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October 6, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Rumors of Ahmadinejad's Jewish Roots Are False - Meir Javedanfar (Guardian-UK)
    The London Daily Telegraph claimed last week that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's previous surname was Sabourjian which "derives from weaver of the sabour, the name for the Jewish prayer shawl in Persia."
    However, Professor David Yeroshalmi of Tel Aviv University's Center for Iranian Studies says: "There is no such meaning for the word 'sabour' in any of the Persian Jewish dialects, nor does it mean Jewish prayer shawl in Persian. Also, the name Sabourjian is not a well-known Jewish name."

Afghan Suspect in New York Terrorist Plot Contacted Senior Al-Qaeda Operative - Lolita Baldor and Brett J. Blackledge (AP)
    Afghan immigrant Najibullah Zazi, accused of plotting a terrorist attack in New York after receiving training in Pakistan, was in contact with a senior al-Qaeda operative, intelligence officials say.

Fatah-Led Security Officers Accused of Torturing Hamas Suspect to Death - Rory McCarthy (Guardian-UK)
    Palestinian authorities have begun a rare military trial of security officers accused of torturing a Hamas suspect to death.
    Haitham Amr, 33, was arrested by the Palestinian intelligence services, led by Fatah, in June, suspected of membership in the armed wing of Hamas. Four days later he was dead, his body showing extensive bruising.
    He was the fourth prisoner to die in Palestinian custody in the West Bank this year. Three detainees have died in Hamas custody in Gaza this year.
    The deaths come at a time when a $161 million U.S.-led effort is under way in the West Bank to train several battalions of the Palestinian National Security Forces, in preparation for possible future statehood.

Lebanese Militants Jailed in Baku over Israel Plot - Lada Yevgrashina (Reuters)
    A court in Azerbaijan sentenced a group of militant Islamists including two Lebanese men to between 12 and 15 years in jail on Monday for plotting attacks on the Israeli and U.S. embassies in Baku in 2008.
    The group, also including four Azeris, was linked to Hizbullah, al-Qaeda, and the security services of neighboring Iran.

