Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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April 9, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran: Syria Arrests Saudi Official Over Mughniyeh Assassination (RTTNews/NASDAQ)
    In a move that could have far reaching consequences, Syria arrested a Saudi official in connection with the assassination of top Hizbullah commander Imad Mughniyeh, Iran's semi-official Fars news agency reported Tuesday.
    A high-ranking defense official in Saudi Arabia's embassy in Damascus, who was connected to a Syrian woman in whose name the two explosives-laden cars used to kill Mughniyeh were registered, was arrested by Syrian security forces.
    An Iranian source said locals with Syrian, Jordanian and Palestinian citizenships executed the operation. The men rented apartments near Mughniyeh's residence in Damascus and surveyed his activities from there.

NY Times' Radio Station Turns Down Pro-Israel Ad - Richard Johnson (New York Post)
    The American Jewish Committee says that WQXR, a classical radio station owned by the New York Times, unfairly killed a paid 60-second commentary about bombings carried out against Israel by the militant Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas.
    CBS Radio had no problem with the same spot, which it aired nationally.
    See also Censoring Sderot - Editorial (New York Sun)
    Why any radio station or newspaper in New York would not want to stand proudly with Israel and the people of Sderot is just beyond us.

Islamist Terrorists Convicted Over Casablanca Bombs Tunnel Out of Jail - David Sharrock (Times-UK)
    Nine Moroccan extremists convicted for their roles in the Casablanca suicide bombings which killed 45 people in 2003 have escaped by tunneling out of their prison.
    Around 900 Islamist extremists are being held in Moroccan prisons.

Report: Bulgaria Drug Trade Funds Hizbullah (Reuters/Washington Post)
    Profits from drugs trafficking through Bulgaria have been used to fund organizations like Hizbullah and Islamic Jihad, Bulgaria's parliamentary security commission said Tuesday.

