Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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September 8, 2008

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran-China Satellite Poses No Threat - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    A satellite jointly launched by Iran and China on Sunday has no military applications and can't collect intelligence on IDF installations, said Tal Inbar, a senior researcher at the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies.
    The research satellite, developed jointly by Thailand, Iran and China, was successfully launched into orbit by a Chinese rocket.
    Inbar said the satellite's resolution was sufficient to track water levels as well as forest growth, but "is not high enough to have military value."

Muslims Attack Jewish Teens in Paris (AP)
    Three young Parisian Jews were treated for fractures and bruises after what France's interior minister described Sunday as an anti-Semitic attack in northern Paris on Saturday.
    Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie issued a statement saying she "strongly condemned the anti-Semitic violence."

Cliff Collapses on Slum in Egypt - Noha El-Hennawy and Jeffrey Fleishman (Los Angeles Times)
    Tons of stone and rock broke away from the Muqattam cliffs Saturday, killing at least 32 people, injuring dozens and leaving as many as hundreds missing in the ruins of about 50 smashed houses and apartment buildings in an eastern Cairo slum.
    Families from nearby houses, fearing more boulders would tumble from the weakened cliffs, loaded trucks and carts with possessions and fled.
    The Egyptian government wants to demolish neighborhoods such as Douaiqa, but the slums ringing this city of 17 million people seem to be expanding overnight.
    Many blamed the regime for not moving them earlier and charged leaders with neglect for the slow response of emergency crews.

Terror Groups Developing "Dirty Bomb" - Con Coughlin (Telegraph-UK)
    Islamist terrorists are exploiting the political chaos in Pakistan in a bid to acquire nuclear material for a "spectacular" attack.
    At least one plot has been uncovered involving Pakistani-based terrorists planning to use nuclear material against a major European target.
    The most likely terror device using nuclear material is a "dirty bomb," where conventional explosives are fitted with radioactive material.
    Security experts believe the detonation of such a device in a city like London would provoke widespread panic and chaos, even though the area of contamination would be relatively small.

Islam Group Urges Forest Fire Jihad - Josh Gordon (The Age-Australia)
    U.S. intelligence channels earlier this year identified a website posting on the Al-Ikhlas Islamic Network calling on Muslims in the U.S., Europe, Russia and Australia to "start forest fires," claiming "scholars have justified chopping down and burning the infidels' forests."
    "Imagine if, after all the losses caused by such an event, a jihadist organization were to claim responsibility for the forest fires," the website says. "You can hardly begin to imagine the level of fear that would take hold of people in the U.S., in Europe, in Russia and in Australia."

