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February 18, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Official Accused of Helping Dubai Hit Squad - Ian Black, Paul Lewis, and Kate Connolly (Guardian-UK)
    Palestinian sources in the Gulf confirmed that Nahro Massoud, a Hamas security official, was under arrest in Syria on suspicion of having helped a hit squad identify Mahmoud al-Mabhouh before he was assassinated in Dubai, the Guardian has learned.
    See also Palestinian Intelligence Linked to Dubai Killing - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    Ahmad Hasnin, a Palestinian intelligence operative, and Anwar Shekhaiber, an employee of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, were arrested in Jordan in connection with the assassination of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai.

Iran: Islamic Middle East Soon to Be Formed (Fars-Iran)
    Iran's Islamic revolution has been a source of inspiration for the Muslim nations, ushering the region into a new era of Islamism where an Islamic Middle East is being formed, Maj.-Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei's senior military advisor, said Wednesday.
    "What is now being formed is an Islamic Middle East, not an American Middle East," he said.
    Formation of an Islamic Middle East is the result of the Islamic revolution in Iran, he stressed.

Iran Seen Tightening Grip on Iraq (UPI)
    Allegations by the top U.S. general in Iraq that two Iraqi politicians are linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guards has heightened concern that Tehran is tightening its grip as U.S. forces withdraw.
    Gen. Ray Odierno identified the pair as Ahmad Chalabi and Ali al-Lami.
    Odierno said both men had been in close contact with Abu Mehdi al-Muhandis, the senior Iraqi adviser to Brig. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Revolutionary Guards' elite Quds Force.

Gaza Glutted with Smuggled Goods - Non-Hamas Tunnel Owners Suffering - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    Hamas has recently set up its own tunnels which it uses to smuggle merchandise from Egypt. As a result, existing, non-Hamas run tunnels are suffering financially.
    The Hamas tunnels have brought in an overflow of goods, causing a complete standstill in dozens of non-Hamas tunnels. Moreover, work on digging additional tunnels has also stopped.
    The recent increase in smuggled goods has caused many factories to renew activity, with increasing supplies of gasoline and cement actually causing Gaza to experience an economic reawakening.

