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November 16, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

China's Rise in the Middle East - David Schenker and Christina Lin (Los Angeles Times)
    The Middle Kingdom is planting deep roots in the Middle East these days. China gets more than a quarter of its oil imports from the Persian Gulf and has billions invested in Iran's oil sector.
    Starting in the 1990s, China filled a void in Syria left by a decaying Soviet Union, providing the terrorist state with a variety of missiles.
    The most recent manifestation was the unprecedented inclusion in October of Chinese warplanes in the Turkish military exercise Anatolian Eagle, maneuvers that previously had included the U.S. and Israel.
    David Schenker is director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; Christina Lin is a visiting fellow at the institute.

An Intricate Plot Unleashed in Mumbai, a New Threat to the West - Sebastian Rotella (ProPublica-Washington Post)
    Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley set up shop in Mumbai in September 2006 to begin undercover reconnaissance for a sophisticated attack that would take two years to plan.
    He had spent three years refining his clandestine skills in the terrorist training camps of the Pakistani Lashkar-i-Taiba militant group.
    Lashkar escalated its war on the West with a 2008 attack on Mumbai that targeted Americans, Europeans and Jews as well as Indians.
    In December 2007, Headley's estranged fourth wife, a Moroccan, told officials at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad that she believed he was a terrorist. She made references to training and suicide bombings and described his frequent travel to Mumbai, U.S. law enforcement officials say.
    Headley's mentor, Sajid Mir, oversaw the Mumbai attack. Indian intelligence officers were able to intercept and record nearly 300 calls. Mir's voice dominated the conversations.
    The Jewish center known as the Chabad House was attacked about an hour after the assault began. The gunmen shot Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, 29, and his pregnant wife, Rivka, 28, as well as two visiting rabbis from New York, Aryeh Leibish Teitelbaum and Ben-Zion Chroman.
    Two female hostages were still alive at Chabad House: Yocheved Orpaz, an Israeli grandmother, and Norma Rabinovich, a Mexican tourist. Mir told a gunman to hand Rabinovich the phone. He ordered her to propose a prisoner exchange to Israeli diplomats.
    Hours later, Mir gave the order to kill her. A gunman named Akasha sounded reluctant. Mir turned icy when he learned the two women were still alive. He demanded: "Have you done the job or not?"
    Akasha executed the women as Mir listened, according to the transcript. The gunfire echoed over the phone.

