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May 25, 2010

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Sanctions Hit Iranian Oil Production - Najmeh Bozorgmehr (Financial Times-UK)
    Sanctions and underinvestment have cut Iran's oil production capacity by at least 300,000 barrels per day since Ahmadinejad became president, according to Iranian and Western experts.
    According to the latest figures issued by Iran's central bank, Iran produced 3.53m bpd during the second quarter of 2009, compared with 4.1m recorded in 2005.

Yemen Al-Qaeda Training Gaza Groups to Attack Israel - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
    The Yemen-based arm of al-Qaeda recently sent its members in Gaza a training manual with instructions for building a light aircraft powered by a car engine to launch explosives against targets in Israel.
    Documents sent to Ha'aretz by a group of Shi'ite separatists in Yemen that opposes al-Qaeda points to regular, direct contact between al-Qaeda in Yemen and supporters in Gaza, some of whom are active in Al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad, which has carried out terror attacks against resorts in Sinai.
    According to one report, Al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad had already purchased 25 Grad rockets and concealed them in greenhouses in Sinai and Gaza.

How Iran Evades Banking Sanctions - Yitzhak Benhorin (Ynet News)
    While the international sanctions regime prohibits contact with banks in Iran, 18 U.S. banks have indirect financial connections with the Islamic Republic.
    Avi Jorisch, a former U.S. Treasury Department analyst in charge of fighting money laundering for criminal and terrorist purposes, describes in his new book Iran's Dirty Banking its method of evading international sanctions.
    While three Iranian banks are on the U.S. blacklist and another subjected to UN sanctions, by using various banks around the world as intermediaries, Tehran carries out its finances unhindered.
    Bank Sepah, Bank Melli and Bank Sederat have dozens of active branches in Frankfurt, Athens, Paris, Rome, and London, in addition to branches in the Middle East and Asia.
    The very existence of these branches is a violation of the UN directives and is in blatant disregard of the sanctions imposed by the U.S. on these three banks.
    Jorisch emphasized that the U.S. possesses the means to cripple Iranian financial activities around the world.

Hamas Expels Egyptian from Gaza for Spying - Ali Waked (Ynet News)
    Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hamad on Monday revealed that security forces recently arrested and expelled a senior Egyptian officer who had infiltrated into Gaza to collect information on its residents and the Hamas government.

Useful Reference:

Video: A Soldier's Story (AIPAC-YouTube)
    When the IDF kills enemy civilians, it is accidental and not terrorism.
    When the Palestinian Arabs, Hizbullah, and Arab states kill Israeli civilians, it is terrorism and not accidental.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Is Said to Expand Secret Military Acts in Mideast Region - Mark Mazzetti
    Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in the Middle East, has ordered a broad expansion of clandestine military activity in an effort to disrupt militant groups or counter threats in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and other countries in the region, according to defense officials and military documents.
        The secret directive, signed in September, authorizes the sending of American Special Operations troops to both friendly and hostile nations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa to gather intelligence and build ties with local forces. Officials said the order also permits reconnaissance that could pave the way for possible military strikes in Iran if tensions over its nuclear ambitions escalate. The goals of the new order are to build networks that could "penetrate, disrupt, defeat or destroy" al-Qaeda and other militant groups, as well as to "prepare the environment" for future attacks by American or local military forces. (New York Times)
  • U.S. Reviews Military Aid to Lebanon - Josh Rogin
    As Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri visits Washington this week, he faces deep questions in Congress and in the Defense Department about the future of U.S. military aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces. Many lawmakers and some at the Pentagon, including Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, are extremely skeptical that continuing to funnel large amounts of cash and supplies to the LAF is really a good way to approach the Lebanon problem.
        There is also a concern Hariri could let U.S. weapons slip into the hands of Hizbullah. Mona Yacoubian, director of the U.S. Institute of Peace's Lebanon Working Group, said that there is growing concern inside the administration that the shift of power inside Lebanon toward Hizbullah suggests that it may not be wise to put more resources into the Lebanese military. (Foreign Policy)
  • Hamas Faces Financial Crisis - Erin Cunningham and Safwat Kahlout
    Hamas has failed to pay in full the monthly salaries of its roughly 30,000 civilian and security employees in the past two months. In response, Gaza's Hamas-run government has imposed new taxes in recent weeks. Cigarette packs cost a dollar more than they did last month. "The Egyptian authorities have recently been monitoring and cracking down on financial transactions between Egypt and Gaza," says Gaza-based political analyst Mkhaimar Abusaada. In addition, on May 10, Arab Bank said it was closing its three Gaza branches, severing one of the last financial lifelines from the outside world. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu to PA: Stop Opposing Economic Peace with Israel - Mazal Mualem
    "Israel aspires to economic peace," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday. "We have removed checkpoints, eased the lives of Palestinians and are working all the time to advance the Palestinian economy. Despite this, the Palestinians are opposing economic peace and are taking steps that in the end hurt themselves." Netanyahu cited Palestinian opposition to Israel's recent entrance to the OECD and the Palestinian boycott of Israeli products made in the West Bank as examples of counter-productive Palestinian actions. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Quartet Office Welcomes Israeli Gestures to Palestinians
    Robert Danin, Head of Mission at the Office of the Quartet Representative in Jerusalem, issued a statement welcoming Israel's decision to implement a package of measures to ease movement for Palestinians in the West Bank. "Some of these steps are significant and should improve the economic and living conditions of the West Bank Palestinian population," he said. The Israeli measures will also improve access for Arab-Israelis to travel and conduct commerce throughout the West Bank. (Office of the Quartet Representative)
  • Meridor: America's Standing in the World Depends on Stopping Iran Nukes - Herb Keinon
    Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor said Monday that America's standing in the world will be determined by whether or not Iran attains nuclear weapons. A clear American success on Iran will send a "clear message of the U.S. role in the world," while lack of success, he said, would have the opposite effect.
        If Iran ends up with nuclear weapons, Meridor said, the impact would also be felt on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "The Palestinians have one eye toward us and America, and one eye on Iran," he said. "A victory for Iran is a victory for Hamas."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Retroactively Legalizes Palestinian Homes - Chaim Levinson
    The Israel Civil Administration in the West Bank retroactively legalized 1,611 Palestinian structures built without the necessary permits in recent years, according to internal documents obtained by Ha'aretz. The practice of granting legal status after the fact to illegally built structures is commonly applied in the state's dealings with illegal Palestinian construction. According to internal memos circulated by the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the state retroactively legalized 956 Palestinian homes in 2008 alone. Meanwhile, the state has informed the High Court of Justice that it intends to retroactively authorize dozens of buildings in Israeli settlements. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Expert Debunks Guardian Story on Israel-South Africa Nuke Tie - Joshua Pollack
    A Guardian headline Monday screamed: "Revealed: How Israel Offered to Sell South Africa Nuclear Weapons." Avner Cohen, author of Israel and the Bomb, provides this assessment: The headline of Chris McGreal's story is erroneous and misleading. Nothing in the South African documents on which the story was based suggests there was an actual offer by Israel to sell nuclear weapons to the regime in Pretoria. To the contrary, the conversation amounted to a probe by the South Africans, which ultimately went nowhere.
        As defense minister, Shimon Peres would not have had the authority to sell nuclear devices to another country, even if he had wanted to. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin would have had to decide. I believe that Rabin would have opposed the sale of nuclear weapons, technology, or even components - not just to South Africa, but to anyone. Peres' reply to the South African feeler was opaque, and Israel, in the end, did the right thing. (Arms Control Wonk)
        See also South African Official Doubts Nuclear Arms Sale Offer (Reuters-Ynet News)
  • Hoenlein Warns Against Apathy at a Time of Growing Threats - Judy Siegel
    Friends of Israel, including many Jews around the world, are apathetic to the growing physical and verbal threats against Israel and Jerusalem, warned Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, speaking in Jerusalem on Sunday. He urged friends of Israel to pay attention to the words of dictators like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran when they disclose their intentions to destroy Israel and denigrate the Jewish heritage of Jerusalem.
        The Palestinians are intentionally trying to demolish evidence of the Jewish heritage of Jerusalem and are finding a favorable reception among many people around the world. This atmosphere hostile to Israel is spreading and finding a receptive audience among those who know little about the history of the region and the Jewish people, he said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    U.S. Must Stop Effort to Force Israel into Nuclear Talks - Editorial (New York Daily News)

    • The governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency next month are to discuss nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, the target perversely being Israel, the one country in the region whose atomic threat is zero.
    • For almost half a century, the U.S. has backed Israel in cloaking its nuclear capabilities in doubt. This strategic ambiguity has enhanced regional stability in that would-be invaders need worry about risking a strike by launching all-out war. President Obama must apply U.S. muscle to push the IAEA into removing scrutiny of "Israeli nuclear capabilities" from its upcoming agenda. And he must extricate America from an attempt to enforce a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Mideast.
    • Halting the spread of nukes is an admirable goal, as is harnessing all the nations of the world into forswearing the possession and use of weapons of mass destruction. Meanwhile, in the here and now, the facts of life, death and global power-playing demand clear-eyed pragmatism.
    • That means coming to a newfound recognition that cutting Israel down to a size preferred by its enemies is not the path to peace. And it will not lead Iran to abandon a defiant march toward nuclear missiles.
    • No one in the Mideast - or anywhere else - is remotely concerned about a nuke strike or nuclear bullying by Israel. The same cannot be said about Iran, whose neighbors live in fear of that country's intentions.

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