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October 19, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Talks on Iranian Reactor Fuel Deal Begin in Vienna - Glenn Kessler (Washington Post)
    A team of Obama administration officials, joined by officials from France and Russia, will begin negotiating in Vienna on Monday with Iranian diplomats over terms of a deal to convert a significant amount of Tehran's low-enriched uranium into fuel for a research reactor used for medical purposes - as a test of Iranian intentions over its nuclear program.
    See also Iran to Continue Enriching Uranium If No Deal in Vienna (Reuters)

U.S. Enlists Oil to Sway Beijing's Stance on Tehran - Jay Solomon (Wall Street Journal)
    The Obama administration is encouraging key Arab states to boost oil exports to China in order to reduce Beijing's reliance on Iranian energy and pare Chinese resistance to tougher sanctions over Tehran's nuclear program.
    In a step coordinated with Washington, the UAE recently agreed to boost oil exports to China to between 150,000 to 200,000 barrels a day from a current level of 50,000 over the next six months.
    Saudi Arabia, long at odds with Tehran, also appears prepared to offer China more oil to make up for any losses it incurs as part of an international effort to punish Iran. Beijing is the second-largest buyer of Iranian oil.

Will Fatah Resume the "Armed Struggle" Against Israel? - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    Sultan Abu al-Ghneim, who represents Fatah in the refugee camps of Lebanon, at a Ramallah rally last week called on Fatah to resume suicide bombings against Israel, the London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi reported.
    This is just the latest in a series of statements by Fatah members who threaten to resume the armed struggle.
    Similar ideas were heard during the sixth Fatah conference in Bethlehem in August, and also in recent talks between Fatah and Hamas.

EU Official: Israel Must Have "Secure Borders" (DPA/Ha'aretz)
    European Commission Vice-President Gunter Verheugen said Sunday that boycotts of Israeli products were "not justified" and would do nothing to improve the Middle East conflict. In addition, he said that "Europeans must send a clear message that Israel has a right to exist within secure borders."
    See also Defensible Borders for a Lasting Peace (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Useful Reference:

Gaza Facts: The Israeli Perspective (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
    On Dec. 27, 2008, after enduring an 8-year-long barrage of 12,000 rockets and having exhausted all other options, Israel launched a military operation against Hamas in Gaza to stop the bombardment of Israeli civilians and to reduce the ability of Hamas and other terrorist organizations to perpetrate future attacks against the civilian population in Israel.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • UN Panel Backs Gaza War-Crimes Report - Michael Winter
    The UN Human Rights Council Friday endorsed a report accusing Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes during the 22-day Israeli offensive in Gaza, and sent the Goldstone Commission report to the Security Council. Of the council's 47 members, 25 - mostly Arab and African states - voted for the resolution. Six - the U.S., Italy, the Netherlands, Hungary, Slovakia and Ukraine - voted against it. The remaining 16, including Britain and France, either abstained or did not vote. (USA Today)
        See also Goldstone Criticizes UN for Failing to Censure Hamas
    Judge Richard Goldstone criticized the UN Council resolution for targeting only Israel and failing to include Hamas. "This draft resolution saddens me as it includes only allegations against Israel. There is not a single phrase condemning Hamas as we have done in the report," said Goldstone in remarks published in the Swiss newspaper Le Temps ahead of the vote. (AFP)
        See also U.S. Calls UN Resolution "Unbalanced"
    U.S. State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly said Friday: "We thought that the resolution had an unbalanced focus, and we're concerned that it will exacerbate polarization and divisiveness. We believe that it went beyond even the scope of the Goldstone report itself....The resolution does not automatically mean that it will go to the Security Council."  (State Department)
        See also Russia Opposes Further Action on Goldstone Report - Roni Sofer
    Russia has made it clear to Israel that it will oppose a Goldstone Report discussion at the UN Security Council or at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, although it voted in favor of the report at the UN Human Rights Council, Israel Foreign Ministry officials said Sunday. Russian Ambassador to Israel Peter Stegney reportedly told a Foreign Ministry official that the Goldstone Report "includes statements that do not rely on facts, but rather on subjective estimations."  (Ynet News)
        See also Britain, France Call on Israel to Investigate Its Actions in Gaza - Shlomo Shamir, Barak Ravid, and Avi Issacharoff
    Following the vote by the UN Human Rights Council, British Prime Minister Brown and French President Sarkozy wrote a joint letter to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu acknowledging Israel's right to self-defense while urging it to investigate its own actions in the Gaza operation. (Ha'aretz)
  • Bombings in Iran Kill Revolutionary Guard Commanders - Michael Slackman
    At least five commanders of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps were killed and dozens were left dead and wounded on Sunday in two bombings in southeast Iran, home to the Sunni Muslim Baluchi ethnic minority, according to Iranian state news agencies. The Baluchi insurgent group Jundallah took responsibility for the bombings, which included a suicide attack on a community meeting led by Revolutionary Guards and a roadside attack on a car full of Guards, both in the area of Pishin. In the past, Iranian officials have accused the U.S. of financing and arming Jundallah. The U.S. condemned the bombings and denied any connection with them. (New York Times)
        See also Iran Vows Revenge for Bomb Attack - Richard Spencer
    "The terrorists were trained in the neighboring country [Pakistan] by the Americans and British," General Mohammad Pakpour, head of the Guard's ground forces, told state television. "The Guards will give a very harsh and crushing response to this group, so the group will never be able to launch another act like this in the country." (Telegraph-UK)
  • U.S.: Time to Relaunch Israel-PA Negotiations
    U.S. National Security Advisor Gen. James Jones told the American Task Force on Palestine on Oct. 15: "The time has come to relaunch negotiations without preconditions to reach a final status agreement on two states: a Jewish state of Israel, and a viable, independent and contiguous Palestine that ends the occupation that began in 1967 and realizes and unleashes the full potential of the Palestinian people."
        "We cannot forget the people of Gaza and southern Israel. Just as we defend Israel's right to self-defense, we cannot accept the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. And so, we call for a reopening of the crossings, with an appropriate monitoring regime, to allow for the entry of legitimate goods into Gaza, because progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must absolutely and unequivocally be a part of the road to peace. We also continue to call for the immediate release of Gilad Shalit."  (American Task Force on Palestine)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Rocket Material Found Near Jerusalem - Efrat Weiss
    An explosives lab was uncovered last month in the Palestinian village of Abu Dis, near Jerusalem. The material found included explosive devices and hollow pipes, which were slated to be used for the production of rockets. (Ynet News)
  • Poll: Israel's Jewish Public Sees Goldstone Report as Biased
    According to the War and Peace Index survey, 93.5% of Jewish-Israelis who are familiar with the UN Gaza war report's conclusion believe it is biased against the Israeli army. In another finding, 60% of the Jewish public think continued building in the settlements does not reduce the chances of reaching the two-state solution, while one-third are concerned about such an outcome. (Ynet News)
  • Strained Israel-Turkey Ties Concern U.S. - Roni Sofer
    American diplomats asked Turkish Foreign Ministry officials on Friday to work towards easing tensions with Israel, which reached a new high after a state-owned Turkish television station aired a series portraying Israeli soldiers as bloodthirsty child-killers. The U.S. diplomats made it clear that the strained relations threaten American interests in the region. They added that the tensions may hinder the efforts to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions and thwart the fight against extremist elements in the Middle East. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israel, the U.S. and the Goldstone Report - John Bolton
    By attempting to criminalize Israel's strategy of crippling Hamas, the Goldstone Report in effect declared the entire antiterrorism campaign to be a war crime. The report has important implications for America. In the UN, Israel frequently serves as a surrogate target in lieu of the U.S., particularly concerning the use of military force pre-emptively or in self-defense. Accordingly, UN decisions on ostensibly Israel-specific issues can lay a predicate for subsequent action against, or efforts to constrain, the U.S. Goldstone's recommendation to convoke the International Criminal Court is like putting a loaded pistol to Israel's head - or, in the future, to America's. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Taking an Injudicious Kick at Israel - R.W. Johnson
    Judge Goldstone's condemnatory report on Israel's actions in Gaza has been dismissed as hopelessly one-sided by neutral observers - The Economist, for example, denounced the report's "willful blindness."  (Times-UK)
  • Iran's Nuclear Disclosures: Why They Matter - Peter Grier
    "Iran presents the most serious single security challenge in the Middle East," writes Anthony Cordesman, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in a just-published book on the implications of Iran's weapons programs. An IAEA report leaked to the press in early October alleges that Iran's Project 110 is continuing its clandestine effort to produce a nuclear warhead small enough to sit atop a missile. "Project 111" is corresponding work aimed at reshaping space inside the nose cone of a Shahab 3 missile so that the warhead will fit.
        It is conceivable that Tehran could build its own nuclear device as early as this year, but it is more likely that the time frame for deployment of actual weapons, on top of missiles, would be 2011 to 2015, according to Cordesman. "Iran seems to be developing all of the capabilities necessary to deploy a significant number of nuclear weapons no later than 2020 and to mount them on missile systems capable of striking at targets throughout the region and beyond," Cordesman writes. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Observations:

    The UN Sides with Terrorists - Editorial (Washington Times)

    • Suppose a UN investigation team found that the U.S. had committed war crimes in its response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The report finds that while al-Qaeda may have been culpable for the attacks, America was equally to blame - if not more so - for the civilian deaths caused during Operation Enduring Freedom. The UN instructs the U.S. to conduct an internal investigation and punish the perpetrators, or face action from the International Criminal Court. This is the framework established by the Goldstone Commission Report.
    • Much of the report was cut and pasted from unsubstantiated and suspect reports from nongovernmental organizations with openly anti-Israel sentiments. Some of the "witnesses" interviewed by the mission were disguised Hamas officials.
    • Even more troublingly is the report's ignoring of the differences between Israel, a sovereign state with a professional armed forces governed by strict policies to limit civilian deaths during the conduct of war, and Hamas, a terrorist organization. After the conflict, Israel conducted some 100 investigations into reports of misconduct by its troops.
    • There is no moral equality between Hamas and Israel any more than there is between al-Qaeda and the U.S.

          See also Was Churchill a War Criminal? - Ophir Falk (Ynet News)

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