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December 15, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Evidence of Iran's Nuclear Arms Expertise Mounts - Joby Warrick (Washington Post)
    Long denied access to foreign technology because of sanctions, Iran has nevertheless learned how to make virtually every bolt and switch in a nuclear weapon.
    Internal documents and expert analysis point to a growing Iranian mastery of disciplines including uranium metallurgy, heavy-water production and the high-precision explosives used to trigger a nuclear detonation.
    "They're slowly weaning themselves off a reliance on importing critical technologies, in favor of being able to manufacture critical components themselves," said Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a retired CIA officer and former Energy Department intelligence director.

Head of Iran's Nuclear Program Identified - Catherine Philp (Times-UK)
    Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a physics professor and former Revolutionary Guard officer, has been identified as the chairman of the Field for the Expansion of Deployment of Advance Technology (Fedat) - the organization running Iran's nuclear program.

Chicago Suspect Knew of Mumbai Attack - Mike Robinson (AP)
    Tahawwur Hussain Rana, 48, a Chicago businessman charged with providing material support to terrorists, knew in advance about a plot to attack Mumbai.
    "Rana was told of the attacks before they happened and offered compliments and congratulations to those who carried them out afterwards," Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Collins wrote in a court filing Monday.

PA Union Official: Hamas Leaders Hid in Tunnels, Launched Rockets from among Children and Elderly (MEMRI)
    Bassam Zakarneh, head of the PA Workers' Union, told PA TV on Nov. 9:
    The leaders of the Hamas movement used the Palestinians killed in Gaza "as sandbags, while they hid in tunnels. They would place a missile, cover it with a tent, amid buildings with 200 children and old people, and they would launch the missile and hide."

Israeli Boris Gelfand Wins Chess World Cup - Dylan Loeb McClain (New York Times)
    Boris Gelfand of Israel won the 2009 Chess World Cup championship by beating Ruslan Ponomariov of Ukraine on Monday.

