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September 8, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Russia, China Scuttle Bid for More Sanctions on Iran - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    Russia and China have rejected a proposal by the U.S., Britain, France and Germany to impose more sanctions on Iran should a dialogue over its nuclear program fail, a senior official in Jerusalem said.
    The two nations refused to discuss the possibility of further pressuring Iran during high-level, six-power talks held last week in Germany.
    "Russia and China avoided a serious discussion, presented an inflexible stance, and set things back one year," the Israeli official said.
    The four countries in favor of sanctions concluded following the meeting that it would be difficult to advance further sanctions against Iran at the UN Security Council and that there would be a need for independent sanctions from the EU.

U.S. Ships Eye Missile Defense Role - Dan Williams (Reuters)
    The USS Higgins is one of 18 American ships deployed globally with Aegis interceptor systems capable of blowing up ballistic missiles above the atmosphere.
    According to a regional map issued last month by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, a Mediterranean-based Aegis could cover southern Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian territories and north Egypt in the event of a missile war.
    Another ship, deployed in the Gulf, would similarly protect local Arab states.
    Israel already hosts a U.S. strategic radar, X-band, and its Arrow II missile interceptor, which is partly underwritten by Washington, is inter-operable with Aegis.
    Arrow designer Uzi Rubin said Aegis could be brought into line with Israel's air defenses "at the flick of a switch."
    "I think it is very important that the United States make Aegis ships available should there be an attack by Iran, with their firepower joining our firepower," he said.
    See also New Developments in Iran's Missile Capabilities: Implications Beyond the Middle East - Uzi Rubin (ICA-Jerusalem Center)

Australia to Deploy Israeli-Made UAVs in Afghanistan - Patrick Walters (The Australian)
    The Royal Australian Air Force has acquired Israeli-made Heron unmanned aerial vehicles to assist in the fight against Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.
    The government has rushed through the multi-million-dollar lease of the aircraft to provide troops on the ground with far greater situational awareness thanks to its superior infra-red cameras and other high-tech sensors.
    A joint RAAF and army team is operating two Herons from Kandahar airfield in partnership with a Canadian Heron UAV team.

