Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
View this page at
Via Smartphone


February 10, 2010

Daily Alert Needs Your Support

In-Depth Issues:

Even If Reformers Win, Iranians Support Nuclear Program - Robert Wright (New York Times)
    Even if the reformers miraculously swept into power, that wouldn't help much on the nuclear front.
    On the nuclear issue, opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi has been at least as hard line as President Ahmadinejad.
        According to an analysis by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) of several opinion polls conducted in Iran over the past year, the Iranian public isn't committed to getting the bomb.
    Given the choice between developing 1) nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, 2) nuclear energy only or 3) no nuclear technology, 55% of Iranians chose door number two, while only 38% wanted the bomb.
    But 86% of Iranians say that Iran should not "give up its nuclear activities regardless of the circumstances."
    Read the Report (

Iran Rewards Basij Militia with Political Clout (AP/New York Times)
    The Iranian government last month approved a proposal to expand the political voice of the civilian militia corps called the Basij, a group known for its street muscle.
    The Basij will again be out in force Thursday for expected protest marches. Their attempts to crush the anti-government movement have been well documented, including motorcycle charges into protest crowds.
    What's perhaps less noticed is the evolving role of the huge Basij force from loosely organized Islamic vigilantes to a more cohesive force with increasing channels to Iran's leadership and security apparatus.
    See also The Basij Resistance Force: A Weak Link in the Iranian Regime? - Ali Alfoneh (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    In the months since Iran's contested June 2009 presidential election, the Basij Resistance Force has emerged as one of the regime's main pillars of support against the democracy movement.
    In the long term, however, it is uncertain whether the militia is capable of prevailing in a prolonged fight against a persistent opposition.
    The writer is a visiting research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Hamas Fails to Pay Salaries in Gaza - Roee Nahmias (Ynet News)
    Some government employees in Gaza on the Hamas payroll are complaining that they have not been paid for the month of January, the London-based Al-Sharq al-Awsat reported Tuesday.
    Sources described as well-informed confirmed that the Hamas government has a cash flow problem. Hamas is encountering problems in smuggling funds through the tunnels between Sinai and Gaza.

Gaza's Defiant Tunnelers Head Deeper Underground - Robert Fisk (Independent-UK)
    Abdul-Halim al-Mohsen is worried about the Egyptians. "Of course I'm afraid of the Egyptian wall," he says. "They will pour water down. How can we defeat this? We may drown."
    The tunnels beneath the Gaza-Egyptian frontier are a business, a professional's game. There's even a four-truck miniature railway down one of the shafts. Money makes the wheels go round.
    NGOs estimate that Hamas skims 15% of the profits off the tunnelers' turnover, giving them $350 million per annum. So Hamas supplies itself with all the concrete, building materials, iron and weapons that its plentiful supplies of money can buy.
    Hamas itself has more than enough cement to build a city of bunkers, not to mention the buildings it has erected opposite Israeli troops at the Erez crossing.
    The yellow shaft of an Egyptian drilling machine stands against the horizon. Behind it, an Egyptian flag snaps above a watchtower where the soldiers of Arab Egypt ensure that their Arab Palestinian brothers stay besieged in the rubbish pit of Gaza.

