U.S. Pessimism Sets in over Iran Nuclear Talks - Paul Richter (Los Angeles Times)
Three weeks after President Obama hailed a landmark deal to suspend most of Iran's nuclear program for the next six months, the mood among U.S. officials about the next round of negotiations has shifted from elated to somber, even gloomy.
"I wouldn't say [chances of success are] more than 50-50," Obama said last week.
The shift, officials say, is the result of a growing recognition of the compromises each side must make to resolve Western suspicion that Iran will someday try to build nuclear weapons and the Iranian demand that the sanctions crippling its economy be lifted.
Syria: Kerry Says U.S. May Meet with Islamist Rebel Group - Thair Abbas (Asharq Alawsat-UK)
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated on Tuesday that the U.S. was willing to meet with the Syrian opposition's Islamic Front, despite the U.S. and UK freezing aid to Syrian rebels after the group took control of opposition warehouses on the Turkish-Syrian border.
Although the Islamic Front does not include any groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda like the Al-Nusra Front or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), it has called for the creation of an Islamic state in Syria, raising fears in the West.
Kerry said: "The United States has not met to date with the Islamic Front...but it's possible it could take place."
See also Syria's Islamic Front Spurns Talks with U.S. - Stephen Kalin (Reuters)
"The Islamic Front has refused to sit with us," U.S. Syria envoy Robert Ford told Al Arabiya, a day after Secretary of State Kerry said such talks might take place.
Report: Iran, Syria Smuggling Weapons to Hizbullah through Iraq - Yasser Okbi (Jerusalem Post)
Iran and Syria are smuggling weapons to Hizbullah through Iraqi airports, to avoid IDF attacks on weapons convoys crossing the border from Syria to Lebanon, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Seyassah reported.
Poll: Arabs Overwhelmingly Reject Recognition of Israel - Arno Tausch (Gloria Center-IDC Herzliya)
84% of Arabs are against recognition of the State of Israel, according to the
"Arab Opinion Index" by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (ACRPS) in Doha, Qatar.
Hamas Claims Israel Flooded Gaza by Opening Dams - that Don't Exist - Elhanan Miller (Times of Israel)
A fabricated claim that Israel intentionally flooded Gaza during the recent storm in the region made headlines in Middle Eastern and international media.
After torrential rain caused widespread flooding in Gaza, Hamas' Disaster Response Committee chairman Yasser Shanti said Friday that Israel had opened dams just east of Gaza, causing a flood.
Uri Schor, a spokesman for Israel's Water Authority, said Wednesday that no dams even exist in the area.
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- France Voices Doubt on Iran Nuclear Deal - Stacy Meichtry and Gerard Baker
France's foreign minister Laurent Fabius voiced doubts that Western powers will reach a final nuclear deal with Iran, questioning Tehran's willingness to abandon its ability to build an atomic bomb.
Disagreements have already arisen over how to implement a preliminary accord that temporarily freezes Iran's nuclear program in exchange for limited relief from sanctions.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Fabius said, "We have to implement honestly the first phase. Then my main concern is the second phase. It is unclear if the Iranians will accept to definitively abandon any capacity of getting a weapon or only agree to interrupt the nuclear program." "What is at stake is to ensure that there is no breakout capacity," he added. "What we have to do is act in such a way that cheating is in practice impossible." (Wall Street Journal)
- Top Senate Democrats Break with White House and Circulate New Iran Sanctions Bill - Ali Gharib
Three top senators, including two Democrats, have begun circulating a draft of a new Iran sanctions bill that critics say could violate the terms of an agreement struck between Iran and the U.S. in Geneva last month. The bill, set for introduction by the Democratic chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Robert Menendez of New Jersey, along with top sanctions hawks Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), defies the Obama administration's repeated requests for Congress to hold off on any new legislation that could imperil last month's interim nuclear pact.
The bill includes a non-binding provision that states that if Israel takes "military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran's nuclear weapons program," the U.S. "should stand with Israel and provide, in accordance with the law of the United States and the constitutional responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of military force, diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence." (Foreign Policy)
- Zarif: Iran Able to Resume 20 Percent Uranium Enrichment in 1 Day
"The structure of our nuclear program has been maintained and the 20% enrichment can be resumed in less than 24 hours,"
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned on Wednesday. He also reiterated that "the structure of the sanctions and the antagonistic atmosphere created by the West against Iran is falling apart." Zarif further called on the West to discard its catch-phrase "the military option is on the table." (Fars-Iran)
See also Iran Might Pursue 60 Percent Uranium Enrichment
The head of the conservative "Followers of the Line of the Imam (Khomeini)" and the Leader in the Majlis, Mohammadreza Bahonar, said Iran might pursue 60% uranium enrichment if the Iran-P5+1 Geneva agreement is broken. (Iran Daily Brief)
- Egypt's Morsi Charged with Conspiring with Foreign Groups - Tom Perry and Shadia Nasralla
Egypt's public prosecutor charged former President Mohamed Morsi and 35 other top Islamists on Wednesday with conspiring with foreign groups to commit terrorist acts in Egypt. The prosecutor said the Muslim Brotherhood had hatched a plan dating back to 2005 that would send "elements" to Gaza for military training by Hizbullah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Upon their return to Egypt, they would join forces with extremist groups in the Sinai Peninsula.
