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Saturday, January 26, 2013
Excerpts:New Australian shale oil discovery. Iran stands as Syrias ally. Egypts National Defense Council calls for dialogue. Egypts high security alert re revolution anniversary. American Mumbai terrorist gets 35 years. Davos World Economic Forum findings

Excerpts:New Australian shale oil discovery. Iran stands as Syria's ally.
Egypt's National Defense Council calls for dialogue. Egypt's high security
alert re revolution anniversary. American Mumbai terrorist gets 35
years.Davos World Economic Forum findings.Palestinians seek talks with
Israel centrists. China's interest in the Mediterranean. UN-FAO issues
serious warning re Syria .addressing Egypt's infrastructure. Russia warns
Israel and West re Iran. North Korea names U.S. 'arch-enemy'.
Netanyahu-Obama ties, January 26, 2013

+++SOURCE: Saudi Gazette 26 Jan.’13:?Up to 233b barrels of shale oil
discovered in Australia?, by Agence France Presse
SUBJECT: New Australia shale oil discovery
QUOTE:?not yet known whether it was economic to recover or not’ “
FULL TEXT:SYDNEY – Australian resources firm Linc Energy said it had
uncovered a huge oil deposit in the nation’s vast outback in a discovery
hailed Thursday by officials as worth some Aus$20 trillion (US$21 trillion).
Linc said two independent reviews of its three deposits in central Australia’s
Arckaringa Basin had estimated there was some 233 billion barrels of shale
oil trapped within its rocks.
“Analysis presented in these reports indicates that the Stuart Range
formation and the underlying Boorthanna and Pre-Permian formations are rich
in oil and gas prone kerogen that may form the basis of a new liquids-rich
shale play,? Linc said in a statement.
The announcement saw Linc’s share price skyrocket 23.6 percent to close at
However, officials cautioned that it was too early to say whether the oil
could be profitably tapped, and the company sought to distance itself from
the high-end valuations.
“Obviously if you want to stand up there and come up with US$100 (current
value of a barrel of oil) times 100 billion barrels, you’ll come up with a
big number,? Linc chief Peter Bond told Fairfax newspapers.
“(But) that’s not how you value oil resources. We wouldn’t put a valuation
on it at this stage. It’s too hard.? Though playing down the Aus$20 trillion
estimates, Bond said there was still estimated to be a minimum of 3.5
billion barrels of shale in the deposits, a size that was “virtually unheard
of these days.?
“No matter how you look at it, it’s big,? he said, describing it as a
“multi-billion barrel opportunity?.
“Even stressing this number down to the minimum number the experts stress it
down to, it’s still a big story,? Bond added.
Linc said it had appointed Barclay’s Bank to find a joint venture partner
with shale oil expertise to help develop the deposit which it described as
“world class? and comparable to the Bakken and Eagle Ford projects in the
Tom Koutsantonis, mining minister in South Australia state, where the
deposit is located, had earlier said the sheer amount of oil could be enough
to see Australia become a self-sufficient net exporter.
“If the reserves and the pressure was right over millions of years and the
rocks have done the things they think they’ve done, they think they can
extract vast reserves of oil out of South Australia which would have a value
of about $20 trillion,? said Koutsantonis.
He warned that it was not yet known “whether it was economic to recover or
not?, with the oil trapped in “low-permeability, clay-rich rocks? that
needed to be fractured to release the fuel. — AFP

+++SOURCE: Saudi Gazette 26 Jan.’13:?Iran official:Attack on Syria is attack
on us?, by Associated Press
SUBJECT: Iran stands as Syria’s ally
QUOTE:? Velayati an advisor to Iran’s Supreme Leader …Khamenei …’an attack
on Syria is considered an attack on Iran and Iran’s allies?
FULL TEXT:TEHRAN, Iran — A senior Iranian official says his country
considers any attack against Syria an attack on itself, one of the most open
statements of support yet by Tehran to its ally.
Ali Akbar Velayati, an advisor to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei, was quoted by the semiofficial Mehr news agency on Saturday[26
Jan.] as saying that Syria plays a major role in the "resistance front" of
anti-Israel states and militant groups.
"For this same reason, an attack on Syria is considered an attack on Iran
and Iran's allies," he says.
Iran is Syria's most important ally in the Middle East. Tehran has provided
President Bashar Al-Assad's government with military and political backing
for years, and has kept up its strong support for the regime since the
uprising began in March 2011. — AP

+++SOURCE: New York Times 26 Jan.’13:?Egypt’s National Defense Council Calls
for Dialogue?, by Reuters
SUBJECT: Egypt’s National Defense Council calls for dialogue
QUOTE: ?Egypt’s National Defense Council . . . called for a broad national
dialogue to resolve political differences?
FULL TEXT:CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's National Defense Council, headed by
President Mohamed Mursi, condemned street violence on Saturday[26 Jan.] and
called for a broad national dialogue to resolve political differences, the
information minister said after the council met.
Information Minister Salah Abdel Maqsoud, who attended the meeting with
Mursi and other ministers including the defense minister who is a general in
charge of the army, said in a televised address the council could consider
declaring a state of emergency or a curfew in areas of violence if needed.
At least 39 people have been killed in violence in Port Said on Saturday[26
Jan.] over a court ruling and across the nation during Friday's[25 Jan.]
anti-Mursi protests.
(Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Jon Hemming

