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October 15, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Russia's Putin Warns Against Intimidating Iran - Darya Korsunskaya (Reuters)
    Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned major powers on Wednesday against intimidating Iran and said talk of sanctions over its nuclear program was "premature."
    "There is no need to frighten the Iranians," Putin said in Beijing. "We need to look for a compromise. If a compromise is not found, and the discussions end in a fiasco, then we will see."

Incorrigible Iran: The Mullahs Are Emboldened by U.S. Feebleness - Editorial (Washington Times)
    The Obama administration has adopted Russia's "go slow" approach to imposing sanctions on Tehran for its illegal nuclear program, stating that sanctions should only be a last resort when all diplomatic means are exhausted.
    This posture hands a blank check to Iran.

U.S.: Al-Qaeda "Faces Funding Crisis" (BBC News)
    Al-Qaeda is in its worst financial state for many years and has made several appeals for funds already this year, according to senior U.S. Treasury official David Cohen.
    "We assess that al-Qaeda is in its weakest financial condition in several years and that, as a result, its influence is waning," Cohen said in Washington.
    He also noted a trend in militant organizations turning to criminal activities to finance themselves.
    Hizbullah, he alleged, is involved in making and selling illegal copies of music and computer software, as well as cigarette smuggling.

UAE Convicts U.S. Man for "Terror" Funding (Reuters)
    A U.S. citizen of Lebanese origin has been sentenced by a United Arab Emirates court to 18 months in prison on terrorist charges relating to Israel and Iraq, newspapers reported on Tuesday.
    Naji Hamdan was found guilty of funding and supporting terrorism and having links with the Iraqi militant group Ansar al-Sunna.
    Prosecutors said the money Hamdan donated was used in actions against Israel.

UAE Vets Workers for Ties to Tehran - Margaret Coker (Wall Street Journal)
    The United Arab Emirates is tightening oversight of government workers and foreign residents because of concerns about the threat of infiltration by Iranian agents.
    The UAE, a federation of seven sheikdoms, is seeking to address what a government official calls a "significant" security worry: the possibility that Iranian-linked sleeper cells could sabotage critical sectors such as energy, banking and transportation.
    Over the summer, the UAE deported 44 Lebanese men and their families for suspected ties to Hizbullah.

