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Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Top Iranian general rejects compromise with U.S.
Dozens dead as Lebanese army pledges to "finish with" Sunni hardline cleric
Palestinian Authority prime minister's resignation accepted, analysts raise alarms over "chronic [political] instability"
Palestinian Islamic Jihad suspected after rockets launched from Gaza into Israel
What we’re watching today:
Iranian state media is reporting on statements, made by Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi, rejecting compromise with the United States. The
speech is likely to dampen optimism, expressed in some corners of the
Western foreign policy community, that the election of Hassan Rouhani to
be Iran's next president may present an opening for engagement with
Tehran. Naqdik, who was appointed to his position by Iranian Supreme
Leader Ali Khamenei in 2009, boasted that Iran has 'disgraced' the
United States. The statements come amid deepening concerns over the
degree to which Rouhani is genuinely willing or able to moderate Iran's
foreign policy. By law and politics, Iran's foreign policy is set by
Khamenei, who has banned concessions to the West, and in a speech given last week Rouhani personally thanked Khamenei and the Iranian clergy. Reuters reported that Rouhani had in past spoken approvingly
about clandestinely expanding Iran's nuclear program, and had noted
that "the world started to work with" Pakistan after it acquired nuclear
weapons. In a recent interview with the Washington Post, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu outlined Jerusalem's evaluation that Iran seeks an arsenal comprising hundreds of nuclear weapons.
The Lebanese army pledged on Monday to "finish with" a Sunni sheikh who the army blames for fomenting sectarian violence in the southern city of Sidon, after clashes that began this weekend and extended into Monday reportedly killed as many as 30 of the sheik's followers and at least 16 Lebanese soldiers. For his part Sheikh Ahmad al-Assir pledged today to stay barricaded in a local mosque with followers "until the last drop of blood." Sunni clerics elsewhere in the country
blasted the army for failing to reach a truce that could put an end to
the bloodshed, and blamed government officials for conspiring with
Hezbollah to "commit a massacre" against Sunnis. The Iran-backed Shiite
terror group is being widely criticized for entering the Syrian conflict
on the side of the Shiite-backed Bashar al-Assad regime, which has been
fighting for two years against Sunni rebels seeking the regime's
overthrow. The Los Angeles Times this weekend bluntly described Hezbollah's actions, which have widened sectarian rifts across the region, as "threaten[ing] to spread holy war."
Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbasaccepted this weekend the resignation of Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah, which Hamdallah had angrily tendered last week and then reportedly withdrawn.
Hamdallah had been in power less than a month, and explained his
departure as the result of a power struggle between himself and Abbas
loyalists. He had been installed after his predecessor, Salam Fayyad, was maneuvered out of office by Abbas, also amid a power struggle. The New York Timesnoted tersely that the incident "deepened the image of political disarray" within the PA, while U.S. analysts described the situation as one of "chronic instability." Hamdallah will lead
a caretaker government until August 10th. Some observers have suggested
that a government unable to maintain a prime minister for more than
three weeks may lack sufficiently robust political institutions to
sustain a viable state.
Palestinian terrorists launched rockets at Israel on Sunday, marking a violation of the mostly stable ceasefire that had taken hold since Israel completed its Operation Pillar of Defense last November. The campaign saw Jerusalem substantially degrade
the advanced weaponry and military leadership of the Palestinian Hamas
faction. This weekend's rocket launches was widely blamed on the
Iran-backed terror group Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and Israel
subsequently targeted PIJ military assets in the Gaza Strip. Analysts suggested that PIJ had been activated by Iran to undermine stability in the region, in no small part to distract from vociferous criticism
being leveled at Tehran and its proxies over their role in bolstering
Syria's Bashar al-Assad regime. The inability of any Palestinian
government to prevent rocket launches by subnational groups in the Gaza
Strip has been cited as a key complicating factor in Palestinian
pretentions toward statehood, which would require among other things the
ability to enforce military control over territories that they reserve
for a state.