The Envoy
  • Obama to Netanyahu: Give Iran diplomacy more time

    Pres. Obama met with Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu at the White House Monday. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held one of their more studiously cordial meetings at the White House Monday. But the concerted effort to project a united front--after a few previous prickly encounters--did little to mask the fact that there are genuine differences and tensions in the allies' views on how to deal with the Iran nuclear program and in what time-frame, analysts said.

    "Both the prime minister and I prefer to solve this diplomatically," Obama said at the top of his three-hour meeting with the Israeli leader, echoing the thrust of his comments to the pro-Israel lobby group the American Israel Public Affairs committee (AIPAC) Sunday. The administration has continued to push diplomacy as the key to getting Iran to agree to curb its nuclear program.

    "Ultimately Iran has to make the decision to move in that direction," Obama said, adding that if that fails, however, "When I say all options are on the table, I mean it."

    "Israel and America stand together," Netanyahu said Monday. But Israel reserves the right to defend itself, he asserted: Israel is "the master of its fate," he said.

    "Really it's in the interest of both Netanyahu and Obama to try to put some of the past tension behind them," Haim Malka, a Middle East analyst at the Center for Strategic Studies told Yahoo News in an interview Monday. "And I think on the PR-front the atmospherics have been good."

    "Obama, in his speech to AIPAC, made a strong case for his ongoing commitment to Israel's security; but at same time he was clear about maintaining his own position and not getting locked into Netanyahu's red lines," Malka continued. "I think Netanyahu came here with the clear objective to move the president on the red lines and on the timeline."

    But Obama held his ground, Malka noted. "The president said very clearly —he thinks there's a chance for a diplomatic route," he said.

    "In essence, [Obama's statements] are a mix of reassurance ('We've got this') and dissuasion ('Don't do this')," Colin Kahl, former deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East in the Obama administration, told Yahoo News by email Monday

    American and Israeli leaders publicly agree that Iran will not be permitted to get a nuclear weapon—if need be, both say they will resort to military force to destroy Iran's known enrichment and ballistic missile facilities. But they disagree about whether diplomacy or force would do more to set back Iran's nuclear effort, and how much time there is to act.

    "The U.S. takes the attitude that we want to permanently solve the problem of the Iran nuclear program," Patrick Clawson, deputy director of research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Yahoo News in an interview. "And the only way to [permanently solve the problem] is to persuade the Iranians to come to an agreement."

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  • Egypt Islamist lawmaker fired for nose job

    Al Arabiya published a file photo of Egyptian lawmaker Anwar el-Balkimy March 5, 2012. (Via New York Times)It's the cover up, not the crime, that leads to downfall, observers of political scandals have long noted.

    So learned newly elected Egyptian Islamist lawmaker Anwar el-Balkimy, who was unceremoniously booted from his ultra conservative political party Monday after it was revealed that he had undergone a nose job—and lied about it.

    Balkimy had previously claimed that the bandages on his face covered injuries sustained in a vicious beating, the New York Times' David Kirkpatrick reports. But the doctors "at the private hospital where Balkimy" received his plastic surgery "spoke out against the brazenness of his lies," he writes.

    The newly elected parliamentarian faced a quandary, however. Balkimy was—until Monday—a member of the ultra conservative Nour Party, whose Salafist adherents eschew plastic surgery among other indulgences of modern cultural life viewed as morally corrupting.

    But his little white lie caused embarrassment to his conservative Islamist political allies, several of whom visited him in the hospital and ordered an investigation into the alleged beating. 

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  • Iran repeals death sentence for former U.S. Marine

    Amir Hekmati on vacation in September 2010. (Courtesy of Amir Hekmati family, Yahoo News)On Monday, Iran's supreme court vacated the death sentence for a former U.S. Marine held since August on suspicions of spying, Iranian state media reported.

    In December, Iranian authorities accused Amir Hekmati, 28, a former U.S. Marine linguist from Michigan, of having come to Iran to spy for the CIA. But his family and friends as well as the U.S. government say the charges are bogus; his family contends that Hekmati went to Iran in August with the permission of the Iran "interests section," or its embassy-like body in Washington, D.C., to visit his elderly grandmothers. They expressed shock when an Iran revolutionary court reportedly sentenced Hekmati to death at a closed-door trial in January.

    On Monday, Hekmati's sentence was overturned, Iran's judiciary said, but it gave little in the way of explanation.

    "The supreme court nullified the execution sentence against Amir Mirza Hekmati and sent it to an affiliate court," said Iranian judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei to

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  • Hamilton dodges downpour to grab Malaysia pole
    Hamilton dodges downpour to grab Malaysia pole

    Peerless Lewis Hamilton waited out a torrential downpour before snatching pole position at the Malaysian Grand Prix in a wet and wild qualifying session on Saturday. The Mercedes driver and reigning world champion set a fastest time of 1min 49.834sec, ahead of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, after rain halted qualifying for 35 minutes. The commanding drive from Hamilton, hit by mechanical problems this week, will fuel his charge towards a second race win after he dominated the season-opener in Australia. Vettel was the day's other big winner and he whooped and hollered to his team as he seized second place from Mercedes' Nico Rosberg in the dying seconds.

  • Grid for Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix
    Grid for Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix

    Sepang (Malaysia) (AFP) - Grid for Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix after qualifying on Saturday. Race starts at 3:00 pm (0700 GMT) on Sunday:

  • Bieber set for Mayweather's ring walk
    Bieber set for Mayweather's ring walk

    Pop music star Justin Bieber says he'll be at Floyd Mayweather's side when the unbeaten American walks to the ring on May 2 to take on Manny Pacquiao in their welterweight world title super-fight. Bieber, a friend of Mayweather who has accompanied the fighter to the ring at other fights, told celebrity website TMZ.com that he would be part of the boxer's entourage for the long anticipated bout with Filipino ring icon Pacquiao in Las Vegas. Bieber, a onetime teenage heart-throb, has in recent years found himself in trouble for run-ins with authority ranging in seriousness from egg-throwing vandalism to alleged assault on a photographer in Argentina and a limo driver in Canada. Rapper Ludacris told interviewer DJ Envy on the radio show "The Breakfast Club" that Mayweather, whose unblemished 47-0 record has helped him become the highest-paid sportsman in the world, is training as never before.

  • Casillas selected ahead of in-form De Gea
    Casillas selected ahead of in-form De Gea

    De Gea has been in sensational form for Manchester United this season, while Casillas has come under increasing pressure at Real Madrid due to high-profile errors against Atletico Madrid and Schalke in recent months. There is widespread speculation that De Gea could even replace Casillas at Madrid next season with his contract at United due to expire in 2016 and talks over a new deal having stalled.

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