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September 21, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Seen Behind Cyber Attacks on U.S. Banks - Robert Windrem and Jim Miklaszewski (NBC News)
    National security officials told NBC News that the continuing cyber attacks this week that slowed the websites of JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America are being carried out by the government of Iran.
    Senior U.S. officials acknowledge that Iranian attacks have been the subject of intense interest by U.S. intelligence for several weeks.
    Last week, the Joint Chiefs of Staff's Intelligence Directorate confirmed continuing Iranian cyber attacks against U.S. financial institutions in a report described as "highly classified."

Report: Accomplice in Terror Act in Bulgaria Arrested (Sofia News Agency-Bulgaria)
    Bulgarian border police have allegedly arrested the accomplice of the perpetrator of the terror act in the Bulgarian Black Sea city of Burgas, the Burgas-based website reported.
    The man, fluent in Bulgarian, admitted during interrogation that he was a member of a new Al-Qaeda branch.
    According to observers and terror experts, the most sustainable hypothesis is that the perpetrator of the bombing attack had been used as a mule.
    Israeli media write that the young man with light complexion and blue eyes had been blown up remotely and had been unaware that he was going to die. The bomb was placed in his backpack.

U.S. Buys Pakistani TV Time to Denounce Anti-Islam Film - John Eggerton (Broadcasting and Cable)
    The State Department confirmed that the U.S. government spent about $70,000 for ad time on TV in Pakistan to air a public service announcement from President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton disassociating the government from the movie trailer on YouTube that prompted Middle East demonstrations.

Unemployment Mounts as Iran's Economy Falters - Marcus George and Zahra Hosseinian (Reuters)
    A wealthy Iranian businessman laments the state of Iran's economy: "Business is drying up, industry is collapsing. There's zero investment. I know. I see it with my own eyes."
    Inflation is running at 25% officially, and could be double that, economists say, and hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs as trade embargoes have curbed export prospects and made it difficult to obtain raw materials.
    The rial currency has halved in value over the last 12 months.

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Hizbullah in Latin America: Terrorism and Organized Crime - Roman D. Ortiz (Realite-EU)
    On Sep. 8, officials from the National Migration Institute of Mexico, supported by the Yucatan state police, captured a U.S. citizen of Lebanese origin named Rafic Mohammed Lebboun, in the city of Merida. Along with Lebboun, Belize nationals George Abdalah Elders, Yasser Safa and another three members of his family were apprehended.
    Lebboun had been released from prison a few months ago after serving a two-year sentence for fraud. During the trial, the FBI accused Lebboun of being the central player in a Hizbullah financing network.
    U.S. intelligence has been monitoring the activities of one of the captured Belizeans, Yasser Safa, for some time due to increased suspicion that he was connected to Hizbullah.
    In October 2008, the cooperation network between Hizbullah and the Colombian drug traffickers gang known as the "Envigado Office" was uncovered. A significant part of the profits produced by this extensive drug trafficking scheme ended up in the pockets of Hizbullah through a series of money laundering activities.
    The writer is a professor at the Department of Economics at Universidad de Los Andes in Bogota, Colombia.

Palestinians Oppose Mutual Recognition of Identity Even After Peace Agreement (Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research)
    According to a joint Israeli-Palestinian poll conducted by the Truman Institute at Hebrew University and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah, 54% of Palestinians oppose mutual recognition of identity as part of a permanent status agreement and after all issues in the conflict are resolved and a Palestinian state is established, while 62% of the Israeli public supports such a mutual recognition.

