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December 17, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

The Tehran-Caracas Nuclear Axis: New Evidence of a Radioactive Relationship - Bret Stephens (Wall Street Journal)
    The most interesting Iranian-Venezuelan venture is a supposed gold mine not far from Angel Falls, in a remote area known as the Roraima Basin.
    The basin straddles Venezuela's border with neighboring Guyana, where a Canadian company, U308, thinks it has found the "geological look-alike" to Canada's Athabasca Basin, said to be the world's largest resource of uranium.
    Rodolfo Sanz, Venezuela's minister of basic industries, acknowledged that "Iran is helping us with geophysical aerial probes and geochemical analyses" in its search for uranium.
    In January 2008, the Bank of International Development opened its doors in Caracas. At the top of its list of directors, all of whom are Iranian, is Tahmasb Mazaheri, former governor of the central bank of Iran.
    The bank is a subsidiary of the Export Development Bank of Iran, which in October 2008 was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department for providing "financial services to Iran's Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics."

Credit Suisse Hit with Record U.S. Fine for Violating Iran Sanctions - Sean Sinico (Deutsche Welle-Germany)
    Credit Suisse has agreed to pay the $536 million fine imposed by authorities in the U.S. for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and several other countries, including Libya, Sudan, Burma and Cuba.
    The U.S. Justice Department said the Swiss banking group had processed payments allowing those countries access to American financial institutions - a practice that Washington had banned.
    The penalty marks the biggest such fine in history and authorities said the bank would have had to pay even more had it not cooperated.

Iraqi Insurgents Hack U.S. Drones - Siobhan Gorman, Yochi J. Dreazen and August Cole (Wall Street Journal)
    Militants in Iraq have used $26 off-the-shelf software to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones, potentially providing them with information they need to evade or monitor U.S. military operations.
    The U.S. military found pirated drone video feeds on Shiite militant laptops, leading some officials to conclude that militant groups trained and funded by Iran were regularly intercepting feeds.
    Adversaries have also intercepted drone video feeds in Afghanistan.

