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January 12, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel Financing U.S. Deficit - Sever Plocker (Ynet News)
    At the height of Israel's 2002 recession, the Israeli government asked the U.S. to approve loan guarantees that would enable Jerusalem to raise capital internationally.
    The guarantees were approved in April 2003 to the tune of $9 billion over three years.
    Since October 2004, Israel has made no use of the guarantees, whose validity was extended from time to time. A total of $3.8 billion in unused loan guarantees are just lying there.
    As of September 2009, Israel's foreign debt totals $28 billion. Meanwhile, the State of Israel's foreign currency reserves total $60 billion, mostly invested in U.S. government bonds.
    In other words, at this time, Israelis are financing America's debts.

Report: Europe Drug Trade Funds Hizbullah - Assaf Uni and Jack Khoury (Ha'aretz)
    German police suspect Hizbullah of using drug trafficking in Europe to fund its activities, the German magazine Der Spiegel reported Saturday.
    German police arrested two Lebanese citizens living in Germany in October after they transferred large sums of money to a family in Lebanon that has connections to Hizbullah's leadership.
    Police suspected the men were selling cocaine in Europe and sending the profits back to Lebanon.

Israeli Robots Remake Battlefield - Charles Levinson (Wall Street Journal)
    Sixty years of near-constant war, a low tolerance for enduring casualties in conflict, and its high-tech industry have made Israel one of the world's leading innovators of military robotics.
    "The Israelis do it differently, not because they're more clever than we are, but because they live in a tough neighborhood and need to respond fast to operational issues," says U.S. Army Lt.-Col. (ret.) Thomas Tate, who now oversees defense cooperation between the U.S. and Israel.
    Among recently deployed Israeli technologies is the Guardium unmanned ground vehicle, deployed along the Gaza and Lebanese borders to patrol for infiltrators. The Guardium is essentially an armored off-road golf cart with a suite of optical sensors and surveillance gear.
    Within the next year, Israeli engineers expect to deploy the voice-commanded, six-wheeled Rex robot, capable of carrying 550 pounds of gear alongside advancing infantry.
    After bomb-laden fishing boats tried to take out an Israeli Navy frigate off the coast of Gaza in 2002, Israel designed the Protector SV, an unmanned, heavily armed speedboat.
    Military analysts say unmanned fighting vehicles will minimize the advantages of guerrilla opponents who display increased willingness to sacrifice their lives in order to inflict casualties on the enemy.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iran Nuclear Scientist Killed in Bomb Blast - Borzou Daragahi and Ramin Mostaghim
    Massoud Ali-Mohammadi, described by Iranian officials as a nuclear scientist and university professor, was killed in a bomb blast in Tehran on Tuesday. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Iran's Opposition Spreads to Heartland - Borzou Daragahi
    Iran's "green" opposition movement appears to have spread to the heartland, with video and credible reports emerging from towns in the provinces. The city of Birjand has five universities and four colleges, making it a potential opposition stronghold. More than 60% of Iranians are younger than 30, and 70% of college students reportedly opposed Ahmadinejad.
        What has happened over the last seven months in Birjand, and consistent with reports from other small cities around the country, illustrates how the opposition movement has gained a foothold nationwide. Students began organizing small gatherings at their universities. In the classrooms, professors lifted students' spirits by discussing the Islamic Republic's missteps, and what sorts of protest actions were effective and which were counterproductive. The students followed the news on opposition websites and via BBC Persian and Voice of America. They have mastered the use of proxy servers to get access to banned websites as well as shield their surfing habits from surveillance technology. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Israel-Turkey Ties Strain Again over TV Show
    Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon summoned the Turkish ambassador on Monday to protest the broadcast of a television series, "Valley of the Wolves," that portrays Israeli agents as baby-snatchers. Israel issued a similar protest last October when another Turkish series showed Israeli soldiers shooting Palestinian children. "We protest in the name of the Israeli government against scenes from this Turkish television series showing Israel and Jews as baby-snatchers and war criminals," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. (AFP)
        See also Israel Denounces Anti-Israel Statement by Turkish Prime Minister (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Egypt-Hamas Tensions Heighten - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Egypt and Hamas traded allegations over the weekend about last week's violent protests along the border between Sinai and Gaza in which an Egyptian soldier was killed and scores of Palestinians were wounded when hundreds of Hamas supporters demonstrated against the construction of a steel wall along the border. Cairo has demanded a public apology from Hamas over the incident and Egyptian government officials, columnists and newspaper editors have launched unprecedented and scathing attacks on Hamas.
        In an article titled "Egypt and the Gaza Gang," the chief editor of the Egyptian daily Al-Gomhuria, Muhammad Ibrahim, who is very close to President Hosni Mubarak, wrote that Hamas, with the help of the Iranians, was seeking to "extend its control to Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, in addition to Palestine." He said that Hamas leaders were living in comfort in Damascus while the Palestinians in Gaza have been left homeless. In another article, Ibrahim said that Hamas was more of a threat to Egypt than Israel and warned, "No Egyptian will from now on allow the agents of Iran to shed the blood of our sons."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. Doubles the Value of Military Equipment Stockpiled in Israel - Amos Harel