Palestinian Poll: Conditions in Gaza Better than in West Bank - Khalil Shikaki (Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research)
    More Palestinians evaluate conditions in Gaza as better than in the West Bank, according to a Palestinian poll conducted on 13-15 September.
    Positive evaluations of conditions in Gaza rose from 22% to 25%, while 52% say conditions there are bad or very bad.
    Positive evaluation of conditions in the West Bank dropped significantly from 30% last June to 19% in this poll. Today, 60% say conditions in the West Bank are bad or very bad.
    79% say there is corruption in the PA institutions in the West Bank.
    42% of the Palestinian public say people in the West Bank can criticize the authority in the West Bank without fear. By contrast, 26% say people in Gaza can criticize the authorities without fear.
    42% of Gazans say they seek immigration to other countries, while in the West Bank, the figure is 29%.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Says It Gave False Nuclear Data to IAEA - Rick Gladstone and Christine Hauser
    Fereydoon Abbasi, who heads Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said in an article published Thursday in Al Hayat: "We presented false information sometimes in order to protect our nuclear position and our achievements, as there is no other choice but to mislead foreign intelligence....Sometimes we present a weakness that we do not in fact really have, and sometimes we appear to have power without having it."  (New York Times)
  • West Warns Iran Time Running Out for Nuclear Accord
    The U.S., Britain and France warned Iran on Thursday that time is running out for a negotiated settlement on its nuclear program. "Time is wasting," U.S. ambassador Susan Rice told a UN Security Council meeting on nuclear sanctions against Iran. Rice said the international powers cannot pursue their nuclear talks with Iran "indefinitely." "We will not engage in an endless process of negotiations that fail to produce any results," the U.S. envoy said. "Iran's approach remains to deny, to deceive and distract," she added. (AFP)
  • Syrian Warplane Bombs Petrol Station, Kills 30
    A Syrian warplane attacked a petrol station near Ain Issa in the northeast of the country, killing at least 30 people, opposition activists say. One activist group said 70 wounded people had been taken to hospital. AFP said the filling station was the only one still operating in the area and had been crowded at the time of the explosion. A barrel of explosives was dropped on the petrol station, opposition activists said, causing a huge explosion and fire. (BBC)
  • Armada of Naval Power Massing in the Persian Gulf - Sean Rayment
    An armada of U.S. and British naval power is massing in the Persian Gulf. On Saturday, warships from more than 25 countries, including the U.S., Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, began an annual 12-day exercise.
        The multi-national naval force in the Gulf includes three U.S. Nimitz-class carrier groups, each of which has more aircraft than the entire Iranian air force. The carriers are supported by at least 12 ships, including ballistic missile cruisers, frigates, destroyers, and assault ships carrying thousands of U.S. Marines and special forces.
        The British component consists of four British minesweepers and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary Cardigan Bay, a logistics vessel. HMS Diamond, a brand-new £1billion Type 45 destroyer will also be operating in the region. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also I'm Fifty Miles off the Coast of Iran on a U.S. Aircraft Carrier and It's Business as Usual - Robert Johnson (Business Insider)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel: PA's UN Statehood Bid Violates Oslo Process - Herb Keinon and Tovah Lazaroff
    The Prime Minister's Office warned Thursday that a Palestinian unilateral statehood bid at the UN, along with attempts to set the territorial boundaries of the conflict through a General Assembly resolution, would be a "mistake" and "a blow to the peace process." "The Palestinians committed themselves to resolving all outstanding issues in negotiations, and such a unilateral action would be viewed as a violation," said Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Netanyahu. (Jerusalem Post)
  • PLO: 18 Palestinians Killed in Damascus
    At least 18 Palestinians were killed Thursday and their bodies displayed publicly in Damascus, the PLO office in Yarmouk said, adding that the Syrian regime "committed a massacre." At least 10 Palestinians were killed in Yarmouk a day earlier, activists said. Rebels have been hiding out in Yarmouk in recent days as hundreds of soldiers searched the area on foot and on trucks mounted with heavy machine guns.
        An activist called Abu Salam told Reuters that two men and a young women were shot dead when soldiers saw them running out of a park on Thursday. Another five rebels found hiding in the area were executed, he said. Syrian state television said 100 people had been arrested in Yarmouk. (Maan News-PA)
  • Court Rejects Ban on Anti-Islam Film - Aviel Magnezi
    The Jerusalem District Court has rejected a request by Knesset Member Talab El-Sana and several Muslim clerics who demanded that Google bar Israeli web surfers from seeing the anti-Islam film that sparked riots worldwide. Judge Miriam Mizrahi decided that the court would await a response from Google before issuing a final ruling.
        The judge suggested that "for the time being, anyone who finds the film offensive should avoid watching it." "Anyone who doesn't search for the film, won't find it," she added. (Ynet News)
  • Israeli Economy Grew 3.2 Percent in 1st Half of 2012 - Avital Lahav
    The Central Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday updated its assessment of the Israeli economy's growth rate in the first half of 2012, from 3% to 3.2%. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Golan Heights War Games Are Israel's Warning to Iran - Efraim Halevy
    The Israel Defense Forces drill conducted on the Golan Heights on Sep. 19, the day after the Jewish High Holiday of Rosh Hashanah, has great importance and came at just the right time. For the first time, Israel has made it clear that its interests in the fate of Syria's internal battlefield are more than humanitarian in nature.
        The drill also showed that Israel is ready to face any scenario involving escalating Iranian provocation in the very midst of a neighboring country. This message has increased in importance in light of reports that the Syrians conducted drills in the use of chemical weapons in the presence of the Iranians. The writer is a former head of Israel's Mossad. (Al Monitor)
  • Iran Shows No Hesitation about Intervening in Syria - Editorial
    Some administration officials dismiss the Iranian effort to aid the Assad regime as futile support for a lost cause. But Iranian backing for the regime, matched against Western passivity, could keep Assad in power indefinitely. Even if the government in Damascus collapses, Iranian commanders and the militias they've trained will likely stay on to compete in a chaotic struggle for power. (Washington Post)
  • Israel and Iran - Jake Wallis Simons
    If the Holocaust has taught Jews anything, it is that if someone threatens to wipe you out, it is best to take them seriously. The Iranian regime has openly declared its genocidal intentions towards Israel, and is more or less openly pursuing malign nuclear ambitions. From the Israeli perspective, it is only from the luxury of personal safety that so many foreign states can be unsupportive.
        If Israel does strike Iran pre-emptively and successfully neutralizes the nuclear threat without sparking a disastrous chain of consequences, many observers may strike a condemnatory pose in public while feeling downright thankful in private. (Telegraph-UK)

