Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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June 19, 2012

In-Depth Issue:

Iran Missile Engineer Oversees Chavez’s Drones - Robert Beckhusen (Danger Room)
  The manager of Venezuela’s drone program is an engineer who helped build ballistic missiles for Iran. The supervisor, Ramin Keshavarz, is a member of the Revolutionary Guards and former employee of Iran’s Defense Industry Organization, a firm embargoed by the United States for overseeing Iran’s ballistic missile program.
  According to El Nuevo Herald, U.S. officials believe Iran shipped drones to Venezuela hidden in cargo containers. The date and specific port are not known, but Venezuela only received six drones — in a shipment of 70 containers carrying each more than 24,000 pounds of cargo.
  Why do Venezuela and Iran cooperate with each other? The explanation has Iran using Venezuela as a forward base against the United States. In this view, Venezuela is a location to store Iranian military assets, possibly even missiles.

Popularity Declines for Hamas after Five-Year Gaza Rule (Xinhua - China)
  Opponents to the Islamic Hamas movement in Gaza argue over the retreat of its participation in popular activities, saying it is a sign of deterioration of its popular support, just five years after the movement violently seized control of the enclave.
  They said Hamas isn't interested anymore, as it used to do in the past, in joining popular activities on occasions during the year, because its leaders are afraid that its supporters won't largely join these activities due to ongoing humanitarian crisis the Gazans are passing through.
  Jamil Mezher, member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, told Xinhua that the retreat in Hamas popularity "has become very much obvious in Gaza due to Hamas strategy based on appropriation and repression."

Iran Was Behind Bomb Plot against Israeli Diplomats, Investigators Find - Jason Burke (Guardian - UK)
  A multinational investigation into bomb plots targeting Israeli diplomats earlier this year has produced the clearest evidence yet that Iran was involved. In India, local agencies told ministers a bomb attack which badly injured the wife of the Israeli military attaché in New Delhi in February was the work of an Iranian "security entity."
  European intelligence officials said they now found it difficult to judge Tehran's "risk calculus." "Until recently it was possible to see why they were doing what they have been doing," one intelligence official said. "Now it has become very unpredictable."
  The attempted triple-bombing on 13 and 14 February was conducted by a well co-ordinated network of Iranians and prepared over at least 10 months. The evidence includes the identification of at least 10 Iranians allegedly involved in the plots, money transfers to key individuals from Iran, the use of Iranian phone connections and the flight following the attacks of conspirators to Iran.
  "The question is not was this Iran-backed or Iran-organized but who in Iran was running all this," said one western security official.
    See also How Iran's Revenge Bomb Plot over Nuclear Program Took Shape - Jason Burke (Guardian - UK)

