1) Iran vs. the world
The Washington Post reports U.S. officials among the targets of Iran-linked assassination plots:
The threat, many details of which were never made public, appeared to recede after Azerbaijani authorities rounded up nearly two dozen people in waves of arrests early this year. Precisely who ordered the hits, and why, was never conclusively determined. But U.S. and Middle Eastern officials now see the attempts as part of a broader campaign by Iran-linked operatives to kill foreign diplomats in at least seven countries over a span of 13 months. The targets have included two Saudi officials, a half-dozen Israelis and — in the Azerbaijan case — several Americans, the officials say.
In recent weeks, investigators working in four countries have amassed new evidence tying the disparate assassination attempts to one another and linking all of them to either Iran-backed Hezbollah militants or operatives based inside Iran, according to U.S. and Middle Eastern security officials. An official report last month summarizing the evidence cited phone records, forensic tests, coordinated travel arrangements and even cellphone SIM cards purchased in Iran and used by several of the would-be assailants, said two officials who have seen the six-page document.
Strikingly, the officials noted, the attempts halted abruptly in early spring, at a time when Iran began to shift its
tone after weeks of bellicose anti-Western rhetoric and threats to shut down vital shipping lanes. In March, Iranian officials formally accepted a proposal to resume negotiations with six world powers on proposals to curb its nuclear program.
That last paragraph is bewildering. The arrests mentioned occurred in the middle of March. Couldn't that have accounted for the attacks halting "abruptly," rather than, as the "officials" suggest, that Iran was softening its stance?
How does the United States react to this apparent "clenched fist?"
The Obama administration has declined to directly link the Azerbaijan plot to the Iranian government, avoiding what could be an explosive accusation at a time when the two governments are engaged in negotiations on limiting Iran’s nuclear program. U.S. officials say they are less convinced that top Iranian and Hezbollah leaders worked together to coordinate the attempted hits, noting that both groups have a long history of committing such acts on their own, and for their own purposes.
“The idea that Iran and Hezbollah might have worked together on these attempts is possible,” said a senior U.S. official who has studied the evidence, “but this conclusion is not definitive.”
2) ????? vs. Iran
A new computer threat against Iran has been discovered. The Washington Post reports, Newly identified computer virus, used for spying, is 20 times size of Stuxnet:
Flame contains 20 megabytes of code. Though malware’s size is not per se a measure of sophistication, Schouwenberg said, in this case “its size shows that it’s taken a lot of time and work to create.”
So far Kaspersky, which has clients around the world, has identified Flame infections primarily in Iran, Israel and other Middle Eastern countries but none in Europe or North America. The infections have hit computers belonging to individuals, educational institutions and state- related organizations, Kaspersky said.
The virus’s creators seemed interested in general intelligence — e-mails, documents, even instant messages, Kaspersky said. But the lab has no evidence so far to document any data stolen.
Kaspersky is a Russian anti-virus firm. I guess (but can't be certain) that they're in the employ of Iran.
Symantec, which has also begun analyzing Flame (which it calls “Flamer”), says the majority of its customers who have been hit by the malware reside in the Palestinian West Bank, Hungary, Iran, and Lebanon. They have received additional reports from customer machines in Austria, Russia, Hong Kong, and the United Arab Emirates.
Researchers say the compilation date of modules in Flame appear to have been manipulated by the attackers, perhaps in an attempt to thwart researchers from determining when they were created.
“Whoever created it was careful to mess up the compilation dates in every single module,” Gostev said. “The modules appear to have been compiled in 1994 and 1995, but they’re using code that was only released in 2010.”
3) Jenin and nation building
The Washington Post reports on the Drama in West Bank city of Jenin shows cracks in Palestinian nation-building project:
The Jenin events have alarmed the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, where officials are divided on the strategy of building state institutions as a step toward nationhood, and even defenders of the idea say its credibility has a limited shelf life.
“The calm and stability that you achieve in the occupied territories cannot be maintained for a long period of time without any sort of political progress toward a final agreement,” said Qais Abdul-Karim, a Palestinian lawmaker who said he never supported the state-building project. Today, he said, “there is a lot of unrest in the security services.”
What's frustrating about this way of portraying the security issue is that it ignores other factors.
One is that it is Abbas who has refused to negotiate. The lack of political progress is the fault of the Palestinians.
Two, even as Abbas insists that he is interested in peace with Israel, he seems a lot closer to Hamas. The New York Times reports, Hamas Takes Step Toward Palestinian Unity Government:
Mr. Haniya began talks with officials from the Central Elections Commission, a group appointed by President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority to begin registering voters in preparation for an election.
Hamas — among its many disputes with Mr. Abbas’s Fatah party and the Palestinian Authority — had banned the elections commission from operating in Gaza. That move had delayed a deal that Qatar brokered in February between Hamas and Fatah that envisioned the appointment of a transitional government that would rule both the West Bank and Gaza in preparation for elections.
Hanna Nasser, the head of the elections commission, told reporters after the meeting that Mr. Haniya had “blessed” its role in Gaza. “Now, the C.E.C. works in complete confidence,” he said.
This will likely amount to nothing as neither Hams nor Fatah seems willing to subordinate its will to the other. But Hamas should be beyond the pale if Fatah is interested in peace. Time after time, though, Abbas seeks agreements with Hamas without insisting that it change its official position regarding Israel.
Finally, the complaint that the security cooperation has a "shelf life" would be more convincing if the official Palestinian media wasn't regularly calling for the destruction of Israel.
Contrary to the Palestinian Authority's claim that it recognizes Israel's right to exist, PA TV and official cultural events continue to reinforce the message of non-recognition of Israel by depicting all of Israel as "Palestine."
This month marked the 27th broadcast by official PA TV of a song that presents all of Israel's land as Palestinian land. The song was originally performed at a Fatah event last year in the presence of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and many other senior PA officials. The Palestinian singer declares that "my land" and "our coast" span from Rosh Hanikra in Israel's north to Rafah in the Gaza Strip in the south, and from Haifa on Israel's western coast to Beit Shean on Israel's eastern border.
Nation building isn't the only obligation of the Palestinian Authority. Rejecting terror and promoting coexistence are parallel obligations that the PA still seems reticent to fulfill.
4) Not Jordan
Last week I wrote about Sen. Mark Kirk's efforts to have Palestinian refugees accounted for. I wrote that Jordan was against the effort.
An alert reader pointed out that I didn't read carefully enough:
An intensive background set of discussions took place between Leahy, the State Department, Kirk's office, and the Jordanian Embassy, two congressional aides told The Cable. Initially the Jordanians were inclined to oppose the amendment and agreed with Leahy, but after being given the final text, decided not to weigh in on what is essentially an internal U.S. government reporting requirement.
"The government of Jordan has informed congressional staff they do not oppose the Kirk amendment," one senior GOP Senate aide said. "That is definitely the correct decision for a foreign government, as this is simply a request for info on behalf of the U.S. taxpayer to the U.S. state department."