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February 5, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Tehran's Satellite Launch Shows America Its Nuclear Intent - Editorial (Telegraph-UK)
    Tehran's claim that it has put its Omid satellite into orbit should raise concerns about the regime's ultimate objectives.
    Launching a satellite involves fixing a spherical object to the head of an advanced missile system, a procedure that is not dissimilar to launching an atom bomb.

U.S. Dependence on Middle East Oil Is Exaggerated - Nimrod Raphaeli (MEMRI)
    Alleged U.S. dependence on Middle East oil is greatly exaggerated.
    With the help of its oil strategic reserves, its national production of oil and the availability of oil from two friendly neighbors, Canada and Mexico, coupled with the drive for developing alternative energy sources, the U.S. could muddle through with reduced Middle East oil for a long while.
    With world oil prices at their lowest level since 2004, the sharp decline in oil revenues will lessen the threat of pressure on U.S. foreign policy by oil producing countries as well as the threat of acquiring vital U.S. assets by foreign sovereign wealth funds.

Sweden: Shoe Attack Against Israeli Ambassador - David Jonasson (Stockholm News-Sweden)
    Israeli Ambassador to Sweden Benny Dagan was subjected to a shoe attack during a lecture at Stockholm University on Wednesday.
    One person threw a shoe and another some books, says Joakim Caryll, press officer of the Stockholm Police.

South African Dock Workers Won't Unload Israeli Goods - Donna Bryson (AP/Washington Post)
    South African dock workers won't unload ships carrying goods from Israel in solidarity with the Palestinians, Randall Howard, general secretary of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, said Wednesday.
    In Israel, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said: "If these people think that by refusing to unload shipments from Israel they are promoting peace, they should go back to school because they have misread the situation in the Middle East big time."

