Prepared for the |
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
To contact the Presidents Conference:
Military Experts: New Iranian Missile Is Old One with a Different Name - Michael Evans
Captured Battle Plan Shows Taliban Strength - Anthony Loyd (Times-UK)
Death Sentence of "Collaborator" with Israel Awaits Abbas Approval - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
Palestinian Columnist Criticizes Persecution of Christians (MEMRI)
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
Since 2006, Iran's leaders have called for direct, unconditional talks with the U.S. to resolve international concerns over their nuclear program. But as an American administration open to such negotiations prepares to take power, Iran's political and military leaders are sounding suddenly wary of President-elect Obama. "People who put on a mask of friendship, but with the objective of betrayal, and who enter from the angle of negotiations without preconditions, are more dangerous," Hossein Taeb, deputy commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, said Wednesday.
"The power holders in the new American government are trying to regain their lost influence with a tactical change in their foreign diplomacy. They are shifting from a hard conflict to a soft attack," Taeb said. Opposition to the U.S., long vilified as the "great Satan" in Friday sermons, remains one of the main pillars of Iranian politics. (Washington Post )
The Bush administration acted Wednesday against an Islamic charity suspected of helping to bankroll Hamas. The Treasury Department's action against the Union of Good freezes any bank accounts or other financial assets belonging to the charity in the U.S. Americans also are barred from making donations to the group.
"Terrorist groups such as Hamas continue to exploit charities to radicalize vulnerable communities and cultivate support for their violent activities," said Stuart Levey, the Treasury Department's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. The Union of Good facilitates "the transfer of tens of millions of dollars a year to Hamas-managed associations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip," the department said. (AP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Jerusalem is holy to two religions - Islam and Christianity, PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad said at the UN-organized interfaith peace conference on Wednesday. Fayad failed to mention the importance of Israel's capital to the Jewish people, Israel Radio reported. "Jerusalem is home to the third most holy place to Islam, the place where Muhammad rose to the heavens, and the place where Jesus, the Christian, was resurrected," the Palestinian leader proclaimed. President Shimon Peres and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni had addressed the forum earlier. (Jerusalem Post)
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Wednesday that while Saudi King Abdullah's peace initiative is important, the words of Arab leaders at the UN's interfaith dialogue conference are inadequate. Speaking in New York, Livni said that "peace is more than just a piece of paper," adding that all parties to peace negotiations must also fight extremism. Meanwhile, President Shimon Peres said that "nobody expects Israel to accept the Arab peace initiative as is." However, he added that he sees genuine and positive change, and that "if there's a will, there's a way." (Ynet News)
See also Israeli Foreign Minister: Syria Must Stop Smuggling Weapons to Hizbullah If It Seeks Recognition - Yitzhak Benhorin (Ynet News)
In the past two weeks, IDF units have crossed into Gaza several times to strike at terrorists and foil potential attacks. On Wednesday, Israel Defense Forces soldiers killed four Hamas gunmen approaching the security fence. The militants were trying to lay an explosive device near the fence, the army said. Defense sources said the army is now authorized to act against clear threats within a "security perimeter" - a several-hundred-meter strip beyond the border fence. (Ha'aretz)
Palestinians in Gaza fired at least two Kassam rockets on Wednesday that landed near a southern Israel kibbutz. Early Thursday, another rocket landed near Kibbutz Nahal Oz. Earlier Wednesday, six mortar shells fired by the Hamas and the Popular Resistance Committees landed near a southern community. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
If Barack Obama is to persuade Iran to negotiate away its illegal nuclear weapons program, he will first need to generate more leverage. Tehran has an economic Achilles' heel - its extraordinarily heavy dependence on imported gasoline. Iran imports some 40% of the gasoline it needs for internal consumption.
In recent months, Iran has purchased nearly all of this gasoline from just five companies: the Swiss firm Vitol; the Swiss/Dutch firm Trafigura; the French firm Total; British Petroleum; and the Indian company Reliance Industries. If these companies stopped supplying Iran, the Iranians could replace only some of what they needed from other suppliers - and at a significantly higher price. Neither Russia nor China could serve as alternative suppliers since both are themselves heavily dependent on gasoline imports. The writer, a professor of law at Arizona State University, worked for 11 years at the State Department, including as a specialist on nuclear nonproliferation and sanctions. (Wall Street Journal)
Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington said in a report this month that Iran now has a technology base to make nuclear weapons, limited only by its current level of uranium enrichment. "The worst case for a nuclear device is 2009, but it could well be 2011-2015 before Iran gets there," Cordesman said Tuesday. "The critical issue is when Iran could have an effective nuclear-armed missile force. That could easily take two to three years longer."
Israel says Iran could have enough nuclear material to make its first bomb within a year. The U.S. estimates that Iran is at least two years away. A recent report by the Bipartisan Policy Center concluded that once Iran produces 700 kg. of low-enriched uranium, it could be capable of producing 20 kg. of highly enriched uranium, the minimum necessary for a nuclear device, in as little as 16 days. (AP/Washington Post)
It is tempting to believe that U.S. diplomacy can flip Syria. The last rejectionist Arab state, Syria is a lynchpin not only in the Arab-Israeli peace process, but also in efforts to resolve the Iraqi insurgency and Lebanese instability. Alas, Syria cannot be flipped, largely due to Arab history and political culture. For more than a millennium, Damascus, Baghdad and Cairo have competed for the leadership of the Arab world. At times, two rivals would join forces but never has there been solidarity among all three.
Diplomats seeking to flip Assad are asking him to commit political suicide. Syria has less than 20 million citizens to Egypt's 80 million; for Damascus to work in the same coalition as Cairo is to subordinate itself to it. Absent the crisis of resistance, Assad has little reason to justify rule by his Alawite clan, a minority Shiite sect, among a disenfranchised Sunni Arab majority. The writer, editor of the Middle East Quarterly, is a senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. (Forbes)
See also Syria to Be Offered Sweeteners to Come to Heel - Catherine Philp
Improved relations with the West, an end to U.S. sanctions and the return of the Golan Heights are among the prizes being held out to Syria by David Miliband, the British Foreign Secretary, as he seeks to bring the one-time pariah state in from the cold during a visit to Damascus next week. (Times-UK)
Israel Seeks Brotherhood and Peace - President Shimon Peres (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Israeli President Shimon Peres told the UN General Assembly meeting on the Culture of Peace on Wednesday:
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