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July 14, 2010

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Iran Groups Pose Threat to U.S. Troops in Iraq - Ben Lando (Wall Street Journal)
    Iranian-supported militias targeting American bases now pose a more serious threat to U.S. forces than al-Qaeda as they seek to exert influence over Iraq's uncertain political make-up, the top U.S. general in Iraq said Tuesday.
    Army Gen. Ray Odierno also said the U.S. troop drawdown is on schedule.
    The Iranian-backed groups continue to pose a threat to U.S. troops, Gen. Odierno said.

Iranian Nuclear Scientist Heads Homeward in Anger - Greg Miller and Thomas Erdbrink (Washington Post)
    An Iranian nuclear scientist who had disappeared in Saudi Arabia last summer stepped out of a cab in front of Iran's diplomatic mission in Washington on Monday, asking for a ticket back to his homeland.
    Shahram Amiri told officials that he had been abducted by U.S. intelligence operatives and had spent much of the past year in Tucson being questioned about Iran's nuclear ambitions.
    U.S. officials insisted that he defected voluntarily and provided valuable intelligence about Iran's nuclear program before increased worries over the safety of his family in Iran prompted him to seek a return.

Satirizing for Israel - Michael Isaacs (Jerusalem Post)
    No Laughing Matter creates satirical videos on topics close to Israel's heart. We believe you have more chance of people listening to your argument if you entertain them at the same time.
    If you interview a fictional figure representing an organization or government, and have them be brazenly honest, what they say can be very telling as well as very funny.
    See also Video: The One About Hamas (No Laughing Matter)

Saudi Arabia's House of Cards - Ilan Berman (Forbes)
    Saudi Arabia is living on borrowed time. Since the oil boom of the 1970s, per capita income in Saudi Arabia has constricted precipitously, falling from $28,000 in the early 1980s to below $7,000 in 2001.
    In other words, average Saudis have experienced a devastating reversal of economic fortune, even as the royal cohort that rules over them has become more numerous, indulgent and bloated. Glaring disparities continue to persist, perpetuating a seething, impoverished underclass.

3,350-Year-Old Text Fragment Found in Jerusalem (Bloomberg-Boston Globe)
    A tiny clay fragment dating from the 14th century BCE discovered outside Jerusalem's Old City walls contains the oldest written document found in Jerusalem.
    The 3,350-year-old clay fragment was uncovered beneath a 10th-century BCE tower dating from the period of King Solomon, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem said Monday.
    The find, believed to be part of a tablet from a royal archive, testifies to the importance of Jerusalem as a major city in the Late Bronze Age.

