Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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April 18, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran Nuclear Chief: Some Enrichment Centrifuges Blew Up (DPA/Ha'aretz)
    The Chief of Iran's atomic agency, Gholam-Reza Aqazadeh, on Tuesday confirmed press reports that some of the centrifuges at its nuclear enrichment plant blew up during the enrichment process, with damage ranging from 10 to 20%.
    He also said, "The uranium enrichment plant in Natanz has been constructed for establishing a factory for 50,000 centrifuges, but it would take between two to four years for install all these centrifuges."
    The IAEA confirmed the installation of around 1,000 centrifuges in six cascades with 164 centrifuges each, although it was unclear whether all six cascades were fully operational.
    Aqazadeh claimed that all the centrifuges were made in Iran.

Egypt Announces New Israeli Spy Case - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    In the second case of its kind since the beginning of the year, Egyptian authorities announced on Tuesday that Muhammad Sayed Saber, 35, an engineer at the country's Atomic Energy Agency, has been charged with spying for Israel.
    Israel Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mark Regev said: "These sort of charges unfortunately appear all too often in the Egyptian media and they always prove to be baseless."

Report: BBC Reporter's Palestinian Kidnappers Demand $5M Ransom (Jerusalem Post)
    The kidnappers of BBC reporter Alan Johnston are demanding $5 million for his release, the London-based Asharq Alawsat reported Tuesday.
    See also Palestinian Guards Beat Journalists - (AP/Washington Post)
    Security guards at the Palestinian parliament on Tuesday scuffled with a crowd of Palestinian journalists demonstrating in support of a kidnapped BCC correspondent, beating two of the reporters with rifle butts.

U.S. Mulls Upping Military Aid to Israel - Ran Dagoni (Globes)
    The U.S. is considering whether to increase military aid to Israel as compensation for a U.S. arms deal with Saudi Arabia, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told correspondents in Jordan Tuesday.
    Gates is due in Israel on Thursday.

