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October 5, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Sgt. Gilad Shalit Seen Alive, Healthy After 3 Years in Captivity - Joshua Mitnick (Wall Street Journal)
    In a 2-minute video, delivered to Israel in exchange for the release of 19 female Palestinian prisoners, Israeli Sgt. Gilad Shalit looked healthy and alert while holding up a Hamas newspaper from Sept. 14.
    See also Video: Captured Israeli Soldier Gilad Shalit - (YouTube)
    See also Report: Israel Knows Where Shalit Is Held (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel knows where kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit is being held and Hamas is aware of this, a senior Jerusalem official told the London-based Asharq Alawsat on Sunday.
    Israel has avoided carrying out a rescue operation in order to prevent Shalit from being harmed, the official said.
    See also Hamas: We Will Kidnap More Soldiers (Jerusalem Post)
    Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, speaking in Damascus on Friday, threatened to capture more Israeli soldiers in order to win the release of all Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Black Market Shows How Iran Adapts to Sanctions - Charlie Savage and Mark Landler (New York Times)
    President Obama's advisers said the U.S. was intensively recruiting other nations to join in a harsher economic embargo against Tehran should diplomacy fail. But black market networks have sprouted up to circumvent the sanctions.
    A typical embargo-busting scheme was detailed in a plea agreement filed in federal court in Washington on Sept. 24. In the court filings, a Dutch aviation services company admitted it had illegally funneled American aircraft and electronics components to Iran from 2005 to 2007.
    Iranian customers secretly placed orders for parts which were shipped to the Netherlands, Cyprus and the UAE, and then repackaged and shipped to Iran.

U.S. Leaves Door Open for External Probe of Israel's Gaza Operation - Dan Izenberg (Jerusalem Post)
    Last week U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner discussed the Goldstone Report at the UN Human Rights Council, saying:
    "We encourage Israel to utilize appropriate domestic review procedures and meaningful accountability mechanisms to investigate and address all credible allegations of misconduct or violations of international law."
    By his careful wording, Posner did not rule out the possibility that the U.S. might insist that Israel do more than let the army investigate itself.

30,000 Jewish Worshippers Attend Priestly Blessing at Western Wall - Efrat Weiss (Ynet News)
    Some 30,000 worshippers arrived at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Monday to attend the traditional Priestly Blessing ceremony during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

Yemen a Focus of Iranian-Saudi Arabian Strife: Iran Backs Yemeni Shiites in War (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
    On August 11, the Yemeni army began an offensive against rebels of the al-Houthi clan, Zaydi-Shi'ites who live in north Yemen near the Saudi Arabian border.
    Yemen claims that its security forces captured money and trucks loaded with weapons sent to the rebels by Iran.
    Iran regards Yemen and its Shi'ite north as an arena from which to subvert Saudi Arabia and to establish an Iranian presence in Red Sea countries which control the sea lanes leading from the Persian Gulf to the heart of the Middle East and Europe.
    Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Salah told Al-Jazeera TV on Sept. 11 that Yemeni security forces had detained two squads whose members admitted to having received $100,000 from sources in Iran.