Palestinian Woman Bitten by Snake, Israeli Settlers Blamed (Maan News-PA)
    A snake bit a Palestinian woman near Salfit in the West Bank.
    Locals, who have often accused settlers of releasing wild boars into Palestinian villages and farmland, said the snake was likely released from a nearby Israeli settlement, noting that after the attack it escaped toward the settlement.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • UN Nuclear Agency Said to Be in "Stalemate" with Iran - Robert F. Worth
    The head of the UN nuclear oversight agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, said Monday that his organization was in a "stalemate" with Iran over its nuclear program. He said Iran had not stopped enriching uranium or answered lingering questions about its nuclear program and urged Iran to "respond positively to the recent U.S. initiative" on a dialogue about nuclear issues. ElBaradei made clear that Iran had not complied with many of the agency's requests. Separately, he criticized Syria for refusing to disclose information about a suspected nuclear site bombed by Israel in 2007. (New York Times)
        See also France Claims ElBaradei Left Out Evidence of Iran Bomb - Catherine Philp
    France said IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei's latest report on Iran's nuclear program omitted evidence that the agency had been given about an alleged covert weaponization plan. Bernard Kouchner, the French Foreign Minister, said that France had attended a technical briefing that addressed evidence that Iran may be building an atom bomb and was surprised to find it missing from the report. "In the annexes there are specifically elements which enable us to ask about the reality of an atomic bomb," he said. "There are issues of warheads, of transport."  (Times-UK)
  • Islamic Extremists Guilty of Airline Bomb Plot - Philippe Naughton
    Three British Muslims were found guilty on Monday at Woolwich Crown Court of conspiracy to murder thousands of passengers and crew in an airline bomb plot. Abdulla Ahmed, Assad Sarwar and Tanvir Hussain were found guilty of plotting to use liquid bombs to blow up airliners en route from Heathrow to the U.S. Prosecutors said that the plot was largely run from Pakistan. The East London gang was arrested in August 2006.
        The cell planned to smuggle home-made bombs disguised as soft drinks onto passenger jets run by United Airlines, American Airlines and Air Canada. The devices were to be assembled and detonated in mid-air by a team of suicide bombers. Seven flights to San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal, Washington, New York and Chicago had been singled out that departed within two-and-a-half hours of each other. Police believe an al-Qaeda bombmaker was responsible for the ingenious liquid bomb design. (Times-UK)
  • Gates Urges Arabs to Strengthen Military Ties with U.S. to Block Iran
    Defense Secretary Robert Gates urged U.S. allies in the Arab world to strengthen their military capabilities and defense cooperation with Washington as a means of pressuring Iran to back off its nuclear program. In an interview with Al Jazeera Monday, Gates said: "The more that our Arab friends and allies can strengthen their security capabilities, the more they can strengthen their co-operation, both with each other and with us, I think sends the signal to the Iranians that this path they're on is not going to advance Iranian security but in fact could weaken it."  (AFP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Settlement Freeze Will Last Six Months - Herb Keinon and Tovah Lazaroff
    A moratorium on new construction in the settlements will last for six months, with an extension dependent on whether the Palestinian Authority and neighboring Arab countries deliver what is expected of them, a senior Israeli political official said Monday. The official said Israel expected that in return for the moratorium there would be an end to incitement against Israel in the PA media and education system as well as significant normalization steps from the Arab world. If these steps were not forthcoming, the source intimated, the construction moratorium would end.
        Israel, according to the official, expected a number of Arab countries - such as Morocco, Qatar and Oman - to renew their former low-level presences in Israel, as well as allow for educational and cultural exchanges, and for Israeli airline flights over their territory. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinians: No More Meetings to Promote Economic Peace - Ali Waked
    A week after the first official meeting between an Israeli and Palestinian minister, which ended in a promise to continue to hold talks aimed at promoting economic peace, Palestinian Minister for National Economy Bassem Khoury announced there will be no more meetings until Israel complies with the Palestinian Authority's demands. During the first meeting, the two sides had worked on removing bureaucratic hurdles to economic development. (Ynet News)
  • U.S. Training of PA Security Forces Will Not Prevent Threat from West Bank - Yaakov Lappin
    Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, former head of the IDF's Research and Assessment Division, said Monday: "We have learned that the loss of control of territory and the creation of a border between the PA and an Arab state meant that there will be Katyusha rockets. Today, this is 100 times more true in regards to leaving Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] than it was in 1993."
        Amidror said Israel must maintain control of the Jordan Valley to prevent arms smuggling and terrorist infiltration into the West Bank. He warned, "If we leave Judea and Samaria, Hamas will overthrow Fatah again. Fatah is so rotten that no amount of U.S. training of its security personnel will help. The threat will arrive at Tel Aviv's gate."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Limited Options: Deterring Iran - Lowell H. Schwartz
    The question today is no longer whether the U.S. can still prevent the emergence of nuclear-armed regional adversaries, but instead, how to prevent them from being empowered by their nuclear weapons. Deterrence of nuclear use through the threat of retaliation - a mainstay of Cold War military strategy - is highly problematic with nuclear-armed regional adversaries. The reason is simple: These leaders may believe their sole chance of surviving is brandishing or using nuclear weapons. Indeed, they might choose to abstain from nuclear use only if they felt that course would enable them and their regimes to survive intact.
        U.S. decision-makers in regional crises should seek to devise policy options that avoid putting the enemy leadership in a position where nuclear use seems to them to be the least bad option available. The writer is a political scientist at the RAND Corporation. (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists)
  • Why West Bank Settlements Are Good for Peace - Raphael Israeli
    One of the axioms of the "peace process" is that the settlements are "an obstacle to peace." It's well known, however, that before 1967 there were no settlements, and no peace. The Arabs are bothered by Jewish settlement in Israel in general. It's enough to browse through the books of the "moderate" Palestinian Authority to see that Haifa, Jaffa and even Tel Aviv are considered Palestinian cities, while Hamas believes all Palestine should be expropriated from the Jewish state, which doesn't have the right to land on either side of the "green line."
        Only Jewish settlement activity can be enough of an incentive to make the Arabs, like Sadat, hurry up and seek peace, because their losses will multiply the longer they wait. The author is a professor of Islamic, Middle Eastern and Chinese history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (Ha'aretz)
  • Observations:

    What Carter Missed in the Middle East - Elliott Abrams (Washington Post)

    • In an op-ed on Sunday, former president Jimmy Carter, speaking on behalf of a self-appointed group of "Elders," described a rapacious Israel facing long-suffering, blameless Palestinians, who are contemplating a "nonviolent civil rights struggle" in which "their examples would be Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela."
    • Carter's efforts to portray life among the Palestinians as unbearable and getting worse are belied by data. While positive views of personal and family safety and security in the West Bank stood at 25% four years ago, they have risen to 58% in the past year, according to Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki.
    • Carter states that Gaza is a "walled-in ghetto." But Gaza is not an enclave surrounded by Israel; it has a border with Egypt, a point Carter overlooks in his efforts to blame Palestinian problems exclusively on the Jewish state.
    • While Carter warns that a Palestinian "civil rights struggle" is in the offing, he says nothing about Palestinian violence in the real world - in which Palestinian terrorist groups continue to attack Israel and where all of Gaza is in the hands of one such group, Hamas.
    • Carter claims that the expansion of Israeli settlements is "rapidly" taking Palestinian land. Yet four years ago Israel gave up Gaza and all the settlements there (plus four small West Bank settlements). Moreover, while the population in Israel's West Bank settlements is growing, they are not expanding physically. New construction is almost all "up and in," meaning that the impact on Palestinians is limited.
    • Most inaccurate of all, and most bizarre, is Carter's claim that "a total freeze of settlement expansion is the key" to a peace agreement - not a halt to terrorism, not the building of Palestinian institutions, not the rule of law in the West Bank, not the end of Hamas rule in Gaza.

      The writer, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, served as a deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration.

          See also The Elders' View of the Middle East - Jimmy Carter (Washington Post)

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