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October 1, 2010

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Iran Puts Off Nuclear Plant Launch (Reuters)
    Iran's first nuclear power plant will begin supplying energy in early 2011, a senior official said Wednesday, signaling a delay of several months.
    Iranian officials said on Sunday the Stuxnet virus had hit staff computers at the Bushehr plant.
    Some analysts believe Iran may be suffering wider sabotage aimed at slowing its nuclear advances, pointing to a series of unexplained technical glitches that have cut the number of working centrifuge machines at the Natanz enrichment plant.
    See also Smoke, Mirrors, Cloaks and Daggers - Ilan Evyatar (Jerusalem Post)
    In April 2006, a huge explosion shook the underground facility at Natanz, where thousands of centrifuges were already churning.
    Scientists, engineers and generals had assembled in one of the vast production halls to watch the first chain activation of a line of centrifuges called a "cascade."
    The explosion, the investigation concluded, had been caused by tiny explosive devices that had been fastened to the centrifuges by foreign saboteurs.

U.S. Sanctions Eight Iranian Officials for Human Rights Abuses - Robert Burns (AP)
    The Obama administration on Wednesday slapped financial and travel sanctions on eight Iranian officials accused of taking part in rampant human rights abuses.
    "On these officials' watch or under their command, Iranian citizens have been arbitrarily arrested, beaten, tortured, raped, blackmailed and killed," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.
    Among those targeted is Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of Iran's powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and one his top deputies, Hossein Taeb.
    The administration said that forces under their command participated in beatings, murder and arbitrary arrests of peaceful protesters in the aftermath of the June 2009 Iranian election.

Norway Bans Israel-Bound German-Made Submarines from Its Waters (Ynet News)
    Norway has informed the German shipbuilder Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW) that it will no longer be allowed to test Israel-bound submarines in its territorial waters, due to the Israeli navy's role in enforcing the blockade of Gaza.
    An improved Dolphin submarine built by HDW for Israel is due to be completed in early 2011 and another in 2012. HDW leases a Norwegian submarine base to test its new submarines.

Russia Bans Iranian Investments in Nuclear Industry (Xinhua-China)
    Russia has prohibited Iranian investments in any commercial activities involving uranium production or use of nuclear material and technology, the Interfax news agency reported on Thursday.
    The decree was issued by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last Wednesday to comply with UN Security Council sanctions.
    See also Japanese Firm to Withdraw from Iran Oil Field Project (Yomiuri Shimbun-Japan)
    Japan's top oil developer Inpex Corp. has decided to withdraw from development projects in Iran's Azadegan oil field to avoid being listed as a company subject to U.S. sanctions over Iran's nuclear program.
    Inclusion in the list of firms subject to U.S. sanctions would prevent Inpex from doing business with U.S. financial agencies, meaning joint developments with U.S. firms would have to be called off.
    The sanctions would also negatively impact Inpex's development projects elsewhere in the world.

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Under the Gun: How the People of Gaza Feel about Hamas - Mitchell Prothero (National-UAE)
    Abu Musab, a top Islamic Jihad commander in Rafah, says of Hamas, "They used to be mujaheddin (fighters), but today they are fat millionaires with nice cars."
    He pulled a packet of antibiotics from his pocket; it is stamped: "A gift of the people of Norway. Not for resale."
    "I just bought this from a Hamas-run pharmacy here in Rafah for my son," he said. "I had to go to a Hamas pharmacy to make sure the pills weren't fake or made from poor materials in Egypt. If you want real medicine, you have to buy the aid Europe sends us."
    "People are very angry. They have no money, no lives, no jobs and not even useful resistance against the enemy of Israel," he said. "People will try and get rid of Hamas but right now they can't because it's too strong."
    Mkhaimer Abu Saba, a Gaza political analyst, said the Israeli operation in Gaza that began at the end of 2008 was a major blow to Hamas' standing among Palestinians:
    "After the war most people thought Hamas had provoked it [with a resumption of rocket attacks]....Over the past 18 months, Hamas support has fallen further and further."

