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September 27, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Does New Malware Target Iran's Nuclear Plant? - Mark Clayton (Christian Science Monitor)
    A cyber worm, called Stuxnet, may be the world's first known cyberweapon designed specifically to destroy a real-world target.
    One expert suggests Stuxnet may have already attacked its target - Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant.
    Stuxnet employs amazing new tricks, like taking control of a computer system without the user taking any action or clicking any button other than inserting an infected memory stick.
    It targets and infiltrates industrial supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) software used to run chemical plants and factories as well as electric power plants and transmission systems worldwide, takes control of the automated factory control systems, and does whatever it was programmed to do with them.
    Ralph Langner, a German cyber-security researcher, described Stuxnet as essentially a precision, military-grade cyber missile deployed to seek out and destroy a real-world target of high importance. "This is a 100% sabotage attack," he said.
    Three top U.S. industrial control system security experts confirmed his findings. "This is the first direct example of weaponized software, highly customized and designed to find a particular target," says Michael Assante, former chief of industrial control systems cyber security research at the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory.
    A geographical distribution of computers hit by Stuxnet found Iran to be the apparent epicenter of the infections.
    See also Not the First Cyberweapon - John Markoff (New York Times)
    A remarkable set of events surrounded the 2007 Israeli Air Force attack on what was suspected of being a Syrian nuclear reactor under construction.
    Accounts of the event initially indicated that sophisticated jamming technology had been used to blind the radar so Israeli aircraft went unnoticed.
    Last December, however, a report in an American technical publication, IEEE Spectrum, cited a European industry source as raising the possibility that the Israelis had used a built-in software kill switch to shut down the radar.

Egypt Frees Top Hamas Security Official (Reuters)
    Egypt on Friday freed top Hamas security official Mohammed Dababesh after holding him for ten days for involvement in smuggling and the killing of an Egyptian border guard.
    Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said at least 40 members of Hamas and other Palestinian factions remained in Egyptian custody.