+++SOURCE: Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt Independent via Egypt Daily News 25 Jan.’13:?Interior
Ministry declares high alert on revolution anniversary?
SUBJECT: Egypt high security alert re revolution anniversary
QUOTE:?The ministry began implementing its emergency plan on Thursday[24
Jan.] morning?
FULL TEXT:The Interior Ministry issued a high security alert ahead of
protests on Friday[25 Jan.] that commemorate the second anniversary of the
25 January revolution, coinciding with the scheduled declaration of the
verdict in the Port Said Stadium massacre trial on Saturday 26 January.
Police officers will be deployed to secure public facilities, police
stations, embassies and government headquarters around the country.
Anticipating potential attempts to storm jails or central security
facilities, the ministry ordered the transfer of all inmates to central
prisons and issued instructions to lock down weapons.
The ministry began implementing its emergency plan on Thursday morning,
stationing riot police at high security facilities and churches, and issuing
instructions on how to deal with any violations of the law.
Forces on the ground were instructed to file a detailed report with the
ministry every hour on the progress of the demonstrations or any events that
might threaten public security on Friday.
Omar al-Sherbini, the director of the ministry’s department of air police,
said that the Air Force would not be involved with securing Friday’s
demonstrations. Its role was limited to monitoring public assemblies and
notifying a control center if alternative traffic routes need to be opened,
especially in the center of Cairo and high-traffic areas.
Air police would also monitor any riots or attacks on state institutions or
property and notify the appropriate security agencies, Sherbini told
Al-Masry Al-Youm.
Ministry sources said that security procedures have been ramped up at
airports, ports and borders in response to intelligence that dangerous
elements were potentially intending to harm public security and incite
Central Security Forces and Special Operations Forces have been widely
deployed around Cairo, said the sources, who requested anonymity.
Hassal al-Bardesy, the director of Cairo traffic, said traffic leading to
Tahrir Square and Abdel Moneim Riad Square would be rerouted on Friday to
prevent bottlenecks.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

+++SOURCE: Saudi Gazette 25 Jan.’13:?Chicago court hands (Mumbai
terrorist)Headley 35 years in prison sentence?, Associated Press
SUBJECT: American Mumbai terrorist gets 35 years
QUOTE: “Headley’s meticulous scouting missions . . . killed 160 people –
including children?
FULL TEXT:CHICAGO — An American was sentenced on Thursday[24 Jan.] to 35
years in prison for the key role he played in a 2008 terrorist attack on
Mumbai that has been called India’s 9/11.
David Coleman Headley’s meticulous scouting missions facilitated the assault
by 10 gunmen from a Pakistani-based militant group, which killed 160
people — including children.
“I don’t have any faith in Mr. Headley when he says he’s a changed person
and believes in the American way of life,? said US District Judge Harry
Leinenweber in imposing the sentence, which was in the range of what
prosecutors had requested for Headley’s widespread cooperation.
The attackers arrived by boat on Nov. 26, 2008, carrying grenades and
automatic weapons, and fanned out to hit multiple targets, including a
crowded train station, a Jewish center and the landmark Taj Mahal Hotel. TV
cameras captured much of the three-day rampage live.
The attack heightened the strain in a historically antagonistic relationship
between India and Pakistan, which have fought three major wars. Indian
officials accuse Pakistani intelligence of helping to plan the assault — an
allegation Pakistan denies.
The maximum sentence Headley, 52, faced Thursday[24 Jan.] was life in
prison. He agreed to cooperate with US authorities and plead guilty in 2010
to 12 counts to avoid what would have been his maximum sentence: death. He
also secured a promise not to be extradited to India.
Late year, India secretly hanged the lone surviving gunman, Mohammed Ajmal
Citing what they described as valuable intelligence Headley provided
authorities about terrorist networks since his arrest, prosecutors had asked
for a relatively lenient sentence of between 30 and 35 years.
The charges included conspiracy to aid the Pakistani-based group,
Lashkar-e-Taiba, that mounted the attacks, as well as conspiracy to commit
murder in India and aiding and abetting in the murder of six Americans.

