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December 30, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Report: Iran Seeking Purified Uranium Ore from Kazakhstan (AP/Wall Street Journal)
    Iran is close to clinching a deal to clandestinely import 1,350 tons of purified uranium ore from Kazakhstan, according to an intelligence report obtained by AP on Tuesday.
    Tehran appears to be running out of the material which it needs to feed its uranium enrichment program. Such imports are banned by the UN Security Council.
    A summary of the report said the deal could be completed within weeks and that Tehran was willing to pay $450 million for the shipment.

Al-Qaeda Groomed Abdulmutallab in London - Sean O'Neill and Giles Whittell (Times-UK)
    Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day airline bomb plot suspect, immersed himself in radical politics while a student in London and was former president of the Islamic Society at University College.
    Security sources are concerned that the picture emerging of his undergraduate years suggests that he was recruited by al-Qaeda in London.
    Security sources said that Islamist radicalization was rife on university campuses, especially in London. He is the fourth president of a London student Islamic society to face terrorist charges in three years.

Former Guantanamo Detainees Fuel Growing Al-Qaeda Cell in Yemen - Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post)
    Former detainees of the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have led and fueled the growing assertiveness of the al-Qaeda branch in Yemen that claimed responsibility for the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a U.S. airliner.
    They include two Saudi nationals: the deputy leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Said Ali al-Shihri, and the group's chief theological adviser, Ibrahim Suleiman al-Rubaish. Months after their release to Saudi Arabia, both crossed into Yemen and rejoined the terrorist network.
    The group partially led by former Guantanamo detainees may have equipped and trained Nigerian bombing suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
    See also Al-Qaeda's Resurgence in Yemen - Gregory Johnsen (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