In Sweden's Muslim Neighborhoods, Emergency Workers Refuse to Enter Without Police Protection - Soeren Kern (Hudson Institute-New York)
    During the last several decades, massive immigration flows to Sweden have transformed the country to the point where immigrants, many of whom refuse to learn Swedish and integrate into Swedish society, now make up almost 20% of the country's total population.
    In Malmo, Sweden's third-largest city, almost 40% of the population is foreign; in the city's mostly Muslim Rosengard neighborhood, fire and emergency workers refuse to enter without police protection.
    Highlighting the increasing assertiveness of Sweden's Muslim community, the Muslim Council of Sweden recently dispatched letters to each of the major political parties demanding special legislation for Muslims including special public financing for the building of mosques, and that Imams should be allowed to teach Islam to Muslim children in public schools.

Israeli Innovation Fights False Alarms at Northern Border (DPA)
    Soldiers from a reserve unit currently on Israel's heavily-guarded border with Syria have found a novel solution to having their few hours' sleep each night disturbed by wild boars bumping into the border fence and setting off the alarm system, Yediot Ahronot reported Monday.
    With help from the Safari Park outside Tel Aviv, which supplies the product for free, the military engineers deposited loads of lion droppings alongside the fence, the smell of which apparently frightens the boars and deters them from approaching the fence.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Presses Israel on Renewal of Construction Freeze - Glenn Kessler
    In its scramble to salvage Middle East peace talks, the Obama administration has dangled incentives before the Israeli government if Israel would agree to extend a freeze on settlement growth for 60 days. Palestinian officials have said they will not return to the talks unless some sort of extension is arranged. The offer struck some analysts as an unusual gambit that might leave the impression that Washington wants the talks more than either of the two sides negotiating. The offer was outlined in an article by David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and has the imprimatur of an official leak. Administration sources confirmed Makovsky's account was largely accurate.
        By some accounts, administration officials are surprised Netanyahu would reject what they see as a generous offer. But Netanyahu may also view such written assurances from Americans with skepticism. When Obama took office, his administration refused to acknowledge written assurances that President George W. Bush had given Israel in 2004. (Washington Post)
        See also Obama Letter to Abbas Promises Support for Palestinian State on '67 Borders - Ben Caspit and Eli Bardenstein
    Alongside a letter to Israel, President Obama sent a letter to Mahmoud Abbas promising that if the Palestinians continued with the direct peace talks, the U.S., and Obama personally, would pledge to support the establishment of a Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 lines [the 1949 armistice lines] with land swaps.
        In a briefing to Jewish Senators and Congressmen Wednesday, Obama's Middle East Advisor Dennis Ross said Netanyahu appreciates the American proposal but has not accepted it. The reason, it appears, is that he will not break his pledge to the Israeli public [to not renew the freeze]. (Ynet News-Hebrew)
        See also The Obama Draft Letter to Israel: Why Netanyahu Is Unwilling to Extend the Freeze - David Makovsky
    Prime Minister Netanyahu has put forward three arguments defending his unwillingness to extend the moratorium, relating to the issues of reciprocity, consistency, and relevance. First, he says the original U.S. idea to halt settlement activity in 2009 required reciprocal actions from Arab states, which were not forthcoming. Second, the Palestinians did not initially deem the moratorium as significant, wasting nine out of the moratorium's ten months by not opening direct talks. In Netanyahu's view, why would a matter originally deemed insignificant become suddenly indispensable?
        Finally, he argues that the focus on settlements is excessive, since the parties will be dealing with the far larger issue of reaching the contours of an overall territorial solution within the next year. Beyond these arguments, it is also clear that Netanyahu fears losing elements of his coalition over the moratorium issue. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
        See also U.S. Denies Obama Letter to Netanyahu on Peace Talks
    The White House on Thursday denied that President Barack Obama had sent Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a letter outlining inducements designed to preserve his fragile peace drive. "No letter was sent to Prime Minister Netanyahu," said Tommy Vietor, a White House spokesman. (AFP)
  • Netanyahu Pledges Commitment to Peace in Meeting with U.S. Envoy
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told U.S. special Mideast envoy George Mitchell Wednesday that he is committed to reaching a peace agreement with Palestinians. (CNN)
        Netanyahu told Mitchell: "There are many skeptics, many doubts and there are many obstacles on the road to peace. There is one way to prove them right - that's not to try. We're committed, and I'm committed, to try to get to a peace agreement that will secure Israel's security and other vital national interests. That's my goal, and that's our policy and we will continue to pursue it and I very much look forward to continuing it with Abu Mazen [Abbas]."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Sen. Lieberman: U.S. Should Not Outsource Stopping Iran - Tahman Bradley
    Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) told the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington Wednesday that the world will judge the United States on its success or failure stopping Iran's ambitions. "Some have suggested that we should simply learn to live with a nuclear Iran," Lieberman said. "In my judgment, that would be a grave mistake. And as one Arab leader I recently spoke with pointed out, how could anyone count on the United States to go to war to defend them against a nuclear Iran, if we were unwilling to go to war to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran in the first place?"
        Lieberman said the time has come for the U.S. to step up pressure on Iran if it becomes clear that sanctions against the country will not work, and he hopes President Obama will make an assessment of the current Iran strategy by the end of the year. He also said, "If military action must come, the United States is in the strongest position to confront Iran and manage the regional consequences. This is not a responsibility we should outsource."  (ABC News)
        See also Transcript: Sen. Lieberman Addresses U.S. Power in Middle East
    "It is time to retire our ambiguous mantra about all options remaining on the table. It is time for our message to our friends and enemies in the region to become clearer: namely, that we will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability - by peaceful means if we possibly can, but with military force if we absolutely must. A military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities entails risks and costs, but I am convinced that the risks and costs of allowing Iran to obtain a nuclear weapons capability are much greater....I also believe it would be a failure of U.S. leadership if this situation reaches the point where the Israelis decide to attempt a unilateral strike on Iran."  (Council on Foreign Relations)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israeli Cabinet Won't Approve Extension of Building Freeze - Shmuel Tal
    A senior source in Jerusalem assesses that even if Prime Minister Netanyahu wants to extend the building freeze in the settlements, he would not have a majority in the cabinet to approve it. Israel offered that the new construction be only in the large settlement blocs, under government supervision and with a low profile. (Israel Radio-Hebrew-IMRA)
  • Palestinians Building Jewish Settlements - Akiva Novick
    Hundreds of laborers flooded West Bank settlements on Monday with the end of the settlement construction freeze. One Palestinian resident of the Jerusalem area said, "At the end of the day both sides need to make a living, and although we are rivals, the need to put food on the table overrides everything else. I have no problem building settlements; I have been doing it for twenty years." "We want genuine and just peace, just like everyone else, but peace without income is worthless," he added. "I don't care if the settlements stay here. The most important thing is for us to live in peace, what's wrong with that? We don't believe the boycott on settlement goods will last. The workers cannot survive another extended period of just sitting at home without doing anything, which has been the case now for almost a year."
        "They [Palestinian workers] are being threatened with five years in prison if they work for us after January 1," said Shaul Goldstein, head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council. "The real coexistence, after all, happens here, and the Palestinian Authority is trying to sabotage this. I am the one who wants peace and they just want war. This is the difference between us." Goldstein said that the start of construction in the settlement of Neve Daniel was celebrated with a joint barbeque which included 80 Palestinian construction workers and 40 Jews. (Ynet News)
  • Terror Victim Group Head Attacked by Arabs on Mount of Olives - Melanie Lidman
    Meir Indor, the head of the Almagor Terror Victims Association, and his wife, Batsheva, were leaving the Mount of Olives cemetery in Jerusalem on Wednesday when they encountered a traffic jam on the main street of the Arab neighborhood next to the cemetery. Indor said that when about ten Arab youths "saw we were Jewish, they started to throw huge blocks on us one after the other." Indor was injured in the head by a rock. The Indors only escaped the mob when a truck blocking them moved forward, allowing them to maneuver out of the traffic jam and drive directly to the hospital. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Peace Process

