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May 4, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Pakistan Native Arrested in Times Square Bomb Case - Anne E. Kornblut, Jerry Markon and Spencer S. Hsu (Washington Post)
    Faisal Shahzad, 30, a U.S. citizen from Pakistan who purchased the sport utility vehicle found packed with explosives in New York on Saturday, was arrested Monday at JFK International Airport as he tried to board a flight to Dubai.
    An FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force had taken over the investigation Monday amid growing indications of a possible international connection.
    Police said the bomb would have created a fireball that likely would have killed or wounded many people.

Hizbullah Threatens Use of Nonconventional Weapons - Smadar Peri (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew, 4May10)
    "If Israel attacks, we will react in a nonconventional manner," Hizbullah sources told the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Watan this week. "The Israelis will be surprised by the weapons we will use against them."
    For the past two months, senior Israeli security sources have warned that "all of the weaponry in Syria's arsenal has reached or will reach Hizbullah," and have expressed fears that these include chemical warheads for Scud missiles.

Hamas Short on Cash as Gaza Blockade Takes Toll - Karin Laub and Rizek Abdel Jawad (AP)
    Hamas confirmed Sunday it is unable to pay thousands of government workers in full for a second straight month - a new sign of the most serious cash crunch in its three years of ruling Gaza.
    Hamas has resorted to an unpopular tax drive to raise money, suggesting that a blockade, an Egyptian crackdown on smuggling, and an increasingly expensive government bureaucracy are taking their toll.
    Gaza analyst Mukheimar Abu Sada said Hamas' willingness to impose taxes, at the risk of eroding support, suggests the Islamists need cash badly.
    The Gaza City municipality, which provides services to 600,000 residents, is now demanding taxes from businesses and households, after Hamas stopped paying half of the municipal budget six months ago.
    Nasser Franji, 47, who is being asked to pay tax on his tiny car repair shop, said Hamas has done well in ending chaos in the streets, but has failed in providing for Gaza's citizens. "There is security, but there is no food," he said.

