxies.
Don't Let Iran Stall for Time - Michael Singh (New York Times)
The real question is not whether America should talk to Iran, but how to get the Iranians to talk to us in earnest. Every American president from Jimmy Carter on has reached out to Iran. But such approaches have never led to improved relations. Iran shrank from any broad bilateral thaw because it feared engagement with the U.S. more than it feared confrontation.
- "Resistance" to the West - and especially to the United States - was a founding principle of Iran's Islamic regime. While Iran has gradually normalized relations with many European and Asian allies of Washington, it has not done so with the U.S. or America's ally Israel. To lose those two nations as enemies would be to undermine one of the regime's ideological raisons d'etre.
- As a result, serious engagement with the U.S. is likely to be only a consequence of a strategic shift by the regime, rather than a cause of it. And so far, no such shift has taken place.
So the U.S. must be more creative in the ways it uses engagement and pressure to hasten a change in Iran's strategic outlook.
- As the U.S. and its allies increase pressure on Iran, it is vital that the Americans remain steadfast in their demands, rather than respond to Iranian obstinacy with increasingly generous offers. If Tehran believes it can wait out pressure or escape it via a narrow technical accord rather than a more fundamental reorientation, it will surely do so.
- As the possibility of conflict looms larger and talks drag on, the U.S. and its allies should worry more about ensuring that whoever is on the Iranian side actually comes ready to bargain. Otherwise, any American-Iranian talks will not be a diplomatic breakthrough; they will just be another way station on the route to war.
The writer, managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, was the senior director for Middle East affairs at the U.S. National Security Council from 2005 to 2008.
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