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September 6, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Report: Iran Pays $1,000 for Each U.S. Soldier Killed by the Taliban (Ynet News)
    At least five Iranian companies are sending money to the Taliban terror group in Afghanistan in order to fund the fighting against Western powers, according to a British Sunday Times report, which quoted Taliban sources.
    Intelligence officials in the West believe the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is the driving force behind these companies.
    According to information provided by a senior Taliban official, last year, Iran paid $1,000 to anybody who killed an American soldier and $6,000 to anybody who destroyed an American vehicle.
    The report also revealed that the Iranian regime operates Taliban training camps along the border between Iran and Afghanistan where they teach Afghani terrorists how to ambush NATO soldiers with rifles and improvised bombs.
    In the past, Shiite Iran was at odds with the Sunni Taliban. However, as a Taliban source said, "Our religions and histories are different, but the goal is the same. We both want to kill Americans."

Israeli Helps Cracks Illegal Money Transfer to Iran (Ynet News)
    Eitan Arusy was hired by the U.S. District Attorney's Office in Manhattan in 2005 to help investigate illegal financing operations tied to the Middle East.
    The intelligence analyst came across a lead suggesting suspicious funds were flowing to and from an Iranian nonprofit organization based in midtown Manhattan.
    Arusy's probe later merged with a Justice Department inquiry, widened to include some of Europe's most prominent banks, and ultimately expanded into a global inquiry into banks that actively evaded U.S. law in aiding sanctioned countries and moving some $2 billion undetected.
    In January 2009, Lloyds became the first of the three European banks to agree to a fine and forfeiture. Credit Suisse followed last December, and Barclays settled last month.
    See also Probe Circles Globe to Find Dirty Money - Carrick Mollenkamp (Wall Street Journal)

Top Iran Cleric Rejects Holocaust as "Superstition"  (AFP)
    Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi, who is a "marja," or among the highest authorities in Shiite Islam, dismissed the Nazi Holocaust of Jews during World War II as a new "superstition" for the West, the Iranian state news agency IRNA reported on Saturday.

