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December 16, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

British Agent Exposed True Purpose of Iran's Qom Nuclear Facility - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)
    Iran revealed its nuclear facility near Qom in late September after a British agent exposed its true purpose to the West, Ynet learned Tuesday.
    American, British and Israeli satellites had documented construction work at the uranium enrichment site for years, but the West only learned of its true purpose from an MI-6 agent who was exposed by Iran.

Iran Raises Nuclear Tension with Missile Test Launch - Tim Reid (Times-UK)
    Tehran claimed Wednesday to have successfully test-fired a medium-range Sejil-2 missile believed capable of reaching almost any target in the Middle East, including Israel, Iraq and several American military bases in the region.

Man Convicted in Seattle Jewish Center Shooting Spree - Levi Pulkkinen (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
    Naveed Haq, 34, was found guilty of aggravated murder Tuesday, with jurors unanimously rejecting claims of insanity raised by the defense.
    In a July 28, 2006, shooting at the Seattle Jewish Federation, he killed Pamela Waechter and wounded Carol Goldman, Layla Bush, Dayna Klein, Christina Rexroad and Cheryl Stumbo.
    King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg described the attack as "our state's worst hate crime." Shooting survivor Carol Goldman said, "It was not insanity that led him to do this, it was hate that was in his heart."

Report: Albania Reships Arms from Ukraine to Hizbullah (Naharnet-Lebanon)
    An Albanian opposition daily revealed on Dec. 2 the involvement of the Albanian government in facilitating the passage of Ukrainian arms to Hizbullah.
    It said Albania bought "C 18" and "C 16"-type missiles using money from Iran, and the shipment was then transferred to Beirut.

