Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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November 3, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Saudi Arabia Claims It Foiled U.S. Terror Attack in 2003 - Donna Abu-Nasr (AP)
    A Saudi official said Sunday that Saudi Arabia foiled a 2003 terror plot by militants who planned to hijack a plane and blow it up over an American city.
    The official said the hijacking plan was one of 160 terror plots the kingdom announced last month that it had foiled, but would not say what city was targeted and whether any arrests were made.

British PM Expects Saudi Financial Help for IMF - Jane Wardell (AP)
    British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Sunday he is confident that Saudi Arabia will contribute to the International Monetary Fund's bailout reserves, after he promised business leaders in the Gulf that they would have a say in any future new world economic order.
    Brown called on oil-rich Middle Eastern countries to be among the biggest donors to the IMF's coffers to rescue failing nations such as Iceland, Hungary and the Ukraine.
    A senior British government source said that during talks the Saudis had been concerned about becoming a "milk cow" to prop up "basket case" economies in other parts of the world.

Hizbullah Accuses UN Representative of Supporting Israel (DPA)
    The head of Hizbullah's international relations department Saturday accused UN Special Representative Terje Roed-Larsen of siding with Israel against Lebanon.
    Nawaf Mousawi charged that Roed-Larsen's "background and goals are well known, that he works to please the Israeli side by carrying their demands and presenting them as though they were requests urged by the international community."
    "It seems that he forgets that Hizbullah is a basic component of the Lebanese government," Mousawi said.

Gaza Recovery Helped By Thriving Tunnel-Based Economy - Michael Jansen (Irish Times)
    Since May, Hamas has consolidated its grip on Gaza, eliminating Fatah elements who tried to challenge its rule, and taking over the security forces, the ministries, the courts and the municipalities. Hamas also closed down many Fatah-affiliated and independent civil society bodies.
    The truce between Israel and Hamas has given Gazans a reprieve from Israeli aerial attacks and ground raids, and boosted Hamas' standing with Gazans.
    In May, electricity was rationed to six hours a day. Today Gaza has full power. Petrol is still in short supply, although drivers have stopped wrecking their engines with cooking oil.
    More goods are available thanks to the scores of tunnels dug under the border between Gaza and Egypt, including fuel for vehicles and cooking gas.

