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June 18, 2010

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The Birth of a Bomb: A History of Iran's Nuclear Ambitions - Erich Follath and Holger Stark (Der Spiegel-Germany)
    In February 2008, the Finnish nuclear scientist Olli Heinonen, deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), confronted 35 diplomats in Vienna with new information about Tehran's nuclear program.
    For two hours, Heinonen projected images, diagrams and copies of manuscripts.
    "Project 5" described Iran's uranium mining program and how it processed the material into uranium hexafluoride, an intermediate product in the process of producing nuclear fuel.
    "Project 110" depicted the testing of highly explosive nuclear materials. "Project 111" illustrated attempts to build a warhead for Iran's Shahab-3 missile.

British Government Warns Against Flotilla Participation - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    The British Foreign Office has issued a travel advisory recommending that its citizens not take part in flotillas trying to break the Gaza blockade, something Israel is lobbying other countries to do as well.
    An Israeli Foreign Ministry official said that statements such as these were significant because they hint that those who insist on taking part in the flotillas should not later come to their home governments looking for support.

Satirical Video: Iran, Turkey, Syria - The Three Terrors - Sing "Jihad Is Sweet, Jihad Is Fun" (Latma TV)
    A new video by the makers of "We Con the World"

New Anti-Semitism Is on the Rise - Stephen Hume (Vancouver Sun-Canada)
    Statistics Canada reports that hate crimes directed at Jews were up 42%. Anti-Israel rhetoric appears to grant permission to growing numbers to express anti-Semitic sentiments.
    Although Jews represent only about 1% of Canada's population, they were victims of more than 66% of religion-motivated hate crimes in 2008.

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San Francisco Supervisors Put Resolution Condemning Israel on Hold - Stacey Palevsky (San Francisco Jweekly)
    After four-and-a-half hours of impassioned two-minute speeches on June 15, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors didn't vote on a resolution condemning Israel for its "military attack" on a Gaza-bound flotilla.
    To pass, the nonbinding resolution needs a unanimous vote of 11 supervisors. So once Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who is Jewish, expressed his opposition and called for the resolution to be sent to committee, the vote was off - perhaps for good.
    "This is a success for the Jewish community, for those who turned out to stand against the resolution and for the supervisors, who recognize that...Middle East peace is not going to get solved in the halls of the San Francisco government," said Abby Porth, associate director of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council.
    In any event, Mayor Gavin Newsom told the San Francisco Chronicle this week that if the resolution ever reaches his desk, he won't sign it.

With Gaza Market Gone, West Bank Palestinians Export to Europe - Tom Perry (Reuters)
    Israel's blockade of Gaza has forced Jericho businessman Mazen Sinokrot to diversify. Today he exports cherry tomatoes grown in the Jordan Valley to Europe.
    The idea is to exploit the Jordan Valley's unique, sub-sea level climate to grow and export crops when seasons are ended elsewhere in the world.
    Jewish settlers who have moved to the area since Israel captured the West Bank in 1967 have built lucrative agribusinesses, exporting everything from top quality dates to herbs.

Israeli Tourists Head to Bulgaria Following Ankara-Jerusalem Rupture - Gabriel Hershman (Sofia Echo-Bulgaria)
    In the wake of deteriorating relations between Jerusalem and Ankara, "about 400 000 Israelis, who visit Turkey each year, will be redirected to Bulgaria as an alternative tourist destination," said Isaac Herzog, the Israeli welfare and social services minister, who was also a former minister for tourism.
    See also U.S. Jews, Though Reeling, Look to Preserve Turkish Ties - Ron Kampeas (JTA)

