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June 11, 2009

In-Depth Issues:

PA: New U.S. Administration "One of the Friendliest in Decades" - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    PA officials expressed deep satisfaction with talks on Wednesday with U.S. envoy George Mitchell, saying the new Obama administration was "one of the friendliest in decades."
    Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat quoted Mitchell as saying that the Obama administration wanted a quick start and a quick end to the peace talks.
    During the meeting, the PA leaders reiterated their refusal to accept Israel as a Jewish state.

German Firm Signs €825 Million Deal with Iran - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
    The giant petrochemical company Basell Polyolefine signed a €825 million trade deal with the Iranian Petrochemical Company on Monday to supply technology to build three plants involving synthetic and plastic material.
    The German-Iranian contract appears to be this year's largest European trade deal with Iran.

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Homegrown Jihadist Terrorists in the U.S. - Daveed Gartenstein-Ross (Washington Times)
    Why do some Americans decide to take up arms against the society where they were born and raised?
    In an attempt to better understand the radicalization process, Laura Grossman and I released a study in April, "Homegrown Terrorists in the U.S. and UK: An Empirical Examination of the Radicalization Process," that explores external manifestations of radicalization of 117 homegrown "jihadist" terrorists.
    Specific manifestations include adopting a legalistic interpretation of Islam, coming to trust only select and ideologically rigid religious authorities, perceiving Islam and the West as irreconcilably opposed, manifesting a low tolerance for perceived theological deviance, and attempting to impose one's religious beliefs on others.
    The prevalence of these factors suggests the importance of religio-political ideology as individuals become radicalized (an ideology that cannot be described as Islam itself, but rather a rigid and non-mainstream understanding of that faith).
    About 20% had a spiritual mentor, a more experienced Muslim who gave instruction and direction during the radicalization process.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Anti-Semitic Gunman Kills Guard at Holocaust Museum in Washington - David Stout
    James W. von Brunn, 88, who embraces conspiracy theories involving Jews and blacks, walked into the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on Wednesday and began shooting, fatally wounding security guard Stephen T. Johns, 39, before being shot by other guards. The Southern Poverty Law Center said Wednesday that von Brunn is a racist and anti-Semite with "a long history of associations with prominent neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers." (New York Times)
  • Obama Envoy Says Palestinian Statehood Only Option - Mohammed Assadi
    U.S. envoy George Mitchell assured the Palestinians on Wednesday of Washington's commitment to a state of their own. Mitchell, speaking after talks with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, urged both sides to meet their obligations under a 2003 peace "Roadmap." Mitchell will now continue on to Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. He said Washington sought "a comprehensive regional peace which not only involves Israel and the Palestinians, but Syrians, the Lebanese and all the surrounding countries."  (Reuters-Washington Post)
  • Report: Russian Banks Delaying Iranian Nuclear Reactor
    Dan Belenky, the head of Atomstroiexport, the Russian company building Iran's first nuclear power plant, said Wednesday that it is unclear when the reactor will be switched on, Russian news agencies reported. The refusal of some Russian banks to work with Iran has slowed the project by complicating financing, he said. Sluggish supplies of equipment from other countries were also a problem. (AP)
  • Libyan Elected UN General Assembly President - John Heilprin
    Libyan foreign minister Ali Treky was elected on Wednesday as president of the UN General Assembly, replacing Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann of Nicaragua. (AP/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel: Opening Gaza Crossings Linked to Progress on Freeing Kidnapped Soldier - Herb Keinon
    Israel's security cabinet decided on Wednesday that any opening of crossings into Gaza would be linked to progress in the case of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. Israel wants the Red Cross to be granted access to Shalit or to get some sign of life from him. Defense officials continue to oppose bringing concrete and steel into Gaza, arguing that it would be used to build arms smuggling tunnels and restore Hamas' rocket-building capacity. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinians Fire at IDF Force on Gaza Border - Hanan Greenberg
    Palestinians opened fire Thursday at an Israeli force patrolling near the northern Gaza Strip opposite Kibbutz Be'eri. (Ynet News)
  • How to Answer Obama - Ari Shavit
    If Benjamin Netanyahu says no to Obama, he would be playing into the hands of those who want Obama to deal with the settlements rather than with the centrifuges. But Netanyahu cannot say yes to Obama, either. If he says yes, the United States could start up immediately a powerful bulldozer to push Israel to the June 4, 1967 borders.
        If he says yes, Israel would not be able to ensure its vital security interests in the West Bank. If he says yes, an armed Palestinian state, whose missile batteries would prevent the Israel Air Force from launching its planes, would be declared in a short time. If Netanyahu says yes, Israel would be pushed into a hopeless, risky undertaking that would undermine its stability. President Obama and his partners would endanger Israel's future, not from malice but from pure, noble intentions. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran's Voting Manipulation Industry - Mehdi Khalaji
    In Iran, there is no requirement to vote near one's residence. Voter turnout at a particular voting station, or even in a city, can theoretically exceed the estimated number of eligible voters in that locality. A person's voting eligibility is determined by a "birth certificate" (BC). In previous elections, reports surfaced that the Imam Khomeini Committee, a large state charity affiliated with supreme leader Ali Khamenei, "rented" BCs belonging to the poor.
        According to the National Organization for Civil Registration, the number of existing BCs considerably exceeds the number of Iranians. Many BCs are issued as replacements for reportedly lost BCs, and there is little to prevent people from using the duplicate BCs to vote at two different polling stations. Also, some Iranians do not invalidate their relatives' BCs after they die. In the last presidential election, reformist sources announced that more than two million fraudulent BCs may have been used. With these and other questionable practices, it is abundantly clear that Iran's election procedures leave ample opportunity for massive voter fraud. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
        See also Iran Vote Won't Ease Israel Tensions, Analysts Say
    Whatever the outcome, Iran's presidential vote will not ease tensions with Israel as Tehran is unlikely to halt its nuclear drive or tone down its rhetoric against the Jewish state, Israeli analysts say. "The key decisions in the nuclear field are taken by the spiritual leader Khamenei, so it doesn't matter who is elected president," said Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. "All of the candidates support continuing the nuclear program."  (AFP-Khaleej Times-UAE)
        See also Dark Side of a Reformist Win in Iran - Mohsen Sazegara
    A reformist victory would bring a thankful end to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's presidency, but there ought not be any illusions about the impact Mousavi or Karroubi could have on Iranian society. As was made clear during the presidency of Ahmadinejad's reformist predecessor, Mohammad Khatami, the conservative establishment does not go quietly into the opposition when its candidates lose. For all the reforms made during the Khatami era, real power in Iran never left the hands of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The supreme leader's conservative allies retained control over the security forces, as well as the judiciary and the media, and simply circumvented the rule of law when their stranglehold on the country was challenged. The writer co-founded the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. (Boston Globe)
  • Lebanon's Swing Vote - Editorial
    The outcome was a sharp reverse for the Hizbullah movement and for Iran and Syria, which had hoped to establish dominion over Lebanon. Yet the winning coalition of Sunni, Christian and Druze parties is no match for Hizbullah in the streets; the Islamist movement used force to seize control of most of Beirut last year, and it compelled the government to grant it veto power over its decisions. Hizbullah also launched a destructive war against Israel in 2006 that Prime Minister Fouad Siniora was powerless to stop. (Washington Post)
        See also Ballots Over Bullets - Thomas L. Friedman (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    Israel's Strategy of Unilateral Withdrawal - Shmuel Even (Strategic Assessment-Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)