Israeli Scientists Generate Electricity from Road Traffic - Shira Horesh (Globes)
    Israeli scientists have achieved a breakthrough in alternative energy by generating electricity from road traffic, using technology developed by Innowwattech Ltd.
    In a test along a ten-meter stretch of road, generators for "parasitic energy harvesting" were installed beneath the asphalt layer.
    Dr. Lucy Edery-Azulay said: "The technology is based on piezoelectric materials, which convert mechanical energy generated from a vehicle's weight into electricity. Drivers feel no change in the road. Regular vehicle traffic can generate 2,000 watts per hour. The electricity is accumulated in batteries placed along the side of the road."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Anger in UK as Iran Holds Up IAEA Inspectors' Visit - James Blitz and Daniel Dombey
    Britain on Monday expressed irritation that the International Atomic Energy Agency was being forced to wait three weeks before being given access to Iran's hitherto secret enrichment plant, amid fears that the delay could allow Tehran to cover up possible evidence of military links to its nuclear program. (Financial Times-UK)
        See also Tehran Spins It All to Its Advantage Against the West - Bronwen Maddox
    Iran has again proved world-class at spinning the West's red lines and deadlines into more months in which to move its nuclear work forward. "This is an ongoing contest and we're in round, oh, about 147 in an open-ended bout," said Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "We honestly need to understand that these technologies are being disseminated to the point that a country wanting to have a breakout capability [can do so] or can create a structure so confusing we can't tell if it's complying or not." The West has a promise without numbers. Tehran has a few solid more months to spin its uranium centrifuges. (Times-UK)
        See also Iran's Brilliant Chessmanship - Kaveh L. Afrasiabi
    On the surface, President Obama seized on the disclosure about a second uranium-enrichment plant in Qom to mount new pressure on Iran. Yet the disclosure about the "hidden site" provides leverage for Iran. It shows that it is now harder for the military option to achieve its objectives and that Iran can just as easily construct multiple similar sites. Furthermore, Iran's move has channeled focus to the transparency issue instead of the tougher subject of outright suspension of enrichment.
        Of course, none of Iran's maneuvers may save it from the wrath of tougher sanctions in case the talks fail. But for now, Tehran relishes the fact that it has upstaged its rival diplomatically through a brilliant move that has advanced its chess pieces in the pretalk game. The writer is a former adviser to Iran's nuclear negotiation team (2004-05). (Washington Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinians Spark Tensions on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem - Avi Isaacharoff
    The status quo on the Temple Mount has not changed since 2003. The entry of Jews and tourists is permitted on the Temple Mount from 7:30 to 10 a.m., and from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. These visits do not have to be coordinated with officials of the Waqf (Muslim trust) and take place without any interference. However, the desire of Palestinian politicians to win a few minutes of fame has recently led to various violent incidents. The PA is not doing enough to ease tensions, while the Israeli Arab Islamic Movement's northern faction is apparently working in concert with a number of Palestinian figures in an effort to spark an escalation of hostilities on the mount. The former mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, called on Muslim worshipers to gather at the Al-Aqsa Mosque last Sunday, to defend it against the Jews. His call was also taken up by Hatem Abdel Khader, the Fatah official in the PA who holds the Jerusalem portfolio. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Muslim Clerics Call to Defend Al-Aqsa Mosque - Efrat Weiss
    Monday night saw the muezzins of Jerusalem's mosques urge the city's Muslims to rally to the defense of the al-Aqsa Mosque, for fear "Jews will try to break into it."
        The IDF has noted an increase in terror activity in September, with 95 terror incidents, compared with 53 in August. The majority involved stoning and firebombs. (Ynet News)
        See also Abbas Cabinet Calls to Confront Israel over Jerusalem - Mohammed Assadi
    The Western-backed PA government in Ramallah pledged on Monday "to confront Israel and its plans designed to thwart any efforts to establish an independent Palestinian state on the territories occupied in 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital." The Palestinian statement also condemned what it called a plan by Jews to "perform religious rituals" in a compound containing the al-Aqsa Mosque. (Reuters)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Ahmadinejad Is Running Rings around the West - Con Coughlin
    Rather than facing the wrath of a UN Security Council that claims it is determined to call a halt to Iran's illicit nuclear program, Ahmadinejad has bought Iran more time, without making any serious nuclear concessions. During the six years that Iran has been negotiating with the West over its nuclear program, it has taken the politics of procrastination to an entirely new level. Keep the talks going, and keep those centrifuges spinning. From the outset of the West's attempts to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran, the Iranians have promised much and delivered little. They have repeatedly promised to freeze their enrichment activities at Natanz, only to resume enrichment once they realized there was nothing the West could do to stop them. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Missile Defenses: The Other Ticking Clock in Iran - Christian Caryl
    In addition to uranium enrichment, there's another ticking clock the Israelis are worried about that hasn't been in the headlines quite so much. For years, Tehran has been working hard to acquire Russian S-300 antiaircraft missiles, essentially the Russian equivalent of the American Patriot. Although never tested under combat conditions, military experts have a high opinion of its capabilities - especially more recent variants like the PMU-2 Favorit (the SA-20B), which can track 100 targets while engaging up to 12, and hit targets 120 miles away. Russia first offered the Iranians the S-300 in 2005, but then pulled back due to diplomatic controversies surrounding Iran's nuclear programs. In 2007, Tehran signed a contract to buy several S-300 batteries. In April 2009, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mehdi Safari visited Moscow to push things along and declared, "There are no problems with this contract." Yet so far none of the systems have been delivered to the Iranians. (Foreign Policy)
  • Al-Sharq Al-Awsat: "Iran Taking Advantage of Arab Problems to Advance Its Own Interests"
    In a Sep. 29 op-ed, Tariq Al-Homayed, editor of the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, wrote: "The Arabs should also make efforts to put their own house in order, so that the intra-Palestinian division is no longer an obstacle to peace negotiations....They must strive to resolve [regional] problems that threaten peace, including their differences with Syria - which has [finally] realized that the Iranian boat is sinking. It must also make order in Lebanon and [face] Hizbullah, which is serving the interests of Iran rather than those of Lebanon or the Arabs. These are the important things that need to be addressed, so as not to miss the genuine opportunity presented by Obama through being preoccupied [solely] with the issue of settlements [at a time] when our region is about to face the resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue and when Iran is taking advantage of our problems to advance its own interests."  (MEMRI)
  • Why We Know So Little About Iran's Nuclear Program - Robert Baer
    We know as much about it as we did about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. Iran could test a nuke next week, or not for another 20 years. Iran, like Iraq, is one of the world's worst countries in which to establish facts. It's a vicious police state dedicated to stopping its national-security secrets from leaking. The quickest way to be arrested or escorted out of that country is to ask questions about its bomb.
        IAEA knowledge of Iran's nuclear programs is limited to what Iran wants to let it know. It had no idea until a week ago that a second plant was under construction. And that may not be the only secret facility. Another reason for the different estimates is that Iran has multiple nuclear programs. (TIME)
  • Is U.S. Peace Vision in Touch with Reality? - Gary Rosenblatt
    According to Gidi Grinstein, head of Re'ut, a Tel Aviv-based think tank, "the only attainable" positive result from U.S.-Israel-PA talks at this point could be through "baby steps," establishing a West Bank state for the Palestinians. By adopting an "all-or-nothing approach" now, which would include discussions of the fate of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees, the U.S. administration is losing touch with reality, "moving away from the achievable to the desirable." Grinstein pointed out that such efforts have failed since 1949, and that the result could well be the collapse of the fragile Palestinian Authority. (New York Jewish Week)
  • Observations:

    A License to Kill - Moshe Arens (Ha'aretz)

    • The Goldstone report is being intensively studied by terrorists bent on destroying the State of Israel - and they must be breathing a sigh of relief. From the report it is clear to them that establishing military units and rocket launchers in civilian population centers will from now on be an effective military tactic that they can hope to apply with impunity.
    • The report is in effect a license to kill - for Hamas, for Hizbullah, and for terrorists all over the world.
    • During Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, the IDF showed that the commonly held wisdom that terrorism could not be defeated by military means was dead wrong.
    • Whereas Palestinian terrorism could not be deterred, it could be physically eliminated by military means. The terrorists could be pursued into their lairs and destroyed, or brought to justice. Since then, terrorism from the West Bank against Israeli civilians has essentially ceased.
    • Thank you Justice Goldstone. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

      The writer is a former Israeli minister of defense and foreign minister.

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