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January 11, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Abdulmutallab: 20 Other Muslim Men Being Prepared in Yemen to Blow Up Jets - Armen Keteyian (CBS News)
    British Intelligence has confirmed the chilling boast Christmas Day bomber Umar Abdulmutallab made to investigators after his arrest: that close to 20 other young Muslim men were being prepared in Yemen to use the same technique to blow up airliners.
    That is why, sources say, the U.S. government announced "enhanced screening" for "every individual" on U.S.-bound flights from 14 countries, including Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen.

U.S. Violated Promise to Preserve IDF's Qualitative Edge - Barak Ravid and Aluf Benn (Ha'aretz)
    The Bush administration violated U.S. agreements with Israel to preserve the IDF's qualitative edge over Arab armies, according to senior officials in the Obama administration and Israel.
    During the last year of the Bush administration, the U.S. sold military equipment to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE similar to what it sold to Israel, including advanced F-15 fighter-bombers, satellite-guided and laser-guided "smart bombs," advanced anti-ship missiles and electronic suites for aircraft.
    In subsequent talks between the Obama administration and Israel, Israeli officials have stressed that the arms provided with the aim of bolstering moderate Arab states against Iran could be directed in the future against Israel.

Israel: Western Aid to Lebanese Army Could End Up with Hizbullah - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel has launched a diplomatic campaign to impress upon countries providing military assistance to Lebanon that any equipment and technology it provides the Beirut government is likely to fall into Hizbullah's hands.
    The main concern is weaponry being provided or pledged by the U.S., including aircraft, tanks, artillery, small boats, infantry weapons, ammunition, Humvees and cargo trucks.
    The U.S. is expected to provide the Lebanese army with 12 Raven unmanned reconnaissance and surveillance aircraft in the coming months.

Israel to Build Partial Fence along Egypt Border - Roni Sofer (Ynet News)
    Prime Minister Netanyahu approved Sunday the construction of two sections of fence on the Israel-Egypt border, one near Gaza in the north and one near Eilat in the south, at a cost of $270-400 million.
    The relatively low-tech barrier will include radar to detect human movement, which will help prevent infiltration into Israeli territory.

