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August 24, 2010

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Cracks in the Iranian Monolith - Michael Ledeen (Wall Street Journal)
    A few weeks ago, the Iranian air force shot down three drones near Bushehr, where a Russian-supplied nuclear reactor has just started up.
    Expecting to find proof of high-altitude spying, when the Revolutionary Guards inspected the debris, they found that the air force had blasted Iran's own unmanned aircraft out of the sky.
    Apparently, according to official Iranian press accounts, the Iranian military had created a special unit to deploy the drones but hadn't informed the air force.
    In July, Mohammad Ali Jaffari, commander of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, admitted publicly that many top officers were supporters of the opposition Green Movement. Shortly thereafter, according to official government announcements, some 250 officers suddenly resigned.
    In the past weeks, several journalists from the Guards' FARS news agency have defected, some to France and others to the U.S.
    Meanwhile, Iran has suffered a series of attacks against its energy industry. An oil pipeline to Turkey was blown up last month, and there was an explosion in a natural gas pipeline near Tabriz.
    That was followed by a spectacular blast at the Pardis petrochemical plant in Assalouye. The same plant was similarly sabotaged six months ago.
    Opposition is fed by enduring social and economic crises. Unemployment last month reached 15% and is as high as 45% in some regions. In Tehran, health officials warned pregnant women and mothers of young children not to drink the water. Electrical failures are widespread.
    The writer is a scholar at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

Video: PFLP-General Command Leader Ahmad Jibril: Our Battle Is Against the Oppressive and Arrogant Forces of the West, "Not with a Group of Jews" (MEMRI TV)
    Broadcast on Al-Jazeera, August 2, 2010

U.S.-Israel Space Cooperation Agreement Strengthens Already Strong Ties - Gayle Putrich (Flightglobal)
    NASA and the Israel Space Agency (ISA) recently signed a formal cooperation pact.
    NASA is particularly interested in Israeli expertise in producing lightweight satellites that can be launched from aircraft.
    Israeli instrumentation, such as hyperspectral sensors and satellite antennas for analyzing photographs via radar, will be key to mapping Venus.
    NASA and the ISA also intend to work bilaterally on space geodesy - the measurement from space of Earth's gravitational field, tides, and the movement of its poles and crust - and expand use of the International Space Station for Israeli research and educational experiments.

