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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
November 9, 2011

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In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian Bid for UN Membership Faces Near-Certain Defeat - Neil MacFarquhar (New York Times)
    The Palestinian bid to become a full member of the UN headed toward certain failure on Tuesday after the Security Council's membership committee deadlocked on the issue.
    It has become increasingly apparent that there are not sufficient votes to get a resolution passed, and it may not even come to a vote.
    See also Palestinian Foreign Minister Admits Not Enough Support in UN Security Council for State (AP-Washington Post)

Jordan Tries Rapprochement with Hamas - Jonathan Schanzer (Weekly Standard)
    Last week, Jordan's new prime minister Awn Khasawneh announced that Jordan's 1999 decision to deport leaders of the Palestinian jihadist group Hamas was a mistake.
    Some reports even indicate that Hamas would like to transfer its headquarters back to Amman, particularly since the unrest in Syria has made it harder for the group to operate there.
    Khasawneh's rapprochement with Hamas is an attempt to woo the Islamic Action Front, Jordan's arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, into a government coalition.
    Khasawneh understands that appeasing the Islamist group, whose appeal has grown in recent months, may help preserve the Hashemite Kingdom.
    Last month, King Abdullah promised (yet again) that Jordan would move toward a more representative parliament. If and when Jordan becomes truly representative, the rise of Islamist forces is a foregone conclusion.
    The writer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, is vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Syria Ignores Arab League Peace Initiative - Simon Tisdall (Guardian-UK)
    The Syrian regime has refused even to pretend to implement last week's Arab League peace "road map" as Syrian security forces continue their daily slaughter of pro-democracy protesters.
    The apparent impotence of Arab League mediation is deeply damaging to the health of an organization that was never particularly robust.

U.S. Senator Denounces Protest at Israeli Consulate in Boston - Matt Rocheleau (Boston Globe)
    Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) on Sunday denounced Friday's sit-in protest at the Israeli consulate in Boston.
    "This group of protesters has a poisonous message which needs to be loudly refuted," said Brown. "Israel is a friend and ally to the United States."
    "There should be no mistaking which side America is on in the fight against terror, and I want to make it clear that I stand with Israel."

