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June 23, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

True "Freedom Flotilla" to Sail to United Nations (Conference of Presidents)
    Marking the fourth anniversary of Gilad Shalit's kidnapping by Hamas.
Thursday, June 24, 11:30 a.m.
Queen of Hearts boat, Pier 40 (Houston St. and West Side Hwy.), New York City
RSVP required: 212-318-6111

    See also Thousands Demonstrate in Paris for Captured Israeli Soldier (AFP)
    Several thousand people demonstrated on Tuesday in Paris for the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier who is also a French citizen, held captive in Gaza for nearly four years after being captured on June 25, 2006, by Hamas in a deadly cross-border raid.
    The protestors bore banners reading "Freedom for Gilad Shalit," "Hamas terrorists, Iran accomplices" and "Defending Israel is defending democracy."

IDF Draws Up New Gaza War Doctrine - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    The IDF has drawn up plans to evacuate entire Palestinian villages from areas of conflict in the event of an Israeli incursion, the Jerusalem Post has learned.
    The IDF has prepared an operational doctrine on how forces should operate when fighting within areas populated by civilians.
    According to the new doctrine for Gaza, ahead of a large-scale operation, the IDF would give prior notification to residents and designate an amount of time they would be given to leave.
    The IDF would also enter potential conflict zones more slowly to permit residents to evacuate the area.

Turkish Military Delegation in Israel for Shipment of Heron Drones (Today's Zaman-Turkey)
    A Turkish military delegation arrived Tuesday in Tel Aviv to conclude test-runs of four Israeli-made drones, part of a 10-UAV deal between Turkey and Israel.
    The Turkish delegation will stay for two weeks to test the Heron UAVs, the electronic equipment and spare parts.
    Six drones were shipped to Turkey in February under a $180-million contract.
    See also Israel Opens Doors at Advanced IDF UAV Squadron - Arie Egozi (Flightglobal)

Red Sea Oil Leak Pollutes 100 Miles of Egyptian Coastline - Salah Nasrawi (AP)
    Egypt's government confirmed Monday that oil has leaked from an offshore oil platform north of the Red Sea resort Hurghada, one of Egypt's top tourist destinations, and has polluted about 100 miles of coastline including beach resorts.
    Government spokesman Magdy Rady said the spill has now been largely contained, the official Middle East News Agency reported.

Saudi Arabia Convicts 15 Men, Women for Mingling at Party - Abdullah Al-Shihri (AP)
    A Saudi court has convicted four women and 11 men for mingling at a party and sentenced them to flogging and prison terms.