+++SOURCE:Jordan Times 25 Jan.’13:?In Davos ,examining the Arab Spring’s
mixed bag?, Associated Press
SUBJECT: Davos World Economic Forum findings
QUOTE:?The convulsions of the Arab world are taking centre stage . . .
bewildering combination of high hopes, deep disappointments and grave
dangers that threaten to spill over borders?
FULL TEXT:DAVOS, Switzerland — The convulsions of the Arab world are taking
centre stage at this year’s World Economic Forum gathering in Davos, where
leaders and experts are much preoccupied with the region’s bewildering
combination of high hopes, deep disappointments and grave dangers that
threaten to spill over borders.
Along the way, a divide seems to be emerging between those fundamentally
impressed with the startling presence of once-unimaginable people power in
long-repressive countries — and others more troubled by the poverty and
corruption that persists, the instability that has resulted, and the rise of
both political Islam and jihadi insurgencies.
Asked whether democracy was prevailing in his native Egypt, former Arab
League secretary general Amr Musa hedged, saying democracy “is not only the
ballot box. It is the respect of human rights, for rights of women,
separation of powers, independence of the judiciary?.
“This meaning of democracy we have not yet achieved,? said Musa, who ran
unsuccessfully for president of Egypt last year.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, speaking on the same BBC-sponsored
panel, saw the glass half full.
“If we had this meeting two years ago in Davos, no one would imagine there
would be elected presidents in Cairo, in Tunisia, in Libya, in Yemen,? he
said. “So we have to be fair to these societies. In two years they achieved
a lot of things.?
Indeed, such intense focus on the Middle East was a far cry from the
situation here two years ago, when the Arab Spring was just beginning and
the region barely registered at a forum still focused on the global
financial crisis. This week, as Egyptians prepare to mark on Friday the
anniversary of the start of the revolution that swept aside Hosni Mubarak,
the issue seems to come up at every panel that even tangentially touches on
politics or strategy.
For many of the speakers, there is much to be disappointed about. The
uprisings that first began in Tunisia in December 2010 did bring down
dictators in Tunisia, Yemen, Libya and Egypt. But now as Islamists and
liberals wrangle over power, with the former mostly on top, democracy is far
from certain, and economies are crumbling.
Moussa and Davutoglu agreed that a key accomplishment from the past two
years was the casting aside of the notion that Arabs are condemned to
autocratic rule, a belief long accepted even by elites in the Arab world
More Arabs are politically engaged than ever before, demanding to be heard.
They’re learning what it means to question everything and everyone after
decades under heavy autocracies where discussion, innovation and public
participation were discouraged — or crushed.
But it can be a double-edged sword, breeding instability and even violence
when expectations cannot be met.
“On the one hand we have a political process which has really gone into
uncharted waters [and] has proven to be much more difficult [and] much more
divisive? than expected, said Tunisian economist Mustapha Kamel Nabli.
Especially worrisome is the economic situation in which many countries are
suffering low growth, high unemployment and fiscal difficulties, and yet
“expectations have never been so high? among a newly empowered public, he
“People want things now. People want jobs now. People want increased wages
now,? he said. At the same time, political players are not necessarily
responsible or capable enough to respond, he said. “This is not
Addressing the issue at a news conference at Davos, Egyptian Prime Minister
Hisham Qandil admitted that “economic challenges are clear in terms of high
poverty rate and unemployment and budget deficits? — but added that “we also
consider that the potential of the Egyptian economy is huge?.
Troubling in a different way is Syria — a hemorrhaging wound, with death and
destruction mounting in a civil war that the UN says has killed 60,000.
Neither the regime of Bashar Assad nor the rebels seeking to oust him seem
able to win, sectarian hatreds are burning ever stronger and the conflict
threatens to destabilise Syria’s neighbours.
Perhaps most worryingly for the West, armed Islamic militants, some with Al
Qaeda links, have emerged emboldened in Syria and elsewhere in the region,
and they are better armed, with weapons from Libya’s civil war now smuggled
freely from country to country.
“The dog that didn’t bark during the Arab Spring was Al Qaeda,? Vali Nasr,
dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins
University, told a panel devoted to “The Global Security Context?. Now Al
Qaeda “is finding very important pockets in Syria, in the Sinai Peninsula,
across North Africa in an arc from northern Nigeria through Mali and into
northern Somalia?.
Indeed, the presence of jihadis in the Syrian rebellion has certainly been a
major reason for the world community’s reluctance to arm the rebels or back
them in a way that goes much beyond the rhetorical.
More complex is the rise of political Islam, which seems to prevail wherever
free elections are held. The question on many minds is which way the Arab
version of this movement will go: towards a reasonably modern and liberal
model, like Turkey’s, or towards the repression of the Islamic Republic of
Iran? Even Saudi Arabia, a staunch ally of the West, is essentially a
discomfiting model — a place with no free elections, where women may not
drive and must be accompanied by male escorts for some of the most routine
Thus the new Islamist rulers in the region are constantly under scrutiny.
The main case in point is Egypt, where Islamist President Mohamed Morsi
narrowly won a June 2012 vote. Despite promises of inclusiveness, he has
kept policy-making and the choice of appointments almost entirely within the
Muslim Brotherhood.
Last month saw deadly riots over the contentious Egyptian constitution,
which critics say subtly but disturbingly opens the door to theocracy.
Islamists finalised the draft in a rushed, all-night meeting, throwing in
amendments to fit their needs, then pushed it through a swift referendum in
which only a third of voters participated. The result is a document that
could bring a much stricter implementation of Sharia, or Islamic law, than
modern Egypt has ever seen.
Opponents worry the group is virtually stepping into the shoes of Mubarak’s
former ruling party. The opposition has called for mass protests in Cairo’s
Tahrir Square and in major cities around Egypt on Friday to mark the January
25 anniversary of the anti-Mubarak uprising’s start. This time, the aim is
to show the extent of public anger against Morsi.
Is there a contradiction between Islam and democracy?
No, insisted Moussa, the former Arab League chief. “Most of us hate what Al
Qaeda is doing. Islamic society has nothing to do with this, and [Islam]
does not contradict democracy,? he said.
There remains the question of whether the spirit of revolt will eventually
reach the Arab monarchies of the Gulf. They have largely remained untouched
so far, with the exception of Bahrain, where Saudi Arabia and its allies
have helped put down an uprising by disenfranchised Shiites.

