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November 24, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Ahmadinejad Seeks Political Gains in Latin America - Ben Knight (Deutsche Welle-Germany)
    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is using his first official trip abroad since his reelection in June to do business with Brazil.
    Ahmadinejad's visit is the first leg of a Latin American tour that will also take in Venezuela and Bolivia, and is seen as part of a concerted Iranian campaign to win influence in parts of the Western Hemisphere.
    U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, noted: "To elevate Ahmadinejad, when he represses his own people, denies the Holocaust, says he'll wipe Israel off the map - it shows Brazil isn't ready to be taken seriously as a world player."
    See also Brazil's President Urges West to Work with Iran - Alan Clendenning (AP)

Iran's Nuclear Program Spurs a Gulf Arms Race - Richard Spencer (Telegraph-UK)
    The United Arab Emirates is now the third largest arms importer in the world, after China and India, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
    The UAE confirmed it was in the final stages of negotiating a deal with France to replace 63 Mirage jets with Dassault Rafale fighters. It also agreed to buy two reconnaissance aircraft from the Swedish company Saab, as well as 25 Swiss trainer aircraft.
    It has also applied to the U.S. to buy a $7 billion Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system.

NATO Reassures Algeria over Israeli Role in Ship Searches - Habib Toumi (Gulf News-Dubai)
    After reports that Israel will join a NATO naval force in the Mediterranean seeking to prevent the passage of terrorists, Algeria said it would halt its cooperation with the alliance if an Algerian commercial ship is searched, Elkhabar daily reported.
    "NATO officials have assured Algeria that it would not tolerate an Israeli abuse of their engagement in [the] Active Endeavour [operation] to carry out any antagonistic attacks on the countries in the region....Giampaolo Di Paola, NATO's military commander, visited Israel to convey Arab concerns," Elkhaber said.

