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December 7, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Sees Homegrown Muslim Extremism as Rising Threat - Sebastian Rotella (Los Angeles Times)
    The Obama administration, grappling with a spate of recent Islamic terrorism cases on U.S. soil, has concluded that the country confronts a rising threat from homegrown extremism.
    Anti-terrorism officials and experts see signs of accelerated radicalization among American Muslims, driven by a wave of English-language online propaganda and reflected in aspiring fighters' trips to hot spots such as Pakistan and Somalia.
    The number, variety and scale of recent U.S. cases suggest 2009 has been the most dangerous year domestically since 2001, anti-terrorism experts said.
    "Home-based terrorism is here. And, like violent extremism abroad, it will be part of the threat picture that we must now confront," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said last week.

U.S. Seeks More Israeli Concessions - Amnon Lord (Makor Rishon-Hebrew, 4Dec09)
    Former senior Israeli diplomats who are well aware of Israeli-U.S. relations believe the report last week by Yediot Ahronot journalist Shimon Schiffer that the White House has requested further Israeli concessions.
    After the positive but dry reactions of Clinton and Mitchell to Israel's announced settlement construction freeze, the White House said it wants "more" from Israel: transfer of parts of the Jordan Valley to Palestinian Authority control and the transfer of land under Israeli control in the West Bank (in Areas B and C) to PA control (Area A).

Hizbullah Scouting Lebanese-Israeli Border (Jerusalem Post)
    Hizbullah intelligence mastermind Mehdi Kanso, who took part in the abduction of IDF soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser in 2006, may have been scouting the Israeli-Lebanese border area several weeks ago in preparation for an attack, Israel Channel 10 television reported Sunday.
    Kanso was seen carrying professional photography equipment near the border and driving a Land Rover similar to the one used in the capture of IDF soldiers Benny Avraham, Adi Avitan and Omar Sueid in the year 2000.
    Kanso was apparently allowed into the border area with the equipment after telling UNIFIL troops that he was a reporter for Hizbullah's television station, Al-Manar.

Report: Attack Against UNIFIL Thwarted - Roee Nahmias (Ynet News)
    The Lebanese military arrested a four-person terror cell that was in possession of a large quantity of explosives near Majdal Anjar in the Lebanon Valley, which had planned to attack UNIFIL forces, Hizbullah's al-Manar television reported Sunday.

