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June 30, 2009

In-Depth Issues:

The Fight for Iran's Future Is Far From Over - Amir Taheri (Times-UK)
    For 30 years, Iran has suffered from a split personality: trying to remain faithful to the late Ayatollah Khomeini's ersatz version of Islam while pretending to have a people-based system of government.
    The regime has deployed 100,000 men from the paramilitary Basij to control Tehran and eight other major cities.
    But such a build-up cannot be sustained. There is the risk of the fighters siding with the protesters.
    Hussein Taleb, the commander-in-chief of the Basij, said Monday that "large numbers of individuals dressed as members of the Basij" have been arrested after they took part in protest marches.
    If the Basij disintegrates, the regime could play its trump card: the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
    However, the IRGC is also split, with an unknown portion of it sympathetic to the opposition.
    See also Iran's Real Winners: The Revolutionary Guards - Alireza Nader (RAND Corporation)

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U.S. Supreme Court Won't Hear Sept. 11 Claims vs. Saudi Arabia (AP)
    The Supreme Court Monday refused to allow victims of the Sept. 11 attacks to pursue lawsuits against Saudi Arabia and four of its princes over charitable donations allegedly funneled to al-Qaeda.
    In their appeal to the high court, relatives of the victims cited the report of the Sept. 11 Commission which noted that Saudi Arabia had long been considered the primary source of al-Qaeda funding.
    However, the commission also "found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization."

Turks Increasingly Turn to Islamic Extremism - Sebastian Rotella (Los Angeles Times)
    "We consider the Muslims in Turkey our brothers," said Mustafa Abu Yazid, al-Qaeda's operations chief, lauding Turkish suicide bombers killed in recent attacks near the Afghan-Pakistani border.
    "We are aware of an increasing number of Turks going to train in Pakistan," said a senior European anti-terrorism official.
   "Turks were perceived as moderate with few connections to al-Qaeda central," said Evan Kohlmann, a U.S. private consultant who works with anti-terrorism agencies. But now Islamist groups are trying to recruit among a Turkish immigrant population in Germany that numbers close to 3 million.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iran Council Certifies Ahmadinejad Victory - Michael Slackman
    The powerful Guardian Council touched off scattered protests in Tehran Monday when it formally certified the re-election of President Ahmadinejad to a second four-year term. Security and militia forces flooded the streets, and protesters, who were already out marching down Tehran's central avenue, broke into furious chants. Secretary of State Clinton said the Iranian government was facing an enormous credibility gap over the election. "I don't think that's going to disappear by any finding of a limited review of a relatively small number of ballots," she said. (New York Times)
        See also Crackdown in Iran Aimed at Opposition Candidate Mousavi - Thomas Erdbrink
    In recent days, President Ahmadinejad's supporters have said they are ready to put opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi's advisers on trial and have threatened to execute some of the Mousavi supporters who took to the streets to protest the election result. State media have rolled out a daily serving of alleged plots and conspiracies involving Mousavi supporters. They refer to the protesters as "rioters" and "hooligans." Mousavi can either acknowledge his defeat and be embraced by his enemies or continue to fight over the election result and face imprisonment. (Washington Post)
  • Israeli Envoy Sees Firm U.S. Support at UN - Dan Williams
    The Obama administration has assured Israel it will continue defending Israel at the UN despite the allies' dispute over West Bank settlements, Israel's UN ambassador Gabriela Shalev said on Monday. Asked by Israel's Channel 10 television whether U.S. use of a veto at the UN Security Council to protect Israel could be at risk, Shalev said: "We were told explicitly (by the Americans) that there are no consultations and no discussions at all within the administration in this direction."  (Reuters)
  • Israeli Arabs Boost Palestinian Economy - Mohammad Assadi and Ivan Karakashian
    Israeli Arabs have converged on West Bank cities in recent weeks, taking advantage of lower prices and boosting the Palestinian economy after Israel removed key checkpoints. "Many sectors in the city are benefiting. The restaurants are full of them," says Nasser Atyani, who heads the Jenin chamber of commerce. An average 3,000 shoppers arrive in the city of Nablus each Saturday. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel: No Settlement Construction Freeze - Roni Sofer
    Defense Minister Barak left for the U.S. on Monday for talks with U.S. special envoy George Mitchell after a forum of ministers including Prime Minister Netanyahu decided not to freeze construction in West Bank settlements. Barak will propose that the future of the settlements be determined during talks with the Palestinians. (Ynet News)
        See also Meridor: Understandings on "Natural Growth" Were Part of Israel-U.S. Agreement - Roni Sofer
    During a foreign press briefing in Jerusalem, Minister of Intelligence Services Dan Meridor said Monday that relations between Israel and the U.S. "are based in mutual agreements, and agreements must be upheld. In 2003, Israel accepted the Roadmap plan and the government voted in favor of it, while filing 14 reservations. It is part of a larger agreement, some of which was in writing and some of it was oral, that has been implemented for the past six years."
        "We never had a deal with the Republican administration; we had an agreement with the United States. Yes, it entailed halting settlement expansion, including for "natural growth," and it was in writing, but there were understandings as to the nature and the interpretation of the suspension. These understandings were a part of the agreement. Its written part and its oral part complement each other."  (Ynet News)
  • President of Israel on Official Visit to Muslim States of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan
    President of Israel Shimon Peres arrived in Azerbaijan on Sunday for a state visit. Peres will be visiting Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan on 28 June - 1 July 2009 for the first visit by an Israeli president since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and the two Muslim states. Joining the delegation are 60 senior officials of leading Israeli companies in the fields of water technology, agriculture, communications, medical technology, and defense. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
        See also Iran Recalls Ambassador to Azerbaijan to Protest Peres Visit - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
  • PA: Hamas Planned to Assassinate Senior Officials - Ali Waked
    The Palestinian Authority has arrested a Hamas cell that admitted to planning to assassinate senior Palestinian officials by July 7. Tayeb Abdul-Rahim, the secretary-general of the Palestinian Presidency, said the order to attack Palestinian officials was given by Hamas' leadership abroad. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinians Attempt to Plant Explosives near Gaza Border Crossing - Hanan Greenberg
    An IDF force operating near Gaza Monday opened fire at Palestinian terrorists planting an explosive device near the Karni border crossing. Shortly before the incident, a mortar was fired from Gaza towards Israel, exploding near the security fence. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • What a Settlement Freeze Would Do - Editorial
    Barack Obama might want to reflect on how his push for a freeze is being seen among mainstream Israelis - those who want a peace deal. They wonder why there is no withering campaign to pressure Abbas into insisting that a Fatah-Hamas unity government explicitly accept the Quartet's principles.
        Netanyahu articulated the consensus position of the Israeli body politic: "Palestine" must be demilitarized so that we don't wake up to find Iranian Revolutionary Guards overlooking Ben-Gurion Airport; that in a region which includes two dozen Muslim states, the Palestinians need to give up the "right of return" and accept Israel as the Jewish state; that Israel cannot agree to pull back to the hard-to-defend 1949 Armistice Lines. Would a temporary settlement freeze bring us any closer to peace? More likely, it would encourage the Palestinians to dig in their heels. (Jerusalem Post)
  • In Tehran, There's No Going Back - Reuel Marc Gerecht
    What's happening in Iran now is all about democracy, about the questioning of authority. Democracy in Iran implies regime change. Khamenei has forced Mousavi and the people behind him into opposition to himself and the political system he leads. Unless Mousavi gives up, a permanent opposition to Khamenei and his constitutionally ordained supremacy has now formed.
        The smart money should still be on a coup by the Revolutionary Guard if Khamenei does not stand firm against Mousavi. The Guard's commanders, who are among the most ideologically committed Islamists in Iran, certainly would be willing to kill their countrymen to protect the system they cherish. But there may be cracks in the rank and file's esprit that are hard for outsiders to see.
        No matter what happens, the Islamic Republic as we have known it is probably over. All regimes need some sense of legitimacy to survive. The illusion of representative government backing the Islamic revolution has been inextricable from Iran's identity since 1979. If Iran collapses into just another military dictatorship, this populist raison d'etre goes with it. In addition, if Khamenei ends up giving a green light to the slaughter of young Iranians on the streets, he'll probably lose the clergy. A coup by the Revolutionary Guard would be an unmitigated disaster in the eyes of most mullahs, who would go into permanent opposition. The writer is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Weekly Standard)
  • The Power of Iran's Iron Fist - Dieter Bednarz
    In the wake of mass protests against election irregularities, Iran has been hit by a wave of arrests and repression not seen since the bloody early years of the republic. The street protests are no longer just the result of what could well be the biggest election fraud in the history of the Islamic Republic. The protestors' chants of "where is my vote?" have since turned into calls for "death to the dictator." Public criticism is increasingly being directed at the man behind the president, revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who was previously considered above all reproach. Having declared his protege Ahmadinejad the winner so prematurely is proving to be Khamenei's biggest mistake in the 20 years since he has been in power. (Der Spiegel-Germany)
  • Observations:

    The Palestinians' Violent Past - Ofer Bavly (Miami Herald)

    • Arab violence toward Jews in the Holy Land began decades before the State of Israel was established. It had nothing to do with ''occupation'' or ''settlements,'' and everything to do with preventing Jews from establishing their own state on their historical land. After the 1948 War of Independence, Jordan occupied the West Bank, and Egypt occupied the Gaza Strip for almost 20 years. Eastern Jerusalem was in Arab hands, ruled by the King of Jordan. And yet the Palestinians never rose against these Arab states, never demanded independence, never demanded to establish a capital in Jerusalem.
    • In the 1950s and 1960s, Arab Fedayeen terrorists launched dozens of attacks against Israeli civilians. In 1964, three years before any Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the Palestinians established the PLO, which began carrying out indiscriminate terror attacks against Israeli civilians.
    • Recent experience in Lebanon and Gaza shows that whenever Israel made concessions, they were rewarded not with reciprocal concessions, but rather with more violence, terrorism and intransigence.
    • The settlements never have been and never will be an obstacle to peace. History shows that dismantling settlements and making territorial concessions only make the Palestinians hungrier for blood. For the Palestinians, these concessions are a sign of weakness, causing them to launch even more terror attacks.
    • The real obstacle to peace is the refusal of the Arab world to truly accept the existence of a Jewish state on our historic land. Although it occupies one-thousandth of the combined size of Muslim states, Israel's existence in the Middle East is, to most Arabs, unacceptable. They fight not for land, but for our destruction and elimination. Pressuring Israel to dismantle the settlements will not bring peace to the Middle East. It will bring more violence, more terrorism and more Israeli deaths.

      The writer is consul general of Israel to Florida.

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