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November 17, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Syrian Explanation about Uranium Does Not Square with IAEA Tests (DPA-Earth Times)
    Syria's initial explanation about uranium traces found by the International Atomic Energy Agency on its territory do not square with the agency's analysis, an IAEA report issued on Monday said.
    IAEA inspectors have found traces of man-made uranium at the al-Kibar site and at a small research reactor in Damascus.
    "The results do not support Syria's earlier explanation for the origin and presence of the particles," IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said in his report.
    The IAEA has made it clear that it does not believe that the uranium particles found at al-Kibar came from Israeli munitions, as Damascus alleges.

Russia Delays Iran's Bushehr Nuclear Power Station - Katya Golubkova (Reuters-Washington Post)
    Russia announced the latest delay to Iran's first nuclear power station on Monday, saying that technical issues would prevent its engineers from starting up the reactor at the Bushehr plant by the year-end.

Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands Fund Radical Anti-Israel NGOs (NGO Monitor)
    The NGO Development Center (NDC) has distributed $6 million to some of the most radical NGOs on behalf of the governments of Switzerland, Sweden, Netherlands, and Denmark.
    Many of the recipients employ "apartheid" rhetoric, promote "war crimes" cases against Israeli officials, and support the Palestinian boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign.
    NDC "facilitated" and funded the "Palestinian NGO Code of Conduct" which demands that Palestinian groups reject "any normalization activities with the occupier."

Gaza Smuggling at Pre-War Volume - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Smuggling into Gaza from Egypt has returned to the busy levels that prevailed before the Gaza operation last winter.
    Fully laden trucks pull up alongside the entrances to the tunnels, often just meters from where Egyptian soldiers are deployed.

Israel Aerospace Industries Expanding Production in U.S. - Ora Coren (Ha'aretz)
    On Monday, Israel Aerospace Industries cut the ribbon on its new Starkville, Mississippi, production line to manufacture and assemble drones (pilotless planes) and the electronic and electro-optic systems they use.
    Stark Aerospace is a subsidiary of IAI and operates an additional plant in Columbus, Ohio, for drone-related equipment.

