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March 17, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

"No Deal" to Free Israeli Soldier (BBC)
    Two senior Israeli envoys have returned from indirect talks with Hamas in Cairo without a deal on the release of captured soldier Gilad Shalit.
    The Israeli government accused Hamas of hardening its position on a proposed exchange of Sgt. Shalit for hundreds of Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

Iran's Ongoing Proxy War in Iraq - Michael Knights (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    Iran has been developing a covert action program in Iraq for decades, one that utilizes a broad range of Iraqi proxies.
    Iran's best known militant proxy in Iraq is Asaib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous), often referred to as Special Groups. These cells specialize in certain types of signature attacks, such as the employment of Iranian-produced weapons or components, including the roadside bombs referred to as explosively formed projectiles that account for 40% of U.S. casualties.
    Iranian-backed groups have also specialized in the use of long-range rocket attacks on coalition bases.

EU Threatens to Boycott UN Anti-Racism Conference (Reuters)
    The EU threatened on Monday to withdraw from a UN conference on racism next month unless its final declaration is changed, joining a number of countries concerned the meeting could become an anti-Semitic forum.
    The U.S. has also said it will not attend the conference unless the wording of the final declaration is altered radically.
    Israel is calling for a boycott of the event.

Israel's National Security Aide Barred from U.S. - Eli Lake (Washington Times)
    Uzi Arad, who is expected to serve as national security adviser in the next Israeli government, has been barred from entering the U.S. for nearly two years on the grounds that he is an intelligence risk.
    Arad, a former director of intelligence for the Mossad, is mentioned in the indictment of Lawrence Franklin, a former Pentagon analyst who pleaded guilty in 2005 to providing classified information about Iran in a conversation with two employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Radical British Muslims Help Fight Coalition Forces in Afghanistan - Con Coughlin (Telegraph-UK)
    There has been active involvement of radical British Muslims in the Afghan insurgency and British Muslims are fighting with the Taliban.
    British-made components have been found in roadside bombs used to attack coalition forces in Afghanistan, sent by Muslim sympathizers in Britain.
    This week three British Muslims, part of a terrorist cell whose leader was convicted of plotting to kidnap and behead a British soldier on video, were jailed for supplying equipment to the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iran's Khatami Withdraws from Presidential Race
    Iran's former President Mohammad Khatami, seen as President Ahmadinejad's main pro-reform challenger, has withdrawn his candidacy for the June presidential election and will back former Prime Minister Mirhossein Mousavi, Iranian media reported Tuesday. (Reuters-Washington Post)
  • Syria Says Relations with Iran Will Remain Strong
    Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Monday that his country's relations with Iran will remain strong. His comments appear to be directed at moderate Sunni Arab countries hoping to peal Syria away from its Shiite Persian ally. Al-Moallem described Syria's relationship with Iran as "excellent," a week after Saudi Arabia hosted the leaders of Syria, Egypt and Kuwait in a move aimed at persuading Damascus to distance itself from Tehran. (AP-International Herald Tribune)
  • U.S. Downed Iranian Drone Over Iraq - Rod Nordland and Alissa J. Rubin
    Col. James Hutton, a spokesman for the U.S. military commander in Iraq, said Monday that allied aircraft shot down an "Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle" on Feb. 25, about 60 miles northeast of Baghdad. "It was in Iraqi airspace and tracked one hour and 10 minutes before it was engaged," Hutton added. The drone was identified as an Ababil 3, an aircraft developed by Iran with a 10.5-foot wingspan, launched from a truck catapult and recovered by parachute. It is equipped with a video camera and transmission equipment, and flown by ground-based pilots. (New York Times)
        See also Iran Claims to Build Long-Distance Unmanned Aircraft - Edward Yeranian
    Iran's Deputy Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi told the semi-official Fars news agency his country has built an unmanned surveillance aircraft with a range of more than 950 kilometers. (VOA News)
  • Israeli Town Copes with Return of Daily Rockets - Ilene R. Prusher
    The very hour Hannah Melul returned to Sderot with her three young boys, whom she'd taken on vacation up north to escape the front lines, the rockets were back. Minutes after they returned home, a Kassam rocket launched from nearby Gaza landed about 50 yards from their apartment building. "Apart from the problem, well, a really big problem," she says, "it's a great place to live." Nearly two months after Israel and Hamas each declared unilateral cease-fires, Hamas and other groups such as Islamic Jihad send several rockets and missiles into Israel on an almost daily basis.