    The U.S. Army will double the value of emergency military equipment it stockpiles in Israel to $800 million, and Israel will be allowed to use the U.S. ordnance in the event of a military emergency, according to a report Monday by Barbara Opall-Rome in Defense News. Missiles, armored vehicles, aerial ammunition and artillery ordnance are already stockpiled in the country. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas: Gaza Bombmaker Killed in Work Accident - Amos Harel
    Hamas said Monday that a Hamas militant was killed and three others injured in an explosion in a Gaza bomb workshop, Army Radio reported. Hamas initially claimed that the casualties were the result of an Israel Defense Forces attack. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • China and Iran - Editorial
    China's Ambassador to the UN Zhang Yesui declared last week that it is "too early" for new sanctions on Iran. While China has large commercial interests in Iran, the Chinese leadership's deeper motivation concerns its own power at home. Recent revolutions in Eastern Europe and Central Asia have rattled Beijing. China's response has been to clamp down on dissent at home and seek to shore up friendly regimes abroad. A further rout of authoritarian regimes could encourage the silent majority at home who would like greater political participation. That's a key reason China supports a rogues' gallery of states, including Sudan, Burma, Cuba and Venezuela.
        The implication of all this is that the Obama Administration shouldn't wait for China to come around on sanctions, or pre-emptively water them down to meet Chinese approval at the Security Council. The better idea is to form a coalition of the willing outside the UN that bars companies around the world that do business with Iran from access to Western capital markets. This is likely to get Beijing's attention in a way that more diplomatic pleading never will. (Wall Street Journal Asia)
  • Only Muslims Can Stop Muslim Terror - Leslie H. Gelb
    Almost all the terrorist and extremist violence in the world today is committed by Muslims - and in most instances, the victims are Muslims themselves. What's afoot here is Muslim extremism - despite the fact that the great majority of Muslims aren't radicals and condemn terrorism.
        If the battle against Muslim terrorism is to be won, moderate Muslims will have to do the heavy lifting, and explain to us how we can best help them. If Americans and Westerners continue to take the lead, it will remain an "us vs. them" war - "infidel and oppressive" outsiders battling "victimized" Muslims. Effective military force, of course, will be needed to weaken the fanatics and provide security. But the support of the great majority of Muslims is an even more essential ingredient for success, one that can be garnered only by their fellow believers both in the U.S. and abroad.
        Of the terrorist killings and maimings that have taken place over the last three years, over 90% have been Muslim on Muslim. The great majority of sensible and moderate Muslims must take up operational and actual arms against the terrorists. It can't be just rhetoric. The writer, a former senior government official, is president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. (Daily Beast)
  • Al-Qaeda Has a New Strategy - Bruce Hoffman
    Throughout 2008 and 2009, U.S. officials repeatedly trumpeted al-Qaeda's demise. Yet al-Qaeda late last month launched two separate attacks less than a week apart over Detroit and at a CIA base in Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda is aggressively seeking out, destabilizing and exploiting failed states and other areas of lawlessness. While the U.S. remains preoccupied with trying to secure yesterday's failed state - Afghanistan - al-Qaeda is busy staking out new terrain. Over the past year, it has increased its activities in Pakistan, Algeria, the Sahel, Somalia and, in particular, Yemen.
        Al-Qaeda is covetously seeking recruits from non-Muslim countries who can be easily deployed for attacks in the West. Al-Qaeda has become increasingly adept at using the Internet to locate these would-be terrorists. During the past 18 months, American and British intelligence officials have said, well over 100 individuals from such countries have graduated from terrorist training camps in Pakistan and have been sent West to undertake terrorist operations.
        Remarkably, more than eight years after Sept. 11, we still don't fully understand our dynamic and evolutionary enemy. We claim success when it is regrouping and tally killed leaders while more devious plots are being hatched. Al-Qaeda needs to be utterly destroyed. This will be accomplished not just by killing and capturing terrorists - as we must continue to do - but by breaking the cycle of radicalization and recruitment that sustains the movement. The writer is a professor of security studies at Georgetown University and a senior fellow at the U.S. Military Academy's Combating Terrorism Center. (Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    Israel's Right to Self-Defense - Harry Reicher (Jerusalem Post)

    • Article 51 of the UN Charter enshrines "the inherent right" of self-defense. The occurrence of "an armed attack" triggers the right. Israel's incursion into Gaza last year was in response to several thousand rockets which had been fired from there into Israel over a period of years.
    • Does it make sense, and is it realistic, to expect a country - any country - to sit passively and not respond as thousands of missiles rain down on it or as suicide bombers wreak their ghoulish horror?
    • Does it make sense to give terrorist organizations carte blanche to use civilian populations as human shields with impunity, secure in the knowledge that that is enough to prevent a military response?
    • And is all of this consonant with the most basic human instinct of self-preservation?
    • To articulate these questions is sufficient. They really answer themselves.

      The writer, an Australian barrister, teaches international human rights at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and is scholar-in residence at Touro Law Center.

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