UN Appoints Iran to Women's Rights Commission - Tom Gross (National Post-Canada)
    The UN has elected Iran to its Commission on the Status of Women, handing a four-year seat on an influential human rights body to a theocratic state in which stoning is enshrined in law and lashings are required for women deemed to be "immodest."
    See also Iran on a Women's Rights Panel? - Anne Applebaum (Washington Post)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Clinton at UN: Iran Attempting to Evade Accountability
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the UN on Monday: "Iran will do whatever it can to divert attention away from its own record and to attempt to evade accountability....Iran is the only country represented in this hall that has been found by the IAEA Board of Governors to be currently in noncompliance with its nuclear safeguards obligations - the only one. It has defied the UN Security Council and the IAEA, and placed the future of the nonproliferation regime in jeopardy. And that is why it is facing increasing isolation and pressure from the international community."
        "We support efforts to realize the goal of a weapons of mass destruction-free zone in the Middle East....We want to reaffirm our commitment to the objective of a Middle East free of these weapons of mass destruction, and we are prepared to support practical measures that will move us toward achieving that objective."  (State Department)
        See also Iran Calls U.S. a Nuclear Threat
    Speaking at the UN on Monday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said there was "not a single credible proof" to support claims that his country was developing nuclear weapons, while the U.S. "has never respected any of its commitments" on nuclear weapons. "How can the United States be a member of the board of governors [of the IAEA] when it used nuclear weapons against Japan," Ahmadinejad said. (Aljazeera-Qatar)
  • Obama Renews Syria Sanctions
    President Obama on Monday renewed sanctions against Syria for a year, accusing Damascus of supporting terrorist groups and pursuing missile programs and weapons of mass destruction. Obama said in a message to Congress that the Syrian government had made "some progress" in suppressing the infiltration of foreign fighters into Iraq. But he added that Syria's "continuing support for terrorist organizations and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and missile programs continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States."  (AFP-New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu Meets Mubarak, Speaks to Obama - Barak Ravid
    Prime Minister Netanyahu briefed Egyptian President Mubarak on Monday in Sharm el-Sheikh about the upcoming U.S.-mediated peace negotiations. Netanyahu later described their meeting as "constructive and took place in a good atmosphere."
        President Obama also called Prime Minister Netanyahu on Monday. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said: "They discussed how best to work together to achieve comprehensive peace in the Middle East, in particular by making full use of substantive proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians and transitioning to direct negotiations as soon as possible."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Top White House Official: "No Solution Can Be Imposed" - Hilary Leila Krieger
    The U.S. does not see solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a magic bullet for resolving the region's other woes, a top White House official said Monday. "We do not believe that resolving this conflict will bring an end to all conflicts in the Middle East," Dan Shapiro, the National Security Council's senior director for the Middle East, told an Anti-Defamation League conference. Shapiro also emphasized that "we do not believe that this conflict endangers the lives of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq."
        Shapiro explained that the U.S. thinks that "depriving Iran of a conflict it can exploit by arming their terrorist proxies is very much in our national interests," and that images broadcasting Palestinian state-building rather than suffering "would do much to transform attitudes positively and deprive extremists of an evocative propaganda tool." He further noted that "a solution cannot be imposed on the parties from the outside. Peace can only come from direct talks."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Study: "Peace Hopeless Until Culture of Honoring Terrorists Ends" - Zoe Fox
    The Palestinian Authority's policy of naming schools, summer camps, sporting events, streets and ceremonies after terrorists fundamentally undermines the chance for peace, states a new report by Palestinian Media Watch entitled, "From Terrorists to Role Models: The Institutionalization of Incitement," released Monday. The report calls on the Palestinian leadership to convince their people that terror is wrong at all times, and concludes that peace will not have a chance until terrorists are ostracized as immoral outcasts, not immortalized as heroes and role models. (Jerusalem Post)
        Read the Report - Itamar Marcus, Nan Jacques Zilberdik, and Barbara Crook (Palestinian Media Watch)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Honest Ahmadinejad - Editorial
    Iranian President Ahmadinejad spoke Monday in New York at the start of the UN conference reviewing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and nothing could have done more to expose the folly of relying on arms control to maintain global security. The Iranian couldn't have been clearer that his country intends to ignore any and all UN pressure to stop building its bomb. Delegates from the U.S., UK and France walked out during his speech, to their credit.
        Ahmadinejad's message is that Iran won't be deterred by a stricter world anti-proliferation treaty, or by one more UN Security Council resolution. Iran wants the bomb in order to become a more potent Mideast power that can do as it pleases. The truly humiliating spectacle is the sight of the world's leading powers devoting a month to updating a treaty designed to stop nonproliferation even as Ahmadinejad makes a mockery of that effort. The rest of the world sees that Iran was able to face down the world's leading powers - and prevail. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also The NPT Illusion - Bret Stephens
    When it comes to a UN beauty contest, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad beats Barack Obama every time. Twenty-four countries walked out of Ahmadinejad's speech Monday. Another 168 remained in their seats. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Sanctions on Iran Have Failed. The U.S. Must Target Its Oil - Bronwen Maddox
    When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad walks up to the podium Monday in New York to deliver another blast of venom, the only proper response is for the U.S. to hit Iran's economy with much tougher sanctions than anyone has yet tried. That means targeting its oil industry, not just its leaders and its banks. The only country able to impose tough sanctions quickly is America. It should do so now. (Times-UK)
  • Indirect Mideast Peace Talks - A Highway to Failure? - Avi Issacharoff
    After countless delays, the proximity talks are set to begin. So what if Israel and the Palestinians have already gone through 16 years of direct talks? Now all that's left to resolve are some minor issues like Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, borders, and the one issue everyone loves to avoid - Hamas' control of Gaza.
        The real grudge these days is between PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Fatah, which has had it with Fayyad stealing the stage and with his sole handling of the billions of dollars coming in from donating states. Fatah watches as public opinion sways toward Fayyad, who could become the leading presidential candidate in a few years at the expense of any potential Fatah contender. (Ha'aretz)
  • Observations:

    U.S., Israel Spar in Public, But Defense Ties Are Strong - Gerald F. Seib (Wall Street Journal)

    • The very public feuding between the Obama administration and Israel over the Palestinian peace process has gotten lots of attention, but beyond those headlines, the two countries actually have undertaken a broad effort at military and strategic cooperation - including supplying Israel with sophisticated American military equipment - to counter threats from Iran and Hizbullah fighters armed by Syria.
    • Making it clear that there is a robust American-Israeli security relationship is one way of preventing miscalculations by the Middle East's more dangerous characters. If Iran, Syria, Hizbullah or their extremist friends think U.S.-Israeli relations are so strained that Washington is backing away from its commitment to defend Israel, the perception of a newly vulnerable Israel might well invite attacks that could spin out of control.
    • An advanced American radar system has been deployed to Israel's Negev Desert, whence it can help the burgeoning Israeli missile-defense network. A large military exercise last fall, code-named Juniper Cobra, was used to practice linking up that radar with American defense systems.
    • The U.S. is funding the development of an advanced Israeli long-range, high-altitude system for knocking out ballistic missiles of the kind that might come from Iran. U.S. officials also say there is a high level of intelligence sharing.

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