Report: Islamic Terror Rising as Al-Qaeda Fades - Lolita C. Baldor (AP)
    Targeted by drone strikes in Pakistan, al-Qaeda is losing ground and financing, even as attacks by Islamist groups increased by 15-20% this year, according to a new report by the Washington-based American Security Project.
    "There is a larger number of Islamic groups using violence to push their own agenda," said Bernard Finel, a senior fellow with the American Security Project.
    Armed drones in clandestine attacks by the CIA have killed at least 11 of the top 20 al-Qaeda targets on a U.S. list and four others who were added to an updated list, according to the report.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Clinton: New Sanctions on Iran Needed - Matthew Lee
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday the Obama administration's nearly yearlong effort to engage Iran has fallen short and new sanctions are needed to press the Iranian leadership to come clean about its nuclear program. "I don't think anyone can doubt that our outreach has produced very little in terms of any kind of a positive response from the Iranians," Clinton said. "The second track of our dual-track strategy is to bring the international community together, to stand in a united front against the Iranians and try to impress upon them the importance of changing their actions and decisions concerning their nuclear program," Clinton said. "Certainly, additional pressure is going to be called for in order to do that."  (AP)
        See also Washington: Tough Sanctions Against Iran Needed Urgently - Tim Reid, Giles Whittell and Catherine Philp
    Revelations that Iran has been working secretly on a trigger for a nuclear bomb urgently underscore the case for tough new sanctions against Tehran, the Obama administration said. "Now that work may have been done on a trigger mechanism, this certainly gives urgency, in the absence of any meaningful response from terms of additional pressure on sanctions," a senior U.S. official said. (Times-UK)
  • U.S. to Test Its Missile Shield Against Iran Strike - Phil Steward and Jim Wolf
    The U.S. will conduct a test of its core missile defenses for the first time in January against a simulated long-range Iranian attack, at a cost of roughly $150 million, Lt.-Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, said Monday. (Reuters)
  • Iran's President Pledges Support to Hamas
    Iran's official news agency said Sunday that President Ahmadinejad reiterated his support for Hamas during a visit by the Palestinian militant group's Syrian-based leader Khaled Mashaal. "The government and the people of Iran will always stand by the Palestinian resistance and the Palestinian people," Ahmadinejad said during the meeting. "Today Palestine is a symbol of the global front of freedom-seekers and militants."  (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Report: Iran Revolutionary Guards Official Met with Hizbullah, Yemeni Rebels - Roee Nahmias
    Intelligence sources have discovered that a senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards official held a meeting with representatives from Hizbullah and the Shiite rebels in Yemen in order to coordinate the rebellion, the London-based Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported. (Ynet News)
  • Obama Urges Lebanon to Clamp Down on Arms Smuggling - Ross Colvin
    President Barack Obama met with Lebanese President Michel Sleiman on Monday and pressed him to crack down on arms smuggling to Hizbullah, saying the weapons posed a potential threat to neighboring Israel. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Military Intelligence: Iran Has Enough Nuclear Material for Bomb
    IDF Military Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin said Tuesday that Iran has over the last year accumulated enough material to create a nuclear bomb and warned: "The technological clock has almost finished winding." Speaking at the Institute for National Security Studies, Yadlin said that Iran had embarked on a "measured and sophisticated strategy for a solid nuclear infrastructure, by spreading out in facilities both overt and covert, while simultaneously developing a military capability that would allow a breakthrough when it so decides."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Confirms UK Arrest Warrant Against Former Foreign Minister Livni - Barak Ravid
    Former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni canceled a trip to Britain after a warrant was issued for her arrest for her role in Israel's military offensive against Hamas in Gaza, it was learned Monday. The request for the warrant was submitted by a pro-Palestinian organization. The Israel Foreign Ministry on Tuesday called for "an end to this absurd situation, which would have seemed a comedy of errors were it not so serious."  (Ha'aretz)
        See also UK Embarrassed by Arrest Warrant for Former Israeli Minister - Ian Black and Ian Cobain
    The British Foreign Office, clearly deeply embarrassed by the episode, said in a statement: "The UK is determined to do all it can to promote peace in the Middle East and to be a strategic partner of Israel. To do this, Israel's leaders need to be able to come to the UK for talks with the British government. We are looking urgently at the implications of this case."  (Guardian-UK)
        See also Averting Abuse of Universal Jurisdiction - Irit Kohn
    NGOs that are supported financially by special interest groups or even states for the benefit of their own agendas have been instrumental in the implementation of universal jurisdiction against Israeli officials. Universal jurisdiction is applied when a country does not or cannot act to prosecute. Yet Israel is a democracy with a well-developed judicial system and does not need external intervention to conduct any investigation. The writer was director of the International Affairs Department of the Israel Ministry of Justice from 1995 to 2005. (ICA-Jerusalem Center)
  • Hamas Seeks to "Liberate All of Palestine" - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said on Monday that gaining control of Gaza was "just a step toward liberating all of Palestine." "We will not be satisfied with Gaza," he declared. "Hamas looks toward the whole of Palestine." Tens of thousands of Hamas supporters thronged downtown Gaza City Monday to mark the 22nd anniversary of the group's founding. Some parents dressed small children in combat fatigues and green Hamas headbands. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Has Hizbullah Changed? The 7th Hizbullah General Conference and Its Continued Ideology of Resistance - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira
    Some Western analysts believe the political manifesto published in the wake of Hizbullah's 7th General Conference at the end of November 2009 represented a fundamental change in Hizbullah policy. However, its link to Iran as the ultimate source of authority, which continues to serve as the movement's ideological basis, was not mentioned in this or any previous political manifesto. The decision of the Lebanese government to recognize the continued legitimate existence of Hizbullah's armed militia demonstrates less a case that Hizbullah underwent a process of "Lebanonization," but rather that the Lebanese state has undergone a process of "Hizbullazation."
        Hizbullah's alleged move toward pragmatism is based to a large extent on an Iranian decision to create a new atmosphere in Lebanon that will allow it to work unmolested. Iran is looking for strict silence in the Lebanese arena in order to enable Hizbullah to reconstruct its strategic capabilities (including long-range rockets and missiles) in Lebanon in order to make use of these capabilities at a time to be determined by Tehran. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Shoddy Goldstone Report Adds a Zero - Martin Kramer
    The part of the Goldstone report treating the economic impact of the Gaza operation is largely copied from a March 2009 report compiled by the Palestinian Federation of Industries. The Goldstone report writes that "324 factories had been destroyed during the Israeli military operations at a cost of 40,000 jobs." But if you look at the report of the Palestinian Federation of Industries, it puts the job losses at these 324 factories at 4,000, not 40,000. As you ponder all those figures in the Goldstone report, keep in mind that the report isn't just biased. It's shoddy. (Sandbox)
  • Observations:

    Why Iran Can't Be Contained - Danielle Pletka (Washington Post)

    • Iran is proceeding with an aggressive nuclear weapons program, and much of the Obama administration has come to terms with that reality.
    • Official Washington has resigned itself to pursuing a containment policy that some argue will limit Iran's ability to proliferate, terrorize and otherwise exploit being a nuclear power. But it is wrong to think a nuclear Iran can be contained.
    • The containment argument runs along Cold War lines: The price of breakout is too high; the regime cares only about power, not about using weapons; containment will be simple because the Arabs are so scared of Iran they'll do anything to help us; Ahmadinejad doesn't have his finger on the button. In fact, these arguments are either false or misleading.
    • Privately, Obama administration officials confess that they believe Israeli action will preempt our policy debate, as Israel's tolerance for an Iranian nuke is significantly lower than our own. But subcontracting American national security to Israel is an appalling notion, and we cannot assume that an Israeli action would not provoke a wider regional conflict into which the U.S. would be drawn.

      The writer is vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

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