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July 15, 2011

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In-Depth Issues:

Hizbullah and Iran in the Americas - Amb. Roger Noriega (U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security)
    Former U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States Roger Noriega testified on July 7 before the House Subcommittee on Intelligence and Terrorism, on Hizbullah and Iran's operations in the Americas.
    We have identified at least two parallel terrorist networks growing at an alarming rate in Latin America.
    One is operated by Hizbullah, aided by its collaborators, and another is managed by a cadre of operatives of the notorious Qods Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
    These networks cooperate to carry out fundraising, money-laundering schemes, narcotics smuggling, proselytization, recruitment, and training.
    We can identify more than 80 operatives in at least 12 countries.
    Of particular interest are several published reports, citing U.S. law enforcement and intelligence sources, that Hizbullah operatives have provided weapons and explosives training to drug trafficking organizations that operate along the U.S. border with Mexico and have sought to radicalize Muslim populations in several Mexican cities.
    By infiltrating or establishing mosques or “Islamic centers” throughout the region, Hizbullah is spreading its influence, legitimizing its cause, and advancing its violent jihad on our doorstep.
    Our research indicates that the most tempting target for Hizbullah in the region is Brazil, with an estimated population of one million Muslims.
    See also Hizbullah in Mexico - Anna Mahjar-Barducci (Hudson Institute-New York)

Poll: 6 in 10 Palestinians Reject Two-State Solution - Gil Hoffman (Jerusalem Post)
    Only 34% of Palestinians accept, while 61% reject, two states for two peoples as the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to a survey of 1,010 Palestinians completed this week by American pollster Stanley Greenberg.
    66% said the Palestinians' real goal should be to start with a two-state solution but then move to it all being one Palestinian state.
    92% said Jerusalem should be the capital of Palestine, while just 3% said it should be the capital of both Palestine and Israel.
    72% backed denying the thousands of years of Jewish history in Jerusalem, 62% supported kidnapping IDF soldiers and holding them hostage, and 53% were in favor of teaching songs about hating Jews in Palestinian schools.
    The poll was conducted with the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion and sponsored by the Israel Project.

Anti-Aircraft Missiles On the Loose in Libya - C. J. Chivers (New York Times)
    Five months after the armed uprising erupted in Libya, a new round of portable anti-aircraft missiles - weapons that governments fear could be obtained by terrorists and then fired at civilian jetliners - have been slipping from storage bunkers captured by rebels.
    In February, large numbers of the missiles slipped from the hands of Gaddafi's government as the rebels established control over eastern Libya. Recently, rebel gains in the western mountains opened up new ammunition stores.
    On a recent day, 43 emptied wooden crates had been left behind on the sand inside the entrance to an ammunition depot captured last month from Gaddafi's forces after repeated NATO bombings. The stenciled markings showed each crate had contained a pair of lightweight missiles called SA-7s.
    Gaddafi is thought to have acquired as many as 20,000 of these missiles in arms deals with the former Eastern bloc.
    Andrew J. Shapiro, assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs, described the unsecured missiles in Libya as "one of the things that keep me up at night."

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Report: Three Countries Interested in Israel's Iron Dome Anti-Missile System (Globes)
    Israel Defense reports that the U.S. and two Asian countries are interested in procuring Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile defense system, which proved its operational capability earlier this year.
    An Israeli defense source said the U.S. "now realizes that there has been a technological achievement that provides a response to a huge problem of theirs."
    One of Iron Dome's most important successes is its radar system which can distinguish between threats to a populated area and incoming rockets that will hit open ground, avoiding firing interceptors unnecessarily, and preventing the enemy from saturating defenses.

What Killed Yasser Arafat? - Yossi Melman (Ha'aretz)
    According to the assessment of an Israeli source knowledgeable about the issue, Arafat died of leukemia that had worsened due to an error in judgment or even negligence on the part of the attending doctors.

