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December 9, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Turkish Forces Foil Hizbullah Attack on Israeli Target - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    Turkish forces have prevented a Hizbullah attack on an Israeli target in the country, Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon said this week.
    According to defense sources, the attack was meant to avenge the killing of senior Hizbullah operative Imad Mughniyeh - who died in a car bombing in Damascus in February 2008.
    Turkish reports said Hizbullah had set up a network of Iranian agents posing as tourists in Istanbul, with the cooperation of Iranian security agencies.
    Earlier this year, Hizbullah planned an attack on the Israeli embassy in Azerbaijan. In Egypt, a group of Hizbullah agents were arrested and accused of tracking Israelis at tourist sites as well as monitoring Israeli ships passing through the Suez Canal.
    An officer from the Jerusalem Brigade of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards monitors the Hizbullah military force. This presence indicates an increased Iranian involvement in Hizbullah operations.

Israel's Activity in Turkish Airspace Disturbed Iran (Today's Zaman-Turkey)
    Turkish-Israeli relations began their present deterioration after Tehran registered complaints with Ankara that Israeli planes were using Turkish airspace to carry out intelligence and surveillance missions in the summer of 2008.
    Turkey and Israel's military cooperation agreements include allowing Israeli jets to use Turkish airspace for training. In June 2008, Iran conveyed its uneasiness over allegations that Israeli airplanes were using Turkish airspace to take aerial pictures of Iranian territory close to the Iranian-Turkish border, a senior official said.
    The same official said Israel used Eitam aircraft, which are equipped with sophisticated intelligence-gathering systems, during its activities near Iran.
    In September 2007, Israel used Turkey's airspace for a bombing run in neighboring Syria, leading to serious anger in Ankara.

Iraq Blames Baghdad Car Bombs on Syria and Islamists - Martin Chulov (Guardian-UK)
    Four car bombs on Tuesday killed more than 120 people and maimed about 200 in the center of Baghdad in attacks that replicated two days of carnage in August and October.
    Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki blamed the devastation on senior Ba'athists living in exile in Syria and an alliance of Islamists and militants.
    A dossier prepared by Iraq's security forces centers on a meeting on 30 July in the Syrian town of Zabaniyi chaired by two well-known Ba'athist figures. Also in attendance were former Iraqi army officers and representatives from militant groups that were active in Iraq's Anbar province in the blood-soaked years of 2006-07, including Jaish al-Mohammed, the Salaheddin Army and the Islamic Army of Iraq.

