Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
PA Government Pays One-Year's Salary to Hamas Militia (Maan News-PA)
Hamas Establishes Coastal Defense Force - Ali Waked (Ynet News)
U.S. Kills Iraqi Militants "Smuggling in Arms from Iran" - Andrew England (Financial Times-UK)
Iran Foils Terror Plot in Restive Province (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
Anti-Saudi Tide Rises in Iraq - Sam Dagher (Christian Science Monitor)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Fourteen months after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice offered to talk to Iran, the failure of carrot-and-stick diplomacy to block Tehran's nuclear and regional ambitions is producing a new drumbeat for bolder action, including the possible use of force. The drumbeats are also louder because of Iraq. Explosives that U.S. officials say come from Iran accounted for one-third of U.S. combat deaths last month in Iraq.
"There's a sense of frustration with the strategy....The one clear alternative with some proponents is the bombing option," said Suzanne Maloney, a former Iran expert with the State Department and now a fellow at the Brookings Institution. "Deterring the Ayatollahs," a new publication by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, backs economic sanctions and diplomacy, but co-editors Patrick Clawson and Michael Eisenstadt also conclude that neither may work, and that deterring Iran once it develops a nuclear weapon will be "much more difficult than deterrence was during the Cold War." The Heritage Foundation's Web site has a section labeled "Iran: The Rising Threat," advocating aggressive diplomacy and tough sanctions with a willingness to use force to stave off Iran's becoming a nuclear power. (Washington Post)
Completion of a deal to boost U.S. defense aid to Israel to $30 billion over a decade has been held up amid a brewing dispute over when and how the new funds would be disbursed, a senior Israeli official said on Wednesday. The Bush administration, faced with a yawning budget deficit, wanted to increase the aid incrementally. Israel, which has been scrambling to build up its military since last year's Lebanon war and ahead of any showdown with Iran, has asked to receive a chunk of the funds up front, or for the money to be spread evenly over ten years. "Israel has acute security needs, particularly over the next two or three years," the Israeli official said. With President George W. Bush - a major ally for Israel - leaving office in 17 months, the Israelis are keen to lock down a stable aid-payout deal now. (Reuters)
Sunni insurgent leader Abu Lwat explained why he'd stopped attacking Americans: "Finally, we decided to cooperate with American forces and kick al-Qaeda out and have our own country." Abu Lwat is one of a growing number of Sunni fighters working with U.S. forces. The tentative cooperation is driven as much by political aspirations as by a rejection of the brutal methods of the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, U.S. officers and one-time insurgents said. "This is much less about al-Qaeda overstepping than about them [Sunnis] realizing that they've lost," said Lt. Col. Douglas Ollivant of the U.S. military command in Baghdad. As a result, Sunni groups are now "desperately trying to cut deals with us," he said. "This is all about the Sunnis' 'rightful' place to rule" in a future Iraqi government, he said. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
IDF soldiers exchanged fire with two Hamas gunmen near the fence surrounding the Gaza Strip near the Karni crossing on Wednesday and killed them. In a second incident, soldiers opened fire at two armed Hamas operatives approaching the fence near the Erez crossing, killing one. (Jerusalem Post)
142 soldiers who fought in the Second Lebanon War were chosen by an IDF committee to receive medals of valor and citations of excellence for the courage they displayed during Israel's war against Hizbullah last summer. Maj. Roi Klein will receive the Medal of Valor, Israel's highest award. Klein, deputy commander of Golani Battalion 51, was killed in Bint Jbail when he jumped on a grenade to save the lives of his fellow soldiers. "The courageous stories that were discovered during the war demonstrate the IDF's valor and camaraderie," IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said Wednesday. "These soldiers are a source of pride for the entire IDF." (Jerusalem Post)
A Kassam rocket fired by Palestinians in Gaza landed near the Israeli city of Sderot on Wednesday night, Israel Radio reported. (Jerusalem Post)
Today, the most immediate security threat to the lives of the Sunni Palestinian refugees in Lebanon comes not from Israel but from Arabs living within their own refugee camps. In the northern camp of Nahr al-Bared, lax security from the mainstream secular Palestinian faction Fatah provided a suitable environment for the rise of Fatah al-Islam. The Al-Qaeda-styled Sunni extremist group comprises some Lebanese and Palestinians, but is also made up of foreign Arabs, including veteran jihadis from Iraq, and fighters from Saudi Arabia who follow the Wahhabi ideology of takfiri, which condemns to death anyone who does not follow their austere form of Islam.
In Ain al-Hilweh, several thousand armed militants vie for control in the tiny 1.5 square-kilometer cinder block camp. Sheikh Haj Maher Oweid, military commander of the Palestinian Islamist group Ansar Allah, said that dozens of Saudi extremists had been expelled from Ain al-Hilweh over the past year. "There were many Saudis expelled from here. They are connected to al-Qaeda and they want to spread chaos. Lebanon is now the new front for al-Qaeda," he said. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
With Iraq's future an open question and Iran's regional clout likely to keep growing, the Bush administration is forging a long-term strategy to secure energy supplies that relies on drawing Arab governments into an alliance to coordinate defenses of oil-related infrastructure, combat terrorism, and thwart Tehran's nuclear and regional ambitions. The Pentagon hopes the tens of billions of dollars of new weaponry for Middle East allies announced last week will underpin various regional defense initiatives. Next month, the U.S. and the "GCC Plus Two," as the group is called, will hold their sixth meeting of the year. One U.S. official involved in the diplomacy said it seeks to build a consensus on Iraq and fighting al-Qaeda, as well as "deterring an increasingly hegemonic Iran."
Many security strategists say Washington has misidentified the challenges. While the U.S. is backing large-scale armies, they say, Tehran has expanded its influence in places such as Lebanon, Iraq and the Palestinian territories through backing militias such as Hizbullah and Hamas. Iran has also improved its strategic position through the effective use of charities. (Wall Street Journal)
The first stirrings are now visible of political change which could hasten Ahmadinejad's departure and dramatically change Iran's direction. The president is best known abroad for denying the Holocaust and threatening to wipe Israel "from the pages of history." Iranians, however, associate him with hardship and repression. At a time when high oil prices should be causing an economic boom, inflation has risen to about 40%, hitting the living standards of millions. A country with 130 billion barrels of proven oil reserves has imposed petrol rationing.
"Ahmadinejad is the first president in the history of the Islamic Republic to lose his popularity so quickly," said Mohammed Atrianfar, a leading reformist politician. Ahmadinejad's bellicose foreign policy has bolstered his popularity across the Muslim world - but not inside Iran. At home, he stands accused of playing into America's hands by making it easier for Washington to marshal a coalition against Iran. (Telegraph-UK)
On Tuesday the U.S. Treasury Department designated as a terrorist organization one of the largest Hamas charities in Gaza, the al-Salah Society, along with its director, Ahmed al-Kurd. The new U.S. designation criminalizes American donations to al-Salah and officially informs banks and donors of the organization's ties to and activities on behalf of Hamas. As the Treasury designation makes clear, al-Salah and similar Hamas organizations actively radicalize Palestinian society, recruit new members, provide operatives with day jobs, launder funds for the Qassam Brigades' terrorist cells, and provide logistical support for their terrorist attacks. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
Don't Relinquish the Road Map - Dov Weisglass (Ynet News)
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