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October 26, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran to Start Urgent Plan to Boost Gasoline Production (Fars-Iran)
    Iran is due to start implementation of an urgent plan to supply its domestic gasoline needs through a giant boost in the production capacity of its refineries, in a preemptive effort to curb the impact of possible U.S. sanctions on the country's gasoline supplies.

    See also Congress Approves a New Iran Sanctions Measure (VOA News)
    The U.S. Senate on Oct. 15 approved legislation that bars companies that sell Iran fuel to also hold contracts with the U.S. Energy Department to supply the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve. The House of Representatives already passed the measure earlier this month.
    Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said his panel will bring up a measure that prohibits any non-U.S. company selling gasoline to Iran or helping its imports from doing business in the U.S. The bill, which will be considered Oct. 28, gives President Obama the full range of tools to address the "looming nuclear threat from Iran."
    Similar legislation is being considered in the U.S. Senate and will likely be part of a comprehensive Iran sanctions measure proposed by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd.

Gaza Militants Making Deadlier Roadside Bombs - Anshel Pfeffer (Ha'aretz)
    Palestinian militants have significantly improved the effectiveness of roadside bombs they deploy against Israel Defense Forces soldiers along the Gaza border.
    Tests conducted by the IDF revealed that the bombs were very similar to the improvised explosive devices used against U.S. and British forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

UN Chief Urges Hizbullah to Relinquish Weapons - Patrick Galey (Daily Star-Lebanon)
    The presence of weapons belonging to Hizbullah and other non-state organizations is a serious threat to Lebanese security, says UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in the latest Security Council report on the implementation of Resolution 1559 of 2004.
    Ban called on all states to abide by the existing arms embargo and lamented the "dangerous anomaly" of the arms flow across Lebanon and Syria's porous border.
    Ban outlined arsenals still held by Hizbullah and "non-Lebanese armed groups" as "a direct challenge to the sovereignty of the Lebanese state."

