New US and EU sanctions on Iran/Islamists in Egypt and the Palestinian territories

January 25, 2012

This update looks at the latest sanctions imposed by the US and European Union on Iran’s oil industry and Central Bank; how an Islamist-controlled Egyptian Parliament will affect the country’s ties with Israel; and the chances of Hamas winning Palestinian elections mooted to be held in May.

Positive Palestinian racers profile couldn't avoid token Israel swipes

Positive Palestinian racers profile couldn’t avoid token Israel swipes

January 24, 2012 | Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

This weekend’s Fairfax papers included a report on an all-female Palestinian racing team by Ruth Pollard. While the piece was an interesting read overall, there are one or two small inconsistencies that are worth noting. In addition to this, there were a number of instances where the Age inserted small changes to make the tone of the article seem more anti-Israel. Some of these have been noted below.

Pollard profiles Noor Daoud, a Palestinian woman who won an Israeli formula-three competition last month. In the interview, Daoud explains how it is that she can no longer drive on the road.

”It is not the first time I have driven 200km/h – I lost my licence in 2009 when…

Iran "not developing a bomb" clarification

Iran “not developing a bomb” clarification

January 20, 2012 | Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

Earlier in the week, Overland editor Jeff Sparrow interpreted remarks from US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that Iran is not trying to develop a “nuclear weapon”, but a “nuclear capability” to mean that Iran’s nuclear program is entirely legal. While Sparrow was using this quote to help support a perverse conspiracy theory involving Israel, for reasons unknown, trying to dupe the rest of the world into punishing Iran, Panetta is not the only official to have stated that Iran is not developing a nuclear weapon. In fact, Panetta himself has made it clear that Iran could have a nuclear weapon within a year, were it to make the decision to build one. Furthermore, Reuters reported yesterday that Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said something similar, albeit in more detail…

International Parliamentary Union apologises for Hamas invitation

International Parliamentary Union apologises for Hamas invitation

January 19, 2012 | Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

According to a recent AP report, after facing criticism from Israeli Knesset members for hosting two Hamas MPs at its recent conference, the International Parliamentary Union (IPU) has reportedly apologised to Israel.

Israel objected because the militant group has killed hundreds of Israelis in attacks over the years. Hamas is considered a terrorist group by the EU. and U.S.

The union’s secretary-general, Anders Johnsson…

On the danger of being a human rights activist in Gaza

On the danger of being a human rights activist in Gaza

January 18, 2012 | Allon Lee

It is lucky that freedom of speech is not the main selling point for Palestinian statehood because the stabbing of a human rights activist in Gaza who dared criticise the Hamas government and resistance groups would undermine the enterprise’s bona fides.

Mahmud Abu Rahma, international relations director at the al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, was “stabbed multiple times by several masked attackers on Friday evening”, according to an AFP report.

Iran's nuclear program: covert action

Iran’s nuclear program: covert action, Fordow, policy options

January 18, 2012

This Update offers threes pieces related to recent news on the ongoing crisis over Iran’s nuclear program.

First up, former security adviser to the British government Andrew Cummings explains the rationale behind the campaign of covert action against Iran, as epitomised by the killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist last week. Cummings argues that those who assert that such moves are dangerous fail to understand that the alternatives are even more risky and fraught.

Killing Iranian scientists: Overland editor's unintentional Orwellian irony

Killing Iranian scientists: Overland editor’s unintentional Orwellian irony

January 16, 2012 | Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

Jeff Sparrow, the editor of literary journal Overland, has written a missive in The Drum today on the “terrorism campaign” going on in Iran. This refers not to what first comes to mind when one reads “Iran” and “terror campaign” in the same sentence, but rather a horrendeous campaign of murder and intimidation against scientists being waged, of course, by Israel: (emphasis added)

Last Wednesday, a motorcyclist attached a bomb to a car carrying a man called Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, killing him instantly, and injuring his two companions.

That was merely the latest atrocity inflicted upon individuals and facilities associated with nuclear physics in that country … this is terrorism, pure and simple – the systematic infliction of deadly violence launched against civilians and their families so as to create a climate of fear among Iranian physicists and other nuclear personnel. 

As Sparrow explains, the assassinations of Iranian nuclear physicists cannot be justified by pointing out that they are working towards a nuclear weapon. You see… 

The Muslim Brotherhood's plan for Egypt/ PA PM Fayyad speaks out on Iran

The Muslim Brotherhood’s plan for Egypt/ PA PM Fayyad speaks out on Iran

January 13, 2012

This Updates leads with two articles on the likely policies of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood now that it has won the parliamentary election, gaining approximately 41% of seats with other Islamist groups taking the Islamist bloc up to something like 2/3 of all seats.

First up is Washington Institute expert on Egyptian politics Eric Trager, looking at the likely agenda of the Brotherhood in power. He says that the agenda will be theocracy internally, and confrontation internationally, and that expectations that the group will moderate are very unlikely to be met – offering some behavioural evidence for this.

Iran escalates its uranium enrichment

Iran escalates its uranium enrichment

January 12, 2012 | Sharyn Mittelman

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), confirmed on January 10, that Iran has started enriching uranium up to 20 percent at an underground site at ‘Fordow’, near the Shi’ite Muslim holy city of Qom.

Iran has maintained that its nuclear program is for civilian peaceful purposes. However, the underground enrichment facility ‘Fordow’ casts further doubt on Iran’s statements that the facility is for civilian purposes. The site was an Iranian secret that was only revealed in September 2009 by the US, France and Britain.

Iran’s enrichment of uranium at 20 percent also suggests that that its nuclear program is not for civilian use, which would enrich uranium at around 3.5 percent – the level needed for nuclear power plants.

Back to the negotiating table?

Back to the negotiating table?

January 12, 2012

The last two weeks have seen two meetings in Amman Jordan between Israeli and Palestinian representatives, in what are being called “preparatory talks”, but are the first direct public contacts between the two sides since 2010. (Some more details on the latest rounds of talks are reported here, here and here.)

A good backgrounder from BICOM on both the significance of the talks and the political factors influencing them is first up. It puts the meetings in the context of the Quartet efforts to restart talks and significant pressure on the Palestinian side to renew negotiations, and discusses what is known about the contents of the two meetings.

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