Israelis Urged to Avoid Jewish Sites, Tourist Spots in India - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel's Counter-Terrorism Bureau is recommending that Israeli tourists refrain from congregating at Jewish sites in India because terrorists may be planning attacks similar to those carried out in Mumbai in 2008, with a focus on Israeli tourists.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • EU Moderates Stance on Jerusalem - Howard Schneider
    European Union foreign ministers on Tuesday softened their call for a division of Jerusalem between Israel and the Palestinians, saying that the city should be shared but that the two sides should negotiate the details. The statement, issued in Brussels, marks a diplomatic victory for Israel in a contest with the Palestinians for international support. (Washington Post)
        See also EU Urges Israel to Share Jerusalem
    The European Union on Tuesday urged Israel to share Jerusalem with the Palestinians as part of a Middle East peace agreement and make the holy city the capital of two states. (Reuters)
        See also Protests Force EU to Drop Jerusalem Plan - Tony Barber
    The EU position was a compromise between Sweden and several other countries that wanted to make a firm commitment to the Palestinians on east Jerusalem, and other countries, such as the Czech Republic, Germany and Italy, that preferred a less overtly anti-Israeli stance. (Financial Times-UK)
        See also U.S.: Status of Jerusalem Should Be Negotiated by Parties
    The U.S. Tuesday noted the EU statement welcoming the idea of Jerusalem becoming the future capital of two states, saying the U.S. view was that the parties should decide that in final status negotiations. "We are aware of the EU statement, but our position on Jerusalem is clear and we believe that as a final status issue, this is best addressed inside a formal negotiation among the parties directly," said State Department spokesman Philip Crowley. The text adopted fell short of an earlier draft proposed by the Swedish EU presidency which infuriated Israel for stating outright that east Jerusalem should become the Palestinian capital. (AFP)
  • Violent Protests in Iran Carry into Second Day - Robert F. Worth
    Iran's broadest and most violent protest in months spilled over into a second day on Tuesday, as bloody clashes broke out on university campuses between students chanting anti-government slogans and the police and Basij militia members. As the scale of Monday's demonstrations became clearer, Tehran's police chief announced that 204 people had been arrested in the capital, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported. Clashes took place on campuses across the country. During Monday's demonstrations there were more chants aimed directly at Ayatollah Khamenei. In addition to the now common chants of "death to the dictator," some protesters chanted, "Khamenei knows his time is up."  (New York Times)
  • Obama Rebukes Turkey's Leader on Israel
    President Obama rebuked Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan for belligerent anti-Israel rhetoric when they met in Washington on Monday. "In the president's meeting with Prime Minister Erdogan...the president told the prime minister that his anti-Israel rhetoric was eroding his nation's ability to effectively it had in the past," said a statement relayed Tuesday by a U.S. official. "The president pressed the prime minister to make rebuilding Turkey's ties with Israel a priority."  (JTA)
  • Iran Says Saudis Handed Missing Scientist to U.S. - Parisa Hafezi
    Iran accused Saudi Arabia on Tuesday of handing over to the U.S. an Iranian nuclear scientist missing since June, the Mehr news agency said. Shahram Amiri, a university researcher working for Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, disappeared during a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in June. "Riyadh has handed over Iran's nuclear scientist Amiri to America," Mehr quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast as saying. Mehmanparast said Amiri "is among 11 jailed Iranians in America."  (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Relieved at Amended EU Statement - Herb Keinon
    Israeli diplomatic officials privately heaved a sigh of relief Tuesday when the EU adopted a statement on the Middle East that stopped short of recognizing east Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel Dodges EU Bullet - Herb Keinon
    Israel was incensed that the statement, for the first time, referred to the Palestinian Authority as "Palestine," and that it did not give Prime Minister Netanyahu even the slightest credit for a moratorium on housing starts in the settlements. Those issues were dealt with satisfactorily in the final statement. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel's Response to the EU Foreign Ministers Statement
    The statement by the Council of Foreign Ministers of the EU ignores the primary obstacle to achieving a resolution between Israel and the Palestinians - the Palestinian refusal to return to the negotiating table.
        In light of the extreme draft originally presented by the Swedish presidency at the start of discussions, Israel does welcome the fact that in the end the voices of the responsible and reasonable EU states prevailed, balancing and improving the text. We also welcome the recognition given to the measures and efforts taken by Israel to enable the resumption of negotiations; the recognition of the severity of the problem posed by Hamas' armaments; and to the EU's expression of commitment to the security of Israel and its full integration in the area. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Egypt Building Iron Wall on Gaza Border to Stop Smuggling - Avi Issacharoff
    Egypt has begun the construction of a massive iron wall along its border with Gaza in a bid to shut down smuggling tunnels. The wall will be 9-10 km. long, and will go 20-30 meters into the ground, Egyptian sources said. (Ha'aretz)
  • Gaza Swine Flu Victims Transferred to Israeli Hospitals - Yaakov Katz
    Five Palestinians from Gaza were evacuated to Israeli hospitals on Monday out of fear that they had contracted swine flu. The IDF's Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration has coordinated the transfer of 10,000 vaccinations to Gaza. More than 8,500 cases of the virus have been confirmed in Israel. So far, 67 Israeli deaths have been linked to the virus. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Wanted: A Palestinian "Peace Now" Movement - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Where are all the American, European and local non-governmental organizations that are supposed to use U.S. and EU taxpayers' money to promote peace, moderation and coexistence? When the Strings of Freedom Orchestra returned home to the refugee camp of Jenin in the northern West Bank, the musical director, Wafa Yunis, was fired and her studio apartment in the camp was sealed. The Palestinian Authority, whose leaders have been talking to Israel for more than fifteen years, accused Yunis of "exploiting the children for the purpose of normalizing ties with Israel."
        Those who are passionate about the Israeli-Arab conflict and would like to see an end to the violence and hatred should start searching for ways to encourage the emergence of a serious peace camp in the West Bank and Gaza - one whose leaders and members would be able to stand up to both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. (Hudson Institute New York)
  • The Great Satan Myth - Abbas Milani
    As the Iranian regime has teetered these past months, many in the U.S. (and especially at the highest rungs of government) have held their tongues. There has been a reluctance to voice solidarity with the green movement or to loudly protest regime abuses. Obama, for his part, has voiced his support for the protestors in passive language. "The world continues to bear witness to their powerful calls for justice" is his strange formulation - a description that places the U.S. in the role of bystander.
        Will the U.S. stand on the side of Iranian democracy now? The worry one hears most often in Washington is that such a stand will backfire; it will bolster the mullahs by annoying the innate nationalism of the Iranian people. But this misunderstands the regime. No matter what the U.S. does - even if it maintains a studied silence - the regime will describe its opponents as U.S. tools. This accusation is a political necessity for the mullahs and deeply embedded in their worldview. Besides, no matter how much the regime denounces the Great Satan, Iranians, on the whole, remain positively disposed to the U.S., at least relative to the rest of the Muslim world. The writer is Director of Iranian Studies at Stanford, where he is the co-director of the Iran Democracy Project. (New Republic)
  • Observations:

    Iran Sanctions Likely to Pass - Thanks to Iran - Ron Kampeas (JTA)

    • With enhanced U.S. sanctions to deter Iran's nuclear ambitions increasingly likely by early next year, opponents and supporters agree that the case was finally made - by Iran itself. The key to the accelerated path to a sanctions bill that insiders now believe will land on President Obama's desk within a month was Iran's belligerent rejection of a Western offer to substantively enhance its peaceful nuclear program in exchange for greater transparency.
    • The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, a politically and denominationally diverse umbrella organization consisting of more than 50 groups, issued a statement over the weekend urging both chambers of Congress to pass sanctions legislation by the end of the year if possible.
    • "The timing for this vote is especially significant," said Presidents Conference chairman Alan Solow and executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein in the statement.
    • "Should the IRPSA legislation pass the House, it has the potential to seriously impact the Iranian economy. The prospect of the sanctions in this bill and the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act, which overwhelmingly passed the House in October, are essential to pressing Iran, the leading violator of human rights and state sponsor of terrorism globally, against pursuing a nuclear weapons capacity."

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