+++SOURCE: Jordan Times 25 Jan.’13:?Palestinians seek talks with Israel
centrists?, Agence France Presse
SUBJECT: Palestinians seek talks with Israel centrists
QUOTE:?The Palestinian leadership wants new dialogue with Israeli political
FULL TEXT:RAMALLAH — The Palestinian leadership wants new dialogue with
Israeli political parties, particularly centrists who emerged strong in this
week’s election, an official said Thursday[24 Jan.].
“The Palestinian leadership watches the results of the Israeli elections
with great interest, and we think that these elections constitute a new
chance for the Israelis to express themselves,? Yasser Abed Rabbo, an
official with the Palestine Liberation Organisation, told reporters.
“We are willing to open a dialogue with those Israeli parties who are
ready,? he added.
“We extend a political invitation to Israeli parties, particularly the new
ones among them, to open a dialogue before the formation of a new
government,? Abed Rabbo added in comments to AFP.
The invitation appeared to be directed in particular at the centrist Yesh
Atid Party, which claimed second place in the election, and HaTnuah, led by
former foreign minister Tzipi Livni.
The dialogue would “discuss the bases on which it is possible to negotiate
and the result that we seek from these negotiations,? he added.
Lapid, who is expected to be the second partner in Israel’s next government,
and has even been floated as a potential foreign minister, has said he
favours negotiations with the Palestinians.
But he opposes the sharing of Jerusalem with the Palestinians, who want the
eastern part of the city for their capital, and believes most of Israel’s
settlements in the West Bank should be annexed to Israel.
Peace talks have been on hold since September 2010, with the Palestinians
insisting on a settlement freeze before returning to the negotiating table
and the Israelis insisting on no preconditions