Key Links 
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Pentagon: Iran Will Soon Be Able to Attack Europe - Michael van der Galien
    Speaking in the Czech Republic, Pentagon official Lt. Gen. Henry A. Obering III told the country's Parliament that it would not take long before Iran will be able to strike against every single European country. The U.S. too would be within reach of Iranian missiles in five to six years, Obering said. French intelligence officials believe that Iran will be able to build its first nuclear bomb in the summer of 2009. That means that one year from now, Iran will be able to destroy an entire European city by just one strike. Not only would this put Europe and later the U.S. at risk, it would also dramatically alter the balance in the region. (PoliGazette-Netherlands)
        See also Iranians Celebrate U.S. Embassy Takeover
    Iranian state TV says thousands of Iranians nationwide have demonstrated to celebrate the 29th anniversary of the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy by militant students. In Tehran, crowds gathered outside the former U.S. Embassy Monday and chanted anti-U.S. and anti-Israel slogans while burning flags of the two countries. Iran held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. The two countries have had no diplomatic relations since the takeover. (AP/International Herald Tribune)
  • European Court of Justice Challenges Terrorism Financing Blacklists - Craig Whitlock
    The global blacklisting system for financiers of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups is at risk of collapse, undermined by legal challenges and waning political support in many countries, according to counterterrorism officials in Europe and the U.S. In September, the European Court of Justice threw the future of the UN sanctions program against al-Qaeda and the Taliban into doubt when it declared the blacklist violated the "fundamental rights" of those targeted. Courts in Britain and France have also questioned whether European countries can enforce the UN sanctions and other blacklists without violating local laws.
        The UN blacklist is the backbone of an international effort to prevent al-Qaeda supporters from raising or transferring money. All UN members are required to impose a travel ban and asset freeze against the 503 individuals, businesses and groups on the list. (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Defense in AIPAC Case: Data at Core of Case Was Not Really "Top Secret" - Josh Gerstein
    The defense of two pro-Israel lobbyists accused of illegally obtaining and disclosing American national security secrets will argue that some of the data the men allegedly conspired to reveal came directly from the Israeli government and was not truly secret, defense lawyers told a federal appeals court in Richmond last week. Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee were indicted in 2005 on charges that they gathered secrets from U.S. officials and passed the confidential information to journalists, Israeli diplomats and others in violation of the U.S. Espionage Act. They are not charged with receiving any classified documents, but solely with relaying information orally. Some free speech advocates have argued that what they did is what journalists do every day. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinians Denounce Balfour Declaration; Demand British Apology
    Several Palestinian resistance factions issued statements on Sunday denouncing the 1917 Balfour Declaration in which the British official promised Palestine as a homeland for individuals of Jewish descent. Palestinians consider the declaration a major factor in the creation of the State of Israel. (Maan News-PA)
        See also Palestinians Accuse Jews of Plotting to Cleanse Region of Arabs - Aaron Klein
    The Palestinian Authority Sunday issued an official pamphlet to mark the 91st anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, repeatedly referring to Israel as the "hated entity," while accusing Jews of plotting to ethnically cleanse the region of Arabs. "We are aware of the Zionist plans against our people and their efforts to destroy the Palestinians," reads the pamphlet, distributed by PA offices in the West Bank. Official websites and publications run by Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah were saturated with anti-Israel articles and opinion pieces that mourned the Balfour Declaration and cursed the Jewish state. (WorldNetDaily)
        See also Happy Birthday, Balfour Declaration! - Ashley Perry (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Treasury Department's War with Iran - Robin Wright
    Diplomacy is, at the moment, going nowhere. Efforts in the UN and the IAEA have done little to prevent Iran from growing ever closer to acquiring the capacity to manufacture nuclear fuel. At the same time, there is very little genuine enthusiasm in Washington today for a military option in Iran. Last year, Congress approved an astonishing $400 million for intelligence operations against Iran, but senior officials acknowledge that covert actions - primarily aid to ethnic proxies and broadcasts into Iran - are only an irritant. In Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. Special Forces have focused on the Quds Force, Iran's covert military wing, and its local agents. Dozens have been detained; truckloads of Iranian arms have been uncovered.
        What remains is the idea of sanctions. In January 2006, Stuart Levey, the undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the Treasury Department, decided it was time to mobilize the private sector, starting with the world's banks, to join the effort to sanction Iran. The Treasury Department started blacklisting Iran's biggest banks, urging other nations to follow suit. In 2006, Bank Saderat was barred from direct or indirect business with U.S. banks. In early 2007, the department sanctioned Bank Sepah for financing projects to develop missiles that could carry nuclear weapons. The Treasury Department then blacklisted Bank Melli, Iran's largest bank. Big banks in Britain, France, Germany, Japan and Italy curbed business with Iran, even with longstanding clients. Banks in Muslim countries, from Bahrain to Malaysia, have cut back their Iran business, as have several Chinese banks. (New York Times Magazine)
  • Rice's Mission to the Mideast - Editorial
    The upcoming visit by Condoleezza Rice to the Middle East starts on Nov. 5, just a day after the U.S. election that decides the successor to George Bush - one year after Bush hosted talks in Annapolis between Israel and the Palestinians in an effort to revive the peace process. Bush's Middle East file was filled almost entirely with Afghanistan, after which came Iraq and most recently Iran. Palestinians never really figured and when they did they were an afterthought. Rice's visit is too late, in fact so late that when she starts it, Bush will be in theory, if not in practice, out of office. So what is a soon-to-leave state secretary in an out-of-work administration doing in the Middle East right now? (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
  • Observations:

    Duplicity in Damascus - David Schenker (Weekly Standard)

    • In October, a massive car bomb detonated in Damascus, killing 17. Even before the smoke cleared, Syria's Assad regime accused Sunni Muslim fundamentalists from abroad - i.e., al Qaeda. If al-Qaeda did sponsor the attack, it should have come as no surprise to Damascus: As the experiences of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan demonstrate, al-Qaeda has a track record of attacking its sponsors.
    • Since 2002, the Assad regime has facilitated the movement through its territory of al-Qaeda fighters bound for Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon. It has allowed these insurgents to train in Syria and has provided sanctuary to al-Qaeda-affiliated killers of Americans. By and large, this policy purchased Syria immunity from attacks. Along the way, however, these terrorists appear to have planted local roots.
    • In al-Qaeda's evolving strategy, targeting is not contingent on a state's political orientation or on the assistance it receives from governments. Basically, the organization has no qualms about biting the hand that feeds it, whether the patron is Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, or Syria.
    • Ultimately, Damascus' newfound problem with al-Qaeda may change the Assad regime's permissive attitude toward the group, but it's unlikely to have any impact on Syrian support for Hizbullah and Hamas. These longstanding relationships with Islamist terrorist organizations are closely linked to the 30-year strategic alliance between Damascus and Tehran.
    • The Assad regime has trucked with Islamist terrorists for decades, and provides no indication that it would be willing to sever these relationships. Senior Israeli officials have stated that a peace deal is contingent on Syria's abandoning Tehran, forsaking terror, and joining the Western camp. Syria has responded emphatically and repeatedly that this kind of strategic reorientation is not in the cards.

      The writer is the director of the Program on Arab Politics at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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