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June 22, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Al-Qaeda Says It Would Use Pakistani Nuclear Weapons - Inal Ersan (Reuters)
    If it were in a position to do so, Al-Qaeda would use Pakistan's nuclear weapons in its fight against the U.S., Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, told Al Jazeera on Sunday.
    "God willing, the nuclear weapons will not fall into the hands of the Americans and the mujahideen would take them and use them against the Americans," he said.

Report: Syria Seeks Release of Hizbullah Men Who Plotted Attack on Israeli Embassy in Azerbaijan - Roee Nahmias (Ynet News)
    Syrian President Bashar Assad has asked Azerbaijan to release two Hizbullah operatives who were arrested for plotting a terror attack on Israel's embassy in Baku last year, the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Seyassah report Sunday. Azerbaijan denied the request.

Luxury Palestinian Mall Opens in West Bank City - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    The five-story, $5 million Hirbawi Home Center opened in Jenin last month with a fireworks celebration. The new luxury establishment is filled with foreign-made products and the owner plans to open four more stores in the West Bank.
    The chain's CEO, Ziad Turabi, says, "Many people in the...territories have money but they have nowhere to spend it if they're after quality. We offer them the best quality there is."
    This may not sound like the familiar description of the territories - the impoverished Palestinian village or the overcrowded refugee camp, a population sustaining itself on international aid.
    But it turns out that quite a few Palestinians consider a plasma screen, a surround sound stereo and comfortable chairs to be fairly essential items.

16 Jews Arrive in Israel from Yemen (AP/Ha'aretz)
    16 Yemenite Jews arrived in Israel on Sunday, following 10 who arrived in March, as anti-Semitic attacks against Jews have spiraled out of control in recent years.
    Some 400 Jews still live in Yemen after 50,000 emigrated to Israel soon after the founding of the state.

Economics Behind Iranian Unrest - David Frum (National Post-Canada)
    Why after 30 years of clerical repression have the people of Iran suddenly rebelled? It's the economy.
    Iran collected $272 billion in oil and gas revenues in the past four years, yet economic conditions have sharply deteriorated under Ahmadinejad.
    Iran's central bank reports an inflation rate of 25%. The unemployment rate has reached 17%.
    Endowed with vast resources of oil and gas, Iran ought to be a wealthy country. Yet, adjusted for inflation, the income of the average Iranian today is no higher than it was in 1975.
    Almost three-quarters of the economy is owned by the state or by religious foundations, creating ample opportunities for corruption.