+++SOURCE: Jordan Times 25 Jan.’13:?China, Russia,US raise Mediterranean
naval focus?, Reuters
SUBJECT? China’s interest in the Mediterranean
QUOTE:?China . . .one of the dominant – if not the dominant -- Mediterranean
port operators.?
FULL TEXT:PORT SAID, Egypt — Egypt has seen no shortage of empires come and
go, from its own ancient civilizations to those of Greece, Rome, Britain and
France. Now, it is among the outposts of the latest Mediterranean power:
Situated at the northern end of the Suez Canal, the Port Said Container
Terminal is one of the busiest in the region, vital for shipments not only
to Egypt but also much of Europe and the Middle East.
Like several other key ports in the region — including Piraeus in Greece and
Naples in Italy — it is now partially owned by China. The state-owned Cosco
Pacific holds 20 per cent of the terminal, helping making it one of the
dominant — if not the dominant — Mediterranean port operators.
Cosco stresses that it is a purely commercial venture and many analysts
agree. But few doubt that Beijing has made a wider geopolitical decision to
become much more involved in the region.
For the last two years, the People’s Liberation Army Navy has sent one or
more warships through the Suez Canal to visit southern European ports, the
furthest its fleet has ever operated from home.
But China is not the only great power now increasing its involvement in the
area. With Russia sending warships to positions off Syria and the United
States signalling it too intends to take the region more seriously, the
Mediterranean is clearly no longer seen as the strategic backwater many
believed it had become.
“The assumption that the Mediterranean would become a purely Western sphere
of influence appears to have been premature,? says Nikolas Gvosdev,
professor of national security studies at the United States Naval War
College in Rhode Island.
“The Chinese are showing their flag in an area far from their traditional
area of operations in part to show that they are a global power. The renewed
Russian deployments are part intended as a sign that Moscow has not gone
Other strategic shifts are also taking place in the region.
The “Arab Spring? has unleashed a period of unrest and instability across
North Africa and beyond while the eurozone crisis has left troubled southern
European states struggling with debt and searching for ready investment.
Meanwhile, the gas platforms beginning to dot the disputed waters of the
eastern Mediterranean have unleashed a scramble for resources that has
further exacerbated pre-existing tensions between Cyprus, Turkey and Israel.
The US had hoped it could pull back from the area, helping transfer military
resources to the Pacific and South China Sea as part of a pivot to Asia
aimed heavily at containing a rising China. But last year’s Libya conflict
provided stark warning that European states had distinctly limited capacity,
and as the financial crisis bites defence budgets have been further cut.
“I don’t see a conflict,? says Gvosdev at the Naval War College. “But...
[it] does make it more difficult to do an Asia pivot on the cheap.?
US destroyers to Spain
In 2011 Admiral Gary Roughead — at the time Chief of Naval Operations and
the professional head of the US Navy — told senior officers the US needed to
return to the Mediterranean.
In the years since the end of the cold war and Balkan conflicts that
followed, the US had quietly stopped maintaining a permanent aircraft
carrier there as it focused on Iraq and Afghanistan and confrontation with
Limited resources mean putting a permanent carrier back in the region is all
but impossible. But other ships now look set to take up a much more
permanent presence.
Last year, the Pentagon announced it was deploying four state-of-the-art
missile destroyers to the Spanish port of Rota, in part to counter any
missile threat to Europe from Iran or elsewhere in the Middle East.
In November, as Israeli forces pounded Gaza in their brief air campaign
against Hamas, several US assault ships and escorts entered the eastern
Mediterranean in what was seen as a precursor to any evacuation of US
citizens. It was the sort of deployment military officials say will likely
become more common in the years to come.
Nor, current and former officials say, does Washington have any intention of
letting gas tensions between its various Eastern Mediterranean allies turn
into open conflict.
“The Maghreb and Levant are clearly going to be unstable for some time,?
Roughead, now retired and a senior visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution
at Stanford University, told Reuters. “The eastern Mediterranean is also
worrying. There’s no doubt it’s going to require more attention.?
Syria worries drive Russian presence
It was the positioning of a US carrier off Syria in November 2011 that
appeared to prompt one of the largest Russian naval moves in recent years.
As Bashar Al Assad’s crackdown on rebels and protesters became ever
bloodier, Washington had quietly moved it and its battle group towards
In what may or may not have been a direct response, Moscow sent its only
aircraft carrier — the Soviet era Admiral Kuznetzov — into the same area to
visit its naval base at Tartus. In Moscow, Russian officials gave distinctly
conflicting signals to local and international media, some denying any link
to the Syrian conflict while others saying it was a deliberate warning to
the West to back off.
On January 17, Russian news agencies again reported two warships were
heading to Syria for exercises and to deliver munitions to Tartus, although
it was not immediately clear whether that meant the undisclosed weaponry was
headed for Assad’s forces or Russia’s own stockpiles there.
The Russian naval base at Tartus remains Moscow’s only Mediterranean port.
Retaining access to it is seen as a major factor in Russia’s refusal to
abandon Assad.
When a Chinese destroyer and frigate sailed through Suez into the
Mediterranean in August last year, several analysts suggested they were
aiming to join joint naval exercises being held between Moscow and Damascus.
But instead, they sailed up through the Bosporus Strait to the Black Sea to
visit Ukraine, Bulgaria and Romania.
China’s ‘strategic ambivalence’
“The fact that it did not seize the opportunity to hold drills together with
the Russians could confirm that Beijing is not warming to the prospect of a
new cold war and continues to prefer strategic ambivalence about
polarisation,? Jonathan Holsag, research fellow at the Brussels Institute of
Contemporary China Studies, wrote in Chinese state-owned newspaper the
Global Times in August.
Some European and US security analysts remain nervous over the Chinese
expansion — particularly in Naples, where the Chinese-owned terminal
directly overlooks NATO’s main Mediterranean naval base. But in Greece, the
Chinese investment remains relatively popular. With the purchase of new
cranes and other equipment, Cosco has increased container traffic through
its terminal by some 70 per cent each of the three years of operation.
The vast majority of containers handled by the port are shipped on elsewhere
in the world, turning Piraeus into a much more significant international
“This investment has been very important for Greece,? says Tassos
Vamvakidis, deputy manager of the Cosco-run container terminal. “At a time
of economic difficulty, it is very important.?
One veteran British naval officer compared China’s approaching the
Mediterranean to that of Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries, when its
commercial expansion was at least as important as its military.
Chinese officials might object to that comparison. But there seems little
doubt they intend to stay — and that includes a high profile if occasional
military presence.
“There are many good reasons for Beijing to show its flag,? wrote Hoslag in
“Global Times?, a nationalist tabloid published by the Communist Party
mouthpiece the “People’s Daily?. “It is better to make countries around the
Mediterranean used to Chinese naval presence than to alarm them later on

+++SOURCE: The Syria Report 24 Jan.’13:?FAO Reports Massive Drop in Syria’s
Agricultural Production?
SUBJECT: UN-FAO issues serious warning re Syria .
TEXT:The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, has issued
an alarming statement on the state of the Syrian agricultural sector and on
its impact on both the levels of food supply and the livelihood of large
segments of the Syrian population.

