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June 29, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Rights Group: Night Raids Terrorize Iran Residents (Reuters)
    Iranian paramilitary Basij forces stage nightly raids in Tehran, invading private homes and beating residents, Human Rights Watch reported.
    "The Basijis are trashing entire streets and even neighborhoods as well as individual homes trying to stop the nightly rooftop protest chants," according to a June 26 report.
    See also Iran Militia Raids Hospitals (CNN)
    Iranians wounded during protests are being seized at hospitals by members of the Basij militia, an Amnesty International official reported. Once the patients are treated, the militia removes them from the hospital to an undisclosed location.

Tehran Backs Hizbullah Operations Around the World - Damien McElroy (Telegraph-UK)
    Intelligence experts have warned that rather than merely seeking to distract attention from its domestic turmoil with rhetoric, Iran will seek retaliation beyond its borders.
    "Hizbullah has stretched, facilitated by Iran, across the Middle East, Central Asia, Europe and Latin America," said Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert at Sweden's National Defense University. "It grants Iran global power and Hizbullah has become more susceptible to Iran's efforts to project its influence."
    "Hizbullah is capable of striking in Germany or more likely planning an incident like the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg that planned the attack on New York," said Alexander Ritzmann, a fellow at the European Center for Democracy.
    General Douglas Fraser, the new head of U.S. Southern Command, this week warned that Hizbullah and other Iranian allies posed the greatest threat to security in Latin America.
    "The real concern is not a nation-to-nation interaction; it is the connection that Iran has with extremist organizations like Hamas and Hizbullah and the potential risk that that could bring to this region," he said.

Saad Hariri Picked to Lead Lebanon - Nicholas Blanford (Times-UK)
    Saad Hariri, 39, the son of assassinated Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, was chosen to lead the country's next government on Saturday by President Suleiman, three weeks after his U.S. and Saudi-backed March 14 alliance narrowly defeated the Hizbullah-led opposition.

Italy Expels Palestinian Hijacker to Syria (AP/Washington Post)
    Italian authorities are set to expel to Syria Youssef Magied al-Molqui, one of the Palestinians who hijacked the Achille Lauro cruise ship and killed an American passenger in 1985.
    Al-Molqui was convicted of shooting Leon Klinghoffer, an elderly Jewish man from New York, and ordering him to be dumped in the sea while in his wheelchair.

