Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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December 10, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel Says Iran Could Have Nuclear Bomb by 2010 - Ari Rabinovitch (Reuters/Washington Post)
    Israel believes Iran will have the resources to create a nuclear weapon by 2010 despite a U.S. intelligence report that it was not building an atomic bomb, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert said on Sunday.
    "According to the (NIE) report, there was a nuclear weapons program until 2003, but there is no explanation where it disappeared," Olmert said at a cabinet meeting.
    Olmert said Israel would continue seeking further sanctions against Iran, which he said would have enriched enough uranium to create a nuclear weapon by 2010.

Muslim Gunmen Target Christian in Gaza - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Over the weekend, four masked gunmen tried to kidnap Palestinian Christian Nabil Fuad Ayad, who works as a guard at a Gaza City church.
    Nabil's cousin, Rami, was kidnapped and murdered two months ago by the same group, members of the radical Islamic Salafi movement, local sources said.
    The gunmen tried to force Ayad into their car as he was walking in the street, but he managed to escape to a nearby shop. The assailants fired several shots into the air as they fled the scene.
    The Salafis, who have become very active in Gaza in recent months, are totally opposed to common Western concepts like economics, constitutions and political parties.
    They refer to the 2,500 Christians in Gaza as Crusaders and have vowed to drive them out.
    "The latest incident is aimed at sending a message to all the Christians here that we must leave," said a Christian leader. "Radical Islamic groups are waging a campaign to get rid of us and no one seems to care."

Iran Intelligence Report: Garbage In, Garbage Out - Jeff Stein (Congressional Quarterly)
    Richard Barlow, a top former CIA and Pentagon expert on Pakistan's clandestine nuclear program in the 1980s until he was hounded out of the government for telling the truth, points out that the NIE - or at least its unclassified summary - doesn't say at what stage the Iranians allegedly "halted" their weapons program in 2003.
    "The entire NIE is meaningless without this being addressed," Barlow told me. "Its omission from the Key Judgments is so glaring as to be suspicious. These programs have these little 'stoppages' not that infrequently."
    "The reliability of the 'new intelligence,' reportedly based mainly on U.S. electronic intercepts of Iranian scientists complaining about the work stoppage, is being greatly overblown," Barlow maintains.

Just 18% Believe Iran Has Stopped Nuclear Weapons Development Program (Rasmussen Reports)
    Just 18% of American voters believe that Iran has halted its nuclear weapons program.
    The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 66% disagree and say Iran has not stopped its nuclear weapons program.
    The survey also found that 67% of American voters believe that Iran remains a threat to the national security of the U.S. Only 19% disagree.
    59% believe the U.S. should continue sanctions against Iran. 20% disagree.
    47% believe it is very likely that Iran will develop nuclear weapons in the future and another 34% believe Iran is somewhat likely to do so.
    An earlier survey found that 62% believe that Iran sponsors terrorist activities against the U.S. Only 6% disagree.

