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March 2, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Report: Hamas Says Jordan or Egypt Behind Dubai Hit (Reuters-Ha'aretz)
    The Al-Quds Al-Araby daily reported on Tuesday that Mahmoud Nasser, a member of Hamas' political bureau, suspects the security forces of an Arab state were behind the assassination of senior commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai in January.
    He said Mabhouh was likely being tracked by agents from Jordan and Egypt prior to the killing.

Once Seemingly Impregnable, Hamas Shows Signs of Vulnerability - Janine Zacharia (Washington Post)
    Struggling to maintain its strength in the West Bank amid a crackdown by Israel and Palestinian police, Hamas has been reeling from the assassination of one of its leaders, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.
    Hamas sustained another blow with news that Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of one of its founders, had been spying on it for Israel.
    The Israel Security Agency's high-level penetration of Hamas is a "catastrophe for Hamas," said Mkhaimar Abusada, a political science professor at Al Azhar University in Gaza.
    Retired Brig.-Gen. Shalom Harari, a former army intelligence officer and adviser on Palestinian affairs in Israel's Defense Ministry, said Yousef's spying and Mabhouh's killing make Hamas appear vulnerable.

Israel Begins Distributing Gas Masks (AP-Washington Post)
    Israel has begun distributing new gas masks to its 7 million citizens to offer protection against a possible chemical attack from Syria or Iran.

How Nuclear Equipment Reached Iran - Peter Enav and Debby Wu (AP)
    Iran is finding its way around international sanctions meant to prevent it from getting equipment that can be used to make a nuclear bomb.
    At least half a dozen times in recent years, Iran has tried to use third countries as transshipment points for obtaining controlled, nuclear-related equipment, reflecting the uneven enforcement of international sanctions against Iran at a time when the U.S. and other Western countries are pushing hard to expand sanctions.

