Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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December 12, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Abbas' Anti-Terror Forces Train in Russia - Matthew Kalman (New York Daily News)
    Palestinian forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas are training to crack down on Hamas terrorism at a Russian secret service base in Moscow with the elite anti-terrorist Alpha commando unit.
    The PA has created a new counterterror unit called Al Himaya Wal Isnad (Protection and Reinforcement).
    Twenty-five officers were deployed to Moscow for a 30-day course that includes weapons training, rescuing hostages and arresting armed suspects.
    Similar courses are being held in France, Germany and Algeria, with plans to send dozens of Palestinian security personnel abroad each month.

Audit Finds U.S.-Funded Palestinian University Linked to Terrorism - Jim Tankersley (Chicago Tribune)
    U.S. government officials authorized giving nearly $1 million in foreign aid to the Islamic University in Gaza, a Palestinian university with links to the terrorist group Hamas, according to a government audit. Hamas' prime minister sits on the Islamic University's board of trustees.
    Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) asked USAID's inspector general to conduct the audit after a Washington Times report detailed some of the aid payments to Islamic University earlier this year.

Israeli-Authored UN Resolution on Agricultural Technology Approved - Yitzhak Benhorin (Ynet News)
    An Israeli resolution to encourage states to develop improved agricultural technology was passed in the UN General Assembly Tuesday; 118 countries supported the resolution, while 29 abstained.

Saudis Give Big to U.S. Colleges - Julia Duin (Washington Times)
    Some say the sheer size of Saudi donations to Middle East studies departments amounts to buying influence and creating bastions of noncritical pro-Islamic scholarship within academia.
    "There's a possibility these campuses aren't getting gifts, they're getting investments," said Clifford May, president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
    There are 17 federally funded centers on American college campuses devoted solely to Middle Eastern studies and another 30 to 40 that do not receive federal aid, according to Amy Newhall, executive director of the Middle East Studies Association at the University of Arizona. Not counting several positions at Georgetown University, she estimated at least 10 chaired professorships currently funded by Saudis at major universities.
    "With all the talk of the Israel lobby, no one talks about the Saudi lobby," said Winfield Myers, director of Campus Watch. "There is no counterweight to Saudi influence in American higher education."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Group Says Iran Resumed Weapon Program - Marc Champion and Jay Solomon
    The National Council for Resistance in Iran (NCRI), the Iranian opposition group that first exposed Iran's nuclear-fuel program, said a U.S. intelligence analysis is correct that Tehran shut down its weaponization program in 2003, but claims that the program was relocated and restarted in 2004. According to the NCRI, Iran's Supreme National Security Council decided to shut down its most important center for nuclear-weapons research in eastern Tehran, called Lavisan-Shian, in August 2003. Lavisan was broken into 11 fields of research, including development of a nuclear trigger and of the technology to shape weapons-grade uranium into a warhead.
        At the same meeting, the council decided to disperse pieces of the research to a number of locations around Iran. By the time international nuclear inspectors were allowed access to Lavisan, the buildings had been torn down and the ground bulldozed. "They scattered the weaponization program to other locations and restarted in 2004," said Mohammad Mohaddessin, NCRI foreign affairs chief. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Iran's Top Commanders Are Nuclear Weapons Scientists; Iran Nuclear Weapons Program Dispersed, Not Halted - Sharon Kehnemui Liss
    Twenty-one commanders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) are the top scientists running Iran's secret nuclear weapons program, says the man who exposed Iran's nuclear weapons program in 2002. On top of that, the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate published last week saying Tehran shut down its weaponization program in 2003 failed to mention that the program restarted in mid-2004, said Alireza Jafarzadeh, an Iranian dissident and president of Strategic Policy Consulting. Jafarzadeh told FOX News: "They have a number of sites controlled by the IRGC that have been off-limits to the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) inspectors, including a military university known as Imam Hossein University....They have perhaps the most advanced nuclear research and development center in that university." (FOX News)
  • Lebanese Army General Killed in Roadside Bomb Blast
    Gen. Francois El Hajj was among at least four people killed on Wednesday by a roadside bomb that also injured seven others in the Christian suburb of Baabda on the outskirts of Beirut. According to several sources, Hajj was tipped to replace the army's top commander General Michel Suleiman, who is the frontrunner to become Lebanon's next president. Many Arab and Western embassies are in Baabda, home of the presidential palace. (AFP)
  • Twin Bombs Kill Dozens in Algiers, Al-Qaeda Claims Responsibility - Katrin Bennhold and Craig S. Smith
    Twin car bombs near UN offices and an Algerian government building in Algiers killed dozens of people Tuesday. Two European diplomats in Algiers said they believe more than 60 people had died. The terrorist group Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility, posting photographs on Islamist Web sites of two men it claimed were suicide bombers who carried out the attacks, which it said were aimed at "the Crusaders and their agents, the slaves of America and the sons of France." Marie Okabe, the deputy spokeswoman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, said at least 11 UN staff members had died. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinians Fire 18 Rockets at Sderot - Shmulik Hadad
    A rocket barrage hit Israel's western Negev Wednesday, as Palestinians fired 18 Kassam rockets at Sderot. (Ynet News)
        See also Olmert Vows to Remove Gaza Rocket Threat - Barak Ravid
    Prime Minister Olmert vowed on Tuesday to remove the threat of Palestinian rockets from Israel. "The situation in the south of the country, in light of the Kassam rocket fire, has generated a difficult reality," he told an Institute for National Security Studies conference in Tel Aviv. "We will have to act on this matter in the necessary manner, with the appropriate dose and the right timing, without exaggerating and creating unrealistic expectations. We will not rest until the Kassam rocket threat is completely removed from Sderot and the western Negev." (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Border Operations Having an Effect on Hamas - Yaakov Katz
    A large-scale IDF operation in Gaza has dropped to the back burner in recent days after an assessment within the defense establishment found that the daily border raids the IDF has been conducting have had an effect on Hamas' military capabilities and could be behind news reports that the terror group was interested in reaching a truce with Israel, senior defense officials said Tuesday. Sources close to Hamas said the movement's leaders had all gone underground for fear of being targeted by Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also IDF Operates to Distance Terrorists from Security Fence and Prevent Rocket Fire
    IDF forces have been operating against terrorist infrastructure in southern and northern Gaza in order to distance the terrorist organizations - particularly Hamas - from the security fence and in order to prevent Kassam rocket and mortar fire into Israel. In a number of separate incidents, IDF forces were confronted by armed gunmen in which exchanges of fire ensued and gunmen fired anti-tank rockets at IDF forces, who responded with fire at the gunmen. (IDF Spokesperson/IMRA)
  • Hamas Tightens Control on PA Institutions in Gaza - Amira Hass
    The Hamas government in Gaza has tightened its grip on three important civilian institutions: the court system, the municipalities, and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, adding to Gaza's character as a separate entity. The Palestinian bar instructed its 1,000 attorneys in Gaza not to cooperate with the new, Hamas-appointed judges. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Two Non-States for One People - Amira Hass
    Gaza is becoming another quasi-state entity in addition to the PA-run West Bank. By establishing a separate judiciary authority, the Hamas government transforms the court system into a branch of a political body and in effect eradicates Palestinian law. In this way it is trashing all Palestinian achievements as though they were propaganda of the rival party. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Losing Weight in the Gulf - Thomas L. Friedman
    Right now, the Arab Gulf states are all sizing up America, their protector, and are wondering just how much Uncle Sam weighs in the standoff with Iran - and whether it will be enough to keep Iran at bay. I've been at a security conference in the tiny Gulf state of Bahrain, attended by defense officials and analysts from all over the world, and all the buzz has been about the latest U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran. It has left every Arab and European expert I've spoken to baffled as to why its conclusions were framed in a way that is sure to reduce America's leverage to negotiate with Tehran.
        Bush officials are trying to tell everyone: "No, no, Iran is still dangerous. You have to keep the coalition together to get Tehran to stop enriching uranium." But in a world where everyone is looking for an excuse to do business with Iran, not to sanction it, we've lost leverage. Everyone in the neighborhood can smell it - and it worries them. (New York Times)
  • The Myth of a Bargain with Iran - Gideon Rachman
    First, America's intelligence reassessment will probably be a boon to hardliners in Tehran. Ahmadinejad will be able to say that Iran has stood firm and faced down the world. In such a climate, why should the Iranians make concessions? Second, there may be no "grand bargain" to be had. Most of the evidence suggests that the determination to get a nuclear bomb is a national project in Iran - uniting different political factions. The Iranians are not necessarily in a hurry, but the nuclear program has become a symbol of national machismo.
        Iran also has ambitions in the region. It is the biggest country in the Gulf area and it wants its "natural role" to be recognized. Yet there is no way the Americans are going to cede the dominant security role in the Gulf - a region that sits on top of 60% of the world's known oil reserves and 40% of its natural gas. (Financial Times-UK)
  • Observations:

