Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
October 3, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Rouhani Boasts of Turning Down Five U.S. Attempts to Arrange a Meeting with Obama (Fars-Iran)
    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday in Tehran: "Before my trip (to New York), the Americans had sent five messages to arrange a meeting between me and Obama, but I turned them down."
    He added that Iran-U.S. relations are dominated by a "very dark atmosphere," and said decades-long problems cannot be solved in just a few days.

After the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Is Hamas in Gaza Next in Line? - Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Egypt has finally decided to tackle the security threat from the Sinai Peninsula, a region that was nearly under the control of jihadist organizations with links to al-Qaeda and Hamas.
    The Egyptian army's ultimate goal is to recover Egypt's sovereignty in Sinai. In order to succeed, the Egyptian supreme command understands that it must neutralize Hamas, which it sees as partly responsible for the security situation in Sinai.
    Hamas is showing signs of panic. Egyptian newspapers quoted Palestinian sources as saying that 90% of the smuggling tunnels along the border with Gaza have stopped functioning as a result of Egyptian measures, leading to the potential loss of nearly 40% of Hamas' revenues.
    With the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt counting its dead by the hundreds and the campaign being waged by the Egyptian army against them far from over, and with its relations with Turkey and Qatar faltering, Hamas has instructed its spokesmen to avoid making any comments about the crisis in Egypt so as not to evoke the wrath of Egyptian army Commander Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
    The writer was formerly Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence.

An American Blogger vs. Palestine's First Family - Sohrab Ahmari (Wall Street Journal)
    In June 2012, Jonathan Schanzer, a vice president at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote online for Foreign Policy magazine about allegations of corruption surrounding the sons of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, Tarek and Yasser.
    In September 2012, Yasser Abbas filed a libel suit against Schanzer and Foreign Policy.
    U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan tossed out the case last week, concluding that the suit was intended to silence critics.
    Schanzer had detailed Yasser Abbas' business empire, noting that it includes a monopoly on the distribution of some U.S. cigarette brands in the Palestinian territories; an engineering firm that in 2005 built a sewage system in Hebron with $2 million paid by the U.S. government; the chairmanship of a publicly traded insurance company; and a construction firm that has also received U.S. taxpayer funds.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Kerry Sets Condition for Talks with Iran - Jennifer Steinhauer
    Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday that the U.S. would negotiate with Tehran only if it provided proof that it would not pursue nuclear military programs. "Nothing we do is going to be based on trust. It's going to be based on steps," in which Iran must prove it is not going to pursue a nuclear program, Kerry said in Tokyo. "A country that generally wants to have a peaceful program does not have difficulty proving that it's peaceful."
        At the same time, Kerry said "it would be diplomatic malpractice of the worst order" to not attempt a diplomatic solution to the conflict with Iran before pursuing a military one. (New York Times)
  • Iranian Cyber Warfare Commander Shot Dead in Suspected Assassination - Damien McElroy and Ahmad Vahdat
    Mojtaba Ahmadi, who served as commander of Iran's Cyber War Headquarters, was found dead near Karaj, northwest of Tehran. The commander of the local police said that two people on a motorbike had been involved in the assassination. Iran has been accused of carrying out a number of cyber attacks detected in the West. (Telegraph-UK)
  • CIA Ramping Up Covert Training Program for Moderate Syrian Rebels - Greg Miller
    The CIA is expanding a clandestine effort to train opposition fighters in Syria amid concern that moderate, U.S.-backed militias are rapidly losing ground in the country's civil war. But the CIA program is expected to produce only a few hundred trained fighters each month, enough to help ensure that these militias don't lose, but not enough for them to win.
        The CIA has trained fewer than 1,000 rebel fighters this year and has sent additional paramilitary teams to secret bases in Jordan in recent weeks to double that number. By contrast, U.S. intelligence analysts estimate that more than 20,000 have been trained by Iran and Hizbullah to fight for pro-Assad militias. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Bad Press Better than Good Eulogy
    Following his speech at the UN, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu granted multiple media interviews to major U.S. networks on Wednesday. He told PBS host Charlie Rose: "We have to be very responsible, buck the trends, don't go by fashion. If you govern by fashion and you govern by the kind of editorials you're going to get, you'll get good editorials and later you'll get good eulogies. My responsibility is to ensure the survival, security, longevity of the one and only Jewish state."
        He told the American Spanish-language network Univision: The Iranians "are building these long-range intercontinental missiles to reach the United States. And they want to arm them with nuclear weapons."
        He told NBC: "Iran conducts, as we speak now, terrorist operations in dozens of countries. He [Rouhani] speaks of the tragedy in Syria. Iran's forces help Assad perpetrate the massacre of tens of thousands of men, women and children as we speak."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Netanyahu: Iran's Khamenei "Heads a Cult" - Becky Bratu (NBC News)
  • Egypt Threatens Military Action Against Gaza - Avi Issacharoff
    Egyptian security officials on Thursday warned that they have drafted plans for attacking targets in Gaza, should there be an escalation in violence against Egyptian forces in Sinai by Gaza-based terror groups. The commander of Egypt's Second Army, Gen. Ahmed Waasfi, said Wednesday that the Egyptian military's patience with jihadists in Gaza was wearing thin.
        Military sources said Egyptian unmanned aerial vehicles recently overflew Gaza and photographed a number of sites. According to Israeli and Egyptian intelligence, most of the terror groups operating in Sinai have some sort of organizational foundation in Gaza, including weapon caches and training camps. (Times of Israel)
  • Iran Gets Senior Seat on UN Nuclear Disarmament Committee - Maya Shwayder
    The UN General Assembly on Tuesday elected Iran to be the rapporteur for the Disarmament and International Security Committee. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • America Mustn't Be Naive about Iran - Vali R. Nasr
    America would be naive to assume that Iran is negotiating from a position of weakness. Iran's diplomatic flexibility is serious, but should not be mistaken for willingness to surrender. Iran does not see itself as vanquished.
        Iranian support for Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, has been effective. Hope that Turkey and America's Arab allies would form an alliance that would isolate Iran has not come to pass. America's withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, and its strategic "pivot" toward Asia, have been welcome news in Tehran. America's reduced credibility in the Middle East, because of its waffling over Syria, is an equally important dynamic in the equation. The writer is dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. (New York Times)
  • Netanyahu's Powerful UN Speech Distorted by the Media - Alan Dershowitz
    I was in the UN General Assembly when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered his speech about Iran's nuclear program and heard a very different speech from the one described by the New York Times as "sabotaging diplomacy." I heard a rational call for diplomacy backed by sanctions and the ultimate threat of military force as a last resort.
        The Times was particularly critical of Netanyahu's statement that if Iran were to be on the verge of developing nuclear weapons designed to wipe Israel off the map, "against such a threat Israel will have no choice but to defend itself." But this statement reflects American policy as well.  President Obama has told me that Israel must reserve the right to take military action in defense of its own civilian population.
        Israel cannot be expected, any more than the U.S. can be expected, to outsource the ultimate obligation to protect its citizens from nuclear attack. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy made it clear that the U.S. would not accept nuclear weapons pointed at our cities from bases in Cuba. (Algemeiner)
  • Are the U.S. and Israel Playing Good Cop/Bad Cop with Iran? - Elliott Abrams
    In his speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reminded the world that the Iranians have lied before, warned that they may well be lying still, and claimed that they have done nothing to earn credibility. He said that Iran should first be made to comply with the International Atomic Energy Agency and UN resolutions, which it has defied for decades - most notably by developing clandestine, unsafeguarded sites and by continuing the enrichment of uranium. Netanyahu is setting forth standards for a nuclear agreement that are far tougher than the Obama administration believes can be negotiated. (Foreign Affairs)