Mastermind of Mumbai Attack Preaches at Mosque in Pakistan - Zahid Hussain (Times-UK)
    On Friday in Lahore, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, the alleged mastermind of the Mumbai attacks, is neither in hiding nor in jail. The founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba is instead delivering a sermon to thousands of devotees at the Jamia al-Qadsia mosque - one of the biggest in the city.
    "God has promised to make Muslims a superpower if we follow the right path," Saeed told his followers.
    Timothy Roemer, the U.S. Ambassador in Delhi, backed Indian calls this week for Pakistan to bring Saeed and six other Mumbai suspects to justice, after India handed Pakistan a seventh dossier of evidence on the Mumbai attacks.
    Analysts say the problem lies with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, which backed Saeed when he founded Lashkar-e-Taiba in 1990 to fight Indian rule in Kashmir.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iran Expanding Effort to Stifle the Opposition - Robert F. Worth
    Iran's government has announced a variety of new ideological offensives to discredit its opponents and re-educate Iran's population. It is implanting 6,000 Basij militia centers in elementary schools across Iran to promote the ideals of the Islamic Revolution, and it has created a new police unit to sweep the Internet for dissident voices. A company affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards acquired a majority share in the nation's telecommunications monopoly this year, giving the Guards de facto control of Iran's land lines, Internet providers and two cellphone companies. And in the spring, the Revolutionary Guards plan to open a news agency with print, photo and television elements. (New York Times)
        See also Leading Iranian Reformer Jailed for Six Years - Martin Fletcher
    Former Iranian vice president and leading reformer Mohammad Ali Abtahi has been sentenced to six years in prison for fomenting unrest after President Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election in June. During the election this year, Abtahi was an adviser to Mehdi Karroubi, one of the defeated candidates. He was arrested four days after the June 12 vote. On his last blog post he called the election a "huge swindle." Abtahi was not seen again until he and 100 others appeared at a televised mass trial on August 1, where he read out a statement saying that the election was fair and that the subsequent demonstrations were part of a reformist plot to seize power. Fahimeh Mousavinejad, his wife, said that he had lost 40 lb. during 44 days in solitary confinement, and appeared to be drugged. (Times-UK)
  • Iran's Opposition Reaches Out to U.S. - Robin Wright
    After more than five months of going it alone, Iran's opposition Green Movement is reaching out to the U.S. for help. Via public and private channels, the Obama administration has received several appeals in recent weeks to take a stronger stand against human-rights abuses in Iran, avoid military action, and impose more aggressive sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards and its vast business interests. (TIME)
  • Americans Recruited to Join Al-Qaeda-Linked Somali Terrorists - Andrea Elliott
    Federal officials on Monday unsealed terrorism-related charges against eight new suspects they say were key actors in a recruitment effort that led young Americans to join al-Shabaab, a violent insurgent group in Somalia with ties to al-Qaeda. The recruitment operation largely focused on Somali-American men from the Minneapolis area. The recruits attended training camps in Somalia run by Somali, Arab and Western instructors, who taught them to use machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades and indoctrinated them with anti-American and anti-Israeli beliefs, according to court documents.
        There are indications that enlistment continues. Last month, the Nevada Highway Patrol stopped a rental car carrying five young Somali men who said they were en route to a wedding in San Diego. A lawyer with knowledge of the case said three of the men soon crossed the Mexican border, en route to an airport. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Arad: Cooperation with U.S. on Iran a High Priority for Israel - Rebecca Anna Stoil
    Israel's National Security Council is cooperating with the American National Security Agency on the subject of Iranian nuclearization, Council head Uzi Arad told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Monday. Arad added that Israel was making efforts - some coordinated with the Americans - to speed up the diplomatic process with the Palestinians. While Arad said Israel was ready to renew talks with Syria without preconditions, the emphasis was currently on the Palestinian process. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Gaza Rocket Hits Israel Despite Hamas Cease-Fire Declaration
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket into southern Israel on Monday, despite a recent declaration by Hamas that militant groups had reached an agreement to halt cross-border rocket fire. (Ha'aretz)
  • Study: Nefesh B'Nefesh Immigrants Have Aided Israel's Economy - Raphael Ahren
    According to a study released Monday, the 23,000 immigrants who came to Israel since 2002 with the assistance of Nefesh B'Nefesh have generated government revenues of NIS 989 million, while they cost the state an estimated NIS 528 million, the study states. Thus, the net financial contribution of the group's immigrants to Israel's economy is NIS 461 million. The impact they've had on the local tourism industry - by attracting visitors to Israel - is thus far estimated at NIS 347 million. Taken together with their personal savings, "the overall positive financial impact of Nefesh B'Nefesh on the Israeli economy exceeds NIS 1 billion."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • For Israel, Shalit Case Is Personal - James F. Smith
    Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Michael B. Oren, explained Monday why Israel has become so obsessively focused on winning the release of captured soldier Gilad Shalit, held by Hamas in Gaza since 2006. Oren declined to comment on news reports suggesting that Shalit's release could be imminent, saying there had been false alarms in the past. However, he said, "to understand Gilad Shalit is to understand the State of Israel and who we are."
        Nearly all young Israelis go into the army. "It's not just some distant force. It's us, it's our family, it's our kids. The Shalit family is our family," he said. "And even though we may have to release people who may further endanger us, we also have to know that when we send our children out to the battlefield to defend our country, should they fall captive, we're going to do everything possible to secure their release."  (Boston Globe)
  • Trojan Horse: The Impact of European Government Funding for Israeli NGOs
    Non-governmental organizations using the language and frameworks of human rights and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians are often a hidden channel for external influence in Israeli foreign and security policies. Much of the funding for political lobbies that claim to be based in Israeli "civil society" comes from foreign sources - particularly European governments, including the European Commission. This externally funded NGO network is far more powerful than other Israeli organizations that do not enjoy similar support from foreign governments.
        This study provides a detailed analysis of the activities of more than twenty Israel-based NGOs that receive funding from European governments. One such group that promotes Palestinian claims to Jerusalem and targets Jewish housing initiatives received 67% of its 2007 NIS 4 million budget from foreign government sources.
        The principle of free speech must be preserved, together with limiting the ability of foreign governments to both manipulate domestic politics and to undermine Israel's international legitimacy. European governments should end the secrecy which characterizes their funding decisions for political NGOs, and clear principles for any continued support of these lobbies should be established. (NGO Monitor)
  • The Nature of the Nuclear Threat to Israel - Ariel Ilan Roth
    Most Israelis believe the key to enduring peace in the Middle East is convincing Israel's adversaries that ejecting Israel through force is an impossible task not worth pursuing. As the Palestinian-American political scientist Hilal Khashan's work on Arab attitudes toward peace has shown, the willingness of Arabs to make peace with Israel is a direct function of their perception of Israel's invincibility. The Iranian nuclear program threatens this perception.
        An additional threat posed by Iran's nuclear program is its potential to unleash a cascade of proliferation in the Middle East, beginning with Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The development of nuclear weapons by these countries would pose a grave danger to the Jewish state, despite the fact that Egypt has signed a peace treaty with Israel. This is because leaders who have reconciled themselves to Israel's existence have done so because they believed Israel was strong but unlikely to endure in the long term.
        Just as an Iranian nuclear capability would imply a nuclear guarantee for anti-Zionist proxies, an Egyptian or Saudi nuclear capability would reduce incentives for other Arab states to make peace with Israel because, shielded under an Arab nuclear umbrella, they would no longer fear catastrophic defeat or further loss of territory. The writer is associate director of National Security Studies at Johns Hopkins University. (Foreign Affairs)
  • Observations:

    Peres: Look Who's Judging Israel's Record on Human Rights (Defense News)

    Israeli President Shimon Peres said in an interview Monday:

    • Q: What about Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad's two-year plan toward statehood? Is it reasonable?
      Peres: That's actually only an estimate. It will take them some time to build up institutions of their own.
    • Q: In Gaza, Hamas is rearming while Israel is condemned for excesses in its fight against the rockets earlier this year.
      Peres: There wasn't a single war where the Israeli Army itself didn't investigate all accusations. Even in the past, defense ministers and generals were fired as a result of these investigations, because we want to keep our army clean. But when it comes to other nations judging us, we expect fair and equal treatment.
    • Q: So you oppose a non-IDF investigation?
      Peres: When it comes to investigation, we shall do it on our own, and not under pressure of a body that is essentially anti-Israel and only chose us to attack and to smear. It's absurd that countries like Libya, Afghanistan, Somalia and Iran will judge Israel's record on human rights. We are deeply disturbed that this illustrious body does nothing when a member, Iran, is publicly calling to destroy a fellow UN member. Why don't they investigate this Holocaust-denying leader [Ahmadinejad] who calls for our destruction?
    • Q: Is Moscow the key to halting Iran's nuclear weapons drive?
      Peres: I've had long talks with Putin and Medvedev, and they made it clear they cannot live with an Iranian bomb. But there are still doubts about Iranian intentions with regard to uranium enrichment. I think that they finally are discovering Iran's true intentions and will be ready to support tougher sanctions.

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