  • Success of Talks Is Up to Palestinians - Meir Shlomo
    In November 2009, the Israeli government decided to implement a 10-month freeze on all new housing construction in the settlements, a gesture that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rightly called unprecedented. Israel explicitly stated at that time that this was a one-time gesture of good will. However, the Palestinian Authority swiftly rejected the gesture as "unacceptable," refusing to enter peace talks. Now, after wasting 9 out of those 10 months turning a cold shoulder to both the U.S. efforts and Israel's good will, the authority is saying this once "unacceptable" moratorium is now essential for them even to attend the peace talks.
        The whole logic behind peace talks is to create an opportunity to solve differences rather than use the differences to create new obstacles. Therefore, the Palestinian threat to leave the peace talks is reverse logic as well as unhelpful. Peace was accomplished with Egypt and Jordan without freezing construction in the settlements. Moreover, the Arab-Israeli conflict existed long before any settlement ever did. The writer is Consul General of Israel to the Southwest U.S. (Houston Chronicle)
  • Obama Made the Construction Moratorium the Issue that It Is - Martin Peretz
    The fact is that President Obama made construction in the territories the center of his peace strategy from the beginning. This put Israel in a bind. But, worst of all, it put the Palestinians in a much greater bind. They had no room to maneuver. If the president of the United States insists that new building not be done even in settlements that everyone knows will remain with Israel, how can the Palestinians palaver in any other circumstance? The Palestinians are trapped in Obama's truculence. The president also urged the Palestinian Authority to consult with the Arab League about its conundrum. The Arab League always takes a hard line. And that is what it will do this week. In fact, the League is planning to bring the matter before the UN Security Council. (New Republic)
  • Obama's Repudiation of Promises to Israel Comes Back to Haunt Him - Evelyn Gordon
    In exchange for a two-month extension of the freeze on settlement construction, Barack Obama has offered Israel various mouth-watering goodies. Yet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is leaning toward refusing. What gives? I suspect the real reason is too undiplomatic to state publicly: Obama, by his own actions, has shown he views presidential promises as made to be broken.
        Israel, after all, received its last presidential promise just six years ago, in exchange for leaving Gaza. In writing, George W. Bush said the Palestinian Authority must end incitement and terror, voiced support for Israel "as a Jewish state," vowed to "strengthen Israel's capability" to defend itself, and said any Israeli-Palestinian deal should leave Israel with the settlement blocs and "defensible borders." He also promised orally that Israel could continue building in the settlement blocs. But when Obama took office, he denied the oral pledge's very existence.
        And while Obama hasn't denied the written document's existence, he's nullified it de facto through his every word and action: he's never challenged PA incitement; he's advocated the indefensible pre-1967 borders, including in east Jerusalem (where he bullied Israel into halting construction even in huge Jewish neighborhoods that will clearly remain Israeli under any deal); and more. With enough domestic pressure, Obama would probably do everything in the latest offer anyway. But without it, Israelis fear he'll renege the moment he finds it convenient. (Commentary)
  • Ask the Arabs of East Jerusalem: Should Jerusalem Be Redivided? - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Israeli and Palestinian negotiators need to take into account that it's completely unrealistic to talk about restoring the pre-1967 situation where Jerusalem was divided into two cities. Jerusalem is a very small city where Jews and Arabs live across the street from each other and on top of each other. Since 1967, Israel has built many new neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city, rendering it impossible to imagine a reality where Jerusalem would exist as a divided city. Redividing Jerusalem will turn the lives of both Jews and Arabs into a nightmare. Every day, tens of thousands of Jews and Arabs commute between the two parts of the city freely.
        In addition, the negotiators must ask the more than 200,000 Arab residents of the city about their preferences. This can be done through a referendum where the Arab residents would be asked if they would like to live in a divided city under the rule of the Palestinian Authority or Hamas. Most likely, a majority of the Arab residents would say that they prefer the status quo to the other options. The Arab residents of Jerusalem have seen what happened in the West Bank and Gaza over the past 16 years and are not keen to live under a corrupt authority or a radical Islamist entity.
        Instead of talking about tearing the city apart, it would be better if the negotiators started thinking of ways that enable Jews and Arabs to share, and not divide, the city. (Hudson Institute-New York)
        See also Jerusalem: The Dangers of Division - Nadav Shragai (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    Other Issues

