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February 8, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Poll: Most Palestinians Support Hizbullah (Pew Research Center)
    Across predominantly Muslim nations, there is little enthusiasm for the extremist Islamic organizations Hamas and Hizbullah, although there are pockets of support for both groups.
    Reservations about Hamas are particularly common in the portion of the Palestinian territories it controls - just 37% in Gaza express a favorable opinion of Hamas, compared with 47% in the West Bank.
    While 61% of Palestinians and 51% of Jordanians have a favorable view of Hizbullah, only 43% agree in Egypt and 35% in Lebanon.
    In Lebanon, 97% of Shia Muslims express a positive opinion of Hizbullah, while only 18% of Christians and 2% of Sunni Muslims feel this way.
    Iranian President Ahmadinejad was generally unpopular among most of the Muslim publics surveyed, with his highest ratings in the Palestinian territories (45% confidence).
    51% of Palestinians expressed confidence in al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
    Read the Full Report (Pew Global Attitudes Project)

Iran Opens Two New Missile Plants (AFP)
    Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi opened two new missile production plants on Saturday, state television reported.
    The plants will produce a ground-to-air missile dubbed the Qaem (Rising), designed to target helicopters, and a surface-to-surface missile which can destroy tanks and other armored vehicles, dubbed Toofan 5 (Storm).

Iran's Search for Allies in Africa (Economist-UK)
    In Senegal's capital, Dakar, the first few hundred taxis have just come off the production line at an Iranian-built Khodro car factory.
    Iran conducted 20 ministerial or grander visits to Africa last year, reminiscent of the trade-and-aid whirlwind the Chinese brought to Africa in the mid-2000s.
    In east Africa Iran has helped turn Sudan into Africa's third-biggest arms maker.
    Iran has for many years supplied South Africa with a lot of oil. In return, South Africa has been one of Iran's strongest supporters at the UN.

