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February 15, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

How Iran Obtains U.S. Technology (60 Minutes-CBS News)
    Iran is getting hi-tech materials and components for a variety of weapons from the U.S., and we have a total embargo: blanket sanctions against any trade with Iran.
    Iran often turns to under-the-radar middlemen who run small trading companies around the world. Some are based in American cities.
    The Justice Department has indicted over 100 alleged smugglers working for Iran in the past three years.

Regime on the Brink - Amir Taheri (New York Post)
    On Thursday, in several major cities including Isfahan, the country's second largest, and Ahvaz, official ceremonies marking the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution had to be curtailed as pro-democracy marchers seized control of major thoroughfares.
    Other groups are trying to organize industrial strikes as another source of pressure on the regime. On Thursday, workers at a gas refiner in Aghajari and oil refineries in Tabriz and Shiraz stopped work for four hours.

Video: Iran's Nukes: Make or Break (American Jewish Committee)
    As Iran starts enriching uranium to 20%, will the world allow the Islamist regime to develop a nuclear bomb?

British Journalist Arrested by Hamas in Gaza - Sheera Frenkel (Times-UK/Ha'aretz)
    British journalist Paul Martin was arrested by Hamas security forces in Gaza on Sunday on suspicion of endangering the security of the state.
    Hamas police spokesman Ehab Ghussein said they had obtained "confessions that the British journalist violated Palestinian law and the security of the state."
    Martin had several weeks ago interviewed a Palestinian militant for a foreign television station. Hamas charged that during the interview the militant had revealed secrets harmful to "Palestinian security."

Egypt Navy Detains Four Fishermen Off Gaza (AFP)
    Egyptian naval forces arrested four Palestinian fishermen off the coast of Gaza on Saturday.

PA Commission of Inquiry Includes Corrupt Official - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    PA leader Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday suspended the director of his bureau, Rafik Husseini, who has been at the center of a major sex scandal.
    Abbas also established a three-man commission of inquiry to look into the matter consisting of three senior Fatah officials: Abu Maher Ghneim, Azzam al-Ahmed and Rafik Natsheh.
    Fahmi Shabaneh, the Palestinian General Intelligence Service official who exposed the scandal, expressed fear that the members of the commission of inquiry - all Abbas loyalists - would try to "bury" the cases of corruption that he exposed.
    One of the commission members, "Azzam al-Ahmed, and his brother, Allam, are suspected of embezzlement of more than $2.5 million," he said. "How can someone like this be appointed to investigate corruption?"