IDF "Super-Reservist" Honored - Hanan Greenberg (Ynet News)
    After serving in the IDF for 58 years, both as a regular soldier and as a reservist, Brig.-Gen. Motti Katz has been honored by the army with a lifetime achievement award.
    Katz, 77, continues to serve as an active reservist and is tasked with producing scenarios to surprise Israel's military intelligence.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Moves Nuclear Enrichment Program to Underground Bunker - Damien McElroy
    Installation of centrifuge and other manufacturing equipment was at a preparatory stage at Fordow, a facility deep inside a mountain near Qom, Iran, intelligence reports said. Tehran disclosed the existence of Fordow, which is designed to withstand air and missile strikes, after Western intelligence detected the covert nuclear plant. The International Atomic Energy Agency has expressed concern over continuing access to the facility at Fordow.
        Leading experts believe the shift to the mountain facility would increase the danger of Iran successfully launching a final push to make a bomb. "We see Iran moving in the direction of becoming a nuclear weapons-capable state," said Olli Heinonen, a former head of UN nuclear inspections. British Foreign Secretary William Hague wrote this week that Iran would need less than three months to turn the enriched uranium into weapons-grade material at Fordow.
        An IAEA report in May said new intelligence indicated Iran was involved in studies on uranium conversion, high explosives testing and the adaptation of a ballistic missile cone that would only be useful to the production of a nuclear warhead. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Syrian Protests Spread, But Regime Holds Firm - Liz Sly
    As the Syrian uprising enters its fifth month, activists and human rights groups say they are detecting a new momentum, with demonstrations now taking place on a near-daily basis around the country. There were also demonstrations in several suburbs of Damascus. Dozens have been detained in recent days, human rights groups say, including around 30 actors, journalists and writers who staged what amounted to a celebrity demonstration in the central Damascus neighborhood of Midan on Wednesday. (Washington Post)
  • Arab League Backs Palestinian Statehood Plan - Tobias Buck
    The Arab League has given formal backing for an ambitious bid by the Palestinians for statehood at the UN. Nabil al-Arabi, Arab League secretary-general, said on Thursday that the group had agreed to "submit a call to the member states of the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state." The league, he added, would press both the UN Security Council and the General Assembly to support "full membership of a Palestinian state" at the UN.
        Palestinian officials were particularly angered by the U.S. position at a meeting this week of the Middle East Quartet, which brings together the U.S., UN, EU and Russia. According to several officials, the U.S. tabled a draft statement that called, among other things, on Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and to accept significant revisions to the pre-1967 "green line."  (Financial Times-UK)
        See also U.S. Rejects Arab League Support for PA Statehood Bid - K. Abu Toameh, T. Lazaroff, and H. L. Krieger
    An Arab League decision to ask the UN to recognize a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines would not serve the peace process, the U.S. said on Thursday. "We've been clear in our conviction that unilateral approaches to try to seek statehood via the United Nations will not lead to a comprehensive settlement," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told the Jerusalem Post in a statement. "That will only come via the hard give and take of negotiations and mutual agreement."  (Jerusalem Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Former Palestinian Terrorists Predict Reaction to September UN Vote But No Intifada - Avi Issacharoff
    On Wednesday in Nablus, the largest city in the West Bank, several leading formerly wanted men from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade spoke to Ha'aretz about the amnesty they received from Israel and about September's Palestinian bid for recognition of an independent state at the UN. They were the ones who led the fighting against Israel between 2000 and 2008, but said they wouldn't join in if a third intifada broke out. Under the amnesty, nearly 400 former terrorists turned in their weapons and agreed to refrain from terrorist activity.
        L., who evaded the Israeli army for years, later joined the PA general intelligence service. He said, "The Palestinian Authority wants to calm the situation and is doing so. We're living at a time when people are less interested in the homeland and more in their salaries." "The second intifada took us 20 years backwards - the deaths, the siege on the cities - so in my opinion there won't be a third intifada. But a reaction following September will definitely come. The young people will take to the streets."  (Ha'aretz)
  • In Syria, Alawite Minority's Days in Power Numbered, Analysts Say - Amos Harel
    Israeli defense officials said in a recent analysis it's just a matter of time before the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad falls. Over the past three months, more than 2,000 soldiers have deserted the Syrian army, which has been showing major signs of fatigue. Israeli defense analysts stress the increase in the demonstrations' size and the protesters' greater willingness to risk their lives. The protests could lead to a more direct confrontation between the Sunni Muslim majority and Assad's Alawite minority, and the disintegration of the army. (Ha'aretz)
  • Six Rockets Hit Israel - Shmulik Hadad
    Six Kassam rockets fired from Gaza on Thursday exploded in open areas in southern Israel. Following the rocket attacks, Israeli aircraft struck several Hamas targets in Gaza. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • White House Admits War with Iran - Editorial
    The U.S. is engaged in a deadly proxy war with Iran. Two senior Obama administration defense officials have addressed the open secret of Iran's active support for insurgent groups fighting U.S. troops overseas. During a visit to Iraq, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta strongly denounced Iranian support for increasingly violent Shiite militia groups in that country. "We are very concerned about Iran and the weapons they are providing to extremists here in Iraq," he said. "We're seeing more of those weapons going in from Iran, and they've really hurt us." "We cannot sit back and simply allow this to continue to happen....This is not something we're going to walk away from. It's something we're going to take on head-on."
        Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Pentagon Press Association, "Iran is very directly supporting extremist Shiite groups, which are killing our troops. There is no question they are shipping high-tech weapons in there...that are killing our people. And the forensics prove that." Iran has been directly or indirectly responsible for more U.S. combat deaths than any other country since the end of the Vietnam War.
        There is nothing improvised about the explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) that Iran has been supplying to militant groups. These sophisticated weapons are powerful enough to defeat the heaviest U.S. armored vehicles. A 2006 classified intelligence report leaked in the New York Times asserted, "All source reporting since 2004 indicates that Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Corps-Quds Force is providing professionally-built EFPs and components to Iraqi Shia militants."
        The latest State Department report on Iranian support for international terrorism states, "Iran's Quds Force provided training to the Taliban in Afghanistan on small unit tactics, small arms, explosives and indirect fire weapons. Since at least 2006, Iran has arranged arms shipments to select Taliban members, including small arms and associated ammunition, rocket-propelled grenades, mortar rounds, 107 mm rockets and plastic explosives."  (Washington Times)
  • Iran's Most Dangerous General - Ali Alfoneh
    On May 18, the U.S. imposed sanctions against Maj.-Gen. Qassem Suleimani, chief of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), who is identified as "the conduit for Iranian material support" to the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate. Suleimani is an accomplished tactical leader, but not an adept strategist. Suleimani's strategic deficiencies not only affected military operations, but also earned him powerful enemies in the politics of the IRGC in the past. The writer is a resident fellow at AEI. (American Enterprise Institute)