    • In the last three years Israel has been forced to wage two military campaigns in areas from which it withdrew unilaterally - southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip - in order to cope with threats that grew steadily following the withdrawals.
    • The strategy of unilateral withdrawal caused Israel significant damage in several areas. In both sectors from which Israel withdrew, the security-strategic threats grew stronger. The Gaza Strip, which before the disengagement had been a secondary confrontation arena with the Palestinians, turned into the major front and a considerable strategic problem.
    • It would seem that the disengagement hurt Israel's image more than the withdrawal from southern Lebanon, as Israel created a precedent for destroying settlements it had established without getting anything in return from the Arab side, at a time when the Oslo accords did not even demand the evacuation of the settlements.
    • The strategy of unilateral withdrawal strengthened the image of the Shiite and Palestinian struggle and its values: patience, self-sacrifice, endurance, resistance, and devotion to the land. The unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip demonstrated to the radical Islamic camp that it could achieve extraordinary successes even without negotiations, which was quite disturbing to the pragmatic camp in the Arab world.
    • The unilateral withdrawals did not create better political conditions or improve political options, but rather harmed Israel's ability to promote political settlements. The disengagement contributed to the internationalization of the conflict, i.e., it strengthened the involvement of foreign nations and international organizations in the conflict.
    • The unilateral withdrawal left Israel's security interests in the hands of others, such as supervision of arms smuggling and security arrangements in the Gaza Strip, matters that Israel would have insisted on in any negotiation.

      The writer is a senior research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies.

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