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December 3, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Homeland Security Chief Warns of al-Qaeda Sympathizers in U.S. - Spencer S. Hsu (Washington Post)
    "Home-based terrorism is here. And like violent extremism abroad, it will be part of the threat picture that we must now confront," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday.
    "Individuals sympathetic to al-Qaeda and its affiliates, as well as those inspired by the group's ideology, are present in the U.S., and would like to attack the homeland or plot overseas attacks."

Somali Training Camps Fuel Threat of Attacks on U.S. - Mohamed Olad Hassan and Jason Straziuso (AP)
    The recruits gather in scorching desert hideouts in Somalia, use portraits of President Barack Obama for target practice, learn how to make and detonate bombs, and vow allegiance to Osama bin Laden.
    Training camps in Somalia are attracting hundreds of foreigners, including Americans, and Somalis recruited by a local insurgent group linked to al-Qaeda.
    American officials say the camps pose a security threat far beyond the borders of Somalia, including to the U.S. homeland.

Iranian to Be Sentenced in U.S. Arms Smuggling Case - Carrie Johnson and Spencer S. Hsu (Washington Post)
    On Wednesday, prosecutors made public long-sealed court papers in which Amir Hossein Ardebili pleaded guilty to smuggling, conspiracy, money laundering and violations of the Arms Export Control Act.
    Ardebili has acknowledged procuring for Iran electronic chips used in military aircraft; phase shifters, state-of-the-art devices that help guide missiles to their targets; and a flurry of other sensitive components.

Egypt Accuses Israeli Doctors of Stealing Palestinian Body Parts - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik (Palestinian Media Watch)
    The Palestinian Authority libel that Israel deliberately harvests organs from dead Palestinians has caught on in the Arab world.
    Last month Egyptian authorities temporarily denied Israeli doctors entry into Egypt to participate in a medical conference. The head of the Egyptian Medical Syndicate explained that this was because they "participated in torture" of Palestinians and because they "are also guilty of stealing the organs of Palestinian prisoners."

