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June 25, 2009

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Iran Protesters Alter Tactics to Avoid Death - Eli Lake (Washington Times)
    Iran's pro-democracy movement is changing strategy and will use smaller and more dispersed demonstrations to try to protect protesters from security forces, who dissidents now say have killed nearly 250 people in the past ten days.

An Iranian Revolution That's Not Over Yet - Ramin Ahmadi (Forbes)
    The divisions that are now appearing within Revolutionary Guard units are arguably most troubling for the regime. There are reports that the chief of the Tehran unit, Ali Fazli, is now under arrest.
    Other reports point to a rebellion brewing within Revolutionary Guards forces in Lavizan, northeast of Tehran. At least one report claimed that 16 leading Guard members were arrested for refusing to shoot protesters.
    The writer is the co-founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center.

Ahmadinejad Reaps Benefits of Stacking Key Iran Agencies with His Allies - Neil MacFarquhar (New York Times)
    Ahmadinejad has filled crucial ministries and other top posts with close friends and allies who have spread ideological and operational support for him nationwide.
    Ahmadinejad has changed all 30 of the country's governors, all the city managers, and even third- and fourth-level civil servants in important ministries like the Interior Ministry.
    Analysts estimate that he has replaced 10,000 government employees to cement his loyalists throughout the bureaucracies, so that his allies run the organizations responsible for both the contested election returns and the official organs that have endorsed them.
    "There is a whole political establishment that emerged with Ahmadinejad, which is now determined to hold on to power undemocratically," said one American-based Iran analyst.

Iran Events Affect U.S. Policy - Jonah Goldberg (Chicago Tribune)
    President Obama's foreign policy agenda as it relates to Iran is over. The rule book he came in with is as irrelevant as a tourist guide to the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
    If the forces of reform and democracy win, Obama's plan to negotiate with the regime is moot, for the regime will be gone. And if the forces of reform are crushed into submission by the regime, Obama's plan is moot because the regime will still be there.
    Politics and decency will simply demand that the world condemn or shun the regime of Ahmadinejad and Khamenei if they come out on top.
    Even the most soulless realists will be repulsed by the blood on the regime's collective hands. Anyone who shakes hands with Ahmadinejad will have a hard time washing the blood off his own hands.

