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August 19, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Al-Qaeda Plans for Israel War - Bruce Riedel (Daily Beast)
    Al-Qaeda is warning its supporters and sympathizers to prepare for a new war which will pit Israel against Iran.
    Al-Qaeda's franchise in Yemen, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), issued an audio message this month by its second-in-command, Saeed al-Shehri, who tells jihadists that he expects the Iranian Shia regime to try to take advantage of an Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities by seizing the holy cities of Mecca and Medina after blaming Saudi Arabia for helping Israel attack.
    Shehri was held in Guantanamo for six years before being sent back to his native Saudi Arabia and then fleeing to Yemen to help set up AQAP.
    AQAP demonstrated that it can reach beyond Yemen to carry out its plans when it dispatched the suicide bomber who tried to blow up Northwest Flight 253 last Christmas.
    The writer is a senior fellow in the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution.

Poll: 60% of Americans See Israel as Ally (Rasmussen Reports)
    A national survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted August 9-10 asked: "Generally speaking, is Israel an ally of the U.S., an enemy of the U.S. or somewhere in-between?"
    Responses: 60% ally, 4% enemy, 31% somewhere in between, 6% not sure.

Israeli Doctors Rush to Romania to Help Burned Newborns - Alison Mutler (AP)
    Israeli doctors who rushed to Romania on Wednesday said they feared there was not much they could do to help seven premature infants who were critically burned in a hospital fire that left four other babies dead.

Hamas Seizes Equipment, Files from French Aid Group in Gaza (AFP)
    The French aid group "Help Doctors" accused Hamas on Wednesday of seizing equipment and files from one of its Gaza clinics in Khan Yunis which it closed on June 16.
    "Four men from the (Hamas) interior ministry entered the clinic on Tuesday morning and seized computer equipment, telephones, chairs, office equipment and medical files," the organization said in a statement.
    The center, which specializes in the treatment of chronic illnesses, had cared for some 5,000 patients since it opened in April 2009.