  • Palestinians

  • Palestinians' Gambit for UN Recognition Wobbles - Joshua Mitnick
    Palestinians are trying to get the UN to recognize Palestine as an independent state - and, ideally, welcome it as a new UN member. But now, with the potential vote just two months away and the paperwork due this month, PA officials appear to be getting cold feet. The U.S. has vowed to veto the move, all but guaranteeing that Palestinians would be denied full UN membership.
        While the UN could instead make a symbolic declaration or upgrade the PA's observer status, officials are increasingly worried that a toothless measure could prompt popular frustration and anger that would weaken the PA and strengthen hard-liners like Hamas. "The Palestinian leadership has been promising or expecting to deliver in September. When it fails, it will undermine its public standing and strengthen the standing of the opposition," says Palestinian government spokesman Ghassan Khatib.
        Israel views the UN campaign as a unilateral move that violates past peace treaties between the Palestinians and Israel. Israeli and Palestinian security forces are concerned about mass protests pegged to the UN move and inspired by the spirit of popular demonstration spreading through the region.
        President Obama and U.S. lawmakers, seeking to protect Israel and viewing the UN move as a challenge to its leadership on the peace process, have strongly opposed the statehood bid. On June 29, the U.S. Senate passed a unanimous resolution urging Palestinian leaders to "cease all efforts at circumventing the negotiation process," specifically calling out the UN campaign. If the PA fails to cease such efforts, the resolution warned, Congress could place restrictions on the roughly half-billion dollars in annual aid it sends to the PA.
        Palestinian analyst Hani al-Masri believes that Abbas' aides are looking for an exit strategy. "They are afraid of stopping aid from the U.S. They are afraid of Palestinian protests," he says. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Washington's Former Ambassador to UN Says Palestinian Campaign for Recognition Means Little
    A Palestinian attempt to gain UN recognition without a peace agreement with Israel means "next to nothing" even if it succeeds, former U.S. ambassador to the UN John Bolton said Friday. He said the General Assembly is certain to support the current Palestinian effort to win backing for a unilateral declaration of a state in September. But he said it will be meaningless without approval in the Security Council, where it almost certainly faces a U.S. veto.
        Visiting Israel on Friday, Bolton said Israel and the U.S. should not "take it so seriously....You don't want to invest authority and legitimacy in something that doesn't have authority and legitimacy."  (AP-Washington Post)