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  • Police Unleash Force on Rally in Tehran - Thomas Erdbrink and William Branigin
    Fiery chaos broke out in downtown Tehran on Saturday as security forces blocked streets and used tear gas, water cannons and batons to break up a demonstration against the reelection of President Ahmadinejad. (Washington Post)
        See also Streets of Tehran Left Empty as Protesters Wait for Sign - Robert Tait and Ewen MacAskill
    A deadly crackdown on opposition demonstrators appeared Sunday to have punctured the most serious protest movement in Iran since the 1979 revolution. (Guardian-UK)
        See also Iran Admits Discrepancies in 3 Million Votes - Nazila Fathi and Michael Slackman
    Iranian authorities have acknowledged that the number of votes cast in 50 cities exceeded the actual number of voters, state television reported Monday. Vowing not to allow a repeat of Saturday's clashes, the government on Sunday saturated major streets and squares of Tehran with police and Basij militia forces. But as they had on previous nights, many residents of Tehran clambered to their rooftops and could be heard shouting "Death to the dictator!" and "God is great," their rallying cries since the crisis began. (New York Times)
  • The Iranian Protests - Amir Taheri
    By Saturday the identity of at least 19 "martyrs" had been established. A further 600 people have been wounded in clashes between demonstrators and the security forces in more than 20 cities. Opposition sources put the number of those arrested at around 3,000, including virtually all key aides to Mousavi and Karrubi. Among those arrested are the editors of two of Tehran's leading newspapers, 16 officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and dozens of mullahs and students of theology who have rallied to the opposition.
        Three of the six mullahs who form the highest echelon of Shi'ite clerical leadership in Iran have made statements of support for the protestors: grand ayatollahs Hussein Ali Montazeri, Yussuf San'ei and Abdul-Karim Mussavi Ardebili. Official censors have appeared in editorial offices, charged with the task of "purging" the media of "seditious material." As a result, on Saturday several newspapers appeared with large blank spaces on most pages, indicating the removal of material by censors. (New York Post)
        See also The Fight over Iran's Future Is Only Beginning - Amir Taheri
    As the principal face of the opposition, Mir Hossein Mousavi has come under pressure to wind up the movement. On Saturday Abbas Mohtaj, the head of Iran's security council, issued a veiled death threat. Mousavi's wife and principal campaign manager, Zahra Rahnavard, has retaliated by publishing a poem through Twitter and SMS sent to millions of Iranians: "Let the wolves know that in our tribe / If the father dies, his gun will remain / Even if all the men of the tribe are killed / A baby son will remain in the wooden cradle."  (Times-UK)
        See also Neda, Young Girl Brutally Killed in Iran, Becoming Symbol of Rebellion - Helen Kennedy (New York Daily News)
  • A Shift in Iran's Leadership Would Not Change Its Nuclear Policy - Jeffrey Fleishman
    Even if presidential challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi comes to power in Iran, this is unlikely to dramatically change the country's nuclear ambitions or the strategic complications the West faces in countering Tehran's political gambits across the Middle East. Iran's nuclear program is ingrained in the national psyche. It was begun decades ago and is embraced across the Iranian political spectrum.
        "The reformers, however, might be more willing to open a dialogue with the U.S., and this could lead to compromise," said Hassan Nafaa, a political scientist at Cairo University. Mousavi, who has a long history of support for atomic energy, is perceived as more amenable to defusing international tensions that could lead to Iran working with the U.S. in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Israel's Top Leaders Voice Support for Iran Demonstrators - Richard Boudreaux
    After more than a week of massive protests by defiant Iranians alleging electoral fraud, Israeli leaders have joined the Israeli public in openly applauding the demonstrators. "It is a regime whose real nature has been unmasked, and it's been unmasked by incredible acts of courage by Iran's citizens," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." (Los Angeles Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel: No Foreign Troops in PA Territory - Herb Keinon
    The international guarantees Israel is seeking to ensure that a future Palestinian state remains demilitarized does not mean the introduction of foreign forces, Prime Minister Netanyahu told the cabinet Sunday. Expanding on his speech last week, Netanyahu said that Israel wanted international acceptance of the principle that it could take the actions it thought necessary to ensure the future state's demilitarization. Israel wanted to avoid a situation wherein it would withdraw from territory to be demilitarized, the Palestinians would violate that agreement, and then Israel would be blamed for going back into the Palestinian territories to destroy weapons.
        "I don't understand why for self-determination the Palestinians need Kassam and Grad rockets," Netanyahu said. "I understand they need a strong police and security apparatus, and we encourage that, but do they need tanks, artillery or rockets?" Regarding the demand for Palestinian recognition of Israel as the homeland for the Jewish people, Netanyahu said this was necessary to ensure that any agreement reached would put an end to all Palestinian claims on Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel Calls for Negotiations with Palestinians without Preconditions
    Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Israeli cabinet Sunday: "We do not condition the start of negotiations on any conditions; on the contrary, we insist that there be no pre-conditions either by our side or by the other side."  (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Assad Spurns Netanyahu Offer to Resume Peace Talks - Barak Ravid
    Syrian President Bashar Assad rejected the offer of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a resumption of peace talks between the two countries. Assad commented on Netanyahu's proposal during a meeting with U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell in Damascus a week ago. Netanyahu had told Mitchell ten days ago that he is interested in resuming the negotiations with Syria "without preconditions" and emphasized that "I am unwilling to commit in advance to a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights." Assad said the negotiations should resume from the point at which they stopped under former prime minister Ehud Olmert, under Turkish mediation, but Netanyahu informed the American envoy that Israel is opposed to Ankara's role in mediations. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Thwarts Gaza Border Bombing - Hanan Greenberg
    IDF forces operating near the Gaza border on Sunday defused four explosive devices placed along the border fence near the Kissufim crossing. During the activity, Palestinians fired mortar shells at the soldiers. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Obama's Persian Tutorial - Fouad Ajami
    An Iranian theocratic regime had launched a bid for dominion in its region; Mr. Obama offered it an olive branch and waited for it to "unclench" its fist. But in truth Iran had never wanted an opening to the U.S. For three decades, the custodians of the theocracy have had precisely the level of enmity toward the U.S. they have wanted - just enough to be an ideological glue for the regime but not enough to be a threat to their power. The false hope that the revolution would mellow and make its peace with the world bailed them out.
        In 1989, George H.W. Bush extended an offer to Iran: "Good will begets good will," he said. A decade later, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright came forth with a full apology for America's role in the 1953 coup that ousted nationalist Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh. Iran's rulers scoffed. They were in no need of opening it to outsiders. The writer is a professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and a fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Most Arabs Won't Miss Iran's Ayatollahs If They Fall - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Many Arab governments, including the PA, are quietly hoping that the latest crisis in Iran marks the end of the radical regime of the ayatollahs and President Ahmadinejad. Frustrated with Tehran's meddling in their internal affairs, the relatively moderate, pro-Western governments in Ramallah, Cairo, Beirut, and Riyadh are hoping that regime change in Iran would undermine radical Islamic groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbullah. These groups, together with Syria - Iran's strategic ally - have long been viewed as a main source of instability in the Middle East.
        "The pro-Iran camp in the Arab world is very worried," wrote Abdel Rahman Rashed in the London-based Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat. "It's natural for Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other pro-Iran groups to be afraid because their existence depends solely on the radical regime in Iran." An adviser to PA leader Abbas said, "Without Iran's support, Hamas couldn't have staged a coup in Gaza two years ago." Hafez Barghouti, editor of the PA-funded Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, held Tehran responsible for the ongoing differences between Hamas and Fatah, saying that the Syrian-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal has been turned into another ayatollah. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Who Cares If the Arabs Accept Israel as the State of the Jews? - Alon Pinkas (Jewish Chronicle-UK)

    • The Arab world has de-facto recognized Israel's existence, but not its right to exist. The Arabs recognize Israel as a strategic fact of life, a military power that currently is invincible. But Israel, according to this paradigm, is not a permanent feature in the Middle East. Give or take 200 years and they will be driven out. So goes the Arab argument.
    • This is consistent with Netanyahu's basic argument that the root of the Arab-Israeli conflict is the Arab world's basic reluctance to recognize Israel, rather than a tractable territorial dispute or merely a clash of two national liberation movements. If that was the case, then partition should have been accepted by the Arabs on the numerous occasions it was offered.
    • So Arab recognition of Israel as the state of the Jews is a monumental educational process that is a prerequisite to lasting peace. Once Israel is "The state of the Jews" in Arab eyes, it has a right to exist. Once it has a right to exist, durable coexistence is attainable.

      The writer is the former Israeli consul-general in the U.S.

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