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July 29, 2009

In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Aims to Make Gaza More Islamic - Diaa Hadid (AP-Washington Post)
    In Gaza City, police order a lingerie shop to hide its scantily clad mannequins. A judge warns female lawyers to wear head scarves in court. Beach patrols break up groups of singles and make men wear shirts.
    It's all part of a new Hamas campaign to get Gazans to adhere to a strict Muslim lifestyle.
    Having consolidated its hold on Gaza in the two years since it seized control by force, Hamas feels emboldened enough to extend its ideology into people's private lives.
    Hamas insists compliance with its "virtue campaign" is still voluntary, but there are reports of alleged offenders being beaten and teachers being told to pressure girls to wear head scarves.
    "There are attempts to Islamize this society" and Hamas' denials "contradict what we see on the street," says Khalil Abu Shammala, a human rights activist in Gaza.

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British Court Nixes Anti-Israel Move by West Bank Group (AFP)
    A Palestinian human rights group on Monday failed to secure a High Court ruling against Britain's support for Israel, in the wake of the recent Gaza conflict.
    Al-Haq had hoped to secure a judicial review of what it said was Britain's failure to fulfill its obligations under international law by denying Israel aid and assistance.
    But Malcolm Pill and Ross Cranston, judges at London's High Court, found the claim was "beyond the competence" of a domestic court.

Carleton U. Replaces Prof. Accused in Paris Bombing - (Globe and Mail-Canada)
    Carleton University in Ottawa has replaced Professor Hassan Diab, accused of involvement in the 1980 bombing of a Paris synagogue that killed four people, who was to teach a part-time summer course in sociology.

Syrian First Lady Dubbed MidEast's "Marie Antoinette" - Rose Foran (Media Line)
    Syria's First Lady's spending habits have landed her in hot water, prompting opposition groups to dub her the "Marie Antoinette" of the Middle East.
    A photo album published on Facebook entitled "Asma Al-Assad: Syria's First Lady and All-Natural Beauty" features a collection of pictures of the first lady dressed in high-end designer shoes, bags, and jewelry from Chanel, Dior, and Bottega Veneta.
    French fashion magazine Elle named Asma Al-Assad the best dressed female international political figure in 2008.
    See also Photos of Syria's First Lady - Nour Akkad (Huffington Post)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Reports of Prison Abuse and Deaths Anger Iranians - Robert F. Worth
    Accounts of prison abuse in Iran's postelection crackdown - relayed by relatives and on opposition Web sites - have set off growing outrage among Iranians, including some prominent conservatives. Some hospital officials have told human rights workers that they have seen evidence that well over 100 protesters have died since the vote. Several conservatives have said the abuse suggests a troubling lack of accountability. Mohsen Ruholamini, the son of an adviser to conservative presidential candidate Mohsen Rezai, died in prison after a severe beating. "Those who have turned this society into a police state and have ordered the use of force have to be held accountable," said Hamid-Reza Katouzian, a hard-line member of Parliament. (New York Times)
        See also Iran Hard-Liners Warn Ahmadinejad He Could Be Deposed - Borzou Daragahi
    Political hard-liners warned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday that he could be deposed like past Iranian leaders. The Islamic Society of Engineers, a political group close to parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani, warned in an open letter to Ahmadinejad that he could suffer the same fate as Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh, who was deposed in 1953 in a CIA-backed coup with the acquiescence of the clergy. The letter also cites the experience of President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, who was ousted in 1981 and fled the country after he fell out with the Islamic Republic's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Both leaders had been elected by huge margins. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Former U.S. Secretary of Defense: Fear of Iran Tops Animosity Toward Israel in Middle East - Nicholas Kralev
    Former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, who served in President Clinton's Cabinet from 1997 to 2001, said Tuesday that fears about Iran have replaced animosity toward Israel as the top concern of governments in the Persian Gulf and the broader Middle East. Cohen has made six trips to the Gulf in the past 18 months. "What has changed in the Gulf region from my perspective is that, in all my years in the past, the first thing I'd get was a lecture about Israel....I no longer receive that, and when I go and travel, what I hear is, there is greater fear of Iran than there is animus toward Israel," he said. (Washington Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • U.S. Now Treating Settlement Freeze as Part of Package that Will Include Arab Concessions - Nathan Guttman
    Freezing the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank was once seen as a unilateral Israeli obligation. But the Obama administration is now treating this as part of a package that will require concessions from Arab states as well. "The Americans now understand that if they get anything from us on the settlement issue, it will only be in the broader context of some kind of Arab return," said an Israeli diplomat. Talks between U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell and Defense Minister Ehud Barak focused on a two-sided deal that will include reciprocal steps by Arab countries. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF to Give More Detailed Warnings to Civilians Before Attacks - Hanan Greenberg
    The IDF will give more details in warnings issued to Palestinians before aerial strikes, such as more accurate timetables and suggested escape routes, to help residents not involved in terror activity to flee, the military prosecution's international law department said. During the Gaza operation, over 200,000 phone calls were made to Palestinian homes in Gaza and thousands of fliers were distributed in order to warn civilians. (Ynet News)
  • "Relative Calm" in Gaza
    On July 16 a rocket from Gaza landed south of Kibbutz Nahal Oz, the first rocket attack in a month. On July 19 armed Palestinians launched RPGs and mortar shells at an IDF force patrolling the border fence near Kibbutz Nahal Oz.
        The various terrorist organizations are exploiting the relative quiet in Gaza to rebuild their military networks. A correspondent for Russia Today TV accompanied operatives of a network calling itself "the Mujahideen Brigades" as they trained. He reported that Israel's Gaza operation did not destroy the military networks and that today they were investing great efforts to rebuild their military capabilities. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The United States as an Honest Broker - Michael Singh
    The Obama administration's decision to take a stand on the issue of "natural growth" in settlements was tactically unsound. "Natural growth" is a peripheral issue with little relevance either to Palestinians' quality of life or to the ultimate disposition of territory in the West Bank. The fracas over this issue has stalled the peace process and shifted its focus from Arab-Israeli to American-Israeli relations.
        According to recent polling, the dispute has already taken a toll, having diminished Israelis' confidence in the U.S. The diminution of that confidence - which former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert recently wrote was vital to Israel's decision to pull settlers out of Gaza and engage in the Annapolis peace process - would not only put in question U.S. effectiveness as an honest broker, but would be a setback for America, Israel, the PA, Arab leaders, and others who face common threats across the region and for whom American-Israel cooperation is of mutual benefit. The test now for President Obama is to maneuver out of the present crisis with that cooperation intact, and with the stage set for progress on the peace process, Iran, and the rest of America's Middle East agenda. ( Institute for Near East Policy)
        See also For Middle East Peace, Think Small - Michael Singh
    When it comes to Arab-Israeli peace, the president would be better served to think small. Hamas remains firmly in control of Gaza, and there are few prospects for dislodging, defeating, or taming it. PA leader Mahmoud Abbas enjoys mixed support at best from his constituents. Adding to these obstacles, relations between the U.S. and Israel have suffered over the otherwise peripheral issue of "natural growth" in West Bank settlements. The prolonged dispute has hardened the positions of Palestinians and Arab states, and undermined American reliability in Israeli eyes.
        An opportunity exists to achieve progress between the Israelis and Palestinians, but it is a modest one, and the surest way to quash it is to overreach. The writer, former senior director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council, is the Ira Weiner fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. ( Institute for Near East Policy)
  • U.S., Israel Divide on Iran Nuclear Program - Yochi J. Dreazen
    Iran's apparent pursuit of a nuclear weapon is emerging as a major source of tension between the U.S. and Israel. On Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, on a visit to Israel, called for continued diplomatic engagement with Tehran. At a joint news conference with Gates, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak emphasized that Israel believed "no option should be removed from the table" when it came to Iran. Prime Minister Netanyahu said he told Gates "the seriousness to which Israel views Iran's nuclear ambitions and the need to utilize all available means to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear-weapons capability."
        Later in Amman, Gates said Israeli officials told him they were willing to give the administration's diplomatic overtures more time to work before deciding whether to use force against Iran. "I have the sense that as long as the process isn't completely open-ended that the Israelis are prepared to let it go forward," he said. Israeli officials made clear they were unhappy with the administration's outreach to Tehran and that they wanted tougher measures. Barak said any negotiations with Iran should be "short in time and well-defined in objectives."  (Wall Street Journal)
  • Observations:

