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January 28, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran Could Have Ability to Build Nuclear Bomb by 2010, Study Warns - David Blair (Telegraph-UK)
    The International Institute for Strategic Studies has said Iran is months away from crossing a vital threshold which could put it on course to build a nuclear weapon.
    Mark Fitzpatrick, the senior fellow for non-proliferation at the IISS, said: "This year, it's very likely that Iran will have produced enough low-enriched uranium which, if further enriched, could constitute enough fissile material for one nuclear weapon, if that is the route Iran so desires."
    Further enrichment to produce weapons-grade uranium would take at least 12 months after the threshold that Iran is likely to reach at the end of this year.

U.S.: Iranian Arms Probably Were Bound for Gaza - Anne Gearan (AP)
    Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, confirmed Tuesday that a Cypriot-flagged ship intercepted in the Red Sea last week was carrying Iranian arms and that U.S. authorities suspect that the shipment was ultimately bound for the Gaza.
    "The United States did as much as we could do legally," Mullen said, adding, "We were not authorized to seize the weapons."

Gaza War Unites Israelis - Tobias Buck (Financial Times-UK)
    Officials and analysts say they have been surprised by the degree of Israel's national unity and sense of common purpose during the Gaza war.
    The change in attitude is palpable. Polls show the overwhelming majority of Israelis backed the war, which they saw as a just assault on an implacable and dangerous enemy.
    Yossi Klein Halevy, a fellow at the Jerusalem-based Shalem Center, notes: "The soldiers fought with more motivation than at any time since the 1973 Yom Kippur war, the home front bore up with weeks of shelling without complaint, and the country was unified. Even most of the Israeli left supported the operation."
    The lesson that Israelis take away from three weeks of war is one that has echoed throughout the country's history: that being strong is preferable to being popular.

