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July 28, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

The Death Spiral of the Islamic Republic - Michael Ledeen (Pajamas Media)
    There is still no end to the bazaar strike in Iran. The major natural gas pipeline between Iran and Turkey was sabotaged. There was a serious fire at the old petrochemical plant on Kharg Island, the central point from which Iranian crude oil is exported. The electrical grid in and around Tehran has crashed many times in recent weeks.
    There have been repeated purges in the ranks of the Revolutionary Guards, and the supreme commander, Gen. Jafari, publicly stated that many senior officers had actively sided with the opposition, another signpost along the death spiral of the Islamic Republic.
    See also The Seditious Ahmadinejad? - Meir Javedanfar (Diplomat)
    These days the most visible opponents to the status quo in Iran are the ultra-conservatives, who are now taking on Ahmadinejad.
    "In Iran, a new movement is appearing which wants to say that it's more revolutionary than the Supreme Leader," wrote Mehdi Mohammadi, the political editor of the ultra-conservative Keyhan newspaper on July 22.
    This is a far cry from the loyal support offered by Keyhan during Ahmadinejad's first and second elections as president. The fighting within the regime is growing increasingly intense.

Israel Trains German Pilots to Fly Drones in Afghanistan - David Byrd (VOA News)
    German pilots that are part of NATO operations in Afghanistan are in Israel for training on special reconnaissance drones, learning to protect ground troops and convoys.
    The Germans ordered a small fleet of Heron drones from Israel Aerospace Industries to operate in the rugged Afghan terrain, where it has 4,300 troops.

U.S.-Saudi $30 Billion Sale to Include 84 F-15 Fighters - Gopal Ratnam and Tony Capaccio (Bloomberg)
    A proposed U.S. arms sale to Saudi Arabia will include 84 new Boeing F-15 fighter jets and may be valued at $30 billion, according to a government official.
    The deal also calls for selling 72 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and refurbishing 70 Saudi F-15s.
    The sale might also include littoral combat ships, missile-defense systems, and satellite-guided bomb kits.

Israel: Pollution Level at Jordan River Baptism Site Acceptable (AFP)
    Israel on Tuesday insisted that bacteriological tests at a site on the Jordan River reputed to be the spot where Jesus was baptized is "fit for baptism," rejecting a claim water pollution has reached dangerous levels.

