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November 14, 2011

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Blast at Iran Revolutionary Guard Base Kills 17 - Kay Armin Serjoie and Thomas Erdbrink (Washington Post)
    An explosion at a Revolutionary Guard Corps weapons depot near Tehran killed 17 soldiers Saturday, Iranian state TV reported. The base is a storage facility for rockets.
    Among the dead was Revolutionary Guards commander Hassan Tehrani Moqadam, a rocket expert and specialist in long-range missile research.
    The blast followed a sharp increase in recent years in explosions at industrial sites, key gas pipelines and Revolutionary Guard bases, which some in Iran attribute to sabotage by the U.S.
    See also Report: Israel Behind Deadly Explosion at Iran Missile Base - Karl Vick (TIME)
    A Western intelligence source insists that Israel was behind Saturday's massive blast that devastated a missile base just outside Tehran.
    "Don't believe the Iranians that it was an accident," the official tells TIME, adding that other sabotage is being planned to impede the Iranian ability to develop and deliver a nuclear weapon. "There are more bullets in the magazine," the official says.
    See also Israel Expert: Iran Explosion Probably Ammunition - Aaron Lerner (Israel TV-IMRA)
    Uzi Rubin, the former head of Israel's Arrow missile-defense program, told Israeli television Sunday that the explosion at an Iran military base was probably ammunition.
    Rubin explained that Iran's missiles do not use solid-based fuel and thus, in storage, "are like a bunch of metal (tubes)" and would not explode in the way that was observed.

Russian Scientist's Aid to Iran Offers Peek at Nuclear Program - Joby Warrick (Washington Post)
    When the Cold War ended in 1991, Vyacheslav Danilenko, 57, was a Soviet weapons scientist with three decades of experience inside a top-secret nuclear facility and one marketable skill: the ability to make objects blow up with nanosecond precision.
    A report last week by the International Atomic Energy Agency highlighted the role of a "foreign expert" - identified by Western diplomats as Danilenko - in Iran's efforts to gain expertise in disciplines essential to building a nuclear warhead.
    Foreign scientists such as Danilenko enabled Iran to leapfrog over technical hurdles that otherwise could have taken years to overcome, according to UN officials, Western diplomats and weapons experts.

