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September 7, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

IAEA: Syria Still Stonewalling in Nuclear Probe (AFP)
    The UN atomic watchdog said Monday it has been unable to make any progress in its two-year investigation into alleged illicit nuclear activities in Syria as Damascus is still refusing to cooperate.
    The U.S. accuses Syria of building a covert nuclear reactor at Dair Alzour with the help of North Korea, until it was bombed by Israel in September 2007.

Syria's Solidarity with Islamists Ends at Home - Kareem Fahim (New York Times)
    Syria is moving to curb the influence of Muslim conservatives in its mosques, public universities and charities. The government has asked imams for recordings of their Friday sermons and started to strictly monitor religious schools.
    This summer, more than 1,000 teachers who wear the niqab, or the face veil, were transferred to administrative duties.
    The crackdown is an effort by President Bashar al-Assad to reassert Syria's traditional secularism in the face of rising threats from radical groups in the region, Syrian officials say.

Gaza City Riding Club Is Booming - Harriet Sherwood (Guardian-UK)
    On a Friday evening on the edge of Gaza City, the tables at Faisal fill up with young women wearing brightly-patterned headscarves and high heels beneath their jilbabs.
    But the main attraction at Gaza's riding club is the horses, many imported through the tunnels dug beneath the border with Egypt.
    The Faisal riding club hosted its first showjumping tournament in July.
    Next door is the Crazy Water Park, a swimming center with chutes and slides, alongside a burgeoning number of seafront cafes.

Arab Organization for Human Rights in London Supports Hamas Against the PA (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
    The Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR) is a large NGO based in Cairo. Its orientation is blatantly anti-Western and its main goal is attacking the U.S., Israel and Egypt. However, on occasion it turns its activities against the Palestinian Authority.