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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Iran, World Powers Go Down to Wire in Nuclear Talks
    Iran and world powers on Tuesday return for what could be the last day of so far stormy negotiations aimed at putting a peaceful halt to the Islamic Republic's disputed nuclear drive. Western officials said their patience was running out with Iran.
      The West is waiting for Iran to respond to an offer made last month and repeated on Monday that would see it halt enrichment to the dangerous level of 20 percent and ship out such existing material in return for some forms of aid. Iran has countered with a demand that world powers recognize its "right to enrich" -- something contradicting current UN resolutions -- and rescind an oil embargo that the European Union intends to implement fully on July 1. (AFP/Yahoo)
  • Iran Condemns Nuclear Proposal at Moscow Talks
    Iran on Monday offered up a blistering critique of a proposal by six world powers to rein in its nuclear program, marking the latest setback in efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict.
      Iran's chief negotiator, Saeed Jalili, ticked off a list of objections in a five-hour negotiating session at a Moscow hotel and expounded at length about Tehran's grievances with the West dating back to at least 1968. The Iranian critique, rolled out in a Power Point presentation, extended a losing streak for the negotiations. (San Francisco Chronicle)
  • Egypt's Generals Act to Negate Outcome of Presidential Poll - Jack Shenker
    Egypt's generals awarded themselves sweeping political powers in an 11th-hour constitutional declaration that tied the hands of the country's incoming president and cemented military authority over the post-Mubarak era. The announcement on Sunday night came as early presidential election results put the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi ahead of his rival Ahmed Shafik, Mubarak's final prime minister. But with thousands of polling stations yet to declare following the two-day runoff vote, the overall winner was too close to call.
      Pro-change activists and human rights campaigners said the junta's constitutional declaration – which came just days after judges extended the army's ability to arrest civilians and following the dissolution of the Brotherhood-dominated parliament by the country's top court – rendered the scheduled handover of power to a democratically elected executive meaningless. (Guardian - UK)
        See also U.S. Officials 'Deeply Concerned' by Egypt Military Decree
    U.S. officials said Monday that they were "deeply concerned" by an Egyptian military decree giving its ruling generals sweeping powers to pass laws and decide whether to go to war, issued just as Egyptians finished casting their votes for its new president. “We have, and will continue, to urge the [Supreme Council of the Armed Forces] to relinquish power to civilian-elected authorities and to respect the universal rights of the Egyptian people and the rule of law,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Russia 'Sending Warships to Syria' - Oliver Charmichael
    Russia is preparing to send two amphibious assault ships to the Syrian port of Tartus according to the Interfax news agency.
      The move is seen as an attempt to ensure the safety of Russian nationals stationed at the strategic naval base Moscow operates on Syria's Mediterranean coast. An unidentified officer confirmed that "Two major amphibious ships – The Nikolai Filchenkov and the Tsezar Kunikov – are preparing to be dispatched to Tartus outside of their schedule." (Telegraph -- UK)
  • Britain Stops Russian Ship Carrying Attack Helicopters for Syria - Richard Spencer, Adrian Blomfield and David Millward
    The British marine insurer Standard Club said it had withdrawn cover from all the ships owned by Femco, a Russian cargo line, including the MV Alaed. "We were made aware of the allegations that the Alaed was carrying munitions destined for Syria," the company said in a statement. The MV Alaed picked up its cargo of Mi25 helicopters – known as "flying tanks" – from the Russian port of Kaliningrad, where they had been sent to the state-owned manufacturer Mil's "Factory 150" for servicing and repairs. (Telegraph - UK)
        See also Russia Sending Missile Systems to Shield Syria - Andrew E. Kramer (New York Times)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • Four Rockets Fired from Gaza at Ashkelon, Land in Open Areas - Gabe Fisher and Philip Podolsky
    Four rockets were fired from Gaza towards the Ashkelon area early Tuesday morning, but landed in open areas and did not result in any damage or casualties. Responsibility for the Tuesday rocket fire was claimed by Izz ad-Din al-Qassam brigades. (Times of Israel)
  • Hamas Jubilant over Mursi’s Egyptian Presidential Victory Claim - Eman El-Shenawi
    Hamas leaders and supporters in Gaza Strip celebrated Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood presidential victory, according to preliminary results announced on Monday. Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zohri said that Mursi’s win will help break the siege on Gaza and support the Palestinian cause, especially on the issue of the disputed Jerusalem.
      From Israel’s perspective, one of Mubarak’s great advantages was that he helped maintain a tough blockade on Gaza. Hamas hopes a Mursi presidency would loosen the economic shackles of a boycott Israel says is meant to stop the flow of arms to Gaza. (Al Arabiya - Dubai)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Egypt on Way to Becoming Hotbed of Terrorism, but Israel's Hands Are Tied - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff
    The terrorist attack on Monday morning near Be'er Milka and the firing of Grad rockets toward Ovda and Mitzpeh Ramon over the weekend, alongside numerous reports in Egyptian media of increased activity among Palestinian terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula over the two-day voting period, make it clear that certain sources in Egypt have a clear interest in heating up the Israeli border.
      Regardless of who wins Egypt's run-off presidential elections - Mohammed Morsi or Ahmed Shafiq – it is clear that Israel can expect to see further incidents of this sort. The chaos in Sinai is not expected to disappear any time soon.
      One of the central problems that Israel will be forced to deal with in future events or attacks, is the lack of address: the identities of the terrorists who carried out Monday morning's attack, along with the launchers of the Grad rockets over the weekend, are unclear. Israel's hands are tied, and therefore its great effort to complete the fence on the Egyptian border is understandable. (Ha'aretz)
  • Another Saudi Actuarial Disaster - Simon Henderson
    Washington woke on Saturday to the news of the death of Crown Prince Nayef, who was next in line for the Saudi throne. The collective sigh of relief by senior U.S. officials was almost audible. Nayef was renowned for being difficult and unimaginative, only able to view policy options in terms of choices that worsened problems rather than eased them. His support for the kingdom's religious conservatives during his decades in office had arguably only added to jihadi extremism.
      Among the next generation of Saudi princes, there is intense competition for such a prestigious role in a major ministry.
      Therein lies the fundamental problem with leadership of the kingdom: Its succession mechanism is an actuarial disaster area. Notionally, the throne should pass from brother to brother among the sons of Ibn Saud, who died in 1953. The system means that Saudi monarchs are getting progressively older -- with all that means in terms of energy for the role and mental acuity.
      The kings of Saudi Arabia are graying, and look to become even grayer in the years ahead. The logical way to resolve this problem is to allow the succession system to jump down to the next generation. It arguably should happen but almost certainly won't -- personal ambition of individual princes outweighs their appreciation of their mutual interest. Given Saudi Arabia's centrality in the Middle East, if not the world, that may turn out to be to the detriment of all of us.
      Simon Henderson is the Baker fellow and director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at The Washington Institute. (Foreign Policy)
  • Observations:

    Wistful in Jerusalem - Elliott Abrams (Weekly Standard)

  • Israelis look north to Syria and see the savagery, the massacres, the now over 14,000 dead, and the world doing absolutely nothing. "You get no help in this region if you are weak," one IDF general said to me. "It is a reminder to us of just what would have happened to us and could still if we were not strong enough to defend ourselves. But now we watch as these women and children are slaughtered and no one acts to save them. It's up to the Arabs and to Europe and to you [the United States]. And you do nothing."
  • The Israelis know their security is tied to the United States, and no country in the world roots with more energy than Israel for American success and American power. So when we refuse to use it, they shake their heads and wonder why, what does it mean, what are the causes, where does it lead? You could stop the killing in Syria in a week, they say. Think of the lives you would save — and it would hurt Iran and Hizbullah.
  • And then there is Iran. One Israeli official told me: We do what we do well, but you guys are so much bigger, you have so much more. Israel can damage the Iranian project, we can set them back, really. But if we had the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force, well, they would come to the table and give up their program or they would lose it in 24 hours.
  • Israelis do not see their world collapsing, just changing to present a few more threats. The Sinai was quiet for decades, as was the Golan, but who can say if they will be in a year or two? What does Israel do if terrorists strike Eilat from Sinai — nothing, even if there is loss of life, or do they violate Egyptian sovereignty and chase the terrorists across the border?
  • The king of Jordan is managing well through the "Arab Spring," but if first Egypt and perhaps some day Syria come under Muslim Brotherhood control won't the Brotherhood seek more power in Jordan?
  • None of the Israelis with whom I spoke expect President Abbas to sign a final status agreement, ever. The Mahmoud Abbas who rejected Olmert's generous peace 2008 offer and who is currently negotiating with Hamas is not widely viewed as a very likely peace partner.

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