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October 22, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran's Biggest Worry: Growing Ethnic Conflict - Robert Baer (TIME)
    What really keeps the mullahs up at night is not a velvet revolution but the specter of ethnic and sectarian conflict - more attacks like the bombing on Oct. 18 in Sistan-Baluchistan which killed 42 people including five senior officers of the Revolutionary Guards Corps.
    The hard truth for Iran is that ethnic Persians make up only 51% of the population. Jundallah, the ethnic Baluch group that claimed responsibility for the attack, is an indigenous movement. The body of its financing comes from Baluch expatriates, many in the Gulf, and Islamic charities.
    The Bush administration at one point considered Jundallah as a piece in a covert-action campaign against Iran, but the idea was quickly dropped because Jundallah was judged uncontrollable and too close to al-Qaeda. There was no way to be certain that Jundallah would not throw the bombs we paid for back at us.

Goldstone, Gold to Debate at Brandeis on Nov. 5 - James F. Smith (Boston Globe)
    Brandeis University said Wednesday it will host a debate on Nov. 5 between South African Judge Richard Goldstone and former Israeli UN ambassador Dore Gold.

Uranium Discovered in Jordan (Media Line-Jerusalem Post)
    The Jordanian-French Uranium Mining Company, a joint venture between the French energy conglomerate AREVA and Jordan Energy Resources, has found rich uranium deposits near the surface at a site in Jordan after nine months of excavations.

Goods Flood Gaza's Tunnels, Turning Border Area into a Shopping Mecca - Taghreed El-Khodary (New York Times)
    In a stadium in Rafah, Gaza, thousands of motorcycles were lined up on display, ranging in price from $2,000 to $10,000.
    At Nijma market, refrigerators, flat-screen televisions, microwaves, air-conditioners, generators and ovens filled the tents. Some Gazans have even purchased cars smuggled in through the tunnels from Egypt.
    There are more tunnels now than ever, and Rafah has turned into a shopping mecca.