Egypt Cracks Down on Foreign Protesters Heading to Gaza - Liam Stack (Christian Science Monitor)
    On Sunday, more than 1,000 international activists from 42 countries descended on Cairo to kick off the Gaza Freedom March, a humanitarian convoy and media spectacle organized by U.S. activist group Code Pink.
    But Egypt stopped the activists from driving across the Sinai Peninsula, keeping them from getting near the Egypt-Gaza border.
    Medea Benjamin, one of the march organizers, says she and 50 other U.S. nationals were "beaten up" by Egyptian police when they went to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on Tuesday.
    On Sunday, between 250 and 300 French protesters blocked a major eight-lane thoroughfare in Cairo for three hours, provoking the wrath of Egyptian police. The protesters were corralled onto the sidewalk in front of their embassy and held there for two days.
    See also Egypt to Allow 100 Protesters into Gaza - Samer al-Atrush (AFP)
    Protest leaders stranded in Cairo accepted an Egyptian offer on Tuesday to allow only 100 out of about 1,300 protesters into Gaza after the activists staged demonstrations.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S Takes More Aggressive Posture toward Iran While Still Seeking Engagement - Glenn Kessler
    The Obama administration is readying sanctions against discrete elements of the Iranian government, including those involved in the deadly crackdown on Iranian protesters, marking a shift to a more aggressive U.S. posture toward the Islamic republic, U.S. officials said. The administration wants to carefully target sanctions to avoid alienating the Iranian public - while keeping the door ajar to a resolution of the struggle over Iran's nuclear program.
        "We have never been attracted to the idea of trying to get the whole world to cordon off their economy," said a senior U.S. official. As a result, top officials show little apparent interest in legislation racing through Congress that would punish companies that sell refined petroleum to Iran. "Sanctions would not be an alternative to engagement," another senior official said. "Our intention is to keep the door open."  (Washington Post)
  • Khamenei Aide: Iran Opposition Leaders Face Execution
    Abbas Vaez-Tabasi, a representative of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told state television on Tuesday that opposition leaders were "enemies of God" who should be executed under the country's sharia law. The statement coincided with rallies by tens of thousands of government supporters calling for opposition leaders to be punished for fomenting unrest, state media said. (Reuters)
  • U.S. Judge Frustrated by Administration Pass on PA Terror Case - Josh Gerstein
    In an opinion filed Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler complained that the Obama administration was "particularly unhelpful" and the State Department "mealy-mouthed" in refusing to provide official guidance on a lawsuit brought against the Palestinian Authority in connection with a terrorist shooting attack in 2000 in Jerusalem that claimed the life of an American, Esh Kodesh Gilmore, 25. After explicitly declining to take a formal position, the government lawyers said: "The United States supports just compensation for victims of terrorism from those responsible for their losses and has encouraged all parties to resolve these cases to their mutual benefit. At the same time, the United States remains concerned about the potentially significant impact that these default cases may have on the defendants' financial and political viability."  (Politico)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu, Mubarak Meet in Cairo - Roni Sofer
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met on Tuesday at the presidential palace in Cairo. The two leaders discussed ways to jumpstart the peace process with the Palestinians, and the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit, the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement. Egyptian Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit said he was encouraged by Netanyahu's visit and that the Israeli leader was serious about restarting peace talks with the Palestinians. (Ynet News)
        See also Netanyahu: Time to Resume Talks with Palestinians
    Shortly after returning from Cairo on Tuesday, Prime Minister Netanyahu said: "I was very encouraged by the commitment of President Mubarak toward promoting the peace process between us and the Palestinians....I expect and hope to see such readiness on the part of the Palestinian Authority."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Abbas Turns Terrorists into Palestinian Heroes - Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook
    PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and the PA-controlled media have continuously portrayed the killers of Rabbi Meir Avshalom Hai in a drive-by shooting last Thursday as Palestinian heroes and shahids - holy martyrs - while describing Israel's killing of the three terrorists as "assassination." PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad personally visited the families of the terrorists. PA TV focused on a Fatah poster portraying and honoring the three terrorists. The text on the poster reads: "The Palestine Liberation Organization, Fatah, accompanies [the three] to their wedding," in reference to the Islamic belief that martyrs marry virgins in Paradise.
        PA media admitted that those killed were responsible for the murder of Rabbi Hai. Ma'an News on Dec. 26 reported on the "three Fatah activists, including Anan Sabah, who, according to the [Al-Aqsa] Brigades, planned the Tulkarem operation which led to the death of the settler in a shooting operation." Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reported on Dec. 25: "A group announcing that it belonged to the Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades claimed responsibility for the shooting:...'The Jihad Fighters confirmed that the person who was in the car had taken a direct hit....This action is part of a series of operations; you can expect more quality operations [terror attacks] from us.'"  (Palestinian Media Watch)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • What Happened to "Defensible Borders"? - Rick Richman
    In response to the Israeli settlement freeze, Secretary of State Clinton issued a statement outlining U.S. policy on Nov. 25: "We believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements." In his address to AIPAC in 2008, Barack Obama stated that "any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel's identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders."
        The absence of any reference to "defensible borders" in Secretary Clinton's statement is thus both conspicuous and troubling, particularly because the administration has repeatedly refused to answer whether it considers itself bound by the 2004 Bush letter reassuring Israel of the "steadfast commitment" of the U.S. to defensible borders. Even Clinton's reference to "secure and recognized" borders is expressed simply as an Israeli "goal" rather than as a U.S. commitment.
        The Palestinians have already rejected offers of a state (after land swaps) on 92% of the West Bank (at Camp David), 97% (in the Clinton Parameters), and 100% (in Olmert's Annapolis Process offer). The borders they have in mind are not defensible ones, and the Obama administration appears to have deleted "defensible borders" as one of the guarantees of the process. (Commentary)
  • Fierce Repression in Iran Suggests Regime Fears for its Future
    The massive and violent demonstrations that engulfed Tehran and other cities on Dec. 26-27 suggested that repression only deepens and broadens the opposition. The government's tactics, along with Khamenei's silence and the increasingly ungloved intervention of the Revolutionary Guards, the elite military corps that commands the plain-clothes basij militia used for crowd control, may reflect a growing sense of desperation. Signs of the regime's fading legitimacy are numerous.
        Even the pragmatists among Iran's friends, such as Russia and China, now fear their longer-term and potentially lucrative interests in Iran may be hurt by too close an embrace of the regime. If they refuse to vote against tougher sanctions expected to be proposed soon against Iran at the UN Security Council, even Ahmadinejad and Khamenei may start to fear that their days in power may be numbered. (Economist-UK)
  • Iranian Protest Is Grassroots and Unstoppable, Say Activists - Martin Fletcher
    Iran's panicking regime is once again seeking to suppress the Green Movement by decapitating it. But decapitation will not work because the opposition is a bottom-up movement. It is a massive campaign of civil disobedience. "Ahmadinejad, Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards still don't get it," said one Iranian academic. "The Green Movement is a decentralized popular front run by local cells and local leaderships across the country. The main opposition figures do not control it." For the most part the demonstrations are spontaneous outpourings of anger.
        Protests are now common not just in Tehran, but in conservative cities such as Mashad and Qom. The regime's use of violence during the holy month of Muharram, its lack of respect for Grand Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri after his recent death, and other sacrilegious acts have eroded its support among the pious poor. One activist said: "Do Khamenei, Ahmadinejad and the elite of the Revolutionary Guards really think that I, or anyone else, after being beaten by the police, witnessing the murder of Iranians on the streets, hearing stories of rape and murder in the prisons, and knowing of electoral cheating, will ever remain passive and quiet? None of us will ever accept the rule of Ahmadinejad and Khamenei after what they have done."  (Times-UK)
        See also Iran Protesters: The Harvard Professor Behind Their Tactics - Scott Peterson (Christian Science Monitor)
        See also Iranians Want Regime Change - Afshin Ellian (Wall Street Journal Europe)
  • Observations:

