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February 28, 2011

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Russia Vows to Sell Missiles to Syria - Dmitry Zaks (AFP)
    Russia vowed Saturday to fulfill its contract to supply Syria with cruise missiles despite Israel's furious condemnation of the deal.
    "The contract is in the implementation stage," said Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov.
    Russia initially agreed to send 72 anti-ship Yakhont cruise missiles to Syria in 2007 under a $300 million deal that was only disclosed by Serdyukov in September 2010.
    Interfax cited one military source as saying that Russia had already sent Syria two Bastion coastal defense systems that can include up to 36 Yakhont missiles each.
    The Israeli ambassador to Moscow confirmed that his country was primarily worried the missiles would end up in the hands of Hizbullah.

Documentary on Tel Aviv School Wins Oscar (Ha'aretz)
    The documentary film "Strangers No More," about a Tel Aviv elementary school, won an Oscar on Monday for Best Documentary Short Subject.
    Children from 48 different countries attend the Bialik-Rogozin School in south Tel Aviv.
    See also Video Trailer: "Strangers No More" (YouTube)

PA Leaders, Media Attack Obama and U.S. after UN Veto - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik (Palestinian Media Watch)
    PA leaders and its official media attacked the U.S. with a barrage of anti-American statements following the U.S.' Feb. 18 veto of a UN Security Council resolution on Israeli building in Jerusalem and the West Bank.
    An op-ed in the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida on Feb. 20 said: "President Obama is bowing before Israel. The Arab nations will soon begin to chant their old slogans, including 'America is the head of the snake.'"

Embarrassment at London School of Economics over Demands for Israel Boycott - Dominic Kennedy (London Times, 26Feb11)
    Half of the board of the Middle East Centre of the London School of Economics are campaigners for an academic boycott of Israel.
    Martha Mundy, an anthropologist, is co-convener of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine. She told The Times she had called for academics "to avoid, as individuals, work with Israeli academic institutions."
    John Chalcraft, a politics expert, argued for boycotting Israel in a debate at the LSE last month.
    The LSE's council also will be discussing what to do with the £300,000 from a foundation headed by Col. Gaddafi's son Saif.
    See also The Debauching of the LSE - Melanie Phillips (Spectator-UK)

