- Controversy erupts after Iranian president-elect describes Israel as "wound"
- Kerry: Egyptian army was "restoring democracy" in moving against Muslim Brotherhood-linked government
- U.S. lawmakers send letter slamming Turkish prime minister for anti-Semitism
- U.S. and Israel hold joint naval and air exercises, underscoring military ties
What we’re watching today:
- A Twitter-driven media controversy erupted this morning over an Al-Quds Day speech given by incoming Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, in which the president-elect described Israel as a "wound" on the "Muslim body." Al-Quds Day is an annual tradition invented in 1979 by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who explained at the time that it was meant to target the "usurper Israel." Original reports published by state-linked Iranian outlets indicated that Rouhani also called Israel a "wound" - also translated in some places as a "sore" - that needed to be "removed." The stance would echo the one expressed yesterday via the official Twitter feed of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. But other Iranian state-linked outlets later clarified that Rouhani merely limited himself today to calling the Jewish state a "wound," without explicitly calling for its removal. The distinction caused some journalists to declare that Rouhani was actually "remarkably mild, compared to others in Iran," an effort at interpretation that was openly mocked by foreign policy analysts. Other observers were even more blunt, accusing some journalists of "manufacturing another Iranian regime mistranslation controversy."
- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday emphasized that Egypt’s military was "restoring democracy" last month when it responded to a week of mass anti-government protests by stripping then-president Mohammed Morsi of power. Kerry said that the army acted in response to the requests of "millions and millions of people." Agence France-Presse today emphasized that the army's actions enjoy ongoing popularity, citing media reports trumpeting popular support. Egyptian outlet Al-Akhbar carried columns of support for army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, including exhortations to join anti-violence rallies that Sisi has urged Egyptians to engage in. For his part Sisi has continually emphasized the need for the army to transfer power to a civilian government in an orderly manner. Sitting Egyptian Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei gave an interview this week in which he expressed confidence that Sisi is not planning to run for president and that he "understands that there has to be a political solution."
- Forty-six U.S. lawmakers have sent a letter to Turkish President Abdullah Gul slamming Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for making anti-Semitic statements and calling on Gul to "publically condemn the use of anti-Semitic rhetoric by government officials." The bipartisan letter was prepared by Reps. Brad Schneider, Randy Weber, Lois Frankel, and Mark Meadows and cited numerous statements made by Erdogan in recent months. The signatories specifically singled out Erdogan's description of Zionism as a "crime against humanity." More recent statements, including the prime minister's repeated statements that an "interest rate lobby" was behind political unrest inside Turkey, also came in for criticism. The letter described the rhetoric as "a thinly veiled reference to Jews." Turkish diplomats were recently forced to scramble after past anti-Semitic statements by Erdogan reemerged, generating renewed speculation that his diplomatic conflicts with Israel were grounded in something other than the promotion of objective Turkish national interests.
- The Israeli Defense Forces and U.S. European Command yesterday concluded two weeks of military exercises as part of regularly scheduled training exercises between the allies. Juniper Stallion 13 and Noble Melinda 13, the concurrent air force and navy exercises that took place, were according to the IDF intended to "improve the interoperability and cooperation between the U.S. and Israeli air forces." The exercises come roughly a month after EUCOM Commander General Philip M. Breedlove met with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz to enhance military-to-military cooperation between Washington and Jerusalem. Recent months have seen a a sharp increase in exchanges designed to deepen U.S.-Israeli defense ties, with multiple top-level delegations traveling between the two countries. Top defense officials from both countries insist that those ties have never been stronger.
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