Anti-Israel Hackers Target UK by Mistake - Jennifer Lipman (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
    A group of Algerian hackers who attempted to attack the website of an Israeli tourist attraction found themselves interfering with that of a British castle.
    The target was Belvoir Fortress near the Israeli city of Tiberias, constructed by Crusaders in the 11th century.
    However, cyber attackers hijacked the website of Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire, built on the site of a Norman castle. The attackers posted on its home page an image of the Algerian flag with Arabic words condemning Israel.
    A spokeswoman for the castle said: "We've nothing to do with the Middle East. I just help to organize the teddy bears' picnic."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iran on Brink of Nuclear Weapon, UN Watchdog Warns - Damien McElroy
    Iran has passed a crucial nuclear threshold, weapons inspectors have warned, and could now go on to arm an atomic missile with relative ease. A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Iranian nuclear scientists had made at least 22 kg. of enriched uranium at 20% purity, a technical hurdle that is the hardest to overcome on the way to weapons-grade uranium. Experts estimate that 20 kg. of uranium is the minimum required to arm a warhead. The uranium would still need to have its purity raised to 90%, but that is a relatively easy process. The Agency's report also noted that Iran's stockpile of low-enriched uranium, the feedstock of its military nuclear program, has risen by around 15% since May to reach 2.8 tons. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also UN Report Says Iran Is Stockpiling Enriched Uranium - Greg Miller
    U.S. officials suspect that Iran is pushing its nuclear program as far as it can under UN inspections, with an aim of giving the nation's leaders the option to quickly reconfigure facilities to rush forward the production of a bomb. Iran says, for example, that it is enriching uranium at 20 percent levels to produce fuel rods for a medical research reactor. But U.S. officials say Iran's explanation is implausible, in part because it doesn't have the sophistication to work with medically useful fuel rods. Despite Iran's ongoing work, U.S. intelligence agencies have recently concluded that it would take about a year, even under a rushed scenario, for Iran to develop a bomb. (Washington Post)
        See also Text of IAEA Report on Iran
    Based on an overall analysis undertaken by the Agency of all the information available to it, the Agency remains concerned about the possible existence in Iran of past or current undisclosed nuclear-related activities involving military-related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile. While the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran, Iran has not provided the necessary cooperation to permit the Agency to confirm that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities. (IAEA)
  • EU Official Apologizes after Blaming Jews for Blocking Mideast Peace Talks - Ian Traynor
    EU trade commissioner Karel de Gucht told a Belgian radio station last week that there was little point in engaging in rational argument with Jews and suggested that the latest Middle East peace talks were doomed because of the power of the Jewish lobby in Washington. "It is not easy to have, even with moderate Jews, a rational discussion about what is actually happening in the Middle East," he said. De Gucht, who negotiates for Europe on trade with the rest of the world, and is one of the most powerful officials in Brussels, was forced Friday to issue a statement declaring that the views he expressed were personal. (Guardian-UK)
        See also Will Brussels Boycott De Gucht? - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)
  • Tony Blair: Radical Islam Is World's Greatest Threat
    Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has described radical Islam as the greatest threat facing the world today, in a BBC interview marking the publication of his memoirs. Blair said radical Islamists believed that whatever was done in the name of their cause was justified - including the use of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. "This extremism is so deep that in the end they have to know that they're facing a stronger will than theirs."
        He said Iran was one of the biggest state sponsors of radical Islam, and it was necessary to prevent it by any means from developing a nuclear weapon. "We need to give a message to Iran that is very clear - that they cannot have nuclear weapons capability, and we will stop them."  (BBC News)
        See also below Observations: Combating Islamic Extremism and Restoring Purpose in the West - Tony Blair (Wall Street Journal)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Abbas Says He "Can't Allow Even One Concession" - Khaled Abu Toameh and Herb Keinon
    Just four days after meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington, PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday threatened again that the Palestinians will pull out of the direct talks if the construction freeze in the settlements, due to expire later this month, is not extended. Abbas stressed that he would not make any concessions to Israel. "If they demand concessions on the rights of the refugees or the 1967 borders, I will quit. I can't allow myself to make even one concession," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also The PA's Mixed Messages about Peace Talks - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Making statements and denying them, often within hours, has become almost a daily event in the politics of the PA. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Russia, Israel Join to Fight Terror and Nuclear Proliferation - Yaakov Katz
    Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his Russian counterpart, Anatoly Serdyukov, signed an agreement on Monday in Moscow to increase cooperation on combating terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear weapons. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israeli Defense Minister Lobbies Moscow to Stop Arms Sales to Iran and Syria - Anshel Pfeffer
    Israeli Defense Minister Barak asked both Russian Prime Minister Putin and Defense Minister Serdyukov not to sell Iran S-300 anti-aircraft missiles, and not to sell Syria P-800 Yakhont supersonic naval cruise missiles. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Russian Servicemen "Mastering" Use of Israeli Drones
    "We have bought 12 UAV systems from Israel, and 50 servicemen are currently being trained to operate them," Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said Monday during a meeting with his Israeli counterpart, Ehud Barak. Under the first contract, signed in April 2009, Israel delivered two Bird Eye 400 systems (worth $4 million), eight I View MK150 tactical UAVs ($37 million) and two Searcher Mk II multi-mission UAVs ($12 million). The second contract was for the purchase of 36 UAVs, worth a total of $100 million, to be delivered later this year. (RIA Novosti-Russia)
        See also View Video of Russian MiG Shooting Down an Israeli-Made UAV in Georgia in 2008 (Reuters-YouTube)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israel Will Respond If the World Confronts Hamas - Ron Prosor
    Western observers who urge Israel to talk to Hamas should ask what can be negotiated with an organization that described the shooting death last week of four Israeli civilians, leaving seven children orphaned, as "a heroic operation." The violence illustrates the risks of Israeli concessions. Israel has removed 60 West Bank roadblocks this year, yet measures aimed at boosting Palestinian business were exploited with devastating consequence by Hamas terrorists. The Israeli public needs international and Palestinian measures to repair its confidence.
        The international community must attempt to ensure that Hamas adopts the Quartet conditions and abandons the brutality which has always characterized its actions. When the Palestinians have prevented terror and enforced law and order, concessions have followed. To make further progress, the PA must demonstrate a sincere will to persist with talks, end incitement, and recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. The writer is Israel's ambassador to the United Kingdom. (Financial Times-UK)
  • Middle East Peace Talks, and the Problem of Land - Todd Gitlin and Liel Leibovitz
    Israelis and Palestinians see the contested land they share in radically different ways. For many Israelis - not only settlers - the territory between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River is the Promised Land, the same rugged hills where their biblical forefathers pitched their tents after being delivered from Egypt, the same landscape the first Zionist pioneers a century ago reclaimed as their own. In Israel, even the fiercest secularists can trace their attachment to their homeland to the holy covenant between God and his chosen people, an ancient promise fulfilled anew by the Jewish state's Zionist founders.
        Israeli children are required to study the Bible throughout high school, where the good book - recast as a lesson in history and geography - underscores modern-day Israel's bonds to its storied and sacred past. And though Muslim Palestinians revere Jerusalem for its holy sites, the majority of Palestinians do not scour the West Bank's hillsides, ravines, wadis and groves in search of ancient ruins or transcendental meaning; for them, the land is earthly, not sacred. Religious language may jar outsiders accustomed to apparently rational, self-interested disputes over tangible differences. But it is foolish to try to pretend away a history of deep, fierce and contending passions. Todd Gitlin is a professor of sociology and journalism at Columbia University. Liel Leibovitz is an editor at Tablet Magazine. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Observations:

    Combating Islamic Extremism and Restoring Purpose in the West - Tony Blair (Wall Street Journal)

    • The attacks of Sept. 11 came to most of our citizens as a shock that was utterly unforeseen. Countries like America and Britain were not singling out Muslims for unfair treatment; and insofar as Muslims were caught up in generalized racism towards those of a different race or color, such attitudes were on the way out, not on the way in.
    • The extremism we fear is a strain within Islam. It is wholly contrary to the proper teaching of Islam, but it can't be denied that its practitioners act with reference to their religion. I feel we too often shy away from this assertion, as if it stigmatizes all Muslims. But if it is true - and it is - it has to be faced.
    • The extremists are small in number, but their narrative has a far bigger hold. Indeed, such is the hold that much of the current political leadership feels impelled to go along with this narrative for fear of losing support.
    • It is often easier to raise money for the "resistance" than to fund the patient but essential process of Palestinian state-building. If the Palestinian cause gave up violence emphatically and without ambiguity, there would be a peace agreement within the year. Not enough voices in the Muslim world are asking them to.

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