  • What Ahmadinejad Knows about 9/11 - Bret Stephens
    9/11 was an inside job. Just ask Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He knew that the Muslim world would be paying attention to his UN speech. That's a world in which his view of 9/11 isn't on the fringe but in the mainstream. The University of Maryland's World Public Opinion surveys have found that just 2% of Pakistanis believe al-Qaeda perpetrated the attacks, whereas 27% believe it was the U.S. government. Among Egyptians, 43% say Israel is the culprit, while another 12% blame the U.S. Just 16% of Egyptians think al-Qaeda did it. In Turkey, 39% blame al-Qaeda, another 39% blame the U.S. or Israel. Even 15% of Italians and 23% of Germans finger the U.S. for the attacks. Ahmadinejad's constituency may be irrational, but he isn't crazy. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Egypt and Thirsty Neighbors at Odds Over Nile - Thanassis Cambanis
    Upstream countries, looking to right what they say are historic wrongs, have joined in an attempt to break Egypt and Sudan's near-monopoly on Nile River water, threatening a crisis that Egyptian experts said could, at its most extreme, lead to war. Egypt's population is growing briskly, and by 2017 at current rates of usage the Nile's water will barely meet Egypt's basic needs, according to the Ministry of Irrigation. Under British colonial rule, a 1929 treaty reserved 80% of the Nile's flow for Egypt and Sudan, then ruled as a single country.
        Usually upstream countries dominate control of a river, like the Tigris and Euphrates, which are much reduced by the time they flow into Iraq from Turkey and Syria. The case of the Nile is reversed because the British colonials wanted to guarantee water for Egyptian agriculture. The seven upstream countries - Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Rwanda - say the treaty is an unfair vestige of colonialism, while Egypt says those countries are awash in water resources, unlike arid Egypt, which depends on just one.
        This spring, Ethiopia inaugurated a $520 million hydroelectric dam on a Nile tributary, part of a decade-long project to create a modern electricity infrastructure. In addition, investors from China and the Persian Gulf region have expressed interest in underwriting enormous agriculture projects in Uganda and Ethiopia which would use Nile water.
        Meanwhile, water experts say that Egypt has done little to curtail its own misuse of water. Irrigation water still flows largely through dirt channels often choked with weeds. Much of it leaches into the ground before reaching crops. So long as water is free for farmers, there is little incentive to conserve. (New York Times)
  • Syria Clamps Down on Bloggers - Robert F. Worth
    A draft law regulating online media would clamp down on Syrian bloggers and other journalists, forcing them to register and submit their writing for review. Other Arab countries regularly jail journalists who express dissident views, but Syria may be the most restrictive of all. Most of the Syrian media is still owned by the state. Privately owned media became legal in 2001, but much of the sector is owned by relatives of President Assad and other top government officials. All of it is subject to intimidation and heavy-handed control.
        The basic "red lines" are well known: no criticism of the president and his family or the security services, no touching delicate issues like Syria's Kurdish minority or the Alawites, a religious minority to which Assad belongs. But the exact extent of what is forbidden is left deliberately unclear, and that vagueness encourages fear and self-censorship, many Syrian journalists say. (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    Ten Basic Facts about the UN Human Rights Council - Leon Saltiel (UN Watch)