British MP Galloway's Convoy Stoned by Irate Egyptians (Telegraph-UK)
    A British aid convoy led by MP George Galloway that was carrying relief supplies for Gaza was pelted with stones and vandalized in the Egyptian town of El-Arish on Sunday, an organizer said.
    See also Egypt Bars Gaza-Bound Aid Convoys (AFP)
    "Egypt will no longer allow convoys, regardless of their origin or who is organizing them, from crossing its territory" after activists this week clashed with police, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit told Al-Ahram on Saturday.
    "Members of the (Viva Palestina) convoy committed hostile acts, even criminal ones, on Egyptian territory," he added.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Petraeus: U.S. Has Plan to Deal with Iran's Nuclear Program - Christiane Amanpour
    In addition to diplomacy and sanctions, the U.S. has developed contingency plans in dealing with Iran's nuclear facilities, Gen. David Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command, said Sunday, adding that the military has considered the impacts of any action taken there. Petraeus said Iran has strengthened its nuclear facilities and has enhanced underground tunnels. Still, the facilities are not bomb-proof. "They certainly can be bombed," he said. "The level of effect would vary with who it is that carries it out, what ordnance they have, and what capability they can bring to bear."  (CNN)
  • U.S. Shifts Iran Focus to Support Opposition - Jay Solomon
    The Obama administration is increasingly questioning the long-term stability of Tehran's government and moving to find ways to support Iran's opposition "Green Movement," said senior U.S. officials. The White House is crafting new financial sanctions specifically designed to punish the Iranian entities and individuals most directly involved in the crackdown on Iran's dissident forces, said the U.S. officials, rather than just those involved in Iran's nuclear program. In recent weeks, senior Green Movement figures - who have been speaking at major Washington think tanks - have made up a list of Revolutionary Guard-related companies they suggest targeting.
        A number of Iran scholars in the U.S. said they have been contacted by senior administration officials eager to understand if the Iranian unrest suggested a greater threat to Tehran's government than originally understood. "The tone has changed in the conversation," said one scholar. "There's realization now that this unrest really matters." "The Green Movement has demonstrated more staying power than perhaps some have anticipated," said a senior U.S. official. "The regime is internally losing its legitimacy."  (Wall Street Journal)
  • Clinton Urges Mideast Peace Talks without Preconditions - David Gollust
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Friday met the foreign ministers of Jordan and Egypt and urged a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations as soon as possible and without preconditions. Her meetings signaled the start of a new U.S. push on the Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking front. According to news reports, the U.S. hopes to secure an agreement before the end of this year on the borders of an envisaged Palestinian state - which if achieved would effectively end the long-running conflict over what constitutes Israeli settlement on Arab land.
        "The United States believes that through good-faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments, and meet Israeli security requirements," said Clinton. (VOA News)
        See also PA Dampens U.S. Peace Push (BBC News)
        See also Hamas Snubs U.S., Arab Efforts to Restart Mideast Peace (Xinhua-China)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu: PA Security Forces Showing Timidity - Herb Keinon
    Prime Minister Netanyahu told a delegation of visiting U.S. senators on Sunday that while Palestinian security forces in the West Bank were active against Hamas and Islamic Jihad, they "have trouble going against their own renegades." He was referring to the recent murder in the West Bank of Rabbi Meir Hai by members of Fatah's Aksa Martyrs Brigade. "They are showing timidity about addressing their own renegades," he said.
        Netanyahu expressed frustration with continued Palestinian rejection of negotiations, and said the PA was trying to "internationalize the conflict" in the hope that the EU and UN would pressure Israel. He also said "the ultimate core issue is the acceptance of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. It is not about settlements; it is about the existence of a Jewish state."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Security Experts: Dissent Against Hamas Growing in Gaza - Jack Khoury
    Security experts believe dissent against Hamas is growing in Gaza, prompting Hamas to relax its resolve to prevent rocket fire into Israel, Army Radio reported Monday. Over the last week, in a dramatic escalation, Gaza militants fired over 20 rockets and mortar shells into Israel, to which Israel retaliated with air strikes. On Sunday, an airstrike killed three Palestinian militants. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Senior Islamic Jihad Commander Targeted
    The terrorists targeted Sunday were four Islamic Jihad operatives in the central region of Gaza. Awad Abu Nasir, one of those killed, was a senior field commander, known to be behind dozens of IED and gunfire attacks. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • IDF May Take over Philadelphi Corridor along Egypt-Gaza Border in Future Conflict - Yaakov Katz
    The IDF has drawn up plans for the possibility that in a future conflict with Hamas it will be ordered by the government to take over the Philadelphi Corridor in southern Gaza, which is lined with hundreds of weapons smuggling tunnels, defense officials said on Sunday. Such an operation would be designed to prevent Hamas from rearming following the conflict. The IDF believes that since the Gaza operation ended in mid-January 2009, Hamas has significantly boosted its military capabilities and has obtained long-range rockets, mostly from Iran. In addition, Hamas is believed to have obtained advanced, mostly Russian-made anti-tank missiles and shoulder-to-air missiles.
        On Sunday, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yom-Tov Samia, the former head of the IDF Southern Command, told Army Radio, "We are facing another round in Gaza....I am very skeptical about the chance that Hamas will suddenly surrender or change its way without first suffering a far more serious blow than it did during the Gaza operation." The blow, he said, would be "more focused with long-range results including the conquering of territory that Hamas will understand it lost as a result of its provocations. We need to create a situation which reduces its oxygen supply."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Why Can't the U.S. Have an Aviation Security System More Like Israel's? - Kip Hawley
    I am often asked why we can't have an aviation security system more like Israel's. We can and we should. But the key ingredient of Israeli security is not that their technology or staffers are better. It's not profiling or having just one international airport. It is willpower. Israelis as a nation have coalesced around the fact that they are in a deadly generational conflict that extends to their everyday activities, such as traveling. Attacks and casualties are unavoidable, yet unflinching determination and take-the-offensive mentalities are hallmarks of Israel's reaction. Because of this fundamental national consensus, when there are security breaches Israel does not wander down self-destructive paths, more focused on sound bites than results. The writer was head of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration from 2005 to 2009. (Washington Post)
  • In West Bank, Conditions "Not Ripe" for Palestinian Uprising - Edmund Sanders
    While speculation about a "third intifada" is gaining traction in Israeli newspapers and Palestinian cafes, chances of another West Bank uprising this year appear slim. Palestinians and Israelis point to a weak, fractured Palestinian leadership that has disavowed violence, tight Israeli control in the greater part of the territories, and a budding West Bank economy that has led many Palestinians to conclude that the price of another intifada would be too high.
        "The situation is not ripe," said Abdul Sattar Kassem, a Palestinian political science professor at An Najah University in Nablus. "There isn't the morale, motivation or the leadership for another intifada. People aren't sure what it would achieve. They think they have more to lose." "We don't feel the occupation as much," he added, and noted that the Palestinian Authority, largely funded by the U.S. and other countries, now employs 180,000 people who "are not ready to sacrifice their jobs for another intifada." Mahmoud Subuh, head of the Yafa Cultural Center in Nablus, noted that many young Palestinians are going abroad for school or jobs. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Observations:

    Mitchell: Settlements Will Help Determine Final Borders - Charlie Rose (PBS)

    In an interview on Jan. 6 prior to his return to the region, U.S. Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell said:

    • "My hope [is] that we can make progress on three tracks....First, political negotiations, to get the parties into meaningful negotiations that will produce a peace agreement. Secondly, security, to make certain that any agreement ensures the security of the people of Israel and the Palestinian people and the surrounding states. And third, economic growth and what we call institutional efforts, to help the Palestinians improve their economy from the ground up the institutions of governance."
    • "Understand the different perspectives. Israel annexed Jerusalem in 1980....No other country, including the United States, recognizes that annexation. Neither do the Palestinians, nor the Arabs, of course. But for the Israelis, what they're building in is in part of Israel. Now, the others don't see it that way. So you have these widely divergent perspectives on the subject....The Israelis are not going to stop settlements in, or construction in East Jerusalem. They don't regard that as a settlement because they think it's part of Israel."
    • Rose: "So you're going to let them go ahead even though no one recognizes the annexation?"
      Mitchell: "You say 'Let them go ahead.' It's what they regard as their country. They don't say they're letting us go ahead when we build in Manhattan."
    • "The Israelis have a state, a very successful state. They want security, which they ought to have....The Palestinians don't have a state. They want one. And they ought to have one....The Palestinians are not going to get a state until the people of Israel have a reasonable sense of sustainable security. The Israelis, on the other hand, are not going to get that reasonable sense of sustainable security until there is a Palestinian state."
    • Mitchell: "Both sides understand it's not going to be the '67 [lines]."
      Rose: "So settlements will have made a difference in terms of the way the final borders are determined."
      Mitchell: "Yes, they will. There is no doubt about that and I think that's a fairly universal understanding of that. That's just a reality that's going to have to be dealt with. You can ask wishfully that things might be as you would like them to be or you deal with them as they are, and I think we have to deal with them as they are."
    • Rose: "When was the last time we used a stick?...You say to Israel, look, if you don't do this -"
      Mitchell: "Under American law, the United States can withhold support on loan guarantees to Israel. President George H.W. Bush did so on one occasion....That's one mechanism that's been publicly discussed. There are others, and you have to keep open whatever options. But our view is that we think the way to approach this is to try to persuade the parties what is in their self-interest."

          See also Mitchell Did Not Threaten Israel - Herb Keinon
      The hyperventilated effort in the Israeli media on Sunday to take 350 words about the theoretical possibility of using loan guarantees to pressure Israel - out of a 9,300 word, 50-minute television interview with George Mitchell - was simply over-heated and over-wrought. To say - as one paper did - that "Mitchell clarified that the administration would not hesitate to use extreme means to pressure Israel to move the negotiations with the Palestinians forward" seemed a bit of a stretch. (Jerusalem Post)

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