        A recent study by NATAL, the Israel Trauma Center for Victims of War and Terror, found that 28% of people in Sderot suffered from symptoms associated with PTSD. Overall levels of anxiety and depression were nearly two to three times as high in Sderot, and children are five times as likely to have sleep difficulties. "It affects every moment of your daily life in some way," Melul says. She doesn't see logic in the argument that Hamas is fighting for Israel to open the border crossings. "Why doesn't Egypt open the border? You have your brothers on the other side - let them supply you with what you need," she argues. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Chief: Strike on Iran a Serious Option - Natasha Mozgovaya
    IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, currently visiting the U.S., said on Monday that while Israel was interested in exhausting diplomatic options against Iran's nuclear program, the army must prepare itself for a military attack. He told Dennis Ross, the designated U.S. envoy to the Persian Gulf, that Israel would not tolerate a nuclear Iran. (Ha'aretz)
  • Top Israeli Security Official: Hamas, Hizbullah Can't Be Trusted - Roee Nahmias
    Both Hamas and Hizbullah will continue to seek Israel's destruction and must not be granted any legitimacy, Amos Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau, told a conference at the Interdisciplinary Center on Monday. He said both Hamas and Hizbullah are "entities with an incredibly radical worldview, but they're flexible in terms of a timetable....They may accept a temporary agreement. However, in terms of their value system, they can always violate such a deal the moment they feel strong enough."
        "This is what happened with the previous lull....The lull was unlimited and was not restricted to six months, as Hamas claimed. They violated it because they thought Israel is weak and won't enter Gaza." "They are capable of agreeing to a 30-year ceasefire and violating it after 30 days," he said. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Charles Freeman Orchestrated His Own Fall - Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-VA)
    I am one of a number of members of Congress who challenged the selection of former ambassador Charles Freeman for chairman of the National Intelligence Council. Freeman's charges of an elaborate conspiracy to derail his nomination are disingenuous. The "Israel lobby" never contacted me. For me, the warning flags about Charles Freeman went up when I learned of his questionable associations and inflammatory statements about China and Tibet. While the reports of Freeman's public statements first raised my concern about his suitability to be chairman of the National Intelligence Council, his words after his withdrawal crystallized exactly why Freeman was the wrong choice for the job. (Washington Post)
        See also A Parting Shot that Maligns Obama, Too - Charles Lane
    Even if Freeman had a perfectly legitimate grievance, even if he had been maligned, he wouldn't be entitled to respond in kind - much less to brand large numbers of his fellow citizens as fifth columnists. (Washington Post)
  • Why Freeman Was Wrong about What His Defeat Signified - David Rothkopf
    What I did not like most about the Chas Freeman debacle was the degree to which it offered apparent support to the "Israel Lobby" theories of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer. Whatever the pale intellectual merits of Walt's argument may be, he and Mearsheimer know full well that their prominence on this issue has come not because they have had a single new insight but rather because they were willing and one can only believe inclined to play to a crowd whose "views" were fueled by prejudice and worse. (Foreign Policy)
  • Hamas Torture Brings Gaza Reign of Fear - Jason Koutsoukis
    Dalal al-Shoubaki remembers the day Hamas sent its dreaded Internal Security Service to arrest her husband Hamza last July. Three weeks ago, his tortured body was found dumped at Gaza's Shifa Hospital, with two gunshot wounds to the head. Shoubaki had been accused of collaborating with the government of PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah faction holds power in the West Bank. His fate is a chilling example of the terror inflicted on dissenters who have lived under the Hamas regime in Gaza since June 2007.
        In December, Mrs. Shoubaki visited him at a security compound near Gaza City. "At first I nearly didn't recognize him. There were many signs of torture. He was pale and bruised and he had trouble walking," she said. He had been regularly punched and kicked, intermittently deprived of food and sleep, hung from the ceiling for hours on end - by his feet and his arms, and in one case from the ceiling for several hours by one arm. Mrs. Shoubaki said her husband had also been electrocuted. (The Age-Australia)
  • Observations:

    If There Were No Israel - Edward Glick (The Oregonian)

    • Let's imagine that a genie makes Israel disappear and also makes all of us lose our memory of the "Zionist entity." What would an Israel-free Middle East be like?
    • For starters, the only democracy in the region will have vanished. There would still be Arab hostility, dictatorship, corruption, overpopulation and socioeconomic dislocation. Palestine would still be as underdeveloped as are most of the Arab states, whose combined gross domestic product is less than that of Spain.
    • Most Palestinians would still be unemployed and unemployable, partly because of the inability or unwillingness of their rulers to create viable institutions and infrastructures, and partly because there would no longer be an Israel for the Palestinians to work in.
    • Iran would still be run by the ayatollahs. And the U.S. would still be facing the specter of an atomic, biological or chemical version of 9/11.

      The writer is professor emeritus of political science at Temple University.

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