Key Links 
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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Russia Weighs Increasing Nuclear Aid to Iran - Mark Franchetti
    Russia is considering increasing its assistance to Iran's nuclear program in response to America's calls for NATO expansion eastwards and the presence of U.S. Navy vessels in the Black Sea delivering aid to Georgia. The Kremlin is discussing sending teams of Russian nuclear experts to Tehran and inviting Iranian nuclear scientists to Moscow for training, according to sources close to the Russian military. (Times-UK)
  • Cheney: Russia Supplies Arms to Terrorists
    U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney accused Russia on Saturday of selling arms its leaders know will end up with terrorists. Aides to Israeli President Shimon Peres said Cheney told him at a conference in Italy that Russian leaders are aware Iran and Syria are buying weapons for terrorist groups in Iraq and Hizbullah in Lebanon. (UPI)
  • Armed Palestinian Factions Use Calm with Israel to Train New Fighters - Saleh al Naeimi
    Shortly after nightfall in Gaza, the sound of heavy fire can be heard, while minutes later, tens of men belonging to the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, are seen moving fast in columns in the street with their full military gear. Since the calm agreement between Israel and Hamas came into play, Palestinian resistance factions have taken advantage of the ceasefire by conducting military training for their recruits. Military exercises are being conducted inside Palestinian residential areas that are close to the border areas, without approaching the contact lines with the Israeli army. (Asharq Alawsat-UK)
  • Palestinians Seek to Overturn Judgment, but There's a $192.7 Million Catch - Benjamin Weiser
    The family of American Aharon Ellis, killed by a Palestinian Authority security officer who attacked a bat mitzvah celebration in Israel in 2002, charged the PLO and the PA in U.S. federal court with orchestrating the shooting that killed him. The suit was brought under a law that allows American victims of international terrorism to sue for triple damages. A federal judge awarded the family a default judgment of $192.7 million in damages after the PLO and PA refused to defend the suit on the merits. But now the Palestinians, holding themselves out as a partner in the Middle East peace process, have changed lawyers, and asked the judge for a second chance.
        The judge, Victor Marrero of Federal District Court in Manhattan, has agreed to set aside the judgment and give them that chance. But there's a catch. He is requiring the Palestinians to post a bond of $192.7 million so that if they lose again, the damages would be paid. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Iran Solidifies Control over Hizbullah - Yaakov Katz
    Iran is consolidating its grip on Hizbullah and instituted a number of structural changes following the Second Lebanon War, under which Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah no longer enjoys exclusive command over its military wing, top Israeli defense officials have revealed. Nasrallah now has to receive Iranian permission prior to certain operations. "There is real Iranian command now over Hizbullah," a top IDF officer said. "Whenever [Nasrallah] pops his head out of his bunker he sees an Iranian official standing over him." (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. Denies Involvement in Israeli-Syrian Peace Talks - Herb Keinon
    The U.S. is not sending an envoy to take part in the next round of indirect Israeli-Syrian talks in Turkey, a U.S. embassy official in Tel Aviv said Saturday, following a report in the London-based Asharq Alawsat that the next round would be supervised by a senior U.S. official. State Department deputy spokesman Robert Wood said, "Overall, what we'd like to see out of Syria is for it to play a much more productive role in the region. It hasn't until now." "I think it remains to be seen just how serious Syria is about engaging in peace discussions with Israel," said Wood. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Soap Opera Postponed
    The Palestine Broadcasting Corporation (PBC) has postponed the scheduled airing of a new TV series, "Matabb" (Arabic for "speed bump"). Officials at PBC said Friday that the German-funded series was postponed until certain scenes were changed. Yehya Barakat, the director of programs at PBC, said, "It is an attempt to make sure that no scenes offensive to any party will be aired on an official television station."
        Other PBC officials charged that certain scenes failed to show the Israeli occupation in a negative enough light. The officials mentioned one scene in which a Palestinian gives a flower to Israeli soldiers at an army checkpoint in the West Bank. They insinuated the series was influenced by the fact that it was funded by Germany's Goethe Institute and the European Commission, which would not back programs that do not encourage coexistence between Israel and the Palestinians. (DPA/Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Building a Security Framework for a Nuclear Iran - David Kay
    Given what we know and what we can best-guess, it looks as if Iran is 80 percent of the way to a functioning nuclear weapon. We know, basically, that Tehran has a handle on the fissionable material. Iran imported significant amounts of raw uranium from China in 1991. It has also attempted to produce weapons-grade material, conducting secret enrichment efforts and acquiring designs, materials and samples of gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment from the A.Q. Khan network. Plus, over the past 18 years, the Iranians have developed and tested state-of-the-art centrifuges and enrichment techniques. If Iran's 6,000 forthcoming new-design centrifuges were working for a year, the program could produce about five weapons. My best guess is that they are about two to four years away from accomplishing this. Obtaining that last 20 percent of the elements needed to make a nuclear weapon would take perhaps one to two years.
        My humble best guess is that Iran is pushing toward a nuclear-weapons capability as rapidly as it can. But if Tehran were to believe that American - not Israeli - military action is imminent, it might slow work on the elements of its program that it thinks the world can observe. The writer led the UN inspections after the Persian Gulf War that uncovered the Iraqi nuclear program. (Washington Post)
  • Iran's Faltering Economy - Michael Rubin
    In his 2005 election campaign, President Ahmadinejad promised to bring Iran's "oil [money] to the table of every Iranian." Oil prices may have more than tripled to over $130, but few Iranians see benefit as Iran experiences runaway inflation and shortages of basic commodities. This past winter, bread prices increased between 200 and 700 percent across northern Iran. To alleviate prices, the government shipped bread from Tehran to the north, sparking shortages and bread lines in Tehran. Ahmadinejad ordered the Central Bank to lower interest rates to 10 percent and clashed with its director after he refused. Sarmayeh, Iran's main financial daily, ridiculed Ahmadinejad's new finance minister after he denied any relationship between interest rates and inflation. The reformist daily Aftab-e Yazd observed, "The misguided policies of the government hit us harder than the sanctions of the foreigners." (Euro-Atlantic Quarterly)
        See also Iran: Inflation Hits 27.6 Percent
    The Central Bank of Iran said the inflation rate hit 27.6% in August - a 1.8% jump from the previous month. (Iran Daily/Zawya-Dubai)
  • With Hi-Tech Software, Arab American with Ties to Hizbullah Skimmed $20 Million - Roy Furchgott
    Thanks to a software program called a zapper, even technologically illiterate restaurant and store owners can siphon cash from computer cash registers and cheat tax officials. A 12-store restaurant chain in Detroit used a zapper to skim more than $20 million over four years, federal prosecutors say. IRS investigators in 2006 said that Talal Chahine, owner of 12 Lebanese restaurants called La Shish, had used a zapper to hide more than $20 million in cash, according to federal court documents filed by a U.S. attorney in Detroit. The cash has not been recovered, and at least part of the money was sent to Lebanon as cashiers' checks, the prosecutors say. Chahine was indicted on income tax evasion charges, but the Department of Justice believes he is a fugitive in Lebanon, where he has connections to Hizbullah. (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    The United States, Israel, and the Iranian Threat: A View from Congress - Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • The best way to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear capabilities is to impose a cost so high that it threatens the Iranian regime's survival unless that regime changes course. U.S. sanctions have hindered Iran's ability to attract capital, materials, and technical support, and have created extensive and growing financial difficulties for the regime. Yet although Congress has repeatedly passed sanctions legislation which has been signed into law, its implementation has been watered down or ignored by successive administrations.
    • The latest U.S. response has been to join the European Union's efforts to bribe the mullahs into suspending uranium enrichment, while failing to apply U.S. sanctions aimed at denying the Iranian regime the political legitimacy and economic resources that it needs to continue engaging in its destructive policies.
    • We must impose immediate, comprehensive, tough economic sanctions, along with every other source of pressure that we can muster, in coordination with as many countries as we can persuade to do so. We should engage officials in friendly nations, international organizations, and financial institutions, and work to persuade them to cooperate with the United States in targeting the Iranian regime.
    • The United States should make a moral statement that we will not deal with pariah states and will not help such states to fortify themselves and thereby endanger our own national interests and the interests of our allies, such as Israel.
    • The Iranian regime's expanding political and military involvement across the Middle East and South Asia is a force to be reckoned with. We need to wake up and understand the implications of this matter, not just for Israel but for the United States as well. History has taught us that failing to act when threatened by a deadly foe like Iran usually ends in an avoidable tragedy. We ignore Iran's growing hegemony at our own peril.

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