Surviving Syria's Incendiary Bomb Attack - Paul Adrian Raymond (Daily Beast)
Syria's government has dropped incendiary weapons on civilians on more than 50 occasions, according to NGOs.
In August, a government jet dropped an incendiary bomb on a school in Urm Al Kubra, a village in the Aleppo countryside.
The canister was packed with a highly flammable material that spewed across the playground and ignited on impact, setting fire to people's clothes, hair and skin.
A British security expert later identified the bomb casing as likely belonging to a Russian-made ZAB incendiary weapon.
U.S. Suspends Non-Lethal Assistance into Northern Syria (Reuters)
"The United States has suspended all further deliveries of non-lethal assistance into northern Syria," after Islamic Front forces seized headquarters and warehouses belonging to the opposition's Supreme Military Council, a U.S. Embassy spokesman in Ankara said.
PLO Asks NBC to Cancel New TV Show Set in Jerusalem - Debra Kamin (Times of Israel)
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, called on NBC to scrap all plans for filming "DIG," an archaeological thriller from "Homeland" writer Gideon Raff, in the City of David National Park near the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.
Much of the action of the show, which follows a U.S. FBI agent who stumbles upon a massive conspiracy while struggling to solve a murder, is to be filmed within the walls and tunnels of the park.
Worrisome Rise in Palestinian "Honor" Killings - Noah Browning (Reuters)
27 women have been slain in "honor" killings in Palestinian-run areas this year, according to rights groups - more than twice last year's number of victims.
A Cambridge University survey found a higher per capita rate of such killings in Palestinian lands when compared with
Jordan, where an average of 15 to 20 such killings occurs every year.
Soraida Hussein, of the rights group Muntada that tallied this year's killings, said that most of the killings related to "the movement and the freedom of the woman."
Dutch Support for Anti-Israel Campaigns - Jody Sieradzki (Jerusalem Post)
There are at least 17 NGOs receiving Dutch support that actively partake in blatant anti-Israel BDS campaigns.
The NGO Development Center (NDC) in Ramallah manages funds on behalf of the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark.
NDC grant recipients include Al Haq and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), which are very active in BDS activities, anti-Israel UN moves, and in attempts to exploit European and international courts, including the ICC, to initiate "war crimes" indictments against Israeli officials.
Such abuse of Dutch taxpayer funds is clearly both immoral and counter-productive.
The writer is the European Desk Coordinator at NGO Monitor.
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- On Iran Deal, U.S. Lawmakers on Both Sides Question Administration - Anne Gearan
More than two weeks after a landmark deal with Iran, House Republicans and Democrats called the Obama administration's approach to nuclear negotiations naive and signaled that they will slap more sanctions on the country. On Tuesday a bipartisan lineup of House lawmakers challenged Secretary of State John Kerry's assertion that punitive new trade measures would undermine fragile diplomacy with Iran's government.
The chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), said Tuesday that he would hold off "for now" on advancing a bill to impose new sanctions on Iran, giving the White House some elbow room. Many in Congress believe that applying further pressure on the Iranian government is the only way to ensure Iran never develops nuclear weapons.
Kerry got no public support for the argument that the interim deal, or a potential final one, makes Israel and the world safer. He allowed that his dealings with Iranian officials leave doubts about whether they are willing to make the difficult concessions that a final deal would require.
See also Kerry Asks Skeptical Congress Not to Impose New Sanctions on Iran (Reuters-Chicago Tribune)
- Iran Oil Exports Rising But Challenges Abound - Benoit Faucon
Iran's oil exports are already rebounding after an interim deal with the West, but Iran won't flood markets, the International Energy Agency said Wednesday. In its monthly oil market report, the IEA said Iran's oil exports rose by 89,000 barrels a day in November to 850,000 barrels a day, as the Chinese bought more and oil shipments to Taiwan resumed. By contrast, Iran's crude exports had reached their lowest level in 21 months in October.
While capping Iranian crude oil exports to 1 million barrels, the nuclear pact allows the resumption of insurance on Iranian oil voyages - thus removing what had been a key impediment to Tehran's crude exports. Nevertheless, the agency said restrictions on Iranian sales to Asia and a blanket EU oil embargo "remain fully in place [which] leaves on the face of it no room for any sustained increase in exports." (Wall Street Journal)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- U.S. Admits Iran Will Get $20B from Sanctions Relief - Amos Harel
Senior officials in the Obama administration have conceded in conversations with Israeli colleagues that the value of the economic sanctions relief to Iran could be much higher than originally thought in Washington, security sources in Israel told Ha'aretz. Official U.S. statements said the economic relief would be $6-7 billion. Israeli assessments were $20 billion. The Americans now concede in their talks with Israel that the sanctions relief is worth much more.
See also We're Not Easing Sanctions on Iran - David Cohen
As the principal U.S. official charged with crafting and enforcing our sanctions program, I am confident that the sanctions pressure on Iran will continue to mount. Iran will be even deeper in the hole six months from now, when the deal expires, than it is today.
