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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
November 19, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Car Bomb Kills 25 Near Iranian Embassy in Beirut (Daily Star-Lebanon)
    Two suspected suicide bombers - one driving a rigged car and the other on a motorcycle - attacked the Iranian embassy in Beirut Tuesday, killing at least 25 people and wounding more than 150.

Russia to Provide Egypt with Air Defense Missile Systems (AP-Fox News)
    Russian Technologies chief Sergei Chemezov said Monday that Moscow has signed a deal to provide Egypt with air defense missile systems.
    He said that Egypt also expressed interest in other Russian weapons, including combat planes and helicopters.

Photos: Al-Aqsa Brigades Hold Military Parade Near Jerusalem (Ma'an News-PA)
    The Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades held a military parade in the Kalandiya refugee camp between Ramallah and Jerusalem on Saturday to mark the 9th anniversary of Yasser Arafat's death.
    The Brigades are the military wing of Fatah, which is in control of the Palestinian Authority.

"Boycott Israel" Websites Built Using Israeli Software - Joshua Levitt (Algemeiner)
    The websites of the Cornell University branch of "Students for Justice in Palestine" and the "Palestinian Holocaust Museum" are among many pro-Israel boycott websites built with Wix, a popular Israeli software platform, according to Paul Charney, chairman of the UK Zionist Federation.

UN Blocks Jewish Group from Attending Pro-Palestinian Meeting - Anne Bayefsky (Jerusalem Post)
    A group of Birthright Israel alumni had been invited by the UN-accredited Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust to witness the annual "UN Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People," which marks the anniversary of the 1947 Partition Resolution.
    However, on Nov. 15 the chief of the UN Palestinian Rights Division, Wolfgang Grieger, cancelled the admission passes for the Jewish group to attend the publicly advertised event.

PA: Arafat Was Poisoned by Jews Like Islam's Prophet Muhammad - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik (Palestinian Media Watch)
    In a sermon broadcast on official PA TV on Nov. 8, 2013, the Palestinian Authority Minister of Religious Affairs, Mahmoud Al-Habbash, compared Arafat's death to that of Islam's Prophet Muhammad, saying both were poisoned and murdered by Jews.
    On his deathbed, Muhammad told his wife Aisha that the pain he was experiencing was caused by poisoned meat that he was given by the Jews in Khaibar three years earlier.
    Al-Habbash preached that Arafat was murdered in the same way as Muhammad. "Yasser Arafat died a Martyr - we don't have the slightest doubt that they (i.e., the Jews/Israelis) killed him."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Report: Iran Building New Nuclear Site
    The dissident National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which exposed Iran's uranium enrichment facility at Natanz and a heavy water facility at Arak, said Thursday it had obtained information about a secret underground nuclear site inside a complex of tunnels beneath mountains 10 km. east of Damavand, which is 50 km. northeast of Tehran.
        "The site consists of four tunnels and has been constructed by a group of engineering and construction companies associated with the engineering arms of the Ministry of Defense and the IRGC," NCRI said. (Reuters)
  • Iran State Gas Company Faces Collapse - Farnaz Fassihi
    The chief executive officer of the state-owned National Iranian Gas Company, Hamid Reza Araghi, said over the weekend that the company has declared bankruptcy, according to the Mehr news agency. "Iran's economy is out of breath," said Fereydoun Khavand, an economist and Iran expert based in Paris. "They've always had mismanagement, but they were able to ward it off with oil revenues. Now their pockets are emptying out fast."
        If sanctions are removed and Iran is able to develop its gas fields, Iranian officials say the country could earn as much as $130 billion a year from natural gas sales - surpassing oil revenues. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Brandeis U. Suspends Partnership with Al-Quds U.
    Brandeis University President Frederick Lawrence announced Monday that Brandeis has suspended its partnership with Al-Quds University following a Nov. 5 demonstration on the Al-Quds campus in east Jerusalem where demonstrators wore black military gear, were armed with fake automatic weapons, and raised the Nazi salute.
        After President Lawrence contacted Al-Quds President Sari Nusseibeh and requested an unequivocal condemnation of the demonstration, Nusseibeh responded with a statement that was unacceptable and inflammatory. (Brandeis Now)
        See also Al-Quds University Denounces "Vilification Campaigns by Jewish Extremists" - Sari Nusseibeh (Brandeis University)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Al-Qaeda Biological Weapons Expert Held in Israel - Stuart Winer
    Samar Halmi Abdel Latif al-Barq, an al-Qaeda-trained terrorist and biological weapons expert, has been held in administrative detention in Israel for three years due to the danger he poses if allowed to walk free, Israel Channel 2 TV reported Sunday. The Israel Ministry of Justice said several attempts were made to transfer al-Barq to Arab countries, but no Arab country has agreed to accept him.
        Al-Barq was involved in planning attacks on Jews and Israelis in Jordan and also planned to teach Palestinian terrorists how to manufacture poisons. "He has great knowledge in the field of unconventional weapons, with a focus on biological [weapons]," the State Attorney wrote. (Times of Israel)
  • Hamas-Fatah Financial Dispute Disrupts Gaza Electricity - Avi Issacharoff
    Recent Egyptian military activity put out of commission hundreds of tunnels that were used to import one million liters of fuel into Gaza each day. As a result, Hamas has no choice but to purchase fuel from Israel via the Palestinian Authority. The PA purchases a liter of fuel for Gaza's power plant for approximately 4 shekels and has tried to sell it to Hamas for almost double, including an excise tax, which is a critical part of the PA's own budget. Hamas rejected that price and stopped purchasing fuel for the power plant.
        "The situation is unbearable," says R, a Gaza resident. "There is no electricity at home throughout most of the day. The elevators don't work. Those who can afford it buy a car battery to turn on the lights in their homes, but that's not enough to operate washing machines, televisions or other appliances. Imagine what it's like for people in apartment buildings. Some have generators, but they use fuel which costs 7 shekels per liter. So they set their elevators to go on for five minutes every hour."  (Times of Israel)
  • Move to Include Israel in Western Nations' Group on UN Human Rights Council - Barak Ravid
    Six of Israel's allies have demanded an upgrade of its status on the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, a Western diplomat said. In the wake of Israel's agreement to resume ties with the HRC, on Nov. 6 the ambassadors of the UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, France and the U.S. sent a letter to the UN's institutions in Geneva asking that Israel be brought into the Western European and Others Group (WEOG) at the HRC. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • U.S., Israel Need to Agree on Iran Deal - Editorial
    The rift between the U.S. and Israel over Iran reflects a profound divergence of U.S. and Israeli national interests. For the war-weary U.S., a deal that halts Iran's progress toward a nuclear weapon would greatly reduce the possibility that the U.S. would be forced to take military action against Iran.
        Israel, of course, also wishes to avoid war. But Israeli leaders have more to fear than do Americans from a bargain that leaves the bulk of the Iranian nuclear infrastructure in place, even temporarily. If no final settlement were reached, and the larger sanctions regime began to crumble - as the Israelis fear it would - Iran could be left with a nuclear breakout capacity as well as a revived economy.
        Rather than argue in public, U.S. and Israeli officials should be working to forge a consensus on the terms of an acceptable final settlement with Iran. A large reduction in Iran's nuclear capacity, combined with more intrusive inspections, would leave Israel far more secure than at present.
        At the same time, the Obama administration ought to be assuring Israel and Arab allies that it will continue to reject Iran's regional ambitions, respond to its aggressive acts and support the aspirations of Iranians for a democratic regime that respects human rights. (Washington Post)
  • Iran's Nuclear Narrative Needs to Be Challenged - Simon Henderson and Olli Heinonen
    The International Atomic Energy Agency's latest report on Iran's nuclear program, released Nov. 14, contains persistent suspicions of Iran's true motives, as detailed under the heading "Possible Military Dimensions." "Since 2002, the Agency has become increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear-related organizations, including activities related to the development of a payload for a missile."
        The agency also received information indicating that Iran has carried out activities "relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device." The report deemed this intelligence to be "credible," noting that the IAEA has obtained more information since November 2011 that "further corroborates" its analysis.
        The apparent aim of current diplomacy is to make sure that Iran's nuclear activities are kept under a stringent safeguards regime. Yet any such system requires clarity about what Iran has done and may still be doing clandestinely. Simon Henderson is director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at The Washington Institute. Olli Heinonen is a former deputy director-general for safeguards at the IAEA. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • West Shouldn't Undervalue Its Leverage over Iran - Emily B. Landau
    The latest talks in Geneva underscore the impact of biting sanctions on Iran, which cannot get desperately needed sanctions relief without cooperating with the international community. So why is the Obama administration adamantly opposing further pressure on Iran? While Kerry insists that if new sanctions are passed by Congress they would destroy the prospect of getting an agreement, these concerns are an exaggeration.
        Similar fears were raised before the 2012 sanctions were put in place, but they did not push Iran to exit the NPT; rather, the pressure brought Iran back to the table. Indeed, the most likely result is that further pressure would actually enhance the ability of the P5+1 to get the deal they want.
        The only chance the P5+1 have to get the nuclear deal they want is by keeping Iran dependent on a negotiated deal for the sanctions relief they desperately need. The P5+1 should not surrender any of the leverage they have worked so hard to gain before getting the results they seek. The writer is a senior research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. (Ha'aretz)

