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May 3, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Report Details U.S. Threat to Israel on UN - Ben Smith (Politico)
    The New York Times reported Friday that U.S. envoy George "Mitchell's deputy, David Hale, indicated to the Palestinians that if Israel proceeded with the construction of 1,600 housing units in Jerusalem's ultra-orthodox neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, the United States would abstain from, rather than veto, a resolution in the United Nations Security Council condemning the move."
    The U.S. posture seems to be that they'd abstain from a resolution attacking a specific Israeli move, but continue to veto broader censure of Israel. That would still be a major shift.
    The traditional U.S. posture isn't that the U.S. vetoes anti-Israel resolutions because they're specifically incorrect, but on the grounds that the UN is broadly unfair and overly focused on Israel.
    See also U.S. Pledge Helped Bring Abbas Back to Talks - Charles Levinson (Wall Street Journal)
    The White House brought Palestinians back on board for derailed Mideast peace talks with a pledge that the U.S. would consider allowing a UN Security Council resolution - if one should arise - condemning Israel for building in disputed territory, according to officials briefed on the diplomacy.
    Withholding a veto from a UN resolution critical of Israel would be a significant reversal of decades of U.S. policy of largely unwavering support for Israel in the body.
    The U.S. has vetoed more than 40 UN resolutions critical of Israel since 1972 - at least three of them explicit condemnations of Israeli construction activity in East Jerusalem.

Israel Develops Device to See Through Walls (Israel Defense Forces)
    The Israeli company Camero has developed a device that will greatly help soldiers and law enforcement officials.
    The sensor device, about the size of a laptop computer, uses electromagnetic pulses and enables security forces to know where people are located in a room in real time before having to enter it.
    Six months ago a girl was kidnapped in a foreign country by kidnappers who demanded ransom. The local police utilized the device to see where the abductors were located.
    While three kidnappers were in another room of the house, one of them was keeping guard on the girl in the same room. When he left to go to the bathroom, the police broke in and saved the girl.