Israel Economy Grows 3.6% in First Quarter on Exports - Calev Ben-David (BusinessWeek)
    Israel's rebound from the global financial crisis has been powered by exports, which make up almost 50% of gross domestic product.
    The recovery began in the second quarter of last year, when the economy expanded 1.4%. Growth picked up in the third quarter to 3.9%. Exports for the first quarter increased by 7.4%.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Gates: U.S. and Europe "Must Be Prepared for Iranian Missile Attack by 2020" - Michael Evans
    The U.S. and Europe need to be protected by 2020 from a potential attack from Iran that could involve "scores or even hundreds of missiles," U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned Thursday as he defended a U.S. plan to deploy a new, advanced shipborne anti-missile system called SM3 Block 2B. (Times-UK)
        See also Europe Could Face Hundreds of Iranian Missiles
    "One of the elements of the intelligence that contributed to the decision on the phased adaptive array (approach) was the realization that if Iran were actually to launch a missile attack on Europe, it wouldn't be just one or two missiles, or a handful," Defense Secretary Gates said at a congressional hearing. "It would more likely be a salvo kind of attack."  (Reuters)
  • EU Follows U.S. to Tighten Iran Sanctions - Joshua Chaffin, Alex Barker and Stanley Pignal
    European leaders gave the green light Thursday to wide-ranging sanctions on Iran, bolstering the U.S-led effort to raise pressure on Tehran's nuclear program in the wake of UN action last week. The EU sanctions, backed in principle at a Brussels summit, are perhaps the most sweeping measures by Europe to date. They will target Iran's financial sector, including freezes on Iranian banks and restrictions on insurers, and the oil and gas industry, where they would prohibit new investment or technical assistance for refineries and liquid natural gas facilities. They specifically mention the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line and its subsidiaries, and call for visa bans and asset freezes on members of the Revolutionary Guard. (Financial Times-UK)
        See also Russia Criticizes New U.S., EU Sanctions Against Iran - Vladimir Isachenkov
    The Russian Foreign Ministry on Thursday sharply criticized new U.S. and EU sanctions against Iran, saying the sanctions - in addition to ones recently imposed by the UN - demonstrate the West's dismissal of Russia's opinion, and amounted to the U.S. and the EU "putting themselves above the UN Security Council." "Once we take significant effort and reach an understanding...on a set of carefully tuned sanctions on Iran, the U.S. and the EU don't stop at that and show their disregard to partnership with Russia," the ministry said. (Canadian Press)
  • Times Square Bomber Paid by Pakistani Taliban - Greg Miller
    Faisal Shahzad, the suspect in the attempted bombing of Times Square, received $12,000 from the Pakistani Taliban to carry out the plot, according to a federal indictment released Thursday. Shahzad received training in Pakistani Waziristan in December from "explosive trainers affiliated with Tehrik-e-Taliban." Three U.S. residents suspected of helping funnel money to Shahzad have been arrested. (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Explains Decision to Ease Gaza Land Blockade
    Israeli government spokesmen Thursday said the process of relaxing restrictions on Gaza had started months ago. The security cabinet reiterated that the naval blockade of Gaza would remain. According to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the intention is to allow more goods into Gaza, but always only after an Israeli search of the cargo to ensure that it does not include "weapons, ammunition or materiel that can aid in fighting."
        An official in the Prime Minister's Office said there was strong international support for Israel's position on keeping arms from reaching Gaza, even though there was a great deal of international criticism over barring civilian goods. The hope was that by removing the "distraction" over the civilian goods, Israel would strengthen international legitimacy for the naval blockade and security procedures needed to keep weapons and ammunition out of Gaza. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also White House Calls Israel's Decision to Ease Gaza Blockade a "Step in the Right Direction" (AP-Washington Post)
        See also UN, Quartet Welcome Blockade Decision - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Official: Eased Gaza Blockade Means Less Pressure on Hamas - Yaakov Katz
    The government's decision to ease the blockade on Gaza will make it difficult for Israel to use its leverage over Hamas to free kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, cease terrorist activity and hold reconciliation talks with Fatah, Israeli defense officials said Thursday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Real Change Is Up to the People of Gaza - Frida Ghitis
    There is something missing in the burst of international pressure on Israel to lift its blockade of Gaza. Sure, it makes sense to ease the plight of Palestinians, but the most important element of the problem is that Gaza is currently governed by Hamas, an entity that has made the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews its officially enshrined goal. We never hear that it is completely within Hamas' power to bring an end to the crisis.
        Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, prepared to work with the Palestinian Authority there to build the economy. Instead, Hamas rockets started flying. When Hamas won elections in 2006, the world stood ready to help Hamas govern, if it agreed to minimal standards of civilized behavior. The conditions were that it accept Israel's right to exist, give up terrorism and abide by agreements approved by other legitimate Palestinian representatives. Hamas refused. A truly normal life for Gazans is not up to Israel or Egypt. It's up to Hamas and the people of Gaza. (Miami Herald)
  • Why Do the Peace Activists Ignore the Violence of Hamas? - Lindy McDowell
    Gaza, where the flotilla boats were headed, is under the control of the terrorist grouping Hamas which has been responsible for pounding Israeli towns (and Israeli civilians) with increasingly sophisticated missiles for years. It was to protect Israeli families from Hamas suicide bombers that Israel began erecting its security fence in 2002.
        In 2005 Israel (in the interests of peace) moved out of Gaza. The thanks it got were even more rockets (often supplied by Iran) raining down on its civilian population courtesy of Hamas, which charmingly declares itself dedicated to wiping the Israeli people off the face of the earth. Israel, understandably, has insisted on monitoring what materials go into Gaza and, thus, what (potentially lethal) materials Hamas could have access to. All of us in the West live in countries which maintain a similar right to ensure the safety of their own civilian populations. Most countries have reasons why they would not be confident to leave this role up to the international community. Israel has at least six million extra reasons. (Belfast Telegraph-UK)
  • Hamas: A Terrorist Thug Group, Through and Through - Anath Hartmann
    "I do not think that Hamas is a terrorist organization," Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan told a June 4 rally. In fact, Hamas has perpetrated bombings and other violence that have killed hundreds of people inside Israel and wounded more than 1,300. Hamas' charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, saying Israel "will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors" and vowing to "raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine."
        But Hamas tyranny is not limited to Jews. Hamas has long had a practice of lynching, maiming and executing Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel or the rival Palestinian political party Fatah. After winning the 2006 Gaza elections on a platform of change and an end to corruption, Hamas forcibly took control of the Strip and blew up Fatah headquarters. The U.S., Canada, Israel, Japan and EU all classify Hamas as a terrorist entity. (Washington Times)
  • Hamas Is to Blame for Gaza Tragedy - Eamon Delaney
    In a Guardian interview, published on the very day of the flotilla-storming, Hamas leader Khaled Meshal almost jauntily looked forward to the next round of "fighting with Israel." Meanwhile, Hamas continues to be funded by the Syrians and Iranians, anxious to stoke bloodshed, but suitably far away enough not to suffer the consequences. The reality is that Hamas should be blamed for bringing ruin and destruction to the people of Gaza. Hamas now enforces an authoritarian regime and has imposed a repressive Islamic culture. Hamas has cancelled elections and forcibly and bloodily evicted its rivals in the Fatah movement. (Irish Independent)

