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December 22, 2009

In-Depth Issues:

Ahmadinejad Dismisses U.S. Deadline for Nuke Deal (AP/Washington Post)
    Iran's president has dismissed a year-end deadline set by the Obama administration for Tehran to accept a UN-drafted deal to swap enriched uranium for nuclear fuel.
    Speaking on Tuesday to supporters in Shiraz, Ahmadinejad said the West can give Iran "as many deadlines as they want, we don't care."
    He lashed out at Washington, saying Iran won't allow the U.S. to dominate the region.

Springtime for Syria - Patrick Martin (Globe and Mail-Canada)
    Long considered an international pariah for its friendship with Iran, its support of radical organizations and its poor human-rights record, Syria under Bashar al-Assad is being brought in from the cold.
    In recent weeks, the King of Saudi Arabia, the President of France, and the prime ministers of Turkey and Spain all have beaten a path to Assad's door.
    Of all the overtures, Damascus is especially pleased about the one from Turkey. "Turkey changed," explained Sami Moubayed, editor of Forward Magazine, a Syrian English-language monthly. "They are opening to the Arab world in general and to us in particular."
    Commenting on the international red carpet that has been rolled out for Damascus, one Western diplomat said: "We want Syria to stop playing with the bad guys and start playing with the good guys."
    Hearing of this remark, an influential Syrian businessman responded: "Playing with the good guys never got us anywhere."

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PA Rejects a Christmas Choir Because They Appeared in Israel - Tim Franks (BBC News)
    The choir of Clare College, Cambridge, will be singing Bach's Christmas Oratorio with the Israel Camerata Orchestra this week.
    But the choir will not be able to perform in East Jerusalem or Bethlehem in the West Bank after a protest by the London-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Palestinian Authority against the choir's tour of Israel.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • China Signals Resistance to Iran Sanctions - Bill Varner
    China signaled resistance to any U.S. and European push for tougher UN sanctions on Iran. "We ask for more time to be given and efforts to be made to see if we can reach some sort of breakthrough," La Yifan, China's envoy for the Security Council and political affairs at the UN, said Monday. "Clearly, China will be the hardest sell," said Cliff Kupchan, a senior analyst at Eurasia Group, a New York political-risk consulting firm. (Bloomberg)
        See also French Foreign Minister Sees New UN Sanctions on Iran - Malcolm Foster
    In Paris on Monday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the international community has no other choice but to impose new UN sanctions on Iran for its refusal to cooperate on its nuclear program. Kouchner said Russia was already "on board" with the need for sanctions, and that he believed "the Chinese will follow."  (AP)
  • Iran's Opposition Loses a Mentor But Gains a Martyr - Robin Wright
    Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who died at 87, was known as Iran's defiant cleric, first in challenging the autocratic rule of the Shah, and then later in confronting the very revolution he had helped foment. Having once been designated to succeed the revolution's founder, Ayatollah Khomeini, as Supreme Leader, his outspoken criticism of the regime gave cover and legitimacy to the opposition Green Movement - and infuriated a theocracy ruled by clerics of lesser rank. Following the disputed June 12 election, Montazeri publicly questioned the victory of President Ahmadinejad, and warned Iran's security forces that they would have to answer to God for their actions against protestors. (TIME)
        See also Iranian Police, Mourners Clash at Cleric's Funeral - Ali Sheikholeslami
    "Montazeri will be more powerful now that he is dead," said Ali Ansari, director of the Institute for Iranian Studies at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. The government warned newspapers about the coverage of Montazeri's death, the BBC said. State media changed their reports on Montazeri's death several times, omitting his title of ayatollah, which is given to senior clerics. (Bloomberg)
        See also Montazeri Opposed Iranian Nuclear Weapons Development - Abbas Milani
    Montazeri recently issued a fatwa saying clearly and categorically that the development, deployment, or investment towards acquiring a nuclear bomb is against Islam and humanity - making him the most prominent domestic opponent of a nuclear bomb. (New Republic)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Security Officials Warn Against Release of Terrorists to West Bank - Yaakov Katz
    As Israel's leaders on Monday discussed a proposed prisoner swap for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, senior defense officials said that a mass release of security prisoners to the West Bank would give Hamas a substantial boost and create major operational challenges and danger for the State of Israel. Hamas wants senior prisoners to return to the West Bank to try and rebuild the terrorist group's infrastructure. "A massive release to the West Bank could alter the balance," said one IDF officer, who noted that in recent weeks the army has been facing an increase in terrorist activity in the territories, mostly sporadic stonings, stabbing attempts and Molotov cocktail attacks.
        A report published last year by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs reported that out of the more than 10,000 Palestinian prisoners released by Israel since 1985, over 50% have returned to the path of terror. "In the terror acts committed by these freed terrorists, hundreds of Israelis were murdered, and thousands were wounded," the report said. For example, those freed in the Tannenbaum deal (in 2004) have since been responsible for the murder of at least of 35 Israelis. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Releasing Terrorists: New Victims Pay the Price - Nadav Shragai (ICA-Jerusalem Center)
  • U.S. Ups Funds for Israeli Missile Defense - Hilary Leila Krieger
    President Obama has signed a defense spending bill that includes $202 million in funds for Israel's missile defense programs, the White House announced Monday. The Arrow-3 program will now get $50m. as opposed to the $37m. originally requested by the administration. In addition, the short-range ballistic missile defense program will get $80m., with the balance for the existing long-range program. The total is some $25m. more than was approved last year. "We are tremendously pleased with the ongoing cooperation between the United States and the State of Israel in the area of missile defense," an Israeli official said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Iranian Incursion into Iraq in Context - George Friedman
    A small number of Iranian troops entered Iraq where they took control of an oil well and raised the Iranian flag on Dec. 18. The incursion was shaped to make the point that Iran has options that it might use regardless of whether the U.S. chooses sanctions or war. It made this point without forcing the U.S. into precipitous action. The location was politically ambiguous. The force was small. Casualties were avoided.
        At the same time, it was an action that snapped a lot of people to attention. Oil prices climbed. Baghdad and Washington scrambled to try to figure what was going on, and for a while Washington was clearly at a loss, driving home the fact that the U.S. doesn't always respond quickly and efficiently to surprises initiated by the other side. (Stratfor)
  • Restore Common Sense to Common Law - Ron Prosor
    At a time when both Israel and Britain find themselves confronted by terrorist foes, their sympathizers are cynically abusing Britain's legal system which is being exploited to target Britain's democratic friend and strategic ally in the Middle East. The scandalous treatment of former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is another example of "lawfare," waged for the sole purpose of delegitimizing the State of Israel and its leaders. Israel is first in the firing line, but British forces, British leaders, and the leaders of every democratic state which confronts terror will be caught in the not-so-friendly fire. The writer is Israel's Ambassador to Britain. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Canadian Agency's Anti-Israel Role Is Obvious - Rosie DiManno
    Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney told the Jerusalem-hosted Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism last week: "We have defunded organizations, most recently, like KAIROS, who are taking a leadership role in the boycott, divestment and sanctions against (Israel)." KAIROS - a Toronto-based ecumenical activist group - has slammed Canada for putting radically Islamist Hamas and Hizbullah on this country's terrorist group list.
        KAIROS is intimately aligned with other groups, internationally, that have aggressively called for economic and academic boycotts against Israel. In 2005 it was among the co-sponsors that hosted a controversial conference in Toronto on "Morally Responsible Investment." Here was a federally funded humanitarian agency taking a leading role in divestment, sanctions and targeted boycotts of Israel - which is why it was defunded. (Toronto Star)
  • Observations:

    Next Stage on Iran Could Hold Real Peril - John Vinocur (New York Times)

    • A month ago, one of the officials developing the allies' strategy to halt Iran's drive to make a nuclear weapon described their governments' discomfort about soon having to move beyond attempts to engage the mullahs. "Sometimes one might perhaps have to accept the answer's 'no' when the answer's 'no'," the official said. "But we don't want to acknowledge that the answer's 'no,' because we are afraid of the consequences." The diplomat's remarks reflect an obvious truth: months of outstretched Western hands have brought nothing in return from Tehran.
    • The consequences require a tone of confrontation involving tougher sanctions and, considering the sanctions' high potential for failure, follow-up efforts to contain and deter Iran as it moves closer to a nuclear weapon. That new approach might be widened over weeks and months to come to include more direct support for the opposition to the mullahs on Tehran's streets, and open consideration (or private threats) of a military option.
    • Mark Fitzpatrick, senior fellow for nonproliferation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London and a former State Department expert on nuclear issues, said sanctions by the U.S. and EU affecting Iran's imports of gasoline could be enacted, but he doubted their effectiveness in stopping the Iranian drive towards nukes. If that is the case, Fitzpatrick said, "threatening military force" may be the way forward. "Iran has to know it's a real possibility."
    • Fitzpatrick believes Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium, which he now estimated as sufficient for one and a half bombs when enriched, "will be the equivalent of three or four sometime next year."

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