    The Dunderheaded Public Roll-Out of the NIE - Dennis Ross (New Republic)

    • The National Intelligence Estimate on Iran presents an interesting paradox: Though almost certainly the product of rigorous assessment and questioning, it may actually leave us less secure over time. How can such an improved product of spycraft have such a negative effect? It can when it frames the issue mistakenly and is not combined with statecraft.
    • Weaponizing is not the issue, developing fissionable materials is because, compared with producing fissionable material which makes up the core of nuclear bombs, weaponizing it is neither particularly difficult nor expensive. The hard part of becoming a nuclear power is enriching uranium or separating out plutonium. And Iran is going full-speed ahead on both.
    • What would the Middle East look like if Iran gained far greater coercive leverage over all its neighbors? Wouldn't we face a region increasingly hostile to our interests? Wouldn't we see the prospect of Arab-Israeli peace diminish as Iran worked to weaken and isolate Israel? And to avoid being at the mercy of Iran, wouldn't the Saudis decide to go nuclear - and wouldn't that impel the Egyptians to do the same? Even the image of Iran as a nuclear power carries with it very dangerous consequences.
    • Sadly, it's now easier for Iran to proceed unimpeded with its nuclear plans. It is far less likely to face the economic (or potentially military) pressures that in 2003 might have persuaded those in the Iranian leadership that the costs of developing their nuclear capabilities were too high. Who in the Iranian elite will argue that or oppose Ahmadinejad's approach to nukes now? No doubt, that is not what the authors of the NIE sought, but here poor statecraft has trumped our improved efforts at spycraft.

      The writer is counselor and Ziegler distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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