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October 26, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

U.S., Israel Carry Out Largest Joint Military Exercise as Violence Flares on Gaza Border (AP-Washington Post)
    The U.S. and Israel simulated rocket attacks during their largest-ever joint military drill Wednesday, called Austere Challenge 2012, just as real ones fired from Gaza exploded in southern Israel.
    About 1,000 U.S. troops are in Israel alongside a similar number of Israeli troops. An additional 2,500 U.S. troops based in Europe and the Mediterranean are participating in the three-week exercise, practicing their ability to help thwart a variety of threats that face Israel.
    In Wednesday's exercise simulating incoming rockets, Israeli commanders and their American counterparts identified an incoming rocket or enemy aircraft, then American troops pushed the button to activate the anti-missile launcher.
    Not far away, Israeli soldiers were operating similar batteries for real, knocking down eight rockets from Gaza.

U.S. Rushes to Stop Syria from Expanding Chemical Weapon Stockpile - Noah Shachtman (Wired)
    The Assad regime is actively working to enlarge its arsenal of chemical weapons, according to U.S. officials.
    Assad's operatives have tried repeatedly in recent months to buy up the precursor chemicals for deadly nerve agents like sarin, though the U.S. and its allies have been able to block many of these sales.
    Meanwhile, more than 500 metric tons of nerve agent precursors, stored in binary form, are kept at 25 locations scattered around the country.

Hizbullah Crosses Syrian Border with Bloody Assault on Assad's Enemies - Loveday Morris (Independent-UK)
    Rebel fighters have told The Independent that Hizbullah began a major assault on the Syrian side of the Lebanese border in mid-October, after the Free Syrian Army tried but failed to take control of border villages and crossing points.
    At night Katyusha rockets fired from Hizbullah positions in the Hermel area rain down on rebel positions over the border.
    "Everyone knows they have fighters there," said FSA fighter Amr Al Ali, 23. "Recently Hizbullah have come in with thousands of soldiers because the Syrian army couldn't fight us alone."
    See also Hizbullah's Unspoken War in Syria - Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah (ICA-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

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Palestinian Terrorists on the UK Payroll - Douglas Murray (Wall Street Journal Europe)
    A report by Palestinian Media Watch recently revealed that £3 million every month is paid by the Palestinian Authority (PA) in salaries to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
    The salaries come from the PA's general budget. That "general budget" is kindly provided by the UK, among other EU countries.
    Many British taxpayers might rightly wonder why their money is going to pay as much as £2,000 a month to people serving the longest sentences - those who have targeted Israeli buses and other civilian targets with suicide bombers, for instance.
    That is higher than the average wage in nearly all of Britain.
    The writer is associate director of the Henry Jackson Society in London.