Palestinian Poll on Gaza War, Rocket Fire, Obama (IMRA)
    A poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion at the end of January asked who won the war in Gaza. The response: Israel - 11%, Hamas - 34%, Nobody - 54%.
    The poll found that 39% support continued rocket fire on Israel from Gaza, 27% are opposed, and 34% were undecided.
    42% reported a favorable opinion of U.S. President Barack Obama, while 58% had a negative opinion.
    See also Poll Surveys Palestinian Opinion (IMRA)
    A poll conducted by the An-Najah University Center for Opinion Polls and Survey Studies on 1-2 February surveyed Palestinian public opinion.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Hamas Seizes Aid from UN Warehouse
    Hamas policemen raided a UN warehouse on Tuesday, seizing thousands of blankets and food parcels that were meant to be distributed to Palestinian civilians in Gaza, UN officials say. UN spokesman Christopher Gunness said Hamas police took 3,500 blankets and over 400 food parcels, and he demanded the goods be immediately returned. (BBC News)
  • Senior Iranian: "Zionists Brought Obama to Power," Sees No Change in U.S. Ties - Parisa Hafezi
    "Our 'red lines' are rejecting the arrogant policies of America and the Zionist regime," Iranian cleric Hojjatoleslam Ali Maboudi, the representative to the Revolutionary Guards in northwestern Zanjan province, said Tuesday. "Opposing the Zionist regime and defending oppressed people are among the pillars of the Islamic revolution and Iran and America's relationship will not change because of Obama taking office," he said, Fars News Agency reported. "The Zionists brought Obama to power," Maboudi added. (Reuters)
        See also Iranians Wary of Obama's Approach - Scott Peterson (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Denmark Hosts Gaza Arms Smuggling Conference
    A two-day conference on how to halt arms smuggling into Gaza opened in Copenhagen on Wednesday. The meeting, organized in conjunction with the U.S., is to review how international help could be offered to prevent weapons smuggling. It includes officials from the U.S., Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, and Norway. (DPA)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Presents Conclusions of Inquiry into Death of Gaza Doctor's Daughters - Amos Harel
    The IDF on Wednesday presented the conclusions of an inquiry into the deaths of Gaza doctor Ezzeldin Abu Elaish's three daughters during the recent Gaza operation. The IDF explained that troops had been fired upon by snipers situated in the house adjacent to Abu Elaish's home. The troops identified suspicious figures on the upper levels of the doctor's building, and deduced that they were serving as observers, directing the sniper fire from their vantage point. Following long deliberations and assessments of the situation, the unit commander decided to fire tank shells at the building, and when the soldiers heard the screams and realized civilians had been hit, they helped evacuate them, the investigation revealed.
        The army argues further that the residents of the neighborhood were urged to evacuate the area prior to the attack via thousands of leaflets that were disseminated in the area, and that the doctor was personally asked by phone to evacuate his family from the neighborhood due to the fighting. The IDF spokesman's office issued a statement extending condolences over the incident, but maintained that the IDF operated within reason in light of the sniper fire directed at the troops and the heavy fighting in the region. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Results of the IDF Inquiry (IDF Spokesperson)
  • Mubarak Condemns Hamas and Iran - Roee Nahmias
    Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak condemned Hamas and Iran in a speech Wednesday, and hinted that Hamas was responsible for the fighting in Gaza. Mubarak said, "The 'resistance' must face the cost-benefit test. It must be responsible towards the nations that judge it on the merits of the benefits it has brought for their problems alongside the casualties, the pain, and the destruction it has caused." He added, "The recent crisis has exposed an impose a new reality on the Palestinian and Arab arena - a new reality that will stack the cards in favor of a well-known regional force, Iran, for the benefit of its plans and agenda." (Ynet News)
  • Islamic Jihad Terrorist Killed in West Bank - Anshel Pfeffer
    Allah Abu-Rov a senior Islamic Jihad terrorist in Kabatiya, south of Jenin, was killed on Thursday during an exchange of gunfire with IDF troops. He was believed to be plotting an attack on Israeli civilians. Five members of the cell that he commanded were arrested two weeks ago. A search of his house turned up an explosive device, firearms, a flak jacket, and ammunition. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israeli Navy Seizes Gaza-Bound Ship - Yaakov Katz
    Israel Navy forces boarded a cargo ship carrying activists and supplies from Lebanon to Gaza on Thursday after its crew refused instructions to turn back. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Mortar Fire from Gaza Continues - Yanir Yagna
    Palestinians in Gaza on Wednesday launched a mortar shell at Israel. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • How Europe's Companies Are Feeding Iran's Bomb - Benjamin Weinthal
    While the U.S. has ratcheted up its efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear arms, the Islamic Republic is reaping a windfall from European companies. The Austrian oil giant OMV is itching to implement a €22 billion agreement signed in April 2007 to produce liquefied natural gas from Iran's South Pars gas field. Raiffeisen Zentralbank, Austria's third-largest bank, has absorbed the transactions of key European banks that shut down their operations in Iran. Paolo Scaroni, CEO of Italian energy corporation Eni SpA, says his firm will continue to fulfill its contractual obligations in Iran. Germany maintains a €4 billion trade relationship with Iran, and is its most important European trade partner. All of this is taking place while Iran is moving at an astonishing pace to process high-grade uranium for its atomic bomb. (Wall Street Journal Europe)
  • Teaching Tots Terror: Hamas TV Promotes Culture of Death for Palestinian Children - Editorial
    Once more, Hamas' TV channel has perverted children's programming by sending a cuddly character to death as a recruiting tool for jihad. There is no mistaking the Al Aqsa TV show "Tomorrow's Pioneers" for "Sesame Street." Its death rate is stomach-turning. Farfur, the mouse, was beaten to death by an Israeli policeman. Nahul, the bee, died when an Israeli blockade prevented him from getting to the hospital. And now Assud, the bunny, who once vowed to "finish off the Jews and eat them," has died in the Israeli bombing of Gaza.
        After Assud dies, his friend Saraa wails: "Don't die, Assud. Victory is near. The soldiers of the Pioneers of Tomorrow will grow up. O, Palestine, we will liberate your soil, Allah willing. We will liberate it from the filth of the Zionists. We will purify it with the soldiers of the Pioneers of Tomorrow." What hope can there be as long as Hamas steeps the most innocent of the Palestinians in a culture of death? (New York Daily News)
  • Demons that Plague the Arab World - Rami G. Khouri
    The Arab world is defined both by rampant violence (home-grown and foreign-instigated) and a deep desire to become democratic, productive, and intellectually and culturally vibrant. The legacy of security-dominated states where power is concentrated in the hands of a family or a small group of soldiers has led to two extremes: an almost total lack of indigenous production of cultural capital and intellectual knowledge, and the widespread use of violence and terror by opposition forces trying to overthrow the incumbents.
        Autocracy and the production of knowledge are violently contradictory. Those who hold power for decades on end do not have an interest in prompting free intellectual enquiry and free scientific research. This is why most of the best Arab journalists and researchers live abroad. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Observations:

    Experts Dampen Expectations of Israeli-Palestinian Peace Deal - Cindy Saine (VOA News)

    • President Barack Obama met Wednesday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and his special envoy for the Middle East, George Mitchell. But several prominent experts, meeting at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington this week, caution that the prospects are slim for a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians any time soon.
    • Robert Satloff, Executive Director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said: "Don't pursue the peace process for illusionary, romantic reasons. The peace process is not a solution to the problem of global terrorism. The peace process will not dry up recruits to al-Qaeda in Pakistan or Yemen or Somalia."
    • Robert Malley, a special assistant to former President Bill Clinton and now with the International Crisis Group, said: "We don't think that the time is ripe at this point for an end-of-conflict, comprehensive agreement between the Israeli people and the Palestinian people." He said that all of the parameters that guided the Clinton administration's peace efforts in the 1990s have shifted and there is no longer a national Palestinian movement with which to negotiate.
    • Aaron David Miller, who served as an adviser to six secretaries of state, advised the Obama administration not to pursue "big, transformative diplomacy." "This region, as best I can understand it, hates big ideas. Particularly those big ideas imposed, crafted or orchestrated from outside."

          See also How Not to Make Peace in the Middle East - Hussein Agha and Robert Malley
      Basic issues should first be addressed. Among them are the effectiveness of U.S. mediation, the wisdom and realism of seeking a comprehensive, across-the-board settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or even the centrality of that conflict to U.S. interests and the benefits that would accrue to America from its resolution. Raising such questions is preferable to a headfirst rush to follow costly familiar patterns and to seek the comforting embrace of ideas that have been tried but never worked or that were never tried but can no longer work. (New York Review of Books)

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