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March 12, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Iran Seeks to Buy Banned Carbon Fiber - George Jahn (AP)
    Two diplomats say Iran's national car company Khodro planned to purchase large quantities of carbon fiber, which is under UN embargo because it is a component of advanced centrifuges used to enrich uranium.
    Iran has used carbon fiber in the rotors of new, advanced centrifuges known as the IR-2, IR-3 and IR-4, which spin uranium gas to produce enriched uranium.
    The UN prohibits sales of carbon fiber to Iran for any purpose.

Iran to Finance Ecuadorian Power Plants (Press TV-Iran)
    After a meeting with Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, Iranian Deputy Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian said Iran will finance two new power plants in Ecuador and finance a $40 million loan for business development.
    In January, Iran approved an extension of a $280 million loan for oil project development in Ecuador.

Iranian TV Show Scrapped after Child Calls Toy Monkey Ahmadinejad - Robert Tait (Guardian-UK)
    On Amoo Pourang (Uncle Pourang), a TV program watched by millions of Iranian children three times a week on state TV, presenter Dariush Farziayi asked the name of the toy monkey his young caller had been given as a reward for good behavior.
    "Well, my father calls him Ahmadinejad," the child replied.
    As a result, the program has been cancelled after a successful seven-year run.

Israeli Arabs Look Increasingly to Jordanian Universities - Brenda Gazzar (Jerusalem Post)
    More than 5,000 Israeli Arabs are studying at Jordanian colleges and universities - a massive increase from just 100 in 1998.
    At the same time, about 10,000 Arab students are in higher education in Israel and make up about 9% of the total student population.

Facebook Launches in Arabic and Hebrew (Telegraph-UK)
    Facebook in English has more than 900,000 users in Egypt, more than 250,000 in Saudi Arabia, and more than 300,000 in Lebanon.
    It will now be available in Arabic and Hebrew.

