Iran's economic management is the regime's weak spot

Iran’s economic management is the regime’s weak spot

August 5, 2011 | Allon Lee

Iran’s economy appears so inherently fragile, that concerted external financial pressure on its energy sector could bring the regime to its knees and Washington Institute for Near East Policy analyst Patrick Clawson shows how it can be done:

If oil prices decline — or, more important, if the United States and its allies can dissuade countries and companies from paying for Iranian oil (Washington has no objections if they receive said oil, only if they pay for it) — then the Islamic Republic could face serious problems paying for the checks to which the Iranian people are rapidly becoming accustomed.

 

Iran Bans Waterfights and Steps Closer to Nuclear War

Iran Bans Waterfights and Steps Closer to Nuclear War

August 5, 2011 | Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

As reported by MEMRI, Iranian summers just became a little less enjoyable when the Iranian Parliament moved to ban watergun fights, after  pictures of a waterfight in a Teheran park were posted online. Unfortunately, this was not the most absurd statement made by an Iranian official this week (in fact, with Iran’s “moral police” patrolling the country, it is all too believable).

The cake in fact goes to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who made yet another claim that Iran’s clandestine nuclear program, while off-limits to International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, is in fact for peaceful purposes. As reported by Reuters:

“When we say we don’t want to build an atomic bomb it means we really do not want to build an atomic bomb”…

Israel's "Tent Protest" Movement/ Inside the Egyptian Revolution

Israel’s “Tent Protest” Movement/ Inside the Egyptian Revolution

August 5, 2011

This Update features material explaining the Tent protest movement which continues to dominant the news inside Israel. It also offers an inside view from Cairo on the precarious state of the Egyptian revolution.

We lead with a useful BICOM (Britain-Israel Communications and Research Centre) backgrounder on the tent protests. It offers some detailed explanation of the make-up and goals of the movement – which began over housing but has now increased its demands to incorporate many other social issues – as well as its implications for the Netanyahu Government. It explains that the timing of the movement, which follows on from some previous public campaigns, but is also facilitated by summer vacation and pleasant weather, and relative quiet on the security front.

UN 'Statement’ on Syria and Western Policy Options

UN ‘Statement’ on Syria and Western Policy Options

August 4, 2011 | Sharyn Mittelman

Following on from Daniel’s blog post regarding the UN Security Council ‘statement’ condemning the violation of human rights in Syria, this blog post considers the weaknesses of the UN statement in that it did not call for regime change, support the Syrian demonstrators or contain provisions for punitive measures or sanctions.  In light of the UN’s inability act, this blog looks at Western policy options that could put pressure on Assad to go.

 

Media Week: Uni scholars miss the mark; None so blind…; All at sea

August 4, 2011 | Allon Lee

ANU PhD scholar Lee Schrader writing in the Canberra Times (22/7) doubted “whether any compromise is possible under the Netanyahu leadership, regardless of regional developments.” Schrader’s assessment is unduly harsh considering Netanyahu implemented a ten-month unilateral settlements building freeze in 2009 as a gesture towards restarting peace talks. With one month left of the freeze Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas took up the invitation but then only wanted to discuss extending the settlement freeze.

What of Turkey if the Palestinians and Kurds get their way?

What of Turkey if the Palestinians and Kurds get their way?

August 4, 2011 | Allon Lee

If two million Palestinians in the West Bank deserve a state, what of the 18 million Kurds in the region who have endured 100 years of persecution?

This is the tantalising question posed by Israeli analyst Dr. Guy Bechor who argues that Turkey should be careful what it advocates on behalf of Palestinians as it seeks regional popularity and leadership.

 

Iran arms Syria as UN shifts into low gear

Iran arms Syria as UN shifts into low gear

August 4, 2011 | Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

The forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stepped-up their assault on the opposition stronghold of Hama yesterday. As reported by Nada Bakri for The New York Times:

Ignoring mounting condemnations, the Syrian military sent tanks, armored vehicles and snipers on Wednesday into the symbolic center of Hama, a rebellious city that has emerged as a linchpin of the nearly five-month uprising, in what appeared a decisive step by President Bashar al-Assad to crush opposition to his rule.

The military’s assault on Assi Square, the scene of some of the biggest demonstrations against Mr. Assad’s leadership, was an event that many activists and residents had thought impossible, evidence of the government’s determination to retake by force a city that suffered one of the most brutal crackdowns in Syrian history in 1982.

This blog has been closely following the situation in Syria…

Israel supports new South Sudanese state

Israel supports new South Sudanese state, provoking Arab antisemitism

August 3, 2011 | Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

Throughout its history, Israel has been at odds with the various leaders of Sudan. This enmity was demonstrated recently when Israel allegedly destroyed an arms convoy in Sudan that was headed for Gaza and when, also allegedly, Israel subsequently assassinated a key Hamas weapons smuggler in Sudan, who had allegedly been liaising with the Sudanese authorities to maintain said smuggling route.

With their mutual enemy in Khartoum, it is natural, therefore, that Israel and the South Sudanese would form an alliance. In fact, even before the recent declaration of statehood by South Sudan, Israel had taken in some 6,000 refugees fleeing persecution from the regime in  Khartoum. As noted by Renee Ghert-Zand in the Forward yesterday, Israel was tacitly supporting the South Sudanese rebels for some time during the decades of conflict with their Muslim oppressors, creating even more good will towards Israel within the South Sudanese leadership…

Turkish democracy hanging by a thread?

Turkish democracy hanging by a thread?

August 3, 2011 | Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

While democratic reform seems to have been sweeping the Middle East, the strongest Muslim democracy in the region may have been quietly moving in the opposite direction. This morning’s Jerusalem Post editorial took a rather down-beat tone concerning the retirement Friday of several of Turkey’s top military officials – the latest episode in the ongoing struggle between the military, the traditional defender of Turkey’s secularity, and the soft Islamism of the ruling AKP.

Ominous changes are afoot in the old seat of the Ottoman Empire. In a stunning and unprecedented turn of events, Turkey’s entire military brass – including chief-of-staff General Isik Kosaner and the commanders of the army, air force, and navy – resigned en masse Friday. The immediate cause was a crackdown waged by the judiciary on the army’s top ranks, which put…

US funding for Somali aid may go to terrorists

US funding for Somali aid may go to terrorists

August 3, 2011 | Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz

As explained in a previous post, the drought that is currently besetting East Africa has become a full-scale humanitarian disaster in Somalia, mostly because of the rejection of foreign aid by Somali terrorist group Al-Shabab, who have rejected claims that there is a famine whilst waging a violent campaign against international aid organisations. AP has reported that, in order to combat the ongoing humanitarian crisis, the US will be loosening its counter-terrorism laws to allow bribes and other payments to Al-Shabab in return for US-funded aid organisations being permitted to operate in Somalia…

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