A Female Arab Combat Soldier in the IDF - Chen Kotas Bar (Maariv-Hebrew, 5Feb10)
    IDF Cpl. Elinor Joseph was born in Gush Halav in the Galilee to an Arab Christian family. Her father served as a paratrooper in the IDF.
    She identifies herself as "Arab, Christian, and Israeli."
    "I was born here. The people I love live here - my parents, my friends. This is a Jewish state? True. But it's also my country. I can't imagine living anywhere else."
    "I believe that everyone should enlist. You live here? Go defend your country. So what if I'm Arab?"
    Joseph serves in the Caracal battalion, which operates on the Egyptian border to block the entry of terrorists and smugglers into Israel.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Ahmadinejad Orders Production of Higher-Enriched Uranium - Thomas Erdbrink and Craig Whitlock
    Iranian President Ahmadinejad on Sunday ordered the production of higher-enriched uranium - significantly beyond the levels of its regular nuclear fuel - prompting the U.S. to renew threats of carefully targeted sanctions. Ahmadinejad's instructions were followed by an announcement from the head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization that Iran would alert the International Atomic Energy Agency on Monday of its plans to "start making 20% enriched fuel on Tuesday." Washington and its allies worry that the uranium enrichment is a precursor to making bombs.
        U.S. and European officials said Ahmadinejad's order appeared to confirm their suspicions that Iran is not serious about reaching a deal and is instead stalling for time. (Washington Post)
        See also Defense Secretary Gates Skeptical of Iran's Claims about Nuclear Deal - Craig Whitlock
    U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Saturday played down assertions by Iran that it is ready to reach a deal on its nuclear program, saying Tehran's overall response to overtures from the Obama administration has been "quite disappointing." "The reality is that they have done nothing to reassure the international community that they are prepared to...stop their progress toward making a nuclear weapon," Gates said. (Washington Post)
  • Khamenei: Israel's Obliteration Is Certain
    Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ali Khamenei on Sunday told Ramadan Abdullah, the secretary general of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement, that Israel is going downhill toward decline and fall and, God willing, its obliteration is certain. Ayatollah Khamenei also praised the role of the Islamic Jihad movement and added that Western governments' support for the Zionist regime is ineffective. (Tehran Times-Iran)
  • Slain Hamas Militant Admitted Role in Killing Israelis
    Hamas militant Mahmud al-Mabhuh confessed to involvement in the 1989 killings of Israeli soldiers Ilan Saadon and Avi Sasportas in a video aired on Sunday on Al-Jazeera. Mabhuh was found dead in Dubai on Jan. 20. Appearing on tape, Mabhuh detailed the kidnapping of Sasportas. He and other militants had disguised themselves as religious Jews to abduct the soldier. "Before burying him, we stripped him of his clothes and took his IDs, wallet...and his personal weapon," Mabhuh said.
        He added that Saadon was kidnapped while hitchhiking south of Tel Aviv and taken to Gaza where he was killed. "I pulled out my (38mm) revolver and pointed it at his (Saadon's) head to shoot him, but (my comrade) Abu Suhaib was faster than me. He shot him with his own pistol," Mabhuh said. (AFP)
  • Israeli, Saudi Handshake at Munich Security Conference
    At the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon initially accused Saudi Arabia's Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence chief and envoy to Washington and London, of orchestrating a decision to keep him off a joint panel with Turki. Ayalon began his talk saying it appeared "a representative of a country with a lot of oil" had pressed the organizers to separate the panel into two separate sessions because he "did not want to sit with us." This showed a lack of mutual respect and tolerance, he said.
        In a subsequent session, when Turki stood up and said it was not he who had objected, Ayalon responded: "If indeed it was not him who objected to my being here with him, I would welcome him to shake my outstretched hand." Turki approached the podium, Ayalon descended from it, and the two smiled and shook hands. (Reuters-New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu: Israel Aspires to Peace with the Palestinians and Syria
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Cabinet Sunday: "Israel aspires to complete peace agreements with all of its neighbors. We did this with Egypt and Jordan, and we aspire to achieve similar agreements with both the Palestinians and Syria. Two principles dictate our approach to peace negotiations with our neighbors: First, we will conduct negotiations without preconditions. We do not accept the idea that Israel must always make extraordinary concessions in advance while the other side is exempt from making its own concessions."
        "Second, at the end of the negotiations we need to maintain the State of Israel's vital national interests, especially security. It is doubtful whether any peace agreement that is unaccompanied by solid security arrangements on the ground can last. We want peace that will last for years, decades and generations and to this end, these components, especially security, are essential. I hope that we are before the resumption of the negotiations with the Palestinians. We are open to the resumption of the process with the Syrians. While involvement in the negotiations is important for us, it is less important than the two abovementioned principles, in both the Palestinian and the Syrian arenas."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Abbas Inches Toward Talks with Israel - Barak Ravid and Avi Issacharoff
    Senior Palestinian sources confirmed Sunday that PA leader Mahmoud Abbas has agreed in principle to a U.S. proposal for indirect talks with Israel conducted by U.S. special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell. Senior Israeli officials noted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu believes the talks will begin in late February and will result in the resumption of direct negotiations between Israel and the PA. The format will be similar to the indirect talks Israel held with Syria in Turkey, with Mitchell relaying messages to the negotiating teams sitting in separate rooms, and marks the first time in 16 years that Israel-PA talks will not be direct.
        Senior sources in the Prime Minister's Bureau noted that Netanyahu had stressed to the U.S. administration that the indirect talks be limited in time, not exceeding two to three weeks. "I want to reach direct talks with the Palestinians," Netanyahu said last week. "I have no problem with proximity talks or indirect negotiations. I look at this as a ladder that will enable the Palestinians to climb down from the tree, and as a corridor that will lead to high-level talks."  (Ha'aretz)
  • PA, Israel Arrest Six Qaeda-Linked Jihadists in West Bank - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    Security forces of both the PA and Israel have recently arrested members of radical Islamist groups in the West Bank with links to al-Qaeda and global jihadists. The most extensive group was disseminating jihadist ideas through the Internet and in meetings at the mosque in Qabatiya, where they described Palestinian politicians, both from the PA and Hamas, as "infidels."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Hizbullah Is Not the IRA - Tony Badran
    One analogy that has gained currency in recent years is the comparison between Islamist groups and the Irish Republican Army. The point of the comparison is to show that as the IRA was purportedly co-opted through dialogue, the same method can be applied to other armed organizations as well. Hence, the argument runs, only such a peaceful process, and not military coercion, will lead to any given group's decision to abandon violence, and ultimately to disarm and integrate into democratic politics. Engagement is further facilitated by distinguishing a group's "military wing" from its ostensibly more moderate or pragmatic "political wing."
        But that's not how Hizbullah works. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times last spring, Hizbullah's deputy secretary general, Naim Qassem, dismissed the supposed dichotomy outright. "All political, social and jihad work is tied to the decisions of this leadership," he said. "The same leadership that directs the parliamentary and government work also leads jihad actions."
        To make the case that engagement in peaceful dialogue is what leads to moderation and disarmament is to distort the historical record regarding the IRA as well. The British did not bring the IRA "in from the cold" through peaceful talks with its "political wing." Rather they forced them to the table. It was not the Brits but the IRA that initiated talks when its armed struggle had reached a stalemate. The writer is a research fellow with the Center for Terrorism Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Now Lebanon)
  • How to Stop Iran's Top Leaders - Jamsheed K. Choksy
    Current UN and U.S. sanctions against Iran have reduced Iran's economic contact with other nations, weakening the Iranian economy and ordinary Iranians' standard of living. But the current sanctions have not curbed the regime's internal oppression and international adventurism, including its nuclear program and support of terrorism. Specifically targeting the assets and freedoms of Iran's political elites with smart sanctions and legal actions may prove far more effective than broad economic sanctions. The writer is professor of Iranian, Islamic and international studies and former director of the Middle Eastern Studies Program at Indiana University. (Forbes)
  • Observations:

    International Donations Fuel PA's "Economic Miracle" - Avi Trengo (Ynet News)

    • Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has been crowned "the Palestinian Ben-Gurion." However, the absurdity inherent in his statements regarding "Palestinian independence within two years" is clear to anyone familiar with the Palestinian economy. The Palestinians barely produce anything. Most of their GDP comes from government expenditures by the PA itself.
    • The Palestinians receive immense sums donated by the world. Tax collection is almost unheard of, aside from the taxes collected by the Israeli government, which provides the PA with roughly $120 million monthly, comprising about 40% of the PA's budget.
    • The situation is even more extreme in Gaza, where the PA spends 57% of its budget. Fayyad hands over salaries and allowances to 150,000 people, yet tens of thousands of them don't work, while others receive two salaries: one from Fayyad and another from Hamas.
    • About two years ago, the World Bank demanded that Fayyad not only cut down PA salaries (no results thus far), but also that he minimize the second-highest PA budget clause: Payments aimed at covering electricity and water bills which PA residents refuse to pay (the accumulated electricity debt of Gaza residents stands at $2.7 billion). This constitutes about 8% of the PA's budget.
    • Two years ago, Fayyad attempted to force PA residents to present proof of payment on their electricity bills before receiving government allowances. The PA's "public service sector" immediately embarked on a warning strike, and Fayyad backed down.
    • A few months ago, Hamas stopped handing over to the Palestinian fuel authority the sums of money collected from Gaza residents who do pay for electricity. This was the reason for the latest fuel crisis in Gaza.

          See also Salam Fayyad Cannot Deliver - Barry Rubin
      Fayyad is the most moderate guy in the PA leadership. But he has no base of support, isn't a Fatah member, and doesn't really represent Palestinian thinking. He is in office only to keep Western donors happy. He knows his Fatah bosses, Palestinian constituents, and Hamas enemies would throw him out if he offered the slightest concession to Israel and demanded any less than everything they want. (Jerusalem Post)

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