  • Arab World

  • For America, An Arab Winter - Aaron David Miller
    During most of the time it has been engaged with the Arab world, the U.S. has dealt either with acquiescent authoritarians who were its allies (in Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia) or with adversarial authoritarians (in Syria and Libya). A great part of this has now come undone. With some exceptions, most notably Saudi Arabia, every major U.S. ally or adversary in the Arab world has faced disruptive change.
        The growing influence of Arab public opinion on the actions of Arab governments and the absence of strong leaders will make it much tougher for the U.S. to pursue its traditional policies. For America, the Arab Spring may well prove to be more an Arab Winter. The historic changes loosed this year throughout the Arab world represented a legitimate and authentic response by the Arabs to the need to reshape their own societies. Even if the U.S. had desired a stronger role, it would have only made matters worse by intervening.
        In May, as part of his Arab Spring speech - largely in an effort to demonstrate that he was still committed to a solution and to persuade key European countries not to support the Palestinian UN recognition initiative - Obama laid out a U.S. position on borders based on those in place before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war with mutually agreed land swaps. The speech sparked an intensely negative reaction from the Israelis, and not much of a positive one from the Palestinians, and reflected the reality that the administration really didn't have the strategy, capacity, or opportunity to translate any of its ideas into serious negotiations, let alone an agreement. (Wilson Quarterly)
  • In Syria: A Strange Political Beast - Amir Taheri
    The present system in Syria cannot be reformed because it lacks any mechanism for reform. Syria is a one-party state with the Baath holding a monopoly on power. However, in reality, the Baath is an empty shell. Because it has systematically destroyed all institutions and historic, social and cultural interfaces between power and people, the Assad regime has left the country without a mechanism for change. There are no tribal leaders, religious and/or intellectual elites, or political party or even military personalities with enough moral authority to mediate between a wounded populace and a frightened power. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
  • Insecure in Egypt - David Schenker
    Five months after the revolution that ended the 30-year tenure of Hosni Mubarak, large protests have become routine if not habitual in Egypt. Lately, the demonstrations have largely focused on demands to prosecute former regime officials more quickly and provide financial compensation to families of those killed during the revolution.
        While it might be tempting for Washington and the international community to shovel more financial assistance at post-revolution Egypt, further cash infusions will do little to improve the state's long-term outlook. Absent physical security, the prospects for sustained economic growth are bleak. Egypt's police forces have been significantly degraded. It's estimated that only 30% of the once ubiquitous black-uniformed officers remain on the job.
        At the same time, the atmosphere of political and security uncertainty has considerably slowed foreign direct investment, leading to a -4.2% growth rate this quarter, the first negative period in nearly a decade. The combination of economic stress, a diminished security apparatus, and the flight of criminals from state jails during the revolution has, not surprisingly, resulted in a rising crime rate. The writer is director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Weekly Standard)
        See also Egypt Purges Mubarak-Era Police Officers - David D. Kirkpatrick
    Egypt's transitional military government announced the early retirement of more than 600 senior police officers on Wednesday in an effort to mollify thousands of protesters at a six-day-old protest in Cairo's Tahrir Square. The Interior Ministry said 18 police generals and 9 other senior officers were forced into early retirement because they were accused of killing protesters during the 18-day uprising. 54 lower-ranking officers were shifted to jobs where they would no longer interact with civilians. (New York Times)
  • Hanging with the Muslim Brotherhood - Michael J. Totten
    I just met with a high-ranking member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo while large ongoing demonstrations against Egypt's ruling military junta continue 24 hours a day in Tahrir Square. Every political party in the country is at that square except the Muslim Brotherhood. The range of political opinion right now in Egypt is much wider than it was before. It's politically unrecognizable as the Egypt I knew.
        The Muslim Brotherhood was the largest and best organized opposition group during Hosni Mubarak's rule, but that was partly a function of it being the only sizeable organization that was semi-tolerated by the regime. Now there are roughly 40 different political parties. The Muslim Brotherhood isn't the only available "protest vote" any more. And the Brotherhood itself is rupturing into relatively moderate and reactionary fragments. The Brothers will no doubt have an impact on regional politics even if they do end up, at the end of the day, smaller (and therefore with a harder core) than they recently were.
        The interview here with Muslim Brotherhood executive bureau member Esam El-Erian speaks for itself. (Pajamas Media)
  • Great Darkness in Egypt - Eldad Beck
    Recent months have seen a significant escalation in violent clashes between radical Islamists and members of the Copt minority across Egypt. Maha, an Egyptian merchant in her 40s and a Christian Copt, has no doubt as to who stands behind the growing violence against Copts - the Salafiyun, the ultra-conservative Islamic camp.
        "They hate everyone," said Maha. "They also hate Muslims who are not like them, but they mostly hate us, Christians. One of their leaders said during a TV show that he dreams of waking up one day and discovering that Egypt is free of Christians....We were in this country hundreds of years before Islam and the Arabs arrived." According to official figures, some eight million Copts live in Egypt, comprising 10% of the population. The Copt Church claims the community numbers 13 million.
        "At first we thought that the revolution would put Egypt on the right path," said Maher, who immigrated to Canada and returned to visit his family. "We believed that the many minorities in the country would be able to live freely in a new society, yet today we no longer believe it. The Islamists are reckless and are taking over the country. It's only a matter of time before they impose Islamic law here."  (Ynet News)

