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Thursday, January 17, 2013
Excerpts: Iran plans fresh naval Mediterranean mission. Obama comments re Israel. US. Senator Rand re US/Israel relations January 17, 2013

Excerpts: Iran plans fresh naval Mediterranean mission. Obama comments re
Israel. US. Senator Rand re US/Israel relations January 17, 2013
+++SOURCE: Naharnet (Lebanon) 17 Jan.’13:”Iran Navy Plans Fresh
Mediterranean Mission”, Agence France Presse
SUBJECT: Iran plans fresh naval Mediterranean mission

QUOTE:”Iran . . .intention of boosting its presence in international waters”

FULL TEXT:Iran plans to dispatch a small naval fleet to the Mediterranean in
line with its intention of boosting its presence in international waters,
its navy chief was cited by the media Thursday[17 Jan.] as saying.

The deployment will mark Iran's third mission since the 1979 Islamic
revolution to the Mediterranean. Iranian warships docked at Syrian ports in
2011 and 2012.

The fleet will go through "the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Aden, Bab
al-Mandeb, the Red Sea, Suez Canal and then into the Mediterranean Sea in a
three-month mission," navy chief Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayari told the
Fars news agency.

He said the fleet, whose composition was not given, would leave in "the
coming days."

It was unclear whether the fleet would visit ports in Iran's regional ally
Syria. US officials accuse Iran of providing Syria with arms and military
advisers.

In February 2011, two Iranian warships passed through the Suez Canal into
the Mediterranean, sparking an outcry from Israel. They docked later at the
Syrian port of Latakia.

A year later, an Iranian fleet of a destroyer and supply vessel made the
same trip, this time calling at the Syrian port of Tartus.

Sayari said the fleet would also make its way to southeast Asia, without
giving details.

Fars said the fleet would go to Malacca strait, through which more than 30
percent of global trade and half the world's oil shipments pass.

Iran's navy has been boosting its presence in international waters since
2010, deploying vessels in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden on missions to
protect Iranian ships from Somali pirates.

Iran's navy, with 17,000 servicemen, is tasked with defending Iranian
interests in the Indian Ocean and beyond. Its offshore forces are limited to
half a dozen small frigates and destroyers, and three Russian Kilo class
submarines.

+++SOURCE:Jordan Times 17 Jan.’13:”Obama reportedly sees Netanyahu as
‘political coward’“
By Agence France Presse

[IMRA NOTE: Agence France Presse ‘political coward’ remark attributed to
Obama in headline, appears in text as made by Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey
Goldberg.]

SUBJECT: Obama comments re Israel

QUOTE:”P.M. Netanyahu: Only the people of Israel can decide who will
represent their best interests”

FULL TEXT:OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Only the people of Israel can decide who will
represent their best interests, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on
Wednesday[16 Jan.] in remarks directed at US President Barack Obama a week
before a general election.

“I think everyone knows that the citizens of Israel are the only ones who
can decide who will faithfully represent the vital interests of the state,”
he said.

His remarks came in response to an article by prominent Bloomberg columnist
Jeffrey Goldberg in which he quoted Obama as saying repeatedly: “Israel
doesn’t know what its own best interests are.”

Obama, he wrote, appeared to see Netanyahu as a “political coward” vis-a-vis
the peace process with the Palestinians who was completely “captive to the
settler lobby”, and whose ongoing settlement activity was moving Israel
“down a path towards near total isolation.”

Senior figures from Netanyahu’s ruling rightwing Likud Party reacted
furiously, accusing the US leader of “gross interference” in the upcoming
election, which is widely expected to see Israelis reelect their hawkish
prime minister.

“Over the last four years, we have faced tremendous pressure and we will
continue to stand up for the vital interests of Israel and its security,”
Netanyahu told reporters on a tour of an army base near Gaza, his remarks
broadcast on public radio.

Until now, there had been no official response to the article, which on
Wednesday dominated the headlines in the newspapers as well as on Israel’s
main television and radio stations.

“This is gross interference by the US president in the elections in Israel,”
senior Likud officials told Israel HaYom, while others told The Jerusalem
Post he was “taking revenge” for the Israeli leader’s overt support for
Obama’s rival during the presidential race in November.

But Danny Danon, number five on the Likud list, put a positive spin on Obama’s
“intervention”, saying it would chalk up more votes for the premier.

“Any external intervention attempt only brings us more seats,” he told
Yediot Aharonot.

Opposition figures leapt at the chance to attack Netanyahu.

