Poll: Americans Deeply Distrust Iran (The Tower)
Americans fear Iran more than they fear all the other Middle Eastern antagonists combined and are universally skeptical about Iranian intentions, according to a new poll by Luntz Global conducted Dec. 7-9.
Americans overwhelmingly prefer upping sanctions on Iran and reject reducing pressure, with or without negotiations.
49% picked Iran as the greatest threat to the U.S.
See also Iran Survey Results (Luntz Global)
Israel to Receive a $173M Boost from U.S. for Missile Defense - Cheryl K. Chumley (Washington Times)
Members of both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees unveiled spending plans earlier this week that included bolstered funding for Israeli missile defense as it faces Hizbullah's growing arsenal - with a boost of $173 million specifically for Israel's joint projects with the U.S.
Brussels Criticized for Paying Non-Working Gaza Civil Servants - Alex Barker (Financial Times-UK)
The EU has been paying the wages of thousands of civil servants in Gaza who have not worked for up to six years, according to a critical audit of the bloc's multibillion-euro Palestinian aid program by the European court of auditors.
The report will catalogue serious shortcomings in Brussels' management of the EU's flagship direct aid program, which is the Palestinian Authority's biggest source of outside income.
Since 2007, the EU has awarded around 2.9 billion euros to projects in the Palestinian territories. Some 1.4 billion euros directly subsidized the wage bill for PA civil servants.
While the aid "is intended to support public services for the benefit of the Palestinian population, the payment of non-performing civil servants does not serve this objective," the report states.
It recommends the European Commission "undertake a major review" of the system and link the funds to progress in PA reforms.
Syria Has More Jihadis than Afghanistan Ever Did - Thomas Hegghammer (Foreign Policy)
There are now over 5,000 Sunni foreign fighters in Syria, including more than a thousand from the West.
The 1980s Afghanistan war never attracted more than 3,000 to 4,000 foreign fighters at any one time.
Why is Syria attracting so many war volunteers? The short answer is that it's easy to get there.
A Syrian who smuggles travelers into Syria explained:
"For example, someone comes from Tunisia. He flies to the international airport [in Turkey] wearing jihadi clothes and a jihadi beard and he has jihadi songs on his mobile.... If the Turkish government wants to prevent them coming into the country, it would do so, but they don't."
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News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
- John Kerry in Renewed Effort for Israeli-Palestinian Peace Deal - John Reed
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Israel on Thursday in his latest effort to push forward peace talks, now fixated on security arrangements for a future Palestinian state.
The U.S. has drafted a team of defense experts headed by John Allen, a retired Marine Corps general, to propose ideas to secure the future Palestinian border with Jordan, which Israel fears could become a porous source of arms and terror operatives.
Security arrangements are a major sticking point.
Netanyahu's government opposes the deployment of international troops on the Jordanian border because of concerns about the effectiveness of multilateral forces, and it worries that a U.S.-led force could become a target for terrorist attacks.
It also cites its withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, which was followed by the takeover of Hamas and a rise in rocket attacks on Israel.
"If we got out of the Jordan Valley, there would be a massive increase in weaponry coming into the West Bank - hand-held weapons that could threaten [Israel's] Ben-Gurion airport," said Dore Gold, a former Israeli UN ambassador and Netanyahu adviser. (Financial Times-UK)
- Iran's Revolutionary Guard Head: Rouhani's Government "Infected by Western Doctrine" - Richard Spencer
The commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Maj.-Gen. Mohammed Jafari, has accused Hassan Rouhani's government of being "infected by Western doctrine, and a fundamental change must occur," the Iranian Fars news agency reported. "The main threat to the revolution is in the political arena and the Guard cannot remain silent in the face of that," he said.
There are increasing signs that Revolutionary Guards leaders are worried about rapprochement with the West, which undermines the political importance of the Guards as "chief guarantor of the revolution" - or its chief promulgator abroad.
- Biden Warns of "Concentrated Effort" to Delegitimize Israel - Stephanie Condon
Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to push back against what he called "the most concentrated effort, in the 40 years I have served, to delegitimize Israel."
"The preservation of an independent Jewish state is the only certain guarantor of freedom and security for the Jewish people," Biden told the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) in Washington.
The "wholesale effort in other parts of the world" to delegitimize the Jewish state, he said, is "the most serious threat in my view to Israel's long-term security and viability." (CBS News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Kerry Seeks to Ratchet Up Peace Talks - Barak Ravid
If until a week ago the Americans spoke only of presenting ideas or "bridging proposals," now they are talking about forging a "framework agreement" or, in plain words, presenting an American peace plan to the two sides. The Americans have told their Israeli and Palestinian interlocutors their intention to put together a framework agreement.
