Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 9, 2006

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In-Depth Issues:

Germany Says 9/11 Hijackers Called Syria, Saudi Arabia - John Crewdson (Chicago Tribune)
    The Sept. 11 hijackers made dozens of telephone calls to Saudi Arabia and Syria in the months before the attacks, according to a classified report from the office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
    Some 206 international telephone calls were known to have been made by the leaders of the hijacking plot after they arrived in the U.S. - including 32 to Saudi Arabia and 66 to Syria.
    The German report said the telephone records were obtained by German intelligence agencies from the FBI.

Iranian Collaboration with the Taliban - Thomas Joscelyn (Weekly Standard)
    Iran secretly agreed to assist the Taliban in its war against U.S. forces in October 2001, according to the transcript of a high-level Taliban official's tribunal session at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
    The transcript, as well as thousands of pages of similar documents, was released by the Pentagon on March 3.
    Importantly, the detainee's testimony is at odds with the intelligence community's conventional wisdom regarding Iran's relationship with the Taliban.
    After years of mutual animosity, it was assumed prior to the war in Afghanistan that the Iranian regime would celebrate the fall of the Taliban.
    Yet Afghani opposition sources reported in early 2002 that the Iranians helped Taliban and al-Qaeda members escape approaching U.S. forces through Herat province.

BBC Online Censured for Biased Israel Story - Ben Dowell (Guardian-UK)
    The BBC's online news service has been censured by the corporation's governors for a report about the Arab-Israeli conflict.
    The report suggested the UN called for Israel's unilateral withdrawal from territories seized during the Six-Day War, when in fact it called for a negotiated settlement between Israel and "every state in the area."
    The BBC governors' report concluded that the article "gave a biased impression. It therefore breached editorial standards on both accuracy and impartiality."

Two Palestinian Youths Killed Handling Bomb - Ali Waked (Ynet News)
    Palestinian sources reported Monday that two youths were killed in an explosion near al-Bureij in central Gaza as they were playing with an explosive device.