The writer is the undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the U.S. Treasury Department.
(Wall Street Journal)
- Ya'alon on Iran: An Unconventional Regime Must Not Have Unconventional Abilities
An unconventional regime, such as the Iranian regime, must not be allowed to have unconventional abilities, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Wednesday.
"This regime must not have military nuclear ability. Even if they don't throw a [nuclear] bomb right away, it is obvious that under nuclear protection [the regime] will dare to do more."
"The Iranian regime actually is...an extremist Islamic-Shi'ite regime focused on defeating Western society. It's not just about ruling in Iran, [it's also] disturbing us [Israel] with Hizbullah or the Palestinian Islamic Jihad."
The defense minister said Israel supports diplomacy. "We never said the military option was the first option on the table. As someone who experienced wars I can tell you that in every decision I make, the use of force is the last option, but sometimes there is no choice." (Jerusalem Post)
- Report: U.S. Plan Envisions 15-Year IDF Presence in West Bank - Elior Levy
The U.S. security outline for a proposed peace agreement between Israel and the PA will include a 15-year interim agreement, Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley, and radar posts on West Bank mountains, Al-Hayat reported Tuesday.
See also Report: U.S. Plan Keeps Israeli Army in Jordan Valley for 10 Years - Barak Ravid
The new security plan that U.S. Secretary of State Kerry presented to Palestinian President Abbas last week calls for Israel to maintain a military presence in the Jordan Valley for a period of 10 years, the Palestinian daily Al Ayyam reported Tuesday. Kerry's proposal also includes an "invisible" Israeli presence at the border crossings between Jordan and the future Palestinian state. The Palestinians are vehemently opposed to Kerry's security proposal. Israel also has reservations regarding the U.S. proposal.
- Conflicting Expectations from the Geneva Document
between the P5+1 and Iran - Dore Gold
Many questions have arisen about whether the P5+1 and Iran interpret the interim understanding reached in Geneva on November 24 in the same way. Indeed, at times it appears that they are not talking about the same piece of paper. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Jarad Zarif told Iranian television that the Geneva document does not legally obligate Iran.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani declared after the Geneva document was reached that the core architecture of the sanctions will be fractured following the implementation of this agreement.
The Geneva document leaves the window open for future uranium enrichment by Iran. In any case, the Geneva document leaves open the possibility that Iran will not always be under international restrictions.
(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Iran's Demographic Precipice - Michael Rubin
Iranian families are shrinking. The Institut National d'Etudes Demographiques in Paris estimated that Iran's total fertility rate fell from 6.2 children per woman in 1986 to just 3.5 in 1993. By 2000 it was 2.0, which is below the replacement rate of 2.1. An aging population bodes poorly for Iran's already teetering economy.
If Iran will face severe structural problems and strains in the coming years, then the last thing the U.S. or Europe should do is throw the current regime an economic lifeline. After all, the most stable outcome for the Middle East would be the re-emergence of an Iran which isn't subject to clerical rule. That should be the long-term outcome for which the U.S. strives. That is also the outcome most Iranians seem to prefer.
The writer is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
- Syrian Refugees Could Change Lebanon - Andrew J. Tabler
The Lebanese government estimates there are 1.2 million Syrian refugees in the country. That accounts for roughly a quarter of Lebanon's 4.4 million population. The UN estimates that 96% of Syrian refugees in Lebanon are Sunni Muslim.
Because an estimated one-third of Syrian housing has been destroyed, which may take up to a decade to rebuild, Syrian refugees in Lebanon are a long-term problem.
Lebanon's Interior Minister Marwan Charbel recently asserted that many refugees are in fact rebel fighters and therefore are a threat to Lebanon's security.
The writer is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
U.S. Strategy in the Middle East - Martin Kramer (Sandbox)
- The Middle East is not a region of overriding U.S. interest. The U.S. was prepared to expend much blood and treasure to put Europe and the Pacific rim on the track to peace and stability. It has never accorded the Middle East the same worth, and the usual approach has been to try to preserve U.S. interests in the region on the cheap.
- The U.S. has four core interests in the Middle East: the free flow of oil, the security of Israel, countering terrorism, and preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction - weapons that would allow Middle Eastern pathologies to spill over and endanger the world.
- On occasion, some have tried to add the promotion of human rights or democracy to this short list of interests. When that has happened, it's lasted for a few years and then dropped off.
- At no point has the U.S. believed that upholding core U.S. interests requires the exclusion of other powers. Europe, Russia, and China dish out aid, do business, sell arms, and support clients. The U.S. tolerates their presence, because its own presence is so dominant, and because considerable parts of the Middle East aren't worth the costs of competing.
- Americans want to go back to the good old days, when a few clever people in pinstripe suits and a few well-placed intel assets could keep the Middle East on the back burner where it belongs.
The writer is President of Shalem College in Jerusalem.
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