Ethiopian Jews Celebrate Return to Jerusalem in Sigd Festival - Melanie Lidman (Jerusalem Post)
    Thousands of Ethiopian Israelis gathered in Jerusalem on Monday to mark the start of the Sigd celebration, which has been observed for centuries to pray for the community's return to Jerusalem.
    A procession of Kessim (Ethiopian Jewish spiritual leaders) bearing brightly ornamented umbrellas was accompanied by the haunting melodies of prayers in the ancient Ge'ez language.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Against Unilateral Palestinian State Move
    State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly said Monday: "We support the creation of a Palestinian state that is contiguous and viable. But we think that the best way to achieve that is through negotiations by the two parties. And we understand that people might be frustrated, but we...are convinced that this has to be achieved through negotiation between the two parties."  (State Department)
        See also U.S. Likely to Thwart Palestinian Ambitions for Independent State - James Bone
    The Palestinians are trying to play an ace they have already played. When the Palestinian National Council proclaimed an independent state in 1988, the move was endorsed by the UN General Assembly in Resolution 43/177. However, the Palestinians failed to use their declaration of statehood to much effect. It is virtually certain that the Obama administration will block the Palestinians' latest request for the Security Council to recognize the state of Palestine. The U.S. will almost certainly continue to insist that recognition of a Palestinian state must follow, not precede, final status negotiations. (Times-UK)
        See also EU: "Premature" to Recognize Palestine State
    Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, said Tuesday in Brussels that it was "premature" to recognize a Palestinian state. (AFP)
        See also U.S. Senators Say No to UN Resolution on Palestinian Statehood
    Any UN resolution calling for unilateral statehood for Palestinians would be "dead on arrival," Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.) said Monday while visiting Jerusalem. Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) said, "I hope and presume that the United States would veto such a move if it ever came to the Security Council."  (FOX News)
  • Inspectors Fear Iran Is Hiding Nuclear Plants - David E. Sanger and William J. Broad
    International inspectors who gained access to Iran's newly revealed underground nuclear enrichment plant voiced strong suspicions in a report on Monday that the country was concealing other atomic facilities. In unusually tough language, the International Atomic Energy Agency appeared highly skeptical that Iran would have built the enrichment plant without also constructing a variety of other facilities that would give it an alternative way to produce nuclear fuel if its main centers were bombed.
        The inspectors confirmed American and European intelligence reports that the site had been built to house about 3,000 centrifuges, enough to produce enough material for one or two nuclear weapons a year. But that is too small to be useful in the production of fuel for civilian nuclear power, which is what Iran insists is the intended purpose of the site. In its report, the agency said that Iran's belated "declaration of the new facility reduces the level of confidence in the absence of other nuclear facilities under construction, and gives rise to questions about whether there were any other nuclear facilities in Iran which had not been declared to the agency."  (New York Times)
  • UN Nuclear Chief in Secret Talks with Iran over Deal to End Sanctions - Richard Beeston and Catherine Philp
    UN and Iranian officials have been secretly negotiating a deal to persuade world powers to lift sanctions and allow Tehran to retain the bulk of its nuclear program in return for cooperation with UN inspectors. The draft agreement was drawn up in September by Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in an effort to break the stalemate over Iran's nuclear program before he stands down at the end of this month.
        The IAEA denied the existence of the document, which was leaked to The Times by one of the parties alarmed at the contents. The plan would require the UN Security Council to revoke sanctions and resolutions ordering Iran to halt its uranium enrichment - an unthinkable development at a time when the West is focused on how to impose more, not fewer, sanctions on Iran. (Times-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • U.S. to Israel: Don't Build in Jerusalem's Gilo Neighborhood - Shimon Shiffer
    The U.S. has asked Israel to stop building in the Gilo neighborhood of Jerusalem. Special U.S. Middle East envoy Sen. George Mitchell made the request on Monday to Prime Minister Netanyahu's special representative Yitzhak Molcho. While this is not the first time that U.S. representatives have raised the issue, some in the Prime Minister's Office were amazed at the request.
        "This related to a routine procedure of the regional planning committee to approve construction in the Gilo neighborhood of Jerusalem," they said. "The Gilo neighborhood is an integral part of Jerusalem, in the same way that the Ramat Eshkol, Rehavia, French Hill, and Pisgat Zeev neighborhoods are part of the united city, and there is no difference between construction in these neighborhoods of Jerusalem and construction in Tel Aviv or Haifa."  (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew, 17Nov09)
  • PA Calls for Boycott of French Firms Building Jerusalem Light Railway - Amira Hass
    The head of Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' office, Dr. Rafiq Husseini, on Monday urged all Arab countries to cancel their business ties with two French companies - Veolia and Alstom - involved in the construction of Jerusalem's new light railway system. Saudi Arabia has contracts worth billions of dollars with Alstrom to build a railway to Mecca. Husseini spoke at a press conference organized by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Committee, which claims that building the light railway is a violation of international law. (Ha'aretz)
  • Turkey and Israel Hold Joint Drill in Apparent Ease of Tensions - Yossi Melman
    Israel, Jordan, and Turkey conducted a joint search and rescue military drill two weeks ago, the Turkish daily Zaman reported on Monday, pointing to an apparent ease in recent tensions between Jerusalem and Ankara. The exercise took place in the Turkish army's special forces training ground. It was also reported that Israel was ready to complete a long-delayed weapons deal with Turkey involving ten Heron-type drones. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Obama Administration Mugged by Reality in Middle East - Robert Satloff
    In June, the administration's approach toward both the Israeli-Palestinian issue and Iran's nuclear ambitions was mugged by reality. First, on his maiden visit to Riyadh, the president was rebuffed by the Saudi king, who refused to offer any steps toward normalization with Israel. Several days later, U.S. willingness to resolve the nuclear file with Iran by negotiating a deal directly with the Iranian leadership was upset by the uprising of the Iranian people against the theft of their presidential election, exposing serious fissures in the regime.
        Netanyahu is highly unlikely to offer the Palestinians what former Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert offered in his private talks with Abbas last year. Abbas has been led to believe that with time, the Israelis can only improve their offer, so there is no reason for him not to wait. So an impasse was in the cards. In the broader Middle East, the Iran nuclear file is a much higher priority than the Arab-Israeli peace process. The stakes are higher; the urgency is greater; the clocks are ticking faster. The writer is executive director of The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Russia's Windfall from Iranian Fray - Mac Broderick
    Russia [a major oil exporter] has an immense amount of money to make if the tension regarding Iran continues, and a substantial amount to lose if a rapprochement occurs. To defend against the current financial crisis, the Russian government has been burning through its cash at an alarming rate. Meanwhile, the consistently high price of oil has buoyed the economy. The Iranian nuclear impasse has been a significant contributor to the dramatic price swings in the price of oil.
        Every time a new incident erupts, Russia reaps the reward of the increased oil price. The upside is even higher for Russia if tensions were to result in an actual conflict and Iranian officials were to make good on their pledges to block the Strait of Hormuz. This is not to imply that Russia would actively attempt to precipitate a conflict, but there is very little downside for it if one occurs. (Moscow Times-Russia)
  • Observations:

    The IAEA Report on Iran (International Atomic Energy Agency)

    • At the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at Natanz, 3,936 centrifuges were being fed with UF6 and an additional 4,756 centrifuges had been installed.
    • Iran has estimated that, between 18 November 2008 and 30 October 2009, 10,395 kg of UF6 was fed into the cascades and a total of 924 kg of low enriched UF6 was produced, which would result in a total production of 1,763 kg of low enriched UF6 since the start-up of FEP.
    • During a meeting with the Director General in Tehran on 4 October 2009, Iran agreed to provide the Agency with access to the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant (FFEP). On 26 and 27 October 2009, the Agency carried out design information verification (DIV) at FFEP, which is located about 20 km north of the city of Qom.
    • The Agency verified that FFEP was being built to contain sixteen cascades with a total of approximately 3,000 centrifuges. Iran indicated that it currently planned to install only IR-1 centrifuges at FFEP, but that the facility could be reconfigured to contain centrifuges of more advanced types should Iran take a decision to use such centrifuges in the future.
    • Iran stated that it did not have any other nuclear facilities that were currently under construction or in operation that had not yet been declared to the Agency.
    • Iran has not suspended its enrichment related activities or its work on heavy water related projects as required by the Security Council.

          See also IAEA: Iran Has Enough Low-Enriched Uranium for One or Two Bombs - Jay Solomon and David Crawford
      U.S. and European officials believe the Qom site is designed to process Iran's low-enriched uranium into weapons-grade material. The IAEA said in its new report that Tehran has produced 1.76 tons of low-enriched uranium, enough to produce one or two atomic devices if enriched further. (Wall Street Journal)

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