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July 15, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Operation Sabotage: Our Secret War Against Iran - Eli Lake (New Republic)
    New York Times reporter David Sanger's book The Inheritance, published at the end of the Bush administration, discusses sabotage efforts targeting Iran.
    David Kay, who led the UN weapons inspection team in Iraq, says he is positive that such sabotage is taking place. "The Israelis have been doing this for years and so have the British."
    Michael Adler, an expert on Iran's nuclear program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, said: "There is an active and imaginative sabotage program from several Western nations as well as Israel involving booby-trapping equipment which the Iranians are procuring, tricking black-market smugglers, cyber-operations, and recruiting scientists."
    Three current U.S. government officials confirmed that sabotage operations have been a key part of American plans to slow down the Iranian program - and that they are continuing under Obama.
    According to a former Mossad operations officer, in 1998, the Mossad and the CIA developed a plan to sell a supposedly helpful chemical substance - which would, in fact, gum up centrifuges over time - to Iran on the black market.
    According to David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, high-quality vacuum pumps crucial for uranium enrichment - that were produced in Germany and sold to the Iranians and Libyans - were first modified in the U.S. "to make them break down under operational conditions."
    "If you can break the vacuum in a centrifuge cascade, you can destroy hundreds of centrifuges or thousands if you are really lucky."
    In the end, however, as Israel Defense Forces Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Uzi Dayan noted: "This approach can delay the program and slow it down....But it cannot prevent Iran from achieving their goal."

Iranian Unrest Grows Over Economic Woes - Barbara Slavin (Asia Times-Hong Kong)
    Recent economic unrest in Iran includes the first prolonged strike in the Tehran bazaar and protests by industrial workers who have gone unpaid for months.
    Unemployment is officially 14% overall but close to 30% for young people, said Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, a professor of economics at Virginia Tech.
    A major test is likely to come when the government phases out subsidies of consumer staples, now due to be implemented in September.

Anti-Israel Protesters Delay El Al Flight in Athens - Zohar Blumenkrantz (Ha'aretz)
    An Israel-bound flight was delayed for about two hours at Athens International Airport Wednesday after protesters against the blockade of Gaza blocked check-in counters, airport officials said.

Record Number of Tourists in Israel - Ron Friedman (Jerusalem Post)
    1.6 million people visited Israel between January and July, according to figures released by the Tourism Ministry on Monday - an increase of 39% over the same period in 2009, and 10% more than in 2008, the country's previous record year.
    259,000 tourists visited in June, an increase of 24% over June 2009 and 8% over 2008.

