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September 21, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Obama to Avoid Gaddafi and Ahmadinejad at UN - James Bone (Times-UK)
    American diplomats have been busy behind the scenes trying to ensure that President Obama's star turn on the world stage is not marred by any uncomfortable encounters with the Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, or President Ahmadinejad of Iran.
    See also New York Hotel Cancels Ahmadinejad Banquet (Reuters)
    New York's Helmsley Hotel said on Friday it canceled a banquet set for next week when it learned Iranian President Ahmadinejad was on the guest list, saying the man who called the Holocaust a lie was not welcome.
    "Neither the Iranian mission nor President Ahmadinejad is welcome at any Helmsley facility," said hotel spokesman Howard Rubenstein.

FBI Arrests Three Men in Terror Plot that Targeted New York - Brian Ross, Richard Esposito and Clayton Sandell (ABC News)
    The FBI arrested three men on charges they lied to federal agents during an investigation of a terror plot against New York City that authorities say was "the real deal."
    Agents say they discovered nine pages of notes in Najibullah Zazi's computer with details on how to make a homemade bomb. Zazi admitted he attended an al-Qaeda training camp in Pakistan and received instructions on weapons and explosives.
    A recipe for homemade explosives found on Zazi's computer would have produced a bomb of the same size and type used in London, authorities said. Raids in New York led to the discovery of 14 new backpacks.
    The suicide bombers in London used backpacks and plastic containers to carry the explosive mixtures.

Hamas: We Won't Respect Any Deal - (Jerusalem Post)
    Hamas on Sunday responded to the announcement of a tripartite meeting between Netanyahu, Abbas and Obama.
    Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told Gazans at a stadium in Gaza City: "Any agreement reached will not be respected by our people."