Morsi's presidential aides including Essam El-Haddad, his national security adviser, were said to have leaked secret reports to Iran's Revolutionary Guards and Hizbullah as a reward for their cooperation.
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- Abbas to Obama: I Oppose the Proposals that Kerry Presented - Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury
PA President Mahmoud Abbas sent U.S. President Barack Obama a document last week in which he set out the Palestinian positions on all the core issues and outlined his reservations about ideas he has heard from Secretary of State John Kerry on security arrangements in the West Bank and other issues. Abbas hopes the document will influence U.S. positions ahead of presentation of the "framework agreement" which Kerry is working on.
The issue that particularly angered Abbas was the idea that at the end of a 10-year period, the Israel Defense Forces would leave the Jordan Valley only if the Palestinians met the test of implementation of agreements.
A senior Palestinian official said there is "a real crisis of faith" with Kerry following the positions he presented in his last two meetings with Abbas.
- Chinese Foreign Minister Visits Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
(Prime Minister's Office)
See also Netanyahu Warns Chinese Foreign Minister Against Nuclear Iran (AFP)
- Israel Renews Flights to Turkey - Koby Yeshayahou
Israel will renew regular flights to Turkey following a hiatus of more than 5 years, Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz has announced. Israel halted flights to Turkey due to disputes over security arrangements at Turkish airports.
The renewal was made possible after the Turkish authorities agreed to Israeli security demands, and after Israel received satisfactory answers and solutions to all the security issues that it raised. Turkish airlines operate more than 60 flights per week to Israel.
- Saudi-Israeli Relations? - Joshua Teitelbaum
The confluence of interests between Riyadh and Jerusalem should not be overstated. Saudi Arabia is not about to give up its position in the Islamic world by forming an alliance with Israel, the perceived enemy of Islam. Yet quiet cooperation should not be ruled out.
When it comes to Israel, the Saudis will continue to balance their national security considerations with their internal and regional legitimacy concerns. The political cost of improving relations with Israel is much higher than improving relations with Iran. Even though the Saudi Wahhabis have no love for Iranian Shiites, the latter are at least Muslims.
The writer, a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, is a professor of Middle Eastern studies at Bar-Ilan University.
(BESA Center-Bar-Ilan University)
- The Palestinian "Refugee" Diversion - Einat Wilf
The vast majority of the millions of people who are called Palestinian "refugees" are descendants of the original refugees, and would not have been eligible to receive such a status had the conflict involved any other country but Israel.
According to the guidelines of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, refugee status cannot be inherited from generation to generation.
Only the Palestinian refugees, who have their own UN agency, UNRWA, can do so.
According to UNRWA, anyone born in Gaza to parents who were born and lived their entire lives there, who were also born to parents who were born and lived their entire lives in Gaza, is still considered a refugee from "Palestine." Middle-class Palestinians living in Ramallah as citizens of the Palestinian Authority, who were also born to parents from Ramallah, are also labeled refugees.
Instead of a mere tens of thousands of refugees, who indeed lost their homes during the war in 1948 and are still alive, there are today 5 million "refugees." Moreover, the use of the term "refugees" implies recognition of the idea of letting them return. The accurate term for most of these people is "descendants," who are not the same as refugees.
The writer is a senior fellow with the Jewish People Policy Institute and a former member of the Knesset.
Indigenous? Native American Studies and Big Lies about Israel - Jonathan S. Tobin (Commentary)
- The latest group of academic outliers to back the boycott of Israel is the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association. Ohio State English professor Chadwick Allen, the president of the association, wrote that the NAISA Council "protests the infringement of the academic freedom of Indigenous Palestinian academics and intellectuals in the Occupied Territories and Israel who are denied fundamental freedoms of movement, expression, and assembly."
- This is simply false.
Academics in the West Bank work, publish, and pontificate in public from the many Palestinian institutions of higher education that were all founded after Israel took control of the area in 1967.
- All Palestinian colleges exist as hotbeds of support for terror and the delegitimization of Israel. Nor are there any restrictions on the right of assembly, as the recent Islamic Jihad fascist-style military parade at Al Quds University in Jerusalem proved.
- Moreover, by attempting to portray the Palestinians as the "indigenous people" and the Jews as the colonial settlers, they are perpetrating the big lie of Palestinian history. Jews are not foreigners in Israel as Europeans were in Africa. They happen to be the indigenous people of their ancient homeland.
- Zionism is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people and those who would deny them the same rights accorded other peoples are practicing bias, not scholarship.
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