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November 25, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel Readying New Arms to Meet Iran - Josef Federman and Steven Gutkin (AP/Washington Post)
    Israel is readying a new generation of armaments designed to defend itself against distant Iran as well as Tehran's proxy armies on its borders.
    A system that can unleash a metallic cloud to shoot down incoming rockets in the skies over Gaza or Lebanon has already been successfully tested and is expected to be deployed next year.
    The army is developing a new generation of its Arrow defense system designed to shoot down Iran's long-range Shihab missiles outside the Earth's atmosphere.
    It has three German-made Dolphin submarines and is buying two more. They can be equipped with nuclear-tipped missiles which analysts say could be stationed off the coast of Iran.

Iran: Political Protesters in Danger of Being Kidnapped by Israel (Sky News-UK)
    Iran's security forces have warned citizens that political protesters are in danger of being kidnapped - by Israel.
    The Basij militia are spreading the word that Israeli agents are operating in Tehran as a method of frightening potential protesters and keeping them off the streets.

Who's Watching Pakistan's Nuclear Arsenal? - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
    Military actions of the Taliban in Pakistan, who recently attacked Pakistani military bases, are feeding Westerners' fears that the government will lose control over all its military capabilities, including its nuclear capabilities.
    Between 50 and 80 nuclear warheads are stored in Pakistani warehouses.

Few Jews Remain in Yemen as Islamists Intensify Persecution - Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post)
    The Jews in Yemen, one of the oldest Jewish populations in the Arab world, once numbering 60,000, now have fewer than 350 members.
    In recent months, persecution by Islamist extremists has intensified.
    57 Yemeni Jews have been resettled in New York since July, and at least 38 are expected to arrive soon, American officials said. Others are seeking refuge in Israel and Europe.

U.S. Offers $5M Reward for Palestinian Bomb-Maker - Adam Goldman and Randy Herschaft (AP/Washington Post)
    The U.S. State Department announced Tuesday it is offering a reward of up to $5 million for a Palestinian bomb-maker suspected of once targeting commercial airliners and of aiding the Iraq insurgency. Abu Ibrahim, whose real name is Husayn Muhammed al-Umari, stands accused of a spate of bombings in the 1980s.
    Before the 2003 Iraq invasion, Ibrahim - known as "The Bomb Man" - lived in Baghdad. In 2004, the military raided a bomb-making factory in Mosul and found telltale signs of Ibrahim and his devices.
    In May, AP reported that Ibrahim had fled to Tripoli in Lebanon.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • World Powers Draft Resolution Condemning Iran
    The five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany have drawn up a draft resolution to be voted on by the UN atomic watchdog later this week condemning Iran for concealing a second uranium enrichment site, diplomats said on Tuesday. Iran's shock revelation in September that it has been building a second enrichment plant - in defiance of UN sanctions to halt uranium enrichment altogether - has enraged even Russia and China, which have previously been reluctant to join Western countries' call for tougher action against Iran. (AFP)
  • Iran Complains of Russia's Delay in Delivering Advanced Missile Defense System
    Iran can take legal action if Russia refuses to fulfill its commitments to deliver the advanced S-300 missile defense system, Brig.-Gen. Mohammad Hassan Mansourian, deputy head of Iran's air defenses, said Tuesday. "The Russians, surely under the pressure of the Zionist lobby and America, refuse to fulfill their commitments," he said. U.S. Secretary of State Clinton praised Russia last month for not providing the S-300 to Iran. (Reuters)
        See also Iran's Outdated Air Defense System
    Iran wants the S-300 to protect its key nuclear facilities. In the meantime, the key weapon in Iran's air-defense network is the Russian-built Tor-M1 short-range interceptor system which is already deployed around nuclear facilities. Apart from the 29 mobile Tor-M1 units, the Iranian network is largely outdated. It is not known to have any effective defenses against U.S. stealth bombers or the Israelis' known electronic jamming capabilities. (UPI)
  • Hizbullah Official Indicted in U.S. Over Attempt to Smuggle 1,200 Machine Guns - Spencer S. Hsu
    A Hizbullah political official and his son-in-law sought this year to smuggle 1,200 machine guns from the U.S. to the militant Islamist group via Syria, according to indictments made public Tuesday in federal court in Philadelphia. Hassan Hodroj and Dib Hani Harb, both of Beirut, were among four men accused of conspiring to support Hizbullah, which is on the State Department's list of terrorist groups. Harb, Moussa Ali Hamdan of Brooklyn and Hasan Antar Karaki of Beirut were also charged with seeking to funnel to Hizbullah counterfeit money and stolen cash generated by the sale of phony passports. None of the four is in U.S. custody and all are believed to be overseas. (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel: "Settlements Have Never Been an Obstacle to Peace"
    Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told visiting German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in Jerusalem on Tuesday: "Apparently there is serious misunderstanding in the world regarding the concept of the settlements....The 'settlement' of exactly a six-minute drive away from where we are right now [the Foreign Ministry]. It is a veteran Jerusalem neighborhood, with some 40,000 residents."
        "So far, two peace treaties have been signed in the Middle East - between Israel and Egypt and between Israel and Jordan. The subject of Jewish settlements has never been an obstacle to peace. We have always reached peace agreements without any connection to the settlements issue. Moreover, the State of Israel has pulled out from the Gaza Strip dozens of thriving, flourishing settlements. We did a 'transfer' of nearly 10,000 Jews from the Gaza Strip, and what we got in return was Hamas rule and rockets on Sderot."
        "For nineteen years, between 1948 and 1967, Arab countries ruled Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, and during all that time no one established a Palestinian state and no one talked of a Palestinian state."  (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Israel: If Hizbullah Escalates Tension, Lebanon Will Be Held Accountable - Fadi Eyadat
    Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned Tuesday that Israel holds Lebanon responsible for any conflict with Hizbullah. "Hizbullah is not our target" in such a case, said Barak. "Our target will be the state of Lebanon." "Lebanon grants Hizbullah permission to operate on its soil," said Barak. "We must clarify for the international community that we do not accept that a militia like Hizbullah exists in Lebanon, a sovereign country, and even sits in its parliament."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran Rejects the Uranium Deal - Ephraim Kam
    The talks between Iran and P5+1 (the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany) have focused on a proposal for a deal in which Iran would transfer 80% of the low enriched uranium it has produced thus far to Russia. The fact that Iran is not being asked to suspend its uranium enrichment represents an important achievement for it, because it would be able to replace the amount of enriched uranium it would have to hand over in less than a year. The deal would also represent recognition of Iran's right to enrich uranium within its borders, despite the fact that this contravenes Security Council resolutions on the matter.
        After Ahmadinejad's initial leaning towards accepting the deal, a wave of criticism by radical Iranians swelled because of his agreeing to let uranium out of the country. Reformist circles joined in the criticism and took advantage of the opportunity to present Ahmadinejad as someone harming Iran's vital interests. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • Palestinians Could Have Negotiated Peace with Israel Years Ago - Barry Rubin
    Abbas and the PA are precisely those responsible for the lack of progress in resolving the Israel-Palestinian dispute. Palestinians are always presented as victims, passive observers, people who have nothing to do with their own fate. Thus, everything must always be the fault of Israel or America or the West. The fact is that their basic problem arises from their strategy of seeking Israel's destruction over a compromise peace that would mean the conflict's end in a permanent two-state solution.
        Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian leadership were offered a Palestinian state with its capital in east Jerusalem and billions of dollars in start-up funding in the year 2000. Instead, they launched a war against Israel that went on for five years and cost thousands of lives. The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center at the IDC, Herzliya, Israel, and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. (Ottawa Citizen-Canada)
  • Do Palestinians Believe in a Two-State Solution? - Asaf Romirowsky
    Historically, Palestinian society never saw Israel's existence as a "right." The only right in the Palestinian narrative is their own connection to the land, although they do see Israel as a temporary military fact. But there will come a day, the narrative goes, when they will be able to defeat the Israelis. The notion of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state existing alongside Israel was never part of the Palestinian worldview.
        On the Palestinian street, where things really count, the preference is for a one-state solution - Israel is nowhere to be found. The two-state solution in its current formula is actually just a placebo for those who'd like to believe that peace will come when there are two states living side by side. Absent real acceptance of Israel by the Arabs, this isn't likely to occur. The writer is an adjunct fellow at the Middle East Forum. (Philadelphia Daily News)
  • Observations:

