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October 18, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Rebels Kill Top Syrian Intelligence Chief - Loveday Morris (Washington Post)
    Gen. Jameh Jameh, 59, a senior Syrian intelligence chief, was fatally shot by rebel forces near his home in Deir al-Zour, the opposition and Syrian state media said Thursday.
    Jameh was frequently linked to the 2005 car-bomb assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri.
    "Gen. Jameh Jameh has been a household name of terror in the province even before the uprising," said Hassan Hassan, a Syria analyst for the Abu Dhabi-based National newspaper and a native of the province.
    "After the uprising, he was even more brutal, running an intricate web of informants and agents. People across Deir al-Zour are celebrating his death."
    In 2011, the EU imposed sanctions on Jameh for being "directly involved in violence against the civilian population."

Hamas Sends a Signal to Iran - Pinhas Inbari (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Musa Abu Marzouk, deputy to Khaled Mashal, head of the Hamas politburo, told pro-Assad Al Mayadeen TV in Lebanon that Arabs must face the Zionist enemy and foreign forces who invaded our territory - that is, Arab or Muslim.
    This is the first time that such a senior representative of Hamas has spoken in terms of a struggle with the West - i.e., "foreign forces."
    Abu Marzouk was signaling Iran via the pro-Iranian media that Hamas is considering joining its international network of terrorist cells.
    See also Hamas Seeks to Restore Relations with Iran - Hazem Balousha (Al-Monitor)
    Hamas is trying to restore its relations with Iran after a cooling period and cessation of Iranian support resulting from Hamas' position on the Syrian crisis.
    Hamas political bureau deputy head Musa Abu Marzouk told Al-Mayadeen TV that Hamas wishes to reopen channels with Damascus, although this was flatly rejected by Syrian President Assad.

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No Brain Drain - Israel Simply Has Too Many Brains - Moshe Arens (Ha'aretz)
    The way research in the exact sciences is conducted nowadays, researchers are attracted to clusters of scientists working in their area of interest regardless of national boundaries.
    It is not easy for Israel to compete with the ample resources available for research and facilities at American universities and it is natural that many talented Israeli scientists are drawn to research groups engaged in their areas of interest in the U.S.
    The fact that percentage-wise the number of Israeli scientists at American universities is the largest only indicates that the Israeli educational system graduates each year a very large number of highly talented and proficient scientists.

Video - Abbas: Arabs Left Safed of Their Own Volition in 1948 (Palestinian Media Watch)
    PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas told PA TV on Jan. 1, 2013:
    "The [Arab] Liberation Army retreated from the city [of Safed in 1948], causing the [Arab] people to begin emigrating. In Safed, just like Hebron, people were afraid that the Jews would take revenge for the [Arab] massacre [of Jews] in 1929. The 1929 massacre was most severe in Safed and Hebron [65 Jews were killed in Hebron, 18 in Safed]."
    "The people were overcome with fear, and it caused the people to leave the city in a disorderly way."

Righteous Greeks in World War II - Shlomo Cesana (Israel Hayom)
    Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu met with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, praising the Greek government's steadfast opposition to neo-Nazi elements and recalling the story of the island of Zakynthos.
    During the Second World War, the Nazi commanders demanded a list of the island's 250 Jewish residents from the mayor and chief bishop.
    The list they provided had only two names, however - the mayor's and the bishop's. The Jews of the island were spared.
    "That was a demonstration of courage of the highest order," Netanyahu told Samaras.
    See also The Miraculous Story of the Jews of Zakynthos - Leora Goldberg (Jerusalem Post)

BrightSource to Build Solar Thermal Farm in Israel - Karin Kloosterman (Israel21c)
    BrightSource, a U.S.-based solar power company whose roots began in Israel 30 years ago with the firm Luz, is about to flip the switch on a massive 377-megawatt solar thermal farm in the California desert.
    At the start of 2014, BrightSource will begin building a solar thermal energy plant in Israel that will produce 121 megawatts in the Negev Desert by 2016.

Tucson Firefighters Head to Israel - Matt Mendes (Tucson News Now)
    Seven Tucson area firefighters will be working with Israel Fire and Rescue Services over the next two weeks.
    "It's a comparison of best practices," Asst. Tucson Fire Chief Mike McKendrick said.
    The trip was fully funded by donations. The firefighters will learn how Israeli first-responders deal with disasters and bring their knowledge back to Tucson.