    The Flotilla

  • Where Are the Protests? - Barry Cohen
    On May 18 last year the long, bitter war between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan government came to an end. After tens of thousands of deaths over decades, it is believed, 40,000 Tamils died during the final few days. On January 17 this year, in Nigeria, about 300 Muslims were slaughtered by Christians. In March 500 Christians were slaughtered by Muslims. On March 26, North Korea torpedoed a South Korean ship, killing 46. On May 28, in Lahore, Pakistan, 95 members of the Ahmedi Islamic sect were killed in an attack on a mosque. A few days later six "police" machine-gunned the survivors, killing 12. Then there were the hundreds massacred after last year's Iranian elections and the 400,000 killed in Darfur in recent years. Did anyone notice?
        Which brings us to Gaza, and the flotilla of "peace activists." What was uncharacteristic was for the Israelis to believe that they were dealing with followers of Gandhi. If not, why had they chosen as their weapon of choice paintball guns? The miracle is that no Israelis were killed. The writer was a minister in the Hawke government. (The Australian)
  • A Flotilla of Demonization - Dvir Abramovich
    The speed and intensity by which the world recklessly rushed to blame Israel, and only Israel over the flotilla incident, and the scale and venom of the reaction, has left me speechless. I don't know how to depict a world that clamors to indict Israel while exonerating its enemies, that uses double standards in promoting false and baseless accusations, and that has forgotten history so as to use the language of the Holocaust to portray Israelis as the epitome of evil. I don't know what to make of a world that is silent when Israelis die in homicidal bombings or rocket attacks. But beyond the actual incident, the blistering demonization, and delegitimization of Israel, and the viciousness of such vilification by the media, and international governments who should know better, is mind-blowing.
        How many journalists have explained that both Israel and Egypt have imposed a naval blockade of Gaza, and that Israel did so to prevent the re-arming of the Iranian-backed Hamas? How many journalists have written about Gaza being used as a base for the launching of thousands of rockets into Israeli towns in a murderous and relentless war of attrition? How many journalists have alerted readers to the brutal Hamas regime in Gaza that violently puts down any political opponents and is slowly imposing fundamentalist Islamic law? (Sydney Morning Herald-Australia)
  • Gaza Activists Were Pawns in a Much Bigger Turkish Power Game - Stephen King
    For a generation to whom Vietnam and South Africa are either faint memories or battles only read about in history books, Palestine is the most perfect cause. For rebels looking for a cause, Israel makes a classic enemy. Being a Jewish state makes it racist, right? Aren't its most vociferous supporters in the U.S.? What more is there to know? Only the Holocaust prevents even respectable opinion in Ireland from labeling Israel a fascist state. And it helps that Gaza seems so much more winnable than the Tibetan fight for autonomy.
        These individuals who joined 400 Turkish Islamists on a voyage to break the Israeli blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza came, they said, on a genuine, if misguided, attempt to relieve Gaza's suffering. But for the Turkish activists who drove the mission, the flotilla was all part of a much bigger game - a premeditated provocation by a gang of wannabe martyrs bent on violent confrontation and on realigning Turkey away from the West. The impression that Israel/Palestine is the root of all the Middle East's problems is as misguided as it is pervasive. The conflict with Israel merely serves as an effective cover for the region's collective failure to build stable, just and prosperous societies. (Irish Examiner)

