Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Risks Grow of Terrorists Getting Nukes - Hilary Leila Krieger (Jerusalem Post)
- March 29
Issue of the Week:
Jews in the Muslim World Today
Israeli Ambulance Enters PA to Save Baby - Lilach Shoval (Ynet News)
UK Vows Crackdown on Anti-Semitism - Duncan Campbell and Matthew Taylor (Guardian-UK)
UN Watch: "UN Is Human Rights Nightmare" - Yaakov Lappin (Ynet News)
U.S. Demands Syria Release Political Prisoners (Reuters)
Kidnapped BBC Reporter Still Missing in Gaza - Donald Macintyre (Independent-UK)
Pakistan: Karachi's Madrasas and Violent Extremism (International Crisis Group)
First Temple Wall Found in City of David - Etgar Lefkovits (Jerusalem Post)
A Passover Prayer for Israel's Missing Soldiers (FreeTheSoldiers.org)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
The UN Security Council said Iran should release 15 UK sailors seized in the Persian Gulf. Council members want "an early resolution to this problem, including the release of the 15 UK personnel,'' Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo of South Africa, which holds the body's rotating presidency, said in a statement issued Thursday in New York.
The Security Council's statement replaced a stronger draft proposed by the UK "deploring'' Iran's actions. Russia led calls for the wording to be changed, objecting to the Council taking the British position that its vessels were operating in Iraqi waters. (Bloomberg)
See also Iran Agrees to Give UK Access to Sailors - Thomas Harding, George Jones and Stewart Payne
Iran has offered to give British officials access to the 15 captured sailors and Marines. Manouchehr Mottaki, the Iranian foreign minister, said: "We have accepted that [the British request], there is no problem. Measures are under way. They can meet them." (Telegraph-UK)
Bush administration attempts to revive Arab-Israeli peace talks suffered a setback Wednesday as leaders at an Arab League summit in Riyadh, including the heads of state of several U.S. allies, condemned Washington's foreign policy and refused to budge on a peace proposal that Israeli officials have criticized. Saudi King Abdullah condemned the "illegitimate foreign occupation" of Iraq, and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa lamented "the absence of honest mediation" in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Abdullah condemned the U.S.-backed aid boycott of the PA government led by Hamas militants who don't recognize Israel's right to exist. (Los Angeles Times)
See also U.S. "Surprised" by Saudi Comments on American Role in Iraq - David Gollust
The Bush administration Thursday expressed surprise, and said it was seeking clarification, over remarks by Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah at the Arab League summit that the U.S. role in Iraq was an "illegal foreign occupation." (VOA News)
See also Israel: Arab Peace Plan "Interesting" - Steven Gutkin
Israeli officials spoke positively about Thursday's relaunching of a 2002 Arab peace initiative at the Arab League summit. "In general there's no question that the prime minister and government of the state of Israel see the Saudi initiative as interesting and as the possible basis for a dialogue. But that doesn't mean we accept it from A to Z," Israeli government spokesman Miri Eisin said. (AP/Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Recent modifications made to the Arrow enable Israel's ballistic missile defense system to successfully intercept and destroy any ballistic missile in the Middle East, including nuclear-capable missiles under development by Iran, said Arieh Herzog, the head of the Defense Ministry's Homa Missile Defense Agency. "Our Arrow operational system can without a doubt deal with all of the operational threats in the Middle East, particularly in Iran and Syria," he declared. Such a system also serves as a deterrent. "If someone thinks that a large percentage of his missiles will be intercepted, he will think twice before attacking," Herzog said. (Jerusalem Post)
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Jerusalem Post that Israel would not accept the return to Israel of any Palestinian refugees. It is "out of the question," he said. "I'll never accept a solution that is based on their return to Israel, any number." Olmert also said Israel would not recognize a "right of return." "I will not agree to accept any kind of Israel responsibility for the refugees," he said.
The initiative adopted Thursday by the Arab League was the same one passed in Beirut in March 2002, commonly known as the Arab Peace Initiative. It is not, however, identical with the so-called Saudi initiative from a month earlier that did not mention the refugee issue. "The Saudi initiative looks better in this respect than the Arab initiative," Olmert said. (Jerusalem Post)
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal declared that his movement would continue to launch attacks on Israel despite the formation of the PA unity government. Addressing supporters in Gaza City by phone, Mashaal said: "We will never give up our principles; anyone who thinks that Hamas is tired or weak is mistaken. Hamas has not stopped its military operations."