Israel: An International Debating Superpower - Eylon Aslan-Levy (Jerusalem Post)
    In the past decade Israel has become an international superpower in competitive debating.
    In the World Universities Debating Championships in the English as a Second Language (ESL) category, Tel Aviv's Yoni Cohen-Idov and Uri Merhav (2010), Haifa's Michael Shapira and Meir Yarom (2011), and Tel Aviv's Omer and Sella Nevo (2012) were named World Champions.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • White House Weighs Easing Iran Sanctions with Slow Release of Assets - Mark Landler
    The Obama administration is weighing a proposal to ease the pain of sanctions on Tehran by offering it access to billions of dollars in frozen funds if the Iranian government takes specific steps to curb its nuclear program, a senior administration official said Thursday. Such a plan, under which the U.S. could free up Iran's frozen overseas assets in installments, would avoid the political and diplomatic risks of repealing the sanctions, the official said. It would also give President Obama the flexibility to respond to Iranian offers without unraveling the global sanctions regime the administration has spent years cobbling together.
        Administration officials said they would urge the Senate to hold off on voting on a new bill to strangle Iran's oil exports further until after the next round of talks on Nov. 7. (New York Times)
        See also Senior Western Diplomat: Nuclear Deal with Iran Not Close
    A senior Western diplomat cautioned on Thursday that any breakthrough in diplomacy over Iran's nuclear program was not "close." Diplomats said major differences remained between Western governments and Tehran. In Brussels, a senior diplomat said, "We learned more about their program and their concerns. However, it doesn't mean we are close to a solution and that we will have an agreement next month." (Reuters)
        See also Iran Stalls, Centrifuges Spin - Jennifer Rubin
    The mullahs have offered a freeze on current enrichment for a period of time and a reduction in its existing stockpile in exchange for lifting all sanctions. This leaves Iran with a short "breakout" capacity of a few months.
        Judging from bipartisan letters and comments before the Geneva meeting, there is a good chance Congress will act. A senior Senate aide involved in previous sanctions legislation told me, "The supreme leader saw nothing but Western weakness in Geneva, and so he's probably feeling pretty good right now about his chances of getting a nuclear weapons capability. That feeling will fade fast because the strength and will of the U.S. Senate is about to send his regime into economic ruin. Most senators are ready to take sanctions to a 10 - now."  (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Seeks $10.8 Billion Weapons Sale to UAE, Saudis - Gopal Ratnam
    The U.S. plans to sell Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates $10.8 billion in advanced weaponry, including air-launched cruise missiles and precision munitions. The Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency said it was seeking congressional approval to sell the Saudi kingdom $6.8 billion in munitions, while the UAE would buy $4 billion in weapons. (Bloomberg)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinian Terrorist Attacks IDF Base with Mechanical Digger - Yaakov Lappin
    Younis Obaidi from Beit Hanina drove a mechanical digger into a base near Al-Ram, southeast of Ramallah, breaking through a gate and hitting vehicles inside the base before he was shot dead by soldiers, the army said on Thursday. Obaidi's brother, Mir'i Radeideh, also attempted to carry out a terrorist attack with a digger. Radeideh attempted to run over two policemen in a police car in Jerusalem in March 2009. He was also shot to death. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also IDF Sees "Increased Motivation to Carry Out Terror Attacks" - Yoav Zitun and Elior Levy
    Following a failed attack by a mechanical digger driver on an IDF base in the West Bank, a senior officer said more terror attacks may follow. The latest incidents are not currently perceived as an organized and guided wave of terror. Cooperation between the IDF and Palestinian security forces remains tight. (Ynet News)
  • Netanyahu: Border Must Remain in Jordan Valley - as Rabin Wanted - Lahav Harkov
    Prime Minister Netanyahu told a Knesset session on Wednesday marking the 18th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin: "Our strength is the guarantee for our existence and peace. We do not want an Iranian offshoot in Judea and Samaria. This requires a security border in the Jordan Valley, as Rabin said in his last speech."
        "This is even more relevant today, when Iran's representatives took over territory we evacuated in Lebanon and Gaza," he added. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also PA: We Won't Allow Israeli Security Presence in West Bank - Khaled Abu Toameh and Tovah Lazaroff
    The Palestinian Authority rejected any Israeli plans to retain territory or even maintain a security presence in any portion of the West Bank or east Jerusalem after the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, spokesman for PA President Mahmoud Abbas, announced Thursday. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Video: Why Israel Opposes International Forces in the Jordan Valley
    The Israeli army has been deployed along the steep slopes of the Jordan Valley since 1967, allowing it to thwart terrorist infiltration and deter potential attacks. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Turkey's Unprecedented Act of Betrayal Against Israel - Yossi Melman
    In April 2012, Iran announced that it had uncovered a spy ring of 15 operatives working at the behest of Israel and responsible for the killings of its nuclear scientists. In announcing the arrests, Iran touted revelations regarding "Zionist" intelligence activity in a neighboring country. On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that Turkish intelligence had leaked the identities of 10 Iranian spies working for Israel, who would meet with their Mossad handlers on Turkish soil.
