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December 17, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Report: Germany Wants New Sanctions Against Iran (AFP)
    Germany wants further sanctions to be imposed against Iran, hitting the banking and transport sectors, according to the weekly Der Spiegel.
    Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier's chief-of-staff Volker Stanzel suggested new measures to his French and British counterparts on Thursday.
    See also Iran Remains Unimpressed by Sanctions - Dieter Bednarz and Ralf Beste (Der Spiegel-Germany)

Argentina Seizes Iran Diplomat's Property in Jewish Center Bombing Probe (Reuters)
    An Argentine judge on Tuesday seized a building belonging to a former Iranian cultural attache in Argentina who is sought on charges related to the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center.
    The judicial order stems from a million-dollar lawsuit for damages by a survivor of the bombing, which killed 85 people and wounded more than 200 others, Prosecutor Alberto Nisman said.
    Argentina has formally accused Iran of masterminding the attack and is seeking the arrest of high-ranking Iranian government officials.

Poll: Most Israelis Oppose Arab Peace Plan - Tovah Lazaroff (Jerusalem Post)
    61% of Israelis oppose the Arab League initiative that calls for a full withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders, while 36% support the plan, according to a poll released on Tuesday by the Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace at Hebrew University and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah.
    63% of Israelis opposed evacuating the Golan Heights in exchange for peace with Syria.
    Among Palestinians, 73% oppose the establishment of demilitarized Palestinian state.
    See also Joint Israeli-Palestinian Poll, December 2008 (Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace-Hebrew University)

Explosives Found at Paris Department Store, Group Demands Withdrawal of French Troops from Afghanistan - Katrin Bennhold and Basil Katz (New York Times)
    A package of dynamite planted in a luxury Paris department store was found and removed by the police on Tuesday at the height of the Christmas shopping season.
    A group calling itself the Afghan Revolutionary Front said in a warning mailed to Agence France-Presse that it had planted the explosives and demanded the withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan.