Lebanese Army Removes Border Trees (Daily Star-Lebanon)
    The Lebanese Army, in coordination with UNIFIL, removed five trees on the border with Israel after an Israeli request.
    The trees were planted as part of an Iran-funded project to improve the landscape of the southern border. UNIFIL was tasked with convincing the Lebanese troops to cut the trees.
    On August 3, Lebanese and Israeli troops exchanged fire in the village of Adaysseh after Israel attempted to cut a tree on the border.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Khamenei: Iran Won't Talk with U.S. Unless Sanctions Lifted
    Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a televised speech on Wednesday the Islamic Republic would not conduct talks with the U.S. about its nuclear program unless sanctions and military threats were lifted. "If superpowers want to threaten and put pressure and impose sanctions and show an iron hand and, on the other hand, seek to sit at the negotiating table, this is not a negotiation and we will not have this kind of negotiation with anyone," he said. "Put away the threats and put away the sanctions."  (Reuters)
  • Going Critical: Iran's Bushehr Nuclear Reactor Starts Up - Simon Henderson and Stefanie Peterson
    At a ceremony near the southern Iranian coastal city of Bushehr this Saturday, Russia will begin the process of loading fuel rods into Iran's first civilian nuclear reactor. The low-enriched uranium in the fuel rods would, if diverted, substantially increase Iran's existing stock of the material, which many suspect is already being used to develop nuclear weapons. Even if they were used solely for electricity generation, the rods would eventually produce plutonium-rich residue that could also be reprocessed for use in a weapon.
        For Iran, the Bushehr event will be a gesture of defiance against U.S.-led international pressure; for Russia, a sign of Moscow's different diplomatic approach to the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran; and for the U.S., an exception to the tightening sanctions regime, which officials claim is forcing Tehran to reconsider the wisdom of its policies. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Greece Reassures Arab Allies over Israel Ties
    Greece moved Wednesday to reassure Arab allies over the strength of its friendship after a landmark visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Improved Greek-Israeli ties were "for the good of Greece and all of the Middle East region...and do not exclude our close cooperation with the Arab world, and particularly our Palestinian friends," Dimitris Droutsas, Greece's Deputy Foreign Minister, said in an interview. (AFP)
        See also Can Greece Replace Turkey as Israel's New Mediterranean Best Friend? - Jay Bushinsky (Jerusalem Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel to Prepare Underground Shelters against Biochemical War - Ofer Petersburg
    "The State of Israel is preparing to build additional large underground spaces which would be able to absorb tens of thousands of people and protect them from non-conventional weapons for a long period of time," Maj.-Gen. Ronny Seri, head of the IDF Home Front Command's fortification department, said Tuesday. One project will be the new railway station in Jerusalem, whose lower level will be 80 meters deep and will be able to absorb 5,000 people in times of emergency. In Tel Aviv, the shelter of the renovated Habima Theater is slated to absorb thousands of people. The ten planned light rail stations in Bnei Brak, Ramat Gan and Tel Aviv will also include huge underground halls which will be able to take in tens of thousands. Haifa's Carmel Tunnels are expected to be used for this purpose as well. (Ynet News)
  • Egypt Blames Israel for Power Blackouts
    An Egyptian government official at the Ministry of Electricity has blamed a natural gas deal with Israel for the country's power cuts, the independent daily al-Shorouq reported Wednesday. Power outages have plagued many of Egypt's cities, with demand heightened by a summer heat wave. Mohamed Awad, head of the Electricity Holding Company, confirmed that recent power cuts were a result of the Ministry of Petroleum not providing electricity plants with enough natural gas. (DPA-Ha'aretz)
        See also Israel Reports Record Electricity Usage - Ben Hartman
    The Israel Electric Corporation announced a new record for electricity use on Wednesday as a result of an extended heat wave. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Jerusalem Mayor Fires Cannon to Mark Ramadan - Abe Selig
    Wishing the Muslim residents of the capital, across Israel and throughout the world a "Ramadan Kareem" to mark the month-long holiday, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat fired off a cannon heralding the end of the day's fast at the ancient Salah al-Din cemetery in east Jerusalem on Wednesday. The ceremonial cannon fire in Jerusalem is an annual tradition dating back to the tenure of former Mayor Teddy Kollek. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Squeeze Iran Harder - Editorial
    After four rounds of UN sanctions against Iran, followed by ever more stringent U.S. and European Union measures, Tehran is suffering some economic pain for refusing to curb its nuclear ambitions. Finally. Gasoline imports to Iran reportedly fell by half in July compared with May levels, according to the International Energy Agency. More companies - not just energy firms - are turning their backs on Tehran. Toyota said last week that it has suspended auto exports to Iran. International investment in Iran's oil and gas developments is drying up.
        The bad news: So far all of this economic pain has not compelled Iran to halt its nuclear program. It may be that the costs are not yet high enough to force Iran to back off. How to stop Tehran? Expand U.S. sanctions against international companies doing business with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. That needs to go beyond banks and energy firms to include all foreign companies with commercial ties to the Guards. And aggressively enforce the new sanctions against companies that supply Iran's energy sector including major Russian and Chinese companies that do business in the U.S. and Iran. We have the mullahs' attention. They're feeling some pain. Now ... squeeze harder. (Chicago Tribune)
        See also U.S.: Swiss-Iran Gas Deal Sends "Wrong Message" - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Despite U.S. Pressure, Germany Unlikely to Close Iran Bank - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
  • Time to Leave the UN Human Rights Council - Noah Pollak
    There is a longstanding tradition in international law of deference in legal matters to national courts and governments. As enshrined in the UN Charter and in customary international law, states are given primacy in investigating and prosecuting misconduct during war - one recent example being the U.S. military's prosecutions of abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. It is only in cases where there is no state authority, or a state refuses to investigate credible allegations of large-scale atrocities, that international bodies may be entitled to get involved.
        Israel's legal system, both civil and military, conducts rigorous investigations into allegations of wrongdoing. It ranks with those of the leading liberal democracies as one of the most professional and independent in the world.
        The UN Human Rights Council is now seeking to "implement" the findings of the Goldstone Report on last year's war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas. It is led by a German radical named Christian Tomuschat, who performed legal advisory work for Yasser Arafat in 1996, and in 2002 wrote that Israel's targeted killings of terrorists - the same policy the U.S. currently employs in Afghanistan and Pakistan - means that Israel "uses the same tactics as the terrorists themselves." The Council's new "investigation" is a foreordained farce intended to slander Israel, restrict its right to self-defense, and weaken its international standing. (Politico)
  • The Failure of the Gaza Pullout - Jeff Jacoby
    Far from encouraging Palestinian moderation, disengagement energized Gaza's most extreme and hateful irredentists. Five months after the Jewish residents left, Hamas swept to victory in the Palestinian Authority elections; a year later, it seized total control in Gaza, routing Fatah in a savage civil war. Most Israelis who supported disengagement now express regret. Peace will never be possible with "partners'' that refuse to accept the permanent legitimacy of Jewish sovereignty in the Middle East. (Boston Globe)
        See also Lessons and Legacies of Israel's Gaza Withdrawal - Edmund Sanders (Los Angeles Times)
  • Observations:

    Skip the Lecture on Israel's "Risks for Peace" - George F. Will (Washington Post)

    • In the intifada that began in 2000, Palestinian terrorism killed more than 1,000 Israelis. As a portion of U.S. population, that would be 42,000, approaching the toll of America's eight years in Vietnam. During the onslaught, Israeli parents sending two children to school would put them on separate buses to decrease the chance that neither would return for dinner. Surely most Americans can imagine, even if their tone-deaf leaders cannot, how grating it is when those leaders lecture Israel on the need to take "risks for peace."
    • There was a time when taking risks for peace meant swapping "land for peace" - Israel sacrificing something tangible and irrecoverable, strategic depth, in exchange for something intangible and perishable, promises of diplomatic normality.
    • Before the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel within the borders established by the 1949 armistice was in one place just nine miles wide, a fact that moved George W. Bush to say: In Texas we have driveways that long. Israel exchanged a lot of land to achieve a chilly peace with Egypt, yielding the Sinai, which is almost three times larger than Israel and was 89% of the land captured in the process of repelling the 1967 aggression.
    • Israelis are famously fractious, but the intifada produced among them a consensus that the most any government of theirs could offer without forfeiting domestic support is less than any Palestinian interlocutor would demand. Furthermore, the intifada was part of a pattern. As in 1936 and 1947, talk about partition prompted Arab violence.
    • The creation of Israel did not involve the destruction of a Palestinian state, there having been no such state. In the 62 years since Israel was founded on one-sixth of 1% of the land of what is carelessly and inaccurately called "the Arab world," Israelis have never known an hour of real peace. Patronizing American lectures on the reality of risks and the desirableness of peace, which once were merely fatuous, are now obscene.

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