    Tehran Believes the U.S. Has Already Accepted a Nuclear-Armed Iran - Amir Taheri (New York Post)

    • As Tehran sees it, the U.S. administration has already accepted a nuclear-armed Iran as a fait accompli and is only trying to secure some concessions from the Khomeinist regime. According to an editorial Sunday in the newspaper Kayhan, which reflects the views of the leadership in Tehran, the U.S. is "in a state of strategic desperation" in the Middle East and has no stomach for a serious confrontation with Iran. The editorial claims: "They have no long-term plan for dealing with Iran....Their strategy consists of begging us to talk with them."
    • "America's strategic needs in the region are so intense that the Obama administration is prepared to accept the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran," the editorial said. It claimed that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has already informed allies in the region of that "acceptance." "In her speech last week, Clinton accepted the assumption of a nuclear-armed Iran. She only tried to show that the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran has been exaggerated and that the classical doctrine of deterrence through Mutually Assured Destruction could work with Iran as it did with other nuclear powers."
    • In this theory, President Obama is trying to establish a linkage, whereby Israel would accept a nuclear-armed Iran while Iran would withdraw its opposition to a two-state solution for the Palestinian problem. Yet even a tacit acceptance by America and Israel of a nuclear-armed Iran may not be enough to persuade Tehran to accept a two-state solution that would allow Israel to exist as a Jewish state. Abandoning that position wouldn't be easy for Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, who've built their reputations as radical Islamists in part on their insistence that no Jewish state should exist in "the heart of the Muslim world."
    • Of course, the regime might simply opt to use dissimulation, a technique sanctioned under Shiite Islam for deceiving the "infidel." The Islamic Republic could withdraw its opposition to the two-state solution in exchange for America's accepting Iran as a nuclear power; then, after the world has learned to live with a nuclear-armed Iran, Tehran could revive its goal of wiping the Jewish state off the map.

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