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June 2, 2009

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Military Intelligence: Iran Will Have Enough Uranium for Bomb This Year - Rebecca Anna Stoil (Jerusalem Post)
    By the end of the summer, Teheran could have enough low-grade uranium to build a nuclear bomb, Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz, head of IDF Military Intelligence's research division, warned the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday.
    However, the low-enriched uranium would have to be processed into highly-enriched weapons-grade material before it could be used for a bomb.
    Military Intelligence head Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin told the committee last month that "Iran is intentionally advancing its nuclear development in such a way so as not to cross any nuclear red lines, by enriching low-grade uranium that is not sufficient for weapons development, but that can quickly be adapted to weapons-grade uranium in such a short period of time that the process can't be sabotaged."
    Baidatz also downplayed the potential impact of Iran's June 12 elections, arguing that both of the leading candidates - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mir Hossein Mousavi - are equally problematic regarding Israel.

IMF Blames Arab Donors for Palestinian Cash Crisis (AP/Ha'aretz)
    The Palestinian Authority faces a serious cash crisis after receiving only half of the aid money it needs to function every month, the International Monetary Fund said Monday, blaming delinquent Arab donors.
    The PA needs $120 million in aid monthly but is receiving only $66 million. European countries and the U.S. have largely fulfilled their aid pledges, economists said, while Arab countries have sent only a quarter of the amount they promised.

Ayatollah Khamenei: The Real Power in Iran - Mehdi Khalaji (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    On June 3, Iran will mark the twentieth anniversary of Ali Khamenei's appointment as the leader of Iran. While international attention is focused on the June 12 presidential elections, the winner of that contest will remain subordinate to Khamenei in power and importance.
    Khamenei has attained his powerful position by taking control of key government agencies and building a robust bureaucracy under his direction.
    The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has been converted into an economic-political-military-intelligence conglomeration responsible only to Khamenei.
    He is also head of all three branches of the government, the state media, and is the commander-in-chief of all armed forces, including the police. Khamenei has the final say on foreign policy issues.

