Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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November 20, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran Said to Have Nuclear Fuel for One Weapon - William J. Broad and David E. Sanger (New York Times)
    Iran has now produced enough nuclear material to make, with added purification, a single atom bomb, according to nuclear experts analyzing the latest report from global atomic inspectors.
    The International Atomic Energy Agency, which has been conducting inspections of Iran's main nuclear plant at Natanz, reported Wednesday that as of early November, Iran had made 630 kilograms of low-enriched uranium.
    Several experts said that was enough for a bomb, but they cautioned that Iran would have to take additional steps to further purify the fuel and put it into a warhead design.

U.S. Removes 550 Tons of Nuclear Precursor from Iraq - Carter Andress (Washington Times)
    A few months ago the U.S. military removed from Iraq 550 metric tons of yellowcake uranium, a necessary precursor to the development of nuclear weapons.
    With this radioactive material, all that was needed to create up to 140 nuclear bombs was the centrifuge equipment Pakistan stole from Europe and then re-exported to Libya and Iran.

Israel to Boycott UN Anti-Racism Meet (AFP)
    "Israel will not participate and will not legitimize the (Durban) Review Conference, which will be used as a platform for anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity," Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told a conference of North American Jewish leaders in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
    "The conference appears to be heading once again towards becoming an anti-Israeli tribunal, which has nothing to do with fighting racism," she said.
    The April 2009 meeting in Geneva is a follow-up to a conference held in Durban in 2001 which ended in acrimony amidst accusations of anti-Semitism.

U.S. Arrests Iranian Arms Agent in Iraq (AP)
    The U.S. military said Wednesday it had arrested a senior member of Iran's Revolutionary Guards' elite Quds force suspected of funneling weapons into Iraq.
    The suspect was using a job repairing religious sites as a cover to smuggle weapons into Iraq in shipments of building materials.

Israel Launches Arabic YouTube Channel to Bypass Arab Media - Yoav Stern (Ha'aretz)
    The Israeli Foreign Ministry has launched a YouTube channel in Arabic to bypass Arab media and give Israel's version of current events directly to Arab viewers.