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  • Prospects for Talks on Mideast Peace Deal - Isabel Kershner
    Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama expressed hopes of an imminent resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and of achieving a peace deal. However, Palestinian officials and analysts suggest that the current proximity talks have merely accentuated the deep and abiding differences between the sides.
        Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, recently raised a new bar for the start of direct talks. Alongside the longstanding demand for a complete freeze in settlement building, including in East Jerusalem, Erekat said talks should start from the point at which the last direct negotiations with the previous Israeli government left off in December 2008. He also said that Netanyahu should state his readiness to recognize a Palestinian state based on the 1967 lines.
        The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs recently published a study seeking to identify Israel's minimum security requirements, especially in light of the thousands of rockets that landed in its territory after its withdrawals from Gaza and Lebanon. Moshe Yaalon, a former army chief of staff and now a vice prime minister, described the study as a "corrective" to the notion that peace requires Israel to withdraw to the "perilous" 1967 lines, denying Israel strategic depth against rocket and other attacks. Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center and a former foreign policy adviser to Netanyahu, said the new approach was not about percentage points of land swaps. "Let's start with security and then put in diplomacy," Gold said.
        Yaalon and other authors invoked the principles of the Allon Plan, an Israeli proposal from the late 1960s that envisioned Israel's maintaining control of the Jordan Valley, on the eastern border with Jordan, and other strategically significant chunks of the West Bank. (New York Times)
  • Palestinians Want International Mediator in Talks with Israel
    Direct talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis would make no sense without the participation of the international community, Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki said Wednesday. "We, the Palestinians, we do need a third party presence," he said, "not only to sit and to watch us, but to intervene."  (AFP)
  • Times Square Bomber Video: "The Muslim War Has Just Begun" - Chris Dolmetsch
    Faisal Shahzad, who pleaded guilty last month to trying to explode a car bomb in New York's Times Square, says in a video that he planned the attack as revenge for the U.S. war in Afghanistan, Al-Arabiya television reported. Dressed in traditional tribal clothes and holding an assault rifle, Shahzad praises Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder of al-Qaeda in Iraq. "You shall see how the Muslim war has just begun and how Islam will spread across the world," Shahzad said. (Bloomberg-Washington Post)
  • U.S. Paid Iranian Nuclear Scientist $5 Million - Greg Miller and Thomas Erdbrink
    Shahram Amiri, the Iranian nuclear scientist who claimed to have been abducted by the CIA before departing for Iran Wednesday, was paid more than $5 million by the agency to provide intelligence on Iran's nuclear program, U.S. officials said. The transfer of millions of dollars into Amiri-controlled accounts seems to bolster U.S. assertions that Amiri was neither abducted nor brought to the U.S. against his will. One U.S. official said, "He just wanted to see his family and, unfortunately, he chose a dumb way to do it, lying about what happened to him here to try to build up his credibility back home."  (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Libyan Aid Ship Diverts Course from Gaza, Enters Egyptian Port - Anshel Pfeffer, Jack Khoury and Avi Issacharoff
    A Libyan aid ship headed for Gaza changed course Wednesday and docked at Egypt's El Arish port after Israel warned it not to run the Gaza blockade. Its cargo will be trucked into Gaza via the Rafah crossing. (Ha'aretz)
  • Missile Interception Test Successful - Yaakov Katz
    Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system successfully intercepted a number of missile barrages in tests this week. The test rockets mimicked Kassam and longer-range Grad Katyusha rockets that are known to be in Hamas' arsenal. During the test, the radar succeeded in detecting which rockets were headed toward open fields and therefore did not launch an interceptor to destroy them. (Jerusalem Post)
  • PA, Protest Leaders Hushed Up Attempted Rape of U.S. Activist - Avi Issacharoff
    The Palestinian protest movement has its darker side. One of the more prominent activists in Umm Salamuna - a village south of Bethlehem, long entrenched in a battle against the West Bank separation fence - is suspected of the attempted rape of a Muslim-American peace activist who had been residing in the village as a show of her support for the protest.
        Omar Aladdin was arrested three months ago, then released after agreeing to apologize to the woman. However, Ha'aretz learned that representatives of both the protest movement and the PA have since pressured the American peace activist to prevent her from going public with the story. Activists know of other incidents in which Palestinians have allegedly sexually assaulted foreign peace activists. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Abbas Says One Thing to the Palestinians, Another to Obama - Elliott Abrams
    "I say in front of you, Mr. President, that we have nothing to do with incitement against Israel, and we're not doing that," claimed PA President Mahmoud Abbas during his visit to the White House in June. It is unfortunate for the prospects of Middle East peace that this denial by Abbas was just plain untrue. In fact, proclaiming peaceful intentions to the international community while inciting their population to hatred of Israel is one of the primary impediments to any sort of solution.
        There are countless examples of pronouncements or actions by Abbas and other Palestinian leaders that suggest a glorification of violence and terrorism and undermine the belief that they seek peace. Abbas should handle incitement by stopping it, not by denying that incitement occurs in the first place. If he cannot do so, the chances for real peace are slim.
        The character of a Palestinian state, and of Palestinian society, is more important than final borders in achieving and maintaining peace. Is terrorism defended and glorified by the top officials? Are terrorists who murder children branded as heroes? Is war with Israel a tactic that must be set aside only for pragmatic reasons as a short-term strategy? The Palestinian leadership never seems to pay any penalty for its words. The writer is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. (New York Daily News)
  • Exposing Iran's Secret Enablers - Mark D. Wallace
    For decades, publicly traded multinational companies have been able to conduct business in Iran with impunity, shielded from public scrutiny. It is time for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to require all companies that avail themselves of the U.S. capital markets to fully disclose any and all business they conduct in or with Iran. Shining a light on such dealings is the first step to ensuring that money doesn't go to advance Iran's nuclear program.
        U.S. law now requires that publicly traded companies disclose all "material" information related to foreign investments in their shareholder reports and in other SEC filings. But many companies have been less than forthcoming about their business dealings with Iran. New regulations should require SEC registrants and their subsidiaries to come clean and report any and all commercial dealings in Iran and to report any Iranian assets they might hold. The writer, president of United Against Nuclear Iran, served as U.S. ambassador to the UN, representative for UN Management and Reform, from 2006 to 2008. (New York Post)
  • Observations:

    UN Moves Forward to Implement Goldstone Report - Anne Bayefsky (Weekly Standard)

    • Among the multitude of attacks on Israel that the UN has sponsored, last year's Goldstone report on the 2009 Gaza war stands out for its dangerous distortions of fact and law. Now the UN Human Rights Council has sponsored a second team of investigators to press forward with the report's implementation.
    • This second rendition of Goldstone was crafted by a March 2010 resolution of the Human Rights Council. That resolution first declares that Israel - and only Israel - committed "unlawful acts" in the Gaza war. And then it establishes a committee of experts to monitor and assess all judicial and other proceedings taken by Israel.
    • The members of the new committee were appointed on June 14 by the UN high commissioner for human rights, South African Navi Pillay. One of Pillay's two legal advisers, and chief of her office's "rule of law" branch, is Palestinian Mona Rishmawi, former executive director of the Palestinian NGO al-Haq and until 2000 a prominent director of a unit of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).
    • All three of the new committee members are affiliated with the ICJ, which has been closely connected with the Human Rights Council's campaign to vilify Israel over the Gaza war, and in particular, the Goldstone report. The ICJ claimed Israel had violated international law during the conflict.
    • The mandate establishing the committee demands the assessment of the "independence" and "effectiveness" of Israeli proceedings and their conformity with international standards. In its statements the IJC claims that the prosecution and punishment of Israeli "civilian leaders and military commanders" for Goldstone's list of crimes is "essential" to conform to those standards.
    • The committee's work will be coordinated by South African lawyer Ahmed Motala. On January 5, 2009, in the middle of the Gaza war, Motala wrote on a South African website: "The war in Gaza and the killing of innocent Palestinians is not about Hamas, but entirely about the forthcoming elections in Israel....What better way to gain the support of the Israeli electorate than to...kill innocent civilians."
    • The only way to respond is to challenge the legal bona fides of the Goldstone report and its progeny and expose the venality of the political agenda inseparable from them. The case must begin by refusing to lend any credence to this latest mutation of the UN virus.

          The writer is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust.

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