Google to Set Up Startup Incubator in Israel - Roy Goldenberg (Globes)
    Google Inc. plans to open an incubator in Israel in August 2012 that will initially host about 20 pre-seed stage start-ups, Google Israel R&D Center director Prof. Yossi Matias said Sunday.
    "The Israeli developers community is innovative and sizzling. It has great potential. This project evolved from a desire to provide suitable support when it is most effective," Matias said.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel: Iran Closer to Atom Bomb than IAEA Report Indicates
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday the full extent of Iran's nuclear program was not reflected in a recent UN report, which said that Tehran appeared to have worked on designing an atomic bomb. "Iran is closer to getting an (atomic) bomb than is thought," Netanyahu said in remarks to cabinet ministers, quoted by an official from his office. "Only things that could be proven were written (in the UN report), but in reality there are many other things that we see." At the start of the meeting, Netanyahu repeated his call for the world "to stop Iran's race to arm itself with a nuclear weapon before it is too late."  (Reuters)
  • UN Vote on Palestinian State Put Off Amid Lack of Support - Chris McGreal
    The UN Security Council on Friday put off a decision on admitting Palestine as a state while the Palestinian leadership considers whether to press for a vote it is all but certain to lose. The Palestinians appear able to muster only eight of the nine votes they need to win approval after France joined Britain in saying it would abstain. The U.S. pledged to veto recognition of a state. Colombia, Portugal, Bosnia and Germany are also not expected to support the Palestinian application. (Guardian-UK)
  • Arab League Votes to Suspend Syria over Crackdown - Neil MacFarquhar
    The Arab League moved to suspend Syria's membership on Saturday, accusing the government of President Bashar al-Assad of defying an agreement to stop the violent repression of demonstrators, and it threatened economic and political sanctions if he did not comply. Throughout the meeting, the Syrian ambassador, Youssef Ahmed, kept shouting that the move was illegal because such a decision had to be unanimous, while 18 of the league's 22 members supported the action. (New York Times)
        See also Assad Supporters Storm Embassies in Protest of Arab League Ban on Syria
    Crowds armed with sticks and knives attacked the Saudi Arabian embassy in Damascus and French and Turkish consulates in the city of Latakia on Saturday after the Arab League suspended Syria, residents said. The Saudi Foreign Ministry said Syrian security forces "did not take measures to stop them ransacking the embassy."  (Reuters-Ha'aretz)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Report: Egypt Detains Islamist Leader in Sinai Accused of Eilat Attacks
    Egyptian authorities in El-Arish on Sunday detained Muhammad Eid Musleh Hamad, a militant Islamist leader in Sinai accused of planning the deadly attacks on the Israeli border near Eilat on August 18 which killed eight Israelis. Security sources say he masterminded attacks on police stations and has topped a government "wanted" list.
        Egyptian authorities said Hamad is a leader of the "Jihadists and Takfiris" movement, founded after the ouster of Mubarak. The movement follows al-Qaeda intellectually and demands an end to any military or foreign presence in Sinai. (Maan News-PA)
        See also Egypt Arrests 16 over Attacks on Gas Pipeline to Israel
    The head of Egyptian security in North Sinai, Saleh al-Masri, told DPA that on Sunday security forces arrested 16 suspects in connection with recurrent attacks on a pipeline for the supply of gas to Israel and Jordan. (DPA-Ha'aretz)
  • Quartet Talks Unlikely to Jump-Start Negotiations - Tovah Lazaroff and Khaled Abu Toameh
    In Ramallah on Sunday, PA President Mahmoud Abbas told U.S. envoy David Hale that the Palestinians would not hold direct talks with Israel unless it froze West Bank settlement activity and stopped construction in east Jerusalem Jewish neighborhoods. In addition, Abbas said, Israel must accept the pre-1967 lines as the basis for a two-state solution.
        "The fundamental reason for a current impasse in the peace process is the decision taken by the Palestinians to refuse to engage, to refuse to negotiate," said an Israeli official on Sunday. "They have been piling on preconditions that were never placed on the negotiations before [such as a construction freeze]....Piling on preconditions that prevent the resumption of talks is in no way beneficial to the cause of peace....It is high time that the Palestinians heed the Quartet's call and agree to the resumption of peace talks without preconditions....For the time being the Palestinian leadership is wasting everyone's time and doing their own people a disservice."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • On Israel-Egypt Border, Best Defense Is a Good Fence - Amos Harel
    A vast project to put a high-tech fence between Egypt and Israel is being carried out with surprising speed. The fence is five meters high - twice the height of the separation fence in the territories and of the fences on Israel's other borders. This year it consumed 15% percent of the country's annual steel consumption. The fence is going up at a rate of 800 meters a day. By the end of next January, the first 100 km. of the 240 km. fence will be in place.
        The effects of investment in fencing can be seen best along the border with Syria in the Golan Heights. After Palestinian and Syrian demonstrators managed to infiltrate the border during Nakba Day rioting, the Defense Ministry repaired the fence at a cost of NIS 50 million. Since then, "demonstrators have come from Syria, seen that the fence is impassable, and gone back," says the deputy director general of the Defense Ministry, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Bezalel Treiber. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Iran Signals Its Readiness for a Final Confrontation - Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
    Since the publication of the November 2011 IAEA report, which explicitly spotlights Iran's plans to build nuclear weapons, senior figures of the Iranian regime and the state-run media have begun to use threatening and defiant language toward Israel and the U.S. From Iran's standpoint, an ongoing, head-on confrontation with the U.S. and Israel would serve its purposes in the region and build its image as a key actor that stands firm against the West and provides an alternative agenda to reshape the Middle East. Hence, compromise has almost ceased to be an option for Iran. Iran, as its president said, is preparing for the "final confrontation." Are we? (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • The Muslim Brotherhood Spring - Mshari Zaydi
    Today, those who supported the Egyptian revolution are in a state of shock with regards to the domination of the political arena by religious parties and currents. This is something that has expanded beyond the Egyptian scene. Indeed, what we are seeing is a political Islamist tsunami occupying the scene in Libya, while in Tunisia, the [Islamist] al-Nahda party is in political ascendency. Many Arab writers have expressed their confusion about the presence and popularity of these radical Islamists who are overwhelming the political scene, and are asking: where did the Facebook youth go?
        What guarantee do we have that these religious fundamentalists will relinquish power once their failure is revealed, particularly as all the elements of power will be in their hands? Did this work out in Iran which has been ruled by Khomeneist disciples for over three decades? How should we deal with this critical period which should be called the Muslim Brotherhood Spring, not the Arab Spring? The writer is a Saudi journalist and expert on Islamic movements and Islamic fundamentalism. (Al-Arabiya-Dubai)
  • Arab Spring, American Winter - Aaron David Miller
    The Arab autocrats have gone or are going. What remains in the Middle East are Arab states without strong and authoritative leaders and caught up in lengthy, messy transitions, monarchies trying to co-opt and preempt transformational change (Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Jordan); and nonstate actors still at war with themselves (Hizbullah and the Palestinians). For the most part, the Arab authoritarians guaranteed a relatively stable and predictable region in which U.S. interests thrived. But Washington may now find itself in the strange position of getting neither democracy nor stability. (Los Angeles Times)

Blaming the Victim - Melanie Phillips (Daily Mail-UK)

  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is routinely scapegoated for causing the breakdown of the so-called peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. This charge is based on the widespread fallacy that the peace process has stalled because Israel keeps building more Jewish "settlements" on "Palestinian land."
  • The actual reason for the collapse of the peace process is that Mahmoud Abbas repeatedly maintains that he will never accept that Israel is entitled to be a Jewish state, hails Palestinian terrorists as heroes for murdering Israelis and does nothing to end the incitement to murder Jews disseminated in schools, mosques and media under his control.
  • The Palestinians not only failed to deliver what was expected of them under the Roadmap, but now, with their UN gambit, have unilaterally reneged on their previous treaty obligations. Yet Abbas is given a free pass.
  • The "settlements" take up no more than one or two percent of West Bank territory. Even when Netanyahu froze such new building for ten months as a sign of good will, Abbas still refused to negotiate.
  • Under international law, Jews are entitled to settle anywhere in the West Bank. There is no such thing as "Palestinian land" and never was. The West Bank and Gaza never belonged to any sovereign ruler after the British withdrew from Mandatory Palestine; before that, it was part of the Ottoman empire. Israel's "borders" are in fact merely the cease-fire lines from its victory in 1948 against the Arab armies that tried unsuccessfully to exterminate it at birth.

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