Gaza's Islamist Rulers Hounding Secular Community - Diaa Hadid (AP-Washington Post)
    After nearly four years of Hamas rule, Gaza's small secular community is in tatters, decimated by the militant group's campaign to impose its strict version of Islam.
    Hamas has bullied men and women to dress modestly, tried to keep the sexes from mingling in public and sparked a flight of secular university students and educated professionals.
    Many left to study abroad and never returned. Others obtained refugee visas in Europe or found work in the Gulf.
    "In the end, the people who think differently are leaving," said Rami, 32, an activist in one of Gaza's few secular groups.
    The trend toward religious fundamentalism preceded the Hamas takeover in June 2007. In recent years, hard-liners have burned down the cinemas. Their charred remains are still visible in Gaza City. Militants blew up the last bar in 2005.
    Today, plainclothes officers sometimes halt couples in the streets, demanding to see marriage licenses.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Gaddafi Opponents Spread Control Deeper into West Libya - Leila Fadel and Anthony Faiola
    Libya's popular revolt that has already claimed the eastern half of the country spread deeper into the west on Sunday, with regime opponents expanding control over key towns even as loyalist forces appeared poised to counterattack or impose blockades. Pro-Gaddafi forces still maintained control of the western border with Tunisia, and had set up about 20 checkpoints on the road to Tripoli. One Tripoli resident said that 90% of the capital was still under the control of Gaddafi.
        Meanwhile, the UN imposed military and financial sanctions. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeated the U.S. call for Gaddafi to leave. "We think he must go as soon as possible without further violence and bloodshed....There will be accountability for the crimes against humanity and war crimes."  (Washington Post)
  • Palestinians Seek New Path to State - Richard Boudreaux
    Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is under pressure from others in the leadership to defy the U.S. Last week he rejected a personal appeal by President Barack Obama to withdraw the UN resolution on settlements. A spokesman, Ghassan Khatib, said Mr. Abbas would continue cooperating with the U.S. but would again seek censure of Israel when the UN General Assembly convenes in September and would likely ask it to recognize a Palestinian state. Eight South American countries have already done so, in response to a Palestinian diplomatic campaign that is now turning to Europe.
        The Palestinians suspended U.S.-brokered peace talks last fall after Israel, resisting pressure from Washington, refused to extend a moratorium on construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Israel insists that talks resume without preconditions. (Wall Street Journal)
  • IAEA: Iran May Be Developing a Nuclear-Armed Missile - Fredrik Dahl
    The UN atomic watchdog has received new information regarding allegations that Iran may be seeking to develop a nuclear-armed missile, the agency said in a report Friday. It also made clear Iran's determination to press ahead with sensitive atomic activity. The report looked likely to add to Western suspicions that Iran is secretly bent on building a nuclear weapons capability from its enrichment program, and could provide the U.S. and allies with additional arguments for further tightening sanctions on Iran. (Reuters)
        See also The IAEA Report
    The Director General of the IAEA reported on 25 Feb. 2011: Iran has estimated that, between 18 Oct. 2010 and 5 Feb. 2011, it produced an additional 471 kg of low-enriched UF6, which would result in a total production of 3,606 kg of low-enriched UF6 since Feb. 2007. The nuclear material at FEP (including the feed, product and tails), as well as all installed cascades and the feed and withdrawal stations, are subject to Agency containment and surveillance.
        Iran has estimated that, between 19 Sep. 2010 and 11 Feb. 2011, a total of 135.2 kg of UF6 enriched at FEP was fed into the two interconnected cascades and that approximately 18.5 kg of UF6 enriched up to 20% U-235 was produced. This would result in a total of approximately 43.6 kg of UF6 enriched up to 20% U-235 having been produced since the process began in Feb. 2010. (IAEA-Institute for Science and International Security)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Iran Aiming to Exploit Anarchy in Post-Mubarak Sinai - Yaakov Katz
    Iran is working to bolster its weapons-smuggling infrastructure in the Sinai Peninsula to smuggle advanced weaponry in large quantities into Gaza, as anarchy continues to prevail in Egypt following the toppling of Mubarak. "They are building new capabilities, upgrading smuggling mechanisms and studying the new military presence there to see how it will affect them," a senior Israeli defense official said. Egyptian security forces were working to crack down on smuggling efforts by building an underground steel wall and by using American tunnel-detection technology.
        Israel also fears that the Sinai will turn into a launch pad for attacks into Israel. Egyptian police authorities have abandoned dozens of police stations throughout the peninsula after they were attacked by Bedouins armed with missiles and assault rifles. This concern was behind Israel's decision to permit close to 1,000 Egyptian soldiers to deploy in Sharm e-Sheikh and Rafah. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Netanyahu: West Should Support Anti-Regime Protesters in Iran, as It Does in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya - Herb Keinon
    Prime Minister Netanyahu stressed to visiting U.S. senators Sunday the importance now of focusing on Iran. He said the West must ensure that this "wave of democracy" doesn't pass over Iran, and that the international community should be supporting the protesters in Iran to the same degree that they did in Tunisia, Egypt and now Libya. The current situation is providing Iran with numerous opportunities to extend their reach and exploit the changes taking place for their own benefit, he added. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Report: "Israel's 2002 Hit of Hamas Leader Was Justified, Despite Civilian Casualties" - Barak Ravid
    On July 22, 2002, an Israeli plane dropped a 1-ton bomb on a house in Gaza City in which Hamas military wing commander Salah Shehadeh was staying. In addition to Shehadeh and his aide, 13 civilians, including eight children, were killed in the incident. A committee was appointed by former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008 to investigate the incident.
        A report culminating the panel's probe was submitted on Sunday and concluded: The "targeted killing against Shehadeh was imperative because of the increase and escalation in terrorist attacks since 2000, in a manner which led to a situation of actual war, classified as an 'armed conflict.'" The panel said the Hamas strongman had been the motivational, ideological, and operational force of Hamas.
        The report said that the collateral fatalities were "unintended, undesired and unforeseen," adding that they "did not stem from disregard or indifference to human lives." The civilian casualties were the result of "incomplete, unfocused and inconsistent intelligence information with regard to the presence of civilians in the structures adjacent to the Shehadeh house (the garage and huts), where most of the civilians died."
        The report concluded: "Despite the outcome which resulted in this instance, the means of targeted killing was and continues to be a lawful tool in the war against deadly terrorism, provided that the operation is carried out in accordance with the principles and rules set out by Israeli and international law and the ethical and moral norms on which they are based."  (Ha'aretz)
        See also Report of the Special Investigatory Commission (Prime Minister's Office)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Our Absurd Obsession with Israel Is Laid Bare - Nick Cohen
    The Arab revolution is consigning skip-loads of articles, books and speeches about the Middle East to the dustbin of history. To a generation of politically active if not morally consistent campaigners, the Middle East has meant Israel and only Israel. The lives of hundreds of millions of Arabs, Berbers and Kurds who were not involved in the conflict could be forgotten.
        Far from being a cause of the revolution, antagonism to Israel everywhere served the interests of oppressors. Europeans ought to know from our experience of Nazism that anti-Semitism is a conspiracy theory about power, rather than a standard racist hatred of poor immigrants. Fascistic regimes reached for it when they sought to deny their own people liberty. Syrian Ba'athists, Hamas, the Saudi monarchy and Gaddafi eagerly promoted the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the forgery the far-right wing of the decaying tsarist regime issued in 1903 to convince Russians they should continue to obey the tsar's every command.
        The European Union has played a miserable role in the Middle East. It pours in aid but never demands democratization or restrictions on police powers in return. That will have to change if the promise of the past month is to be realized. If it is to help with democracy-building, Europe will need to remind itself as much as the recipients of its money that you can never build free societies on the racist conspiracy theories of the Nazis and the tsars. (Observer-UK)
  • Hizbullah Is Watching the Arab Uprisings - David Ignatius
    The Lebanese government is dominated by an organization that the U.S. and Israel designate as "terrorist." What's more, Hizbullah's ascendancy has given its patrons in Tehran what amounts to a beachhead on the Mediterranean. I met last week with Ammar al-Mousawi, the top Hizbullah "diplomat," and the discussion illustrated the thinking of the toughest player in the world's toughest political league.
        Hizbullah seems assured that the practical effect of any indictments in the 2005 murder of former prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri will be blunted and that the matter will be left unresolved in characteristic Lebanese fashion. Hizbullah doesn't oppose a continuation of military cooperation between Lebanon and the U.S. Indeed, Hizbullah mischievously says that perhaps the Lebanese army should have more U.S. weapons. (Washington Post)