Desalinated Water Grows a City in Israel's Desert - Margaret Coker (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
    Eilat is a thriving port city and resort destination on the Red Sea. Since 1982, the local desalination plant has met all the city's water needs.
    Eilat has no natural fresh water supply and the barest rainfall. Yet today Eilat is dotted with trees, decorated with flowerbeds and green grass, and awash in swimming pools.
    Yossi Shmaya, manager of Eilat's desalination facility, puts it bluntly: "Without the plant, there would be no town."
    Israel, with 31 plants, produces 5% of the worldwide output of desalinated water, and about 15% of Israel's usable water comes from the sea.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Gen. Petraeus Warns of Iranian Influence in Iraq - Alex Spillius
    America's commander in Iraq warned Tuesday that Iranian support for Shi'ite militias posed the gravest threat to securing Iraq's stability. In hearings before two Senate committees in Washington, Gen. David Petraeus said that the recent flare-up in violence in Basra and Baghdad by so-called "Special Groups" highlighted Tehran's malign influence among fellow Shi'ite armed factions. Unchecked, the Special Groups pose the greatest long-term threat to the viability of a democratic Iraq," he said. "Iran has fueled the violence in a particularly damaging way." (Telegraph-UK)
        See also below Observations: Iran's Covert Campaign to Reshape Iraq - David Ignatius (Washington Post)
  • Drill Sends Israeli Children into Shelters - Ashraf Khalil
    An estimated 1.7 million Israeli schoolchildren headed for shelters Tuesday morning in response to a nationwide emergency siren as part of disaster drills that authorities said were an attempt to apply the lessons learned during Israel's 2006 war with Hizbullah. As a rising and falling siren sounded throughout the country, news footage showed children filing out of classrooms under the direction of their teachers, and "injured" students being treated by paramedics and carried off on stretchers. Officials in Haifa will unveil and test a $500,000 underground shelter and disaster response headquarters built below the city's central bus station. In 2006, Hizbullah rockets showered down on northern Israeli cities and towns for weeks. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Israel 1st Graders Learn About War Threats in Civil Defense Drill (Israel News Agency/YouTube)
  • Israel to Bar UN Official for Comparing Israelis to Nazis
    The Israeli Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that it will not allow Richard Falk, a UN official appointed to investigate human rights, to enter the country, after he stood by comments comparing Israelis to Nazis. "Of all the people to be able to appoint, to find somebody who compares Israel to the Nazis is very bizarre and outrageous," said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel. (AP/International Herald Tribune)
        See also Going After Israel (Again) - Editorial (National Post-Canada)
  • Terrorist Conspirator in UK "Took on New Identity to Join in Transatlantic Bomb Plot" - Sean O'Neill
    The leader of a terrorist plot to blow up transatlantic airliners in mid-flight came to Britain with his new wife posing as an Islamic missionary, Woolwich Crown Court was told. Mohammed Gulzar, 26, entered the country on a false South African passport. Two days after his arrival the gang paid £138,000 cash for the flat that became its "bomb factory" and began acquiring bombmaking materials, recruiting suicide bombers and recording "martyrdom" videos. Gulzar, a senior figure in the plot, was not one of those who would have died in the suicide attacks on seven aircraft carrying 2,000 people between Heathrow and North American cities. (Times-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Soldier Killed in Gaza - Hanan Greenberg
    IDF Staff Sgt. Bisan Sayef, 21, from the village of Jit, was killed and two other soldiers were injured Tuesday night during an Israeli operation in Gaza near the Kissufim crossing when a group of gunmen opened fire at them. In response, the IDF fired at the Palestinians from the air. Palestinians reported that one was killed and four were injured. The area where the soldiers operated has seen a large number of shooting incidents recently, including sniper fire directed at agricultural fields in Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha. (Ynet News)
  • IDF Discovers Gaza Tunnel Meant for Terrorist Infiltration into Israel - Yuval Azoulay and Mijal Grinberg
    Israel Defense Forces troops operating overnight Tuesday outside the northern Gaza Strip town of Jebaliya uncovered an opening to a tunnel into Israel. Military sources believe it was dug to serve as a pathway for suicide bombers into Israel. A similar tunnel was used by Gaza terror groups to enter Israel and kidnap IDF corporal Gilad Shalit near Kibbutz Kerem Shalom in June 2006. Two armed militants were killed in an exchange of fire that erupted during the raid. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Mortar Fire Kills Palestinian Child, Wounds Another
    On Sunday, Abdullah Mohammed Bahar, 4, was killed and his brother, Abdul Jawad, 8, was wounded when a mortar shell fired by Palestinians fell near their house in al-Boreij in Gaza. (Palestinian Center for Human Rights)
  • Six Palestinian Rockets Strike Israel on Tuesday
    Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fired six Kassam rockets at Israel on Tuesday. Three landed south of Ashkelon. (Jerusalem Post)
  • PA, Al-Aqsa Gunmen Exchange Fire in Nablus, Eight Palestinians Wounded - Ali Waked
    Palestinian security forces exchanged fire with members of the al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigades in the West Bank city of Nablus on Tuesday. Five PA security officers, one al-Aqsa gunman, and two civilians were wounded in the exchange. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran's Nuclear Strategy: Talk and Build - Efraim Inbar
    Today's Iran is an imperial power, just as Persia was once an imperial power toward the Middle East and other parts of the world. Iran has long had aspirations to lead the region, not just under the current regime. They believe that their past entitles them to have a nuclear bomb and to put them in the same rank as the large, important powers of the world. Iran propagates a particular, very radical version of Islam, and has a jihadist agenda to spread this version everywhere - not only to Palestine but also to Andalusia (Spain of today).
        The Iranians' nuclear strategy is simple: it's to talk and build. Tehran is ready to talk, but its goal is to gain time. It wants to bring about a fait accompli and present the world with an Iranian bomb. A nuclear Iran will embolden all radicals, Islamists as well as others, and allow them to feel that they have a nuclear umbrella. After Iran becomes nuclear, many countries around Iran will get closer to Iran rather than ally against it. The alliance of Sunnis against Shiites exists more on paper. We don't really see much action in the Middle East of the Sunnis allying against the Shiite threat coming from Iran. The writer is director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. (Spero News)
  • Pragmatic Arab Views of Hamas
    Mainstream Arabic-language newspapers are printing ever more articles and editorials that are unsympathetic towards Hamas. Lebanese commentator Hazem Saghaya wrote, "We should be even angrier at Hamas for using children, just as Khomeini did during the war against Iraq, when he armed children with hand grenades and sent them to their deaths" (Al-Hayat, 4Mar08).
        Dr. Ahmad Al-Baghdadi wrote, "Hamas bears sole responsibility for the death of Palestinians on a daily basis....In light of their insane insistence on launching improvised rockets [into Israel], they bear sole responsibility for the destruction of Gaza" (Al-Siyassa, Kuwait, 1Mar08).
        Kuwaiti journalist Abdallah Alhadlaq reiterates "Israel's right to defend itself and its people and its sovereignty against Hamas, which is supported by the Persian regime militarily and financially" (Al-Watan, 6Mar08). Kuwaiti journalist Muhamed Hashem asks, "Will the residents of Gaza rise up against Hamas and its backers and send them scurrying like mice for cover, as happened to the remnants of Al-Qaeda in Iraq? This is what we wish for, for the sake of our people in Gaza" (Elaph, 2Mar08). (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Observations:

    Iran's Covert Campaign to Reshape Iraq - David Ignatius (Washington Post)

    • "The hand of Iran was very clear in recent weeks," Gen. David Petraeus told a Senate committee Tuesday. But it has a long history.
    • Iran's covert campaign to reshape Iraq has been clear since the U.S. invasion in March 2003. Iranian intelligence officers prepared lists of Iraqis for assassination in the weeks and months after the war began; they sent Iranian-trained mullahs to take over the Shiite mosques of central and southern Iraq that had been smashed by Saddam Hussein; they pumped an estimated $12 million a week in covert financial support to their allies as the January 2005 election approached; they infiltrated all the major Shiite political parties, and many of the Sunni ones, too.
    • The Iranians have fixed the political game. They are on all sides at once. They have links to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his Dawa party; they funnel money to the Badr organization of Shiite cleric Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, which is a key recruiting ground for the Iraqi army; they provide weapons, training and command and control for the most extreme factions of the Mahdi Army. Moqtada al-Sadr, the Mahdi Army's nominal leader, is living in the Iranian city of Qom.
    • The Iranians were able to start the recent trouble in Basra and Baghdad through one set of operatives, then negotiate a cease-fire through another. In short, they play the Iraqi lyre on all its strings.

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