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November 11, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

The Significance of Hasan's Attire - Tarek Fatah (Ottawa Citizen-Canada)
    No one seemed to notice the significance of the attire that Maj. Nidal Hasan was wearing the morning of the killings. It was captured on a store surveillance video where he bought a coffee.
    Hasan was wearing the "shalwar-kameez," the traditional attire worn by Pashtuns on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghan border. I have lived a decade in the Arab world and not once did I see an Arab wearing the shalwar-kameez.
    There is one particular group of Arabs who did embrace the garb of the Pashtuns - those who went to Afghanistan to wage jihad alongside al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
    See also Fort Hood Rampage Third Such Attack This Year - Patrik Jonsson and Tracey D. Samuelson (Christian Science Monitor)
    Hasan's attack was the third incident this year in which U.S. military installations were targeted by radicals.
    In September, two North Carolina men were charged for conspiring to kill U.S. personnel at Quantico, home of the Marines' officer training school and the FBI Academy.
    In June, Abdul Hakim Mujahid Muhammad, an American Muslim convert, fired at two soldiers outside a recruiting center in Little Rock, Ark., killing one and injuring the other. Authorities say the shooter said the attack was retaliation for U.S. military actions overseas.

Israel, Jordan Conduct Joint Emergency Services Drill (UPI)
    Israeli and Jordanian military forces concluded a joint one-day exercise simulating an earthquake and drilling rescue and emergency procedures, officials said. The drill is an annual event between the two countries.
    Forces from Israel's Home Front Command and their Jordanian counterparts operated side by side in the Beit Shean area rescuing victims of a simulated earthquake zone, and searching underneath rubble.
    An Israeli army official praised the Jordanian soldiers who worked effectively and efficiently alongside their Israeli counterparts.

Hamas Detains Dozens on Arafat Anniversary (Reuters)
    The Fatah movement accused Gaza's Islamist Hamas rulers of detaining dozens of its members on Tuesday to stop them marking the fifth anniversary of the death of Yasser Arafat.
    Two years ago, nine people were killed in clashes between Fatah and Hamas at an Arafat memorial rally in Gaza.
    See also Fatah Marks Arafat's Anniversary Behind Closed Doors in Gaza (Xinhua-China)