        We are talking about an unprecedented act of betrayal. For over 50 years, Israel and Turkey were strategic allies. At the heart of this relationship were the extremely close ties established in 1958 between Israel's Mossad and Military Intelligence with Turkey's MIT and its military intelligence apparatus. If the Israeli spy network was indeed unveiled, it was done so at the order of MIT director Hakan Fidan and with the full approval of Prime Minister Erdogan. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Former Mossad Head Blasts Turkish Betrayal of Spy Ring in Iran (Times of Israel)
  • In the West Bank, the PA Has Been Pounding Hamas - Avi Issacharoff
    PA security forces frequently make the lives of Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists in the West Bank miserable. Two weeks ago, PA forces invaded the home of Bassam al-Sadi, considered the most senior Jihad activist in the West Bank. Last week, Palestinian soldiers stormed the home of Hamas leader Jamal Abu Al-Hija, who is currently being held prisoner in Israel.
        Hamas websites publish reports of Hamas activists being arrested by the PA practically on a daily basis. Over the past few years, Israel and the PA have successfully dismantled Hamas' military capabilities in the West Bank and have either arrested or killed nearly every known Hamas leader there. Time and again, Hamas activists who were freed as part of the deal for Gilad Shalit's release, and transported to Gaza or abroad, have attempted to establish covert groups to capture and/or attack Israeli soldiers or civilians. So far, they have been unsuccessful. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Iran vs. the West: Endgame? - Michael Segall
    Iran comes to the negotiations with the West in incomparably better geostrategic circumstances than in 2003, when it temporarily suspended uranium enrichment to further advance its nuclear program, then in its infancy. Iran is not entering the nuclear negotiations out of weakness, but, rather, from a position of strength. In Iran's view (which some of the Gulf States share), America's regional status and deterrence power are in continuing decline. Given Iran's sense of power linked with both domestic and regional stability, it comes to the negotiations in a mood of confidence verging on hubris.
        Khamenei's statement that "some of the events in Rouhani's visit to New York were inappropriate," which has been interpreted as criticism of his telephone conversation with Obama, and his harsh words about America's "true nature" generally, have prompted a wave of declarations in favor of continuing to chant "Death to America." The commander of the Revolutionary Guard, Mohammad Ali Jafari, called the Rouhani-Obama chat "a tactical error and a big mistake....If there are to be additional errors the revolutionary forces will take the necessary measures."
        Iran now controls the nuclear fuel cycle and can, whenever it decides, break out to build a bomb in a few months. Iran believes that nuclear weapons will buy it the sort of immunity from attack that North Korea now enjoys. It also seeks to promote its revolutionary objectives abroad and assume its place in the regional and international power equation as the one who sets the agenda and influences the reshaping of the Middle East in a way that counters and curbs U.S. influence. IDF Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael (Mickey) Segall is a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • The Problem with Making a Nuclear Deal with Iran - Ilan Berman
    Even if a deal does materialize, the Administration is liable to soon find out that "getting to yes" with Iran was the easy part, because, in exchange, the Islamic Republic is seeking to extract a steep price. As Der Spiegel outlined last month, Iran is looking for "the United States and Europe [to] rescind their sanctions against the Islamic Republic, lift the ban on Iranian oil exports and allow the country's central bank to do international business again."
        For more than a decade, U.S. sanctions have focused on the totality of Iran's rogue behavior, from nuclear development to human rights abuses to support for international terrorism. Even though Tehran might be beginning to play ball on the nuclear front, it certainly isn't on the others. Iran not only remains a major state sponsor of terrorism but has actually stepped up its terror-related activity in recent months. The writer is vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council. (Forbes)
  • Iran's Spots Haven't Changed, Whatever It Tells Negotiators - Anne Applebaum
    As his justice minister, Rouhani has appointed Mostafa Pourmohammadi, one of those primarily responsible for the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988. He moved on to the ministry's foreign intelligence operations in the 1990s, during which its "achievements" included the bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.
        We oppose Iran's nuclear ambitions because we object to the Islamic Republic of Iran, a quasi-totalitarian state that since 1979 has been led by brutal men with no respect for the rule of law. Their regime is a major problem for Iran's neighbors and the rest of the world. As long as men like Pourmohammadi are running Iran's courts and prisons, there will always be a limit to what can be achieved through any conversations with Tehran. (Washington Post)
  • With Iran, Talk But Verify - Editorial
    Since a revolution swept Islamic fundamentalists to power in Tehran in 1979, Iran has sanctioned or plotted terror attacks that have killed Americans and Europeans alike, backed Shia proxies like Hamas, Hizbullah and other groups to exert influence in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, backed the Alawite regime in Syria, threatens its neighbors and calls for the destruction of Israel. Worse, it has been methodically developing a nuclear capability and the long-range missiles to deliver it.
        Dialogue is critical, but sanctions and the threat of force must remain options until Tehran takes concrete and verifiable steps to end its nuclear weapons program. Even without nuclear weapons, Iran remains a threat. Changing its antagonistic strategic tune will require savvy diplomacy, many carrots and sanctions backed by the credible threat of hard power. (Defense News)

