Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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October 29, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran Opens Naval Base Near Routes for Gulf Oil - Nazila Fathi (New York Times)
    Iran announced Tuesday that it had opened a naval base in the port of Jask in the Gulf of Oman, which is the gateway to the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf, vital transit routes for the region's vast oil supplies.
    Iranian naval commander Adm. Habibollah Sayyari said, "We are capable of preventing the entry of any enemy naval forces into the strategic Persian Gulf."

Economic Slowdown Reverberates in Middle East - Michael Slackman (New York Times)
    As the energy-rich nations of the Persian Gulf find themselves pulled into the global financial crisis and undermined by dropping oil prices, the slowdown is affecting places like Egypt, Jordan and Syria, where gulf money has helped prop up strained economies.
    In Cairo, Karim Hussein, who arranges work visas for Egyptians looking for employment in the Emirates, said in the past they would get requests for up to 70 visas a month. Now they get 10.
    In Amman, Manal Saleh works for a company that sends skilled workers to the Persian Gulf. She said opportunities have dropped by about half since the start of the year.

Rate of Nuclear Thefts "Disturbingly High," Monitoring Chief Says - Neil MacFarquhar (New York Times)
    Mohamed ElBaradei, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Monday that the number of reports of nuclear or radioactive material stolen around the world last year was "disturbingly high."
    ElBaradei said nearly 250 such thefts were reported in the year ending in June.
    "The possibility of terrorists obtaining nuclear or other radioactive material remains a grave threat," he said.
    Members of his staff and outside experts cautioned that the amount of missing material remained relatively small. If all the stolen material were lumped together, it would not be enough to build even one nuclear device, they said.
    Most of the concern about thefts centers on the countries of the former Soviet Union, but they occur everywhere.

Successful PR for Israel in Austria - Roi Mendel (Ynet News)
    The Austrian Public Relations Association (PVRA) has elected Israeli Ambassador Dan Ashbel as their man of the year.
    A project headed by Ashbel that gained much success was the "Israel" tram - a cable car that runs through Vienna while giving the passengers a taste of Israel's culture. Passengers enjoy Israeli foods, music and movies on the tram.