London Review of Books Targets Israel - Yaniv Halily (Ynet News)
    The British organization "Just Journalism" on Monday published a scathing study on the way Israel is being covered by the London Review of Books, which takes the harshest stand against Israel among all British media outlets.
    The magazine systematically publishes articles criticizing Israel with such statements as: "The State of Israel wishes to inculcate in its soldiers a neo-Nazi ideology wrapped in Judaism."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Pinning Its Mideast Hopes on 90-Day Settlement Freeze - Glenn Kessler
    When Israel agreed to a 10-month partial settlement freeze last year, U.S. officials said it was exactly what they needed to get talks with the Palestinians started. When the talks finally started in September - after the Palestinians balked at direct negotiations for nine months - U.S. officials again asserted that the sheer momentum of the talks would carry them past the end of the moratorium later that month. Yet the moratorium ended, and the talks flagged.
        Now, U.S. officials are taking another leap of faith - on a 90-day settlement freeze. The theory is that if the sides can establish the borders of a Palestinian state, and it is clear which settlements will become part of Israel, the issue of settlement expansion will fade in importance and the talks will keep going. But virtually no analyst believes an agreement on borders is possible in 90 days.
        Part of the problem is that Israel's main bargaining chip is land, and it would be required now to give up land without knowing precisely what it would get in return. "The question is whether Netanyahu and his coalition...are willing to sign an agreement that will effectively return Israel to the 1967 borders," Israeli political commentator Nahum Barnea wrote Monday in Yediot Ahronot. "Are they willing to do this even before the question of the right of return and the question of Jerusalem have been discussed?"  (Washington Post)
        Uzi Dayan, a former deputy chief of staff of the army, says a preliminary agreement on territorial concessions risks conceding Israel's territorial "strategic depth'' before reaching a full agreement. "It's like having a negotiation, and saying, 'First, give all your money, and then let's talk about the other issues.'''  (Christian Science Monitor)
        See also Israel Awaiting Written U.S. Settlement Freeze Terms
    Israel is awaiting written details of a U.S. package of incentives being offered in exchange for a new ban on Jewish construction in the West Bank, a senior Israeli official said on Tuesday. "There are understandings between the U.S. secretary of state (Hillary Clinton) and the prime minister (Benjamin Netanyahu), but it takes time for them to be put in writing, and we have to wait," Nir Hefetz, a senior communications advisor to Netanyahu, told Israeli military radio. (AFP)
        See also Clinton: Netanyahu Making "Serious Effort" on Settlements (AFP)
  • New Research Confirms Iran's Nuclear Program Was Target of Stuxnet Worm - Glenn Kessler
    The Stuxnet computer worm that infiltrated industrial systems in Iran this fall may have been specifically designed to attack the country's nuclear program. On Friday a Stuxnet researcher at Symantec said the worm targets industrial systems with high frequency "converter drives" from two specific vendors, including one in Iran. Independently, Langner Communications of Germany on Sunday discovered that another part of the worm's attack code is configured to match the structure of a turbine control system for steam turbines used in power plants, such as those installed at the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran. Langner also confirmed that the worm appears to attack key components of centrifuges.
        "Rigging the speed control is a very clever way of causing the machines to fly apart," said Ivanka Barzashka, a research associate at the Federation of American Scientists. "If Symantec's analysis is true, then Stuxnet likely aimed to destroy Iran's gas centrifuges, which could produce enriched uranium for both nuclear fuel and nuclear bombs."  (Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • IDF Chief: Hizbullah May Be Planning Lebanon Coup - Anshel Pfeffer
    A report by a UN panel probing the assassination of former Lebanon Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which may indict top Hizbullah officials, could lead to Lebanon being taken over by Hizbullah, Army Radio quoted IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi as saying on Monday. Ashkenazi said that divisions in the Lebanese army cooperated with Hizbullah and even transferred weapons to the group. Ashkenazi also said the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) were unable to implement their full mandate due to restrictions placed on them by Hizbullah. (Ha'aretz)
  • Foreign Ministry: Norway Inciting Against Israel - Itamar Eichner
    According to reports received by the Israel Foreign Ministry, the Trondheim (Norway) Municipality is funding a trip to New York for students taking part in the "Gaza Monologues" play, which "deals with the suffering of children in Gaza as a result of the Israeli occupation." It joins an exhibition by Norwegian artists displayed in Damascus, Beirut, and Amman, with the help of Norway's embassies. The exhibition shows killed Palestinian babies next to IDF helmets, which are reminiscent of Nazi soldiers' helmets, and an Israeli flag drenched in blood.
        The Norwegians are also helping the distribution of a documentary film called "Tears of Gaza" to festivals across the world. The film makes no mention of the rockets fired at Israel by Hamas and Israel's right to defend itself. In addition, a book by two Norwegian doctors that accuses IDF soldiers of deliberately killing women and children is a bestseller in Norway and has been warmly recommended by Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Store. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Netanyahu Chooses the Lesser of Two Evils - Jonathan S. Tobin
    The decision to renew a settlement building freeze in the West Bank strengthens the incorrect perception that the Palestinians are the only lawful owners of all of the West Bank. Yet Netanyahu cannot afford to act as if the desire of the U.S. to pursue another round of peace talks is irrelevant. Actions that highlight the true obstacle to peace - Palestinian irredentism - are essential to maintaining the bipartisan, across-the-board support for Israel in the U.S.
        President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may be among the last people on Planet Earth to fail to understand that PA leader Mahmoud Abbas has neither the will nor the interest in signing a peace accord, no matter where Israel's borders are drawn. As much as Netanyahu would have been justified in bluntly and publicly telling Obama and Clinton that their demand for another freeze was wrong, that would have meant putting his country in the position to be accused of saying "no" to peace. (Commentary)
  • We Must Challenge the Ideology Driving Terrorism - J. Scott Carpenter and Matthew Levitt
    Radical Islamism is an extremist sociopolitical ideology separate from the religion of Islam. Effectively contesting violent extremism requires countering the radical Islamist narrative. This means offering alternative narratives to strengthen the moderate Muslim center in the face of the Islamist threat. All elements of national power should be used to counter this narrative and debunk the notion that Muslims have a religious duty to commit acts of terror. (The Australian)
  • Stand by Lebanon - Editorial
    Syria and Hizbullah's top leader, Hassan Nasrallah, have bluntly warned the Lebanese government to halt cooperation with the international investigation into the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, or risk violent reprisals. A stable Lebanon, with a government that can stand up to outside intimidation and a national army in control of all its territory, is clearly not what Hizbullah wants. It is in the clear interest of the U.S. (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    Over to You, Mr. Abbas - Editorial (Jerusalem Post)

    • The key significance of Israeli acceptance of another building freeze in Judea and Samaria for another three months would lie in Israel's demonstrable renewed commitment to a negotiated peace that best serves its interests - this despite Israelis' skepticism over the intentions of the Palestinian leadership.
    • A new freeze would also be critically facilitated by Washington's specific caveat that it not extend to construction in Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem, the unnecessary focus of much U.S.-Israel friction these past few months.
    • It is particularly troubling that President Obama, unlike his predecessor, has refrained from expressing understanding for "the new realities on the ground" - and specifically Israel's need to maintain settlement blocs in any future agreement. Nevertheless, as Netanyahu has made clear, Israel's interest lies in seeking an accommodation if one can be found, putting an end to interminable conflict.
    • Netanyahu is rightly concerned by the possibility that the West Bank will turn into a second "Hamastan." Rocket and missile fire lobbed into a narrow-waisted Israel from the hilltops of Judea and Samaria would constitute an existential danger that has not been sufficiently addressed in previous peace proposals. Hence the prime minister's insistence on Israeli military control along the Jordan border.
    • With Israel on board, in step rather than in friction with Washington, it is Abbas who should come under pressure to compromise - and to take positions that give his people, and ours, the opportunity for genuine reconciliation and a secure future.

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