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  • UN Security Council Debates Goldstone Report - Edith M. Lederer
    The Goldstone report on the Gaza fighting became the focus of nearly 50 speeches at the UN Security Council's monthly Mideast meeting on Wednesday. Israel's UN Ambassador Gabriela Shalev said the report "favors and legitimizes terrorism....It denies Israel's right to defend its citizens....It permits terrorists to victimize civilians, target the innocent, and use as human shields those it claims to defend." Shalev accused the world of "doing nothing" about Hamas' smuggling of Iranian arms into Gaza, its launching of attacks from schools, mosques and hospitals, or its firing of 12,000 rockets against innocent Israeli civilians.
        Diplomats say there is little chance that the Security Council will take any action, primarily because of objections by the U.S., Israel's closest ally. U.S. Deputy Ambassador Alejandro Wolff reiterated that the report and "the allegations of human rights and humanitarian law violations...are not a matter for Security Council action." He also criticized what he termed "its unbalanced focus on Israel."  (AP/Washington Post)
  • Prospects Dim for Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks - Howard Schneider
    A political crisis in the Palestinian Authority and growing doubts about American mediation have deeply undercut chances that Israeli-Palestinian peace talks will resume in the near future. Obama has set a goal of relaunching the peace talks by the end of the year, but the U.S. push for a settlement freeze backfired. It raised hopes among Palestinians, who began to demand nothing less than a full freeze.
        Netanyahu has said he wants to reopen the talks without preconditions. He has agreed to a temporary settlement freeze in parts of the West Bank but has been adamant that building will continue throughout Jerusalem. (Washington Post)
  • U.S. House OKs Divestiture from Companies in Iran
    The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved, by a vote of 414-6, legislation that gives state and local governments, and educational institutions, the authority to divest their assets, or prohibit investing their assets, in any company that invests more than $20 million in Iran's energy sector; provides crude oil or liquefied natural gas tankers or builds pipelines for Iran; or is a financial institution that extends $20 million in credit to invest in Iran's energy sector. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Turkish TV Portrays IDF Soldiers as Murderers - Barak Ravid
    Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday instructed the Foreign Ministry to protest to Turkey over a new television drama airing on the state-sponsored television channel TRT1 that depicts Israel Defense Forces soldiers as brutal murderers. The show depicts multiple images of the IDF brutalizing the Palestinian population in Gaza by shooting children, kicking elderly people on the ground, and lining up Palestinians to be shot by a firing squad. "Broadcasting this series is incitement of the most severe kind, and it is done under government sponsorship," Lieberman said. (Ha'aretz)
  • PA Support for Goldstone Probe Is About Saving Abbas - Avi Issacharoff
    One reason behind the u-turn by Mahmoud Abbas on discussion of the Goldstone report at the UN Human Rights Council has to do with the proposed Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement. Hamas said that Abbas' previous decision not to raise the issue of the Goldstone report bordered on treason, and thus it could not sign a reconciliation agreement. What can Hamas say now that the PA has reversed itself? While it would be difficult to find even one senior PA official who really believes that Hamas wants national unity, by agreeing to the Egyptian-brokered accord, Fatah can present Hamas as the intransigent party.
        Meanwhile, Abbas has raised the tenor of his anti-Israel declarations, a tried-and-true way to gain sympathy in the Palestinian street: Whenever you are accused of collaboration, lash out against Israel. Quite a few senior Fatah officials, including ones close to Abbas, urged Israel to intensify its attacks on Hamas during the Gaza operation. Now they are accusing Israel of war crimes. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Hamas and Fatah Face a Forced Marriage - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Fatah and Hamas seem to be headed toward a new "reconciliation agreement" that neither of them wants. The Egyptians are repeating the same mistake the Saudis made when they forced the two parties to sign the Jeddah agreement, which lasted for less than four months. Even if Hamas does succumb to Egyptian pressure and adds its signature to the latest agreement, there's no guarantee that the accord would ever be implemented. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Iranian Regime's Political Opponents Would Back Sanctions - John P. Hannah
    If current negotiations falter, international efforts to curtail Iran's nuclear program may escalate to the imposition of "crippling sanctions" or even the use of military force. A crucial question is whether such punitive measures would help or hinder the popular uprising against the Iranian regime that emerged after the country's fraudulent June 12 presidential elections. Few analysts doubt that if it succeeded in toppling Iran's hard-line regime, the crisis over the Iranian nuclear program would become far more susceptible to diplomatic resolution.
        Before June 12, conventional wisdom suggested that both harsh sanctions and military action would likely strengthen the Islamic Republic by triggering a "rally around the regime" effect. But today, popular loathing of the regime has reached such levels that almost any outside action that further squeezes Iran's tyrants will be welcomed. The last thing on their minds is defending an indefensible regime in the face of tough international sanctions. The writer, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, served as national security advisor to former Vice President Dick Cheney. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Anatomy of a Swedish Blood Libel - Andrea Levin
    The Aug. 17 story by Donald Bostrom in Sweden's Aftonbladet has quickly metastasized to mainstream Muslim media, spawning cartoons of Jews stealing body parts and drinking Arab blood published in Syria, Qatar, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman, to name a few. In September, Algeria's al-Khabar claimed that Jewish-directed gangs of Algerians and Moroccans rounded up Algerian children and spirited them to Israel to have their body parts harvested and sold. On Sept. 17, Iran's PressTV breathlessly declared: "An international Jewish conspiracy to kidnap children and harvest their organs is gathering momentum." The writer is executive director and president of CAMERA, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Swedish Reactions to the Anti-Israel Blood Libel Report - Mikael Tossavainen
    The Swedish daily Aftonbladet (AB) published an article suggesting that the Israeli army and medical establishment had colluded to harvest organs from Palestinians and sell them overseas. AB may have won the battle over what it is allowed to print, but it has most certainly lost the war over what should be written. The publication was followed by a plethora of criticism against AB in the Swedish media.
        This mini-crisis in Swedish-Israeli relations has impaired the EUís ability to engage effectively in restarting the peace process in the Middle East. The Palestinian cause has also been damaged since reporters might be more hesitant to convey the unsubstantiated stories that Palestinians spread to the foreign press. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Observations:

    Goldstone Report: It Looks Like Law, But It's Just Politics - Warren Goldstein (Jerusalem Post)

    • The UN, particularly through its Human Rights Council, uses the veneer of law and legal methodology to give credence and credibility to its anti-Israel agenda. The Goldstone Mission is a case in point. Careful analysis reveals that the legalities utilized are merely a cover for a political strategy of delegitimizing Israel.
    • The Human Rights Council's Resolution establishing the Mission expressly states that it "[s]trongly condemns the ongoing Israeli military operation [in Gaza] which has resulted in massive violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people," and in so doing pre-judges the guilt of Israel.
    • The Mission's findings were based on accepting the allegations of only one party to the conflict. The Mission did not try to cross-examine or challenge the witnesses in any real way. Jonathan Halevi of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs analyzes in detail the methodology employed by the Mission with respect to witnesses, demonstrating how unproven allegations by Hamas officials were accepted as established facts.
    • The Goldstone Mission is a disgrace to the most basic notions of justice, equality and the rule of law, and it has harmed the prospects for peace in the Middle East. There can never be peace without justice and truth.

      The writer, who has a PhD in human rights law, is the chief rabbi of South Africa.

          See also Blocking the Truth of the Gaza War: How the Goldstone Commission Understated the Hamas Threat to Palestinian Civilians - Col. (res.) Jonathan D. Halevi (ICA/Jerusalem Center)

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