+++SOURCE:The Syria Report 24 Jan.’13:?Stock Exchange Trading Volume Dropped
82 Percent in 2012?
SUBJECT:Syria Stock Exchange trading down 82% in 2012
TEXT:Two financial firms held together more than half of the brokerage
market share in the stock exchange last year as the volume of trading fell
82 percent on an annual basis, according to data published by the DSE

+++SOURCE: Egyptian Gazette 24 Jan.’13:?First things first?,by Ramadan
SUBJECT: Addressing Egypt’s infrastructure
QUOTE:?A string of recent tragic mishaps should send an urgent message to
Morsi that overhauling the country’s infrastructure brooks no further
FULL TEXT:CAIRO - President Mohammed Morsi is compromising his popularity
rates by not delineating his administration's priorities and for not saying
clearly how these priorities will be set in motion.
A string of recent tragic mishaps should send an urgent message to Morsi
that overhauling the country's infrastructure brooks no further delay.
Since taking office in June as Egypt’s first elected President, Morsi, an
engineering professor by profession, has seen the country’s socioeconomic
situation become more precarious.
In just two months, 70 people, including 51 schoolchildren, have been killed
in train crashes tragedies that could have been averted, had due attention
been given to formulating steps to upgrade the country’s ageing rail
Other public services such as healthcare, security, housing and education
are in a state of decay too.
At least 12,000 people die and 40,000 others are injured every year on the
nation’s roads, according to official figures, giving Egypt one of the world’s
worst safety records.
In Alexandria, where a recent collapse of a residential building left 28
people dead, there are 14,000 rundown tenements, according to the city’s
Governor, Mohammed Atta.
These buildings only represent a small percentage of the apartment blocks
constructed without permits around the nation. They could come tumbling down
upon the heads of their residents at any moment.
Morsi’s Government and allies, apparently trying to deflect criticism from
the opposition, argue that the after-effects of 30 years of Hosni Mubarak's
misrule cannot be erased in just a few months.
Yet with death lurking on the nation’s roads, aboard rickety trains, inside
inefficient public hospitals and within countless ramshackle homes, this
argument becomes increasingly unconvincing.
This rationale would have been tenable had a well-considered plan been made
public about the Government’s priorities and how they would be fulfilled
even if only gradually.
Appalled by the spike in deadly incidents, Egyptian cynics have updated the
famous slogan of the anti-Mubarak revolt from ‘Bread, Freedom and Social
Justice’ to ‘Bread, Freedom and Natural Death’!
Each and every Egyptian is aware of the bitter legacy of corruption and
neglect left behind by the Mubarak regime. We know what the disease is, as
well as its symptoms and causes. But is there a cure-all?
To many Egyptians, there is not much difference between the official
responses to tragic incidents during the Mubarak years and since his
Senior officials keep dishing out promises that things will improve. But, as
one catastrophe after the other has conspicuously shown, these promises are
The situation is going from bad to worse. Hatem Abdel Latif, recently named
as Transport Minister, last week admitted that 80-85 per cent of the train
carriages operated by the national railway service have gone beyond their
lifespan and should be decommissioned. The bulk of these carriages are used
by millions of poor commuters every day.
According to the same official, more than 50 per cent of the rail accidents
occur at level crossings. (In November, 51 schoolchildren died when their
bus was hit by a train at a rail crossing in Assiut, Upper Egypt.)
Is it so very difficult to improve the safety standards at these crossings?
Many other countries heavily depend on trains in transporting people and
goods. They have not witnessed tragedies like Egypt's.
Following last week’s train crash in Badrasheen, southwest of Cairo, the
Government pledged urgent allocations to meet the immediate needs of the
rail service.
Shouldn’t this money have been provided earlier, given that the Egyptian
rail service, the world’s second oldest, has long been notorious for
inefficiency and recurrent accidents?
President Morsi and his Government should not allow political wrangles over
coming parliamentary elections and the Constitution to distract them from
their main duty ��" making life better and safer for the people.
They have to outline their priorities to revamp the country’s infrastructure
facilities and pour into them the biggest possible slice of the State
budget. Non-governmental donors should be encouraged to chip in.
The ordinary people, worn out by futile political bickering, need to be
given hope that Egypt will get better in the short term. Action, not words
or scapegoating, is the best way to reassure Egyptians that their
two-year-old revolution is on the right track.