    Israel's Gamble in a Prisoner Swap (New York Times)

    David Makovsky, Washington Institute for Near East Policy:

    • Israel and Hamas are trying to broker a deal that would end the 3 1/2-year captivity of Gilad Shalit, reportedly in return for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. In Israel, the politicians and the military want to show that Israel will leave no stone unturned to ensure that any soldier is returned home.
    • However, the Israel Security Agency believes that if many Palestinian prisoners are released, this is bound to increase the number of terror threats. Moreover, it will enable Hamas to claim that they too will not leave a stone unturned until those who perpetrate violence are released, and by doing so gain new recruits.
    • Israeli policymakers are looking at the impact of the deal on the prospects of peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas and how Hamas will use a Shalit deal to reshape the Palestinian internal balance of power.
    Ronen Bergman, senior political and military analyst for Yediot Ahronot:
    • The Israeli public awaits Gilad Shalit. But Prime Minister Netanyahu knows that Israel cannot afford to be humiliated in a deal in which Hamas extracts the release of terrorists and murderers.
    • As a result of the exchange, Hamas will soon be celebrating in the streets of Gaza the release from jail of hundreds of its members. Hamas will claim that it brought Israel to its knees.
    • The exchange will complicate considerably any attempt to restart negotiations between Israel and the moribund Palestinian Authority.

    Steven Simon, adjunct senior fellow in Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations:
    • Since 1983, Israel has agreed to at least seven such swaps. From an Israeli perspective, the kind of reputation that keeps terrorists from drawing dangerous conclusions from these unequal swaps is ensured not by rigid adherence to cliches about rewarding terrorism, but through a demonstrated ability to act ruthlessly against terrorists themselves.
    • Israel's program of targeted killing, penetration of Palestinian networks through extensive use of informants and communications intercepts, a fierce military response to Hamas rocket launching in Gaza, and the construction of a security barrier that impedes Palestinian access to Israeli territory have combined to reduce terrorism despite the occasional trade in prisoners.
        See also Report: U.S. Concerned Over Israel-Hamas Understandings on Shalit Deal - Jack Khoury
    A senior Israeli official told Army Radio on Wednesday that the U.S. administration is opposed to the emerging understandings between Israel and Hamas surrounding the deal. "The U.S. does not support negotiations with terror organizations," the official said. "Washington knows that any release of Palestinian prisoners to the West Bank could harm Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and become a victory for Hamas."  (Ha'aretz)
        See also An Image of Weakness - Mordechai Kedar (Ynet News)

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