Lebanon to Seek War Reparations from Israel - Sujata Rao (Reuters)
    Lebanon is preparing to go to an international tribunal to seek reparations from Israel for damage caused during last year's war, the country's finance minister Jihad Azour said on Monday.
    He said Lebanon's Justice Ministry had commissioned international lawyers to prepare the case.
    Israel, supported by the U.S., says it acted in self-defense during the war.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel, Palestinians, U.S. Set Benchmarks for Talks
    Under U.S. auspices, Israeli and Palestinian leaders are drawing up lists of confidence-building steps to help guide talks they have agreed to hold every two weeks, U.S. diplomats said on Tuesday. "The idea of having benchmarks is setting goals that can be met in a certain time provides accountability on the working level," one U.S. official said. "These are small steps that each side is doing to build confidence." The U.S. is seeking to shape a "political horizon" for both sides while it tries to win Arab support for its policies in Iraq and towards Iran, and sideline Hamas Islamists that lead a Palestinian unity government. (Reuters)
        See also Rice Meets Palestinian Unity Government Official - Glenn Kessler
    Secretary of State Rice met Tuesday at the State Department with Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyad, her first encounter with an official in the unity government shunned by Israel. A senior State Department official said that Rice personally likes Fayyad and that she arranged for the meeting in part to "sharpen the distinctions" between those members of the Palestinian government who support peace with Israel and those who back Hamas. (Washington Post)
  • Iran Supplying Weapons to Sunni Taliban - Michael R. Gordon
    A shipment of Iranian-made weapons bound for the Taliban was recently captured by allied forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday. The Bush administration has charged that Iran has also been supplying lethal support to Shiite militants in Iraq. According to American intelligence officials, the support to militant groups in Iraq is so systematic that it could not be carried out without the knowledge of senior Iranian officials.
        "Based on our understanding of the Iranian system and the history of I.R.G.C. [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] operations, the intelligence community assesses that activity this extensive on the part of the Quds Force would not be conducted without approval from top leaders in Iran," a senior intelligence official said this year. The Quds Force is an elite unit of the Revolutionary Guards. "We know that there are munitions that were made in Iran that are in Iraq and in Afghanistan," General Pace said Tuesday. "And we know that the Quds Force works for the I.R.G.C." (New York Times)
        See also The Quds Force: Lessons Learned - Dan Diker (ICA/JCPA)
        See also Using the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards to Export the Revolution (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
  • UN Mission to Assess Arms Smuggling to Hizbullah - Edith M. Lederer
    The UN Security Council expressed "serious concern'' at mounting reports of weapons being smuggled from Syria to Lebanon and authorized an independent mission to evaluate monitoring of the border between the two countries. The council adopted a presidential statement Tuesday reiterating its demand that Syria tighten its border and urging all countries to enforce the arms ban on Hizbullah. The council also reiterated its call to disband and disarm all militias and armed groups in Lebanon. (AP/Guardian-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Hamas in No Rush for Prisoner Swap - Alex Fishman
    In Hamas' view, as long as they hold on to captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, Israel would carefully weigh any military move in the Gaza Strip. According to reports received in Israel recently from Gaza, and by analyzing the kidnappers' conduct, it appears that Hamas' military wing is in no rush to finalize the prisoner swap. Moreover, Shalit also serves as a personal insurance policy for the kidnappers themselves, headed by Ahmad Jabari, who heads Hamas' military wing. Furthermore, as long as they hold Shalit, they are the center of attention by VIPs from the PA, Egypt, and the international community.
        For a while now, Hamas' military wing has adopted an independent position from Hamas' political leadership in the territories. The military wing's direct connections are with Damascus and with Khaled Mashaal. In recent weeks there have been more sniper-related incidents along the fence between Gaza and Israel and more warnings regarding additional abductions of soldiers and civilians. Hamas' military wing, through direct coordination with Iran's Revolutionary Guard, intends to send not only Hamas activists but also members of Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades for military training in Iran. (Ynet News)
  • Shin Bet Uncovers Iranian Attempts to Recruit Israeli Spies - Amos Harel
    The Shin Bet security service has detained an Israeli citizen of Persian descent on suspicion he had been recruited by Iran's Ministry of Intelligence, it emerged Tuesday. Questioned upon his return to Israel from a visit to Iran, the man admitted being recruited by Iranian intelligence officers and accepting money from them to "cover his costs." Over the past two years, Iran's security services have made at least ten attempts to recruit Israeli citizens of Persian descent while visiting relatives in Iran, Shin Bet sources said. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Woman Suicide Bomber Arrested - Ali Waked
    Israeli forces arrested Najwa Hashash, 19, in Nablus on Monday following suspicions that she intended to carry out a suicide bombing. Local residents said Tuesday that Najwa was unhappy after she recently married a man with a serious illness and sought to end her life. Two out of five suicide bombings in 2006 were carried out by Palestinian women. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Hizbullah's German Helpers - Alexander Ritzmann and Mark Dubowitz
    Despite Hizbullah's deadly track record and a 2005 European Parliament resolution recommending its banning, it is still legal on the Continent. France, Spain, Belgium and Sweden prevent the EU from jointly designating Hizbullah as a terrorist organization. German security services believe about 900 Hizbullah core activists are in the country and regularly meet in 30 cultural community centers and mosques, supporting Hizbullah in Lebanon through fund-raising organizations. In ignoring the threat from Hizbullah, the German government puts hope above experience.
        In the past, the German government has shown strong resolve when it saw a threat to German security. It banned the Hamas "charity" al-Aqsa as well as the radical Sunni Islamist Hizb-ut Tahrir group. And it joined the EU in designating the PKK, the radical Kurdish group, as a terrorist organization. Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah told Arab media in March 2005 that European blacklisting would "destroy Hizbullah. The sources of our funding will dry up and the sources of moral, political and material support will be destroyed." Alexander Ritzmann, a former member of the Berlin State Parliament, is a senior fellow at the Brussels-based European Foundation for Democracy. Mark Dubowitz is chief operating officer of the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. (Wall Street Journal, 17Apr07)
  • Divestment Would Form Critical Mass Against Sudan Genocide - Editorial
    This month the Texas Legislature will consider a measure withdrawing the investments of two state pension plans in firms that do business with Sudan. Meanwhile, a divestment movement is snowballing. Eight states, six cities, and 42 universities, including Harvard and Stanford, are withdrawing investment from firms doing business with Khartoum. This is the movement that Texas would join. More than a statement of protest, it has the potential to leach Sudan's government of some of the money it uses for genocide. (Houston Chronicle)
  • The Middle East Arsonist - James G. Zumwalt
    Ahmadinejad continues to play the role of Middle East arsonist. He has started fires in Lebanon using Hizbullah, in Gaza and the West Bank using Hamas, and in Iraq using Shiite militias. The international crisis he created in taking the 15 Brits hostage is yet another fire started, only to be put out by him after it achieved sufficient burn to further damage Western prestige. He will continue such arsonist policies until either the Middle East is consumed by fire or he is. (Washington Times)
        See also Iran's Evil Game: Arming Iraqi Shiites and Sunnis - Peter Brookes (New York Post)
  • Observations:

    Building Moderate Muslim Networks - Angel Rabasa, Cheryl Benard, Lowell H. Schwartz, and Peter Sickle (RAND Corporation)

    • Through the threat of violence, radical Islamists have intimidated or silenced moderate and liberal Muslims who espouse the key principles of democratic culture, including recognition of human rights, respect for diversity, acceptance of nonreligious sources of law, and opposition to terrorism.
    • During the Cold War, the U.S. provided money and organization to foster the creation of democratic institutions that could contest Communist efforts to dominate European civil society.
    • The U.S. government and its allies should make a clear decision to help build moderate Muslim networks and to create an explicit link between this goal and overall U.S. strategy.
    • Five groups should be targeted as potential building blocks for networks: liberal and secular Muslim academics and intellectuals; young, moderate religious scholars; community activists; women's groups engaged in gender equality campaigns; and moderate journalists and writers.
    • RAND proposes a shift of focus to regions of the Muslim world where greater freedom of action is possible, the environment is more open to activism and influence, and there is a greater likelihood of success, such as the Muslim diasporas in Europe, Muslims in Southeast Asia and Turkey, and some of the relatively more open societies in the Middle East.
    • RAND recommends opening channels of communication that will encourage the dissemination of modern and mainstream interpretations of Islam back into the Middle East from moderate Muslims elsewhere.

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