Arab States Meet to Reinvigorate Israel Boycott - Michael Freund (Jerusalem Post)
    Representatives of 16 Arab states, as well as the Palestinians and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, convened in Damascus last week for a conference aimed at strengthening the decades-old Arab economic and trade boycott of Israel.
    The Arab League's Office for the Boycott of Israel has been based in the Syrian capital since 1951.
    Arab states including Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq continue to bar entry to goods made in Israel or those containing Israeli-made components.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Parliament Speaker Says West Trying to Cheat Iran - Ali Akbar Dareini
    Iran's parliament speaker accused the West on Saturday of trying to cheat the country with a UN-drafted plan that would ship most of Iran's uranium to Russia for enrichment, raising further doubts about the likelihood Tehran will approve the deal. "Westerners are insisting on going in a direction to cheat and impose their will on us," Iran's semiofficial ISNA news agency quoted parliament speaker Ali Larijani as saying Saturday. (AP)
        See also Iran to Decide on Atom Fuel Deal in a "Few Days"
    "Iran's decision on the provision of necessary fuel for the Tehran reactor will be announced in the next few days," the official IRNA news agency quoted Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki as saying Monday. (Reuters)
  • UN Inspectors Visit Secret Iranian Enrichment Facility
    UN inspectors on Sunday entered the once-secret Fordo uranium enrichment facility about 20 miles north of Qom, where bunker-like construction and heavy military protection raised Western suspicions about the extent and intent of Iran's nuclear program. The visit by a four-member International Atomic Energy Agency team was the first independent look inside the planned nuclear fuel lab, where inspectors are expected to study plant blueprints, interview workers and take soil samples. (AP/New York Times)
  • U.S. Lawmakers: Block Goldstone Report
    Top Democratic and Republican foreign affairs leaders in the U.S. Congress are calling on the Obama administration to quash the Goldstone report. A non-binding resolution introduced last Friday by U.S. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the committee's ranking Republican, "calls on the President and the Secretary of State to strongly and unequivocally oppose any further consideration of the 'Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict' and any other measures stemming from this report in multilateral fora." The administration is opposed to furthering the report in international committees but has stopped short of unequivocally blocking such consideration. (JTA)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Abbas Aide, Israeli Muslim Leader Among 21 Arab Rioters Arrested on Temple Mount - Liel Kyzer
    Some 100 Arabs hurled stones and firebombs at Israeli police on the Temple Mount on Sunday, wounding three policemen, after Muslim leaders urged Arabs to defend Jerusalem against "Jewish conquest." During the clashes, police arrested Mahmoud Abbas' adviser on Jerusalem affairs, Hatam Abd al-Qadir. Ali Abu Sheikha, a senior official from the northern faction of the Islamic Movement in Israel, was also arrested. Abu Sheikha had previously been detained in mid-October for inciting Arabs during the riots on the Temple Mount on Yom Kippur eve. The Islamic Movement had announced that it would make buses available for travel to the mosque on Sunday. Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said police did not enter the Al-Aqsa mosque. (Ha'aretz/Ynet News)
        See also Hamas: "Jerusalem's Fate Will Be Decided by War, Not Negotiations" - Jack Khoury
    Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal declared Sunday in Damascus that "Jerusalem's fate will be decided with jihad (holy war) and resistance, and not negotiations."
        Israel Police Commissioner David Cohen said the leaders responsible for inciting the riots were on location at the Temple Mount, provoking the rioters. Cohen added that Israel's policy is to keep the Temple Mount open to both Jewish and Muslim visitors "today and on every other day."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Government Tasks Special Team with Devising Counter-Goldstone Policies - Roni Sofer
    The Israeli government Sunday decided to task a special team with formulating ways to counter the possible ramifications of the Goldstone report in the international arena. The team will prepare a brief to demonstrate the process used to investigate the allegations made by the Goldstone report. "The military's own (investigating) procedures are excellent," Prime Minister Netanyahu stressed. Defense Minister Barak said Israel will not form a commission of inquiry into the Gaza war. "(Israel) sent the troops on this mission and they are entitled to our full backing. Israel will continue fighting this report."  (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Armageddon Time - Peter Robinson
    Victor Davis Hanson is a military historian; Robert Baer a former CIA field officer. Both agree that if not already capable of doing so, Iran will be able to produce nuclear weapons in mere months. "The Iranians are very good at procuring banned materials very easily," said Baer. "They are very close [to having what they need to produce weapons]. They could move very quickly....Six months, a year." They also agree that Iranians have no interest in running a bluff. Once able to produce nuclear weapons, they will almost certainly do so. (Forbes)
  • The Nuclear Fuel Deal with Iran: Losing Sight of the Broader Picture? - Emily B. Landau and Ephraim Asculai
    The emerging nuclear fuel deal between the U.S., Russia, France, and Iran - whether it is actually implemented or not - is shaping up as another point Iran has scored to fend off international efforts that would cease its uranium enrichment activities. Iran has made it absolutely clear that it has no intention of giving up either its present capabilities or its nuclear activities in Natanz, Arak, and any other facility it may have in return for this deal. If Iran continues its uranium enrichment activities (as it avows it will), it would be able to replenish its low-enriched uranium stocks in less than a year.
        The deal was not conceived as part of a grand U.S. strategy for dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions, but was rather the outgrowth of the specific Iranian request to the IAEA for more fuel for its Tehran nuclear research reactor. Despite being under IAEA safeguards, this reactor has been used in the past for weapons-related research - the production of minute quantities of plutonium. (Institute for National Security Affairs-Tel Aviv University)
  • Don't Count on Goldstone to Curb Israel's Response to Attacks on Tel Aviv - Alex Fishman
    While Sderot sustained rocket attacks for eight years until the military and political conditions were "ripe" for a retaliatory strike in Gaza, Tel Aviv will not sustain such attacks for eight days; not even for eight hours. In order to put an immediate end to missile attacks on central Israel - regardless of where they originated: Syria, Lebanon, or Gaza - we will see massive retribution that will make the Gaza operation appear like a tiny scratch.
        Israel's enemies are counting on Goldstone. Yet they're wrong. The rockets that penetrate the defense systems will require Israel to respond immediately. And here the formula is simple: The more effective the rocket terror war will be, the less "proportional" the response would be. We will see a massive retaliatory blow, from the air and from the ground, targeting various infrastructures and sites and being painful enough to prompt the enemy to hold its fire. The more painful the blow to the enemy's critical sites, the greater the chance it will be convinced to hold the fire sooner. (Ynet News)
  • Scorecard on Middle East Diplomacy - Rami G. Khouri
    It has been nine months since Obama took office with a pledge to personally work for a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace, and the scorecard of results is defined by more negatives than positives. The U.S. has recalibrated its own role and has tried to be an active, persistent, and more even-handed mediator. It has publicly demanded that both sides make immediate moves to revive an environment conducive to peace talks. Yet Abbas is weaker than he was nine months ago and the Palestinian side remains badly divided between Hamas and Fatah. The U.S. is not pushing too hard because it knows that no progress will be made while the Palestinians remain divided as they are now. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Observations:

    Netanyahu: UN Report Gives Terrorists a New Weapon Against Democracies - Lally Weymouth (Washington Post)

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview published Saturday:

    • The so-called human rights commission accuses Israel, that legitimately defended itself against Hamas, of war crimes. Mind you, Hamas didn't commit just one type of war crime. It committed four. First, they called for the destruction of Israel, which under the UN Charter is considered a war crime - incitement to genocide; secondly, they fired deliberately on civilians; third, they hid behind civilians; and fourth, they've been holding our captured soldier, Gilad Shalit, without access to the Red Cross, for three years.
    • And who gets accused of criminal behavior at the end of the day? Israel - that sent thousands of text messages and made tens of thousands of cellular phone calls to Palestinian civilians [to warn them to evacuate]. This inversion of justice is patently absurd.... What the Goldstone report actually accuses Israel of is deliberately targeting civilians, which is patently false.
    • This gives terrorist regimes a new weapon against democracies....It allows them to attack entire cities with weapons of mass terror and get away with it simply because they fire the rockets from populated areas.
    • There has yet to be a Palestinian leader who actually turns to his people and says - it's over....We recognize that Israel is the Jewish state just as we ask the Israelis to recognize the Palestinian state.
    • The Arabs fought wars and terror campaigns in the 1920s, '30s and '40s against any Jewish state, and then they rejected the partition. Our presence in the territories is not the cause of the conflict but one of its results....The cause is the persistent Palestinian refusal to recognize the Jewish state at any point.

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