As Secretary of State John Kerry told the Saban Forum at Brookings on Saturday, "A basic framework will have to address all the core issues - borders, security, refugees, Jerusalem, mutual recognition, and an end of claims. And it will have to establish agreed guidelines for subsequent negotiations that will fill out the details in a full-on peace treaty." (Ha'aretz)
See also Kerry-Netanyahu Meeting Postponed Due to Jerusalem Snowstorm - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
- White House "Failing to Challenge Iran's Interpretations of Geneva Deal" - Yaakov Lappin
Iranian interpretations of the Geneva interim nuclear agreement, which run contrary to the White House's presentation of the accord, are going unchecked by the Obama administration, Dr. Emily Landau, who heads the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the Institute for National Security Studies,
These developments have affirmed concerns that any partial deal will "quickly become a platform for continuing bickering between the two sides, as Iran pushed its own interpretations of what was agreed, which would not be acceptable to the P5+1," Landau said.
"We saw a lot of this in the 2003-2005 period - continuous arguing over who agreed to what, who is upholding what. That period ended with the EU3 totally disillusioned with Iran and its lack of good faith."
Iran "will continue to push the envelope with its interpretations, with statements and pronouncements that certainly do not indicate 'good faith' as far as its intentions to back down from military aspirations." (Jerusalem Post)
- Commander's Bravery Prevents Death in IDF Training Accident - Yoav Zitun
Four IDF soldiers were wounded Tuesday during a training accident when a tank caught fire. When 2nd Lt. Eylon Tsarfati, who had 30% burn wounds on his legs,
realized that the tank's driver was still inside the burning vehicle, he returned to the tank and extracted the driver. A commander noted that Tsarfati "had no fear in returning to the tank. He risked his life to save his soldiers." (Ynet News)
- Despite Shared Interests, Little Chance for Saudi-Israeli Normalization - Yaron Friedman
Abdul Aziz Qassim, a Saudi commentator at al-Watan, wrote last week: "Our stance regarding the attitude towards Israel is clear: It is the eternal enemy of the region the same way Iran is the region's biggest danger." Reports in the Arab press about secret cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia should be read cautiously, as they usually appear in newspapers opposing Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia sees itself as the leader of the Arab world, an island of stability and an economic power.
The Saudis have warned the U.S. that it's betting on the wrong horse with its agreement with Iran, as the Sunnis are the majority in the Middle East and the Shiites are a minority (20% of Muslims) and because there is more Sunni oil than oil in Shiite areas.
The writer teaches Arabic and lectures about Islam at the Technion.
- A Stronger Iran, a Weaker America - Zvi Mazel
The Geneva agreement appears to be another step in America's flight from the Middle East.
The American president is seen to be distancing himself from the region: getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan, with no tangible success; abandoning Mubarak, backing the Muslim Brothers and even turning his back on the new Egyptian regime battling radical Islam; zigzagging about Syria; and recently rumored to be conducting secret talks with Hizbullah and radical Islamic factions in Syria.
Taken together, these steps point to a deliberate strategy. The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden. (Jerusalem Post)
- Hamas Should Not Look for Support from Iran - Editorial
Most of the mainstream Arab world is calling on Iran to stop interfering in the internal affairs of Arab states. So it is curious that at this precise time Iran has chosen to agree to resume good relations with the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.
Hamas is making a grave mistake to look for backing from Tehran. Iran does not have the best interests of the Palestinians at heart and it is anxious to manipulate events to its own advantage.
See also The Arab Spring Has Been Disastrous for Hamas - Josh Nason
Iran's resumption of funding to Hamas has been so limited it looks more like a half-hearted attempt to keep the channel open than any sort of legitimate desire for the resumption of a strong alliance between Tehran and Hamas.
See also Hamas Leader Talks to Russian Foreign Minister (AP-ABC News)
How Can You Build a Legitimate, Peaceful Palestinian State Out of a Kleptocratic Regime? - Jonathan Schanzer (The Tower)
- The present efforts to create a Palestinian state are built entirely atop a Palestinian political system that has long suffered from endemic corruption, abuse of power, nepotism, and waste. This problem has dogged the Palestinians at least since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, radically undermining the most basic elements required for successful governance. This hinders the ability to administer international assistance, encourage investment, or build effective institutions.
- The current Palestinian regime, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, is ossified, brittle, and distrusted by the Palestinian street. The failure to address this problem would most likely lead to the birth of a failed state that crushes Palestinian freedom and economic growth, threatens Israel, and fosters radicalism.
- Washington's failure to address Palestinian corruption has already had catastrophic consequences. It had a decisive influence on the Palestinian elections of January 2006, in which the terrorist group Hamas and its allies defeated their secular rival Fatah.
- Abbas pushed Salaam Fayyad out of his position as prime minister in early 2013, eliminating the West's trusted man and bringing Fayyad's efforts to build accountable institutions and the foundation of a future Palestinian state to an untimely end.
- Abbas has failed to reform the dysfunctional Palestinian Authority and does not show any signs of attempting to do so. The West, addicted to top-down peacemaking, shows little interest in genuinely helping the Palestinian people attain a government dedicated to coexistence with Israel, nor one built on the open, fair and transparent civil society and legal system required to build a successful state.
The writer, a former counterterrorism analyst at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, is vice-president of research for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
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