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 Abbas accepted 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 Times noted 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. 
    • Thanks to TIP
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