    UN Watch testified Monday on the UN Human Rights Council's selectivity, hypocrisy, and grant of impunity to gross human rights violators during a day-long debate on alleged Israeli human rights violations.

    • Today and this week, this council is saturating the media with a plethora of reports on alleged Israeli sins. We are given the flotilla report, the Goldstone follow-up, and more. Lost in this blitz, however, are basic facts:

      1. The flotilla probe was created in a June 2nd resolution sponsored by the council's Islamic and Arab states. The outcome was predetermined. Israel was condemned "in the strongest terms," as guilty of committing an "outrageous attack." No mention was made of the flotilla organizers' Jihadist intentions and actions.
      2. Supporter of the one-sided mandate included countries like Sudan, China, Pakistan, Cuba, Saudi Arabia and Russia.
      3. The greatest supporter of the inquiry was the terrorist group Hamas.
      4. The Palestinian Authority itself opposed the probe, understanding it would only strengthen the Hamas terrorists.
      5. Likewise, the Goldstone follow-up committee was created on March 25 by a one-sided resolution that attacked Israel but said nothing on Hamas terrorism. It was sponsored by the Arab and Islamic states. Seventeen refused to support the resolution, including countries like the U.S., Britain, France, Belgium Italy and the Netherlands.
      6. Since the council was created in 2006, out of 40 resolutions criticizing countries, 33 were against Israel - and seven for the rest of the world combined.
      7. Out of 10 emergency debates that criticized countries, 7 were against Israel.
      8. Today's meeting takes place under an agenda item that permanently singles out Israel for discriminatory treatment. Even UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, on 20 June 2007, criticized the item's bias.
      9. In May 2009, after Sri Lanka killed some 20,000 civilians, this council praised it for the "promotion and protection" of human rights.
      10. In this session there is not a single resolution on any of the world's worst violators of human rights. Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, and Zimbabwe all enjoy impunity.
    • Mr. President, we challenge any of the distinguished delegates to dispute these basic facts.

          See also UN Human Rights Council Endorses Report Accusing Israel of Executions Aboard Aid Flotilla - Colum Lynch (Washington Post)

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