Report: Al-Qaeda Cell Developing Biological Weapons Killed by Plague (Telegraph-UK)
    40 terrorists were reported killed by the plague at a training camp in Algeria earlier this month. Experts believe the group was developing biological weapons.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iran Fuel Imports Nosedive as Sanctions Bite - Amena Bakr and Luke Pachymuthu
    Only three cargos of gasoline have reached Iran so far in July, supplied by Turkey and China, as new sanctions divert ships carrying fuel. Another cargo is expected to arrive from Venezuela. Traditionally during the summer driving season, Iran needs 11-13 cargos a month, a Dubai-based trader said. "Many ships are being diverted, so Iran is only getting a fraction of its actual summer demand," said a trader. (Reuters)
  • WikiLeaks Reports Bolster Suspicion of Iranian Ties to Extremists - Siobhan Gorman and Jay Solomon
    Cooperation among Iran, al-Qaeda and other Sunni extremist groups is more extensive than previously known, according to details buried in the WikiLeaks military intelligence documents released Sunday. The documents detail Iran's ties to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and the facilitating role Tehran may have played in providing arms from sources as varied as North Korea and Algeria. The documents give new evidence of direct contacts between Iranian officials and the Taliban's and al-Qaeda's senior leadership. (Wall Street Journal)
  • British Prime Minister Cameron Calls Gaza a "Prison Camp"
    British Prime Minister David Cameron called Gaza a "prison camp" on Tuesday in the Turkish capital of Ankara, which he was visiting to forge a new relationship with Turkey. Cameron also called the May 31 Israeli commando raid against the Gaza flotilla "completely unacceptable."
        Ron Prosor, Israel's ambassador to Britain, responded: "The people of Gaza are the prisoners of the terrorist organization Hamas. The situation in Gaza is the direct result of Hamas' rule and priorities." "We know that the prime minister would also share our grave concerns about our own prisoner in the Gaza Strip, Gilad Shalit, who has been held hostage there for over four years, without receiving a single Red Cross visit," Prosor said. (CNN)
        See also below Observations: Reaction to British Prime Minister Cameron's Criticism of Israel
  • Ex-Congressman Pleads Guilty in Islamic American Relief Agency Lobbying Case - R. Jeffrey Smith
    Former congressman Mark D. Siljander (R-Mich.) pleaded guilty Wednesday to serving as an unregistered agent in Washington for an Islamic charity that the federal government said had ties to international terrorism. Siljander confirmed that he contacted members of Congress in an effort to lift restrictions on the charity and then lied about his work in statements to investigators. The Islamic American Relief Agency was raided and shuttered by the government in 2004. Siljander was paid $75,000 from funds stolen by the charity from a U.S. Agency for International Development grant intended to finance work in Mali. (Washington Post)
        See also Former Congressman Pleads Guilty to Obstructing Justice, Acting as Unregistered Foreign Agent (FBI)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel, Jordan Leaders Discuss Mideast Peace Talks - Roee Nahmias
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday met with Jordan's King Abdullah in Amman for two hours to discuss ways to move the peace process forward. Government spokesman Nir Hefetz said, "The two leaders discussed the need to hold direct, effective and serious negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on all issues, in order to reach a stable, safe and durable peace settlement of two states for two people."  (Ynet News)
        See also Syria Opposes Direct Talks between Israel, Palestinians - Roee Nahmias
    Syria, Lebanon, Algeria, Qatar, and Sudan are opposed to moving to direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Syrian sources told the al-Watan newspaper. (Ynet News)
        See also Hamas Warns Abbas to Reject Direct Peace Talks with Israel (AFP)
  • Report: Helicopter in Romania Flew into a Cloud before Crashing
    Israel's Channel 2 TV reported Tuesday that the two IDF helicopters flew into a cloud. The captain of the first helicopter told IDF investigators that he directed the second to distance itself in order to avoid a collision. Subsequently, the second helicopter flew into a mountain. The cockpit of the helicopter has a warning system meant to prevent crashing into mountains. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel Mourns Israeli Airmen in Romania Crash (Ha'aretz)
  • Why the Israel Air Force Was Training in Romania - Ron Ben-Yishai
    The Air Force has been sending its helicopter squadrons since the 1980s to deploy and train in distant states. Up until a year ago, most of these training sessions took part in Turkey. The mountainous terrain in the country is very similar to regions in which the Air Force is supposed to operate. (Ynet News)
        See also Disaster Shines Light on Romania Ties - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Cop on the Banks of the Nile - Fouad Ajami
    Where Anwar Sadat openly embraced the distant American power, flaunted his American connections, and savored the attention of the American media, Hosni Mubarak has had an arm's length relationship with his American patrons. There was no need, he understood, to tempt the fates and to further inflame the anti-Western and anti-colonial inheritance of his countrymen. Mubarak was at one with the vast majority of Egyptians in his acceptance of peace with Israel. He hadn't made that peace. But Egypt was done with pan-Arab wars against Israel.
        Mubarak rules by emergency decrees and has suffocated the country's political life, reducing the political landscape to something barren that he has been comfortable with: the authoritarian state on one side, the Muslim Brotherhood on the other. No democratic, secular opposition was allowed to sprout. In time, Islamists from Egypt, survivors of its prisons, would make their way to the global jihad. They hadn't been able to topple the Mubarak regime, so they struck at lands and powers beyond. But the country has stagnated. The crowded country now is an unhappy, bitter place. Grant Mubarak his due: He has not dispatched his countrymen on needless wars. He has kept the peace, he has been the cop on the beat. The writer, a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Syrian-Turkish Friendship Blossoms - Dan Bilefsky
    Israel's raid on a Turkish-led flotilla to Gaza in May has solidified an already blossoming friendship between Syria and Turkey, the new hero of the Muslim world. Monthly pilgrimages of tens of thousands of Syrians to the southeastern Turkish city of Gaziantep - which intensified after the two countries removed visa requirements last September - are the latest manifestation of growing ties between Turkey and Syria, part of the Turkish government's efforts to reach out to its neighbors by using economic and cultural links to help it become a regional leader. Trade between Turkey and Syria more than doubled from $795 million in 2006 to $1.6 billion in 2009, and is expected to reach $5 billion in the next three years. Last year the Middle East received nearly 20% of Turkey's exports, about $19.2 billion worth of goods, compared with 12.5% in 2004.
        In Syria, meanwhile, Turkey's blend of conservative Islam and cosmopolitan democracy is increasingly viewed as a model in the younger generation. Turkish soap operas and films are attaining cult status, while for Syrians, Turkey has become synonymous with European modernity. (New York Times)
        See also Turks Protest Israeli Volleyball Team - Christopher Torchia
    Dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters scuffled with police Saturday in Ankara, Turkey, near a hall where an Israeli volleyball team played in a game closed to the public because of security concerns. (AP)
  • Observations:

    Reaction to British Prime Minister Cameron's Criticism of Israel

    • David Cameron Panders to Turkey - at Israel's Expense - Jackson Diehl
      According to the BBC, no British prime minister has ever spoken so harshly of Israel's handling of Gaza. Erdogan, of course, was delighted to have Cameron join his anti-Israel campaign. His Islamist ruling party encouraged the Turkish ferry whose attempt to break Israel's sea blockade of Gaza led to a clash in which nine Turks - all of them members or supporters of a militant Islamic "charity" - died. Since then Erdogan has been using the incident in a bid to compete with Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hizbullah's Hassan Nasrallah for leadership of the Middle East's Israel-hating "street." Standing alongside Cameron, Erdogan compared Israel to the "pirates of Somalia."
          The new British government may win some points in Ankara. But the price will be paid by Israel, which has just seen the international campaign to delegitimize it gain a little more momentum. (Washington Post)
    • David Cameron is Wrong about Gaza - Con Coughlin
      The situation of the Palestinians in Gaza might be dire, but it is wrong to heap all the blame on Israel for their predicament. The real culprit is the militant Palestinian group Hamas which, having seized control of Gaza through force of arms, has persisted with its policy of campaigning for the destruction of the State of Israel. The constant barrage of missiles that Hamas fires at Israeli civilian neighborhoods whenever it gets the opportunity to do so gives the Israelis no alternative other than to enforce a blockade that ensures the flow of military supplies to Hamas is restricted. (Telegraph-UK)
    • Cameron's Remarks Guaranteed to Alienate Britain's Most Valuable Friend in the Middle East - Nile Gardiner
      British foreign policy must be based on core principles that include the maintenance of key alliances and a willingness to stand up to terrorism in all its forms as well as the state sponsors of terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hizbullah. Israel is Britain's closest friend in the Middle East, and the new government should do all it can to strengthen ties with the Israelis rather than undermine them. Now is not a time for division within the alliance, but a moment for key allies to stand shoulder to shoulder in the face of a grave menace to international security. (Telegraph-UK)

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