    Israel's Right to the "Disputed" Territories - Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon (Wall Street Journal Europe)

    • There is this perception that Israel is occupying stolen land and that the Palestinians are the only party with national, legal and historic rights to it. Not only is this morally and factually incorrect, but the more this narrative is being accepted, the less likely the Palestinians feel the need to come to the negotiating table.
    • The boundaries of the West Bank were set during the armistice agreement between Israel and Jordan that ended the war that began in 1948 when five Arab armies invaded the nascent Jewish state. At Jordan's insistence, the 1949 armistice line became not a recognized international border but only a line separating armies. After the Six-Day War, when once again Arab armies sought to destroy Israel, the Jewish state subsequently captured the West Bank.
    • Eugene V. Rostow, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs in 1967, stated in 1990: "Security Council Resolutions 242 and on two principles, Israel may administer the territory until its Arab neighbors make peace; and when peace is made, Israel should withdraw to 'secure and recognized borders,' which need not be the same as the Armistice Demarcation Lines of 1949."
    • Lord Caradon, the British UN Ambassador at the time and Resolution 242's main drafter, said in 1974 that, "It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial."
    • The U.S. ambassador to the UN at the time, former Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, stated in 1973 that, "the resolution speaks of withdrawal from occupied territories without defining the extent of withdrawal." This would encompass "less than a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from occupied territory, inasmuch as Israel's prior frontiers had proven to be notably insecure." Even the Soviet delegate to the UN, Vasily Kuznetsov, conceded that the resolution gave Israel the right to "withdraw its forces only to those lines it considers appropriate."
    • Rostow found no legal impediment to Jewish settlement in the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria as the territory had been known around the world for 2,000 years until the Jordanians renamed it. He maintained that the original British Mandate of Palestine still applies to the West Bank. He said "the Jewish right of settlement in Palestine west of the Jordan River, that is, in Israel, the West Bank, Jerusalem, was made unassailable. That right has never been terminated and cannot be terminated except by a recognized peace between Israel and its neighbors."

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