    Other Issues

  • Al-Sharq Al-Awsat: If the Turks Are Taking Charge of the Region, We Have a List of Things for Them to Do
    Tareq Alhomayed, editor of the daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), wrote on June 13 that if, in fact, Turkey was taking charge of the region's affairs, the Arabs had a list of urgent requests for the "returning sultan." Some of these requests, he said, were to resolve the Palestinian issue and the Arab-Israeli conflict; to spread secularism in Middle East, since the U.S. had failed to spread democracy; and to convince Iran to stop interfering with the countries of the region. He added, "I hope Turkey can teach Hamas what democracy is, and what regular changes of government are, and solves the problems in Lebanon." Alhomayed also expressed his hope that Turkey and Iran would stop attacking the Kurds in Iraq, saying, "the Kurds are also our flesh and blood, like the people of Gaza." Alhomayed concluded: "If Turkey fulfills half of these requests, we will proclaim it Sultan for another 500 years. The question is, what has Turkey done for us in the past 500 years?"  (MEMRI)
  • Iran Can't Hide Its Shame - Trudy Rubin
    Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is using the Gaza flotilla episode to distract attention from the anniversary of his rigged reelection - and from a fourth round of UN sanctions to rein in Tehran's nuclear program. But the Iranian leader's denunciations of the flotilla raid can't erase images of scores of dead Iranian civilians mowed down as they peacefully protested election fraud after the June 12, 2009, ballot. Those images have been preserved for posterity on YouTube.
        None is more iconic than that of Neda Agha-Soltan, the beautiful young music student whose death from a militiaman's bullet was captured in a cell-phone video clip that went viral. Ahmadinejad blusters that the Gaza events bring Israel "closer to disintegration.'' But Neda's tale reveals a Tehran regime that retains power through force and repression. This week, the UN Human Rights Council is due to adopt a final report on Iran, which denies it has committed any violations. The film clips of Neda lay bare the lie. (Miami Herald)
  • UN Condemns Israel First, Investigates Later - Rex Murphy
    I don't suppose the world needs to remember Rwanda to note how sluggish in the face of imminent horror the UN is and can be. But on one subject, and toward one state, the UN acquires a strange and uniquely transformative power. Bring Israel under its gaze and the diplomatic sloths at UN headquarters morph into the swiftest of gazelles. Quite amazing, really. When the so-called "freedom flotilla" roared into the headlines, the UN reacted at the diplomatic equivalent of the speed of light. The Security Council issued its "condemnation," and in a wonderful reversal of cause and effect also called for an investigation into what it had "condemned."
        When Israel is in the dock, protest rage goes epidemic. When Israel acts in its self-defense, the response is extravagantly "disproportionate." I truly do not know why this is so. Israel is a sanctuary state established after one almost successful attempt just two generations ago to rid all the world of Jews. And Israel is now in the shadow of a fundamentalist, ferociously anti-Israel theocracy which is about to equip itself with nuclear weapons. Yet somehow Israel is the rogue, the barbarian nation, the only state on earth that can energize the lethargic diplomats in the great tower of hypocrisy on the Hudson River. (National Post-Canada)

