Posted by Albert Gersh - February 11, 2014
- Anniversary of Islamic Revolution marked with huge rallies, chants of "Death to America" and "Death to Israel"
- Iran president declares nuclear tech pursuit will go on "forever," after Supreme Leader dismisses compromise with U.S.
- Analysts focus on Palestinian corruption as political, economic, and security concerns deepen
- Media reports of Israeli "diplomatic isolation" questioned as Israel gains two more memberships in multilateral institutions
- The New York Times on Tuesday described the festive mood at celebrations held today in Tehran to mark the 35th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, reporting that "clowns explained to children the importance of brushing their teeth," "parachutists dropped candy into the crowds," and attendees were led in chants of "Death to America," "Death to Obama," "Death to Kerry," and "Death to [State Department Undersecretary Wendy] Sherman." Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that speakers and crowds had also indulged in chants of "Death to Israel," though those had eluded mention by the Times. The event came a day after the insidery NightWatch security bulletin emphasized policy consistency across the administrations of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, assessing that "Muslim zealots remain in control in Tehran... [and] their political theology relative to the destruction of Israel matches that of the Sunni jihadists" and that "Rouhani is no more tolerant of Israel and the U.S. than is [Al Qaeda leader Ayman] Zawahiri."
- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani declared on Tuesday that Iran would continue bolstering its atomic program "forever," the latest in a string of intransigent statements from top Iranian officials that had already weeks ago been labeled a diplomatic "train wreck" by CNN host Fareed Zakaria. Rouhani's boasts came a few days after Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei dismissed hopes for a compromise with the U.S., instructing Iranians to "pay attention to the recent negotiations and the rude remarks of the Americans so that everyone gets to know the enemy well" and blasting Washington for "hypocrisy and the bad and evil will of the enemy." Reuters noted for readers that 'Rouhani's comments appeared largely aimed at a domestic audience rather than signaling any shift away from a thawing in Tehran's ties with the West,' analysis that has become a mainstay of media reports and political analysis dismissing these and similar statements. Rouhani, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, and former top nuclear negotiator Hossein Mousavian have all in recent weeks, for instance, flatly declared that Iran would not consent to dismantling uranium enrichment centrifuges. A report published last month by the U.S.-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) calculated that Iran would minimally have to dismantle roughly 15,000 centrifuges, alongside a series of other concessions, under any nuclear deal that could credibly claim to verifiably put Tehran's nuclear program beyond use for weaponization.
- A series of recent reports and developments have refocused attention on links between weak Palestinian institutions and endemic Palestinian corruption, underlining decades-old worries that internal structural barriers that may hamper the creation of a viable Palestinian state. Analysts have long called attention to at least four fundamental dynamics that risk rendering any Palestinian state a failed state: a lack of political legitimacy for Palestinian governments, a lack of economic sustainability in either the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, the existence of rival governments in territories claimed by the Palestinians for a state, and the inability of Palestinian governments to check armed groups unconnected to those governments. The Jerusalem Post reported over the weekend that pressure is mounting on Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to appoint a deputy president. Abbas is more than halfway through the ninth year of his four-year term as president, and mounting accusations of corruption throughout 2013 - to say nothing of long-held suspicions of deep-seated corruption - have sapped the PA's political legitimacy. Shin Bet head Yoram Cohen last week blasted the PA as a "corrupt" organization and assessed that a recent uptick in Palestinian violence stemmed from the lack of a "financial horizon" in the West Bank. Last October the European Court of Auditors reported that roughly billions of euros of European assistance provided to the PA between 2008 and 2012 had been "misspent, squandered or lost to corruption." Auditors specifically cited "high-level risks, such as corruption or funds not used for their intended purpose." For its part The New York Times on Monday published an expose on what the outlet described as the "personal conflict" of Palestinians who work in Israeli-owned businesses in the West Bank where - because those businesses are subject to Israeli rather than Palestinian laws - they receive benefits and compensation orders of magnitude over what they would otherwise earn. The story cited multiple "Palestinian officials and boycott advocates" who blamed Israeli for "the moribund Palestinian economy." It is not clear how to what degree the reporting aligns with recent analysis and developments.
- Israeli officials today announced that the Jewish state had gained membership in two international organizations, one focused on democratic norms and the other emphasizing trade liberalization, with the country's foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, pointedly noting that the developments contrast sharply with "reports of diplomatic isolation or a wave of boycotts threatening Israel." Israel formally joined deliberations with JUSCANZ, a 15-nation consultative grouping of non-European Union democracies linked to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, upping its standing in the body and redressing what Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor described as a "historic wrong." Prosor contextualized the decision as evidence "of the international respect for Israel democracy." The U.S. and Canada were reportedly critical in securing Israel's admission, and the Jerusalem Post noted that it came two months after Jerusalem was also admitted to the U.N.'s Western European and Others Group. Lieberman also announced that Israel had been granted observer status in the Pacific Alliance, a bloc of five Latin American member states – Costa Rica, Chile, Peru, Colombia, and Mexico - focused specifically on generating growth via policies promoting trade liberalization. The ascension will allow Jerusalem to take part in the alliance's staff work and attend its conferences. Israel is the first Middle Eastern country to secure the status.
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