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June 21, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Official: Palestinians Should Fire at Israel from West Bank (Ha'aretz)
    Palestinians should initiate rocket attacks on Israel from the West Bank, Israel Radio quoted Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar as saying in an interview on Sunday.
    Zahar told the east Jerusalem newspaper Al Quds that the fact that "such launches should happen in the West Bank as well [as Gaza] is inevitable."
    He also stressed that Hamas would never change its policy, saying that the solution lies in "resistance."

Flotilla Casualties Identified as Turkish Islamists (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
    Out of the nine people killed aboard the Mavi Marmara, four were identified as IHH operatives or activists. Four others were members of Turkish Islamic organizations or parties affiliated with the IHH, mainly the Felicity Party (Saadet Partisi), which espouses war on Zionism and confrontation with the West.
    One of those killed is a former Taekwondo champion; another worked at an Istanbul sports association; still another worked as a security guard at IHH conferences.
    Half of those killed had told their relatives of their wish to die as martyrs. No human rights activists were among the victims.
    See also Video: IHH Leader Incited to Violence on the Mavi Marmara (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
    A video taken aboard the Mavi Marmara shows a meeting of mainly the members of the IHH hard core, where IHH leader Bulent Yildirim incites his audience to violence.
    Ra'ed Salah, head of the northern faction of the Israeli Islamic Movement, was photographed sitting in the front row.

Oakland Protesters Picket Israeli Ship - Victoria Colliver and David R. Baker (San Francisco Chronicle)
    Hundreds of demonstrators, condemning Israel's blockade of Gaza, picketed at the Port of Oakland on Sunday. Two shifts of longshoremen agreed not to cross the picket line, leaving nobody to unload the vessel.

Iranian Pleads Guilty to Arms Shipment (UPI)
    An Iranian national pleaded guilty in an Alabama court to attempting to export military aircraft parts to Iran in violation of trade embargoes, Washington said.
    Omid Khalili and a co-defendant identified as "Masun" were charged in January in a nine-count indictment of conspiracy, money laundering, smuggling, as well as violations of the Arms Export Control Act and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
    Khalili told the court he was working with the Iranian government to obtain parts used in military aircraft in Iran.