Jewish Town Makes Menorah of Terror Rockets - Aaron Klein (WorldNetDaily)
    Residents of the rocket-battered Israeli town of Sderot next to Gaza have every day this week lit a Hanukkah menorah fashioned out of Palestinian Kassam rockets that had been shot at their town.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iran Condemned by Western Leaders Over Long-Range Missile Test - Catherine Philp and James Hider
    Western governments united to denounce Iran's test-firing of a long-range ballistic missile Wednesday. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: "This is a matter of serious concern to the international community and it does make the case for us moving farther on sanctions."
        In Washington, Mike Hammer, the National Security Council spokesman, said: "At a time when the international community has offered Iran opportunities to begin to build trust and confidence, Iran's missile tests only undermine Iran's claims of peaceful intentions. Such actions will increase the seriousness and resolve of the international community to hold Iran accountable for its continued defiance of its international obligations on its nuclear program."  (Times-UK)
        See also Why Iran Test-Fired a Missile - Richard Spencer
    Ahmadinejad's response to crisis is noise; Wednesday's missile launch is another example. So long as he is in the limelight, his nationalistic calls to arms make it hard for his opponents to turn on him. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Plan to Give UK Attorney General a Veto on War Crimes Warrants - Afua Hirsch and Ian Black
    Britain's attorney general will be asked to approve warrants before suspected war criminals can be arrested in the future under a plan being negotiated by the Foreign Office in response to the row over attempts to arrest Israel's former foreign minister. Discussions have begun on creating "safeguards" in criminal cases against visiting foreign leaders - not just those from Israel. "No one is talking about removing universal jurisdiction, but it's an anomaly that a magistrates court can issue an arrest warrant before a prosecutor has even said there is a case to prosecute. There need to be safeguards," said a senior Foreign Office source. (Guardian-UK)
  • Egypt's Gaza Smugglers Shrug Off Reports of Border Barrier - Samer al-Atrush
    Tunnel operator Abu Khaled shrugged off reports that the authorities were constructing an underground barrier to sever the tunnels into Gaza. "It shouldn't pose a problem," he said. The smugglers have long been accustomed to outwitting frontier guards. "They're taking American money and dumping it into the ground," said a smuggler named Mohammed.
        "There's a whole cocktail of reasons why it won't work," said Abu Ahmed, a Bedouin arms trader. The police are corrupt, he says, the Bedouin and other smugglers are resourceful, and if Egypt cuts the underground lifeline to Gaza, people there may inundate Sinai as they did briefly in 2008 after Hamas blasted the border wall. "They used to want weapons. Now they have all the light arms they need, although Hamas is interested if you have something bigger. What they want is food and fuel," Abu Ahmed said.
        A senior Egyptian security official said: "If you want to write that we are building an underground barrier, I won't stop you. It looks good for us. It looks like we're doing something."  (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Egyptian Daily: Gaza Barrier a "Sovereign Right"
    "Egypt, which protects its sovereignty, has the right to develop the barrier separating it and Gaza," the state-owned Al-Gomhuria daily said Thursday in a front-page editorial. "Some people have tried to portray Egypt as playing a part in the blockade of Palestinians by tightening the openings used for smuggling weapons...but smuggling weapons through Sinai is a direct attack on the sovereignty of Egypt," the paper said.
        "It is up to Hamas to agree on signing a reconciliation agreement which would guarantee a permanent opening of the borders including the Rafah border," between Egypt and Gaza, the paper said. "It is Hamas that stood against reconciliation."  (AFP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Yaalon: Arabs Resorting to Propaganda after Losing Wars - Roni Sofer
    "When the Arabs realized they cannot defeat us with their armies, they turned to terrorism and rockets," Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Yaalon said Wednesday. "Now they are realizing that they cannot defeat us this way either, so they are taking the path of de-legitimization."  (Ynet News)
  • Hamas: PLO Vote Extending Abbas' Term Is "Illegal" - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The PLO Central Council on Wednesday approved a resolution calling on PA leader Mahmoud Abbas to stay in power until new elections are held in the West Bank and Gaza. Hamas described the council's resolution as a "coup against the Palestinian constitution." Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said: "This is an illegal decision and a political bribe to cover up for the fact that Abbas' term in office had expired a long time ago."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Conference of Global Forum on Combating Antisemitism Opens in Jerusalem
    The Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism opened a two-day international conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday with over 500 delegates from over 50 countries. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Hamas Still Wants to Liberate "All of Palestine" - Ari Shavit
    In recent years, quite a number of experts have promised us that Hamas does not really mean it. Hamas is only playing tough, but its intentions are lofty: cease-fire, Green Line, coexistence. Yet what counts is the direct statement made by the Palestinian leader to his people. Standing before 100,000 people in the center of Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh this week declared the objective of the Hamas movement: not the total liberation of Gaza or a Palestinian state, but the liberation of all of Palestine. Hamas is demanding the entire land: the land on which the editorial offices of Ha'aretz are located, every piece of Israeli land on which any Israeli citizen lives, the land beneath our feet.
        With Hamas controlling Gaza, arming itself to the teeth and enjoying the support of about one-third of the Palestinians, it has the right to veto any diplomatic progress. With Fatah unwilling to recognize the Jewish nation-state and objecting to a demilitarized Palestinian state, there is no chance for a peace treaty. (Ha'aretz)
  • Why Sanctions on Iran Are Still the Best Option - Mark Dubowitz and Reuel Marc Gerecht
    Before the Iranian regime's brutal effort to crush the protests following the June 12 presidential election, an Iranian cab driver who couldn't buy gasoline would probably curse the Americans. After witnessing the brutal crackdown and his fellow citizens dying in the streets, he now might very well blame the regime. We suspect senior Iranian officials have been so loud in mocking the effectiveness of gasoline sanctions because the regime knows it still does not have the requisite reserve capacity to stop such sanctions from fomenting even more distaste for the regime on the Iranian street. (Foreign Policy)
  • Symbolic Gestures Won't Deter This Regime - Amir Taheri
    In 1992, acquisition of a nuclear arsenal became one of the three pillars of Iran's "defense doctrine," alongside the creation of a mass infantry, the so-called 20-million-man army, and the largest missile stockpile in the Middle East. Iran's bomb will destabilize the region and speed up a nascent nuclear arms race in the Middle East. With most regimes in the region, including the Iranian one itself, facing internal revolts, the risk of nuclear material falling into terrorist hands is a concern.
        It is still possible to raise the cost of Iran's nuclear ambitions by fully applying the sanctions already approved, but not implemented, by UN resolutions. These include tight control of exports of all dual-use material and equipment to Iran, the inspection and impounding of suspect cargos on board ships and aircraft, and the termination of Iranian access to credit facilities and banking services used for its illicit nuclear project. (Times-UK)
  • Observations: - Thomas L. Friedman (New York Times)

    • A parallel surge is needed by Arab and Muslim political and religious leaders against those who promote violent jihadism in Muslim lands and online in the network of hundreds of jihadist Web sites that inspire, train, educate and recruit young Muslims to engage in jihad against America and the West.
    • As the Washington Post reported on Sunday: "'Increasingly, recruiters are taking less prominent roles in mosques and community centers because places like that are under scrutiny. So what these guys are doing is turning to the Internet,' said Evan Kohlmann, a senior analyst with the U.S.-based NEFA Foundation, a private group that monitors extremist Web sites."
    • Islam has a violent minority that believes bad things: that it is O.K. to not only murder non-Muslims - "infidels," who do not submit to Muslim authority - but to murder Muslims as well who will not accept the most rigid Muslim lifestyle and submit to rule by a Muslim caliphate.
    • What is really scary is that this violent, jihadist minority seems to enjoy the most "legitimacy" in the Muslim world today. Few political and religious leaders dare to speak out against them in public. Secular Arab leaders wink at these groups.
    • "What Muslims were talking about last week were the minarets of Switzerland, not the killings of people in Iraq or Pakistan," noted Mamoun Fandy, a Middle East expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. So please tell me, how are we supposed to help build something decent and self-sustaining in Afghanistan and Pakistan when jihadists murder other Muslims by the dozens and no one really calls them out?
    • Arabs and Muslims aspire to, are able to, and must be challenged to take responsibility for their world. If we want a peaceful, tolerant region more than they do, they will hold our coats while we fight, and they will hold their tongues against their worst extremists. They will lose, and we will lose.

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