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May 14, 2009

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CIA Chief in Secret Israel Talks on Iran (AFP)
    CIA chief Leon Panetta held secret talks in Israel two weeks ago with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who assured him that Israel would not launch a surprise strike on Iran, according to Israel Radio.
    Israeli leaders assured Panetta that "Israel does not intend to surprise the U.S. on Iran."

Israel Air Force Practicing MIG-29/F-16 Dogfights (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel Air Force test pilots are flying MIG 29 jets and conducting dogfights against Israel's F-16 fighters to help train F-16 pilots, Israel Channel 2 television revealed Wednesday.
    The jets were loaned to Israel by an unnamed foreign country.

Moderate Muslims in Pakistan Stir Silent Majority Against Taliban - Jeremy Page and Zahid Hussain (Times-UK)
    The Sunni Itehad Council claims to represent about 85 million Pakistani followers of the moderate Barelvi school of Sunni Islam.
    The Council is now joining secular Pakistani political parties in an effort to shore up public support for the army's campaign against the Taliban in the Swat Valley.
    Experts believe that at least half of Pakistan's 173 million people are Barelvi, and about 20-25% Deobandi (the Taliban are mostly products of Deobandi madrassas). Another 20% are Shia - and most of them fiercely oppose the Taliban.
    See also Petraeus: Al-Qaeda No Longer Operating in Afghanistan (FOX News)
    Gen. David Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command, said Sunday that al-Qaeda is no longer operating in Afghanistan, with its senior leadership having moved to western Pakistan.
    He said he believes Osama bin Laden and his No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, remain in charge of the terrorist network.
    Petraeus praised Pakistan for what he described as a coordinated campaign to beat back an uprising of Taliban forces.

