Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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April 25, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Syria Readying for War - Ze'ev Schiff (Ha'aretz)
    The Syrian army is increasing its battle readiness, munitions production (especially of rockets and missiles), emergency stores, and is acquiring more weapon systems from Iran.
    It has purchased a large number of advanced anti-tank missiles from the Russians, with whom it is also negotiating the purchase of Russia's latest anti-aircraft missiles.
    The Syrians have deployed Iranian naval missiles (originally Chinese), the C. 802, and the destructive power and range of Syria's rockets and missiles has clearly grown in recent years.
    Israel does not rule out a possible Syrian grab for the Golan Heights.

Al-Qaeda "Planning Big British Attack" - Dipesh Gadher (Sunday Times-UK)
    Al-Qaeda leaders in Iraq are planning the first "large-scale" terrorist attacks on Britain and other Western targets with the help of supporters in Iran, according to a leaked intelligence report.
    Spy chiefs warn that one operative had said he was planning an attack on "a par with Hiroshima and Nagasaki" in an attempt to "shake the Roman throne," a reference to the West.
    There is no evidence of a formal relationship between al-Qaeda, a Sunni group, and the Shi'ite regime of President Ahmadinejad, but experts suggest that Iran's leaders may be turning a blind eye to the terrorist organization's activities.

Former Iranian President Curses Israeli Journalists after Calling for Peaceful Dialogue - Alex Kogan (Jerusalem Post)
    Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami last week called for peaceful dialogue with the West at the sixth Eurasion Media Forum in Kazakhstan, but cursed Israeli journalists who approached him.
    Khatami refused to speak to the Israeli reporters present at the talks. Israel Channel 10 television reported that Khatami had cursed them, saying, "Go to hell."
    On Friday, Khatami skipped a meeting on Iran's nuclear program because an Israeli representative was slated to speak.

Syrian Human Rights Lawyer Sentenced to Five Years (New York Times)
    Anwar al-Bunni, a prominent human rights lawyer, was sentenced Tuesday by a Syrian court to five years in prison for "spreading false information damaging the country" by saying Syrian prisons practiced torture.

