Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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July 31, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Inside Iran's Uranium Conversion Facility - Julian Borger (Guardian-UK)
    The doors of the Isfahan plant were opened last week to a small group of journalists from Europe and America in a rare bid for transparency by Iran.
    The conversion plant is a cluster of squat yellow-brick buildings ringed by anti-aircraft batteries.
    Inside, a dense network of shining vats, pipes and gauges turn processed uranium ore, "yellow cake," into uranium hexafluoride (UF6), a gas which is a halfway house to making both nuclear fuel and nuclear bombs.
    Spinning the UF6 gas until it is up to 5% rich in U-235 produces nuclear fuel. Keep spinning until it is 90% enriched and you have the makings of a bomb.
    One huge question mark hanging over Isfahan is: why is the government in such a rush to enrich fuel, when it has no nuclear power plants in which to use it?
    There is a single reactor nearing completion at Bushehr, but it is only supposed to use nuclear fuel provided by Russia.

Arabs Skeptical of U.S. Conference Idea - Salah Nasarwi (AP/Washington Post)
    The Arab League expressed reluctance Monday in backing a U.S.-proposed conference to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, saying any talks should cover all Arab-Israeli conflicts, including those involving Syria.
    League diplomats gathering in Cairo also stressed the importance of making an Arab peace-for-land initiative key to any talks.

Hamas Leader Mash'al: Gaza Takeover Was Planned In Advance (MEMRI Blog)
    The PA newspaper Al-Ayyam reported Sunday that Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Mash'al told the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram in an interview that Hamas' military takeover of the PA security apparatus headquarters in Gaza had been carried out according to an advance plan.