Israel to Build Massive Desalination Plant (AFP)
    The Israeli government on Sunday approved the construction of a massive new water desalination plant at Sorek, south of Tel Aviv.
    Sorek will cost $530 million and will supply 150 million cubic meters annually, about a quarter of the current shortfall of water in Israel.
    Media reports said the plant's capacity would eventually be increased to 300 million cubic meters, making it one of the biggest in the world.
    Israel already has three smaller desalination plants that produce a combined total of 292 million cubic meters of drinking water a year.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Gates Rules Out "Containing" Nuclear Iran - Chris Wallace
    U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told "Fox News Sunday": "What we've seen is a change in the nature of the regime in Tehran over the past 18 months or so. You have a much narrower-based government in Tehran now. Many of the religious figures are being set aside. As Secretary Clinton has said, they appear to be moving more in the direction of a military dictatorship. Khamenei is leaning on a smaller and smaller group of advisors. In the meantime, you have an illegitimate election that has divided the country. So I think adding economic pressures on top of that, and particularly targeted economic pressures, has real potential."
    Q: Can we contain a nuclear Iran?
    Gates: "I don't think we're prepared to even talk about containing a nuclear Iran. Our view still is we do not accept the idea of Iran having nuclear weapons. And our policies and our efforts are all aimed at preventing that from happening....We obviously leave all options on the table."  (FOX News)
  • Israeli Easing of Gaza Blockade Draws Praise of U.S. - Isabel Kershner
    On Sunday, the White House said it "welcomes the new policy towards Gaza announced by the government of Israel, which responds to the calls of many in the international community. Once implemented, we believe these arrangements should significantly improve conditions for Palestinians in Gaza, while preventing the entry of weapons." The White House said President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu would meet in Washington on July 6. (New York Times)
  • Report: Iran to Stop Pair of UN Nuclear Inspectors
    The head of Iran's atomic energy agency said Monday that the nation will ban two UN atomic watchdog inspectors from visiting nuclear facilities, the semiofficial Iranian Student News Agency reported. Ali Akbar Salehi, the chief of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said Tehran barred the inspectors "due to their presentation of false information and early disclosure of official data."  (CNN)
        See also Report: UAE Closes Firms Violating Iran Sanctions
    The UAE has closed down 40 international and local firms as part of a crackdown on companies that violate UN sanctions on Iran, the Gulf News reported on Monday, quoting a UAE official. The companies have been dealing in "dual-use and dangerous materials banned under UN resolutions and the nuclear non-proliferation treaty," he said. "Operations of any company in the UAE proved to have connections with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, other entities or individuals subject to the UN asset freeze will immediately be shut down."  (AFP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu: Security Blockade on Gaza Will Only Get Stronger - Barak Ravid
    Senior Israeli cabinet ministers on Sunday approved steps toward easing Israel's land blockade of Gaza. "Israel seeks to keep out of Gaza weapons and material that Hamas uses to prepare and carry out terror and rocket attacks toward Israel and its civilians," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. "All other goods will be allowed into Gaza." "There will be no civilian closure of Gaza but there will be a security closure....That security closure will be tightened from now on."
        "We have deprived Hamas of the ability to blame Israel for hurting the civilian population [of Gaza] and our friends around the world are getting behind our decision and giving international legitimacy to the security blockade on Hamas." Sources inside the prime minister's office explained, "In the wake of this decision, the world's focus will be on the Kassam rockets Hamas is firing out of Gaza and not the coriander that Israel isn't allowing in." Another official said, "The new policy will prevent absurdities like blocking shipments of pasta to Gaza and will strengthen Israel's international position in enforcing a security closure. It will also strengthen Israel's moral standing in its demand to free [captured Israeli soldier] Gilad Shalit."
        Israel's new policy will allow an inflow of construction material into Gaza for projects approved by the Palestinian Authority or under the auspices of international supervision, including schools, health facilities, water treatment and sanitation. The new policy will also allow humanitarian aid to be brought into Gaza in a more effective way and to ease movement in and out of the territory. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israel Willing to Increase Transfer of Goods to Gaza by 30 Percent
    Maj. Gen. Eitan Dangot, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, has informed Palestinian representatives that Israel is prepared to increase the transfer of goods to Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing by 30%, beginning Monday. (Ynet News)
        See also Statement: Israeli Policy on Gaza (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Israel to Follow International Standard to Block Dual-Use Technology to Gaza - Hanan Greenberg
    The list of prohibited items for Gaza will be based on the Wassenaar Arrangement, an international export regime signed by 40 countries that monitors the export of dual-use technology that can be used for both civilian and military purposes. Defense officials estimated that the prohibited list may include various metals and fertilizers, out of fears that Hamas will use these items to construct weapons. A defense official told Ynet, "Even today there is no shortage in Gaza, not in food or in medicine. For Israel, there was never any intention to harm the civilian population, which Hamas unfortunately is doing. We are hopeful that everything entering Gaza will reach its destination, which is the Palestinian population, and will not become a tool in the hands of Hamas as has happened in the past."  (Ynet News)
        See also The Wassenaar Arrangement
    The Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies is a multilateral export control regime, established on July 12, 1996. (Wassenaar Arrangement)
  • Israel Navy Probe of Gaza Flotilla Raid Finds "Planning and Intelligence Flaws"
    The Israel Navy's internal probe of the flotilla raid has concluded that the Israeli commando unit was inadequately prepared and lacked sufficient intelligence when approaching the activists on the Mavi Marmara, Israel Radio reported on Sunday. "The soldiers wanted to wear their ceremonial (dress) uniforms, they expected to engage in conversation with the passengers, and that was a defect," a military official said.
        "The major defect in the preparations and gathering of intelligence was that we did not know that we would be coping with tens of rioters," the top military commander involved in the attack told Ha'aretz. "This was not disorderly conduct that deteriorated," he said, "This was a planned terrorist attack." Another commander involved in the attack said: "I still lie awake at three a.m. every morning and ask myself: Damn it, how did we not know more?"  (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israel and the Surrender of the West - Shelby Steele
    When the Israeli commandos boarded that last boat in the flotilla and, after being attacked with metal rods, killed nine of their attackers, they were acting in a world without the moral authority to give them the benefit of the doubt. By appearances they were shock troopers from a largely white First World nation willing to slaughter even "peace activists" in order to enforce a blockade against the impoverished brown people of Gaza. This, of course, is not the reality of modern Israel. Israel does not seek to oppress or occupy - and certainly not to annihilate - the Palestinians in the pursuit of some atavistic Jewish supremacy. But the merest echo of the shameful Western past is enough to chill support for Israel in the West.
        Yasser Arafat rejected Ehud Barak's Camp David offer of 2000 in which Israel offered more than 90% of what the Palestinians had demanded. To have accepted that offer would have been to forgo hatred, and Arafat knew that without the Jews to hate, an all-defining cohesion would leave the Muslim world. So he said no to peace. This recalcitrance in the Muslim world, this attraction to the consolations of hatred, is one of the world's great problems today. The writer is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Video: When We Die as Martyrs
    Watch cute little girls singing about Allah's revenge over Palestine. (YouTube)
  • The View from Istanbul - Thomas L. Friedman
    The Turks wanted to get into the EU and were rebuffed, but I'm not sure Turkish businessmen even care today. The EU feels dead next to Turkey, which last year was right behind India and China among the fastest-growing economies in the world and was the fastest-growing economy in Europe. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Turkey has become the center of its own economic space, stretching from southern Russia, all through the Balkans, the Caucasus and Central Asia, and down through Iraq, Syria, Iran and the Middle East. Prime Minister Erdogan sees himself as the leader of a rising economic powerhouse of 70 million people who is entitled to play an independent geopolitical role - hence his UN vote against sanctioning Iran.
        Yet Erdogan definitely has some troubling Hugo Chavez-Vladimir Putin tendencies. I've never visited a democracy where more people whom I interviewed asked me not to quote them by name for fear of retribution. Moreover, Erdogan has evolved from just railing against Israel's attacks on Hamas in Gaza to spouting conspiracy theories - like the insane notion that Israel is backing the PKK terrorists - as a way of consolidating his political base. Two weeks before the Gaza flotilla incident, a leading poll showed Erdogan's AKP Party trailing his main opposition - the secularist Republican People's Party. (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    Russia's Risky Business with Syria - Dmitry Sidorov (Forbes)

    • When Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was in Damascus recently, he announced the possibility of Russia giving nuclear assistance to Syria. At the same time the Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko publicly confirmed Moscow's aid to the Syrians in building a nuclear power station.
    • Syria is still under IAEA investigation related to the construction of a nuclear facility paid for by Iran that joined efforts with North Korea, and that was destroyed by Israel in 2007. If the Russians start building a nuclear power plant in Syria the very same way they have been assisting Iran, then it will double an imminent danger to the existence of Israel and create a very grim environment for the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf.
    • Russian Fagot antitank missiles sold by Moscow to Damascus ended up in the hands of Hizbullah during the second Lebanese war of 2006, so Russian nuclear technologies could be passed by the Syrian government to the same terrorists.
    • When the Russian president visits on June 24, the Obama administration should clearly indicate to the Kremlin that its nuclear project with Syria will be seen as an unfriendly, if not hostile, move.

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