Hamas Extends British Reporter's Detention (BBC News)
    Hamas has said it is extending the detention of British journalist Paul Martin, who was arrested on Feb. 14 in Gaza as he prepared to testify in the defense of a militant accused of collaborating with Israel.
    Hamas claims Martin "committed offenses that harmed the security of the country," but has not made public its accusations.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • IAEA Chief: Iran Is Not Cooperating - James Blitz
    Yukiya Amano, the new head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, accused Iran of failing to cooperate with his inspectors Sunday. Amano told the board of governors that the IAEA "cannot confirm that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities because Iran has not provided the agency with the necessary cooperation." Western diplomats have praised the IAEA's probe into "possible military dimensions" of Iran's nuclear program. An IAEA report issued on Feb. 18 referred specifically to "the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile."  (Financial Times-UK)
        See also Iran: UN Nuclear Chief Biased (AFP)
  • Clinton: Iran Sanctions Measure May Be Months Away - Lachlan Carmichael
    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday it could take months for new UN sanctions against Iran, appearing to back away from her contention before the Senate last week that a new resolution could be obtained in the "next 30 to 60 days." "We are moving expeditiously and thoroughly in the Security Council. I can't give you an exact date, but I would assume sometime in the next several months," she said before landing in Buenos Aires. (AFP)
  • U.S. Steps Up Diplomatic Pressure on Russia over Iran Sanctions - Adrian Blomfield and Andrew Osborn
    Amid fears that Moscow remains intent on weakening a planned Security Council resolution punishing Tehran for its nuclear program, Western diplomats are seeking to convince Russia to support much more robust measures. In recent weeks, Moscow's patience with Iran appears to have evaporated and Russian officials have grudgingly talked of their support for some kind of sanctions. Vladimir Chizhov, Russia's envoy to the EU, conceded that dialogue with Iran was no longer working. "This prompts Moscow to think about options for sanctions." Western officials are confident they can win Russia over, as diplomats have made a number of discreet missions to Moscow. (Telegraph-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu: Israel Will Never Cede Jordan Valley - Jonathan Lis
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that Israel would never agree to withdraw from the Jordan Valley under any peace agreement signed with the Palestinians. Netanyahu told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the Jordan Valley's strategic importance along the eastern border of the West Bank made it impossible for Israel to withdraw, according to a meeting participant. (Ha'aretz)
  • Fayyad Is Inciting Anti-Israel Violence in West Bank - Yaakov Katz and Tovah Lazaroff
    Palestinian Authority officials headed by Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad are inciting anti-Israel violence in the West Bank, Israeli defense officials charged on Sunday. Senior PA officials, and specifically Fayyad, are encouraging Palestinian youth to partake in anti-Israel demonstrations on Fridays near security fence construction in Ni'lin and Bi'lin as well as in Hebron. "Fayyad is actively encouraging Palestinians to use popular resistance against Israel," one official said. Israel believes Fayyad wants to continue cooperating with Israel on economic issues, but at the same time has made a strategic decision to retain the right to use violence against Israel.
        There is concern within the IDF that the PA security forces could turn their weapons against settlers and IDF soldiers in the West Bank. Recent incidents include the stabbing of a soldier at the Tapuah Junction by a PA policeman as well as the involvement of PA security officers in the shooting of Rabbi Meir Chai last year. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also PA Escalating Tensions with Israel - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The Palestinian Authority is once again trying to divert attention from its problems at home by escalating tensions with Israel. To distract attention from charges of financial corruption and embarrassing sexual scandals, the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank has stepped up its anti-Israel rhetoric. Allegations of "ethnic cleansing," "destruction and desecration of Islamic religious sites," and "apartheid" are directed every day toward Israel by Abbas and his top officials, often backed up by threats to launch a "third intifada" or to resume suicide bombings against Israel. (Hudson Institute New York)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israel Has Its Faults, But Apartheid Isn't One of Them - Richard Cohen
    Google "Israel and apartheid" and you will see that the two are linked in cyberspace. Yet the Israel of today and the South Africa of yesterday have almost nothing in common. Israeli Arabs, about one-fifth of the country, have the same civil and political rights as do Israeli Jews. Arabs sit in the Knesset. Whatever this is - and it looks suspiciously like a liberal democracy - it cannot be apartheid. The West Bank is a different matter, but it is not part of Israel proper, and under every conceivable peace plan almost all of it will become a Palestinian state.
        Yet Israel's critics continue to hurl the apartheid epithet when they ought to know that it is a calumny. Interestingly, they do not use it for Saudi Arabia, which maintains as perfect a system of gender apartheid as can be imagined, or elsewhere in the Arab world, where Palestinians sometimes have fewer rights than they do in Israel. (Washington Post)
  • Incremental Sanctions Make a Nuclear Iran More Likely - Michael Singh
    The instinct of policymakers in Europe and Washington is often to act incrementally; stronger sanctions are proposed, only to be diluted in UN negotiations aimed at unanimity. This incremental approach is counterproductive. The sanctions' predictability and long lead time allows Tehran to prepare for them in advance.
        The West should eschew any gradual buildup of pressure for bolder, less predictable, and faster-acting measures. It is possible that a bolder approach to sanctions will induce the Iranian regime to preemptively change its strategy. The writer, a fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, is a former senior director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council. (Foreign Policy)
  • Iran's New World Order - Jamsheed K. Choksy
    Ahmad Khatami, a mentor to Iranian President Ahmadinejad, recently said publicly that the U.S. has to "regard Iran as a great power in the political sphere." The statement offers an important clue about the Iranian regime's mind set and ultimate goal. Its nuclear program, support for terrorism and stirring of anti-American sentiments are aimed at vaulting Iran to a position of global prominence. Iran regards acquiring a nuclear-weapon capability as a crucial step to achieving international stature.
        To craft this new order, Iranian officials are testing the limits of U.S. power and influence, seeking to show that both are limited to hollow words and ineffective deeds. Another way is by the support Tehran is extending to Hamas and Hizbullah; this is to thwart the U.S. and Israel and thereby become a player in the Middle Eastern peace process. The regime is also building strong diplomatic, economic and military ties with countries in Latin America to extend its influence to a region considered U.S. dominion since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823. The writer is a professor of Iranian, Islamic and international studies and a former director of the Middle Eastern studies program at Indiana University, Bloomington. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Observations:

    Muslims Won't Play Together - Efraim Karsh (New York Times)

    • The Islamic Solidarity Games, the Olympics of the Muslim world, which were to be held in Iran in April, have been called off by the Arab states because Tehran inscribed "Persian Gulf" on the tournament's official logo and medals. This small but telling controversy puts the lie to the idea of the Islamic world as a bloc united by religious values that are hostile to the West.
    • Although the Prophet Muhammad took great pains to underscore the equality of all believers regardless of ethnicity, categorically forbidding any fighting among the believers, his precepts have been constantly and blatantly violated.
    • It took a mere 24 years after the Prophet's death for the head of the universal Islamic community, the caliph Uthman, to be murdered by political rivals. This opened the floodgates to incessant infighting within the House of Islam, which has never ceased. Likewise, there has been no overarching Islamic solidarity transcending the multitude of parochial loyalties - to one's clan, tribe, village, family or nation. Thus, for example, Arabs consider themselves superior to all other Muslims.
    • The idea that bringing peace between Israelis and Palestinians will bring about a flowering of cooperation in the region and take away one of al-Qaeda's primary gripes against the West totally misreads history and present-day politics. Muslim states threaten Israel's existence not so much out of concern for the Palestinians, but rather as part of a holy war to prevent the loss of a part of the House of Islam.
    • There is no way for the Obama administration to resolve the 100-year war between Arabs and Jews unless all sides are convinced that peace is in each of their best interests. Any agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is far less important than a regional agreement in which every Islamic nation can make peace with the idea of Jewish statehood in the House of Islam.

      The writer is head of Middle East and Mediterranean studies at King's College London.

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