+++SOURCE: Saudi Gazette 24 Jan.’13:?Russia warns Israel and West against
attack on Iran? , by Agencies
SUBJECT: Russia warns Israel and West re Iran
QUOTE:? Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov mixed words of caution over
isolating Iran or attacking it with a gentle nudge to Tehran over the
inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency?
FULL TEXT:MOSCOW — Russia Wednesday[23 Jan.] warned Israel and the West
against any military strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities but suggested
Tehran should be quicker to cooperate over inspections of its nuclear sites.
Speaking at his annual news conference, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei
Lavrov mixed words of caution over isolating Iran or attacking it with a
gentle nudge to Tehran over the inspections by the International Atomic
Energy Agency.
“Attempts to prepare and implement strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities and
on its infrastructure as a whole are a very, very dangerous idea. We hope
these ideas will not come to fruition,? Lavrov said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hinted strongly at possible
military action to stop Iran from developing an atomic bomb. In an election
victory speech Wednesday, he said preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear
weapons would be the main challenge for a new government.
Referring to talks in which the IAEA has been trying to negotiate an
agreement for inspectors to gain access to sites, officials and documents,
Lavrov said: “The Iranians have said they want this document to be agreed in
full. We think our Iranian colleagues could do this a little bit faster.?
Speaking of separate negotiations between Iran and six world powers that are
trying to ensure it does not pursue a nuclear weapons program, Lavrov said
he was confident a new round of talks would be held but said a venue had not
yet been agreed.
Meanwhile, Iran has suggested that the next round of nuclear talks with
world powers should take place in Cairo, the ISNA news agency reported,
citing the Islamic state’s foreign minister.
“When I was in Egypt ... it was suggested that the next meeting be held in
Cairo,? Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted as saying by
ISNA Wednesday.
“This issue was welcomed by our dear friends in Egypt and Egypt will consult
with the P5+1 for hosting this meeting.?— Agencies

+++SOURCE: Naharnet (Lebanon) 24 Jan.’13:?North Korea Planning Nuclear Test
Aimed at ‘Arch- Enemy U.S.? Agence France Presse
SUBJECT: North Korea names U.S. ‘arch-enemy’
QUOTE:? ‘We do not hide that the various satellites and long-range rockets
we will continue to launch, as well as the high-level nuclear test we will
proceed with, are aimed at our arch-enemy the United States’

FULL TEXT: North Korea said Thursday[24 Jan.] it planned to carry out a
third nuclear test and more rocket launches aimed at its "arch-enemy" the
United States in response to tightened U.N. sanctions, but offered no

"We do not hide that the various satellites and long-range rockets we will
continue to launch, as well as the high-level nuclear test we will proceed
with, are aimed at our arch-enemy the United States," the National Defense
Commission said.

"Settling accounts with the U.S. needs to be done with force, not with
words," it added.

The mention of the test came towards the end of a commission statement
carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

It did not specify when the test might be carried out, saying only that it
would be part of an "upcoming all-out action" that would mark a "new phase"
of the country's anti-U.S. struggle.

It also did not elaborate on the meaning of "high-level.?

Some experts have predicted that the North's next atomic test might be of a
uranium bomb, rather than the plutonium devices it detonated in 2006 and

Such a development would indicate that North Korea had mastered the
sophisticated technology needed to produce highly enriched uranium (HEU).

"The statement reads like typical North Korean brinkmanship, and we can't
definitely say a test is imminent," said Kim Yong-Hyun, professor of North
Korea studies at Dongguk University.

"But it's highly possible that it will use HEU for the test when it
happens," Kim said.

Much of the statement was devoted to condemning Tuesday's[22 Jan.]
announcement by the U.N. Security Council of expanded sanctions against
Pyongyang in response to its long-range rocket launch last month.

"We absolutely refute all the illegal and outlawed resolutions adopted by
the Security Council," the commission said.

Tuesday's resolution, proposed by the United States, was adopted unanimously
by the 15-nation council, including the North's sole major ally China.

As well as adding a number of North Korea entities and individuals to an
existing U.N. sanctions list, the resolution threatened "significant action"
if the North stages a nuclear test.

North Korea's foreign ministry reacted defiantly on Wednesday, when it also
gave the first hint that Pyongyang would react with a nuclear test by vowing
"physical actions" to boost its nuclear deterrent.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency, citing a South Korean intelligence source,
reported that Pyongyang had finished technical preparations and could
conduct a test within days of a decision by leader Kim Jong-Un.

Last month, a U.S. think-tank reached a similar conclusion based on
satellite photos, suggesting the North had repaired rain damage at its
nuclear test site and could conduct a detonation at two weeks' notice

+++SOURCE: New York Times 24Jan.’13:?Netanyahu-Obama Ties May Thaw After
Israel Election?by Mark Lander
SUBJECT: Netanyahyu-Obama ties
QUOTE:?Netanyahu may have the chance to mend fences’?
FULL TEXT:WASHINGTON — For President Obama, whose relationship with Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has often resembled that of a couple
trapped in a loveless marriage, the last three months must have offered some
grim satisfaction.

In November, Mr. Obama won re-election over Mitt Romney, who had been the
not-so-subtle favorite of Mr. Netanyahu. Then on Tuesday, Mr. Netanyahu
stumbled in his own re-election bid, with his Likud Party holding enough
seats in Parliament to keep him in office but falling far short of
expectations in the face of surging centrist voters.