Meanwhile, Yasser Abed Rabbo, a former PA information minister who is currently a close advisor to PA Chairman Abbas, Thursday discussed Abbas' agreement to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert twice a month: "I don't see any point in holding these meetings. We agreed to them only to appease the Americans." (Jerusalem Post)
Nidal 'Aamer Killab, 5, was killed and his brother Ahmad, 3, and his sister Fatima, 6, were moderately injured in an explosion in their family's home in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza. The children's father is a leader within Hamas and the head of public relations for the pro-Hamas Executive Force. Khan Yunis has witnessed a wave of abductions and gunfire exchanges in the context of family and factional conflicts for over a year. Scores of residents have been injured or killed in these violent outbursts. (Maan News-PA)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
Iran is parading captured British sailors before cameras and using their purported confessions of trespassing in Iranian waters as propaganda in a way that suggests an eagerness to escalate rather than defuse confrontation with the West. The diplomatic campaign against Iran has been pretty successful by the usual diplomatic measures. Not only has the U.S. worked relatively smoothly with European partners with which it differed bitterly over Iraq, but it has also been effective lately in winning support from Russia, China and nonaligned states such as South Africa.
Critics who lambasted the administration's unilateral campaign against an "axis of evil" a few years ago ought to be applauding the return to conventional diplomacy. We, too, think it's worth pursuing, especially when combined with steps short of a military attack to push back against Iranian aggression in the region. Still, two years after President Bush embraced the effort, it has to be noted: The diplomatic strategy so far has been no more successful than the previous "regime change" policy in stopping Iran's drive for a nuclear weapon. (Washington Post)
Revolutionary Iran's complete contempt for normal diplomatic procedures was manifest from its inception. In November 1979, just seven months after Ayatollah Khomeini had come to power, students seized the American embassy in Teheran. Of around 90 people inside the compound, 52 were held hostage for more than 14 months.
The difficulties for the British Government in securing the release of the 15 sailors and marines are twofold. First, there is the well-attested readiness of Iran to defy international norms of behavior. Second, it is, as usual, hard to identify which part of the regime, its clerically appointed or elected civilian component, is responsible for the kidnapping. It is unclear what the Iranians hope to gain by their latest outrage. It will not persuade the Security Council to remove the sanctions imposed on Teheran last Saturday for its refusal to stop enriching uranium. All it does is isolate Iran further. (Telegraph-UK)
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard orchestrated the seizure of 15 British sailors and marines at a time when it is under intense and growing pressure. The Revolutionary Guard was targeted in the UN sanctions enacted against Iran's nuclear program - which is run by the Revolutionary Guard. The military group may have wanted to retaliate by imposing its own brute sanctions against Britain, one of the five permanent members of the Security Council. The Revolutionary Guard may also have hoped to sabotage diplomatic negotiations over the nuclear issue. (Washington Post)
See also The Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Qods Force: Lessons Learned - Dan Diker (ICA/JCPA)
A grim fatalism has settled over Iran of late, the resigned belief that a war with the U.S. is all but inevitable. Tehran is convinced the U.S. or one of its allies was behind the March 2006 separatist violence in Iranian Baluchistan, which ended up with 20 people killed, including a Revolutionary Guard member executed. And the Iranians believe there is more to come, accusing the U.S. of training and arming Iranian Kurds and Azeris to go back home and cause problems. Needless to say the Iranians are not happy there are American soldiers on two of its borders, as well as two carriers and a dozen warships in the Gulf.
Our Arab allies are jumping ship, apparently as fast as they can. At the opening of the Arab summit on Wednesday, Saudi King Abdallah accused the U.S of illegally occupying Iraq. The day before, the leader of the United Arab Emirates sent his foreign minister to Tehran to tell the Iranians he would not allow the U.S. to use UAE soil to attack Iran. That leaves us with Kuwait and Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki to face Iran. The writer is a former CIA field officer assigned to the Middle East. (TIME)
Nearly from day one of his presidency, Vladimir Putin has been Iran's best friend at the UN and, not so coincidentally, the leading supplier of its advanced conventional weapons. Then, on March 19, Iranian, European and U.S. sources reported that Russia had informed Iran that it would not supply the reactor with the uranium it needs to function unless Iran complied with UN resolutions calling on it to suspend its enrichment program. At the Security Council, U.S. diplomatic sources confirmed that Russia had been remarkably cooperative in negotiating Saturday's unanimous resolution on Iran, going so far as to blunt an attempt by some of the nonpermanent members to insert language calling for a nuclear-free Middle East - code for disarming Israel. In the meantime, the Kremlin preserves all its options, a reminder, as Glen Howard of the Jamestown Foundation observes, of an old KGB maxim: First create a problem, and then offer to be part of the solution. (Wall Street Journal)
President Reagan once famously quipped that his strategy in confronting the Soviet Union was "We win, they lose." Today, we need a similarly clear strategy to confront Iran, if we are to successfully counter its aim to drive the U.S. from the Middle East and - as we see with the 15 British sailors the Iranians have taken hostage - attempts to intimidate Western powers into inaction. While we dither at the UN, the Iranians will acquire nuclear weapons, give support to our enemies in Iraq and undermine our credibility with our European allies. We need to demonstrate now that there are viable military options in dealing with a rogue regime in Tehran and that not all of those options will leave us embroiled in a shooting war with yet another large, sprawling nation in the Middle East.