Saudi Court Sentences 75-Year-Old Woman to Lashes - Maggie Michael (AP/Washington Post)
    A 75-year-old widow in Saudi Arabia, Khamisa Sawadi, has been sentenced to 40 lashes and four months in jail for mingling with two young men who are not close relatives.
    The newspaper Al-Watan identified one man as the nephew of Sawadi's late husband, and the other as his friend.
    They were arrested by the religious police after delivering bread to Sawadi, and were also convicted and sentenced to lashes and prison.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Obama Administration Overhauls U.S. Mideast Policy - Meredith Buel
    President Obama has been in office less than two months, but he has already dispatched Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, special envoy George Mitchell, and other diplomats from the State Department and White House to the Middle East. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry, who also visited the region, said, "We need to fundamentally re-conceptualize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a regional problem that demands a regional solution. The challenges that we face there - Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and the Middle East peace process - form an interconnected web that requires an integrated approach."
        Sen. Kerry says there has been a tectonic shift in the geopolitics of the Middle East, with the rise of Iran creating an unprecedented willingness among moderate Arab nations to work with Israel. "There is a new reality - moderate Arab countries and Israel alike are actually more worried together about Iran than they are about each other. As a result, they are now cooperating in ways that were unimaginable just a couple of years ago."
        Robert Malley, the Middle East program director at the International Crisis Group, says, "If I were advising the administration I would say you could work on the margins - Palestinian reconciliation, reaching out to Syria, restarting Syrian-Israeli negotiations, reaching out to Iran. I think by changing that landscape you may do more to help move towards a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than by focusing on a two-state solution right now." Malley says current realities on the ground diminish hopes of quick progress on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (VOA News)
  • Germany Charges John Demjanjuk with Complicity in Deaths at Nazi Camp - Craig Whitlock
    German prosecutors Wednesday issued an arrest warrant for John Demjanjuk, 88, a native Ukrainian who immigrated to the U.S. in 1952, charging him with complicity in the murder of 29,000 people when he worked in 1943 as a Nazi guard at the Sobibor concentration camp. In 1986, the U.S. extradited him to Israel, where he was sentenced to death on charges that he had been a Nazi guard known as Ivan the Terrible at the Treblinka concentration camp. But he was freed on appeal in 1993 after evidence emerged that investigators had confused him with another Ukrainian guard. (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Clinton: U.S. Gaza Aid Tied to Recognition of Israel - Barak Ravid
    Some $900 million pledged by the U.S. to the Palestinians will be withdrawn if the expected PA coalition government between Fatah and Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist, Western and Israeli diplomats said Wednesday. Last week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned PA leader Mahmoud Abbas that Congress will not approve funding of a Palestinian government that does not recognize Israel's right to exist and renounce violence. She added that if those requirements are not met, the U.S.-funded program to train PA security forces would be the first to be axed. The Obama administration is adamant in maintaining the previous U.S. administration's position of boycotting Hamas. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues
    Palestinians in Gaza fired four rockets at Israel on Wednesday. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Failed Nominee Peddles a Conspiracy Theory - Editorial
    Former ambassador Charles W. Freeman Jr. looked like a poor choice to chair the National Intelligence Council. A former envoy to Saudi Arabia and China, he suffered from an extreme case of clientitis on both accounts. In addition to chiding Beijing for not crushing the Tiananmen Square democracy protests sooner and offering sycophantic paeans to Saudi King "Abdullah the Great," Mr. Freeman headed a Saudi-funded Middle East advocacy group in Washington and served on the advisory board of a state-owned Chinese oil company.
        It wasn't until Mr. Freeman withdrew from consideration for the job, however, that it became clear just how bad a selection he was. Mr. Freeman issued a two-page screed on Tuesday in which he described himself as the victim of a shadowy and sinister "Lobby" which is "intent on enforcing adherence to the policies of a foreign government." Yes, Mr. Freeman was referring to Americans who support Israel - and his statement was a grotesque libel. For the record, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee took no formal position on Mr. Freeman's appointment and undertook no lobbying against him. According to Newsweek, Mr. Freeman's most formidable critic - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi - was incensed by his position on dissent in China.
        Freeman describes "an inability of the American public to discuss, or the government to consider, any option for U.S. policies in the Middle East opposed by the ruling faction in Israeli politics." That will certainly be news to Israel's "ruling faction," which in the past few years has seen the U.S. government promote a Palestinian election that it opposed; refuse it weapons it might have used for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities; and adopt a policy of direct negotiations with a regime that denies the Holocaust and that promises to wipe Israel off the map. (Washington Post)
  • Iran's Protocols of Potter - Josef Joffe
    It was high time that anti-Semitism would find something hipper than those dusty Protocols of the Elders of Zion, concocted sometime between 1895 and 1902 by Russian journalist Matvei Golovinski and then used by the pro-Tsarists to discredit reforms in Russia as a Jewish plot. Iranian TV has beaten them hands down with "Harry Potter and the Ziono-Hollywoodist Conspiracy," broadcast on Dec. 15, 2008, on IRINN, the Iranian news channel. Since Harry Potter movies are all about "witchcraft and brainwashing," they are a Zionist tool, since witchcraft was invented by the "rabbis of ancient Egypt." The writer is publisher-editor of the German weekly Die Zeit. (Middle East Strategy at Harvard)
        See also A Response to "Iran's Protocols of Potter" - Walter Reich
    This video clip, absurd as it is, is part of the wave of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that have washed across the Arab/Muslim media for many years - a wave that, in recent years, has reached tsunami-like proportions. My guess is that, to one extent or another, most in the Arab/Muslim world believe that many of the anti-Semitic charges with which they've been bombarded for years are true. Many of the Iranians who watched this on television weren't unaffected by it, and that is a real - and potentially very bloody - problem. The writer, a professor of international affairs, ethics and human behavior at George Washington University, is a former director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. (MESH)
        View the video: Iranian TV Presents: Harry Potter and the Ziono-Hollywoodist Conspiracy (MEMRI/YouTube)
  • Al-Qaeda's Economic Crisis - Richard Barrett
    Al-Qaeda's immediate reaction to the financial crisis has been to claim credit for the economic misfortunes of the West. Yet, unlike their Taliban hosts who are heavily involved in the lucrative drug trade, al-Qaeda leaders do not currently have significant financial resources. This contrasts sharply with the situation before 9/11 when the annual al-Qaeda budget was some $20-30 million a year, of which several million went to the Taliban.
        Because of its tenuous financial state, al-Qaeda often asks for money. Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, whom the 9/11 Commission Report identified as al-Qaeda's chief financier, and who is now considered the head of al-Qaeda operations in Afghanistan, often makes direct appeals for donations. In an interview in mid-2008, he stated that al-Qaeda had many potential suicide bombers but lacked the resources to equip them. The writer is the coordinator of the al-Qaeda, Taliban Monitoring Team appointed by the UN Secretary-General. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Observations:

    Mideast Peace Can Start with Economic Growth - Daniel Doron (Wall Street Journal)

    • Though billions of dollars in "aid" have flowed into the Palestinian territories, Palestinian leaders used it to bolster terrorist groups and fight Israel, rather than build their society. In order to succeed, peace efforts need to create positive incentives. An economic peace process can create such a reality, as it has in the past until political obsessions interrupted it.
    • Following Israel's conquest of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, Gen. Moshe Dayan's "open bridges" policy facilitated the free movement of goods and people, and brought prosperity to the private sector. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were employed in Israel for much higher wages than under Jordanian and Egyptian rule. Living standards quintupled and agriculture, manufacturing, education, health and the status of women and children rapidly improved. And there were practically no incidents of terrorism.
    • Today, many policy-makers advocate a total separation between Israel and the Palestinians. But the latter cannot develop a prosperous economy and a viable state in economic isolation. Separation will result in economic ruin, as has already happened in Gaza.
    • For centuries, civilized Europeans slaughtered one another and political solutions were unable to stop the carnage. Then the creation of a European economic community shifted political priorities and peace came to reign. A similar process can lead, again, to peaceful developments in the Middle East. With no viable alternatives, it's certainly worth trying.

      The writer is president of the Israel Center for Social and Economic Progress.

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