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November 25, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Ahmadinejad's Days Are Numbered - Reza Aslan (Daily Beast)
    From the moment Ahmadinejad was sworn into office last year, Iranians have been placing bets on just how long into his second term he will last.
    There is a sense among most Iranians - even among Ahmadinejad's allies - that the alliance of convenience that had formed among Iran's feuding conservative factions will fracture, taking Ahmadinejad down with it.
    Now comes word that the country's parliament attempted to impeach Ahmadinejad on 14 counts of violating the law, including illegally trading 76.5 million barrels of oil valued at approximately $9 billion and withdrawing nearly $600 million from Iran's foreign reserve fund without parliamentary approval.
    Iran's economy, already reeling from targeted sanctions, is bracing for what many predict will be catastrophic consequences of Ahmadinejad's plan to end government subsidies for fuel, food, energy, and basic goods like milk, cooking oil, and flour.
    According to the Los Angeles Times, the price of a kilo of ground beef has jumped from $6, when Ahmadinejad began his first term as president, to $14.50 today. The cost of electricity has soared by as much as 1,000% for some Iranian households.
    The government claims that 22% of Iranians are unemployed (experts say the number is closer to 40%). Inflation is officially at 10%, though many economists believe it to be more like 24%.

UN General Assembly Votes to Commemorate Anti-Israel Durban Conference - Jordana Horn (Jerusalem Post)
    The U.S. and Israel expressed dismay on Wednesday at a vote by the UN General Assembly Tuesday to commemorate the Durban anti-racism conference of 2001 next year. The motion passed 121 to 19, with 35 countries abstaining.
    Israeli officials voiced concern that next year's conference would become a forum for anti-Israel bashing, just as the original one had.

Israeli Premier Clarifies Praise of Fidel Castro (AP-Washington Post)
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, incoming chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a leading U.S. congressional supporter of Israel, to clarify his recent praise of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
    Netanyahu said his comments were limited only to Castro's remarks criticizing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust and for saying Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state.