    See also Ukraine Academic: Israel Imported 25,000 Kids for Their Organs - Lily Galili (Ha'aretz)
    Ukrainian philosophy professor Vyacheslav Gudin told a Kiev conference last week that Israel brought some 25,000 Ukrainian children into the country over the past two years where they were used by Israeli medical centers for "spare parts."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Ahmadinejad Vows Further Uranium Enrichment - William J. Broad
    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that his nation would produce a higher grade of nuclear fuel on its own. His declaration continued a daily drumbeat of defiant proclamations from the Iranian leadership, which has vowed to expand its nuclear plants and hone its capability to enrich uranium. "The Iranian nation will produce 20% fuel and anything it needs itself," Ahmadinejad told a cheering crowd in Isfahan. Uranium enriched to 20% can enable Iran to make a crude nuclear weapon. The bigger threat would be that its enrichment could quickly accelerate to 90%, typically used in modern nuclear warheads.
        A diplomat in Vienna who works with the International Atomic Energy Agency and closely monitors the Iranian program said, "They're almost asking to be attacked....By definition, 20% is weapons-usable."  (New York Times)
  • Iran Ramping Up Efforts to Arm Anti-Israel Militias - Joby Warrick
    Inspectors from the United Arab Emirates found hundreds of crates containing 2,030 detonators for 122mm rockets, as well as a large quantity of solid-fuel propellant for thousands of short-range rockets, hidden on the freighter ANL Australia bound for Iran. A U.S. intelligence official acknowledged that U.S. spies "played a key role" in tracking the shipment.
        The freighter was one of five vessels caught this year carrying large, secret caches of weapons apparently intended for Hizbullah, Hamas, or the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. In three cases, the contraband included North Korean- or Chinese-made components for rockets such as the 122mm Grad, which has a range of up to 25 miles and which Hamas and Hizbullah have fired into Israel. (Washington Post)
  • Lebanon Government Lets Hizbullah Keep Weapons
    Lebanon's government has endorsed Hizbullah's right to keep its weapons for defense against Israel, according to a policy statement released Wednesday by the new government of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri. (VOA News)
        See also British Foreign Secretary Eyes Contact with Hizbullah
    The British government is considering renewed contact with Hizbullah as the group gains political influence in Lebanon, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told Lebanon's Daily Star. He said "carefully considered contact with Hizbullah's politicians, including its MPs, will best advance our objective of the group rejecting violence to play a constructive role in Lebanese politics."  (UPI)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • France Has "Strong Reservations" about Swedish Mideast Plan - Herb Keinon
    France has "several strong reservations" about a draft resolution on the Middle East put forward by Sweden that would recognize eastern Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state, French Ambassador to Israel Christophe Bigot told the Jerusalem Post Wednesday. "Let us be clear: the text is not an EU text; it is a Swedish proposal looking for agreement by the 27 EU members of the Council of Foreign Affairs next Tuesday," Bigot said. As part of its diplomatic efforts to block acceptance of the document, Israel is in contact with the U.S., hoping that it will explain to key EU states that the text would only make the diplomatic process even more difficult than it already is. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Barak: Settlements Are Part of Israel - Tal Rabinovsky
    Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with four West Bank council heads in his office on Wednesday, and stressed to them that "the settlement blocs are an inseparable part of Israel in all future negotiations with the Palestinians. The Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea are regions that are dear to my heart."  (Ynet News)
        See also Israel Cut Settlement Spending in 2009 (Reuters-New York Times)
  • Iran Building Terror Network in South America - Hilary Leila Krieger
    Alberto Nisman, the Argentinean prosecutor who ferreted out Iranian links to the July 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community offices in Buenos Aires and secured Interpol backing for the arrest of several Iranians, warned Wednesday of Tehran's growing terror network in Latin America. "The Iranians are moving fast....We see a much greater penetration than we did in 1994." He said that Iran, particularly through Lebanese proxy Hizbullah, has a growing presence in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. Nisman called on other countries to refuse to welcome Iranian leaders to international forums like the UN until they adhere to Interpol-backed warrants and hand over the Iranians wanted by Argentina. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Developing an Independent Palestine - with Israeli Assistance - Tom Gross
    Nablus, the West Bank's largest city, is bursting with energy, life, and signs of prosperity in a way I have not previously seen in many years of covering the region. The shops and restaurants were also full when I visited Hebron recently, and life is even better in Ramallah, where it is difficult to get a table in a good restaurant. In Gaza too, the shops and markets are crammed with food and goods.
        We had driven from Jerusalem to Nablus without going through any Israeli checkpoints. The government of Benjamin Netanyahu has removed them all since the Israeli security services were allowed to crush the intifada, restore security to the West Bank, and set up the conditions for the economic boom that is now occurring.
        Nablus stock exchange head Ahmad Aweidah explained to me why there is no rush to declare statehood, saying ordinary Palestinians need the IDF to help protect them from Hamas, as their own security forces aren't ready to do so by themselves yet. The truth is that an independent Palestine is now quietly being built, with Israeli assistance. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Cooperative Israeli-Palestinian Project Plants Strawberry Fields (Huffington Post)
  • Not Everyone in the Mideast Wants Peace - Clifford D. May
    For more than half a century, Western politicians and diplomats have built upon a mirage: the belief that because we see peace as a benefit, everyone in the Middle East must see it that way, too. This assumption is mostly obviously false in regard to Hamas, which is fighting a jihad, a religious war. Its goal is the annihilation of Israel, an "infidel" nation occupying land Allah has endowed to the Muslims. A "two-state solution" or any other compromise is out of the question.
        Any agreement Abbas might strike with Israel, no matter how advantageous for average Palestinians, would be denounced by Hamas as an act of treachery and apostasy. So Abbas pockets any Israeli concessions the Americans can wring out of the Israelis while dismissing them as woefully insufficient; refuses to negotiate; but behind the scenes works with the Israelis on security and economic development. The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Scripps News)
  • Will More Sanctions Against Iran Work? - Raymond Tanter
    Heightened fears about Iran's secret nuclear capabilities and stumbling nuclear talks point toward yet another round of UN sanctions. Previous U.S. and UN sanctions against Iran have been "smart" sanctions - targeting individuals and entities related to specific behavior. The next round, likely to involve restricting Iran's imports of gasoline, represents a different approach, designed to have a macroeconomic impact to change the strategic calculus of Iran's rulers.
        However, despite Reliance (of India) cutting off gasoline sales to Iran, it is doubtful that Royal Dutch Shell, Total, Lukoil, Zhuhai Zhenrong, or any of Iran's other gasoline suppliers would sacrifice lucrative contracts with Iran because of a threat of being cut off from U.S. government contracts. Russia and China could lose economic investments in Iran if those countries participated in gasoline restrictions.
        Any economic pressure, even if it is not decisive, is welcome. And producing consensus for another sanctions round is useful in case force has to be used later. But there is little leverage to compel international corporations to suspend gasoline sales to Iran, and Tehran has options for plugging the shortfall and dampening economic damage. The writer is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Michigan. (Middle East Strategy at Harvard)
  • Observations:

    The Illegal Settlements Myth - David M. Phillips (Commentary)

    • The conviction that Jewish settlements in the West Bank are illegal is now so commonly accepted, it hardly seems as though the matter is even open for discussion. But it is. Indeed, the analysis underlying the conclusion that the settlements violate international law depends entirely on an acceptance of the Palestinian narrative that the West Bank is "Arab" land. Followed to its logical conclusion, this narrative precludes the legitimacy of Israel itself.
    • For several hundred years leading up to World War I, all of Israel, Jordan, and the putative state of Palestine were merely provinces of the Ottoman Empire. After British-led Allied troops routed the Turks from the country in 1917-18, the League of Nations empowered Britain to facilitate the creation of a "Jewish National Home" under a mandate while respecting the rights of the native Arab population.
    • Following World War II, the League of Nations' successor, the UN, voted in November 1947 to partition the land into Arab and Jewish states. While the Jews accepted partition, the Arabs did not and five Arab countries invaded the fledgling Jewish state. Those Jewish communities in the West Bank that had existed prior to the Arab invasion were demolished, as was the Jewish quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.
    • Eugene Rostow, former dean of Yale Law School and undersecretary of state for political affairs in 1967 during the Six-Day War, argued that the West Bank should be considered "unallocated territory," and that Israel had the status of a "claimant to the territory." To Rostow, "Jews have a right to settle in it under the Mandate," a right he declared to be "unchallengeable as a matter of law." In accord with these views, Israel has historically characterized the West Bank as "disputed territory."
    • All legally authorized Israeli settlements have been constructed either on lands that Israel characterizes as state-owned or "public" or, in a small minority of cases, on land purchased by Jews from Arabs after 1967.

      The writer is a professor at Northeastern University School of Law.

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