Joe Wants to Talk Israel with You - Chloe Kent (ICB-Jerusalem Post)
    "My name is Joe, and I'm tired of people bashing Israel on campus," the YouTube video begins, as a teenager fresh from a summer Birthright trip speaks into his video camera.
    Joe, an animated college character, is the face of Joe's Israel, an online project designed to respond to the delegitimization of Israel by engaging college-aged students.
    In one video, a video chat request pops up from user "VP_Lieberman2000," - Senator Joe Lieberman, who is sitting at his desk in D.C. "Hey Joe," he interrupts. "It's me, the other Joe. Do you got a minute to talk about Israel?"
    The campaign is among the first of its kind with a participatory, social media-based strategy to bring Israel activism to a demographic that is comfortable using technology to share and exchange ideas, particularly with regards to activism.
    Andre Oboler, who created the Joe's Israel project, noted: "This is not a campaign with a Facebook page tacked on to it, this is a campaign designed on a social media philosophy. This is where the future of activism is going."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Said to Nearly Finish Underground Nuclear Enrichment Plant - David E. Sanger and William J. Broad
    Intelligence officials from several countries say Iran in recent weeks has virtually completed an underground nuclear enrichment plant. The installation of the last of nearly 3,000 centrifuges at Fordo, deep under a mountain near Qum, puts Iran closer to being able to build a nuclear weapon.
        Iran's progress was disclosed by officials familiar with the findings of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency who have been to the site recently. While the plant is not yet fully running - fewer than half of all its centrifuges are spinning out enriched uranium - Iran could have it doing so within months, officials say. (New York Times)
        See also Discouraging Any Iranian Decision to Produce Highly-Enriched Uranium - David Albright, Andrea Stricker, and Christina Walrond
    The U.S. and the international community should prepare for the possibility that Iran may officially announce that it has decided to make highly-enriched uranium, including enriching up to 60%, under a civilian or naval nuclear rationale. The production of 60%-enriched uranium would put Iran significantly closer to having weapon-grade uranium (WGU, a form of highly-enriched uranium that is enriched to 90% or more), compared to its current stockpile of 19.75%-enriched uranium, and would significantly shorten the amount of time Iran would need in a breakout scenario.
        Moreover, Iran does not require 60%-enriched uranium. The production of highly-enriched uranium would be an important precedent, which Iran could later use to justify the production of weapon-grade uranium. (Institute for Science and International Security)
  • Iranians Nurture Ties to Asia to Blunt Sanctions - Brian Murphy
    At one Asian summit this month in Azerbaijan, Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reminded the president of Kazakhstan about the vision of a railway linking the heart of Central Asia with Iran's warm ports. At another meeting in Kuwait, he held talks with Tajikistan's leader about their growing trade ties.
        Even as U.S. and European sanctions tighten around Iran's economy, officials in Tehran are busy reaching out to Asian markets as a critical lifeline. The outreach represents a way for Tehran to seek economic buffers from sanctions in a region where Washington holds relatively limited sway.
        "Iran has no choice but to turn to Asia for trade" because of Western sanctions, said Sasan Fayazmanesh, an economic affairs expert and head of the Middle East Studies Program at California State University, Fresno. "But that, of course, will not solve Iran's problem of selling its oil since the Central Asian countries, for the most part, do not need Iran's oil."  (AP-Washington Times)
  • Canada, Israel and U.S. Call for UN Rapporteur's Resignation
    The UN special investigator on human rights in the Palestinian territories called Wednesday for a boycott of all companies that have dealings with Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Israel, the U.S. and Canada all rejected Richard Falk's report, accusing the UN special rapporteur of bias against Israel and calling for his removal. "Canada calls on Mr. Falk to either withdraw this biased and disgraceful report - or resign from his position at the United Nations," said Rick Roth, a spokesman for Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister, John Baird.
        U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said: "Mr. Falk's recommendations do nothing to further a peaceful settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and indeed poison the environment for peace....His continued service in the role of a UN Special Rapporteur is deeply regrettable and only damages the credibility of the UN."  (AP-CBC News)
  • Israelis Sue Chinese Bank for Aiding Hamas
    The families of terror victims in Israel have filed a $1 billion lawsuit in New York against the Bank of China for aiding Hamas. The Shurat Ha Din-Israel Law Center filed the suit on behalf of five families of students who died in an attack on the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem on March 6, 2008, in which eight students died. "We were able to make use of laws allowing non-Americans to also sue in U.S. courts in the case of terrorism," center director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said.
        The suit asserts that in 2003 the Bank of China executed dozens of wire transfers totaling millions of dollars to Hamas initiated by the terror group's leadership in Syria and Iran. The transfers were processed by Bank of China branches in the U.S., sent to an account in China operated by a senior militant, and then transferred to Hamas in Gaza.