UK Stewardess Fired for Refusing to Wear Muslim Robe - Jon Ungoed-Thomas (Times-UK)
    Lisa Ashton, a stewardess with British Midland Airways, was sacked for refusing to wear a traditional Islamic robe and walk behind male colleagues.
    She was told that in public areas in Saudi Arabia she was required to wear a black robe, known as an abaya, that covers everything but the face, feet and hands. She was also told to walk behind her male colleagues.
    "It's not the law that you have to walk behind men in Saudi Arabia, or that you have to wear an abaya, and I'm not going to be treated as a second-class citizen," Ashton said.
    "It's outrageous. I'm a proud Englishwoman and I don't want these restrictions placed on myself."
    See also Not Buying the Abaya - Editorial (Washington Times)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S., Allies Set October Target for Iran Progress - Jay Solomon
    The Obama administration and its European allies are setting a target of early October to determine whether engagement with Iran is making progress or should lead to sanctions, said senior officials briefed on the policy. They also are developing specific benchmarks to gauge Iranian behavior. Those include whether Tehran is willing to let UN monitors make snap inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities that are now off-limits, and whether it will agree to a "freeze for freeze" - halting uranium enrichment in return for holding off on new economic sanctions - as a precursor to formal negotiations.
        President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have stressed that U.S. overtures toward Tehran won't be open-ended. Should diplomacy fail, the Obama administration has pledged to increase economic pressure. Mrs. Clinton recently testified that the U.S. will impose "crippling sanctions" on Iran if it doesn't negotiate. The U.S. Congress is debating legislation that would require the White House to sanction companies exporting refined petroleum products to Iran. Tehran imports roughly 40% of its gasoline. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Netanyahu in Jordan for Talks with King Abdullah
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Jordan on Thursday for talks with King Abdullah II, just three days after he met Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Sharm el-Sheikh. Next week the Israeli leader will visit President Obama in the U.S. (AFP)
  • West Bank TV Station Broadcasts Real News - Joel Brinkley
    Wattan TV is a commercial, secular station broadcasting from Ramallah in the West Bank. The station's director, Muamar Orabi, says, "There is another land in Palestine, different from the one portrayed on other Arab TV stations. We like to focus on internal political news, cultural events, success stories." In other words, Orabi's station tries to make the case that Palestinians have a life apart from their interminable conflict with Israel. Wattan is now the most popular station in the West Bank and Gaza because it defies the Arab political orthodoxy that says every consideration of life is less important than the struggle against Israel.
        PA leader Mahmoud Abbas may put up a pleasant enough face to the West, but he is no more willing to take criticism than other Arab kings, dictators and potentates. A few months ago, when Wattan TV aired a piece on the corruption that is endemic to the Palestinian government, Orabi said, Abbas' agents arrested him along with several other staff members. (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • New Gaza Rocket Defense System to Be Deployed in 2010 - Yaakov Katz
    Air Force commander Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan predicted Wednesday that the Iron Dome system, designed to intercept Kassam and Katyusha rockets fired from Gaza, would be operational and deployed along the border in 2010. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Discussions on Evacuating Border Village Delayed Until Lebanese Elections
    Israel is suspending discussion of a possible withdrawal from the divided town of Ghajar on the Lebanese border until after Lebanon's June 7 elections, fearing Hizbullah will take control, an Israeli official said Wednesday. Israel wants guarantees the Lebanese government and not Hizbullah will control Ghajar if Israel withdraws. In 2000, after Israel withdrew from south Lebanon, UN surveyors put the Israel-Lebanon border in the middle of the village. The villagers say they do not want the town to be divided, and would like to remain under Israeli control until the village will eventually be returned to Syria as part of a future peace deal. (AP/Ynet News)
  • Iraq Wants Israel to Pay for Bombing Reactor 28 Years Ago - Doron Peskin
    According to Parliament Member Muhammad Naji Mahmoud, Iraq deserves compensation worth "billions of dollars" from Israel for damages following the bombing of the Osiraq reactor in 1981. Mahmoud stressed that filing a damages claim would not symbolize any recognition of Israel. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has spoken in the past against filing a damages claim for the bombing of the reactor, explaining that such a move would prompt Israel "to claim billions in damages for the Jewish property" of those who fled the country upon the establishment of Israel. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Will Russia Help the U.S. with Iran? - Mark N. Katz
    Russia does not want Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. The expectation that this will lead to joint Russian-American cooperation, however, is seriously mistaken. Moscow does not want Iran to either voluntarily renounce or be forcefully prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons if this results in a diminution of Russia's value to Iran as a protector or partner. Russian firms profit from selling arms and nuclear technology to Iran, and Russian petroleum firms are actively seeking to invest in the Iranian oil and gas sectors. Moscow is also deeply appreciative that Tehran has not supported Chechen or other Muslim rebels in Russia, or challenged Moscow's influence in Central Asia and the Caucasus.
        The Kremlin sees the Obama administration as asking Russia to risk harming its Iranian ties while Washington is openly attempting to improve Iranian-American relations. Moscow has long feared that if U.S.-Iranian ties improve, Russia's importance to Iran will diminish. The degree of effort necessary to secure Russia's limited help is not worth Washington's time or resources. The writer is a professor of government and politics at George Mason University. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Understanding Iran's Deterrence Doctrine - Robert Baer and Hossein Bastani
    Over the past five years, in public and in government documents, Iran's hard-liners have established a doctrine of deterrence that calls for a disproportionate response against the U.S. and Israel in the event of any attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, no matter how limited. The doctrine stipulates that anything less than a large-scale response would risk the credibility of the Iranian regime - and its survival. And importantly, it does not draw a distinction between Israel and the U.S., if for no other reason than Israeli jets have to fly across U.S.-controlled Iraqi airspace to hit Iran. Iran's deterrence doctrine is largely authored by the nation's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a wing of Iran's military charged with the protection of the regime. (TIME)
  • A Short Memory on Israeli Initiatives for Peace - Glen S. Lewy
    In response to your editorial, "An Agenda for Mr. Netanyahu" (New York Times, May 12), what a short memory you have. Israel has taken initiatives for peace on several occasions in recent years - the unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon, the Camp David offer of a Palestinian state to Yasir Arafat, the unilateral withdrawal from and dismantling of settlements in Gaza, and former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's recent settlement proposal to Mahmoud Abbas. None of these actions produced even minor moves toward peace from the other side; indeed, they led to greater Islamic radicalism. To minimize the obstacles on the Palestinian side and to play down this history of Israeli steps is to inappropriately set Israel up as the scapegoat if peace should not emerge in rapid order. The writer is national chairman of the Anti-Defamation League. (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    Forcing Iran to Back Down Would Advance American Interests and Security - Saul Singer (Washington Post)

    • A comprehensive Israeli-Arab peace is on hold, at best, pending resolution of the Iranian problem. Neither the Palestinians nor the Arab states will officially end the century-long quest to crush the Zionist project at precisely the moment when that quest is poised to obtain nuclear backing.
    • The U.S. might be tempted to settle for allowing Iran to develop all the components of a nuclear arsenal - including enriched uranium, bomb-making know-how, and long-range ballistic missiles - so long as they are not obviously put together.
    • This would not be an acceptable solution for Israel or for Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, that are no less concerned about a nuclear Iran. The reason is that an Iran that is just a key's turn away from a nuclear arsenal has the immunity of a nuclear power, and therefore can destabilize the region as if it were a full nuclear power. Egypt and Saudi Arabia will launch their own nuclear programs even if Iran is "only" a near-nuclear power.
    • Obama, understandably, wants to resolve the Iranian problem without a full showdown. But in reality there is no option of avoiding confrontation, because a nuclear or near-nuclear Iran will ultimately lead to confrontation or war.
    • But the real reason for the U.S. to pursue a truly non-nuclear (and non-terrorist) Iran is not to avoid Israeli military action, but to advance American interests and security. Forcing Iran to back down would be the greatest setback for Islamofascism since the fall of radical regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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