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August 16, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Russia to Begin Activating Iran's First Nuclear Power Plant - Jeffrey Fleishman (Los Angeles Times)
    Russia announced Friday that it will begin loading fuel into Iran's first nuclear power plant on Aug. 21, but that the power station may not be fully active for months.
    Russia has provided the 1,000-megawatt plant with low-enriched uranium, which has been sealed and monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran is also required to return fuel and plutonium generated at Bushehr to Russia for reprocessing.

Addition of Apaches, Black Hawks Swells U.S.-Saudi Arms Deal to $60 Billion - Adam Entous (Wall Street Journal)
    The Obama administration plans to include 70 Black Hawk and 60 Longbow Apache attack helicopters in an expanded arms package for Saudi Arabia that also includes 84 F-15 fighter planes, swelling the proposed deal to $60 billion over ten years.
    The size and scope of the Saudi deal has stoked concerns in Israel that Washington risks undercutting Jerusalem's military edge.

Video Shows U.S. Student Was Hit by Ricochet (Mere Rhetoric-YouTube)
    CCTV footage shows that U.S. student Emily Henochowicz was injured by a tear gas canister ricochet and not a direct hit during a riot at a checkpoint north of Jerusalem on May 31.

Lebanese Army Kills Top Islamist - Rana Moussaoui (AFP)
    Lebanese troops on Saturday killed two top Islamist militants, a military spokesman said. "Abdel Rahman Awad, one of the key leaders of Fatah al-Islam," was killed along with Abu Bakr during clashes in the eastern Bekaa Valley region, the spokesman said.
    A judicial source said Abu Bakr was Awad's key deputy who provided military training to Fatah al-Islam, a group inspired by al-Qaeda.
    In 2007, Fatah al-Islam fought a fierce three-month battle against the army at Nahr al-Bared in northern Lebanon that cost 400 lives including 168 soldiers.

