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November 7, 2011

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Iran Marks Anniversary of U.S. Embassy Seizure with Chants of "Death to America" - Ramin Mostafavi (Reuters)
    Iran marked the anniversary of the 1979 seizure of the U.S. embassy on Friday with burning flags and chants of "Death to America."
    Thousands of students burned the Stars and Stripes, an effigy of Uncle Sam and pictures of President Barack Obama outside the Tehran compound that once housed the U.S. mission.
    The embassy was stormed on Nov. 4, 1979, after Iran's Islamic revolution toppled the U.S.-backed shah, and 52 Americans were held hostage there for 444 days. The two countries have been enemies ever since.

Iran Now Top Threat to U.S. Says Military Official - Phil Stewart (Reuters)
    Iran is the biggest threat to the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East, surpassing al Qaeda, a senior military official said on Friday.
    "The biggest threat to the United States and to our interests and to our friends, I might add, has come into focus and it's Iran," said the official.

Condoleezza Rice: It's Time to Confront the Iranian Regime - Christiane Amanpour (TIME)
    Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told ABC on Sunday:
    "I think it's time to confront the Iranian regime, because it's the poster child for state sponsorship of terrorism. It's trying to get a nuclear weapon. It's repressed its own people. The regime has absolutely no legitimacy left. We should be doing everything we can to bring it down and never take military force off the table."

Israeli Navy Intercepts Gaza-Bound Boats - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
    The Israeli Navy successfully boarded two boats attempting to break the blockade of Gaza on Friday after they failed to heed Israeli instructions to stop. The boats were brought to Ashdod Port, the IDF spokesman's office said.
    "Goods can be unloaded at Ashdod port and will be transferred into Gaza via the legal land crossings," an IDF spokesperson stated.
    See also Why the Gaza Security Blockade Is Legal (Israel Defense Forces)

UN Envoy to Libya: Much Already Missing from Unsecured Weapons Depots (AP-Washington Post)
    Some weapons depots in Libya have still not been secured properly, and "much has already gone missing" from unguarded sites, the top UN envoy in Libya, Ian Martin, said Sunday.
    Last week, Libyan officials said they discovered two new sites with chemical weapons that had not been declared by the Gaddafi regime. Officials also said they found about 7,000 drums of raw uranium.

