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September 10, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

IDF Responds to New Claims of Civilian Casualties in Gaza War (IDF Spokesperson-IMRA)
    In response to new reports on civilian casualties in the Gaza war, the IDF Spokesperson recalls that six months ago the IDF publicized official statistics gathered and confirmed by the Research Division of IDF Defense Intelligence.
    According to these statistics, there were 1,166 Palestinian casualties in Gaza, the majority (709) of whom were terror operatives.
    See also Reports on Gaza War Casualties Are Not Credible (NGO Monitor)

Pakistani Nuclear Scientist Cites Help to Iran - R. Jeffrey Smith (Washington Post)
    A.Q. Khan, the creator of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, boasted to Aaj News Television in Karachi on Aug. 31 that he and other senior Pakistani officials, eager to see Iran develop nuclear weapons, years ago guided that country to a proven network of suppliers and helped advance its covert efforts.
    Khan said that if Iran succeeds in "acquiring nuclear technology, we will be a strong bloc in the region to counter international pressure. Iran's nuclear capability will neutralize Israel's power."
    Khan's latest statement was an unusually direct claim of broad, official Pakistani support for an Iranian nuclear weapon.
    The Pakistani government has repeatedly asserted that Khan acted alone in illicitly spreading nuclear weapons technology, and it has denied that there was official support for helping Iran's nuclear program. But Khan has long insisted that his contacts were approved by top military officials.

Al-Qaeda Terrorist Captured in Iraq: I Was Trained in Syria (MEMRI TV)
    The confession of Saudi terrorist Muhammad Al-Shimari, aired on Al-Iraqiya TV on August 31, 2009:
    "I arrived in Syria using an official Saudi passport. I went to Bahrain, then to the UAE, and from there, to Syria. In Syria, I was met by a man called Abu Maridh. He took me to the Al-Latakiyah camp. There it became evident to me that the man in charge of this camp, who came to conduct the training, was a man called Abu Al-Qa'qa', who was a Syrian intelligence officer."

300,000 Palestinians Living in Chile - Gida Homad-Hamam (Santiago Times-Chile)
    There are more than 300,000 people of Palestinian descent living in Chile, the largest Palestinian population outside the Arab world.
    Palestinians started arriving in Chile as early as the 1850s from primarily Christian towns such as Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour.

Archaeologists Find Coins from Bar Kochba Era in Judean Hills - Brian Blondy (Jerusalem Post)
    Israeli archeologists on Wednesday unveiled historical artifacts from a cave in the Judean Hills believed to have been used by Jewish refugees during the Bar Kochba rebellion in 132-35 CE.
    The findings include 120 gold, silver, and bronze coins, iron weapons, storage jars, oil lamps, a small jug, a silver earring and a glass bottle.