  • Other Issues

  • Israel Was Never America's Client - Aaron David Miller
    As matters have gotten worse for America in the Arab world, the U.S.-Israel relationship has only grown stronger. Israel's formidable capacity, steadfast support from the U.S., and stunning Arab incapacity have created a situation where Israel is stronger and more secure than it's ever been. Iran's nuclear pretentions remain an acute challenge, and an unresolved Palestinian problem holds longer-term worries. But the notion that the Jewish state is the Middle East's sitting duck has been an illusion for some time now.
        Israel is a dynamic, resilient, and sovereign nation, and the U.S. needs to realize that, even while the Israelis take our interests into account, their own matter more - particularly when it comes to their security and weapons of mass destruction. Where you stand in life is partly a result of where you sit, and as the small power with little margin for error, Israel is going to make its own decisions on the threats it faces and act unilaterally if necessary to deal with them.
        Israel was never America's client. On the contrary, we helped enable and empower its independence of action. If Israel acts militarily against Iran because diplomacy can't address its concerns on the nuclear issue, it will be another indication that, as much as we would like to shape what goes on the Middle East, we really can't. We don't live there, and we are clearly unable or unwilling to dictate to those who do. The writer is a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. (Foreign Policy)
  • A Century of Arab Development - Rami G. Khouri
    Arab countries have spent nearly a century developing themselves and have so little to show for it. Not a single credible Arab democracy. Not a single Arab land where the consent of the governed actually matters. Not a single Arab society where individual men and women are allowed to use all their God-given human faculties of creativity, ingenuity, individuality, debate, free expression, autonomous analysis and full productivity.
        Not a single Arab society that can claim to have achieved a reasonably sustainable level of social and economic development, let alone anything approaching equitable development or social justice. And not a single Arab country that has developed an education system that harnesses and honors the power of millions of its own young Arab minds, rather than corralling those minds into intellectual sheep pens where life only comprises following orders.
        We have endured this for over four generations now, unsurprisingly bringing us to the point today where every single Arab country, without exception, experiences open revolt of its citizens for freedom, dignity and democracy. There is not much to be proud of in the modern era of Arab statehood, and much to fix and rebuild along more rational, humane lines. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Israel Strengthens Ties with Cyprus, Greece - Allison Good
    Cyprus is seeking to exploit its own natural gas discoveries, but to make the export of liquefied natural gas (LNG) financially lucrative, Cyprus also needs to receive gas from Israel's Leviathan field. As an export option for Israel, Cyprus is a strategic ally that would serve as a gateway to Europe.
         A Cyprus-based group that includes the Public Power Corporation of Greece plans to implement the EuroAsia Interconnector project, a subsea power cable linking Israel, Cyprus, and Greece. That agreement, inked in August, provides for trilateral cooperation on the protection of natural gas fields. Annual Israeli-Greek joint military exercises have included defending offshore natural gas platforms. (Daily Beast)
  • A Jewish Majority in the Land of Israel - Yakov Faitelson
    Arab and Jewish natural increase rates are reaching a convergence point. While the natural increase rate for Israeli Jews rose by 41.6% from 1995 to 2012, the Arab natural increase rate declined during the same time by 30.6%, with the rate in 2012 at its lowest level since 1955. Arab birth rates declined from 36.4 births per 1,000 in 1998 to 24.7 births in 2012. (Middle East Quarterly)
  • Whose Agenda Do the Palestinian Refugees Serve? - Carly West
    The Palestinian people have received per capita, adjusted for inflation, 25 times more aid than did Europeans to rebuild war-torn Western Europe under the Marshall plan after the Second World War. Since World War II, over 50 million across the globe have been displaced from their homes, yet only the 700,000 displaced Palestinian people have received such focused service.
        The total 2012 UNRWA budget was $907,907,371, funded almost entirely by Western nations who pay $644,701,999, or 71%. The U.S. was the largest single donor in 2011 with $239 million, followed by the European Commission with $175 million. (Brown Political Review)