Hard-Line Iranian Cleric, Head of Assembly of Experts, Dies (AP/Washington Post)
    Ayatollah Ali Meshkini, a founding member of Iran's Islamic regime and leader of the Assembly of Experts, the body that appoints Iran's supreme leader, died Monday at age 85.
    Meshkini was among the proponents of the theory that the legitimacy of Iran's clerics to rule the country is derived from God, as opposed to pro-democracy reformers who believe the government's authority is derived from popular elections.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Arms Plan for Mideast Aims to Counter Iranian Power - Mark Mazzetti and Helene Cooper
    The Bush administration said Monday that its plan to provide billions of dollars in advanced weapons to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel over the next 10 years was intended in part to serve as a bulwark against Iran's growing influence in the Middle East. The White House plan must overcome opposition from lawmakers who are skeptical that the weapons will have any effect in blunting Iran's nuclear ambitions. The final package will be formally presented for Congressional approval in September. Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Monday that lawmakers wanted assurances that the weapons package "include only defensive systems," not weaponry that could be used by Arab states to attack Israel.
        In the past, Israel has successfully lobbied the U.S. against selling AIM-9X missiles, used on jet fighters for aerial combat, to countries like Egypt out of fear that they could shift the military balance. A Congressional aide familiar with details of the Bush administration plans said AIM-9X missiles were part of the package planned for Egypt. (New York Times)
  • Big German Banks to Sever Most Iran Ties - Glenn R. Simpson and David Crawford
    Deutsche Bank AG and Commerzbank AG, the two largest European banks to continue doing business with Iran despite recent U.S. pressure, say they will end most of their ties to Iranian companies. This could prove a serious blow to Iran unless it can quickly line up other banks to facilitate the country's international commerce. Iran transfers money through euro-denominated accounts at the two German banks and relies on them to finance trade deals, according to counterterrorism officials who monitor the global financial system.
        Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank became Iran's most important financiers in Europe in the first half of 2007 as other European banks pulled out under pressure from the U.S., according to officials in the U.S. (Wall Street Journal)
  • House Considers Iran, Sudan Sanctions Bills
    Two bills dealing with Iran and a third aimed at Sudan are being considered this week by the U.S. House of Representatives. The first Iran bill (HR 2347) would promote divestment from firms with more than $20 million invested in Iran's energy industry. The bill would shield investment and pension managers from lawsuits contending that divestiture would lower a fund's returns. The second (HR 957) would expand the definition of those subject to sanctions for making investments that increase Iran's ability to develop its petroleum resources. The new definition adds financial institutions, insurers, underwriters, guarantors, and any other business organizations, including any foreign subsidiaries, to the list of entities already barred from investing in Iran. (Congressional Quarterly)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Iranian Intelligence Recruiting Hebrew Speakers - Alex Fishman
    The Iranian regime is recruiting Hebrew speakers to work as translators, intelligence agents and as part of its propaganda machine against Israel. The main source of Hebrew speakers is Palestinian students studying abroad or Palestinian terrorists sent for military training in Iran and Lebanon. One prominent center for Hebrew studies is located at Iran's embassy in Beirut, where Hizbullah members learn Hebrew at the "Islamic Culture and Education Center." The embassy owns a vast library of Hebrew newspapers and books, including even children's books. It was there that Hizbullah trained, with the aid of Palestinians, those who tapped Israeli communication systems before and during the Second Lebanon War. (Ynet News)
  • Airstrike Wounds Three Palestinian Gunmen in Gaza
    An Israel air force aircraft attacked a car carrying Palestinian gunmen on Monday, wounding two members of Islamic Jihad and the Gaza commander of the Al Aksa Martyrs' Brigades, Islamic Jihad said. The group said two other operatives in the vehicle escaped unscathed, one from Islamic Jihad and the other from Al Aksa. (Jerusalem Post)
  • No IDF Recruitment Crisis - Stuart A. Cohen
    Israel is not in the throes of a military recruitment crisis. In fact, Israeli enlistment remains at extraordinarily high levels. It is true that rates of non-service in the IDF have been steadily increasing from 12% in 1980, to 17% in 1990, and to 24% in 2002. But most of that rise is due to the high birth rate among the ultra-Orthodox who are granted draft deferments to study Torah. In 1980, haredim comprised 4% of all potential recruits; today the figure is 11%. At the end of the day, the majority of youngsters, from all classes and societal segments, respond positively to the call to service - and usually enthusiastically so. That is a truly remarkable phenomenon. The writer is a professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at its Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • "Don't Limit Disinvestment to Iran's Energy Sector" - Sen. Jon Kyl
    Sen. Jon Kyl said Friday: "Through a careful strategy of disinvestment, smart sanctions and asset freezing, international trade limits, and better targeting of Iran's leaders, we can follow up on the existing discontent on the [Iranian] street. The eventual result could be regime change; nearer term, pressure could cause policy shifts with the existing regime."
        "Disinvestment, to work, must be broadly applied....While it is true that Iran's energy sector is ripe for targeting, money is fungible. Any investment in Iran will free up capital that Ahmadinejad can use to stay in power and invest in pursuits such as developing more advanced ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. I believe we must therefore target total disinvestment from Iran, as well as other state sponsors of terror: Syria, North Korea, Sudan, and Cuba. For public sector holdings, this means divesting from all companies that choose to do business with terror sponsoring states. At the same time, this means revealing publicly which companies are doing business in countries like Iran, making them answer to the public for providing investments that fuel terrorism." (American Enterprise Institute)
  • U.S., Russian Arms Sales Affect Israel's Security - Caroline Glick
    Over the weekend the U.S. announced that it is planning to sell Saudi Arabia $20 billion in advanced weapons systems including precision-guided "smart" weapons. Largely in an attempt to neutralize Congressional opposition to the proposed sale, the Bush administration also announced that it plans to increase annual military assistance to Israel by 25% next year and that it hopes the increase will be maintained by the next administration.
        Russia also reportedly agreed to sell Iran 250 advanced long-ranged Sukhoi-30 fighter jets and aerial fuel tankers capable of extending the jets' range by thousands of kilometers. Russia's massive armament of Iran in this and in previous sales over the past two years make clear that from Russia's perspective, all threats to U.S. interests, including Shi'ite expansionism, work to Moscow's advantage. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Baffling U.S. Policy Toward Saudi Arabia - Youssef Ibrahim
    The myth of Saudi Arabia as a stabilizing power, a friend of America, or a bulwark against Islamist radicalism is just a fairy tale concocted by well-paid Saudi lobbyists in Washington, a group that includes some former senior American officials. The Saudi Arabia we have painfully come to know for the last two decades is a two-headed monster ruled by the alliance of its hallucinating jihadist priesthood and its ruling family's dilettante princes. (New York Sun)
        See also Arming the Arabs - Ron Ben-Yishai
    It should be noted that the armies of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Egypt will be completely dependent on American experts. The more sophisticated the weapons are, the more difficult it is to maintain and operate them. It would be enough for the Americans to have control over several critical electronic components in the homing mechanisms and fuses of satellite-guided "smart bombs" and other items in order to neutralize a significant part of the danger they pose to Israel. (Ynet News)
  • Observations:

    An Obsession with Palestine - Mona Eltahawy (Washington Post)

    • Egypt has been at peace with Israel for 28 years. For the past 25 years, Egyptians have had the same president, who has never visited Israel - just the tip of the iceberg known as the "cold peace" between the two countries.
    • We have subsumed so much into the Palestinian cause, channeling efforts that should have gone into development into a near obsession with Palestine, for little apparent good.
    • Why has time stood still for the Arab world? The Syrian town of Kuneitra is exactly as it was when it was destroyed after the 1967 war with Israel, untouched so that we never forget. Yet how many German cities, almost leveled during World War II, have been rebuilt and are thriving again?
    • It's time to move on.

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