Ireland Delays EU Deal with Israel on Data Transfers - Laurence Peter (BBC News)
    A deal intended to facilitate commerce between the EU and Israel has been delayed due to Irish objections.
    The idea is to make the EU's international partners comply with the data protection standards that prevail inside the EU, speeding up transactions. The EU has similar data adequacy agreements with several countries outside the EU, including Argentina, Canada, Switzerland and the U.S.
    Irish officials linked their objections to the use of eight fake Irish passports by suspects in the killing of Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai. Israel says there is no proof its agents were involved.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israel's Netanyahu Offers Regular Talks with Abbas
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered to meet Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas one-on-one every two weeks to discuss "the agenda for a peace agreement," he said Sunday. "I believe that what is needed now in order to move the process is not multiplicity of [negotiation] teams but rather decisions of leaders," Netanyahu said. (CNN)
        See also Mideast Talks to Resume in Jerusalem - Matthew Lee
    U.S. officials said Sunday that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would join Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Jerusalem on Sept. 15, following discussions Sept. 14 in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik. (AP)
  • Hizbullah Arms Depot Explodes - Ian Deitch
    A series of blasts ripped through a building in the Hizbullah-dominated village of Shehabiyeh in southern Lebanon on Friday. Israel's military said Saturday that surveillance footage from drones shows that the explosions occurred at a residential building used by Hizbullah as a weapons depot. The footage shows Hizbullah militants removing weapons from the site and transferring them to other Hizbullah facilities.
        Israeli military spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich said it was the third time this year that explosions have torn through a Hizbullah weapons cache. She accused the group of maintaining military facilities - including bunkers and storage depots for large quantities of weapons - in 160 villages across southern Lebanon. The blasts occurred south of the Litani River, a zone where Hizbullah is banned from keeping weapons under a UN resolution that ended the 2006 war. (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Video: Explosion of a Hizbullah Weapons Storage Facility (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Day of Anti-Israel Protest Reveals Iran's Internal Rift - Farnaz Fassihi
    Iran's government used annual pro-Palestinian demonstrations Friday to renew its threat to wipe Israel off the map, while dissident leaders accused the regime of using verbal attacks on Israel to divert attention from its battle with domestic political opponents. Iranian President Ahmadinejad attacked Washington's efforts to mediate between Israel and the Palestinians, saying no one has the right to negotiate away any Palestinian land. Ahmadinejad called on all Muslims to prepare for a final battle to free Jerusalem.
        Dissident leader Mir Hossein Mousavi issued a statement saying, "The orchestrated violence against the opposition shows that the occupation of Jerusalem and Israel is just an excuse. They consider their real enemy people who are fighting to free our country from oppression." Mousavi also condemned an attack on another opposition leader, Mehdi Karroubi, whose Tehran residence was raided Thursday by militia members loyal to the government. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Palestinian Authority Lashes Out at Ahmadinejad over Remarks
    The Iranian president, "who does not represent the Iranian people, who falsified elections and took power by fraud, does not have the right to talk about Palestine, its president or its representatives," PA spokesman Nabil Abu Rodeina said in a statement. We will not allow anyone to "threaten us or question the legitimacy of the Palestine Liberation Organization" led by President Mahmoud Abbas, Rodeina added. (AFP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Beefs Up West Bank Forces to Counter Terror Attacks - Yaakov Katz
    In the wake of drive-by shootings last week that killed four Israelis and wounded two others, the IDF has transferred two battalions to the West Bank to man checkpoints and patrol highways in an effort to prevent additional shooting attacks, amid assessments that Hamas will continue to perpetrate terror attacks as Israeli-Palestinian peace talks continue. In addition, Palestinian Authority security forces have rounded up close to 300 Palestinians affiliated with Hamas. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Shiites Accused of Seeking to Overthrow Sunni Royal Family in Bahrain - James Calderwood
    23 Shiite men were accused by the Bahrain government Saturday of belonging to a "terrorist network" intent on overthrowing the country's Sunni royal family. The official Bahraini news agency, BNA, reported that the men are members of a "sophisticated terrorist network with international support." Abdulrahman al-Sayed, a Bahraini public prosecution official, said the group's funds came through the misappropriation of charity donations and overseas funds supported by "foreign entities."
        Riad Kahwaji, the chief executive officer of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (Inegma), said he believes "there could be an Iranian involvement." Suspected Iranian terrorist cells have been discovered in other Gulf countries such as Kuwait. "Iran has unprecedented influence on Shiite communities worldwide, especially in the Arab world," Kahwaji said. "Bahrain hosts the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet; there's a lot of history here that would lead us to point the finger at Iran."  (National-UAE)
        See also Shiite Coup Plot Foiled in Bahrain - Thanassis Cambanis
    More than 160 people have been arrested by the minority Sunni government's security forces since Aug. 13 under terrorism laws, most of them linked to the Shiite majority's opposition political parties and to human rights groups. (New York Times)
        See also Bahrain: A Beachhead for Iran?
    The confrontation showcases Bahrain's role as the centerpiece for Gulf concerns about Iran. Bahrain has a sizable Shiite population that is seen as a possible beachhead for Iran on the Arab side of the Gulf. Hard-liners in Iran have often described Bahrain as Iran's "14th Province." Shadi Hamid, a Gulf affairs researcher at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar, said: "There is more and more concern about Iranian influence even if it can be proven or not."  (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
        See also The Shiites of Saudi Arabia - Joshua Teitelbaum
    As the Saudis move to restrain the rising strength of Iran and the Shiites outside the kingdom, they keep an ever-watchful eye over their own Shiite population. The ascendancy of the Shiites in Iraq and Lebanon has given rise to a feeling of empowerment among the Shiites of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Shiites constitute 10-15% of the population, and about 33% of the population in the Eastern Province.
        During the 1990s the nature of relations between the Saudi regime and the Shiites changed from confrontation to accommodation. But one organization accepted neither engagement nor accommodation with the Saudi regime. This was Hezbollah al-Hijaz, known also as Saudi Hezbollah and Ansar Khat al-Imam (Followers of Imam Khomeini). They follow the marjaiyya of Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, and they are politically loyal to him. It is this group that is usually held responsible for the bombing of the Khobar Towers complex in Dhahran in 1996, which killed 19 American servicemen. The attack was carried out with Iranian support. The writer is a Visiting Fellow at Stanford University's Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law and the Hoover Institution. (Current Trends in Islamist Ideology)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Mistakes the U.S. Must Not Make in Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks - Elliott Abrams
    One mistake is to intrude too deeply and too often in what must be a bilateral negotiation. The Israelis and Palestinians do not negotiate seriously when U.S. officials are in the room; instead, they take positions designed to elicit American approval. The Bush administration tried trilateral talks, and the two sides argued more when we were present than when we were not. It's no accident that negotiations that yielded agreements, such as Oslo, were not only begun without us at the table but were kept secret from us. The U.S. role is critical, but mostly in cajoling and reasoning with both parties - separately.
        Another mistake would be to seek a "framework agreement." The difficult compromises necessary for a final-status agreement that resolves all the core issues will be made at the very end. Asking the parties to announce their "fundamental compromises" on the core issues when a final-status agreement is years away is asking them to commit political suicide. Efforts to force the parties to announce their bottom lines in advance of the final settlement will never succeed. The writer, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, was a deputy national security adviser to President George W. Bush. (Washington Post)
  • Most Palestinians Don't Support Israeli-Palestinian Talks - or Another Intifada - Joshua Mitnick
    Only 1 in 3 Palestinians support the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, according to a late August poll by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion. The public's political fatigue after decades of alternating between peace talks and uprising was on display on Wednesday in Ramallah. Despite the widespread criticism of Abbas' decision to attend the talks, only a few hundred Palestinians showed up at a rally sponsored by political parties opposed to the current peace process. At the same time, a June survey by the Palestinian Center for Public Survey Research found that a majority of Palestinians also oppose a resumption of the armed uprising against Israel and more than two-thirds doubt that a new nonviolent uprising would achieve their goals either. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Observations:

    What Abbas Wants - Hillel Frisch (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies/Bar-Ilan University)

    • Hamas, and to a much lesser extent, Islamic Jihad, remain a substantial threat to Abbas, and the threat of a Hamas takeover in the West Bank has yet to dissipate. Dealing with this threat entails good security cooperation between Abbas and Israeli security forces - an arrangement in which Israel deals with the Hamas terrorist infrastructure by night while Abbas' security forces harass Hamas terrorists by day - as well as the dismantling of social infrastructure that Hamas has created painstakingly over the years.
    • Abbas is essentially using the IDF to gain the kind of political and security foothold Arab leaders recognize as being essential to the art of ruling. He is assuming the role of the traditional Arab ruler - controlling all the funds, avoiding elections (which will only be held if the outcome is a foregone conclusion), allowing no opposition, and making sure that his picture appears daily on the front page of the media.
    • Such security cooperation can hardly take place once any kind of peace arrangement is achieved. At that point, Israeli security presence in the West Bank would have to cease. This would leave Abbas' security forces to face Hamas alone. So Abbas prefers not to make progress in the peace talks until the terrorist swamp is more effectively dried up. A Hamas takeover in the West Bank must be averted at all costs. This means that no substantial progress in the peace talks can be made before such a danger is dealt with.
    • At the same time, the pretense of peace talks is essential to placating the "Arab street" - to prevent it from threatening the moderate governments or feeding the ranks of the radicals - and to create the kind of political environment that would allow the U.S. and Israel to deal with the far more imminent Iranian nuclear threat.

      The writer is associate professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University and senior research associate at the BESA Center for Strategic Studies.

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