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  • Gazans Locked in Despair and Plagued by Disunity - Michael Slackman and Ethan Bronner
    As if the Palestinian people did not have enough trouble, they have not one government but two, the Fatah-dominated one in the West Bank city of Ramallah and the Hamas one in Gaza. The antagonism between them offers a depth of rivalry and rage that shows no sign of abating. In Gaza City, a stage was set up for a rally protesting the electricity shortage and speakers shook nearby windows with the anthems of Hamas. Boys in military camouflage goose-stepped.
        Young men carried posters of a man with vampire teeth biting into a bloodied baby. The vampire was not Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister. It was Salam Fayyad, prime minister of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. "We stand today in this furious night to express our intense anger toward this damned policy by the illegitimate so-called Fayyad government," Ismail Radwan, a Hamas official, shouted.
        There is a paradox at work in Gaza: while Hamas has no competition for power, it also has a surprisingly small following. Dozens of interviews with all sorts of people found few willing to praise their government or that of its competitor. "They're both liars," Waleed Hassouna, a baker in Gaza City, said in a very common comment. Ask Gazans how to solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the answer is mostly a reflexive call to drive Israel out. Yet while most here view Israel as the enemy, they want trade ties and to work there. (New York Times)
  • Top Muslim Scholar Calls for Jihad
    Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradhawi, head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, has called for jihad in order to return Palestine to the Palestinians: "The right of the Muslims to Palestine and [other lands] will be [realized] only by force. We can only realize our rights through resistance." Al-Qaradhawi stressed that he himself was praying to Allah to "help him fight the Zionists and cause loss of life among them." He also condemned the Arab and Muslim leaders who avoid fighting Israel and cling instead to the peace process. (MEMRI)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • U.S., EU Opposition to Libyan Ship Headed for Gaza Backs Israeli Policy - Yaakov Katz and Herb Keinon
    Calls by the U.S. and the EU to the captain of a Libyan ship headed for Gaza to accept Israel's diversion requests legitimizes Israel's policy, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told Israel Radio on Wednesday. The determination that Israel demonstrated towards the previous aid ship, the Mavi Marmara, also contributed to effective policy, he noted. The captain of the Libyan ship told the Israel Navy that he planned to sail it to El-Arish in Egypt. Ayalon said that Israel and Egypt share a common interest in preventing the arming of Hamas in Gaza. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also U.S. Calls on Gaza Aid Ship to Avoid Confrontation with Israel
    State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said Tuesday: "We are conscious of the fact that there is a Libyan aid ship en route to Gaza as we speak, and that we, along with our partners in the Quartet, urge all those wishing to deliver goods to do so through established channels so that their cargo can be inspected by the Government of Israel and transferred via land crossings into Gaza. We have urged the Libyan Government to avoid unnecessary confrontations. We call on all parties to act responsibly in meeting the needs of the people of Gaza."  (U.S. State Department)
  • IDF Mulls Entry to West Bank Cities by Jewish Israelis - Yaakov Katz
    The IDF has told the Palestinian Authority it is willing to consider a request to permit Jewish Israelis to visit a number of West Bank cities as part of an effort to strengthen the Palestinian economy. On Monday, Head of IDF Central Command Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrahi visited Jenin as a guest of the PA's local security commander. Mizrahi was accompanied by a Palestinian security detail, while Palestinian policemen deployed along the main roads.
        During his meetings, Mizrahi was asked to allow Jewish Israelis to enter Jenin, once the West Bank's "terror capital," which sent at least 28 suicide bombers to Israel in 2000-2003. Israeli Arabs are already allowed into West Bank cities on weekends, and every Friday hundreds of Israeli cars cross over to shop in Palestinian markets. Jericho and Bethlehem are also under consideration for entry by Jewish Israelis. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Tough Road Ahead in Middle East - Mike Singh
    Even if the president achieves his stated goal of commencing direct Israeli-Palestinian talks by the end of September, the parties will be no closer to an actual agreement than they were three years ago, when the Annapolis Conference kicked off the last round of negotiations. The primary barrier to progress will not be the issues themselves, but rather the zero-sum mindset that pervades their relationship. After decades of hostility, each party sees any gain by the other as a loss for itself.
        To overcome the zero-sum mindset, Washington must begin the process with a focus on "win-win" issues, the foremost among them being Palestinian economic development and institution-building. Finally, Washington must use its unique position and capabilities to clear away potential distractions and obstacles to progress. It should counter potential spoilers such as Iran by interdicting Iranian shipments to Hizbullah and Hamas.
        While the U.S. administration may be called upon occasionally to prod the parties or provide them with bridging proposals, the majority of its energies should be expended on working with or against the ancillary players in the region and beyond who can help or hinder progress. The writer is a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and former senior director for the Middle East on the National Security Council during the George W. Bush Administration. (The Hill)
  • Hizbullah Finds New Anti-Israel Cause in Natural Gas Discovery - Gal Luft
    The discovery of a gigantic natural-gas reservoir less than 100 miles off Israel's coast could be the pretext for the next Middle East war. Only days after Israel announced its gas discovery, Hizbullah claimed that the deposit extends into Lebanese waters and that it would not allow Israel to "loot" Lebanese gas resources. As the eastern Mediterranean becomes home to drilling rigs, pipelines and other infrastructure related to Israel's gas operation, Hizbullah could find multiple soft targets to attack. Because an American gas drilling company, Noble Energy, owns 40% of the gas venture, American citizens operating the rigs could be in harm's way.
        To minimize the risk of future resource war in the Mediterranean, the U.S. should help Israel establish the legal basis for its activities within its economic waters while highlighting the frivolousness of Lebanon's claims. A broad international consensus on Israel's right to drill for oil and gas in its waters would deny Hizbullah any legitimate ground to provoke conflict at sea. The writer is executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security. (Washington Times)
        See also Hizbullah-Israel War Up to Iran - Benny Avni (New York Post)
  • Petraeus Doctrine Links Islam and Extremists - Rowan Scarborough
    John O. Brennan, President Obama's chief national security adviser for counterterrorism, delivered a major policy address on defining the enemy in which he laid out the White House policy of detaching any reference to Islam when referring to terrorists. However, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus led the production of an extensive counterinsurgency manual in December 2006 that tells commanders of a link between Islam and extremists. The Petraeus doctrine refers to "Islamic insurgents," "Islamic extremists" and "Islamic subversives," while detailing ties between Muslim support groups and terrorists. (Washington Times)
  • Observations:

    The Danger of a Nuclear, Genocidal and Rights-Violating Iran - Tovah Lazaroff (Jerusalem Post)

    • At a Jerusalem press conference Tuesday, former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler released a 200-page report called "The Danger of a Nuclear, Genocidal and Rights-Violating Iran," on behalf of the Canadian-based "Responsibility to Prevent Coalition." The report has been endorsed by 100 scholars, jurists, parliamentarians, human rights activists and former world leaders.
    • According to the report, Iran executed 26 juvenile offenders from 2005 to mid-2008, which accounted for 80% of all juvenile executions in the world. The Stop Child Executions NGO said there are 140 minors on death row in Iran.
    • Cotler called for the use of international and domestic law, as well as sanctions, to redress the massive human rights violations in Iran. He suggested limiting foreign visits by Iranian leaders, raising human rights issues in every bilateral meeting with Iran, freezing assets of Iranian officials, supporting organizations that document human rights abuses in Iran, and ensuring that Iranian officials involved in acts of torture and terror are not immune to civil law suits.
    • According to the report, there is a "critical mass of precursors to genocide in Ahmadinejad's Iran, constituting thereby not only the prelude to a preventable tragedy, but a crime in and of itself under international law. Simply put, Iran has already committed a crime of incitement to genocide."
    • Separately, Bassam Eid, chairman of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring group, spoke of Iran's link to terrorist activity in Gaza and areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority. Iran, he said, was a danger to the region and to the security of the Palestinian people.

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