Will Castro Free Imprisoned U.S. Jew? - Mary Anastasia O'Grady (Wall Street Journal)
    While Fidel Castro told the Atlantic Monthly's Jeffrey Goldberg that he is outraged by anti-Semitism, what about poor Alan Gross, a U.S. government contractor and a Jew, who has been languishing in a Cuban prison since December.
    His crime: distributing cellphones to a handful of Cuban Jews who want to establish contact with the diaspora.
    Is that any way to show love for the Jewish people?
    See also Cuba's Deplorable Human Rights Record - U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) (USA Today)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • UN Atomic Watchdog Rejects Resolution Against Israel
    The UN atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), rejected Friday an Arab-backed resolution against Israel. The resolution urging Israel to accede to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was rejected with 51 votes against, 46 votes in favor, and 23 abstentions. Washington had flown in President Obama's top nuclear advisor, Gary Samore, to try to persuade Arab nations to drop their plans. In 2009 the same resolution was adopted 49-45. A number of states that voted in favor last year, such as Singapore and Thailand, chose to abstain this year. Earlier this week, Israel's nuclear chief Shaul Horev reiterated Israel's stance that acceding to the NPT would run against its national interests. (AFP)
  • Israeli Building Ban Ends - Joel Greenberg
    A 10-month moratorium on new housing construction in Israeli settlements in the West Bank expired at midnight Sunday, but with U.S. diplomats working intensively to keep the peace process going, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he would not immediately follow through on an earlier threat to quit the negotiations. (Washington Post)
        See also Abbas to Consult Arab Ministers on Continuing Peace Talks
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday he would meet Arab League foreign ministers on Oct. 4 to decide how to proceed with peace talks following the expected resumption of Israeli settlement construction. (AFP)
        See also Not with a Bang, But With a Whimper - Blake Hounshell
    Israel's 10-month settlement freeze expires at midnight Sunday, and rather than the explosion many feared, it looks like the moratorium will disappear with little drama. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held his ground. Abbas, who had vowed in no uncertain terms that he wouldn't stay at the table unless the freeze was extended, instead kicked the decision to the Arab League, which gave him political cover to join the talks in the first place. It seems likely Arab governments will swallow their pride and instruct Abbas to continue. (Foreign Policy)
  • UN Chief Slams Ahmadinejad's "Unacceptable Misuse" of UN Platform - Ali Akbar Dareini and Slobodan Lekic
    UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon railed on Friday against radicals fostering tensions between the Western and Islamic worlds, while addressing a meeting of the Alliance of Civilizations. Speaking a day after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad raised the possibility that "some segments within the U.S. government" had orchestrated the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in New York, Ban said, "I strongly condemn the comments made yesterday by a leader of a delegation that called into question the cause of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on U.S. soil....It is unacceptable for the platform of the General Assembly of the United Nations to be misused in this way."  (AP)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israeli Woman Gives Birth after Being Shot in West Bank Attack - Chaim Levinson and Anshel Pfeffer
    Palestinian gunmen opened fire on two Israeli cars near the West Bank city of Hebron on Sunday, wounding a man and his pregnant wife. Both suffered gunshot wounds to their legs. Soon after, Neta Zucker gave birth to a healthy son. (Ha'aretz)
  • PA Requesting that Israel Release Dozens of Prisoners
    The Palestinian Authority has asked Israel to immediately release dozens of prisoners incarcerated in Israeli prisons as a good-will gesture that will help peace talks go forward, Israel Radio reported on Sunday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Gaza Division Commander Warns of Plans to Kidnap Israeli Soldiers - Hanan Greenberg
    Brig.-Gen. Eyal Eisenberg, commander of the IDF's Gaza Division, recently noted a number of attempts made by terrorist organizations to capture Israeli soldiers, with the discovery of a number of smuggling tunnels being built to serve as infrastructure for kidnappings. "We must continue being alert because there is no doubt that there will be another clash here."  (Ynet News)
  • Netanyahu Not Bound by Olmert's Offer to Abbas - Gil Hoffman
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under no obligation to honor any of the commitments that former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made to the Palestinians, Netanyahu's associates said on Saturday, reiterating statements Netanyahu made throughout his campaign a year and a half ago. Newsweek's Kevin Peraino reported in a June 2009 interview that Olmert "says he offered Abbas 93.5 to 93.7% of the Palestinian territories, along with a land swap of 5.8% and a safe-passage corridor from Gaza to the West Bank that he says would make up the rest. The Holy Basin of Jerusalem would be under no sovereignty at all and administered by a consortium of Saudis, Jordanians, Israelis, Palestinians and Americans."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Palestinian President Abbas Has the Most to Lose - Editorial
    President Obama's ill-advised attempt to force a freeze of Israeli housing construction in Jerusalem and the West Bank could cause the breakdown this weekend of direct talks on a final settlement, only a month after they began. A diplomatic rift over this issue would be senseless. Most Israeli construction now takes place in areas close to Israel that both sides acknowledge it will annex in any final deal. As Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad remarked Wednesday, any building that begins in the next year - the time frame set for the negotiations - will be immaterial to their outcome. The Palestinian president would be foolish to end the talks, postponing Palestinian statehood indefinitely. He would also place himself at greater domestic political risk, since the end of negotiations would empower Palestinian militants. (Washington Post)
  • PA Wants to Kill Palestinians Who Do Business with Jews - Khaled Abu Toameh
    A Palestinian Authority court in the West Bank has just reaffirmed the death penalty for Palestinians convicted of selling land to Jews. The court ruling also proves that, contrary to claims by some in Washington and Europe, the PA is continuing to send messages that radicalize Palestinians and promote hatred and violence. If anything, the court verdict is seen by many Palestinians as a green light to kill "traitors" who do business with Jews. The Palestinian law also calls for imposing the death sentence on any Palestinian found guilty of "collaboration" with Israel.
        Over the past few decades, hundreds, if not thousands, of Palestinians have been killed on suspicion of selling land to Jews and "collaboration" with Israel. Only a few of the victims were executed by Palestinian authorities. Most were abducted and liquidated, often brutally, in extra-judicial killings carried out by Palestinian security officers, armed gangs, and Fatah and Hamas militiamen. (Hudson Institute-New York)
  • The Construction Freeze Puzzle - Nahum Barnea
    Obama erred when he turned the settlement construction freeze from a heart's desire to an ultimate demand. He set a bar that the Palestinians cannot compromise on. He erred when he agreed to a 10-month framework, and he erred when ahead of the end of this period he openly demanded an extension. In his latest declarations, Obama greatly minimized the Israeli prime minister's room for maneuver. The president let Netanyahu choose between two options: Either a humiliating capitulation to American dictates, or a head-on confrontation with the U.S. Meanwhile, he did not advance by even an inch his declared goal: Securing a peace treaty within a year. (Ynet News)
  • UN Human Rights Council Abuses Human Rights - Danny Ayalon
    The recently released UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) report ostensibly investigating the events that surrounded the interception of the Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara in May is a modern blood-libel, and another nail in the coffin of the council's credibility. The UNHRC has two sole functions: to defend serial human-rights abusing nations from reproach, and to revile and attack Israel.
        Only 20 of the 47 nations on the UNHRC are considered "free" by Freedom House, an independent NGO which monitors human rights and political freedoms. This means the majority do not allow basic freedoms for their own people, let alone concern themselves with global human rights. The UNHRC has condemned Israel 33 times out of its 40 country-specific condemnations, while the UNHRC expresses only "deep concern" over Sudan and praises its cooperation. In addition, the UNHRC adopted a unique decision to discuss human rights violations committed by Israel in all of the council's meetings. The writer is Israel's deputy foreign minister. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Observations:

    Negotiating in the Middle East - How the Other Side Sees It - Mark Silverberg (Hudson Institute-New York)

    • As Harold Rhode, recently of the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment, wrote for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, it is crucial to understand the mindset of our enemies. Dealing specifically with Iran, but implying that the Arab dictators and despots of the Middle East move to the same beat, Rhode concludes that the paradigms that govern U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East today are totally at odds with the paradigms that actually govern the actions of our enemies.
    • As Rhode notes: Compromise, as we understand the concept, is seen by the other side "as a sign of submission and weakness" that brings shame and dishonor on those - and on the families of those - who concede. Our efforts at compromise, contrition, accommodation and appeasement are perceived as symbolic of our weakness; and our attempts to find common cause with our enemies merely reinforce their belief that we are "paper tigers," to use bin Laden's term, and easy prey. "It is for this reason that good-will and confidence-building measures should be avoided at all costs," he says, as our Western cultural biases make it easy to misunderstand the true intentions of our enemies.
    • Our adversaries - Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbullah - see "negotiations" and our desire for dialogue as opportunities to "best others, to demonstrate power," and to make certain that we know who is in control. Under such circumstances, good-will and confidence-building measures by the West are interpreted as a lack of strength or resolve.
    • As Rhode also notes, in the wake of the Iranian hostage-taking crisis, "Iran put the hostages on a plane less than an hour before Ronald Reagan became president. The hostages left Iranian airspace when Reagan raised his hand and took the oath of office. The Iranian 'students' believed Reagan was a cowboy and feared he would 'level' Tehran....Interestingly, during the hostage crisis, a group of Iranian terrorists also occupied the Soviet Embassy in Tehran. But they quickly left, because Moscow informed Tehran that if the Iranians did not leave the Soviet Embassy within hours, Tehran would be bombed," and they knew the Russians meant it.

          See also The Sources of Iranian Negotiating Behavior - Harold Rhode (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

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