Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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April 5, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Tehran Likely to Pay Long-Term Price - Robin Wright (Washington Post)
    In the end, Iran recognized that the crisis was beginning to exact a cost, as it came under pressure even from allies and other Islamic countries, officials and experts said.
    Even Syria urged Iran to release the Britons, Syrian and U.S. sources said.
    "They are so consumed with short-term issues - how to undermine the West and how to gain leverage - at the expense of long-term strategy. They have undermined themselves," said Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
    "In the long term, it undermines their ability to attract foreign investment and have good relations" with the outside world.
    Tehran was also unable to rally significant public support for a showdown.
    "There was no nationalist bounce out of this," said Patrick Clawson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "All the usual people you'd expect to be frothing at the mouth simply weren't."
    See also Iran's Ploy Buys Time for Weapons Program - Tim Butcher (Telegraph-UK)

Bomb Targets Montreal Jewish Community Center (CBC News)
    Montreal police are investigating a small bomb that exploded in front of the Ben Weider Jewish Community Center on Tuesday night.

Sunni Tribes Battle Al-Qaeda Terrorists in Iraqi Insurgency's Stronghold - Bing West and Owen West (Wall Street Journal)
    Six months ago, American intelligence reports about Anbar province in Iraq were dire. Although the Marines won the firefights, insurgents controlled the population - the classic guerrilla pattern.
    Among the groups, the extremists called al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) had achieved dominance.
    Over the past five months, however, 25 of the 31 Anbar sub-tribes have pledged to fight the insurgents, sending thousands of tribesmen into the police and army.

Trial Begins in Chicago for Suspected Saddam "Sleeper Agent"  (AP/FOX News)
    The trial of an alleged "sleeper agent" for Saddam Hussein's intelligence service began Tuesday in Chicago, with a federal prosecutor accusing Sami Latchin, 59, an Iraqi-born U.S. citizen, of spying on Iraqi dissidents in the U.S.
    The former airline employee was arrested in August 2004, when prosecutors charged him with making false statements to immigration authorities on a U.S. citizenship application.
    Authorities claim he failed to disclose that he had been a member of the Baath Party and had served in Iraq's intelligence service.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iran Sets Free 15 Seized Britons - Sarah Lyall
    Iran on Thursday released the 15 British sailors and marines it seized at sea nearly two weeks ago, in what Iran's president called a "gift" to the British people. (New York Times)
        See also Sudden Decision Owes More to Tension in Tehran than to Britain's Diplomacy - Richard Beeston and Anthony Browne
    The surprise release of 15 Royal Navy personnel on the orders of President Ahmadinejad was the result of a fierce debate within the Iranian regime rather than the product of negotiations with Britain. (Times-UK)
        See also below Observations: Mahmoud's "Gift" - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)
  • Israel Objects to U.S. Sale of Advanced Weaponry to Regional Rivals - David S. Cloud and Helene Cooper
    A major arms-sale package that the Bush administration is planning to offer Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf allies to deter Iran has been delayed because of objections from Israel, which says that the advanced weaponry would erode its military advantage over its regional rivals, according to senior U.S. officials. Israeli officials, including the former defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, have come to Washington in recent months to argue against elements of the planned sales. In particular, the Israelis are concerned about the possible transfer of precision-guided weapons. Israel has been supplied with satellite-guided ordnance since the 1990s and used them extensively in its war against Hizbullah last summer.
        A senior administration official said, "The Israelis understand that it's in our interest and their interest" that the U.S. try to shore up military systems for Sunni Arab allies. But Israel is also concerned that the Bush administration's ambitions for an American-Israeli-Sunni coalition allied against Iran may never materialize, or that there could be a revolution in Saudi Arabia that would leave the mostly American-made Saudi arsenal in the hands of militant Islamists. (New York Times)
  • Blood Feuds Tearing Gaza Apart - Rory McCarthy
    There is now a cycle of family feuds in Gaza, an endless toll of kidnapping and murder fueled by political and factional violence. Caught up in this continued lawlessness is BBC Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston, kidnapped three weeks ago. A large criminal clan is suspected of being behind the kidnapping. The new Palestinian government has failed to resolve what has now become the longest-running hostage case. (Guardian-UK)
        See also Kidnap Threat Soaring in Gaza - Carolynne Wheeler (Globe and Mail-Canada)
        See also Is Gaza the New Somalia? - Matthew Fisher (National Post-Canada)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Islamic Jihad Bomber Killed at Gaza Border Fence - Amos Harel
    An IDF unit on Wednesday engaged three terrorists approaching the border fence in northern Gaza. During the incident, the Palestinians detonated two bombs they had planted near the fence. After the IDF force chased them several hundred meters inside Gaza, Islamic Jihad member Ramiz al-Zaneen was killed, another was injured, and the third was arrested. The IDF has been authorized by Israel's political leadership to enter Gaza in order to prevent the placing of bombs or to uncover tunnels near the fence. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Fires at Suspicious Figures on Lebanese Border - Hanan Greenberg
    An IDF force patrolling the Israeli-Lebanese border last Thursday identified several suspicious figures who had crossed the international border and were advancing towards the security fence in Israeli territory. The troops opened fire at the figures. The army has recently completed a large-scale defense project along the northern border aimed towards rehabilitating and reinforcing the security fence and fortifying the north's military outposts. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Failure to Launch - Suzanne Nossel
    Condoleezza Rice and her boss have finally heeded calls to "re-engage" in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. But Rice's shuttle diplomacy efforts aren't working - and they shouldn't be expected to. For reasons of timing, personality, and politics (both in the region and back home), current efforts to jumpstart the peace process won't go anywhere.
        The facts on the ground are getting worse, not better. Hamas is borrowing from Hizbullah's playbook by stockpiling weapons and explosives in underground lairs, waiting (and planning) for a major confrontation. The organization is also arraying its own counterweight to the Fatah-controlled Palestinian security force, an irregular militia that Israel claims is being trained in Iran. Negotiations over the release of an Israeli soldier captured last summer have stalled.
        The idea that a graceful exit from Iraq could come in the form of an Israeli-Palestinian breakthrough has never made sense. The Iraq Study Group's report maintained that the region's conflicts were "inextricably linked," but it failed to explain how the decades-long Israel-Palestinian conflict was suddenly going to get settled in time to help calm three years of sectarian strife in Iraq. (New Republic)
  • How Long Can the Palestinian Unity Government Last? - Mohammad Yaghi
    The faction headed by Muhammad Dahlan and backed by many members of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, including Saeb Erekat, Nabil Amr, and Azzam al-Ahmad, as well as the leaders of the Preventive Security and Intelligence services, eventually backed the unity agreement because Hamas' better-organized forces defeated Fatah during armed clashes in Gaza. This group views the accord with Hamas as a temporary truce to be abandoned when Fatah regains confidence, strength, and resources. Abbas appointed Dahlan secretary of the National Security Council, empowering him to reform the security forces and strengthen the presidential guard. Four of Fatah's six ministers are Dahlan allies.
        Hamas aspires to ultimately replace Fatah in each of its traditional sources of power: the security forces, the institutions of the PA, and the PLO. Hamas wants the security forces to be part of the military resistance. For example, on March 25, Hamas demanded that an Abbas advisor be prosecuted for treason after he advocated security coordination with Israel during an interview on Israeli radio. In the end, the unity government is just a tactical truce - to be undone when one party believes unity no longer serves its interests. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Observations:

    Mahmoud's "Gift" - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)

    • Having kidnapped 15 British sailors and marines in Iraqi waters and paraded them before the world making "confessions," Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad now says he is pardoning them as a "gift" to the British people.
    • While we can be grateful for the captives' release, no one should conclude from this episode that the Iranian government is taking a new peaceful turn, or that its president has become Mahmoud the Munificent. If anything, the events of the past two weeks show the opposite - notably the influence inside the regime of the Revolutionary Guards, who provoked the incident by seizing the sailors in Iraqi waters only hours after a unanimous vote in the UN Security Council to stiffen sanctions against Iran's nuclear program. Hostage-taking has been a tool of Iranian foreign policy going back to 1979, and this was merely another turn of that wheel.
    • One benefit of this episode is that it provoked the press to start reporting on the Revolutionary Guards and elite Qods force. These highly trained and well-financed fighters are the regime's instruments of violence from Lebanon and the Palestinian territories - where they arm Hizbullah and Hamas - to Iraq, where Iranian-supplied weapons are killing American and British soldiers.
    • Many will be tempted to interpret the release of the hostages as evidence of Iran's essential reasonableness, conveniently forgetting who started the crisis in the first place. The lesson of these two weeks is not to slip back into negotiations with Iran in the hope of exploiting some division that may or may not exist between "moderates" and Ahmadinejad's allies.
    • The lesson is for the world to increase the diplomatic and sanctions pressure in response to Iran's threatening behavior and continued nuclear program. That is what will produce more fissures in the regime - as more and more Iranians understand the price of isolation and conclude that the mullahs and their Revolutionary Guards are leading them down a dangerous, losing road.

      See also The Qods Force: Lessons Learned - Dan Diker (ICA/JCPA)

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