Gulf Al-Qaeda Chief: Shi'ites, Like Iran, More Dangerous than Jews (Ha'aretz)
    The leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman al-Rashid, warned Tuesday that Shi'ite Muslims, particularly Iran, posed more danger to the world than either Jews or Christians.
    "They [Shi'ites] are full of a wish to annihilate Sunnis," he said in an audio recording carried by the U.S. monitoring group SITE Intelligence.
    "We call on the stand by [Sunnis] with whatever means they can against the danger of Iran and those who follow [the Shi'ite] faith in the region," added Rashid.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Accuses Iran of Violating UN Arms Embargo - Edith M. Lederer
    The U.S. accused Iran Tuesday of violating a UN arms embargo by secretly sending weapons to Syria in a cargo ship seized by Israel. The U.S. told the Security Council that the concealed arms shipment, "clearly manifested from Iran to Syria" in violation of a March 2007 arms embargo, provides "unambiguous evidence of the destabilizing proliferation of arms in the region." The U.S. also called on Syria and Iran to end their "material support" for Hizbullah, which violates the 2006 cease-fire resolution. (AP)
        See also Documented Proof of Iranian Complicity in Arms Smuggling to Terrorists
    An examination of the munitions seized proves conclusively that the source of the arms was Iran. This is clear both from the shipping documents and the markings on the munitions themselves. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • How the U.S. Views the Challenge of Iran
    U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns told the Middle East Institute in Washington on Tuesday: "We seek a relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran based upon mutual interest and mutual respect. We do not seek regime change. We have condemned terrorist attacks against Iran. We have recognized Iran's international right to peaceful nuclear power. With our partners in the international community, we have demonstrated our willingness to take creative confidence-building steps, including our support for the IAEA's offer of fuel for the Tehran research reactor."
        "With our partners in the international community, we are ready for a serious dialogue with Iran about how it can resolve longstanding doubts about the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear ambitions, doubts only reinforced by the recent revelation of a clandestine enrichment facility near Qom. With our partners in the international community, we are ready to move with Iran along a pathway of cooperation, not confrontation, of integration, not animosity. But that depends squarely on the choices that Iran makes, on its willingness to meet its international obligations and responsibilities."  (State Department)
  • Saudi Arabia Enforces Blockade Against Iran-Backed Rebels in Yemen - Salah Nasrawi
    Saudi Arabia on Tuesday imposed a naval blockade on the Red Sea coast of northern Yemen to combat Shiite rebels along its border. Yemen and Saudi Arabia have accused Iran of sending weapons and money to the rebels. The rebels in northern Yemen, known as Hawthis, have been fighting the government for five years, but in recent months the violence has escalated and crossed the border into Saudi Arabia. The kingdom has responded with several days of airstrikes against the rebels. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Small War or Big Problem? Fighting on the Yemeni-Saudi Border - Simon Henderson (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Influence of America's Closest Arab Allies Seen Fading - Michael Slackman
    America's closest Arab allies, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, are increasingly viewed in the region as diminished actors whose influence is on the wane, political experts say. They have been challenged by Iran, opposed by much smaller Arab neighbors, mocked by Syria and defied by influential nonstate groups like Hamas and Hizbullah. "Egypt's role is receding regionally, and its cards are limited," said Emad Gad, an expert in international relations at the government-financed Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. "Saudi's role in the last ten years has declined," said Abdulkarim H. al-Dekhayel, a political science professor at King Saud University in Riyadh. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Views U.S. Talks as Positive - Hilary Leila Krieger
    Although the details of Monday's talks between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama continued to be shrouded in secrecy, the prime minister Tuesday said the atmosphere "was very open and very warm." "The discussions dealt with the complex of issues vital for Israel's security and our joint efforts to advance the peace process. We discussed these issues in detail, in a practical way and out of friendship. I really appreciated the professional and positive approach I discovered." Referring to other meetings he held on his trip, Netanyahu said, "There was a great understanding among Jewish leaders and in the Senate that we want to advance peace and that we are taking practical measures to do so, while we have real security needs that the U.S. is prepared to help with."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Netanyahu Offered Obama Additional Gestures to Get Abbas on Board in Peace Talks - Barak Ravid and Natasha Mozgovaya
    Prime Minister Netanyahu proposed additional Israeli gestures to the Palestinian Authority during his meeting with President Obama Monday in an effort to persuade Mahmoud Abbas to agree to resume talks with Israel. Netanyahu had stressed to Obama that his oft-stated desire to advance the peace process was sincere. (Ha'aretz)
  • Emanuel Calls for Negotiations "Without Preconditions" - Hilary Leila Krieger and E.B. Solomont
    White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel pushed back Tuesday against those who had raised questions about the U.S. commitment to Israel and its focus on Israeli settlements, arguing that the issue shouldn't keep the parties from working toward peace. "It is only through dialogue that we can achieve the lasting peace that Israel seeks," Emmanuel told the Jewish Federations of North America's General Assembly. "No one should allow the issue of settlements to distract from the goal of a lasting peace between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab world." He also called for peace negotiations without unilateral actions by either side and "without preconditions."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israel and Palestine: Can They Start Over? - Hussein Agha and Robert Malley
    As currently defined, a conflict-ending settlement is practically unachievable; even if signed it will not be implemented and even if implemented it will not be sustained. Against this background, the idea of a long-term interim arrangement acquires some logic. Instead of a resolution that promises finality, Israelis and Palestinians could strive for an agreement that seeks to minimize risks of violence.
        The mention of Jordan as a possible piece of the Israeli-Palestinian puzzle comes with burdensome baggage. Yet arguments favoring some kind of Jordanian-Palestinian entity comprising Jordan, the West Bank, and perhaps Gaza are worth considering. Inserting a new variable would give both parties additional flexibility in an increasingly arthritic process. Being closely linked to Jordan - a country of similar ethnicity and faith, where the majority are already Palestinian - and accepting a Jordanian security presence in the West Bank might seem a tolerable price to pay compared to the alternatives, whether continued Israeli occupation or the dispatch of an unfamiliar Western force. Palestinians would gain economic and strategic strength, reduce their vulnerability and dependence on Israel, obtain valuable political space, and become part of a more consequential and self-sufficient state. The notion of a nonmilitarized West Bank could become more palatable.
        Should President Obama follow the same trodden path, without first rethinking basics, there would be nothing bold or ambitious about his efforts. They would be futile and thoroughly mystifying. This time, there would be no excuse. Hussein Agha is Senior Associate Member of St. Antony's College, Oxford. Robert Malley, Director of the Middle East Program at the International Crisis Group, served as special assistant for Arab-Israeli affairs for President Bill Clinton. (New York Review of Books)
        See also Rethinking a Two-State Solution - Interview with Robert Malley (Council on Foreign Relations)
  • Lebanon's New Political Deal - Andrew Lee Butters
    Hizbullah has maneuvered behind the scenes to rig the composition of the new Lebanese Cabinet in its favor. First, it demanded veto power over all decisions, but eventually accepted a compromise formula that left the ruling coalition without a large enough majority to make big decisions on its own. Hizbullah also pushed for control of Lebanon's telecommunications system, which would give it added operational security from Israeli intelligence. The Lebanese government's caving in to Hizbullah and Syria will have its consequences: most importantly it's a message to those who put their trust in the U.S. and political reform that guns are still more powerful than votes. (TIME)
        See also New Lebanon Cabinet Steers Clear of Hizbullah Weapons (AFP)
  • Observations:

    There Is No Clash Between Universal and National Values - Natan Sharansky (Jewish Agency for Israel)

    • In the years before my arrest I was in fact the unofficial spokesman of two movements - a human rights movement pressing for democratic reforms in the Soviet bloc and the Soviet Jewry movement seeking the right of Jews to become free. In those years I was often pressed by my comrades in arms on both sides to make a choice between these two wars. You have to decide, they said, are you the fighter for human rights for everybody or are you fighting for the rights of your own tribe? Do you belong to the world of universal values or to the world of nationalism? I must say, I personally never felt that I needed to choose because I felt that they are deeply connected. The battle for freedom and the battle for identity was the same battle for me.
    • I was one of many assimilated Jews only because the Soviet regime put it as an aim to deprive people deliberately of any loyalties to their faith, to their nation, to their family. As the official definition of citizenship stated clearly - all Soviet people are cogs in the communist machine. The only value left for us was our physical survival and there was no reason to risk it. When did this situation change? In 1967, the Six-Day War in Israel reconnected us with our people, with our country and history, and gave us pride for being Jewish. We discovered our identity and this empowered us to fight for our freedom.
    • If you believe in the universal values of freedom and human rights, why bother to stick to your national or ethnic identity we are asked. Doesn't Judaism prize tikkun olam, perfection of the world at large, as its highest value? Why insist on staying part of a small tribe, when the great, global melting pot makes nationalities seem like nothing more than sentimental reminiscences?
    • This choice between freedom and identity is a false one. The Iron Curtain was brought down and hundreds of millions found their freedom only because we found the source of strength in our pride and in our identity. We succeeded in building the democratic State of Israel and bringing the ideas of human rights and equality to the darkest places populated by tyrants and dictators only because we were empowered by thousands of years of dreams and prayers of "Next year in Jerusalem."

      Sharansky, a former deputy prime minister, is Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel. He was speaking to the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America.

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