Report: Syrian Rebels Receiving Anti-Aircraft and Anti-Tank Missiles (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
Free Syrian Army (FSA) officers in Turkey say that arms have been reaching the FSA through Turkey over the last few days, including anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles, following a two-month total stoppage of arms supplies to the rebels.
Meanwhile, reports from Turkey say that 71 Syrian army officers have defected from the government's forces in the last 36 hours.
FSA sources said they expected more defections as a result of the change in the international stance on Syria, which agreed to arm the rebels.
Report: Rowhani's Son Committed Suicide to Protest Father's Ties to Khamenei - Shmuel Sasoni (Ynet News)
In 1992, recently elected Iranian president Hassan Rowhani's elder son took his own life in protest of his father's close connection with Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
In his suicide note, published in Asharq al-Awsat by exiled Iranian political commentator Ali Reza Nouri, the future president's son wrote, "I hate your government, your lies, your corruption, your religion, your double acts and your hypocrisy."
"I am ashamed to live in such environment where I'm forced to lie to my friends each day, telling them that my father isn't part of all of this....It makes me sick seeing you, my father, kiss the hand of Khamenei."
Report: Egypt's Sinai on High Alert (Ma'an News-PA)
Egypt has declared a state of alert in Sinai after extremist Islamist fighters set up a military base in the peninsula, Egyptian security officials said Monday.
Militants from Egypt, the Palestinian territories, and Mali affiliated to Jihadist groups and al-Qaeda have deployed heavily in bunkers in a desert area in central Sinai, Egyptian security officials said.
Some of the militants entered Sinai through tunnels from Gaza, the officials said.
The militants have large amounts of ammunition and weapons, suggesting they plan to join demonstrations against the Muslim Brotherhood planned for June 30.
U.S. Experts Forecast Sustained Military Aid for Israel - Barbara Opall-Rome (Defense News)
Despite sequestration and protracted fiscal constraints, Israel can expect sustained levels of security assistance.
Stuart Eizenstat, a former Clinton administration official, said: "Support for Israel in the United States is astonishing. There's no other foreign country favored in terms of assistance; and this support is bipartisan, bicameral and largely protected from sequestration."
Former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Howard Berman said: "From the inside of the [appropriations] process, I can tell you the special and strong relationship with Israel is enduring."
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- Assad Threatens Europe over Arming Rebels
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Monday, "If the Europeans deliver weapons, then Europe's backyard will become terrorist, and Europe will pay the price for it." "Terrorists will return, battle-hardened and with an extremist ideology," he said. (AFP)
- Russia Warns Against "No-Fly" Zone over Syria - Sergei L. Loiko
Moscow on Monday declared that it would not accept imposition of a "no-fly" zone over Syria. "The Russian Federation sees no necessity for the introduction of such measures and considers them counterproductive," said Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich. (Los Angeles Times)
- IAEA Chief: Iran Nuclear Program Advances Despite Sanctions - Fredrik Dahl
Iran is making "steady progress" in expanding its nuclear program and international sanctions do not seem to be slowing it down, UN nuclear agency chief Yukiya Amano said Monday. "There is a steady increase of capacity and production (in Iran's nuclear program)," Amano said. Asked if international sanctions were slowing down Iran's atomic activity, he said: "I don't think so...I don't see any impact." (Reuters)
- West to Press Iran on Nukes - Jay Solomon and Farnaz Fassihi
The Obama administration and its European allies intend to aggressively push to resume negotiations with Tehran on its nuclear program by August to test the new government's positions, U.S. and European diplomats say. Diplomacy aimed at curbing Tehran's nuclear work has been frozen since April.
American and European officials said Sunday they believed Iran's overall nuclear policy will remain tightly controlled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has refused to authorize any concessions during the past four years. U.S. and European officials said Hassan Rowhani's election offers Khamenei an opening to shift Tehran's diplomatic course, though they remained skeptical that he would do so. (Wall Street Journal)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israeli, Palestinian Finance Ministers Discuss Economic Cooperation - Attila Somfalvi
Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid met Sunday with Palestinian Finance Minister Shukri Bashara to discuss a series of economic cooperation projects. During the meeting, the two decided on a timetable to renew economic ties between Israel and the Palestinians, which have been frozen for the last six months. (Ynet News)
- Hamas Deploys Forces to Prevent Rocket Fire at Israel - Avi Issacharoff
Hamas has deployed a 600-man military force in Gaza that operates 24 hours a day in order to prevent rocket fire at Israel, a senior Arab source said Monday. The past few months have seen a dramatic decline in the number of rockets fired at Israel as compared to a year ago, a trend that has been confirmed by Israeli security sources.