Saudi King Appoints Brother as Defense Minister - Angus McDowall (Reuters)
    Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah named former Riyadh governor Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, 76, as the new defense minister Saturday.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • UN Report Cites Secret Nuclear Research by Iran - Joby Warrick
    The UN nuclear watchdog said Tuesday that it has "serious concerns" that Iran is secretly working toward building a nuclear bomb, citing documents pointing to Iranian scientists' extensive and possibly ongoing efforts to master the technology needed for atomic weapons. "Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear device," the IAEA said.
        The agency's new report included a 14-page annex describing in minute detail how Iranian scientists pursued highly specific information, skills and materials used in nuclear warhead design. The evidence laid out in the report "is pretty overwhelming," said David Albright, a former UN nuclear inspector. (Washington Post)
        See also Iran Has Technical Means to Make Nuclear Bomb, IAEA Says - Ken Dilanian
    UN nuclear inspectors have concluded that Iran has acquired the technical means to design a nuclear weapon and would require about six months to enrich uranium to the quality needed for a bomb. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Text: IAEA Report on Iran's Nuclear Program (IAEA-New York Times)
  • UN Report May Complicate Denials by Iran - Robert F. Worth
    Some analysts said the new UN report on Iranian nuclear ambitions could complicate efforts by Iran to defend its nuclear program as peaceful. The weight of evidence in the new report might even alter the calculus of Russia and China, who have for years been Iran's chief defenders. "China and Russia may be more reluctant now to vouch for Iran's peaceful intentions," said Karim Sadjadpour, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Ultimately, "for those who are cynical about Iranian intentions, any amount of proof is sufficient, and for those who are cynical about U.S. intentions, no amount of proof is enough."  (New York Times)
        See also Iran Looks to Russia and China to Block Western Bids to Tighten Sanctions (AP-Washington Post)
  • Israeli Defense Minister: Speculation on Possible Iran Strike "Delusional" - Joel Greenberg
    Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak expressed skepticism Tuesday that the IAEA report on Iran's nuclear program would lead to effective international sanctions, but he stressed that Israel has "not yet" decided to take military action against Iran. At the same time, Barak played down the cost of such a strike, saying it would not have devastating consequences for Israel. In an interview on Israel Radio, Barak dismissed as "delusional" media speculation that Israel has decided to strike Iran's nuclear complexes.
        Barak dismissed concerns that military action could lead to heavy casualties in an Iranian counterstrike or in missile attacks by Hizbullah and Hamas. "Let's assume we get to war against our will," Barak said. "There's no real danger either to Israel's existence or to its ability to withstand [attacks]....There's no existential threat to Israel from the types of rockets and missiles held by Iran and Hizbullah."
        Barak said the conclusion to be drawn from the IAEA report is that "we apparently have a last chance for globally coordinated, lethal sanctions that will force Iran to stop" a drive for nuclear weapons. Those sanctions should include blocking international financial transactions by Iran's central bank and steps to halt imports of Iranian oil and exports of refined petroleum to Iran. But Barak added that he had "very great doubt" that such crippling sanctions would actually be put into practice. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • The UN Report: Iran Consistently Working to Produce Atomic Bomb - Yossi Melman
    While the findings of the International Atomic Energy Agency's report deal with technical details and are formulated in soft diplomatic jargon, they are unequivocal. Iran has systematically and consistently been working in the past decade to produce its first atomic bomb. The report describes the full chain of Iranian actions, carried out in the dark while trying to cover up, confuse and spread disinformation throughout the world. Iran has succeeded in purchasing the knowledge, technology and designs, and in carrying out the experiments that got it ever so close to producing a nuclear weapon. Iran has conducted experiments in miniaturizing a nuclear warhead on a Shihab missile.
        Unlike the IAEA's former Egyptian director general, Dr. Mohamed El Baradei, its new head, Yukiya Amano of Japan, wasn't intimidated by the pressure and threats of Iran, or of Russia and China, who tried until the last moment to prevent the publication of the report. Yet in spite of the smoking gun that's on the table for all to see, it seems that the only sanctions that could work will not be applied. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Completes 65 Km. of Egypt Border Fence - Yaakov Katz
    The Defense Ministry has completed the construction of 65 km. of fence along Israel's border with Egypt. An additional 40 km. will be erected by the end of 2011 and the 230 km. slated for closure will be completed by September 2012. The Defense Ministry is also planning to deploy sophisticated radar systems along the border that will alert IDF troops of potential infiltrations before an infiltrator actually reaches the fence. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Iran's Nuclear Program: "Credible" Evidence of "Continuing" Work on a Bomb - Simon Henderson
    The much-anticipated IAEA report on Iran has been released with a damning indictment. The report shows how close Iran has come to developing deliverable nuclear weapons. The IAEA report should serve to shift the public debate from whether Iran is developing a nuclear weapon, to how to stop it. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • How Will the West Respond to Tehran's Nuclear-Weapons Program? - Bret Stephens
    There's no scarcity of reliable information about Iran's nuclear programs. The only question is the Western will to do something meaningful to check them. The latest IAEA report should at least put to rest the intelligence debate about Iran's drive to build a bomb. What remains is the policy debate.
        The Obama administration came to office seeking a diplomatic grand bargain with Tehran, only to be rebuffed by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. It then tried sanctions, which came up short. A (bad) argument can be made that a nuclear Iran could be contained. But another round of diplomacy or sanctions guarantees failure, signals weakness, and emboldens the hardest of Iranian hardliners.
        Time is no longer on the West's side: Further temporizing means that Iran will get to make the choice for us. Any debate needs to weigh the inevitable unforeseen consequences of a military strike against the all-too-foreseeable consequences of a nuclear Iran, as well as a nuclear proliferation death spiral involving Saudi Arabia, Turkey and soon-to-be Islamist Egypt. If you thought the Cold War was scary, imagine four or five nuclear adversaries in the world's most unstable region. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Why Obama Should Highlight Iran's Human Rights Abuses - Sarah Morgan and Andrew Apostolou
    Washington will only neutralize Iran by exploiting the regime's main vulnerability: its false claim to legitimacy. The ayatollahs' hold on power is inherently unstable because they have no popular mandate. Since staging a rigged election in 2009 to keep Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power, they have relied on repression and brutality to silence opposition, jailing journalists, torturing detainees, and executing critics (both real and imagined). By highlighting these crimes on the world stage and actively supporting Iran's dissidents, the United States can place a new, more effective kind of pressure on Tehran and support the movement for democratic change from within.
        Iran has the highest per-capita execution rate in the world. Official Iranian media and human rights groups report 450 executions this year, many conducted in secret. Sarah Morgan is Senior Program Associate and Andrew Apostolou is Director for Iran at Freedom House. (Foreign Affairs)

Why Do Sarkozy and Obama Hate Netanyahu? - Jackson Diehl (Washington Post)

  • Benjamin Netanyahu seems to have been the target of some ugly - if off the record - barbs from President Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Speaking privately (they thought) in Cannes last week, Sarkozy said, "I cannot bear" Netanyahu, adding that he was "a liar." "You're fed up, but I have to deal with him every day," Obama responded.
  • But are their feelings justified? Since taking office, Netanyahu has been mostly responsive to the U.S. president's initiatives. Early on he announced his acceptance of Palestinian statehood, something he has never done; he responded to Obama's misguided demand for a freeze on Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem by imposing a ten-month moratorium.
  • Though Netanyahu has recently allowed new settlement construction, it mostly has been in neighborhoods that Palestinian leaders have already conceded will be part of Israel in a final settlement.
  • In other words, Netanyahu has been an occasionally difficult but ultimately cooperative partner. He can be accused of moving too slowly and offering too little, but not of failing to heed American initiatives.
  • And Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas? Abbas, it's fair to say, has gone from resisting U.S. and French diplomacy to actively seeking to undermine it.

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