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August 6, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Little Hope Iran Will Meet U.S. Diplomatic Deadline - Ross Colvin (Reuters)
    Iran now appears almost certain to miss President Obama's September deadline to respond to his diplomatic overtures, but it seems equally unlikely Washington will rush to impose tougher sanctions.
    "To think that at the same time as putting together his cabinet in the midst of the largest uprising since the Iranian revolution, and oh by the way, figure out a way to respond to the United States, that is just not going to happen," said Iran expert Reza Aslan.
    "He is going to have such a difficult time forming a government, let alone governing, and quite likely he will not even last another year. Any previous idea of a timeline needs to be thrown out the window," Aslan said.
    Obama had initially set an end-of-year deadline to review his administration's policy of engagement with Iran, but then brought that forward to late September, to coincide with the next G-20 gathering of rich and emerging nations.

Visiting U.S. Congressmen Pledge Support for Israel (AFP)
    A delegation of 25 Republican lawmakers assured Israeli President Shimon Peres on Wednesday of strong congressional backing for the Jewish state.
    "To a person, all will tell you that we are here, first and foremost, to reconfirm the message that the U.S. Congress stands staunchly on the side of Israel and its struggle," said Republican Whip Eric Cantor.
    A delegation of 30 Democratic Congressmen is to travel to Israel next week.

Israel Takes First Place in American Air Competition - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Last week an Israel Air Force team won the trophy for best C-130 air crew at the U.S. Air Mobility Rodeo 2009 competition.
    Twelve air crews from eight countries were tested on landing, locating drop zones and parachuting equipment.
    In a total of four drops, the Israeli crew loitered over the drop zones for a total of six seconds.
    "The U.S. commander sent a team onto our plane to see how we succeeded in doing it," IAF navigator Col. (res.) Avshalom said Tuesday.

Useful Reference:

Judgments of the Israel Supreme Court: Fighting Terrorism within the Law (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
    Read translations of Supreme Court decisions on matters relating to the fight of the State of Israel against terrorism, including targeted killings, the route of the security fence, supply of fuel and electricity to Gaza, and humanitarian relief in Gaza.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Old Guard "Hijacks" Fatah Congress, Say Reformers - Mohammed Assadi
    The Fatah congress has been "hijacked" by the "old guard" who had packed it with delegates loyal to them in a bid to maintain the status quo, Palestinian reformers said on Wednesday. "We have been demanding to hold this congress for many years but this is not the congress that we dreamt of," said Qaddoura Fares, an advocate of modernization. The "old guard" added some 700 names to an initial list of 1,550 delegates, in what looked like a bid to pack the congress with likeminded people. (Reuters)
        See also Anarchy Still Reigns within Fatah - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
  • Saudi King: Palestinian Split Stalling Move toward State
    Saudi King Abdullah has told Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas that the split within the Palestinians' ranks is more damaging to their cause of an independent state than the Israeli "enemy." In a letter to Abbas marking the Fatah party congress released Tuesday, Abdullah said: "I can honestly tell you, brothers, that even if the whole world joins to found a Palestinian independent state, and if we have full support for that, this state would not be established as long as the Palestinians are divided."  (AFP)
  • Al-Qaeda: Obama Is "a New Manifestation of the Same Old American Criminality"
    In a video posted on the Internet on August 3, 2009, Al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman Al-Zawahiri said: "We are not a nation of stupid, gullible people who would let Obama treat us as fools with meaningless, malleable expressions, while he is a new manifestation of the same old American criminality, whose purpose is the implementation of a Zionist scheme."
        "The Muslims will not accept two states on the land of Palestine. Palestine belongs to the Muslims. It was occupied by the infidels, and it is the duty of the Muslims to drive the invaders out of it. Israel is a crime that has to be eliminated."  (MEMRI)
  • Human Rights Watch: Hamas Rockets a War Crime
    Rocket attacks carried out against Israel by the Hamas rulers of Gaza and other Palestinian militants amount to war crimes, Human Rights Watch said in a report published on Thursday. "Hamas forces violated the laws of war both by firing rockets deliberately and indiscriminately at Israeli cities and by launching them from populated areas and endangering Gazan civilians," HRW program director Iain Levine said.
        "Hamas rocket attacks targeting Israeli civilians are unlawful and unjustifiable and amount to war crimes," he said. "Under the laws of war, such weapons are indiscriminate when used against targets in densely populated areas." "As the governing authority in Gaza, Hamas should publicly renounce rocket attacks on Israeli civilian centers and punish those responsible, including members of its own armed wing," Levine said. (AFP)
        Read the Report (Human Rights Watch)
        See also Six Questions on HRW's Gaza Rockets Report (NGO Monitor)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Drawing Battle Lines Over Jerusalem - Herb Keinon
    While former prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert were willing to compromise on Jerusalem, when Benjamin Netanyahu says the city will be the undivided capital of Israel, he apparently means it. Both Israel and the world are laying down their markers. With the protests over the decision to build 20 apartments at the site of the Shepherd Hotel and the evictions in Sheikh Jarrah, the world is saying "hands off east Jerusalem," and Netanyahu is replying, "no, it's ours."
        It is important to keep in mind that the Israeli government did not initiate the eviction of the families in Sheikh Jarrah. Rather, the police were implementing a decision on ownership of the house handed down by the Supreme Court. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also U.S. Congressman: "We Wouldn't Want Another Country Telling Us How to Implement Our Laws"
    Visiting U.S. Congressman Eric Cantor (R-Va.) supported Israel's handling of the eviction of two Arab families from a house in eastern Jerusalem earlier this week, a move criticized by the EU and Secretary of State Clinton. "I don't think we, in America, would want another country telling us how to implement and execute our laws," Cantor said. (AP)
  • France Asks Israel to Release Palestinian Who Plotted to Assassinate Former Chief Rabbi - Barak Ravid
    French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner appealed to Israel for clemency for a Palestinian who plotted the assassination of former Israeli Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Salah Hamouri, 24, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who holds French citizenship, was arrested in 2005 after he and his friends had purchased weapons and ammunition. Hamouri confessed to planning the attack. Hamouri's mother, Denise, has led a public campaign in France to win his release, with the aid of Palestinian non-government groups. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Can Fatah Reinvent Itself? - Heather Sharp
    The gleaming black Mercedes, Jaguars and BMWs are lined up in front of Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity. The 2,000 people gathered for the first general conference of the Fatah movement in 20 years range from ageing Palestinian exiles, to former militant commanders, to Mahmoud Abbas and his suited contemporaries. The movement's critics see it as a nepotistic, corrupt and ineffective body whose leadership failed to hold the Palestinians together after Yasser Arafat's death in 2004. "Who will I elect?" asks travel agent Khalil Salahat, 50. "Those people who ride a jeep worth $125,000, or have $1 million villas? Will he be my representative?"  (BBC News)
  • Hamas Pretends to Accept a Two-State Solution - Michael J. Totten
    Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Meshal told the Wall Street Journal that he's finally willing to accept a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but he needs to do a lot more before any of us begin to take what he said seriously. Yasser Arafat was famous for saying one thing to Westerners in English and something else entirely to Palestinians in Arabic. Not until hundreds of Israeli civilians were killed by suicide bombers during the Second Intifada did most in Israel and the U.S. understand what Arafat was up to. If you want to know what Middle Eastern political leaders really think, pay more attention to what they do than to what they say. (Commentary)
        See also Hamas Chief Outlines Terms for Talks on Arab-Israeli Peace - Jay Solomon and Julien Barnes-Dacey (Wall Street Journal)
  • Mullahs and Generals - Hossein Askari
    The Iranian regime's claim of religious legitimacy is no longer credible. Iranians did not sacrifice their lives in a revolution and in a brutal eight-year war with Iraq to have their freedom stolen by a supreme leader and a president. Shia Muslims see it as their duty to reject an oppressive regime. The cycle of demonstrations will not stop, and if stopped by force, the opposition will go underground as it did under the shah. The senior religious establishment will not give its support to the supreme leader or to President Ahmadinejad. The regime has lost its appeal to the Muslim masses outside of Iran. The brutality of the regime has bared its ugliness for the whole world to see.
        The government may survive for a few weeks, months, or even for a few years, not as an Islamic Republic but as a military dictatorship. The writer is the Iran Professor of Business and International Affairs at George Washington University. (National Interest)
  • Observations:

    Iran's Nuclear Aspirations Threaten the World - Dore Gold (Los Angeles Times)

    • Iran has consistently used the West's willingness to engage as a delaying tactic, a smoke screen behind which Iran's nuclear program has continued undeterred and, in many cases, undetected.
    • In 2005, former chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani confessed that in the period during which he sat across from European negotiators discussing Iran's uranium enrichment ambitions, Tehran quietly managed to complete the critical second stage of uranium fuel production: its uranium conversion plant in Isfahan. Former deputy foreign minister Mohammed Javad Larijani has said: "Diplomacy must be used to lessen pressure on Iran for its nuclear program."
    • Israel is not Iran's only target. If that was the case, the Iranians would have had no reason to develop missiles that fly well past Israeli territory to Central Europe and beyond.
    • An Iran that crosses the nuclear threshold after repeated warnings that doing so is "unacceptable" would be even less likely to be deterred in the future. It would provide global terrorism the kind of protective umbrella that al-Qaeda never had back on 9/11, including for Hizbullah cells located at present in Central Europe and Latin America.
    • Halting the Iranian nuclear program is a global imperative; acquiescing to a nuclear Iran in the hope that it will pragmatically understand the limits of its own power would be a colossal mistake.

      The writer served as Israel's UN ambassador from 1997 to 1999 and is now president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. His new book, The Rise of Nuclear Iran: How Tehran Defies the West, will be published next month.

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