Netanyahu: Iran Trying to Take Advantage of Arab World Upheaval - Charles Moore (Telegraph-UK)

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an interview:

  • Iran is "seeking to exploit" current events. Its decision to send two naval vessels through the Suez Canal is "the first time we've seen elements of a Persian fleet in the Mediterranean since Alexandrine times." This proves Iran has "aggressive intentions." Iran was working as hard as it could to destabilize societies - Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon - before all this, and now it is trying to take advantage of the new situation.
  • Iran with nuclear weapons would create new threats. "Look at Bahrain. A nuclear Iran would make it a Persian Gulf on both sides." It would control the oil supplies of the world and "spawn a nuclear arms race in the Middle East." Iranian conventional ballistic missiles already have a range which includes western Europe: "It is extraordinarily dangerous for my country, but also for your country." He sees Israel as "merely a forward position of Western values."
  • The Western powers agree about the Iranian nuclear threat, he says, citing Britain's Defence Secretary, Dr. Liam Fox, as a strong exponent of this view. But he adds: "I think we should do more. I think we can do more." The present sanctions "don't have sufficient bite," and we "need a credible military option if sanctions fail."
  • People accuse Israel of taking advantage of the situation by stalling the peace process and avoiding a clear line. Mr. Netanyahu sharply reminds me of his own position. Israel, he says, recognizes the need for a nation-state for Palestinians, but unless they recognize Israel's right to be the Jewish state, there is no basis for a discussion of borders. The Palestinians provide no "education for peace." Their school textbooks preach hatred and the public squares under the Palestinian Authority are named after the murderers of Israelis.
  • The "international ganging-up on Israel" over the settlements is a classic example of changing the terms of the argument - what he calls "the reversal of causality." There were no Jewish settlements in the West Bank before Israel was attacked in the Six-Day War of 1967, "So what was all that about?" Israel proper remains disputed by her enemies. "Even moderates don't say that, if the settlements end, we'll make peace with Israel." He does hasten to add, however, that a deal can be done. "It is not impossible to resolve it, to make the necessary compromises. The settlement issue has to be resolved."
  • "Britain was a colonial power, and colonialism has been spurned." Britain therefore tends to look at the Israeli question through its "colonial prism," which makes the British "see us as neo-colonialists." But this is wrong. "We are not Belgians in the Congo! We are not Brits in India!" He agrees that Western loss of support for Israel is "a huge issue" and "tragic because, in many ways, we are you and you are us."

        See also Israel Reminds Us of the High Cost of Defending Our Freedoms - Charles Moore
    It is often said that anti-Israeli feeling is growing in the West because Israel does not, despite its claims, live by Western values. I sometimes wonder if the opposite is the case: Israel, because of the constant threat to its existence, reminds us of the high cost of defending our freedoms. And that, to Western wishful thinkers, is intensely irritating. (Telegraph-UK)

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