Man Arrested in U.S. on Terror Charges - Spencer S. Hsu (Washington Post)
    Tarek Mehanna, 27, of Sudbury near Boston, has been arrested for conspiring to support terrorists by seeking training from Islamic extremist fighters overseas, federal authorities said Wednesday.
    Mehanna allegedly conspired from 2001 to May 2008 with Ahmad Abousamra and others to carry out attacks abroad, including on U.S. soldiers in Iraq, the Justice Department said.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iranian Officials Accept Draft Deal on Uranium Transfer - Glenn Kessler
    Iranian negotiators on Wednesday accepted a draft agreement that would transfer the bulk of Iran's enriched uranium stockpile out of the country. U.S. officials and other diplomats stressed that the deal would be only the first step in a difficult process to persuade Iran to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities and that suspension remains the primary goal. Nonetheless, they said Iran's willingness to accept the agreement would be viewed as an early test of its intentions. (Washington Post)
        See also Iran Deal Would Slow Making of Nuclear Bombs - David E. Sanger
    If Tehran's divided leadership agrees to the accord, which Iran's negotiators indicated was not assured, it will remove enough nuclear fuel from Iran to delay any work on a nuclear weapon until the country can replenish its stockpile of fuel, estimated to require about one year. As such, it would buy more time for Mr. Obama to try to negotiate a more comprehensive and more difficult agreement to end Iran's production of new nuclear material. (New York Times)
        For Israeli reactions, see News Resources - Israel below.
  • Israelis Say Deal Near with U.S. on Mideast Talks - Allyn Fisher-Ilan
    President Obama's Middle East envoy is close to a deal with Israel on terms for resuming peace talks with the Palestinians, Israeli officials said on Wednesday. "There appears to be a meeting of the minds and hopefully the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue will be able to re-start in the near future," an Israeli official said, summing up talks held by Israeli negotiators in Washington. Under the prospective deal, the negotiations could be held on the basis of two decades-old UN Security Council resolutions, 242 and 338, another official said. (Reuters)
        See also Israel's Right to Secure Boundaries: Four Decades Since UN Security Resolution 242 (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Iran's Politics Open a Generational Chasm - Nazila Fathi
    Numerous children of prominent Iranians have become estranged from their powerful parents since Iran's disputed presidential election in June. Narges Kalhor, 25, whose father, Mehdi, is a senior adviser and spokesman for President Ahmadinejad of Iran, has applied for refugee status in Germany. Mohsen Ruholamini, the son of a senior commander of the Revolutionary Guards, was arrested during the protests in July and tortured to death. Mehdi Khazali, the son of Ayatollah Abolghassem Khazali, a senior cleric close to Ahmadinejad, criticizes the country's top leadership on his blog, (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel: Iranian Nuclear Threat "Still Alive" - Roni Sofer
    The Iranian nuclear threat is "still alive and kicking," a senior official in Jerusalem told Ynet in the wake of reports about a draft agreement between Tehran and global powers in respect to Iran's nuclear program. "The great fear is that this kind of agreement will make it appear that Iran is indeed showing a conciliatory attitude, while it continues the basic enrichment of uranium in Natanz and in the secret site exposed in Qom," one official said. "The expected deal takes care of Iran's openly available uranium which it enriches for seemingly civilian aims, while it continues to secretly enrich uranium for military aims," he said. (Ynet News)
        See also Draft Nuclear Deal Is a Victory for Iran - Yossi Melman
    If the draft agreement is confirmed and if Iran fulfills it, the Islamic Republic will have scored a major achievement in the war of attrition it has been running against the international community, while still relentlessly pursuing its nuclear program. The agreement also narrows the possibility of significant sanctions against Tehran. However, the agreement also signifies that Iran is vulnerable to pressure, and is aware of the international community's demand and concerns over its nuclear program. (Ha'aretz)
        See also The Threat Has Just Been Postponed - Amos Harel
    This compromise slows the Iranian race for nuclear capability by a year or two. It certainly doesn't stop the nuclear project, and Iran is not giving up the bomb. Iran gets international recognition of its right to enrich uranium, while other channels toward obtaining nuclear weapons remain open. How many secret nuclear installation are there still in Iran, beyond the one recently exposed at Qom? The CIA believes there could be about a dozen. And who guarantees Iran won't continue its pursuit of nuclear arms even as it is feted by the international community? (Ha'aretz)
  • U.S. to Stand by Israel in Fight Against Goldstone Report - Jonathan Lis
    U.S. envoy to the UN Susan Rice told Israeli President Shimon Peres Wednesday that the United States will continue to stand by Israel as a loyal friend in the fight against the Goldstone report. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas: "Minor Damage" We Sustained in War Has Been Restored
    Abu Obeida, the spokesman for Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, stated Wednesday that the minor damage it sustained during the fighting in Gaza had been fully restored. He also stressed that the Palestinian resistance in the West Bank would return to the battlefield sooner or later. (Al Qassam-Hamas-Gaza)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israel Stands at the Front Line for America and the West - David Warren
    The significance of Israel to the West is out of all proportion to its size and in direct relation to its place on the front line. Israel stands as a proxy for America and the West in the minds of our most lethal enemies. In Islamist propaganda Israel is the "Little Satan," as the U.S. is the "Big Satan." First destroy "the Jewish entity" of Israel, then destroy "the Christian entity." The U.S. is held constantly in view as the ultimate target, and the destruction of Israel is constantly presented as a means to it.
        It is against this background that we watched the latest anti-Israel stunt unfold in the UN, whose corrupt Human Rights Council - loaded with some of the worst violators of human rights on the planet - commissioned the Goldstone report to advance the international battle against Israel. (Ottawa Citizen)
  • A Moral Atrocity - Harold Evans
    Now we have the sickening spectacle of Britain failing to stand by Israel, the only democracy with an independent judiciary in the entire region. Israel is not an "occupying power" in Gaza in either fact or international law. Four years ago it voluntarily pulled out all its soldiers and uprooted all its settlers. Here was a wonderful chance for Gaza to be the building block of a Palestinian state, and for Hamas to do what the Israelis did - take a piece of land and build a model state. They didn't. Instead of helping the desperate Palestinians, they conducted a religious war.
        Hamas is a terrorist organization hell-bent on the destruction of the State of Israel. What is a "proportionate" attack against an enemy dedicated to exterminating your people? A dedication to exterminating all of his? Col. Richard Kemp, a British commander in Bosnia and Afghanistan, stated: "The Israel Defense Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare."  (Guardian-UK)
  • If TV Series Was About Turks, What Would We Do to Israel? - Mehmet Ali Birand
    In the TRT TV series "Ayrilik" (Separation), many scenes present the Israelis, including children, as cold-blooded murderers, barbarians and terrible people. After watching the bloody scenes, you might hate the Israelis and seek revenge. Everything aired on TRT concerns the state and government. As a result, it is not that much off the mark that Israel believes this series is directed toward defamation and hostility toward Israel, done with the approval of the AKP and maybe the "encouragement of the government."
        How would we react if Israeli TV broadcast a similar story about Turkish soldiers and villagers in southeast Turkey. We would devastate Israel. We would arrange a movement and place a wreath on synagogues. Let's tell the truth, wouldn't we do that? Don't you dare say no. (Hurriyet-Turkey)
  • Observations:

    The Hidden Costs of the Nuke Deal with Iran - Michael Singh (Foreign Policy)

    • The U.S., by offering to remove Iran's low-enriched uranium and turn it into the raw material required to make medical isotopes, is testing Iran's claim of peaceable intent and the Obama administration's hopes for engagement. However, this comes at a cost.
    • The P5+1 have had to accept the uranium enrichment which Iran has conducted in recent years in defiance of multiple UN Security Council resolutions. Even if it ultimately does not reach a deal to send its low-enriched uranium abroad, Iran will surely seek to pocket this concession and declare a measure of victory.
    • Similarly, by presenting the admission of IAEA inspectors to the until-recently-covert Qom enrichment plant as a concession, Iran gains tacit international acceptance of a facility built in defiance of its Nonproliferation Treaty obligations.
    • The current U.S. initiative also risks demoralizing Iran's ascendant political opposition by bolstering the regime at a time when its legitimacy at home appears to be waning. Given that an internal transformation in Iran may be the best hope for long-run peace and stability in the region, any action that risks delaying it could be costly indeed.
    • None of this is to say that the current approach should not be tried; it is simply to say that it is not free.

          The writer, an associate fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, is former senior director for Middle East affairs at the U.S. National Security Council.

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