Still, there was no crowing at the White House, at least in public, as the
returns flowed in from Israel. Administration officials on Wednesday were
reluctant to comment on how Mr. Netanyahu’s setback may affect his relations
with Mr. Obama, especially since the Israeli leader has not yet begun the
work of cobbling together a governing coalition.

As they sifted through the implications, analysts said there was more than
vindication for Mr. Obama in Israel’s new political landscape.

Mr. Netanyahu’s weakened position could set the stage for, if not a “reset,?
to use the administration’s well-worn phrase, then an improvement in his
ties with the president.

If, as some analysts expect, Mr. Netanyahu seeks to put together a
center-right coalition that includes Yair Lapid, whose Yesh Atid party won
19 seats in the 120-seat Parliament, it could sand away the roughest edges
of Mr. Netanyahu’s existing right-wing coalition.

Mr. Lapid could push a new government in directions that would ease
longstanding sources of tension with Mr. Obama. For example, he is more
interested in creating jobs and providing housing than in expanding
construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, a recurring source of
friction between Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu.

With Ehud Barak, a hawkish former general, leaving the Defense Ministry, Mr.
Netanyahu may be under less pressure to consider a unilateral strike on Iran
over its nuclear program. That would be a relief to the White House, which
has had to plead with the Israelis for patience while it pursues a
last-ditch diplomatic effort with Tehran.

“A weaker Bibi heading a government with some centrists was the best outcome
the White House could have hoped for,? said Aaron David Miller, a longtime
Middle East negotiator, using Mr. Netanyahu’s nickname. “It gives them a
better chance to avoid war with the Iranian mullahs and preserve the chance
of a peace with the Palestinians.?

The most optimistic outcome, Mr. Miller said, would be a kind of “odd
couple? relationship between Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu, in which they
retain their differences over issues like settlements, but learn to manage
them more skillfully.

That would be no small step, given the mutual suspicion that has suffused
their relationship. White House officials alternately fumed and rolled their
eyes during the presidential campaign when Mr. Netanyahu appeared to tilt
toward Mr. Romney, inviting him to dinner at his home during the Republican
candidate’s visit to Jerusalem last July.

Mr. Obama, members of the Likud Party believe, returned the favor during the
Israeli election when Jeffrey Goldberg, an American journalist who writes
frequently about Israel, reported that the president had disparaged Mr.
Netanyahu after the Israeli government announced plans for settlements in a
contested area of the West Bank known as E1.

Mr. Goldberg quoted Mr. Obama as saying repeatedly, “Israel doesn’t know
what its own best interests are.? The White House did not confirm or deny
Mr. Obama’s comments.

But days before the election, Mr. Netanyahu shot back that “only Israeli
citizens will be the ones who determine who faithfully represents the vital
interests of Israel? — a vivid reminder of his chilly relationship with the
leader of Israel’s most important ally.

While in the past Israeli leaders — including Mr. Netanyahu himself during a
previous stint as prime minister — have been punished by Israeli voters for
mismanaging their relationships with American presidents, analysts were
reluctant to attribute too much of his troubles to Mr. Obama, given the
complexities of an election that surprised even the experts.

Still, as Martin S. Indyk, a former American ambassador to Israel, put it,
“the Israeli public cares about the relationship, and it didn’t help that he
mishandled it, and there was a reminder of how badly he mishandled it on the
eve of the election.?

Among the intriguing questions, Mr. Indyk said, is whether Mr. Lapid would
insist on concessions for joining a coalition with Mr. Netanyahu, like a
freeze in settlement construction. While Mr. Lapid’s party has put its
emphasis on concerns like jobs and housing, taking a stand on settlements
would signal a shift from the right’s agenda.

Almost no one predicts that a new Israeli government will suddenly allow Mr.
Obama to rekindle his first-term goal of a peace agreement between the
Israelis and Palestinians. Mr. Lapid’s party did not score its victory by
pushing to revive long-moribund peace talks. The political climate on both
sides remains hostile to such an effort.

Nor, after the frustrations of his first term, does Mr. Obama appear any
more likely to invest heavily in Middle East peacemaking. The president
scarcely mentions the subject these days.

While Mr. Indyk said that Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who
has been nominated to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state,
would make a game effort to preserve the two-state solution, he is no more
likely to achieve a breakthrough than Mrs. Clinton did.

Mr. Miller, now at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars,
said he had rarely seen a relationship as persistently dysfunctional as that
between Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu. A resounding Netanyahu victory would
only have exacerbated those strains.

Now, though, in the wake of his deflating victory, Mr. Netanyahu may have
the chance to mend fences, Mr. Miller said.

“The good news for Bibi, if he manages to put it together, is that a broader
government would ease tensions and make the next four years much less
rocky,? he said. “Netanyahu will be able to preside over a much more
functional relationship with the United States.?
Sue Lerner - Associate, IMRA

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