Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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July 30, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Accelerating Nuclear Timetable - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)
    If Iran continues to enrich uranium at the current pace, it will become a "nuclear threshold" country within a year.
    The data indicate that Iran has significantly increased the pace of its uranium enrichment over the past four months.
    Most of the efforts to speed up the enrichment process are concentrated in Fordo, where Iran will eventually produce weapons grade uranium. The facility in Fordo is situated inside a mountain and is protected by layers of rock.
    Should the Iranians continue to enrich uranium at the current pace, by January or February of 2013 Iran would be only about two months away from producing weapons-grade uranium for a nuclear warhead or bomb - a "nuclear threshold" situation.
    Iran believes that a reliable nuclear arsenal containing a number of nuclear warheads would prevent a military strike and even serve as a bargaining chip to lift the harsh economic sanctions imposed by the West.

Israel Denies It Spies on American Intelligence Agents (Israel Hayom)
    The Israel Prime Minister's Office has flatly denied an AP report that Israel routinely spies on CIA agents stationed in Israel.
    "In response to the report about the CIA, the Prime Minister's Office states that this is a false report," the office stated on Saturday night.

Netanyahu: U.S. National Security Adviser Did Not Share Iran Attack Plans with Us - Raphael Ahren (Times of Israel)
    The Israel Prime Minister's Office on Sunday denied a report in Ha'aretz that U.S. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon recently showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the Obama administration's plans for a possible strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.
    "Donilon did not meet the prime minister for dinner, he did not meet him one-on-one, nor did he present operational plans to attack Iran," a senior official said.

