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February 23, 2010

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Guilty Plea in Plot to Bomb New York Subway - A.G. Sulzberger and William K. Rashbaum (New York Times)
    An Afghan immigrant pleaded guilty Monday to terrorism charges in what he said was a Qaeda plot to detonate a bomb in the New York subway.
    Najibullah Zazi admitted that he came to New York last year to kill himself and others on the subway using a homemade bomb.
    He characterized the plot as a "martyrdom operation" that he was just days away from executing when he realized he was under government surveillance.
    Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said: "This attempted attack on our homeland was real, it was in motion and it would have been deadly."
    Zazi told the court he went with friends to Pakistan in August 2008 to join the Taliban in fighting the U.S. in Afghanistan.
    While in Pakistan, he received training in making bombs, and was persuaded by Qaeda operatives to return to America to be a suicide bomber.

Israeli Heritage Plan Draws Palestinian Protests - Ali Sawafta (Reuters-Washington Post)
    Israel's plan to include the biblical Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem in a project for rehabilitating Jewish heritage sites touched off violent Palestinian protests on Monday.
    The Tomb of the Patriarchs, which Muslims call al-Ibrahimi mosque, is sacred as the traditional burial place of biblical figures Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah.
    See also Hebron: The Oldest Jewish Community in the World (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
    Hebron is the site of the oldest Jewish community in the world. The Book of Genesis relates that Abraham purchased the field where the Tomb of the Patriarchs is located as a burial place for his wife Sarah. King David was anointed in Hebron.
    Jews lived in Hebron almost continuously until 1929, when 67 Jews were murdered in an Arab pogrom and the remainder were forced to flee. After the 1967 Six-Day War, the Jewish community of Hebron was re-established.
    See also The Palestinian Authority and the Jewish Holy Sites in the West Bank: Rachel's Tomb as a Test Case - Nadav Shragai (ICA-Jerusalem Center)

Huge Poster in Ankara Depicts Israeli President Bowing to Turkish Prime Minister - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    A huge poster showing Israeli President Peres bowing to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan was unfurled from a crane in an Ankara suburb on Sunday.
    The Turkish press reported that Erdogan's office had the poster taken down before Erdogan appeared at the site to inaugurate a new road network.