Muslim Convert Kills Soldier Outside Arkansas Recruiting Office - Steve Barnes and James Dao (New York Times)
    Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, 23, opened fire at two soldiers standing outside a military recruiting station in Little Rock on Monday, killing one private and wounding another.
    Muhammad, who had converted to Islam as a teenager, told police investigators he was angry about the killing of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Obama: U.S. Needs to Be "Honest" with Israel - Michele Norris and Steve Inskeep
    In an interview Monday, President Obama said: "I don't think that we have to change strong U.S. support for Israel. I think that we do have to retain a constant belief in the possibilities of negotiations that will lead to peace. And that's going to require, from my view, a two-state solution that is going to require that each side - the Israelis and Palestinians - meet their obligations. I've said very clearly to the Israelis both privately and publicly that a freeze on settlements, including natural growth, is part of those obligations. I've said to the Palestinians that their continued progress on security and ending the incitement that, I think, understandably makes the Israelis so concerned, that those obligations have to be met."
        "Part of being a good friend is being honest. And I think there have been times where we are not as honest as we should be about the fact that the current direction, the current trajectory in the region, is profoundly negative - not only for Israeli interests but also U.S. interests."  (National Public Radio)
        See also Obama Plays Down Dispute with Israel over Settlements - Alan Cowell and Helene Cooper
    President Obama on Tuesday played down a dispute with Israel over his demand for a suspension of further Jewish settlement in the West Bank but reiterated his call for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians. Referring to the debate about settlements in an interview with the BBC, Obama said the "conversation" with Israel was at an early stage. "Diplomacy is always a matter of a long, hard slog. It's never a matter of quick results."  (New York Times)
  • Tony Blair: Hamas Must Renounce Violence to Enter Peace Talks - Ian Black
    Hamas cannot be part of any Middle East peace talks until it renounces violence, Tony Blair told the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee Monday. Blair, marking nearly two years since being appointed Middle East envoy for the Quartet, said: "The essential thing is to make the shift from saying 'we reserve the right to use violence' to a position that says 'we will have peaceful resistance only and be part of political negotiations.' It's better that Hamas be part of this process, but they've got to be prepared to agree to that. I hope they do because this issue would be a lot easier to deal with if everyone was around the table."
        "If they want to become part of this they have to stop being ambiguous," he said. "If they give a 'yes, but' answer it's not really any good. If there was a definite change of mind to embrace peaceful resistance, to go the Gandhi route, it would totally change the dynamics of this situation overnight."  (Guardian-UK)
  • Israel Begins Its Biggest Civil Defense Drill - Steve Weizman
    Israel began the biggest civil defense drill in its history on Sunday, putting soldiers, emergency crews and civilians through rehearsals for the possibility of war at a time of rising tensions with Iran. The five-day drill, code-named Turning Point III, will include simulated rocket and missile attacks on Israeli cities, including preparations for a nonconventional strike. Air-raid sirens sounded across the country on Tuesday and for the first time, all Israeli civilians practiced taking cover in shelters when the sirens went off.
        During the 2006 war in Lebanon, Hizbullah fired 4,000 rockets into Israel. "Our enemies long ago showed they believe that the home front is our Achilles heel," said Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai. "We are drilling there to prove that it is not."  (AP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • U.S. Will Continue to Support Israel at UN - Yuval Azoulay
    The U.S. will maintain its support of Israel at the UN, State Department deputy spokesman Robert Wood said Monday after the New York Times reported that the Obama administration was considering reducing U.S. support to force Israel to halt all construction in West Bank settlements. "We've long worked to ensure that Israel is treated fairly at the United Nations. That will continue," Wood said. Talk of possible sanctions prompted one senior Israeli official to say: "The Netanyahu government is acting the same as its predecessors. The one who has changed policy is the American administration. The new administration is trying to get out of understandings achieved under the Bush administration."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Netanyahu: U.S. Stance on Settlements "Unreasonable" - Hilary Leila Krieger and Herb Keinon
    On Monday, Prime Minister Netanyahu characterized the U.S. demands to freeze all building east of the "green line" as "unreasonable," telling the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee: "It is likely that we are not going to reach an agreement with the Americans" regarding settlement construction. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel to UN: Probe Hamas Rockets, Not Israel "War Crimes"
    Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York that the UN should investigate why militant rocket fire has yet to stop after eight years, rather than question Israel's military activities during the Gaza war. UN human rights investigators began work on Monday to try to determine whether war crimes were committed during the Gaza war last January. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the Israeli government believed the four-member committee had been told "to find Israel guilty even before the investigation begins."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Memo to President Obama - Jim Hoagland
    Cling to one thought as you work on your greatly anticipated speech to the Muslim world Thursday in Cairo, Mr. President: There is no American solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict that you can heroically deliver from on high. Peace must be built from the bottom up by the warring sides. It would be pleasing to your hosts to suggest a made-in-the-USA plan for the Middle East. Some of your aides believe this is a special moment that can end the region's Sixty Years' War if you intervene forcefully enough. But that neglects history and the internal logic of the conflict.
        Your own face-off with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu two weeks ago suggested that you hoped to bring a West Bank settlement freeze to the Cairo masses and a global Muslim audience this week. Netanyahu pushed back by ruling out unilateral gestures, insisting that Israel, the Palestinians and moderate Arab states move simultaneously. The settlements cannot be treated in isolation or used as trophies with which to win Arab favor. (Washington Post)
  • What's the Rush for a Palestinian State? - Marty Peretz
    "In the West Bank we have a good reality....We are having a good life," Mahmoud Abbas, the putative president of putative Palestine, told Washington Post journalist Jackson Diehl. Then what's the rush? And what's the panic? If the Palestinians are content with their situation in the West Bank, as Abbas says they are, they also have little incentive to make any compromises. This just about knocks the wind out of Obama's whole Palestinian state initiative. (New Republic)
  • Paradigm Shift - Editorial
    U.S. policymakers have always opposed Israel's presence beyond the "green line." Still, there's no denying the disturbing change in tone emanating from Washington, which is elevating the settlements issue to an importance which is disproportionate. It's being accompanied by a paradigm shift: pressing Israel while coddling the Palestinians. Final borders need to be negotiated. And when they are, all settlements on the "wrong" side of the line will be dismantled - just as they were when Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza. It would therefore be reasonable, in the interim, for Washington not to make an issue of modest levels of natural growth in these communities.
        At the same time, a freeze within the strategic settlement blocs, including Jerusalem, that Israel intends to retain in any agreement is simply not on the agenda. When American decision-makers denigrate painful Israeli sacrifices - including disengagement; when they disregard the commitments of their predecessors, they are not fostering peace. Rather, they're giving mainstream Israelis cause to fear making further sacrifices. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    North Korea-Iran Cooperation on Nuclear Weapons - Bret Stephens (Wall Street Journal)

    • Iran's military and R&D links to North Korea go back more than 20 years, when Iran purchased 100 Scud-B missiles for use in the Iran-Iraq war. Since then, Iranians have reportedly been present at a succession of North Korean missile tests. North Korea also seems to have off-shored its missile testing to Iran after it declared a "moratorium" on its own tests in the late 1990s.
    • In a 2008 paper published by the Korea Economic Institute, Dr. Christina Lin of Jane's Information Group noted that "Increased visits to Iran by DPRK [North Korea] nuclear specialists in 2003 reportedly led to a DPRK-Iran agreement for the DPRK to either initiate or accelerate work with Iranians to develop nuclear warheads that could be fitted on the DPRK No-dong missiles that the DPRK and Iran were jointly developing. Thus, despite the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate stating that Iran in 2003 had halted weaponization of its nuclear program, this was the time that Iran outsourced to the DPRK for proxy development of nuclear warheads."
    • According to a 2003 report in the Los Angeles Times, "So many North Koreans are working on nuclear and missile projects in Iran that a resort on the Caspian coast is set aside for their exclusive use."
    • North Korea's second bomb test last week might also have been Iran's first. If so, the only thing between Iran and a bomb is a long-range cargo plane.

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