Kuwaiti Newspaper Fined Over Pro-Israel Advert (AFP)
    The Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Watan was fined $10,400 for printing a pro-Israeli advertisement justifying the Jewish state's war in Gaza last year, Al-Jarida newspaper reported on Monday.
    The fine was slapped on the daily for allowing the printing of an advertisement sponsored by the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League in the International Herald Tribune, which it prints and distributes locally in the Gulf emirate.
    Al-Watan's lawyer, Rashid al-Radaan, explained that the IHT goes directly to press without being checked and that the paper had issued an apology to its readers.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Russia Delays Delivery of S-300 Advanced Air Defense Missiles to Iran - Tony Halpin
    Russia raised Western hopes that it will support tougher international sanctions against Iran's nuclear program by announcing a delay in delivery of S-300 advanced air defense missiles. The postponement was made public after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to Moscow. President Medvedev's spokeswoman said after his talks with Netanyahu that Iran had to convince the international community that its nuclear program was peaceful, adding: "In case these commitments are not fulfilled, no one can rule out the use of sanctions." Russia signed a contract in December 2005 to sell at least five S-300 systems to Iran. Alexander Fomin, deputy head of Russia's Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, said: "The delay is due to technical problems."  (Times-UK)
        See also Russia Joins U.S. and France in Nuclear Sanctions Push - Damien McElroy
    "Iran's enrichment of its LEU (low-enriched uranium) stockpile to higher levels is not only unnecessary, but would serve to further undermine the confidence of the international community in Iran's actions," Russia, the U.S., and France said Tuesday in a statement to the International Atomic Energy Agency. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Clinton: U.S. Has No Plan for Military Action Against Iran
    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said her country has no plan for military action against Iran over its nuclear program. "Obviously, we don't want Iran to become a nuclear weapons power, but we are not planning anything other than going for sanctions," she told Al-Arabiya television on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in Amman on Tuesday: "The priority for President Obama and his administration has been to initiate a dialogue and engagement while at the same time keeping all options on the table. When I say all options are on the table it certainly includes potential military options."  (AFP)
  • Senior U.S. Official Visits Syria - Albert Aji
    U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns, the highest-ranking American official to visit Syria in five years, held "candid" talks on Wednesday with Syrian President Bashar Assad. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also U.S. Reaches Out to Syria - Nicholas Kralev
    The State Department has decided not to extend a "travel warning" to U.S. citizens about "ongoing safety and security concerns in Syria," which expired Friday, officials said. This follows the nomination of a new U.S. ambassador to Damascus.
        Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, harshly criticized the administration's "reckless engagement" with Syria. "With this nomination, our foreign policy again risks sending the message that it is better to be an intractable enemy than a cooperative, loyal U.S. ally," she said. "Despite the administration's outreach, Syria continues to sponsor violent extremist groups like Hizbullah and Hamas, to undermine Lebanon's sovereignty, and to pursue unconventional weapons and missile capabilities."  (Washington Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • The Test Is in the Results - Eitan Haber
    Let's assume for the moment that the Mossad indeed eliminated the arch-terrorist Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai. Let's assume that the Mossad operatives were revealed. This is not an embarrassment, it is an impressive achievement. A bitter enemy was killed, not a single operative was arrested, and the exposure of the agents was a price worth paying. (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew, 18Feb10)
  • Dubai Hit Was Not a Botched Job - Yaakov Lappin
    Irrespective of who carried out the assassination of senior Hamas terrorist Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, the operation was meticulously planned and successfully executed, and despite a surprisingly impressive investigation by Dubai police, the hit cannot be considered a botched job.
        Mabhouh oversaw the smuggling of Iranian long-range rockets into Gaza, enabling Hamas to threaten the Tel Aviv region, home to more than three million Israelis. In a video made two weeks before his death and broadcast on Al-Jazeera earlier this month, Mabhouh said he had kidnapped and murdered two IDF soldiers, Ilan Sa'adon and Avi Sasportas, in 1989. Mabhouh said he had disguised himself as an Orthodox Jew during the attack. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Long-Term Fallout with UK from Dubai Hit Unlikely - Jonathan Spyer
    The evidence suggesting that British passports were used by members of the team responsible for killing Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh is causing concern at the possibility of a new diplomatic row between Israel and the UK. Yet the warnings of major diplomatic fallout are probably overblown. The British and Israeli intelligence services are thought to cooperate closely in a variety of areas of common interest - including on the Iranian nuclear program and in the fight against Global Jihad organizations. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • I Can't Help Admiring Israel's Nerve - Melanie Reid
    I should be wearing black and uttering pieties about the disgraceful "extrajudicial" killing of Hamas military chief Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, who is rumored to have played a key role in smuggling Iranian-funded arms to Islamist militants in Gaza. All nice people, quite rightly, are adopting the proper moral stance and expressing outrage and disgust at this affront to international law and justice. But the rest of us...well, we simply can't wait until the movie comes out. What the secret agents did was compelling and breathtaking in its cleverness.
        It is an unfashionable thing to say, but I have a considerable admiration for the Israeli way of doing things. They perceive someone as their deadly enemy, they kill them. They get hit, they hit back. This absolutism, based on their history, carries its own moral weight; one that is rather electrifying in a Western world grown flabby with niceties. Clearly, the Israelis could defend their policies if they wanted to, but they quite simply can't be bothered. It's a waste of breath. One admires them for that, too. Maybe we need the Israelis to remind us that the world is not made according to our template. (Times-UK)
  • Sanctions Alone Won't Stop Iran's Nuclear Work - Emily Landau
    At the end of September, when the enrichment facility that was built near the Iranian city of Qom was disclosed, President Obama insisted that the situation was serious, and that if Iran did not alter its path there would be consequences. But there weren't. In October, Secretary of State Clinton warned that the U.S. would not wait forever. In the meantime, however, the U.S. is waiting. The end of the year deadline that Obama set for evaluating diplomatic progress on Iran also came and went. And if we assume that ultimately there will be sanctions, so what?
        The role of sanctions and other pressure, such as credible military threats, is to convince Iran that time is not on its side and it would be better to seriously negotiate with the West. Yet there is no sign that the Obama administration intends to mobilize the necessary political muscle to lead such a process. Without genuine American determination, there is no prospect of preventing the Iranians from developing nuclear weapons. The writer is a senior research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. (Ha'aretz)
  • Neutralizing Iran Is Pivotal to any Mideast Peace Negotiations - Tawfik Hamid
    Defeating the Iranian regime is pivotal to solving the Arab-Israeli conflict rather than the other way around. The main obstacle to the conflict is the widespread radical Islamic views that promote hatred of Jews in the Muslim world. It is virtually impossible to have real peace in the area while leading Islamic scholars teach that Jews are pigs and monkeys and that Muslims must fight and annihilate them. Defeating Islamism is therefore fundamental.
        Defeating the Iranian regime and proving its failure is vital to discrediting it in the eyes of the followers of radical Islamic movements, thus weakening their interest in pursuing radical Islamism as a path. Furthermore, defeating the mullah regime can cause an economic blow to its affiliated militant organizations, such as Hamas and Hizbullah, who resist peace with Israel, and open the path for less radical political players to have more leadership roles in the area. The writer, a one-time Islamic extremist from Egypt, is currently a senior fellow and chairman of the study of Islamic radicalism at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Netanyahu: What If Our Peace Interlocutors Are Ousted the Way They Were Ousted from Gaza? - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Prime Minister's Office)

      Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations meeting in Jerusalem on Wednesday:
    • We've said from day one, 10 months ago when we formed the government: let's begin negotiations for peace now. There is a growing consensus by the international community who figured out that Israel wants to negotiate and is eager to resume peace talks, and that the Palestinians are the ones who are refusing to do this.
    • At the end of the day, to complete the talks, we will raise the issue of legitimacy: the acceptance by the Palestinian side of the Jewish State of Israel, the nation-state of the Jewish people, as a legitimate entity, and conferring that legitimacy from the leadership down to all levels of Palestinian society.
    • After all, we have some attachment to this place. It goes back quite a while. If you visit my office, you will see a signet ring found next to the Western Wall. It dates back 2,800 years. It has the name of an official from the time of the Kings of Israel. The name of that official is "Netanyahu." Netanyahu Ben-Yoaresh. That's my last name. My first name goes back 1,000 years earlier - Benjamin also walked these hills.
    • We walked out of Gaza, Iran promptly walked in, just as it walked in with Hizbullah in the places we vacated in Lebanon. If we want to have security with a future Palestinian state, we must ensure that that state does not become another Hamastan or another Hizbullah enclave, another enclave of Iran from which they would fire missiles deep into our territory and dispatch terrorists and other attacks.
    • We must have an effective block for the inflow of weapons and an effective block ultimately must mean Israeli presence on the eastern side of a prospective Palestinian state. It has to be demilitarized, but part of the way that it will be demilitarized is for there to be an Israeli presence. Do we know that our peace interlocutors won't be ousted the way they were ousted from Gaza by Iran's proxies?
    • The Palestinians have loaded obstacles and preconditions, demanding of us what they have not demanded from any government since 1994. They've initiated the attacks on us in what we call "lawfare" and what you call Goldstone, which is meant to deprive us of our legitimate right to self-defense against terrorists who fire on civilians while hiding behind civilians. And they have not tamed the incitement in their official, government-controlled media.

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