To Read: While much has been said and written about what the Hagel nomination might imply regarding a possible attack of Iran, RAND’s Alireza Nader's look at the nomination from the Iranian perspective raises some interesting points:
The Iranian regime is hardly cheering Hagel on, despite what some of his critics say. Yes, Hagel sounds cautious about a U.S. bombing campaign against Iran’s nuclear facilities, but such a campaign isn’t what keeps the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, up at night. An American strike would spur the Iranian public to rally around the flag and buck up a wobbling, wheezing theocracy — and an Israeli strike would do so in spades.
The Iranian leadership’s real worry is not American planes but Iranian protesters. Their deepest anxieties revolve around a Persian version of Tahrir Square, a replay of the 2009 Green uprising that wasn’t ended by the regime’s violent repression. Strange as it may sound, the Islamic Republic is a lot more frightened of the imprisoned Iranian human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh than it is of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Quote: "You are holding a gun against Iran saying you want to talk. The Iranian nation will not be frightened by the threats”, Khamenei about The United States’ calls for dialogue.
Number: $85 billion, the first installment of the automatic Pentagon spending cuts that will take effect in March 1st, unless Congress reaches agreement.
To Read: FP’s Natan Sachs thinks that Obama should not ‘promise Israelis the moon’ but should not ‘give up on the moon’ as well in his upcoming trip to Israel:
Obama faces a complex task, to say the least. But while his goals should be broad, his aim should be narrow. He needs to restate clearly his vision of peace and re-energize the efforts to prevent backsliding without appearing naïve or, conversely, creating unrealistic expectations. He needs to impress upon Israelis his proven commitment to the U.S.-Israeli alliance while remaining true to U.S. interests. And he needs to capture the hearts of cynical publics -- Israeli and Palestinian -- without losing sight of the grim and volatile realities of the contemporary Middle East. Despite the potential pitfalls and the formidable challenges, the president should be commended for re-engaging the region. True, it's never easy to win friends and influence enemies in the Middle East, but at least it's warm and the food is fantastic. Good luck, Mr. President.
Quote: "I'm sure that any time the president and prime minister have a discussion and certainly any time the president has a discussion with leaders of the Palestinian Authority, that those issues are raised. But that is not the purpose of this visit", White House Spokesman Jay Carney about the role of the peace process in Obama’s visit.
Number: 60, the percentage rise in the number of single moms in Israel in the past decade.
The Middle East
To Read: According to Karim Sadjadpourand and Firas Maksad, the Syrian conflict could be seen as a tug-a-war between Syrian hatred towards the US and Syrian hatred towards Iran-
As Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad clings mercilessly to power, hopes that his regime will be replaced by a stable, tolerant democracy are being dwarfed by fears of prolonged sectarian strife and Islamist radicalism. The outcome will hinge in part on a simple question: Whom do Syria’s diverse rebels hate more, the U.S. or Iran?
Quote: "We are consulting about forming a government of national accord. Preparations for presidential, parliamentary and executive council elections are under way. We are reinvigorating the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organisation) and organising its meetings until new national council and executive committee are elected", Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal discussing unity talks between Hamas and Fatah in the Palestinian authority.
Number: 763,000, a new assessment of the number of Syrians who have fled the country since the crisis began.
The Jewish World
To Read: Andrew Apostolou believes that the dwindling numbers of practicing Jews in other movements is not a good sign for the orthodox community:
The Orthodox assumption that they will replace the non-Orthodox is a delusion. Orthodox Jews constitute less than 15 percent of the American Jewish population. Their high birthrate cannot compensate for the massive losses among the other denominations and the unaffiliated. Also, the substantial reproduction rate among haredi Jews, the so-called ultra-Orthodox, may not continue indefinitely. As they climb the economic ladder, their families are likely to become smaller.
Quote: “If you want to go to a university where the government decides what kind of subjects are fit for discussion, I suggest you apply to a school in North Korea”, mayor Bloomberg responding to demands for the cancellation of an anti-Israel panel at Brooklyn college.
Number: 45, the percentage increase in Anti-Semitic incidents in the past year in France.