“Anyone who still thinks things will be okay woke up this morning to a very
clear and sharp statement by the US president, who says that Israel’s prime
minister is leading the state of Israel into severe isolation,” said
ex-foreign minister Tzipi Livni, head of the centrist HaTnuah faction.

In the article, Goldberg wrote that Obama was unsurprised when Israel
announced plans to build in E1, a highly sensitive area of West Bank land
near Jerusalem, suggesting it was “what he has come to expect” from
Netanyahu’s “self-defeating policies”.

Although the US would not cut off its aid to Israel, Obama was not likely to
“waste his time on Mideast peace” and the Jewish state could soon notice a
“significant shift” on the diplomatic front, he wrote.

“It is in terms of American diplomatic protection — among the Europeans and
especially at the UN — that Israel may one day soon notice a significant
shift,” he said, suggesting the US may fail to whip up votes against
perceived anti-Israel resolutions, and could even itself abstain.

In an editorial, the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper said the piece provided
serious food for thought for voters just six days before the election

+++SOURCE: Washington Post 17 Jan.’13
“Sen. Rand Paul (Melina Mara/Washington Post)”

SUBJECT: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul re US/Israel relations

QUOTE:”” Senator Rand Paul:’no one can really know as much as people in the
region’ “

FULL TEXT:In a conference call today[16 Jan.] with a small group of
journalists, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said that President Obama was “arrogant
and presumptuous” in saying in recent weeks that Israel “doesn’t know what
its own best interests are.”

“That’s an arrogant and presumptuous point of view and doesn’t further
progress on anything,” the senator said, and he returned to that view
throughout the call as he discussed the location of Israel’s capital and
Israeli settlements. Paul decried U.S. politicians who display “this
flippant and arrogant” attitude about internal Israeli affairs, saying that
“no one can re:ally know as much as people in the region” about such
matters. “It is not up to the U.S. to dictate” to mayors and West Bank
officials where housing goes, Paul added.

Paul said he considers himself more pro-Israel than some pro-Israel
audiences because “I’m for an independent, strong Israel that is not a
dependent state, not a client state.”

The conference call came on the heels of Paul’s recent trip to Israel, and
he repeatedly affirmed that he considers the United States to be a good
friend of Israel and vice versa.

Paul said he went to the Middle East to learn more about the issues (“I feel
like I got a better handle on things”) and to let people know “how
appreciative” he is of the U.S.-Israeli alliance — a partnership, he
stressed, that was “very important.” “America is and always has been a great
friend of Israel,” he said.

Asked about his position on Chuck Hagel’s nomination as defense secretary,
Paul said that he had been reading about Hagel but “I haven’t decided yet.”
That said, a number of the positions Paul took in the conference call seemed
to directly conflict with Hagel’s more controversial utterances. Moreover,
the senator’s obvious desire to convey pro-Israel credentials will make it
difficult for him to vote to confirm. With near-unanimity among Republicans
so far against Hagel, Paul may find that his efforts to reposition himself
within the GOP on Israel would crumble if he were to support the president’s
pick.

Paul clarified that his views on cutting U.S. foreign aid would entail
nothing “immediate, dramatic or draconian” for Israel. “I didn’t see anyone
in Israel burning the American flag,” he remarked. Restrictions should be
applied, he argued, to “people who are not necessarily friends of the U.S.
or friends of Israel.” He said, however, that he embraces the view shared by
some right-leaning politicians in Israel (including pro-settler politician
Naftali Bennett, whom he met during the trip) that their country would do
better if its dependency on U.S. aid were reduced.

And he was unequivocal in his support for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense
system: “I’m absolutely in favor of it.” He said he would have to look at
how it is funded. Paul also stressed that the United States should have
anti-missile defense systems, something Hagel has strenuously opposed. He
also clearly acknowledged, for the first time that I am aware, that the U.S.
derives “shared intelligence, shared information and shared military
capability” from the military alliance with Israel.

The senator went on to reiterate his concerns about Egypt: “We should not be
giving Egypt F-16s and Abrams tanks,” he said pointing to President Mohamed
Morsi’s recent anti-Israel statements. He cautioned, “We may be feeding an
arms race.”

On the subject of the capital of Israel, he said, “For every other country
in the world, we recognize the capital that that country says is the
capital.” He acknowledged, however, that a move of all embassies might be
“provocative.”

And he said he was averse to U.S. military action in Syria because of his
concern about al-Nusra and al-Qaeda elements among the rebels opposing
Bashar al-Assad’s regime

==========
Sue Lerner - Associate, IMRA

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