Muslim Brotherhood Sells Cheap Food Ahead of Egypt Parliament Vote - Leila Fadel (Washington Post)
    Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood is selling discounted meat and vegetables to poor families for the Eid al-Adha festival, two weeks ahead of parliamentary elections. Critics call it vote buying.
    The Brotherhood's party also sold lower-priced school supplies before the school year started, and has set up mobile health clinics in areas without hospitals.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • IAEA Says Foreign Expertise Has Brought Iran to Threshold of Nuclear Capability - Joby Warrick
    Intelligence provided to UN nuclear officials shows that Iran's government has mastered the critical steps needed to build a nuclear weapon, receiving assistance from foreign scientists to overcome key technical hurdles, according to Western diplomats and nuclear experts briefed on the findings. Documents and other records provide new details on the role played by a former Soviet weapons scientist who allegedly tutored Iranians over several years on building high-precision detonators of the kind used to trigger a nuclear chain reaction. The records reinforce concerns that Iran continued to conduct weapons-related research after 2003 - when, U.S. intelligence agencies believe, Iranian leaders halted such experiments in response to international and domestic pressures.
        The new disclosures fill out the contours of an apparent secret research program that was more ambitious, more organized and more successful than commonly suspected. According to David Albright, a former IAEA official who has reviewed the intelligence files, one key breakthrough that has not been publicly described was Iran's success in obtaining design information for an R265 generator. The device is a hemispherical aluminum shell with an intricate array of high explosives that detonate with split-second precision. These charges compress a small sphere of enriched uranium or plutonium to trigger a nuclear chain reaction. (Washington Post)
        See also Behind Anti-Iran Rhetoric, Fears of Nuclear Gains - Joby Warrick
    A new spike in anti-Iran rhetoric and military threats by Western powers is being fueled by fears that Iran is edging closer to the nuclear "breakout" point, when it acquires all the skills and parts needed to quickly build an atomic bomb if it chooses to, Western diplomats and nuclear experts said Friday. A Western diplomat who has seen drafts of a UN report on Iran's nuclear activities to be released this week said it will elaborate on secret intelligence showing Iranian scientists struggling to overcome technical hurdles in designing and building nuclear warheads.
        Olli Heinonen, who retired last year as chief inspector for the IAEA, the UN's nuclear watchdog, said Iran's apparently successful deployment of advanced centrifuges in recent months could lead to a dramatic rise in the production of enriched uranium. (Washington Post)
        See also The Base Where Iran Is Developing Nuclear Weapons - Yossi Melman
    Iran is pursuing its nuclear weapons program at the Parchin military base about 30 kilometers from Tehran, diplomatic sources in Vienna say. (Ha'aretz)
  • U.S. Backs Away from Sanctions on Iran Central Bank - Paul Richter
    Despite weeks of tough warnings, the Obama administration has backed away from its calls to impose new and potentially crippling economic sanctions against Iran in retaliation for an alleged plot to kill Saudi Arabia's ambassador on U.S. soil, according to diplomats and American officials. U.S. officials have decided that a proposed move against Iran's central bank could disrupt international oil markets and further damage the American and world economies. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Enforcing Existing Sanctions on Iran's Central Bank - Avi Jorisch (Washington Times)
  • Some in Congress Balk at Arms Sale to Turkey - Craig Whitlock
    Reps. Shelley Berkely (D-Nev.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) have introduced a bill that seeks to block the Defense Department from selling three AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopters to Turkey. "We are deeply concerned by Turkey's increased saber rattling, its threats against Israel, its outlook toward the European Union, its occupation of Cyprus and its unrelenting blockade of Armenia," they said Friday. "The U.S. should be busy raising these very serious concerns with Turkey, rather than selling arms to them." The sale is probably only round one in a much bigger fight over selling Predator or Reaper drones to Turkey. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Expert: Iran's Shahab-3 Missile No Cause for Concern - Yoav Zitun
    Despite the Iranian Shahab-3 missile's precision, missile expert Uzi Rubin, who was on the team that developed the Arrow missile defense system, says, "A missile salvo from Iran will be intercepted in the air by Arrow missiles." In recent years, Israel has accelerated the development of the Arrow 3 missile defense system, designed to thwart long-range missiles. (Ynet News)
  • Israel Air Force Strikes Islamic Jihad Cell Preparing Rocket Attack - Yaakov Lappin
    The Israel Air Force struck a terrorist cell east of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza that was making final preparations for firing a rocket into Israel, an IDF spokeswoman said on Saturday. Israel Channel 10 TV said one Islamic Jihad member was killed and two were injured. Several hours later, another cell fired a rocket that exploded south of Ashkelon. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Police Arrest Arab Suspect in Jerusalem Stabbing - Oz Rosenberg