    Weekend Features

  • The Myth of "Never Again" - Kofi A. Annan
    Many countries in Europe and North America now require all high-school pupils to learn about the Holocaust. Why? Because of its historical importance, of course, but also because educators and policy-makers believe Holocaust education is a vital mechanism for teaching students to value democracy and human rights, and encouraging them to oppose racism and promote tolerance in their own societies. That was certainly my assumption in 2005 when, as UN secretary general, I urged the General Assembly to pass a resolution on Holocaust Remembrance, which included a call for "measures to mobilize civil society for Holocaust remembrance and education, in order to help to prevent future acts of genocide."
        The Holocaust remains unique in its combination of sophisticated technical and organizational means with the most ruthlessly vicious of ends, but instances of genocide and large-scale brutality have continued to multiply. A conference on "The Global Prevention of Genocide: Learning from the Holocaust" will be held this month at the Salzburg Global Seminar, in Austria, in cooperation with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. (New York Times)
  • Freedom for Soviet Jewry Began Forty Years Ago - Gal Beckerman
    Forty years ago this month, Yosef Mendelevich, a young Soviet Jew, camped with a group of friends outside the Smolny airport near Leningrad. The next morning, they planned to commandeer a 12-seat airplane, fly it to Sweden and, once there, declare their purpose: to move to Israel, a dream they had long been denied. Mendelevich felt sure they would get caught, but to his mind, a group suicide was preferable to a life of waiting for an exit visa that would never arrive. Even a botched attempt, he figured, would at least attract the eyes of the world. The next day, as the plotters walked onto the tarmac, they were caught. The KGB had known of their plan for months, and the two leaders were sentenced to death.
        But the planned hijacking, and the Soviet government's overreaction to it, opened the first significant rip in the Iron Curtain, one through which hundreds of thousands would eventually flee. The essential weakness of the Soviet Union was exposed: to survive, the regime had to imprison its own population. (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    Iran Cannot Be Contained - Bret Stephens (Commentary)

    • Quietly within the foreign-policy machinery of the Obama administration - and quite openly in foreign-policy circles outside it - the idea is taking root that a nuclear Iran is probably inevitable and that the U.S. must begin to shift its attention from forestalling the outcome to preparing for its aftermath with a policy of long-term containment and deterrence.
    • Many of containment's current advocates are former supporters of engagement with Iran. Having invested their hopes in President Obama's "outstretched hand," they now understand that Iran's hostility to the U.S. was not merely a reaction to the policies of the Bush administration but rather is fundamental to the regime's identity. The Islamic republic, it turns out, really means what it says when it chants "Death to America."
    • The Marxist-Leninist regimes of the Cold War era were never great believers in the virtues of martyrdom. That is not the case with Shiism, which has been decisively shaped by a cult of suffering and martyrdom dating to the seventh century. During its war with Iraq, Iran sent waves of child soldiers, some as young as 10, to clear out Iraqi minefields. Tens of thousands of children died this way.
    • To suggest that there is some universal standard of "pragmatism" or "rationality" where Iran and the rest of the world can find common ground is a basic intellectual error. The Iranian regime has stood out since its earliest days for its willingness to pick fights with powerful enemies, to undertake terrorist strikes at great range, to court international opprobrium and moral outrage, to test international diplomatic patience, and to raise the stakes every time the world seemed ready to come to terms. The Iranian regime has consistently been willing to take apparently reckless risks for the sake of its objectives - and would most likely take many more such risks if it had a nuclear arsenal at its disposal.
    • A nuclear Iran would be unlike any nuclear power the world has known. It would be dangerous and unpredictable in moments of strength as well as in those of weakness. While it could well be that the regime would not consider using its arsenal if it believed it could get its way through other means, the calculus could change if it felt threatened from within. Indeed, the closer the regime got to its deathbed, the more tempted it would be to bring its enemies along with it.

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