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  • U.S. Says Iran Has Ability to Expedite a Nuclear Bomb - William J. Broad, Mark Mazzetti and David E. Sanger
    American intelligence agencies have concluded in recent months that Iran has created enough nuclear fuel to make a rapid, if risky, sprint for a nuclear weapon, but has deliberately stopped short of the critical last steps to make a bomb. Glyn Davies, the American ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, declared on Wednesday that Iran now had a "possible breakout capacity" to enrich its stockpile of uranium to bomb-grade material. In interviews over the past two months, intelligence and military officials, and members of the Obama administration, have said they are convinced that Iran has made significant progress on uranium enrichment, especially over the past year.
        In a 2007 announcement, the U.S. said Iran had worked on designs for making a warhead in a project that was halted in 2003. The new intelligence finds no convincing evidence that the design work has resumed. But Israel has cited evidence that the design effort secretly resumed in 2005, at the order of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Israelis have argued that there could be little or no warning time before Iran completes building an actual weapon - especially if Iran has hidden facilities. Israeli officials cite two secret programs in Iran, Project 110 and Project 111, the code names for what are believed to be warhead-design programs run by an academic, Mohsen Fakrizadeh. International inspectors have shown videos and documents suggesting that Fakrizadeh's group has worked on nuclear triggers, trajectories for missiles and the detonation of a warhead at almost 2,000 feet above ground - which would suggest a nuclear detonation.
        Accurate intelligence about the progress of Iran's weapons programs has been notoriously poor. Much of the country's early activity was missed for nearly 18 years, until a dissident group revealed the existence of enrichment efforts. Israeli officials say privately that the Obama administration is deluding itself in thinking that diplomacy will persuade Iran to give up its nuclear program. Even inside the White House, some officials think Mr. Obama's diplomatic effort will prove fruitless. (New York Times)
  • Ayatollahs Cast Growing Shadow in Latin America - Roman D. Ortiz
    Tehran employs a combination of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Lebanese terrorist group Hizbullah in its covert operations. The presence of both organizations in Latin America has substantially increased in recent years. For example, the IRGC is cooperating closely with Venezuelan intelligence agencies. Hizbullah has built a network of relations with Venezuelan citizens, making Caracas Hizbullah's gateway into Latin America. The U.S. Treasury Department says a Venezuelan diplomat accredited in Beirut, Ghazi Nasr al Din, provided support to Hizbullah, including help with setting up its fund-raising apparatus in Latin America.
        Hizbullah's presence has been detected behind the proliferation of Shiite mosques in Ecuador. Hizbullah has been involved in contraband drugs in Colombia and in illegal immigrant traffic in Mexico. It is also expanding its presence in the region via proxies such as "Hizbullah Argentina" and "Hizbullah Venezuela." The writer is a professor at the School of Economy at Los Andes University in Bogota, Columbia. (Atlanta Journal Constitution)
  • Discovery of Weapons Cache Suggests Iranian Meddling in Afghan War - Jennifer Griffin
    The discovery of a weapons cache in western Afghanistan has raised concerns that Iran is interfering in that country, much like it did in Iraq, by supplying weapons used to attack and kill U.S. and coalition troops, U.S. officials say. Afghan and NATO forces uncovered the weapons cache on Aug. 29 in Herat. It included a small number of Iranian-made "explosively formed penetrators," hyper-powerful roadside bombs similar to the weapons used to kill U.S. forces in Iraq. Also seized were 107 Iranian-made BM-1 rockets and dozens of blocks of Iranian C4 plastic explosives. Other coalition countries allege the Iranian influence is even deeper and that Iranian intelligence is funneling money to Afghan President Hamid Karzai. (FOX News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Jewish Leaders Lobby Congress for Iran Sanctions - Hilary Leila Krieger
    Several hundred Jewish leaders and activists headed for Washington Thursday to urge Congress to pass a sanctions bill to pressure Iran to abandon its pursuit of nuclear capabilities that threaten Israel. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and other groups are part of the advocacy day. "A government that has so little regard for human life, truth and human rights as does the current Iranian regime must not be entrusted to possess the most powerful weapons known to humankind," the organizers said in a statement. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also National Jewish Leadership Advocacy Day on Iran: Statement of Purpose (Conference of Presidents)
  • Did Netanyahu Agree to Golan Pullout?
    Danny Yatom, who was head of Mossad during Prime Minister Netanyahu's first term, told Israel Radio Thursday that Netanyahu then agreed to withdraw from the entire Golan Heights in exchange for a peace deal with Syria and the normalization of ties between Jerusalem and Damascus. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Netanyahu Never Agreed to Withdraw from the Entire Golan Heights - Dore Gold and Shimon Shapira
    In 1998, when Netanyahu exchanged messages with Assad through Ronald Lauder, at no point did Netanyahu agree to withdraw from the Golan Heights, as has been suggested. Netanyahu refused to provide any map of withdrawal, let alone the line that Assad sought. At the end of these contacts, Assad inquired just where Netanyahu envisioned the future Israeli-Syrian border in relation to the 1967 line. He wanted to know how far east the final line would be: "Dozens of meters, hundreds of meters?" Netanyahu's answer was that the border would be "miles" east. Dore Gold was former foreign policy advisor and Brig.-Gen. (res.) Shimon Shapira was former military secretary to Prime Minister Netanyahu. (Foreign Affairs, March-April 2009)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Venezuela Assisting Tehran's Weapons Programs - Editorial
    Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez has clearly forged a bond with one leader who is as reckless and ambitious as he is: Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In Tehran again this week, Chavez made clear that he shares Iran's view of Israel, which he called "a genocidal state." He endorsed Iran's nuclear program and declared that Venezuela would seek Iran's assistance to construct a nuclear complex of its own.
        In the past several years Iran has opened banks in Caracas and factories in the South American countryside. Manhattan district attorney Robert Morgenthau believes Iran is using the Venezuelan banking system to evade U.S. and UN sanctions. Now Chavez is off to Moscow, where, according to the Russian press, he plans to increase the $4 billion he has already spent on weapons by another $500 million or so. He recently promised to buy "several battalions" of Russian tanks. Not a threat to the U.S.? Give him time. (Washington Post)
  • How Obama Hopes to Restart Middle East Peace Talks - Massimo Calabresi
    The Administration is hoping to announce the resumption of final-status negotiations over a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians later this month. "If Israel says, 'We'll put a moratorium on settlement activity, except for some exceptions,' it's something the Obama Administration achieves that their predecessors haven't," says Robert Malley of the International Crisis Group.
        Furthermore, the Administration's efforts on the Israeli-Palestinian front may be shaped by U.S. priorities elsewhere in the Middle East - namely, getting Iran to scale back its nuclear ambitions. Washington's prospects for securing Arab cooperation on Iran are improved if Israeli-Palestinian peace talks are underway. But the threat of withholding Arab cooperation on Iran in the absence of a settlement freeze is not entirely credible, because Arab regimes have as much to fear from a nuclear armed Iran as does the U.S.
        So Obama is likely to call the Arab-Palestinian bluff with the best deal he can get from Israel. More than six months after starting work on reviving the peace process, the White House needs to get past talking about talks and get to the business of negotiation. (TIME)
  • Observations:

    Taking Iran Seriously - Daniel R. Coats, Charles S. Robb, and Charles Wald (Wall Street Journal)

    • Last year, a high-level Bipartisan Policy Center task force in which we participated concluded that a nuclear weapons-capable Iran would be "strategically untenable." Not only has Iran continued its nuclear program unabated, but its regime has emerged from post-election turmoil more radical than ever.
    • A nuclear-armed Iran would not only pose a security threat to the U.S. and its allies. It would embolden Iranian-sponsored terrorist groups, destabilize the region, upset global energy markets, and spark a wave of proliferation across the Middle East.
    • We understand the reluctance of Americans to consider confronting the Iranian nuclear threat, given their weariness from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and continued economic hardships.
    • But after eight months of diplomatic overtures, numerous rebuffs and a brutal crackdown on its own people, Tehran's willingness to negotiate in good faith is subject to considerable doubt. We believe it is now time to devise a new strategy.

      Mr. Coats, a former Republican senator from Indiana, Mr. Robb, a former Democratic senator from Virginia, and Mr. Wald, a retired general and air commander in Operation Enduring Freedom, are authors of a new Bipartisan Policy Center report on Iran, "Meeting the Challenge: Time Is Running Out."

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