Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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December 11, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

CIA Has Recruited Iranians to Defect - Greg Miller (Los Angeles Times)
    The CIA launched a secret program in 2005 designed to degrade Iran's nuclear weapons program by persuading key officials to defect, an effort that has prompted a "handful" of significant departures, current and former U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the operation say.
    The previously undisclosed program, which CIA officials dubbed "the Brain Drain," is part of a major intelligence push against Iran ordered by the White House two years ago.
    Officials said fewer than six well-placed Iranians have defected, and that none has been in a position to provide comprehensive information on Tehran's nuclear program.
    The rewards for defectors can be substantial, including relocation to another country and lifetime financial support.
    During a briefing last week, a senior U.S. intelligence official said that Iran was "the hardest intelligence target there is."
    "I mean, by comparison, North Korea is an open and transparent society," the official said.

Bethlehem and Bigotry - Michael Gove (Times-UK)
    There's one invariable sign that Christmas is almost upon us - a story about how Bethlehem is suffering at the hands of wicked Israel. It has become almost as much a feature of seasonal journalism as commentaries on how commercialism is snuffing out the true meaning of the festival.
    The truth is very different. The parlous position of Palestinian Christians, indeed the difficult position of most Christians across the Arab world, is a consequence not of Israeli aggression but of growing Islamist influence.
    Israel goes out of its way to honor sites and traditions sacred to other faiths, while the radicals who are driving Palestinian politics seek to create an Islamist state in which other faiths, if they survive at all, do so with the explicit subject status of dhimmis.

