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March 4, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran Crisis Arriving Faster than We Think - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)
    Iran now possesses 5,600 centrifuges in which it can enrich uranium - a 34-fold increase from 2006 - and plans to add 45,000 more over five years. That will give Tehran an ability to make atomic bombs on an industrial scale.
    In addition, Iran's new Russian-built reactor at Bushehr will eventually produce large quantities of spent fuel that can covertly be processed into weapons-usable plutonium.
    Furthermore, most proliferation experts agree that Iran's heavy water reactor in Arak, scheduled for completion in 2011, can have no purpose other than to produce weapons-grade plutonium.

Watch What You Say About Islam - Christopher Hitchens (Slate)
    The so-called mainstream Muslims, grouped in the Organization of the Islamic Conference, are demanding at the UN that Islam be officially shielded from any criticism.
    In UN Resolution 62/154 on "Combating Defamation of Religions," Paragraph 5 "expresses its deep concern that Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism," while Paragraph 6 "notes with deep concern the intensification of the campaign of defamation of religions and the ethnic and religious profiling of Muslim minorities in the aftermath of the tragic events of 11 September 2001."
    Paragraph 10 of the resolution says, in effect, watch what you say, because our declared intention is to criminalize opinions that differ with the one true faith.

U.S. Warns Citizens in Egypt after Spate of Attacks (AFP)
    The U.S. embassy in Egypt urged its citizens on Tuesday to take precautions following a deadly bombing in a tourist bazaar in Cairo on Feb. 22, saying more attacks could be planned.
    Five days later in the same location, an American teacher suffered slight cuts when a man knifed him in the face, while on Feb. 28 in the Cairo metro, a man threw an incendiary bottle that failed to explode.
    "We advise Americans to take great care in visiting these sites, to remain strictly alert to their surroundings, and to practice good personal security measures," the embassy said.

Report: Significant Rise in Anti-Semitic Attacks in Europe - Maud Swinnen (European Jewish Press)
    Europe has seen a significant rise in anti-Semitic attacks since Israel's operation in Gaza and the onset of the global economic crisis, according to a new report on "Anti-Semitism. Summary Overview of the Situation in the European Union 2001-2008," released Monday by the Vienna-based EU's Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA).