There has also been a drop in the number of weapons smuggled into Gaza from Egypt, which has fielded a relatively large force to fight terror cells operating in Sinai. While the Egyptian activity has been insufficient to dismantle terrorist infrastructure in Sinai, the situation there is significantly better than it was during the Mubarak era. (Times of Israel)
- PA Objects to Israel's Plan for Egalitarian Section at Western Wall - Gil Hoffman and Khaled Abu Toameh
The Palestinian Authority will not permit Israel to build an egalitarian prayer area near the Western Wall, PA Religious Affairs Minister Mahmoud Habbash said Thursday. Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky's plan would allow for the construction of an additional section of the Western Wall Plaza for egalitarian worship. But Habbash warned that any Israeli attempt to "Judaize" holy sites in Jerusalem would be viewed by Arabs and Muslims as a declaration of war. "We don't agree to any changes. It's a Wakf [Islamic trust] place, and Islamic place," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
- Hassan Rowhani: A Honey Trap for Iran and the World? - Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
The win for Rowhani, a dyed-in-the-wool member of the revolution, will likely give the Iranian regime medium-term breathing space both at home and abroad. At home, the victory has forestalled a (weak) possibility of a "Persian Spring." Abroad, the West will likely award Iran yet another opportunity to resolve the nuclear issue without a confrontation.
Yet Iran is unlikely to alter its plan to achieve regional hegemony, and will go on exploiting Sunni weakness and American hesitations. In any case, Rowhani does not formulate Iran's foreign and nuclear policy, which is dictated by Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Can Assad's Syria Survive Revolution? - Eyal Zisser
Two years of bloody fighting between the regime and the rebels has undermined most of the achievements of the Assad dynasty and turned Syria into a failing state on the verge of disintegration. Most state institutions have ceased to function. The bonds that united the various religious and ethnic communities, tribes, and regions - that took many long years of hard work to forge - are rapidly unraveling. In addition, Syria has become a kind of punching bag with foreign actors, both regional and international, intervening freely in the country's internal affairs. The writer is dean of the faculty of humanities and professor of contemporary Middle Eastern history at Tel Aviv University. (Middle East Quarterly)
- The Internationalized Syrian War - Anshel Pfeffer
In conversations with members of the various rebel organizations on the Turkish border, Assad is rarely mentioned. For many of those fighting on either side, it is no longer about Assad but rather a much wider conflict. As in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939, the Syrian civil war has attracted idealistic young men from dozens of countries to fight and to die. They are not only coming from the Middle East, but in growing numbers from distant Muslim lands such as Chechnya, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and even from Western countries. (Ha'aretz)
- Lebanon's Shi'ites Divided over Hizbullah's Role in Syria - Fahd Al-Zayabi
Hizbullah's intervention in the conflict in Syria is not unanimously supported by Lebanon's Shi'ite community, said the head of Lebanon's Free Shi'a Movement, Sheikh Mohammad Al-Hajj Hassan. Hassan claimed that more than 300,000 Lebanese Shi'ites oppose Hizbullah and its policies, a figure that is rising after the Shi'ite militia revealed itself to be "a party of fighters and murderers following its intervention in the Syrian crisis." The Free Shi'a Movement is a Lebanese political group allied with the March 14 Alliance (led by Saad Hariri, younger son of Rafik Hariri, the assassinated former prime minister of Lebanon).
Hassan also said that Syrian refugees in Lebanon are being harassed by Hizbullah fighters who have forcibly entered the homes of refugees, demanding identification documents. (Asharq al-Awsat-UK)
Rowhani Presided over Secret Advance of Iran's Nuclear Program - Irwin Cotler (Jerusalem Post)
- It is true that during the election campaign Hassan Rowhani appeared to reject the hard line favored by his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. His tone is undoubtedly less incendiary.
- However, Rowhani is the same person who struck a conciliatory posture as Iran's top nuclear negotiator while presiding over the secret advance of the nuclear program.
- Rowhani boasted that even when Iran had suspended uranium enrichment, it was able to make its greatest nuclear advances, saying, "While we were talking with the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in parts of the facility in Isfahan," a crucial nuclear site. "In fact, by creating a calm environment, we were able to complete the work in Isfahan."
- Simply put, Rowhani had patented the strategy of using negotiations as a cover for the uranium enrichment program.
The writer, a Member of the Canadian Parliament, served as the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.