Lebanese Opposition Daily Turns Against Opposition (MEMRI)
    Following the Hizbullah-led Lebanese opposition's loss in the Lebanese parliamentary elections, Sati' Nour Al-Din, columnist for the Lebanese daily Al-Safir, which for years has been affiliated with the Lebanese opposition, wrote a harsh critique of the opposition on June 9, stating that the Lebanese people were against everything it represented.
    "The majority of the Lebanese people opposed the opposition's discourse, in all things connected to the resistance, its weapons, its complex relations with Syria, and its links with Iran."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Hillary Is Wrong About the Settlements: The U.S. and Israel Reached a Clear Understanding about Natural Growth - Elliot Abrams
    Despite fervent denials by Obama administration officials, there were indeed agreements between Israel and the U.S. regarding the growth of Israeli settlements on the West Bank. We may be abandoning the deal now, but we cannot rewrite history and make believe it did not exist. The writer handled Middle East affairs at the National Security Council from 2001 to 2009. Read more in Observations below. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Italy Backs Netanyahu's Peace Plan - Steve Weizman
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu got a warm and supportive welcome Tuesday from Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi during a visit to Rome. Berlusconi endorsed Netanyahu's plan for a future demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes Israel as a "Jewish state," and spoke only of the need for Israel "to send signals" on stopping settlements. (AP)
  • Division Deals Blow to Iran's Opposition - Chip Cummins
    Clashes between security services and demonstrators erupted again Wednesday in Tehran, even as state media said unsuccessful presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaie dropped his objections to the June 12 elections, dealing a significant blow to the opposition's so-far united front. Rezaie, a former commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards and a hard-line conservative, had charged Ahmadinejad with economic mismanagement and foreign-policy adventurism, but garnered less than 2% of the vote, according to official results. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Iran's Opposition Vows to Go on Challenging Poll -
    Iran's reformist opposition leaders vowed to press on with legal challenges to an election they say was rigged, although the hardline government appeared on Thursday to have largely crushed mass protests, with police and militia flooding Tehran's streets. (Reuters-Washington Post)
        See also Hope Fades But Anger Is Alive as Iran's Rulers Crack Down - Thomas Erdbrink (Washington Post)
  • Arab States Aligned with U.S. Savor Turmoil in Iran - Michael Slackman
    The dispute over Iran's presidential election could turn into a win-win for Arab leaders aligned with Washington who in the past have complained bitterly that President Ahmadinejad was destabilizing the region and meddling in Arab affairs. The thinking goes like this: With Ahmadinejad remaining in office, there is less chance of substantially improved relations between Tehran and Washington, something America's Arab allies feared would undermine their interests. At the same time, the electoral conflict may have weakened Iran's leadership at home and abroad, forcing it to focus more on domestic stability.
        The dramatic video of Iranians being beaten or shot by Basijis has done incalculable damage to Iran's image as the region's most religiously pure and populist state. Iran's allies in the region, including Syria, as well as Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories, also seem likely to suffer a blow to their credibility, and perhaps to their financing. "I think Ahmadinejad will concentrate in the economic field to improve living conditions for his population after this crisis," said Emad Gad, an Egyptian expert in international affairs. "That means less giving money, less meddling, less penetration in the Arab world, less involvement." (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Sgt. Gilad Shalit Still in Terrorist Captivity
    On June 25, 2006, IDF soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped by Hamas terrorists within Israeli territory, as part of an unprovoked attack which involved seven terrorists, armed with explosive charges, anti-tank missiles, light arms and more, and which made use of a tunnel under the Israel-Gaza border. During the course of the attack, Sgt. Pavel Slutzker and Lt. Hanan Barak were killed, while five others were wounded. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
        See also Conference of Presidents Urges President Obama to Help Secure Kidnapped Israeli Soldier's Release
    On the third anniversary of the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, leaders of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations urged President Barack Obama to take steps to secure his release. "We would strongly urge that all avenues be utilized, particularly to press Egypt and other Arab states that have contact with his Hamas captors, to secure his release," wrote Chairman Alan Solow and Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein. Shalit has been held in total isolation without visitation by the International Red Cross. (Conference of Presidents)
        See also Three Years of Captivity
    Staff Sergeant Gilad Shalit's captivity continues to be in direct contradiction of international law. (Israel Defense Forces)
        See also Israel Marks Three Years Since Gilad Shalit Kidnapped (Jerusalem Post)
  • Obama's Settlement Focus Handcuffing Negotiations - Herb Keinon
    Defense Minister Ehud Barak is scheduled to fly back to Washington on Monday for another round of talks about construction in the settlements. Whether this was Obama's intention or not, his hard line on the settlements has effectively made Israeli-Palestinian negotiations dependent on a complete settlement freeze, something the Netanyahu government - because of its political makeup - is simply not going to do.
        If Obama thinks that by pressing this issue real hard, the Israeli public will revolt against Netanyahu, then he is misreading both the public and Netanyahu. Indeed, if the U.S. objective is to get negotiations started, then the Obama administration's policy of making the settlements its main focus is proving counterproductive. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israel Seeks Recognition as Jewish Homeland - Howard Schneider
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that a final peace will require Palestinian recognition of Israel as the legitimate homeland of the Jewish people. Netanyahu's advisers say it is an effort to push the peace process beyond diplomacy and toward reconciliation. "If there is no recognition that the Jewish people exist, that the Jewish people emerged from this land, then you have no end of conflict," said Michael B. Oren, Israel's new ambassador to Washington. Oren and others said it is wrong to think of the demand as negotiable once peace talks begin. Rather, Oren said, Netanyahu intends it as a "super-core issue," which would need to be addressed for him to set aside a lifetime's conviction that a Palestinian state would undermine Israel's security. (Washington Post)
  • Bet on Neda's Side - David Ignatius
    On one side you have all the instruments of repression in Iran, gathering their forces for a crackdown. On the other you have unarmed protesters symbolized by the image of Neda Agha Soltan, a martyred woman dying helplessly on the street. Who's going to win? In the short run, the victors may be the thugs who claim to rule in the name of God: the Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Basij militia and the other tools of an Islamic revolution that has decayed and hardened into mere authoritarianism. But over the coming months and years, my money is on the followers of the martyred Neda. They have exposed the weakness of the clerical regime in a way that Iran's foreign adversaries never could. They have opened a fundamental split in the regime. (Washington Post)
        See also Neda Soltan's Family Forced Out of Their Home by Iranian Authorities (Guardian-UK)
  • Where's the UN on Iran? - Claudia Rosett
    People are being killed in Iran. Where is the UN? What institution could be better positioned to relieve President Obama of his worries about America standing up unilaterally for freedom in Iran? The UN is the self-styled overlord of the international community, committed in its charter to promote peace, freedom and "reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights." Iran's regime is already in gross violation of a series of UN sanctions over a nuclear program the UN Security Council deems a threat to international peace. The same regime has now loosed its security apparatus of trained thugs and snipers on Iranians who have been, in huge numbers, demanding their basic rights.
        Nor is the General Assembly exactly seized of the matter. The current president of the Assembly is Nicaragua's Miguel D'Escoto Brockman, a former Sandinista and current pal of the Tehran regime. In March D'Escoto made a five-day stop in Iran, his visit apparently bankrolled by the Iranian regime. The writer is a journalist-in-residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Forbes)
  • Observations:

    Hillary Is Wrong About the Settlements: The U.S. and Israel Reached a Clear Understanding about Natural Growth - Elliot Abrams (Wall Street Journal)

    • On April 14, 2004, President Bush handed Prime Minister Sharon a letter saying, "In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949." Several previous administrations had declared all Israeli settlements beyond the "1967 borders" to be illegal. Here Bush dropped such language, referring to the 1967 borders - correctly - as merely the lines where the fighting stopped in 1949, and saying that in any realistic peace agreement Israel would be able to negotiate keeping those major settlements.
    • On settlements we also agreed on principles that would permit some continuing growth. Sharon stated these clearly in a major policy speech in December 2003: "Israel will meet all its obligations with regard to construction in the settlements. There will be no construction beyond the existing construction line, no expropriation of land for construction, no special economic incentives and no construction of new settlements." Sharon did not invent those four principles. They emerged from discussions with American officials and were discussed by Sharon and Bush at their Aqaba meeting in June 2003.
    • Stories in the press also made it clear that there were indeed "agreed principles." On Aug. 21, 2004, the New York Times reported that "the Bush supports construction of new apartments in areas already built up in some settlements, as long as the expansion does not extend outward."
    • In recent weeks, American officials have denied that any agreement on settlements existed. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated on June 17 that "in looking at the history of the Bush administration, there were no informal or oral enforceable agreements." These statements are incorrect. Not only were there agreements, but the prime minister of Israel relied on them in undertaking a wrenching political reorientation - the dissolution of his government, the removal of every single Israeli citizen, settlement and military position in Gaza, and the removal of four settlements in the West Bank.
    • Regardless of what Mrs. Clinton has said, there was a bargained-for exchange. Sharon was determined to break the deadlock, withdraw from Gaza, remove settlements - and confront his former allies to endorse Palestinian statehood and limits on settlement growth. He asked for our support and got it, including the agreement that we would not demand a total settlement freeze.
    • For reasons that remain unclear, the Obama administration has decided to abandon the understandings about settlements reached by the previous administration with the Israeli government. We may be abandoning the deal now, but we cannot rewrite history and make believe it did not exist.

      The writer, who handled Middle East affairs at the National Security Council from 2001 to 2009, is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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