Useful Reference: (Consulate General of Israel in New York)
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Lays Out Plan to Apply Pressure to Iran - Mark Turner and Guy Dinmore
    The U.S. laid out a step-by-step plan on Wednesday to apply pressure on Iran to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons program, including the use of targeted sanctions. In Washington, Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told a congressional committee that the U.S. wanted a UN statement to "condemn" Iran. Next, he said, the U.S. would move to a binding "Chapter Seven" UN resolution designed to "isolate" the Islamic regime and "hopefully influence its behavior." "But it's going to be incumbent upon our allies around the world, and interested countries, to show that they are willing to act, should the words and resolutions of the United Nations not suffice," Burns said.
        Analysts in Washington said Burns' remarks reflected a broad expectation in the Bush administration that it would not be able to persuade Russia and China to back meaningful sanctions, and that the U.S. would look to forming an ad hoc alliance of allies. (Financial Times-UK)
  • Hamas Expected in Saudi Arabia, Chirac Opposes Sanctions on Hamas
    Hamas leaders will be in Saudi Arabia soon, the kingdom's foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said, as visiting French President Jacques Chirac said he opposed sanctions against the Palestinian Islamist movement. Faisal said France was of the same opinion as Saudi Arabia that an eventual Hamas-led government must be given a chance to outline its program and policy. Chirac, at the end of a three-day visit to Riyadh, urged Hamas to meet the demands of the Quartet while insisting the will of the Palestinian people must be respected. "I am against sanctions in general and especially in this case," Chirac added. (AFP/Asharq Alawsat-UK)
        See also EU Seeks Ways to Fund Palestinians Despite Hamas - Paul Taylor (Reuters/Washington Post)
  • State Department Concerned by Human Rights Situation in Iran, Syria
    On Wednesday, the U.S. State Department released its 2005 Report on Human Rights Practices. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Barry Lowenkron singled out Syria and Iran as being of particular concern. (VOA News)
        See also below Observations: State Department Report on Human Rights
  • Negative Perception of Islam Increasing in U.S. - Claudia Deane and Darryl Fears
    A majority of Americans now say that Muslims are disproportionately prone to violence, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. The poll found that 46% have a negative view of Islam, 7 points higher than in the tense months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Americans who believe that Islam helps to stoke violence against non-Muslims has more than doubled from 14% in January 2002 to 33% today. (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Western Intelligence: Iran Covertly Developing Nukes - Ze'ev Schiff
    Intelligence services in the West are convinced that Iran has a covert channel that is making steady progress toward creating a nuclear weapon. Russian intelligence apparently agrees with this assessment. According to the IAEA interim report from late February, a document was found that alludes to Iranian attempts to create the components of an atomic bomb. The covert channel gives Iran a redundant system in the event of an attack on the country, and also gives it a way to ostensibly give up its nuclear program while continuing work secretly. (Ha'aretz)
  • Defense Minister Mofaz: We Have Contingency Plan for Iran - Hanan Greenberg
    Asked in Germany whether Israel has a contingency plan in case international attempts to stop Iran's nuclear plan fail, Israeli Defense Minister Mofaz said, "Israel has many drawers, containing all its needs to defend our citizens." The question was asked in light of the decision of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to refer Iran's nuclear issue to the UN Security Council. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues
    Palestinians in Gaza fired three Kassam rockets at Israel on Wednesday evening. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • A Fake Bargain with Iran - Editorial
    The next technological challenge Iran faces will be to construct a system of connected centrifuges known as a cascade. But making the cascade work is complicated, and it will take time, especially because some of the centrifuges Iran possesses are dysfunctional. That explains the latest "compromise" being floated in Vienna this week to forestall consideration of Iran's nuclear program by the UN Security Council.
        Iran is offering to do exactly what it would do if it were under no constraint in its pursuit of nuclear weapons, in exchange for a promise by Russia and the West to stop trying to place constraints on it. Mr. ElBaradei is pressing governments to consider the phony Iranian compromise. In effect, he would have Russia, Europe, and the U.S. respond to Iran's refusal to freeze its bomb program by capitulating. (Washington Post)
  • United States Policy toward Iran: Next Steps - Michael A. Ledeen
    Iran is atop the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi created a European-wide terrorist network from a stronghold in Tehran. We know this from copious documentation presented by the German and Italian governments in public trials against terrorists arrested in their countries, including intercepts of phone conversations between terrorists in Europe and Zarqawi in Tehran.
        We know from the regime's own public opinion surveys that 73% of the people would like a freer society and a more democratic government. In response to recent demonstrations in Khuzestan, the oil-producing region in the south, the regime sent in members of the Badr Brigade (the Iranian-trained militia in Iraq) and of (Lebanese) Hizballah. This suggests a lack of confidence in the more traditional security organizations: the regular Army, the Revolutionary Guards, and the thuggish Basij, who are fanatically loyal to the Islamic ideals of the mullahcracy. (American Enterprise Institute)
  • Peace Talks "Not Practical" with Hamas - Lynda Hurst
    Middle East scholar and former government policy adviser Yossi Olmert, speaking at the University of Toronto, was taken aback that so many in the Western media interpreted the surprise victory of the terrorist group Hamas in the Palestinian election in January as a protest vote against the crooked Fatah administration - "as if Hamas was a group of well-meaning social workers out to get rid of corruption." Do not for a moment think that Hamas is anything but a terrorist organization, Olmert said.
        "I believe what they say. And they say they don't want to make peace. So don't say to us, 'Why won't you talk to them?'" "Hamas was defeated roundly in the war of terrorism that began in 2000," said Olmert, "and will be beaten again if they resume that war." (Toronto Star)
  • The Strategic Logic of Israel's Security Barrier - Col. (Res.) Danny Tirza
    Ben-Gurion International Airport is only eleven kilometers from the "green line," and Israel has real concerns over the potential threat of missiles launched against aircraft. Al-Qaeda tried to shoot down an Israeli Arkia aircraft with a missile in Mombasa, Kenya, in 2002 and it was a miracle that nobody was killed at that time. Due to weather conditions, there are seventy days a year when aircraft flying in and out of Israel must fly above the West Bank. We wanted to build a double fence in the area near the airport in order to secure it from missiles, but there are 19,000 Palestinians living in this area and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Israel could not leave people to live in enclaves.
        Why wasn't the fence built on the "green line" - the 1949 ceasefire line? From a security perspective, mountains dominate valleys. To provide security, Israel must control the high ground in order to dominate the area and not have others dominate us. The "green line" leaves Israel in a fragile security situation. In all government decisions it was emphasized that the line the army was building was only a security line and it would not be the line for future negotiations. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Observations:

    Report on Human Rights Practices - 2005 (State Department)

    • In 2005 the Iranian government's already poor record on human rights and democracy worsened. In the June presidential elections, slightly more than a thousand registered candidates - including all the female candidates - were arbitrarily thrown out of contention by the country's guardian council. The newly elected hard-line president denied the Holocaust occurred and called for the elimination of Israel. The ruling clerics and the president oversaw deterioration in prison conditions for the hundreds of political prisoners, further restrictions on press freedom, and a continuing rollback of social and political freedoms. Serious abuses such as summary executions, severe violations of religious freedom, discrimination based on ethnicity and religion, disappearances, extremist vigilantism, and use of torture and other degrading treatment continued.
    • The Iranian government continued to ignore the desire of the Iranian people for responsible, accountable government, continuing its dangerous policies of pursuing a nuclear weapons capability, providing support to terrorist organizations, and advocating - including in several public speeches by the new president - the destruction of a UN member state. Iran's deprivation of basic rights to its own people, its interference in Iraq, its support for Hizballah, Hamas, and other terrorist organizations, and its refusal to engage constructively on these issues, have further isolated it from the world community.
    • Similarly, the government of Syria refused international calls to respect the fundamental freedoms of its people and end its interference in the affairs of its neighbors. Syria continued to provide support for Hizballah, Hamas, and other Palestinian rejectionist groups and did not cooperate fully with the UN International Independent Investigative Commission on the assassination in Beirut of former Lebanese Prime Minister al-Hariri. The Chief Investigator's reports concluded that evidence pointed to involvement by Syrian authorities and made it clear that Syrian officials, while purporting to cooperate, deliberately misled the investigators.

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