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Today’s Top Stories
1. Interesting Twitter diplomacy. Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, tweeted Happy Rosh HaShanah, then confirmed to reporters it was indeed his tweet. There was even more buzz about president Hasan Rohani tweeting a similar greeting, but Iranian officials denied that Rohani even has a Twitter account. The Wall St. Journal‘s Sohrab Ahmari reacted:
People are so desperate for news that suggests that the Iranian regime is moderating and ready to engage positively — and philosemitic in this case — that they don’t do the basic things you have to do, like verify a Twitter account . . .
And Israel’s reaction? As long as the centrifuges are still spinning, forget about a sweet tweet year.
— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani) September 4, 2013
2. How macho: The Syrian army’s dispersing its personnel “into apartment buildings, schools and mosques.” According to the Washington Times, the Syrians appear to be moving their most valuable assets to the Russian naval base at Tartus, on the assumption the US won’t attack that base. Alan Dershowitz says Assad’s “Dead Baby Strategy” is no different than Hamas’s.
By the way, the Daily Telegraph reports that Western human shields are organizing to travel to Damascus. But they’re not going to protect Syrian women and children from the Assad regime’s chemicals and fire power. No word yet on whether Assad will allow them in the country.
3. Who is Thomas Bach, and why are Arab countries pushing for him to succeed Jacques Rogge as head of the International Olympic Committee? The Times of London explains:
Mr Bach, who heads Germany’s National Olympic Committee, is also president of the Arab-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Ghorfa), which facilitates business between German exporters and the Arab world.
One of Ghorfa’s roles is to help German companies to ensure products meet import requirements of Arab states, some of which ban Israeli products and services. It helps companies to guarantee that their products do not contain anything from Israel.
This position has drawn criticism from Jewish groups in Germany for facilitating an effective boycott of Israel, although there has also been support from influential Jewish voices for Mr Bach’s anti-racist credentials.
4. Scrapping the BBC Trust: What This Means for Israel Activists: Putting BBC complaints under Ofcom supervision would be a huge step for accountability.
5. Clarifying, or Detoxifying, the Record: A UK paper’s correction ties together Syrian sarin sins and tired old accusations of Israeli abuse of white phosphorus. Is it enough?
The Syrian Situation
• Eye-opening stuff from the Wall St. Journal:
The U.S. has intercepted an order from Iran to militants in Iraq to attack the U.S. Embassy and other American interests in Baghdad in the event of a strike on Syria, officials said, amid an expanding array of reprisal threats across the region.
• Three people caught up in the Ghouta chemical attack were secretly flown to Britain, where tests confirmed the presence of sarin gas. So reports the Sunday Times of London. See also the Times of Israel.
• Syria, AIPAC, and accusations of a NY Times quote scrubbing? That’s a sexy post for any blogger, but some days, the truth is more ho-hum.
• Syrian war planes fled after testing the defenses of Britain’s Akrotiri air base on Cyprus.
• Two videos from Syria are turning the intervention debate (if not stomachs) inside out. The first is CNN footage of Syrian chemical attack victims. The second is a chilling video of rebels executing bound, prostrated soldiers. Backstory at The Daily Beast and NY Times.
• A high level Hezbollah figure told Iranian officials that Assad’s use of chemical weapons was a big mistake. German intelligence intercepted the call. More at the Daily Telegraph.
- Commentary/analysis on the Syria situation.
- Hamas TV to broadcast from Danish mosque.
- Jordanian journalist visiting Israel is f loored by the reception he gets.