Who Is Hassan Rouhani? - Steven Ditto (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

  • Three months after his June election victory, there is still a knowledge deficit surrounding Iranian president Hassan Rouhani. During the past decade alone, Rouhani has authored at least ten books and forty academic articles on politically pertinent issues, totaling over 7,000 pages of open-source Farsi-language material.
  • Rouhani has expressed support for blatant violations of international law over the past thirty years, including the 1979 U.S. embassy takeover, Ayatollah Khomeini's 1989 fatwa against Salman Rushdie, and the general use of extrajudicial, transnational violence (e.g., in 1987, he declared that Iranian forces had the capacity to "destroy American economic interests around the world").
  • What separates Rouhani from traditional ideologues is his belief that certain kinds of political and social reform can facilitate the defense, upkeep, and legitimization of the Iranian regime. On multiple occasions, he has tied reformist ideals such as meritocracy, national unity, and minority rights to the regime's "security" and "capability."
  • In an unusually candid May campaign briefing with Iranian expatriates, he claimed that while he does not wish to see an "increase in tensions" with the U.S., he has no desire to see a "decrease" in them either: "Today, we cannot say that we want to eliminate the tension between us and the United States....We should be aware that we can have interactions even with the enemy in such a manner that the grade of its enmity would be decreased, and secondly, its enmity would not be effective."
  • In light of his background, there will be no moral, political, or intellectual meeting of minds between Rouhani and the West.

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