Italy Sentences Nine SS Men for Wartime Massacres (Reuters)
    A Rome military court sentenced nine former SS men in absentia to life imprisonment on Saturday for the massacre of more than 350 civilians in Tuscany in 1944. The men are all aged between 84 and 90.
    Some of the victims were tied to trees and fenceposts and shot, then left there with a sign warning: "This is the fate of those who help the partisans."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Report: Iran Has Arrested 2,000 in Violent Crackdown on Dissent - Martin Fletcher
    More than 2,000 Iranians have been arrested and hundreds more have disappeared since the regime decided to crush dissent, the International Federation for Human Rights reported Sunday. Prominent Iranian actors, actresses, writers and singers are believed to have been seized at the weekend for supporting the demonstrators. Several opposition bloggers have fallen silent, probably because they have been detained. Almost anyone who dares to challenge President Ahmadinejad's re-election is now considered an enemy of the state. (Times-UK)
        See also Iran Arrests Iranian Employees of British Embassy, Protests Return - Michael Slackman
    Iran's government said Sunday that it had arrested nine Iranian employees of the British Embassy for playing a significant role in organizing protests. Meanwhile, police in Tehran beat and fired tear gas at several thousand protesters demonstrating in support of defeated presidential candidate Mousavi. (New York Times)
  • Obama Officials Say Talks with Iran Still Possible - Philip Elliott
    The Obama administration is open to discussions with Iran over its nuclear ambitions despite protests questioning the legitimacy of President Ahmadinejad's re-election. Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, said Sunday that Ahmadinejad is falling back on his government's usual strategy of blaming the West and the U.S. in particular for its internal problems. The legitimacy of the government, while questioned by the people of Iran, is not the critical issue for the U.S. goal of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear capability, Rice said. "It's in the United States' national interest to make sure that we have employed all elements at our disposal, including diplomacy, to prevent Iran from achieving that nuclear capacity," she said. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also EU Eager to Restart Nuclear Talks with Iran
    The European Union wants to restart talks on Iran's nuclear program. "We would like very much that soon we will have the possibility to restart multilateral talks with Iran on the important nuclear issues," EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said Sunday. (AP/Fox News)
  • World Bank Approves Dead Sea Canal Plan
    The World Bank has approved a pilot plan for a canal linking the Red Sea to the rapidly shrinking Dead Sea, Israeli Development Minister Silvan Shalom announced on Saturday. Israeli public radio said the bank will provide $1.25 billion in finance for the project. The initial proposal is for a 180 km. channel to transport water to the Dead Sea and feed a desalination plant jointly run by Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. The level of the Dead Sea has been falling by a meter every year. (AFP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu Outlines Five Principles of Peace
    Prime Minister Netanyahu outlined to the Cabinet Sunday the principles for peace he presented to Italian and French leaders last week: 1) The need for explicit Palestinian recognition of the State of Israel as the national state of the Jewish people. 2) The demilitarization of a Palestinian state in such a manner that all of Israel's security needs will be met. 3) Explicit international guarantees for these security arrangements. 4) The problem of refugees must be resolved outside the borders of Israel. 5) The need that the peace agreement be an end to the conflict. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Syria Threatens to Take Back Golan by Force
    Syrian officials threatened on Saturday to take back the Golan Heights by force if a peace agreement involving the return of the strategic plateau is not reached with Israel, Israel Army Radio reported. The comments were made at a ceremony, attended by Syrian President Bashar Assad, for a new communications center in Kuneitra. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • End the Spat With Israel - Jackson Diehl
    The upheaval in Iran offers the Obama administration a chance to creep away from the corner into which it has painted itself in the Arab-Israeli peace process. President Obama began with a broad strategy of simultaneously pressing Israel, the Palestinians and Arab states to take concrete steps toward peace. But that broad front narrowed to a single point: a standoff with the Israeli government over whether "natural growth" would be allowed in Jewish settlements outside Israel's 1967 borders. But, starting with a statement by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in May, the administration made the mistake of insisting that an Israeli settlement "freeze" must mean a total stop to all construction in the West Bank and even East Jerusalem.
        This absolutist position is a loser for three reasons. First, it has allowed Palestinian and Arab leaders to withhold the steps they were asked for; they claim to be waiting for the settlement "freeze" even as they quietly savor a rare public battle between Israel and the U.S. Second, the administration's objective is unobtainable. No Israeli government has ever agreed to an unconditional freeze, and no coalition could be assembled from the current parliament to impose one.
        Finally, the extraction of a freeze is unnecessary. Both the PA and Arab governments have gone along with previous U.S.-Israeli deals by which construction was to be limited to inside the periphery of settlements near Israel - since everyone knows those areas will be annexed to Israel in a final settlement. Before the 2007 Annapolis conference, Saudi Arabia and other Arab participants agreed to what one former senior official called "the Google Earth test"; if the settlements did not visibly expand, that was good enough. (Washington Post)
        See also What a Settlement Freeze Can't Do - David Ignatius
    The more the administration pressures Israel, the more concessions the Arabs seem to want. The Obama team is assuming that if it can pressure Israel into a real settlements freeze, the Arabs will respond with meaningful moves toward normalization of relations. But that hope appears to be misplaced. "What will I do in exchange for a settlements freeze? Nothing," says a senior Arab diplomat. "We're not interested in confidence-building, or a step-by-step approach." Instead, the Arabs would like Obama to spell out the details of a final agreement, now. (Washington Post)
  • The West Should Listen to the Dissidents in Iran Craving Freedom - Natan Sharansky
    Once again, the world is amazed. The massive revolt of Iranian citizens has elicited the unmitigated surprise of the free world's army of experts, pundits and commentators. And yet, just like their predecessors in the Soviet Union, Iran's democratic dissidents were right. Every totalitarian society consists of three groups: true believers, double-thinkers and dissidents. In every totalitarian regime, no matter its cultural or geographical circumstances, the majority undergo a conversion over time from true belief in the revolutionary message into double-thinking. They no longer believe in the regime but are too scared to say so. Then there are the dissidents - pioneers who articulate and finally act on the innermost feelings of the nation. More than once in recent years, former Soviet citizens returning from a visit to Iran have told me how much Iranian society reminded them of the final stages of Soviet communism.
        Western governments are fearful of imperiling actual or hoped-for relations with the world's ayatollahs, generals, general secretaries and other types of dictators - partners, so it is thought, in maintaining political stability. But this is a fallacy. Democracy's allies in the struggle for peace and security are the demonstrators in the streets of Tehran who, with consummate bravery, have crossed the line between the world of double-think and the world of free men and women. Listen to them, and you will hear what you yourself know to be the true hope of every human being on Earth. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also The Crowds Have Gone But Tehran Has Changed Forever - Karim Sadjadpour (Independent-UK)
  • Observations:

    A Guide to Israeli Settlements - Gershom Gorenberg (Los Angeles Times)

    • In Cairo this month, President Obama urged Israel to stop settlement construction. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ardently defended the communities and the people who live in them. "The settlers are neither the enemies of the people nor the enemies of peace. Rather, they are an integral part of our people." As used today, the term "settlement" refers to an Israeli community built in the territories that Israel conquered in the Six-Day War in June 1967.
    • Some of the settlements are tiny, but many are large suburban towns such as Maale Adumim, east of Jerusalem, and Ariel, east of Tel Aviv. These bedroom communities have attracted Israelis, both secular and religious. The great majority of settlers live in large towns, most of them close to the armistice line between Israel and its Arab neighbors, drawn in 1949 at the end of Israel's war of independence. It's also known as the pre-1967 border.
    • Israelis learn the Bible as their national history, and places in the West Bank such as Hebron, Bethlehem and Shiloh are the setting of much of that history. In practice, every Israeli government since 1967 has promoted settlement.
    • In principle, the U.S. has consistently opposed all settlements, including the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. However, most administrations have avoided confrontations over the issue, especially when peace negotiations were underway. In the meantime, settlements kept growing.
    • Aren't most settlers from the U.S.? Absolutely not. The misconception that settlements are heavily American may stem from foreign correspondents looking for English-speakers to interview when they visit.
        See also In Defense of "Settlements" - Yisrael Medad (Los Angeles Times)

    • No one, including a president of the United States of America, can presume to tell me, a Jew, that I cannot live in the area of my national homeland. That's one of the main reasons my wife and I chose in 1981 to move to Shiloh. After Shiloh was founded in 1978, then-President Carter demanded of Prime Minister Menachem Begin that the village be removed. Begin said: "You, Mr. President, have in the United States a number of places with names like Bethlehem, Shiloh and Hebron, and you haven't the right to tell prospective residents in those places that they are forbidden to live there. Just like you, I have no such right in my country. Every Jew is entitled to reside wherever he pleases."
    • Suppose someone suggested that, to achieve a true peace, Arabs in Israel should be removed from their homes. Of course, transfer of Arabs is intolerable. But why is it quite acceptable to demand that Jews be ethnically cleansed?
    • There can be nothing illegal about a Jew living where Judaism was born and we have returned under a clear fulfillment of international law. The Supreme Council of the League of Nations adopted principles following the 1920 San Remo Conference aimed at bringing about the "reconstitution" of a Jewish National Home. Article 6 of those principles reads: "The administration of Palestine...shall encourage...close settlement by Jews on the land, including state lands and waste lands."
    • The Fourth Geneva Convention does not apply to Israel's presence in Judea and Samaria. Jewish historical rights that the Mandate had recognized were not canceled, and no new sovereign ever took over in Judea and Samaria.

      The writer is head of information resources at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem.

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