Key Links 
Media Contacts 
Back Issues 
Fair Use 
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • UN to Probe Suspected Syrian Nuclear Site
    Freshly evaluated soil and air samples from a Syrian site bombed by Israel on suspicion it was a covert nuclear reactor provide enough evidence to push ahead with a UN probe, diplomats at the International Atomic Energy Agency said Tuesday. Diplomats said the IAEA's final evaluation of environmental samples collected from the site earlier this year, completed a few days ago, has the agency convinced it needs to press on with its investigation. (AP/Wall Street Journal)
  • Syria Protests U.S. Raid to UN, Closes American School and Cultural Center - Ellen Knickmeyer
    Syria protested a deadly U.S. raid into its territory to the UN on Tuesday, and announced it was closing an American school and cultural center in its capital. U.S. military officials said Monday that American forces flew by helicopter about four miles into Syria on Sunday, targeting the leader of a smuggling network used to funnel fighters, arms and money into Iraq. (Washington Post)
        See also American School, Cultural Center Still Open in Syria Despite Order (AP/Washington Times)
  • Hamas Cleric: "Annihilation of Jews Is the Most Splendid Blessing"
    Palestinian cleric Muhsen Abu 'Ita told Al-Aqsa TV on July 13, 2008: "The annihilation of the Jews here in Palestine is one of the most splendid blessings for Palestine. This will be followed by a greater blessing, Allah be praised, with the establishment of a Caliphate." (MEMRI)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • U.S. Calls for UN Committee to Monitor Iran Sanctions - Herb Keinon
    The UN should set up an Iran sanctions monitoring committee to help identify "cheaters and spoilers" who are not complying with the UN Security Council sanctions, Brian Hook, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for international organizations, said Tuesday in Jerusalem. "I think Iran is chafing under the weight of international sanctions," Hook said. "They are doing everything they can to have them declared illegal. This tells me that they are troubled by isolation, although not enough to end their enrichment."
        Referring to the defeat of the Iranian bid for a seat on the UN Security Council by a vote of 158-32, he said, "I think the vote in the General Assembly shows how much a pariah Iran has become in the world."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • International Activists Sail into Gaza - Again - Yael Levy
    A boat with 27 international activists has arrived in Gaza to bring attention to Israel's blockade of the Hamas-controlled territory. The boat, chartered by the U.S.-based Free Gaza group, sailed from Cyprus on Tuesday and arrived in Gaza in pouring rain early Wednesday. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Sleepless in Tehran - Thomas L. Friedman
    Under Ahmadinejad, Iran's mullahs have gone on a domestic subsidy binge - using oil money to cushion the prices of food, gasoline, mortgages and to create jobs - to buy off the Iranian people. Iran today has 30% inflation, 11% unemployment and huge underemployment with thousands of young college grads, engineers and architects selling pizzas and driving taxis. Now with oil prices falling, Iran is going to have to pull back spending across the board. High oil prices had minimized UN sanctions; collapsing oil prices will now magnify those sanctions. That is a good thing because Iran also funds Hizbullah, Hamas, Syria, and the anti-U.S. Shiites in Iraq.
        Iran is ripe for deflating. Its power was inflated by the price of oil and the popularity of its leader, who was cheered simply because he was willing to poke America with a stick. But as a real nation-building enterprise, the Islamic Revolution in Iran has been an abject failure. "When you ask young Arabs which leaders in the region they most admire," said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, they will usually answer the leaders of Hamas, Hizbullah and Iran. "When you ask them where in the Middle East would you most like to live, the answer is usually socially open places like Dubai or Beirut. The Islamic Republic of Iran is never in the top 10." (New York Times)
  • Iran: Empire by Proxy - Kevin Sullivan
    According to former CIA case officer Robert Baer, whose latest book is The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower, "What you have in Iran is a country that is very good at projecting power throughout the Middle East. What they are attempting to do, whether they succeed or not, is essentially build an empire in the Middle East....Past Persian empires have always done this through invasion and occupation. It's more like an empire by proxy." "The fact that Iran can take control of the Gulf's oil resources ostensibly puts them in charge of the world's economy. You might argue that the American military will be there to prevent this, but that's provided we stay."
        Does the decline in the price of oil hinder Iran's imperial ambitions? "Not in the least. Throughout the 90s, when oil was at $20, $12 and even $11 a barrel, Iran was increasing its aid to Lebanon....And, an empire by proxy is relatively cheap. We're talking about small arms, not tanks and airplanes."  (RealClearWorld)
  • Unsafe Havens: Making Life More Difficult for Terrorists - James S. Robbins
    If you are hunting terrorists it is useful to go where the terrorists are. On Sunday U.S. Special Forces raided Sukkariyeh Farm near the town of Abu Kamal, five miles inside the Syrian border with Iraq, to capture Abu Ghadian, Al-Qaeda in Iraq's man in Syria, who was the group's chief coordinator funneling arms and insurgents into Iraq. The computers and cell phones scooped up in the raid surely will provide a profusion of useful intelligence.
        The U.S. raid was a well-planned surgical strike that took the fight into a terrorist sanctuary produced by Syrian incompetence or complicity. Syria's inability to keep terrorists from using their territory as a base of operations (if not complicity in hosting them) obligated the U.S. to act. Violent non-state groups cannot operate across international borders from countries lacking either the means or motivation to stop them and expect the convention of state sovereignty to protect them. (National Review)
        See also Al-Qaeda's Route Through Syria Persists - Robert H. Reid (AP)
  • Observations:

    Israel's Current Strategic Environment - Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • Hamas could have pretended it wanted a political solution and the whole world would have recognized this. The Quartet posed to Hamas only three conditions: recognize your neighbor, recognize the peace agreements, and avoid terror. But Hamas said, no, Israel has no right to exist. They have a dream - to join the other Islamic forces, to revolutionize the whole Middle East.
    • The Palestinian Authority is doing better at maintaining law and order in its territory in the West Bank. However, it has far from demonstrated any level of performance in dealing with terror.
    • Today there is unprecedented military and intelligence cooperation between Hizbullah, Syria, and Iran. There is no "smuggling" of weapons from Iran through Syria to Lebanon, because it is not done in secret. Weapons of all kinds are being pushed toward Hizbullah, including tens of thousands of rockets.
    • Hizbullah has turned Lebanon into a "banana republic." The president of Lebanon, who is a general and a former commander of the Lebanese army, does not know when his country will be involved in a confrontation with Israel. The one who decides this is Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who has no official standing in the Lebanese government.
    • There are indirect peace talks between Syria and Israel and the price being asked by Syria is known. The price Israel is asking in any peace agreement is security, but the definition of security is now different from a decade ago because there are now longer-range rockets and terror. Syria is sheltering all kinds of terrorist organizations. In any peace agreement, Syria must drop this support for terror.

      The writer serves as Director of the Military/Political and Policy Bureau of the Israel Ministry of Defense.

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