    See also Iran Issues Warning to 62,000 "Badly Veiled" Women (AFP)
    Around "62,000 women were warned for being badly veiled" in the province of Qom, Tehran Emrouz newspaper reported Monday.
    Police also confiscated around 100 cars for carrying improperly dressed women.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S.: Iran Sanctions Having an Effect
    Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday: "Virtually all major financial institutions have either completely cut off or dramatically reduced their ties with Iran. We are now starting to see companies across a range of sectors, including insurance, consulting, energy, and manufacturing, make similar decisions....The impact of these actions on Iran has been significant, and is deepening."  (U.S. Treasury Department)
        See also below Observations: American Policy Toward Iran in the Aftermath of UN Sanctions - U.S. Undersecretary of State William J. Burns (State Department)
  • Israeli National Security Adviser: Palestinians Are "Major Actors in the Delegitimization of Israel," U.S. Toughening Policy Toward Iran - Janine Zacharia
    Israeli national security adviser Uzi Arad on Tuesday described the Palestinians as "major actors in the delegitimization of Israel." "In trying to make peace" via the indirect U.S.-led talks, "we are embracing an adversary who is conducting a very effective battle against us internationally." Arad said that Israel still aspires to peace with the Palestinians, but he was skeptical of the value of Israel putting forth any bold new peace initiative. "If we do make an initiative, which incorporates further concessions, it would only validate their current rejectionist position, leading them to say, 'If we wait long enough there will be some more,'" Arad said, referring to the Palestinians.
        On Iran, Arad did not directly address the likelihood that Israel would strike militarily to set back the country's nuclear program. "I don't see anyone who questions the legality of this or the legitimacy," Arad said of a possible Israeli strike. "They only discuss the efficacy, which is interesting. It suggests that people understand the problem. And they are not questioning the right."
        He also noted what Israeli officials have perceived as a shift in U.S. policy toward Iran, citing a subtle change in rhetoric. Officials say they think Obama is now more willing to employ military force, in the event it becomes necessary, to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon. "All of us did take notice that the United States changed the definition of its policy on Iran, from one that said a nuclear Iran would be 'unacceptable,' to one in which it said that the United States 'is determined to prevent Iran from becoming nuclear.' There is determination there. There is activism," Arad said. (Washington Post)
  • Canada Tightens Sanctions on Iran Nuke Program
    Canada has implemented the latest UN sanctions on providing Iran access to uranium, and is willing to look at more steps if Tehran does not curb its nuclear program, the government said on Tuesday. "In the absence of a positive response from Iran, Canada stands ready to implement additional sanctions to address Iran's egregious violations and continued threat to global peace," Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said in Ottawa. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Launches New Spy Satellite - Hanan Greenberg
    Israel launched an "advanced technology remote sensing satellite" into space on Tuesday - Ofek 9 - to boost its intelligence-gathering capabilities. "When we wish to examine targets, we need our own satellites to do the job," a senior defense official said. "The new satellite will enable us to perform frequent activity at higher resolution."  (Ynet News)
        Ofek 9 was placed in orbit by an Israel Aerospace Industries-manufactured Shavit booster rocket. The new satellite will carry a camera that's a bit more advanced than the one aboard the Ofek 7. Weighing 300 kg., Ofek 9 will orbit Earth from up to 600 km. in space, and has a four-year life span. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Jerusalem Mayor Defends King's Garden Development Plan - Abe Selig
    Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Tuesday defended the King's Garden development plan which was approved on Monday by the municipality's local planning council. "The new plan for Silwan allows for the addition of thousands of housing units for the Arab sector and the resolution of hundreds of construction violations," said a statement from the mayor's office.
        Jerusalem City Councilman Hilik Bar of the Labor party said: "The King's Garden plan is an important project that could have an impact on both the value of the land and the houses in Silwan, and improve the quality of life of its residents....In my opinion, Silwan residents and the residents of [King's Garden] should seriously examine the solutions offered by the mayor."
        State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley said the plan "undermines trust" needed for progress in negotiations with the Palestinians. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Prime Minister's Office Hopes to Solve Jerusalem Development Plan Dispute - Roni Sofer
    The Prime Minister's Office on Monday said the development plan was in a "very initial stage" and that its final approval would require many discussions. Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed his hope that all sides would reach "an acceptable solution." As part of the plan, 22 illegal houses will be demolished and 66 other buildings will receive approval for construction. The demolished houses will be replaced by an archaeological garden. Owners of the 22 buildings would be able to build their houses legally in open areas on the eastern side of the complex. (Ynet News)
        See also The King's Garden Development Plan - Mayor Nir Barkat (City of Jerusalem); View Powerpoint Presentation (City of Jerusalem)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • In Gaza, Hamas Is Still the Obstacle - Editorial
    There remains an immutable obstacle to any lasting relief to the Gaza predicament. It is not Israel. It is Hamas. Israel is justified in maintaining the security blockade, on the highly legitimate ground of excluding materiel for warfare, including dual-use construction supplies that could strengthen Hamas. Israel cannot afford to relax its guard against a group that is dedicated to wiping it off the map. Hamas has established a terrorist statelet, which harbors a range of extreme Islamist factions and is a client of theocratic Iran.
        Efforts to push for a fundamental change in policy toward Gaza will be hampered by the immutable obstacle that is Hamas, as will any hope of eventual coexistence between Israel and the people of Gaza. (Globe and Mail-Canada)
  • The Return of the Ottomans - Lee Smith
    During the 500 years the Ottomans ruled the Arabic-speaking Middle East, they were hated throughout the region, not only by the regional minorities (Christians, Jews, Shia, etc.), but also by their Sunni Arab coreligionists. In the last few weeks, however, half a millennium's worth of history has been conveniently forgotten, perhaps even forgiven, as Turkey has emerged as a regional power and the guarantor of Arab interests - against Israel. Long before Arab nationalism identified Israel and the U.S. (and before that the European powers) as the enemy, it was the Ottomans who were called to account for everything that was wrong in the Arabic-speaking regions.
        In the end it all comes down to sectarianism. Turkey is Sunni, Iran is Shia, and despite the Ottoman Empire's long history of oppressing their imperial subjects, the Arabs prefer anything to the prospect of Persian hegemony. If it means casting their lot with the progeny of those who enslaved them for centuries - well there is great comfort in custom. (Weekly Standard)
  • Turkey Opposition Gains Ground Amid Eastward Drift - Suzan Fraser
    As the dust settles after the May 31 Israeli commando raid on a Turkish aid ship to Gaza, Turkey's resurgent opposition seems to be gaining traction by articulating fears that Erdogan is steering NATO's only Muslim member away from the West. The secular pro-Western Republican People's Party has a popular new leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who made a name for himself by exposing corruption within Erdogan party's that led to two senior officials stepping down. Kilicdaroglu's party has also criticized Erdogan's confrontational style against Israel. An opinion poll published Saturday shows 38.8% backing Erdogan's party against 31.3% for Kilicdaroglu's Republicans - up from 25% support under the previous leadership. (AP)
  • Observations:

    American Policy Toward Iran in the Aftermath of UN Sanctions - William J. Burns (State Department)

    U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William J. Burns told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday:

    • "The passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1929 two weeks ago establishes the most comprehensive international sanctions that the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has ever faced. It reinforces the determination not only of the United States but of the rest of the international community, to hold Iran to its international obligations, and to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons."
    • "A nuclear-armed Iran would severely threaten the security and stability of a part of the world crucial to our interests and to the health of the global economy....These risks are only reinforced by the wider actions of the Iranian leadership, particularly its longstanding support for terrorist groups; its opposition to Middle East peace; its repugnant rhetoric about Israel, the Holocaust, and so much else; and its brutal repression of its own citizens."
    • "We must prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. We must counter its other destabilizing actions in the region and beyond. And we must continue to do all we can to advance our broader interests in democracy, human rights and development across the Middle East. President Obama has made clear repeatedly...that we will stand up for those rights that should be universal to all human beings, and stand with those brave Iranians who seek only to express themselves freely and peacefully."
    • "We have sought to intensify the costs of continued defiance, and to show Iran that pursuit of a nuclear weapons program will make it less secure, not more secure."
    • "Last year, we embarked on an unprecedented effort at engagement with Iran....Engagement has been both a test of Iranian intentions, and an investment in partnership with a growing coalition of countries deeply concerned about Iran's nuclear ambitions....Unfortunately, what appeared to be a constructive beginning in Geneva was later spurned by the Iranian leadership. Instead, Iran pursued a clandestine enrichment facility near Qom; announced plans for ten new enrichment facilities; flatly refused to continue discussions with the P5+1 about international concerns about its nuclear program; [and] provocatively expanded enrichment to 20%, in further violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
    • "Iran's intransigence left us no choice but to employ a second tool of diplomacy, economic and political pressure....There is growing international pressure on Iran to live up to its obligations - and growing international isolation for Iran if it does not."

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