        In 2005, Israeli counterterrorism officials met with Chinese officials and demanded they stop the wire transfers. "Despite these warnings, the state-owned bank, with Beijing's approval, continued to wire funds for terrorism, all while declaring they did not consider Hamas a terrorist group." Hamas was designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. in 1997 and as "specially designated global terrorists" in 2001, making the group subject to strict economic sanctions. (UPI)
        See also Bank of China Says It Hasn't Helped Hamas - Grace Zhu (Wall Street Journal Europe)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Sudan Strike - A Blow to Iran - Yaakov Lappin
    Sudan has been a central transit point for Iranian arms headed to Gaza. Israel has remained officially silent, but if Israeli planes did fly 1,900 km. to the Sudanese capital to bomb a rocket factory, the move could represent a major blow to Iranian efforts to smuggle arms into Gaza, and contain a demonstrable threat to Tehran of what may occur if it continues to develop nuclear weapons.
        With Iran's nuclear sites roughly the same distance from Israel, an air strike in Khartoum would demonstrate Israel's long-range capabilities, and make the military threat on the table that much more tangible. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Killed Top Opponents of Hamas in Gaza
    On October 12, an Israel Air Force aircraft killed two operatives affiliated with global jihad networks in Gaza: Hisham Ali Abd al-Karim Saidani - a top operative of the Al-Tawhid wal-Jihad and cofounder of the Shura Council of Jihad Fighters in Greater Jerusalem - and Ashraf Sabah.
        The deaths of Saidani and other top operatives in targeted killings have undermined - even if only temporarily - the operative capabilities of Al Tawhid wal-Jihad (the most important global jihad organization in Gaza) and the Shura Council. In Hamas' view, it has rid itself of a tough opponent who refused to obey its "rules of the game" on anti-Israel terrorist attacks. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
  • Ashkelon Residents Awake to Sirens - Yaakov Lappin
    Early Wednesday, Ashkelon's 117,000 residents awoke to air raid sirens and blasts in the skies. Hamas fired a heavy salvo of deadly Grad rockets at Ashkelon, and Israel's Iron Dome anti-rocket shield intercepted them all. "It's frightening to wake up to seven blasts in the morning, said Elad, 33. "Every interception causes two to three more thuds as the rocket disintegrates."
        The presence of the Iron Dome has made a world of a difference, he said, but the reality of living in a city targeted by rockets from Gaza remained surreal and disturbing. Locals are on alert for the sirens at all times, whether walking down the street, driving, or dropping their children off at school.
        Elad's mother was wounded by a rocket attack on an Ashkelon shopping center in 2008, and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Every time an air raid siren goes off, she suffers a bout of anxiety, he said. "We don't want war. I don't hate Arabs. But we've been under rocket attacks for years."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Iran and the Next U.S. President - Dennis Ross
    Regardless of who is elected on November 6, they are likely to try a more dramatic diplomatic initiative or end-game proposal with the Iranians. They will do it to show the American public that we went the extra mile if force proves necessary. No American president will resort to force without such a demonstration.
        The stalemated talks between the 5+1 and the Iranians have focused largely on a step-by-step approach designed to have the Iranians show they are prepared to bring their nuclear program into compliance with their international obligations. If there was plenty of time to let the pressures build on the Iranians, the step-by-step approach might yet work.
        But with 2013 looming as a decisive year, either Obama or Romney is likely to see the need to accelerate the diplomatic process to create far greater clarity. If there is to be a diplomatic way out of the conflict with the Iranians over their nuclear program, sharpening the choice for Iran's leaders may also be the only way to produce it. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • The Limits of Friendship - David Horovitz
    During the presidential debate, two very important men, engaged in a uniquely public job interview for the position of leader of the free world, both went out of their way to tell Israelis how much they care about us. Iran wants us wiped out, and is closing in on the means to achieve that ambition. Both Obama and Romney said they'd stop the regime, but both also gave us reasons to wonder about that - no matter how good their intentions.
        If I were an Iranian leader watching Monday's debate, I would draw the happy conclusion that both these men know the American public is deeply resistant to a resort to force in its name, in anything but the most desperate circumstances. The key question for Israelis is whether the next American president, whoever he is, will be leading a nation that will want him to intervene in Iran, if all else fails. Iran is betting that when push comes to shove, the U.S. will hold its fire. The question for Israel is whether either of these two men, should they deem it necessary, could persuade America of the imperative to resort to force.
        Subcontracting our security in the face of Iran to our best ally, even when it pledges over and over that it has our back, is an immense and unprecedented risk. Subcontracting our security to our best ally, when that ally may be too constrained by domestic public circumstances to adequately cover our back, is potentially suicidal.
        America, as indicated by what the candidates had to say, is anxious to avoid almost any war, at almost any cost - which leaves an agonizing dilemma for Israel on Iran. The writer, the founding editor of the Times of Israel, was previously editor of the Jerusalem Post and the Jerusalem Report. (Times of Israel)