Jewish U.S. Navy Pilot's Last Act: Saving 3 Crew Mates - Jim Woods (Columbus Dispatch)
    The turbo-prop aircraft loaded with radar equipment had blown an engine over the northern Arabian Sea after returning from a mission in Afghanistan.
    The U.S. Navy pilot, Lt. Miroslav "Steven" Zilberman, 31, ordered his three crew mates, including the co-pilot, to bail out while he manually held the plane as steady as possible so they could jump.
    Zilberman went down with the aircraft on March 31. His last act earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross.
    "His three crewmen are alive today because of his actions," Navy Rear Adm. Philip S. Davidson wrote to Zilberman's parents, Jewish emigrants from the Soviet Union who settled in Columbus, Ohio, in 1991.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Arab Nations Back Indirect Peace Talks with Israel - Hadeel al-Shalchi
    Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Cairo, Egypt, on Saturday endorsed indirect peace talks between the Palestinians and Israelis. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas had been waiting for approval from Arab countries, which would provide him the political cover he needs to return to talks. Arab League chief Amr Moussa stressed that the league would be keeping a close eye on the talks, and said there will be no transition from indirect to direct negotiations. Syria and Lebanon rejected the decision, saying the U.S. had not provided adequate safeguards needed to renew negotiations. (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Israel's Prime Minister Welcomes Progress toward Peace Talks - Aron Heller
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday welcomed Arab nations' endorsement of indirect, U.S.-brokered peace talks with the Palestinians, saying he is ready to restart negotiations "at any time and at any place" while insisting they begin "without preconditions." Officials said they expect the talks to begin on Wednesday, and one Israeli official said the dialogue would include preliminary discussions on "core issues."  (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Hamas Blasts Arab Support for Indirect Peace Talks (DPA-Ha'aretz)
  • Clinton: Iran Violating Key Nuclear Treaty
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday that Iran is in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. Clinton said that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's trip to a UN conference in New York this week, where they will both speak on Monday, is an effort to divert attention and confuse people about Iran's violation of the treaty. (AP)
        See also below Observations: Iran's Advances in Nuclear Technology Spark New Concerns - Joby Warrick (Washington Post)
        See also Ahmadinejad Blasts U.S. Before Visit
    Just days before his planned trip to New York, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he has proof the U.S. and Israel are linked to the world's leading terrorist organizations, according to state-run media. "We have documents that prove (Washington) is the root of world terrorism," Ahmadinejad said in a speech in Tehran. (CNN)
        See also Jewish Groups Call to Boycott Ahmadinejad in New York
    Jewish groups are calling on UN member representatives to walk out in protest when Iran's president speaks on Monday at the UN. "We call on all countries, particularly those that value democracy and freedom, to leave the United Nations hall when Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, rises to speak," the president and executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said in a statement. "Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability poses a threat to the region and the entire Western world. To have President Ahmadinejad address this review conference makes a mockery of the efforts of many countries to prevent nuclear weapons and nuclear terrorism from becoming the gravest global threats of this century."  (JTA)
  • U.S. Is Pushing to Deter a Mideast Nuclear Race - William J. Broad and David E. Sanger
    The opening Monday of a month-long UN conference to strengthen the main treaty meant to halt the spread of nuclear arms is likely to be dominated by Iran's president denouncing the West and Secretary of State Clinton warning that if Tehran gets the bomb, the rest of the Middle East will soon follow. But far less visibly, the Obama administration has been mounting a country-by-country campaign to go beyond the treaty and ensure that Iran's push toward atomic mastery does not ignite a regional nuclear arms race. The administration is trying to entice Middle Eastern states out of enriching uranium for reactor fuel and later scavenging spent fuel for plutonium, a step known as reprocessing. Every country in the region except Lebanon is planning to build nuclear reactors or has declared an interest in doing so. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Palestinian Prime Minister: No Declaration of Palestinian State - Ali Waked
    Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said Sunday that a Palestinian state will not be declared by August 2011, though "as far as government institutions are concerned, we will be prepared" for it. (Ynet News)
  • Kuwait: "Cell Spying for Iran Dismantled"
    Security services in Kuwait have dismantled a "spy cell" which collected information on Kuwaiti and U.S. targets on behalf of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, the daily Al Qabas said Saturday. A senior security services official said at least seven people, including some working for the Departments of Defense and Interior, had been arrested, while six or seven others were actively sought. (Ennahar-Algeria)
        See also Kuwait MPs Want Iran Envoy Expelled over "Spy Cell"
    Several Kuwaiti MPs on Sunday blasted neighboring Iran over an espionage cell allegedly busted by the emirate's security forces, calling on the government to expel Tehran's ambassador. Al-Qabas said that two Lebanese residents of Kuwait played an important role in the cell, with one financing it. The other Lebanese passed information from the cell to a Revolutionary Guard liaison officer who met cell members in the Iranian cities of Mashhad and Isfahan. (AFP)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran Is Going Nuclear While Israel Gets a Bashing - Yossi Melman
    Just as Iran enters a decisive phase in its progress towards building a nuclear weapon, a bizarre reversal has put Israel's nuclear program at the top of the agenda as the UN begins a review of its global non-proliferation regime in New York on Monday. The West, led by the U.S., hopes to rein in proliferation by stiffening the IAEA's powers of inspection. They have in mind the dangerous precedent set by Iraq, Syria and Libya - all signatories to the non-proliferation treaty, yet all of whom ran clandestine nuclear programs under the noses of international inspectors.
        But the Egyptians plan to use the conference to call on Israel to sign the NPT, open its reactor at Dimona to international inspectors and join regional talks to declare the Middle East a "nuclear-free zone" - talks that would also involve Iran. Israel says it has no problem with the idea of a "nuclear-free" Middle East, provided the declaration comes as part of wider package of peace deals and security agreements to rid the region of weapons of mass destruction in all forms, including chemical and biological agents and the missiles that would deliver them. (Ha'aretz)
  • Get Ready for a Nuclear Iran - John Bolton
    Negotiations grind on toward a fourth UN Security Council sanctions resolution against Iran's nuclear weapons program. Sanctions advocates acknowledge that the Security Council's ultimate product will do no more than marginally impede Iran's progress. The further pursuit of sanctions is tantamount to doing nothing. Advocating such policies only benefits Iran by providing it cover for continued progress toward its nuclear objective. It creates the comforting illusion of "doing something." Just as "diplomacy" previously afforded Iran the time and legitimacy it needed, sanctions talk now does the same.
        Facile analogies to Cold War deterrence rest on the dubious, unproven belief that Iran's nuclear calculus will approximate the Soviet Union's. Iran's theocratic regime and the high value placed on life in the hereafter makes this an exceedingly dangerous assumption. Even if containment and deterrence might be more successful against Iran than just suggested, nuclear proliferation doesn't stop with Tehran. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and perhaps others will surely seek, and very swiftly, their own nuclear weapons in response. Thus, we would imminently face a multipolar nuclear Middle East waiting only for someone to launch first or transfer weapons to terrorists. Ironically, such an attack might well involve Israel only as an innocent bystander, at least initially. The writer, a former U.S. ambassador to the UN, is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Why Are Iran and Syria Still Members in Good Standing at the NPT Conference? - Ephraim Asculai
    Two major events have shaken the non-proliferation regime since the previous Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference in 2005: the confirmation of Iran's military nuclear ambitions and the destruction of Syria's reactor at Al-Kibar two years ago. Syria's refusal to allow the IAEA to inspect additional sites suspected of being connected to a nuclear project only aggravates the suspicions that Syria was developing nuclear weapons. Yet Iran and Syria will take their place at the NPT meeting as if nothing happened, considering themselves to be members of the NPT in good standing. Why should they be permitted to go on with the sham of proper NPT membership? Why should they not be relegated to a suspended, or at least observer, status at the review conference? The writer is a senior research associate at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Iran's Advances in Nuclear Technology Spark New Concerns - Joby Warrick (Washington Post)

    • Iran is poised to make a significant leap in its ability to enrich uranium, with more sophisticated centrifuge technology that is being assembled in secret to advance the country's nuclear efforts, according to U.S. and European intelligence officials and diplomats. Iran's apparent gains in centrifuge technology have heightened concerns that the government is working clandestinely on a uranium-enrichment plant capable of producing more nuclear fuel at a much faster pace, the officials said.
    • UN nuclear monitors have not been allowed to examine the new centrifuge, which Iranian officials briefly put on display at a news conference last month. But an expert group's analysis of the machine - based on photos - suggests that it could be up to five times as productive as the balky centrifuges Iran currently uses to enrich uranium.
    • The uranium-enrichment plant near Qom has been all but idle in recent months. "They seem to have lost interest in Qom since its discovery," said a Europe-based diplomat. "It makes us wonder if they're thinking about a new site." The sharp drop-off in activity at Qom prompted questions about the whereabouts of scores of highly-trained scientists and workers seen there six months ago.
    • When asked during a CBS interview about new facilities, Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's nuclear energy chief, said: "We probably will start another site this year," adding that Iran does not intend to notify the UN nuclear agency about the new construction until the facility is nearly ready for operation. President Ahmadinejad has boasted that Iran would soon build 10 enrichment facilities.

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