Let us remember that Iran is a very diverse nation whose population is only 51% Persian. The rest is Azari (24%), Kurdish (10%) and a mix of other ethnic minorities including Turkman, Arab and others. This is a rich environment for unrest and one reason why there were an estimated 4,300 protest demonstrations in 2005 alone. Iran imports 40% of its domestically consumed gasoline. Shutting off or even restricting the supply of gasoline flowing into the country would put the regime in a crunch and drive up public discontent without creating a corresponding humanitarian crisis. Lt. Gen. McInerny is retired assistant vice chief of staff of the Air Force. (Wall Street Journal, 30Mar07)
In November 1979, when the U.S. embassy was sacked and our diplomats were taken hostage, I recommended to the then-acting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Tom Hayward, that our only good option was to capture Kharg Island, Iran's principal oil export depot. If we did this, we could negotiate from a position of strength for the immediate return of our embassy and our diplomats. Unfortunately, the Carter administration rejected any offensive operations as a means of responding to this blatant act of war against the United States. We were humiliated and seemed to the world to lack the courage to defend our honor.
There is no time to waste. Immediate diplomatic and military pressure must be brought to bear to obtain the immediate release of the British sailors and marines. The capture of Kharg Island could be viewed as part of a larger economic sanction that the UN Security Council has already endorsed. It is not an attack against the Iranian people. In fact, it could further encourage the popular antigovernment movement against Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's corrupt and already shaky regime. The economic cost to Iran would be catastrophic at minimum. Most of all, such a move would end almost 30 years of our Iranian appeasement policy, demonstrating to Tehran we finally mean business. If Iran fails to respond to this measured action, we must be prepared to execute more forceful options. The choice would be Iran's to make. The writer, a retired U.S. Navy admiral, is a former commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the UN. (Washington Times)
Former president Bill Clinton spoke out against Carter's book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, during an appearance in March before the United Jewish Federation of San Diego County. "If I were an Israeli I wouldn't like it, because it's not factually correct and it's not fair," Clinton reportedly said. In addition, the American Jewish Committee released a letter from Clinton thanking the group's executive director, David Harris, for speaking out against the book. "Thanks so much for your articles about President Carter's book," Clinton wrote in a handwritten note dated January 11. "I don't know where his information (or conclusions) came from, but Dennis Ross has tried to straighten it out, publicly and in two letters to him. At any rate, I'm grateful." (Forward)
It had taken seven months of searching to finally discover one of the underground bunkers that had enabled Hizbullah to fire thousands of rockets into northern Israel last summer even under the pounding of Israeli air and ground operations. The elaborate network of bunkers and fortified firing positions built over a six-year period in sealed-off valleys and hilltops throughout south Lebanon was key to Hizbullah's ability to survive Israel's onslaught during last summer's month-long war. One bunker complex discovered and dynamited by Israeli troops a week after the ceasefire reportedly covered more than a square mile and was fitted with hot and cold running water and air conditioning.
After several unsuccessful attempts to find one, last week I received map coordinates for two bunkers in a valley near the Christian border village of Alma Shaab. We almost missed the manhole cover beneath its layer of dirt, dead leaves and twigs. The room must have been at least 100 feet underground, and could probably have withstood a direct hit by a heavy bomb. A few hundred yards away we found two rocket firing positions, one of them located in a 15-foot deep pit with reinforced concrete walls. Even from a few yards up the hill, the position was all but invisible. And during the war, Hizbullah gunners had tossed fire-retardant blankets over the launchers immediately after unleashing their rockets to hide the lingering heat signature from prowling Israeli aircraft.
The effort that went into building the fortifications in this valley alone had been extraordinary, and these were just three of dozens, possibly hundreds, scattered throughout southern Lebanon. The steel plates and girders, as well as the digging tools, sandbags and other equipment, had to be carried by hand up the steep slope from the valley floor and welded into place in the tunnels. (TIME)
Unserious Summit - Editorial (Jerusalem Post)
See also Saudis Leave Rice Stranded - Scott MacLeod (TIME)
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