Secret U.S. Assault on Terrorism Widens - Scott Shane, Mark Mazzetti and Robert F. Worth (New York Times)
    The U.S. military has launched at least four airstrikes on al-Qaeda in Yemen since December, according to American officials.
    In a shadow war against al-Qaeda and its allies in a dozen countries - from North Africa, to Pakistan, to former Soviet republics - the U.S. has significantly increased military and intelligence operations, pursuing the enemy using robotic drones and commando teams, paying contractors to spy and training local operatives to chase terrorists.
    In Pakistan, the CIA has broadened its drone campaign beyond selective strikes against Qaeda leaders and now regularly obliterates suspected enemy compounds and logistics convoys.
    "For the first time in our history, an entity has declared a covert war against us," said Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), referring to al-Qaeda, "and we are using similar elements of American power to respond to that covert war."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Obama Warns Erdogan over Israel and Iran - Daniel Dombey
    President Barack Obama has personally warned Turkey's prime minister that unless Ankara shifts its position on Israel and Iran it stands little chance of obtaining the U.S. weapons it wants to buy. One senior administration official said: "The president has said to Erdogan that some of the actions that Turkey has taken have caused questions to be raised on the Hill [Congress]...about whether we can have confidence in Turkey as an ally. That means that some of the requests Turkey has made of us, for example in providing some of the weaponry that it would like to fight the PKK, will be harder for us to move through Congress."
        Washington was deeply frustrated when Turkey voted against UN sanctions on Iran in June. When the leaders met later that month at the G20 summit in Toronto, Obama told Erdogan that the Turks had failed to act as an ally in the UN vote. He also called on Ankara to cool its rhetoric about the Gaza aid flotilla. (Financial Times-UK)
  • Israel: Flotilla Activists Wanted Violence - Jane Corbin
    Some of the Israeli special forces showed me the wounds they received on board the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara. "I saw a knife in my abdomen and pulled it out," Captain R said. "The beating was continuous - and the cries of Allah Akbar." Israeli footage shows Captain R being beaten with bars by activists, stabbed and then thrown to the deck below. The commandos insist their lives were in danger and they were under attack when they opened fire.
        "We have very clear evidence that in at least four cases the other side did use live fire," said retired IDF Maj.-Gen. Giora Eiland, who carried out the investigation into events on board the ship. "In some they used Israeli weapons stolen from our soldiers - in at least one case they used their weapon because we found bullets and shells not used by Israeli forces." He said that the Israeli commandos' use of live ammunition was justified. "These people came to kill and be killed," he said. (BBC News)
  • U.S. Rules Bar Banks that Violate Iran Sanctions - Robert F. Worth
    The Treasury Department released new regulations on Friday that could bar foreign banks or companies from accessing the financial system in the U.S. if they did business with entities or people subject to UN and U.S. sanctions. The regulations, which grew out of legislation Congress passed in June, effectively bar foreign banks from doing business in dollars if they engage in transactions with anyone suspected of involvement in Iran's nuclear or missile programs. The entities include Iran's Revolutionary Guards.
        Administration officials have said they believe that the sanctions have already started to have an effect. The threat of being cut off from the U.S. economy adds a significant dimension, said Stuart A. Levey, Undersecretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Won't Accept Quartet Preconditions for Renewed Peace Talks - Roni Sofer
    Israel's inner cabinet decided Sunday not to agree to any preconditions by the Mideast Quartet regarding renewed direct negotiations with the Palestinians. The Quartet is expected to issue an announcement on the matter in the coming days. "The Quartet declaration will likely be a fig leaf for stipulating preconditions on the part of the Palestinians, and this is unacceptable to us," reported a senior official in Jerusalem. Israel will wait for a separate American declaration on the matter which will apparently not set any preconditions for launching direct talks. (Ynet News)
        See also Hamas, Ten Other Palestinian Groups Reject Compromise with Israel
    Eleven militant Palestinian groups based in Syria, including Hamas, warned on Sunday against a "concession and compromise" policy ahead of possible direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. (DPA-Ha'aretz)
  • Israel to Purchase 20 U.S. F-35 Fighter Jets - Anshel Pfeffer
    Israel approved the purchase of 20 F-35 fighter planes on Sunday at a cost of $2.7 billion, for delivery between 2015 and 2017. The IDF had sought to install Israeli systems on the aircraft, but the Americans refused to allow those changes. "The F-35 is the fighter plane of the future that will allow Israel to maintain its aerial superiority and its technological advantage in the region," Defense Minister Ehud Barak said. The F-35 is a stealth-capable military strike fighter which can evade radar and anti-aircraft missile systems. (Ha'aretz)
  • Report: Azerbaijan Releases Men Jailed for Israel Embassy Bomb Plot - Jack Khoury
    Two Lebanese men convicted of conspiring to blow up the Israeli embassy in Baku may have been released in a prisoner swap between Azerbaijan and Iran. Al-Arabiya reported that Ali Hassin Najam Adin and Mohammed Karaki and 12 Iranians were swapped for two diplomats and an Azeri nuclear scientist, who were sent to Azerbaijan. The two Lebanese were arrested in 2008 and were convicted of planning to blow up the Israeli embassy in Baku in revenge for the assassination of senior Hizbullah commander Imad Mughniyeh. They also planned to destroy a radar installation in the north of the country and were convicted of spying for Iran. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Netanyahu's Warning - George F. Will
    Israel faces a campaign to delegitimize it in order to extinguish its capacity for self-defense. Note, Prime Minister Netanyahu says, the reflexive worldwide chorus of condemnation when Israel responded with force to rocket barrages from Gaza and from southern Lebanon. There is, he believes, a crystallizing consensus that "Israel is not allowed to exercise self-defense."
        In southern Lebanon, UN Resolution 1701, promulgated after the 2006 war, has been predictably farcical. This was supposed to inhibit the arming of Hizbullah and prevent its operations south of the Litani River. Since 2006, Hizbullah's rocket arsenal has tripled. Learning from Hamas, Hizbullah now places rockets near schools and hospitals, certain that Israel's next response to indiscriminate aggression will turn the world media into a force multiplier for the aggressors. Any Israeli self-defense anywhere is automatically judged "disproportionate."  (Washington Post)
  • "Wherever There Is Hizbullah There Is Iran" - Amir Taheri
    In the next few weeks the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague is expected to reveal the names of nine members of Lebanese Hizbullah who participated in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Hizbullah is known for its iron discipline and highly centralized decision-making. It also has a seasoned intelligence service trained and supported by Iran. If someone high-level in Hizbullah knew of the plot, is it possible that Tehran was not informed? Would it go for such a high-risk operation without obtaining at least a nod from the "mother country"?
        Judging by a series of recent statements from senior Iranian figures, the answer must be no. Here is Maj.-Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi: "Those who criticize our support for Hizbullah and Hamas do not understand what is at stake. We support [those movements] because they represent the first line of our own defense. They are fighting for our safety and security and the triumph of our revolution." Gen. Firouzabadi is Chief of Staff of the Iran's armed forces and a member of the High Council of National Security that ultimately sets the strategy for foreign radical groups supported by Iran. Awaz Heydarpour, a member of the Islamic Consultative Assembly's security commission in Tehran, added: "Wherever there is Hizbullah there is Iran. Our revolutionary movement is not limited by borders."  (Asharq Alawsat-UK)
  • An Israeli-Saudi-American Alliance Against Iran - Lee Smith
    A few months ago, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal explained to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that sanctions against Iran did not offer the immediate solution required to stop the revolutionary regime's push for a nuclear weapon. This sentiment was echoed a few weeks back by the United Arab Emirates' ambassador to Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba, who calculated that bombing Iran was preferable to an Iranian bomb. Even as the ambassador later backtracked, the Middle East's worst-kept secret was now in the public record: the Arabs are even more concerned than the Israelis about an Iranian bomb. To preserve the American-backed regional order, Arab nations expect us to stop the Iranians, a security arrangement that has been clear since the Carter administration. What's new is that if the U.S. doesn't step up, the Arabs' unlikeliest ally, Israel, may have to do it. (Newsweek)
  • Observations:

    Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations and the 1967 Borders - Dore Gold (Washington Examiner)

    • PA leader Mahmoud Abbas is insisting that the only basis for any future political arrangements with Israel is "the 1967 borders." The Quartet has also been discussing the 1967 line for a joint declaration intended to pull Abbas into direct negotiations with Israel. It is increasingly assumed that there once was a recognized international border between the West Bank and Israel in 1967 and what is necessary now is to restore it.
    • Yet this entire discussion is based on a mistaken understanding of the 1967 line, which was never an international border at all but rather the 1949 Armistice line where Israeli and Arab forces stopped at the end of Israel's War of Independence. In fact, Article II of the Armistice Agreement with the Jordanians explicitly specified that the line did not compromise any future territorial claims of the two parties. Indeed, on the eve of the 1967 Six-Day War, the Jordanian ambassador to the UN stressed that the old armistice agreement "did not fix boundaries."
    • Lord Caradon, the British ambassador to the UN, admitted at the time: "I know the 1967 border very well. It is not a satisfactory border, it is where the troops had to stop." He concluded: "It is not a permanent border." For the British and American ambassadors at the time, Resolution 242 that they drafted involved creating a completely new boundary that could be described as "secure and recognized," instead of going back to the lines from which the conflict erupted.
    • In his 2004 letter to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, President George W. Bush made clear that "it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949." Israel's right to defensible borders, that must replace the 1967 lines, has a strong foundation in the past policies of the UN Security Council. It would be a cardinal error to allow these rights to be eroded now, especially if new peace talks begin and the Palestinians seek to win international support for a Palestinian state based on their demand to see Israel pull back to the 1967 lines.

      The writer, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN (1997-1999), is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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