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

  • UN Nuclear Agency Says Bombed Syrian Site Resembled Atom Plant - Mark Heinrich
    A Syrian complex bombed by Israel bore features resembling those of an undeclared nuclear reactor and Syria must cooperate more with UN inspectors, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report on Wednesday. The report said "significant" amounts of uranium particles were found at the site by inspectors in June but it was not enough to prove a reactor was there and further investigation was needed. The IAEA will ask Syria to show debris and equipment it whisked away from the site after the September 2007 Israeli air raid.
        "While it cannot be excluded that the building in question was intended for non-nuclear use, the features of the building, along with the connectivity of the site to adequate pumping capacity of cooling water, are similar to what may be found in connection with a reactor site," said the report. (Reuters)
  • Al-Qaeda Declares War on Obama - Judith Miller
    Al-Qaeda has officially added President-elect Barack Obama to its enemies list. In a new video message, Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's number two, calls Obama a "House Negro" who "claims" to be Christian. The video says that because Obama has chosen to support Israel and has threatened to strike Pakistan and send more troops to Afghanistan, he has decided to continue "the crimes of the American crusade." Zawahiri also says that by choosing to abandon the faith of his Muslim father in favor of Christianity and to continue waging America's War on Terror, Obama has agreed to "pray the prayer of the Jews." In case anyone misses the point of this diatribe (widely distributed on Arab television networks), the video portrays Obama wearing a yarmulke - a Jewish skullcap. (FOX News)
  • Peres: "Let the Palestinians Stop Shooting and They Won't Suffer"
    Israeli President Shimon Peres told a news conference in London Wednesday that trade restrictions on goods made in Jewish settlements hurt Palestinian workers in the settlements and if they were fired due to a crackdown on exports it would increase unemployment. Asked how he justified the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza, Peres said: "Why should they suffer? Let them stop shooting and they won't suffer." (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Olmert, Barak on Secret Visit to Jordan
    Prime Minister Olmert and Defense Minister Barak paid a secret visit to King Abdullah in Jordan Tuesday, Israel Radio reported Thursday. They told the king that Israel could not sit back for long while Gaza militants continued to fire rockets and mortars at Israel. (Ha'aretz)
  • Obama Tells Abbas He Will Spare No Effort to Facilitate Mideast Peace - Anshel Pfeffer
    Palestinian peace negotiator Saeb Erekat said U.S. President-elect Barack Obama called Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday and told him that he would spare no effort to facilitate a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired two Kassam rockets at Israel on Wednesday that landed in the Zikim area, south of Ashkelon. (Ynet News)
  • U.S.-Trained PA Forces Arrest 250 Hamas Terrorists in Hebron Area - Yaakov Katz
    Less than a month after deploying in Hebron, a U.S.-trained battalion of Palestinian policemen has arrested over 250 Hamas terror suspects, defense officials said Wednesday. However, another Israeli security official said it remained to be seen whether the terror suspects would be indicted and convicted. "We still have to ensure that they do not return to the streets and are not set free," the official said. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Palestinian Security Services Carry Out Intensive Activity in the Hebron District
    The primary objective of reinforcing the Palestinian security services in Hebron is to enforce law and order, end anarchy, and strengthen the PA's control and position. At the same time, it is meant to impair Hamas' civilian and military capabilities, which are regarded as the main threat to PA control. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Oil-Producing Countries in Middle East Face Plummeting Oil Prices - Nimrod Raphaeli
    After oil prices reached a high of $147 a barrel in July, prices plummeted to below $55 a barrel in mid-November. Some countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE have deep pockets and can survive the dip in revenues. In other countries, particularly Iran and Iraq, oil shocks could trigger serious economic dislocation.
        Iran, the second largest oil producer among OPEC members, is likely to feel the pain of declining oil prices more severely than any other oil-producing country in the Middle East. Iran's price stabilization fund, which was to receive windfall profits to be used when oil revenues decline, has been nearly depleted as a result of poorly managed economic policies by the regime of President Ahmadinejad. (MEMRI)
        See also Declining Oil Prices Deal Blow to Syrian Economy - Anna Fifield
    The decline in crude prices has huge implications for the Syrian economy. Five years ago oil comprised more than half of Syria's $29 billion in income, but last year it contributed only $3.8 billion to revenues totaling $22 billion. In addition, domestic oil production fell by 6.5% to 394,000 barrels a day last year and is set to shrink further. Furthermore, the IMF estimates that the non-oil parts of the Syrian economy contracted 7.3% last year, worse than the 6.4% shrinkage in the previous year. (Financial Times-UK)
  • The Influence of Christian Interests in Setting the Route of the Security Fence in Jerusalem - Col. (res.) Danny Tirza
    In March 2002, at the height of a terror campaign in which 1,804 Israelis were killed in Palestinian suicide bombings, the government of Israel decided to take a defensive measure to block terrorists from reaching Israeli population centers by establishing a physical obstacle. Even Israel's worst enemies confessed that the security fence saved Israeli lives.
        In building the security fence, great efforts were invested and solutions were provided to meet the unique needs of the Christian churches in the region to guarantee freedom of religion and religious observance, and free access to holy places. The establishment of the security fence was a vital measure for the security of Israel's citizens and those members of all faiths visiting Israel. Only when visitors to Jerusalem enjoy a sense of security can there be normal life, religious observance, and pilgrimage to the holy sites. The author was in charge of planning the security fence between the West Bank and Israel. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Observations:

    The Sejil: A New Iranian Missile - Yiftah Shapir (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)

    • On Nov. 12, the Iranian media reported the test launch of a new missile called the Sejil. According to Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, the missile is two-staged, with both stages powered by solid fuel and a range "close to 2,000 kilometers."
    • Developing a solid fuel propelled two-stage missile indicates considerable technological know-how that differs greatly from the liquid fuel technology that has characterized Iranian missiles to date. Therefore, claims made by experts that this is in fact a Shahab-3 missile with a different logo have no foundations whatsoever.
    • A solid fuel missile does not require a long, complicated process of fueling a short time before its launch, and is more mobile and therefore harder to locate prior to its launch.
    • The existence of Iranian ballistic missiles is meant primarily to deter other countries from attacking Iran. Their existence does not constitute a reason to assume automatic Iranian use of these missiles to attack targets.
    • Israel has long been within Iran's missile range. As long as there is no change in the warhead (i.e., the development of a nuclear warhead), there has been no change in the threat against Israel, though the fact that the missile is solid fuel propelled reduces its vulnerability.
    • There is a large gap between test-firing one missile and equipping an army with enough missiles to represent a threat with operational implications. Thus, even if the recent test was successful beyond all expectations and the missile goes into serial production in the near future (which is not very likely), one may safely assume that several years will pass until Iran can deploy a significant number of missiles of this type.

      The writer is Senior Research Fellow and Director of the INSS Middle East Military Balance project.

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