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  • U.S. Wonders If Iran Is Playing for Time - Helene Cooper
    If Iran has really agreed to send most of its openly declared enriched uranium out of the country to be turned into fuel, that is a significant concession, experts said. The problem is that no one is certain that the Iranian government will actually do what Western officials say that it has now agreed to do. In fact, on Friday, after the talks in Geneva, Iranian officials did not sound as if they thought they had promised anything. "No, no!" said Mehdi Saffare, Iran's ambassador to Britain and a member of the Iranian delegation to the negotiations. The idea of sending Iran's enriched uranium out of the county had "not been discussed yet."  (New York Times)
        See also U.S.: We Are Watching Iran's Intent - Bob Schieffer
    U.S. National Security Adviser Gen. Jim Jones told CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday: "What we're watching is what is [Iran's] intent. And we have been worried about that intent. We now have an Iran that is willing to come to the table. We have two more meetings scheduled, one in which they will announce they will allow the inspectors to visit the Qom site which has just been recently announced and the other one to discuss methodology by which we can ship rich uranium out of the country. Those two things alone move the dial in our direction favorably."  (CBS News)
        See also France Warns U.S. on Deal with Iran - James Blitz, Daniel Dombey, and Najmeh Bozorgmehr
    France is anxious about the Obama administration's pursuit of a deal on Iran's nuclear program, warning that the U.S. must not allow Tehran to expand its uranium enrichment without facing fresh sanctions. Under a proposed deal, Iran might put about 80% of its low-enriched uranium out of potential military use. (Financial Times-UK)
  • Iran: No Change in Stance after Geneva Talks
    There has been no change in the Iranian nuclear stance, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi said on Monday. "We have not raised anything about our right to pursue peaceful nuclear technology in the Geneva talks." He said agreements reached on inspecting the new uranium enrichment plant on Oct. 25, and a meeting in Vienna on Oct. 19 on enriched uranium exchange were coordinated solely with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Iran has painted the results of the Geneva talks and the visit by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei to Tehran as Western acknowledgement of its right to pursue civil nuclear technology, including enrichment. (DPA/Khaleej Times-UAE)
        See also Jalili: 5+1 Group Didn't Ask Iran to Suspend Enrichment
    Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, has said that in the Geneva talks on Thursday, the 5+1 group did not raise the issue of uranium enrichment suspension, as has been demanded by UN Security Council resolutions. (Tehran Times-Iran)
  • UN Report Says Iran Has Data to Make a Nuclear Bomb - William J. Broad and David E. Sanger
    Senior staff members of the UN nuclear agency have concluded in a confidential analysis that Iran has acquired "sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable" atom bomb. The report's conclusions, described by senior European officials, go well beyond the public positions taken by several governments, including the U.S. The report presents evidence that beyond improving upon bomb-making information gathered from rogue nuclear experts around the world, Iran has done extensive research and testing on how to fashion the components of a weapon.
        The report, titled "Possible Military Dimensions of Iran's Nuclear Program," draws a picture of a program begun in 2002, run by Iran's Ministry of Defense, "aimed at the development of a nuclear payload to be delivered using the Shahab 3 missile system," which can strike the Middle East and parts of Europe. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • PA Waging Diplomatic Campaign Against Israel over Temple Mount - Barak Ravid and Liel Kyzer
    After previously focusing on Israeli construction in eastern Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority has begun a new diplomatic campaign against Israel over what it terms "provocations" on the Temple Mount. PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told foreign ambassadors last Tuesday that the clashes on the eve of Yom Kippur were "an assault by extremist religious settlers on the Temple Mount compound." Yet Fayyad's description bears no resemblance to Israel's version. According to senior Israeli officials, a group of French tourists - most of them Christians - came to the mount for a previously arranged tour, and hundreds of Palestinians began hurling stones at them. Nevertheless, Fayyad's plea drew a swift response from the U.S. and many EU countries, all of which demanded explanations from Israeli officials. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas to House Homeless Along Gaza Border - Amir Buhbut
    Israel's security services are concerned over Hamas' new strategy to erect trailers for those made homeless in the Gaza war just a few hundred meters from the security fence. The new trailers are to serve as cover for tunnels to be dug under the border with Israel to serve as hiding places for terrorists and explosives. Hamas Minister of Public Works Yosef Almansi told the Gaza newspaper Falastin that he was giving priority to housing near the security fence in order to make it more difficult for the IDF to act in the area in the future. A senior Israeli defense official said: "The Hamas government has announced its intention to use the population in Gaza living along the border as a human shield against IDF operations. Hamas plans to use the homes as cover for the construction of attack tunnels." Another security official said: "Construction of this type is designed to serve as a greenhouse for hostile attacks."  (Maariv-Hebrew/Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran's Big Victory in Geneva - John Bolton
    The most widely touted outcome of last week's Geneva talks with Iran was the "agreement in principle" to send approximately one nuclear-weapon's worth of Iran's low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Russia for enrichment to 19.75% and fabrication into fuel rods for Tehran's research reactor. As a result, any momentum toward stricter sanctions has been dissipated, and Iran's fraudulent, repressive regime again hobnobs with the UN Security Council's permanent members.
        Consider the following problems: Diplomacy's three slipperiest words are "agreement in principle." An Iranian official said the Geneva deal "is just based on principles. We have not agreed on any amount or any numbers." Bargaining over the deal's specifics could stretch out indefinitely. The "agreement" also undercuts Security Council resolutions forbidding Iranian uranium enrichment. Moreover, considering Iran's utter lack of credibility, we have no idea whether its declared LEU constitutes anything near its entire stockpile.
        Raising Iran's LEU to higher enrichment levels is a step backwards. Two-thirds of the work to get 90% enriched uranium, the most efficient weapons grade, is accomplished when U235 isotope levels in natural uranium are enriched to Iran's current level of approximately 3%-5%. Further enrichment of Iran's LEU to 19.75% is a significant step in the wrong direction. This is barely under the 20% definition of weapons-grade, highly enriched uranium (HEU). The 19.75% enriched uranium could be reconverted into uranium hexafluoride gas and quickly enriched to 90%. The writer is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Oren Upbeat about West-Iran Dialogue - Hilary Leila Krieger (Jerusalem Post)
  • Will Iran Simply Further Enrich Russian-Enriched Nuclear Fuel? - Michael Rubin
    U.S. officials have yet to acknowledge that Iranian confirmation of its second enrichment plant belied the veracity of the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate. Tehran's decision to confess when confronted with proof of cheating should not be considered the same as Iranian transparency and goodwill. While Iranian authorities pledged to ship uranium to Russia for further enrichment, the West has no guarantee that Iranian scientists will not simply enrich the fuel further when it is repatriated to Iran.
        Israeli officials across their political spectrum consider a nuclear-weapons-capable Islamic Republic of Iran an existential threat. Yet because the Western world does not share Israel's threat perception, it is neither likely to force upon Iran the degree of coercion necessary to achieve a change of regime behavior, nor is it willing to lay the groundwork to assist Iranians seeking fundamental change in the nature of their regime. The writer is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. (National Review)
  • The Coming Failure on Iran - Jackson Diehl
    The Obama administration's positive tone following its first diplomatic encounter with Iran covers a deep and growing gloom in Washington and European capitals. None of the steps the West is considering to stop the Iranian nuclear program is likely to work. The headlines obscure the fact that Tehran's negotiator in Geneva declined to respond to the central Western demand: that Iran freeze its uranium enrichment work. Iran has rejected that idea repeatedly.
        In the meantime, talks about the details of inspections and the uranium shipments could easily become protracted, buying the regime valuable time. Meanwhile, Tehran's tactical retreat has provided Russia and China with an excuse to veto new sanctions. "If by early next year we are getting nothing through diplomacy and sanctions, the entire policy is going to be revealed as a charade," says Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution's Saban Center. (Washington Post)
        See also Deal Buys Iran Time to Obscure Activities at Nuclear Plant - Paul Richter (Los Angeles Times)
  • Observations:

    UN's Bias Binds Gaza - Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Jim Molan (The Australian)

    • When I was involved in military operations in the Iraq war, working with the U.S. military, every offensive action I took had to be necessary for military reasons, not result in unnecessary suffering, was amenable to distinction between military and civil people and property, and did not cause destruction or suffering disproportionate to the expected military gain, even against legitimate military targets.
    • Our adversary in Iraq consistently ignored all humanitarian law as well as the laws of war, particularly the blatant abuse of medical facilities and places of worship. Our adversary's major strategy was to blow the arms and legs off innocent women and children at times calculated to fit the need of the world's media networks. This was an immorality of strategy that was breathtaking, exercised not just once or twice, but over years. But the defender also has obligations. He cannot exploit the law by deliberately commingling his fighters with civilians, as Hamas admits it did. This violates the most basic principle of the law of war.
    • Inherent in the principle of protecting the civilian population is a requirement that civilians not be used to render areas immune from military operations. A party to a conflict that chooses to use its civilian population for military purposes violates its obligation to protect its own civilians. It should not complain (but of course it will) when inevitably, although regrettable, civilian casualties result.
    • As a soldier who has run a war against an opponent not dissimilar to Hamas, facing problems perhaps similar to those faced by Israeli commanders, my sympathies tend to lie with the Israelis. The Goldstone report is an opinion by one group of people putting forward their judgments, with limited access to the facts, and reflecting their own prejudices. It comes down to equality of skepticism: if you refuse to believe anything the Israelis say, then you have no right to unquestioningly accept what Hamas says.

      The writer was chief of operations of the Iraq multinational force in 2004-05.

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