Women Electricians in the IDF Southern Command - Rotem Caro Weizman (Israel Defense Forces)
    In the IDF Southern Command, 80% of the soldiers in the Ordnance Supply Unit are women, responsible for electrical services in all the region's vehicles. And when the car at home doesn't work, they're the ones who get the engine started.
    "They've been serving here for over a year," says the department commander, Warrant Officer Gilad Nahum, "and they're excellent."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Judge Finds "Ample Evidence" Linking CAIR with Hamas - Josh Gerstein
    A federal judge's long-secret ruling that federal prosecutors violated the rights of three major American Islamic organizations and others named as unindicted co-conspirators in a Texas terrorism support case finally became public on Friday. However, publication of the ruling is a mixed blessing for the groups: the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Islamic Society of North America and the North American Islamic Trust. That's because U.S. District Court Judge Jorge Solis found that the government presented "ample evidence to establish the association" of the three organizations with Hamas, a Palestinian group that the U.S. has labeled as a terrorist organization and with a defunct charity convicted in the terrorism support case, the Holy Land Foundation. (Politico)
  • Man Gets Two Years in Prison for Threatening to Blow Up Chicago Jewish School - Andy Grimm
    Jordanian-born Mohammad Alkaramla, 25, was sentenced Wednesday to 25 months in prison for mailing a letter threatening to blow up the Ida Crown Jewish Academy high school. Alkaramla mailed the letter in late 2008 threatening to plant a bomb at the school if Israel didn't withdraw troops from Gaza within two weeks. Investigators traced his fingerprints and a stamp on the letter to his home. They found he had searched for targets on the Internet in the days before the letter was mailed. (Chicago Tribune)
  • Allegations of West Bank Torture Increase - Tobias Buck
    According to former inmates and activists familiar with Palestinian prisons in the West Bank, prisoners affiliated with the Islamist Hamas movement are beaten regularly and deprived of medicine and basic comforts such as blankets and mattresses. There is evidence that a significant number of detainees are tortured during interrogation. The most common form of abuse is known as Shabeh, in which detainees are handcuffed and bound in stress positions for long periods.
        There has been a sharp rise in reported cases of torture and abuse by members of the Palestinian security forces, leading Human Rights Watch to remark last month that "reports of torture by Palestinian security forces keep rolling in." Many analysts and observers fear that life in the West Bank is taking on an increasingly authoritarian hue. "I feel real concern that we are reaching the level of a police state," says Shawan Jabarin, the director of al-Haq, a Ramallah-based human rights group.
        For governments in Europe and North America, the worsening human rights situation poses a thorny political dilemma. Many of them provide generous financial support to the PA, and the U.S., fearing an Islamist takeover of the West Bank, has provided much of the training for the PA security forces. Human rights abuses raise difficult questions for donors: "If we are building a police state - what are we actually doing here?"  (Financial Times-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Fears Lebanon Is Fast Becoming an Iranian Satellite - Herb Keinon
    Amid increasing concern in Jerusalem that Lebanon is turning into an Iranian satellite, Prime Minister Netanyahu convened his top ministerial forum on Wednesday to discuss the situation. One government source noted, "An Iranian satellite state on Israel's northern border has crucial implications for Israeli national security." The security cabinet's decision earlier this month to withdraw from the northern half of the Lebanese border village of Ghajar was made with the hope that such a move would strengthen the hand of the central government in Beirut in its struggle with Hizbullah. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Former U.S. Senate Intelligence Chief: Free Pollard - Gil Hoffman
    Former U.S. Senate Select Intelligence Committee chairman Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.) called Tuesday for the release of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard, who has served more than 25 years of a life sentence for passing information to an ally. A long list of current and former senior American and Israeli officials have recently called on President Obama to commute Pollard's sentence to time served. "[Pollard's] punishment was more than others were given [for the same and worse offenses]," he said. "It's a question of what is just and fair, and in my opinion, justice has been served already. He is guilty, but it's time for this to be resolved in a better way."   (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Congressional Letter Seeks Pollard's Release - Ron Kampeas
    39 Congressional Democrats have signed a letter to President Obama asking for clemency for convicted spy Jonathan Pollard. "The justification of this is the humanitarian one and the notion that the American justice system should be a fair one," said Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.). Among the Jewish groups backing the effort were the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the National Council of Young Israel, B'nai B'rith International, the Religious Action Center of the Reform movement, the Zionist Organization of America, Agudath Israel of America and the Rabbinical Council of America. (JTA-Washington Jewish Week)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Expert: Israel Can't Rely on Turkey or NATO for its Defense - Barcin Yinanc
    Given the Turkish government's animosity toward Israel, the Israeli government would be foolish to think a missile defense system in Turkey would defend it from an Iran attack, according to American foreign policy expert Ariel Cohen from The Heritage Foundation in Washington. Cohen countered arguments that the NATO missile defense system is being constructed to protect Israel from an Iranian attack. Israel has its own missile defense system against potential missile attacks, Cohen said. Furthermore, Iran does not need to use Turkish airspace to hit Israel, he added.
        "Obama has spent tremendous political capital by coming to Turkey in the early days of his administration, to highlight Turkey as a model of a democratic Muslim state. But...this image no longer applies. Turkey has wasted its goodwill in Washington. Many in the U.S. are disappointed," he said. (Hurriyet Daily News-Turkey)
  • If We Aren't Going to Bomb, We Have to Deter - Boaz Ganor
    When the sun rises the day following Iran's acquisition of a nuclear bomb, the U.S. will instantly lose its international hegemony, as we will witness the emergence of a radical Islamic nuclear superpower. Under the Iranian nuclear umbrella, Iran's vassal terror organizations - Hizbullah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian arena, Shi'ite elements in Iraq and elsewhere - will be immune to reprisal.
        Only the fear of instant annihilation might dissuade a nuclear Iran from pursuing its expansionist goals. The writer is director of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at IDC Herzliya. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Gaza's Women: Who Is Defending Their Rights? - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Over the past three years, women in Hamas-controlled Gaza have been facing a campaign of intimidation and terror that has forced many, out of fear, to sit at home and do nothing. Since Hamas seized control over Gaza in 2007, Palestinian women have been deprived of many basic rights, such as strolling along the beach alone or smoking in public. A woman who is seen in public with a man is often stopped by Hamas policemen and questioned. Female lawyers are not allowed to appear in court unless they are wearing the hijab. Women are barred from going to male hairdressers. Women who have dared to participate in public political and social events have been repeatedly harassed.
        Where are the human rights organizations, especially those that claim to defend the rights of women in the Arab and Islamic world? (Hudson Institute New York)
  • Observations:

    Iran's Double-Edged Sword - Michael Singh (Foreign Policy)

    • Whether using the Quds Force - described by the U.S. Department of State as "the regime's primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad" - or proxies such as Hizbullah, the Iranian regime since its founding in 1979 has sought to project its power and influence far afield, often with lethal results.
    • Recent revelations of Iranian arms smuggling in Nigeria are not an isolated incident, but part of a consistent strategy utilizing terrorism, intimidation, and destabilization to enhance the regime's power and influence.
    • As the U.S. and its allies try to restart negotiations with Iran, the regime's support for terrorism and other troubling activities counsel vigilance and realism. Even as Western officials seek new points of pressure and avenues for outreach to bring Iran to the negotiating table, existing sanctions designed to constrain Iran's ability to sow violence and instability beyond its borders must be vigorously enforced.
    • Even a resolution of the nuclear issue would only begin to address the far broader concerns about the regime and its activities, making a true U.S.-Iran reconciliation far away indeed.

      The writer, a visiting fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, is a former senior director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council.

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