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December 23, 2008

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Is Russia Supplying Advanced Missile System to Iran? - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)
    There are conflicting reports as to whether Russia is selling Iran the advanced S-300 anti-aircraft missile system.
    Any such system is made up of several basic components: radar, a control center, the missiles and their launch vehicles, peripheral equipment, and a logistic system.
    It is very possible that the Russians are not providing the Iranians with the entire system for the time being, but rather, for example, only the radar and other peripheral equipment.
    Information received in the West informs us that Iranian operators are already training in Russia on using the S-300 system.
    So the Russians were able to say they are not supplying the missiles, yet in practice also meet their obligations in line with the deal signed by President Putin and Iran's defense minister a year ago in Moscow.
    The Russians conducted themselves in a similar fashion in the deal signed with Tehran for supplying fuel to the nuclear reactor they built in Bushehr.
    Despite the delays in that deal, Russia ultimately delivered the goods.
    See also Russian Missile System Sold to Iran Problematic, But Not Most Advanced - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)
    The S-300 system's radar is capable of spotting about 100 targets and addressing 12 of them simultaneously.
    Its missiles are capable of hitting aircraft that are more than 150 kilometers away.
    However, the Russians apparently sold the export model of the system, S-300pmu 1, which is less sophisticated and boasts inferior performance compared to the system's newest model.
    S-300 systems of the model sold to Iran were also sold to China, India, and Cyprus, and Turkey is about to receive the same system from the Russians.

Ancient Gold Coins Found in Jerusalem - Etgar Lefkovits (Jerusalem Post)
    A hoard of 264 gold coins from the seventh century were uncovered in an archeological excavation just outside the walls of Jerusalem's Old City, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Monday.
    The coins were discovered Sunday by Nadine Ross of Birmingham, England, a British tourist volunteering at a dig in a parking lot in the ancient City of David.
    The cache was discovered amid the ruins of a seventh century building and bore the image of the Byzantine emperor Heraclius, who ruled between 610 and 641 CE.
    The find was "one of the largest and most impressive" coin hoards ever discovered in Jerusalem, according to Dr. Doron Ben-Ami, director of the excavation.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israeli PM Visits Turkey for Mideast Peace Talks
    Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday to discuss the indirect talks that Turkey is mediating between Israel and Syria. Israeli and Syrian negotiators have met four times since May with Turkish diplomats in Istanbul, but so far without any evident results. Israel is calling on Damascus to sever its ties with the current regime in Iran and stop its support for militants, namely the Lebanese Hizbullah and the Palestinian Hamas movements. (AFP)
  • Iranian Foundation Head Arrested in U.S. for Obstruction of Justice - Larry Neumeister
    The president of a foundation that co-owns a Manhattan building linked to a bank accused of supporting Iran's nuclear program was arrested last Friday. Farshid Jahedi, 54, the president of the Alavi Foundation, was charged with obstruction of justice after he tried on Thursday to throw away documents responsive to a subpoena he had received, federal prosecutors said. An FBI complaint said Jahedi dumped the papers in a public trash can. The documents referred to Assa Co. Ltd., a front set up by Iran's Bank Melli to funnel money from the U.S. to Iran. Bank Melli has been accused of providing support for Iran's nuclear program. (AP)
  • Five Muslim Immigrants Convicted of Conspiring to Attack Fort Dix - Paul Von Zielbauer and Jon Hurdle
    A federal jury on Monday convicted five men of conspiring to kill American soldiers at Fort Dix in New Jersey last year. Three brothers - Shain, Eljvir and Dritan Duka - and Mohamad Shnewer and Serdar Tatar are all Muslim immigrants who lived in South Jersey or Philadelphia. Federal prosecutors called the five men "radical Islamists" and said the men had taken concrete steps to train and arm themselves. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Gaza Rocket Fire Continues as Hamas Proclaims One-Day Cease-Fire - Khaled Abu Toameh and Yaakov Katz
    Two Kassam rockets and three mortar shells landed in Israel on Monday as Hamas officials said the group had agreed to a 24-hour cease-fire. This came after a warning from Egypt that Israel would begin targeting Hamas leaders if the rocket attacks continued. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Hamas Saving Rockets for Future Clash - Ali Waked
    As opposed to other Palestinian groups in Gaza, Hamas has not yet fired any Kassam rockets at Israel since the end of the lull, instead making do with mortar fire at Gaza-region communities. Hamas is saving its rockets for a response to a possible Israeli military operation. (Ynet News)
  • Southern Israeli Cities Hold Rocket Attack Drill
    The Israel Defense Forces Home Front Command will hold a broad drill on Tuesday to simulate the possibility of rocket attacks on Ashkelon, Ashdod, Kiryat Malachi and Kiryat Gat. Meanwhile, cities further away from Gaza, such as Beersheba, Gedera and Yavne, were testing siren warning systems. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Intensified Palestinian Rocket Attacks Reignite Anxiety in Israel - Ruth Eglash
    Renewed Kassam rocket attacks on Sderot and the western Negev has reignited the extreme trauma and stress experienced by area residents, especially children, according to professionals who run the Israel Trauma Coalition's five Resilience Centers. "We have been receiving an increasing number of calls and people coming in for treatment," said David Giron, regional coordinator of the Resilience Centers. "Now the pressure has returned at an even higher magnitude than before," he explained, stressing that the situation reflects a buildup after eight years of attacks. Dalia Yosef, director of the Sderot Resilience Center, said the center currently treats more than 400 children out of some 5,000 in the town. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Gaza Gunmen Fire at IDF Soldiers Near Border Fence
    Gaza gunmen fired at IDF soldiers patrolling the security fence near the Sufa crossing on Monday, seemingly refuting reports of a 24-hour cease-fire. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Will Syria Get Away with Murder? - Benny Avni
    A special UN court is set to begin work in March to try and punish the assassins responsible for killing former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and specifically their Damascus-based masterminds. However, powerful forces have a vested interest in assuring judicial impunity for the culprits in Hariri's killing. And management of the trial is in the hands of the UN, so don't bet on justice winning out. The UN named an investigation team soon after the killing headed by tough German cop Detlev Mehlis, who wrote a report that implicated the innermost circles around Syrian President Bashar Assad in Hariri's assassination.
        The Assads have a habit of making themselves seem indispensable for any regional peace. If European governments again see a need to protect the Syrian regime in the name of Mideast peace talks, they could starve the tribunal of financing. The West, in other words, may deem the collapse of the Damascus regime inconvenient - and so let it get away with murder. (New York Post)
  • Syrian Illusions - Herb Keinon
    In any peace agreement with Israel, Syria is not only interested in regaining the Golan. Damascus also wants America; they want the same type of economic assistance the Americans gave the Egyptians and Jordanians, and they want the U.S. to wink at what they believe is their right to influence Lebanon. The U.S. has two major quarrels with the Syrians. The first has to do with Syrian actions to undermine the development of a pro-Western democracy in Lebanon, and the second is the terrorists' use of Syria as a staging ground for attacks inside Iraq.
        The U.S. position has been that there has to be some kind of Syrian behavioral modification before the door to Damascus can be opened. Although the Obama administration may want to talk to Damascus, just as it wants to talk to Iran, that doesn't mean it will give the Syrians anything concrete until they change their behavior. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The Arab Sole - Tunku Varadarajan
    A vast swath of people, from Morocco to Iraq, have found cultural and tribal, even civilizational, catharsis in a 20-second display of theater comprising the hurling of shoes at George W. Bush at a press conference in Baghdad. Yet only a people who live under the boots of their rulers celebrate the throwing of a shoe at a guest.
        Is this how their heroism is now defined? To me - to many - this is alarming proof of the depth of Arab impotence, of the Lilliputian self-image that drives Muslim Arabs to take to terrorism, to assault that which they cannot comprehend. The irony that has been lost on them is the fact that in the entire Arab world, only in Bushified Iraq could such an act of protest be possible. The writer is a professor at the Stern Business School at NYU and research fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution. (Forbes)
  • Observations:

    Arab World Besieged by Modernity - Adam LeBor (Sunday Times-UK)

    • No fully sovereign Arab state is a democracy with meaningful independent institutions where power passes peacefully by popular vote. Economies are sclerotic, but human-rights abuses are flourishing. South Korea and Taiwan export more manufactured goods in two days than Egypt in a year. Since 1950 the Arab population has risen from 79m to 327m, but real wages and productivity have barely moved since 1970.
    • Poor economic opportunities, endemic corruption, education based on rote learning, state-sponsored Jew-hatred, soaring youth populations and unemployment are a recipe for social catastrophe. Add the rise of radical Islam and the growth of al-Qaeda and the mix becomes something explosive.
    • A millennia ago Arab and Muslim thinkers, writers, scientists and doctors led an intellectual revolution that is still shaping our world. An explosion of knowledge and ideas caused Arab scientists to leap ahead of their European contemporaries. This vigorous intellectual curiosity was rooted in Islamic thought and the concept of ijtihad, of continually reinterpreting Islamic law to meet the demands of the contemporary world.
    • In the Muslim empire in Spain known as Al-Andalus, Cordoba, Seville and Granada were the jewels of Europe, where art, learning and culture flowered. The great Jewish thinker Moses Maimonides was born in Cordoba and wrote in Judeo-Arabic, Hebrew words transcribed in Arabic. When the Catholic kings expelled Spain's last Jews in 1492, Ottoman Sultan Bayezid II sent a fleet of ships to fetch them.

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