British Physician Convicted in 2007 Car-Bomb Plot - Mary Jordan (Washington Post)
    A British jury Tuesday found Bilal Abdulla, 29, a UK-born doctor from an Iraqi family, guilty of plotting to murder on a mass scale in failed car-bomb attacks last year in London and Glasgow.
    Abdulla drove a Mercedes sedan packed with gas cylinders and nails into central London in June 2007 with the intent of killing hundreds, the prosecution said.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Syria Wants Presence on Sea of Galilee in Peace Deal - Khaled Yacoub Oweis
    Syria has drafted a document defining six geographical points for Israeli agreement before it will continue indirect peace talks through Turkish mediators, sources familiar with the talks said this week. A Syrian official said the document includes reference to the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, Israel's main water reservoir. "The document puts us on the water," the official said. Diplomats in the Syrian capital said that even if the two sides make progress on the territorial question, a deal might not follow easily because Israel wants Syria to reduce its alliance with Iran and cut support for Hizbullah and Palestinian Islamist groups. (Reuters)
        See also The Golan Heights and the Syrian-Israeli Negotiations - Dore Gold (ICA/Jerusalem Center)
        See also Israel-Syria Indirect Talks on Hold - Barak Ravid and Yoav Stern
    Israel and Syria have both told Turkey that they are not currently interested in conducting another round of indirect talks in that country before Israel's general election on Feb. 10, an Israeli diplomat said this week. At the Foreign Ministry, top diplomats have said they are unhappy with the way peace talks have allowed Syria to break out of its isolation, despite its classification as a terror-sponsoring country. (Ha'aretz)
  • UN Backs Middle East Peace Process
    The UN Security Council approved a resolution Tuesday - co-sponsored by the U.S. and Russia - that backs "the determined efforts" by Israel and the Palestinians to conclude a peace treaty and fulfill the vision that they can live peacefully side by side as independent democratic states. The vote was 14-0, with Libya abstaining. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said, "The Security Council's clear support is a vote of confidence in the process Israel is advancing with the legitimate Palestinian leadership." Livni said negotiations would continue, though talks must be accompanied by the Palestinian government's efforts to crack down on militants and end Hamas control of Gaza. (AP)
        See also Israel Welcomes Security Council Support for Peace Process (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
        See also Text of UN Security Council Resolution 1850 (United Nations)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Bus Crash Near Eilat Kills 25 Russian Travel Agents, Wounds 33 - Ahuva Mamos
    At least 25 people were killed and 33 were injured Tuesday as a private bus carrying travel agents from St. Petersburg, Russia, and headed to Eilat from the Uvda airfield, plummeted down a 45-foot chasm. President Shimon Peres spoke with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev Tuesday and expressed sorrow on behalf of the people of Israel over the accident. (Ynet News)
  • Russia Renews Talks with Iran Over Sale of Anti-Aircraft Missiles, Despite Israeli Objections - Barak Ravid
    Russia has decided to renew contacts with Iran for the sale of advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missiles, despite previous assurances that Russia would not move forward with the transaction. In response, Defense Ministry Diplomatic-Security Bureau head Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad has been sent to Moscow to try to dissuade the Kremlin from supplying Iran with the missiles. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinians Fire Nine Rockets at Israel Wednesday - Ilana Curiel
    Palestinians fired nine Kassam rockets from Gaza into Israel on Wednesday morning. One rocket landed near a factory in Ashkelon's southern industrial zone. (Ynet News)
        See also Palestinians Fire Seven Rockets at Israel Tuesday - Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel
    Palestinians in Gaza on Tuesday fired seven Kassam rockets and a mortar shell at Israel. One of the rockets exploded in the soccer field of Sapir College in Sderot, and a number of people were treated for shock. In response, the Israel Air Force targeted a rocket-launching squad in northern Gaza. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • A Political Culture of Self-Righteous Fury - Jonathan Spyer
    The flying shoes that greeted President Bush at his press conference in Iraq on Sunday are the latest emblem of an outlook that sees all events through the prism of a wounded sense of Arab nationalism. This political culture sanctifies anti-Western fury, and continues, half a century after decolonization, to see the Arabs as hapless victims of the West. The tremendous popularity of Hizbullah's Hassan Nasrallah and even the non-Arab Mahmoud Ahmedinejad among broad masses of Arabs is a product of this political culture.
        It is an undeniable fact that the individual more responsible than any other for the enfranchisement and elevation to power of the Shi'ites of Iraq is George W. Bush. The man who established a situation in which the Iraqi Shi'ite Muntadar al-Zeidi is able to work freely as a journalist, worship freely as a Shi'ite, and vote freely as a citizen was the same one at whom Zeidi chose to hurl his shoes. The peculiar political culture of self-righteous fury that bestrides the Arabic-speaking world constitutes perhaps the single largest barrier to its rational and mature development. The writer is a senior researcher at the Global Research in International Affairs Center, IDC, Herzliya. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Iraqi Who Threw Shoes at Bush Hailed as Arab Hero - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The Al-Jazeera Web site, one of the most popular in the Arab world, said it received a record of 3,500 talkbacks in response to the incident. Over 90% of the Arabs who posted comments expressed full support for al-Zeidi and condemned Bush as a war criminal who deserved to die. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The Challenges of Israeli Military Action in Gaza - Jeffrey White
    The IDF faces a difficult and complex reality in Gaza. Without doubt, the IDF can prevail militarily against Hamas, but the speed of execution, the number of casualties - military and civilian - on both sides, and the conditions at the end of the operation will be shaped by how well the IDF deals with the military challenges. A rapid operation that inflicts substantial attrition and damage on the enemy, but with limited civilian casualties, produces one result. An operation that is slow or hesitant, producing few concrete military results and significant civilian losses, creates a much different military, political, and diplomatic reality. The writer is a defense fellow at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
        See also Low-Intensity Clash in Gaza - Ron Ben-Yishai
    The "lull" on the Gaza border will not come to an end this Friday because it in fact ended about six weeks ago. In place of the truce, we now have an active yet low-intensity clash, which is what we can expect in the near future. (Ynet News)
  • Forgotten Flowering of Political Islam - Roula Khalaf
    Only two years ago, political Islam was staging a stunning comeback across the Arab world. In the Palestinian territories, Hamas won the 2006 parliamentary elections, routing the secular and corrupt Fatah. The previous year, Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood gained 20% of parliamentary seats, despite fielding only a limited number of candidates. But as Islamists flexed their political muscle, they heightened the anxiety of the Middle East's autocratic rulers and their Western backers. The backlash has been sweeping. (Financial Times-UK)
  • Observations:

    Prospects for U.S.-Iran Talks - Joshua Muravchik (

    • The Obama administration will surely talk directly with representatives of the Islamic Republic of Iran. So did the Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan and Carter administrations. These talks will produce nothing, however, just as those earlier efforts did. The idea that two countries that are at odds can lay to rest their dispute by talking and resolving their misunderstandings is a myth. Yes, enemies do sometimes reconcile, but in none of these cases did the crucial breakthrough come as a result of conversations between the parties. Rather, in each case, dictatorial rulers first decided to undertake a drastic shift in policy. After that, negotiations served to work out the details.
    • The U.S. has no designs against Iran and no desire for conflict. Iran, however, has ambitions to spread the "global Islamic revolution" and dominate the Persian Gulf. Toward these ends, it seeks nuclear weapons. The U.S. resists these ambitions in order to defend itself and its allies. Iran has an official slogan, "death to America," posted on walls and chanted at Friday "prayers." No one in America chants "death to Iran."
    • If Iran relinquished its ambitions for regional dominance and global revolution, and sought only to develop its economy, enhance the lives of its people and live in peace, the conflict with the U.S. would be over automatically. If there were something Iran wanted from the U.S. for which it was willing to trade away its imperial and revolutionary ambitions, it would have made that known long ago. Negotiations between Washington and Tokyo in the 1930s ended on the day of Pearl Harbor. Then, the U.S. opposed Japan's ambitions to create a "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere," a regional empire much like the one Tehran dreams of today.

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