  • Anti-U.S. Riots in Muslim Lands

  • A Raw Salafist Power Play - Michael J. Totten
    Something offensive to Muslims (along with something offensive to just about everyone else in the world) is posted on the Internet several times every second, yet massive international uprisings break out only periodically. What we saw last week was a raw play for political power by radical Salafists. By ginning up an anti-American mob and forcing President Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood member, to send riot police after the demonstrators to protect the American Embassy, the Salafists were able to make him look like a tool of the West. Salafist preachers ginned up a similar mob in Tunisia.
        Members of Congress are publicly questioning whether the Egyptian government deserves any more aid. This question is an excellent start. We certainly should make it clear to Morsi that we can make his job and his life a lot more difficult than the Salafists can. (Gatestone Institute)
  • West Should Not Apologize for Cartoons - Jonathan S. Tobin
    We don't agree with tasteless insults aimed at Islam. But the Muslim mobs and those that rationalize their actions have no standing to gripe about anybody else's behavior and must be bluntly told as much. Perhaps the man in the Arab street who riots when he hears or reads rumors about an insult to Islam being made somewhere doesn't understand the Western concept of freedom of speech. But the problem with the constant demands for Western apologies and prosecutions of critics of Islam is that the stream of regrets is strictly one way.
        Insulting Judaism and Christianity in the Arab world is part of these countries' mainstream discourse. Anti-Semitism is so deeply ingrained in the Muslim media that it is merely a matter of routine more than anything else. Western leaders should send a harsh message warning Arab and Muslim governments that we are aware that they don't have clean hands on this issue. It should be made plain that monitoring Western speech about Islam is not their concern. (Commentary)
  • The "Tele-Islamist" Who Made the Anti-Islam Film Famous - Nick Meo and Colin Freeman
    Sheikh Khalid Abdullah, the rabble-rousing Egyptian tele-Islamist, knew he had found a ratings-grabber when he found an obscure film on the Internet called the "Innocence of Muslims." It had been online since July, but nobody had paid attention until Abdullah's show broadcast clips, and called for the film-makers to be executed. Within hours the hardline Salafi Islamists who watch his program were demonstrating. As part of the Arab Spring, anti-Western Islamists who were viciously suppressed by dictators like Egypt's Hosni Mubarak are now exercising their freedom of speech. (Telegraph-UK)
  • It's Not About the Video - Ross Douthat
    The greatest mistake is to believe that what's happening in the Middle East is a completely genuine popular backlash against a blasphemous anti-Islamic video made in the USA. The mobs don't exist because of an offensive movie. Both the Egyptian and Libyan assaults look like premeditated challenges to those countries' ruling parties by more extreme Islamist factions.
        Anti-Americanism remains a potent rallying point for popular discontent in the Islamic world. It's pointless to behave as if a more restrictive YouTube policy might have saved us from an autumn of unrest. (New York Times)