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei Blasts Israel (Times-UK)
    Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blasted Israel, Western powers, and foreign media networks in a sermon marking the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr on Sunday.
    Khamenei said a "Zionist cancer" was gnawing into the lives of Islamic nations. He added that the "deadly cancer was spreading through the invading hands of the occupiers and arrogant powers."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Obama, Netanyahu, Abbas to Meet Tuesday at UN; Ehud Barak: Iran Remains Top Priority - Ethan Bronner
    President Obama will meet in New York on Tuesday with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel and Palestinian Chairman Abbas. On Monday, Israeli Defense Minister Barak meets in Washington with Defense Secretary Gates. Barak said concern about Iran remains a top priority and that Israel favors tough sanctions after limited and well-defined diplomatic efforts being pursued by the Americans.
        In an interview last week, Barak was quoted as saying that Iran does not pose an existential threat to Israel. The statement raised eyebrows in the U.S. because it seemed to suggest that Israel might be growing less concerned about Iranian nuclear weapons. But in a telephone interview, Barak said this was not the case. He simply wanted to urge his fellow citizens to refrain from panic over the Iranian program. (New York Times)
        See also Abbas to Meet Obama, Netanyahu, But Won't Negotiate - Alastair Macdonald (Reuters)
  • Gates: Iranian Medium-Range Missile Threat Developing More Rapidly Than Previously Thought
    Secretary of Defense Robert Gates last week explained the reasons behind the change in the U.S. missile defense posture: There has been "a change in our intelligence community's 2006 view of the Iranian threat: The intelligence community now assesses that the threat from Iran's short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, such as the Shahab-3, is developing more rapidly than previously projected. This poses an increased and more immediate threat to our forces on the European continent, as well as to our allies."  (U.S. Department of Defense)
  • Clinton: "We Have No Appetite for Talks Without Action"
    Secretary of State Clinton told the Brookings Institution on Friday: "Iran's continued failure to live up to its obligations carries profound consequences - for the security of the United States and our allies; for progress on global nonproliferation and progress toward disarmament; for the credibility of the IAEA and the Security Council and the Nonproliferation Treaty; and of course, for stability in the Persian Gulf, the Middle East, and beyond. Our concern is not Iran's right to develop peaceful nuclear energy, but its responsibility to demonstrate that its program is intended exclusively for peaceful purposes. This is not hard to do. Iran's continued refusal to cooperate has damaged the credibility of its claim that it does not seek a nuclear weapon."
        "There will be accompanying costs for Iran's continued defiance - more isolation and economic pressure, less possibility of progress for the people of Iran....Engagement must produce real results and...we have no appetite for talks without action."  (U.S. Department of State)
  • EU Condemns Ahmadinejad's Holocaust Declarations
    The EU on Sunday condemned declarations by Iranian President Ahmadinejad including that the Holocaust is a "myth." "The presidency of the European Union condemns statements by President Ahmadinejad at the Quds Day rally in Tehran where he repeated denials of the Holocaust and of the right to exist of the state of Israel," a statement said. "Such statements encourage anti-Semitism and hatred. We call on the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran to contribute constructively to peace and security in the Middle East." Britain, France, Germany and the U.S. have condemned Ahmadinejad's comments. (AFP)
        See also Moscow: Ahmadinejad Holocaust Jibe "Totally Unacceptable" (AFP)
  • Iranian Opposition Turns Anti-Israel Rally into Anti-Regime Rally
    Tens of thousands of opposition protesters swarmed the streets of Tehran, Shiraz and Isfahan Friday, turning an annual rally in support of the Palestinians into the first major demonstration against the government of President Ahmadinejad in six weeks. "Not Gaza, not Lebanon, I'll sacrifice my life for Iran," chanted protesters in the capital. State-controlled Iranian television showed thousands of Quds Day attendees holding posters of Lebanese Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah and chanting "Death to Israel," but the opposition stole the day. (Chicago Tribune)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Meeting with Obama at UN Won't Result in Renewal of Israel-PA Talks - Barak Ravid and Natasha Mozgovaya
    Sources at the Prime Minister's Bureau as well as the Obama administration stress that it is unlikely that the meeting of Obama, Netanyahu and Abbas Tuesday at the UN will result in a resumption of negotiations. The sources acknowledged that the meeting is expected to be only a photo opportunity. "The differences on the issue of the settlements and the framework of the talks remain deep," the sources said. Senior officials at the U.S. administration offered similar comments.
        Prime Minister Netanyahu will address the UN General Assembly on Thursday, where his speech will focus on the need for international action in order to stop Iran's nuclear program. (Ha'aretz)
  • Activists Unite Ahead of UN Parley - Hilary Leila Krieger
    When Iranian President Ahmadinejad is in New York this week, he will face an unprecedented coalition of Jewish, Iranian, labor, African-American and other activists demonstrating against his regime. His government's brutal crackdown on dissidents has led many progressive Jews to take a more aggressive stance on Iran and helped ally non-Jewish groups with campaigns against the Iranian regime. Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said the broader theme of human rights has been "a way to bring other groups into this outside of the Jewish community."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Retaliates for Gaza Rocket Fire, Bombs Smuggling Tunnels
    Israel Air Force jets attacked three smuggling tunnels in the southern Gaza Strip Sunday in retaliation for Kassam rocket fire from Gaza towards Israel Saturday night, the IDF Spokesperson's Office said. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Why a Deal with Iran Is Unlikely Under Ahmadinejad - David Ignatius
    The central question about Iran, as Henry Kissinger has observed, is whether it wants to be a nation or a cause. The revolutionary zealotry of Ahmadinejad and his allies is among the obstacles the Obama administration faces as it prepares for Oct. 1 talks with the Islamic republic. As Ahmadinejad's letters make clear, he doesn't want a seat at the negotiating table with the great powers; he wants to overturn that table. A pragmatic bargain with Ahmadinejad is probably impossible. He's a revolutionary, not a dealmaker. Obama should be careful not to let the Iranian president stall for time. (Washington Post)
  • Tehran Deceives While Completing Its Nukes - James G. Zumwalt
    Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rowhani, leaving office in 2005, boasted how, during his two-year tour, he had deceived the Western powers. In his recent book The Rise of Nuclear Iran, author Dore Gold details how Rowhani bragged: "When we were negotiating with the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in parts of the facility in Isfahan" (where the fuel conversion for Iran's nuclear weapons program took place). The Isfahan project had not yet begun when talks with the Europeans had, but it was completed while those talks continued. Gold explains Rowhani's diplomatic deception: "Thus, while Rowhani sat at the negotiating table, participating in the first trial run of the West's engagement with it over the nuclear question, Iran quietly moved from having no uranium conversion capability whatsoever to actually completing its clandestine conversion plant."
        With Tehran most likely less than a year away from the finish line in its race to achieve nuclear weapons capability, why would it choose to negotiate now - as it enters the home stretch - to stop its program? It hasn't - Iran again only seeks to buy what little remaining time it needs to make its nuclear weapons program a fait accompli. The writer is a Marine veteran of the Persian Gulf and Vietnam wars. (Washington Times)
  • Observations:

    Israel's Gaza Vindication - Jackson Diehl (Washington Post)

    • When it was launched last December, Israel's invasion of the Gaza Strip looked to most people in Washington to be risky, counterproductive and doomed to futility. But today, the three-week operation is generally regarded by the country's military and political elite as a success.
    • Between April 2001 and the end of 2008, 4,246 rockets and 4,180 mortar shells were fired into Israel from Gaza, killing 14 Israelis, wounding more than 400 and making life in southern Israel intolerable. During what was supposed to be a cease-fire during the last half of 2008, 362 rockets and shells landed. Since April there have been just over two dozen rocket and mortar strikes. No one has been seriously injured, and life in the Israeli town of Sderot and the area around it has returned almost to normal.
    • Hamas remains in power and unmoved in its refusal to recognize Israel. It is still holding an Israeli soldier who was abducted in 2006. It is still smuggling material for weapons through tunnels under the Egyptian border and, if it chose to, could resume rocket attacks on Israel at any time.
    • However, Israel has bought itself a stretch of relative peace with Hamas, just as its 2006 invasion of Lebanon has produced three years of quiet on that front. "They will never change their ideology of destroying Israel," a senior government official told me last week. "But you can deter them if they are convinced you are not afraid of fighting a war."
    • As for the Goldstone report, the heat it briefly produced last week will quickly dissipate; the panel was discredited from the outset because of its appointment by the grotesquely politicized UN Human Rights Council.

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