The Libel Tourist (YouTube)
    An 8-minute documentary film featuring Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, on how Saudi petrodollars have cowed, silenced, and almost broken freedom of speech in the West.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Britain: Iran "Hoodwinked" CIA Over Nuclear Plans - Tim Shipman, Philip Sherwell and Carolynne Wheeler
    British spy chiefs have grave doubts that Iran has mothballed its nuclear weapons program, as a U.S. intelligence report claimed last week, and believe the CIA has been hoodwinked by Teheran. The timing of the CIA report has also provoked fury in the British Government, where officials believe it has undermined efforts to impose tough new sanctions on Iran and made an Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities more likely.
        The security services in London want concrete evidence to allay concerns that the Islamic state has fed disinformation to the CIA. The report used new evidence - including human sources, wireless intercepts and evidence from an Iranian defector - to conclude that Teheran suspended the bomb-making side of its nuclear program in 2003. But British intelligence is concerned that U.S. spy chiefs were so determined to avoid giving President Bush a reason to go to war - as their reports on Saddam Hussein's weapons programs did in Iraq - that they got it wrong this time. A senior British official delivered a withering assessment of U.S. intelligence-gathering abilities in the Middle East and revealed that British spies shared the concerns of Israeli defense chiefs that Iran was still pursuing nuclear weapons. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Why We Must Not Take the Pressure Off Iran - UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband (Financial Times-UK)
  • Iran's Nuclear Program Could Be Restarted, U.S. Defense Chief Warns - Ann Scott Tyson
    Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates argued forcefully at a Persian Gulf security conference Saturday that U.S. intelligence indicates Iran could restart its secret nuclear weapons program "at any time" and remains a major threat to the region. Gates said the Iranian government also is supplying weapons to insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, backing the radical Islamic movements Hizbullah and Hamas, and developing medium-range ballistic missiles. International pressure is the only impediment to Iran restarting its nuclear weapons program, Gates said. "Iran is keeping its options open and could restart its nuclear weapons program at any time - I would add, if it has not done so already."
        Following Gates' speech, some attendees accused the U.S. of a double standard for failing to object to Israel's possession of nuclear weapons. Asked whether he thought Israel's nuclear arsenal posed a threat to the region, Gates initially gave a four-word answer: "No, I do not." (Washington Post)
        See also Gates Says Israel Is Not a Threat - Thom Shanker
    Gates was pressed on whether the U.S. had a double standard in organizing the world community to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons but not working to disarm Israel. "Israel is not training terrorists to subvert its neighbors, it has not shipped weapons to a place like Iraq to kill thousands of civilians, it has not threatened to destroy any of its neighbors, it is not trying to destabilize the government of Lebanon," Gates said. (New York Times)
  • Sanctions Strain Iran's Economy - Con Coughlin
    Iran's banks are on the brink of collapse and its manufacturing industries facing severe shortages as sanctions bite, according to assessments by Western officials. Despite recent public statements by President Ahmadinejad that sanctions by America and the UN "are not working," a confidential report submitted to the Iranian parliament said that continued economic isolation was having dire consequences. The country's banking industry is suffering from a boycott by European, Japanese and American banks, Western diplomats said. The biggest banks will not conduct any transactions with any Iranian clients, meaning that businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to find hard currency. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Iran Signs $2B Oil Deal with China - Najmeh Bozorgmehr
    Iran signed a $2 billion oil contract with Sinopec of China on Sunday to partly develop the giant Yadavaran oil field in south-west Iran, the first with a Chinese company. Tehran has not signed any big oil and gas contracts with foreign companies during the past few years due to the prospect of international sanctions. (Financial Times-UK)
        See also Russia Unconvinced on New Iran Sanctions - Matthew Lee
    Russia on Friday ignored Secretary of State Rice's calls for new UN sanctions to be imposed on Iran over its nuclear program. Rice was unable to persuade Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the urgency of fresh sanctions after a meeting on the sidelines of a NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels. (AP)
  • Israel: First Phase of Roadmap Does Not Apply to Building New Homes in Jerusalem
    Israeli Construction and Housing Minister Zeev Boim on Saturday rebuffed criticism by U.S. Secretary of State Rice of Israel's plan to build new homes in the Jerusalem area. Rice on Friday criticized the planned construction, saying it "doesn't help to build confidence." Boim reiterated Israel's position that it can build anywhere in Jerusalem, the Arab east sector of which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war. "Secretary of State Rice should be congratulated for her efforts in relaunching the peace process," Boim said in a statement. "But this cannot constantly be linked to the cessation of construction in Jerusalem."
        Boim said the Har Homa project "is within Jerusalem's municipal borders, where Israeli law applies. There is thus nothing to prevent the construction there, just as there is nothing to prevent construction anywhere else in Israel."  (Reuters)
        Israel insists that the Har Homa plans predate the new round of negotiations and do not constitute settlement activity. "The decision to build Har Homa was taken more than 10 years ago and the present construction is part of a plan that was approved in 2000," Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev told AFP. "The government and its chief (Prime Minister Olmert) do not intervene in this kind of issue because the buildings are inside Israeli territory under Israeli sovereignty," he added. (AFP/Yahoo)