Assad Is Losing His Grip (Economist-UK)
    Louay Mokdad, a senior logistics man for the Free Syrian Army (FSA), says the FSA's improved skills are thanks to the rising number of defections from Assad's forces. "Some 50 officers are joining us every day and we ask many who contact us to stay put and pass on information," he says.
    The rise in military defections is being matched by an exodus of big businessmen. "After the assault on Damascus, we see that nowhere and no one is safe," said a senior executive who has just shut up shop and made for Beirut, in neighboring Lebanon.
    The regime, twitchier about the loyalty of those it had previously banked on, has arrested several of its own, including a son of the Joud family, a clan in Assad's Alawite sect that runs a web of businesses.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Syria Expanded Chemical Weapons Supply with Iran's Help, Documents Show - James Ball
    Syria has expanded its chemical weapons arsenal in recent years with help from Iran and by using front organizations to buy sophisticated equipment it claimed was for civilian programs, according to documents and interviews. The buildup has taken place despite attempts by the U.S. and other Western countries to block the sale of precursor chemicals and so-called dual-use technology to Damascus.
        As recently as 2010, documents show that the European Union provided $14.6 million in technical assistance and equipment, some intended for chemical plants, in a deal with the Syrian Ministry of Industry. Diplomats and arms experts have identified the ministry as a front for the country's chemical weapons program. (Washington Post)
  • Panetta on Mideast Swing to Assure on Syria, Iran - Adam Entous
    U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta opened a five-day trip to the Middle East by seeking to reassure anxious allies that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will fall, that Damascus' chemical weapons will remain secure and that sanctions against Iran will tighten further. The main focus of Panetta's trip will be to try to bring the U.S. and Israel into closer alignment on Syria and Iran, officials said.
        Panetta said he would assure Israeli leaders that the Americans "respect their sovereignty and their ability to make decisions with regard to their own security." He also said the U.S. has "a very close partnership" with Israel on Iran and other regional threats. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Civilians Flee Aleppo as Syrian Troops and Rebels Battle
    Syrian government forces mounted new ground attacks against rebel-controlled neighborhoods in Aleppo, the state media said Monday, but failed to dislodge the opposition from their strongholds, according to activists. The Syrian army has massed its forces around Aleppo and has been pounding it with tanks and helicopter gunships. (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Syrian Government Renews Aleppo Assault - Michael Peel (Financial Times-UK-Washington Post)
        See also Iran Warns Arab States over Syria - Sam Dagher
    Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi warned Sunni-led Arab states and Turkey, who are supporting Syria's opposition, that their insistence on toppling the Syrian regime will destabilize their own countries and the entire region. Salehi said those countries were "wrong, naive and deluded," if they thought the removal of President Assad from power will bring about a new government in Syria friendly to their interests. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Iran Sanctions Halt Long-Range Ballistic-Missile Development
    There is mounting evidence to suggest that, whereas the sanctions regime has not prevented Tehran from operating an increased number of centrifuges for uranium-enrichment activities or adding to its stockpile of fissile material, it has stymied efforts to develop and produce the long-range ballistic missiles capable of striking potential targets in western Europe and beyond.
        If sanctions continue to disrupt Tehran's access to the key propellant ingredients and components needed to produce large solid-propellant rocket motors, Iranian attempts to develop and field long-range ballistic missiles could be significantly impeded, if not halted altogether. (International Institute for Strategic Studies-UK)
  • Obama Signs U.S.-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act
    President Obama signed the bipartisan U.S.-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act on Friday. The legislation provides additional support for various defense systems as well as the extension of loan guarantees for Israel and encouragement of an expanded role for Israel within NATO. The president also announced an additional $70 million in spending for the Iron Dome anti-missile project. (JTA)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Romney Visits Israel - Herb Keinon
    U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney arrived in Israel on Saturday night on the second leg of a three-country tour - his fourth visit to Israel. He met with Prime Minister Netanyahu on Sunday, but the two held no joint public appearances since the prime minister does not want to be perceived in any way as intervening in the U.S. elections. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also In Jerusalem, Romney Delivers Strong Defense of Israel - Jodi Rudoren and Ashley Parker (New York Times)
  • Arabs Protest Israel's Participation in Olympics - Roi Kais
    During the opening ceremony of the London Olympic Games, the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network provided elaborate commentary as each country's Olympic delegation marched down the stadium. However, as soon as the Israeli delegation entered the stadium, Arab sport commentator Isam Shawali said, "They don't deserve it."
        On the opening night, Lebanese judo fighters refused to train on the same mat as the Israeli Olympic team, forcing Olympic officials to erect a screen between the two teams. (Ynet News)
  • Jihadi Group Claims Responsibility for Deadly Sinai Border Attack
    A video posted online on Friday featured members of the new Islamic jihadi group Magles Shoura al-Mujahddin based in Egypt's Sinai who carried out a cross-border attack in June that killed one Israeli. (Reuters-Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Ending Iranian Terrorism - What the World Can Do - Irwin Cotler
    What can the international community do to combat the escalating Iranian state sponsorship of international terrorism? First, all states have the responsibility to invoke the legal, diplomatic, economic and political instruments at their disposal to confront Iranian terrorist aggression. Second, state parties to the Genocide Convention should initiate complaints before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Iran for its incitement to genocide, a standing violation of the Convention. Third, states must hold Iran accountable for its attacks against diplomats.
        Fourth, the international community should invoke the panoply of legal remedies against the Iranian regime and its terrorist agents. Interpol arrest warrants should be enforced; civil suits should be instituted where appropriate against Iran and its terrorist agents for its perpetration of acts of terror; and the principle of universal jurisdiction should be invoked to hold Iran's leaders accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The writer is a former minister of justice and attorney-general of Canada. (Times of Israel)
  • Alawistan - Tony Badran
    The Syrian regime has been setting the stage for a retreat to Syria's coastal mountains, the traditional homeland of the Assads' Alawite sect, for months now. Sooner or later, Assad will abandon Damascus. Assad has moved to secure all natural access points leading to this Alawite redoubt. He also began to clear hostile Sunni pockets within the enclave and to create a buffer zone in the plain that separates the coastal mountains from the interior. This was the calculus behind the string of mass killings in villages like al-Houla, Taldou, al-Haffeh, and Tremseh - all Sunni population centers either inside or on the eastern frontier of the Alawite enclave in the central plain.
        In Damascus, the regime does not possess a demographic reservoir of loyal Alawite communities. It has responded to this problem by ringing the capital with military bases stocked with loyal Alawite troops to control the main communication routes out of the city.
        Some will argue that an Alawite enclave is unviable in the long-term, but Assad has an insurance policy - a large stockpile of chemical weapons. These weapons are his last remaining and most formidable deterrent against his Sunni foes, and precious leverage to guarantee the quiescence of the outside world. The writer is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Foreign Policy)
  • Managing the Endgame in Syria - Chuck Freilich
    The tragedy of Syria, as in Egypt, is that the chances of a moderate democratic regime evolving are minimal. The former stature of Iran and Hizbullah as revolutionary actors has been greatly tarnished by their avid support for the Assad regime.
        For Israel, the new regime may be as unsavory as its predecessor and may threaten the four decades of calm that have prevailed on the Golan Heights. In addition, for Israel the use of chemical weapons, or their transfer to Hizbullah or other radical hands, is simply intolerable and it will have no alternative but to prevent this. The writer is an International Security Program Senior Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center. (Diplomat-Japan)

Bogeymen of the Arab World - Aaron David Miller (National Interest)

  • Heroically, the Arabs are freeing themselves from their authoritarian masters. But can they liberate themselves from the fears, conspiracies and prejudices that also shape so much of their politics and identity? Two principal bogeymen - Israel and the colonial power (aka America) - continue to haunt the Arab world.
  • For the Arabs, Israel is one tough and painful look in the mirror. How could a tiny country defy the will of the great Arab nation and make itself into the strongest military power and most technologically advanced country in the Middle East? The Arabs themselves have turned David into an ugly and mythical Goliath.
  • It remains the default for any Arabs, no matter what their orientation, to simply blame whatever they don't like on imaginary omnipotent American policies serving exclusively the supposed interests of Israel.
  • At what point do the Arabs stop blaming the West for much of what ails them? Is there an expiration date on the evils of the colonial legacy? Will America always be a convenient excuse to shift responsibility from the Arabs' own incompetence and inability to construct fully productive and functioning societies where human rights, rule of law, prosperity and security are available to the majority of their citizens?
  • Conspiracy theories infantilize and prevent individuals and nations from assuming responsibilities for dealing with their real problems. The Arab spring was a critical beginning. For the Arabs, freeing themselves from their demons - both real and imagined - will be harder still.

    The writer is a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

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