PA Police "Crackdown" on Stolen Vehicles? - Uri Elitzur (Ynet News)
    In a report last week, a senior Palestinian police officer boasted that following their new deployment, Palestinian police were able to confiscate a total of 180 stolen Israeli vehicles.
    An Israeli reading this report would think: Look at that, Mahmoud Abbas is starting to put his house in order. But wait a moment. What do they mean by "confiscated?"
    What would a Swiss police officer do if his people seized vehicles stolen in Italy? We can assume he would call his counterparts in the Italian police force and hand over the vehicles to them.
    However, Palestinian police "confiscated" the vehicles. In other words, the Palestinian police force is short on vehicles, so it confiscates stolen vehicles to meet its own needs.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Israelis Brief Top U.S. Official on Iran - Steven Erlanger
    Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, heard Israel's assessment of Iran's nuclear ambitions during a visit to Israel on Monday. Israel thinks that an American intelligence assessment of Iranís nuclear weapons program, published in an unclassified version last week, is unduly optimistic and focuses too narrowly on the last stage of weapons development - fashioning a bomb from highly enriched uranium. Israeli intelligence estimates say Iran stopped all its nuclear weapons activities for a time in 2003, nervous after the American invasion of Iraq, but then resumed those activities in 2005, accelerating enrichment and ballistic missile development and constructing a 40-megawatt heavy-water reactor in Arak that could produce plutonium. Israel believes Iran continues to work on all phases of building a nuclear weapon. (New York Times)
        See also U.S. Joint Chiefs Head Tells Israel the U.S. Still Views Iran as a Threat - Peter Spiegel
    Adm. Mullen said he expressed similar U.S. concerns about the enrichment program, calling it the "center of gravity" of the Iranian program that needs to be stopped with the help of international pressure. He also reiterated American views that Iran continues to mislead nuclear regulators about the extent and intentions of its program. "I wanted to reassure them [the Israelis] that I still consider Iran a threat," Mullen said in an interview with The Times after his visit to Israel. "Their hegemonic views, their regime's rhetoric, still speaking to the elimination of Israel, is all very disturbing to me. I intended to leave the impression with them that I wasn't taking my eye off the mark." (Los Angeles Times)
  • U.S. Splits Proposed $20B Mideast Arms Sale - William Matthews
    In the face of strong congressional opposition to a proposed $20 billion sale of weapons to six Middle Eastern countries, the U.S. State Department has decided to break the sale into smaller pieces, a U.S. official said Dec. 6. The department notified Congress on Dec. 4 of proposed sales to Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates worth about $10.8 billion, but a State Department official said the department has postponed the more controversial sale of satellite-guided bomb kits to Saudi Arabia. News of that possible sale last July prompted nearly 250 members of Congress to sign two letters to President Bush opposing the sale. Some expressed concern that the precision bombs could be used against U.S. troops in the Middle East or against Israel. Others accused Saudi Arabia of supplying suicide bombers and insurgents to the war in Iraq. (Defense News)
  • New UN Iran Resolution Considered - Robin Wright
    A draft UN resolution on Iran circulating among the world's major powers calls for new sanctions against the Quds Force and a top Iranian bank as well as "restraint" and "vigilance" on the supply, sale or transfer of arms to Iran, according to sources familiar with the proposal. The draft of the long-delayed third UN sanctions resolution is still being negotiated, and early versions are often tougher than the final product, but the proposal indicates there is still an appetite for significant new punitive measures against Iran even after last week's new U.S. National Intelligence Estimate. Yet Moscow and Beijing are likely to have the last word on the final draft, since they have long opposed squeezing Iran too hard. (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Kills Eight Palestinian Militants in Gaza - Yuval Azoulay
    Eight Palestinian militants were killed and four Israel Defense Forces soldiers were lightly wounded in separate IDF operations across Gaza on Tuesday. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israeli, PA Talks to Focus on Process, Not Content - Herb Keinon
    The Israeli and Palestinian negotiators who will meet in Jerusalem on Wednesday to kick off final-status negotiations following last month's Annapolis conference will focus on process, procedure and building a framework for the bilateral talks aimed at reaching an agreement by the end of 2008, according to senior diplomatic officials. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who will head Israel's team in the talks, met Monday with Ahmed Qurei, who is heading the Palestinian delegation, to prepare for Wednesday's meeting. The talks are expected to begin in earnest following President Bush's planned visit to the region in mid-January. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues
    Palestinians in Gaza fired a Kassam rocket that landed in Israel's western Negev on Tuesday. A Kassam rocket fell in Sderot's industrial zone Monday evening. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Peace Index: Two-State Solution Won't End Conflict with Palestinians - Ephraim Yaar and Tamar Hermann
    According to Tel Aviv University's Peace Index survey carried out on December 3-4: 61% of the Jewish Israeli public believe that even if a peace agreement on a two-state solution is signed, it will not end the conflict with the Palestinians, while 31% believe such an agreement would end the conflict. 71% believe it is impossible to reach a peace settlement with the Palestinians without Hamas' consent, with only 21% claiming the opposite. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The National Intelligence Estimate Fantasy - Bret Stephens
    In August 2002, an Iranian opposition group revealed that Iran had an undeclared uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and an undeclared heavy water facility at Arak - both previously unknown to the U.S. intelligence community. Since then, the U.S. has labored to persuade the international community that all these facilities have no conceivable purpose other than a military one. Those efforts paid off in successive UN Security Council resolutions demanding Iran suspend enrichment because it was "concerned by the proliferation risks" it posed.
        Along comes the NIE to instantly undo four years of diplomacy, using a semantic sleight-of-hand to suggest some kind of distinction can be drawn between Iran's bid to master the nuclear fuel cycle and its efforts to build nuclear weapons. It's certainly plausible Tehran may have suspended one aspect of the program - the aspect that is the least technically challenging and that, if exposed, would offer smoking-gun proof of ill intent. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Questions for the Authors of the National Intelligence Estimate - Ephraim Sneh
    Two main ingredients are required for a nuclear bomb: fissile material and a special explosion device. The production of the fissile material requires large, easily detectable industrial facilities like the one in Natanz. To develop and produce the weapon device, however, only a small plant is enough, whose size and contours are similar to any innocent laboratory. Can the authors of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran say with confidence that such a laboratory does not exist anywhere in Iran? The writer, a retired Israeli general and a former deputy minister of defense, is a member of the Israeli Knesset's subcommittee on intelligence. (Boston Globe)
  • Protests in Teheran - Editorial
    Seen in isolation, there is little significance to the anti-government protests by students at Teheran University on Sunday. In the overall context, however, they sound a warning signal to Ahmadinejad as universities in Iran are a barometer to read the political temperature in the country. The protests may be seen as being part of a build-up for the legislative polls set for March, in which Iran's opposition reformists are trying to turn the tables on Ahmadinejad. Former presidents Rafsanjani and Khatami are seeking to stage a comeback. The conservatives too are hitting Ahmadinejad hard at this critical juncture. We will know by March which way Iran will move in the coming years and whether Ahmadinejad can stand his ground against the odds. (Khaleej Times-Dubai)
        See also Iranian Students Rally Against Ahmadinejad (AP/International Herald Tribune)
  • Observations:

    Rushing to Hand the Palestinians a Country - Mark Davis (Dallas News)

    • There is no problem with a quest for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The problem is rushing to hand the Palestinians a country before they seem remotely able to function as a sufficiently peaceful people.
    • Look at Gaza. Israel, America and the world were told that if Israel would just withdraw from Gaza, the Palestinians left behind would show their aptitude for self-rule. That they did, as Gaza became a hellish nightmare of violence.
    • Mr. Abbas can talk all day about his desire to peacefully coexist with Israel - I may be on the verge of believing him - but until there is an appreciable number of Palestinians similarly inclined to such civility, the two-state solution, the Roadmap to Peace - or whatever one wishes to call it - is worse than no solution. It is a delusion that only serves to reward horrific behavior.
    • In Jerusalem a few summers ago, I met many Palestinians eager to coexist peacefully with Israel. There simply are not enough of them.

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