Israel's Critique of U.S. Iran Policy - Robert Satloff (Politico)

  • Israel's critique of U.S. Iran policy has three key aspects:
    1. In terms of strategy, Israel worries that the administration quietly dropped its longtime insistence that Iran fulfill its UN Security Council obligation to suspend all enrichment activities and that an end to enrichment is no longer even a goal of these negotiations.
    2. In terms of tactics, Israel cheers the administration's imposition of devastating sanctions on Iran but fears that the near-agreement in Geneva would have wasted the enormous leverage that sanctions have created in exchange for a deal that, at most, would cap Iran's progress without any rollback of Iran's uranium enrichment capabilities and no commitment to mothball the worrisome Arak plant, which could provide an alternative plutonium-based path to a nuclear weapon.
    3. Operationally, Israel has complained that it was kept in the dark on details of the proposed Geneva deal, despite commitments from Washington to keep Jerusalem fully apprised.
  • It is patently disingenuous to ask Israel or domestic detractors of a "first step" deal to withhold their criticism until after the agreement is signed, which is the administration's position, since there would then be zero chance to affect an outcome already reached.
  • It didn't help matters that Washington and Jerusalem had a parallel crisis of confidence on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Secretary of State Kerry inexplicably lost his cool when Israel announced construction approval for new apartments in disputed territory, itself a political response to Palestinian jubilation at Israel's release from prison of 26 hardened terrorists.
  • 90% of those apartments are to be built either in existing Jewish neighborhoods within Israel's capital, or on land on the "Israeli side" of the West Bank security barrier that is likely to end up in Israel's control in any agreement.
  • Kerry's surprisingly ferocious reaction was to lump all construction together and denounce it, publicly question Israel's commitment to peace, rhetorically ask whether Israel prefers a third intifada and wonder aloud whether Israel will ever get its troops out of the West Bank - troops that have worked with Palestinian security forces to fight terrorism and prevent the spread of Hamas influence.

    The writer is executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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