Palestinian Arrested with Six Bombs near Bethlehem (Jerusalem Post)
    IDF soldiers arrested a Palestinian Sunday near Bethlehem with six explosive devices hidden inside fire extinguishers, Army Radio reported.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iranian Supreme Leader: "Americans Are at the Head of the List of Enemies" - Siavosh Ghazi
    "Americans are at the head of the list of enemies and the British are the most awful of them," Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Sunday. "Americans, Zionists and other oppressive powers tried to isolate Iran for the past 30 years, but they failed and with God's help they will also fail in the future," he added. (AFP)
        See also U.S. National Security Adviser: "Clock Is Ticking" on Iran
    U.S. national security adviser Jim Jones says Washington is still open to nuclear negotiations with Iran, but the picture is not a "good one." Jones said Sunday the "clock is ticking" toward the end of the year, when President Obama plans to review U.S. diplomatic efforts with Iran. (VOA News)
        See also below Observations: The Iran Confrontation Simulation at Harvard - David Ignatius (Washington Post) and Gary Sick (Politico)
  • Police Surround Tehran University to Stop Protests - Ali Akbar Dareini
    Witnesses say thousands of riot police and Revolutionary Guard members armed with tear gas, batons and firearms were deployed Monday outside Tehran University to prevent student demonstrations backed by the opposition. Government opponents shouted "Allahu Akbar" and "Death to the Dictator" from Tehran's rooftops in the pouring rain on the eve of student demonstrations planned for Monday. Authorities choked off Internet access and warned journalists working for foreign media to stick to their offices for the next three days.
        Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi threw his support behind the student demonstrations, saying, "A great nation would not stay silent when some confiscate its vote." Mousavi claims President Ahmadinejad stole the June 12 election victory from him by fraud. (AP/Washington Post)
  • Israel: Settlement Freeze Is Temporary - Vita Bekker
    Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, said on Sunday that construction will resume in Jewish settlements in the West Bank when a ten-month building limit is over even if stalled peace talks with the Palestinians are renewed. "This suspension is for its stated timeframe and not beyond it. This is a one-time and temporary decision, not a freeze of unlimited and infinite duration," Netanyahu said. (Financial Times-UK)
        See also Prime Minister Netanyahu's Remarks to the Cabinet (Israel Prime Minister's Office)
  • U.S. Lawmakers Urge Action on Hizbullah Arms
    31 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Reps. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), sent a letter Dec. 3 to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calling on the Obama administration to work toward disarming Hizbullah and clearing southern Lebanon of Iranian-sent weapons. The group asked Clinton to ensure greater accountability from the UN in enforcing Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 Lebanon War and calls for the disarmament of Hizbullah. The letter notes that the Obama administration has requested more than $200 million for UNIFIL and $100 million in military assistance for the government of Lebanon. "For that much money," it said, "American taxpayers deserve to see results."  (JTA)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu Works to Foil Swedish Plan to Divide Jerusalem - Barak Ravid
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has phoned several European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero, asking them to oppose Sweden's initiative to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of both Israel and Palestine. The proposal is to be discussed Sunday in Brussels at the meeting of foreign ministers of EU member states. Meanwhile, in an attempt to counter Israeli pressure, PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad convened a group of European diplomats to ask them to support the Swedish proposal. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israel Opposes Swedish Initiative on Jerusalem - Roni Sofer
    A senior political source on Monday defined Sweden's attempt to declare Jerusalem the capital of Palestine as an "underhanded move by Stockholm, a mere moment before its term as head of the EU is over. We are making efforts to thwart this move at the highest diplomatic levels." Senior political sources said the majority of the 27 European representatives were against such a move. According to the sources, those opposing the decision have accepted Israel's position that this is not the time to make any statements which may discourage the Palestinians from resuming peace talks. (Ynet News)
        See also Jerusalem Mayor: City Must Stay United
    "Throughout the history of the world, there is not one important city that was divided that functioned successfully...the lesson is too clear. Jerusalem must stay united," wrote Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat in a letter to EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton, sent on Sunday. "Division focuses on differences rather than the common denominator that unites people of all faiths. We must not divide the heart and soul of the Jewish people." He added that freedom of religion was "greater today under the flag of Israel than it has been for 2,000 years." Barkat invited Ashton to Jerusalem so that she "may see first hand...the necessity of a united Jerusalem."    (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Text of Mayor Barkat's Letter (IMRA)
  • The Improved Economic Situation in the Palestinian Authority
    There was a 5.6% increase in the Palestinian national product during the first quarter of 2009 compared with the corresponding quarter last year, and a 5.4% increase in the second quarter of 2009, compared with the corresponding quarter in 2008. Israel continues to collect and transfer tax monies to the PA on a regular basis. Each month Israel transfers NIS 50 million to Gaza for the salaries of PA employees, and up to $13.5 million for the salaries of UNRWA workers (most of whom are Palestinians).
        The number of Palestinians employed in Israel increased by 8.4% compared with 2008 and reached 47,161 in September 2009 (working in Israel or in West Bank settlements). About 14% of the Palestinian workforce is employed in Israel or in Israeli businesses in the West Bank. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Using Stronger Sanctions to Increase Negotiating Leverage with Iran - Orde F. Kittrie
    Six days after his inauguration, President Barack Obama declared that "if countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us." Unfortunately, the Iranian regime has responded by continuing its aggressive and illegal behavior. The Obama administration should increase U.S. negotiating leverage over Iran by imposing crippling sanctions on Iran, beginning January 1, until Iran verifiably complies with its international obligations.
        Iranian officials have crowed about their success in using the 2002-2006 nuclear negotiations with the Europeans to buy time for Iran to advance its nuclear program. In order to deter the Iranian regime from similarly dragging out the current round of negotiations while advancing its nuclear program, it must be made clear that Iran will incur a significant cost for failure to suspend its enrichment-related activities, as required by UN Security Council resolutions.
        Sanctions pressure is the best remaining hope for peacefully preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and for deterring other countries that might be contemplating following Iran's bad example. The writer, Professor of Law at Arizona State University, is a Visiting Scholar at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. (Arms Control Association)
  • Egypt's Glass House - Joseph Mayton
    Egypt's Grand Mufti, Ali Goma'a, should know better than attack a vote to ban minarets when in his own country, the construction of churches has been curtailed by the government for many years. As the saying goes, "those in glass houses..." One could argue that if Egypt held a referendum on the construction of church steeples in the country, a vast majority of Egyptians would approve a ban.
        The Arab world has long avoided looking inward at its own problems, blaming Europe, the U.S. and Israel instead. The governments, especially the one in Cairo, love this. People don't see the facts on the ground as they are too preoccupied by the wrongs and injustices dealt abroad. Calls for a boycott of Swiss banks - which haven't picked up much steam - show how lost the Arab world is at times. They can lash out at a decision made in a foreign country, but they have yet to stand up for the rights of their own people in their own country. (Guardian-UK)
  • Observations:

    Who Loses the Iran Game? - David Ignatius (Washington Post)

    • How will the confrontation over Iran's nuclear program evolve during the next year? If a simulation game played at Harvard last week is any guide, Iran will be closer to having the bomb, and America will fail to obtain tough UN sanctions; diplomatic relations with Russia, China and Europe will be strained; and Israel will be threatening unilateral military action.
    • The simulation was organized by Graham Allison, the head of the Belfer Center at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. It was animated by the key players: Nicholas Burns, former undersecretary of state, as President Obama; and Dore Gold, Israel's former ambassador to the UN, as Prime Minister Netanyahu.
    • When America asked for assurances that Israel wouldn't attack Iran without U.S. permission, the Israeli prime minister, as played by Gold, refused to make that pledge, insisting that Israel alone must decide how to protect its security. Whereupon Burns' president warned that if Israel did strike, contrary to U.S. interests, Washington might publicly denounce the attack.
    • Gold said the game clarified for him a worrying difference of opinion between U.S. and Israeli leaders: "The U.S. is moving away from preventing a nuclear Iran to containing a nuclear Iran - with deterrence based on the Cold War experience. That became clear in the simulation. Israel, in contrast, still believes a nuclear Iran must be prevented."
        See also How the "Iran Team" Leader Viewed the Harvard Simulation - Laura Rozen (Politico)

    Columbia University professor Gary Sick, a veteran National Security Council Iran hand, was the leader of the Iranian team in the Harvard simulation. His account:

    • The U.S. team went to work with a vengeance to get a consensus on sanctions. This didn't bother the Iran team in the least. We didn't think they could put together a package that would hurt us in any serious way, and that proved to be true. But more important, in the process they managed to offend all of their ostensible allies and wasted so much time and effort that Iran was better off at the end than they had been at the beginning. Since this represents a version of actual U.S. strategy over three administrations, I think there is a lesson there that is ignored at our peril.
    • As far as I could tell, the pursuit of sanctions was essentially an end in itself. But does it stop Iran? To be honest, the Iran team scarcely paid any attention to all this massive policy exertion. We never felt that our core objectives (freedom to proceed with our nuclear plans and our growing appetite for domestic political repression) were at risk, much less the survival of our regime. We largely ignored the ineffective pressure tactics originating from the U.S.
    • Why was there no push to test Iran on safeguards, inspections, or other techniques that might assure the world of reliable and on-going intelligence about what Iran is doing (early warning); or restricting certain key elements of Iran's nuclear program that would lengthen the time required to actually break out into production of a nuclear device? Nobody tried.
    • This game provided an opportunity for me to test my understanding of the dynamics propelling each side in the Iran debate. And the result, I am sorry to say, was even more depressing than I would have imagined. The lesson was not so much that Iran could "win" this game so easily; it was that the U.S. and its allies were unable even to imagine any alternatives.

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