  • Other Issues

  • Hizbullah Under Pressure - David Schenker
    While the demise of Hizbullah is far from imminent, regional developments threaten to undermine the group's preeminent position in Lebanon. The uprising in Syria threatens to topple the Assad regime, interrupt Hizbullah supply lines, and leave the Shiite Party of God surrounded by a sea of Sunni Muslims. The militia has responded by lashing out against (and perhaps killing its) local detractors, highlighting its anti-Israel agenda, and doubling down on Assad. Now the proliferation of body bags returning from Syria is becoming a problem for the organization.
        In Lebanon itself, Hizbullah stands to lose the next elections and control of the government. While Hizbullah itself continues to command broad support among Shiites, the organization's Christian coalition partner, the Free Patriotic Movement led by Michel Aoun, appears to be losing popularity. At the same time, Lebanon's Druze community headed by Walid Jumblatt is poised to bolt from the Hizbullah-led bloc and realign with the remnants of the pro-West, March 14 coalition, enabling it to form a government.
        Hizbullah remains dangerous, but barring some dramatic change in the trajectory of events in Syria, Hizbullah's days of dominating Lebanon are numbered. The writer is director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Weekly Standard)
  • My Country Is Under Attack. Do You Care? - Arsen Ostrovsky
    I'm angry. As most Americans were waking up Wednesday morning, and those in Europe and elsewhere were going about their daily routines, here in Israel, over one million people were running for cover from a hail of rockets being rained down by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza. In the space of 24 hours, 80 rockets were fired, more than three rockets per hour. One million Israelis is roughly 13% of the population, which compares to about 40 million Americans.
        I'm angry that in 2012, over 600 rockets have already been fired from Gaza with no end in sight. I'm angry that the world only notices when Israel undertakes its (sovereign) right to defend its citizens. Can you imagine if even one rocket was fired on Washington, London, Paris or Moscow?
        I'm angry that newspapers like the New York Times lead their stories about the rocket attacks with such headlines as "Four Palestinian Militants Killed in Israeli Airstrikes," and not "Palestinian Terrorists Rain Down 80 Rockets Against One Million Israelis." I'm angry that there is someone out there who does not know me and has never met me, yet still wants to kill me - for no other reason than my being Israeli. The writer is an international human rights lawyer. (Huffington Post-Canada)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israeli Innovators Seek to Boost Soldiers' Survivability - Mitch Ginsburg
    The MUGI is a real-time surveillance system designed to operate alone in the field. Easily camouflaged and movement activated, the system can provide real-time video day and night. The MUGI is one of several inventions being presented by Israel's Defense Ministry this week at the Association of the United States Army's annual land warfare exposition in Washington.
        IRIS, an individual robotic intelligence system, is the size of half a shoe box. It can send a laser signal, pick up audio and video day and night, and collect intelligence from within a tunnel or a pipe. The medium-sized version, MTGR, can climb stairs, supply 360-degree film footage day and night, and be used to either deliver or disassemble a bomb or an improvised explosive device. The largest model, the Probot, can carry soldiers' gear, evacuate wounded soldiers under fire, and disperse non-lethal demonstrations by firing tear gas and rubber bullets and broadcasting a high frequency sound.
        SYS Technologies developed the Medi-T, a portable and sterile operating room that can be carried in three bags and erected in five minutes. Meprolight scopes can detect a target at 2,000 yards; capture and store still images; stream and record video in real time; upload and download data with a USB; and automatically compute the necessary adjustments that snipers must make based on the distance to the target and the weapon's ballistics. (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli Activist Wins International Prize for Fight Against African Animal Trafficking - Sharon Udasin
    When Israeli photojournalist Ofir Drori began his post-army odyssey through Africa, he never thought he would end up pioneering the take-down of a regional animal trafficking industry. Drori, now 36, will receive this year's World Wildlife Fund for Nature Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Medal for his work over the past decade as founder and director of both The Last Great Ape Organization Cameroon (LAGA) and the Central Africa Wildlife Law Enforcement Network - organizations that have led to hundreds of arrests and prosecutions of wildlife criminals.
        Drori discovered in 2003 a complex network of organized crime behind the animal trafficking system in central and western Africa which involved powerful people and the cooperation of the police. (Jerusalem Post)

The Islamist Threat Isn't Going Away - Michael J. Totten (Wall Street Journal)

  • Both presidential candidates seem to think, 11 years after 9/11, that calibrating just the right policy will reduce Islamist extremism and anti-Americanism in the Middle East. They're wrong.
  • Anti-Americanism and the appeal of radical Islam will not vanish any time soon. I've spent a lot of time in Tunisia and Egypt, both before and after the revolutions, and have yet to meet a single person whose opinion of Americans has changed an iota.
  • Egyptians voted for Islamist parties by a two-to-one margin. These people are not even remotely interested in the rule of law, better education or gender equality. They want Islamic law, Islamic education and gender apartheid.
  • Anti-Americanism has been a default political position in the Arab world for decades. Radical Islam is the principal vehicle through which it's expressed at the moment, but anti-Americanism specifically, and anti-Western "imperialism" generally, lie at the core of secular Arab nationalism of every variety. Everything the U.S. does is viewed with suspicion across the political spectrum.
  • The Middle East is immature and unhinged politically. Nobody can change that right now. Arab countries will mostly have to work this out on their own. It will take a long time.
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