  • Other Issues

  • Can Israel Be a "Jewish State?" - Elliott Abrams
    The Palestinians refuse to acknowledge Israel as a "Jewish state." Their argument is that if Israel is a "Jewish state," it will necessarily discriminate against non-Jews. The problem with this debating point is that those who use it apply it only to Israel; none ever voices any concern about states based on Islam and discriminating in favor of Muslims.
        There are four states whose very name contains a religious reference: the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. But beyond those, in every Muslim-majority country the constitution asserts a special role for Islam. The Jordanian constitution says, "Islam is the religion of the State" and "No person shall ascend the Throne unless he is a Muslim…of Muslim parents." The religion of the state is Islam in Oman, Qatar, and Kuwait.
        Muslim states are not alone in their religious ties. The constitution of Denmark states that "The Evangelical Lutheran Church shall be the Established Church of Denmark, and, as such, it shall be supported by the State," and "The King shall be a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church." Same for Norway. So the usual arguments against the acknowledgement of Israel as a Jewish state are hypocritical and specious. Every Arab state is far more Islamic than the "Jewish state" of Israel is Jewish.
        When Arab political leaders say they will never acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state, it is a reminder of their continuing refusal to make peace with the very idea that the Jews can have a state in what they view as the Dar al-Islam ("abode of Islam"). (Council on Foreign Relations)

Palestinians Cannot Accept Less than 100 Percent - Khaled Abu Toameh (Hudson Institute-New York)

  • The Palestinians are divided today into two camps - one that is radical and another that is less radical. The radical camp, headed by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, says: We want 100% of everything and we will not make any concessions to Israel. We want all the land. We want to replace Israel with an Islamic state. There is no point in talking about the possibility of negotiating with this radical camp about peace, especially as its declared goal is to eliminate Israel - not make peace with it.
  • The less radical camp, headed by the PLO, says it wants 100% of the pre-1967 lines - meaning the entire West Bank, Gaza, and east Jerusalem. The "moderate" camp is also saying that it will not and cannot make any concessions to Israel on its territorial demands. They say they are ready to return to the negotiating table, but only if Israel agrees in advance to give them 100% of their demands.
  • Yet even if Israel does accept all their demands, neither camp is willing to commit to ending the conflict. Further, no "moderate" Palestinian leader would dare sign such a document out of fear of being denounced by his people - and the rest of the Arab and Islamic countries - for having "sold out" to Israel by giving up the claim to all of the land.
  • The Palestinian Authority today is hoping that the international community will give the Palestinians what Israel is not giving it at the negotiating table. The goal of the PA leadership is to internationalize the conflict with the hope of imposing a solution on Israel. This is why it has decided to go to the UN in September with a request to recognize a Palestinian state along the pre-1967 lines.
  • But the Palestinians will only get a state on paper. The only way to achieve a state is through negotiations with Israel, whether the Palestinians like Israel or not.
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