    Jerusalem police have arrested Zaid Abd al-Rahman, 20, from Beit Iksa, for the stabbing that took place in the Ramot neighborhood on Oct. 22. He admitted the charges against him. Police have determined that the attack was done for nationalist motives. (Ha'aretz)
  • After UNESCO Win, PA to Pursue Israel in International Forums - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Following its admission to UNESCO, the Palestinian Authority is planning to pursue Israel legally in international forums for allegedly stealing Palestinian antiquities and changing the Arab and Islamic character of holy sites in Jerusalem, said Hatem Abdel Qader, former PA minister for Jerusalem affairs. Abdel Qader also said the Palestinians were planning legal action against Israel for its intention to replace the temporary wooden Mughrabi Bridge at the southern entrance to the Temple Mount. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also The Mughrabi Gate to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem: The Urgent Need for a Permanent Access Bridge - Nadav Shragai (ICA-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • America's Deadly Dynamics with Iran - David E. Sanger
    To admit that Iran may ultimately get a weapon is to admit failure; both George W. Bush and Barack Obama vowed they would never let Iran achieve nuclear arms capability, much less a bomb. The wisdom of a containment strategy has taken a hit since the revelation of the plot to kill the Saudi ambassador. Even if it had been a rogue element within the Quds Force, what does that say about whether the Iranian leadership has as good a hand on the throttle of Iran's nuclear research program as Washington has long assumed?
        No one expects the UN's revelations about "possible military dimensions" of the nuclear program to prompt more action against Iran. Most governments have had access to this evidence for a while. Officials concede that the only economic step that could give the mullahs pause would be a ban on Iranian oil exports. With oil already hovering around $93 a barrel, no one in the administration is willing to risk a step that could send prices soaring.
        For all the talk about how "all options are on the table," Washington says a military strike isn't worth the risk of war; the Israelis say there may be no other choice. The Iranians are digging their plants deeper underground, and enriching uranium at purities that will make it easier to race for a bomb. When Barack Obama was sworn into office, they had enough fuel on hand to produce a single weapon; today, by the IAEA's own inventory, they have enough for at least four. (New York Times)
  • The Case Against the Cape Town Tribunal - Dan Diker
    The Russell Tribunal that convened this weekend in Cape Town is the latest collective mouthpiece for the "Israel as apartheid" canard. So-called human rights organizations which share the same agenda as the Russell Tribunal never speak of a Palestinian state living next to Israel as a Jewish state. Rather, they speak of one state, which means the dissolution of the nation state of the Jewish people. President Nelson Mandela publicly supported a secure Israel as a Jewish state next to a Palestinian sovereign state. The writer is Secretary-General of the World Jewish Congress. (Sunday Tribune-South Africa)
        See also The Russell Tribunal in South Africa: Another Effort to Destroy Israel - Elliott Abrams
    The Russell Tribunal is the heir to the "International War Crimes Tribunal" to which Bertrand Russell lent his name in 1966. The stated purpose then was "to investigate crimes committed in Vietnam" and the panel was financed in large part by the government of North Vietnam. The Russell Tribunal found the U.S. guilty of genocide while ignoring issues like North Vietnamese torture of prisoners. Similarly today, terrorism against Israel is of course not to be discussed.
        The Tribunal is part of the serious international effort to destroy the State of Israel by breaking its economic and political ties to other nations. It is a reminder that ideas - especially evil ideas - have consequences. The writer is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. (Weekly Standard)

Coping with Iran's Nuclear Capabilities - Ephraim Asculai (Strategic Assessment-Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)

  • Iran has the capability to enrich uranium to any degree it wishes. Taking all the available information into account, it appears that Iran currently has the potential to produce some four cores for nuclear explosive devices. This estimate does not take into account the possibility of the production of fissile materials in any concealed or undeclared facilities, or materials obtained from external sources.
  • There are strong indications, including in the IAEA reports, that Iran has been working on the explosive mechanism and on the delivery systems. These two steps take much less time to complete in comparison with the much more complicated enrichment stage.
  • It thus seems that all that is needed for Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons is a political decision to do so. The common wisdom is that it would take several months to produce the first weapon and a shorter period to produce each subsequent one.
  • Therefore, given what is known as of mid-2011, Iran can have 1-2 operational nuclear weapons within a year or so from the moment its leadership decides to make them. Coupled with its tested delivery systems, these weapons could reach all West Asian countries, southern Russia, and southeastern Europe.
  • The future is here. Israel should not rely on international responses to a de facto nuclear Iran. The world has reacted to but not countered Iran's developing nuclear project.

    The writer is a senior research associate at INSS.

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