  • Palestinians

  • PA's Fiscal Crisis Due to Gaza, Not Israel - Evelyn Gordon
    The World Bank issued another report on the Palestinian economy, blaming Israel, but the truth is the PA hasn't a prayer of ever resolving its fiscal crisis without addressing the real elephant in the room: Gaza. According to PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Gaza accounts for 48% of the PA's expenditures, while revenues received from Gaza are a mere 4% of the PA's budget. Nothing Israel does will be able to compensate for that.
        Because Hamas controls Gaza, the PA can't collect taxes there - and Hamas has no interest in giving the PA any of the taxes it collects. After the EU stopped paying for Gaza's electricity in 2010, the PA picked up the tab. Five years after Hamas took over Gaza, the PA is still paying 60,000 former PA employees full salaries to sit at home and do nothing.
        The PA's international donors are slated to meet on Sep. 23. If they really want to solve the PA's fiscal crisis, they need to issue an ultimatum: Either the PA stops blowing half its budget on paying people not to work and subsidizing the Hamas government in Gaza, or its international donors will finally close the spigot. (Commentary)
  • Who Violated the Oslo Accords? - Eli Hazan
    Recently, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that "the Palestinian leadership is considering abrogating the Oslo Accords because Israel has sabotaged all peace efforts." The Oslo Accords stipulated that Israel and the PLO mutually recognize each other and prescribed a series of steps to be taken by both sides.
        They "promised" a new future for both peoples, who live in the same territory, because the PLO under Yasser Arafat's leadership promised to renounce violence. Ten days after the accords were signed on the White House lawn, under the auspices of then-President Bill Clinton, the terrorist attacks began. By the end of 1993, 15 deadly terror attacks had been recorded. (Israel Hayom)