Husband of Israeli Diplomat Shot in Houston; No Political Motive - Yoav Stern (Ha'aretz)
    The husband of Israeli Deputy Consul Blanche Zbaide was shot by his neighbor in Houston on Monday, in what the Foreign Ministry said was not a politically-motivated incident.
    The gunman, who had received an eviction notice, later shot and killed the apartment building's superintendent, then took his own life.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Hamas Fires Rocket Barrage into Israel, Declares End to 5-Month Truce - Ken Ellingwood
    Hamas militants in Gaza fired a barrage of rockets and mortars into Israel on Tuesday, declaring an end to a five-month cease-fire. The bombardment was not the first time Hamas forces have fired on Israel since agreeing to a cease-fire, but a declaration by the group's armed wing said it considered the cease-fire to be over. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also Hamas Rocket Barrage a Diversion for Kidnapping Attempt - Hanan Greenberg
    IDF officials have affirmed that Hamas had planned to kidnap an Israeli soldier during a barrage of Kassam rockets and mortar shells launched from Gaza toward southern Israel on Tuesday. "The army was prepared for such a scenario; the Southern Command forces responded correctly," a military official said. Hamas claimed its gunmen fired 28 Kassam rockets and 61 mortar shells at Israel on Tuesday. (Ynet News)
  • Europe Approves More Sanctions Against Iran - Dan Bilefsky
    EU foreign ministers on Monday approved a second phase of UN sanctions in the latest effort to force Iran to curb its uranium enrichment activities. The sanctions, adopted by the UN Security Council in March, would impose travel restrictions on individuals, ban arms sales to Iran, and block new financial assistance and loans to the Iranian government. (New York Times)
  • U.S. Stunts Iran, Syria Weapons Transfers - Matthew Lee
    The U.S. Monday imposed sanctions on 14 foreign people, companies and government agencies, including the Syrian navy and air force, as it boosts efforts to stop transfers of advanced weaponry to and from Iran and Syria. The 14 - which also include Hizbullah - are accused of selling to or buying from Iran or Syria missile technology or material to make weapons of mass destruction. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Leading Kurd Blames Iran for Terror in Iraq - Eli Lake
    While Iran's connection to Sunni Islamist terrorism is hotly debated in Washington, it is not disputed in Iraqi Kurdistan which borders Iran. In an interview Tuesday, the director of the security ministry for Sulaimaniya province, Sarkawt Hassan Jalal, said he has no doubt Iran is helping send Sunni jihadists into his territory. He listed the five border towns on the Iranian side where he says they are based: Mariwan, Pejwan, Bokan, Sina, and Serdai. For General Jalal, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's original group, known as Tawhid and Jihad, was sent by the Iranians and al-Qaeda to attack the Kurds and Americans. "Iran is at the top of the terrorism in all the world. There will be peace in the world when you change the authorities in Iran," he concluded. (New York Sun)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Military Confrontation with Hamas in Gaza Is Inevitable - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    Hamas' attack on southern Israel is signaling that all its promises of a cease-fire are nonbinding. Since Hamas agreed to the cease-fire, more than 200 Kassam rockets have been fired at Israel and 50 bombs have been planted along the border fence. Hamas' military wing was involved in many of these attacks. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Hamas' Motivation - Ze'ev Schiff
    There is a growing view within Hamas that it is worth heating up the Gaza front in order to produce new cease-fire talks in which Hamas could achieve a reduction of Israel's pressure on it in the West Bank. Any such agreement would also make it easier for Hamas to set up Kassam rocket factories in the West Bank. (Ha'aretz)
  • PA Media Call for Suicide Attacks, Kidnappings of Israelis - Michael Widlanski
    Official Palestinian broadcast media have sharply increased anti-Israeli propaganda in recent days, including explicit and implicit calls for suicide attacks on Israeli civilians and kidnappings of Israeli soldiers. While PLO Chairman Abbas has told Israeli and American officials he is working for the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Palestinian officials appearing before Palestinian audiences say that the Palestinians are entitled to use the "Zionist soldier" to extricate thousands of convicted Arab terrorists from Israeli jails.
        Mosque speeches broadcast by the PA media are turning back to the anti-Semitic themes which regularly appeared during the leadership of Yasser Arafat, and there is scant difference between the messages of Abbas' Fatah and Hamas. Israeli Army intelligence reported that during the second half of March there was an increase in the number of rockets fired at Israel (22), following a reduction in such attacks of the first two weeks of March (12). (IMRA)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • How a British Jihadi Saw the Light - Ed Hussain
    I had never expected to see such poverty in Saudi Arabia. Many African immigrants in Jeddah live in Karantina, a slum full of poverty, prostitution, and disease. Visiting Karantina, it dawned on me that many Muslims enjoyed a better lifestyle in non-Muslim Britain than they did in Muslim Saudi Arabia.
        All my talk of ummah seemed so juvenile now. It was only in the comfort of Britain that Islamists could come out with such radical utopian slogans as one government, one ever-expanding country, for one Muslim nation. The racist reality of the Arab psyche would never accept black and white people as equal. Racism was an integral part of Saudi society. Even dark-skinned Arabs were considered inferior to their lighter-skinned cousins.
        Two weeks after the terrorist attacks in London, a student in my class in Saudi Arabia said, "Teacher, I want to go London next month. I want bomb, big bomb in London, again. I want make jihad!" Another student shouted: "Me too! Me too!" Other students applauded. In protest I walked out of the classroom. My time in Saudi Arabia bolstered my conviction that an austere form of Islam (Wahhabism) married to a politicized Islam (Islamism) is wreaking havoc in the world. This anger-ridden ideology, an ideology I once advocated, is not only a threat to Islam and Muslims, but to the entire civilized world. (Sunday Times-UK)
  • Why Boycott Israel? - Richard Cohen
    Given a vast palette of injustice and depredations in the world, the British National Union of Journalists singled out Israel to boycott. The boycott was issued as "a gesture of support for the Palestinian people," some of whom, as it happens, abducted a BBC correspondent, Alan Johnston. The government of Gaza is the political arm of a terrorist organization, and if the West Bank is suffering, the cause is related to a morbid Israeli fear of terrorism. British journalists would no doubt approve similar measures if London's city buses had not once but repeatedly been blown to smithereens by passengers with the exact fare and belts of explosives.
        The British journalists, like the British academics before them, dare to tread where an army of goons has gone before. If they do not recognize the ember of anti-Semitism still glowing within them, they ought to park themselves before a mirror and ask why, of all the nations, they single out Israel for reprimand. (Washington Post)
  • Terror's Lobbyist - Frank J. Gaffney Jr.
    This week, the Ohio Legislature will hold its second hearing on legislation to prevent investment by Ohio's public pension funds in companies that do business with the terrorism-sponsoring, nuclear weapons- and ballistic missile-building and genocide-threatening Islamic Republic of Iran. Unfortunately, the Iranian regime and the corporations partnering with it are abetted by a well-heeled Washington lobby. Iran is already in difficult economic straits; if fully brought to bear, the power of America's capital markets could mightily affect corporate behavior, undermining - and, hopefully, helping to bring down - the mullahocracy in Iran. (Washington Times)
  • Observations:

    Ahmadinejad Was a Loser in the British Hostage Crisis - Dennis Ross
    (New Republic/Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

    • Iran's seizure of 15 British sailors for nearly two weeks was an event that offered us a window to watch the balance of forces in the Iranian leadership. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was responsible for the seizure. Did the IRGC have the clout among the Iranian elite to determine how Iran's leaders would deal with the crisis? If it could be overruled after triggering a crisis, we would learn a great deal about its real political weight and discover whether the major decision-makers are governed more by pragmatism than rigid ideology.
    • The non-IRGC segments are mindful of the costs of isolation, and they don't seek nuclear arms at any price. That is the meaning of pragmatism - recognizing Iran's interests and not pursuing a path that ultimately costs Iran more than it gains. Our challenge on the nuclear issue is to develop a strategy that convinces the Iranians their interests will be harmed more than helped by acquiring nuclear arms.
    • The Iranian press did not even mention the crisis for several days after the British sailors were seized: This was hardly a case in which the regime was trying to whip the public into a frenzy. After the release of the sailors, Ahmadinejad was roundly criticized in many Iranian newspapers, which noted that the crisis cost Iran greatly without any corresponding benefit. Admadinejad himself acknowledged that the British made no concessions when he said that they weren't big enough to admit mistake.
    • What does this tell us about the Iranian nukes? - that the issue of Iran's nuclear future is not resolved. It is not ultimately in Ahmadinejad's hands or the hands of the IRGC. It may not be easy to stop or suspend the program, but it's not impossible.

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