Everything you need to know about today’s coverage of Israel and the Mideast.
Why is Avigdor Lieberman weighing legal action against AP? Was the Mossad really behind a mysterious Iranian blast? And would Salam Fayyad’s possible resignation really mean anything for Palestinian unity?
Iranian Atomic Urgency
• Iran confirms for the first time it’s being attacked by the Duqu computer virus. Haaretz writes:
“Parts of Duqu are nearly identical to Stuxnet, but with a completely different purpose,” Symantec said. “Duqu is essentially the precursor to a future Stuxnet-like attack.”
• CNN: The mullahs are a’ mulling cutting off cooperation with the IAEA.
• Time‘s Karl Vick wonders if the Mossad was behind the explosion at an Iranian missile base. Among the people killed in the blast was Gen. Hasan Moghaddam. But the NY Daily News pins it on the CIA. Iranians quoted by AP describe Moghaddam as the father of the nation’s missile program.
Qasemi said Moghaddam was one of a few Guard commanders favored by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“The exalted leader had a special interest in him,’’ he said.
(You know the Iran story’s getting big — Vick’s now reporting for Time in Iran.)
For more than two weeks now, mullahs in Tehran, generals in Washington and anyone else with an Internet connection has been able to read detailed accounts of attempts by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to convince their military chiefs and coalition partners that an Israeli strike is both feasible and necessary. Bitter closed-door debates have been chronicled; op-ed pages have been filled with the arguments, pro and con. There’s even been polling: Forty-one percent of Israelis were reported to favor an attack vs. 39 percent who were opposed.
If it happens, this may be the most unsurprising sneak attack in history.
• The NY Times looks at the state of Israel’s diplomatic maneuverings against Iran.
• What is it about hotels in Dubai that make them such popular murder spots? Ahmed Rezaei, an outspoken Iranian critic of the Tehran regime, was found dead “in a mysterious way,” according to AP.
The plot thickens: His father, Mohsen Rezaei — who headed the Revolutionary Guards and ran for president, is wanted by Interpol for his connection to the 1994 AMIA bombing that killed 84. If Dubai doesn’t blame Israel for the younger Rezaei’s death, they’ll blame Israel for creating an environment where tennis-playing tourists can murder with impunity . . .
The new report from the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program is both preposterous and dispiriting. Preposterous, because the agency has reinterpreted “old” facts instead of discovering new evidence. Dispiriting, because the reinterpretation may feed the growing punish-and-bomb Iran frenzy.
• Iran detained journalist Hasan Fathi who was providing live coverage of the blast for the BBC’s Farsi language service. AP writes:
BBC’s Farsi-language service is not authorized to operate in Iran, and working for the network is against the law.
In an emailed comment late Sunday, the BBC said it has no employees in Iran. “The service spoke to Mr. Hasan Fathi as an independent commentator, as it does to other independent journalists, academics and other public figures from Iran.”
• Israel vs. Iran is a grand game: Michael Peck (Foreign Policy) describes being an “armchair general” for a “paper Israeli air force” attacking Iranian nuclear targets and garnering political points. For more commentary, see Peter Worthington (Toronto Sun), Cal Thomas,and Roger Cohen.
• Hats off to The Israel Project for this impressive Iran Press Kit.
• Salam Fayyad might resign for the sake of Palestinian unity. I believe Hamas and Fatah’s differences are too big to be bridged by Fayyad’s exit, so don’t hold your breath.
• Abbas is sounding like a broken record, once again telling diplomats, No peace talks without a settlement freeze.
• AP‘s at it again with more “tit for tat” violence.
For the past three years, Israel has generally been in a tit-for-tat cycle against militants, responding to rocket fire with pinpoint strikes against the attackers.
My problem with this term is that tit for tat’s definition (an equivalent given in return (as for an injury) : retaliation in kind) means that there’s an equivalence between randomly fired Palestinian rockets and Israel’s “pinpoint strikes against the attackers.” Cycle is the keyword that allows the writer to be nonjudgmental about sticky questions of right and wrong.
Now if Israel were to truly respond to rocket fire “in kind,” the IDF would simply randomly fire shells at Gaza’s civilian areas. (But then the MSM would discard the language of tit for tat and replace it with with war crimes.)
• Another Qassam was fired at Shaar HaNegev. The IAF responded with an airstrike on a Hamas naval building. Details at Ynet News.
• Anyone praising the Arab League for throwing Bashar Assad under a bus is branded a Zionist tool. Even Robert Fisk’s at risk. Is nothing sacred?
• CNN’s Ben Wedeman assesses why (and why now) the Arab League finally threw Bashar Assad under a bus.
In a report released as Switzerland struggles to shed a reputation as a haven for kleptocrats looking to stash funds abroad, Finma said Thursday it found serious shortcomings in how four banks dealt with accounts held by foreign officials tied to former governments in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, including one bank that accepted seven-figure deposits from a public official who claimed to be semiretired. Finma, which declined to name the banks, will now consider disciplinary action.
• Good news and bad news for Egyptian security:
First the good news. Reuters reports the arrest of Mohamed al-Teehi, whose strangely named group, “Excommunication and Exodus,” is believed responsible for sabotaging the Egypt-Israel-Jordan gas pipeline, as well as an attack on a Sinai police station.
But then there’s AP: “Deadly village feud in central Egypt reveals depth of security breakdown.” Residents rumbled for four days, killing three people and injuring 20:
All the while, residents of both villages said Friday, local police had a curious reaction: They stood by and watched.
“We could say that they closed their eyes a bit,” said Sheik Saber Ali Hussein . . .
Rest O’ the Roundup
• The Jerusalem Post says Avigdor Lieberman is threatening legal action against AP and IsraelDefense after they reported he was denied access to “sensitive intelligence” several years ago when he handled the strategic affairs portfolio. Ehud Olmert denied the allegation in a letter to AP.
• This AP headline on the Knesset’s NGO funding debate is rather prejudicial. The language of “doves” oversimplifies a complex problem of non-governmental organizations that have crossed the line into political advocacy, even delegitimization.
Meanwhile, The Guardian disingenuously frames this as a free speech issue. The only redeeming quality of this screen grab is their use of the word political.
For comparison, see the NY Times on the NGO issue.
• I don’t want to ruin any BDSnik’s day, but I’ll enjoy rubbing it in with this Ugandan headline:
President Museveni on four day working visit to Israel
• Daily Telegraph: Lauren Booth faces a criminal investigation over her personal bankruptcy and sloppy paperwork.
(Image of puppets via Flickr/jaynemoo)