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Biden Expects China's Support on Iran
    Vice President Joe Biden said on Sunday the U.S. expects to gain China's support for imposing sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. "We have the support of everyone from Russia to Europe. And I believe we'll get the support of China to continue to impose sanctions on Iran to isolate them, to make clear that in fact they cannot move forward," Biden said on NBC's "Meet the Press." Biden was also dismissive of Ahmadinejad's recent boasts about Tehran's nuclear advances. "The progress that Iran has made on the nuclear front is greatly exaggerated in my view," Biden said. (Reuters-New York Times)
        See also below Observations: Blame China for Iran's Nukes - Michael Danby (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Iranian Nobel Laureate Calls for Sanctions on Iran
    Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi urged countries on Friday to impose political sanctions on Iran by downgrading diplomatic ties and denying visas to officials. (Reuters)
  • Clinton Expected to Seek Saudi Arabia's Help in Confronting Iran - Glenn Kessler
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton begins a difficult diplomatic assignment Monday in Saudi Arabia, where she is expected to have lengthy meetings with the king. In his meeting with Obama in May, Abdullah rejected making any confidence-building steps toward Israel. (The Saudis themselves had thought Obama's visit was a courtesy call and they were surprised so many tough issues were raised without much preparation.) The tough session helped convince the president he needed great expertise in the Middle East on his staff, which is one reason why Dennis Ross was moved from the State Department, where he worked for Clinton, to the White House, officials said.
        Clinton will also seek to win pledges from Saudi Arabia to help on the confrontation with Iran, specifically reassuring China that its oil supply will not be harmed if relations with Tehran sour over support for international sanctions. Riyadh had been highly skeptical of this idea, which has been promoted by Ross, but U.S. officials traveling with Clinton have dropped broad hints that the Saudis already have made such an approach to China. The officials say the Saudis are now merely waiting to see if China will seriously entertain a tough UN Security Council resolution before any such arrangement becomes public. (Washington Post)
  • Clinton Calls for Renewed Israeli-Palestinian Peace Negotiations
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday at the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Qatar: "I know people are disappointed that we have not yet achieved a breakthrough....But we must remember that neither the United States nor any country can force a solution. The parties themselves must resolve their differences through negotiations."
        "We support a two-state solution, with Israelis and Palestinians co-existing peacefully and with mutual security. We believe 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."  (State Department)
        See also In Middle East, Clinton Asks for Patience with U.S. Strategy - Glenn Kessler (Washington Post)
  • Swift Change to British Universal Jurisdiction Law in Doubt - Roland Watson and Sheera Frenkel
    A swift change to the law promised by ministers to prevent Israeli politicians and generals being arrested when they visit Britain is in doubt. A Cabinet split over timing threatens to postpone any alteration of the rules until after the election, The Times has learned, even though ministers assured Israel that it was a priority. Ministers promised to act after a magistrate in London issued a warrant for the arrest last year of Tzipi Livni, the Israeli opposition leader, for alleged war crimes in Gaza when she was foreign minister.
        Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, is privately warning against remaking the law in haste. A further complication is that 119 MPs, most Labour, have signed a Commons motion against any change. Yigal Palmor, the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, said: "If Israeli dignitaries cannot travel unhindered to Britain, than they will not travel. Automatically the political dialogue between the two countries will be reduced. This is not something that London or Jerusalem wants."  (Times-UK)
        See also Why Are We Still Threatening to Arrest Israeli Politicians? - Philip Johnston (Telegraph-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • U.S. Military Chief Hints Strike on Iran Possible If Nuclear Talks Fail - Maya Lecker
    Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday in Israel that the U.S. administration is very serious regarding its plans to impose harsh sanctions on Iran and hinted that the U.S. could attack Iran if negotiations failed. "This (military strike) option is on the table, but we are not there yet," Mullen said, adding that it was important to let diplomacy and international pressure work before looking into military options. Mullen, who accused Iran of destabilizing the entire Middle East, said that according to estimates, Iran will obtain a nuclear weapon within one to three years. (Ynet News)
        See also IDF Chief: "Mullen Helping Israel Confront Security Threats"
    IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi told U.S. Adm. Mullen on Sunday, "There has been much information, knowledge, experience, and lessons shared between the two armies which will help us confront our challenges."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Olmert: Abbas Never Responded to My Peace Offer
    Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told a conference at Tel Aviv University on Sunday that during his tenure he offered PA leader Mahmoud Abbas an unprecedented peace offer, based on a return to the 1967 borders and a fair demographic land arrangement which would see heavily Jewish areas in the West Bank remain under Israeli control. "I offered a land swap, I offered a solution for Jerusalem, where the Jewish part would remain under Israeli authority and the Arab sections would be given to the jurisdiction of a Palestinian state," based on the agreements reached at a 2007 summit in Annapolis and in accordance with the Roadmap for peace, he said.
        Olmert said he and Abbas had reached an interim agreement on the Palestinian right of return, but he never received a final response from the Palestinians on the matter. "It's time the international community demand an answer from the Palestinians instead of arguing about a building here and a building there," Olmert said. (Ha'aretz)
  • Fayyad Honors Palestinian Terrorist Who Tried to Stab Israeli Soldier - Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook
    PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has honored the Palestinian terrorist who attempted to stab an Israeli soldier on Friday in Hebron by paying a condolence call to his family. The terrorist was killed in the attack. Sunday's official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida carried a front-page picture of the terrorist, glorifying him as a holy Islamic martyr, together with a picture of Fayyad's visit. (Palestinian Media Watch)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • It's Time for U.S. to Consider Targeting Iran's Gas Imports - Editorial
    For every expert who argues that a shortage of gasoline would somehow help Mr. Ahmadinejad, there is one who believes it will deepen popular rejection of the regime. France, among other European governments, has been talking tough about the need for sanctions that bite; a U.S.-backed gasoline embargo would put that resolve to the test. At a minimum, Mr. Obama should be prepared to welcome and sign into law legislation, now in a congressional conference committee, that would authorize U.S. sanctions against firms that sell gasoline to Iran or provide tankers and insurance. (Washington Post)
  • An Anti-Israel Extremist Seeks Revenge through the Goldstone Report - Alan Dershowitz
    When Irish Colonel Travers eagerly accepted an appointment to the Goldstone Commission, he was hell-bent on revenge against Israel based on paranoid fantasies and anti-Israel propaganda. He actually believed, as he put it in a recent interview, that "so many Irish soldiers had been killed by Israelis," with "a significant number who were taken out deliberately and shot (in southern Lebanon)." This is of course complete and utter fantasy. Travers came to the job having already made up his mind not to believe anything Israel said and to accept everything Hamas put forward. Not surprisingly, Travers said that he "rejected...entirely" Israel's claim that its "attack on Gaza was based on self-defense."
        Commission member Christine Chinken had already declared Israel guilty of war crimes before seeing any evidence. Commission member Hina Jilani had also condemned Israel before her appointment to the group. (Huffington Post)
  • Observations:

    Blame China for Iran's Nukes - Michael Danby (Wall Street Journal)

    • The Chinese people will tolerate the communists' monopoly of power only so long as their living standards keep rising. The weak link is China's inadequate energy sources. China is short of energy, and its dependence on imports is growing.
    • China can buy all the oil it wants on the international market, but the communist leaders don't want China's prosperity - and their own hold on power - to be dependent on a free market they don't trust. They want control and certainty. They see the way to get these things is through deals with selected oil-exporting countries, preferably ones which are at political odds with Western powers, so that their need for friends and protectors is greater.
    • China now gets 15% of its oil from Iran, and is Iran's second-biggest customer after Japan. China's greed for secure oil imports and its willingness to deal with outlaw regimes to get these imports is causing a breakdown in the world's only system for disciplining countries that endanger peace.

      The writer is a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade of the Australian Parliament.

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