        Har Homa, where thousands of Israelis now live, is just inside the expanded city limits of Jerusalem, drawn after Israel captured eastern Jerusalem in the 1967 war. Israel annexed eastern Jerusalem days after the war, but no country recognized that. Since 1967, Israel has built a string of Jewish neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem, with about 180,000 residents. Har Homa, at the southern edge of the city line, is the newest.
        "Israel makes a clear distinction between the West Bank and Jerusalem," said Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Olmert. "Israel has never made a commitment to limit our sovereignty in Jerusalem. Implementation of the first phase of the road map does not apply to Jerusalem." (AP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Saudis Welcome Hamas Leader Meshal in Bid to Broker New Hamas-Fatah Talks - Avi Issacharoff
    Saudi Arabia and Egypt are pushing Hamas and Fatah to meet in an effort to resolve their deep rift, as Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal visits Riyadh this week. A Fatah leader in the West Bank, Hatham Abed al-Kadr, said Sunday that Egypt has been in contact recently with Fatah and Hamas officials in an attempt to bring the two sides to a meeting in Cairo in two weeks. (Ha'aretz)
  • Report: Hamas Seeking Truce with Israel - Avi Issacharoff
    The London-based Arabic daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported Sunday that Hamas is seeking a truce with Israel. Senior Hamas officials have been trying recently to persuade its military wing to stop firing rockets at Israel in order to prevent a large-scale Israeli military strike. The paper reported that the leader of Hamas' political wing in Damascus, Khaled Meshal, met recently with the secretary-general of the Islamic Jihad in Lebanon to discuss the matter. Palestinian sources told Ha'aretz that the intention was to unilaterally initiate a month-long cease-fire as a test. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Internal Security Minister: 250,000 Israelis Under Rocket Threat from Gaza If We Don't Act - Roni Sofer
    Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter warned Sunday that 250,000 Israelis will be subjected to a "war of attrition" should Ashkelon and other nearby communities also fall under the threat of Palestinian rocket fire. "We with the problem of Sderot if we do not want to face the same problem when Ashkelon, Ofakim and Netivot will enter the cycle of rocket fire and terror," he said during the weekly cabinet meeting. "Kassam rocket attacks are being carried out daily and we have also seen an increase in mortar fire directed at IDF bases outside Gaza," Dichter said. (Ynet News)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Fire from Gaza Damages Sderot Factory - Talia Dekel (Jerusalem Post)
  • Muslim Religious Heads from Indonesia Visit Israel
    President Shimon Peres on Friday hosted a delegation of Muslim religious leaders from Indonesia, a country that doesn't have diplomatic ties with Israel. The clerics, who represent 70 million Muslims, said they came to "present the moderate face of Islam that seeks cooperation and peace with other countries and religions, and repudiates Islamic extremists," a statement from Peres' office said. (AP/Ha'aretz)
        See also Indonesian Muslim Clerics Light Hanukkah Candles in Israel - Koby Nahshoni (Ynet News)
        See also Indonesian Muslim Organizations Deny Peace Visit to Israel (Jakarta Post-Indonesia)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Limits of Intelligence - Reps. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) and Jane Harman (D-Calif.)
    As past leaders of the House Intelligence Committee, we have worked, on a bipartisan basis, to strengthen the capability of the intelligence community to penetrate targets. Those efforts are moving forward, but we still have work to do. We are not convinced we have the necessary access to form definitive conclusions on Iran's future plans. The new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran ignores some key questions. Most importantly, it does not explain why the 2005 NIE came to the opposite conclusion, or what factors could drive Iran to "restart" its nuclear-weapons program. Mr. Hoekstra was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee from 2004-2006. Ms. Harman was on the Intelligence Committee for eight years ending in 2006, the final four as ranking member. (Wall Street Journal)
  • What U.S. Intelligence Missed on Iran Nukes - Amir Taheri
    Tehran's policy has never been aimed at actually making a nuclear weapon. From the late '60s (even before the Khomeinists seized power) it has aimed at acquiring what's called a "nuclear surge capacity." This means having the knowledge, technological base, infrastructure and raw material needed to make nuclear weapons in a short time - without actually making the bomb. Acquiring "surge capacity" was a key part of the late shah's overall strategy and has remained a pillar of Iran's defense doctrine.
        No one can come up with a lawyer-proof case that the Khomeinists are actually building a bomb. But when, and if, such a case becomes possible, it may be too late. This is the beauty of aiming at a "surge capacity." It's certainly foolish to cry wolf where none is around. But it could be suicidal to pretend there can be no wolf where one may come along. (New York Post)
  • Observations:

    Keep Up the Pressure on Iran - Charles Krauthammer (TIME)

    • To go nuclear, you need three things: a) the raw material, b) the ability to turn the raw material into a weapon, and c) the missiles with which to deliver the weapon. Regarding a and c, Iran is proceeding with alacrity and determination on uranium enrichment and on the development and testing of long-range missiles. It is the intermediate step - weaponizing the uranium into a bomb - that the intelligence estimate tells us has been suspended.
    • Now the caveats. First, weaponization is the most opaque of the three elements. Iran has never declared it or admitted it. Accurate information about it would be hardest to come by. Second, the logic is odd. We now believe weaponization was suspended in fall 2003, at the same time uranium enrichment was suspended. However, when uranium enrichment was resumed a few months after Ahmadinejad's accession to power, the weaponization program (we are now told) was not.
    • This does not make a lot of sense. Uranium enrichment is more public and therefore more likely to bring sanctions - which it did. Why reactivate that and not the covert weaponization program? And why invest enormous resources on the centrifuges for enrichment and on the missiles for delivery if you're not going to eventually weaponize?

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