Three Men Charged in U.S. with Financing Hizbullah - Curt Anderson (AP-Washington Post)
    Three men were charged in Miami on Friday with illegally exporting electronics to a shopping center in Paraguay owned by Muhammad Yusif Abdallah, described as a senior Hizbullah leader.
    John Morton, Assistant Homeland Security Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the arrests will disrupt a network involved in "the illicit trade of commodities that support terrorist activities."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iran to Build Enrichment Sites Inside Mountains - Ali Akbar Dareini
    Iran said Monday it plans to build two new uranium enrichment facilities deep inside mountains to protect them from attack. Iranian Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi said Tehran intends to use its more advanced centrifuges at the new sites, which will be able to enrich uranium much faster than the old ones. This means Iran could amass more material in a shorter space of time that could be turned into the fissile core of missiles.
        Salehi said the new enrichment sites will be equal to that of Natanz in terms of production capacity but smaller in geographical size. More than 8,600 centrifuges have been set up in Natanz, but only about 3,800 are actively enriching uranium, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The facility will eventually house 54,000 centrifuges. (AP-Washington Post)
        See also U.S.: Iran Plan Is Further Evidence It Rejects Engagement
    The U.S. said Monday that Iran's plan to build two new uranium enrichment plants is "further evidence" it rejects engagement with the international community. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley added that the U.S. and other powers were reviewing Iranian targets for sanctions and Washington would offer specific proposals to the UN in the coming weeks. President Obama's administration has increasingly turned its attention to sanctions after its first-year bid to engage Iran in talks over its nuclear program yielded nothing concrete. U.S. officials say Iran's behavior shows it does not want to cooperate with the world community. (AFP)
  • Gen. Mullen: Iran Concerns Middle Eastern Neighbors - Donna Miles
    Just back from a trip to the Middle East, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Monday cited widespread concern about Iran's nuclear program, but emphasized the importance of diplomatic and economic pressure, rather than military action, to stem it. Mullen cited concern about Iran as an overarching theme during his recent visit to Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. All share the U.S. belief that Iran's nuclear program is headed on a path to achieve weaponization - a pursuit Mullen said further destabilizes the region.
        "Like us, it isn't just a nuclear-capable Iranian military our friends worry about," he said. "It's an Iran with hegemonic ambitions and a desire to dominate its neighbors. This outcome drives many of the national security decisions our partners there are making, and I believe we must be mindful of that as we look to the future, post-Iraq and post-Afghanistan."  (American Forces Press Service-U.S. Defense Department)
  • Sarkozy Backs "Viable" Palestinian State
    At a press conference with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Monday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy backed a "viable" Palestinian state, but stopped short of endorsing Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner's support for early recognition of a Palestinian state. Sarkozy said that Kouchner was thinking of possible ways to bring momentum to the peace process but that France's goal remained a functioning Palestinian state in clearly set borders. (Reuters-France 24)
        See also French Recognition of Palestinian State Will Hurt Peace - Herb Keinon
    A French proposal to recognize a Palestinian state even before any agreement is reached with Israel is likely to stiffen the position of PA leader Mahmoud Abbas and push off direct negotiations between the sides even further, Israeli officials said on Sunday. Senior Israeli government officials said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's position is that diplomatic matters will only move forward through direct negotiations with the Palestinians, and that the Palestinians will be reticent to both enter into negotiations and to make concessions if they believe that the international community will give them what they want regardless of what they do. Anything that strengthens the impression that someone from the outside will "deliver" Israel is counterproductive, one official said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Goldstone Report Back on UN Agenda - Yitzhak Benhorin
    The UN General Assembly is scheduled to convene Friday to vote on a resolution submitted by Western countries to extend for five months the period for Israel and the PA to conduct internal probes of the Gaza operation. The extension period, offered by Arab members, was aimed mainly at keeping the Goldstone Report, which accuses Israel of war crimes, on the agenda. (Ynet News)
  • EU Tones Down Dubai Criticism - Herb Keinon
    Jerusalem dodged a European Union bullet Monday when the EU foreign ministers released a statement condemning the use of EU passports in the killing of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, but refrained from specifically mentioning Israel. The statement was softer than its original draft, with language referring to "extra-judicial killing" deleted. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Archaeologist Finds Jerusalem Wall Matching Biblical Story - Nir Hasson
    A team of Israeli archaeologists has announced the discovery of a massive wall they say dates to the 10th century BCE in Jerusalem's Ophel Park on the slope between the Temple Mount and the village of Silwan. The dig director, Dr. Eilat Mazar, dates the wall according to potshards found nearby to the period of King Solomon and the major period of construction in Jerusalem in the First Temple period, as described in the Bible. The dig is a joint project by the Hebrew University, the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
        Along with the wall, which is 10 meters high and 70 meters long, other structures were found, including a monumental gatehouse and a tower. "This is the first time a structure has been found that could conform to descriptions of King Solomon's construction in Jerusalem," Mazar says. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Tenth Century BCE Jerusalem City Wall Uncovered (Hebrew University of Jerusalem-Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
        See also Photos of the Wall (Hebrew University of Jerusalem-Facebook)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran at History's Fork in the Road - Richard N. Haass
    One future for Iran would be mostly an extension of what already exists, i.e., an Iran run by conservative clerics and an aggressive Revolutionary Guard. The emergence of such a future would present the world with a stark choice: either acquiesce to an Iran that possesses or could quickly assemble a nuclear device, or launch a preventive military attack designed to destroy much of the Iranian nuclear program.
        While a preventive strike would delay Iran's nuclear efforts, it would not stop the regime from rebuilding, and it might also create conditions that cause problems for the regime's domestic opponents. Despite these potential drawbacks, an armed attack on Iran's nuclear facilities will and should remain a distinct possibility given the enormous strategic costs of a nuclear-armed Iran.
        If history is a guide, even strong sanctions may not be enough to persuade Iran's rulers to negotiate constructively and accept meaningful constraints on their nuclear activities. These considerations raise the prospect of trying to bring about an alternative future: an Iran with a political leadership that is more moderate at home and abroad, and that forgoes developing a nuclear weapon or anything close to it. The writer is president of the Council on Foreign Relations. (Korea Times)
  • The Best of the Bad Options on Iran - Leslie H. Gelb
    No one has a magic bullet for the Iran puzzle. What can be done is to work very closely with our Arab friends in the Gulf to strengthen them in the face of increasing Iranian pressure. This would include efforts to bolster the legitimacy of friendly regional governments plus very public upgrades of U.S. capabilities to defend them, as the Obama administration is doing with missile defenses. It also means proceeding with sanctions against the Revolutionary Guard. It entails continuing to try to sabotage Iran's uranium-enrichment and other nuclear programs as well. Finally, it also means preserving present negotiating proposals, but not pushing them. The writer is president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. (Daily Beast)
  • Observations:

    The Case for Gasoline Sanctions on Iran - Reuel Marc Gerecht and Mark Dubowitz (Wall Street Journal)

    • Are gasoline sanctions against Iran a bad idea? The White House worries that without plentiful petrol, Iranians might grow angry and rally around the regime.
    • Sanctions hitting the energy sector could also be viewed by Tehran as outright war. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei could counter in Iraq and Afghanistan. And to make these sanctions effective, Washington might need to coerce our European allies, whose companies have the lion's share of the gasoline import and import-related insurance business. (Without insurance, tankers never leave harbor.)
    • For sanctions to be a game changer, they have to be crushing. And sanctions must complement the only thing that has so far rattled the regime: the pro-democracy Green Movement. Gasoline and insurance sanctions tied to the cause of democracy might - just possibly - work.
    • Iranians who are fed up with theocracy are certainly not going to embrace it if Obama declares gasoline sanctions the midwife of representative government. If sanctions are waged in the name of the Iranian people, we are much more likely to see Western opinion remain solidly behind them.

      Mr. Gerecht, a former CIA officer, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Mr. Dubowitz is executive director of FDD.

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