Haifa Again a Port of Call for U.S. Navy - Maya Spitzer (Jerusalem Post)
    After years of being off limits, Haifa is once again a port of call for the U.S. Navy. The USS Vella Gulf guided missile cruiser docked in Haifa port on Sunday to provide rest and relaxation for its 400 crew members.
    In the mid-1980s, the American Sixth Fleet was sending 40 to 50 ships a year to Haifa, but this was reduced in the early 1990s because of deployments elsewhere, such as in Yugoslavia and in the Gulf War.
    Visits had ceased after the second intifada began in September 2000 and the USS Cole was attacked in the port of Aden on October 12 of that year.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Sends Senior Officials to Syria to Revive Relations - Glenn Kessler
    The U.S. is moving quickly to revive relations with Syria, sending two senior officials to Damascus this weekend to explore how the two countries can move beyond years of bitterness over the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and Syria's links to terrorist groups. The U.S. emissaries will be Jeffrey D. Feltman, acting assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, and Dan Shapiro, the senior official for the Middle East on the National Security Council staff. Feltman held a two-hour meeting Thursday at the State Department with the Syrian ambassador to the U.S. The U.S. has not had an ambassador in Syria for four years, since the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri. UN investigators have implicated Syrian officials in the Hariri attack. (Washington Post)
  • EU Countries Side with U.S., Israel on Durban II - Eliane Engeler
    EU countries Tuesday stepped up their opposition to Muslim attempts to shield Islam from criticism and attack Israel through a UN conference on racism. Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Verhagen told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva: "The thematic world conference is used by some to try to force their concept of defamation of religions and their focus on one regional conflict on all of us." References to Israel in the current draft conclusion for the so-called Durban II conference are unacceptable, Verhagen said. Denmark, Germany, Belgium and Italy voiced similar concerns. (AP)
  • Saudi Minister Says Arabs Should Stand Up to Iran - Salah Nasrawi
    Saudi Arabia's top diplomat urged Arabs on Tuesday to stand up to Iran's ambitions in the region, including its nuclear program. At a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo, Prince Saud al-Faisal stressed "a unified and a joint vision" in dealing with the "Iranian challenge in regard to Arabian Gulf security and the nuclear issue." The predominantly Sunni Arab Middle East has been wary of the growing influence of Shiite Iran. Arabs fear that the Obama administration's expected efforts to engage Tehran might lead to a deal that would bring the U.S. and Iran closer at the expense of Arab interests. (AP)
        See also Iran, Bahrain, and the Arabs - Ali Younes
    When former Iranian Parliament speaker Ali Akbar Nateq Nori said a few weeks ago that Bahrain was Iran's 14th province, he caused a firestorm of angry protests from almost all of the Arab leaders, particularly in Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Arab governments, alarmed by the new U.S. approach to Iran, opted to raise their rhetoric against Iran. (Al Arabiya-Dubai)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Tells Clinton Military Option for Iran Must Remain on Table - Roni Sofer
    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met on Tuesday in Israel with President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. All of them told Clinton that Iran's military nuclear program must be halted and that more pressure must be exerted to cut off the supply of missiles and technology to Tehran while combating the funding of terror organizations. Israel believes that time is running out while Tehran stalls in an effort to establish facts on the ground. Defense Minister Barak told Clinton during their meeting that Israel would not take any option off the table.
        In her meeting with Barak, Clinton pressed for Israel to open the Gaza border crossings and expressed her concerns regarding the impact the closure has on the humanitarian situation there. However, during her joint press conference with Minister Livni, Clinton said it was difficult to discuss the transfer of humanitarian aid to Gaza as long as the rocket attacks against Israel continue. (Ynet News)
  • Israel Air Force Bombs Gaza Smuggling Tunnels - Anshel Pfeffer
    Israel Air Force jets bombed smuggling tunnels in Gaza near the border with Egypt on Tuesday and Wednesday in retaliation for Kassam rocket and mortar fire from Gaza into Israel. The Israel Defense Forces spokesperson's office said that secondary explosions could be seen from one of the tunnels, indicating the presence of ammunition inside it. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinian gunmen fired two Kassam rockets into Israel from Gaza on Tuesday evening. The rockets landed south of Ashkelon and near a kibbutz. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • That Surreal Gaza Reconstruction Conference - Daniel Pipes
    Was I the only one rubbing my eyes in disbelief as the Egyptian government hosted an "International Conference for the Reconstruction of Gaza"? Husni Mubarak of Egypt, Nicholas Sarkozy of France, Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, and Ban Ki-moon of the UN all gave speeches. But do they really believe that warfare in Gaza is a thing of the past, and that the time for reconstruction is nigh? There have been nearly 100 rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza since the ceasefire on Jan. 18. What are the donor countries doing, getting in the middle of an on-going war with their high-profile reconstruction effort? Perhaps this permits them to subtly signal Jerusalem that it better not attack Gaza again, because doing so will confront it with a lot of very angry donor governments. (FrontPageMagazine)
        See also No Pasta to Gaza Until Hamas Frees Kidnapped Soldier - Marty Peretz
    Hamas is still targeting rockets into the cities and towns of southern Israel. I believe that Israel should allow no aid to Gaza until projectiles of death have stopped endangering life in Israel. Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is still in captivity after 32 months since his kidnapping. Hamas has been playing with this man's life for all that time. You want to put real pressure on the mad Sunni warriors of the Muslim god? Then put real pressure on them. Let the Israelis demonstrate that no spaghetti and no boards and nails enter Gaza until this hostage is freed. (New Republic)
  • Egypt Not Blocking Gaza Arms Smuggling - Yoram Cohen and Matthew Levitt
    Given Hamas' ongoing weapons smuggling into Gaza, Israel's mid-January unilateral ceasefire may be short-lived. Over the past year, Hamas has acquired a formidable collection of imported 122 mm rockets known as Grads, brought in piecemeal through tunnels and reassembled in Gaza. These Grads, an Iranian-produced version of the Chinese-designed rocket, increase the reach of Hamas into Israel. The arms-smuggling network is directed by Hamas offices in Damascus and aided by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards, which provides the majority of the weaponry.
        Despite recent improvements to the countersmuggling effort in Sinai, Egypt is averse to recognizing the severity of the issue. In most cases, following the exposure of a tunnel, Egyptian forces have either placed a guard at the mouth of the tunnel or blocked the tunnel entrance, rather than taking steps to demolish the tunnel completely. As such, smugglers have been able to employ these tunnels again after a short interval. When a tunnel entrance has been blocked, diggers typically cut a new access channel nearby and connect with the existing tunnel. There is no evidence that Egyptian forces are taking steps to arrest and punish smugglers. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Doubts About a Two-State Solution - Giora Eiland
    Not only is the "two-state solution" far from being the single solution, it's a bad solution, and will likely never be achieved. The idea of "two states" is based on the assumption that the primary Palestinian national ambition is statehood. There is no basis to this. The Palestinian ethos is based on values such as justice, victimization, revenge and, above all, the "right of return." It's true that the Palestinians want to do away with the occupation, but it's wrong to assume that this translates into a desire for an independent state. They would prefer the solution of "no state at all" - that is, the State of Israel will cease to exist and the area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River will be divided among Jordan, Syria and Egypt.
        The second assumption is that if a Palestinian state is created, it will be ruled by "moderates." There is no basis to this. It is likely that the regime in Gaza and the West Bank will fall within a short time into the hands of Hamas. Maj.-Gen. (res.) Giora Eiland is former chairman of Israel's National Security Council. (Ynet News)
        See also Rethinking the Two-State Solution - Giora Eiland (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Observations:

    New Palestinian TV - To Broadcast What? - Khaled Abu Toameh (Hudson Institute-New York)

    • American and European taxpayers are now being asked to fund a new satellite TV station that will broadcast from Ramallah in the West Bank and serve as a mouthpiece for PA head Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction. But Fatah already has a TV station called Palestine TV. The faction also has its own radio station (Voice of Palestine), three daily newspapers and several radio stations, in addition to at least 13 Web sites that provide a platform for daily attacks on Hamas and other rivals.
    • If Abbas and his Fatah companions want to tell the Palestinians through the new TV station how bad Hamas is, why are Abbas and his Fatah lieutenants chasing Hamas and literally begging it to agree to the formation of a "unity government," talking in Cairo about joining forces and distributing ministerial portfolios?
    • There is another problem with the Fatah-controlled media. While targeting Hamas, the Fatah newspapers, radio and TV stations and Web sites have also been inciting against their peace partner, Israel, and against the U.S. and Europe - the same parties that are financing Fatah and supplying it with weapons. Ironically, this type of incitement drives more Palestinians into the open arms of Hamas.
    • If you are telling your people day and night how bad and evil Israel is, your people will then say that this means that Hamas is right - you can't make peace with Israel or any Jew. If you are telling your people that the Israelis are war criminals and children killers and are basically responsible for all the miseries of the Palestinians, what will the people think of Mahmoud Abbas when they see him meeting with any Israeli?
    • The last thing the international community needs to do is to fund yet another Palestinian media outlet that promotes hatred, violence and anti-Western sentiments.

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