  • Weekend Feature

  • The Legacy of the Yom Kippur War - 40 Years Later - Michael Oren
    The Yom Kippur War erupted on October 6, 1973, when Egyptian and Syrian forces surprised and overran Israeli positions. The following three weeks of fighting were brutal, the scale monumental. The offensive was eventually blunted and beaten back to an Egyptian enclave surrounded by Israeli forces. Cairo came within Israel's striking range. 80,000 Egyptian soldiers nearly surrendered for lack of water, and those soldiers and Cairo were saved by a last-minute application of American might and statecraft.
        Tens of thousands of Syrian troops, spearheaded by divisions of Soviet-made tanks, punched through Israeli defenses on the Golan Heights. They were stopped by numerically inferior Israeli forces and compelled to fall back on Damascus, which was also threatened by IDF guns.
        Each year there is an outpouring of public grief over the battlefield deaths of more than 2,500 Israeli soldiers - the equivalent, in current per capita terms, of 230,000 Americans - and the maiming of vastly more.
        Israel's enemies saw how, while enjoying total surprise and overwhelming advantages in men and material, Arab armies still could not prevail, could not even avert defeat. Despairing of destroying Israel by conventional means, its adversaries turned to terror and delegitimization, which have similarly failed. The writer, an historian, served as Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. (2009-2013). (New Republic)

After Round One with Rouhani: Staying Focused on the Dynamics of Nuclear Bargaining - Emily B. Landau (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)

  • As far as substance is concerned, Gary Samore, former White House coordinator for Arms Control and WMD, is quoted as saying that the Iranians have not offered the kind of concessions the U.S. is looking for. In his view, "the Iranian proposal appears to be pretty much boiled-over soup," and is an offer that is not fundamentally different from what was proposed when Ahmadinejad was president.
  • Contrary to media portrayals, these negotiations should not be regarded as a give and take between two parties working to realize a shared goal. For over a decade the international community has striven to fix a problematic situation created by Iran.
  • This crisis was created by Iran when it began to cheat on its commitment to remain non-nuclear according to the terms of the NPT. For years Iran has been working on a military nuclear program. Resolving the crisis is about one thing only: Iran withdrawing from its military ambitions in the nuclear realm.
  • When Iran has come to the negotiations table, it has been to demonstrate a semblance of cooperation for the purpose of warding off the prospect of harsher steps. Being engaged in negotiations - which must be distinguished from negotiating in order to reach a deal - has sometimes proven useful to Iran as a means of gaining time to push its program forward.
  • There is in fact no indication that the basic dynamic has changed. The international community is still trying to compel Iran to abandon its military ambitions, and Iran has shown no indication of wanting to do so.

    The writer is director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Project and a senior research fellow at INSS.
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