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April 15, 2010

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U.S. Warns Syria about Hizbullah-Bound Missiles (AP-Washington Post)
    The White House says it has raised concerns with Syria about reports it is providing Hizbullah with Scud missiles that could hit any part of Israel.
    Press secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday the Obama administration has relayed concerns to the highest levels.
    See also Syrian Saber-Rattling Has U.S. Concerned - Andrew Lee Butters (TIME)
    Israeli intelligence officials said that, so far, they only have evidence of Syria training Hizbullah operatives on the use of Scuds, rather than actual deliveries.
    Nevertheless, in the eyes of Israel, Syria's clear preparation to deploy Scuds in Lebanon represents a major escalation, and a sign of Syria's belligerent intensions.

Iran and Allies Arming for War - Michael J. Totten (Commentary)
    Syria is now being credibly accused of shipping Scud missiles with a range of more than 430 miles to Hizbullah, placing Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and the Dimona nuclear power plant inside the kill zone.
    The Iranian-led resistance bloc is becoming better armed and more belligerent by the month, and Syria, Iran, and Hizbullah are hurtling ever closer to the brink.

Hamas Orders Gaza Smuggling Tunnels Shut Temporarily under Egyptian Pressure - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    Hamas on Wednesday ordered Gaza residents to shut smuggling tunnels along the border with Egypt temporarily, tunnel operators said Wednesday.
    Gaza sources said the move was in response to an urgent request from Egyptian security services following warnings of planned terror attacks in the Sinai Peninsula.
    See also Hamas Reopens Smuggling Tunnels - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)

Europeans Spending Millions to Manipulate Israeli Politics - Gerald Steinberg (Jerusalem Post)
    European democracies are spending tens of millions of euros, pounds and krona to manipulate Israeli society and politics.
    This largely hidden European money that funds so-called "civil society" organizations is undermining Jewish sovereignty and our right to determine our own future.
    Under the civil society facade, and using European taxpayer money, such groups lobby intensely to promote the Palestinian narrative, demonize Israelis as war criminals and manipulate public debate.
    With huge resources, these organizations support the blood libels in the Goldstone Report and promote boycotts, divestment and sanctions to hurt Israeli firms. They hire lawyers to bring cases before Israel's Supreme Court and run massive media campaigns.
    We must end the inordinate and secret influence of foreign governments on core Israeli decisions.
    The writer, professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University, heads NGO Monitor.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iran Could Make Bomb Fuel in a Year - David E. Sanger
    Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess Jr., director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee Wednesday that Iran could produce bomb-grade fuel for at least one nuclear weapon within a year, but would most likely need two to five years to manufacture a workable atomic bomb. (New York Times)
  • U.S. Urges Security Council to Impose Arms Embargo on Iran - Colum Lynch
    The U.S. is pressing the UN Security Council to impose a comprehensive arms embargo on Iran, allow foreign states to seize Iranian ships suspected of carrying materials linked to its nuclear program, and curtail Tehran's ability to raise new investment in the country's energy sector, according to UN-based diplomats. The draft resolution has been crafted to target senior officers in Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps and a network of Iranian companies and financial institutions the Guard controls. (Washington Post)
        See also Turkey Opposes UN Sanctions on Iran - Mary Beth Sheridan (Washington Post)
  • Congress Asks for Sanctions Against Iran - Janie Lorber
    A bipartisan group of 363 House lawmakers sent a letter to President Obama on Wednesday urging him to impose "crippling" sanctions on Iran with or without UN action. The letter asks Obama to fulfill his campaign pledge to do everything in his "power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."
        It also urged Obama to sign and act on a bill passed overwhelmingly by Congress that would limit the federal government's ability to do business with companies that contribute to Iran's development of petroleum resources. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) plan to send Obama a similar letter with the signatures of three-quarters of the Senate. (New York Times)
        See also Text of Congressional Letter (Politico)
  • Ahmadinejad Threatens U.S. over Mideast Peace Plans - Richard Spencer
    Iranian President Ahmadinejad Tuesday drew a direct link between pressure on Iran's nuclear program and its support for "resistance" - a codeword for Islamic militant groups such as Hizbullah and Hamas, and anti-American Shia forces in Iraq. "They (the U.S.) have security problems in the world and their influence in Iraq and Afghanistan is vanishing," he said. "They see that waves of hope, justice-seeking and resistance are rising all over the world inspired by Iran. They want to dominate the world, but Iran doesn't let them."  (Telegraph-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Barak: Israel Won't Be Pressured into Signing Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty - Amos Harel
    Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Wednesday: "There is no room to pressure Israel to join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel has never threatened to annihilate other nations and peoples, while today Iran, and also Syria, Libya and Iraq in the past, all of whom signed this treaty, have systematically violated its stipulations while explicitly threatening Israel's existence." Israel has a policy of "nuclear ambiguity," refusing to confirm or deny possessing atomic weapons. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas Executes Two Gazans for "Collaborating with Israel" - Ali Waked
    The Hamas government in Gaza on Thursday executed Muhammad Ismail and Nasr Abu Frayej by firing squad, saying they had collaborated with Israel during Israel's Gaza operation. Eight additional Gazans have been sentenced to death on the same charges. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • It Is the Palestinians, Not Israel, Who Refuse to Negotiate - Ronald S. Lauder
    Ronald S. Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress, wrote to President Obama on Thursday: "Why does the thrust of this administration's Middle East rhetoric seem to blame Israel for the lack of movement on peace talks? After all, it is the Palestinians, not Israel, who refuse to negotiate.
        Israel has made unprecedented concessions. It has enacted the most far-reaching West Bank settlement moratorium in Israeli history. Israel has publicly declared support for a two-state solution. Conversely, many Palestinians continue their refusal to even acknowledge Israel's right to exist.
        The conflict's root cause has always been the Palestinian refusal to accept Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. Every American president who has tried to broker a peace agreement has collided with that Palestinian intransigence, sooner or later. Recall President Clinton's anguish when his peace proposals were bluntly rejected by the Palestinians in 2000. Settlements were not the key issue then. They are not the key issue now."  (World Jewish Congress)
  • Obama Phrase Highlights Shift on Middle East - Mark Landler and Helene Cooper
    When President Obama declared Tuesday that resolving the long-running Middle East dispute was a "vital national security interest of the United States," he was highlighting a change that has resulted from a lengthy debate among his top officials over how best to balance support for Israel against other American interests.
        Several officials point out that Obama has now seized control of Middle East policy himself, giving Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu a list of demands. "The president is re-evaluating the tactics his administration is employing toward Israel and the entire Middle East," said Robert Wexler, a former Democratic congressman who leads the Center for Middle East Peace. "I don't think that anybody believes American lives are endangered or materially affected by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," said Wexler, who has close ties to administration officials. "That's an oversimplification. However, you'd have to have blinders on not to recognize that there are issues in one arena that affect other arenas."  (New York Times)
  • "Constructive Engagement" Has Given Iran Time to Develop Nuclear Weapons - Alejo Vidal-Quadras
    As world leaders met in Washington this week to discuss how to prevent nuclear terrorism, there was little doubt that time is running out to deal with Iran's nuclear weapons threat. It is now eight years since the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran blew the lid on the mullahs' secret atom program and disclosed the existence of a uranium enrichment plant in Natanz and a heavy water plant for the production of plutonium in Arak. Yet, during all that time, Tehran has been allowed to make steady progress toward developing nuclear weapons.
        Regrettably, the EU's policy of "constructive engagement" was one of the main culprits in facilitating Iran's nuclear progress. Now Washington has bought the regime additional time. The Iranian regime knows now that the international community lacks the courage or conviction to confront its nuclear program. Biting sanctions could have and still could work. Engaging the mullahs only had the effect of legitimizing them and extending their brutal reign. The writer, a professor of nuclear physics, is vice president of the European Parliament. (Wall Street Journal Europe)
  • Observations:

    U.S. Acts as Though It Seeks Regime Change in Israel - Aaron David Miller (Los Angeles Times)

    • Regime change generally is a term and tactic reserved for America's enemies. The administration's repeated calls for a settlements freeze - which neither Prime Minister Netanyahu nor his coalition can accept - raises the question of whether Washington is interested in bringing about a new and more pliable Israeli government.
    • It wouldn't be the first time America meddled in Israeli politics. On at least two occasions I know well, the U.S. not only rooted for preferred candidates (always on the Labor side) but actively took steps to shape Israeli politics, and even electoral outcomes. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush and Secretary of State James A. Baker III purposely denied Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir housing loan guarantees because of his settlement policies - a move that directly contributed to his defeat by Yitzhak Rabin, who got those same guarantees a year later.
    • In a more direct intervention, President Clinton, in an effort to shore up then-Prime Minister Shimon Peres, orchestrated a summit of Middle East peacemakers at Sharm el Sheik and a high-profile visit to Israel in March 1996. Peres, however, lost the election to Netanyahu in a squeaker.
    • Yet it's not at all clear that a new government or Israeli leader would fix anything. Big gaps over core issues, such as Jerusalem, stand in the way of meaningful negotiations and peace with the Palestinians. Fundamental divisions between Hamas and Fatah on the Palestinian side, and a regional situation framed by Hizbullah, Hamas, and Iran, doesn't create an auspicious environment for big decisions.
    • The Obama administration needs a strategy: Work with, not against, the current Israeli government and the Palestinians, and see how far you can get. Then if you reach an impasse or an agreement, let the natural ebb and flow of Israeli politics (and for that matter Palestinian politics) take its course. That would be better than where the administration seems to be headed: a no-win fight over settlements, the threat of pushing its own peace plan - or worse: too-clever-by-half meddling in Israeli politics.

      The writer, a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, has advised both Democratic and Republican secretaries of state on Arab-Israeli negotiations.

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