  • Weekend Features

  • Understanding Christian Zionism - John Hagee
    For years, I had spoken at churches all over the country about the Biblical basis for Christian support of Israel. Through their own Biblical studies, millions of Christians had come to understand that we have a religious and ethical obligation to stand with the Jewish people.
        On Feb. 6, 2006, I invited 400 evangelical leaders to Cornerstone Church in San Antonio to create a national grassroots Christian Zionist organization that would unite millions of evangelicals to stand up and speak up for Israel. To my surprise (try getting 400 pastors to agree on anything), all agreed to join the effort, and Christians United For Israel was born.
        Today, we have more than 1.1 million members; we hold an average of 40 pro-Israel events in cities and towns across America every month; we meet in Washington every year to remind our elected officials that there are Christians who stand with Israel.
        Christian Zionists do not believe that God's covenant with the Jewish people has been replaced by Christianity. Quite the contrary. We recognize that our faith would not exist were it not for Judaism. Christianity owes a debt of gratitude to the Jewish faith, and we have been commanded to stand with our Jewish brethren. Pastor John Hagee is founder and chairman of Christians United for Israel. (Washington Post)
  • Ethiopian Jewish Knesset Member Stumps for Israel - Bryan Schwartzman
    To anyone who asserts that Israel is a racist society, Shlomo Molla, 46, responds: Take a look at my life. He was born in an Ethiopian village with no electricity and he now holds the position of deputy speaker of the Knesset. "If you have your motivation, Israel is a country where the sky is the limit," Molla, a Kadima Party member, declared during a Sep. 7 stop in Philadelphia.
        Uri Bar-Ner, a retired Israeli diplomat, said Molla "is the best speaker for Israel, because once people see him they know what Israel is all about and they stop talking about discrimination."  (Philadelphia Jewish Exponent)
  • Israel: An Innovation Gem, in Europe's Backyard - Michael Bloch, Jonathan Kolodny and Dana Maor
    Israel is a first-tier innovation hub, second in the world only to Silicon Valley in its concentration of start-up companies. In 2009, Israel spent 4.3% of its GDP on civilian R&D - almost twice the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development's average of 2.3%. Over the past seven years, venture-capital firms around the world have invested about $11 billion in Israeli high-tech companies.
        Intel opened its first R&D center in Haifa in 1974. By 1979, this development center gave birth to the 8088 microprocessor, the core processor for the first IBM personal computer, followed by the Centrino chip and dual-core processors.
        Israel's innovation leadership has also reached a critical mass in four new sectors: telecommunications, medical devices, water treatment, and agriculture. Michael Bloch and Jonathan Kolodny are directors in McKinsey's Tel Aviv office, where Dana Maor is a principal. (Financial Times-UK)
        See also Israel's Silicon Wadi - Jessica Steinberg
    Israel's ability to constantly reinvent itself - fine-tuning back-end programming that makes software run better - has kept it on the world technology map for more than two decades. In the last year alone, IBM bought mobile platform Worklight for $95 million, while Facebook snagged face-identification company for $60 million. eBay grabbed group gifting widget Appchee Applications (the Gifts Project) for $25 million, while Twitter acquired social information analysis company Julpan for $45 million, according to the Israel Investment Promotion Center. (Ad Week)
  • Israel's Prehistoric Soreq Cave - Edmund Sanders
    The prehistoric Soreq Cave, discovered in 1968 on the slopes of Israel's Judean Mountains, is packed with stunning natural sculptures formed by hundreds of thousands of years of mineral-rich water drops slowly leaving behind a rock residue. On the roof is a hanging forest of different-sized rods, resembling icicles, giant carrots, elephant trunks and twisting octopus tentacles. Rising up to meet them from the limestone floor are 30-foot sand castles, spiraling rock towers and billowy hills that resemble coral reefs or heads of cauliflower.
        A recent ecological makeover has added a spectacular lighting system, programmed to change every few minutes. By using only a limited part of the color spectrum of light and focusing on certain shades of orange, blue and green, scientists are betting the new system will eradicate one of the cave's biggest threats: algae. "Just by opening the cave, we changed it and hurt it, so we're always thinking about what's best ecologically for the cave," said Tomer Saragusti, manager of the Soreq Cave Nature Reserve. "And it's working. The cave is still alive and growing."  (Los Angeles Times)

Iran Has Taken 6 of the 8 Steps on the Path to Genocide - Mitch Ginsburg (Times of Israel)

  • Genocide is predictable and preventable, as long as you recognize the universal signs. And Iran, in its language and action, has taken six of the eight steps on the path to genocide, according to Dr. Gregory Stanton, founder and director of Genocide Watch.
  • Talk of genocide, Stanton said - of removing a cancer or crushing a cockroach - is never just talk. "One of the best predictors of genocide is incitement to genocide," he said, "and I believe that is exactly what Iran is doing today."
  • Encouraging genocide is a crime. The UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, signed in 1948, states that incitement "with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group" is illegal. Canada severed its ties with Iran on precisely those grounds.
  • Recognizing the early signs, spotlighting them and prosecuting those encouraging the killings are some of the ways to prevent a genocide. Ignoring them, dismissing them as diabolical rhetoric or as a tactic meant to advance a different goal, is to enable the perpetrators, Stanton said.
  • Over the years Stanton realized that all genocides follow eight stages. They are, in this order: classification, symbolization, dehumanization, organization, polarization, preparation, extermination and denial. Iran, he said, had:
    • Classified and symbolized Israel through exclusionary ideology and hate speech;
    • Dehumanized it - "overcoming the normal human revulsion against murder" - by portraying the potential victims as a "cancer" in need of eradication;
    • Organized fanatical militias (the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps);
    • Polarized the society by repressing dissent and arresting moderates;
    • Prepared for the killing by denying a past genocide and by constructing weapons of mass destruction;
    • And, through global terrorism, have even begun extermination.
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