IDF Antelope Corps Helps Secure Israel's Northern Border - Eli Ashkenazi (Ha'aretz)
    The Israel Defense Forces has deployed eight Eland antelope in the zone between the northern security fence and the international border to clear problematic foliage that distorts views of the Lebanese side and within which Hizbullah terrorists could hide.
    The animals, each weighing over 500 kilograms, are known for their fondness for eating vegetation.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel Responds to Gaza Border Bombing with Air Attack
    An Israeli military aircraft struck smugglers' tunnels in Gaza early Wednesday after Palestinian militants set off a deadly bomb on the Israeli border on Tuesday, killing one Israeli soldier and wounding three. (UPI)
        See also IDF: Hamas Didn't Carry Out Border Attack - But Is Responsible - Hanan Greenberg
    The attack on an IDF force patrolling the Gaza border on Tuesday was carried out by an Islamist group affiliated with al-Qaeda calling itself the "Jihad and Tawhid Brigades." An IDF Bedouin tracker was the soldier killed. The army says Hamas at the very least gave its consent to the attack. Military sources estimate that Hamas will continue to operate against Israel through other organizations. Senior Israeli officials said Tuesday that they have no intention of playing along with Hamas' scheme to evade responsibility. (Ynet News)
        See also Palestinians in Gaza Fire Rocket at Israel - Amos Harel and Anshel Pfeffer
    A rocket fired by Palestinians in Gaza struck Israel Wednesday. (Ha'aretz)
  • Secretary of State Clinton: "We Support Israel's Right to Self-Defense"
    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday that Israel had a right to defend itself and that Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza on the Jewish state could not go unanswered. "We support Israel's right to self-defense. The (Palestinian) rocket barrages which are getting closer and closer to populated areas (in Israel) cannot go unanswered," Clinton said in her first news conference. "It is regrettable that the Hamas leadership apparently believes that it is in their interest to provoke the right of self-defense instead of building a better future for the people of Gaza," said Clinton. (Reuters)
        See also Transcript: Clinton News Conference (State Department)
  • Ahmadinejad: Obama Must Apologize to Iran - Zahra Hosseinian
    Responding to President Obama's offer to extend a hand of peace to Iran, Iranian President Ahmadinejad said Wednesday, "Those who say they want to make change, this is the change they should make: they should apologize to the Iranian nation and try to make up for their dark background and the crimes they have committed against the Iranian nation." He listed a range of "crimes" such as trying to block Tehran's nuclear program, hindering Iran's development, and other actions by several administrations for more than 60 years. (Reuters)
  • To Combat Obama, Al-Qaeda Hurls Insults - Joby Warrick
    Al-Qaeda has unleashed a stream of verbal tirades against Barack Obama, each more venomous than the last. Obama has been called a "hypocrite," a "killer" of innocents, an "enemy of Muslims." He was even blamed for the Israeli military assault in Gaza, which began and ended before he took office. The torrent of hateful words is part of what terrorism experts now believe is a deliberate propaganda campaign against a president who appears to have gotten under al-Qaeda's skin. With Obama, al-Qaeda faces an entirely new challenge, as polls show he is well liked throughout the Muslim world. (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Hamas Captives Talking to Israel about Tactics, Training - Amos Harel
    The Israel Security Agency has released details of the interrogation of two Hamas men who were arrested by the Israel Defense Forces during the Gaza military campaign, including Hamas use of mosques for weapon caches and military training. There are more than 20 terrorists currently being held in Israel from the Gaza operation. (Ha'aretz)
  • Report: UNRWA Pays Terrorists - Yitzhak Benhorin
    The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees employs and provides benefits for terrorists and criminals, asserts former legal adviser to UNRWA James Lindsay. "No justification exists for millions of dollars in humanitarian aid going to those who can afford to pay for UNRWA services," he says in a report. He suggests UNRWA "halt its one-sided political statements...take additional steps to ensure the agency is not employing or providing benefits to terrorists and criminals, and...provide balanced and discrimination-free textbooks." (Ynet News)
        See also Fixing UNRWA: Repairing the UN's Troubled System of Aid to Palestinian Refugees - James G. Lindsay
    Why does the UN still operates schools, hospitals, and clinics for "refugees" six decades after the partition of Mandatory Palestine? This study by UNRWA's former general counsel evaluates recent criticisms of its operations and recommends new policies for the U.S. government - UNRWA's largest single-country donor - that will help repair an aid and relief system that has strayed from its original mission. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Holocaust Memorials Have Become a Substitute for Acting Against Modern Fascists - Daniel Schwammenthal
    Holocaust Memorial Day has become an annual ritual in which Europeans promise moral clarity and courage the next time it's needed. Yet the list of post-Holocaust genocides is long: the killing fields of Cambodia, the slaughter of Tutsis in Rwanda, the murder of Christians and animists in southern Sudan and the continuing destruction of Muslims in Darfur. Nor have solemn declarations about the evils of the Holocaust ended Europe's booming trade with those dreaming of Israel's destruction, the mullahs in Tehran. The ceremonies have become a substitute for action against modern fascists, predominantly Islamist. (Wall Street Journal Europe)
  • Did Israel Commit War Crimes in Gaza? - Thomas Darnstadt and Christoph Schult
    Israel's enemy is a group of terrorists that fights while using the civilian population as human shields. This alone is impermissible under the rules of the Geneva Conventions. It would be unreasonable to expect a country to accept any legal restrictions that puts it at a serious military disadvantage. In war, say most legal experts, each side must have the right to seek victory. Is Israel, for example, required to spare the bakery of a good citizen of Gaza who pulls out his bazooka from behind his oven at night to secretly take part in the fighting? It is not, because international law defines this citizen as an enemy. In war, anyone can be killed who is considered part of the enemy, even if he bakes bread during the day.
        Asa Kascher, a philosophy professor at the University of Tel Aviv who wrote the code of ethics for the Israeli armed forces, calls the charges of supposed war crimes "nonsense." Israel takes great pains to avoid civilian casualties, says Kascher. But he also says that it is impossible to fight terrorism without collateral damage. (Der Spiegel-Germany)
  • The Charities Are Guilty, Not the BBC - Andrew Roberts
    Mark Thompson, the Director-General of the BBC, is quite right to refuse to broadcast the appeal of the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC) for humanitarian relief for Gaza, but not for the reason he thinks. He is under the impression that it will damage the BBC's reputation for impartiality in reporting the Israel-Palestine question, but the fact is that the BBC does not have any such reputation, having for years been institutionally pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli. The reason that his decision is brave and right, however, is that many of the 13 charities that make up the DEC are even more mired in anti-Israeli assumptions than the BBC itself. The issue of humanitarian relief in this conflict is quite unlike humanitarian relief for victims of a tsunami or a famine. The writer is a British historian. (Times-UK)
  • Observations:

    Former U.S. Diplomat: Mitchell's Prospects "Slim to None" - Bernard Gwertzman (Council on Foreign Relations-New York Times)

    • Aaron David Miller, who was a top U.S. Middle East negotiator for ten years, says that despite naming George Mitchell as a new special envoy, the administration has "no intention of making major changes in America's approach to the Arab-Israeli issue, because right now, the prospects of any sort of conflict-ending agreement between Israelis and Palestinians are slim to none."
    • "Gaza has so many moving parts - anti-smuggling, opening the crossing points, dealing with securing a longer-term arrangement between Israel and Hamas on the security side, the prisoner issue...and of course, the tricky issue of reconstructing Gaza and providing enough humanitarian relief....These things are going to absorb most of Mitchell's time."
    • "It's safe to assume that there will be no change - none, absolutely none - in the administration's approach to Hamas."
    • "By statute, literally by legislation, the United States is prevented from providing any economic or material assistance to Hamas. We have made a judgment by virtue of our own politics and our own priorities that we have no intention of engaging Hamas politically. And for a new president, trying to fix America's broken house, the last thing he needs is a fight. It would be a messy one with the government of Israel and the pro-Israel political community in the United States even if he started an indirect dialogue with Hamas. And frankly, right now, dealing with Hamas is the key to an empty room."

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