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July 9, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Iranian Doctors: Nearly 100 Killed in Riots - Dudi Cohen (Ynet News)
    At least 92 people were killed in post-election riots in Iran, the French newspaper Le Figaro's website reported Wednesday, based on the testimonies of two Iranian doctors who recently visited France.
    "Ever since the riots broke out, the militiamen and security forces in civilian clothing have been terrorizing the hospitals in Tehran," one said.
    "We discovered that the bullets had infiltrated in a diagonal manner, meaning that they were shot from above, from rooftops," a doctor said.
    See also Iran Still Holds 500 Protesters - Michael Slackman (New York Times)
    Iranian officials said Wednesday that they had released 2,000 people who were arrested for participating in demonstrations, but continued holding an additional 500 prisoners who would be put on trial.
    The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, a New York-based group, said the government was continuing to make arrests.
    See also Iran Security Agents in Spotlight for Plainclothed Brutality - Mehdi Jedinia (Washington Times)

Details Emerge at Trial of Hizbullah Cell Sent to Attack Israeli Embassy in Azerbaijan (Ynet News)
    A hearing was held Wednesday in Baku, Azerbaijan, for two Lebanese and four Azerbaijanis accused of plotting a terror attack at the Israeli embassy, and for ties with al-Qaeda, Hizbullah, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
    Lebanese defendant Najmadeen Ali Hussein said he had fought against the IDF in the past as a Hizbullah member and arrived in Iran in 2007 at the instruction of his Hizbullah commanders. From there he was sent to Azerbaijan to collect intelligence on the Israeli embassy.
    The six planned to attack the embassy from a number of directions simultaneously. They rented an apartment near the embassy and the Jewish community center.

Olympic Gold Medalist Skips World Swimming Championships to Compete in Israel's Maccabiah Games (AP/ESPN)
    Triple Olympic gold medalist Jason Lezak will skip the upcoming world swimming championships and instead compete in Israel's Maccabiah Games in tribute to his Jewish heritage.
    The Maccabiah Games are an international competition for Jewish athletes, held every four years in Israel. More than 900 American athletes will compete in this year's games, the second-largest delegation behind Israel.
    The 10-day competition begins July 13. "This is a very serious athletic competition that shares another purpose and that's to bring together worldwide Jewry," said Ron Carner, chairman of the U.S. teams.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • G8 Gives Iran September Deadline for Nuclear Talks - Emmanuel Jarry and Jeff Mason
    Upping the stakes in a dispute with Tehran, the Group of Eight major powers will give Iran until September to accept negotiations over its nuclear ambitions or else face tougher sanctions, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Wednesday. "All G8 nations are united. There is a strong consensus at the table that unless things change soon, there will be further action," said Canadian spokesman Dimitri Soudas. (Reuters)
  • U.S. Takes 1,350 Palestinian Refugees - Patrik Jonsson
    The State Department confirmed Tuesday that as many as 1,350 Iraqi Palestinians will be resettled in the U.S., mostly in southern California, starting this fall - the largest-ever resettlement of Palestinian refugees into the U.S. Palestinians were treated well under Saddam Hussein but their presence was resented by many Iraqis. After Hussein was deposed in 2003, many Palestinians were driven out of their homes and now live in camps along the Syrian and Jordanian border.
        The U.S., which takes in about 80,000 refugees annually, hopes to bring 17,000 Iraqi refugees this year. While the U.S. generally doesn't accept Palestinians, Todd Pierce, a spokesman for the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, says that the Iraqi population of Palestinians falls under a different category from those in Gaza and the West Bank. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Emerging Settlement Deal Will Let Both U.S., Israel Claim Victory - Herb Keinon and Gil Hoffman
    Israel and the U.S. are moving toward a compromise solution on the settlement issue that might allow both sides to claim victory. According to senior government officials, Israel would declare a construction moratorium of a few months while the U.S. would give Israel a green light to complete housing units that are in advanced stages of construction.
        Once agreement is reached, and the U.S. gets some gestures from the Arab world, the next step would possibly be an event - likely an international conference - where a "to do" list would be presented regarding what needed to be done to move the diplomatic process forward. This "to do" list, according to one well-placed source, was shaping up as a revamped edition of the Roadmap, with sequential phases and a stronger regional component, meaning that the Arab states would be asked to become involved in the normalization of ties in the early stages, rather than at the end of the process.
        According to National Security Adviser Uzi Arad, Prime Minister Netanyahu expects President Obama to honor the agreements reached with the Bush administration on West Bank construction. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Unveils Measures to Boost West Bank Economy - Roni Sofer
    The Allenby Bridge crossing on the Israeli-Jordanian border will remain open 24 hours a day for the transfer of goods as part of the government's effort to ease the daily life of Palestinians in the West Bank, according to an Israeli government decision reached Wednesday. A ministerial committee convened to discuss four key projects: a pilgrimage site along the banks of the Jordan River, an industrial park north of Jenin in the West Bank, an industrial park in Bethlehem, and an industrialized agricultural zone north of Jericho. (Ynet News)
        See also Palestinians Blocking Economic Cooperation with Israel in West Bank - Barak Ravid
    There is no practical progress on economic projects due to the refusal of senior Palestinian Authority officials to cooperate with Israel. According to a senior political source, all contacts on economic issues with Palestinian officials are carried out through the Quartet's special envoy, Tony Blair. The Palestinian refusal to meet senior Israeli officials resulted in the cancellation of a joint conference scheduled to take place in Tokyo on the Jericho industrial zone. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Do Palestinians Want a State? - Sever Plocker
    More and more Mideast affairs researchers are today responding to the question about whether the Palestinians want a state with a "no." Hussein Agha and Robert Malley argued in the New York Review of Books on June 11: "Unlike Zionism, for whom statehood was the central objective, the Palestinian fight was primarily about other matters....Today, the idea of Palestinian statehood is alive, but mainly outside of Palestine." They argue that the notion of a Palestinian state is perceived as a foreign import. Historian Benny Morris concludes that the Palestinians never adopted the notion of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state existing alongside Israel, regardless of its borders, and that the Palestinian national movement views Palestine as an Arab and Muslim state in its entirety.
        The Palestinians will not agree to either divide or share the country. They continue to cling to the revolutionary dream of "national liberation," and until this materializes, they prefer to exist as a national rather than a political entity - one that has no obligations and is always seen as a victim, in its own eyes and in the eyes of the world. (Ynet News)
  • Shiite Clerical Establishment Supports Khamenei - Mehdi Khalaji
    While a handful of marginal clerics and religious groups dispute the official result of Iran's recent presidential election, the Shiite clerical establishment as a whole currently supports Iran's top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Iran's clerical establishment consists of about 200,000 members, with a thousand ayatollahs and fifteen grand ayatollahs. The ayatollahs in Qom and Isfahan who have criticized the recent presidential election are isolated, with no significant role in the clerical establishment; they lack both financial resources and religious popularity. Various Shiite leaders may not be happy with the Iranian government's policies, but publicizing their differences might jeopardize the social, political, and financial advantages they now receive. The writer, who trained as a cleric in Qom, is a senior fellow at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Drop the Soft Words. Squeeze Iran Sharply - Rosemary Righter
    The question is how to exert pressure on Iran's Islamic dictatorship, now that the political landscape has been transformed by the Khamenei-Ahmadinejad electoral coup and above all by the Iranians' refusal to take it lying down. To keep a pathway to the Iranian regime open now would confer legitimacy on a regime that has forfeited Iranian trust and demoralize Iran's opposition.
        Carrots do not work with either Ayatollah Khamenei, or with Ahmadinejad, who since stealing the election has declared the nuclear program non-negotiable. But increased economic pressure now would chime with the accusations leveled at Ahmadinejad by his challengers that mismanagement and "adventurism" have led to economic misery and international disrepute. Since Iran depends on Europe for 40% of its imports, mainly from Germany, Italy and France, a sharp temporary trade freeze would be devastating - particularly if it included petrol. Sanctions would hit the wealth of Revolutionary Guard commanders, who control vast tracts of the economy. The Europeans, however, will not move unless they can be convinced that sanctions form part of a coherent U.S. strategy. (Times-UK)
        See also Iran's Nuclear Ambitions, Not Democratic Credentials, Occupy Western Minds - Ian Black (Guardian-UK)
  • Observations:

    The Real Quagmire in the Middle East - Interview with Jeffrey Goldberg (

        Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic Monthly said in an interview:

    • "The settlements aren't the central question. They're a tragedy in part because they obscure the central question of this conflict. The only question is: can the world of Arab Islam accept the idea of Jewish national equality?...The Six-Day War wasn't started because of the settlements. If you study the history of the last one hundred years, you'll see that this [accepting Jewish national equality] is the central animating cause of the conflict. And I don't see much evidence that Arab Islam can assimilate this idea right now."
    • "The question of Israel is the question of what happens to all minorities in the Middle East. The Arab Muslim Middle East has 300 million people. It has a very hard time treating Coptic Christians with equality, treating Maronites in Lebanon with equality, treating Southern Sudanese in an equal way, treating Kurds in an equal way, and dealing with Jews - not only in their national expression, but even as minorities within their own countries. There was never a golden era for Jews who lived in Arab countries."
    • Q: You have talked to Hamas people. Should the Israelis or Americans talk to them?
      Goldberg: "I don't know what they'd get out of it....People in the United States find it hard to understand how people in Hamas and Hizbullah think. It's alien to us. The feverish racism and conspiracy mongering, the obscurantism, the apocalyptic thinking - we can't relate to that....We're talking about whole societies that are captive to this kind of absurdity."
    • "Just because a belief sounds ridiculous to you doesn't mean it's not sincerely held. So I think it's best to err on the side of taking people at their word....I believe Hamas when it says it wants to eradicate Israel....Why not? Palestinians, over the years, have proven that they're willing to sacrifice generations of people to achieve their goal of a Jewish-free Palestine."
    • "Arabs are misreading history if they believe Israel is a temporary phenomenon. Nothing like this has ever happened in history. A dead tribe came back and seized the land it had, and did so after a devastating tragedy. Jews are also good at waiting, apparently. They're a small group, but there's a survival impulse that's embedded in many Jews, and certainly in the Jews of Israel today. It says: 'You want to wait? We'll wait, too.' Jews were an ancient people already when Mohammad appeared on the Arabian peninsula."
    • "I'm negative about the intentions of Palestinians. If their goal were statehood, they could have had statehood. Therefore, you have to give serious credence to the idea that their goal is not statehood, that it's more important to rid the Arab world of Jewish nationalism than it is to have a Palestinian state that would improve the lives of individual Palestinians now."

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