Key Links 
Media Contacts 
Back Issues 
Fair Use/Privacy 
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Obama: U.S. Developing New Sanctions for Iran - Helene Cooper and Mark Landler
    The Obama administration is working on a series of sanctions that would take aim at the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps of Iran, publicly singling out the organization's vast array of companies, banks and other entities in an effort to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions. Senior White House officials described a "systematic" effort to drive a wedge between the Iranian population and the Revolutionary Guards, which the West says is responsible for running Iran's nuclear program.
        President Obama said in a news conference on Tuesday: "We have bent over backwards to say to the Islamic Republic of Iran that we are willing to have a constructive conversation about how they can align themselves with international norms and rules and re-enter as full members of the international community....They have made their choice so far." He said the U.S. will be working on "developing a significant regime of sanctions that will indicate to them how isolated they are from the international community as a whole."
        The goal would be to increase the cost for those who do business with Iran so much that they would cut off ties. Administration officials and European diplomats said they hoped that the package would include an expanded list of Iranian officials who are denied visas to visit the West and the curbing of investments in Iran's energy sector. (New York Times)
        See also Text of Obama Press Conference (White House)
        See also U.S. Unveils Offer to Help Iran Purchase Medical Isotopes - Glenn Kessler (Washington Post)
  • Russia Says West's Fears over Iran Are "Valid" - James Blitz, Catherine Belton, and Daniel Dombey
    Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia's presidential security council and a close ally of Prime Minister Putin, said Tuesday there was a "limit" to how much diplomacy could be used to solve the crisis over Iran's nuclear program. He said: "The actions it is taking, including when it began enriching low-enriched uranium to 20%, raise doubts in other countries and those doubts are quite valid." He added: "Political-diplomatic methods are important for a resolution, but there is a limit to everything."  (Financial Times-UK)
        See also below Observations - Western Diplomats: Ahmadinejad's Move to Further Enrich Uranium Has Backfired (Financial Times-UK) and China Could Veto Sanctions Against Iran - But History Suggests It Won't (Times-UK)
  • Pro-Government Protestors Attack Italian Embassy in Tehran
    Italy said Iran's hardline religious Basij militia tried to attack its embassy in Tehran on Tuesday. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told a Senate hearing: "About a hundred Basij dressed as civilians tried to assault the embassy shouting 'Death to Italy' and 'Death to (Prime Minister) Berlusconi'." He said the attackers hurled stones at the embassy, but Iranian police intervened to "stop a full-blown assault." "This type of demonstration is orchestrated by the regime," the Italian ambassador in Tehran, Alberto Bradanini, told Repubblica TV. (Reuters-New York Times)
  • Egypt Arrests Muslim Brotherhood Leaders - Ashraf Khalil
    Egyptian authorities arrested three senior leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood on Monday in the latest government crackdown on the country's most powerful opposition force. The Brotherhood, which has affiliates across the Mideast, advocates an Islamic state under Islamic law, in opposition to Egypt's secular, authoritarian regime. In parliamentary elections in 2005, candidates affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, running as independents, captured 20% of seats, making them the country's largest opposition bloc. A new round of parliamentary elections is scheduled this fall. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Fighting the New Plague in the Land of Egypt - Zvi Mazel
    Every Egyptian government since Nasser has been fighting the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood has called for the restoration of the Caliphate and the creation of a single Muslim nation under Sharia law, and allowing the killing of Muslims and non-Muslims to achieve this goal. The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt. (Jerusalem Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu: Palestinians Must Know EU Won't Deliver Israel - Herb Keinon
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged EU's ambassadors in Israel on Tuesday to disabuse the Palestinians of the notion that the international community will "deliver Israel," saying this Palestinian hope has led to 10 "wasted" months. "It is up to you to urge the Palestinian Authority to begin talks," he said. "We are pretty close, but a nudge from you can make it happen." He said that "proximity talks," whereby the U.S. would mediate indirect negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian teams, would be acceptable "as a corridor into direct talks." But ultimately, all the critical issues will have to be decided in direct negotiations, he said. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Abbas under "Intense" Pressure from EU to Return to Talks - Herb Keinon
    PA leader Mahmoud Abbas is under "intense" pressure by the international community to return to negotiations, with every European leader he meets telling him he must renew talks, a senior European diplomat told the Jerusalem Post on Monday. European leaders are arguing that at the moment it is the Palestinians who are being perceived as the ones refusing the opportunity to negotiate over the future.
        The EU gave the PA €500 million in 2009, with another €500 million contributed by individual European states on a bilateral basis, the senior European official said. "As long as there is hope that [a Palestinian] state will be formed, we are happy to do so, and we know that once it is established we will give more for security and to develop the economy. But now in Europe - in parliament and among taxpayers - people are asking how long we will do this....We can't continue to pay for the creation of a state when the state is not coming."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Strikes Gaza in Response to Kassam Rockets
    The Israeli Air Force targeted sites in Gaza Tuesday in response to Kassam rocket fire into southern Israel over the past few days. Since the start of 2010, more than 20 rockets and mortars have been fired into Israel from Gaza. (Ha'aretz)
        "The IDF will continue to operate with resolve and force against any element that employs terror against the State of Israel, and it holds Hamas solely responsible for preserving the calm in Gaza," the army Spokesperson's Unit said. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran - Time's Up - Editorial
    Iran is still churning out enriched uranium and has now told UN inspectors that it is raising the level of enrichment - moving slightly closer to bomb-grade quality. Enough is enough. Iran needs to understand that its nuclear ambition comes with a very high cost. Iran is in such economic and political turmoil that its government may be more vulnerable to outside pressure.
        Russia has signaled support for another resolution. If history is any guide, we fear Russia will sharply whittle down the impact. China, eager to buy ever more oil from Iran, is an even bigger obstacle. China needs to understand that ensuring reliable oil supplies would become a lot harder if the Middle East is roiled by a nuclear-armed Iran.
        The more the Security Council temporizes, compromises and weakens these resolutions, the more defiant and ambitious Iran becomes. If the Security Council can't act swiftly, or decisively, the U.S. and its allies will have to come up with their own tough sanctions. They should be making a backup plan right now. (New York Times)
  • Iran's Revolution Devoured by Its Own Children - Saba Farzan
    Young Iranians born into the country's clerical dictatorship tend to recount their bitter lives as follows: "When we finished high school, the Basij, the regime's paramilitary thugs, received preferential admission to the universities; when we graduated there were no jobs for us in this ruined economy; and when we fall in love, we are not even allowed to hold each other's hands in public."
        Another Iranian revolution is simmering. The main forces behind this uprising are not just students and teachers but women of all social strata, as well as workers. The Islamic Republic is now preparing for a hard crackdown on Thursday's expected anti-government protests. Dictators in panic always resort to violence. But so far the regime's brutality has not silenced these brave Iranian protesters. Despite the beatings and killings, they have not given up on their goal to end this tyranny. History is on their side, as no tyranny lasts forever. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Observations:

    Western Diplomats: Ahmadinejad's Move to Further Enrich Uranium Has Backfired - Daniel Dombey, Najmeh Bozorgmehr, and James Blitz (Financial Times-UK)

    • Western diplomats believe that President Ahmadinejad's pledge to enrich uranium to 20% purity, closer to the level needed to build a nuclear weapon, has backfired and begun to change the mood in the Security Council. A senior U.S. official told the Financial Times that the decision was a "hollow" and "provocative" gesture that would make sanctions more likely.
    • "I think there is sufficient support in the council for sanctions," said the official. "The Iranians see the Russians clearly moving towards joining us in a sanctions resolution." He said, "The Chinese will vote 'yes' or abstain, and I think they are likely to vote 'yes'." Turkey, Brazil and Nigeria have signaled their doubts. However, the U.S. and its allies hope that, at the very worst, some of the non-aligned members of the Security Council might simply abstain.
    • "I think Iran all along intended to enrich to 20%," said Mark Fitzpatrick, proliferation expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, "ostensibly to supply the research reactor but also to gain experience enriching to higher levels that would prove useful for weapons production."
        See also China Could Veto Sanctions Against Iran - But History Suggests It Won't - Catherine Philp (Times-UK)
    • Now that Russia is exhibiting mounting disenchantment with Iran, attention will be focused even more closely on China - the country which is the most opposed to sanctions. Yet for all its recent baring of teeth in Washington's direction, China does not court international confrontation.
    • Above all, China does not like to feel exposed: since it joined the Security Council in 1971, it has used its veto only twice. In the same period, the U.S. has done so 76 times. In all that time, China has never voted against economic sanctions, although it has frequently abstained.
    • History suggests China will hesitate to use its veto. If it abstains, then sanctions could pass. The question then is: will they work?

          See also What Would Make China Budge on Iran - Melinda Liu (Newsweek)

    Unsubscribe from Daily Alert