Iranian Arms Trafficker Sentenced to Five Years - Sebastian Rotella (Los Angeles Times)
    Amir Hossein Ardebili, 36, an Iranian arms trafficker, was sentenced in Delaware on Monday to five years in prison after being snared in a global undercover investigation.
    He pleaded guilty last year to violating U.S. arms control laws by trying to purchase components for Iranian fighter planes and missile guidance systems.
    Tips from American companies that deal in electronic technology with potential military uses brought Ardebili to the attention of U.S. investigators. His exclusive client, according to court documents, was the Iranian government.
    "He sent thousands upon thousands of solicitations to U.S. companies, requesting quotes [on] tens of thousands of components, many used in military applications," court documents said.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. House of Representatives Approves Iran Gasoline Sanctions
    The House of Representatives approved legislation on Tuesday in a 412-to-12 vote to impose sanctions on foreign companies that help supply gasoline to Iran, in a move to deter Tehran from pursuing its nuclear program. The bill authorizes President Obama to levy sanctions on energy companies that directly provide gasoline to Iran along with the firms that provide insurance and tankers to facilitate the fuel shipments. The Senate is likely to approve similar legislation. (Reuters)
  • Britain to End Arrest Threat on Officials from Abroad
    Britain pledged on Tuesday to change a peculiar legal power that permits judges to order the arrest of visiting politicians and generals, a threat currently focused on Israeli officials that could potentially be invoked against President Obama or Russian Prime Minister Putin. The latest target has been Tzipi Livni, the former foreign minister of Israel and currently the country's opposition leader. Foreign Secretary David Miliband announced that Britain would no longer tolerate legal harassment of Israeli officials by judges invoking universal jurisdiction.
        Legal experts in England and Israel say "universal jurisdiction" could be abused endlessly to harass any high-profile visitor who oversaw a military or anti-terrorist operation. "Why not use this against Vladimir Putin over Russia's role in Chechnya? There is no end to it," said Yehuda Blum, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN. "The abuse and misuse of this concept of universal jurisdiction should be discontinued." Eugene Rogan, director of the Middle East Center at Oxford University, said the demands of global diplomacy required leaders to be able to travel abroad without facing arrest threats. (AP/New York Times)
  • Palestinian Leaders to Extend Abbas' Term Indefinitely - Howard Schneider
    The Palestinian Liberation Organization's ruling Central Council gathered in Ramallah to extend the soon-to-expire term of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Delegates said that with little hope of elections soon, they will authorize Abbas to stay in office indefinitely. (Washington Post)
        See also Hamas Rejects PLO Dominance - Nidal Al Mughrabi
    Hamas served notice on Monday that it would ignore any decisions by the PLO this week about future leadership and peace talks with Israel. "Hamas will not retreat from Jihad and resistance until it achieves freedom and independence for our people," Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told a huge rally.
        Hamas is not part of the PLO, which was founded in 1964 and is recognized internationally as the representative body of the Palestinians. "We say to PLO Central Council members" meeting in Ramallah that any decision that "contradicts the will of the people, will not be binding," Haniyeh said. The PLO is expected to extend the term of Abbas as president of the PA this week. Abbas would stay in office until elections can be held, which will require the agreement of Hamas, which does not recognize his legitimacy. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Abbas Says 1967 Borders Are Precondition for Talks - Ali Waked
    Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday: "We will renew negotiations if the settlements are completely halted and the 1967 borders recognized as the borders of the Palestinian state." He also commended the European Union on a proposal to declare eastern Jerusalem the future capital of a Palestinian state. (Ynet News)
        See also Israel to Abbas: We Will Not Accept Any Preconditions
    "Anyone who sets such conditions is just trying to escape reality and avoid negotiations and a peaceful solution," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday in response to Abbas' statement. "Israel will not accept any preconditions for resuming peace negotiations."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also "Abbas Moving the Goalposts" - Khaled Abu Toameh and Herb Keinon
    Abbas is again "moving the goalposts" by saying Tuesday he will not negotiate with Israel until the world recognizes the 1967 lines as the borders of a future Palestinian state, Israeli diplomatic officials said. "There will be no more unilateral confidence-building measures to get to the negotiations," one official said, referring to the 10-month housing start moratorium in the settlements. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel, PA Debate "Starting" Negotiations - Akiva Eldar
    A senior diplomatic source told Ha'aretz Tuesday there were gaps between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Abbas on the very definition of the negotiating process. Netanyahu demands the process be defined as "starting" negotiations, aiming to disregard understandings reached in talks between the Palestinians and his predecessor, Ehud Olmert. Abbas insists the process must take those understandings into consideration, and demands it be defined as a "resumption" of negotiations. The Americans propose a compromise in the form of "re-launching" the negotiations, said the source. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel: Turkish-Mediated Talks with Syria a Mistake - Roni Sofer
    Syria is responsible for the failure of peace negotiations between Jerusalem and Damascus, Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon told the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University on Tuesday. Ayalon said that "Syria didn't desire peace, and through these negotiations it fooled everyone in a bid to emerge from global isolation. Looking back today, we can say that the Turkish mediation was a mistake." Syria "must prove that is desires peace, not war," he said. He stressed that relations with Turkey will continue to be good, "as this is the interest of both sides."  (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Abbas Still Says No to Talks But Everyone Still Blames Netanyahu - Jonathan Tobin
    The decision of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to freeze building homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank has earned him little credit either in Europe or among his country's Arab foes. Rather than respond to Israel's gesture aimed at re-starting peace talks, PA leader Abbas raised the ante. In other words, until the Israelis make concessions that ensure that nothing is left to negotiate about, he won't engage in negotiations.
        Abbas, whose term in office will probably be extended without holding an election because his Fatah party knows it might lose to the Islamists of Hamas, has been telegraphing his lack of interest in talks all year. Given the fact that the Palestinian public still won't accept any deal with Israel no matter where the borders are set, it's not likely that this will change. Thus the conceit of Ethan Bronner's latest "Mideast Memo" in the New York Times, which ponders the sincerity of Netanyahu's desire for peace.
        But the frustrating aspect of this discussion isn't so much the condescension toward Netanyahu, but rather the way the peace process is framed - in such a way as to put the entire onus on Israel to make concessions, while virtually ignoring the fact that the Palestinians continue complete refusal to accept the concept of peace with a Jewish state. Foreign correspondents based in Israel might want to pay more attention to the fact that the political culture of the Palestinians makes peace an impossibility even for their allegedly moderate leader. (Commentary)
  • The Targeting of Israeli Ministers by British Courts Is Not Justice, It Is a Disgrace - Editorial
    The campaign for legal targeting of Israeli leaders is not merely frivolous: it is repugnant. It risks damaging Britain's relations with an ally, undermines the government's moral authority in promoting a two-state settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and brings the legal system into disrepute. Israel's Gaza campaign was not a crime against humanity. It was a chapter in Israel's history of trying to stop violence against its own civilians, which is a prerequisite of achieving a two-state resolution. You cannot reasonably criticize Israel's military tactics without understanding Israel's security needs. (Times-UK)
        See also Democracy Under Arrest - John Bolton
    It is no accident that "universal jurisdiction" arrest warrants never seem to be issued for the likes of Kim Jong Il or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, since their real targets these days are Western nations. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Observations:

    Berman: Iran Sanctions Bill Empowers Obama - Laura Rozen (Politico)

    • Fresh from the overwhelming passage of the Iran sanctions bill he introduced, Rep. Howard Berman said he believed his bill would empower the Obama administration's Iran policy efforts, not force its hand. "The House passage of this legislation empowers the administration to point out that, 'Here is a way a lot of people in Congress want to go,'" Berman (D-CA), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said after the vote.
    • "The administration did not say, 'Go ahead,' and they did not tell me not to go ahead," he acknowledged. "And I have been as transparent as I could be with them. When I entered the bill, I said I wanted to give the diplomacy/engagement strategy a chance to work."
    • Asked if he would accept a final bill that gives the president greater discretion on the matter, Berman said he would be quite open to exempting foreign countries that are shown to have a robust sanctions regime in place from the final bill.
    • Israeli ambassador to Washington Michael Oren praised the House vote. "The State of Israel deeply appreciates the unflagging commitment of President Obama and the U.S. Congress to prevent Iran from acquiring the military nuclear capability threatening world peace," Oren said.
    • A senior White House official said that U.S. and international credibility would be hurt if they didn't demonstrate that they were serious after weeks of telegraphing the end of the year deadline for Iran to show progress on the engagement track, or face consequences.
        See also Hit Iran Where It Hurts - U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Los Angeles Times)

    • For more than ten years, Tehran has succeeded in deceiving foreign governments, thwarting nuclear inspectors and keeping sanctions weak and feckless. During that time, Iran has not broken stride in expanding its nuclear program.
    • The range and accuracy of Tehran's ballistic missiles continue to improve, with U.S. forces and allies in the Middle East and Europe now within striking distance. Iran is also quickly accumulating an array of advanced conventional weapons in its effort to dominate the Persian Gulf and the world's oil supply. Iran has assumed a major role in fueling the insurgency in Iraq and is backing Taliban militants in Afghanistan.
    • Nothing less than overwhelming and crippling sanctions could produce a reversal of its threatening programs and policies. That is why the U.S. must be prepared to act alone, if necessary, and with every weapon in its political and economic arsenal. The Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act is one such tool.
    • These sanctions must be coupled with action on all fronts. The U.S. must also specifically reject Iran's claim to an inalienable right to produce nuclear fuel. We must strengthen existing laws to prevent the transfer of prohibited materials and technology to Iran. Responsible nations should impose a ban on travel by senior Iranian regime officials and their families to Europe and the U.S.
    • We should strengthen bilateral and multilateral efforts to shut down accounts of those doing business with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps or its affiliated entities; deny Tehran access to euros and U.S. dollars; and freeze the assets of those who violate UN sanctions on Iran. Concurrently, we should offer our full support to the Iranian people and increase funding for Iran democracy programs.

      Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) is the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

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