Thousands Celebrate Israel in Downtown Dallas - Kim Horner (Dallas Morning News)
    At least 5,000 people braved a 105-degree scorcher at the "Party on the Plaza: A Celebration of Israel" on Sunday where there was plenty of live music, dancing, and kosher food.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Palestinians Threaten to Pull Out of Peace Talks - Luis Ramirez
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says his faction will pull out of peace talks with the Israelis - set to resume next week - if Israel does not extend a freeze on construction in West Bank settlements that is set to expire September 26. (VOA News)
        See also U.S. Rebuffs "Freeze" Precondition - Herb Keinon
    While the U.S. was "mindful" of Palestinian demands for a construction freeze in the West Bank, State Department Spokesman Philip Crowley said Monday the issue would be discussed on September 2 in Washington, ruling it out as a precondition for direct talks. "The issue of settlements, the issue of the moratorium...has been a topic of discussion and will be a topic of discussion when the leaders meet with Secretary Clinton on September 2," Crowley said.
        Vice Premier Silvan Shalom told Quartet envoy Tony Blair that preconditions do not foster dialogue, and that the Palestinians did not make preconditions before sitting with Israel at Wye Plantation, Camp David or even Annapolis. (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. Eyes Venezuela's Air Links with Iran and Syria - Dugald McConnell and Brian Todd
    According to the State Department's latest country report on terrorism, which covers 2009, "President Chavez continued to strengthen Venezuela's relationship with state sponsor of terrorism Iran. Iran and Venezuela continued weekly Iran Airlines flights connecting Tehran and Damascus with Caracas." A 2007 report went further, noting, "Passengers on these flights were not subject to immigration and customs controls at Simon Bolivar International Airport" in Caracas. It also noted that one passenger who bought a ticket on the route that year was Abdul Kadir, who was convicted this month of plotting a 2007 attack on fuel pipelines for New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. He was arrested on a plane bound for Caracas. (CNN)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Turkish Flotilla Activist Hijacked Black Sea Ferry in 1996 in Support of Chechneya - Herb Keinon
    The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported that Erdinc Tekir, who was hurt during the IDF flotilla raid, was among the nine-member team that hijacked a Black Sea ferry in 1996 to bring the war in Chechneya to the world's attention. Tekir spent three years in prison for the incident.
        "This shows what kind of people were on the ship," an Israeli Foreign Ministry official said Monday. "There were people with a history of violence, and willingness to use it."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Tension Is Turkey's Choice, Says Israel's Netanyahu
    "It was not our choice that our relations with Turkey got tense," Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Greek newspaper To Vima. "Everything began when [Turkish Prime Minister] Erdogan attacked Israeli President Shimon Peres in Davos. There was a clear policy on the part of Ankara to spark tensions. This is their choice," he said. "If Turkey decides to follow a way of being a moderate state, [Israel] will welcome it."  (Today's Zaman-Turkey)
  • Gaza a Regional Exporter of Terrorism
    In June 2010, Moroccan security forces detained an 11-man terrorist squad headed by an operative from Gaza who had formerly belonged to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and was influenced by al-Qaeda's ideology. The squad was planning to carry out a series of terrorist attacks against tourist and army targets throughout the country, and to assassinate prominent Moroccan figures, including Jews. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Mideast Peace Talks to Look Forward To? - David Makovsky
    Progress on security and other issues suggests there is reason to believe peace talks can produce results. During the Gaza conflict of 2008-09, the PA kept the West Bank calm. Because of the improved security, Israel has reduced the number of major manned checkpoints in the West Bank from 42 in 2008 to 14. The checkpoints that remain include more passage lanes, resulting in substantially reduced wait times. And the improved security and other efforts by reformist Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have resulted in a West Bank economic growth rate of 8.5%.
        Religious and education reforms have started, including a major effort to identify and remove those imams who agitate for suicide bombings. Screening is also being conducted to weed out schoolteachers who support Hamas radicalism. PA security officials say 1,100 Palestinian teachers in the West Bank have been replaced. The writer directs the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Washington Post)
  • Mideast Sirens - Editorial
    The prospects for success are bleak for the Obama Administration's latest efforts to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, but everyone still wants to give it that old State Department try. Yet Israel is less secure now with the rise of Iran as a menacing regional power. Tehran has supplied its proxy, Hizbullah, with 45,000 rockets aimed at Israel from across the border in Lebanon - despite Condoleezza Rice's assurances that the UN would stop the rocket supply after the 2006 Lebanon-Israel war. Iran also arms Hamas, which now controls Gaza and is sworn to Israel's destruction.
        These realities understandably make Israel determined to keep a military presence on the West Bank border with Jordan as part of any new Palestinian statehood - to prevent the West Bank from becoming another Lebanon or Gaza. The U.S. might make more progress with both Israel and Mr. Abbas if it stopped Iran's march toward becoming a nuclear power. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Why Palestinians Don't Want Direct Talks to Succeed - Mordechai Kedar
    Following the show in Washington, the current Palestinian leadership will find a way to thwart the direct negotiations because they cannot finalize a deal. Any Palestinian or Arab leader who says something that is interpreted as any kind of concession on the right of return knows that he shall immediately be accused of treason. Moreover, the Palestinian leadership cannot present its public with a deal that would include less than the dream outlined by Arafat: "One Palestinian state with the holy Jerusalem as its capital."
        Another reason is economic. The PA has been making a good living off public and government funds from Europe, the U.S., and the Arab and Islamic world - to the point where Palestinian per capita disposable income is double that of Egypt. The PA leadership fears that the moment an independent Palestinian state is declared, donations would dry up, as the world will expect the Palestinians to start supporting themselves just like any other independent state. The writer is a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University. (Ynet News)
        See also Video: Our Man on Al Jazeera
    Mordechai Kedar served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence, specializing in Arabic and Islam. He defends Israel in Arab media, directly engaging Arabs in their language. (
  • Not Taking Yes for an Answer - Efraim Karsh
    No sooner had Hillary Clinton announced the imminent resumption of direct Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations without preconditions, than the Palestinian leadership threatened to pull out of the talks if Israel didn't extend the freeze on all settlement activities. Furthermore, the Arabic-language version of the PLO's decision makes no mention of the two-state solution. Instead it adds a few new preconditions, notably the rejection of Israel's annexation of east Jerusalem.
        There lies the heart of the problem. While the PLO leadership, since the launch of the Oslo "peace" process in 1993, has been singing the praises of the two-state solution whenever addressing Israeli or Western audiences, it has consistently denigrated the idea to its own constituents, depicting the process as a transient arrangement required by the needs of the moment that would inexorably lead to the long-cherished goal of Israel's demise. Both Hamas and the PLO are committed to Israel's eventual destruction. The writer is professor of Middle East and Mediterranean studies at King's College London. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Do Abbas and Fayyad Have a Mandate to Negotiate? - Khaled Abu Toameh (Hudson Institute-New York)

    • A president whose term in office expired in January 2009, and a prime minister who won about 2% of the vote when he ran in an election, have now been invited by the U.S. to hold direct peace talks with Israel on behalf of the Palestinians.
    • Mahmoud Abbas, the president, and Salam Fayyad, his prime minister, won the "backing" of the 18-member PLO Executive Committee, which is dominated by unelected veteran officials. Only nine PLO officials attended the meeting. The PLO constitution requires a minimum of 12 members for a quorum. This means that, contrary to reports in the Palestinian and international media, Abbas and Fayyad do not have the support of the PLO committee to negotiate directly with Israel.
    • Would Abbas and Fayyad be able to sell any agreement to a majority of Palestinians after they told their people they are going to the talks only because the Americans and Europeans threatened to cut off financial aid? Any agreement they bring back home will be seen by many Palestinians as the fruit of "extortion" and "threats."
    • Abbas and Fayyad are well aware of the fact that they do not have a mandate to sign any agreement with Israel. This is why they will search for any excuse to withdraw from the direct talks and blame Israel for the failure of the peace process.

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